Trainee kills Utah mayor, guard member in Afghanistan
Monday, November 5
NORTH OGDEN, Utah (AP) — A Utah mayor who was also a Utah Army National Guard major training commandos in Afghanistan was fatally shot by one of his Afghan trainees, officials said Sunday.
Brent Taylor, 39, had taken a yearlong leave of absence as mayor of North Ogden north of Salt Lake City for his deployment to Afghanistan.
He was a military intelligence officer with Joint Force Headquarters and was expected to return to his mayoral job in January. Another U.S. military member whose name was not immediately made public was wounded in Saturday’s attack that killed Taylor, who died from wounds from small arms fire, military officials said.
Maj. Gen. Jefferson S. Burton, the adjutant general of the Utah National Guard, told reporters that Taylor’s mission was to help train and build the capacity of the Afghan national army.
“He was with folks he was helping and training. That’s what’s so painful about this. It’s bitter,” Burton said. “I do believe that Major Taylor felt he was among friends, with people he was working with.”
Utah media outlets cited a statement from NATO saying that Taylor was shot by one of the commandos being trained and that the attacker was killed by Afghan forces.
Taylor leaves behind a wife and seven children. His remains are scheduled to arrive at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware on Monday evening.
Utah Gov. Gary Herbert said Taylor “was there to help. He was a leader. He loved the people of Afghanistan… This is a sad day for Utah, for America.”
“Brent was a hero, a patriot, a wonderful father, and a dear friend,” U.S. Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah said on Twitter. “News of his death in Afghanistan is devastating. My prayers and love are with Jennie and his seven young children. His service will always be remembered.”
Taylor served two tours in Iraq and was on his second tour in Afghanistan.
Taylor in January when he was being deployed told local media that he was assigned to serve on an advisory team training the staff of an Afghan commando battalion.
Hundreds of residents of North Ogden lined the street to see him off as police escorted him and his family around North Ogden, a community of about 17,000.
Taylor became the city’s mayor in 2013.
Three things we can learn from contemporary Muslim women’s fashion
November 5, 2018
Associate Professor of Philosophy and Religion, Northeastern University
Liz Bucar received funding from the Theology of Character Project at Wake Forest University for this work. For other work she has received funding from the AAUW, the Enhancing Life Project at the University of Chicago, the ACLS, and Henry Luce Foundation.
Major art museums have realized there is much to learn from clothing that is both religiously coded and fashion forward.
Earlier this year the Metropolitan Museum of Art hosted a fashion exhibition inspired by the Catholic faith titled “Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and Catholic Imagination.” With more than 1.6 million visitors, it was the most popular exhibit in the Met’s history.
And now the de Young Museum of San Francisco has the first major exhibit devoted to the Islamic fashion scene. “Contemporary Muslim Fashions” displays 80 swoon-worthy ensembles – glamorous gowns, edgy streetwear, conceptual couture – loosely organized by region and emphasizing distinct textile traditions. This exhibit is a bold statement of cultural appreciation during a time of heightened anti-Muslim rhetoric.
In studying how Muslim women dress for over a decade, I realized a deeper understanding of Muslim women’s clothing can challenge popular stereotypes about Islam. Here are three takeaways.
1. Modesty is not one thing
While there are scattered references to modest dress in the sacred written sources of Islam, these religious texts do not spend a lot of time discussing the ethics of Muslim attire. And once I started to pay attention to how Muslims dress, I quickly realized that modesty does not look the same everywhere.
Streetstyle in Iran. Contemporary Muslim Fashions 22 September 2018 – 6 January 2019 de Young Museum
I traveled to Iran, Indonesia and Turkey for my research on Muslim women’s clothing. The Iranian penal code requires women to wear proper Islamic clothing in public, although what that entails is never defined. The morality police harass and arrest women who they think expose too much hair or skin. Yet even under these conditions of intense regulation and scrutiny, women wear a remarkable range of styles – from edgy ripped jeans and graphic tees to bohemian loose flowy separates.
Indonesia is the most populous Muslim nation in the world, but Indonesian women did not wear head coverings or modest clothing until about 30 years ago. Today local styles integrate crystal and sequin embellishments. Popular fabric choices include everything from pastel chiffon to bright batik, which is promoted as the national textile.
When it comes to Turkey, for much of the last century authorities discouraged Muslim women from wearing pious fashion, claiming these styles were “unmodern” because they were not secular. That changed with the rise of the Islamic middle class, when Muslim women began to demand an education, to work outside the home and to wear modest clothing and a headscarf as they did so. Today local styles tend to be tailored closely to the body, with high necklines and low hemlines and complete coverage of the hair.
A stunning range of Muslim fashions are found here in the United States as well, reflecting the diversity of its approximately 3.45 million Muslims. Fifty-eight percent of Muslim adults in the U.S. are immigrants, coming from some 75 countries. And U.S.-born Muslims are diverse as well. For instance, more than half of Muslims whose families have been in the U.S. for at least three generations are black.
This diversity provides the opportunity for hybrid identities, which are displayed through clothing styles.
2. Muslim women don’t need saving
Many non-Muslims see Muslim women’s clothing and headscarves as a sign of oppression. It is true that a Muslim woman’s clothing choices are shaped by her community’s ideas about what it means to be a good Muslim. But this situation is not unlike that for non-Muslim women, who likewise have to negotiate expectations concerning their behavior.
In my book, I introduce readers to a number of women who use their clothing to express their identity and assert their independence. Tari is an Indonesian college student who covers her head at her parents’ objections. Her parents worry that a headscarf will make it harder for Tari to get a job after graduation. But for Tari, whose friends all cover their hair, her clothing is the primary way she communicates her personal style and her Muslim identity.
Nur, who majored in communications at Istanbul Commerce University, dresses modestly but is highly critical of the pressure she sees the apparel industry putting on Muslim women to buy brand-name clothing. For her, Muslim style does not have to come with a high price tag.
Leila works for the Iranian government and considers her off-duty clothing choices a form of civil disobedience. Monday through Friday she wears dark colors and long baggy overcoats. But on the weekends she pushes the limits of acceptability with tight-fitting outfits and heavy makeup – sartorial choices that might get her in trouble with the morality police. She accepts the legal obligation to wear Islamic clothing in public, but asserts her right to decide what that entails.
Designers have also used clothing to protest issues affecting their communities. The de Young exhibit, for example, includes a scarf by designer Céline Semaan to protest against Trump’s travel ban. The scarf features a NASA satellite image of several of the countries whose citizens are denied entry to the U.S , overlaid with the word “Banned.”
3. Muslims contribute to mainstream society
A 2017 Pew survey showed that 50 percent of Americans say Islam is not a part of mainstream society. But as Muslim models and Muslim designers are increasingly recognized by the fashion world, the misperception of Muslims as outsiders has the potential to change.
Muslim models are spokespersons for top cosmetic brands, walk the catwalk for high end designers and are featured in print ads for major labels.
Today clothing inspired by Islamic aesthetics is marketed to all consumers, not just Muslim ones. Take the most recent collection of British Muslim designer Hana Tajima for Uniqlo. In its promotional materials, the global casual wear retailer described the garments as “culturally sensitive and extremely versatile,” clothing for cosmopolitan women of all backgrounds.
To be hip today is to dress in culturally inclusive ways, and this includes modest styles created by Muslim designers and popularized by Muslim consumers. Fashion makes it clear that Muslims are not only part of mainstream society, they are contributors to it.
Strict Amazon protections made Brazilian farmers more productive, new research shows
November 5, 2018
Assistant Professor of the Human Dimensions of Global Change, Boston University
Rachael Garrett has received funding from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, the US National Science Foundation, and the US National Aeronautics and Space Agency.
Boston University provides funding as a founding partner of The Conversation US.
Jair Bolsonaro, Brazil’s new president, will make many decisions during his four-year term, from combating violence to stimulating a stagnant economy.
Those decisions will have large impacts on Brazilians, who remain deeply divided over the controversial election of this far-right populist.
But some of Bolsonaro’s decisions will affect the entire world, namely his promises to cut environmental protections in the Brazilian Amazon.
The Amazon’s uncertain fate
The Amazon is the world’s largest tropical rainforest and a major global food exporter.
The Amazon Basin also provides the rains that nourish Brazil’s productive croplands to the south, a breadbasket for the world. The rainforest’s destruction could cause large-scale droughts in Brazil, leading to nationwide crop losses.
An estimated 9 percent of Amazonian forests disappeared between 1985 and 2017, reducing the rainforest’s ability to absorb the carbon emissions that drive climate change.
Deforestation is largely due to land clearing for agricultural purposes, particularly cattle ranching.
Cattle production has an extremely low profit margin in the Brazilian Amazon. It also requires a massive amount of land for grazing. Both factors drive Amazonian farmers to continuously clear forest – illegally – to expand pastureland.
Today, 12 percent of the Brazilian Amazon, or 93 million acres – an area roughly the size of Montana – is used for agriculture, primarily cattle ranching but also soybean production.
Deforestation decreased substantially from 2004 to 2014 thanks to strict environmental protections passed by President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva in 2004. His Workers Party cracked down on illegal land clearing in the Amazon, making Brazil a world leader in rainforest protection.
But deforestation in the Amazon has begun to climb again recently.
Brazilian President Michel Temer, a conservative who entered office in 2016 during a deep recession, has loosened enforcement of federal anti-deforestation laws, slashed the environmental ministry’s budget and opened the Amazon to mining.
Satellite data reveal that between August 2017 to 2018, 1.1 million acres of Brazilian Amazonian forest were cleared – the highest deforestation rate since 2007.
President-elect Bolsonaro has promised to further slash environmental protections in Brazil, saying that federal conservation zones and hefty fines for cutting down trees hinder economic growth.
Specific plans include eliminating protections for indigenous territories that safeguard forests from private developers and reducing fines for illegally clearing land.
Bolsonaro also wants to dismantle Brazil’s Ministry of the Environment, which enforces environmental laws.
Brazil’s agricultural innovations
The president-elect’s deregulatory agenda is supported by the Bancada Ruralista, a powerful congressional caucus that defends Brazilian agribusiness interests.
Despite the lobby’s stance that regulation hurts business, Brazil’s strict environmental laws have actually helped Amazonian farmers, my recent research shows.
From 2004 to 2014, Brazil’s federal government employed a host of tactics to reduce Amazonian farmers’ incentives to clear land. It increased penalties for deforestation, making it far more expensive to create new grazing land. Simultaneously, it offered state-subsidized, low-interest financing for farmers who adopted more sustainable practices.
Those policies encouraged innovations that have made Amazon farmland much more productive. In a co-authored study published in October in the journal Global Environmental Change, my colleagues and I found that food production in the Amazon has substantially increased since 2004.
Amazonian farmers are now planting and harvesting two crops – mostly soybean and corn – each year, rather than just one. This is called “double cropping.”
Our study found that land in double cropping in Brazil’s most important agricultural state, Mato Grosso, increased from 840,000 acres in 2001 to more than 10.6 million acres in 2013, boosted by improved environmental laws.
Farmers are getting richer
Environmental regulation of the Brazilian Amazon has helped farmers improve business in other ways too, our research found.
Improved pasture management in Mato Grosso state led the number of cattle slaughtered annually per acre to double, meaning farmers are producing more meat – and therefore earning more money – with their land.
Ranchers who add crops into pasture areas can more than quadruple the amount of beef produced because cattle raised in integrated crop and livestock systems gain weight more quickly. That spares remaining Amazonian forests from deforestation.
These sustainable ranching practices also reduce the greenhouse gases associated with beef and leather production. Better nourished cows are slaughtered sooner, meaning fewer burps per cow per lifetime, leading to lower methane emissions.
Brazil’s progressive environmental protections have even pushed corporations that operate in the Amazon to adopt more sustainable practices.
Since 2006, hundreds of multinational food and timber companies, including Cargill and Nestle, have adopted “zero-deforestation commitments” – pledges that they will never again source products from farmers who continue to deforest their land.
The commitments started in the Brazilian Amazon and have since extended to all forests on the planet, including the Indonesian and Malaysian rainforests.
Brazilian law, which restricts Amazonian farmers from clearing more than 20 percent of their land and requires them to federally register their property for monitoring, has made it easier for zero-deforestation companies to drop producers who cut down trees.
Saving the Amazon
Strong environmental protections are necessary to save the Amazon, protecting Brazil and the world from the loss of this critical, fragile habitat.
If Brazil’s next president dismantles its environmental laws, corporations could abandon their zero-deforestation standards in the Amazon. That could have ripple effects in other threatened habitats worldwide.
Far from being bad for business, Brazil’s Amazonian protections help sustain the country as a global breadbasket.
If Bolsonaro scraps them, he won’t just imperil a legendary rainforest. He’ll hurt Brazilian farmers, too – and the consumers worldwide who depend on them.
Robert K. Colwell is a Friend of The Conversation, Distinguished Research Professor, University of Connecticut: Dr. Garrett, is this article available in Portuguese yet? I would like to send it colleagues in Brazil.
Rachael Garrett is a Friend of The Conversation, Assistant Professor of the Human Dimensions of Global Change, Boston University. In reply to Robert K. Colwell: Unfortunately it is not yet available, but I will be working on a translation soon for that very reason. I will let you know when it is available.
From the Editors of E – The Environmental Magazine
Dear EarthTalk: What are PFASs and why should we be concerned about them?
— Jim Stobbins, Cary, NC
PFASs—short for perfluoroalkyl substances—are synthetic chemicals of various formulations (including PFCs, PFOA, PFOS and GenX, among others) that are used widely in various products for moisture and stain resistance. Non-stick pans, rain jackets and carpeting are among thousands of different types of consumer goods that now contain one form or another of PFASs.
“Sealant tape, ski wax and floor wax are waterproof thanks to them,” reports the non-profit Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), “and in machinery they reduce gear friction.” NRDC adds they are found in our homes, our offices, our supermarkets—practically everywhere.
But while it’s nice that we can’t stain our carpeting no matter how messy we are, are we paying for this luxury with our health? The fact that these chemicals are so hard to break down in their intended applications also means they don’t easily break down in nature when released into the environment. Not only is this bad for ecosystems and wildlife, but it’s also risky for human health.
A wide range of animal studies has linked the chemicals to kidney, prostate, rectal and testicular cancers, not to mention hormone malfunction, liver and thyroid problems, and abnormal fetal development. NRDC cites research showing that the offspring of human mothers exposed to certain PFASs had lower-than-average birth weights. Another recent study found that women with high levels of PFASs in their bloodstreams take longer on average to get pregnant.
“For years, bad-actor PFASs were used in food containers like pizza boxes, microwave popcorn bags, Chinese take-out containers and other food packaging to repel grease, and they could leach into the food,” reports NRDC’s Erik Olson, adding: “PFASs that enter the body through the foods we eat and products we use every day can linger there for years before they are eventually flushed out,”
In 2016 the U.S. Food and Drug Administration banned three of the worst PFASs from food uses in response to a petition from NRDC and other non-profit partners. “But we’re worried that chemical cousins of those PFASs are being used,” says Olson. “And the trouble is, manufacturers don’t have to disclose to consumers that they’re using them.”
While the battle to eliminate PFASs entirely rages on, NRDC suggests consumers can take matters into their own hands to minimize their exposure. For starters, ask manufacturers whether their products contain PFASs since such chemicals likely won’t be listed on labels. Steer clear of non-stick cookware, Gore-Tex clothing, personal care products with “PTFE” or “fluoro” ingredients, or textiles made with the original (pre-2000) formulation of Scotchgard, as these likely contain significant amounts of PFASs.
Avoid carpeting and clothing hyped to be “stain-resistant”—a dead giveaway that they have been treated with PFASs. And never order or heat up food in grease-resistant paper unless you want a healthy portion of PFASs with your meal or snack. Likewise, ditch the microwave popcorn—most of which comes in a PFAS-treated bag—and make it on the stovetop instead (it’s more fun that way anyway).
Supreme Court rejects net neutrality appeal
Monday, November 5
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court has ended the court fight over repealed Obama-era “net neutrality” rules that required internet providers to treat all online traffic equally.
The court on Monday rejected appeals from the telecommunications industry seeking to throw out a lower court ruling in favor of the “net neutrality” rules. The Federal Communications Commission under President Donald Trump has rolled back the rules, but the industry also wanted to wipe the court ruling off the books.
Conservative Justices Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch and Clarence Thomas would have granted the industry’s request. Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Brett Kavanaugh took no part in the case without offering a reason.
Kavanaugh ruled on the issue while an appeals court judge and Roberts has an investment portfolio that includes telecommunications companies.