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Australia is on fire, literally — and so are its climate politics –



More than 100 bushfires are raging in Australia as the continent swelters under record-setting heat, a double whammy of extremes that has amplified scrutiny of what experts say is stark inaction from the Australian government on climate change.

Blazes across New South Wales and Queensland have already scorched almost 7 million acres, and Australia experienced its hottest day on record Wednesday when the average temperature across the country hit 105 degrees Fahrenheit (40.9 degrees Celsius).

The nation’s woes are unfolding as Australia faces criticism for its inadequate climate policies, including the role of federal officials in thwarting negotiations at a recent United Nations summit on climate change.

Richie Merzian, director of the climate and energy program at The Australia Institute, a Canberra-based think tank that conducts public policy research, called the outcome of the 2019 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change a letdown. The summit ended Sunday in a stalemate, with countries largely delaying major decisions on plans to cut carbon emissions until next year’s conference.

“It was terribly disappointing,” Merzian said. “Australia is literally on fire right now, and it’s clearly linked to climate change in terms of its severity and duration. But instead of going there to rally the world behind the need for greater climate action, Australia was lobbying to do as little as possible.”

Seasonal bushfires occur naturally in Australia, but hotter and drier conditions due to climate change have increased the frequency of fires and their severity, according to Andy Pitman, a climate modeler at the University of New South Wales in Sydney.

“There is an uncontroversial link whereby higher carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere from climate change increase bushfire risk,” Pitman said. “All other things being equal, a fire that occurs now will be worse than a fire that occurred 20 to 30 years ago.”

People view smoke from scattered bush fires on a look out platform in the Blue Mountains on Dec. 4, 2019 in Katoomba, Australia.Brett Hemmings / Getty Images

Trees play an integral role in the planet’s carbon cycle by absorbing carbon dioxide as they grow. But research has shown that when vegetation dries out — such as during hot and dry summer months — that increased amount of carbon dioxide acts as extra fuel for wildfires.

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Human activities such as burning fossil fuels release greenhouse gases that trap heat and increase surface temperatures on the planet. A 2018 State of the Climate report from the Australian government’s Bureau of Meteorology found that the country has warmed by just over 1 degree Celsius since 1910, “leading to an increase in the frequency of extreme heat events.”

These heat waves combined with dry conditions are dangerous ingredients for bushfires, Pitman said, with circumstances appearing to be particularly severe at the moment.

“This is unprecedented,” Pitman said. “I don’t think we’ve ever seen bushfires at this scale before.”

Bushfires themselves are also problematic because they release carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Australia’s fires have already emitted an estimated 250 million tons of carbon dioxide — equivalent to nearly half of the nation’s total yearly emissions — according to NASA data provided to The Guardian.

These events have renewed focus on Australia’s prime minister, Scott Morrison, who has refused to answer questions about climate change and their link to the fires. His conservative administration has also faced backlash for its policies and rhetoric surrounding global warming.

In November, Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack said climate change concerns are stoked by “raving inner-city lefties,” adding that there have been fires in Australia “since time began.”

Pitman said that while there has been some progress made on the state level, the federal government has displayed a lack of political will to address climate change.

“They almost see it as a negotiating or debating point, and it’s not,” Pitman said. “This is an existential risk to communities and major regions of the planet, and if governments don’t act, then the situation will simply deteriorate.”

Imran Ahmad, a climate scientist at the Australian National University, said the Morrison administration’s stance is symptomatic of Australia’s complex history of climate change policy.

“There is an ideological drive against climate change by certain vested interests,” he said.

Dec. 18, 201900:51

Australia is the world’s largest exporter of coal and the third-largest exporter of fossil fuels, after Russia and Saudi Arabia. Merzian, who worked as a climate negotiator for the Australian government for almost a decade, said these economic ties have shaped the country’s climate policies for decades — and invite international criticism.

“You can’t be the largest exporter of coal, which is the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions when consumed, and not take any responsibility for that,” Merzian said.

In 2012, Australia’s Labor Government introduced a carbon tax that helped the country reduce greenhouse gas emissions by about 1.4 percent by the end of its second year. But the policy was unpopular, and in 2014, the newly elected government promptly repealed the tax.

“Any new tax is unpopular, but unfortunately by the time it was dismantled, we could see that it was working,” Merzian said. “It was reducing emissions, but it just didn’t have enough momentum to survive quite a strong negative campaign.”

As one of the countries that ratified the 2015 Paris Agreement, a global pact aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions to fight climate change, Australia will join 187 other countries in pledging to meet its reduction goals next year. Pitman said Australia has much at stake, with fragile ecosystems like the Great Barrier Reef under severe threat from warming oceans and the country grappling with bushfires. Still, he added that it’s difficult to be optimistic about the country’s direction on climate change.

“The Great Barrier Reef is a multibillion-dollar asset to Australia, and it’s being sacrificed at the altar of carbon dioxide emissions,” he said. “It’s really important to understand that decisions that need to be made on carbon emission are politically painful, and there is no one more skilled at avoiding difficult political decisions than politicians.”

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Capitol riots: Bumble dating app unblocks politics filter – BBC News



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.css-14iz86j-BoldTextfont-weight:bold;The dating app Bumble has reinstated its political preferences filter after disabling it “to prevent misuse” in the wake of the US Capitol riots.

Following the violence, reports emerged online of some Bumble users switching the filter to find those who had taken part – and report them to authorities.

Bumble said it had noticed people using the filter in a way that was “contrary to our terms and conditions”.

But it faced a backlash online from users unhappy with its decision.

The feature enables people to display their chosen political views – such as conservative or liberal – and filter their matches accordingly.

Some app users claimed on social media that they had deliberately changed their political preferences in order to attract rioters and then report them.

Some accused the company of “protecting” those who had carried out violent acts by disabling the filter.

Others said they needed the filter to make sure their matches shared their political outlook – and many tweeted to the company to say they were cancelling their accounts as a result.

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Bumble said it had restored the function within 24 hours of suspending it.

In a statement it also said it was blocking people who had been using the platform to “spread insurrectionist content”.

Match Group, whose brands include Tinder, Hinge, OKCupid and Plenty of Fish, told the Washington Post it had banned “any users wanted by the FBI in connection with domestic terrorism” from all of its platforms.

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Politics of Hate – Motives for Murder & Desecration of US Capitol – PRNewswire



DALLAS, Jan. 18, 2021 /PRNewswire/ — The Justice Facts Podcast released the “Politics of Hate” episode featuring a redeemed militia leader who came close to carrying out one of the nation’s deadliest attacks by right-wing extremists.

The podcast is both shocking and informative about the potential for violence in the wake of the January 6th attack on the U.S. Capitol, a world symbol of Democracy.

Former federal prosecutor William Johnston and Peabody award-winning investigative reporter Robert Riggs interview Kerry Noble, one of the founders of the Covenant, Sword, and the Arm of the Lord (CSA). Noble is the author of Tabernacle of Hate: Seduction into Right-Wing Extremism, which provides a first-person account of how a religious group transformed into a domestic terrorist organization.

Noble warns that the same delusional mindset is at work among both right and left wing extremists threatening more violence before and after the presidential inauguration. “I think there are tens of thousands of people who are close to crossing the line Especially, disaffected young single white men who are dissatisfied with their lives and are seeking someone else to blame,” said Noble.

The CSA was a combination paramilitary white supremacist group and a religious cult that engaged in an April 1985 standoff with hundreds of state and federal agents at its Ozark mountain compound in northwest Arkansas.

Riggs and Johnston express concern that January 6th may become the new rallying cry for extremists. April 19, 1993, marked the fiery end to the 51-day Branch Davidian siege in Waco, and extremists retaliated on April 19th, 1995, with the deadly bombing of the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City.  Riggs covered the siege, bombing, and militia movement. Johnston prosecuted surviving Davidians for the murder of federal ATF agents and prepared the original search warrant for the weapons raid.

Noble, now a Christian minister, says extremists may be motivated to believe they can make their name in history as the founding father of the Second American Revolution.

If you are trying to come to grips with why seemingly ordinary citizens choose to follow a path to violence at the U.S. Capitol, Johnston and Riggs offer insight in “The Politics of Hate” Episode 11 of the Justice Facts Podcast. Click here to SUBSCRIBE.

Robert Riggs
[email protected]       
Justice Facts Podcast
Copyright 2021

SOURCE Justice Facts Podcast

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Macho Politics Defined Trump's Presidency, Culminating With Capitol Riot – NPR



A Trump supporter dressed as the president in a Superman outfit attends the Jan. 6 rally against the election results before rioters stormed the U.S. Capitol.

Jose Luis Magana/AP

Jose Luis Magana/AP

In President Trump’s Jan. 6 speech ahead of the riot on Capitol Hill, there was a telling moment that was easy to miss amid his calls to “fight like hell.” It was when Trump went on a tangent about the Republican governor of Georgia, one of the states Trump is angry he did not win on Election Day.​

“And I had Brian Kemp, who weighs 130 pounds,” Trump told the crowd. “He said he played offensive line in football. I’m trying to figure that out. I’m still trying to figure that out. He said that the other night: ‘I was an offensive lineman.’ I’m saying: ‘Really? That must have been a very small team.'”

The crowd laughed appreciatively.

For however random and rambling that may have seemed, it nevertheless fit into the speech perfectly: the president belittling an opponent as weak while portraying himself and his supporters as strong. Weakness, it turned out, was a major theme in that speech, with the president wielding it in particular against his fellow Republicans.

“We got to get rid of the weak congresspeople, the ones that aren’t any good, the Liz Cheneys of the world,” he said, calling out the House Republican Conference Chair who would ultimately, days later, vote for his impeachment. “We got to get rid of them.”

It wasn’t just this speech. Amid all the chaos of the Trump presidency, he has been unfailingly consistent in his fixation on being a tough guy — one with a very particular, combative form of masculinity.

It has shown up everywhere in his political career from petty insults, referring to primary opponents as “lil’ Marco” and “low-energy Jeb,” to encouraging violence against protesters at his rallies.

That macho presidency culminated with a riot on Capitol Hill that left five dead. The crowd was not only overwhelmingly white, but majority-male, according to observers.

A “not totally unpredictable” riot

“The events at the Capitol, while they were dramatic and outrageous, they were not totally unpredictable,” said Jackson Katz, author and creator of the film The Man Card, about white male identity politics. ​

In his opinion, while race has been central to Trump’s political strategy, gender is also inextricable.​

“What he’s been signaling is not just that he’s the white person who’s going to stand up for white civilization, if you will, but he’s a white man who’s tough, who doesn’t back down and who’s strong, who embodies a certain kind of masculine gravitas and strength,” Katz said.

Many Trump supporters’ rhetoric mirrors this. Before Trump even became president, some of his supporters in the so-called “alt-right” referred to Republicans whom they deemed insufficiently hardline as “cucks” and “cuckservatives.” That word is a portmanteau of “conservative” and “cuckold.”

Trump backers in Washington seemed to understand the types of masculine compliments Trump craved. When Trump was diagnosed with coronavirus, Florida Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz tweeted: “President Trump won’t have to recover from COVID. COVID will have to recover from President Trump.”

In fact, the days since the riot have provided still new evidence of Trump’s preoccupation with his gender. Former chief of staff John Kelly told a Des Moines audience that Trump can’t admit to mistakes because “his manhood is at issue here,” as The Des Moines Register‘s Donnelle Ellers reported.

In pressuring Vice President Mike Pence to help him overturn the results of the election, Trump reportedly resorted to a misogynistic vulgarity. “You can either go down in history as a patriot, or you can go down in history as a pussy,” Trump said according to the New York Times.

Masculine ideals predict Trump support

The strong link between performative masculinity and the Trump presidency is not just anecdotal. There is a growing body of scholarly evidence of the links between gender attitudes and Trump support: for example, in a newly published study from Terri Vescio and Nathaniel Schermerhorn at Penn State University.

“Our main finding was that people who endorse ‘hegemonic masculinity,’ or the idea that men should be powerful, high status, tough and nothing like women, the people who endorse these ideals were more likely to support Trump,” Vescio said. “And that was for men and women over and above gender, over and above political orientation, and regardless of level of education.”

Again, that was for men and women, meaning that it’s not surprising that women were among the rioters. In one widely shared video, Texan Jenny Cudd bragged about her part in the riots.

“We did break down [House Speaker] Nancy Pelosi’s office door and somebody stole her gavel, and took a picture sitting in the chair flipping off the camera, and that was on Fox News,” she said.

The idealization of a particular type of masculinity has gone hand in hand with hostility to women. Research has also found a link between “hostile sexism” and Trump support. In addition, numerous reports since the Capitol Hill riot have cited misogynist language among the rioters toward women leaders like Pelosi and Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser.

One man, Richard Barnett of Arkansas, was photographed sitting at Pelosi’s desk and later bragged about stealing a piece of her mail.

“I wrote her a nasty note, put my feet up on her desk and scratched my balls,” he told the New York Times Matthew Rosenberg.

Richard Barnett holds a piece of mail as he sits inside the office of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi after rioters breached the U.S. Capitol. He bragged about leaving a note containing a sexist slur for Pelosi.

Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

Trump’s broad appeal to voters and the way that he emboldens right-wing extremists reflect broader global political trends, in the opinion of Soraya Chemaly, executive director of the Representation Project, a nonprofit that fights gender inequality.

“​I think there’s a lot going on. I think that one thing is that there is a global tide of macho fascism and masculinist backlash against change,” she said. “And I think that what we saw in the rise of Trump was part of that tide.”

Trump benefited from and amped up existing political and cultural attitudes about gender, in short, meaning that as he leaves office, those ideas won’t go away. In addition, Chemaly stressed, attitudes about gender are tightly woven together with those about race, class and party.

For now, Trump and his team are trying to burnish his masculine image as he leaves office. This was highlighted when Fox News’ Bill Hemmer asked Trump campaign spokesman Hogan Gidley last week about Trump’s feelings in the fallout from the riot.

“With the social media crackdown, does he feel emasculated?” Hemmer said.

“Look. I wouldn’t say emasculated,” Gidley said. “The most masculine person to ever hold the White House is the president of the United States.”

It was one of the most salient aspects of the Trump presidency, captured in one unsubtle question and one unsubtle response.

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