A 10-Point Plan to Cut Oil Use '' Analysis - IEA
Sun, 20 Mar 2022 15:30
IEA (2022), A 10-Point Plan to Cut Oil Use, IEA, Paris https://www.iea.org/reports/a-10-point-plan-to-cut-oil-use
Reduce speed limits on
highways by at least 10 km/h
A 10-Point Plan to
Cut Oil Use
Work from home up to three
days a week where possible
in large cities
Make public transport cheaper;
walking and cycling
Alternate private car
use in large cities
Promote efficient use of freight
trucks and goods delivery
Urge car sharing
and practices that
decrease fuel use
Hasten adoption of electric
and more efficient vehicles
Avoid business travel
when alternatives exist
and night trains to
planes where possible
Russia's invasion of Ukraine has thrown global commodity markets into turmoil. The global oil market '' in which Russia is a major force '' is one of the most heavily affected. Russia is the world's third largest oil producer and the largest oil exporter.
Significant strains are showing in the global oil market, compounding difficulties in natural gas markets and creating a looming emergency for global energy security. Oil prices have swung violently since the Russian invasion, with the global benchmark nearing the all-time high of USD 150 per barrel at times, putting the still fragile and uneven global economic recovery at risk. The United States and Canada are banning imports of Russian oil while the United Kingdom has announced plans to do so by the end of the year. The IEA's latest Oil Market Report on 16 March identified the potential for a shut-in of 2.5 million barrels a day of Russian oil exports starting from April; but losses could increase should restrictions or public condemnation escalate. A prolonged period of volatility for markets appears likely.
More than half of Russia's oil exports go to Europe and around 20% go to China, but the market is global, meaning changes in supply and prices affect everyone. The increases in prices are being felt everywhere. Even if the price of oil on international markets has not so far risen as high as the all-time record reached in 2008, currency exchange rates mean that the price at the pump is at the highest level ever in some countries. On average, monthly spending on oil products for transport and heating in January and February rose by more than USD 40 per household (nearly 35%) in advanced economies, and nearly USD 20 per household (over 55%) in emerging and developing economies compared with last year's levels. With the potential loss of large amounts of Russian supplies looming, there is a real risk that markets tighten further and oil prices escalate significantly in the coming months as the world enters the peak demand season of July and August. The risks are most acute '' and already being felt in some cases '' in market segments where Russia is a major supplier, such as diesel.
Immediate actions in advanced economies can cut oil demand by 2.7 million barrels a day in the next 4 months Average monthly expenditures by households for oil products in advanced economies, Jan 21 - Mar 22 Open expand Several governments are introducing measures to help consumers by reducing prices at the pump. Wherever possible, pricing measures should be designed carefully, prioritising the poorest parts of the population and those for whom cars are an indispensable part of their economic activity. Governments have a variety of tools that could be used, depending on the country context. For example, where taxes represent a large portion of prices for consumers, a temporary reduction in those levies or VAT can alleviate the extra burden on households. Direct payments are a means to target the poorest parts of the population.
Such measures, however, do not address the broader strains affecting the market. One way to do so is to increase supply. Spare capacity is available in some major producers outside Russia, but the disappointing outcome of recent OPEC+ discussions suggests limited willingness to provide immediate relief to the market. IEA member countries, as part of their collective response, unanimously agreed this month to draw on emergency stocks for an initial release of 62.7 million barrels, the largest stock release in IEA history. New oil production projects could increase liquidity in the market in the medium term but would not be able to ease the current strains. The oil industry's stocks typically help balance the market when demand outweighs supply. But even before Russia's invasion, the industry's oil inventories were depleting rapidly. At the end of January, inventories in advanced economies were 335 million barrels below their five-year average and at eight-year lows.
Another way to help balance the market and reduce the pain caused by high oil prices is to bring down demand. Following Russia's invasion of Ukraine, the IEA's March Oil Market Report lowered its forecast for global oil demand in 2022 by 950 thousand barrels a day (kb/d) because of the expected impacts of higher prices and weaker GDP growth. But this would still leave the oil market very tight, with upward pressure on prices likely to remain in an uncertain geopolitical environment.
Further reductions in demand are possible in the near term, however, through actions by governments and citizens. The world's advanced economies together account for around 45% of global oil demand, and most of them are members of the IEA. Demand restraint (see annex) is one of the emergency response measures that all IEA member countries are required to have ready as a contingency at all times '' and that they can use to contribute to an IEA collective action in the event of an emergency.
In view of this and the potential emergency the world is facing, the IEA is proposing 10 immediate actions that can be taken in advanced economies to reduce oil demand before the peak demand season. We estimate that the full implementation of these measures in advanced economies alone can cut oil demand by 2.7 million barrels a day within the next four months, relative to current levels.1 The analysis in this report focuses on the potential effect of these measures in advanced economies, but their adoption in more countries would further increase their impact. Ensuring local and regional coordination of their implementation would maximise the impact.
Looking further ahead, this report also suggests a path for countries to put oil demand into structural decline in the medium term, building on measures already included in economic recovery packages introduced to deal with the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic. Adopting the immediate and longer-term recommendations would put the countries on track for a decline in oil demand consistent with what is required to reach net zero emissions by 2050.
Oil demand reductions in advanced economies within four months in the 10-Point Plan Open expand The majority of oil demand is in transport, so the proposed measures of the 10-Point Plan essentially focus on how we get from A to B. How these measures are implemented is subject to each country's own circumstances '' in terms of their energy markets, transport infrastructure, social and political dynamics, and other aspects.
The IEA stands ready to support all countries in designing and optimising measures to suit their respective circumstances. Government regulations and mandates have proven to be very effective for successfully implementing these measures in various countries and cities, while public information and awareness campaigns can serve as alternative or complementary measures. Ultimately, however, reducing oil demand does not depend solely on national governments. Several of the measures can be implemented directly by other layers of government '' such as state, regional or local '' or just voluntarily followed by citizens and companies, enabling them to save money while showing solidarity with the people of Ukraine and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
A country-by-country and state-by-state analysis shows that a reduction of speed limits on highways by 10 km/h relative to current levels can significantly reduce fuel consumption for cars, light commercial vehicles and trucks. Speed limits on highways vary widely among countries but are typically in the range of 100 km/h to 135 km/h. For example, average speed limits on urban and rural interstate highways in the United States are around 110 km/h. In the European Union, speed limits vary between 100 km/h and 140 km/h '' except in Germany, which has no speed limit on some highways.A reduction in speed limits can be implemented by national governments; many countries did so during the 1973 oil crisis, including the United States and several European countries. Today, many countries use temporary speed limit reductions on highways, mostly to reduce congestion and/or air pollution and to improve road safety. They are also frequently adopted within cities to combat local air pollutionImpact: Around 290 kb/d of oil use can be saved in the short term through a speed limit reduction of just 10 km/h on motorways for cars. A further 140 kb/d (predominantly diesel) can be saved if heavy trucks reduce their speed by 10 km/h.
1. Reduce speed limits on highways by at least 10 km/h Before the pandemic, the use of private vehicles to commute to work in advanced economies was responsible for around 2.7 million barrels of oil use a day. Yet, around one-third of the jobs in advanced economies can be done from home, opening up the possibility of reducing oil demand while maintaining productivity. The impact of working from home on oil consumption varies widely by region, depending on the distance of the commute and average fuel consumption of the car. In the United States, the average one-way commute by car is around 18 kilometres, and over three-quarters of car commuters travel alone, according to the US Census Bureau. In Europe, the average one-way car commute is around 15 kilometres. Differences in the fuel economy of vehicles further affect the variations among countries. For example, a new car in the United States consumes around 40% more fuel than one sold in Europe for a trip of the same length. There is an additional seasonal element to the impacts of working from home due to the use of air conditioning in cars (see Point 6). As the weather gets warmer, air conditioning systems increase the amount of fuel used by cars. Therefore, working from home tends to save more oil during the summer months.During confinement periods triggered by the pandemic, many countries implemented requirements for people to work from home for activities where it is possible. While most of those requirements have been lifted, some governments such as France are encouraging working from home without a minimum weekly quota. The employer has the flexibility to set the terms and conditions while keeping an eye on preventing social isolation. Working from home up to three days per week would cut oil demand and could reduce fuel bills. We estimate that avoiding an average daily commute by car currently saves around USD 2 to USD 3 each time in advanded economies. Impact: One day of working from home can avoid around 170 kb/d of oil use. Three days of working from home avoids around 500 kb/d in the short term.
2. Work from home up to three days a week where possible Car-free Sundays were introduced in countries such as Switzerland, the Netherlands and West Germany during the 1973 oil crisis. Brussels, Edinburgh, Vancouver, parts of Tokyo and other cities have used them more recently to promote public health, community-oriented spaces and cultural events. More than 3 000 towns and cities registered for the European Mobility Week in 2021, which included a commitment to a car-free day.Car-free Sundays help support the uptake of walking and cycling, which can generate a positive spillover effect throughout the week. This can in turn be supported by fare reductions or the provision of free public transport. Banning the use of private cars on Sundays brings a number of additional benefits to public health and well-being, including cleaner air, reduced noise pollution and improved road safety. In warmer climates, reduced traffic can also reduce urban ''heat-island'' effects. The measure is also relatively straightforward to enforce using spot fines and road closures. Impact: Avoids around 380 kb/d of oil use in the short term if implemented in large cities every Sunday. If only one Sunday per month, the amount drops to 95 kb/d.
3. Car-free Sundays in cities An effective way to reduce oil demand is to shift travel demand away from private cars to public transport, micro-mobility options, walking or cycling wherever practical.Where public transport exists, a short'term temporary response can be to reduce fares for public buses, metro and light rail. Trial initiatives, including in some US cities, have shown that reduced or free public transport fares result in increased ridership. New Zealand, for instance, is halving public transport fares for the next three months in response to high fuel prices. Public transport systems' available spare capacity during peak travel periods differs by country and city. However, there is typically spare capacity available in off'peak periods that can be used to ''spread'' the peak if employers simultaneously provide flexibility in working hours. In countries where it is culturally acceptable, cycle lanes and pavement-widening strategies exist or can be made available quickly. And where distances are sufficiently short, encouraging people to walk or cycle can be a complementary measure. In cities with available public transport, this can help make public transport less crowded and therefore more attractive and accessible. Rolling out programmes to incentivise the purchase of electric bikes can also be effective, particularly in cities where journeys involve larger distances. Belgium, France and Italy offer residents an allowance to buy a bicycle, with the amount depending on bicycle type. Boosting shared micro-mobility options such as electric kick scooter or electric bicycles can also help '' Lime, Bird or Dott are some examples of app-based providers that already provide this service in major cities.Investment in public transport and infrastructure to support walking and cycling has been boosted by sustainable economic recovery packages introduced in response to the Covid crisis. For example, the French government allocated EUR 500 million to an ''active mobility fund'' to build cycling itineraries, and Italy supports the design and development of cycle highways (EUR 50 million per year for the next three years). New Zealand enacted a nationwide cycle lane investment drive in 2020 of over USD 140 million in direct government spending by 2024. In 2021, Milan repurposed 35 kilometres of road previously used for motor traffic into cycling lanes and aims at achieving 750 kilometres of segregated lanes by 2035. Several cities '' such as Paris, London and Brussels '' created very low speed zones (30 km/h) to discourage car use. When the summer months approach, cycling becomes more popular and can be further encouraged.Overall, governments in advanced economies are set to spend around USD 2.5 billion in the next two years on cycle lanes and pedestrian walkways, and a further USD 33 billion in urban transport infrastructure as part of economic recovery packages. Impact: Short-term measures where feasible and culturally acceptable can avoid around 330 kb/d of oil use.
4.Make the use of public transport cheaper and incentivise micro-mobility, walking and cycling Restricting private cars' use of roads in large cities to those with even number-plates some weekdays and to those with odd-numbered plates on other weekdays is a measure with a long track record of successful implementation. During the first oil shock, the Italian government substituted car-free Sundays with an odd/even number plate policy. Since the 1980s, such schemes have been deployed in many cities to tackle congestion and air pollution peaks, including Athens, Madrid, Paris, Milan and Mexico City. Implementation of restrictions based on number plates typically hinges on the availability of other options to satisfy travel demand. They can pose logistical or fairness concerns, especially as they are most disruptive for less wealthy single-car households. These concerns can be mitigated by the other measures that we propose, such as reducing the price of public transport or promoting carpooling. Exceptions can be made for electric vehicles. The measure's effectiveness in reducing car activity may fall in the longer term if wealthier households buy additional internal-combustion engine cars to circumvent it.Households that own multiple cars may be able to circumvent the restrictions, but this effect and others (such as the remaining cars allowed on roads making longer multipurpose trips) are factored into our estimates of the potential reduction in oil demand.Impact: A reduction of around 210 kb/d of oil in the short term if alternate car access is applied on two days per week in large cities with good public transport options.
5. Alternate private car access to roads in large cities Car users from different households can choose to carpool for non-urban trips, reducing oil demand and saving money at the same time. Governments can provide additional incentives by designating dedicated traffic lanes and parking spots next to public transport hubs and by reducing road tolls on higher occupancy vehicles. Such measures are in force in suburban areas of cities like Madrid and Houston, among others. Non-urban car trips are responsible for over 4 million barrels a day of oil use in advanced economies. Currently, very few of these trips involve the pooling of people from different households, which results in lower levels of car occupancy. The average car occupancy in Japan is 1.3 people per car; in the United States, it is around 1.5 per car; in Europe, it is between 1.4 and 1.6 per car. Across advanced economies, the average is around 1.5.Organising carpooling is more practical today than it was in the past. Several smartphone apps are available, including BlaBlaCar, Liftshare, Scoop, TripBuddy, ecov and GoKid. The carpooling market has grown by over 10% annually in recent years, although the Covid pandemic has reversed this trend since 2020 due to health concerns. A higher average car occupancy rate can be interpreted either as an indication that carpooling in certain regions is more viable (e.g. culturally, technically, habitually) or as an indication of lower capacity for additional carpooling. Governments will need to take this into account when deciding upon the measures to take to incentivise carpooling.Cars can also be used more fuel efficiently by adopting best practices both in driving and maintenance. For example, regular tyre pressure monitoring can save up to 1.5% of fuel use. In addition, air conditioning in cars typically accounts for 4% to 10% of total fuel consumption in advanced economies, depending on the local climate and comfort preferences. For those car users who can, we therefore propose a temporary 3 °C increase in the temperature setting to give an immediate improvement in fuel economy and cut fuel bills.Impact: An increase of around 50% in the average car occupancy across advanced economies in 1-in-10 trips and adopting best-practices to decrease car fuel use can save around 470 kb/d of oil in the short term.
6. Increase car sharing and adopt practices to reduce fuel use Vehicles can be driven to optimise fuel use. The possible measures span a wide range and can include improved vehicle maintenance (such as regular checks of tyre pressure) as well as driving habits. Governments can introduce so-called eco-driving techniques as part of the tuition and examination processes required to receive a driving license and advanced driving certificates, as has been done in France and other countries. Broader public information campaigns can supplement these targeted efforts.Companies with vehicle fleets '' such as for the delivery of goods '' are particularly well placed to provide training and awareness campaigns to promote eco-driving of commercial vehicles, cutting into diesel use in particular, given the structure of their fleets. Additionally, lower demand for very short delivery times can contribute to increasing the overall fuel efficiency of logistics during last-mile delivery. Besides reducing diesel use, eco-driving can also help reduce fuel bills and vehicle maintenance costs. Trucks are major consumers of diesel, and so improving the efficiency of their operations can be an important contributor to reducing oil use. Readily accessible measures for the next four months can be in improving logistics: truck companies can optimise vehicle loads and reduce empty travelling. Cooperation between companies and widespread use of digital technologies can help achieve these goals. Impact: These measures can avoid around 320 kb/d of oil use in the short term.
7. Promote efficient driving for freight trucks and delivery of goods Where high-speed rail lines connect major cities at distances under 1 000 km, trains provide a high-quality substitute for short-distance flights. High-speed rail can substantially replace short-haul air travel on routes that offer affordable, reliable and convenient train journeys. The use of night trains can be a means to cross wider distances in particular and spread traffic across different times of the day.Based on existing high-speed rail infrastructure, around 2% of aviation activity in advanced economies could be shifted to high-speed rail, including for leisure as well as business travel. Almost all of this involves flights of less than 800 km.Rail services must be operated and serviced efficiently to get widespread acceptance as an alternative to flights. In that case, high-speed rail can not only reduce oil demand and emissions from short-haul flights '' it can also be faster and more comfortable, reliable and affordable. Rail stations are often located in or near city centres, making them more convenient and sustainable than airports. In France, the recent Climate and Resilience law requires the cancellation of flights if alternatives exist to reach the destination within two-and-a-half hours. Companies have already started to cut some flights, including between Paris and cities such as Nantes, Lyon and Bordeaux. Impact: Avoids around 40 kb/d oil use in the short term.
8. Using high-speed and night trains instead of planes where possible Given the space requirements in planes, the journeys of passengers in premium classes consume three times more oil than those in economy class. Although not all business travel by plane can be avoided, in many cases the use of virtual meetings can be an effective substitute. A significant reduction of around two out of every five flights taken for business purposes is feasible in the short term, based on the notable changes witnessed during the Covid pandemic. In response to the pandemic, virtual business interactions have become more common. Many companies have invested heavily in enhancing the experience of remote meetings, making this a more effective, acceptable and viable substitute to business flights and direct human engagement. Businesses continued operations '' and in some cases thrived '' despite having to make this major adjustment.Several major corporations '' such as HSBC, Zurich Insurance, Bain & Company and S&P Global '' have already announced targets to cut their business travel emissions by as much as 70%. Reducing business travel can play a role in meeting ESG goals and help reduce corporate carbon footprints. Before the outbreak of the pandemic, about one-fifth of passenger trips by plane in advanced economies were for business purposes. Business travel was hit harder than other categories of passenger air travel during the pandemic, dropping to historic lows. High oil prices may disincentivise airlines to operate underutilised routes in response to reduced business travel. But, to maximise the impact, governments can provide flexibility on flight slot allocations so as to minimise the occurrence of ghost flights. Impact: Avoids 260 kb/d of oil use in the short term.
9. Avoid business air travel where alternative options exist By the end of 2021, 8.4 million electric cars were on the roads in advanced economies, building on record sales in Europe in particular. Demand for electric cars continues to be strong, on the back of plummeting costs of batteries in recent years and government support. However, supply chain bottlenecks in semiconductors, vehicle raw materials, and battery materials and manufacturing are putting strains on the market. The impacts are likely to be felt longer term, but facilitating logistical coordination to shore up flows of materials and components is a near-term priority so that disruptions in some parts of the automotive supply chain can be absorbed by less-affected manufacturing capabilities elsewhere in the global market. The near-term priority is to ensure successful delivery of car orders to consumers. Where possible, fleet orders may be prioritised, as their impact on moderating oil demand is larger than for households with multiple cars. Actions taken now to hasten the adoption of electric vehicles will have a sustained effect in the future. Similarly, new conventional vehicles sold must be fuel-efficient; fuel economy targets as well as taxes that penalise high-emissions vehicles are key for supporting further fuel economy improvements. Enforcing existing regulation and supporting them via awareness campaigns is central to reaping benefits in the near term.Impact: Avoids more than 100 kb/d of oil use in the short term, building on expected sales of electric and more fuel-efficient cars over the next four months. Sustained action on supply chains and policy support can help secure further savings.
10. Reinforce the adoption of electric and more efficient vehiclesReducing oil use must not remain a temporary measure. Sustained reductions are desirable in order not only to improve energy security but also to tackle climate change and reduce air pollution. Governments have all the necessary tools at their disposal to put oil demand into decline in the coming years, which would support efforts to both strengthen energy security and achieve vital climate goals.
Retaining those elements of this 10-Point Plan to which societies can more easily adapt and that consumers can integrate into their daily habits can help temper oil demand growth beyond the peak demand season. But governments must also consider accelerating their clean energy transitions and building on their net zero emissions strategies. To reach net zero emissions by 2050, oil demand in advanced economies in 2030 must be more than 15 million barrels a day lower than in 2021.
Many measures that accelerate clean energy transitions in oil-consuming sectors can have a material impact on oil use already over the next two to three years, even if their impact will be felt more strongly a few more years down the road. But decisions need to be taken now for them to materialise. We identify a set of key actions that can be taken now, prioritising those that can help advanced economies to put oil demand into a noticeable decline in the medium-term. The measures are lasting: more oil demand reductions can be expected for years to come, in line with the need to cut global oil use to reach net zero emissions by 2050. Key actions include:
Prioritise support to electric vehicles and unblock supply chains: Most of the new EVs sold between now and the summer have already been ordered, but sales can be further boosted in the subsequent months and years by providing targeted government support to car sales and the roll-out of the necessary infrastructure. Electric car sales in the IEA's Net Zero by 2050 scenario reach 28 million in 2030 in advanced economies, up from 3.2 million in 2021. There is also large untapped potential for increased sales of electric buses and short-haul electric freight trucks. Accelerating long-term investment in supply resiliency will be critical to ease supply chain constraints for key inputs to electric cars.Significantly raising the ambition of fuel economy standards for road vehicles: Sales of electric cars are rising and ambitious fuel economy and/or CO2 emissions standards are in place in many countries. Yet sales of SUVs also keep increasing, with the vehicles accounting for nearly 10% of oil use in advanced economies. Policies to address the rise in sales of such vehicles '' such as specific registration and road taxes '' are key to achieve steady overall fuel economy progress and oil savings. The fuel economy of trucks must also be improved further; policy is critical even if many measures (such as aerodynamic devices installed at the rear of trailers to reduce drag) can be cost-effective at current oil prices. Boosting the supply of alternative fuels: Availability of sustainable feedstock is a key constraint on the additional amount of biofuels that could be blended into the oil product pools in the near-term without harming food markets. But there is potential for increased use of waste cooking oil and animal fat for biodiesel production by maximising industrial output and non-food feedstock collection. Synthetic fuels (such as hydrogen and ammonia) are not expected to reduce oil use noticeably in the near-term, but RD&D programs should be accelerated to help diversify future supply. Cleaner fuels account for around one-sixth of road transport use by 2030 in advanced economies in a scenario compatible with IEA's Net Zero roadmap; additional needs are in shipping and aviation.Accelerate the replacement of oil boilers with heat pumps and ban installation of new ones: In advanced economies alone, more than 3.5 million barrels a day of oil are used today to heat homes, shops and offices, and to meet heat demand and run engines in light industries such as food and beverages, machinery, and mining. Most of these uses of oil can be replaced by heat pumps and renewables. An additional 5.5 mb/d of such uses are in emerging economies and developing countries.Increase plastic waste collection, re-use and recycling: Many products made from plastic are 'single use' '' some for good reason (e.g. certain medical supplies) and some more for convenience (e.g. plastic bottles, cutlery and food containers). Measures targeting their reduction have a relatively modest impact on oil demand in the short term, but they lay the groundwork for larger reductions and can make an important contribution to addressing the problem of mismanaged plastic waste. Existing plastic recycling facilities can be further utilised to boost recycling rates, supported by enhanced waste management infrastructure. We also estimate that collection rates can be increased by around one percentage point per year in advanced economies in the coming years, alongside incremental increases in yield and substitution rates, which increase the extent to which plastics recycling reduces oil demand. Elements of this 10-Point Plan, combined with structural measures, can help put oil demand on a more sustainable path in the longer term IEA Emergency Response System
References The assessed impacts on oil savings in the remainder of the document are presented for each individual measure in isolation. The total savings of 2.7 million barrels a day are calculated in a way that avoids double-counting of oil savings from different measures when their impacts may overlap.
The assessed impacts on oil savings in the remainder of the document are presented for each individual measure in isolation. The total savings of 2.7 million barrels a day are calculated in a way that avoids double-counting of oil savings from different measures when their impacts may overlap.
Permanent daylight saving time failed when the U.S. tried it in the '70s - The Washington Post
Sun, 20 Mar 2022 15:30
''It's the end,'' Terry Minz, of Long Island, N.Y., told the New York Times. ''I can't cope anymore. The comet, the energy crisis, now darkness. I'm just staying in bed.''
So it went the last time the United States took a run at year-round daylight saving time. The experiment, which meant a sunrise of 8:30 a.m. or later for large swaths of the nation, proved short-lived. Amid a swell of public displeasure and a series of early-morning traffic fatalities, Congress voted to undo the change 10 months in.
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Almost 50 years later, the idea is back. The Senate voted this week to end the twice-annual practice of ''springing forward'' and ''falling back,'' setting the stage for daylight saving time to last all year. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), a co-author of the bill, called it ''an idea whose time has come.''
Senate votes unanimously to make daylight saving time permanent
Lawmakers from both parties championed the legislation, which still requires passage by the House of Representatives and a signature from President Biden. They argued that the clock-changing ritual carries health and safety risks. And, they pointed out, many Americans hate it.
''Today the Senate has finally delivered on something Americans all over the country want '-- to never have to change their clocks again,'' said Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), another co-author.
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That was true the last time, too. At least in the beginning.
When federal officials pitched the concept, the nation was in the grips of an energy crisis because of the Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries declaring an oil embargo. Grasping for solutions, lawmakers made daylight saving time permanent from January 1974 until October 1975. Clocks would ''spring forward'' and not ''fall back'' for almost two years.
The thinking was that fuel consumption would go down as Americans used the extra evening sunshine for heat and light. President Richard M. Nixon estimated that 150,000 barrels of oil could be saved a day, the New York Times reported.
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Signing the bill into law, he said it would ''mean only a minimum of inconvenience.'' Seventy-nine percent of Americans favored the change at the time, according to polling by NORC at the University of Chicago.
Then it went into effect.
Daylight saving time: Explaining the century-old debate
On Day One, the New York Times reported, hundreds of tourists missed flights from Puerto Rico, which remained on standard time, to the continental United States. Throughout the week, newspapers carried reports of bleary-eyed commuters and nervous parents. ''Daylight time is like darkness time,'' declared a headline in The Washington Post. The New York Times called it ''the Second Dark Age.''
''Pitch black at 7:30 in the morning,'' a Long Island man named Bob Fitzpatrick told the Times. ''People were saying if this had happened two years ago, McGovern would be President today.''
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He spotted dawn only briefly on his way to work as a Lord & Taylor executive and was ''depressed as hell,'' he added.
David Prerau studied the issue as a researcher for the U.S. Department of Transportation and went on to write a book about it, ''Seize the Daylight: The Curious and Contentious Story of Daylight Saving Time.'' He said in an interview that the reality of the change seemed to take people by surprise.
''Most people think, 'Oh, I'm not going to have to change my clock,' '' he said. ''And they don't think, 'Oh, I'm going to have four months of dark mornings.' I think that's what happened in '74. People didn't think about that.''
Sleep experts say Senate has it wrong: Standard time, not daylight saving, should be permanent
Frustration over the shift took on a new sense of urgency when reports emerged of children being hit and killed by cars during predawn treks to school. After eight deaths in Florida, Gov. Reubin Askew (D) called a special legislative session Jan. 27, urging state lawmakers to change back the clocks.
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Though Florida would be on a different schedule than the rest of the Eastern Seaboard, the governor told United Press International that any disruption ''would be small indeed when compared to the life of even a single child whose death could be attributed to a too-early start of his or her school day.''
The move failed, caught up in partisan politics. The clocks stayed an hour ahead in Florida and in other states.
Some schools pushed back their start times; some cities bought reflective signs for crosswalks, according to news reports. The Post ran a story on ''inventive Washington mothers improvising outerwear'' from fluorescent fabrics, complete with photographs of kids wearing their handiwork at bus stops. The article noted that some companies planned to offer jackets with reflective detailing in their back-to-school lines.
As the dark mornings continued, the complaints kept coming.
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By February, Congress was having regrets.
''The time to admit a mistake is when you've made one,'' Rep. William Ketchum (R-Calif.), a co-author of the bill, was quoted as saying in the Times.
That month, a National Safety Council survey found no appreciable change in the number of early-morning fatalities between January 1973 and January 1974. And a Reuters report said the United States had used about 2 percent less energy because of the change.
How permanent daylight saving time would change sunrise and sunset times
Still, the country was ready to go back to the old times. Public support for the extended daylight saving time had plummeted to 42 percent, according to NORC. In August, the same month Nixon resigned over Watergate, the Senate voted to repeal the law. The House passed a similar measure soon after.
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On Oct. 5, President Gerald Ford signed it, and three weeks later, Americans rolled back their clocks. The semiannual routine returned and has continued ever since.
People always grouse about losing an hour of sleep in the spring. Prerau wasn't surprised that doing away with it came up again. As for whether it'll last, he isn't sure.
''It's a different time,'' he said. ''On the other hand, daylight and darkness are still the same as they were in '74, and kids having to go to school in the morning is still the same, and people having to go to work in the morning is still the same.''
Previous versions of this post incorrectly said that President Gerald Ford signed a bill repealing permanent daylight saving time on Oct. 6, 1974. He signed it Oct. 5. This post has been corrected.
What if Legal Personhood Included Plants, Rivers, and the Planet? - YES! Magazine
Sun, 20 Mar 2022 15:29
A new podcast explores the rights of nature movement and its potential to shift Western legal doctrine around environmental protection.
5 MIN READ
Feb 17, 2022 ''People think of laws being so objective and serious, and almost separate from the social norms,'' says investigative climate journalist Amy Westervelt. ''But it's really just a handful of people's beliefs that have gotten baked into law.''
Uncovering whose beliefs have shaped existing environmental law led her to report on an emerging legal arena that has been making headlines around the world: rights of nature laws. To explore the fascinating stories and characters behind some of the 200 cases currently underway, Westervelt is launching a new podcast today called Damages, described as ''Law & Order meets the climate crisis.''
The idea behind the rights of nature approach extrapolates on the Western legal system's insistence that a corporation is considered a person. If that's legally true, then why not grant legal personhood to a watershed or a forest? For those who grew up indoctrinated by the existing legal system, Westervelt says their initial response is often delivered with a scoff: ''So, what, like, a tree could sue me?''
But beyond this initial skepticism, she sees a lot of practicality and possibility to the approach. Take, for example, a polluted lake. ''It's almost impossible to say my cancer was caused by this chemical in the water,'' she says. ''But it's super easy, scientifically, to say this chemical in this water is destroying this watershed.''
And in this way, granting nature its own rights could provide an avenue to protect specific environments'--and the communities that depend on them. Because, she points out, ''Humans actually need ecosystems to live a lot more than we need corporations.''
The Proof Is in the PushbackWhen it comes to protecting the environment, most existing laws are human-centered. They focus on the rights of people to a healthy environment. Westervelt says that well over 100 countries have these kinds of laws on the books. Still, since they require making a direct, causal connection between a pollutant and a human health outcome, winning a case in court can be difficult.
Rights of nature cases, in contrast, are ''playing the long game,'' as Westervelt puts it. They approach legal arguments with a completely different philosophy and timescale. Incorporating the rights of nature into the constitutions of municipalities, states, and countries could shift the foundational approach to how environmental cases are litigated, Westervelt says.
And it might just be working. She says the proof is in the pushback.
''We're starting to see pre-emptive laws get passed to block rights of nature legislation,'' Westervelt says. Ohio, Florida, and most recently Missouri have passed laws to this effect'--a backlash she explores in Episode 5 of the podcast. ''That's always a key indicator that something's working, right?'' Westervelt says. ''They're not passing pre-emptive laws against calling your reps'--let's put it that way.''
The other strength of this rights of nature approach to environmental protection is the surprising coalitions it creates. ''The Lake Erie Bill of Rights is not a bunch of hippies in San Francisco. This is suburban moms in Toledo, Ohio,'' Westervelt says. ''I think that's actually what scares the industry folks and the right wing about the way that [rights of nature laws have] progressed in this country, is you're seeing it really pop up in the Rust Belt, in working-class towns in the Midwest.''
Take fracking, for example. A person in Pennsylvania might be upset their neighbor has a fracking well that has ruined the water in the surrounding wells, making their land essentially valueless. So, Westervelt says, you have right-wing, anti-government libertarians fighting in defense of private property alongside Indigenous leaders arguing to protect the watershed's right to live.
The motivations may be very different, but Westervelt says the outcomes they're fighting for are actually quite compatible.
Take the example of the Te Urewera rainforest in New Zealand, which Westervelt examines in Episode 4. She says this case is the one that international organizations point to as a key success story for the rights of nature, because the government recognized the rainforest as its own legal entity and the TÅhoe people as its legal guardians. In a lot of ways, this is a victory, but at the end of the day, it's still a compromise on what the TÅhoe actually want: simply the return of their land.
The idea that the government had to grant these land rights is almost offensive to those who live there, Westervelt says. Still, she sees these cases, which aim to bring an Indigenous approach to both nature and justice, as a way to ''give Western law an instant upgrade on the environmental front.''
Wild Rice for the WinOne unique aspect of Westervelt's podcast is the way it frames Indigenous science, which she says is all too often viewed as myths or ''woo-woo mystical nonsense.''
Westervelt shares an example of a water protector she spoke with in Hawai'i who was working to protect his people's sacred mountain, Mauna Kea. He told her the reason it's sacred is because half the island's ecosystems are affected by it. Western watershed science eventually came to the same conclusion, but centuries later, after colonization had already caused great harm.
The same goes for why wild rice is sacred to the Ojibwe: it's an indicator species. They knew its ecological importance and therefore came to reflect that in their cultural values.
In this way, Westervelt says, storytelling'--be it through Indigenous knowledge-sharing or a podcast'--is an effective way to explain why it's important to protect water.
On this note, she starts off the podcast's first season with Episode 1: ''Manoomin v. Minnesota.'' This case looks at the rights of wild rice to survive and thrive in local waterways, which the Ojibwe added to their 1855 treaty with the U.S. government. The White Earth Band of Ojibwe, based in present-day Minnesota, has since sued Enbridge Energy's Line 3 pipeline, which they say will violate the rights of the rice and threaten the health of the ecosystem at large.
The reason Westervelt starts with wild rice is because of the impact this case could have on so many other potential pipeline fights across the U.S.
''Whatever decision they come down with will be pretty monumental,'' she says. The case is currently in the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals, and if its decision is appealed, Westervelt says this could be ''another case where the Supreme Court is deciding whether the U.S. is going to honor these treaties.'' And that has far-reaching implications for the treaty rights of tribes across the continent.
''Every time I tell people, 'Yeah, wild rice sued the state of Minnesota,' it helps to get people to let go of the idea that the way things are is the way they've always been and always have to be,'' Westervelt says. She believes exposing people to that idea by way of a story is less threatening than arguing with them about water clarity or carbon emissions. ''Showing people a different perspective and what it can look like, I think, is helpful in opening people up to other possibilities.''
Breanna Draxler is a senior editor at YES!, where she leads coverage of climate and environmental justice, and Native rights. She has nearly a decade of experience editing, reporting, and writing for national magazines including National Geographic online and Grist, among others. She collaborated on a climate action guide for Audubon Magazine that won a National Magazine Award in 2020. She recently served as a board member for the Society of Environmental Journalists and the Northwest Science Writers Association. She has a master's degree in environmental journalism from the University of Colorado Boulder. Breanna is based out of the traditional territories of the Coast Salish people, but has worked in newsrooms on both coasts and in between. She previously held staff positions at bioGraphic, Popular Science, and Discover Magazine. Sign up to receive email updates from YES!
Officials push Nobel Committee to change procedure for Zelensky '-- RT Russia & Former Soviet Union
Sun, 20 Mar 2022 15:27
36 former and incumbent EU officials, including deputies and ministers, have asked the Nobel Committee to extend the nomination deadline for the Nobel Peace Prize until the end of March so that they can nominate the President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky, giving him a chance to receive the award for his efforts in ''resisting the forces of authoritarianism.''
''We believe that now is the time to show the people of Ukraine that the world is on their side. We therefore humbly call upon you, the Committee, to consider: Extending and thereby re-opening the nomination procedure for the Nobel Peace Prize until March 31, 2022 to allow for a Nobel Peace Prize nomination for President Zelensky and the people of Ukraine,'' says an open letter recently published by EU officials.
According to the signatories, Russia launching its military operation in late February constitutes a ''historically unprecedented event,'' in which ''brave Ukrainian men and women are fighting to preserve democracy and self-government.'' The EU officials urged the global community to show their support for Ukraine in the face of ''this war waged upon them by the Russian Federation.''
Nominating President Zelensky for the Nobel Peace Prize now would signify a break with procedure since the deadline for the nomination has passed. ''In order for a nomination to be valid, it must be submitted no later than January 31,'' explains the Committee's website. Currently, 343 candidates have been nominated for the 2022 Nobel Peace Prize, out of which 251 are individuals and 92 are organizations.
Volodymyr Zelensky was elected the President of Ukraine in 2019. His electoral platform was based on two pillars: fighting corruption and ending the conflict in the Donbass region.
According to the Russian President Vladimir Putin, Kiev not only refused to negotiate with the breakaway republics, but prepared for open war against them and against Russia, continuing to bomb civilians, while sending saboteurs and terrorists into Crimea '' the peninsula that voted to join Russia after the 2014 US-backed coup in Ukraine.
Moscow attacked its neighbor in late February, following a seven-year standoff over disagreements about the implementation of the terms of the Minsk agreements and Russia's eventual recognition of the Donbass republics in Donetsk and Lugansk. The German- and French-brokered protocols had been designed to regularize the status of those regions within the Ukrainian state.
Russia has now demanded that Ukraine officially declare itself a neutral country that will never join the US-led NATO military bloc. Kiev insists the Russian offensive was completely unprovoked and has denied claims it was planning to retake the two republics by force.
UKRAINE Was NED's Proxy Partner To Destroy Russia - Helena
Sun, 20 Mar 2022 15:20
Is the Hunter Biden laptop, suddenly recognized by the FBI as real, the setup for Biden's swift impeachment? Biden's political reputation is in complete tatters. The infamous laptop could be the culmination of his personal reputation '' or even his deign as an accomplice to Hunter's dastardly deeds. Timing is everything. The baby momma coming forth 'suddenly' with damning financial evidence that she has retained for years'...? The liberal Media declaring Biden unfit and incompetent. This is NOT coincidental '' Biden was a place holder whose legacy would be obliterated by his actions as President.
Technically, none of Biden's actions were conceived by him, but what stooge would want to go down in history as the singular cause of America becoming a third world country?
Given that we are informed MI6 was involved in the Trump 2020 election corruption, the Queen's gambit to shift America into the twalette in favor of the UK takes a new twist. The British Empire of 1901 included nearly half of Africa and all of India '' territories they lost. Many in Africa have been recaptured via election coups and insertions of pro-UK Presidents.
National Endowment for Democracy has been a significant player in these African coups with many current African presidents having attended university in London. When a country in Africa fails to be properly 'couped' NED considers this a Loss that on occasion requires more permanent actions to be undertaken.
NED's typical means of upheaval within governments deemed unaligned with the globalist agenda is precipitated by massive protests typically using university students and the poor who likely are paid props. ''Civil society activists who helped lay the foundations for Sudan's peaceful revolution received NED's annual Democracy Award''. The Congo, Zimbabwe, Ethiopia, Sudan, Rwanda, Ghana, Ghinea, Burkino Faso, Togo, Tanzania, Corte d'Ivoire, etc'... ALL subject to coups, revolutions, unrest and election interference. NOT by Russia, but by NED and Open Society.
These election manipulations are not called interference, they are called 'instituting democracy'. Just like when western nations bomb Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Sudan, etc'... no one is charged as 'war criminals', but instead defined as freedom fighters for democracy. NED boldly declares which countries are in alignment and which need more work in order to achieve the desired colonization.
Since 2016, NED has funneled over 2.6 million pounds to groups in the UK including; Bellingcat, Reuters Foundation, Open Democracy, Finance Uncovered, Media Legal defense Initiative, etc.. These groups are also funded by the Open Society Foundation '' creating a shadow alliance of organizations working toward The Reagan aim of NED which was to ''foster the infrastructure of democracy''. Translation? 'Own Governments'.
Colonizing is defined as globalization. But is the end regime America or the return of the British Empire?
Ukraine: NED claims that Ukraine has been their partner since 1989 '' before the Soviet Union was repartitioned by the UK, Germany, NATO and the US in 1991: ''Ukraine is NED's fourth largest grant-making program around the world with more than 95 current partners on-the-ground.''
A meeting was held between NED, Ukraine and a number of NED speakers to discuss, ''Russian Expansionism'', March 4, 2022. An odd statement given Russia was divested of territories by '' NED. But narratives or propaganda have been deployed for so long that the host speakers have forgotten what is the truth.
In 1991, 14 territories were broken away from the Soviet Union in a move disemboweling major asset portions of Russia.. Eleven territories, including Russia and Ukraine, then signed the Alma Ata Protocols, a treaty within the Commonwealth of Independent States, CIS.
In reading the Articles of the Treaty, after the 2014 Ukraine coup and up until the present, Ukraine was in violation in its treatment of the people of the Donbas Region, and in Ukraine's creation of a military that is not in alignment with the provisions of the Treaty.
In FACT '' Russia had requested Ukraine to comply with the Minsk Agreement which was attached to the CIS Treaty, and to disarmament and deNazification of militias and its army. Ukraine's advancement toward the creation of Nuclear weapons is ALSO strictly verboten in the Treaty.
Although Russia has made its stipulations clear from the beginning, it is Zelensky who was ordered to sacrifice his country for the good of the Cabalists who had been using the territory for their own means since 1945. Ukraine, in its corruptness was the perfect European point for the Mafia's complete. The Cabal underestimated Putin and are now losing vast sums in their Mafia CULT '' Ukraine. Hence, the US and EU must ante up BILLIONS to curb the Mafia losses.
Russia was never going to be integrated into a partnership with the power hub, but nor was China. Both were levied and used for what they could provide before being discarded. In 1997, Brzezinski laid out the scenario in his book, 'The Grand Chessboard'. In it, Brzezinski stated, ''75 per cent of the world's people live in Eurasia, and most of the world's physical wealth is there as well, both in its enterprises and underneath its soil.'' U.S. global dominance depends on controlling Eurasia '' which includes Europe, Russia, the Indian subcontinent, East Asia and the Middle East.''
The Formation of the BRICS Threatened That Survival! Syria threatened that Agenda & was destroyed'...Middle East'...Maidan Coups!
Bill Murray: 'We are afraid to die and afraid to kill' | The Independent
Sun, 20 Mar 2022 15:15
C an I tell you my Bill Murray story? A decade ago, I got a job working as a copywriter for a whisky company at the Cannes Film Festival. Our office was just off the lobby of the star-packed Hotel Martinez, and to celebrate opening night the hotel had given us a bottle of champagne. The very moment we popped the cork, as if summoned by the sound, Murray materialised in the room and asked: ''Are we drinking?'' Before we knew it, he was the one filling our glasses and regaling us with his plans to ''cause mischief'' at the festival. Our bosses at the whisky company were livid, of course. We'd somehow made Bill Murray appear in our office and all he'd drunk was champagne.
It's been 45 years since Murray first burst into the public consciousness as a cast member of Saturday Night Live and in that time the deadpan comic actor has become almost as well known for turning up in unexpected places in real life as he is for starring in films such as Ghostbusters, Groundhog Day and Lost in Translation. There are countless Bill Murray stories, like the one about him rocking up to a student's house party in Scotland and doing all the dirty dishes, or the time he drove a taxi from Oakland to Sausalito while the cab driver serenaded him with a saxophone from the back seat. He has crashed bachelor parties and wedding photo shoots, turning our ideas about the guarded, sheltered life of a celebrity on its head with spontaneous, Dadaist displays of playful curiosity.
Of all the unlikely places he's appeared, the nearly 2,000-year-old stage of the Odeon of Herodes Atticus might just be the unlikeliest. The theatre, on the southwest slope of the Acropolis of Athens, is the setting for his new concert film, New Worlds: The Cradle of Civilization. It opens with footage of Murray clambering over the heads of his audience, a huge bouquet of red roses cradled in one arm as he flings the flowers one by one into the roaring crowd. Filmed in June 2018, at a time when the only thing he risked by impulsively climbing into a crowd of people was falling on his backside, it looks so carefree as to feel like a time capsule.
''It is a time capsule,'' says Murray, inhaling sharply. ''You just made me take a deep gasp of a breath.'' He's speaking over a video call from some anonymous hotel suite in New York, dressed in a grey button-up shirt and a black woollen beanie reminiscent of the red one he wore as the titular oceanographer in Wes Anderson's The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou. There's nothing quite like a global pandemic, he says, to put the kibosh on spontaneous interaction. ''We just went out with our friend to walk the dog, and you're wearing a mask, everyone's wearing a mask. The dog is the only one who's completely alive!'' he laments. ''He's living the dog's life. The rest of us are afraid to die, and afraid to kill, so we're masked up and we're injected, and so forth. It's the most challenging time of this life cycle for us. We didn't have a world war or a depression, the things our ancestors had. This is the hand we got dealt and if you fold, you can't win.''
Beside Murray sits Jan Vogler, a bespectacled German classical cellist in a de rigueur black polo neck. Vogler's Bill Murray story might just be the best. In 2013, checking in for a flight from Berlin to New York, Vogler felt a tap on his shoulder. It was Murray, enquiring as to how Vogler was going to manage to fit his bulky cello case onto their flight. Clearly it wasn't going to squeeze into an overhead locker. ''I think he was scandalised when I told him my cello would have the window seat, but I argued that it has to sit there because if I sat in the window seat, I couldn't escape,'' explains Vogler, logically enough. As chance would have it, the two men and the instrument ended up next to each other on the flight, so Vogler took the opportunity to watch Murray's 1981 military comedy Stripes for the first time. ''I just thought that's so special, having Bill next to me and watching Stripes,'' says Vogler. ''I enjoyed the film tremendously. It was my fantasy. If I ever joined the army, I would probably be as obnoxious as those guys.'' Murray's mouth curls into a smile. ''He didn't know why I was in first class,'' he deadpans, ''and then he realised my film was on the flight.''
Murray at the 'New Worlds: The Cradle of Civilization' rehearsals
( Dorn Music)
From that initial meeting, a friendship blossomed. A couple of years later, Murray invited Vogler on a poetry walk around New York, at which Murray recited Walt Whitman's ''A Song for the Open Road''. The pair shared a love of classical music and literature, and the seeds of a collaboration were planted. Together they dreamed up a show that would put the finest works of American literature into dialogue with the great works of European classical music. In the wake of the election of Donald Trump as president in 2016, they felt their idea could help reawaken a conversation about exactly what we mean when we talk about ''American values''.
America has been seen as isolationist, but I don't think most Americans feel that way
''When we started, America was in some sort of eclipse, to my mind,'' says Murray. ''I felt like people didn't know what the hell they made of America any more. We roll with this good guy image, where we bail everybody out and we help people and so forth, but it seemed like those doors were closed to the world. Somehow we were being represented as isolationist and disrespectful towards the rest of the world, and I don't think most Americans feel that way.''
The pair put together a setlist that included classical pieces by Shostakovich, Schubert and Bach, readings from American authors such as Whitman, James Fenimore Cooper and Ernest Hemingway, songs by Tom Waits and Van Morrison, and a smattering of show tunes. Vogler brought in violinist Mira Wang and pianist Vanessa Perez to back Murray on the mic, and the quartet took their show on the road from 2017 to 2018, playing 63 gigs in more than 20 countries. Murray is well aware that many of his fans might not associate him with such highbrow material, but that was part of the appeal. He wanted to find a way to make it accessible, and he jokes irreverently early on in the filmed performance that: ''This stuff, it's just junk, what we're doing.'' He's willing to meet the audience halfway.
Bill Murray and cellist Jan Vogler
''There'd be people going: 'Oh, I like that guy Bill Murray. I've seen his movies. He's funny,''' says Murray. ''And then after the first three songs they're like: 'What have we gotten into here? Has this guy had a stroke or something? This is not the guy we knew!' Not that I took it all that personally, but I felt like you could feel in the audience a sense of: 'Ah nuts!' So I said that really naturally one night and it got such a good reaction that it sort of broke the tension. People were like: 'OK, I can handle one more'. Then they were rewarded with another one that was lighter and more fun and more agreeable.''
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Sign upThat's not to say the show is devoid of Murrayisms. One of the most telling pieces in the performance is a passage from A Moveable Feast. In it, Hemingway meets a painter, Pascin, who is sitting in a bar with two beautiful sisters. They talk and flirt, but at the end of the story, we learn that much later Pascin took his own life. Hemingway tries to remember him as happy, writing: ''They say the seeds of what we will do are in all of us, but it always seems to me that in those who make jokes in life the seeds are covered with better soil and with a higher grade of manure.''
It's a line that could be Murray's epitaph. ''The 'higher grade of manure' line sounds like just a joke, but it really means that you've digested a finer kind of material,'' he says. ''There's something that you've taken in, that you manage to make part of you. The byproduct is something that's valuable to the next stage of life, whether it be a plant or a person. I love that. The fact that he's able to tell that amusing story with the sad finish of the taking of his own life, and just say that there was a positive outcome, that something good came from knowing that man, that you're not left with sadness, that he gave more than he took, and he left something behind.''
If the show starts slow and heavy, it ends with playful lightness with a medley of songs from West Side Story. Vogler, Wang and Perez make dazzling work of Leonard Bernstein's music, while Murray skips around the stage belting out Stephen Sondheim lines. ''Those words have so much hope, and so much reality to them,'' he says. '''I Feel Pretty' is just joyous. Someone saying: 'I'm as pretty as anybody in the world right now, because I'm in love.' I mean, that's it, isn't it?''
Murray and Andie MacDowell in 'Groundhog Day', 1993
Sondheim, who died last year, once expressed his desire to turn Murray's philosophical 1993 comedy Groundhog Day into a musical. It never happened, with Sondheim commenting in 2008: ''I feel to make a musical of Groundhog Day would be to gild the lily. It cannot be improved; it's perfect the way it is. I don't want to touch it, because it's perfect.'' Murray took that as a high compliment, although today he says it's a shame we'll never hear Sondheim's version. ''I heard that Sondheim was one of a number of lyricists who thought the ultimate challenge was to make a musical of Groundhog Day,'' he says. ''That guy was a powerful visionary. He could say things, so I wish he'd given it a stab. I would love to see what he'd done with it. Even if he thought it was difficult, I know that it would have been such a blessing.''
Murray's charming onscreen presence and apparent ability to live life in the moment has, it's been argued, obscured his sometimes truculent behaviour. He had a long falling out with Stripes co-star and Groundhog Day director Harold Ramis, while his Charlie's Angels co-star Lucy Liu has said he told her on set that she couldn't act. Ghostbusters writer and co-star Dan Aykroyd referred to him as ''the Murricane'' because of his volatility. Clearly, there is a darker side to Murray's persona, and he has made no secret of depressive episodes in the past. Music, he says, has often been his saviour. Although he didn't perform it in Athens, one song that Murray performed while touring America was ''Angel from Montgomery'' by the late John Prine, a friend of Murray's and an artist he credits with rescuing him at his lowest.
John Prine performing in 2020
''I remember my friend Hunter Thompson, who was another guy people perceived as sort of a dark force but who really had a wonderful sense of humour, talking about John Prine,'' says Murray, recalling the time he spent with the gonzo journalist at his compound in Colorado. ''I remember at one of the moodiest'... What did he used to call it? Broodingest! '...at one of the broodingest moments of our long weekend, he said: 'Well, we'll have to rely on John Prine for the sense of humour.' And he put on some, and it was dark out there in the mountains, and we did listen to John Prine for a while. There was a moment where I was the most miserable of my whole life, so I thought, I'll go see if John Prine will help me here. His song 'Linda Goes to Mars' comes on and I just remember going: 'Heh'.'' The corners of Murray's mouth turn up almost imperceptibly, expressing the smallest possible quantity of amusement. ''That was it. That was all there was, but it was a change of direction. I thought: 'Goddammit, it worked!' I hadn't even 'Heh'd' in such a while.''
Sometimes a ''Hmm'' is all you need. It is the power of great art to lift our spirits even in the darkest of times, which explains the appeal of watching Murray cavorting happily around the Acropolis while Vogler, Wang and Perez bring timeless music to vivid life behind him. The setting, Murray says, helped put everything into perspective for him.
Bill Murray, Mira Wang, Jan Vogler and Vanessa Perez
''It was extraordinary,'' says Murray, his eyes lighting up. ''If you looked up, you could see the Parthenon. You go: 'Oh, my God, look where I am!' It's such a powerful reminder: 'Hey, fella, this is your life. You better live it right now, get back to where you're supposed to be inside and live and give everything you can right now. Everything. In the film, when you see us on the stage, the backdrop is this 2,000-year-old building. It makes us seem almost transparent. These people could be exchanged for someone 500 years earlier, or a 1,000 years earlier, and they're just going to be here for a second and then they'll be gone. You feel like you're'... maybe not exactly nothing, but you're close. Close. And that realisation spurs you to work a little bit harder.''
Bill Murray and Jan Vogler's 'New Worlds: The Cradle of Civilization' is in cinemas from 22 March
Russia backs down on demands in Iran nuclear deal talks, making revival of 2015 pact imminent
Sun, 20 Mar 2022 14:02
A picture taken on November 10, 2019, shows an Iranian flag in Iran's Bushehr nuclear power plant, during an official ceremony to kick-start works on a second reactor at the facility.
ATTA KENARE | AFP via Getty Images
Russia has walked back its threat to torpedo the revival of the 2015 Iranian nuclear deal over recent sanctions imposed over its invasion of Ukraine, reopening the way to an agreement after nearly a year of talks.
The parties involved in the pact, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA, were reportedly close to reaching a deal in Vienna until the U.S. and EU imposed sweeping sanctions on Russia over its invasion of Ukraine. Moscow then demanded that future trade with Iran not be impacted by Western sanctions, prompting the talks to be suspended last week.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Tuesday that he had "received written guarantees" from the U.S. that its demands would be met, meaning the talks will likely proceed. The nearly simultaneous release of British-Iranian dual nationals from years of Iranian detention back to the U.K. and a reported U.K. repayment of a decades-old $530 million debt to Iran have improved prospects for an agreement.
"Deal could come together quite quickly '-- potentially as soon as this week," analysts at political risk consultancy Eurasia Group wrote in a note Wednesday.
"Russia's decision to moderate its demands clears the most significant hurdle in front of the JCPOA's revival," the analysts wrote, putting the odds of a deal passing at an optimistic 80%. "The release of the two British-Iranian prisoners is another positive signal that talks are nearing a conclusion," they said.
Iranian oil back on the market?With the U.S. terminating its imports of Russian oil and the EU looking to reduce its energy dependency on Moscow, Iranian crude is looking more alluring '-- as is the crude from other heavily sanctioned countries like Venezuela, which has reportedly been in energy discussions with U.S. officials.
A return to the 2015 deal, which originally lifted sanctions on Iran in return for limits on its nuclear program, would see the return of Iranian oil to the market at a time when energy supply shortages and geopolitical volatility have brought crude prices to their highest in more than a decade.
This would "boost global oil supplies and could put downwards pressure on prices," James Swanston, Middle East and North Africa economist at London-based firm Capital Economics, wrote in a note Thursday, adding that "it may also help to ease geopolitical tensions in the region." Still, a return to previous production levels will take time.
Commodities analysts at S&P Global Platts predict that if sanctions were to be lifted on Iran immediately, it could export an additional 500,000 barrels of oil per day to markets from April to May of this year, with that figure reaching an additional 1.3 million barrels per day by the end of this year.
Iran was the fifth-largest producer in OPEC in 2020. Before the Donald Trump administration unilaterally ditched the deal in 2018 and re-imposed crippling sanctions on Iran's economy, the country was producing 3.8 million barrels of oil per day. This later dropped to as low as 1.9 million barrels and is currently about 2.4 million barrels per day, according to the Atlantic Council '-- though most of this has had to remain in storage rather than be exported due to the sanctions.
Since the U.S. withdrawal from the deal, Tehran has made significant progress in terms of its nuclear activity, increasing uranium enrichment and stockpiles far beyond the parameters of the 2015 agreement.
This means it has shrunk its "breakout time," or the amount of time it would take to be able to build a nuclear bomb. Iran's leaders said its advances would continue as long as U.S. sanctions aren't lifted.
Washington's Gulf allies not happyEleven months after negotiations restarted, with the U.S and Iran not speaking directly but through European mediators, the remaining sticking points relate mostly to sanctions-related issues, including whether Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps will continue to be designated by the U.S. as a Foreign Terrorist Organization list.
"But these are unlikely to prove insurmountable," Eurasia's analysts say, considering that both Washington and Tehran want a deal.
The prospect of a return to the deal has not sat well with Washington's Arab Gulf allies, particularly Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, two of OPEC's leading crude producers and longtime adversaries of Iran. The two reportedly did not take President Joe Biden's calls as he attempted to convince them to increase their oil production to alleviate soaring prices.
OPEC has not indicated any move to upping its production beyond pre-planned increases agreed between OPEC members and their non-OPEC allies, led by Russia, in 2021.
Another Covid Surge May Be Coming. Are We Ready for It? - The New York Times
Sun, 20 Mar 2022 14:01
''We've been wearing rose-colored glasses instead of correcting our vision,'' one scientist said.
An intensive care unit in Washington, D.C., this month. Though Covid case numbers are falling in most of the country, scientists warn that the quiet may soon give way to another surge by an Omicron subvariant, BA.2. Credit... Will Oliver/EPA, via Shutterstock March 19, 2022
Scarcely two months after the Omicron variant drove coronavirus case numbers to frightening heights in the United States, scientists and health officials are bracing for another swell in the pandemic and, with it, the first major test of the country's strategy of living with the virus while limiting its impact.
At local, state and federal levels, the nation has been relaxing restrictions and trying to restore a semblance of normalcy. Encouraging Americans to return to prepandemic routines, officials are lifting mask and vaccine mandates and showing no inclination of closing down offices, restaurants or theaters.
But scientists are warning that the United States isn't doing enough to prevent a new surge from endangering vulnerable Americans and potentially upending life again.
New pills can treat infections, but federal efforts to buy more of them are in limbo. An aid package in Congress is stalled, even as agencies run out of money for tests and therapeutics. Though less than one-third of the population has the booster shots needed for high levels of protection, the daily vaccination rate has fallen to a low.
While some Americans may never be persuaded to roll up their sleeves, experts said that health officials could be doing a lot more, for example, to get booster shots to the doorsteps of older people who have proved willing to take the initial doses.
''You use the quiet periods to do the hard work,'' said Jennifer Nuzzo, an epidemiologist at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. ''You don't use the quiet to forget.''
The clearest warnings that the brief period of quiet may soon be over have come, as they often have in the past two years, from Western Europe. In a number of countries, including Britain, France and Germany, case numbers are climbing as an even more contagious subvariant of Omicron, known as BA.2, takes hold.
In interviews, 10 epidemiologists and infectious disease experts said that many of the ingredients were in place for the same to happen in the United States, though it was unclear if or when a wave might hit or how severe it might be.
Case numbers are still dropping nationally, but BA.2 accounts for a growing proportion of those infections, rising to almost one-quarter of new cases last week. The subvariant is estimated to be 30 to 50 percent more contagious than the previous version of Omicron, BA.1.
In New York City, average daily case numbers rose by roughly 40 percent over the past two weeks, though they remain extremely low compared with recent months. In Connecticut, scientists estimate that the frequency of BA.2 infections is doubling every seven or eight days '-- half the rate of Omicron's growth this winter, but also considerably faster than the Delta variant's 11-day doubling time before that.
''I expect we'll see a wave in the U.S. sooner than what most people expect,'' said Kristian Andersen, a virologist at the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, Calif. He said that it could come as soon as April, or perhaps later in the spring or the early summer.
And given that some cases inevitably turn more serious, Dr. Andersen said, ''yes, such a wave would be accompanied by rising hospitalizations and deaths.''
Image Commuters at Waterloo Station in London, where the remaining Covid restrictions were lifted Feb. 22. In much of Western Europe, case numbers are climbing again. Credit... Neil Hall/EPA, via Shutterstock Some experts cautioned, however, that BA.2 had not driven up case numbers in every country where it emerged. In a best-case scenario, they said, even if American case numbers started climbing, leftover immunity from the first Omicron wave this winter could help protect against a heavy surge of hospital admissions. And a shift toward outdoor socializing could temper an increase in case numbers.
For now, there are fewer Covid patients in intensive care units than during almost any other point in the pandemic. The vaccines appear to protect as well against BA.2 as they did against the previous version of Omicron, according to British data, and BA.2 does not seem to cause any more or less severe disease.
In trying to forecast what lies ahead, American health officials and scientists have debated what mixture of factors has driven up case numbers in Europe and just how serious the wave there could get.
The BA.2 subvariant began its march across Europe around the time that certain countries were lifting restrictions and mask mandates, potentially giving it extra kindling for its spread. Some scientists in Britain have also attributed that country's surge in part to the fact that immunity tends to weaken over time following vaccinations or earlier infections.
In some parts of Europe, like Denmark and the Netherlands, the peak of the BA.2 wave has already passed. In other countries, where case numbers have climbed since early March, hospital admissions have remained flat or risen only slightly.
But Britain has emerged as a more startling example of the potential for a surge in BA.2 cases to begin filling up hospital beds, too. People 70 and older in England have been infected at record levels, health officials said, with estimates that roughly one in every 30 people in that age group had Covid in the week before March 12.
As a result, the number of hospitalized Covid patients there has climbed by around 35 percent in recent weeks, though about half of those had tested positive incidentally after admission. To bolster protection, Britain plans to start administering fourth doses to older people later this month.
In the United States, too, scientists are concerned that so many people have gone more than six months since their last doses of vaccine, reducing levels of immunity. Pfizer and BioNTech have asked American regulators to authorize fourth doses in older people, and Moderna is seeking clearance for the additional shots for all adults.
It is less clear whether relaxing Covid rules in the United States will help fuel transmission to the same degree that it may have in some European nations. Parts of the United States have effectively been without restrictions for months.
''There are lots of moving parts,'' said David Dowdy, an epidemiologist at Johns Hopkins University. ''It's really difficult to disentangle which of these is driving any given wave.''
Fewer than half of Americans who have received primary vaccine doses have taken booster shots, putting the United States in a more precarious position. Even though case numbers are so low, nearly 1,200 Americans on average are dying each day from Covid '-- a rate far higher than in Western Europe, where older people tend to have received vaccines and boosters in higher numbers.
As time passes, two doses become less effective at preventing Omicron-related hospitalizations, British estimates suggest, whereas a booster dose restores protection to considerably higher levels.
Adding to the alarm in the United States, this week a number of wastewater testing sites had showed drastic increases in viral levels on a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention map.
But scientists said that it was difficult to measure changes while viral levels were so low and that the true picture was more muddled: Some wastewater sites in states like Massachusetts, Connecticut and Ohio had observed growing viral levels, while many others had not.
Image Preparing boosters in a Covid center in Washington, D.C. Americans are still dying from Covid at a rate of nearly 1,200 a day. Credit... Kenny Holston for The New York Times Whatever lies ahead, scientists said that now was the time to get more people vaccinated, while the country still had a say in the shape of any coming wave.
''We should be reading about how the federal government is using its resources to go nursing home to nursing home, and church to church, to get booster numbers up,'' said Sam Scarpino, the managing director of pathogen surveillance at the Rockefeller Foundation.
But the federal government is warning that pandemic funds are drying up. Senate Republicans have said that they will not approve $15 billion in new coronavirus aid without offsetting it by cutting spending elsewhere. House Democrats have balked at a proposal to repurpose money intended for state governments to spend on their pandemic responses.
With the aid package stymied for now, federal officials said that they would need to start cutting shipments of monoclonal antibody treatments to states next week by more than 30 percent. The government has secured 20 million antiviral pills, but orders for more are on hold. And by June, officials said, the federal government's efforts to ensure that companies keep producing enough tests will run out of money, imperiling capacity for later this year.
There is not enough money to guarantee sufficient purchases of variant-specific booster shots if they are needed, federal officials said. And while those shortages would affect all Americans, uninsured people would face particular risks because a federal program to reimburse providers for testing, treating and vaccinating those without insurance could end in early April.
''There are so many things we could be doing, yet the United States has time and time again chosen to be reactive, rather than proactive, and that has cost us dearly,'' said Anne Rimoin, an epidemiologist at U.C.L.A. ''We've been wearing rose-colored glasses instead of correcting our vision.''
A key question remains how much protection people who got sick with the previous version of Omicron can count on '-- and for how long. A lab study published this week found that vaccinated people who were infected with Omicron had high levels of antibodies that would probably protect against BA.2. If that protection lasts, it could reduce the impact of any wave, given the country's high levels of infection this winter.
''I think it's reassuring,'' said Dr. Dan Barouch, a virologist at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston and a co-author of the study.
But some scientists said they worried that the immune defenses people built up during the first Omicron surge would wane, leaving them more susceptible to BA.2.
''The timing of BA.2's emergence, and the potential waning in immunity from the BA.1 wave with masks coming off, isn't great,'' said Nathan Grubaugh, an epidemiologist at the Yale School of Public Health.
Even health experts who said they had become accustomed to the boom-bust cycle of pandemic funding said they were shocked that the money was drying up so soon after the country had outlined plans for adjusting to a new normal.
That money, they said, was essential for avoiding full-scale shutdowns, and instead detecting surges early enough that health officials could recommend masks or increased testing in particular areas and help hospitals prepare.
''People naturally, sensibly want to get back to their lives,'' said Jeffrey Shaman, an epidemiologist at Columbia University. ''The question, then, is how quickly would we be able to stand up a response?''
Reported pediatric COVID-19 deaths plummet 24% after CDC fixes 'coding logic error' | Washington Examiner
Sun, 20 Mar 2022 14:00
| March 18, 2022 11:03 AM
A ll-time pediatric deaths from COVID-19 reported on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's COVID Data Tracker plummeted nearly 24% after the agency resolved a "coding logic error" on Wednesday.
The CDC's COVID Data Tracker had presented a misleading impression prior to the fix that children were dying at a sharply amplified rate amid the omicron surge earlier this year. The tool had reported 1,755 all-time deaths from children ages 0 to 17 on Tuesday, with 738 of the deaths occurring during the first 10 weeks of 2022.
After CDC resolved the error, the pediatric death figure reported on its COVID Data Tracker dropped to 1,339 all-time deaths, a reduction of 23.7% from the figure reported the day prior.
"On March 15, 2022, data on deaths were adjusted after resolving a coding logic error. This resulted in decreased death counts across all demographic categories," the data tracker said.
CDC WITHHOLDS LARGE AMOUNTS OF KEY COVID-19 DATA
CDC spokeswoman Jasmine Reed told the Washington Examiner the agency's algorithm was accidentally counting non-COVID-related deaths in the data tracker.
"An adjustment was made to COVID Data Tracker's mortality data on March 14 involving the removal of 72,277 - including 416 pediatric deaths - deaths previously reported across 26 states because CDC's algorithm was accidentally counting deaths that were not COVID-19-related," Reed said. "Working with near real-time data in an emergency is critical to guide decision-making, but may also mean we often have incomplete information when data are first reported."
Prior to the fix, the CDC's data had been used as the basis for articles published late last week by the Guardian and the New York Post that reported as many as a third of all child deaths from COVID-19 had occurred since the beginning of 2022 amid the omicron surge.
"Children seem to be facing increasing risks as mask mandates are abandoned and vaccination rates stall," the Guardian reported.
The article received a substantial amendment late Thursday after the reporter behind the piece deleted multiple tweets citing the CDC.
The article now cites data from the CDC's weekly provisional data on COVID-19 deaths, which is based on death certificate data and states that 921 children ages 0 to 17 had deaths "involving COVID-19" since the start of the pandemic, a figure significantly smaller than the figure reported by the CDC's COVID Data Tracker.
I have deleted the following tweets after the CDC changed its numbers on deaths from Covid, including pediatric deaths, in order to stop the spread of any inaccurate information. I am following up with the CDC about this change and what it means for their data tracking. pic.twitter.com/MlmIvxkXc3
'-- Melody Schreiber (@m_scribe) March 17, 2022 The CDC came under fire for its lack of transparency surrounding COVID-19 data in late February after the New York Times reported that the agency had published only a small portion of the data it had collected on hospitalizations, vaccines, and wastewater analysis in part because it feared the information might have been misinterpreted by the public.
Sen. Ron Johnson, a Wisconsin Republican, railed against the CDC in a March 1 letter for its "disturbing and shameful" lack of transparency surrounding COVID-19 data.
"In the midst of a pandemic, it is unacceptable that CDC would withhold relevant data on COVID-19 that could inform the public and potentially save lives," Johnson wrote to CDC Director Rochelle Walensky.
CLICK HERE TO READ MORE FROM THE WASHINGTON EXAMINER
"Throughout the pandemic, CDC and other health agencies have promoted inconsistent policies and recommendations regarding COVID-19," Johnson said. "Many Americans who voiced concerns about these policies have been subjected to ridicule, vilification, and censorship from the press."
"Rather than provide the public with complete access to relevant data to justify its COVID-19 policies, the Biden Administration has apparently favored censorship over transparency," Johnson added.
Bill Clinton, George Bush visit Ukrainian church in Chicago - Chicago Tribune
Sun, 20 Mar 2022 13:52
Chicago Tribune |
Mar 19, 2022 at 12:54 PM
In a display of solidarity with Ukraine, former Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton earlier this week left bouquets of sunflowers, the war-torn nation's national flower, at an iconic church in Chicago's Ukrainian Village during an unannounced visit.
Both former presidents, who have been outspoken in opposing Russia's invasion of Ukraine, used social media late Friday to post videos of their joint visit to the golden-domed Sts. Volodymyr and Olha Ukrainian Catholic Church, 739 N. Oakley Blvd.
The men, both 75, wore yellow ribbons on their suit lapels as they approached the church, carrying the bouquets of yellow sunflowers tied in a blue ribbon. They left the flowers, which came from a local florist, at a stone cross outside the church.
Demonstrators gather in support of Ukraine on March 13, outside Sts. Volodymyr and Olha Ukrainian Catholic Church in the Ukrainian Village, where former presidents Bill Clinton and George Bush visited Friday. (Brian Cassella / Chicago Tribune)
''America stands in solidarity with the people of Ukraine as they fight for their freedom and their future,'' Bush, a former Republican president, said on Twitter through his presidential center in Dallas.
Clinton, a former Democratic president, posted the video to his Twitter page, writing, ''America stands united with the people of Ukraine in their fight for freedom and against oppression.''
In the video, an unidentified church member explained that the flowers say ''in solidarity'' and Ukraine has become ''the citadel of fighting for freedom.''
The video said Clinton and Bush ''worked to support Ukraine's democratic institutions'' after the U.S. began diplomatic relations with the country in 1991 following the fall of the Soviet Union.
In a Facebook post, the church displayed the video and thanked the former presidents for their visit.
''Two former presidents of the United States arrived to our Cathedral to express support for Ukraine. Thank you Mister President Bush and Mister President Clinton,'' the Facebook post said.
Both Bush and Clinton have criticized Russian President Vladimir Putin's invasion of Ukraine that began on Feb. 24.
In a statement following Russia's invasion, Bush called it ''unprovoked and unjustified'' and said it constitutes ''the gravest security crisis on the European continent since World War II.''
Clinton also has called Putin's actions ''unprovoked and unjustified'' and warned Putin that ''the world will hold Russia, and Russia alone, accountable, both economically and politically.''
US ranks 16th in World Happiness Report
Sun, 20 Mar 2022 13:50
The Statue of Liberty is seen in New York, Wednesday, June 30, 2021. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
Posted at 9:50 PM, Mar 18, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-19 13:15:37-04
There is apparently a lot to be happy about in Finland. It took the top spot in the 2022 World Happiness Report.
The report looks at a variety of factors to come up with its rankings including life expectancy, GDP, social support and perception of corruption.
Generosity and freedoms are also measured in the report.
The U.S. ranks 16th on the list. It received high marks in the GDP and social support categories.
The top 5 on the list were all European countries:
FinlandDenmarkIcelandSwitzerlandNetherlandsThe bottom 5 countries include:
142. Botswana 143. Rwanda 144. Zimbabwe 145. Lebanon 146. Afghanistan
Copyright 2022 Scripps Media, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
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Vladimir Putin holds a huge rally in front of thousands of 'Z' flag-waving Russians | Daily Mail Online
Sun, 20 Mar 2022 13:04
Vladimir Putin has today given a tub-thumping speech to tens of thousands of banner-waving Russians in an attempt to drum up support for his stalled invasion of Ukraine, as he peddled debunked claims about why the war started and shilled a false narrative of Russia's battlefield 'success'.
The despot took to the stage at Moscow's Luzhniki World Cup stadium dressed in a £10,000 Loro Piana jacket - despite his country's economy crumbling under the weight of Western sanctions - to address a crowd waving Russian national flags and banners marked with the letter 'Z', which has become a potent symbol of the invasion.
Putin, who called the rally to mark the anniversary of the last time he attacked Ukraine to annex the Crimea region, spoke of sharing a 'common destiny' with Crimeans, of 'de-Nazifying' the region in 2014, and of the 'bravery' of soldiers currently fighting in Ukraine. He was met with chants of 'Russia, Russia, Russia.'
Speaking in front of banners that read 'For a world without Nazism' and 'For Russia' - with the letter 'Z' in each picked out in bold - he said: 'Sevastopol [capital of Crimea] did the right thing when they put up a barrier to neo-Nazis and radicals, which is already happening on other territories.
'[The] people of Donbass also disagreed with this, and straight-away they organised military operations against [the Nazis]. They were surrounded and shelled by guns, the Ukrainians sent airstrikes against them. This is called genocide,' he said, repeating his widely-debunked justification for attacking. 'It is to save people from this suffering and genocide that we launched our military operation.'
Putin then praised troops taking part in his 'special operation', who he said are fighting for the 'universal values' of all Russians. The words 'we don't abandon our own' were emblazoned on screens around the stadium. Paraphrasing the Bible, he said: 'There is no greater love than giving up one's soul for one's friends.
'The best confirmation of this is how our guys are fighting during this operation, shoulder to shoulder, helping each other. When it is necessary, they cover each-other as if it was their own brother from bullets. We haven't had such unity in a long time,' he said.
But a bizarre moment in the speech came when Putin suddenly disappeared from news feeds in mid-sentence - replaced by a band that was mid-way through singing, perhaps suggesting his address was not broadcast live.
Vladimir Putin has today given a tub-thumping address to tens of thousands of Russians gathered at Moscow's world cup stadium, celebrating his invasion of Ukraine in 2014 and drumming up support for his new war
Putin spoke in front of a crowd tens of thousands strong at the Luzhniki World Cup stadium in Moscow, one of the few times he has been seen in public since launching his invasion 23 days ago
Putin used the rally to peddle falsehoods about why the war started and to shill a narrative of Russia's battlefield success, speaking of 'how our guys are fighting during this operation, shoulder to shoulder, helping each other'
Putin fans in the crowd were seen waving banners emblazoned with the letter 'Z', which has been adopted as a symbol of the invasion and the Kremlin's wider aim of restoring national pride through conquest
Putin called the rally to mark the eighth anniversary of 'annexing' Crimea, speaking of 'de-Nazifying' the peninsula and of debunked claims of 'genocide' in the Donbass
A Russian man gestures towards the stage during a rally in Moscow's World Cup stadium to support Putin's war on Ukraine, even as his armed forces shell civilian areas of cities
Rally attendees wave Russian flags alongside flags bearing the 'Z' symbol, which has become a potent sign of support for the invasion because it is frequently seen painted on symbols
Two banners reading 'For a world without Nazism' and 'For Russia' - each with the letter 'Z' picked out in bold - are seen above the stage as Vladimir Putin arrives to speak to the crowd
Putin is attempting to rally domestic support in Russia to his cause, having faced near-total condemnation from other nations and isolation even from his allies
Russian flags are seen waving inside the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow, alongside 'Z' banners supporting the war in Ukraine during a rally held by President Putin
Putin waves to supporters after finishing speaking during a pro-war rally held on Friday afternoon, in a rare public appearance since the fighting began
People Russian flags during a concert marking eight years since Russia last attacked Ukraine, at Moscow's Luzhniki Stadium
Putin has faced intense international pressure over his war and disquiet at home, and appears to be trying to bolster his support by hosting mass rallies
Putin delivers a speech during a concert marking the eighth anniversary of Russia's annexation of Crimea
While thousands of attendees appeared to be genuine fans of Putin, others said they were government workers pressured to come or believed they were going to a concert
PUTIN'S SPEECH 'For a world without Nazism' and 'For Russia' - with the letter 'Z' in each picked out in bold - he said: 'Sevastopol [capital of Crimea] did the right thing when they put up a barrier to neo-Nazis and radicals, which is already happening on other territories.
'[The] people of Donbass also disagreed with this, and straight-away they organised military operations against [the Nazis]. They were surrounded and shelled by guns, the Ukrainians sent airstrikes against them. This is called genocide,' he said, repeating his widely-debunked justification for attacking. 'It is to save people from this suffering and genocide that we launched our military operation.'
'There is no greater love than giving up one's soul for one's friends.
'The best confirmation of this is how our guys are fighting during this operation, shoulder to shoulder, helping each other. When it is necessary, they cover each-other as if it was their own brother from bullets. We haven't had such unity in a long time,' he said.
'It so happened that the start of the special operation coincided, quite by chance, with the birthday of one of our outstanding military leaders, the sainted Fyodor Ushakov, who throughout his brilliant military career never lost a battle,' said Putin.
'He once said: "These thunderstorms will go to the glory of Russia". So it was then. So it is today. And so it will always be.'
The event included patriotic songs, including a performance of 'Made in the U.S.S.R.,' with the opening lines 'Ukraine and Crimea, Belarus and Moldova, it's all my country.' Moscow police said 200,000 people had attended the event - though the stadium's capacity is only 81,000.
Some Russians spoke to journalists at the event to say they were government workers who had been pressured to come. Others were students who were told they could have a day off from lectures if they attended 'a concert'.
Speeches he gave in the run-up to the invasion were widely believed to have been recorded, and Putin has rarely been seen in public since the attack began.
In a segment of the speech that was initially cut off - but later broadcast on state TV - Putin likened himself to Russian hero Admiral Fyodor Ushakov who famously never lost a battle, in an apparent attempt to boast of his 'successes' in Ukraine which in reality has turned into a bloodbath.
'It so happened that the start of the special operation coincided, quite by chance, with the birthday of one of our outstanding military leaders, the sainted Fyodor Ushakov, who throughout his brilliant military career never lost a battle,' said Putin.
'He once said: "These thunderstorms will go to the glory of Russia". So it was then. So it is today. And so it will always be.'
Ushakov was the supreme Russian commander of his age during the reigns of Catherinne the Great, her son Pavel, and grandson Alexandr I.
Several Telegram channels critical of the Kremlin reported that students and employees of state institutions in a number of regions were ordered by their superiors to attend rallies and concerts marking the Crimea anniversary. Those reports could not be independently verified.
In the wake of the invasion, the Kremlin has cracked down harder on dissent and the flow of information, arresting thousands of antiwar protesters, banning sites such as Facebook and Twitter, and instituting tough prison sentences for what is deemed to be false reporting on the war, which Moscow refers to as a ''special military operation.''
The OVD-Info rights group that monitors political arrests reported that at least seven independent journalists had been detained ahead of or while covering the anniversary events in Moscow and St. Petersburg.
The event was held after Russian airstrikes pounded the city of Lviv in the west of Ukraine this morning, with Russia strikes getting closer to NATO-member Poland in Putin's bloody-minded invasion of his neighbour.
Andriy Sadovyi, mayor of Lviv, said two Russian missiles launched from the Black Sea - likely by warships - had destroyed an aircraft repair facility and a bus garage close to the airport, but there were no immediate reports of casualties because both facilities were shut down. Four incoming missiles were shot down, he added.
Vladimir Putin used the speech to peddle falsehoods about the last time he attacked Ukraine in 2014, and to repeat lies he has told about the current war - which he continued to call a 'special military operation'
People watch a broadcast of Russian President Vladimir Putin's speech during a concert in Moscow today
People hold a banner with letter Z and saying 'For Russia' during the pro-war rally in Moscow on Friday
Banners read 'Russia' 'Donbass' 'Crimea' and 'For President' as crowds watch a recording of Vladimir Putin's speech
Russian President Vladimir Putin delivers a speech to crowds inside Moscow's World Cup stadium on Friday
A military choir performs during a rally in support of Vladimir Putin's war on Ukraine in Moscow on Friday
Russian President Vladimir Putin is seen on a big screen as he delivers his speech at the concert marking the eighth anniversary of the referendum on the state status of Crimea and Sevastopol and its reunification with Russia, in Moscow, Russia, Friday, March 18, 2022
Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a concert marking the last time he invaded Ukraine, back in 2014
Pictured: Hosts wear a 'Z' on their coats as they present the celebration event. The 'Z' has become a symbol of pro-Russian nationalism since Putin launched his brutal invasion, as it is painted on many of Moscow's military vehicles
The made-for-TV rally in Moscow is intended to drum up support for Putin's war, which has been internationally condemned
Supporters of Russian President Vladimir Putin hold flags and cheer during a pro-war rally in the capital Moscow
Pictured: Crowds are seen outside the stadium on Friday. Moscow police said more than 200,000 people were in and around the Luzhniki stadium for the rally
Lviv has largely been spared the devastation wreaked by Russia on cities further to the east but is now being dragged into the fighting as Putin's advance grinds to a halt - forcing his generals to launch long-range strikes on cities in an attempt to weaken their defences and terrorise civilians. Kyiv was also struck in the early hours.
Russia's invasion is now grinding into its third week with heavy losses for Moscow, prompting the US warns that Putin will increasingly resort to nuclear threats in order to keep the West out of the conflict because he will no longer be able to rely on the strength of his conventional forces - which will be weakened in the fighting.
Lieutenant General Scott Berrier, director of the Pentagon's Defense Intelligence Agency, told Congress yesterday: 'As this war and its consequences slowly weaken Russian conventional strength, Russia likely will increasingly rely on its nuclear deterrent to signal the West and project strength to its internal and external audiences.'
While Berrier specified that the nuclear threats will be directed at the West, he also warned that Russia appears determined to increase its attacks on Ukraine as well - with the aim of forcing Kyiv to sign a peace deal favourable to Moscow rather than accept an embarrassing compromise.
'Despite greater than anticipated resistance from Ukraine and relatively high losses in the initial phases of the conflict, Moscow appears determined to press forward by using more lethal capabilities until the Ukrainian government is willing to come to terms favourable to Moscow,' he said.
Smoke rises over the city of Lviv, in western Ukraine, after two Russian cruise missiles hit the city early Friday - destroying an aircraft repair workshop at the airport and a nearby bus garage
Russia's ground attacks have stalled on almost all fronts, with limited gains happening in the east, as Putin's generals increasingly launch long-range strikes on the west of the country in an attempt to weaken Kyiv's war effort
Civilians and members of Ukraine's territorial defence force look on as smoke rises over the city of Lviv, in the west of Ukraine, after Russian cruise missile strikes early on Friday
A Ukrainian civilian, wounded by flying glass from a Russian airstrike, evacuates from an apartment in Kyiv, Ukraine
Ukrainian firefighters extinguish a blaze at a warehouse after bombing by Russian forces in Kyiv
Rescuers work at a site of buildings damaged by a shelling, as Russia's attack on Ukraine continues, in Kyiv
Ukrainian firefighters extinguish a blaze at a warehouse after a bombing in the capital city of Kyiv
Civilians watch a storage facility go up in flames after it was hit by artillery shelling in the north of Kyiv
A residential building damaged by shelling, as Russia's attack on Ukraine continues, is seen in Kharkiv, Ukraine
A man with a cat evacuates from a building damaged by shelling, as Russia's attack on Ukraine continues in Kyiv
Residents of Lviv have told of their shock at the Russian missile attack on their 'safe-haven' city. Families living in a housing estate close to the bomb strike described how buildings shook and windows rattled from the explosion.
Professional dancer Anna Malchevska, 25, told MailOnline: 'I was woken up by the explosions, there were four of them. The windows were shaking and the building was shaking. It must have been about 6 o'clock this morning.
'There was no warning. No air raid siren, just boom, boom. Then I looked out of the window and there was a huge plume of black smoke.'
Ira Melnyk, 60, who is retired, said: 'I'm not sleeping at the moment because of all the stress of the war. 'So when I heard the first explosion I pick up my dog and rushed into the bathroom where it's safer.
'The building was shaking and the windows were rattling. It was awful. When I went up the window I could see a plume of black smoke. It was really scary.'
Father Andriy Mousiyiyev told how he no longer takes his children to the bomb shelter after surviving the bombing raids in his home city of Kharkiv. He told MailOnline: 'We came from Kharkiv where we lived under the bombs for days on end. We thought we had escaped the war when we got here to Lviv about a week ago.
'But now the war is everywhere. We have young children do we don't go to the shelter every time the air raid sirens go off. So this morning we were in the flat when the bombs went off. It was about 6.10. The children were not frightened. They just want to go home to Kharkiv, we all do.'
In city after city around Ukraine, hospitals, schools and buildings where people sought safety from the bombardment have been attacked.
Rescue workers searched for survivors in the ruins of a theater that served as a shelter when it was blown apart by a Russian airstrike in the besieged southern city of Mariupol.
And in Merefa, near the northeast city of Kharkiv, at least 21 people were killed when Russian artillery destroyed a school and a community center, a local official said.
In the northern city of Chernihiv, dozens of bodies were brought to the morgue in just one day.
As Russia's ground advance has stalled under fierce Ukrainian resistance, Moscow has increasingly turned to air and long-range strikes to gain the upper hand.
According to Pentagon estimates, Russia has now fired over 1,000 missiles at Ukrainian targets since the war began three weeks ago.
In the early hours of Friday air raid alarms again rung in cities from Kyiv in the north to Odessa in the south and Kharkiv in the east.
Ukraine's government listed a kindergarten and market in Kharkiv among the latest targets.
In his latest late-night video message, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky admitted the situation in several Ukrainian cities was 'difficult.'
But, he said, 'we will not leave you behind and we will not forgive them. You will be free.'
Hoping to sustain the fight, he has beseeched allies for more assistance - even as an arsenal of anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles flood into the country.
Slovakia confirmed it is willing to provide powerful Russian-made S-300 anti-aircraft missile system to Ukraine, but only on the condition that it receive a substitute from NATO allies.
On Wednesday Zelensky told German lawmakers that Russia was throwing up another 'Berlin Wall', a dividing line between 'freedom and bondage' in Europe.
'And this wall is growing bigger with every bomb,' he added.
That dividing line is currently drawn around 15 kilometres from Kyiv, where Russian troops are still trying to surround the capital in a slow-moving offensive.
On Wednesday AFP journalists witnessed Ukrainian and Russian forces trade shell and rocket fire to the northwest of the city.
Civilians ran for cover as shelling set fire to a building near a warehouse.
Inside the warehouse's car park, a Ukrainian soldier carrying a rifle ran in a crouch as gunshots crackled through the air.
A man carried a prone child in his arms into a nearby block of flats, and at least five ambulances raced towards the scene.
An interior view shows a residential building damaged by shelling, as Russia's attack on Ukraine continues, in Kyiv
Rescuers work next to a residential building damaged by shelling, as Russia's attack on Ukraine continues, in Kyiv
Smoke rises from the ruins of a building in Sievierodonetsk, in the Ukrainian-held part of eastern Donetsk region, where fighting with Moscow-backed rebel forces is ongoing
A view shows a building of a hospital damaged by shelling as Russia's attack on Ukraine continues, in Sievierodonetsk
A fire broke out in a residential building in Kyiv's Podilskyi district after it was struck by a downed Russian missile, with one person killed and four injured
A fire broke out in a residential building in Kyiv's Podilskyi district as a result of a downed missile
Rescuers work on remains of a residential building damaged by shelling, as Russia's attack on Ukraine continues, in Kharkiv
Rescuers work on remains of a residential building damaged by shelling, as Russia's attack on Ukraine continues, in Kharkiv
Destroyed cars are seen in an area damaged by shelling, as Russia's attack on Ukraine continues, are seen in Kyiv
Locals walk next to residential buildings damaged by shelling, as Russia's attack on Ukraine continues, in Kyiv, Ukraine
Residents of a shell-damaged house in Kyiv, Ukraine, clean broken window panes
In Odessa, on the Black Sea, civilians were bracing for attack, with tanks deployed at intersections and monuments covered in sandbags.
'Our beautiful Odessa,' said Lyudmila, an elegant elderly woman wearing bright lipstick, as she looked apologetically at her city's empty, barricaded streets.
'But thank God we are holding on! Everyone is holding on!'
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Thursday that American officials were evaluating potential war crimes and that if the intentional targeting of civilians by Russia is confirmed, there will be 'massive consequences.'
The United Nations political chief, Undersecretary-General Rosemary DiCarlo, also called for an investigation into civilian casualties, reminding the U.N. Security Council that international humanitarian law bans direct attacks on civilians.
She said many of the daily attacks battering Ukrainian cities 'are reportedly indiscriminate' and involve the use of 'explosive weapons with a wide impact area.' DiCarlo said the devastation in Mariupol and Kharkiv 'raises grave fears about the fate of millions of residents of Kyiv and other cities facing intensifying attacks.'
In Mariupol, hundreds of civilians were said to have taken shelter in a grand, columned theater in the city's center when it was hit Wednesday by a Russian airstrike. More than a day later, there were no reports of deaths and conflicting reports on whether anyone had emerged from the rubble. Communications are disrupted across the city and movement is difficult because of shelling and other fighting.
Satellite imagery on Monday from Maxar Technologies showed huge white letters on the pavement outside the theater spelling out 'CHILDREN' in Russian - 'DETI' - to alert warplanes to the vulnerable people hiding inside.
'We hope and we think that some people who stayed in the shelter under the theater could survive,' Petro Andrushchenko, an official with the mayor's office, told The Associated Press. He said the building had a relatively modern basement bomb shelter designed to withstand airstrikes. Other officials said earlier that some people had gotten out.
Video and photos provided by the Ukrainian military showed that the at least three-story building had been reduced to a roofless shell, with some exterior walls collapsed.
Across the city, snow flurries fell around the skeletons of burned, windowless and shrapnel-scarred apartment buildings as smoke rose above the skyline.
'We are trying to survive somehow,' said one Mariupol resident, who gave only her first name, Elena. 'My child is hungry. I don't know what to give him to eat.'
She had been trying to call her mother, who was in a town 50 miles (80 kilometers) away. 'I can't tell her I am alive, you understand. There is no connection, just nothing,' she said.
Cars, some with the 'Z' symbol of the Russian invasion force in their windows, drove past stacks of ammunition boxes and artillery shells in a neighborhood controlled by Russian-backed separatists.
Russia's military denied bombing the theater or anyplace else in Mariupol on Wednesday.
In Chernihiv, at least 53 people were brought to morgues over 24 hours, killed amid heavy Russian air attacks and ground fire, the local governor, Viacheslav Chaus, told Ukrainian TV on Thursday.
Ukrainian soldiers and firefighters search in a destroyed building after a bombing attack in Kyiv, Ukraine
Members of a Territorial Defense unit guard a defensive position on the outskirts of Kyiv
Ukrainian soldiers take cover from incoming artillery fire in Irpin, the outskirts of Kyiv
Ukraine's emergency services said a mother, father and three of their children, including 3-year-old twins, were killed when a Chernihiv hostel was shelled. Civilians were hiding in basements and shelters across the embattled city of 280,000.
'The city has never known such nightmarish, colossal losses and destruction,' Chaus said.
The World Health Organization said it has verified 43 attacks on hospitals and health facilities, with 12 people killed and 34 injured.
In remarks early Friday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said he was thankful to President Joe Biden for additional military aid, but he would not get into specifics about the new package, saying he did not want Russia to know what to expect. He said when the invasion began on Feb. 24, Russia expected to find Ukraine much as it did in 2014, when Russia seized Crimea without a fight and backed separatists as they took control of the eastern Donbas region.
Instead, he said, Ukraine had much stronger defenses than expected, and Russia 'didn't know what we had for defense or how we prepared to meet the blow.'
In a joint statement, the foreign ministers of the Group of Seven leading economies accused Putin of conducting an 'unprovoked and shameful war,' and called on Russia to comply with the International Court of Justice's order to stop its attack and withdraw its forces.
Both Ukraine and Russia this week reported some progress in negotiations. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Thursday that some negotiators were breaking into working groups.
Zelenskyy said he would not reveal Ukraine's negotiating tactics.
'Working more in silence than on television, radio or on Facebook,' Zelenskyy said. 'I consider it the right way.'
While details of Thursday's talks were unknown, an official in Zelenskyy's office told the AP that on Wednesday, the main subject discussed was whether Russian troops would remain in separatist regions in eastern Ukraine after the war and where the borders would be.
The official, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss the sensitive talks, said Ukraine was insisting on the inclusion of one or more Western nuclear powers in the negotiations and on legally binding security guarantees for Ukraine.
In exchange, the official said, Ukraine was ready to discuss a neutral military status.
Russia has demanded that NATO pledge never to admit Ukraine to the alliance or station forces there.he fighting has led more than 3 million people to flee Ukraine, the U.N. estimates. The death toll remains unknown, though Ukraine has said thousands of civilians have died.
Ukraine's Zelenskyy signs decree to combine national TV channels, cites martial law | Al Arabiya English
Sun, 20 Mar 2022 13:03
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has signed a decree that combines all national TV channels into one platform, citing the importance of a ''unified information policy'' under martial law, his office said in a statement on Sunday.
For the latest headlines, follow our Google News channel online or via the app.
Ukrainian privately owned media channels have hitherto continued to operate since the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine on February 24.
The decree announcement, made on the presidential website, did not specify how quickly the new measure would come into force.
Some Syrian veterans ready for Ukraine fight on Russian side, commanders say
Chinese official calls sanctions on Russia increasingly 'outrageous'
Russia warns of Ukrainian mines in Black Sea
People's Convoy: How Brian Brase became leader - The Washington Post
Sun, 20 Mar 2022 12:54
How this 37-year-old trucker from Northwest Ohio came to be the one to make that decision is a reflection of a man torn by contradictions, who doesn't fit easily into any one narrative of what this convoy or its leader is about. Brase finds himself at the center of a movement that has swollen to include not just parents concerned about vaccine mandates for their children, but also involves men associated with violent extremist groups and people who falsely believe government leaders are running satanic child sex trafficking rings. He has emerged as the de facto leader who keeps it all together '-- even as he says he wishes that had never happened.
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The 6-foot-2, flannel-wearing organizer seems to connect easily with his followers. He portrays himself as accessible, telling the crowd that he won't take a meeting with a lawmaker unless it is live-streamed and addresses supporters' concerns head-on. He rallies the crowd with his most popular chant, demanding that politicians remember ''they work for us!'' In those moments, Brase's personal beliefs on such issues as the 2020 election or masks or critical race theory are not important. Supporters chant along with him, attracted to the broader anti-establishment sentiments fueling their outrage.
He has fostered an environment where certain truths are somehow debatable '-- including whether Jan. 6, 2021, was a violent insurrection and whether research shows the coronavirus vaccine to be safe and effective '-- all under the guise of free speech. It's the type of open stance that can appeal to everyone in the crowd, a blank canvas for the aggrieved.
Brase has welcomed far-right extremists into his group, but he does not view himself as one. His beliefs, he said, do not align with the fringes that he has attracted, and encouraged, to gather at the Hagerstown Speedway. He is not sure what to think of the 2020 presidential election results, even though he voted for Donald Trump for president and some of his followers brag about being among the insurrectionist mob that attacked the U.S. Capitol. He's uncomfortable receiving a coronavirus vaccine but would not stop someone else '-- including his daughter '-- from taking one. He believes the pandemic is real.
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Convoy supporters rail against the critical race theory academic framework, but Brase acknowledges that CRT is not taught in K-12 schools '-- and he supports it being taught in colleges. He doesn't believe in banning books and is fine with students reading novels by Toni Morrison, although the late author's work is a frequent target of right-wing attacks. He thinks schools should teach the country's full history, including the enslaving of Black people by White people. Still, he supports those at the speedway flying the Confederate flag.
He told the crowd never to vote a straight ticket, even as many disparage Democrats. Before a Republican senator visited the speedway, he asked drivers to refrain from chanting ''Let's go Brandon,'' a phrase that is code for a profane expression directed at President Biden. He wants to be seen as bipartisan and insists that there are Democrats around the speedway.
He says this protest is about the government's mandating actions on health care that he feels should be personal decisions. But his reasons for joining the movement are more complicated. The pandemic hurt his livelihood, and he recently suffered a devastating loss that left him searching for answers and a purpose.
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This convoy, he thought, could be that mission. But he said he never meant to become the leader.
The mood at the Hagerstown Speedway that Saturday night was tense. Brase could tell there were people looking for a fight. The crowd, if encouraged by the wrong message, could be capable of anything, he worried.
''Convoys around the D.C. Beltway doesn't do s--- to the legislators, doesn't do a thing. Literally nothing,'' Brase said in an interview. ''The only advantage to the loops around the Beltway is the fear that we might grab an exit.''
It was a choice similar to one facing leaders of the mainstream Republican Party: appeal to a wide audience or follow the rallying cries and untrue claims about electoral fraud that led to the Jan. 6 insurrection. Brase already made the choice to welcome the right-wing extremists with ideologies that have led to violence.
Brase walked the grounds of the speedway, shaking hands and meeting newcomers. But something felt off. He was in his head, consumed by the decision. He stayed awake, he said, researching the history of the iconic civil rights leaders Nelson Mandela and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. He knew the crowd would follow his orders.
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The next morning, a large wooden cross leaned against the makeshift stage as Brase walked up, turned to address the people who had traveled with him from Southern California and those who had only recently joined the group and were calling themselves a movement.
The crowd of mostly White men looked up at Brase with his megaphone in hand: ''Today, we decided that we're going to go onto the Beltway,'' he said to cheers. ''We're going to do this peacefully. We're going to do this with some class. '... We're not going to shut anything down today.''
A devastating loss and a new direction
Brase grew up in a truck. He remembers spending summers next to his father on the road but never thought he'd do the same. He thought he would be a military lifer.
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He spent five years in the Iowa Army National Guard. But when his wife at the time wanted to return home to Pennsylvania, Brase joined the Pennsylvania Army National Guard. Soon, he went looking for something else to do and was drawn to what he knew.
He's been driving a truck for about five years and owns a blue 1999 Freightliner FLD120. He became involved as an industry advocate, starting the United States Transportation Alliance with Mike Landis, who also is one of the organizers of the People's Convoy.
''I got out of it,'' Brase said of the transportation alliance. ''Realized if you didn't have enough money to pad their pockets for reelection, they didn't care what you had to say.''
Brase said he lives in Northwest Ohio but is originally from Lititz, Pa. He has hauled steel coils, sheet rock, lumber and other building material; bulldozers and tractors; and entertainment supplies, delivering staging, lighting and audio to arenas for musicians. During the 2020 onset of the coronavirus pandemic, he was sitting on a loading dock getting ready to go on tour with ZZ Top when he got the call that the tour was canceled, he said in an interview with Truck Boss Show, an Oklahoma City-based program about trucking.
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''I parked the truck, waiting to find out what my next tour was going to be,'' Brase said. ''Then, out of nowhere, within the next two weeks, every single thing canceled.''
The pandemic had disrupted his life '-- taking away business and creating a new wedge between him and his eldest daughter. She has been vocal about her dislike of Trump and her belief that it is everyone's civic obligation to be vaccinated. Her father disagreed.
Their neighbors called covid-19 a hoax. Can these ICU nurses forgive them?
''She thinks it's everybody's duty to get the vaccine. ... People that won't get the vaccine, she believes, is like a disservice to humanity,'' Brase said. ''I just tell her that I believe in freedom of choice.''
But it was something else that sent him out on this journey '-- the loss of his son.
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In September, his 16-year-old son, Dominic Lee Brase, died by suicide.
Dom's death shook everything Brase believed in, he said. His Catholic upbringing taught him that those who die by suicide ''go to hell.'' And although he never really believed that, he fell apart.
Brase's body is covered in little reminders of these horrors. On his right arm is a semicolon, a common suicide awareness tattoo in the color teal for post-traumatic stress disorder awareness.
He rolled up the right leg of his pants to reveal a large abstract skull head tattooed on the back of a calf. A butterfly stretches across the eyes, and a clock arches over the top with bullets for hands. It's the tattoo from his own suicide attempt years ago '-- the skull represents death, the clock signals time for healing, and the butterfly is half-blue, showing depression, and half Monarch, displaying strength to overcome.
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As he tells it, Brase started following the protests in Canada and wondered why there hadn't been a similar demonstration in the United States. As Ottawa-inspired spinoffs popped up on social media, he became more involved, joining groups and talking with people interested in starting a convoy, even as many U.S. pandemic-related mandates had already been blocked or lifted. While on the road, he said, he found a new connection with God.
A nonprofit says it collected over $1.5 million for a D.C.-region-bound truck convoy. Its director recently pleaded guilty to fraud.
The convoy has attracted so many Christian supporters that every group meeting and rally starts with a prayer. Christian nationalism also is evident in the group's rhetoric: Leaders and drivers compared Monday's convoy into and around D.C. to the biblical Battle of Jericho '-- the conflict in which the city's walls fell to the sound of trumpets after it was encircled by an Israelite army for seven days.
''The whole process, between my son and this, has made me like a big believer in God,'' Brase said. ''Doesn't mean I'm going to church. I ain't going to church.''
Brase also does not know what to think about the 2020 presidential election, despite many of his supporters emphatically believing it was ''rigged.'' In past elections, he said, truckers have always been able to guess by yard signs across the country who was going to win. In his view, the 2020 election was the first time they got it wrong.
''I'm not saying I believe one thing or another,'' Brase said. ''I don't know, and I'm not going to pretend to know.''
When people falsely claim the coronavirus vaccines are harmful, he shrugs it off, saying he's not a scientist or doctor. He calls himself a blue-collar truck driver and says there's ''both sides'' to the vaccines' safety and efficacy. So far, no one speaking to the convoy in Hagerstown has pointed out the proven benefits of the coronavirus vaccine.
Although Brase joined this movement as an organizer and promoted it in TV appearances on Fox News shows such as ''Tucker Carlson Tonight'' and ''Fox & Friends'' as well as on Newsmax, he corrects people who label him the leader. He insists he is a ''co-organizer.''
But at the speedway, everyone knows him. People often pray over Brase, draping their arms around him and leaning their heads close. They turn to him with questions about shipping needed medicine, or they ask his blessing to leave and return to a family back home and a job that pays the bills. People shout out during his daily speeches: ''We love you, Brian!'' and ''Thank you, Brian!''
He has rallied crowds before, organizing ''10-4 on D.C.,'' an annual peaceful protest in D.C. that gathered as recently as last fall with trucks lining the Mall to raise public awareness about trucking industry regulations.
But this is different.
He sees the influence he has over his new followers, and he's uncomfortable. At times, he said, he wishes he wasn't the one tasked with keeping together this unwieldy group, united by anger and frustration. Some have told him that if he goes home, that will be the end of the ''People's Convoy.''
''There's no reason for it to end because I go home,'' Brase countered. ''But now I feel like a f---ing prisoner in this too, even though I want this, like I want this to succeed.''
The armada of drivers continues to loop around the Beltway during off-peak hours in a chorus of honks and expressions of frustrations with commuters they label ''antifa,'' referring to anti-fascist activists, and complaints of law enforcement they view as impeding their First Amendment rights.
When they changed their route this week to enter the nation's capital via the 14th Street Bridge on Interstate 395 before crossing the Anacostia River and returning toward Hagerstown '-- a more disruptive demonstration than driving in circles on the Beltway '-- D.C. police blocked interstate exits into downtown Washington each day.Some drivers still headed into downtown D.C. This shift came after the group's permit application to hold a demonstration on the Mall was partially denied and then was withdrawn.
Although inspired by actions in Canada, the U.S. People's Convoy has been nothing like the Ottawa demonstration that dominated headlines for weeks and now has been overshadowed by the war in Ukraine.
Still, Brase tells the crowd of supporters they've been earning win after win '-- and many of the drivers stay, despite rising gas prices, a winter storm, and near daily hours-long demonstrations that amount to sitting in traffic.
Brase and others have met with lawmakers inside the U.S. Capitol and gave Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) a ride from the speedway into D.C. for a news conference '-- part of Brase's public strategy of using diplomacy to achieve the protesters' goals. He insists the group won't leave the region until there's an end to the national public health emergency declaration and the few remaining federal mandates are lifted '-- and the people cheer.
This camaraderie and progress is what he hoped for when he announced the group would loop the Beltway that first weekend. Unknown to the crowd, organizers originally planned to send them out on Monday, but they pushed the day up to weed out the people Brase referred to as ''weekend warriors.''
''We had all the crazies here. '... The vibe was very like alt-right walking around here,'' Brase said about the first weekend in Hagerstown. ''They came back [from the convoy] and it was like a totally different vibe all of a sudden. It was the right people.''
Throughout the almost two weeks at the speedway, there has been pressure to escalate their tactics, especially coming from people in chat rooms and those watching live streams on YouTube. Some express a desire for a D.C. demonstration, but others repeat unproved theories that any protest there would be a ''trap.''
They were brought together to protest pandemic restrictions, but their anger is fueled by so much more.
They are motivated by perceived infringements on their freedoms, including complaints about general government overreach, technology companies ''censoring'' speech, corruption in pharmaceuticals, a ''stolen'' election, an untruthful mainstream media and school lessons on diversity, equity and inclusion they label as critical race theory. To them, it's about taking back a country they feel no longer represents them.
The group turned a gravel parking lot, pockmarked with potholes from the heavy trucks driving through, into a community with a daily prayer meeting, free hot meals served by volunteers and communal food and other supplies drawn from ''the People's Pantry,'' boxes of supplies stacked behind the grandstands.
At night, mothers and daughters dance to Katy Perry's ''Firework'' as people wave the Gadsden ''Don't Tread on Me'' flag and the American Stars and Stripes. Families and friends sit in camping chairs around fires, and part of the Texas convoy group set off fireworks on a back hill. People bring their dogs. After the morning meeting Wednesday, a couple was married on the flatbed-turned stage.
There's also been the logo for the militia movement Three Percenters and men wearing Proud Boys insignia, calls for a citizens' arrest of Biden and Vice President Harris, QAnon propaganda and rampant misinformation about the novel coronavirus.
Early last week, Micki Larson-Olson took to the stage in a long blue wig, red, thigh-high heeled boots, and an emblem with the letter Q fastened in the middle of her American flag bodysuit. She told the crowd that Jan. 6 was the most ''patriotic day of my life'' and proudly shared that she was later arrested for her role in the insurrection. She was charged in D.C. Superior Court with a misdemeanor curfew violation, and a jury trial is scheduled for Sept. 12, court records show.
Larson-Olson introduced herself as a ''General Flynn digital warrior'' and ''proud Protzmanian,'' which are references to those who subscribe to the QAnon conspiracy theory and to a subset of the group that believes John F. Kennedy Jr. will come back from the dead. As she spoke, someone cut off her microphone. Later, Brase spoke from the same stage.
Jeffrey Gilman, a 43-year-old White man from Rochester, N.Y., stood on the still-muddy gravel last week and said relationships with his family had soured over views on the coronavirus vaccine.
At the speedway, Gilman said, he has found acceptance. Fellow convoy driver Troy Lundeen, 47 of Buda, Ill., agreed.
''I think I like it better than my own neighbors in Rochester,'' Gilman said.
''Because they'll actually talk to you here,'' Lundeen said.
They described Brase as a humble man and ''a great leader.'' Gilman said he's leaving for the weekend but plans to meet the convoy again, wherever they end up. Lundeen also needs to leave for a bit to work '-- and plans to come back.
''Everybody needs a leader to follow,'' Gilman said.
''I'd rather follow him than Biden, I'll tell you that,'' Lundeen said, ''and I only met him a few days ago.''
Brase walked out of the U.S. Capitol last week, proud of what the convoy had accomplished.
When a group of nine drivers and supporters met with two Republican senators, Brase was their spokesman.
He grabbed the attention of national news, wrangled another meeting, with Republican members of the House Transportation Committee, and spread the group's message. He also lamented that it seemed that only Republicans were willing to come to the table for a cause he argues should cross the aisle.
Afterward, Brase headed back to the Hagerstown Speedway to rally the troops.
He does not know everybody staring back at him every morning or night, or the thousands of people talking about him and his protest convoy in online chat rooms. He feels it is his job to motivate them, boost morale and keep them united. If he told his supporters to leave, he thinks they would.
He's aware that his movement has attracted people on the fringes of the political right. And while he says he doesn't necessarily agree with them all, he has repeatedly said they're welcome in the convoy if they believe in the group's message and remain peaceful.
''You know how amazing it would be to watch Proud Boys and antifa standing together,'' he said, ''because they united over the fact they want their freedoms?''
It is not clear in which direction Brase will point the convoy next.
He's urged participants to pressure the state governments and to call their representatives to demand meetings. If Brase wanted to get into politics, he told his supporters, he would focus on his local community and run for the school board.
When rain poured down early last week and the crowd scattered, Brase rushed to the organizers' bus, somewhat relieved finally to have a moment alone.
''I feel responsible for all of those people's safety. Yet I know that if I say certain things, people would get riled up and go right downtown without even blinking an eye,'' Brase said in an interview later that night inside the bus. ''That is scary. That is not a good thing. Nobody should ever be able to have that level of influence or power. '... That's why some screwed up s--- in world history has happened, because they don't think about the cost of human life.''
The next day '-- and nearly every morning since '-- Brase has continued to step up to the stage, lift the microphone to his mouth and rally the crowd.
Emily Davies, Steve Thompson and Magda Jean-Louis contributed to this report.
Koch Industries staying in Russia, says leaving would 'do more harm than good'
Sun, 20 Mar 2022 12:37
By Thomas Barrabi
March 17, 2022 | 5:02pm
Koch Industries bucked a recent trend of US companies exiting Russia over the war in Ukraine. AP
Koch Industries plans to maintain its business operations in Russia, breaking with other companies that hastily exited the country following the Kremlin's unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, the company confirmed this week.
GOP megadonor Charles Koch's Kansas-based firm said it will continue operating two industrial glass factories in Russia owned by its subsidiary, Guardian Industries.
Koch Industries COO Dave Robertson defended the firm's decision in a lengthy statement '' arguing Russia would nationalize both facilities if it left.
''While Guardian's business in Russia is a very small part of Koch, we will not walk away from our employees there or hand over these manufacturing facilities to the Russian government so it can operate and benefit from them,'' Robertson said. ''Doing so would only put our employees there at greater risk and do more harm than good.''
Koch has ''no other physical assets'' in Russia and has just 15 employees in the country outside from Guardian's operations, according to the executive. Guardian employs roughly 600 people at the two glass factories.
Koch COO Dave Robertson argued leaving Russia would allow the Kremlin to take control of the factories. Courtesy of Koch IndustriesRoberson said Koch was ''complying with all applicable sanctions, laws and regulations governing our relationships and transactions within all countries where we operate.
''We will continue to closely monitor the situation and keep you updated as needed,'' he added.
Major US corporations such as Apple and McDonald's headline a growing list of firms who have limited operations in Russia or cut ties with the country entirely following the invasion.
Most companies have cited mounting sanctions against Russia that have made it difficult to continue doing business, or moral concerns related to Russia's increasingly brutal incursion.
Guardian Industries has two glass factories in Russia. Sipa USA via APUkraine President Volodymyr Zelensky and other top Ukrainian officials have actively pressured Western companies to cut ties with Russia.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) slammed Koch for opting to stay active in the country. Charles Koch and his late brother, David, have long rankled Democrats by bankrolling right-leaning causes and politicians.
''As the democracies of the world make huge sacrifices to punish Russia for Putin's illegal and vicious invasion of Ukraine, Koch Industries continues to profit off of Putin's regime,'' the lawmakers said in a statement.
''It is time for Koch Industries to put the values of democracy ahead of its own profits. We are calling on Koch Industries to immediately suspend their operations in Russia,'' they added.
More than 400 companies around the world have left Russia since the invasion began, according to a list compiled by professor Jeffrey Sonnenfeld and researchers at Yale University. Koch Industries was one of 30 companies deemed to be ''digging in'' or defying calls to exit.
Will the Next J6 Trial Expose Another Justice Department Lie? 'º American Greatness
Sun, 20 Mar 2022 12:26
Federal prosecutors last week scored a big victory after a Washington, D.C., jury took less than three hours to find Guy Reffitt, the first January 6 defendant to stand trial, guilty on all counts.
The Justice Department's winning streak might be short-lived, however. Prosecutors will have a tougher task with the trial starting Monday for Couy Griffin, the ''Cowboys for Trump'' leader arrested for his minor and nonviolent involvement in the Capitol protest on January 6.
Griffin was the subject of my very first article over a year ago on the Justice Department's abusive prosecution of January 6 protesters in which, coincidentally, I asked the rhetorical question, ''Where is the outrage over America's political prisoners?'' as official Washington was in a tizzy over Russian President Vladimir Putin's imprisonment of his country's star dissident.
After the government charged Griffin on January 19, 2021 with two low-level trespassing misdemeanors, acting U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia Michael Sherwin asked the court to keep Griffin detained pending trial. Sherwin, recall, bragged about a ''shock and awe campaign'' of January 6 arrests prior to Joe Biden's inauguration.
Relying mostly on remarks Griffin made during and after the protest, Sherwin claimed that the New Mexico county commissioner, who never entered the Capitol, was a danger to the community. ''[The] defendant is an inflammatory provocateur and fabulist who engages in racist invective and propounds baseless conspiracy theories, including that Communist China stole the 2020 Presidential Election,'' Sherwin's office wrote in a motion seeking Griffin's imprisonment. ''He denies the lawful election of the president and as [sic] stated repeatedly that Biden will never be president.''
Sherwin concluded Griffin is a racist because he publicly objected to playing the black national anthem at professional football games and suggested that the players ''go back to Africa and form your little football teams over in Africa.''
A federal magistrate judge agreed. Calling the nation's capital a ''war zone'' on January 6, Judge Zia Faruqui claimed Griffin's comments were not protected under the First Amendment and signaled his defiance of the entire U.S. government. ''[Griffin] won't listen to those conditions [of release] because he may ultimately decide that those conditions are part of a flawed system that he must go by any means to overthrow and disrupt,'' Faruqui said during a February 2, 2021 detention hearing. (The chief judge ordered Griffin's conditional release a few days later.)
Faruqui also told Griffin's defense lawyers during the hearing that ''there is no doubt in my mind, in fact, in anyone's mind, that there was a person protected by the Secret Service who was in that building, which is the Vice President of the United States of America.''
Those words might come back to bite the good judge.
The whereabouts of both Kamala Harris and Mike Pence are the basis for thousands of criminal charges related to January 6, including the two charges against Griffin. As Secret Service protectees, the Justice Department alleges under 18 U.S. Code, section 1752, their presence inside the Capitol during the four-hour disturbance rendered the building and surrounding grounds a ''restricted'' area closed to the public. Nearly every one of the nearly 800 Americans charged in the massive Capitol breach probe faces at least one 1752 count.
But the Justice Department recently was forced to admit that Harris was not in the building for most of the day on January 6. Harris, who was still a member of the U.S. Senate, had in fact left the Capitol in the late morning and inexplicably went to the headquarters of the Democratic National Committee, the same building where a pipe bomb allegedly was planted the night before.
Prosecutors have begun amending language in court filings to reflect the fact Harris was not inside the Capitol despite making the assertion in thousands of charging documents.
Only one D.C District Court judge has upbraided the Justice Department for its insidious lie about Harris. Judge Trevor McFadden last month told prosecutors in a separate case that the government had a ''big problem'' for misleading a grand jury for over a year as to Harris' whereabouts and that the falsehood undermined ''any confidence the Court can have in the Government's representations.''
McFadden will preside over Couy Griffin's bench trial next week
Now it appears that the government might also be lying about Mike Pence's location on January 6'--and prosecutors are desperate to conceal exactly where the vice president went after he was evacuated from the Senate chamber around 2:20 p.m. that day. Thousands of criminal complaints, grand jury indictments, and government motions, just like the Harris reference, state that Pence ''remained in the United States Capitol from the time he was evacuated from the Senate Chamber until the sessions resumed,'' which occurred around 8 p.m.
But the proof is nonexistent. To that end, Griffin's attorneys asked the Justice Department to produce official White House photographs of Pence and his family during the six-hour break; prosecutors insist they don't have them.
Further, in numerous cases including Griffin's, prosecutors are asking judges to prevent cross-examination of Secret Service agents who could confirm Pence did indeed remain in the building or on the Capitol grounds after the breach.
As a replacement, the government filed a sworn statement by a U.S. Capitol police officer who said he watched surveillance video that established ''Vice President Pence remained in the Capitol Complex throughout the Capitol breach.'' When Griffin's defense attorney, Nicholas Smith, asked the government to provide the surveillance video captured by the Capitol police's camera system, prosecutors argued that releasing the video, even under a protective order, would compromise security.
Just in time for trial before an increasingly skeptical McFadden, the Justice Department made a second edit to Griffin's original indictment with another caveat: the area was restricted because Pence ''was and would be [emphasis added] temporarily visiting'' the building.
While that qualifier is part of the original statute, it was not cited until this month by the government. Arguing that the building was restricted because Pence was inside during the breach is one thing; compelling criminal indictments on the notion that Pence wasn't there but planned to return is something else.
Either way, McFadden is having none of it; he wants proof. '' If the Government wishes to proceed [on both charges], it is hereby ORDERED to have a witness present at trial who can speak based on first-hand knowledge as to the whereabouts of former Vice President Pence during the alleged offense conduct,'' McFadden ruled on March 9.
The mythology of January 6 revolves around any number of lies: an ''armed'' insurrection without firearms; police officers who didn't die at the hands of Trump supporters; a ''conspiracy'' that doesn't exist'--to name a few.
But lies related to the whereabouts of Harris and Pence'--whose own advisor continues to propagate the possible falsehood'--will take the dishonest narrative to a new level. Thousands of criminal charges, which have destroyed the lives of those prosecuted, depend on this lie. Exposing it in court will reveal another aspect of this abusive witch hunt of Trump-supporting Americans.
Bill Murray Catching Heat for Pandemic Comments in New Interview
Sun, 20 Mar 2022 11:56
Bill Murray Pandemic Remark Backlash 'We're Afraid to Die, Afraid to Kill' 3/19/2022 11:42 AM PT Bill Murray is being labeled as an old and out-of-touch guy after seemingly lamenting the fact we've had to wear masks during this pandemic ... likening it to a fear of death. ð¤--
The actor recently did an interview with The Independent about his concert film that was shot in 2018 at the Acropolis of Athens, and while discussing it ... Bill and co. mention how it's like looking into a time capsule due to how carefree he and everyone else was.
Bill Murray ð¸: 'We are afraid to die and afraid to kill' https://t.co/p7jdcWxHgE
'-- The Independent (@Independent) March 19, 2022 @Independent With that in mind, the author says there's nothing quite like a pandemic to put the kibosh on spontaneous interaction -- and then right after, Bill is quoted as saying this ... "We just went out with our friend to walk the dog, and you're wearing a mask, everyone's wearing a mask. The dog is the only one who's completely alive!"
He adds, "He's living the dog's life. The rest of us are afraid to die, and afraid to kill, so we're masked up and we're injected, and so forth. It's the most challenging time of this life cycle for us."
Bill Murray continuing to prove that old white guys really need to just stop talking.The dog is the only one that's "truly alive" cos it's not wearing a mask? Really, Bill? Do you think shoes also mean we're dead, Bill?
'-- Seraphine Drake [Frac] (@SeraphineDrake) March 19, 2022 @SeraphineDrake Finally, BM compares how we've dealt with the pandemic with how previous generations dealt with global events, saying ... "We didn't have a world war or a depression, the things our ancestors had. This is the hand we got dealt and if you fold, you can't win."
Pretty cryptic on its face, but Twitter seems to know what Bill means here ... and they're tearing him apart over it, with many saying his comments are incredibly tone-deaf.
Comedy icon Bill Murray and celebrated cellist Jan Vogler talk about their new documentary "New Worlds," life during the pandemic, and how they helped save a woman on flighthttps://t.co/RUyo4kP2jD
'-- The Daily Beast (@thedailybeast) February 2, 2022 @thedailybeast Bill might be misunderstood in this sitch, because he's spoken about COVID quite a bit over the past two years ... and not once has he come off as resentful about how the world reacted to the virus. If anything, he's been kinda optimistic and impressed.
One theme he's hit home is that, perhaps, some good has come out of COVID ... in that it's made this generation more resilient and willing to survive like in years past. Still, it's hard to know for sure what he's getting at with the dog analogy ... 'cause it doesn't sound great.
Most medical debt will be wiped from consumer credit reports
Sun, 20 Mar 2022 11:53
A medical worker walks past a row of ambulances parked outside of Houston Methodist Hospital amid the global outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19). in Houston, Texas, U.S., June 22, 2020.
Callaghan O'Hare | Reuters
A large number of U.S. consumers will have their medical debt wiped from their credit reports, the nation's largest credit reporting agencies announced Friday.
Equifax, Experian and TransUnion said in a joint statement they would remove nearly 70% of medical collection debt accounts from consumer credit reports after conducting months of market research. The changes will start to take place this summer.
"After two years of the COVID-19 pandemic and a detailed review of the prevalence of medical collection debt on credit reports, the NCRAs (nationwide credit reporting agencies) are making changes to help people to focus on their personal wellbeing and recovery," the companies said.
Starting July 1, medical debts that were sent to debt collectors and eventually paid off will no longer be included on consumer credit reports. In the past, debts that were paid after being sent to collections could be included on credit reports for seven years. Consumers will also now have a year before unpaid medical collection debt appears on credit reports after being sent to collections. That's up from the current six months, which the agencies said will offer people more time to work with their insurance or health-care providers.
Starting in the first half of 2023, Equifax, Experian and TransUnion will also stop including medical debts in collection that are below $500 on credit reports.
Medical debt, which can be extremely unpredictable, can cause even the most fiscally rigorous Americans to end up missing payments, which can result in lower credit scores that will hinder their ability to get the best credit or loan rates.
A February report by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau estimated there is $88 billion in medical debt on consumer credit records as of June 2021. Most medical debts in collection on consumer credit reports are under $500, it added.
Black and Hispanic consumers, young adults and low-income individuals are all more likely to have medical debt than the national average, the report said. Older adults and veterans are also "heavily impacted" by the debt, it said.
Pixar's Lightyear Restores Same-Sex Kiss After Don't Say Gay Uproar - Variety
Sun, 20 Mar 2022 11:37
On March 9, LGBTQ employees and allies at Pixar Animation Studios sent a joint statement to Walt Disney Company leadership claiming that Disney executives had actively censored ''overtly gay affection'' in its feature films. The stunning allegation '-- made as part of a larger protest over the company's lack of public response to Florida's ''Don't Say Gay'' bill '-- did not include which Pixar films had weathered the censorship, nor which specific creative decisions were cut or altered.
But in at least one case, the statement appears to have made a significant difference.
According to a source close to the production, Pixar's next feature film, ''Lightyear'' '-- starring Chris Evans as the putative real-life inspiration for the ''Toy Story'' character Buzz Lightyear '-- does feature a significant female character, Hawthorne (voiced by Uzo Aduba), who is in a meaningful relationship with another woman. While the fact of that relationship was never in question at the studio, a kiss between the characters had been cut from the film. Following the uproar surrounding the Pixar employees' statement and Disney CEO Bob Chapek's handling of the ''Don't Say Gay'' bill, however, the kiss was reinstated into the movie last week.
The decision marks a possible major turning point for LGBTQ representation not just in Pixar films, but in feature animation in general, which has remained steadfastly circumspect about depicting same-sex affection in any meaningful light.
To be sure, there are several examples of forthright LGBTQ representation in feature animation created for an adult audience, including in 1999's ''South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut,'' 2007's ''Persepolis,'' 2016's ''Sausage Party,'' and 2021's ''Flee.'' But in a G or PG rated animated movie, the pervasive approach has been to tell, not show '-- and only barely at that. Arguably the most high-profile LGBTQ character in an animated studio feature to date '-- Katie (Abbi Jacobson), the teenage lead of ''The Mitchells vs. the Machines,'' produced by Sony Pictures Animation and released by Netflix '-- is the exception that proves the rule: This explicit fact of Katie's identity is only fully revealed in the final moments of the film when her mother makes a passing reference to her girlfriend.
In Pixar's 27-year history, there have been just a small handful of unambiguous LGBTQ characters of any kind. In 2020's ''Onward,'' a one-eyed cop (Lena Waithe), who appears in a few scenes, mentions her girlfriend. In 2019's ''Toy Story 4,'' two moms hug their child goodbye at kindergarten. And 2016's ''Finding Dory'' features a brief shot of what appears to be a lesbian couple, though the movie's filmmakers were coy about defining them that way at the time. The most overtly LGBTQ project in Pixar's canon is a 2020 short film, ''Out,'' about a gay man struggling with coming out to his parents '-- which the studio released on Disney Plus as part of its SparkShorts program.
But according to multiple former Pixar employees who spoke with Variety on the condition of anonymity, creatives within the studio have tried for years to incorporate LGBTQ identity into its storytelling in ways big and small, only to have those efforts consistently thwarted. (A spokesperson for Disney declined to comment for this story.)
In Pixar's 2021 release, ''Luca,'' two young sea monsters who appear human when on land, Luca (Jacob Tremblay) and Alberto (Jack Dylan Grazer), build a profound friendship with each other that many interpreted as a coming out allegory '-- the New York Times' review of the film was headlined ''Calamari by Your Name.'' The film's director, Enrico Casarosa, even told The Wrap that he ''talked about'' the potential of Luca and Alberto's friendship being romantic in nature. But he quickly added that ''we didn't talk about it as much'' because the film focuses ''on friendship'' and is ''pre-romance.''
''Some people seem to get mad that I'm not saying yes or no, but I feel like, well, this is a movie about being open to any difference,'' Casarosa added.
According to two sources who spoke with Variety, however, the ''Luca'' filmmakers also discussed whether the human girl who befriends Luca and Alberto, Giulia (Emma Berman), should be queer. But the creative team appeared to be stymied by how to do it without also creating a girlfriend for the character.
''We very often came up against the question of, 'How do we do this without giving them a love interest?''' says one source who worked at the studio. ''That comes up very often at Pixar.''
It's unclear why a studio that has imbued multi-dimensional life into everything from plastic toys to the concepts of sadness and joy would be stumped by how to create an LGBTQ character without a love interest. But it also appears Pixar has had difficulty incorporating queer representation even as part of the background. Multiple sources told Variety that efforts to include signifiers of LGBTQ identity in the set design of films located in specific American cities known for sizable LGBTQ populations '-- namely, 2020's ''Soul'' (in New York City) and 2015's ''Inside Out'' (in San Francisco) '-- were shot down. One source said that a rainbow sticker placed in the window of a shop was removed because it was deemed too ''distracting.''
Other sources said same-sex couples were also removed from the background from these films, though a studio insider insists they do appear in ''Soul.'' (A review of the film by Variety noted a few examples of two women sitting or standing in close proximity with each other in shots that last less than a second, but the nature of their relationship is ambiguous.)
What is most troubling is how this censorship apparently manifested at the studio. The March 9 statement by Pixar employees states that ''Disney corporate reviews'' were responsible for the diminution of LGBTQ representation at Pixar '-- which would include the tenure of Chapek's predecessor as CEO, Robert Iger. It's why Pixar employees say they found Chapek's assertion in a March 7 company-wide memo that the ''biggest impact'' Disney can make ''is through the inspiring content we produce'' so galling.
''Nearly every moment of overtly gay affection is cut at Disney's behest, regardless of when there is protest from both the creative teams and executive leadership at Pixar,'' the statement says. ''Even if creating LGBTQIA+ content was the answer to fixing the discriminatory legislation in the world, we are being barred from creating it.''
But none of the sources who spoke with Variety could cite first-hand knowledge of Disney executives directly cutting LGBTQ content from specific Pixar features. Instead, the examples from ''Luca,'' ''Soul'' and ''Inside Out'' were purportedly driven either by the individual movie's filmmaking team or by the studio's own leadership. Effectively, Pixar engaged in self-censorship, say these sources, out of an abiding belief that LGBTQ content wouldn't get past Disney review because Disney has needed the films to play in markets traditionally hostile to LGBTQ people: namely China, Russia, much of West Asia and in the American South.
Indeed, the inclusion of a one-eyed lesbian cop in ''Onward'' was enough to ban the film in Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and Saudi Arabia; and the version released in Russia swapped the word ''girlfriend'' with the word ''partner.''
All of which makes the decision to restore the same-sex kiss in ''Lightyear'' '-- the first Pixar film due to open in movie theaters rather than on Disney Plus since 2019 '-- that much more meaningful for the studio and its employees, especially the ones who risked breaching Pixar's decades-long near impenetrable silence about internal matters in their March 9 statement.
For Steven Hunter, the director of the short film ''Out,'' that effort was particularly important. While he is no longer at Pixar and couldn't speak to any specific instances of censorship there, he said it was still ''nerve-wracking'' speaking out about the company at all. But with LGBTQ equal rights under threat by a sudden raft of state-level legislation, the importance of visibility in storytelling was too great for him to stay silent.
''I stand by my colleagues,'' Hunter told Variety. ''I'm really proud of those folks for speaking up. We need that. We need Mr. Chapek to understand that we need to be speaking up. We can't assume that these laws that they're trying to put in place aren't hurtful and bigoted and, frankly, evil. We are not going away. We're not going back in the closet.''
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Ukraine admits it won't be part of NATO '-- RT Russia & Former Soviet Union
Sun, 20 Mar 2022 11:34
Kiev's constitution-enshrined bid for membership in the military bloc can't be realized, Zelensky said
NATO allies don't want to see Ukraine among their ranks and Kiev realizes that, President Volodymyr Zelensky told Western leaders on Tuesday. Now Kiev seeks protection from individual member states.
''We've been hearing for years that the [NATO] doors were supposedly open, but now we know we won't enter there. That is the truth, and we must acknowledge that,'' Zelensky said during a video call with the UK Joint Expeditionary Force, a meeting of the leaders of Nordic and Baltic nations hosted by Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
''I am glad that our people are beginning to understand that and to rely on ourselves and those partners that aid us,'' he added.
The Ukrainian leader apparently included the people he was addressing on the list of good friends of Ukraine, despite most of them leading NATO allies. He said the military organization was in no position to offer the security guarantees that his country wants to receive from other nations. But individual states could help Ukraine even with NATO doors closed to it, he suggested, and have been doing so for eight years of what he described as a Ukrainian war against Russia.
Zelensky shamed NATO for not imposing a no-fly zone over Ukraine due to concerns that this would escalate the hostilities into a full-blown world war. The refusal to impose it is shared by all members of the organization, with US, its de facto leader, reiterating it on many occasions over the past weeks.
The Ukrainian leader claimed NATO member states ''hypnotized themselves'' with the fear of a global conflict that would have the potential of ending human civilization. He didn't hide bitterness over the fact that allies refused to protect Ukraine the way they are bound to defend each other in case of a military attack.
Ukraine made NATO membership a key goal of its foreign policy after the 2014 armed coup in Kiev put an anti-Russian government into power. The aspiration was made part of its national constitution in 2019.
Russia launched a military offensive in Ukraine in late February. President Vladimir Putin stated that NATO's creeping expansion into Ukraine without its formal accession was a major factor in his decision to order the incursion. Kiev blasted the attack as ''unprovoked.''
Western nations mostly agreed but refused to fight for Ukraine militarily. Instead, they ramped up weapons supplies to Kiev and imposed harsh economic sanctions against Russia, expecting them to inflict enough damage to stop the military offensive.
The collapse of the industrial livestock industry is coming - Big Think
Sun, 20 Mar 2022 11:27
From 2012 to 2023, the costs of protein in the U.S. from cows vs. precision-biology food technology will reach parity, says independent think tank RethinkX. It will be a tipping point after which acceptance of modern foods will accelerate quickly, leaving the cattle industry effectively bankrupt by 2030 and five years later down to 10 percent of its current size.
This ''protein disruption'' will be followed by the collapse of a wide range of related and supporting industries by 2035, it will be, according to the researchers, ''the deepest, fastest, most consequential disruption in food and agricultural production since the first domestication of plants and animals ten thousand years ago.''
RethinkX's startling predictions are published in a report released September 16 titled ''Rethinking Food and Agriculture 2020-2030 '-- The Second Domestication of Plants and Animals, the Disruption of the Cow, and the Collapse of Industrial Livestock Farming.'' The ramifications, the group says, will be profound, far-reaching, and overwhelmingly positive, affecting people everywhere. In sum, things are about to change. Big time.
Protein functions (RethinkX report)
Microorganisms are at the heart of the upcoming disruption, as they were when humanity began domesticating plants and animals 10,000 years ago by manipulating the evolution of microorganisms via the breeding of their macro-organisms. Within about a thousand years, we were controlling microorganisms through fermentation, producing bread, cheese, alcohol, and preserving our fruits and vegetables.
And so things have basically stood for thousands of years, harvesting the nutrients on which we depend through the time- and cost-intensive breeding, extracting, and consuming of the macro-organisms in which microorganisms reside.
It's the microorganisms, though, that we're really after '-- they're the specific source of the nutrients we seek, and today, we have tools for directly accessing them, unplugged from their macro-organisms. We can build nutrients ourselves, programming complex molecules using precision fermentation (PF).
In the biological sense, food is simply packages of nutrients, such as proteins, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals. Of these, proteins '-- the large molecules that are needed by all cells to function properly '-- are the most important. They are, quite literally, the building blocks of life. '-- RethinkX report
Moving food production to the molecular level promises a more efficient means of feeding ourselves and the delivery of superior, cleaner nutrients without the unhealthy chemical/antibiotic/insecticide additives required by current industrial means of production.
RethinkX says, ''Each ingredient will serve a specific purpose, allowing us to create foods with the exact attributes we desire in terms of nutritional profile, structure, taste, texture, and functional qualities.'' Even better, the report predicts that future food will be ''more nutritious, tastier, and more convenient with much greater variety.''
RethinkX coins a term for a worldwide informational platform serving future food production: ''Food-as-Software.'' It consists of databases of engineered molecules, molecular cookbooks, if you will, that allow for decentralized, stable, and resilient production anywhere '-- RethinkX cites ''fermentation farms'' even in densely populated areas. It will provide a means for the continual reiteration and perfection of food molecules. It will also signify a ''move from a centralized system dependent on scarce resources to a distributed system based on abundant resources.''
Of course, food isn't the only thing we derive from animals and plants, and RethinkX also foresees the replacement of their use with PF products in pharmaceutical, cosmetics, and materials products.
Image source: P Stock/Shutterstock
The ramifications of the protein disruption extend across a range of areas by 2030 and 2035, and the report breaks them into four categories.
PF foods and products will be at least 50 percent, and as much as 80 percent, lower as current products. This will result in substantial savings for individuals. The average U.S. family will save $1,200 a year, adding up to $100 billion a year for the nation by 2030.The revenues of the U.S. beef and dairy industry and their suppliers will decline by at least 50 percent by 2030, and in 2035 by nearly 90 percent. The other livestock and fishery industries will follow.The volume of cattle feed crops required in the U.S. will fall by 50 percent by 2030. Revenues for cattle feed will therefore fall by more than 50 percent.Farmland values will collapse by 40''80 percent, with regional variations dependent upon alternate uses and other variables.Countries heavily invested in animal-product production will suffer significant economic shocks. An example would be Brazil, where 21 percent of GDP is derived from such industries.Oil demand from the agriculture industry in the U.S. for production and transportation will largely disappear.Environmental
By 2035, 60 percent of the area currently allocated to livestock and food production will be freed for other uses. This is enough land that if it were dedicated to the planting of trees for carbon sequestration, it could completely offset U.S. greenhouse emissions.The greenhouse gas contribution of U.S. cattle will drop by 60 percent in 2030, and nearly 80 percent in 2035. Modern food production will lower the net emissions from animal agriculture by 45 percent in 2030, on route to 65 percent in 2035.Water consumption related to cattle will drop by 50 percent by 2030 and by 75 percent in 2035. Modern food production will lower water use from animal agriculture by 35 percent in 2030, on route to 60 percent in 2035. Social
More nutritious, cheaper, and higher-quality food will become more widely available. Access to cheap protein, particularly in the developing world, will have a ''hugely positive impact on hunger, nutrition, and general health.''In the declining industries, about 600,000 jobs will be lost by 2030, leading up to over a million in 2035.The new industries will add back about 700,00 jobs by 2030 and just over a million by 2035.Geopolitical
Decentralized food production will cause relations between countries to shift as it will be less affected by climatic and geographic conditions.Current major exporters of animal products will lose some of their current controlling leverage over other nations dependent on their products.With vast tracts of arable land no longer a prerequisite to food production, even smaller or densely populated areas will have an opportunity to become major food sources. Image source: RethinkX report
While RethinkX sees the coming disruption as inevitable, they see as equally likely attempts by current industries to slow it down. The think tank suggests a conscious regulatory approach, warning about two hazards in particular.
RethinkX's model is based on their Seba Technology Disruption Framework. Unlike more mainstream modeling systems, it aims to more accurately predict the exponential growth that can result from the interaction of related and interdependent industries undergoing disruption in tandem. They caution wariness when attempting to read the future using more mainstream analyses that, ''tend to make economies and societies poorer by locking them into assets, technologies, and skill sets that are uncompetitive, expensive, and obsolete.''
Of particular concern to the U.S. as it attempts to find the truth in competing voices '-- such as those of currently entrenched agribusinesses '-- is that modern food production will be unbound by geographic factors. It can take place anywhere. ''So, if the U.S. resists or fails to support the modern food industry, other countries such as China will capture the health, wealth, and jobs that accrue to those leading the way.''
You can download RethinkX's report by clicking here. It's a fascinating look forward.
Proposed law in Maryland would allow mothers to kill their babies up to 28 days after birth - Miami Standard
Sun, 20 Mar 2022 11:22
When I was a kid, I loved Sherlock Holmes stories. I read and reread them all. One I still vividly remember was ''The Adventure of the Silver Blaze,'' which involves a missing racehorse and the death of its trainer. It contains one of the most famous bits of detective dialogue ever written.
After Holmes studies the scene of the crime, he says to the Scotland Yard inspector in charge of the case that he should pay close attention to ''the curious incident of the dog in the nighttime.''
''The dog did nothing in the nighttime,'' says the baffled inspector.
''That was the curious incident,'' replies Holmes, having figured out that this was an inside job.
I got a definite ''dog in the nighttime'' vibe from this year's Florida Legislature, which just concluded its regular session on Monday.
You probably heard a lot about what our fine legislators did during what's been dubbed the ''culture wars'' session. They banned all abortions after 15 weeks, even in cases of rape or incest. They told schools and businesses to avoid talking about racist incidents in the past that might make white people uncomfortable in the present. They made it easier to ban school library books. They squelched any discussions of sex or gender in kindergarten or elementary school.
In other words, it was a great Session if your job title is ''Ayatollah.''
That last item, dubbed the ''Don't' Say Gay'' bill, led to Gov. Ron DeSantis condemning what he called ''Woke Disney'' '' which, contrary to what it sounds like, did not involve the cryogenic lab unfreezing Uncle Walt. I have to admit it was amusing to watch our Whiner-in-Chief ranting about how this evil corporation was asking him to veto the bill while not saying one word about returning any of its campaign contributions.
Speaking of giving, the Legislature gave the governor pretty much everything he asked for, apparently because they think he's going to be President someday (that's what he thinks, at least).
The gift list included a new election fraud police squad (I picture its leader being a clone of bumbling Lt. Frank Drebin), full control over agency appointments that used to require Cabinet approval and a private ''guard'' he can call up whenever he decides circumstances warrant. For instance, he might want to round up all those rebellious surgeons who contend doctors should wear a mask in surgery. He'll probably condemn it as ''surgical theater.''
But what I found curious, like the non-barking dog in the Holmes story, is what the Governor and Legislature didn't do.
There was a long list in the Tampa Bay Times the other day: ''Lawmakers will leave Tallahassee taking no meaningful action on rising property and automobile insurance rates, affordable housing, relief from sky-high rents, post-Surfside condominium reform or a forthcoming Medicaid cliff that could see hundreds of thousands of Floridians lose their health insurance.''
Looking at that list, you can tell our ''leaders'' don't have a clue about what it's like for the average Floridian to scratch together enough money to pay their medical bills, struggle to keep a roof over their heads and wonder if the place will someday fall on them.
Believe it or not, that roll call of flabbergasting failures left something out, something that I thought was pretty important: They failed to fix the state's biggest and most embarrassing environmental problem.
I am talking about the pollution woes that have led to a record number of manatees dying.
Manatees are iconic animals, popular with both tourists and residents. They're our official state marine mammal. They adorn everything from license plates to school names. Heck, they were even the namesake of a minor league ball club!
And last year, more than 1,000 of them died in a pretty horrible way: starving to death.
The seagrass they eat has been wiped out by repeated toxic algae blooms that were fed by years and years of human pollution. Because of the lost seagrass, many of the ones that survived are suffering from malnutrition. Expect reproduction to be down, say scientists, because malnourished animals don't have the energy to breed.
Meanwhile, even more manatees are dying this year '' about 400 so far in the first three months of the year. We may see last year's record broken in less than 12 months. Things are so bad, state and federal biologists have been testing whether tossing 3,000 pounds of lettuce to the manatees every day will save their lives.
And yet we heard not a word about fixing this problem from DeSantis, from Senate President Wilton ''Slave to Big Sugar'' Simpson or from House Speaker Chris ''I Go Along With the Other Two'' Sprowls. The governor likes to tout his ''anti-wokeness'' but in this case, it's been as if he's fast asleep.
All those lawmakers that were barking like a kennel full of frantic Chihuahuas about the ''culture war'' issues didn't have anything to say about trying to clean up the pollution causing so many dead manatees.
You don't have to be named ''Sherlock'' to deduce that their silence is a sign that something is seriously messed up in this state.
Making it worse
I talked to Jerry Phillips of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility about this. He said the state could be passing laws to make pollution rules stronger, require more inspections and monitoring, even shorten the timeline and increase the penalties for violators.
''We need stronger protections for our waterways,'' he told me. But we're not getting them ''in spite of all the talk from the Governor about him wanting to be viewed as an environmental Governor.''
Don't get me wrong '' our Governor and Legislature did throw a lot of money at the manatee die-off.
As part of the whopping $112 billion-with-a-b budget they approved Monday '' the largest in the state's history, drawn up by self-described ''small-government conservatives'' '' they set aside a few million to help the manatees.
They earmarked $20 million ''to enhance and expand the network of acute care facilities to treat injured and distressed manatees, restore manatee access to springs, provide habitat restoration in manatee concentrated areas, provide manatee rescue and recovery efforts and implement pilot projects including supplemental feeding trials.''
But all that money won't fix the pollution problem, will it?
''I'm appreciative of state appropriations for the short-term manatee problems,'' Pat Rose, executive director of the Save the Manatee Club, told me this week. ''But they won't do anything for the long-term problems that created the manatee problem. We've got to have better water quality.''
Spending money on the symptoms while ignoring the cause is as dopey as spending millions on responding to sea level rise by building big seawalls, installing massive pumps and raising up the highways, yet not budgeting a single dime to combat the reason the sea level is rising.
Oh wait, come to think of it, that is another thing the Legislature did (or rather, didn't do) this year. In fact, they made things worse with a bill that hurts the state's solar industry. Keep burning those fossil fuels, kids, and make sure the sandbags are handy!
According to Rose, they did something similar with the water pollution problem, making it worse instead of better. Here's how that works:
The seagrass died out because of pollution from fertilizer-laden stormwater runoff, septic tank waste and broken sewage plants. The excessive nutrient pollution fueled the growth of toxic algae blooms galore '' red tide, blue-green algae, green algae, brown algae, you name the color and I bet we got it. Sometimes it feels like Florida's waterways are fast becoming the Roy G. Biv of algae blooms.
Those algae blooms in the Indian River Lagoon '' once considered the most biodiverse estuary in North America '-- shaded out all the seagrass growing below it.
Picture what happens when the algae bloom is so large and so persistent that for months on end it blocks the sun from reaching tens of thousands of acres of seagrass. Now guess what you get when that happens over and over for years.
If you guessed ''the seagrass dies out and doesn't come back,'' then give yourself a point. You are smarter than the average Florida politician (but that's a low bar).
The algae blooms hurt humans, too. Their toxins float through the air and choke. The effect is particularly strong among those who already suffer from breathing-related problems like asthma. Meanwhile, the fish that the toxins kill wash ashore, chasing tourists away. That means the algae blooms are an economic issue, too.
Cleaning up the water means trying to stem the flow of fertilizer and other pollutants now pouring into our waterways. That seems obvious, doesn't it?
Yet the House and Senate passed a bill that lets citrus-growers get a note from a ''certified professional'' to dump lots of excess fertilizer in their groves '' and the law says the state will then assume that they're in compliance with the state's already lax regulations.
DeSantis hasn't signed it into law yet. But I think that's a safer bet than buying your weekly lottery ticket.
Mr. Fix-It breaks a promise
Remember, way back in the pre-pandemic times of 2018, when DeSantis was just an obscure Congressman running for a job in state government?
During that campaign, he promised to end the whole algae bloom problem. Echoing his bombastic mentor, Donald Trump, he presented himself as the ''I Alone Can Fix It'' candidate for algae. He said if elected, he'd appoint a committee of smart people to suggest solutions.
He did get elected, and he did appoint a committee of actual scientists. Not one of them was a pretend expert like the Donald Duck-like medical researcher that he's put in charge of the state's COVID-19 response.
Those experts studied the algae blooms and suggested some hard but effective solutions. If implemented, they would have gone a long way toward improving water quality in this state. Did DeSantis and the Legislature take those suggestions to heart? They did not.
Instead, in 2020, our legislators passed a bill called ''The Clean Waterways Act,'' a name that suggests that the day it was introduced must have been Opposite Day. This bill, for instance, said that farmers not only didn't have to reduce the pollution running off their land '-- they didn't even have to monitor it.
The Governor's Office described the bill as being ''based on'' the task force recommendations. That's sort of like when Hollywood claims a movie is ''based on a true story'' and everything in the script is made up except for ''the,'' ''and'' and ''a.''
This bill was so weak on fighting pollution that environmental groups urged DeSantis to veto it and force everyone to start over. Instead, Mr. Fix-It declined to fix the bill. He signed this sham into law, declaring everything would be fine.
The dead manatees show he was wrong. In its latest report card on the Indian River Lagoon, the non-profit Marine Resources Council rated the current water quality in the 156-mile long estuary as ''F double minuses.''
That bungled bill became law two years ago. There was time for the governor and lawmakers to fix it in 2021 '-- except they didn't. And they didn't bring the matter up this year, either.
That means the carcass of every dead manatee belongs on the doorstep of DeSantis, Simpson and Sprowls, whom I have come to think of as a real-life version of Roald Dahl's fictional Boggis, Bunce and Bean.
As Holmes deduced about Silver Blaze, these manatee murders are an inside job. This trio and the majority of the Legislature kept silent because they would rather kowtow to polluters such as the free-spending sugar industry than do the hard work of cleaning up pollution.
We can't do much to Sprowls other than publicly mock him for being so out of touch with the voters he supposedly serves. But DeSantis and Simpson are both candidates in this fall's elections. DeSantis is seeking re-election as Governor and Simpson wants to be the next Agriculture Commissioner.
Both should be forced to explain themselves at every forum and campaign appearance. Every time they open their mouths, someone should say, ''Wait, why did you keep quiet about what was killing the manatees?'' DeSantis, in particular, should have to explain why he broke his promise to fix the algae bloom cycle.
Frankly, this debacle should doom his political career. Because a watchdog that won't bark about what's important deserves to go straight to the doghouse, not the White House.
Craig Pittman reporting via Florida Phoenix.
Florida Phoenix is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Florida Phoenix maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Diane Rado for questions: [email protected] Follow Florida Phoenix on Facebook and Twitter.
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CDC Says It Accidentally Inflated Children's COVID Death Numbers In 'Coding Logic Error' - The Daily Caller
Sat, 19 Mar 2022 15:37
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) revised its data this week to reduce pediatric deaths from COVID-19 by nearly 24%.
On Tuesday, the agency was reporting on its COVID Data Tracker that 1,755 Americans under age 18 had died from the virus since the pandemic began in spring 2020. Now, it is reporting 1,341 deaths in that category.
The CDC said the number was revised March 15 due to a ''coding logic error,'' according to a footnote on the agency's COVID Data Tracker. Pediatric death counts were not the only ones to be lowered '-- total deaths were reduced by roughly 70,000.
''An adjustment was made to COVID Data Tracker's mortality data on March 14 involving the removal of 72,277 '-- including 416 pediatric deaths '-- deaths previously reported across 26 states because CDC's algorithm was accidentally counting deaths that were not COVID-19-related,'' Jasmine Reed, a spokesperson for the CDC, told the Washington Examiner. ''Working with near real-time data in an emergency is critical to guide decision-making, but may also mean we often have incomplete information when data are first reported.''
According to the CDC's weekly provisional data, only 921 children have died for reasons ''involving COVID-19,'' an even lower number than the official data tracker now presents. The provisional data reported by the CDC typically lags by some period of time. (RELATED: Top WHO Doctor Says Healthy Kids, Teens Shouldn't Get Boosted Against COVID-19, Contradicting CDC)
Far fewer children have died during the pandemic than any other age group. Children under age five are the only group of Americans still ineligible for vaccination against the virus, but children make up less than 0.1% percent of total COVID-19 deaths, according to CDC data. The mortality rate for minors, even those who are unvaccinated, remains lower than for vaccinated older adults.
The CDC has encountered other issues with data reporting before. The agency was criticized in February after The New York Times reported that a large portion of the data being collected by the agency regarding COVID-19 was not being made available to the public. Earlier this year, Dr. Anthony Fauci admitted that hospitalization data for kids could also be misleading, as many of the children hospitalized with COVID-19 were there for reasons other than the virus.
Elon Musk challenges Putin to 'single combat' over war in Ukraine | The Times
Sat, 19 Mar 2022 14:31
Elon Musk has challenged President Putin to a ''single combat'' fist fight over Russia's war in Ukraine.
The world's richest man made the offer on Twitter. Putin holds a black belt in judo; he has said in the past that he has trained in kyokushin karate, taekwondo, judo and Brazilian jiu-jitsu.
In a tweet containing some words in Cyrillic script, Musk said: ''I hereby challenge Vladimir Putin to single combat. Stakes are Ukraine.'' He tagged the official Twitter account of the president of Russia and wrote: ''Do you agree to this fight?''
President Putin has often been photographed in the dojo
MIKHAIL KLIMENTYEV/AFP/GETTY IMAGES
There has so far been no response from Putin, 69, who has spent decades showing off his physical prowess, with frequent images posted online of him taking part in extreme sports and
What happened in one small Appalachia town when the bitcoin miners moved in - The Washington Post
Sat, 19 Mar 2022 03:22
Instead, the noise came to them in April last year when the Tennessee-based firm Red Dog Technologies opened a plant in Limestone to mine (or create) new bitcoin, the original and still-largest cryptocurrency.
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The process relies on massive computers performing complex calculations '-- all while kept at a constant temperature by equally massive cooling fans '-- and that can get noisy.
Cryptocurrency is suddently everywhere except in the cash register
The Limestone mine operates day and night, growing louder at night and on weekends when bitcoin's electricity-hungry computers can take advantage of down time and lower prices on the electricity grid and ramp up their algorithmic-solving power.
''We couldn't have people over to gather in our front yard because we could hardly hear one another talking,'' said Preston Holley, whose home sits across the street from the mine.
Appalachia, with its cheap electricity from coal, natural gas and hydro, was already attractive to bitcoin miners when China, which dominated world production, cracked down on such operations last summer, worried about the volatility of digital currencies.
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Companies forced out of China began scouting new locations across rural America. Appalachia, more accustomed to coal-caked helmeted workers than tech-savvy blockchain enthusiasts, saw an influx of miners.
No, cryptocurrencies shouldn't be added to 401(k) plans
But while supporters tout economic benefits such as an expanded tax base and job creation, residents in areas that initially welcomed crypto mining are now experiencing buyer's remorse.
Kent Harris, a Washington County commissioner, looks back on his vote authorizing the Limestone crypto mining operation and shakes his head.
''It looks like a German POW camp,'' Harris said of the bitcoin mine, which is surrounded by barriers, cameras and fencing topped with razor wire.
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''I have never regretted a vote like this one. I sure wish I could take it back,'' he said.
A lawsuit filed by the county in November accused Red Dog Technologies, the mine owner, and BrightRidge, the local electricity provider that owns the land where the mine is located, of zoning violations and causing ''immediate and irreparable injury, loss, and damage.''
The U.S. should not rush into a digital dollar
BrightRidge declined to comment on all aspects of the case, citing ongoing litigation. But according to local media reports, BrightRidge chief executive Jeff Dykes affirmed the company's desire to mitigate noise issues.
Todd Napier, director of site acquisition for Red Dog, told the Washington County commissioners at a public meeting last summer that they are taking the noise issue very seriously.
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''We thought it was a data center going in there,'' Harris said, noting that the zoning application had mentioned a ''block chain data center.''
He added that the county had worked closely with BrightRidge on many past projects without problems. And because of this partnership, nobody did their due diligence and greenlighted what was billed as a ''solar farm and data center.''
County commissioners blocked attempts by BrightRidge and Red Dog to open a second mine.
The lawsuit claims that the bitcoin facility violates local zoning ordinances. ''BrightRidge exacerbates the problem by refusing to cease operation upon repeated written and verbal requests,'' it alleges.
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Tim Whaley, BrightRidge's director of public and government affairs, declined to comment on the company's relationship with Red Dog, citing ongoing litigation.
Biden orders sweeping cryptocurrency review, setting stage for regulation
On March 15, a judge agreed with the county that zoning was violated, but is allowing the mine to stay open pending appeal.
Red Dog said in court documents that it had informed commissioners it was using the site for bitcoin mining, and that it has spent $600,000 on noise mitigation. The company also said in court documents that it would face a loss of $36 million over the next 18 months if the mine is forced to close.
In the meantime, residents of Limestone are left grappling with the noise.
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Holley, his wife, Christy, and five daughters built a new house eight years ago with a view of the nearby mountains. The BrightRidge substation 100 yards away from their front porch wasn't the most attractive, but it didn't entirely destroy the view. The mine inside the giant shipping container in the same compound was a different story.
''This is our forever home,'' Holley said. But the noise emanating every night from the bitcoin mine, the Holleys fear, has tanked the value of their property and keeps them up at night. Recent noise mitigation measures by Red Dog, such as shrouding the shipping container in green shrink wrap, have muffled the sound, but not enough to keep it from creeping into the house.
''The noise is different now, but I wouldn't say better,'' Holley said.
Summer also brings more noise as the fans are needed round-the-clock to provide computer cooling.
Why bitcoin's energy problem is so hard to fix.
Craig Ponder, pastor at the New Salem Baptist Church, a red brick church atop a hilltop about a mile from the mine, compared the noise to the jet engines he heard while serving in the military. He said that the noise can make it difficult for congregants to chat with each other in the parking lot after services.
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The recent noise mitigation measures have helped, Ponder said. ''I do have to give them props for trying to reduce the sound.''
Where the noise is heard depends on many factors, including wind, topography and time of day, according to sound experts.
Some residents as far as 5 miles away report hearing the mine. In contrast, others near the mine say the noise isn't an issue.
Deanna Laws, who lives about a mile from the mine on New Salem Road, said the mine was never a huge bother. ''But since they put the sound barriers up, we don't hear it.''
Such disparities are to be expected, given the surroundings, said Sean Connolly, founder of Big Sky Acoustics, an independent sound mitigation company in Big Sky, Mont.
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''In a rural environment, you have a very low ambient noise level anyway, so you walk outside and a creek is gurgling, birds are chirping, but there is not a lot of man-made noise. Once you take some of these bitcoin mining facilities, the noise carries, there is nothing to hide it or mask it,'' he said.
In addition to the ramped up noise at night, nature magnifies the sound by creating a temperature inversion, Connolly said. As the earth cools and the heat escapes after dark, there is a layer of air higher up that stays warmer.
''Sound bounces off this layer and projects even further,'' Connolly said, explaining that emerging fan technology including blades that ''scoop'' air rather than propel it may ultimately offer relief.
About one mile from the BrightRidge substation, Carolyn Broyles's home offers stunning panoramas of the mountains, but when the wind is right, the bitcoin mine sound sweeps across a nearby ridge top and into her yard and house.
When she first heard the noise in the spring of 2021, she thought it was tractors, something that wouldn't be unusual on her 200-plus acres of farmland. Except it was April.
''There was no reason for there to be tractors,'' Broyles said, so she drove around and soon found herself looking at the bitcoin mine. She claims local residents were misled.
After generations of hauling water, a corner of Appalachia still waits for a better future
''We thought it was going to be a data center. I'm not totally unsophisticated, but we didn't know what blockchain or bitcoin was,'' said Broyles, who filed a separate lawsuit against BrightRidge and Red Dog seeking unspecified damages. ''We are country people, that's the bottom line, and you'll never convince me otherwise.''
Court documents filed by Red Dog said it told officials that the site was for use as a bitcoin mine.
But those objections from local residents have complicated prospects for cryptocurrency mining in Appalachia '-- despite cheap land, plentiful power and utility companies hungry for additional revenue streams to replace the manufacturing customers that have been leaving for decades.
''Ideally, there would be no people around. We have a facility in South Carolina where you can't even find it because trees surround it and nothing is around it,'' said John Warren, the chief executive of GEM Mining, which owns 32,000 bitcoin miners.
Operators also have to invest in the right technology. Plants that rely on fans for air cooling generate a lot of noise. Another newer method that relies on liquid immersion technology for cooling is quieter.
Warren said many people getting into the bitcoin business may not have anticipated the noise.
''This is an industry that is on fire now, and a lot of people may not have known the noise the machines make; there are a lot of inexperienced people coming into the industry, and they are causing issues,'' Warren said.
But there is a lot of money to be made. Red Dog Technologies, which also operates under the name GRIID, is a relatively small player in the industry but is preparing to go public this spring. Its Securities and Exchange Commission filing projects revenue of $1.6 billion in 2023.
Warren, and others, said that crypto could bring needed benefits to economically parched Appalachia. In the case of Limestone and BrightRidge, local media reported that the mine uses enough power to supply 10,000 homes and became the utility's largest customer overnight.
When Whaley, BrightRidge's spokesperson, was asked about that figure, he didn't dispute it but said ''you can Google it,'' again declining to speak specifically because of litigation.
Shane Hadden, a lecturer in finance at the University of Kentucky who has studied Appalachia economics, said bitcoin mining is good for the state.
''It generates jobs, revenue, a potential base into future expansion into related services,'' he said.
While dozens of new cryptocurrency mines have opened across Appalachia since the China crackdown, Limestone isn't the only one giving a mixed reception.
In Cherokee County, N.C., local residents were initially in favor of, or indifferent to, the new cryptocurrency businesses. The first bitcoin operation took over an abandoned factory in the town of Marble. The enclosed space initially did not produce much noise, said Dan Eichenbaum, chairman of the county board of commissioners.
Then a second, unenclosed facility opened, creating similar noise issues to those found in Limestone.
Phoebe Thompson, a Bowdoin College environmental and oceanic sciences graduate, moved to the adjacent town of Murphy two years ago. Her family founded the publication Bird Watcher's Digest and are active environmentally. She laments the damage to the area's wildlife and peaceful character.
''I grew up where I heard birds, insects, frogs; the quiet here was a huge draw for me,'' Thompson said. She said the quiet has been smothered by the whir of the mine and created an ''ecological dead zone'' that disorients wildlife.
Cherokee County has taken a less confrontational approach than Washington County, in Tennessee, but it's unclear what the final results will be. ''Noise is a very relative thing; what bothers some people doesn't bother others,'' Eichenbaum said.
He said the board is negotiating with the bitcoin mining operator to achieve a resolution.
Meanwhile, back in Limestone, the noise lingers, and the lawsuits continue. Residents are left trying to weigh potential economic benefits against the downsides. Harris said residents in the area just want the area to go back to the quiet, neighbor-know-neighbor atmosphere that permeated before the mine opened.
''The mine operator said this mine was in the middle of nowhere, but to us, it is not the middle of nowhere; it is our home,'' Harris said.
Reduce speed limits, car-free Sundays: IEA's plan to cut oil use
Fri, 18 Mar 2022 14:47
Cyclists photographed in Lisbon, Portugal, in October 2018.
Kamisoka | Istock Unreleased | Getty Images
Speed limits on highways should be cut by at least 10 kilometers per hour (6.2 mph) to help lower oil demand, the International Energy Agency said Friday.
The recommendation is part of a wider 10-point plan published by the Paris-based organization.
"We estimate that the full implementation of these measures in advanced economies alone can cut oil demand by 2.7 million barrels a day within the next four months, relative to current levels," the IEA's report said.
The 2.7 million figure equated to the oil demand of all cars in China, it added in a news release. Part or full adoption of the measures in emerging economies would amplify their effect, it also said.
The plan comes at a time when oil markets are facing significant uncertainty and volatility following Russia's invasion of Ukraine in February.
Russia is a major supplier of oil and gas, but its actions in Ukraine have caused several economies to try and find ways to reduce their reliance on Russian hydrocarbons.
Read more about clean energy from CNBC ProIn a news conference broadcast via Zoom on Friday morning, the IEA's executive director, Fatih Birol, described oil markets as being in an "emergency situation." Birol added that things "may get worse" over the next few months.
Against this backdrop, the IEA's other suggestions to reduce oil demand include:
Working from home for as much as three days per week, when possible.Car-free Sundays for cities.Reducing the cost of public transport and encouraging people to walk and cycle.Avoiding air travel for business when other options are available.Traveling on high speed or night trains instead of flying when it's practicable to do so.And reinforcing the uptake of electric and "more efficient" vehicles. The full list can be read here."Reducing oil use must not remain a temporary measure," the IEA's report said. "Sustained reductions are desirable in order not only to improve energy security but also to tackle climate change and reduce air pollution."
It added that governments had "all the necessary tools at their disposal to put oil demand into decline in the coming years, which would support efforts to both strengthen energy security and achieve vital climate goals."
A number of organizations are calling for a cut in fossil fuel use, but actually achieving such an aim is a gargantuan task. The vast majority of cars on our roads, for instance, still use gasoline or diesel, while energy companies continue to discover new oil and gas fields in a variety of locations around the world.
In a statement issued Friday, the IEA acknowledged that the majority of its proposals "would require changes in the behaviour of consumers, supported by government measures."
"How and if these actions are implemented is subject to each country's own circumstances '' in terms of their energy markets, transport infrastructure, social and political dynamics and other aspects," the IEA said.
Read more about electric vehicles from CNBC ProAlso commenting on the IEA's plans was Barbara Pompili, the French minister for the ecological transition.
"France and all European countries must get out of their dependence on fossil fuels, in particular on Russian fossil fuels as soon as possible," she said.
"It is an absolute necessity, for the climate but also for our energy sovereignty. The plan proposed today by the IEA offers some interesting ideas, some of which are in line with our own ideas to reduce our dependence on oil."
The IEA's report follows on from the publication of another 10-point plan centered around reducing Europe's dependence on Russian natural gas.
Barcoding Nature: The Largest Global Land Grab in Human History ' Children's Health Defense
Fri, 18 Mar 2022 12:32
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''We abuse land because we see it as a commodity belonging to us. When we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect.'' '-- Aldo Leopold
Have you ever heard of a natural asset company or NAC in short (and we're not referring here to the glutathione precursor, N-acetyl-cysteine)? It won't surprise us if you haven't.
We've only recently come across the term ourselves and we're coming to the view that it may facilitate the biggest corporate land grab in recent history. That's if we, the people, don't put a stop to it.
If you believe that nature should never become a commodity that's bought and sold by a powerful few, read on. The fact the moneyed minority feel that they have a right to effectively barcode nature is quite breathtaking in its greed and arrogance.
Though not all that surprising when you look at what's been happening over the past two years. We really are being called to ''clean house'' on so many levels.
We've created an infographic (see below) to summarize the plans for the exploitation of what's now being termed, ''nature's economy.''
You can see at a glance the price tag that's been placed on her head and why suddenly traditional philanthropy '-- based on giving '-- has been declared ''a total failure'' and is being replaced by ''investment philanthropy.''
You'll be familiar with the names involved in kicking off this new kind of non-giving (aka taking) philanthropy. If you were wondering how philanthropic investing could be declared a failure, look no further than Andr(C) Hoffmann, the vice-chairman of pharmaceutical giant, Roche.
Please download the PDF with clickable links, or as an image and share as far and wide as you can. This is a message that needs to take flight rapidly.
Graphics by Mike Abbott, head of media, ANH-IntlWhat is an NAC?
In September 2021 the New York Stock Exchange quietly announced that it had created a new asset class with a listing, ''To preserve and restore the natural assets that ultimately underpin the ability for there to be life on Earth.''
It looks both innocent and protective. Who doesn't want to preserve and restore the planetary resources on which we all depend?
However, the subtext is that corporations who fit into this asset class, ''natural asset company,'' get to maintain, manage and develop the natural resources on a given piece of land.
It's effectively a fast track to commodifying nature's natural resources. Less about protecting nature and more about making money through ''nature's economy'' '-- which has been attributed a tantalizing price tag.
''Our hope is that owning a natural asset company is going to be a way that an increasingly broad range of investors have the ability to invest in something that's intrinsically valuable, but, up to this point, was really excluded from the financial markets.'' '-- The Intrinsic Exchange
The stock exchange recently unveiled a partnership that's been two years in the making with the Intrinsic Exchange Group (IEG) to open up investment opportunities in what it calls ''nature's economy.'' IEG describes itself as a'''pioneering natural asset company.''
One of its key investors is the Rockefeller Foundation.
Why exploit natural resources?
The commoditization of nature is justified as being driven by the protection of natural resources. But scratch beneath the surface and the greed and avarice is clear to see.
Researchers back in 2012 highlighted the danger of ''green grabbing'' and cited the appropriation of land and resources using ''green'' credentials to justify the land grab as an emerging process of deep and growing significance.
They go as far to say that green grabbing builds on well-known histories of colonial and neo-colonial resource alienation in the name of the environment.
It's absolutely no surprise then to see the World Economic Forum getting in on the act with its Nature Risk Rising report in 2020. The subtitle is ''Why the crisis engulfing Nature matters for business and the economy'' and notes, in its second report, The Future of Nature and Business, that, ''A new Nature economy could generate up to $10.1 trillion in annual business value and create 395 million jobs by 2030''.
Don't be fooled by how benevolent and humanitarian it all seems.
Mark Wilson in his 2013 paper, highlights how the so-called ''green economy'' fails to address five fundamental problems and, thus, has the potential to increase environmental degradation and cause even greater social inequity than we see today:
Ecosystem services are inherently difficult to price.The consideration of the rebound effect is insufficient.Primacy of economics over the environment is ensured.Markets offer little protection for the poorest people.Existing market mechanisms aimed at safeguarding the environment have not succeeded.In addition, in 2022, we echo the following reasons why NACs are likely to be more tempted to act against nature than for it:
The ''assets'' from nature's economy are valued at more than U.S. $4,000 trillion or $4 quadrillion (the current economy is valued at approx. U.S. $512 trillion '-- that makes the current economy around only 8% the value of the nature's economy).Each ''asset'' will have an owner.The ownership through NACs allows domination of not just the economy, but the entire natural world.Removal of freedoms. So many practices today are reframing freedom as a service or a privilege, not a fundamental right.Owners will dictate who gets access to clean water, clean air, wild spaces and yet untapped, dwindling natural resources.Subscribe to The Defender - It's Free!
How do NACs plan to do this?
These new NACs will act a bit like real estate agents for Mother Nature. Imagine a situation where a company is able to pick an area of nature, assign it a price, disenfranchise any prior claimants, take ownership and then sell pieces of that land/lake/ocean/mountain, etc., to institutional shareholders '-- specifically, the multinational corporations who may have funded the NAC in the first place.
If it could be assured that all NACs will be ''conscious corporates'' this may well be the way to steward and safeguard our future, but history, as well as current events, speaks to a very different outcome.
''NACs will attempt to assign value to services '-- such as carbon retention, freshwater generation, pest control, groundwater storage and erosion prevention '-- intrinsically provided by natural resources.'' '-- Kevin Turner and Lara Rios, Holland & Knight Energy and Natural Resources blog.
Here are some of the ways in which ''green'' actions are already netting billions of dollars:
Carbon offsetting/biodiversity offsets. Offsetting harm caused elsewhere by regreening areas denuded by previous development. Large corporations such as BlackRock, JPMorgan, Disney are investing significant amounts in this area.Green bonds.Extraction of natural resources e.g., oil, gas, minerals.Destruction of natural habitats to grow food.Greenwashing '-- the process by which a company conveys a false impression about the environmental credentials of its products and/or services.Seed patents.Patenting genetically modified/engineered plants and animals.Purchasing large swathes of agricultural land. Large investors, such as Bill Gates along with other large investors are making huge inroads into this area.Control of water supplies.Working with, not against nature
The Dasgupta Review describes nature as ''our most precious asset.'' We, as humanity, must ensure that our demands on nature do not exceed its sustainable supply. So many of the things that are destroying the natural world are now being sold as its salvation.
Source: The Dasgupta ReviewGreen consumption is still consumption. Modern food practices are responsible for almost 60% of global biodiversity loss. Did you know that Indigenous People's territories account for approximately 80% of the world's biodiversity?
Shame on us in the so-called developed world for letting this happen.
What if, instead of allowing the land grab by the elites, we:
Removed the word ownership and used stewardship instead?Give parts of the natural world legal self-sovereignty e.g., oceans, polar ice caps, rivers and lakes, the top of mountains above a certain level.There's already a river in New Zealand that has the same legal rights as a human being. Same for Mount Taranaki and a national park. India has granted human rights to the Ganges and Yamuna rivers.
Encourage local communities to manage the land around them.Use carbon insetting rather than offsetting, which is about so much more than simply reducing a company's carbon footprint. It's about businesses reducing their carbon footprint and carbon sequestration within their value chains.It doesn't pass the buck to someone else and it ultimately will increase the businesses' resilience and provide significant, measurable benefits to communities surrounding the value chain.
Prioritize agroecology.Practice regenerative agriculture.Reduce consumption of goods to preserve natural resources.Save and share seeds as a matter of course.Create and accept a universal declaration of rights for Mother Earth.Don't also forget the power of your wallet or purse. How we spend our money has a great impact on which investments see the light of day. Nature doesn't need investment because it simply ''is.''
But it does need nurturing, and then it will provide for us. Let us give it also the respect it deserves, as our physical bodies are its product.
Originally published by Alliance for Natural Health International.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Children's Health Defense.