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Sunday, June 04, 2023

Chuck Todd to Leave ‘Meet the Press’ - The New York Times

Chuck Todd to Leave ‘Meet the Press’

"He will be succeeded by Kristen Welker, NBC’s chief White House correspondent and the co-anchor of “Weekend Today.”

Chuck Todd in the "Meet the Press" studio, wearing a suit and tie.
Chuck Todd, a longtime political journalist in Washington, started as moderator of “Meet the Press” in 2014.William B. Plowman/NBC, via Getty Images

"Chuck Todd said on Sunday that he was stepping down from NBC’s “Meet the Press” after nine years in the moderator’s chair and would be succeeded by the network’s chief White House correspondent, Kristen Welker.

In remarks at the conclusion of the show on Sunday, Mr. Todd, 50, said he was conscious that many leaders “overstay their welcome” and that he’d rather leave “a little bit too soon than stay a tad too long.”

“I’ve let work consume me for nearly 30 years,” Mr. Todd said, according to a copy of his prepared remarks. “I can’t remember the last time I didn’t wake up before 5 or 6 a.m., and as I’ve watched too many friends and family let work consume them before it was too late, I promised my family I wouldn’t do that.”

Mr. Todd, a longtime political journalist in Washington, started as moderator of “Meet the Press” in 2014. He has recently interviewed newsmakers including former Vice President Mike Pence, Vice President Kamala Harris, the Republican presidential aspirant Vivek Ramaswamy and Representative Hakeem Jeffries of New York, the House minority leader.

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Rebecca Blumenstein, the president of editorial for NBC News, and Carrie Budoff Brown, the network’s senior vice president of politics, thanked Mr. Todd in a memo and said Mr. Todd would continue at NBC as chief political analyst.

“Through his penetrating interviews with many of the most important newsmakers, the show has played an essential role in politics and policy, routinely made front-page news, and framed the thinking in Washington and beyond,” the memo said.

Ms. Welker, 46, is a longtime NBC stalwart. She was an intern for “Today” in 1997 and has been working for the network full time since 2010. She began covering the White House for NBC a year later and has covered presidents abroad in Belgium, England, Austria, Poland and Japan. In 2020, she was widely praised for her moderation of the final presidential debate between President Donald J. Trump and Joe Biden.

Mr. Todd took over “Meet the Press” for David Gregory, who became its moderator after the death of Tim Russert in 2008. Viewership of the show has slid significantly in the years after Mr. Russert’s death.

In 2014, Mr. Todd launched “MTP Daily,” the first daily installment of “Meet the Press,” which aired on MSNBC until last year. MTP Daily moved to NBC News Now, the network’s advertising-supported streaming platform.

Mr. Todd’s final broadcast as moderator of “Meet the Press” will be in September.

Chuck Todd to Leave ‘Meet the Press’ - The New York Times

No Shame. No Sorrow. Divorce Means It’s Party Time in Mauritania. - The New York Times

No Shame. No Sorrow. Divorce Means It’s Party Time in Mauritania.

"It is common for people in this West African desert nation to divorce many times. And when they do, the women celebrate.

Iselekhe Jeilaniy, right corner, in dark head scarf, singing with friends and relatives during her divorce party in Ouadane, a small desert town in central Mauritania.

The henna artist bent over her client’s hand, glancing at the smartphone to get the precise details of the pattern chosen by her customer, a young woman living in an ancient desert city in the West African nation of Mauritania.

Under a sliver of brightening moon, the young woman, Iselekhe Jeilaniy, sat gingerly on a mat, careful that the wet henna on her skin would not smudge, just as she had on the eve of her wedding day.

But she was not getting married. She was getting divorced. The next day would be her divorce party.

“Your attention, married ladies — my daughter Iselekhe is divorced now!” Ms. Jeilaniy’s mother called out to the townspeople, ululating three times and drumming on a plastic tray turned upside down. Then she added the traditional reassurance that the marriage had ended more or less amicably: “She’s alive, and so is her ex.”

Ms. Jeilaniy giggled, looking at her phone. She was busy posting henna pictures on Snapchat — the modern version of a divorce announcement.

Divorce in many cultures is seen as shameful and carries a deep stigma. But in Mauritania, it is not just normal, but even seen as a reason to celebrate and spread the word that the woman is available once more for marriage. For centuries, women have been coming together to eat, sing and dance at each others’ divorce parties. Now, the custom is being updated for the selfie generation, with inscribed cakes and social media montages, as well as the traditional food and music.

A person dressed in a white garment stands in a courtyard while s child sits on a rug behind her.
On the eve of her divorce party, Ms. Jeilaniy prayed in the courtyard of her family’s home.
By the light of a cellphone, the henna artist Halima El-Haddad, right, decorates Ms. Jeilaniy’s hands in preparation for her divorce party.

In this almost 100 percent Muslim country, divorce is frequent; many people have been through five to 10 marriages, and some as many as 20.

Some scholars say the country has the highest divorce rate in the world, though there is little reliable data from Mauritania, partly because divorce agreements there are often verbal, not documented.

Divorce in the country is so common, according to Nejwa El Kettab, a sociologist who studies women in Mauritanian society, partly because the majority Maurecommunity inherited strong “matriarchal tendencies” from their Berber ancestors. Divorce parties were a way for the country’s nomadic communities to spread the word of a woman’s status. Compared with other Muslim countries, women in Mauritania are quite free, she said, and can even pursue what she called a “matrimonial career.”

“A young, divorced woman is not a problem,” Ms. El Kettab said, adding that divorced women were seen as experienced and hence desirable. “Divorce can even increase women’s value.”

As Ms. Jeilaniy carefully rearranged her melafha — a long cloth wrapped around her hair and body, its bright white chosen to highlight the dark henna — her mother, Salka Bilale, strode across the family courtyard and crossed her arms, posing for pictures destined for campaign posters.

Ms. Bilale had also divorced young, become a pharmacist and never remarried. Now, she was running to become the first ever female member of the national legislature for Ouadane, their hilltop town of a few thousand people living in simple stone houses abutting a 900-year-old ruined city.

Four women walk along a dusty street in Ouadane, a town founded in the 11th century to serve camel caravans crossing the Sahara.
Salka Bilale serving customers at the pharmacy of a hospital in Ouadane. She is running to be the first female member of the national legislature for the town.

Divorce was the reason Ms. Bilale could do any of this. She had been married young, before she could pursue her dream of becoming a doctor, and divorced when she said she realized her husband was seeing other women. Her former husband, who has since died, had wanted her back, but she refused, so he cut her off financially, initially giving her nothing, and then only $30 a month to raise their five children, she said.

In dire need of money, Ms. Bilale opened a store, and eventually made enough to put herself through school. Last year, a new hospital opened in Ouadane, and, in her early 60s, she finally got a job in the medical field.

Her daughters’ experience had been very different. Ms. Jeilaniy married much later, at 29, and 28-year-old Zaidouba had, so far, turned down all marriage offers she’d had, preferring to study and take on a series of internships.

Many women find that divorce affords them freedoms they never dreamed of before or during marriage, especially a first marriage. Mauritanians’ openness to divorce — which seems so modern — coexists with very traditional practices around first marriages. It is common for parents to choose the groom themselves and marry daughters off when they are still young — more than a third of girls are married by the time they are 18 — allowing the women little choice in their partners.

Lakwailia Rweijil, seated, and her baby daughter at her home in Ouadane. Like many Mauritanians, Ms. Rweijil has been through multiple divorces.
Two men carrying loaves of bread taking a shortcut through the ruins of Ouadane’s old city, a World Heritage Site.

When another resident of Ouadane, Lakwailia Rweijil, got married for the first time as a teenager, her father held the wedding ceremony without her knowledge, informing her afterward.

It wasn’t long before she divorced that husband. But she has been married off again and again in the more than two decades since.

Ms. Rweijil had no choice over any of her six husbands, and as a result, she said: “I don’t put people deep in my heart. When they come, they come. When they leave, they leave.”

The road that connects Ouadane with Mauritania’s capital, Nouakchott.

But she has been able to choose whom to divorce. Women can legally initiate divorce in Mauritania under certain circumstances, and although it is usually men who technically do so, it is often at the women’s insistence.

Women typically get priority over men for custody of any children after a divorce. Although men are legally responsible for paying for their children’s maintenance, there is little enforcement and women often end up bearing the financial burden.

Even though many women never plan to get divorced, if it happens, it is easier for them to move on than in many other countries, said Ms. El Kettab, the sociologist, because society supports instead of condemning them. “They make it so simple, it’s easier to turn the page,” she said.

And one of the ways a woman’s circle shows that support is through parties.

The sociologist Nejwa El Kettab, right, with a friend at a cafe in Nouakchott.
After divorce, women in Nouakchott often head to the Divorced Women’s Market to sell their clothes, furnishings and other belongings.

Ms. Jeilaniy said she had divorced because her husband was too jealous, sometimes even refusing to let her go out. She had to wait three months to finalize the divorce and have her divorce party, an interval that is required to ensure that the woman is not pregnant. If she is, the couple usually waits until the child’s birth.

On the day of her divorce party, Ms. Jeilaniy dabbed foundation on her cheeks and highlighted her dark eyebrows in gold, as she had learned from YouTube.

Wrapping herself in a melafha of deep indigo, she stepped out of the front door and set off for the party, hosted by a friend of her mother’s in the living room of her modest stone house.

The women dipped dates in canned cream. They scooped up camel meat and onions with hunks of bread. Then they ate handfuls of rice from a common platter, rolling them into balls in their palms as they talked. Small boys crouched and peered at the increasingly raucous party through the open windows, which in Ouadane are at the level of the sandy street.

Ms. Jeilaniy doing her makeup before the celebration.
Ms. Jeilaniy posing for a picture after getting ready for her divorce party.

More women arrived, and the singing began. Women who had known many divorces and attended many divorce parties sang of love, and then of the Prophet Muhammad — lilting, drifting, sometimes sorrowful desert music, accompanied only by drums and clapping.

Mauritania, a land of nomads, camels and empty moon-like landscapes, is sometimes called the land of a million poets. And even divorce is poetic.

“There is so much poetry about the seduction of divorced women,” said Elhadj Ould Brahim, a professor of cultural anthropology at Nouakchott University. This stands in sharp contrast, he pointed out, to much of the Muslim world, including Mauritania’s immediate neighbors like Morocco, where, he said, the social stigma is so strong that “it’s death for a woman to be divorced.”

Today’s divorce-themed poetry, Mr. Ould Brahim said, is more visual and is conveyed via social media.

“Snapchat is the new ululation,” he said.

Ms. Jeilaniy, second from right, singing as her friends dance at her divorce party.
Ms. Jeilaniy sharing lunch with friends and relatives during her divorce party.

The sisters’ mother arrived and plopped down on the carpet near Ms. Jeilaniy, who had spent much of her party on her phone, messaging and posting selfies. The party began to wind down.

Ms. Bilale looked at her elder daughter. “She’s only interested in marriage and men,” she said. “When I was her age, I was already interested in politics.”

Ms. Bilale got up from the carpet. If Ms. Jeilaniy wouldn’t use her status as a divorced woman to advance her career and build her independence, then Ms. Bilale would concentrate on using her own. She headed out the door toward the kitchen, where she had spied some potential voters for the upcoming election.

“I’m going to the young people to get votes,” she said.

Ruth Maclean is the West Africa bureau chief for The New York Times, based in Senegal. She joined The Times in 2019 after three and a half years covering West Africa for The Guardian. @ruthmaclean"

No Shame. No Sorrow. Divorce Means It’s Party Time in Mauritania. - The New York Times

Friday, June 02, 2023

More than 800m Amazon trees felled in six years to meet beef demand | Amazon rainforest | The Guardian

More than 800m Amazon trees felled in six years to meet beef demand

"Investigation involving Guardian shows systematic and vast forest loss linked to cattle farming in Brazil

Cattle on a farm in São Félix do Xingu, Pará state, Brazil
Cattle on a farm in Brazil’s Pará state. Cattle ranching is the leading cause of deforestation across Brazil. Photograph: Jonne Roriz/Bloomberg/Getty Images

More than 800m trees have been cut down in the Amazon rainforest in just six years to feed the world’s appetite for Brazilian beef, according to a new investigation, despite dire warnings about the forest’s importance in fighting the climate crisis.

A data-driven investigation by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism (TBIJ), the Guardian, Repórter Brasil and Forbidden Stories shows systematic and vast forest loss linked to cattle farming.

The beef industry in Brazil has consistently pledged to avoid farms linked to deforestation. However, the data suggests that 1.7m hectares (4.2m acres) of the Amazon was destroyed near meat plants exporting beef around the world.

The investigation is part of Forbidden Stories’ Bruno and Dom project. It continues the work of Bruno Pereira, an Indigenous peoples expert, and Dom Phillips, a journalist who was a longtime contributor to the Guardian​​. The two men were killed in the Amazon last year.

Deforestation across Brazil soared between 2019 and 2022 under the then president, Jair Bolsonaro, with cattle ranching being the number one cause. The new administration of Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva has promised to curb the destruction.

Burning forest in Lábrea, Amazonas state in August 2020.
Burning forest in Lábrea, Amazonas state in August 2020. Photograph: Christian Braga/Greenpeace

Researchers at the AidEnvironment consultancy used satellite imagery, livestock movement records and other data to calculate estimated forest loss over six years, between 2017 and 2022 on thousands of ranches near more than 20 slaughterhouses. All the meat plants were owned by Brazil’s big three beef operators and exporters – JBS, Marfrig and Minerv​a.

To find the farms that were most likely to have supplied each slaughterhouse, the researchers looked at “buying zones”; areas based on transport connections and other factors, including verification using interviews with plant representatives. All the meat plants exported widely, including to the EU, the UK and China, the world’s biggest buyer of Brazilian beef.

The research focused on slaughterhouses in the states of Mato Grosso, Pará and Rondônia, important frontiers of deforestation associated with ranching. It is likely the overall figure for deforestation on farms supplying JBS, Marfrig and Minerva is higher, because they run other plants elsewhere in the Amazon.

All three companies say they operate strict compliance procedures, in an open and honest manner, to ensure they are meeting their sustainable goals.

Nestlé and the German meat company Tönnies, which had supplied Lidl and Aldi, were among those to have apparently bought meat from the plants featured in the study. Dozens of wholesale buyers in various EU countries, some of which supply the catering businesses that serve schools and hospitals, also appeared in the list of buyers.

Nestlé said two of the meatpackers were not currently part of its supply chain, and added: “We may scrutinise business relationships with our suppliers who are unwilling or unable to address gaps in compliance with our standards.”

Tönnies said: “These Brazilian companies process many thousands of animals per year for export,” and claimed it was unclear whether the company was the recipient of products from plants linked to deforestation. Lidl and Aldi said they stopped selling Brazilian beef in 2021 and 2022 respectively.

Quick Guide

What is the Bruno and Dom project?


Some of the meat shipped to the EU could breach new laws designed to combat deforestation in supply chains. Regulations adopted in April mean products brought into the EU cannot be linked to any deforestation that happened after December 2020.

Alex Wijeratna, a senior director at the Mighty Earth advocacy organisation, said: “The Amazon is very close to a tipping point. So these types of figures are very alarming because the Amazon can’t afford to be losing this number of trees … this has planetary implications.”

The MEP Delara Burkhardt said the findings reinforced the need for greater legislation globally to tackle deforestation: “The destruction of the Amazon is not only a Brazilian affair. It is also an affair of other parts of the world, like the EU, the UK, or China that import Amazon deforestation. That is why the consumer countries should enact supply chain laws to make sure that the meat they import is produced without inducing deforestation. I hope that the new EU law against imported deforestation will be a blueprint for other major importers like China to follow.”

A farm in Marabá, Pará state
A farm in Marabá, Pará state. Photograph: Bloomberg/Getty Images

Aidenvironment found that 13 meat plants owned by JBS were linked to ranches where there had been forest clearance, felling or burning. For Marfrig and Minerva there were six and three plants respectively.​

According to a separate Guardian analysis for the Bruno and Dom project, the Amazon slaughterhouses belonging to these companies processed cattle worth more than $5bn (£4bn) while still in Brazil in 2022: more value will be added further along the complex supply chain, and by an overwhelming margin the economic value of this industry is being realised outside Brazil, on dinner plates at restaurants in Beijing and New York. They have repeatedly been criticised for deforestation in their supply chains over the last decade.

Other companies are also known to source cattle from the same buying zones.

In cases where the full beef supply chain could be mapped, the study estimated that since 2017 there had been more than 100 instances of forest loss on farms that directly supplied company plants.

More than 2,000 hectares of forest were apparently destroyed on a single ranch between 2018 and 2021 – São Pedro do Guaporé farm, in Pontes e Lacerda, Mato Grosso state – which sold nearly 500 cattle to JBS, though the copany said the farm was ‘blocked’ when its due diligences identified irregularities with them. ​ The JBS meat plant that processed these cattle sold beef to the UK and elsewhere in recent years.

A farm in Pontes e Lacerda
A farm in Pontes e Lacerda, 2015. Photograph: Carolina Arantes

The farm was also connected to the indirect supply of more than 18,000 animals across the three meat packers between 2018 and 2019 according to Aidenvironment. All three companies said they were not currently being supplied by the ranch.

More than 250 cases of deforestation were attributable to indirect suppliers – farms that rear or fatten cattle but send them to other ranches before slaughter. (Some farms act as both direct and indirect suppliers.)

Meat companies have long said that monitoring the movements between ranches in their complex supply chains is too difficult. Critics say this allows for “cattle laundering”, where animals from a “dirty” deforesting ranch are trucked to a supposedly “clean” farm before slaughter, disguising their origin. A clean farm is one with no history of fines or sanctions for deforestation, even if its owner has carried out deforestation on other ranches.

TBIJ and Repórter Brasil worked with Dom Phillips and the Guardian to report on an example of cattle laundering in 2020. Then, the team appeared to show that cows from a farm under sanctions for illegal deforestation had been moved in JBS trucks to a second, “clean” farm. After the story was published, JBS stopped buying from the owner of both farms.

However, our investigation has found that the owner now supplies Marfrig, another of Brazil’s big three meat packers. One of his farms, Estrela do Aripuanã, in Mato Grosso state, is still under sanctions but remains part of the international beef supply chain.

Records appear to show that between 2021 and 2022, nearly 500 animals were moved along the exact route that TBIJ investigated in 2020. The cattle ended up at the same “clean” second farm, Estrela do Sangue, which has no embargos or other environmental sanctions.

Separate documents appear to show dozens of animals moving from Estrela do Sangue farm to Marfrig’s meat plant in Tangará da Serra.

Last year, another TBIJ investigation linked the Tangará da Serra plant to the invasion of the Menku Indigenous territory in Brasnorte.

According to shipping records, the plant has sold more than £1bn worth of beef products since 2014 to China, Germany, Spain, Italy, the Netherlands and the UK.

Workers in a Marfrig slaughterhouse
Workers in a Marfrig slaughterhouse. Photograph: Ricardo Funari/Lineair/Greenpeace

In a statement, Marfrig confirmed it had received cattle from the owner, saying: “With every transaction it makes, Marfrig checks the status of the cattle-supplying properties. At the time of slaughter, the farm in question was compliant with Marfrig’s socio-environmental criteria, meaning the property was not located in an area with deforestation, embargo, or forced labour, nor in a conservation unit or on Indigenous lands.”

It added: “Marfrig condemns the practice referred to as ‘cattle laundering’ and any other irregularities. All suppliers approved by the company are regularly checked and must comply with the mandatory socio-environmental criteria described in the company’s current policy.”

Minerva said it “tracks the condition of the ranches, ensuring that cattle purchased by Minerva Foods do not originate from properties with illegally deforested areas; possess environmental embargos or are overlapping with Indigenous lands and/or traditional communities and conservation units.”

JBS queried the “buying zones” methodology used in the research, saying it states “the estimate determines the potential maximum purchase zone and not necessarily the effective purchase zone.” It also said that it blocked the São Pedro do Guaporé farm “as soon as any irregularity was identified”. When asked, it did not specify the date."

More than 800m Amazon trees felled in six years to meet beef demand | Amazon rainforest | The Guardian