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The Bornean orangutan population has fallen by nearly 150,000 in just 16 years

December 13, 2018 in Blogs

By Independent Media Institute

The Bornean Orangutan Population Has Fallen by Nearly 150,000 in Just 16 Years


By Alan Knight

At the end of September, four rescued orangutans returned to their home in the rainforest after undergoing lengthy rehabilitation at International Animal Rescue’s (IAR) conservation center in West Borneo, where I work as a chief executive. Amy, Kepo, Ongky and Rambo had been rescued by our Orangutan Protection Unit at various times during the previous eight years. They then joined 100 other orangutans at the center being meticulously prepared for life back in the wild by our dedicated team of vets and caregivers.

The majority of the orangutans at our center are victims of the illegal pet trade. They have all suffered terrible cruelty and neglect after being taken from the wild as babies. They likely saw their mothers being killed as they fought to protect their infants. The traumatized young orphans were then sold or kept as pets by their captors, often living as part of the family until they grew too big and strong to handle. Then they were chained or cooped up in small wooden crates and soon forgotten, left to languish in misery far from the forest where they belong.

Amy’s story is a typical one. She was being kept as a pet by villagers in Jambi, Sukamarau, in Central Borneo. When our rescue team found her, she was slumped in a dark wooden cage with a heavy chain around her neck. She was thin, dirty and depressed, and her brown eyes gazed blankly at Dewi, our vet, when she approached her. Poor Amy had nothing but a filthy piece of old cloth in her cage to comfort her.

Amy’s rescue was the first step on her journey to a new life. After spending eight weeks in quarantine, she was given a clean bill of health by the veterinary team, and her rehabilitation could begin. At 6 years old, she was too big to go to school for baby orangutans and so entered the next stage of rehabilitation at our center — forest school. Here, among others …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Thorns in the president’s side: Here are 5 House Democrats who could make life miserable for Trump

December 12, 2018 in Blogs

By Alex Henderson, AlterNet

It's been a long time coming.


President Donald J. Trump and Vice President Mike Pence received a big dose of reality on Tuesday, Dec. 11, when they met face-to-face with two of the leading Democrats on Capitol Hill: Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. In 2019, Schumer will still be part of the minority party in the Senate, where Republicans achieved a net gain of two seats in the 2018 midterms. But when Trump spoke to Pelosi in the Oval Office, it was obvious that his days of enjoying one-party rule on Capitol Hill will soon be coming to an end. Democrats enjoyed a net gain of 40 seats in the midterms, and Pelosi made it clear that the Democratic House majority won’t be rubber-stamping legislation that Trump favors — for example, a costly wall stretching from California to Texas along the U.S./Mexico border.

Pelosi, who appears likely to become House speaker in 2019, sounded like she was ready for battle as she sat alongside Trump, Pence and Schumer in the Oval Office. But Pelosi is hardly the only Democrat in the House who is getting ready to make life difficult for the president next year.

Here are five Democrats who stand to be major thorns in President Trump’s side in 2019.

1. Rep. Maxine Waters

Rep. Maxine Waters, who has been nominated to head the House Committee on Financial Services, knows that she’s doing her job well whenever Trump insults her on Twitter—the more the president uses Twitter to demonize the 80-year-old California congresswoman, the more obvious it is how much she’s getting to him. And Waters, who will be an even bigger thorn in Trump’s side in 2019, has been paying very close attention to what Special Counsel Robert Mueller has to say about Deutsche Bank and its ties to Russian oligarchs and Trump associates. On Dec. 1, Waters sent a letter to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to request information on Deutsche Bank. And Waters will no doubt be taking an even closer look at Trump’s relationship with Deutsche …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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‘The people would revolt’: Here are 5 key takeaways from Trump’s latest claim of 'presidential harassment'

December 12, 2018 in Blogs

By Alex Henderson, AlterNet

“It’s hard to impeach somebody who hasn’t done anything wrong and who’s created the greatest economy in the history of our country,” Trump told Reuters


As special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation moves along and a new Democratic majority gets ready to take over the House of Representatives in January, the word “impeachment” often comes up in political conservations. 

Democratic Rep. Jerry Nadler, incoming chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, has asserted that if Michael Cohen (confessed felon and Trump’s former personal attorney) made hush money payments to adult film star Stormy Daniels and Playboy model Karen McDougal on direct orders from Trump in 2016, it would be an “impeachable offense.” Trump, however, has denied having extramarital affairs with either Daniels or McDougal and maintained that Cohen was acting independently—not on orders from him—if he made any hush money payments two years ago. And when Reuters reporters asked the president about the possibility of impeachment during an oval office interview on December 11, Trump responded that “the people would revolt” if he were impeached. He additionally claimed he would not work with Democrats if they continue to support the speccial counsel investigation and are “going to do presidential harassment.” 

Trump’s “people would revolt” comment indicates that he continues to exaggerate his overall popularity, but at the same time, impeachment proceedings against the president could fire up his hardcore base—even if a lot more bombshells come from Mueller’s probe. 

Here are five takeaways from Trump’s “the people would revolt” comment.

1. Trump is in denial about his low approval ratings

More than a month after the 2018 midterms, Trump’s overall approval is weak: on December 9, he enjoyed 40% approval in Gallup’s tracking poll. In other words, six out of ten Americans disapprove of his performance as president. That 40% is better than President George W. Bush after Hurricane Katrina in 2005, when Bush’s approval in the Gallup tracking poll fell to 31%. But it’s hardly stellar. Trump’s approval, according to Gallup, has fluctuated between 35% and 45% since he took office in January 2017. Trump remains an incredibly divisive figure—still popular …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez fires back at Kellyanne Conway after the White House aide said she 'doesn’t seem to know much about anything'

December 12, 2018 in Blogs

By Cody Fenwick, AlterNet

Republicans can't stop themselves from attacking her.


Congresswoman-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) has been a frequent target of right-wing tirades, but she has shown that she does not let the attacks diminish her stature. In fact, she seems to capitalize on the vitriol, using the disproportionate attention she receives from Republicans as a platform to promote her views and her own political stardom.

The most recent attack against her came from one of President Donald Trump's most prominent media trolls, Kellyanne Conway.

On Tuesday, Conway lashed out at Ocasio-Cortez and called her a “29-year-old congresswoman who doesn’t seem to know much about anything.” This broadside came in response to the incoming representative's demand for outgoing White House Chief of Staff John Kelly to apologize to Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-FL), whom he once egregiously and falsely insulted on behalf of Trump.

Ocasio-Cortez said Kelly demonstrated “cowardice.”

“For her to even use a slur against him yesterday — and I won’t repeat her name or the slur — but let me stand up for Gen. John Kelly,” Conway said Tuesday on Fox News. “He’s done a magnificent job for this country for almost 50 years, and that includes here at the White House as our chief of staff for about a year and a half.”

But on Wednesday, the Democrat hit back.

“Kellyanne Conway has been engaged in a War on Facts since Inauguration Day,” Ocasio-Cortez said in a tweet. “Leveraging those who belittle my capacity is exactly how I defeated a multi-generation, multi-million $ political machine. GOP is even weaker bc their bias has no self-control.”

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Source: ALTERNET

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Why it’s so hard for most countries to be economically independent from the West

December 12, 2018 in Blogs

By Justin Podur, Independent Media Institute

Western countries insist both on “free trade” with poor countries and farm subsidies for themselves.


Why is it so difficult even for huge countries with large, diversified economies to maintain independence from the West?

If anyone could have done it, it was Brazil. In the 19th century it was imagined that Brazil could be a Colossus of the South to match the U.S., the Colossus of the North. It never panned out that way.

And 100 years later, it still hasn’t happened. With a $2 trillion GDP (a respectable $9,800 per capita), nearly 200 million people, and a strong manufacturing base (the second largest in the Americas and 28.5 percent of its GDP), Brazil is far from a tiny, weak island or peninsula dependent on a patron state to keep it afloat.

When Luiz Inacio “Lula” da Silva won a historic election to become president of Brazil in 2003, it seemed like an irreversible change in the country’s politics. Even though Lula’s Workers’ Party was accused of being communists who wanted to redistribute all of the country’s concentrated wealth, the party’s redistributive politics were in fact modest—a program to eradicate hunger in Brazil called Zero Hunger, a family-based welfare program called the Family Allowance, and an infrastructure spending program to try to create jobs. But its politics of national sovereignty were ambitious.

It was under Workers’ Party rule (under Lula and his successor, president Dilma Rousseff, who won the 2010 election to become president at the beginning of 2011) that the idea surged of a powerful BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) alliance that could challenge the ambitions of the U.S.-led West. Brazil took steps to strengthen its manufacturing, and held its ground on preventing pharmaceutical patent monopolies. Lula’s Brazil accused Western countries of hypocrisy for insisting both on “free trade” with poor countries and farm subsidies for themselves. Brazil even moved in the direction of building an independent arms industry.

Contradictions remained: The Workers’ Party government sent Brazilian troops to command the UN force that enacted the U.S.-impelled occupation of Haiti—treating the world to the …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Trump's latest racist attack on immigrants echoes Nazi propaganda

December 11, 2018 in Blogs

By Cody Fenwick, AlterNet

There are deeply pernicious trends in the president's rhetoric.


In a disturbing continuation of his years-long effort to stoke paranoia and visceral hatred of immigrants, President Donald Trump employed a false and malicious rhetorical attack Tuesday that has been echoed by both Fox News and Nazi propaganda.

Speaking to reporters in the Oval Office, Trump suggested falsely that a border wall could help reduce the non-existent problem of disease outbreaks across the border.

“One of the problems that people don't talk about, you have a tremendous medical problem coming into our country…communicable disease,” Trump said. “Tremendous problems. People don't want to talk about it.”

This line has been repeated on Fox News, where one contributor baselessly asserted that immigrants were bringing in a range of diseases including smallpox — which has, of course, been eradicated in the wild.

But the whole line of attack is just not true. While there can be cross-border concerns about public health issues, there's absolutely no reason to believe that there's a serious threat of infectious diseases coming into the United States.

“There is no evidence whatsoever that this is so,” Arthur Caplan, director of the division of medical ethics at New York University’s Langone Medical Center, told Politifact when Trump made a similar claim over the summer. “No study or survey shows this. There is no outbreak or bump in disease attributable to immigrants.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has noted that there can be some transmission of disease across the border. But as Snopes pointed out, this is largely because of authorized border crossings, not the undocumented immigrants that Trump is always bemoaning. (And the best way to fight the spread of these illnesses is vaccination, which Trump has also spread baseless fears about, not a useless border wall.)

Snopes also noted that when undocumented immigrants do experience outbreaks of infectious disease, it is often because of the terrible conditions they are held in by the government when confined. So while Trump argues fighting undocumented immigration is about preventing diseases, it can actually increase the spread of disease. Snopes explained:

In short, while detained …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Nancy Pelosi just insulted Trump's 'manhood' after fiery Oval Office debate: reports

December 11, 2018 in Blogs

By Cody Fenwick, AlterNet

Trump is threatening to shut down the government over border wall funding.


House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi insulted President Donald Trump Tuesday, according to multiple reports, about one of the issues he's most sensitive about: his manhood.

After a fiery debate with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, Trump, and Vice President Mike Pence in the Oval Office in front of cameras, Pelosi made the pointed remarks behind the scenes.

Trump's big sticking point in the debate is his demand for funding for a border wall between the United States and Mexico. It was a key campaign promise of his — though importantly, he repeatedly insisted that Mexico and not American taxpayers would fund the wall. Trump has dropped that part of the promise since it has proved — as any informed person could have predicted — impossible.

He repeatedly equated paying for the wall with having border security, even though the risks from the border remain relatively low. Even many advocates who favor greater border security believe a larger wall would be pointless.

“It’s like a manhood thing with him — as if manhood can be associated with him,” Pelosi reportedly said in a closed-door meeting with colleagues, according to Politico and the Washington Post. “This wall thing.”

Of the off-the-rails debate with Trump, Pelosi reportedly said: “I was trying to be the mom… It goes to show you: you get into a tinkle contest with a skunk, you get tinkle all over you.”

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Source: ALTERNET

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Lawmakers humiliate themselves by peppering Google CEO with embarrassingly uninformed questions

December 11, 2018 in Blogs

By Cody Fenwick, AlterNet

These are the people who are supposed to make the country's laws.


Cybersecurity, online privacy, and the role of massive internet companies in our lives are key issues the government will have to tackle in the years to come. But if Tuesday's congressional hearing with Google CEO Sundar Pichai is any indication, the prospect for future progress on these pressing topics is not bright.

At the hearing, instead of focusing on key issues like abuse of consumer data or the ever-increasing risks of internet-based crimes and warfare, many members of Congress revealed their complete lack of understanding of the industry they are supposedly overseeing and their petty focus on the imagined “bias” against right-wing viewpoints.

Perhaps the most ridiculous example of this phenomenon was when racist Rep. Steve King (R-IA) complained that his daughter saw a negative ad about him on her iPhone.

“How does that show up on a 7-year-old's iPhone who's playing a kids' game?” King asked.

“Congressman, iPhone is made by a different company,” Pichai said, to devastating effect.

King tried to recover, saying the phone might have been an Android, but he had already humiliated himself. He had no details about what he was talking about and had no reason to think the CEO of Google was the person he should be directing his question to. It's also not clear why there's a problem in the scenario described at all — a 7-year-old might be playing a game that adults can also enjoy that could feature political ads. 

Others pursued similarly embarrassing lines of inquiry.

Rep. Steve Chabot (R-OH), for example, complained that it was hard to find positive news reports about the GOP's failed Obamacare replacement bill in 2017. Pichai noted that this is hardly evidence of Google's personal biases, as negative news about Google executives, too, often shows up in search results.

But Chabot also didn't seem to consider the fact that the reason so many of …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Kellyanne Conway reveals that John Kelly will stay on longer as chief of staff as Trump scrambles to find a replacement

December 11, 2018 in Blogs

By Cody Fenwick, AlterNet

Trump has denied that few want the job.


It seems President Donald Trump just can't get rid of White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, no matter how much he loathes him.

Kellyanne Conway, a counselor to the president, announced Tuesday that Kelly will be staying on past the end of the year, despite Trump's previous remarks saying he will be gone before then, as the Washington Post reported. Conway said he will be staying until Jan. 2 “at least” and added, when asked, that Trump may choose to keep him on even longer.

“I know they both love this country and want there to be a transition to the next leader here,” she said.

When Trump first announced Kelly's ouster — in an apparent burst of spite — he said he would announce the chief of staff replacement in a day or two. But those plans were scrapped with Kelly's presumed replacement, vice presidential Chief of Staff Nick Ayers, posted on Twitter that he didn't want the job.

Since then, numerous reports have suggested that top candidates — including Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and Office of Management and Budget Direct Mick Mulvaney — withdrew themselves from consideration. Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC) has been one of the few people openly vying for the job, though it's not clear how serious this proposition is.

Trump has pushed back on the idea that he's struggling to find a replacement for Kelly. But the fact that his original timetable was scrapped and Conway now says Kelly could stay on indefinitely hardly strengthens his argument.

Of course, in the Trump White House, everything is up in the air — even after it's been announced. Kelly could be out by the end of the week and Conway herself could take his place. We never know what's going to happen until it happens — and sometimes, not even then.

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'It was glorious': Internet cheers Pelosi and Schumer for standing their ground against Trump's 'petulant tantrum'

December 11, 2018 in Blogs

By Travis Gettys, Raw Story

By the end of the meeting, Schumer had baited the president into bragging: “I am proud to shut down the government for border security.”


Democratic congressional leaders Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer gave President Donald Trump an earful in the Oval Office — and social media users loved it.

The incoming House Speaker and the Senate Minority leader met Tuesday with Trump and Vice President Mike Pence, and the pair of Democratic lawmakers blasted the president for threatening a government shutdown over his proposed border wall.

“If I needed the votes for the wall in the House, I would have them in one session — it would be done,” Trump said.

“So go do it,” Pelosi responded.

By the end of the meeting, Schumer had baited the president into bragging: “I am proud to shut down the government for border security.”