World on Track to lose Two-thirds of
Wild Animals by 2020, Major Report Warns Damian Carrington / The Guardian
(October 26, 2016) — The number of wild animals living on Earth is set to fall by two-thirds by 2020, according to a new report, part of a mass extinction that is destroying the natural world upon which humanity depends.
The analysis, the most comprehensive to date, indicates that animal populations plummeted by 58% between 1970 and 2012, with losses on track to reach 67% by 2020. Researchers from WWF and the Zoological Society of London compiled the report from scientific data and found that the destruction of wild habitats, hunting and pollution were to blame.
The creatures being lost range from mountains to forests to rivers and the seas and include well-known endangered species such as elephants and gorillas and lesser known creatures such as vultures and salamanders.
The collapse of wildlife is, with climate change, the most striking sign of the Anthropocene, a proposed new geological era in which humans dominate the planet. “We are no longer a small world on a big planet. We are now a big world on a small planet, where we have reached a saturation point,” said Prof Johan RockstrÃ¶m, executive director of the Stockholm Resilience Centre, in a foreword for the report.
Marco Lambertini, director general of WWF, said: “The richness and diversity of life on Earth is fundamental to the complex life systems that underpin it. Life supports life itself and we are part of the same equation. Lose biodiversity and the natural world and the life support systems, as we know them today, will collapse.”
He said humanity was completely dependent on nature for clean air and water, food and materials, as well as inspiration and happiness.
The report analysed the changing abundance of more than 14,000 monitored populations of the 3,700 vertebrate species for which good data is available. This produced a measure akin to a stock market index that indicates the state of the world’s 64,000 animal species and is used by scientists to measure the progress of conservation efforts.
The biggest cause of tumbling animal numbers is the destruction of wild areas for farming and logging: the majority of the Earth’s land area has now been impacted by humans, with just 15% protected for nature. Poaching and exploitation for food is another major factor, due to unsustainable fishing and hunting: more than 300 mammal species are being eaten into extinction, according to recent research.
Pollution is also a significant problem with, for example, killer whales and dolphins in European seas being seriously harmed by long-lived industrial pollutants. Vultures in south-east Asia have been decimated over the last 20 years, dying after eating the carcasses of cattle dosed with an anti-inflammatory drug. Amphibians have suffered one of the greatest declines of all animals due to a fungal disease thought to be spread around the world by the trade in frogs and newts.
Rivers and lakes are the hardest hit habitats, with animals populations down by 81% since 1970, due to excessive water extraction, pollution and dams. All the pressures are magnified by global warming, which shifts the ranges in which animals are able to live, said WWF’s director of science, Mike Barrett.
Some researchers have reservations about the report’s approach, which summarises many different studies into a headline number. “It is broadly right, but the whole is less than the sum of the parts,” said Prof Stuart Pimm, at Duke University in the US, adding that looking at particular groups, such as birds, is more precise.
The report warns that losses of wildlife will impact on people and could even provoke conflicts: “Increased human pressure threatens the natural resources that humanity depends upon, increasing the risk of water and food insecurity and competition over natural resources.”
However, some species are starting to recover, suggesting swift action could tackle the crisis. Tiger numbers are thought to be increasing and the giant panda has recently been removed from the list of endangered species.
In Europe, protection of the habitat of the Eurasian lynx and controls on hunting have seen its population rise fivefold since the 1960s. A recent global wildlife summit also introduced new protection for pangolins, the world’s most trafficked mammals, and rosewoods, the most trafficked wild product of all.
But stemming the overall losses of animals and habitats requires systemic change in how society consumes resources, said Barrett. People can choose to eat less meat, which is often fed on grain grown on deforested land, and businesses should ensure their supply chains, such as for timber, are sustainable, he said.
“You’d like to think that was a no-brainer in that if a business is consuming the raw materials for its products in a way that is not sustainable, then inevitably it will eventually put itself out of business,” Barrett said. Politicians must also ensure all their policies – not just environmental ones – are sustainable, he added.
“The report is certainly a pretty shocking snapshot of where we are,” said Barrett. “My hope though is that we don’t throw our hands up in despair – there is no time for despair, we have to crack on and act. I do remain convinced we can find our sustainable course through the Anthropocene, but the will has to be there to do it.”
(August 10, 2016) — Agriculture and the overexploitation of plants and animal species are significantly greater threats to biodiversity than climate change, new analysis shows.
Joint research published in the journal Nature on Wednesday found nearly three-quarters of the world’s threatened species faced these threats, compared to just 19% affected by climate change.
It comes a month before the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) hosts its annual summit in Hawaii to set future priorities for conservation.
The team from the University of Queensland, the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and the IUCN assessed 8,688 near-threatened or threatened species on the IUCN’s “red list” against 11 threats: overexploitation, agricultural activity, urban development, invasion and disease, pollution, ecosystem modification, climate change, human disturbance, transport and energy production.
It found that 6,241 (72%) of the studied species were affected by overexploitation — logging, hunting, fishing or gathering species from the wild at rates that cannot be compensated for by reproduction or regrowth.
These included the Sumatran rhinoceros, western gorilla and Chinese pangolin — all illegally hunted for their body parts and meat — and the Bornean wren babbler, one of 4,049 species threatened by unsustainable logging.
Some 5,407 species (62%) were threatened by agriculture alone. The cheetah, African wild dog and hairy-nosed otter are among the animals most affected by crop and livestock farming, timber plantations and aquaculture.
Overexploitation and agricultural activity are the most prevalent threats facing 8,688 threatened or near-threatened species
Number of species affected by the following threats, thousands
Guardian graphic. Source: The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, www.iucnredlist.org
At the same time, the analysis showed, anthropogenic climate change — including increases in storms, flooding, extreme temperatures or extreme drought and sea-level rise — is currently affecting just 19% of species listed as threatened or near-threatened, and was ranked seventh among the 11 threats.
Hooded seals are among the 1,688 species affected. These have declined by 90% in the north-eastern Atlantic Arctic over the past few decades as a result of extensive declines in regional sea ice, and the availability of sites for resting and raising pups. The common hippopotamus and leatherback turtle are also being affected by climate-related droughts and high temperatures.
The analysis comes a month before representatives from government, industry and NGOs meet in Hawaii for the annual IUCN World Conservation Congress. High on the agenda will be defining a sustainable path for translating climate and development agreements — including the 2015 Paris agreement — into conservation actions.
But the authors say it is crucial that efforts to address climate change do not overshadow more immediate priorities for the survival of the world’s flora and fauna. Delegates must focus on proposing and funding actions that deal with the biggest threats to biodiversity, they urge.
“Addressing these old foes of over-harvesting and agricultural activities are key to turning around the biodiversity extinction crisis,” said lead author, Sean Maxwell of the University of Queensland, Australia. “This must be at the forefront of the conservation agenda.”
But the authors say there are solutions to alleviate the harm caused by overexploitation and agricultural activities, such as sustainable harvest regimes, hunting regulations and no-take marine protected areas, international forums such as Cites and public education to reduce demand.
Dr James Watson, co-author of the study from the WCS and the University of Queensland, said: “History has taught us that minimising impacts from over-harvesting and agriculture requires a variety of conservation actions but these can be achieved.
“Actions such as well-managed protected areas, enforcement of hunting regulations, and managing agricultural systems in ways that allow threatened species to persist within them, all have a major role to play in reducing the biodiversity crisis. These activities need to be well funded and prioritised in areas that will reduce threat.”
The Sixth Extinction New Atlantis Films
(April 23, 2014) — Throughout the history of evolution, five major catastrophes have shaken the earth’s surface. After them life had to reorganize from species that survived. Today 27,000 species disappear each year, an amount equal to or greater than that struck Earth during the previous extinction processes. Are we facing the Sixth Extinction? Are humans the cause of this ecological disaster? This documentary explores these issues to provide lines of inquiry that will lead us to the answers.
Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.
The number of children and teens
killed by guns in the US in one year
would fill 134 classrooms of
20 students each.
— Children’s Defense Fund, 2013
America’s Deserving and Undeserving Dead Children Tom Englehardt / Tom Dispatch
(October 23, 2016) â€“ It’s rare to hear an author say, “Researching and writing this book has made me want to scream.” But perhaps it’s not surprising, given the topic of Gary Younge’s Another Day in the Death of America: A Chronicle of Ten Short Lives — the daily, weekly, monthly, yearly death-by-gun of startling numbers of kids in this country — and the time he spent tracking down the stories of the young Americans who died on a single day in November 2013 in separate incidents nationwide.
After all, these days, the US is a haven and a heaven for guns. It’s hard to find another nation on the planet — except in places like Syria or Afghanistan where whole populations have been thrown into desperate internecine conflicts — in which guns are so readily available. Between 1968 and 2015, the number of guns in the US essentially doubled to 300 million.
Between 2010 and 2013 alone, American arms manufacturers doubled their production of weapons to almost 11 million a year. And those guns have gotten more deadly as well.
Military-style assault rifles and semi-automatic handguns are now the weapons of choice for mass killers and “lone wolf” terrorists in this country. In almost all cases those killers got their guns and ammo (often high-capacity magazines capable of holding 15 to 100 rounds) in perfectly legal fashion.
And it’s getting easier to carry concealed weapons all the time. Missouri, for instance, recently passed a law that allows the carrying of such a weapon without either a permit or training of any sort.
Under the circumstances, no one should be surprised that kids die in remarkable numbers from guns for all kinds of reasons. Believe me, though, that makes it no less shocking when you read Younge’s unsettling and moving book.
Long a journalist, columnist, and editor for the British Guardian stationed here in the US, today he offers us a look at the death toll from guns among our young and the way we Americans generally like to explain that toll to ourselves (or rather how we like to explain it away).
An All-American Slaughter
The Youthful Carnage of America’s Gun Culture Gary Younge / Tom Dispatch
Every day, on average, seven kids and teens are shot dead in America. Election 2016 will undoubtedly prove consequential in many ways, but lowering that death count won’t be one of them. To grapple with fatalities on that scale — 2,500 dead children annually — a candidate would need a thoroughgoing plan for dealing with America’s gun culture that goes well beyond background checks.
In addition, he or she would need to engage with the inequality, segregation, poverty, and lack of mental health resources that add up to the environment in which this level of violence becomes possible.
Think of it as the huge pile of dry tinder for which the easy availability of firearms is the combustible spark. In America in 2016, to advocate for anything like the kind of policies that might engage with such issues would instantly render a candidacy implausible, if not inconceivable — not least with the wealthy folks who now fund elections.
So the kids keep dying and, in the absence of any serious political or legislative attempt to tackle the causes of their deaths, the media and the political class move on to excuses. From claims of bad parenting to lack of personal responsibility, they regularly shift the blame from the societal to the individual level. Only one organized group at present takes the blame for such deaths. The problem, it is suggested, isn’t American culture, but gang culture.
Researching my new book, Another Day in the Death of America, about all the children and teens shot dead on a single random Saturday in 2013, it became clear how often the presence of gangs in neighborhoods where so many of these kids die is used as a way to dismiss serious thinking about why this is happening.
If a shooting can be described as “gang related,” then it can also be discounted as part of the “pathology” of urban life, particularly for people of color. In reality, the main cause, pathologically speaking, is a legislative system that refuses to control the distribution of firearms, making America the only country in the world in which such a book would have been possible.
The obsession with whether a shooting is “gang related” and the ignorance the term exposes brings to mind an interview I did 10 years ago with septuagenarian Buford Posey in rural Mississippi. He had lived in Philadelphia, Mississippi, around the time that three civil rights activists — James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner — were murdered.
As I spoke to him about that era and the people living in that town (some of whom, like him, were still alive), I would bring up a name and he would instantly interject, “Well, he was in the Klan,” or “Well, his Daddy was in the Klan,” or sometimes he would just say “Klan” and leave it at that.
After a while, I had to stop him and ask for confirmation. “Hang on,” I said, “I can’t just let you say that about these people without some proof or corroboration. How do you know they were in the Klan?”
“Hell,” he responded matter-of-factly, “I was in the Klan. Near everybody around here was in the Klan around that time. Being in the Klan was no big deal.”
Our allegiances and affiliations are, of course, our choice. Neither Posey nor any of the other white men in Philadelphia had to join the Klan, and clearly some were more enthusiastic participants than others. (Posey himself would go on to support the civil rights movement.)
It’s no less true that context shapes such choices. If Posey had grown up in Vermont, it’s unlikely that he’d ever have joined the Klan. If a white Vermonter had been born and raised in Mississippi in those years, the likelihood is that he’d have had a pressed white sheet in the closet for special occasions.
At the time, for white men in Philadelphia the Klan was the social mixing place du jour. It was what you did if you had any hope of advancing locally, did not want to be left out of things, or simply preferred to swim with the tide. Since pretty much everyone you knew was involved in one way or another, to be white and live in Philadelphia then was to be, in some way, “Klan related.”
That doesn’t mean being in the Klan should give anyone a pass, but it does mean that if you wanted to understand how it operated, why it had the reach it did, and ultimately how to defeat it rather than just condemn it, you first had to understand its appeal in that moment.
The same is true of gangs today in urban America. On the random day I picked for my book, 10 children and teens died by gun. Not all of their assailants have been caught and probably they never will be. Depending on how you define the term, however, it would be possible to argue that eight of those killings were gang related.
Either the assailant or the victim was (or was likely to have been) part of a group that could be called a gang. Only two were clearly not gang related — either the victim and the shooter were not in a gang or membership in a gang had nothing to do with the shooting. But all 10 deaths did have one clear thing in common: they were all gun-related.
The emphasis on gang membership has always seemed to me like a way of filtering child deaths into two categories: deserving and undeserving. If a shooting was gang related then it’s assumed that the kid had it coming and was, in some way, responsible for his or her own death. Only those not gang related were innocents and so they alone were worthy of our sympathy.
Making a “Blacklist”
The more I spoke to families and people on the ground, the more it became clear how unhelpful the term “gang related” is in understanding who is getting shot and why. As a term, it’s most often used not to describe but to dismiss.
Take Edwin Rajo, 16, who was shot dead in Houston, Texas, at about 8 p.m. on that November 23rd. He lived in Bellaire Gardens, a low-rise apartment complex on a busy road of commercial and residential properties in an area called Gulfton in southwest Houston.
It sat between a store selling bridal wear and highly flammable-looking dresses for quinceanera — the celebration of a girl’s 15th birthday — and the back of a Fiesta supermarket, part of a Texas-based, Hispanic-oriented chain with garish neon lighting that makes you feel as though you’re shopping for groceries in Las Vegas. Opposite it was a pawnshop, a beauty salon, a Mexican taqueria, and a Salvadorean restaurant.
The Southwest Cholos ran this neighborhood, complex by complex. There was no avoiding them. “They start them really, really young,” one of Edwin’s teachers told me. “In elementary. Third grade, fourth grade. And that’s just how it is for kids . . . . You join for protection. Even if you’re not cliqued in, so long as you’re associated with them, you’re good. You have to claim a clique to be safe. If you’re not, if you’re by yourself, you’re gonna get jumped.”
In other words, if you grow up in Bellaire Gardens you are a gang member in the same way that Soviet citizens were members of the Communist Party and Iraqis under Saddam Hussein, the Baath Party. There is precious little choice, which means that, in and of itself, gang affiliation doesn’t tell you much.
Edwin, a playful and slightly immature teenager, was not, in fact, an active member of the Cholos, though he identified with them. Indeed, you get the impression that they considered him something of a liability. “They accepted him,” said his teacher. “He hung with them. But he wasn’t in yet.”
His best friend in the complex, Camilla (not her real name), was in the gang, as allegedly was her mother. She sported the Cholo-style dress and had a gang name. After several altercations with someone from a rival gang, who threatened them and took a shot at Camilla’s brother, she decided to get a gun.
“We were thinking like little kids,” Camilla told me. “I didn’t really know anything about guns. I just know you shoot with it and that’s it.”
Sure enough, Edwin was at Camilla’s apartment that night and suggested they play with the gun. In the process, she shot him, not realizing that, even though the clip was out, one bullet was still in the chamber. So was that shooting gang related? After all, the shooter was in a gang. She had been threatened by someone from a rival gang and Edwin may indeed have had aspirations to be in her gang.
Or was it an accidental shooting in which two kids who knew nothing about guns acquired one and one of them got killed while they were messing around?
In an environment in which gangs run everything, most things most people do are in some way going to be “gang related.” But defining all affiliation as a kind of complicity in violence not only means writing off children in entire communities for being born in the wrong place at the wrong time, but criminalizing them in the process.
For one thing, the criteria for gang membership couldn’t be more subjective and loose. Gang leaders don’t exactly hand out membership cards. Sometimes it’s just a matter of young people hanging out. Take Stanley Taylor, who was shot dead in the early hours of that November morning in Charlotte, North Carolina. He spent a lot of his time on Beatties Ford Road with his friends.
“I ain’t gonna say it was a gang,” says his buddy Trey. “But it was a neighborhood thing. Beatties Ford. We got our own little clique. We on the West Side. North Side is a whole different neighborhood you don’t even fool with. Everybody was together. This my brother, this my brother. We all in the same clique. We got each other’s back. I’m not going to let nobody else touch you. If you hit him, I’m gonna hit you. Cos I’m his brother.”
Stanley was shot at a gas station in the wake of an altercation with Demontre Rice, who was from the North Side, after Rice allegedly almost ran him over as he pulled in. It’s not obvious that either man knew where the other was from and yet if Rice were in a gang (something I can’t even confirm), that would, of course, make his killing gang related.
Sometimes gangs do have actual rites of initiation. Since, however, gang affiliation can be a guide to criminal activity, authorities are constantly trying to come up with more definite ways of identifying gang members. Almost inevitably, such attempts quickly fall back on stereotypes.
A 1999 article in Colorlines, for instance, typically pointed out that in “at least five states, wearing baggy FUBU jeans and being related to a gang suspect is enough to meet the ‘gang member’ definition.
In Arizona, a tattoo and blue Adidas sneakers are sufficient.” In suburban Aurora, Colorado, local police decided that any two of the following constituted gang membership: “slang,” “clothing of a particular color,” “pagers,” “hairstyles,” “jewelry.”
Black people made up 11% of Aurora’s population and 80% of its gang database. The local head of the ACLU was heard to say, “They might as well call it a blacklist.”
Under the Gun
Gangs are neither new nor racially specific. From the Irish, Polish, Jewish, and Puerto Rican gangs of New York to the Mafia, various types of informal gatherings of mostly, but not exclusively, young men have long been part of Western life. They often connect the social, violent, entrepreneurial, and criminal.
None of this should in any way diminish the damaging, often lethal effects organized gangs have on the young. One of the boys who died that day, 18-year-old Tyshon Anderson from Chicago, was by all accounts a gang member. His godmother, Regina, had long expected his life to come to an early end.
“He did burglary, sold drugs, he killed people. He had power in the street. He really did. Especially for such a young kid. He had power. A lot of people were intimidated by him and they were scared of him. I know he had bodies under his belt. I seen him grow up and I loved him and I know he could be a good kid. But there ain’t no point in sugarcoating it. He was a bad kid, too.”
If I’d chosen another day that year, I could well have been reporting on one of Tyshon’s victims.
And although gangs involve a relatively small minority of young people, they still add up to significant numbers. According to the National Youth Gang Survey, in 2012 in the United States there were around 30,000 gangs and more than 800,000 gang members — roughly the population of Amsterdam.
What’s new in all this isn’t the gangs themselves, but how much deadlier they’ve become in recent years. According to the National Youth Gang Survey, between 2007 and 2012, gang membership rose by 8%, but gang-related homicides leapt by 20%. It seems that the principal reason why gang activity has become so much more deadly is the increasingly easy availability of guns — and of ever deadlier versions of such weaponry as well.
Studies of Los Angeles County between 1979 and 1994 revealed that the proportion of gang incidents involving guns that ended in homicide leapt from 71% to 95%. “The contrast with the present is striking,” argues sociologist Malcolm Klein, after reaching a similar conclusion in Philadelphia and East Los Angeles. “Firearms are now standard. They are easily purchased or borrowed and are more readily available than in the past.”
This raises the stakes immeasurably when it comes to parents and caregivers trying to protect their adolescent children from bad company or poor choices (as parents of all classes and races tend to do). Identifying with a gang and doing something as seemingly harmless as wearing clothing of a certain color or befriending the wrong person can result in an early death.
As a result, Gustin Hinnant’s father in Goldsboro, North Carolina, used to burn his red clothes if he saw him wearing them too often. Gustin died anyway, hit in the head by a stray bullet meant for another boy who was in a gang. Pedro Cortez’s grandmother in San Jose, California, used to similarly hide his red shirts — the color identified with the local Nortenos gang — just in case. Yet on that same November 23rd, Pedro, who was legally blind, was shot dead while walking in a park. He was dressed in black, but a friend who was with him was indeed wearing red.
Gangs are hardly unique to America, nor do Americans make worse parents than those elsewhere in the world, nor are their kids worse. There is, however, an unavoidable difference between the United States and all other western nations, or the book I wrote would have been inconceivable.
This is the only place where, in addition to the tinder of poverty, inequality, and segregation, among other challenges, you have to include the combustible presence of guns — guns everywhere, guns so available that they are essentially unavoidable.
As long as Americans refuse to engage with that straightforward fact of their social landscape, the kinds of deaths I recorded in my book will keep happening with gruesome predictability. In fact, I could have chosen almost any Saturday from at least the past two decades and produced the same work.
Dismissing such fatalities as “gang related” — as, that is, victims to be dumped in some morally inferior category — is a way of not facing an American reality. It sets the white noise of daily death sufficiently low to allow the country to go about its business undisturbed. It ensures a confluence of culture, politics, and economics guaranteeing that an average of seven children will wake up but not go to bed every day of the year, while much of the rest of the country sleeps soundly.
Gary Younge is editor-at-large for the Guardian. He was based in the US for 12 years before recently returning to London. He also writes a monthly column, “Beneath the Radar,” for the Nation magazine and is the Alfred Knobler Fellow for the Nation Institute. His new book is Another Day in the Death of America: A Chronicle of Ten Short Lives (Nation Books).
Follow TomDispatch on Twitter and on Facebook. Check out the newest Dispatch Book, Nick Turse’s Next Time They’ll Come to Count the Dead, and Tom Engelhardt’s Shadow Government: Surveillance, Secret Wars, and a Global Security State in a Single-Superpower World.
Copyright 2016 Gary Younge
Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.
Bill McKibben / The New York Times & Sam Levin / The Guardian & Oliver Milman / The Guardian – 2016-10-31 22:59:59
Why Dakota Is the New Keystone Bill McKibben / The New York Times
MIDDLEBURY, Vt. (October 28, 2016) — The Native Americans who have spent the last months in peaceful protest against an oil pipeline along the banks of the Missouri are standing up for tribal rights. They’re also standing up for clean water, environmental justice and a working climate. And it’s time that everyone else joined in.
The shocking images of the National Guard destroying tepees and sweat lodges and arresting elders this week remind us that the battle over the Dakota Access Pipeline is part of the longest-running drama in American history — the United States Army versus Native Americans. In the past, it’s almost always ended horribly, and nothing we can do now will erase a history of massacres, stolen land and broken treaties. But this time, it can end differently.
Those heroes on the Standing Rock reservation, sometimes on horseback, have peacefully stood up to police dogs, pepper spray and the bizarre-looking militarized tanks and SWAT teams that are the stuff of modern policing. (Modern and old-fashioned both: The pictures of German shepherds attacking are all too reminiscent of photos from, say, Birmingham, Ala., in 1963.)
The courage of those protesters managed to move the White House enough that the government called a temporary halt to construction. But the forces that want it finished — Big Oil, and its allies in parts of the labor movement — are strong enough that the respite may be temporary.
In coming weeks, activists will respond to calls from the leaders at Standing Rock by gathering at the offices of banks funding the pipeline, and at the offices of the Army Corps of Engineers, for protest and civil disobedience. Two dozen big banks have lent money to the pipeline project, even though many of them have also adopted elaborate environmental codes. As for the Corps, that’s the agency that helped “expedite” the approval of the pipeline — and must still grant the final few permits.
The vast movement of people across the country who mobilized to block fossil-fuel projects like the Keystone pipeline and Shell’s plans to drill in the Arctic need to gather once more. This time, their message must be broader still.
There are at least two grounds for demanding a full environmental review of this pipeline, instead of the fast-track approvals it has received so far. The first is the obvious environmental racism of the whole project.
Originally, the pipeline was supposed to cross the Missouri just north of Bismarck, until people pointed out that a leak there would threaten the drinking water supply for North Dakota’s second biggest city.
The solution, in keeping with American history, was obvious: make the crossing instead just above the Standing Rock reservation, where the poverty rate is nearly three times the national average. This has been like watching the start of another Flint, Mich., except with a chance to stop it.
The second is that this is precisely the kind of project that climate science tells us can no longer be tolerated. In midsummer, the Obama administration promised that henceforth there would be a climate test for new projects before they could be approved. That promise was codified in the Democratic platform approved by Hillary Clinton’s campaign, which says there will be no federal approval for any project that “significantly exacerbates” global warming.
The review of the Dakota pipeline must take both cases into account.
So far, the signs are not good. There has been no word from the White House about how long the current pause will last. Now, the company building the pipeline has pushed the local authorities to remove protesters from land where construction has already desecrated indigenous burial sites, with law enforcement agents using Tasers, batons, mace and “sound cannons.”
From the Clinton campaign, there’s been simply an ugly silence, perhaps rooted in an unwillingness to cross major contributors like the Laborers’ International Union of North America, which has lashed out against the many other, larger unions that oppose the project.
But that silence won’t make the issue go away: Sioux protesters erected a tepee in her Brooklyn campaign office on Thursday. If Mrs. Clinton is elected on Nov. 8, this will be the new president’s first test on environmental and human rights.
What’s happening along the Missouri is of historic consequence. That message should reverberate not just on the lonely high plains, but in our biggest cities, too. Native Americans have carried the fight, but they deserve backup from everyone with a conscience; other activists should join the protest at bank headquarters, Army Corps offices and other sites of entrenched power.
The Native Americans are the only people who have inhabited this continent in harmony with nature for centuries. Their traditional wisdom now chimes perfectly with the latest climate science. The only thing missing are the bodies of the rest of us joining in their protest. If we use them wisely, a fresh start is possible.
Bill McKibben (@billmckibben) is a founder of 350.org and teaches environmental studies at Middlebury College.
SAN FRANCISCO (October 26, 2016) — Private security guards who deployed dogs on protesters at a North Dakota oil pipeline demonstration were not properly licensed and could face criminal charges, according to a local investigation.
The Native American-led protests of the Dakota access pipeline received national attention in September when officers allegedly pepper-sprayed activists while guard dogs attacked protesters in a confrontation that was caught on video by the news program Democracy Now!
On Wednesday, the Morton County sheriff’s office, which has been leading the police response to the demonstration and conducted mass arrests over the weekend, announced that it had investigated private guards working for the pipeline and determined that “dog handlers were not properly licensed to do security work in the state of North Dakota”.
The disclosure is significant at the continuing pipeline protest, where members of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe and their supporters say law enforcement officers have become increasingly aggressive and militarized, using excessive force against peaceful, unarmed activists and targeting journalists for arrest.
Leota Eastman Iron Cloud, a Native American activist from South Dakota who has been at the protests for months, told the Guardian by phone on Wednesday that she was present when private guards brought dogs and mace and went after demonstrators on 3 September.
“We are here in prayer, and they came for war,” she said, explaining that she continued protesting even after she was hit with pepper spray. “I can’t believe that people out there can actually do this to other human beings.”
The tribe and other environmental and indigenous rights’ activists have argued that the planned $3.7bn oil pipeline, which would transport fracked crude from North Dakota to a refinery near Chicago, poses a major threat to the local water supply and to the cultural heritage of the Native Americans.
Opponents have challenged the project in court with little success. But the federal government, which provided initial approval of construction, announced last month that it would reassess its decision and delay issuing permits.
Police have accused the activists of a range of charges, including criminal trespass, engaging in riots, resisting arrest and assaulting officers. But protesters have argued that they have been consistently nonviolent and that law enforcement has indiscriminately arrested people present at the site, including film-makers and reporters.
Security officials told the Morton County sheriff’s office that “there were no intentions of using the dogs or handlers for security work”, the office said in its investigation report. “However, because of the protest events, the dogs were deployed as a method of trying to keep the protesters under control.”
The sheriff’s department said there were seven handlers and dogs but that police could only identify two people. Frost Kennels, from Ohio, provided employees and dogs, but police said the company had not been cooperative in the investigation and that it was not a registered security company.
“Although lists of security employees have been provided, there is no way of confirming whether the list is accurate or if names have been purposely withheld,” Morton County Capt Jay Gruebele said in a statement.
Bob Frost, owner of the kennel that supplied dogs and staff, told the Guardian that he had been “beyond cooperative” and said his handlers were licensed through a security firm acting as a contractor for the pipeline.
“All the proper protocols â€¦ were already done,” he said, adding that it was a different group that had pepper spray. “I pulled my guys out the next day because we weren’t there to go to war with these protesters.”
The sheriff’s office said prosecutors were reviewing the case and the private guards could face misdemeanor charges. Spokespeople for the state’s attorney’s office did not respond to an inquiry and a spokeswoman for the pipeline, operated by Texas-based Energy Transfer Partners, declined to comment.
It was recently revealed that Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has close ties to the pipeline company.
Iron Cloud said the conflict with the dogs was harrowing. “I was face to face with the security guards and the dogs,” she said, adding that at the time of the protest, construction workers were “bulldozing sacred ground”.
Private security workers were continuing to monitor them on Wednesday afternoon, she added. “We’re watching them watching us.”
NEW YORK (October 26, 2016) — Donald Trump’s close financial ties to Energy Transfer Partners, operators of the controversial Dakota Access oil pipeline, have been laid bare, with the presidential candidate invested in the company and receiving more than $100,000 in campaign contributions from its chief executive.
Trump’s financial disclosure forms show the Republican nominee has between $500,000 and $1m invested in Energy Transfer Partners, with a further $500,000 to $1m holding in Phillips 66, which will have a 25% stake in the Dakota Access project once completed.
The information was disclosed in Trump’s monthly filings to the Federal Election Commission, which requires candidates to disclose their campaign finance information on a regular basis.
The financial relationship runs both ways. Kelcy Warren, chief executive of Energy Transfer Partners, has given $103,000 to elect Trump and handed over a further $66,800 to the Republican National Committee since the property developer secured the GOP’s presidential nomination.
On 29 June, Warren made $3,000 in donations to Trump’s presidential campaign. The limit for individual contributions to a candidate is $2,700 per election and it’s unclear whether Trump returned $300 to Warren. Trump’s campaign was contacted for comment.
Warren made a further $100,000 donation to the Trump Victory Fund, a joint fundraising committee among Trump’s campaign, the RNC and 11 state parties, on 29 June. A day earlier, the Energy Transfer Partners chief executive doled out $66,800 in two separate donations to the RNC.
Trump is therefore indirectly linked to Dakota Access, a $3.8bn pipeline development that will funnel oil from North Dakota to Illinois. The 1,170-mile pipeline has caused uproar among Native American tribes as it runs close to the Standing Rock Sioux reservation in North Dakota.
A protest camp, set up over fears the pipeline will poison water and destroy cultural heritage, has been the scene of repeated clashes between protesters and Energy Transfer Partners security staff.
A court challenge has allowed the project to go ahead but the federal government, which initially approved the project, is now reassessing its decision following an outcry by tribes and has placed a temporary halt to construction on federal land.
Trump has signaled his opposition to any restrictions on the development of oil, coal or gas, telling a crowd in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, last week that he would “lift the Obama-Clinton roadblocks to allow these vital energy infrastructure projects to go ahead”.
“We have roadblocks like you’ve never, ever seen — environmental blocks, structural blocks,” he said. “We are going to allow the Keystone pipeline and so many other things to move forwards. Tremendous numbers of jobs and good for our country.”
Jesse Coleman, a researcher at Greenpeace, said Trump seems to know “very little” about energy policies other than to side with wealthy fossil fuel interests.
“Trump likes to say he’s an outsider candidate but he’s very close to fossil fuel tycoons and accepts campaign donations from them,” he said. “Warren wants powerful people to be sympathetic to his business plans and donating to them is his MO.”
Warren has worked in the energy industry for the past 25 years and has a net worth of $3.8 billion, according to Forbes. The Texas-based businessman has said concerns over the Dakota Access pipeline are “unfounded” and insisted there are no Native American artifacts at risk from its construction. He vowed that Energy Transfer Partners will press ahead with the project.
Warren has been an enthusiastic backer of Republican politicians, contributing the maximum allowable amount to the campaigns of the House speaker, Paul Ryan, and Fred Upson, chairman of the energy and commerce committee. He also contributed $6 million to a committee backing an unsuccessful presidential bid by the former Texas governor Rick Perry.
Greg Abbott, the current Texas governor, received $555,000 from Warren during the 2014 election cycle and subsequently appointed the businessman, and his wife Amy, to state boards. Energy Transfer Partners has teamed up with Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim to build an 148-mile natural gas pipeline through west Texas to the Mexican border — a plan that has been opposed by affected ranchers and environmentalists.
Dakota Access has sparked the most vociferous protests, however, with the Standing Rock Sioux tribe escalating its grievances to the UN and, most recently, the US justice department.
On Tuesday, the tribe requested that the US attorney general, Loretta Lynch, investigate alleged strip searches, dog attacks and pepper-spraying by police and security personnel against Native American protesters.
“Peaceful protests are being met with military vehicles and heavily armed law enforcement personnel in riot gear,” the tribe’s letter states. “To many people, the military tactics being used in North Dakota are reminiscent of the tactics used against protestors during the civil rights movement some 50 years ago.”
Energy Transfer Partners refused to comment on the donations.
Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.
Who Broke the Syria Ceasefire? David Morrison / Open Democracy
(October 17, 2016) — On 9 September 2016 in Geneva, US Secretary of State, John Kerry, and Russian Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov, came to an agreement about Syria.
If you rely on the mainstream media in Britain for your information about the ongoing conflict in Syria, you will probably think the agreement was for a ceasefire followed by the provision of humanitarian relief to besieged populations, in particular, in the eastern part of the city of Aleppo, which is under the control of anti-government forces — but that Russia broke the ceasefire on 19 September 2016 by attacking a humanitarian UN convoy on its way to eastern Aleppo and since then has been engaged along with the Syrian government in a ferocious attack on eastern Aleppo.
In fact, the agreements between the US and Russia — there are actually five of them — were much more fundamental than that. In one of them, the US agreed to join with the Syrian government and Russia in taking military action against Jabhat al-Nusra, the erstwhile al-Qaeda affiliate in Syria, which plays a leading role in the armed opposition in the northwest of the country, including in eastern Aleppo.
To facilitate this, the US undertook to separate the so-called “moderate” groups in the armed opposition (some of whom are armed and supported by the US) from al-Nusra with whom they co-operate.
This extraordinary proposal has gone largely unreported by the mainstream British media, when a headline along the lines of “US to join Assad in fighting al-Qaeda” would not have been inappropriate. Had this proposal been put into effect, the US air force would have been giving air support to the Syrian army and its allies, Hezbollah and Iran, in their battle against al-Nusra and, by so doing, bolstering the Syrian government, headed by Bashar al-Assad.
The US and Russia already engage (independently) in military action from the air against Da’esh (aka ISIS or ISIL), the other al-Qaeda derivative in Syria. In Geneva, they proposed to establish a Joint Implementation Center (JIC) to co-ordinate military action from the air against both.
Standing beside Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov at the press conference announcing the agreements, John Kerry said: “US and Russian experts will work together to defeat Da’esh and Nusrah”.
(For unknown reasons, initially the US didn’t want the text of the agreements made public. Russia was happy to have the text published but respected the US desire to keep it secret. Bizarrely, when on 21 September 2016 the UN Security Council met to discuss the situation in Syria, the members did so without the text of the agreements before them. However, it is now available on the US State Department website here).
Attack on Humanitarian Convoy
The agreements also proposed the reinstatement on 12 September 2016 of the ceasefire arrangements, which were first put in place back in February 2016. These arrangements did not preclude taking military action against Da’esh and al-Nusra. On this occasion, after the ceasefire was in operation for seven days, the JIC was due to be established.
But the US has refused to establish the JIC, using as an excuse for not doing so an attack on a UN humanitarian convoy on its way to eastern Aleppo on 19 September 2016 for which the US immediately blamed Russia (see Another Kerry Rush to Judgment on Syria by Robert Parry in Consortium Newson 24 September 2016). The convoy was in opposition-controlled territory at the time. Russia (and Syria) have denied responsibility for the attack, but following it the US has refused to proceed with the plans to set up the JIC.
Overnight bombings destroy aid convoy in Syria
Whose Interests Were Served?
If you are trying to identify who is responsible for an act of this kind, it is common sense to ask whose interests are served by it. Russian interests were certainly not served by this act: as we will see, they have spent almost a year trying to persuade the US to (in John Kerry’s words) “work together to defeat Da’esh and Nusrah”.
It is inconceivable that they would have deliberately committed this act which predictably scuppered the detailed proposals they had patiently negotiated with the US for this purpose. And the possibility that they did it by accident is vanishingly small.
It is also inconceivable that the Syrian government committed this act deliberately: it would be extremely unwise of them to wreck proposals dear to the heart of their most important ally, without whose military intervention they might have collapsed last autumn.
Also, there was a possibility that, if the proposals were implemented and the US joined the fight against al-Nusra, the group’s military capacity would be severely damaged and the government’s military position would therefore be strengthened.
By removing the possibility of US military action against al-Nusra, the attack on the UN convoy served the interests of the armed opposition and it is therefore most likely that the perpetrators came from that quarter.
Al-Nusra: a US-designated Terrorist Group
Al-Nusra is on the US State Department’s list of designated terrorist groups. It was added by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in December 2012. To be precise, it was deemed to be an extension into Syria of the group al-Qaeda in Iraq and it was added to the list of aliases for that group, which was already designated.
As I have said, al-Nusra plays a leading role in the armed opposition in the northwest of Syria, often in co-operation with “moderate” groups, including groups armed and supported by the US.
Lest there be any doubt about this, here are the words of Robert Ford in February 2015: “For a long time, we [the US] have looked the other way while the Nusra Front and armed groups on the ground, some of whom are getting help from us, have coordinated in military operations against the regime.”
Robert Ford was US Ambassador to Syria until he resigned in February 2014.
Here are the words of Colonel Stephen Warren in April 2016: “It’s primarily al-Nusra who holds Aleppo, and of course, al-Nusra is not part of the cessation of hostilities.”
He was the spokesman for the US anti-ISIS military campaign in Iraq and Syria.
Here are the words of Staffan de Mistura speaking to the Security Council on 25 September 2006: “We have seen information from other sources that tell us more than half of the fighters present in eastern Aleppo are al-Nusra. We have also seen reports alleging the intentional placement of firing positions close to social infrastructure, inside and aside civilian quarters.”
He is the Special Envoy of the UN Secretary-General for Syria.
Here are the words of Russia’s UN Ambassador Vitaly Churkin at the Security Council on 25 September 2016: “[Eastern Aleppo] is under the control of more than 20 armed groups totalling about 3,500 combatants. The main force consists of about 2,000 units of Jabhat Al-Nusra. They are armed with tanks, armoured vehicles, field artillery and rocket launcher systems, . . . as well as dozens and dozens of other pieces of military hardware, including heavy weaponry. Needless to say, such hardware is anything but homemade; I believe it continues to be supplied by generous Western patrons with the connivance of the United States leadership of the coalition.”
I am not in a position to verify the accuracy of this information from Churkin, but it was not challenged by the US or any of its allies at the Security Council.
The US has tolerated its client groups co-operating with al-Nusra, despite it being designated as a terrorist group and despite the fact that, because of this co-operation it has been the recipient of US-supplied weapons. It is, of course, illegal under US law to “provide material support or resources to a foreign terrorist organization” and an individual who does so can expect to spend the rest of his life in jail.
WÂÂÂÂÂhile the US has been mounting airstrikes against Da’esh since September 2014, it has largely left al-Nusra alone despite it being al-Qaeda under another name, against which the US is supposed to have been fighting a “global war on terror” for the past fifteen years. There is little doubt that the US has left al-Nusra alone because it has been militarily effective against the Syrian government — for the US in Syria, putting pressure on the Government has in the past at least taken precedence over fighting the “global war on terror”.
But now, apparently, the US has reversed its stance and is prepared to target al-Nusra as well as Da’esh, in co-ordination with Russia. It would be unwise to bet on it actually happening.
Divided Opinion on Deal in Washington
After John Kerry and Sergei Lavrov made a deal in Geneva on 9 September 2016, the assembled journalists had to wait around for five hours for it to be announced at a press conference, while Kerry persuaded Washington to accept it.
It took all that time because there is a sharp divergence of opinion within the Obama administration, in the Pentagon about military co-operation with Russia and across the administration about the present US policy in Syria.
But on 22 September 2016, the chairman of the US military’s Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Joseph Dunford, told the Senate Armed Services Committee that any such military coordination with Russia would be “extremely limited” and that “the military had no intention of forging an intelligence sharing arrangement with Russia”. That has a smell of insubordination about it.
(Dunford was also asked what it would take for the US to “control the airspace” over Syria, that is, to impose a no-fly zone. He replied: “Right now, Senator, for us to control all of the airspace in Syria would require us to go to war against Syria and Russia.”
Perhaps, this remark was aimed at would-be President Clinton, who since she left office in the State Department four years ago has talked incessantly about imposing a no-fly zone in Syria.
As regards policy towards Syria, there is a substantial body of opinion across the administration — in the State Department, the Pentagon and the CIA — in favour of military action against the Syrian government and/or ramping up military assistance to the armed opposition rather than destroying an important player in it, as agreed with Russia in Geneva.
Various people in Washington have proposed US military intervention against Syrian government targets with the objective (they say) of forcing it to negotiate. For example, last June 51 State Department officials signed a memo urging such a course of action.
And a former acting CIA Director Michael Morell has proposed in a TV interview that US policy in Syria should be to make Iran and Russia “pay a price” by arming local groups and instructing them to kill Iranian and Russian personnel in the country. He has recently endorsed Hillary Clinton for president.
The Washington Post condemned the deal in the following terms in an editorial on 12 September 2012: “When Russia launched its direct military intervention in Syria a year ago, President Obama predicted its only result would be a quagmire. Instead, the agreement struck by Secretary of State John F. Kerry on Friday with his Russian counterpart offers Mr. Putin everything he sought. The Assad regime, which was tottering a year ago, will be entrenched and its opposition dealt a powerful blow. The United States will meanwhile grant Mr. Putin’s long-standing demand that it join with Russia in targeting groups deemed to be terrorists. If serious political negotiations on Syria’s future ever take place â€” an unlikely prospect, at least in the Obama administration’s remaining months â€” the Assad regime and its Russian and Iranian backers will hold a commanding position.”
Russia’s Key Objective
Establishing co-operation arrangements of this kind with the US has been a key Russian objective in Syria since it intervened militarily in support of (and at the invitation of) the Syrian government in late September 2015.
The initial military intervention itself has been successful in that the regime which last autumn was in danger of being overthrown has been stabilised.
As President Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said in a BBC Hardtalk interview on 29 September 2016: “You know what is important about Russia’s operation in Syria: Da’esh and Nusra are not sitting in Damascus.”
The murderous anarchy which would have accompanied a Da’esh/Nusra victory causing millions more Syrians to flee their homeland for Europe has been averted, at least for now. And alongside its military intervention, Russia embarked on a political initiative to attempt to bring about a political settlement based on what is left of the Baathist state.
The last attempt at political negotiations in early 2014 under the so-called Geneva framework got nowhere. There, the opposition was represented by the Syrian National Coalition (SNC), which demanded that the Syrian government immediately transfer power to a transitional authority without President Assad. The Syrian government refused — and that was that.
This was a completely pointless exercise since the SNC was not representative of the opposition groups fighting in Syria and, in the highly unlikely event of a deal being done, they would have been powerless to help bring the war to an end.
The BBC reported that as a fact before the “negotiations” began: on Newsnight on 20 January 2014, standing in Turkey on its border with Syria, Ian Pannell said: “If these talks actually happen . . . those fighting on the other side of the border won’t be represented and they are unlikely to be persuaded by any deal.”
If there was to be any hope of success then those around the table had to be prepared to make a deal with the Syrian government. So, there was no point in having Da’esh or al-Nusra and its associates around the table — they would have to be defeated militarily and there was no hope of a functional political settlement until that was done.
And if it was done, or was on the way to being done, the rest of the armed opposition would be more likely to make a deal with the Syrian government. That is why Russia set out to persuade the US that they should take military action together against Da’esh and al-Nusra — and a year later it succeeded.
At the insistence of Russia, an International Syria Support Group (ISSG) was established to attempt to bind all the parties to the conflict — including states on opposite sides such as Iran and Saudi Arabia — into this diplomatic process. The ISSG met for the first time in Vienna on 30 October 2015 “to discuss the grave situation in Syria and how to bring about an end to the violence as soon as possible”, to quote from the communique issued afterwards.
(The parties represented at that meeting were China, Egypt, the EU, France, Germany, Iran, Iraq, Italy, Jordan, Lebanon, Oman, Qatar, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom, the United Nations, and the United States.)
The participants “reached a mutual understanding” on a series of points, according to the communique, including (obviously) the need for an end to the war and a political process leading to a new constitution and elections. The first point was: “Syria’s unity, independence, territorial integrity, and secular character are fundamental.”
The phrase “secular character” to describe the Syrian state was not in the earlier Geneva Framework — it was agreed by Lavrov and Kerry at the end of September 2015, presumably with the object of helping to determine which opposition groups would take part in the peace process and which would be excluded.
(As for the “territorial integrity” of the Syrian state, it has been violated by Israel for nigh on half a century, ever since it took over the Golan Heights by force in 1967, ethnically cleansing around 100,000 people in the process. It’s long past time for Israel to be compelled to restore the territory to Syria.)
Significantly, point 6 states: “Da’esh, and other terrorist groups, as designated by the UN Security Council, and further, as agreed by the participants, must be defeated.”
And at the next ISSG meeting on 14 November 2015 (the day after the ISIS attacks in Paris), it was agreed to add al-Nusra to the list of “terrorist” groups that have to be defeated and to which a ceasefire would not apply.
A statement issued afterwards said: “Regarding the fight against terrorism, and pursuant to clause 6 of the Vienna Communique, the ISSG reiterated that Da’esh, Nusra, and other terrorist groups, as designated by the UN Security Council, and further, as agreed by the participants and endorsed by the UN Security Council, must be defeated. . . . The ceasefire would not apply to offensive or defensive actions against Da’esh or Nusra or any other group the ISSG agrees to deem terrorist.”
In other words, military action by any party — the Syrian Army and its allies and the US and its allies — against Da’esh or al-Nusra would not be in breach of the ceasefire that was envisaged.
Framework Endorsed by the Security Council
Shortly afterwards, the Security Council endorsed military action against Da’esh and al-Nusra, in Resolution 2249 passed unanimously on 20 November 2015.
This endorsement was re-iterated in Resolution 2254 passed unanimously on 13 December 2015, which stated: “[The Security Council] Reiterates its call in resolution 2249 (2015) for Member States to prevent and suppress terrorist acts committed specifically by Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as Da’esh), Al-Nusra Front (ANF), and all other individuals, groups, undertakings, and entities associated with Al Qaeda or ISIL, and other terrorist groups, as designated by the Security Council, and as may further be agreed by the ISSG and determined by the Security Council, pursuant to the Statement of the ISSG of 14 November 2015, and to eradicate the safe haven they have established over significant parts of Syria, and notes that the aforementioned ceasefire will not apply to offensive or defensive actions against these individuals, groups, undertakings and entities, as set forth in the 14 November 2015 ISSG Statement;”
From that point onwards, all UN members states, including the US and its allies, were supposed to do everything in their power to suppress al-Nusra, which was then and still is a major force in the opposition to the Syrian government.
February Cessation of Hostilities
A cessation of hostilities was announced by the US and Russia on 22 February 2016 to start four days later. The story of the next six months, as told by the mainstream media in Britain, was one of unending breaches of the cessation by the Syrian army and its allies.
Almost entirely missing from the story was the fact that under the terms of the cessation, only those anti-government groups that had formally notified their acceptance of the cessation to the US or Russia were no longer to be targeted.
Military action against Da’esh or al-Nusra was not proscribed at all under the ceasefire agreement, which states: “Military actions, including airstrikes, of the Armed Forces of the Syrian Arab Republic, the Russian Armed Forces, and the US-led Counter ISIL Coalition will continue against ISIL, Jabhat al-Nusra, and other terrorist organizations designated by the UN Security Council.”
So, military action by the Syrian army and its allies against al-Nusra was not in breach of the ceasefire agreement. It could hardly be otherwise since military action to “eradicate the safe haven they have established over significant parts of Syria” was endorsed unanimously by the Security Council in December 2015.
Al-Nusra launched a major offensive in early April 2016 south of Aleppo, with the support of other groups. As Charles Lister reported in Foreign Policy on 4 May 2016: “Beginning around March 20, the al Qaeda affiliate convened a series of meetings with armed opposition groups active in northern Hama, Latakia, and southern Aleppo, with the intention of persuading them that their interests were better served in fighting than in supporting the political process in Geneva. . . .
“Three weeks later, simultaneous offensives were launched in all three operational zones â€” all led by Nusra Front. Within hours, Nusra Front had regained its status as a necessary opposition ally in its bitter and brutal revolutionary struggle, while the moderate opposition reassumed secondary importance.”
Was the Syrian government expected to refrain from responding to this?
(For an account of the ceasefire breakdown and American media misreporting of it, see How Media Distorted Syrian Ceasefire’s Breakdown by Gareth Porter in FAIR on 11 August 2016).
US Promised Separation
The February ceasefire agreement attempted to address the problem of opposition groups, which had agreed to the ceasefire, being caught up in military action directed against al-Nusra. It specified that the US and Russia would work together “to delineate the territory held by Daesh [and] Jabhat al-Nusra” and,
“to develop procedures necessary for preventing parties participating in the cessation of hostilities from being attacked by Russian Armed Forces, the US-led Counter ISIL Coalition, the Armed Forces of the Syrian government and other forces supporting them”.
At times, the US administration went further and suggested that groups on ceasefire should separate themselves physically from al-Nusra, otherwise they were legitimate targets. That was the impression given by State Department spokesman, Mark Toner, in briefing on the day the cessation was announced. Asked if the US was calling on “the Syrian opposition moderate groups to stop fighting alongside al-Nusrah” to avoid being “targeted from Russia or the Syrian regime”, he replied: ” . . . we, the ISSG, have been very clear in saying that al-Nusrah and Da’esh are not part of any kind of ceasefire or any kind of negotiated cessation of hostilities. So if you hang out with the wrong folks, then you make that decision. . . . you choose . . . who you hang out with, and that sends a signal.”
At a State Department briefing on 27 May 2016, it was revealed that groups that had agreed to abide by the ceasefire were sent a letter by Michael Ratney, the US Special Envoy for Syria, stating: “The Syrian people and revolutionary factions must continue to reject terrorism in all its forms and distance themselves from the terrorists to the maximum degree possible.”
Sergei Lavrov was adamant that physical separation had been promised and had not been delivered. On 25 April 2016, he told a press conference: ” . . . we have long coordinated [proposed?] a simple solution for non-terrorist groups that want to join the ceasefire and the subsequent political process as patriotic forces but have suddenly found themselves on the terrorist front lines. This solution is that they should physically leave the areas that are next to terrorists. US Secretary of State John Kerry spoke for this solution at an ISSG meeting back in January, if I’m not mistaken.
“When we were asked not to bomb certain areas around Aleppo because not only Jabhat al-Nusra but also “good” opposition forces could be deployed there, we agreed that our American partners would use their influence to move “good opposition forces” away from the terrorist front lines, so that nothing would prevent the routing of the Jabhat al-Nusra terrorist group. The United States has not fulfilled the firm promise it made two months ago.”
This despite the fact that, according to Russia’s UN Ambassador Vitaly Churkin, senior US officials had assured Russia that it would take only “two to three weeks” to complete.
In an interview with the New York Times on 22 April 2016, John Kerry confirmed that the objective was to separate “members of the Al Nusra Front” who “were terrorists not party to the cease-fire” and “insurgent groups that oppose Mr. Assad and have agreed to the cease-fire”.
But, he said, it “has proven harder to separate them than we thought”. And he admitted that, “there’s a Russian impatience and a regime impatience with the terrorists who are behaving like terrorists and laying siege to places on their side and killing people”.
After the February ceasefire, the US promised separation but didn’t deliver.
September Ceasefire Arrangements
The September ceasefire arrangements announced by John Kerry and Sergei Lavrov on 9 September 2016 promised separation even more explicitly. The agreement, entitled Reducing Violence, Restoring Access and Establishing the JIC, is clear: “Delineation of territories controlled by Daesh, Nusra, and moderate opposition forces remains a key priority as does separating the moderate opposition forces from Nusra. Nusra and Daesh shall enjoy no safe haven anywhere in Syria.”
Having failed to separate the so-called “moderate” opposition from al-Nusra in the aftermath of the February ceasefire, it’s puzzling that the US made this promise again — and went on to agree to co-ordinate military action with Russia against al-Nusra.
This time Michael Ratney, the US Special Envoy for Syria, threatened “moderate” rebels with unspecified “severe consequences” if they didn’t separate from al-Nusra, saying in a letter to opposition groups on 10 September 2016: “We urge the rebels to distance themselves and cut all ties with Fateh of Sham, formerly Nusra Front, or there will be severe consequences.”
At his press conference with Lavrov announcing the deal, Kerry said: “If groups within the legitimate opposition want to retain their legitimacy, they need to distance themselves in every way possible from Nusrah and Da’esh. …
“So the warning we give to opposition groups who have up until now found it convenient to sort of work with them is it would not be wise to do so in the future. It’s wise to separate oneself.”
And at a briefing on 15 September 2016, State Department spokesman Mark Toner, agreed under questioning from journalists that opposition groups would be “targeted” if they failed to physically separate themselves from al-Nusra by the time the US and Russia had established the Joint Implementation Center and were ready to strike al-Nusra targets.
At this press conference, Kerry was also at pains to emphasise that the US was serious about dealing with al-Nusra: “I want to be clear about one thing particularly on this, because I’ve seen reporting that somehow suggests otherwise: Going after Nusrah is not a concession to anybody.
“It is profoundly in the interests of the United States to target al-Qaida — to target al-Qaida’s affiliate in Syria, which is Nusrah, an organization that is opposed to a peaceful transition, an organization that is an enemy of the legitimate opposition, an organization that is currently plotting attacks beyond Syria’s borders, including against the United States.”
On the face of it, it’s odd that a US Secretary of State felt the need to make a case for the US fighting the “global war on terror” in Syria. Most likely, those remarks are aimed at his opponents in the US administration who regard al-Nusra as a valuable anti-government asset that should be left alone and for whom putting pressure on the Syrian government takes precedence over fighting the “global war on terror”.
Lavrov responded to this in his remarks at the press conference, saying: “And I’m very glad that John said a very important thing. He said that the US is firmly aimed to fight Nusrah and those who believe that the fighting with Nusrah is a concession to Russia are wrong.
“That is a very important . . . statement, because a lot of people supposed that the US are really not very desirable to fight with Nusrah; they just keeping Nusrah as Plan B for overthrowing of the regime. So today’s statement of John is greatly welcomed by me.”
Establishing the Joint Implementation Center
The agreement Reducing Violence, Restoring Access and Establishing the JIC describes how the Joint Implementation Centre was supposed to function.
Its first task was to “share intelligence and develop actionable targets for military action against Nusra in designated areas”. This information should include,
“lists of Nusra leaders as well as coordinates of the locations of Nusra training camps, storage sites for weapons, munition, and equipment, command and control centers, concentrations of personnel, weapons and military equipment, and supply routes, in addition to other Nusra-related targets.”
Its second task was to “designate a set of targets for airstrikes by Russian Aerospace Forces and/or US air forces related to Nusra operations”. Once US/Russia airstrikes begin, Syrian air force activities — fixed and rotary wing — were to cease within the designated areas of US/Russia operations. However, Syrian air force activities would continue against Nusra outside these areas.
According to the agreement, “the process of target development through the JIC and airstrikes against Nusra targets by Russian Aerospace Forces and US air forces will be ongoing and continuous” and the JIC “will also work immediately to maximize independent but synchronized efforts against Daesh”.
This is a serious plan to diminish the military effectiveness of al-Nusra and therefore of the Syrian armed opposition. Since al-Nusra cannot be defeated from the air alone, had the plan been implemented, I assume that the Syrian army and its allies, Hezbollah and Iran, would have continued ground operations against al-Nusra and that the air strikes by the US and Russia would be co-ordinated with these ground operations.
Envisaged Outcome of Agreements
Had the US-Russia agreements been implemented as proposed, the situation now would be as follows:
(1) A ceasefire on the ground and in the air between the Syrian government and its allies (Russia, Iran and Hezbollah) and the “moderate” opposition
(2) Air strikes by the US and Russia against al-Nusra in designated areas, co-ordinated with ground operations by the Syrian Army and its allies
(3) Air strikes by Syria and Russia against al-Nusra outside these areas, co-ordinated with ground operations by the Syrian Army and its allies
(4) Military action against Da’esh as before, but with increased co-ordination between the US and Russia
Note that this means that the Syrian air force would have been largely grounded.
A Necessary Condition
A necessary condition for this to come about was that the “moderate” opposition formally accept the terms of the ceasefire. The indications are that the US failed to persuade several important groups to do so — representing perhaps as many as 70% of the total of “moderate” fighters.
This would not be surprising given that the terms of the ceasefire required support for the “full implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 2254”, which, inter alia, calls upon UN member states to “eradicate” al-Nusra’s “safe haven” in Syria.
So, by accepting the terms of the ceasefire, opposition groups were acquiescing in the destruction by the US and Russia of al-Nusra, an important player in the armed opposition with whom many of them co-operate and whose absence from the battlefield would greatly strengthen the government’s military position.
“Moderate” groups that wanted to take part in the ceasefire were required under its terms to confirm their acceptance to the US or Russia, who were then supposed to inform each other. In practice, the US was the compiler of the list of acceptances since it had an ongoing relationship with these groups. The US has been less than forthcoming on which groups formally signed up and which refused — I have been unable to find any statement by the US on this crucial issue.
What Is Known
What is known is that on 11 September 2016, one of the largest groups, Ahrar Al-Sham rejected the ceasefire proposal on the grounds that it would benefit the Syrian government and that it excludes certain opposition groups, for instance, al-Nusra, with which Ahrar Al-Sham co-operates closely. And the next day, 20 other groups issued a statement rejecting the ceasefire on similar the grounds. Russia’s UN Ambassador Vitaly Churkin told a press conference on 17 September 2016 that these 20 groups “in our assessment comprise 70% of the so-called moderate fighters”.
At a State Department briefing on 14 September 2016, a journalist asked if these groups who had rejected the ceasefire would be targeted by the US and Russia air forces along with al-Nusra.
Spokesman Mark Toner did not answer that question but replied: “I can tell you that our special envoy, Michael Ratney, who works very closely with the moderate Syrian opposition, is in touch with them and working very closely with them to explain the details of this and to convince them to support it. We understand that’s our responsibility in this, just as we call on Russia . . . to exert its influence on the regime.
“Likewise, within the ISSG we call on Turkey, we call on Saudi Arabia, other members of the ISSG to exert what influence they have on the various parties on the ground.”
In other words, two days after the ceasefire began the US was still trying to persuade “moderate” groups to formally sign up to it and was urging Turkey and Saudi Arabia to persuade their client groups in Syria to do likewise. At that time, the business of getting “moderate” groups to comply with the ceasefire was clearly a work in progress for the US.
What the Russians Say
Under the terms of the ceasefire, the US was supposed to keep Russia informed about groups that had formally accepted the ceasefire. So, what has Russia said on the matter?
Here’s what Sergei Lavrov told the Security Council on 21 September 2016: “I mentioned the list provided to us by our American partners of the 150 or so organizations named as participants in the ceasefire regime, but for a long time now, and officially since 12 September, more than 20 of them have declared that they will not comply with the agreement. That list also includes Ahrar Al-Sham, which, by the way, when drafting resolution 2254 (2015), we proposed including on the list of terrorist organizations, together with another group, Jaysh Al-Islam.”
Though Lavrov doesn’t say so explicitly, it appears that the US didn’t keep Russia informed about which “moderate” groups had formally accepted the ceasefire, otherwise he would surely have been more explicit.
Earlier, on 17 September 2016, when scepticism was being expressed in Washington about the full implementation of the agreements, Russia’s UN Ambassador Vitaly Churkin suggested at a press conference that the US had lost all influence over the “moderate” groups.
Here is what he said: “It may well be . . . . that the US is trying to hide the fact that it has allowed the situation to get out of control. As you well know, we have said on many occasions that in February we were told by high-level American officials that it would take them two to three weeks to ensure that so-called moderate opposition distances itself from Jabhat-al-Nusra. It never happened. . . .
“Then we received assurances from the United States that as we recommit, renew the cessation of hostilities they will make sure that the so-called moderate groups recommit also to this cessation of hostilities. But what we heard instead was that 20 of those groups which in our assessment comprise 70% of the so-called moderate fighters almost immediately declared that they were not going to comply with the renewed cessation of hostilities regime.
“So, the way it looks is that the US has allowed the genie to get out of the bottle. Having been arming, preparing, training various opposition groups, ignoring the fact that they have been working with Jabhat-al-Nusra and other terrorist groups, ignoring the fact that many of those groups that they regarded as moderate groups were resorting to terrorist tactics, and now they’re . . . not about to listen to those in Washington who are trying to reach political agreement.”
US influence on “Moderate” Groups
A necessary condition for the success of the strategy agreed between the US and Russia for moving towards a possible settlement in Syria was that the US and its allies had sufficient influence over the “moderate” opposition to persuade them to co-operate with the agreed strategy.
It now looks as if the US failed to persuade important “moderate” groups to sign up to the latest ceasefire. The central purpose of the deal was to bring about a ceasefire between the government and the “moderate” opposition (and to ground the Syrian air force almost completely) while the US and Russian air forces dealt with al-Nusra.
This was no longer possible if the “moderate” opposition, or a significant proportion of it, refused to sign up to the ceasefire and therefore would, under the terms of the ceasefire, be legitimate targets along with al-Nusra.
The US has a list of the “moderate” groups that accepted the terms of the ceasefire and those that refused. But they are unlikely to publish it since it would probably confirm that the “moderate” opposition is, in Vitaly Churkin’s words, “not about to listen to those in Washington who are trying to reach political agreement”.
David Morrison has written widely on the Middle East including two highly regarded pamphlets — ‘Iraq: Lies, half-truths & omissions’ and ‘Iraq: How regime change was dressed up as disarmament’ — on the deception perpetrated by the British government to induce the British public to support military action against Iraq. He is the co-author with Peter Oborne of A Dangerous Delusion: Why the West is Wrong about Nuclear Iran (published by Elliott & Thompson, 2013).
This article is published under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International license.
On the Edge of Nuclear World War?
Clinton Propaganda Distracts from Criminality and Imminent Attack on Russia Larry Chin / Global Research
(October 19, 2016) — A Hillary Clinton presidency is being pushed down the collective throats of humanity with massive psy-op, a global “wag the dog”. The end game of the elites — nuclear war with Russia, the long-awaited conquest of the Eurasian subcontinent, and a criminal succession must not be derailed. A Trump victory and a popular revolt pose threats to this end game, and must be thwarted at all costs.
Aligned against the New World Order is an unprecedented anti-establishment resistance, represented by Trump and his movement, exemplified by Wikileaks, DC Leaks, Anonymous, the alternative media, and the urgent warnings of whistleblowers and seasoned observers who know the Clintons, and individuals such as Cindy Sheehan and Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein, who warn that a Hillary Clinton presidency poses and immediate threat of world war.
Tensions are reaching the breaking point. Within the US, there is intense volatility on all fronts, and divisions at every level.
The Clintons’ Dirty Propaganda Tidal Wave
The Clinton/Bush/New World Order forces and their worldwide corporate media apparatus have concocted a propaganda construct of massive proportions — an alternative reality made up of smoke and mirrors, false narratives.
The entire mainstream media, from the international and national to the local levels, is functioning as nothing more than a propaganda bull horn for Clinton, a weapon of around-the-clock mouth-foaming character assassination against Trump, and an all-out propaganda attack against Russia. In lockstep, the Washington criminal establishment led by the Clinton and Bush factions, and the corporate media that they own, pummel the war drums around the clock, demanding collective obedience and surrender.
Trump is the immediate target, but Russia is the larger and more important one. Russia must be set up as the justifiable target for war. Russia is being systematically blamed for Donald Trump and “interference” with the election, for a total infiltration of America. Russia is blamed for Wikileaks and all counter-Clinton resistance.
It does not get more Orwellian than this, or more dangerous. Reality has been turned upside down. Trump is portrayed as a fascist madman. The headline of a recent editorial penned by former Clinton official Robert Reich, typical of what is found across the mainstream media today, screams: “Failing to vote for Clinton puts our future in jeopardy”.
This nonsense spews forth, when in fact Hillary Clinton is the neocon, the war criminal, the fanatic who is demanding for nuclear war with Russia. In fact, Hillary Clinton puts all of humankind in jeopardy immediately. In fact, there will be no future at all when nuclear war breaks out.
The degree and depth of the collusion, the bald-faced nature of the deception, has never been more evident. The sheer number of Clinton/Bush surrogates, mouthpieces and gatekeepers, astounding. Hollywood and the entertainment world, controlled by the same forces and CIA assets as the news media, are also is out in force.
The Trump-bashing, the “Trump as pervert” allegations, the pro-Clinton cover-up and fantasy spinning is around the clock, from snarky pro-Clinton Saturday Night Live skits to the glib talk show hosts and entertainment “reporters”.
An upcoming episode of the TV series Law and Order, to be shown before the election, is being specially produced to depict a Trump-like sexual predator who is running for office.
The Clintons destroyed Bernie Sanders and stole the Democratic Party nomination using a variety of criminal means. What Sanders suffered is nothing compared to what is being dealt to Trump. The combined forces of the Clintons and Bushes — virtually the entire New World Order and its networks — are aiming their weapons at Trump. The dissent and resistance that he represents is to be smashed and silenced. They will stop at nothing.
Days before the second presidential debate, it seemed that Donald Trump’s campaign had been neutralized by the Hillary Clinton sleaze machine.
Following a first debate in which the Clintons blatantly and criminally cheated, the Clintons went directly to what they do best: more dirty tricks. The “bombshell” designed to end Trump was a mysteriously recorded audio clip from 2005 in which Donald Trump was caught using “lewd locker room” language about women. The actual source of the leak is not known. Suspects could include any number of Clinton-connected CIA assets within NBC and/or Republican operatives (connected to Paul Ryan or the Bushes) working with the Clintons to remove Trump from the presidential race.
NBC executive producer Rob Silverstein claims that he was not the leak, while acknowledging that he knew about the tape. What is known is that Washington Post asset David Fahrenthold, a fervent anti-Trump pro-Clinton attack dog who was responsible for creating the furor over alleged improprieties within Trump’s charities, somehow obtained the clip from the leaker. The Washington Post, like much of the corporate media, is an Establishment propaganda organ, rife with CIA assets, dominated by Clinton and Bush plants, and devoid of “journalism”.
Trump’s private conversation (likely illegally taped) was with Billy Bush, host of NBC’s Access Hollywood and host of Miss Universe pageants. Billy Bush is the nephew of George H.W. “Poppy” Bush. He is the cousin of Jeb Bush, son of Jonathan Bush, who is the brother of “Poppy”, and a manager of some of the Bush family’s many banking interests, including the CIA-connected Riggs Bank, which specialized in money laundering.
It is not known if Billy Bush was directly and knowingly involved in setting the trap on Trump, or if he has any played any direct political role from his convenient position within NBC. The tape’s release was no surprise. Bush not only remembered the recording but bragged about it to NBC colleagues during the Rio Olympic Games in August 2016.
Given the enduring connection between the Clintons and Bushes, and their shared hatred of Trump, a Bush presence in the middle of an anti-Trump operation does not appear to be a coincidence. Billy Bush is in the process of leaving NBC (after being “suspended” for having laughed along with Trump), and is negotiating a lucrative severance package. The rest of the Bush family, however, is no doubt chortling with glee over Trump’s demise, and proud of Billy for playing the fall guy. Here was one manifestation of the Bush “throat cut” warning to Trump. There will be more to come.
So desperate is the New World Order for a Hillary Clinton White House that the Republicans, led by Paul Ryan, are willing to risk their own political seats to get rid of Trump. Some fifty Republicans immediately withdrew support for Trump.
The furor over this original Trump tape has been followed by an onslaught of other Trump-as-pervert-sexual predator accusations that the media and its legions of operatives have dutifully and aggressively trumpeted and repeated.
The accusations are transparently deceptive, the accusers likely paid off by Clinton operatives. They are baseless, unwitnessed, out of nowhere claims from decades ago, some by individuals who have already been proven to be liars. Although the Trump campaign has responded to each smear with legal action, the corporate media has continued to apply overwhelming pressure, endless air time, endless ink, and an endless parade of accusers.
As exposed in the Wikileaks dump of emails to John Podesta, longtime Clinton operative Bill Ivey wrote that “we’ve all been content to demean government, drop civics and in general conspire to produce an unaware and compliant citizenry”.
Distract a dumbed-down and brainwashed American populace, occupy them with salacious tabloid garbage, imprison them sex gossip from which they never emerge. Make sure they stay dumb and don’t look up facts or read book. Make sure the warnings about Clinton are not heard.
Facts are rendered meaningless, while fakery, illusion and propaganda rule. The magnitude and scope of the deception is unprecedented.
With just one month until the election, the nightmare is just beginning, not only for Trump but for all who oppose the New World Order. This writer predicts that in the coming weeks, the Clinton sleaze machine will dredge up new and more outlandish material to scandalize Trump. And worse.
The Resistance Strengthens
Inside the confines of the Clinton/Bush propaganda bubble, it would seem that things are in order. The election is over already. Donald Trump is a sexual predator. Hillary Clinton’s lead is “insurmountable”. Hillary is the “overwhelming” champion of debates (that she did not win), the “overwhelming” leader in polls (that are rigged and compiled deceptively by pro-Clinton media and services that purposely oversample pro-Clinton voters). The election will be stolen, regardless, but thanks to manufactured reality, Trump is gone, resistance is squashed. It’s over.
But in reality, the deception has not worked. In many ways, it has backfired.
The smear campaign did not work. Trump is not only fighting back with even more pointed attacks but he has more popular support than ever. He is in full attack mode.
In reality, Trump leads Hillary. According to a Rasmussen poll (that is, unlike the Hillary-rigged polls of CNN, NBC, etc. fairly sampled and more accurate) Trump led Clinton even after the release of the Trump tape. According to a more recent Daybreak poll taken at the time of this writing, Trump’s lead is growing.
Wikileaks has unleashed bombshells about Hillary Clinton on a daily basis, with more to come.
Daily releases have exposed Hillary Clinton from all angles as a criminal. Any one of the revelations should have the power destroy her politically, indict her as a criminal, send her to prison, and remove her from public life.
Hillary Clinton has now been caught funding the Islamic State. This evidence proves that she, her State Department, the Clinton Foundation, the CIA, the Obama administration literally created ISIS terrorism, in collusion with Saudi Arabia and Qatar, to destabilize the Middle East and topple Syria, towards the nuclear war with Russia that she wants to wage. It is pure treason. Hillary Clinton is a terrorist. The abuse of power at the State Department, Benghazi, the emails, the Clinton Foundation, election fraud, the — all of it is treason. And add to that the host of criminal lies about Hillary’s health and documents exposing illegal Machiavellian operations of Clinton operatives.
Trump is attracting support, his events are attended in the thousands. While Clinton’s support is smoke and mirrors and illusion: thinly-attended, staged, rigged, and even faked for the cameras. The Clinton campaign even struggles to employ campaign workers.
There is a good reason why Wikileaks, DC Leaks, Anonymous and other sources of genuine investigative journalism and truth have almost exclusively focused their efforts to stop Hillary Clinton and not Trump. It is because Clinton and the criminal establishment she represents is the genuine threat to humanity.
Even Cindy Sheehan and Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein have declared that Hillary Clinton is more dangerous than Donald Trump, and warn that Hillary Clinton could start a nuclear war.
The Trump smears may also be backfiring on the Clintons. It has opened the door for Trump to address expose Bill Clinton’s known history as a sexual predator and a rapist, and Hillary ‘s history of intimidation against Bill’s victims. Four of Bill Clinton’s rape victims came to Trump’s defense. Many more victims of the Clintons are coming forward. The “Bill Clinton is a rapist” counter-movement is not going away.
Hillary herself is a sexual predator, and a deviant, according to many. There is plenty of rich material exposing Hillary’s personal history, such as the accounts of former Clinton insiders, Secret Service agents, and rape victims such as former CIA asset Cathy O’Brien, who claims to have been raped by Hillary as a young girl.
(The O’Brien story holds the potential for utterly destroying Hillary Clinton, but has not been mentioned by the Trump forces, nor has it made it into any corporate media reporting. It has not even been prominent in the alternative media.
This writer believes that the O’Brien story is too dangerous to be wielded in a mass public fashion, because it not only exposes the Clintons, but also the Bushes, CIA criminal covert operations, and Iran-Contra.)
The New World Order is desperate to force their trickery but they have not been able to shut down the Internet, where the resistance thrives. The Internet is at present too open, too fast, too democratic, too “dangerous”, and offer too many avenues to the truth.
This is why the government and its corporate fronts are engaged in efforts to eventually shut down the Web. Google and YouTube, for example, are currently engaging in outright censorship of political content but have not fully shut down all dissent.
While much of America remains dumbed down and brainwashed, more people are waking up. This scenario is unacceptable to the elites.
Surviving the Smear, Winning the Debate
Trump won the second presidential debate, in spite of the fact that the Clintons rigged it, in spite of the clear and aggressive attacks by “moderators” Anderson Cooper of Clinton-controlled CNN (and a CIA intern) and ABC’s Martha Raddatz (White House correspondent in the George W. Bush administration).
They attempted to make the event a referendum on Trump’s behavior. They constantly interrupted Trump, but let Hillary filibuster. They refused to let Trump finish sentences. Cooper went after Trump, accusing him of being a sexual predator. “Do you deny that you groped women?” (laying the groundwork for the accusations of rape that would follow after the debate).
Raddatz inserted herself into the argument for Syrian regime change, demanding Trump to address (what she believes is) the need for an “armed humanitarian occupation of Syria. She argued with Trump, and squealed in anger at his statements.
Their assistance to Hillary was so blatant that Trump said, “it’s one on three”.
Hillary robotically went about her talking point presentation. She badgered Trump on “character”, pronouncing herself “good”, and took every opportunity to launch unfounded attack Russia and Putin. She blamed Russia for the Syrian crisis, terrorism and cyberattacks, blamed Russia as the force behind Wikileaks and Trump.
While stating that as president, she would not deploy “ground forces” in Syria, but promised to send Special Forces, and covert operations (therefore contradicting herself cleverly), and promised a no-fly zone (at act of war).
But Trump owned the most memorable moments of the night (“You’d be in jail”) and unnerved Clinton by promising to appoint a special prosecutor to go after her.
Trump: * Exposed Bill Clinton as a rapist
* Went after Hillary’s emails
* Went after Benghazi
* Addressed Clinton and Obama as the creators of ISIS and a “disastrous” Middle East full of terrorism (but did not mention the CIA, or Anglo-American management of Al-Qaeda, Al Nusra, ISIS)
* Addressed how Clinton wants open borders that allow jihadists to move about freely and enter the United States (but again, no mention of CIA agenda that purposely allows its assets to be moved around strategically)
* Mentioned Wikileaks but did not go into specifics
* Slammed Clinton for 30 years of ineffectiveness (but did not mention her specific crimes)
* Successfully deflected attacks on his tax returns by pointing out that Hillary and her Wall Street friends including Warren Buffett and George Soros also evade taxes
* Mentioned Bill Clinton colluding with Loretta Lynch to shut down the investigation into Hillary
* Correctly stated that Hillary has ” lot of hate” but did not go into detail, failed to mention Clinton’s known history of mental instability and poor character
Trump’s most important exchange was about Russia, in which he openly disagreed with the anti-Russia stance of his running mate Mike Pence.
“It would nice to be friendly with Russia so we can fight ISIS together. Russia is killing ISIS, Syria is killing ISIS, Iran is killing ISIS.”
He also clarified that he “doesn’t know Putin”, has no business dealings with Russia. “The reason you keep blaming Russia is to attack me”.
Trump trounced Clinton, took the lead over Clinton after the debate, but Clinton’s media machine pronounced her the overwhelming winner via numerous fake polls and fake focus groups.
The Criminal Past
The Clintons’ criminal history also offers a treasure trove of damning material. The “elephant in the living room” is this legacy. Their criminal activities in Arkansas, their Iran-Contra/CIA drugs collaboration with the Bushes, their enduring relationships with the neocons and the CIA, the long string of political murders stretching back to the 1980s, their many financial swindles, the White House scandals of the 1990s, the war crimes. The partnership of Bill and Hillary Rodham Clinton is notorious and blood-soaked.
There are countless individuals who know in specific detail what the Clintons are about. There are the former Clinton operatives and insiders, the staffers, the bodyguards and the Secret Service agents who were there to witness their crimes.
Many, who remain among the living, have spoken out and continue to speak out. There are the political colleagues who were betrayed, the insiders and whistleblowers who have been marginalized. Many of these individuals have spoken out and written books, and their stories are readily available.
The question is how far Trump and his operatives dare go into this history, if they dare let Cathy O’Brien speak out, and if the truth galvanizes a resistance among the knowing — a revolution that not even a massive criminal apparatus can control.
October Surprise: World War III?
While the popular anti-New World Order/anti-Clinton movement aligned with Trump continues surge in the reality not reflected by the corporate media fantasy world, all hopes could be rendered a moot, if the criminal forces have their way.
The greater danger comes from those in power right now, who, unlike either presidential candidate, hold the power to create immediate chaos and calamity.
A full blown nuclear war with Russia would change everything. It would result in the literal destruction of the planet. Fanatics are on the march. The resistance knows it.
A false flag event on the magnitude greater than even 9/11 may be in the works.
The Obama administration has declared that it will retaliate against a fake non-existence cyberattack by Russia, against a fake non-existent Russian infiltration of the US presidential election.
A massive financial crisis, coinciding with a world war, is also a possibility, given the collapse of Deutsche Bank, a major criminal (CIA-connected) bank and lynchpin of the world financial system, and the inability of the New World Order to maintain control of its “vassals”, as evidenced by Brexit.
The more successful the anti-Clinton efforts of Trump, Wikileaks and resistance movements, the more likely the empire resorts to violence and humanity-ending calamity.
The Obama administration might choose to start the war before the election, to cancel the election.
Or with a Trump win, start the war before Obama leaves office, preventing Trump from taking office. Or with a Hillary win, start the war in a more “orderly” sequence, when the “queen” takes the throne.
A genuine nightmare scenario is upon us. It is no longer “unthinkable”, it is happening.
Those who refuse to passively accept the possible end of the world must act now, with what little time is left.
The original source of this article is Global Research
Copyright Larry Chin, Global Research, 2016.
Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.
Russia Views Hillary Clinton As An “Existential Threat” To Peace Tyler Durden / Zero Hedge
(September 23, 2016) — When it comes to the two front-runners in the current presidential race, the media often attempts to paint Donald Trump as a crazy, unpredictable president who will lead us down a path of terror. However, the truth remains that despite Trumpâ€™s overall nonsensical rhetoric, he is the only leading candidate who has said anything sane regarding American foreign policy.
Statements to the effect that the Middle East would have been safer with Saddam Hussein and Muammar Gaddafi still in power are probably the most profound things ever spoken by the wildly racist billionaire mogul.
Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, voted in favor of the Iraq war in 2003 and was instrumental in bringing about the fall of Muammar Gaddafi in Libya in 2011. She even laughed hysterically about the despotâ€™s death in an interview despite the fact she single-handedly plunged the rich democracy that was Libya into an extremist war zone.
In the eyes of the Russian establishment, this is especially worrying given that it was Clinton who convinced Russia not to use their veto power at the United Nations Security Council level to stop the NATO onslaught of Libya; she promised the so-called â€œno-fly zoneâ€ would not be used to pursue regime change.
Russian President Vladimir Putin was very critical of NATO motives when it became clear that NATO forces had, indeed, designated Gaddafi a military target, asking the important and necessary question: â€œWho gave NATO the right to kill Gaddafi?â€
After Gaddafi was murdered on the streets of Sirte, Putin astutely stated: â€œThe whole world saw him being killed; all bloodied. Is that democracy? And who did it? Drones, including American ones, delivered a strike on his motorcade. Then commandos — who were not supposed to be there — brought in so-called opposition and militants and killed him without trial. Iâ€™m not saying that Gaddafi didnâ€™t have to quit, but that should have been left up to the people of Libya to decide through the democratic process.â€
Clearly, Russia was very disappointed that the so-called no-fly zone in Libya had been used to undermine the international legal process and overthrow the leader of a sovereign nation â€” something they could have prevented at the Security Council level with the use of their veto power had Hillary not convinced them otherwise.
Clintonâ€™s subsequent laughter at this flagrant violation of international law is a slap in the face to the Russian establishment that continues to advocate for a stronger working relationship with the United States and a return to classical international law.
Russia, therefore, likely views Clinton not only as a mentally unstable candidate but one who could be the president to drown all other presidents in history by finally pulling the trigger on Russia.
According to Clinton Ehrlich, the sole Western researcher at the Russian Foreign Ministryâ€™s Moscow State Institute of International Relations: â€œMoscow perceives the former secretary of state as an existential threat. The Russian foreign-policy experts I consulted did not harbor even grudging respect for Clinton.â€
Whereas Trump has paid the Russian president compliments and claimed he would work more closely with Russia, Clinton has continued her policy of beratement and hostility towards Putin. Just last month, she called him the â€œgodfather of right-wing, extreme nationalism.â€
As Foreign Policy magazine pointed out, this was an attempt to insult Putin using his own words.
Clinton further derided Donald Trumpâ€™s praise of Putin as â€œunpatrioticâ€ and â€œscary,â€ claiming Trumpâ€™s attempted coziness with Putin could represent a threat to American national security. Apparently, America always needs Russia to remain an enemy.
If this is the case, when exactly does the Cold War officially end? Under Clinton, it never will.
Russiaâ€™s distrust of Clinton runs further than merely televised mind-numbing entertainment. Russia is well aware of Clintonâ€™s ambitions to turn Syria, one of Russiaâ€™s most strategic allies in the Middle East, into the next Libya. Putin has therefore been actively working to counter these endeavors through direct military intervention in Syria.
How far Clinton will go down this road is frighteningly unclear given that under the current president, the United States Air Force just shelled the Syrian army, which was engaged in a battle with ISIS at the time.
The U.S. strike killed over 60 Syrian servicemen and wounded 100 more. If Obama, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize that he is, is essentially providing air cover for ISIS, what on earth will Hillary Clinton attempt in Syria?
Given Russiaâ€™s vested interest in ensuring the next president of the United States is not a potentially unstable career warmonger, there could be some truth behind claims of Russian interference in American politics.
If so, could you blame them for trying?
Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.
First Amendment Rights Must Be Protected for
Those Peacefully Opposing the Dakota Access Pipeline Al Gore / EcoWatch
(October 26, 2016) — I stand with the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in their opposition to the Dakota Access Pipeline. We have witnessed inspiring and brave acts by Native Americans and their allies who are defending and trying to protect their sacred sites and the safety of their sole source of water.
The fossil fuel industry — and the owners of the Dakota Access Pipeline in particular — have been proceeding with what appears to be a dangerous project in blatant disregard of obvious risks to the Missouri River and with disrespect to the Standing Rock Sioux.
In the process, those trying to force completion of this pipeline have — according to independent news reports — been using oppressive practices against this community. In response, Standing Rock Chairman David Archambault has requested that the Justice Department deploy observers to ensure that the First Amendment rights of those peacefully opposing this pipeline are protected. I hope his request is honored.
The non-violent resistance to the Dakota Access Pipeline is also one of the frontline struggles that collectively mark a turning point in the decision by humanity to turn away from the destructive path we have been following and aim instead toward a clean energy future for all.
The courage and eloquence of the Standing Rock Sioux in calling all of us to recognize that in their words, “Water is Life,” should be applauded, not silenced by those who are driven by their business model to continue spewing harmful global warming pollution into our Earth’s atmosphere.
This is also an opportunity to acknowledge and learn from the traditional values being expressed by the Standing Rock Sioux to protect life on Earth.
The effort to ensure that their voices are heard and their rights are respected are not only issues of civil rights and religious freedom, but reflect the choice we must make to ensure a sustainable, just, fair and healthy future for all generations to come.
Former Vice President Al Gore is co-founder and chairman of Generation Investment Management. Gore spends the majority of his time as chairman of The Climate Reality Project, a non-profit devoted to solving the climate crisis.
“I’m angry. White people in Oregon are acquitted while Native people in North Dakota are attacked by riot police from five states. And our politicians are preoccupied.”
(October 28, 2016) — This morning, politics is crowded out by injustice.
Every preposterous and painful image from North Dakota is another reminder of injustice: The massive military-style police occupation of Standing Rock treaty lands, the rush to protect the frantic construction schedule for the Dakota Access pipeline, and the brutal law enforcement march against people who are fighting for the simple idea that water is life.
I’m angry. How shall I say this without ranting? Tell stories.
Last January, when a gang of gun-toting, Constitution mis-quoting, anti-government militia occupied the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon the reaction from federal law enforcement was patience. Days went by. Oregon Gov. Kate Brown (sounding very North Dakota-like) urged the federal government to crack down on “the radicals” before more arrived.
The lands involved were Paiute lands. Months ago, Jarvis Kennedy, a Burns Paiute Tribal Council member, asked: “What if it was a bunch of Natives who went in there and took it?”
We now know. And back in Oregon a few days ago, a jury found the Bundy gang not guilty.
Stories to tell. Injustice.
Since the beginning of the Standing Rock crisis there has been a call for President Obama to get involved. After all, there is a clear federal issue: The Oceti Sakowin Camp is on treaty land now claimed by the Army Corps of Engineers.
And President Obama has a direct emotional connection with this tribe and this place: “I know that throughout history, the United States often didn’t give the nation-to-nation relationship the respect that it deserved. So I promised when I ran to be a president who’d change that, a president who honors our sacred trust, and who respects your sovereignty, and upholds treaty obligations, and who works with you in a spirit of true partnership, in mutual respect, to give our children the future that they deserve.”
How could he have done that? Mutual respect could have, should have, started with a federal presence that made talking more important than acting. The action at Standing Rock is not over. But the federal government’s absence is not productive.
Indeed, if you listen to any politician, Democrat or Republican, you’ll hear them talk about respect for the treaties. Of course. The Constitution says treaties “shall be the supreme law of the land; and the judges in every state shall be bound thereby, anything in the Constitution or laws of any State to the contrary notwithstanding.”
The word “shall” is like a commandment. But if that’s true, then how does any treaty tribe have less land than what’s in the document? Legally, morally, a treaty trumps a congressional act or an executive order. A treaty claim to the land is not preposterous.
If the United States lived up to its own ideals, there would be no stolen water, land, and dams on the Missouri River, and the Army Corps of Engineers would have a long history of real negotiation with the tribes instead of a pretend consultation.
Then every tribe in the country has its own Standing Rock story.
Often several stories. Vacant lumber mills that promised jobs but left behind toxic debris. Phosphate clean-up plans that were too expensive, so the waste is buried instead. Or 3 million gallons of heavy metal sludge released by the government into the Animas River where water flowed into Navajo farms and communities.
Stories to tell. Injustice.
There have been calls to get the presidential candidates involved. To visit. To see for themselves the love of the land, the water, and how this moment has brought Indian Country together.
Donald Trump wouldn’t be much help. He’s in the same boat as most of the politicians in North Dakota. They hope to profit from this pipeline project and a future where oil remains more important than water. “Trump’s financial disclosure forms show the Republican nominee has between $500,000 and $1 million invested in Energy Transfer Partners, with a further $500,000 to $1 million holding in Phillips 66, which will have a 25% stake in the Dakota Access project once completed, The Guardian reported.
And Hillary Clinton? We know from the WikiLeaks that she was inclined to approve Keystone XL pipeline but then flipped because there was so much attention on her email server. It was a way to change the story. Or so the campaign hoped.
Then election season is a terrible time to actually engage in public policy. Campaigns should be talking about issues and what they might do. But not when that decision is influenced by money, large voting blocs, and an intense election schedule. Eleven days out, a campaign is more worried about winning the election than anything else. Period.
I’ll be polite: The statement by Hillary Clinton on Standing Rock was awful.
The second I read it my heart dropped. I can see this being crafted at a table where folks weighed in from a variety of constituent groups and the writing was designed to not offend. “Secretary Clinton has been clear that she thinks all voices should be heard and all views considered in federal infrastructure projects.
Now, all of the parties involved — including the federal government, the pipeline company and contractors, the state of North Dakota, and the tribes — need to find a path forward that serves the broadest public interest. As that happens, it’s important that on the ground in North Dakota, everyone respects demonstrators’ rights to protest peacefully, and workers’ rights to do their jobs safely.”
So in the spirit of reconciliation, Energy Transfer Partners put out its own statement: “All trespassers will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law and removed from the land.”
There is a schedule to keep. Investors have been promised the pipeline will flow with oil soon. No matter what. Another story to tell. Injustice.
This article was originally published at Trahant Reports. It has been edited for YES! Magazine.
Governor Uses Emergency Order to Bring
Out-of-State Police to Dakota Access Pipeline Protest Dan Zukowski / EcoWatch
(October 25, 2016) — Dozens of additional law enforcement officers from six states are headed to North Dakota under the Emergency Management Assistance Compact (EMAC), a program designed to facilitate state-to-state disaster relief assistance. While this compact has been used in times of riot, its use in peaceful protests or non-violent direct actions seems unprecedented.
On Aug. 19, North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple issued a state of emergency, which is a prerequisite to requesting help under EMAC.
“This emergency declaration simply allows us to bring greater resources to bear if needed to help local officials address any further public safety concerns,” Gov. Dalrymple said.
But, according to Jennifer Cook, policy director for the American Civil Liberties Union of North Dakota: The origins of the state’s overreaction can be traced to a lawsuit filed by the oil pipeline company — Dakota Access — against protesters in federal court to stop demonstrations near its construction sites.
“To sway the court’s decision and likely public opinion, too, the pipeline company claimed it feared violence from protesters was imminent because of a few vague threats posted on social media and an anonymous email.
“Protesters have been arrested for pushing through police lines to stop construction equipment, but incidents like these in no way support declaring a state of emergency and militarizing the state’s response.”
The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and others who have been trying to stop construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline have faced numerous police actions:
1. Attack dogs and mace: On Sept. 4, Morton County Sheriff’s officers arrested 21 protestors as private security forces hired by Dakota Access LLC used mace and unleashed dogs. An estimated 30 people suffered temporary blindness, while several were attacked and bitten by the dogs.
2. Armored vehicles: On Sept. 29, during a peaceful prayer ceremony at Standing Rock, Morton County police moved in with armored vehicles and riot gear, arresting 21.
3. 126 Arrested: On Oct. 22, 126 people were arrested and charged with rioting and other offenses. Witnesses saw officers pepper-spraying people.
4. Journalists arrested: Democracy Now! journalist Amy Goodman was charged with rioting after her video report of the Sept. 4 incident went viral. The charge was thrown out in court. On Oct. 11, filmmaker Deia Schlosberg was jailed and charged with three felonies. She faces up to 45 years in prison if convicted.
“Prosecuting filmmakers for covering protests sends a chilling message,” stated Robert Mahoney, deputy executive director of the Committee to Protect Journalists. He urged prosecutors to drop all charges.
Justifying the weekend’s arrests, an Oct. 23 press release from the Morton County Sheriff’s office stated that “this escalated criminal behavior by protesters” calls for additional manpower. Now, increasingly militarized police will be joined by additional forces from Wisconsin, South Dakota, Minnesota, Wyoming, Indiana and Nebraska.
However, tribal leaders maintain that their protests are non-violent and peaceful. In an email to EcoWatch, tribal historian LaDonna Allard wrote, “We don’t allow weapons of any kind at the camps.”
Dave Archambault II, chairman of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, issued a statement that said: “The Tribe also supports the right of our citizens and supporters of the Tribe to engage in peaceful, non-violent expressions of their opposition to the pipeline. The Tribe believes that non-violence must be the guiding principle of citizen activism at all times.”
But the more than 2,000 Native Americans and non-Natives, many of whom have come from across the US to stand up for the Sioux, are increasingly fearful of police force. Mark Trahant, an independent journalist and a faculty member at the University of North Dakota, asked, ” How far will North Dakota go?” He stated:
“They’ve already tried intimidation, humiliation and the number of arrests are increasing. Pick on protectors, elders, journalists, famous people, anyone who could make the state appear potent. The latest tactic is to toss around the word ‘riot’ as if saying it often enough will change its definition.”
Archambault called on the US Department of Justice to step in. In a letter Monday to Attorney General Loretta Lynch, he wrote:
“To many people, the military tactics being used in North Dakota are reminiscent of the tactics used against protesters during the civil rights movement some 50 years ago. And I believe that there are similarities there.
But to us, there is an additional collective memory that comes to mind. This country has a long and sad history of using military force against indigenous people — including the Sioux Nation.”
Organizers Kandi Mossett, Tara Houska and Dallas Goldtooth provided an update and call to action on the situation at Standing Rock at the Bioneers 2016 Conference Sunday. Watch here:
Actor Mark Ruffalo is visiting North Dakota today and Wednesday. He will participate in a press conference and deliver solar trailers to Standing Rock Sioux tribal elders to provide power at the camp. Leonardo DiCaprio also has plans to visit North Dakota in opposition of the Dakota Access Pipeline.
Meanwhile, a rally was held in Minneapolis on Tuesday to protest the participation of deputies from Hennepin County.
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Guantanamo Base Destroys Ecosystem, Impedes Scientific Research teleSURtv
(October 27, 2016) — The US base at Guantanamo Bay is destroying the local ecosystem and cutting off locals of profit from their biologically rich resources, according to scientists.
Infrastructure from the base, since its construction in 1903, allows only one-fifth of the aquifer to be exposed, preventing drainage from the Guantanamo basin. The effect is increasing salinity, which threatens the fragile ecosystem, scientist Mario Montero Campello told Cuba Debate.
The area is of special interest to biologists because of its unique transition between land and marine life. Continued expansion of the base, which has cleared out local vegetation, is also preventing locals from enjoying the economic benefits of its rich flora and fauna, underdeveloping the region.
Montero Campello speaks out against the blockade and the presence of the base, which was sharply criticized by UNASUR Thursday.
US conservationist Joe Roman made a case for returning the land to Cuba and creating a “research diplomacy” center studying the local ecosystem, published in Science magazine in March.
His dream, as he wrote in the paper: “research and educational facilities dedicated to addressing climate change, ocean conservation, and biodiversity loss. With genetics laboratories, geographic information systems laboratories, videoconference rooms â€” even art, music, and design studios â€” scientists, scholars, and artists from Cuba, the United States, and around the world could gather and study.”
Instead of Closing Guantanamo, the US Invests in Expansion teleSURtv
(July 7, 2016) — The Pentagon will spend $240 million to build new infrastructure and repair old buildings at the Guantanamo navy base in Cuba, according to contract documents.
None of the improvements and repairs will be done to the detention center inside Guantanamo, but at buildings used by personnel assigned to work in the base.
The $240 million budget will be split between five construction firms over a period of five years. One of those companies, Munilla Construction Management LLC of Miami, will be paid $63 million to build a school for the children of military and civilians working in the island.
There are currently two schools for military families in the island, and according to US officials, the facilities are too small for the 6,000 people living in the base.
“The quality of life for our residents and their families is of the utmost importance and the new school will provide a great opportunity for our children for many years,” said Base Commander Captain David Culpepper.
Meanwhile, 779 prisoners have been jailed at Guantanamo since it opened after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Of those, 689 have been released or transferred and nine have died, while 80 are still held, without recognized charges or trials.
US President President Barack Obama promised to close the military base on occupied Cuban soil during his 2008 presidential campaign, but reversed course after taking office in 2009.
Cuba has repeatedly insisted that the US return the occupied territory as part of the normalization of relations between the two countries that began in December 2014.
Presumptive Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump condemned the plan to close down the prison, and promised that if elected in November’s general election, he would “load it up with some bad dudes.”
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Toughie, the last Rabbs’ fringe-limbed tree frog, has died at the Atlanta Botanical Garden.
Frog Goes Extinct, Media Yawns Jeremy Hance / The Guardian
(October 27, 2016) — On 26 September, staff with the Atlanta Botanical Garden found a frog dead in his enclosure. The frog had big brown eyes, massive feet with thick webs between the toes, and brownish skin speckled with little yellow dots. His name was Toughie. He was big for a frog and he didn’t like it when humans handled him. He’d lived a long time: 12 years.
And he was the last of his kind.
On 26 September 2016, the world very likely lost Rabbs’ fringe-limbed treefrog (Ecnomiohyla rabborum) to extinction. The species, only discovered by scientists in 2005, lived in Panama before it was wiped out in the wild by habitat destruction and the amphibian disease, chytridiomycosis.
The last one was heard calling in the wild in 2007. But before this, a small number of Rabbs’ fringe-limbed treefrog had been taken into zoological facilities for captive breeding. Unfortunately, the attempt failed. Toughie was the last to die.
Despite the fact that we can actually trace the extinction of Rabbs’ fringe-limbed treefrog to an exact date, it occurred with very little media interest. Sure, the species’ demise was covered by many standard science media sites, such as Scientific American, National Geographic and Mongabay.
But the list of what media outlets thought the story not interesting enough is perhaps more notable, including the BBC, the Sun, and CNN. Even this outlet, the Guardian, did not devote a full article to the extinction.
Many news sites simply reprinted the Associated Press’s story, which spilled 264 words on the extinction of Rabbs’ fringe-limbed treefrog (in contrast, the AP wrote three times as many words, 798, on Taylor Swift’s concert at Formula One). The New York Times at first only carried the AP article, though it later published a beautiful op-ed by one of the researchers.
Still, I waited a little while to see if news coverage would pick up as the story trickled out — it didn’t.
A week after the extinction, I gave a presentation to a local herpetological society, ie devoted to amphibians and reptiles. When I brought up the recent demise of Rabbs’ fringe-limbed treefrog, there were audible gasps in the room. Even herp lovers hadn’t heard of it.
This begs the question: how could the public care about global mass extinction if they aren’t even told about its victims? How can we care if we don’t grieve?
Scientists have repeatedly warned that if we don’t change our ways we could see a mass extinction event with potentially hundreds of thousands, even millions, of species wiped out by human actions.
The impact — and scale — is impossible to imagine. The last time the Earth suffered such a mass extinction event was when an asteroid slammed into it, killing off all the non-avian dinosaurs. We didn’t show up for another 64m years.
Despite this, most media outlets chose to ignore a story that could not only inform readers of the loss of one distinct species, but also connect them to a global crisis that rarely makes its way on to the front page — or any page for that matter.
I don’t know why so many outlets ignored the story — but it may be because the species that went extinct was a frog and not a big mammal like the baiji (which also didn’t get the coverage it deserved when it vanished, but got plenty more than Toughie’s species).
Still, Rabbs’ fringe-limbed treefrog was truly amazing. Living in the canopies of Panama’s cloud forests, this species glided through the air via the webbing connecting it toes. Scientists also believe that it was the only frog species to feed its tadpoles by allowing them to nibble at the skin of adults.
If a frog such as this is not noteworthy, what does that mean for the reptiles, fungi, plants, insects or fish that vanish? What does that say about any species that doesn’t grip the public’s imagination — are they somehow lesser for not having evolved (or vice versa) to be easily loved by us?
Amphibians are the canary in the coalmine for our current biodiversity crisis. Having been around for 370 million years, amphibians make dinosaurs look babyish. But experts believe we may have lost more than 150 species in the last few decades alone, many of them to chytridiomycosis.
On top of this amphibian plague, amphibians are being hard hit by deforestation, habitat loss, pollution, pesticides, the illegal wildlife trade for pets and even consumption and yes, of course, climate change (which may be exacerbating the stunning death tolls of chytridiomycosis).
Unfortunately, Toughie will not be the last frog to vanish or the last species. How many more will depend on us. But it’s hard to imagine anything changing when a story like Toughie’s is so easily swept aside. We can’t care about what we don’t know.
(October 27, 2016) — The Living Planet assessment, by the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) and WWF, suggests that if the trend continues that decline could reach two-thirds among vertebrates by 2020.
The figures suggest that animals living in lakes, rivers and wetlands are suffering the biggest losses. Human activity, including habitat loss, wildlife trade, pollution and climate change contributed to the declines.
Dr. Mike Barrett, head of science and policy at WWF, said: “It’s pretty clear under ‘business as usual’ we will see continued declines in these wildlife populations. But I think now we’ve reached a point where there isn’t really any excuse to let this carry on. We know what the causes are and we know the scale of the impact that humans are having on nature and on wildlife populations — it really is now down to us to act.”
However the methodology of the report has been criticised. The Living Planet Report is published every two years and aims to provide an assessment of the state of the world’s wildlife.
This analysis looked at 3,700 different species of birds, fish, mammals, amphibians and reptiles — about 6% of the total number of vertebrate species in the world.
The team collected data from peer-reviewed studies, government statistics and surveys collated by conservation groups and NGOs. Any species with population data going back to 1970, with two or more time points (to show trends) was included in the study. The researchers then analysed how the population sizes had changed over time.
Some of this information was weighted to take into account the groups of animals that had a great deal of data (there are many records on Arctic and near Arctic birds, for example) or very little data (tropical amphibians, for example). The report authors said this was to make sure a surplus of information about declines in some animals did not skew the overall picture.
The last report, published in 2014, estimated that the world’s wildlife populations had halved over the last 40 years. This assessment suggests that the trend has continued: since 1970, populations have declined by an average of 58%.
Dr. Barrett said some groups of animals had fared worse than others.
“We do see particularly strong declines in the freshwater environment — for freshwater species alone, the decline stands at 81% since 1970. This is related to the way water is used and taken out of fresh water systems, and also the fragmentation of freshwater systems through dam building, for example.”
It also highlighted other species, such as African elephants , which have suffered huge declines in recent years with the increase in poaching, and sharks, which are threatened by overfishing.
The researchers conclude that vertebrate populations are declining by an average of 2% each year, and warn that if nothing is done, wildlife populations could fall by 67% (below 1970 levels) by the end of the decade.
Dr Robin Freeman, head of ZSL’s Indicators & Assessments Unit, said: “But that’s assuming things continue as we expect. If pressures — overexploitation, illegal wildlife trade, for example — increase or worsen, then that trend may be worse.
“But one of the things I think is most important about these stats, these trends are declines in the number of animals in wildlife populations — they are not extinctions. By and large they are not vanishing, and that presents us with an opportunity to do something about it.”
However, Living Planet reports have drawn some criticisms.
Stuart Pimm, professor of conservation ecology at Duke University in the United States, said that while wildlife was in decline, there were too many gaps in the data to boil population loss down to a single figure.
“There are some numbers [in the report] that are sensible, but there are some numbers that are very, very sketchy,” he told BBC News. “For example, if you look at where the data comes from, not surprisingly, it is massively skewed towards western Europe.
“When you go elsewhere, not only do the data become far fewer, but in practice they become much, much sketchier . . . there is almost nothing from South America, from tropical Africa, there is not much from the tropics, period. Any time you are trying to mix stuff like that, it is very hard to know what the numbers mean. They’re trying to pull this stuff in a blender and spew out a single number . . . . It’s flawed.”
But Dr Freeman said the team had taken the best data possible from around the world: “It’s completely true that in some regions and in some groups, like tropical amphibians for example, we do have a lack of data. But that’s because there is a lack of data. We’re confident that the method we are using is the best method to present an overall estimate of population decline.
“It’s entirely possible that species that aren’t being monitored as effectively may be doing much worse — but I’d be very surprised if they were doing much better than we observed.”
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(October 28, 2016) — “We did a no-fly zone to support the Iraqi Kurds for the better part of a decade or so following the Gulf War until we ultimately went into Iraq to take down Saddam Hussein,” Gen. David Petraeus explained in September in an interview with Charlie Rose.
A major figure in America’s winless wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Petraeus went on to serve as Obama’s CIA director until he was forced to resign for revealing high-level classified information to his mistress and then lying about it to the FBI.
“It’s not too late to declare a safe zone” in Syria, he said. “It’s not too late to declare a no-fly zone. And indeed if the regime air force, for example, bombs folks we are supporting or we’re concerned about, we tell them we’re going to ground your air force.”
“You don’t even have to enter their airspace, although we’re already there. You can do it with cruise missiles, air launched, sea launched and others.”
Petraeus was not talking about shooting down a lone Russian plane, which Hillary Clinton did not want to talk about in the third debate. Petraeus is calling for using cruise missiles against Assad’s air force bases, planes, runways, radar, other air defenses and infrastructure.
In his time as CIA director, Petraeus backed the so-called moderate rebels backed by Qatar and Saudi Arabia, and he now defends a no-fly zone and safe havens as a way to protect those rebels and their families. Like Hillary and to a lesser degree President Obama, he backs the Saudi and Qatari effort to overthrow the Assad regime. This ensures that the civil war — and the slaughter — will go on and on.
Petraeus spoke only of taking out Assad’s air force, and said that he did not want to “provoke some war with the Russians.” But the cruise missiles would kill Russians and wreck their aircraft, since they share military bases with the Syrians. They also have their own long-distance missiles, and their lone aircraft carrier and flagship, the Admiral Kuznetsov, and other ships are now steaming toward Syria.
“You can’t pretend you can go to war against Assad and not go to war against the Russians,” a senior administration official told the Washington Post.
Whatever one may think of Petraeus — or of Putin — the danger is all too real. Until now, the US and Russia have engaged in a proxy war. An American-imposed no-fly zone risks a direct military confrontation between two nuclear-armed powers. Neither side wants a nuclear war. But the more the US and Russia confront each other militarily, the greater the threat that Syria will become an atomic Armageddon.
No matter that Assad heads Syria’s legitimate government and has every right in international law to invite the Russians to come to his aid. International law did not stop the Americans from covertly putting together the coup in Kiev that overthrew the legitimately elected government of Ukraine’s pro-Russian president Viktor Yanukovych, with hands-on help from Hillary and Bill Clinton. Nor did international law and explicit treaty obligations stop Putin from annexing Crimea.
Both the US and Russia play by the rules when it suits them. Both are rattling nuclear sabers, and not just in Syria. Both refuse to take their first-strike nuclear option off the table. And both are playing an imperial role in Syria, as are the Saudis, Qataris, Turks, and Iranians.
As I previously quoted journalist Patrick Cockburn, the conflict in Syria is infinitely complex, much like three-dimensional chess played by nine players and with no rules.
Is there a solution? The only one I can see would be a grand bargain among all the imperialists. Nothing short of that will work in the long term, and I frankly don’t think the players are ready for anything close. I hope it won’t take a nuclear blast to open their minds to change.
In the near term, the American people need to push President Hillary to stop open and covert support for the Saudi and Qatari-backed rebels, drop any idea of an American-imposed no-fly zone, back away from her Cold War, anti-Russian thinking, and look for new agreements of mutual interest similar to the one that removed most, though not all, of Bashar Assad’s chemical weapons.
Putin was more than open to that agreement. Washington needs to work with him to look for others.
Pushing Clinton will not be easy. Neither were the movements for civil rights and against the war in Vietnam.
A veteran of the Berkeley Free Speech Movement and the New Left monthly Ramparts, Steve Weissman lived for many years in London, working as a magazine writer and television producer. He now lives and works in France, where he is researching a new book, Big Money and the Corporate State: How Global Banks, Corporations, and Speculators Rule and How to Nonviolently Break Their Hold.
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