Pablo Picasso Self portrait 1906
Crazier by the day. What if one plan or another gets voted through by 1 single vote unleashing events that will last 50 years or more? That’s democracy?
Theresa May is set to push ahead with a critical vote on part of her Brexit deal after overcoming the speaker’s ban on repeatedly putting the same plan to MPs. Commons leader Andrea Leadsom confirmed on Thursday that the government will exclude the political declaration, which deals with Britain’s future relations with the EU, in Friday’s vote – focusing solely on the withdrawal agreement. The withdrawal agreement and the political declaration together form Theresa May’s Brexit deal. The EU has said the prime minister needs to secure approval by 11pm UK time on Friday for the withdrawal agreement – not the political declaration – if the UK is to be given an automatic delay of its departure date from the bloc until 22 May. Otherwise, Britain has until 12 April to announce a new plan or leave the bloc without a deal.
The announcement came as Downing Street made a last push to win over Tory rebels and the DUP to her Brexit deal after offering to quit before the next stage of talks. There is still substantial opposition to the agreement, even after the prime minister sacrificed her job for her deal, promising to quit if MPs approved the agreement and let Britain leave the EU on schedule in May. Jeremy Corbyn and Theresa May spoke for 20 minutes on Thursday evening and the Labour leader said his MPs would not back the Government move. “Jeremy made clear Labour will not agree a blindfold Brexit to force through Theresa May’s damaging deal, which would leave the next Tory party leader free to rip up essential rights and protections and undermine jobs and living standards,” a Labour spokesperson said.
Sometimes I wonder what John Lennon would have said.
Theresa May will put only half of her Brexit deal to a vote on Friday, in a final desperate attempt to secure MPs’ support as senior cabinet ministers made clear she must leave No 10 very soon, whatever happens. On the day Britain was originally meant to leave the EU – something May had promised would happen more than 100 times – the prime minister will put only the withdrawal agreement to a vote, having promised to step aside if the MPs give her their approval. No 10 is hoping that some Labour MPs could back the withdrawal agreement severing the UK’s membership of the EU, without the political declaration governing Britain’s future relationship with Brussels. However, it remains extremely unlikely to pass as Labour said it would never vote for a “blindfold Brexit”, while around 30 Eurosceptic Tories and the 10 Democratic Unionist MPs are also holding out against it.
MPs will be warned that failure to back the withdrawal agreement this time will lead to a long extension that requires participation in European parliament elections or crashing out without a deal on 12 April. MPs who support a soft Brexit are meanwhile working on a new round of votes on the alternatives on Monday, including a compromise that could combine the support of those MPs who voted for a customs union, for Labour’s Brexit plan and for the Norway-style option dubbed “common market 2.0”. With European leaders sceptical that such efforts will be successful, the EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier told diplomats on Thursday that a no deal was now “the most plausible outcome” and ordered work to begin on wargaming the bloc’s response.
This is what all those politicians should be working on.
The number of children living in absolute poverty across the UK has increased by 200,000 in a year, to a total of 3.7 million. New government data shows that while the rate of absolute child poverty had been gradually falling since 2012, it is now rising again. It will come as an embarrassment for ministers, who last year responded to a rise in relative poverty by highlighting that absolute poverty rates – their preferred measure – had fallen. Campaigners said the main drivers of the increase were cuts to benefits and tax credits, which they said hit working families with more than two children particularly hard.
The figures show that among children in poverty, there has been a rise in those who live in working families – up from 69 per cent to 72 per cent in a year. There has also been an increase in the risk of poverty for children in larger families, with the number of households with three or more children up from 33 per cent in 2012 to 43 per cent. Overall, across the whole population, 100,000 more people are living in absolute poverty, with the figure standing at 12.5 million. Research carried out for the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG)to coincide with the publication of the figures found that the four-year freeze on children’s benefits alone would lead to average loses of £240 per year for families with children.
“They proceeded to seduce voters with fake facts and bogus promises. They stoked fears, fuelled grievances and inflamed prejudices. They appealed to the lowest human impulses, and unlocked the ugliest features of the British character – xenophobia, jingoism, aggression, insularity, arrogance and a perverse, pig-headed pride in our own ignorance.”
We are reduced to this. A humiliated, supplicant British prime minister sitting alone in a Brussels side room for six hours while the rest of the European Union discusses our fate. A government no longer capable of governing. A country that has become a byword for chaos and dysfunction. A sundered “United Kingdom”. Hundreds of thousands of Britons seeking citizenship in other EU states. Industry howling in rage and frustration. MPs needing police protection. People stockpiling food and medicines. The public discourse poisoned. Families split. Friends riven. The military on standby in case of civil unrest. This is not “taking back control”. This is not the proud, independent, liberated Britain that the Brexiteers promised.
It is grotesque, calamitous, an epic act of self-harm brought about not by some war or disaster but by our own stupidity. And the true “enemies of the people” are not those opposing this catastrophic Brexit. They are not the million decent people from every background who marched in London last Saturday, or the five million who have petitioned to revoke Article 50, but those whose lies, zealotry, and political recklessness have all but broken Britain. For posterity’s sake, those self-styled “patriots” who have so grievously betrayed their country should be named and shamed. The original sin was that of David Cameron, now blithely writing his memoirs in his shepherd’s hut, enjoying exotic holidays and enriching himself on the speakers’ circuit.
The public was not clamouring for a referendum on EU membership. Cameron called it for the narrow purpose of uniting his party and fending off Ukip. He offered an ill-informed electorate a binary choice on an extraordinarily complex issue of profound constitutional importance without even the safeguard of a 60 per cent threshold for approval. It was one of the most foolish gambles ever taken by a British prime minister, and one that unleashed the charlatans, rogues and demagogues of the Leave campaign. They proceeded to seduce voters with fake facts and bogus promises. They stoked fears, fuelled grievances and inflamed prejudices. They appealed to the lowest human impulses, and unlocked the ugliest features of the British character – xenophobia, jingoism, aggression, insularity, arrogance and a perverse, pig-headed pride in our own ignorance.
The Guardian’s not going to give up. They just turn things upside down, it’s Trump who’s the bogeyman, he attacks media, not the other way around, no matter that the media’s Russiagate was exposed by Mueller: “Donald Trump continued his assault on the media and Democrats on Thursday night..”
This bit says a lot, though it’s hard to decide whether the author has no sense of humor or he thinks his readers don’t:“Trump’s more outlandish claims came in an attack on progressives’ Green New Deal, which he falsely stated called for the elimination of airplanes and cows.”
Donald Trump continued his assault on the media and Democrats on Thursday night, wrongly claiming “total exoneration, complete vindication” at his first rally since Robert Mueller submitted his report. Trump dedicated about half of his approximately 90-minute speech in front of a raucous audience at Grand Rapids to the topic, labeling the accusations and investigation “ridiculous bullshit”. The president bounced between theories about why the special counsel’s investigation happened and attacks on his opponents. “All of the Democrats, politicians, the media also – bad people,” Trump told the crowd at Michigan’s Van Andel Arena. “The crooked journalists, the totally dishonest TV pundits” helped perpetuate “the single greatest hoax in the history of politics”.
He later claimed that the investigation was really an effort “to overturn the results of the 2016 election”. “It was nothing more than a sinister effort to undermine our historic election and to sabotage the will of the American people,” Trump said to loud boos. He repeatedly called for “accountability”, drawing chants of “Lock them up”. At other points, the president mocked Democratic opponents, including “little pencil-neck Adam Schiff” and his fellow lawmaker Jerry Nadler, whom Trump said he “beat again”. Though Trump told the crowd multiple times that Mueller found “no collusion and no obstruction”, the attorney general William Barr’s four-page summary of Mueller’s report only stated that it found no proof that Trump criminally colluded with Russia.
Barr’s summary said Mueller had reached no conclusion about whether Trump had obstructed justice, but Barr wrote that he decided there was insufficient evidence to pursue an obstruction charges against Trump. [..] Trump’s more outlandish claims came in an attack on progressives’ Green New Deal, which he falsely stated called for the elimination of airplanes and cows.
I’ll give you my neighbor’s house if you want it.
The 28 member countries of the European Union have unanimously declared that they do not recognise Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights region, despite a change in policy by the United States. This week US president Donald Trump signed a presidential proclamation officially recognising Israel’s control of the area, which it has occupied since 1967 when it captured the region from Syria during the Six Day War. But in a statement approved by the European Council’s 28 members, the EU’s high representative for foreign affairs said: “The position of the European Union as regards the status of the Golan Heights has not changed.
“In line with the international law and UN Security Council resolutions 242 and 497, the European Union does not recognise Israeli sovereignty over the occupied Golan Heights.” The territory is widely internationally recognised as belonging to Syria’s Arab neighbour. Mr Trump said: “After 52 years it is time for the United States to fully recognise Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights, which is of critical strategic and security importance to the State of Israel and regional stability!” Israel’s prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Mr Trump’s recognition was “historic”, while Syria said it was “blatant attack” on its sovereignty and pledged to take the territory back by “all available means”. Turkey and Russia also voices opposition to the move.
When Nancy Pelosi and Mitch McConnell teamed up to invite NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg to address a joint session of Congress, they had every reason to expect the April 3 speech to be a big hit with U.S. media and political elites. The establishment is eager to affirm the sanctity of support for the transatlantic military alliance. Huge reverence for NATO is matched by how dangerous NATO has become. NATO’s continual expansion — all the way to Russia’s borders — has significantly increased the chances that the world’s two nuclear superpowers will get into direct military conflict. But in the United States, when anyone challenges the continued expansion of NATO, innuendos or outright smears are likely.
Two years ago, when the Senate debated whether to approve bringing Montenegro into NATO, the mud flew at Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky after he showed up to object. An infuriated Sen. John McCain declared on the Senate floor: “I have no idea why anyone would object to this, except that I will say — if they object, they are now carrying out the desires and ambitions of Vladimir Putin, and I do not say that lightly.” Moments later, when Paul said “I object,” McCain proclaimed: “The senator from Kentucky is now working for Vladimir Putin.” With those words, McCain conveyed the common madness of reverence for NATO — and the common intolerance for anything that might approach a rational debate on whether it’s a good idea to keep expanding an American-led military alliance to, in effect, push Russia into a corner. Doing so is understandably viewed from Russia as a dire threat.
Ever since the fall of the Berlin Wall — and the quickly broken promises by the U.S. government in 1990 that NATO would move “not one inch eastward” — NATO has been closing in on Russia’s borders while bringing one nation after another into full military membership. During the last three decades, NATO has added 13 countries — and it’s not done yet. NATO members “have clearly stated that Georgia will become a member of NATO,” Stoltenberg asserted days ago while visiting the Georgian capital of Tbilisi. He added: “We will continue working together to prepare for Georgia’s NATO membership.” For good measure, Stoltenberg tweeted on March 25 that he was “delighted to observe the joint NATO-Georgia exercise” and “honored to meet veterans & serving soldiers,” adding that “Georgia is a unique partner for #NATO & we are stepping up our cooperation.”
Make the rates cheaper then!
Even with rising wages and falling mortgage rates, Americans can’t afford a home in more than 70 percent of the country. Out of 473 U.S. counties analyzed in a report, 335 listed median home prices more than what average wage earners could afford, according to a report from ATTOM Data Solutions. Among them are the counties that include Los Angeles and San Diego in California, as well as Miami-Dade County in Florida and Maricopa County in Arizona. New York City claimed the largest share of a person’s income to purchase a home, according to the report. While average earners nationwide need to spend only about one-third of their income on a home, residents in Brooklyn and Manhattan must shell out more than 115 percent of their income.
In San Francisco, residents must spend 103 percent, and in Hawaii’s Maui County, it takes 101 percent. Homes were found to be affordable in Chicago, Cleveland, Houston, Detroit and Philadelphia. Broadly speaking, homes are more affordable today than they were one year ago. While home prices are still rising in many areas, they’re also falling in others. Unaffordability in the market has been the result of slower homebuilding and homeowners staying put longer. Both trends have reduced the supply of homes for sale in the market. So long as interest rates don’t go up and the impact from last year’s tax cuts don’t wholly fade away, the market may yet create better conditions for buyers. “Affordability may improve because of the simple fact that homes are out of reach for so many home seekers,” Todd Teta, chief product officer at ATTOM Data Solutions, said in a statement.
China has no intention of burning less.
Australia’s booming earnings from coal exports could be in jeopardy if China switches to more domestic supply and if port restrictions continue to favour competing exporters, a federal government report has warned. The country’s energy and resources exports will rake in an extra $20bn to rise to $278bn this financial year, the report by the industry department said, creating a timely bonanza for the treasurer, Josh Frydenberg, to exploit in next week’s federal budget. But the report, released on Friday, warned that Australia faced an imminent threat to the $5bn thermal coal trade with China.
Amid growing concern about delays imposed on Australian coal shipments at Chinese ports, it detailed how the government in Beijing had restructured its domestic coal sector in the past 10 years, with potentially serious implications for Canberra’s coffers. China was poised to switch on 200m tonnes of thermal capacity, it said, after it built rail freight lines to hard-to-reach coalfields hundreds of kilometres inland. Another 400m tonnes of capacity was under construction. Australia is the second largest exporter of thermal coal in the world, with 208m tonnes worth $26bn exported last year. About 20% of that went to China. The report warned that although Australian producers could find other markets, such as India, the pressure on prices would be downwards.
Drugs that are prescribed too easily are never good.
Acetaminophen – a potent physical painkiller that also reduces empathy for other people’s suffering – blunts physical and social pain by reducing activation in brain areas (i.e. anterior insula and anterior cingulate) thought to be related to emotional awareness and motivation. Some neuroimaging research on positive empathy (i.e., the perception and sharing of positive affect in other people) suggests that the experience of positive empathy also recruits these paralimbic cortical brain areas. We thus hypothesized that acetaminophen may also impair affective processes related to the experience of positive empathy. We tested this hypothesis in a double-blind, placebo-controlled experiment.
Specifically, we administered 1,000 mg acetaminophen or a placebo and measured effects on different measures of positive empathy while participants read scenarios about the uplifting experiences of other people. Results showed that acetaminophen reduced personal pleasure and other-directed empathic feelings in response to these scenarios.
“Canada and parts of northern Europe..”
Half a billion more people could be at risk from mosquito-transmitted diseases within 30 years as a result of the warming climate, according to a new study. Canada and parts of northern Europe could be newly exposed to the threat. People there could come into contact with yellow fever, Zika, dengue and chikungunya, as well as other emerging diseases. The study, published in the journal PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases, finds that humans could prevent the spread of disease-carrying mosquitoes if they aggressively take actions to combat global warming. Sadie Ryan, a co-author from the University of Florida, said the study and the maps it produced could help policymakers and medical professionals understand where the bugs and their diseases might move.
“As you move into a hotter world, the places that get really hot are going to have all kinds of other vulnerabilities with them,” Ryan said. “Having studies like this that say, hey, this is potentially where these things can show up is going to be one tool in a big tool box.” Currently, a little more than six billion people are in climates where the two mosquitoes studied can live for a month or more each year. But as climate change pushes milder weather toward the poles, new regions become hospitable to them. One of the mosquitoes studied, the yellow fever mosquito Aedes aegypti, thrives in a warmer climate. But another, the tiger mosquito Aedes albopictus, prefers it cooler. So the researchers determined what different levels of rising temperatures would mean for the spread of both. They found thatif the world only moderately stalls rising temperatures, it’s possible both mosquitoes might do well, presenting a conundrum for climate-health planners.
Everything’s in decline that lives.
A deadly disease that wiped out global populations of amphibians led to the decline of 500 species in the past 50 years, including 90 extinctions, scientists say. A global research effort, led by the Australian National University, has for the first time quantified the worldwide impact of chytridiomycosis, or chytrid fungus, a fungal disease that eats away at the skin of amphibians. The disease was first discovered in 1998 by researchers at James Cook University in Queensland investigating the cause of mysterious, mass amphibian deaths. Chytridiomycosis is caused by two fungal species, both of which are likely to have originated in Asia, and their spread has been facilitated by humans through activities such as the legal and illegal pet trade.
Forty-two researchers worked on the new study, published in Science on Friday, which pinpoints the extent of the disease and how devastating it has been for frog, toad and salamander species. They found evidence that at least 501 species had declined as a result of chytrid fungus and 90 of those were presumed or confirmed extinct. “The results are pretty astounding” Benjamin Scheele, a research fellow at the ANU and the project’s lead researcher, said. “We’ve known that chytrid is really bad for the better part of two decades but actually researching and quantifying those declines, that’s what this study does.” The scientists identified declines in amphibian species in Europe, Africa, Central and South America and Australia because of the disease. Scheele said there were no declines in Asia because species had evolved to be naturally resistant.
The sadness is deafening.
Three rare Sumatran tiger cubs ventured into public view for the first time Friday in what Sydney zookeepers called a “wonderful success” for the future of the critically endangered species. Two female cubs — Mawar, which means “rose” in Indonesian, and Tengah Malam (“midnight”) — and their brother Pemanah (“archer”) were allowed outside their closed dens to explore the more natural outdoor tiger compound at Sydney’s Taronga Zoo. Zookeeper Louise Ginman said the move from the dens to the outdoors for the cubs, which were born on January 17, posed a challenge for their mother, Kartika. “Now that they are moving about a larger space and learning to climb terrain, she will have a much harder time controlling them,” Ginman said.
Sumatran tigers are classified as critically endangered, with as few as 350 remaining in patches of forest on the Indonesia island of Sumatra, where their natural habitat has been devastated by illegal wildlife trade and jungle clearing for palm oil plantations. “This birth is such a wonderful success for the conservation of this fragile species, and I am so excited that we can now invite guests to share our joy,” Gilman said. “It’s such a shock that these three little cubs represent one per cent of the remaining wild population, but with zoo-based conservation programs worldwide and the support of our guests here in Sydney, there’s still hope for the future of this species,” she said.
Burn a candle.
One year ago Thursday, Ecuador’s government under President Lenin Moreno silenced Julian Assange. WikiLeaks wrote on Twitter Wednesday: “… March 28, marks one year that WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange has been illegally gagged from doing journalism—any writing that expresses a ‘political opinion’? even on his own treatment, after pressure from the U.S. on Ecuador.” On this date in 2018 Moreno imposed on Assange what Human Rights Watch’s legal counsel Dinah Pokempner described as looking “more and more like solitary confinement.” Moreno cut off Assange’s online access and restricted visitors to the Ecuador embassy in London where Assange has had legal political asylum since 2012.
Moreno cited Assange’s critical social media remarks about Ecuador’s allies, the U.S. and Spain. Assange’s near-total isolation, with the exception of visits from legal counsel during week days, has been augmented by the Ecuadorian government’s imposition of a complex “protocol,” which, although eased slightly in recent months in respect of visits allowed, has not improved Assange’s overall status over the last 12 months. In some respects, it seems to have worsened. [..] On Thursday Ecuador’s foreign minister threatened additional “‘firm and sustained’ measures against Assange after @WikiLeaks reports on the @INAPapers offshore scandal involving the president and his brother,” WikiLeaks tweeted.
[..] The end of the collusion conspiracy theory came as a victory for Assange and WikiLeaks. Special Counsel Robert Mueller made it clear there would be no indictments against either for their roles during the 2016 election. However, the damage has been significant, with Assange unable to comment and WikiLeaks saddled with residual, unresolved smears. Over the last three years, cable news pundits endlessly vilified WikiLeaks and Assange by claiming the publisher coordinated with the Trump presidential campaign and became an instrument of the Kremlin in 2016.