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Updated: 19 min 27 sec ago

French Mayor Of Town That Voted For Marine Le Pen Wants To Quit Because Of 'Assholes'

57 min 32 sec ago

A socialist mayor whose town voted for far-right candidate Marine Le Pen in the first round of France’s presidential election says he’s considering resigning because he doesn’t want to “dedicate” his life to “assholes.”

Daniel Delomez, who has served as mayor of Annezin, northern France, since 2008, used the derogatory term “connards” to describe his fellow citizens to a journalist from L’Avenir de L’Artois on Sunday. 

Le Pen en tête à #Annezin, colère du maire : "il est possible que je démissionne car je ne veux pas consacrer ma vie à des connards" pic.twitter.com/2NSgeJjyDS

— L'Avenir de l'Artois (@avenirartois) April 23, 2017

Delomez later said he regretted using the offensive word, which he insisted is “not part of my vocabulary.” He said he was reacting in shock and anger when authorities announced the outcome of first-round ballots. 

The mayor said it was a “catastrophe” and a vote of “hatred and rejection” that more than 38 percent of the population of Annezin voted for Le Pen, who announced Tuesday that she’s stepping down as leader of the far-right, populist National Front party.

The second choice of his town was the far-left candidate Daniel Delomez, who won over 19 percent of the vote.

Delomez’s straight-talk tweeted on the L’Avenir site won plenty of praise from people calling him the “hero of the day,”  a genius and “my idol.” One Twitter user declared, “send that man some flowers.” Others tweeted, “Au revoir!”

The mayor said he was seriously considering quitting and would decide what to do after meeting with his associates.

Le Pen, and independent candidate Emmanuel Macron, who won the most votes in the first round, will face each other in the final race on May 7. 

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Categories: News Monitor

Snow Leopard Triple Sighting A Treat For Viewers, And Even Better For Science

2 hours 11 min ago

Three snow leopards surprised wildlife researchers in China by snuggling in front of a monitoring camera ― a rare sighting they say will help us better understand and protect the big cats.  And they hope it’ll help scientists estimate just how many of these elusive animals are left in the wild.

The big cat conservation group Panthera released a stop-motion video of the felines last week, captured in the highlands of China’s Qinghai province, near a monastery where the agency is working alongside the Snow Leopard Trust and a local nonprofit named Shan Shui. In the minute-long clip, a snow leopard lopes in front of the camera. Another soon joins it for a nap and a third big cat crawls on top of them before settling in the back of the frame.

Liu Mingyu, a Ph.D. student at Peking University who placed the camera trap, wrote in a blog that it’s possible the three leopards are either siblings, or a mother and her two cubs.

“Footage like this takes a bit of skill and a lot of luck,” said Byron Weckworth, Panthera’s China program director and regional scientist for the snow leopard program. He called the clip, compiled from a string of photographs taken over 10 or 15 minutes, an “outstanding” piece of research that helps scientists gather crucial data about one of the planet’s rarest animals.

Snow leopards have been classified as endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature since 1986 and they’re notoriously difficult to study. They live in some of the world’s most inhospitable, inaccessible places, and best estimates say there are likely just 4,000 left in the wild.

Some 60 percent of those live in China, Panthera said, and scientists often only catch grainy, faraway glimpses if a cat stumbles across a remote camera trap. A recent segment featured in the BBC’s “Planet Earth II” notes a film crew had to set up 20 cameras across the Himalayas and “wait for months before finally capturing unique images of the ‘ghost of the mountains’ up close.”

Despite those challenges, Weckworth said the technology is one of the “greatest tools” wildlife biologists have to track and count the creatures (other methods include gathering their feces; valuable for science, but hard to share on YouTube).

Panthera is now fundraising to deploy some 200 additional camera traps in the field. At around $150-a-pop, the technology is a relatively inexpensive means to fill a vast, but rapidly closing void in big cat research. A full array of the cameras can help scientists not only observe cats in the wild, but track specific individuals using the patterns on their coats.

“There are so many different types of research programs, especially in the case of snow leopards, tigers or jaguar where these cameras are the only way to really get good counts, good ideas of where they are,” Weckworth said. “There’s still a lot we don’t know.”

Such data has already proven useful. China recently approved a sprawling national park in the northeast corner of the country that will be bigger than Yellowstone, and provide sanctuary to two dangerously imperiled cats; the Amur leopard and Siberian tiger. Weckworth said efforts to document snow leopard populations and their range could likely result in similar protections for the species, although, they’ll never be plentiful. They are ghost cats, after all.

“The snow leopard is always going to be rare,” Weckworth said. “There’s never going to be a million, there’s never going to be even 100,000.”

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He’s The Last Male Northern White Rhino On Earth, And He’s Now On Tinder

2 hours 31 min ago

In his Tinder profile, Sudan is described as “one of a kind” — and that’s not a baseless boast. 

He’s the last male northern white rhino on the planet and, as his profile explains, “the fate of my species literally depends on me.”

On Tuesday, Kenya’s Ol Pejeta Conservancy and dating app Tinder announced a joint campaign to raise awareness about Sudan’s plight, and to raise funds to support efforts to save the northern white rhino from extinction.

“We partnered with [the conservancy] to give the most eligible bachelor in the world a chance to meet his match,” Matt David, Tinder’s head of communications, said in a statement. 

“I perform well under pressure. I like to eat grass and chill in the mud,” reads Sudan’s Tinder profile. “6 ft tall and 5,000lbs if it matters.”

Starting Tuesday, Tinder users in 140 countries could stumble upon Sudan’s profile as they swipe through potential matches. Users will have the option to swipe right on Sudan; if they do, they’ll see a message that features a link where they can donate.

Sudan, who lives at the conservancy where he’s protected 24/7 by armed guards, is one of three remaining northern white rhinos on Earth. The other two — females named Najin and Fatu — also live at the sanctuary. Attempts to breed the rhinos naturally have thus far failed, however.

In a last-ditch effort to save the northern white rhino, scientists have turned to in vitro fertilization. IVF is a challenging, costly and controversial solution, but it’s the “last option” left to save the subspecies, the conservancy’s CEO Richard Vigne said in a statement this week.  

Researchers in the United States, Germany and Japan are currently testing ways to use IVF on Najin and Fatu, as well as female southern white rhinos, with Sudan’s stored sperm, said the conservancy.

Southern white rhinos number about 17,000 in the wild but are a distinct subspecies. Still, crossing the two subspecies would be better than extinction, conservationists say.  

The research consortium says it hopes to establish a herd of 10 northern white rhinos after five years of using IVF. If it works, it’ll be the first time artificial reproduction will successfully be carried out in a rhino species. 

But according to Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research, which is involved in the IVF effort, “financial support remains the biggest challenge to this project.”

“To win this run against time it is very crucial to find major funds as quickly as possible,” a spokesperson for the German institute said this week.

Tinder said its campaign aims to help raise the $9 million needed for research into the “assisted reproductive techniques” that scientists hope could save the animal.

“As a platform that makes millions of meaningful connections every day, raising awareness about Sudan the rhino and the importance of finding his match seemed like something we could support in a really impactful way,” a Tinder spokesperson told Mashable. “We’ve heard countless stories about Tinder babies, but this would be the first match to save a species.”

Humans were responsible for the steep decline in the numbers of the northern whites; this is our chance at redemption. #mosteligiblebachelor pic.twitter.com/yPL14K3NC2

— Ol Pejeta (@OlPejeta) April 25, 2017

In 1960, more than 2,000 northern white rhinos lived in the wild, according to the World Wide Fund for Nature. Poaching, however, decimated this number to just 15 by 1984.

“The plight that currently faces the northern white rhinos is a signal to the impact that humankind is having on many thousands of other species across the planet,” Vigne said. 

Tinder and the Ol Pejeta Conservancy have both expressed hope that this campaign could mark a positive turning point for the critically endangered subspecies. 

“I would not be surprised if Mr. Sudan turned out to be one of our most Right Swiped users,” Tinder’s David said on Tuesday. 


Dominique Mosbergen is a reporter at HuffPost covering climate change, extreme weather and extinction. Send tips or feedback to dominique.mosbergen@huffingtonpost.com or follow her on Twitter

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'A Normal Man Would Not Want Me': A Heartbreaking Look At Leprosy In 2017

5 hours 45 min ago

This article is part of HuffPost’s Project Zero campaign, a yearlong series on neglected tropical diseases and efforts to fight them.

YANGON, Myanmar ― Su Myant Sandar was 17 when she first noticed a red patch on her cheek. At the time, she was working with her girlfriends at a garment factory on the poor outskirts of this city. She covered the spot with a thick layer of thanaka, a traditional plant-based makeup, and continued going to work as normal.

But it was not an ordinary spot. It was the first visible sign of leprosy, a largely forgotten bacterial infection that affects tens of thousands of people every year, mostly in southeast Asia and most of them extremely poor. An ancient disease, leprosy causes skin lesions and nerve damage and can lead to severe disfigurement and disability. 

Though curable and not highly contagious, the disease has long carried an intense social stigma, one that used to relegate people with leprosy to the fringes of Myanmar society. Modern treatment has erased some of this stigma, but even those who are cured shoulder a heavy emotional burden.

By the time the lesions spread across her body, Su Myant Sandar was out of a job and isolated from her friends. Already an orphan, she ate by herself every day, with her own fork and glass. Her brother quarreled constantly with his wife about her staying with them. She’d started receiving treatment at a local hospital, but it made her so lonely and exhausted that she stopped going before she was fully healed.

Su Myant Sandar’s relapse, months later, was severe. The disease reappeared in new patches on her skin, while weakness and numbness crept into her hands. She caught tuberculosis around the same time.

Her family decided to send her to the Myitta leprosy asylum, two hours away from Yangon. She’s still there today.

Now 20 years old, Su Myant Sandar is on the 11th month of a yearlong treatment at Myitta. She will be completely cured soon, but her limbs are covered with deep scars and have grown as thin as a child’s. Still, she says she feels “very lucky.” Unlike many other patients at the center, some of whom are in wheelchairs, leprosy didn’t mar her face or paralyze her fingers permanently.

Contrary to popular belief, the disease doesn’t cause body parts to fall off. But in extreme cases, it damages nerves so much that patients won’t feel injuries and might not treat wounds properly, which in turn can lead to infection and amputation. Facial paralysis and blindness may occur, and fingers and toes may curl and shorten. The disease can also destroy nasal cartilage, causing the nose to collapse entirely. 

Even though Su Myant Sandar escaped some of leprosy’s most devastating physical complications, she has no dream of a boyfriend or a family in her future.

“A normal man would not want me,” she said in a resigned monotone.

“I don’t want to leave this place ever again,” she added. “I don’t want to go back home ever again. I have an ‘auntie,’ a ‘sister’ and friends here. They are like me. They don’t reject me.”

Su Myant Sandar has plenty in common with the other 130 patients at the Myitta center. They share a background of poverty, malnourishment and fear of an “outside” world that has inflicted on them the deep wounds of abandonment and rejection.

Centers such as Myitta give shelter and food to people who are often unable to provide for themselves due to disability. In the past, people with leprosy often lived around hospitals, either producing alcoholic drinks or begging, or ended up in rundown colonies where people died of malaria in great numbers. But in the bright, Spartan wards of this modern structure, patients can receive visits and move in wheelchairs around the tranquil courtyard.

Scientists believe leprosy is spread when a person carrying the bacteria coughs or sneezes and a healthy person inhales the droplets. Transmission requires prolonged, close exposure, but the odds of contagion are higher among people with compromised immune systems or who live in houses with no ventilation.

“The majority of the population ― even doctors and nurses exposed to leprosy patients ― would not get it,” said Dr. Zaw Moe Aung, country director of the Leprosy Mission Myanmar, which provides medical assistance to centers such as the Myitta facility.  

Malnourishment and poverty affect vast segments of Myanmar’s population of 51 million. Newly recorded leprosy cases average about 3,000 per year here.

“Fifteen percent of the new cases are still identified too late, when preventable symptoms such as loss of sensitivity or claw hands mean nerve functions are compromised,” Zaw Moe Aung said.

In the 1980s, a multidrug therapy arrived on the scene. It proved effective in fighting leprosy around the world and is still the main form of treatment. If patients get this treatment at a point in the disease where their nerves are still repairable, they can avoid permanent disability. But many are cured only after the disease has rendered them unable to walk, write or see.

This treatment, which the World Health Organization began offering for free in 1995, worked wonders in Myanmar ― for a while, anyway. Thanks in part to a global effort, spearheaded by the WHO, to stamp out leprosy, Myanmar was able to significantly reduce the prevalence of the disease. In 2000, the WHO declared that leprosy had been eliminated as a health threat across much of the world. Myanmar, only slightly behind the curve, achieved elimination in 2003.

But “elimination” does not mean a disease is gone completely ― only that it’s been reduced to a manageable level. Even after things reached that point in Myanmar, there was still much work to be done. And unfortunately, worldwide efforts to fight leprosy have stalled.

As in the rest of Southeast Asia, where 74 percent of the world’s leprosy cases occur, the number of new cases in Myanmar is declining very slowly.

“Announcing that it had been ‘eliminated’ sent the wrong signal to the world,” Zaw Moe Aung said. “Donors halted funding and even health workers lost interest ― there was no inspiration for new generations to go and work with leprosy patients.”

“They would flock to HIV, TB, and get doctorates studying these illnesses, while nobody cared about leprosy,” he went on. “But you still need treatment, support for disabled patients and prevention education for the wider community. It might otherwise spread or be detected when it’s too late.”

In Myanmar, public information campaigns featuring writers and celebrities also helped to bring down the number of new cases, and to reduce the stigma that once saw people forcing patients off buses, burning their homes and sending them to live in separate villages ― even after their illness had been treated. But the judgment is still there.

“Self-stigma is also a real problem,” Zaw Moe Aung said.

U Aye Ko, an 80-year-old former magician and a patient at Myitta, says he felt like he needed to cut himself off from the world.

“I did not want my family to become a disgrace,” he said.

U Aye Ko used to perform in theaters all over the country. When he was 50, a red patch that had been on his hip for years started spreading. Leprosy symptoms can take up to 20 years to develop, so when new lesions appeared and his hands eventually lost sensitivity, he decided to leave his home.

“I felt inferior. I preferred to go,” he said. But even though leprosy has deformed his hands, he added, he can still perform the tricks his grandfather taught him, like conjuring flowers from his mouth.

His days of public performances may be over, but his desire to reunite with his family has grown stronger.

“I will try to make contact with them,” U Aye Ko said. “I know that my nephews live in Singapore. I would like to know how they are.”

This series is supported, in part, by funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. All content is editorially independent, with no influence or input from the foundation.

If you’d like to contribute a post to the series, send an email to ProjectZero@huffingtonpost.com. And follow the conversation on social media by using the hashtag #ProjectZero.

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Categories: News Monitor

Advocates For Father And Son Imprisoned In Iran Appeal To UN For Help

8 hours 45 min ago

WASHINGTON ― A lawyer representing two American citizens imprisoned in Iran appealed to the United Nations on Tuesday to intervene on behalf of his clients.

In a 27-page petition submitted to the U.N. Working Group On Arbitrary Detention, Jared Genser argued that the Iranian government is arbitrarily depriving Siamak Namazi, 45, and his father Baquer, 80, of their liberty. Their treatment in Evin Prison amounts to torture, and risks causing “irreversible damage to their physical and mental health, or even death,” wrote Genser, the founder of Freedom Now, a nonprofit that works to free prisoners of conscience.

The U.N. working group, established in 1991, can issue opinions on individual cases and urge countries to free prisoners who are being detained unlawfully. It has little ability to compel countries to abide by its recommendations, but a statement on the Namazis from the group could help apply pressure on Tehran.

The decision by the Namazi family to make a public appeal to the U.N. group is part of a broader strategy meant to increase public awareness of Siamak and Baquer’s plight and to urge the Trump administration to strike a deal with Tehran to secure their release.

Genser released his submission to the U.N. just before a delegation from the U.S. was scheduled to meet in Vienna with counterparts from Iran and the five other countries that helped negotiate a 2015 agreement over Iran’s nuclear program. He and Babak Namazi, Siamak’s brother and Baquer’s son, plan to hold a press conference in Vienna just before the world powers meet to discuss the Iran nuclear deal.

“This will be the first face-to-face discussions between the U.S. and Iran since the inauguration of President Trump,” Genser wrote in an email. “We have been informed that the U.S. delegation will raise the Namazi cases directly to the Iranian delegation.”

The State Department declined to comment on the Namazis specifically but a spokesman said the agency “continue[s] to use all the means at our disposal to advocate for U.S. citizens who need our assistance overseas.”

Until recently, the Namazi family took a very different approach to getting Siamak and Baquer out of prison. When Siamak was arrested in October 2015, his family stayed quiet, hoping to give the previous administration room to negotiate. But when the Obama administration finalized a prisoner swap with Iran last year, Siamak was left behind. The month after the prisoner swap, the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Forces arrested Baquer too. In their final days in office, Obama administration officials made a last-ditch effort to negotiate the Namazis’ release, but they were unsuccessful.

After quiet patience proved ineffective, the Namazis decided to speak out. Last month, Babak Namazi briefed a group of reporters and human rights activists in Washington on Siamak and Baquer’s condition. He gave a detailed narrative of the family’s saga since Siamak was arrested in 2015 and said he hoped President Donald Trump would be able to accomplish what his predecessor could not.

According to the petition filed by Genser, Siamak’s physical and mental state has deteriorated dramatically since he was first imprisoned. He is often kept in solitary confinement in a cell without a bed, forcing him to sleep on the concrete floor. He has been tortured by guards, beaten, hit with stun guns, and forced to watch government propaganda with images of him and his father in prison, Genser wrote. He has lost 26 pounds in prison as a result of a hunger strike.

Baquer’s physical health conditions are even more serious. He has a heart condition that caused him to undergo triple bypass surgery before he was imprisoned. He has been hospitalized at least twice since his arrest but has not been allowed to see his heart specialist while in prison.

Tehran’s denial of “medically appropriate detention conditions for the Namazis constitutes cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment,” Genser wrote in the petition.

Despite being held in the same prison, Siamak and Baquer first saw each other in February, more than a year since Baquer entered Evin, Genser alleged in the petition.

Siamak and Baquer have both been convicted of cooperating with a “foreign state” against Iran ― a reference to the U.S. ― and have been sentenced to 10 years in prison.

They were only allowed to meet with the attorneys in Iran for a half-hour several days before the hearing, which was closed to the public and the media. According to Genser, they were not allowed to present evidence, call witnesses, or meaningfully challenge charges or evidence against them.

The case against the Namazis appears to rely heavily on their past affiliation with Western organizations. Siamak held fellowships with the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars and the National Endowment for Democracy ― both of which receive funding from Congress. Baquer worked with the humanitarian relief organization UNICEF for over 10 years. At the time of their arrests, Siamak was working at an oil and gas company in Dubai and Baquer was retired and living Iran.  

Genser’s petition to the U.N. group is just as much an appeal to the U.S. government to focus on getting Siamak and Baquer released. He is conveying a message to the Trump administration that because of their deteriorating health and Baquer’s age, they don’t have much time to negotiate a deal.

During the presidential campaign last year, Trump tweeted that he wouldn’t let Iran imprison Americans and demand money for their release if he became president.

Well, Iran has done it again. Taken two of our people and asking for a fortune for their release. This doesn't happen if I'm president!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 23, 2016

Earlier this month, the Treasury Department sanctioned the Tehran Prisons Organization and senior prison official Sohrab Soleimani for human rights abuses. White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer mentioned Siamak and Baquer by name when he discussed the sanctions.

Last week, an American imprisoned for three years in Egypt returned home after the Trump administration negotiated her release. Her release was possible, in part, because of the Trump administration’s willingness to drop pressure on Egyptian President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi to improve the country’s human rights record. 

But it’s not clear what leverage the Trump administration will have with Tehran. Unlike in Egypt, where he was eager to patch up relations, Trump has vowed to take a tougher stance in Iran. And he repeatedly criticized the Obama administration for giving up too much in last year’s prisoner swap, which means it would be hard for him to accept significant American concessions to bring Siamak and Baquer home.

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Categories: News Monitor

Death Toll In Venezuela's Anti-Government Protests Climbs

15 hours 49 min ago

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CARACAS, April 24 (Reuters) - At least one person was killed in political unrest in Venezuela on Monday as anti-government protests entered a fourth week with mass “sit-ins” to press demands for early elections.

A local government worker was shot dead in the Andean state of Merida at a counter-protest rally in favor of the socialist government, while another man there was wounded by a bullet and left fighting “between life and death,” state ombudsman Tarek Saab said.

The confirmed death would bring to 11 the number killed in a month of unrest that has seen politically-motivated shootings and daily clashes between security forces armed with rubber bullets and tear gas and protesters wielding rocks and Molotov cocktails.

At least 10 people have also died during night-time looting.

There was also an unconfirmed report on Monday, from a regional opposition party official, of two more fatalities during protests in the western agricultural state of Barinas.

President Nicolas Maduro’s socialist government accuses foes of seeking a violent coup with U.S. connivance, while the opposition says he is a dictator repressing peaceful protest.

The opposition’s main demands are for elections, the release of jailed activists and autonomy for the opposition-led congress. But protests are also fueled by the crippling economic crisis in the oil-rich nation of 30 million people.

“I have an empty stomach because I can’t find food,” said Jeannette Canozo, a 66-year-old homemaker, who said police used rubber bullets against protesters blocking a Caracas avenue with trash and bathtubs in the early morning.

Demonstrators wore the yellow, blue and red colors of Venezuela’s flag and held signs denouncing shortages, inflation and violent crime as they chanted: “This government has fallen!”

In the capital, they streamed from several points onto a major highway, where hundreds of people sat, carrying bags of supplies, playing card games, and shielding themselves from the sun with hats and umbrellas.

In western Tachira, at another of the “sit-ins” planned for all of Venezuela’s 23 states, some played the board-game Ludo, while others played soccer or enjoyed street theater.

At protests in southern Bolivar state, a professor gave a lecture on politics while some people sat down to play Scrabble and others cooked soup over small fires in the streets.


Following a familiar pattern, the demonstrations had been largely peaceful by mid-afternoon, then there were scattered reports of the shootings and security forces using tear gas.

“In the morning they appear peaceful, in the afternoon they turn into terrorists and at night bandits and killers,” senior Socialist Party official Diosdado Cabello said of the opposition protesters. “Let me tell them straight: we’re not going, Nicolas (Maduro) is not going.”

This month’s turbulence is Venezuela’s worst since 2014 when 43 people died in months of mayhem sparked by protests against Maduro, the 54-year-old successor to late leftist leader Hugo Chavez.

The latest protests began when the pro-government Supreme Court assumed the powers of the opposition-controlled congress. The court quickly reversed course, but its widely condemned move still galvanized the opposition.

The government’s disqualification from public office of two-time presidential candidate Henrique Capriles, who would be an opposition favorite to replace Maduro, gave further impetus to the demonstrations.

“I’m staying here until 6 p.m. We’re simply warming up because the day will come that we are all coming to the street until this government goes,” said Gladys Avariano, a 62-year-old lawyer, under an umbrella at the Caracas “sit-in.”

More than 1,400 people have been arrested this month over the protests, with 636 still detained as of Monday, according to local rights group Penal Forum.

Facing exhortations from around the world to allow Venezuelans to vote, Maduro has called for local state elections - delayed from last year - to be held soon.

But Cabello said opposition parties could be barred from competing. And there is no sign the government will allow the next presidential election, slated for late 2018, to be brought forward as the opposition demands.

Given the country’s economic crisis, with millions short of food, pollsters say the ruling Socialist Party would fare badly in any free and fair vote at the moment.

Trying to keep the pressure on Maduro, the opposition is seeking new strategies, such as a silent protest held on Saturday and Monday’s “sit-ins.”

While some small demonstrations have been held in poorer and traditionally pro-government areas, most poor Venezuelans are more preoccupied with putting food on the table.

(Additional reporting by Andreina Aponte, Carlos Garcia Rawlins and Efrain Otero in Caracas, and Anggy Polanco and Carlos Eduardo Ramirez in San Cristobal; Writing by Girish Gupta and Andrew Cawthorne; Editing by Tom Brown and James Dalgleish)

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Categories: News Monitor

Former Neo-Nazi Says It’s On White People To Fight White Supremacy

16 hours 49 min ago

As a 14-year-old in 1980s Chicago, Christian Picciolini was ripe for recruitment into a hate group: He was bullied, didn’t have a lot of friends and felt “abandoned” by his Italian immigrant parents who worked long hours.

One day, when he was standing in an alley smoking a joint, a car pulled up, and a man with a shaved head came out, pulled the joint out of his mouth and said:

“Don’t you know that’s what the Jews and the Communists want you to do to keep you docile?”

That man was Clark Martell, a national leader of the white supremacist skinhead movement. Martell’s history of violence, according to a 1989 Chicago Tribune article, included targeting LGBTQ people and people of color. He once attempted to burn down the house of a Latino family.

Picciolini was recruited into Martell’s neo-Nazi skinhead group in 1987, and when Martell ended up in prison a couple of years later, Picciolini took the helm.

“He made me feel powerful when I felt powerless, gave me family and a sense of purpose,” Picciolini told HuffPost. “I was a nobody kid people picked on for having a funny name ― and [a few years later] I was respected and powerful.”

“False power and false respect,” Picciolini added.

After having children, which Picciolini says challenged his “notions of identity, community and purpose,” he left the hate group in 1995.

Over a decade later, in 2009, he co-founded Life After Hate, a small nonprofit run entirely by former members of America’s radical far-right, dedicated to supporting those who have left, or are seeking to leave, hate groups in the U.S.

It’s the only organization of its kind in the country ― and it’s up against a growing problem: The number of hate groups in the U.S. has doubled in the last 10 to 15 years, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, and around 80 percent of those groups advocate white supremacist beliefs.

“People come to us because they know that we won’t judge them.”

Leaving a hate group isn’t easy. When a woman left his neo-Nazi group in 1989, Martell viciously beat her, according to the Tribune. He reportedly kicked her in the face and drew a swastika on the wall of her home in her blood. He was later arrested and sent to prison.

Life After Hate helps those who have left or are trying to leave extremism behind by providing them with an array of support services. The main tool of the Chicago-based group is a private online network, set up by and for former extremists, to provide them with a new, supportive community.

“People come to us because they know that we won’t judge them,” Picciolini told HuffPost. “As someone who understands their past, we give them a helping hand ― not focused on yesterday, but focused on today and tomorrow.”

Picciolini and his colleagues ― some of whom are social workers, all of whom are former extremists and have worked with psychologists to craft their nonprofit’s approach ― also travel the country to meet with members in person, to provide individualized support. They help connect members to local service providers, including therapy, job training and tattoo removal, to try to tackle the underlying drivers of their hate.

Picciolini says most people who come to them have experienced one of three things: trauma, unemployment or mental health issues.

“I listen for potholes ― or what deviated them from their normal path and led them down this one ― and try to find them services to help,” Picciolini said. “When you make people more resilient, self-sufficient and self-confident, they don’t have anyone to blame, and the ‘us against them’ ideology goes away.”

Privacy is paramount, so before they let anyone into their online group, they spend months chatting with them to make sure they’ve truly left extremism.

“We want to protect the people in the network,” Picciolini said. “It’s a safe place, not for someone vulnerable to going back ― and taking names with them.”

Life After Hate’s reach is relatively small: Its online group currently has 60 members. Some had already left extremism before they joined and were looking for community. Others are actively exiting hate groups.

For Picciolini, who recognizes their group is small compared with the problem of white supremacist hate, it’s all about helping people one by one.

“We reach one person at a time ― we know we can’t solve racism,” he said. “What I do know is I can affect the people closest to me. If everybody thinks that way ― with your coworkers, your friends ― it can change the world.”

“What changed us is when we received compassion from the people we least deserved it from.”

One key strategy the group uses to help people leave extremism behind is to facilitate in-person meetings between former extremists and members of groups they once discriminated against ― for instance, having a former Islamophobe meet an imam, or letting a onetime Holocaust denier talk with a survivor.

“As former extremists from the far right, what changed us is when we received compassion from the people we least deserved it from,” Picciolini said. “Often times they’ve never met a black person or had a meaningful conversation with a Muslim or Jewish person. I get them into a situation where they can sit and talk, and realize there are more things in common than differences.”

The strategy derives from “contact theory,” or the well-researched idea that contact with groups from different backgrounds can increase tolerance. It seems to have worked for certain high-profile extremists, such as former white nationalist Derek Black, who began leaving the movement after being invited to a series of Shabbat dinners by a Jewish fellow college student, and Life After Hate Deputy Director Angela King, who left the skinhead movement after being befriended by a group of Jamaican women in prison.

“That’s how most people get out,” expert Heidi Beirich of the Southern Poverty Law Center told HuffPost last month, adding that the work of reaching out to people from different backgrounds should not fall on people from marginalized groups.

“It shouldn’t be on the groups facing this,” Beirich said. “It’s on the rest of us.”

“We still don’t call it terrorism when it’s white extremism.”

Part of the reason there aren’t more groups like Life After Hate in the U.S. ― while other forms of organized violence, such as gangs and Islamist extremism, have long had programs and funding dedicated to tackling them ― is because Americans tend to ignore the realities of white supremacist violence, according to Beirich.

“There has been a general reluctance in this country to see white people as responsible for terrorism in some sort of organized way,” Beirich told HuffPost last month. “When people talk about white supremacist terrorism, they want to call it a one-off. He’s a crazy person. It’s like white people can’t handle the idea that there are devils in our midst.”

Since September 11, 2001, there have been 85 deadly extremist attacks in the United States, according to a recent Government Accountability Office report — 73 percent of the attacks were carried out by far-right extremist groups, compared to 27 percent by radical Islamist extremists.

Just a couple of months ago, Reuters reported that the Trump administration may alter the government’s counter-extremism program to focus solely on Islamist extremism. As a result, Life After Hate may lose $400,000 in funding that it had been awarded through the program in January under President Barack Obama, said Picciolini. The group hasn’t received the funds yet and doesn’t know if it will.

“We’re concerned about the policies of the new administration [indicating] that white extremism may not be an issue,” Picciolini said. “There really is no difference between what happened in Charleston with Dylann Roof and what happened in San Bernardino. They’re both terror attacks based on ideologies of extremism ― yet we still don’t call it terrorism when it’s white extremism.”

“The only difference between alt-right and what I was in then is packaging.”

Picciolini says that the recent rise of the so-called alt-right movement ― a white supremacist movement with young leadership, branding meant to appeal to millennials and a large online presence ― makes Life After Hate’s job harder.

“In the old days you could spot a skinhead a mile away ― now it’s harder in a virtual world. And they made the message more palatable, wear suits and ties, don’t shave their heads.

“The only difference between alt-right and what I was in then is packaging. It’s a marketing strategy: They just soften the edges.”

Since President Donald Trump’s election, Picciolini says, the number of requests that have come in to Life After Hate for support have grown ― from one to three requests per week to one to three per day. Most of these come from friends or family concerned that a loved one might be involved in extremism.

“White people need to solve the problem of white supremacy.”

It is not clear how well exit programs like Life After Hate work. Older exit programs in Europe, such as those developed for white supremacists in Sweden in the 1990s, have been criticized at times for “glorifying former extremists as ‘experts’” and not eliminating participants’ racism, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.

But experts who have weighed in on Life After Hate consider it a useful contribution to the larger fight against white supremacism.

“Everything always has to be considered part of a larger toolbox,” Pete Simi, an author and expert on far-right extremists, said in an interview last year. “There’s never any program that’s ever going to be your catchall. But I think it is an important tool.”

SPLC’s Beirich, who has been studying white supremacism since 1999, told HuffPost last month that she sees Life After Hate as a solution.

“I don’t have anywhere to send a white supremacist if they come to me and start questioning the movement they’re involved in,” Beirich said. “Once you become a hard-core white supremacist, you lose all links to family and friends, there isn’t really a place for you to turn if you leave. I’m not trying to give anyone a pass, but if someone wants to get out of something bad, I want to help.”

A Life After Hate member echoed the need for more groups like it.

“There were years I was looking for a way out, and I didn’t have anywhere to turn,” former skinhead Logan Stewart told HuffPost. “It’s great support. Anything you need to talk about you can do that with them.”

For Picciolini, if there’s one thing that holds true when thinking of how to best tackle white supremacist hate, it’s this: The responsibility falls on white people.

“White people need to solve the problem of white supremacy,” Picciolini said. “It’s white people’s problem, we created it, and it’s a problem we need to fix.”

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Categories: News Monitor

France Could Elect A President With Seriously Troubling Ideas About Religion

17 hours 13 min ago

Marine Le Pen, the leader of France’s far-right, anti-immigrant National Front party, came in second place Sunday in the country’s first round of voting in the presidential election.

The presidency now depends on a May 7 runoff election between Le Pen and Emmanuel Macron, an independent, centrist candidate who is being supported by French and European politicians across the political spectrum.

Le Pen is the daughter of Jean-Marie Le Pen, who helped found the National Front. Marine Le Pen took control of the party in 2011 and has tried to distance herself politically from her father’s racist and openly anti-Semitic views, going so far as to help push him out of the party in 2015. In just a few years, she’s helped to transform the National Front from a fringe party to a serious contender for political power in France.

But Le Pen’s rise to power doesn’t necessarily bode well for France’s religious minorities. Le Pen claims she’s not “waging a religious war,” but she has championed French secularism at the expense of religious minorities’ ability to express their faith in public. 

Below, The Huffington Post has gathered just seven of the troubling ideas Le Pen has espoused about religious minorities. From her bashing of Muslim women who wear the headscarf, to her calculated attempts to pit French Jews against French Muslims, Le Pen’s past comments make it clear if she wins it would become even harder for France’s religious minorities to practice their faith. 

She compared Muslims praying in the streets to the Nazi occupation. 

During a National Front rally in 2010, Le Pen responded to reports of Muslims praying in public in French cities with a disturbing comparison. The Muslims had reportedly turned to public spaces because of a lack of space in local mosques.

“I’m sorry, but for those who really like to talk about the Second World War, if we’re talking about occupation, we can also talk about this while we’re at it, because this is an occupation of territory,” Le Pen reportedly said during the rally.

“It’s an occupation of swaths of territory, of areas in which religious laws apply … for sure, there are no tanks, no soldiers, but it’s an occupation all the same and it weighs on people.”

She was charged with inciting hatred after those comments, and later acquitted. 

She can’t seem to distinguish between terrorism and religion.

During and after the American presidential elections, U.S. President Donald Trump promised that he would name and eradicate what he called “radical Islamic terrorism.” His use of the phrase was a departure from the strategies of former presidents Barack Obama and George Bush ― both of whom avoided using a term that linked violence propagated by terrorists to the religious beliefs of the world’s 1.6 billion Muslims.

Le Pen has her own version of the phrase ― she calls it “Islamic fundamentalism.” In an op-ed for The New York Times in January 2015, written days after the Charlie Hebdo attacks, Le Pen criticized French officials for refusing to link the terrorist attacks to Islam. 

“Let us call things by their rightful names, since the French government seems reluctant to do so. France, land of human rights and freedoms, was attacked on its own soil by a totalitarian ideology: Islamic fundamentalism,” she wrote.

She has applauded Trump’s Muslim ban.

After Trump signed an executive order restricting refugee admissions from seven Muslim-majority countries in January, a member of Le Pen’s campaign said that the National Front would be open to issuing a similar ban in France. 

“And why not?” Steeve Briois, National Front’s vice president, told Agence France-Presse. “We are no longer in the world of the Care Bears. We are in a horrible world, so sometimes you have to take measures of authority, even if it shocks.”

Le Pen herself has applauded the travel ban. 

“I think Donald Trump and his intelligence services wanted to set up criteria and conditions to avoid having potential terrorists enter the United States, where they might commit attacks, the same way that France was the victim of attacks,” she told CNN.

She doesn’t think Muslim women who wear the headscarf can be truly French. 

Although Le Pen has tried to paint herself as being opposed to “Islamic fundamentalism,” it’s clear from her language about Muslim women that she sees Islam itself as a problem.

In an interview with Anderson Cooper last month, Le Pen reiterated her stance against the headscarf some Muslim women wear as part of their religious practice. 

“I’m opposed to wearing headscarves in public places. That’s not France,” she said in the interview. “There’s something I just don’t understand: The people who come to France, why would they want to change France, to live in France the same way they lived back home?’

The headscarf has long been a subject of debate in France. Hijabs and other religious articles of clothing were banned from public schools in 2004. In 2011, France banned women from wearing full-face veils in public places ― even though only about 2,000 of France’s 5 million Muslims are believed to wear full veils.

During her campaign, Le Pen has consistently presented Islam as a religion that is inherently unfriendly toward women.

During a rally last week, she said, “In France, we respect women, we don’t beat them, we don’t ask them to hide themselves behind a veil as if they were impure.”

She doesn’t think France should be held responsible for its participation in the Holocaust. 

In 1942, French police rounded up more than 13,000 Jewish men, women and children at a sporting arena in Paris, many of whom were then sent to their deaths at Auschwitz. 

Earlier this month, Le Pen stated that she doesn’t think France is responsible for that raid, which was ordered by Nazi officers. 

“I think that generally speaking if there are people responsible, it’s those who were in power at the time. It’s not France,” she said.

Former French presidents have assumed the opposite position, apologizing formally for the roundup.

Le Pen’s opponent in the French election, Emmanuel Macron, said her comments reflect the fact that she is still her father’s daughter.

Jean-Marie Le Pen has been convicted numerous times of contesting crimes against humanity for claiming that the gas chambers used to kill Jewish people during the Holocaust were a mere “detail” of history.

She believes Jews shouldn’t wear kippas in public. 

Le Pen has attempted to disentangle herself from her father’s blatant anti-Semitism ― sometimes by pitting French Jews against Muslims.

In an interview with Israel’s Channel 2 News, she said she believes French Jews should be willing to sacrifice their ability to wear kippas in order to join in a “struggle against radical Islam.” Le Pen, who believes no one should wear outwardly religious clothing in public, portrayed Jews giving up their religious symbols as a necessary and patriotic “sacrifice.” 

“I mainly think the struggle against radical Islam should be a joint struggle and everyone should say, ‘There, we are sacrificing something,’” Le Pen said in 2015. “Maybe they will do with just wearing a hat, but it would be a step in the effort to stamp out radical Islam in France.”

She’s actually glad when religious minorities don’t speak up. 

When Anderson Cooper asked Le Pen if Sikhs should be allowed to wear turbans, she responded, “No, not in public.”

Her response was reflective of how little she cared about the protection of religious minorities’ ability to practice their faith.

“We don’t have a lot of Sikhs in France. We’ve got some. But we don’t really hear much from them or about them. Which is good news.”

The remarks have left Sikhs in France worried about the future ― and wondering if they should leave France if Le Pen wins the presidency. 

“For me France will not be a welcoming country for Sikhs and any people who want to live his or her religion freely,” Talwinder Kaur, a Sikh mother living in France, told NDTV

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Categories: News Monitor

A Terror Attack Didn't Sway France's Election, But That's No Surprise

17 hours 18 min ago

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Just three days before the French would cast their votes in the first round of an election with potential drastic effects for the future of the country, a French national from an eastern Paris suburb shot dead a policeman and wounded two others on Paris’ famed Champs Elysées.

The gunman, identified as 39-year-old Karim Cheurfi, was well known to authorities and had been arrested earlier this year, suspected of planning an attack on police. The so-described Islamic State was quick to claim responsibility for the shooting, although it remains unclear to what extent the militant group was involved.

France was already on heightened alert that week. Last Tuesday, in the port city of Marseille, authorities detained two young men, both French nationals, suspected of planning to carry out a violent attack related to the presidential campaign. Police found guns and bomb materials, as well as a video in which one of the men claimed allegiance to ISIS.

With polls indicating a neck-and-neck race between four front-runners, far-right presidential candidate Marine Le Pen and conservative contender François Fillon jumped on the incidents to highlight their hawkish proposals on national security.

Le Pen doubled down on her anti-immigration argument, vowing that if elected she would reinstate border checks and expel foreigners who are on the watch lists of intelligence services. Fillon, who had steered to the right throughout the campaign hoping to woo some of Le Pen’s supporters, said the fight against “Islamist totalitarianism” should be at the top of the next president’s list of priorities. 

Even U.S. President Donald Trump weighed in. “Another terrorist attack in Paris. The people of France will not take much more of this. Will have a big effect on presidential election!” Trump tweeted on Thursday.  

But in fact, last week’s attack and arrests had little or no effect on the results in the first round, according to previous poll predictions, and experts say that should come as no surprise.

“I don’t think that attack had any electoral effect,” Mabel Berezin, a professor at Cornell University who writes on European politics, told HuffPost on Monday. “The polls were remarkably consistent.”

With 97 percent of votes counted, centrist candidate Emmanuel Macron decisively won Sunday’s first round with 23.9 percent of votes. Macron will meet hardliner Le Pen in the runoff on May 7. Le Pen took home 21.4 percent of the votes. Conservative Fillon and far-left candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon were eliminated, with 19.9 and 19.6 percent respectively.

The results were in line with predictions prior to the terror incidents. An Ipsos poll released 10 days ahead of the vote, predicted Macron and Le Pen would each win around 22 percent, Mélenchon 20 percent and Fillon 19 percent.

While some research suggests that conservative or right-wing parties could benefit at the polls following terror attacks, Ignacio Lago, an associate professor of political science at Universitat Pompeu Fabra, told HuffPost that only a few of the variables that usually play a role in shifting public perception actually applied to France’s case.

Lago pointed to three main factors. First, research suggests voters usually rally around the flag after a terror attack, and that effect generally benefits the incumbent, regardless of his or her political affiliation. “Terrorist attacks are good for incumbents, that’s the rule,” Lago explained.

Think back to November 2015, when a group of gunmen stormed bars, restaurants, a soccer stadium and a concert hall across Paris in an ISIS-plot, killing up to 130 people. President François Hollande, who was deeply unpopular at the time of the attack, saw his support grow in the aftermath.

Secondly, Lago says, how an incumbent responds to the tragedy is a critical factor in voters’ opinions. When the Spanish ruling party initially responded to the 2004 Madrid terror attack by mistakenly blaming Basque separatists, rather than al-Qaeda, voters turned against them at the polls.

In France, incumbent President Hollande was not running, nullifying both the rallying effect and the importance of his response.

Thirdly, size matters. While a tragic event, the extent of Thursday’s shooting in Paris was small compared to some of the massive attacks France has suffered in recent years. Since January 2015, individual terrorists and groups of militants have attacked the offices satirical weekly newspaper Charlie Hebdo, killing 12 people; taken hostages at a kosher supermarket, killing four; carried out a large coordinated assault in Paris, leaving 130 dead; attacked the home of a policeman, killing him and his partner; and mowed down at least 84 people celebrating Bastille Day in the southern city of Nice.

“At a certain point with these collective traumas … you reach a kind of threshold and people have taken their emotional position on it.” Berezin, the Cornell University Professor, said.  

Finally, the frequency of threats also played a role in the way voters responded at the polls on Sunday. Professor Christophe Chowanietz, an expert on France’s response to terrorism, suggested in a 2009 University of Montreal research paper that there’s less of a rallying effect if attacks occur on a regular basis. Opposition parties will begin to openly criticize the country’s leaders for failing to stop repeated attacks.

In the case of France this week, Chowanietz said, criticizing the government’s approach to the attacks did not win the candidates an edge over one another. “The incumbent isn’t running, so you can’t score points attacking Hollande for not keeping France safe. He doesn’t care, he’s out of a job in five weeks anyway,” Chowanietz said.   

Instead, candidates like Le Pen and Fillon hammered voters with their own plans for addressing security, but few of those proposals were actually new to voters. In addition, there were serious questions whether border controls, like Le Pen would like to see, would do much to stem the tide of attacks by radicalized French nationals. “It becomes empty rhetoric: close the borders and things like that. It’s nothing new,” Chowanietz said.

Le Pen and Macron will face off in the final round of voting on May 7 and while France’s security and history of terror attacks will be an issue for the campaigns, analysts say it would take a much larger terror attack to have a chance at swaying the vote.

“Had it been a massive attack where 10, 20 people were killed then the dynamic could have been different,” Chowanietz said.

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Categories: News Monitor

Do You Know Where Your Clothes Come From?

17 hours 33 min ago

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Have you ever considered where your clothing comes from? No, not the brand name, but the workers who stitched together your outfit at a tremendously small wage. Fast fashion brands like H&M, Nordstrom, GAP, and Forever 21 depend on vastly underpaid workers (as little as $4/hour) to make clothing at alarming rates to meet consumer demand.

Most fast fashion brands can’t afford to be ethical, but you can. As today is Fashion Revolution Day, we urge you to consider the implications of your clothing choices. Today is designed to draw attention to the fact that much of the global fashion industry is opaque, exploitative and environmentally damaging.

The fashion industry desperately needs revolutionary change. While we all love fashion, our clothes shouldn’t come at the cost of people or our planet. So, check out the video above from Remake. Perhaps it will help you reconsider how you consume clothing. There are ethical fashion brands out there, but you have to make the choice to seek them out. That’s what real change looks like.

For more on how you can make a change with your clothing head over to Fashion Revolution Day’s website. It’s a valuable resource for information, activism, and how you can get involved.

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Categories: News Monitor

Emmanuel Macron Is Good News For Europe And A Lesson For The U.S.

18 hours 43 min ago

Never say cat before you have it in the bag ― the run-off still has to be won ― but we can sigh in relief after Emmanuel Macron beat Marine Le Pen 24.01% to 21.3% in the first round of the French Presidential elections.

After weeks of hearing about a prospective overwhelming victory for Marine Le Pen, her getting in the run-off is less brutally shocking than her father’s in 2002. At the time, French people were caught by surprise by Le Pen’s success and the outcry led to a massive victory for Jacques Chirac. The widespread expectancy that Le Pen would get into the run-off and it subsequent normalization, is in fact the most dangerous variable for run-off ― together with the fact that the vote will take place on a long weekend, and that the extreme left’s leader Jean-Luc Melanchon did not see fit to call his voters to support Macron, in a suicidal move that seems to characterize progressive parties nowadays.

Emmanuel Macron is a Justin Trudeau-style candidate. Just like Canada’s Prime Minister, Macron is young, handsome and generally perceived as a new face in politics. His pedigree, in fact, tells otherwise: his education and curriculum is typical of French Grand Comis, people who studied at the “Grands Ecoles” (something similar to the Ivy League in the U.S., with the difference that they are cost-free and based on real merit): Charles De Gaulle, Georges Pompidou, Valerie Giscard d’Estaing, Francois Mitterrand, Jacques Chirac, Nicolas Sarkozy, Francois Holland, they all attended (Sarkozy without in fact graduating) at least one of the Grands Ecoles. Macron attended la crème de la crème among them: he went to Sc. Po. and ENA (Ecole Nationale d’Administration) to then get on a career path common among Enarques: first, Inspector at the General Inspectorate for Finances; then onto the private sector as an investment banker at Rothschild; to finally entering politics directly at the highest level, as Minister of Economy and Digital Affairs in the second Valls Government (2014-2016). As such, Macron reassures the European elites more than anybody else, as the sudden spike in the stock market showed.

As Minister for Economic, Macron got the chance to walk the European corridors that matter helped by his flawless English ― also a novelty among French politicians. He is also profoundly pro-European; during the electoral campaign, he affirmed ― among other things ― that participation in the ERASMUS program (an exchange program for higher education students financed by the European Commission) should be made compulsory for all students. In an environment that suggested otherwise, he took the risk of clearly affirming his pro-European stance: indeed, Europe will be at the center of the last two weeks of the campaign in France.

Democrats at the national level can learn from Europe: it's time to stop blaming a supposed populist wave, WikiLeaks, the CIA or the Russians...

Differently from what many predicted in the United States, the three elections held after Brexit proved how London’s breakaway reinforced the feeling of belonging to the European Union, among European citizens, rather than the contrary. Populism is not winning in Europe, or at least in Western Europe: after Austria and Holland, also France defeated national populism. (Admittedly, the story differs in parts of Eastern Europe, starting with Hungary, where Prime Minister Victor Orban’s actions may lead to a suspension from the EU, according to art. 7 of the Treaty - and it would be well time…).

In Germany, the forthcoming October elections will probably lead to a coalition ― excluding any kind of populism ― and the same result is highly probable in Spring 2018 in Italy, where a pure proportional electoral system is likely to be the solution for the new electoral law. That is, electoral systems matter, too.

And this is here where the bad news begins for the other side of the Atlantic: as we know, Hillary Clinton won the popular vote, but lost the election, due to how constituencies are designed. Each state has different rules for redistricting, making the whole process very complicated, but one thing is certain: if the Democrats are to change things, they need to stop thinking that demographics are enough to eventually secure the victory.  The 2016 mantra “we have blacks and latinos” in fact proved wrong on so many different levels ― and they need to actively groom a new generation of politicians, starting with the local level. The local level is also where access to vote is determined: while in Europe voting rights are mostly automatic, in the U.S. there are in fact a million ways to prevent people from voting.

Equally, Democrats at the national level can learn from Europe: it’s time to stop blaming a supposed populist wave, WikiLeaks, the CIA or the Russians; time to face the hard reality that for how skilled, knowledgeable and amazing, Hillary was simply the wrong candidate for the times. Her candidacy was at odds with the electors’ quest for new faces ― that is candidates perceived as being outside the usual circles ― yet not necessarily people without political experience. For instance, Justin Trudeau, Emmanuel Macron, Alexander Van Der Bellen are all people of experience, yet perceived as not part of the old political elite.

This repulsion for “politics as usual” helps for instance in understanding how it is possible, as a new Washington Examiner’s poll shows, that though President Trump is the least popular president in modern times, with 42 percent approval and 53 percent disapproval, he’d still beat Hillary Rodham Clinton if the election were held today and in the popular vote, not just Electoral College: asked how they would vote if the election were held today, 43 percent of the respondents said they would support Trump and 40 percent said Clinton.

There are grassroots independent manifestations everywhere from the march for women to the march for Science ― people who react and show their disapproval. Yet, the Democratic Party seems unable to use this positive energy to bring change. The same energy that Macron was able to channel into a vote in France.

Contrary to what many claimed on this side of the ocean, the French elections are once more proof that Brexit did not lead Europe into disaster. Somehow Nigel Farage seems to have damaged Washington more than Brussels… May Paris be a learning lesson for the U.S. Democrats before it is too late.

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Categories: News Monitor

Now We Know: 'Every Star In The Sky Has At Least 1 Planet'

18 hours 55 min ago

Time magazine has included three planet-hunters on its annual list of the “100 Most Influential People in the World.” 

They are Natalie Batalha of NASA’s Ames Research Center in California; Michael Gillon from the University of Liege in Belgium; and Guillem Anglada-Escude from London’s Queen Mary University.

“It is truly exciting to see these planet-hunters among the other movers and shakers of the world,” Paul Hertz, astrophysics division director at NASA, said in a statement. 

“These scientists have transformed the world’s understanding of our place in the universe, and NASA congratulates them for their well-deserved recognition.”

Batalha ― the first woman at NASA to make Time’s list ― is project scientist for the Kepler mission, NASA’s planet-seeking spacecraft. Since Kepler’s 2009 launch, it has found almost 5,100 possible planets, with 2,500 confirmed, by searching for a dipping effect in a star’s brightness, which indicates an exoplanet crossing in front of the star.

“The Kepler mission has focused on finding Earth-sized or terrestrial-sized planets that could potentially be habitable, and has detected about three dozen such planets,” Batalha said during an interview at Stanford University with the other two planet-hunting Time honorees, as seen in the video below.

“These exoplanet discoveries are really changing how we see the universe,” Batalha added. “You know, we look up in the sky and instead of seeing stars, we see other solar systems, because now we know that every star in the sky has at least one planet.”

Gillon was the lead researcher in the effort that recently discovered an amazing seven Earth-sized planets around a dwarf star, called TRAPPIST-1. “It’s a world team effort, very glad for my team and glad for the field of exoplanets, which is now entering the realm of potentially habitable planets,” Gillon said. “We are getting close to an answer to is there life elsewhere in the universe? We see that the public is very interested in this question.”

Anglada-Escude led the team that discovered Proxima b, an Earth-sized planet orbiting its home sun, Proxima Centauri a mere four light-years from Earth. “It’s good for our science, in general. This is science that excites people and it’s been building up. I’m very happy to contribute to this if that helps to build up this momentum towards finding planets and learning about the universe,” Anglada-Escude said.

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Grand Mosque Of Paris Urges French Muslims To Vote Against Far-Right Le Pen

19 hours 14 sec ago

A major Islamic center in Paris is urging French Muslims to unite against xenophobia in the second round of the country’s presidential elections in May.

Sunday’s election narrowed the pool down to two candidates ― independent Emmanuel Macron and far-right National Front leader Marine Le Pen. Macron and Le Pen will face each other in the runoff on May 7. 

On Monday, the president of the Grand Mosque of Paris released a statement urging French Muslims to vote en masse for Macron, as the “threat of division and fragmentation” faces French society.

Macron, a 39-year-old former investment banker who founded his own political party and promotes a global, multicultural France, “embodies the path of hope and trust in the spiritual and citizen forces of the nation,” wrote Grand Mosque mufti Dalil Boubakeur.

French political reporter Tristan Quinault Maupoil shared a copy of Boubakeur’s statement on Twitter:

Dalil Boubakeur : «La Grande Mosquée de Paris appelle les musulmans de France à voter massivement pour le candidat @EmmanuelMacron» pic.twitter.com/8dtDSSkjwQ

— T Quinault Maupoil (@TristanQM) April 24, 2017

Macron’s opponent espouses a staunchly anti-immigrant, anti-European Union platform. The 48-year-old Le Pen has denounced what she calls “Islamic fundamentalism,” though she’s spoken out against Muslim identity in general, too.

“I’m opposed to wearing headscarves in public places. That’s not France,” she told Anderson Cooper in March. The National Front leader conflated Muslim identity with immigrant status, adding: “There’s something I just don’t understand: The people who come to France, why would they want to change France, to live in France the same way they lived back home?”

Le Pen at other times has vowed to fight for the “soul of France” by imposing restrictions on halal meat, banning religious clothing in public, and putting a stop to “burkinis,” which are highly controversial in the country.

Macron has expressed more conciliatory views toward France’s Muslim population. “No religion is a problem in France today,” he said during a rally last fall. “If the state should be neutral, which is at the heart of secularism, we have a duty to let everybody practice their religion with dignity.” 

The May 7 election, Boubakeur wrote, will determine “the destiny for France and for its religious minorities.”

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19 Of The Cutest and Funniest Kids From The March For Science

19 hours 7 min ago

People in Washington, DC, and around the world came together for the March for Science on Saturday, April 22. which was also Earth Day. The march brought together scientists, science enthusiasts and those who simply recognize the value of science for the public good. It also attracted kids who are, you know, taking science class. 

Below, 19 of the cutest potential future scientists who marched.

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Jordan To Abandon Law Allowing Rapists To Go Free If They Marry Their Victims

19 hours 58 min ago

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Jordan appears set to repeal a legislative loophole that allows rapists to escape punishment by marrying their victims.

The Jordanian cabinet recommended removing Article 308 from the country’s penal code on Sunday. The archaic provision guarantees that sexual predators can avoid prison time if they wed their victims and stay married for at least five years. Final approval from Parliament and King Abdullah II is all but guaranteed, according to Suad Abu-Dayyeh, Middle East and North Africa consultant for human rights organization Equality Now.

Abu-Dayyeh called the repeal movement a “collective effort” and praised women’s advocacy groups and parliamentarians for years of activism.

“People have really started to understand the negative impact this article has on women and girls,” Abu-Dayyeh told The Huffington Post on Monday. “Having this law in the penal code is a really big problem.”

Jordan’s lawmakers amended the law last year to restrict its application to rapists if their victims were aged 15 to 18, and if the assault was deemed “consensual.” But mounting public backlash prompted Jordan’s royal committee to recommend abandoning the law completely in February.

Supporters of Article 308 have claimed it allows victims to maintain their reputation and protects them from honor killings.

This region “can concentrate so much on a woman’s virginity,” Abu-Dayyeh said. “They feel it creates dishonor if a girl or woman is raped. ... But people have to understand that a girl who has been raped is a victim, and she needs the support of her family and also the government.”

Egypt repealed a similar measure in 1999, and Morocco followed in 2014. Still, similar rape laws still exist in other parts of the Middle East and Africa. Abu-Dayyeh said she hopes Jordan’s move to repeal the loophole will inspire other countries, such as Bahrain, to take similar actions.

Lebanese activists protested their country’s version of the rule Saturday by hanging 31 paper wedding dresses from nooses on Beirut’s seaside promenade. 

An installation of wedding dresses by artist Mireille Honein & Abaad NGO at Beirut denouncing the article 522 of penal code. @Patrick_Baz pic.twitter.com/FhRF9cPzd0

— Frédérique Geffard (@fgeffardAFP) April 23, 2017

Jean Oghassabian, Lebanon’s minister for women’s affairs, said the country’s Article 522 is from the “stone age.”

“It’s not acceptable for people to talk about it anymore,” Oghassabian told Agence France-Presse. “How is it reasonable for a woman to be raped and then sold into a prison?”

The Lebanese Parliamentary Administration and Justice Committee approved repealing the law in December. The country’s parliament can make a final decision at any time.

“I really hope that Jordan and Lebanon will be good examples of Arab governments [working] to revoke all remaining discriminatory laws toward women and girls,” Abu-Dayyeh said.

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As France Shuns Mainstream Political Parties World Experts React

20 hours 46 min ago

Simon P. Watmough, European University Institute; Balveer Arora, Jawaharlal Nehru University ; Donatella Della Porta, Institute of Human and Social sciences, Scuola Normale Superiore, Florence , and Luis Gómez Romero, University of Wollongong

The first round of voting in France has concluded, but nerves are hardly calmed. Emmanuel Macron, a former French finance minister who heads up his own political movement, En Marche! (Forward), secured the largest share of votes during Sunday’s presidential election, with approximately 24%.

This outcome places him ahead of the other candidates, including far-right populist Marine Le Pen. But, with 22% of votes, she is still in the race for the country’s May 7 run-off.

Both candidates have made strong anti-establishment statements, but they promote opposing visions for France, particularly vis-a-vis its foreign policy, economy and membership in the European Union.

As the candidates ramp up their run-off campaigns, The Conversation Global has asked scholars from around the world to give their view on this tense European contest.

Luis Gómez Romero - The toughest battle is yet to come

Both the EU and markets all over the world are breathing a sigh of relief after the results of the first round of the French election.

The prospect of a final victory of Emmanuel Macron – who has pledged to promote a “rebirth” of the EU – over the right-wing firebrand Marine Le Pen has sent the euro soaring to its highest level in almost six months.

The April 23 results will also facilitate Mexico’s own survival strategies after Donald Trump has threatened to dump the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which he has called “the worse trade deal” ever. In an urgent move to mitigate the impact of US protectionism on Mexican economy, Enrique Peña Nieto’s administration is now pushing for a renewal of its free trade agreement with the EU.

Mexicans can be relatively confident that the EU will survive the French election. It would be very difficult for Le Pen to win the second round. Both the conservative François Fillon and the socialist Benoît Hamon, following the tradition of “le Pacte Républicain” that previously blocked the National Front in 2002, have asked their supporters to vote for Macron.

Yet the genie of discontent that Le Pen’s 22.9% share of the vote has evidenced is not getting back into the bottle at any time soon. The next French president will come from neither of the two main traditional parties for the first time since the foundation of the Fifth Republic in 1958.

This is symptomatic of how little mainstream political parties have to offer to effectively redress basic social problems caused by capitalist globalisation – such as unemployment, job precariousness and the impact of migration in configuring multicultural societies.

Le Pen’s National Front has many similarities with fascism. It would hence be convenient to remember that, in the 1930s, fascist parties didn’t raise to victory based on pure hatred and discrimination: they also offered their voters alternative narratives on protection against predatory capitalism.

These narratives should be central to Macron’s campaign if he wants to obtain, in the legislative elections in June, a big enough majority in the National Assembly to govern. Considering that his movement En Marche! didn’t even exist a year ago, the toughest battle is yet to come.

Simon Watmough - French election could endanger relations with Turkey

While France and Turkey have a very long and rich connection that extends back centuries, their relations have been deteriorating since the mid 2000s, when France vetoed Turkey’s accession to the European Union.

Dating back to president Jacques Chirac, French presidents have largely used Turkey’s status as a Muslim-majority nation and French domestic resentment about its large first- and second-generation Turkish population to mobilise anti-Turkey sentiment during elections.

This first round of elections was no differrent: both the centrist Emmanuel Macron and far-right Marine Le Pen antagonised Turkey over its April 18 referendum, which dramatically expanded the powers of Recep Tayipp Erdogan, Turkey’s president.

Emmanuel Macron took the opportunity to bolster his centrist and EU credentials by criticising the referendum results, saying they were indicative of Turkey’s slide into authoritarianism.

Marine Le Pen, who had blasted Turkey’s referendum rallies in March, actually promotes within France a vision similar to President Erdogan’s conservative, “country first” populism. She hopes for “a privileged relation with Turkey” and, if in power, says she would orchestrate France’s exit from the bloc.

To add fuel to the fire, this past weekend, French professor Philippe Moreau Defarges, a researcher at the French Institute of International Relations, asserted that the best way to “deal” with Erdogan would be a political assassination. Predictably, many outraged Turkish citizens living in France took to social media to express their dismay.

Reactions from Turks in France outraged by the statement of Professor Moreau Defarges. The Conversation, CC BY

Erdogan, for his part, has been highly adept at using French claims that Turkey is not Europe to bolster his argument that Europe will never accept Turkey as a member and to present France as a bastion of European Islamophobia.

Some half a million first- and second-generation Turks (about 4% of people among those with at least one immigrant parent in 2015) live in France today. The Turkish community is widely viewed as the least integrated immigrant community in France due to local Turks’ strong connections to their home country. Policies of the Turkish state also encourage them in this direction.

It will be interesting to analyse how Turkish-French citizens vote on May 7. For now, what’s certain is that given the resurgence of the French far-right and Turkey’s lurch toward authoritarianism, prospects for renewed relations between the two nations are dim.

Balveer Arora - Election ‘has echoes in India’

The French presidential election has aroused great interest in India. The context has undoubtedly something to do with it, sandwiched as they are between the Brexit vote and the upcoming German elections.

Given the restrictive policies of the Trump administration, the direction that Europe will now take is of acute interest here, as Indian students and professionals turn their gaze away from the US to other possible destinations.

Emmanuel Macron’s victory in the first round has allayed fears of the backlash against globalisation wrecking the European Union. His political positioning as neither left nor right, and his invocation of general Charles de Gaulle – the first president of the French Fifth Republic and former leader of the resistance – while founding his movement, echoed the foundational principles of modern France.

The astute choreography of his rise, designed by none other than the unpopular French president Francois Hollande himself, was also a fascinating study in political strategy.

Marine Le Pen’s Right-wing ultra-nationalist ideology has parallels in India. The trajectory of her party over the past 15 years – from outcast untouchable to major player – recalls that India’s ruling Hindu nationalist party, the BJP clawed its way to respectability after having been ostracised for its hostility towards minorities.

France’s hybrid regime of the executive presidency (with a strong prime minister appointed by the president) has been watched in India since the mid-1970s, when Indira Gandhi’s government discussed constitutional reforms. Indeed, the French model has been cited in many reform proposals for its promise of a stronger central leader liberated from the constraints of a fragmented parliament.

The fact that this regime, which was being questioned during the campaign, appears to have got a second lease of life with Macron’s first-round victory will strike a chord in India.

The apparent decline of the major national parties is a development that will be followed closely when legislative elections come around in June. Will the new parliamentary majority inaugurate an era of coalitions and cohabitation, (a scenario in which the president in power works with a parliament composed of the opposition), or will it further accelerate the decomposition of the mainstream parties?

Donatella Della Porta - Anti-establishment wins, and so does the radical left

Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen have emerged triumphant from 11 candidates this week end, showing that anti-establishment candidates were favourite for French voters. This trend confirms the increasing relevance of new electoral politics in Europe and the continued need for strong social movements.

It’s important to note the success of the far left in this election. Jean-Luc Mélenchon, a surprise challenger with his “La France Insoumise” rallying cry, came in fourth place, with 19,2% of the votes, just behind François Fillon (who got 20%).

The centre-left parties are losing members and voters in Europe, and the radical left that is emerging in its place is capable of attracting not only attention but also extraordinary electoral success. Take, as examples, Syriza in Greece, Podemos in Spain, Bloco de Esquerda in Portugal and the Pirate Party in Iceland.

None of these parties can be seen as the sole direct expression of the social movements that in recent years have mobilised against neoliberalism or authoritarian regimes. Still, the claims of these parties overlap strongly with the views and forms of actions of current popular movements, including France’s Nuit Debout (roughly translated as the “standing up all night” movement).

Catarina Martins, chairman of Portugal’s Bloco de Esquerda (‘Leftist Bloc’) party, in Rabo de Peixe. Bloco/Flickr, CC BY-NC-ND

In Latin America and Southern Europe, electoral earthquakes have happened when centre-left parties have embraced neoliberalism. The same thing happened with the French Socialist Party (PS), which once in power betrayed its own short-term and long-term promises.

Whatever the final results of the French presidential election, it points to the broad and deep discontent in Europe over increasing inequality and the widespread evidences of corruption of the political class. Across Europe, the far left has demonstrated a capacity to innovate and to empower progressive ideas, at a moment in which the centre-left is being bitterly punished for its neoliberal turn.

Simon P. Watmough, Postdoctoral research associate, European University Institute; Balveer Arora, Emeritus professor, Jawaharlal Nehru University ; Donatella Della Porta, Dean, Institute of Human and Social sciences, Scuola Normale Superiore, Florence , and Luis Gómez Romero, Senior Lecturer in Human Rights, Constitutional Law and Legal Theory, University of Wollongong

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

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He Was Searching For Intersexual Pigs And Ended Up Finding The World's Rarest Dog

20 hours 55 min ago

Twenty years after beginning his quest to find what’s been called the world’s rarest canine species, James “Mac” McIntyre was vindicated. There on his camera screen were the images he’d been waiting years for. The New Guinea highland wild dog — an animal once feared extinct — was alive and well, his pictures showed.

“I squealed like a girl,” the 62-year-old said earlier this month, speaking from his Florida home. “It was emotionally such a tremendous moment. It was justification for all the work I’ve done.”

How McIntyre ended up finding the New Guinea highland wild dog, an animal whose existence had not been verified in almost 30 years, is a story as complex as McIntyre’s own. Trained as a zoologist, McIntyre has worked as a veterinary technician on a cattle ranch, zookeeper at the Bronx Zoo, high school biology teacher, logger and carpenter. But throughout his varied careers, scientific research and exploration have remained personal passions.

“On evenings and weekends, and summers too when I was a teacher, I’d conduct independent field research, on my own and on my own dime,” McIntyre said.

It was this spirit of enquiry that first led him to the South Pacific. But in the beginning, it wasn’t rare wild dogs that lured him there. It was pigs ― specifically intersexual ones.

‘Pig half-man half-woman’

Vanuatu, an archipelago west of Fiji, has the unique distinction of being home to what’s believed to be more intersexual pigs — animals with physical characteristics neither entirely male nor female — than any other nation in the world. McIntyre, who first heard of the pigs in a passing reference in a travel magazine, was so intrigued by the creatures that in 1993, he packed his bags, emptied his bank account to pay for a plane ticket and found himself halfway around the world searching the South Pacific island for swine known locally as “pig half-man half-woman.”

At the time, very little was known of the animals or even where they could be found. “I took a chance,” McIntyre said in a 1997 article about his search for the Vanuatu pigs. “People told me I was crazy, but I knew I couldn’t live with myself if I didn’t try.”

It ended up taking McIntyre six weeks of island hopping and questioning strangers in the street before he found his first intersexual pig — a discovery that would spark years of research into the animal.

In 1996, McIntyre returned to Vanuatu, only this time, he had another trip planned after his pig research was complete. At the suggestion of his mentor, ecologist I. Lehr Brisbin Jr., he decided to take a detour to the island of New Guinea before returning home to the United States. Brisbin, a canine expert, had suggested McIntyre search for the near-legendary wild dog of New Guinea, an animal that like Vanuatu’s pigs had long been shrouded in mystery.

Almost all that was known of the dog was from its domesticated descendant ― the New Guinea singing dog ― which exists only in captivity. 

Between the 1950s and 1970s, eight wild dogs had been captured in the New Guinea highlands and brought to Australia, North America and Europe, where they were bred as pets. Today, there are some 200 to 300 descendants worldwide of these “eight founder animals,” McIntyre said. Named for their unique and melodious howl, the singing dogs are domesticated animals who live mostly in private homes, though some are kept in zoos and other institutions. 

New Guinea singing dogs have been described as the world’s “most primitive” domesticated dog. Their forebears are thought to be closely related to the dingo, a wild canine in Australia, and may have been brought to New Guinea by humans about 6,000 years ago.

Another theory is that the dogs traveled over a land bridge between the two countries, which was flooded around the same time in history. “When the waters rose, it separated the dogs into two populations. Some went to adapt and evolve in the mountains of New Guinea while the dingos evolved to live in Australia,” McIntyre said.

The wild dog is believed to have been the only canine living in the New Guinea highlands, which meant the animal did not interbreed with other species. They’ve been called “living fossils” as a result — possibly a key evolutionary link between modern domesticated dogs and their wild canine ancestors. “It’s like they were frozen in time,” McIntyre said.

He added that the “wildness” of the New Guinea singing dog is what sets it apart from other domesticated dogs. “They are as ‘undog-like’ as you could imagine,” he said. “They’re somewhere between a cat and a monkey in terms of their dexterity. They are comparable to a family dog as far as affection goes and can be trained, even to be service animals, but they still haven’t lost that wild streak. There are just some things that can’t be domesticated out of them — and that’s actually what a lot of people love about them.”

But with so many offspring from just eight original animals, the singing dogs that are in captivity today are “highly inbred,” McIntyre said. Among dog enthusiasts and singing dog owners, there’s thus been a desire to find ways to increase their genetic diversity while maintaining their purebred line. That’s prompted some interest in finding more of their wild counterparts in New Guinea — but for decades, the animal has remained elusive.

Twenty years, two photos 

In 1989, Australian mammalogist and paleontologist Tim Flannery took a single photograph of a wild New Guinea singing dog in the Star Mountains of western Papua New Guinea. It’s believed to be the first photo ever taken of the animal in the wild ― and would represent the last time the animal was conclusively spotted for almost 30 years. 

Expeditions in the 1990s searching for the dog came up mostly empty. At least one — the 1996 trip taken by McIntyre — suggested the animal did still roam the highlands. McIntyre said he found feces that may have been left by the animal and local villagers told him they’d seen glimpses of the dog, though rarely. McIntyre, however, wasn’t able to conclusively confirm the dog’s existence and didn’t catch sight of the animal himself. 

Sixteen years later, in 2012, Tom Hewitt, director of Adventure Alternative Borneo, captured a single photograph of what appeared to be a wild dog in Indonesia’s Papua province, which encompasses the western half of New Guinea. It was a faraway shot and blurry, however, and ultimately also not considered solid evidence.

Every dog has its day

Finally, on a rainy day last September, while climbing a mountain in Papua province in New Guinea, MacIntyre found himself staring — with mounting glee — at an unmistakable paw print in the mud.

“In the end, I didn’t find the New Guinea highland wild dog,” McIntyre said. “They found me.”

Two decades after his first attempt to find the wild canine, McIntyre — who for years had unsuccessfully tried to raise funding to make a return visit — had finally made it back to the South Pacific island for a second search attempt. 

When he arrived on the island, again traveling on his own dime, he unexpectedly met some researchers from the University of Papua who were also keen to search for the island’s enigmatic wild dog. Together, they traveled into the remote highlands in search of the creature.

But the conditions, said McIntyre, weren’t in their favor. It rained incessantly for weeks and “was miserable,” he said. “We went many, many, many days without seeing any signs of the dog.”

But near the end of his planned monthlong stay in Papua, McIntyre and his team caught a break.

While climbing one day in a terraced valley lined with “beautiful zebra rocks,” McIntyre played the sounds of coyote howls through a speaker in an attempt to attract the dogs. He and his team saw nothing on the ascent, but as they climbed down, McIntyre spotted something in the mud. Right next to the footprints they’d recently left were fresher prints: a dog’s prints.

“The animals had heard my audio calls and had come behind us to investigate,” McIntyre said. “This was the moment ― the first verification that there were dogs recently in these mountains.”

Over the next few days, McIntyre deployed 12 camera traps in five different spots in the area. “It was the eleventh hour,” he said. “It was getting toward the end of my trip. I figured, if there are dogs up here, this was the time for me to find them.”

Finally, on the day before he was scheduled to leave, McIntyre went out to collect the cameras. Two were duds, but the other 10 ― he’d hit the mother lode.

“They were full of pictures,” McIntyre said. “We got ‘em.”

In all, the cameras captured more than 140 photographs of at least 15 wild dogs, including males, pregnant females and puppies. The images not only confirm the existence of the wild dogs on New Guinea, said McIntyre, but they also suggest a healthy and robust population.

“The discovery and confirmation of the [highland wild dog] for the first time in over half a century is not only exciting but an incredible opportunity for science,” the New Guinea Highland Wild Dog Foundation said on its website, celebrating the finding. The organization was established by McIntyre and a team of other scientists last year to promote further research into the animal.

“There is nothing known about the natural history of these dogs in the wild,” McIntyre said. “Everything we know is from the captive population and while that’s good for comparison, you can’t project that to dogs in the wild.”

The photos offer some insights into the dogs’ behavior in the wild and their social hierarchies, he said. But more research needs to be done to fully understand these creatures. For one, DNA testing of fecal samples taken from the camera trap sites are still being analyzed to determine the possible genetic link between the wild dogs and the captive New Guinea singing dogs. In the meantime, McIntyre and his team have referred to the wild animals seen in the photographs as New Guinea highland wild dogs to differentiate them from the captive population.

“If these dogs are the same, we absolutely need to get the wild population genetics to the captive population,” McIntyre said.

He added that further study of the dogs and their history could reveal much about the evolution of the South Pacific region. 

With confirmation of the dog’s existence, McIntyre said interest and funding for research into the animal has suddenly burgeoned. He’s planning a trip back to New Guinea soon in the hopes of collecting more data ― and seeing the dog himself with his own eyes. 

“For a scientist to stumble upon something like this, it’s the kind of thing you dream about,” McIntyre said. “It’s very exciting.” 

As for the intersexual pigs who started this whole journey, McIntyre said he still hasn’t given up on them. 

He’s currently seeking backing from academic institutions to allow him to return to Vanuatu to continue his research. In the country’s northern islands, selective inbreeding has resulted in an unusually large incidence of pigs that are genetically male but that have external genitalia that are predominantly female ― a very rare condition known as male pseudohermaphroditism. 

These animals, said McIntyre, could hold the secret to preventing boar taint, the unpleasant odor and taste of pork that comes from uncastrated male pigs. Most male pigs reared for pork are castrated at a young age because of boar taint. McIntyre said finding a “vaccination” for the phenomenon could revolutionize the pork industry ― and he believes the answer might lie in the genetics of Vanuatu’s hermaphrodite pigs that are male but don’t have boar taint due to a defect in their testosterone pathway.

“At the age of 62, I believe good things are starting to coming to me now,” he said earlier this month. “It seems the hard work and perseverance are going to pay off.” 


Dominique Mosbergen is a reporter at The Huffington Post covering climate change, extreme weather and extinction. Send tips or feedback to dominique.mosbergen@huffingtonpost.com or follow her on Twitter

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Process Of Elimination: How Do We Stop The Persecution Of Gay Men In Chechnya?

21 hours 40 min ago

We are born. We exist. We are not flaws in the grand design. We are perfect as we are. We will not be eliminated.

Chechnya. 2017. Gay men are being starved, beaten, murdered. Unless you’ve been living under a rock, or have chosen to ignore this information, you’ve probably seen a headline or 20 come through your Facebook or Twitter feed regarding these torturous persecutions. It seems that Ramzan Kadyrov, the head of the republic of Chechnya (a mostly Muslim region in Russia) wants to rid (RID!) his republic of all gay men by Ramadan, which begins May 26, 2017.

Ramadan, in case you don’t know, is a period of fasting, a time in which religious followers of Islam are supposedly brought closer to God and reminded of those less fortunate. Any human being that a family, a community, a government, a religion, a sect wishes to be rid of seems nothing if not less fortunate in my opinion. So as Chechnya approaches this holy period its leader hopes to have less “unfortunate” people to worry about. Religion…sign me up!

I am heartbroken. I am disturbed. I am angry. 

I don’t know what I can do to help. I am one person. But my ache and desire for an intervention is real. What can we (the gay community, the American people) do? How can we help? From thousands of miles away, how do we help them? 

I’m terrified for people I don’t even know. I’m in anguish that men who love other men (like I love other men) are being beaten and murdered. Murdered! For merely being born gay. For choosing to live the lives they were born to live.

Scream. Yell. Kick something. Break something. It helps to release the tension but only briefly. The world view of gay people has certainly changed for the better over the decades since the Mattachine Society met in secret, since the rioters at Stonewall rose up, since the marchers of Act Up chanted “Fight Back, Fight AIDS.” But the world is still filled with evil people who want to eradicate anything and everything they see as different. Religion often feeds that evil and helps it to grow. Phobias of all varieties are running rampant. And bigots seem more emboldened than ever. Progress certainly seems to bring out the worst in people

I am moved to tears every time I think about the gay men living (dying) in Chechnya. I feel like Shirley MacLaine’s character in the film Terms of Endearment: frustrated, agitated, screaming, “Give my daughter the shot!!!” But in this scenario I’m the one frustrated, agitated, and angry, screaming: Leave us the fuck alone to live our lives in peace!!! I have to say us because if we gay humans don’t stand with other gay humans then who are we? These are our brothers that are being beaten and murdered. For nothing! Lives are being ended…for nothing! Innocence shattered. Persecution due to a belief that who one loves (or kisses, or holds hand with, or fucks) is wrong.

It is not lost on me that I live in the United States of America. I know how blessed I am. Yet even while the hatred and homophobia exists here, I am free to live, love and marry. The pursuit of happiness is mine and I can grasp it. But even here at home (the land of the free and brave) we don’t seem to have a president who cares enough about us to fight for the human rights, the equal rights, of LGBTQ humans. And with all the alleged Russian interference and collusion, will America step in to help or watch this tragedy play out from the sidelines?

We are not a blight on our family’s name. We are not stains on the fabric of society to be rubbed out. We are beautiful people who deserve to live and love and pursue our dreams just like anyone else. No government, no religion, no family member has the right to rid the world of us, or even attempt to rid the world of us. Being born heterosexual does not entitle one to all the rights and privileges of a civilized society but being born should guarantee them. Then again, what is civilized about beating and murdering human beings because they are gay?

“United we stand, divided we fall.”

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News Roundup For April 24, 2017

Mon, 04/24/2017 - 23:28

Looks like it’s going to be a busy week of terrible news...

1. The French election will see Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen face off in another vote to take place on May 7th. A political noob and a right wing whack job… France is just looking for attention! More here.

2. China wants Donald Trump and Korea to chill. Since when did China become the voice of reason? More here.

3. Meanwhile, US government may screech to a halt as Friday’s funding deadline looms for the federal budget. Nobody in Team Trump knows what they’re doing so it looks like we’re headed for a government shutdown. More here.

4. The Taliban executed a deadly attack on an Afghan military base, killing up to 140 soldiers. More here.

5. Another day, another story about Uber being shitty. This is the slowest fall from grace we’ve ever witnessed. More here.

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6 Conservationists Win Major Prize For Environmental Activism

Mon, 04/24/2017 - 22:30

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SYDNEY ― Wendy Bowman was forced off her family farm a few hours north of Sydney, Australia, in the late ‘80s after a coal mine contaminated the water supply and caused her crops to die. Two decades later, she had to move again after another mine served her an eviction notice. But in 2010, when yet another company threatened to mine on her property, she’d had enough.

Bowman, now 83, filed suit, refused offers of millions, and despite being surrounded by mines on three side, has worked to protect her land and an important waterway from contamination ever since.

She is one of six conservationists ― one from each inhabited continent ― honored this year with the Goldman Environmental Prize, billed as the world’s most prestigious award for grassroots activism. Past awardees have fought against air pollution in Slovenia, defended land rights in India and helped spearhead lead cleanup efforts in Los Angeles.

In Australia’s Hunter Valley, a fertile wine region about 100 miles from Sydney, coal mining has rapidly expanded, spurred by increased demand in Asia. The area is now home to dozens of coal projects, including 16 open cut mines like those Bowman has long fought.

Speaking from San Francisco ahead of the award ceremony, Bowman said the region where she lives has changed dramatically over the past 30 years. “The whole landscape has changed,” she said, adding that “even the wind comes in a different direction. ”

Along with the environmental impact of huge, city-sized pit mines, most of the families that grew up in the Hunter Valley are no longer there, she said.

“The thing is, a lot of those mining people were very cruel and very arrogant, they treated the land owners very badly,” Bowman said. “People just sold and went because they couldn’t stand it any longer. So many of the original families have gone.”

Bowman was one of the early landowners who ceded control of their property. Coal dust coated her crops, got in the milk she tried to sell and even settled in her lungs. She says 20 percent of her lung capacity is gone thanks to the pollution. A 2015 report by the Climate and Health Alliance estimated that coal burning in the Hunter Valley contributed to about $450 million in health care costs annually.

Two moves later, Bowman landed at a farm called Rosedale and launched a group called Minewatch NSW to help landowners face off against energy companies. But it was only a few short years before another coal company, Yancoal, tried to force her to sell Rosedale as well. Bowman refused, and a court decision protected her land for as long as she decides to keep it.

Speaking about the experience, Bowman said she knew at the time that if she sold, a half dozen other farms would be affected by her decision, because the mine would’ve been right next to a creek that irrigated her neighbors’ properties.

“It meant that if this water became so bad, like it had before, all the farmers downstream would’ve had to go,” Bowman said. “Having seen the destruction on the two pieces of land I loved so much, I couldn’t see the destruction of this area.”

Bowman’s behind-the-scenes work nonetheless drew the notice of those at the Goldman Environmental Foundation. When someone called Bowman to tell her she’d won an award and a one-time grant of $175,000, she thought it might have been a scam.

Having seen the destruction on the two pieces of land I loved so much, I couldn’t see the destruction of this area.
Wendy Bowman, Goldman Environmental Prize winner

The fight against mammoth corporations, often energy developers, is a common theme linking this year’s Goldman Prize winners. 

Prafulla Samantara, the winner for Asia, launched a 12-year legal battle to defend an indigenous community from an open-pit aluminum mine. Rodrigo Tot, an indigenous leader in Guatemala, did the same against nickel mining operations. American mark! Lopez worked to hold a battery recycling plant accountable for pollution from heavy metals, and Uroš Macerl of Slovenia helped stop a cement company from fouling the air.

Perhaps the most high-profile prize winner this year is Rodrigue Katembo, 41, a wildlife ranger in the Democratic Republic of Congo who was featured in the Oscar-nominated documentary “Virunga.” 

Katembo, a former child solider, was a longtime ranger in Africa’s oldest national park, a World Heritage site home to the most of the planet’s remaining mountain gorillas and one of the deadliest places on the planet for wildlife defenders, 160 of whom have been killed in the area over the last 15 years.

Despite the threats, Katembo went undercover to document how a British oil giant, SOCO International, attempted to conduct illegal oil exploration in the park. The footage he collected cost the company millions in funding and forced SOCO to announce it would give up an oil license in the park.

But the effort was not without its own trials: During the campaign to expel the company, Katembo was arrested and tortured for more than two weeks. Upon his release, he went back to work immediately.

“I was not more special than the 160 workers who had already died to protect the park,” Katembo said.

He has since been transferred to Congo’s Upemba National Park and has faced ongoing threats. He expressed hope that the Goldman Prize would bring Upemba international recognition so it gains its own World Heritage status.

All six winners of the Goldman Prize will be celebrated at a ceremony in San Francisco at 5:30 p.m. local time on Monday. The award gala will be streamed live here. A separate ceremony in Washington, D.C., will take place on Wednesday.

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