Arctic Marines: An Inside Look at the
American Marines Training in the Harshest Elements Hans Nichols / NBC Nightly News
(MARCH 25, 2017) — NBC Nightly News went to northern Norway where American marines are training with Norwegian and British troops this month in Operation Joint Viking — a show of force just a few hundred miles from Russia’s border.
KIRKENES, Norway (December 1, 2016) — An American tank full of US Marines crashes through the silence of the sub-zero pine forest around Bardufoss, far above the Arctic Circle, as unidentified drones hover overhead and yellow and green smoke fills the freezing air.
The troops’ target? A bunker up ahead, manned by Norwegian soldiers. Shots ring out as the Marines advance, crunching through the snow beneath gray winter skies.
It’s all role-play, of course — the maneuvers are part of a training exercise, but one jarringly imbued with the new reality along NATO’s northernmost border with Russia.
Some 300 US Marines are due to be based in Norway on a rotational basis from January, for a year, as part of a package of measures intended to reassure one of NATO’s most easterly members.
Although they’ll be about 1,000 kilometers (621 miles) from the border, the plan is for them to bolster the readiness of new “pre-positioned” tanks and weaponry stored throughout the year in underground caves.
But before that deployment, the US and Norway are conducting exercises above the Arctic Circle, taking Abrams tanks further north than they’ve ever been before, as part of more than a week of joint exercises.
And they are being watched intensely: Norwegian police are investigating more than 10 sightings of unidentified drones spotted observing the US and Norwegian maneuver.
A Norwegian army spokesman, Ole Johan Skogmo, said they were investigating whether the drones were related “to interested locals or other nations.”
And the reason for all this activity? In a word: Ukraine.
“In 2014, that was a clear sign that Russia has stepped in to an area where they are willing and able to use military power,” says Brigadier Eldar Bernil, of the Norwegian Army. “Suddenly we have changed focus in particular from what was going on in Afghanistan to collective national defense.”
A senior Norwegian security official told CNN there are increasing concerns about the threat posed by Russia, after their actions in Crimea and eastern Ukraine, where small scale separatist rebellions were backed up with the discreet and deniable use of Russian military might.
“We are talking about hybrid warfare,” said the unnamed official, “which is warfare under the threshold of war, where you challenge the nature of democracy, where you have free access to social media.
“It’s a war without Article 5,” he said, referring to collective defense, the central tenet of NATO, which states that an attack on one member is an attack on all NATO allies.
“Suddenly when the tension rises, you bring in the soldiers, like you did in Crimea, and say, ‘From now on, I am responsible and I will take care of you as long as you do what I say.'”
Skiing along the wire fence that marks part of the frontier, in the fading winter light, Norwegian border guards are on the lookout for their Russian neighbors. They do spot troops occasionally.
“It happens. You just salute them,” says one guard. Would they like to talk to the soldiers? “Probably, but it’s illegal.”
There are two strategies intended to deter a Crimea scenario in Norway: Firstly, the presence of armored vehicles, which would enable them to confront the little green men effectively, and would force their backers, Russia, to introduce armored vehicles into the conflict, making it clear that any attacking forces have state backing.
Secondly, the presence of US Marines, ensuring that any interference in Norwegian territory automatically involves the United States in the fight. And this heightened threat comes at a time of unprecedented political uncertainty in Washington.
Break with Tradition?
US President-elect Donald Trump’s suggestion that he may re-evaluate the nature of the NATO alliance — which he has labeled “obsolete” — has frayed nerves here in Norway.
At a remote border post on a snowy peak, within sight of Russia, a Norwegian soldier surveys the scene below through binoculars. He’s heard all about Trump’s election, he tells us, but he’s not allowed to talk about it — or what it might mean.
Under Article 5, any member in need is guaranteed military support from the US, but Trump has argued that the agreement “is costing us a fortune” and has hinted that he may consider pulling out, potentially leaving allies on Europe’s eastern border unprotected in the face of an attack.
“A year ago — [we would have] no doubt” about America’s commitment to Article 5 and our defense, the Norwegian official told CNN. “[The] US is and will be in the future our most important ally.” Yet, he went on to add that — if Mr. Trump’s policies match his campaign rhetoric — “he is about to break a very long tradition in American foreign policy.”
“If he is going to do what he has said during his election campaign, he will have to change the US way of dealing with foreign countries and create a new security model.”
The official conceded that “Trump is right when he says we have to pay a larger portion” of NATO’s funding. Allies are supposed to spend at least 2% of GDP of defense, but only five nations — the US, Greece, the UK, Estonia and Poland — meet that target.
According to NATO statistics, the US spent an estimated $650 billion on defense in 2015 — more than double the amount spent by the other 27 NATO allies put together. But with Russia resurgent, now may be exactly the wrong moment to step away from an alliance that has lasted more than 60 years.
The Norwegian official says that over the past two years, “we have gradually seen more and more . . . strategic messages being sent [by Moscow].”
He said that after Russia’s intervention in Ukraine in 2014, “we have seen a more aggressive pattern when it comes to [Russian planes] flying down the [Norwegian] coast. Submarine activity has picked up to a degree that we haven’t seen since the Cold War.”
(March 24, 2017) — The US conducts active research in the Arctic to reinforce its military presence there in the future. In particular, a Roadmap envisages glaciers which will be melted in 20 years. It comprises data on readiness of the fleet to act in the Arctic, as well as on rescue operations, security at see, control, communications, gathering and processing of information.
This has been revealed by the National Interest with a reference to Martin Jeffries, Adviser to the Office of Naval Research. As he said, they studied the Arctic with the help of underwater devices and tried to forecast when America would have to increase the number of combat vessels in the area.
And they could not do without data on the ‘Russian threat’. It is noted that the Russian Navy intends to build-up its military presence in the region, Russia has a lot of large ice-breakers and after glaciers are melted, the Russian vessels will be able to reach the North America quicker.
But the US tries not to fall behind. Military equipment is being designed which would be able to operate under the terms of low temperature, snow and ice. Technologies which would secure more effective work of weapons and detectors in the Arctic are also being developed.
As Pravda.Ru reported, it has become known that the Russian patrol vessels in the Arctic zone, known as ‘Combat ice-breakers’ of the Project 23550, will be equipped with up-to-date AK-176MA stealth guns.
Thus, the Russian marines will obtain an all-purpose combat unit, which comprises capabilities of a tug, patrol vessel and an ice-breaker. It will be able to operate both in the Tropics and overcome a 1.5m-wide ice; as well as carry out artillery shelling against sea, coastal and air targets.
Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.
Congress Just Cleared the Way for
Internet Providers to Sell your Web-browsing History The resolution is now off to the president’s desk Jacob Kastrenakes / The Verge
(March 28, 2017) — Internet providers now just need a signature from President Trump before they’re free to take, share, and even sell your web browsing history without your permission.
The House of Representatives passed a resolution today overturning an Obama-era FCC rule that required Internet providers to get customers’ permission before sharing their browsing history with other companies. The rules also required Internet providers to protect that data from hackers and inform customers of any breaches.
The resolution was first passed by the Senate last week and now heads to the president, who’s expected to sign it. At that point, there’ll only be a vague baseline of privacy rules governing Internet providers and some promises from them not to misbehave.
It’s hard to see this as anything but a major loss for consumers. While reversing the FCC’s privacy rules will technically just maintain the status quo — Internet providers have actually been able to sell your web browsing data forever (it’s just not a thing we think about all that much) — they were about to lose permission to keep doing it, unless they got explicit consent or anonymized the info.
This is an increasingly important issue as Americans spend more and more time online — and keep more and more devices with them at all times. Internet providers can see what sites you visit and what apps you use, and they can see how long you’re using them for. That information is extremely revealing, and it’s easy to imagine most people would prefer to keep their reading habits private.
“The consequences of passing this resolution are clear: broadband providers like AT&T, Comcast, and others will be able to sell your personal information to the highest bidder without your permission,” said Representative Anna Eshoo (D-CA) on the House floor this afternoon. “And no one will be able to protect you, not even the Federal Trade Commission that our friends on the other side of the aisle keep talking about.”
So why did Congress block the rules from being implemented? Republicans bought into Internet providers’ arguments that the rules discriminated against them and could confuse consumers. The rules would prevent Internet providers from selling your web browsing history even though, the argument goes, websites like Google and Facebook would remain free to do the same thing. ISPs say that’s unfair and makes it hard for consumers to understand who gets to see their browsing data.
But the argument is extremely misleading, if not outright wrong: Google and Facebook can’t see your web browsing history, they can only see what you click on while you’re on their own websites or on websites connected to their ad networks.
Meanwhile, Internet providers get to see a bit of nearly everything you do and visit; and even with the rules in place, they have every right to build the kind of ad-tracking websites that Google and Facebook have built. It’s just hard work, and they don’t want to do it.
The rules, if anything, put Internet providers on a level playing field with companies like Facebook and Google. But Republicans don’t like that it creates more work for them. “These rules do little to enhance privacy but clearly add a layer of red tape on innovators and job creators,” Representative Greg Walden (R-OR), chair of the House’s commerce committee, said ahead of the vote. The rules, he said, “have the potential to stifle one of the most innovative sectors of our economy.”
This was a common line of argument from Republican representatives, who continually conflated Internet providers with companies that build businesses connected to the Internet.
They frequently took issue with creating a distinction between these two types of companies, despite the fact the huge distinction exists: ISPs like Comcast essentially create digital roads, while companies like Google create hugely innovative businesses along those roads. There’s good reason to treat the two differently.
Republicans and Internet providers also complained that the FCC’s rules didn’t perfectly align with the Federal Trade Commission’s privacy framework, which governed Internet providers up until the 2015 net neutrality order went into effect. In reality, the differences are slight — the real argument here is just over ISP’s ability to share your browsing history.
Representative Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), chair of the House subcommittee on communications and technology, actually claimed that removing the rules would improve privacy by closing that distinction. “Consumer privacy will continue to be protected and will actually be enhanced by removing the uncertainty and confusion these rules will create,” she said.
The vote was surprisingly close, coming in at 215 in favor of the resolution and 205 against; 15 Republicans even voted in opposition.
With these rules all-but killed, the FCC will now be left without any firm regulations for Internet providers on the books. The commission may now go about proposing and passing a weaker set of restrictions that better match up with what the FTC has on the books.
In a statement following the vote, FCC chairman Ajit Pai indicated his approval of Congress’ action, saying the rules — which he voted against last year — represented commission “overreach” and were “designed to benefit one group of favored companies over another group of disfavored companies.”
Pai reiterated his intention to realign the FCC’s rules with the FTC’s weaker privacy framework. But how that’ll happen is unclear. Pai says the FCC will work with the FTC, but he also says he’d prefer to just kill the 2015 net neutrality order so that the FCC doesn’t have a say over privacy at all.
In an added blow to privacy advocates, the FCC won’t be able to pass privacy restrictions protecting all web browsing history again, since the resolution prevents it. Though the commission will, it seems, still be able to block Internet providers from sharing info related to children, banking, or medical history, which the FTC considered sensitive in the first place.
Disclosure: Comcast is an investor in Vox Media, The Verge’s parent company.
The 265 Members of Congress Who Sold You Out to ISPs,
And How Much It Cost To Buy Them They betrayed you for chump change T.C. Sottek / The Verge
(March 29, 2017) — Republicans in Congress just voted to reverse a landmark FCC privacy rule that opens the door for ISPs to sell customer data. Lawmakers provided no credible reason for this being in the interest of Americans, except for vague platitudes about “consumer choice” and “free markets,” as if consumers at the mercy of their local Internet monopoly are craving to have their web history quietly sold to marketers and any other third party willing to pay.
The only people who seem to want this are the people who are going to make lots of money from it. (Hint: they work for companies like Comcast, Verizon, and AT&T.) Incidentally, these people and their companies routinely give lots of money to members of Congress.
So here is a list of the lawmakers who voted to betray you, and how much money they received from the telecom industry in their most recent election cycle.
Note on the data below: Donations include contributions from corporations in the telecom industry and employees of those corporations (individual and non-individual contributions). The largest donors tend to be corporations which contributed funds to the candidate and/ or the candidate’s leadership organization (PAC).
All figures only reflect donations tallied for the candidate’s most recent election — many have received total sums much larger than the figure reflected over the course of their career in Congress. Figures are from federal election data compiled by the National Institute on Money in State Politics (www.followthemoney.org).
Additionally, it’s important to note that the communications industry is one of the largest lobbying groups in US history; Internet providers and the telephone companies before them are notorious for spreading wealth across the aisle. Regardless, one party seems more responsive to the industry’s demands.
MEMBER PARTY STATE TOTAL
Alexander, Lamar Republican TN $86,400
Barrasso, John Republican WY $63,000
Blunt, Roy Republican MO $185,550
Boozman, John Republican AR $56,450
Burr, Richard Republican NC $58,500
Capito, Shelley Republican WV $24,675
Cassidy, Bill Republican LA $34,909
Cochran, Thad Republican MS $123,750
Collins, Susan Republican ME $57,550
Corker, Bob Republican TN $43,600
Cornyn, John Republican TX $148,800
Cotton, Tom Republican AR $70,025
Crapo, Mike Republican ID $11,000
Cruz, Ted Republican TX $40,840
Daines, Steve Republican MT $38,700
Enzi, Mike Republican WY $45,100
Ernst, Joni Republican IA $28,200
Fischer, Debra Republican NE $21,850
Flake, Jeff Republican AZ $27,955
Gardner, Cory Republican CO $95,023
Graham, Lindsey Republican SC $74,522
Grassley, Chuck Republican IA $135,125
Hatch, Orrin Republican UT $106,750
Heller, Dean Republican NV $78,950
Hoeven, John Republican ND $25,800
Inhofe, Jim Republican OK $38,000
Johnson, Ron Republican WI $123,652
Kennedy, John Republican LA $1,000
Lankford, James Republican OK $21,000
Lee, Mike Republican UT $60,913
McCain, John Republican AZ $84,125
McConnell, Mitch Republican KY $251,110
Moran, Jerry Republican KS $130,950
Murkowski, Lisa Republican AK $66,250
Perdue, David Republican GA $37,000
Portman, Rob Republican OH $89,350
Risch, Jim Republican ID $27,000
Roberts, Pat Republican KS $100,200
Rounds, Mike Republican SD $40,166
Rubio, Marco Republican FL $75,535
Sasse, Benjamin Republican NE $31,800
Scott, Tim Republican SC $60,200
Shelby, Richard Republican AL $27,000
Strange, Luther Republican AL $0*
Sullivan, Daniel Republican AK $10,550
Thune, John Republican SD $215,000
Tillis, Thom Republican NC $41,220
Toomey, Patrick Republican PA $143,456
Wicker, Roger Republican MS $151,800
Young, Todd Republican IN $28,670
*Senator Strange was appointed to Congress in February 2017 to fill Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ seat.
US HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
MEMBER PARTY STATE DISTRICT TOTAL
Abraham, Ralph Republican LA 5th $5,750
Aderholt, Robert Republican AL 4th $26,500
Allen, Rick Republican GA 12th $9,500
Amodei, Mark Republican NV 2nd $22,000
Arrington, Jodey Republican TX 19th $8,450
Babin, Brian Republican TX 36th $8,000
Bacon, Donald Republican NE 2nd $7,000
Banks, Jim Republican IN 3rd $12,100
Barletta, Lou Republican PA 11th $14,700
Barr, Andy Republican KY 6th $28,400
Barton, Joe Republican TX 6th $39,750
Bergman, Jack Republican MI 1st $21,200
Biggs, Andy Republican AZ 5th $5,000
Bilirakis, Gus Republican FL 12th $55,000
Bishop, Mike Republican MI 8th $40,500
Bishop, Rob Republican UT 1st $5,500
Black, Diane Republican TN 6th $27,750
Blackburn, Marsha Republican TN 7th $84,000
Blum, Rodney Republican IA 1st $5,500
Bost, Mike Republican IL 12th $29,750
Brady, Kevin Republican TX 8th $20,000
Brat, David Republican VA 7th $6,000
Bridenstine, Jim Republican OK 1st $1,000
Brooks, Susan Republican IN 5th $44,300
Buchanan, Vern Republican FL 16th $18,900
Buck, Ken Republican CO 4th $15,750
Bucshon, Larry Republican IN 8th $33,000
Budd, Theodore Republican NC 13th $10,000
Burgess, Michael Republican TX 26th $39,500
Byrne, Bradley Republican AL 1st $17,500
Calvert, Ken Republican CA 42nd $12,000
Carter, Buddy Republican GA 1st $12,250
Carter, John Republican TX 31st $22,500
Chabot, Steven Republican OH 1st $25,500
Chaffetz, Jason Republican UT 3rd $38,100
Cheney, Liz Republican WY 1st $18,400
Cole, Tom Republican OK 4th $14,000
Collins, Doug Republican GA 9th $42,850
Collins, Chris Republican NY 27th $57,500
Comer, James Republican KY 1st $14,750
Comstock, Barbara Republican VA 10th $56,457
Conaway, Mike Republican TX 11th $18,500
Cook, Paul Republican CA 8th $15,000
Costello, Ryan Republican PA 6th $38,750
Cramer, Kevin Republican ND 1st $71,750
Crawford, Eric Republican AR 1st $9,000
Culberson, John Republican TX 7th $8,000
Curbelo, Carlos Republican FL 26th $45,700
Davis, Rodney Republican IL 13th $49,000
Denham, Jeffrey Republican CA 10th $47,000
Dent, Charles Republican PA 15th $25,200
DeSantis, Ron Republican FL 6th $21,634
DesJarlais, Scott Republican TN 4th $3,000
Diaz-Balart, Mario Republican FL 25th $26,500
Donovan, Daniel Republican NY 11th $16,000
Duncan, Jeff Republican SC 3rd $12,610
Dunn, Neal Republican FL 2nd $13,750
Emmer, Thomas Republican MN 6th $18,500
Farenthold, Blake Republican TX 27th $19,000
Ferguson, Anderson Republican GA 3rd $7,000
Fitzpatrick, Brian** Republican PA 8th $32,600
Fleischmann, Chuck Republican TN 3rd $18,000
Flores, Bill Republican TX 17th $40,500
Fortenberry, Jeff Republican NE 1st $3,500
Foxx, Virginia Republican NC 5th $13,250
Franks, Trent Republican AZ 8th $16,500
Frelinghuysen, Rodney Republican NJ 11th $55,456
Gaetz, Matt Republican FL 1st $7,000
Gallagher, Mike Republican WI 8th $16,019
Garrett, Tom* Republican VA 5th $3,250
Gibbs, Robert Republican OH 7th $8,000
Gohmert, Louie Republican TX 1st $8,000
Goodlatte, Bob Republican VA 6th $73,950
Gosar, Paul Republican AZ 4th $2,000
Gowdy, Harold Republican SC 4th $15,750
Granger, Kay Republican TX 12th $15,000
Graves, John Republican GA 14th $34,000
Graves, Sam Republican MO 6th $31,000
Griffith, Tim Republican AR 2nd $16,915
Griffith, Morgan Republican VA 9th $36,500
Grothman, Glenn Republican WI 6th $10,600
Guthrie, Steven Republican KY 2nd $81,500
Harper, Gregg Republican MS 3rd $33,800
Harriis, Andy Republican MD 1st $3,000
Hartzler, Vicki Republican MO 4th $10,500
Hensarling, Jeb Republican TX 5th $10,000
Hice, Jody Republican GA 10th $6,000
Higgins, Clay Republican LA 3rd $300
Holding, George Republican NC 2nd $31,100
Hollingsworth, Trey Republican IN 9th $10,000
Hudson, Richard Republican NC 8th $45,400
Huizenga, Bill Republican MI 2nd $7,500
Hultgreen, Randy Republican IL 14th $10,000
Hunter, Duncan Republican CA 50th $19,000
Hurd, William Republican TX 23rd $63,000
Issa, Darrell Republican CA 49th $66,275
Jenkins, Lynn Republican KS 2nd $34,750
Jenkins, Evan Republican WV 3rd $10,000
Johnson, Bill Republican OH 6th $56,500
Johnson, Sam Republican TX 3rd $16,700
Jordan, James Republican OH 4th $24,750
Joyce, David Republican OH 14th $16,500
Katko, John Republican NY 24th $32,250
Kelly, Trent Republican MS 1st $3,300
Kelly, Mike Republican PA 3rd $34,700
King, Steve Republican IA 4th $20,500
King, Peter Republican NY 2nd $9,000
Kinzinger, Adam Republican IL 16th $75,250
Knight, Steve Republican CA 25th $32,500
Kustoff, David Republican TN 8th $16,300
Labrador, Raul Republican ID 1st $10,000
LaHood, Darin Republican IL 18th $15,500
LaMalfa, Doug Republican CA 1st $5,000
Lamborn, Doug Republican CO 5th $28,400
Lance, Leonard Republican NJ 7th $43,000
Latta, Bob Republican OH 5th $91,000
Lewis, Jason Republican MN 2nd $10,500
LoBiondo, Frank Republican NJ 2nd $14,500
Long, Billy Republican MO 7th $57,250
Loudermilk, Barry Republican GA 11th $8,000
Love, Mia Republican UT 4th $16,500
Lucas, Frank Republican OK 3rd $14,500
Luetkemeyer, Blaine Republican MO 3rd $21,000
MacArthur, Tom Republican NJ 3rd $19,000
Marchant, Kenny Republican TX 24th $12,000
Marshall, Roger Republican KS 1st $20,500
Massie, Thomas Republican KY 4th $2,750
Mast, Brian Republican FL 18th $10,500
McCarthy, Kevin Republican CA 23rd $99,100
McCaul, Michael Republican TX 10th $37,200
McHenry, Patrick Republican NC 10th $51,000
McKinley, David Republican WV 1st $24,500
McSally, Martha Republican AZ 2nd $40,500
Meadows, Mark Republican NC 11th $4,000
Meehan, Patrick Republican PA 7th $64,200
Messer, Luke Republican IN 6th $18,750
Mitchell, Paul** Republican MI 10th $10,000
McMorris-Rogers, Cathy** Republican WA 5th $75,900
Moolenaar, John Republican MI 4th $12,500
Mooney, Alexander Republican WV 2nd $6,000
Mullin, Markwayne Republican OK 2nd $47,250
Murphy, Timothy Republican PA 18th $26,000
Newhouse, Daniel Republican WA 4th $10,000
Noem, Kristi Republican SD 1st $38,200
Nunes, Devin Republican CA 22nd $37,750
Olson, Pete Republican TX 22nd $57,500
Palazzo, Steven Republican MS 4th $11,100
Palmer, Gary Republican AL 6th $2,000
Paulsen, Erik Republican MN 3rd $50,500
Pearce, Steve Republican NM 2nd $20,400
Perry, Scott Republican PA 4th $17,000
Poe, Ted Republican TX 2nd $23,000
Poliquin, Bruce Republican ME 2nd $47,500
Posey, Bill Republican FL 8th $3,000
Ratcliffe, John Republican TX 4th $24,500
Reed, Thomas Republican NY 23rd $31,500
Renacci, Jim Republican OH 16th $48,000
Rice, Hugh Republican SC 7th $18,500
Roby, Martha Republican AL 2nd $33,200
Roe, Phil Republican TN 1st $500
Rogers, Mike Republican AL 3rd $25,000
Rogers, Hal Republican KY 5th $12,500
Rohrabacher, Dana Republican CA 48th $1,350
Rokita, Todd Republican IN 4th $20,200
Rooney, Laurence Republican FL 19th $16,625
Rooney, Tom Republican FL 17th $19,000
Roskam, Peter Republican IL 6th $33,600
Ross, Dennis Republican FL 15th $17,000
Rothfus, Keith Republican PA 12th $30,900
Rouzer, David Republican NC 7th $15,000
Royce, Edward Republican CA 39th $14,000
Russell, Steven Republican OK 5th $16,450
Rutherford, John Republican FL 4th $6,000
Scalise, Steve Republican LA 1st $121,750
Schweikert, David Republican AZ 6th $4,000
Scott, James Republican GA 8th $6,000
Sensenbrenner, Jim Republican WI 5th $30,000
Sessions, Pete Republican TX 32nd $40,400
Shimkus, John Republican IL 15th $104,425
Shuster, Bill Republican PA 9th $35,500
Smith, Jason Republican MO 8th $47,500
Smith, Adrian Republican NE 3rd $28,500
Smith, Christopher Republican NJ 4th $6,000
Smith, Lamar Republican TX 21st $56,200
Smucker, Lloyd Republican PA 16th $8,000
Stewart, Chris Republican UT 2nd $12,500
Stivers, Steve Republican OH 15th $27,000
Taylor, Scott** Republican VA 2nd $14,000
Tenney, Claudia Republican NY 22nd $8,500
Thompson, Glenn Republican PA 5th $16,500
Thornberry, Mac Republican TX 13th $32,025
Tiberi, Patrick Republican OH 12th $53,250
Tipton, Scott Republican CO 3rd $23,500
Trott, Dave Republican MI 11th $12,500
Turner, Mike Republican OH 10th $6,000
Upton, Fred Republican MI 6th $108,250
Valadao, David Republican CA 21st $37,400
Wagner, Ann Republican MO 2nd $45,750
Walberg, Timothy Republican MI 7th $38,500
Walden, Gregory Republican OR 2nd $155,100
Walker, Bradley Republican NC 6th $16,750
Walorski, Jackie Republican IN 2nd $21,250
Walters, Mimi Republican CA 45th $47,450
Weber, Randy Republican TX 14th $4,000
Webster, Daniel Republican FL 11th $2,500
Wenstrup, Brad Republican OH 2nd $9,400
Westerman, Bruce Republican AR 4th $11,000
Williams, Roger Republican TX 25th $5,500
Wilson, Joe Republican SC 2nd $11,500
Wittman, Rob Republican VA 1st $11,050
Womack, Steve Republican AR 3rd $15,500
Woodall, Rob Republican GA 7th $9,250
Yoho, Ted Republican FL: 3rd $4,000
Young, Don Republican AK 1st $28,650
Young, David Republican IA 3rd $41,750
* Data for this representative obtained from the Virginia Public Access Project.
** Data for this representative obtained from Open Secrets.
(March 30, 2017) â€“ Tuesday, Republicans in the House of Representatives joined Republicans in the Senate to get rid of consumer privacy rights. With the election of Donald Trump and other Republicans, the chance to do some real schilling for big telecoms at the expense of citizens was too great for them to pass up.
After the Republican Senate voted last week to do their part, a net-neutrality advocate in Chattanooga, Tennessee named Adam McElhaney decided to start a GoFundMe page to raise funds to purchase online info on the very Republican politicians who sold out the American public to private privacy privateers. McElhaney was hoping to collect around $10,000. On March 31, after just five days, McElhaney has raised more than $182,800.
Here is Adam McElhaney’s statement from his GoFundMe site”:
I am Adam McElhaney, a privacy activist & net neutrality advocate from Chattanooga, Tennessee. I think that your private Internet history should be yours. I also believe your Internet should be neutral.
I am raising money to help secure those freedoms. It is my ultimate hope that we will be able to use the donations to restore our right to privacy.
I have laid out a plan on our course of action. This isn’t going to be easy and this will not be quick. I’m going to continue fighting for you.
Should something happen and I fail you, I want you to know that this money belongs to you and our cause. I have no intentions of keeping a nickel. I have no intentions of withdrawing any money until I am certain I can deliver.
GoFundMe let me know that offering to route certain people’s donations to different organizations is complex. That said, if we can’t buy the data in the end for whatever reason, we’ll send funds to EFF [the Electronic Freedom Foundation] so they can continue fighting for this mission. Refunds will still be possible too.
It will be your choice. But I am not giving up and neither should you. We are stronger united.
What Started It All:
Thanks to the Senate for passing S.J.Res 34, now your Internet history can be bought.
I plan on purchasing the Internet histories of all legislators, congressmen, executives, and their families and make them easily searchable at searchinternethistory.com.
Everything from their medical, pornographic, to their financial and infidelity.
Anything they have looked at, searched for, or visited on the Internet will now be available for everyone to comb through.
Help me raise money to buy the histories of those who took away your right to privacy for just thousands of dollars from telephone and ISPs. Your private data will be bought and sold to marketing companies, law enforcement.
Let’s turn the tables. Let’s buy THEIR history and make it available.
Whose Internet History Should Be Purchased First?
Voting is now closed and the results are in! Total Votes: 66,997
Speaker of the House
Total Votes: 23,773 (35%)
Total Votes: 17,582 (26%)
Senate Majority Leader
Total Votes: 15,545 (23%)
Chairman of the FCC
Total Votes: 9,750 (14%)
Check me out on Twitter @windmarble or Facebook to see who I am. I didn’t censor any of my accounts or pictures. What you see is what you get. Yes, I use social media.
I understand that what I put on the Internet is out there and not private. Those are the risks you assume. I’m not ashamed of what I put out on the Internet. However, I don’t think that what I lookup on the Internet, what sites I visit, my browsing habits, should be bought and sold to whoever. Without my consent.
Join me in the fight to turn the tables and do whatever it takes to take back your privacy.
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Shock Tactics: How the Arms Industry Trades on Our Fear of Terrorism In his book Indefensible — Seven Myths That Sustain the Global Arms Trade, Paul Holden points to the weapons industry’s role in generating today’s wars Paul Holden / The Guardian
(March 20, 2017) — A few years after the millennium, the world was at its most peaceable in recorded history. Nonetheless, a 2006 Gallup poll revealed that 76% of Americans believed that the world was, in that year, more dangerous than it had been any time in the recent past.
What might explain this? Some reasons lie in the psychology of threat perception. Threats that are new and unknown will figure more highly than those that are familiar — even if the latter are objectively greater. Threats that are incalculable or somehow alien will be seen as their worst possible manifestations. We are irrationally scared of sharks. Events that are on the TV news will be more salient than those we read about in the papers or in specialist articles, or which never reach the media at all.
Other reasons lie in the deliberate or casual misrepresentation by politicians. Playing to people’s fears — including exaggerating those fears — is the oldest trick in the politician’s playbook. This is where the arms business enters, as an accessory to this trick.
And there can be no doubt that the terrorist crime of 11 September 2001 generated deep fears among western (and especially American) publics. Not only were civilian airliners turned into weapons of conspicuous destruction, but the subsequent anthrax scare drew attention to the dangers of chemical and biological warfare agents in the hands of non-state actors bent solely on devastation.
The fear that Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein possessed nuclear weapons ready to launch on a hair trigger evoked still deeper fears. The ideologies of al-Qaida militants, and more recently Isis, are so alien and demonic that people are deeply afraid that the worst may transpire.
Fortunately, those fears are massively disproportionate to the actual threats. In 2013, for example, [a Gallup poll showed that] 11% of US citizens were very worried, and 29% somewhat worried, that someone in their family would be a victim of terrorism.
But, that same year, the US government confirmed that only 16 American citizens (not including soldiers) had been killed as a result of terrorism worldwide. In fact, you are more likely as a US citizen to drown in your bathtub (a one in 800,000 chance) than die from terrorism (a one in 3.8 million chance).
And even this may be an overestimate: in 2013 the Washington Post reported that, based on the previous five years, there was only a one in 20 million chance of dying in a terrorist attack: two times less likely than dying from a lightning strike. Toddlers, using weapons found in their own homes, have killed more Americans than terrorists in recent years.
Of course, one would hope that the US government’s spending on the “war on terror” would make America safe (or at least safer) from terrorist attacks. The low numbers of Americans killed by foreign terrorists could equally be taken as a sign that the US Department of Homeland Security, the CIA, the National Security Agency and the Department of Defense are doing their job well.
However, it is crucial to consider that the “war on terror” might have been a horrendous error. Such an argument runs like this: the attempt to impose a military solution on complicated political problems was simplified thinking with a false promise of total national safety.
In turn, the militarisation of the response — as seen in the massive expansion of military deployments, arms spending, and the license to do anything in pursuit of national security — has in reality worsened the problem of armed violence in the world.
This argument begins with an important fact: transnational terrorism is on the decline. As Todd Sandler argues in a 2014 article assessing how we study and track acts of terrorism, by the major indices that detail terrorism, the decline is substantial.
[This] decline had set in well before 2001. If we take the number of fatalities caused by terrorists, 2001 marks a clear spike, because of 11 September. But a single spike, however terrible, is not indicative of a statistical trend.
Looking back, it seems that the counter-terror policies of the 1980s and 1990s, aimed at pressuring governments to end state sponsorship of terrorist organisations, was actually working, and 9/11 was an exceptional and tragic outlier.
One thing that happened in the aftermath of the trauma of 9/11 was “threat inflation”: political leaders and pundits inflated the perils that America was facing.
Threat inflation is remarkably easy to do.The difference between popular fears and realities is well known to domestic politicians and policemen. A 2011 Gallup poll found that 68% of Americans think crime is on the rise. In fact, between 1993 and 2012, the violent crime rate (homicide, robbery, rape and aggravated assault) in the United States dropped by just under 50%.
The security sector has a strong record of engaging in threat inflation. During the early stages of the cold war, for example, American policymakers and military leaders loudly worried about first a “bomber gap” and then a “missile gap”, claiming that the USSR was massively outpacing US production of bombers and nuclear missiles.
In 1959, US intelligence estimates suggested that the USSR would be in possession of between 1,000 and 1,500 nuclear-capable intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) compared to America’s paltry 100. In reality, by September 1961, the USSR had only four ICBMs at its disposal, “less than one half of one percent of the missiles expected by US intelligence”, as Stephen Van Evera points out. More recently, Saddam Hussein turned out not to possess weapons of mass destruction after all.
The practice extends, as retired Air Force Lieutenant-Colonel William Astore notes, to North Korean ballistic missiles, Iranian nuclear weapons production and increased Chinese military production.
While all are real concerns, they “pale in comparison to the global reach and global power of the United States military . . . All this breathless threat inflation keeps the money rolling (along with the caissons) into the military”.
[There is a] tendency to conflate a sense of security with one’s actual security, which can often be hugely different. It is entirely possible to feel secure when you’re actually very insecure (sitting in your cosy home on a normal night when there is in fact an intruder outside), and feel very insecure when you’re really safe.
If you are bombarded with images of violence and war, especially if those images are framed in terms of threat, they are likely to make you feel deeply insecure, even if the reality is somewhat different.
Nowhere is this tendency more pronounced than in relation to defence issues and the global arms industry. Many scholars point to how particular players — the defence industry, the military, like-minded leaders and a pliant commercial press — can collude to create magnified perceptions of threat to justify unpopular military endeavours, pursue particular foreign policy ideologies and divert massive financial resources to the industries and individuals who will be paid to defuse the threat . . .
. . . The blowback — or perhaps “blow-around” — from the 2003 invasion of Iraq is turning out to be [extremely] serious. Where do we see the most significant uptick in armed violence over the last decade? The places are all those affected by the Iraqi civil war and attendant militant extremism (Iraq itself, Syria), or by attempts to win the “war on terror” primarily by military means (Afghanistan, Somalia, Yemen), or the fallout of western military intervention (Libya and the Sahara).
The South Sudanese civil war is an outlier — but the South Sudanese leadership was initially embraced by the US as a bulwark against terrorists in Khartoum and western governments turned a blind eye to their vast and corrupt arms purchases.
And Russian president Vladimir Putin explains and justifies his bellicose posture, including his actions in Ukraine and involvement in Syria, as no more than exercising the right of national security to override international norms, as the US invoked in Iraq.
Take the conflict that has almost single-handedly pushed up current conflict deaths to early 1990s levels — the devastating civil war in Syria. While the conflict in that country is driven by multiple factors — a dictatorial regime, regional spillovers of extremism, an international community that has shifted between vacillation and interference — there is no doubt that the level of violence in that country is a direct result of decades of arms transfers to the region.
As we’ve discussed previously, the spectacular success of Isis in Syria and more widely has in large part been facilitated by the fact that they have been able to seize enormous quantities of arms, particularly in Iraq. There are, in fact, so many arms in the region, and more arriving every day, that if parties want to carry on fighting, they could do so for generations.
In short, almost everywhere we see a recently escalating conflict, the fingerprints of the global arms business and its political fellow travellers can be found, both in provoking conflict and in profiting from it.
To repeat: we do not argue that these wars are deliberately engineered by arms manufacturers and traders. But the entanglement of the arms business in the political decisions generating today’s wars demands our scrutiny. We cannot take the claims of the defence and security lobbies at face value.
Indefensible: Seven Myths That Sustain the Global Arms Trade, written by Paul Holden, is published by Zed Books (Â£12.99). Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.
(January 15, 2017) — As Michael Payne puts it, “The War on Terror is not a war unto itself; it is just one facet of the larger agenda of perpetual war that this government, filled with bloodthirsty war hawks, has conducted for far too long.”
For the last 15 years America has been engaged in perpetual war.
Our government tells us to be afraid, and that terrorist groups pose a great threat to our country. But America has played the largest role in the origin, spread, and cultivation of these terrorist groups with our constant aggressive military policies.
It is time for the United States to end this state of perpetual war, to bring our troops home, and to cease our aggressive military policies.
Please join us in telling President Obama to stop the war on terror. We need to promote peace and communication between countries, not aggressive foreign policy and military practices.
For every 1,000 signatures, NationofChange will send a letter to President Trump, telling him to end the US policy of perpetual war.
Update 3/16/17: We have sent the first letter to President Trump with 1,000+ of your signatures. We will continue to send letters every 1,000 signatures. Thank you!
ACTION: End the US Policy of Perpetual War. Sing here.
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(March 23, 2017) — Since President Donald Trump took office, we’ve heard plenty about Russia. Some have said tensions with the country could lead to conflict — even another world war. In this podcast special, Reveal host Al Letson talks to former top NATO commander Richard Shirreff, who also spells out these fears — which are very real for him — in his new novel.
(March 28, 2017) — Pentagon missiles in Europe and warships patrolling Russia’s borders could lead to nuclear war, warned Vladimir Putin’s military bosses. The anti-ballistic missile system (ABM) is provoking a “new arms race” and scuppers Russia’s ability to defend itself from a nuke strike, they said. Russian military bosses warned the ABM “lowers the threshold for use of nuclear weapons” and increases the risk of “sudden nuclear attack”.
“The presence of the global ABM system lowers the threshold for the use of nuclear weapons, because it gives the US the illusion of impunity for using strategic offensive weapons from under the protection of the ABM ‘umbrella,'” said Viktor Poznikhir, top brass for the Russian general staff. He added: “The ABM shield is a symbol of the build-up of rocket forces in the world and a trigger for a new arms race.”
Scientists previously warned the US’s new nuclear weapons could force Putin’s hand into a nuclear conflict.
Poznikhir said: “The presence of American ABM sites in Europe and ABM-capable ships in the seas and oceans close to Russia’s territory creates a powerful clandestine potential for delivering a surprise nuclear missile strike against Russia.”
US attempts to trump Russia and China are heighting the risk of nuclear war, the Kremlin warned. The stark warning came at a nuclear disarmament conference in Geneva.
Poznikhir said the US missile shield “narrows down the opportunity for nuclear reduction dialogue.” He said the Pentagon is developing the missile system to face Iran and North Korea, but ignoring objections raised by Russia.
Russia warns the US will have 1,000 missiles at its fingertips which could pose a threat to them by 2020.
Top Military Brass Warns US Missile
Defense Ships in Black and Baltic Seas Can Hit Russia TASS
GENEVA (March 28, 2017) — US naval groups in the Black and Baltic seas are capable of hitting targets in Russia West of the Ural mountains with Tomahawk cruise missiles having a range of 2,500 kilometers, the deputy chief of the Russian General Staff’s Main Operations Directorate, Lieutenant-General Viktor Poznikhir, told a joint Russian-Chinese news briefing on missile defense issues at the disarmament conference in Geneva on Tuesday.
“Missile defense ships in the Black and Baltic seas pose a threat to facilities in the European part of Russia, because it is unclear what missiles the Mk-41 launchers carry at a given moment,” Poznikhir said.
He said the US cruisers and destroyers armed with interceptor missiles are also suitable for launching Tomahawk cruise missiles having a range of 2,500 kilometers.
“Each Ticonderoga class cruiser has 128 Mk-41 launchers that can be loaded with interceptor missiles or Tomahawk cruise missiles. The Arleigh Burke destroyer has 96 launchers. Potentially the US missile defense ships can be armed with more than 1,000 Tomahawk cruise missiles,” Poznikhir said.
The missile defense bases in Romania and Poland, he said, are equipped with similar universal launchers Mk-41.
“All speculations to the effect the ground-based Mk-41 launchers are allegedly unable to launch cruise missiles do not hold water. The interceptors at the missile bases in Europe can be stealthily and promptly armed with Tomahawks that can attack targets in the whole of Russia’s European part,” Poznikhir said.
“It should be remembered that the possibility of using the naval missile launchers on the ground for accommodating the Tomahawk cruise missiles is a crude violation of the 1987 INF treaty. Russia has more than once notified its US partners of its concerns about such violations of international commitments. There has been no response to this day, though,” he stated.
Some 20 Topol-M, Yars Mobile ICBM Systems
Take Part in Massive Central Russian Drills TASS
(March 28, 2017) — MOSCOW, March 28. /TASS/. Over 20 road-mobile Topol-M and Yars intercontinental ballistic missile systems are being deployed in the field during large-scale exercises currently under way in Central Russia, the Russian Defense Ministry said Tuesday.
The exercise of Russia’s Strategic Missile Forces (RVSN) began in Central Russia’s Ivanovo Region on Monday night.
“In one day, about 20 Topol-M and Yars missile systems are to be deployed in the field,” a defense ministry spokesperson said.
The exercise will also involve more than 3,000 servicemen and more than 200 pieces of military hardware. During the drills, RVSN’s anti-terrorism units will train measures to detect, block and eliminate militant groups.
In total, RVSN’s checks to sum up the results of the winter training period will involve more than 10,000 servicemen and 1,000 military vehicles from over 35 military formations.
Planned Russian Exercises in September Sow NATO Worries Biggest Baltic exercises ever come at same time as drills in Sweden, raising concerns over risk of miscalculation Julian E. Barnes / The Wall Street Journal
BRUSSELS (March 28, 2017) â€”Western military commanders are concerned that large-scale Russian military exercises near the Baltic states in September pose heightened risks for a miscalculation that could lead to a crisis, allied officials said.
The Russian exercises, which Western officials estimate will involve nearly 100,000 troops, will be the first to roll out after the new North Atlantic Treaty Organization force in the region reaches full strength. They will also take place at the same time as military drills by Western forces in Sweden, across the Baltic Sea.
US and NATO officers have warned this year’s version of Russia’s annual Zapad exercises could create more tensions than they have in years, even recalling those that arose during the Cold War.
NATO diplomats and their Russia counterparts will hold a meeting Thursday of the NATO-Russia Council, the alliance announced Tuesday. While the Zapad exercises aren’t on the agenda, the ambassadors are expected to discuss Russia’s military buildup in the region, particularly in its Baltic Sea exclave of Kaliningrad, and as well as details about the continuing deployment of the NATO force in Poland, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia.
The US troops committed to that NATO force will arrive at their training base in Poland on Saturday. German troops are in place in Lithuania and the entire force is due to be operational by the summer. The alliance force is relatively small at roughly 4,000 troops, but Moscow has criticized it as destabilizing.
For the Russians, the Zapad exercises will be a chance to practice detecting, jamming and targeting allied forces with drones and advanced artillery, while spreading disinformation about its forcesâ€”techniques they employed in Ukraine. But they will also offer the US and its allies a window on how Russia undertakes such efforts.
The Baltic states have raised particular concerns about the Zapad exercises, which are being conducted jointly by Russia and Belarus. Lithuania’s president has said they show Moscow is preparing for war with the West. Allied officials have noted that Russia used military exercises to hide preparations for the annexation of Crimea and support for separatists in eastern Ukraine.
Many officials are on edge that an error by an alliance or Russian soldier, such as misreading a drill as an aggressive act, could quickly escalate into a crisis if one side were to respond with force. An incident such as a crashed jet fighter could also raise questions about whether an accident or aggression by the other side occurred.
Senior NATO and American officials say they have precautions in place to minimize the chance of miscalculations. NATO forces will avoid holding exercises close to the Russian border during the Russian drill.
“We will be alert, we will be very vigilant. But we don’t want it to turn into a face-off during their biggest exercise of the year,” said Gen. Ben Hodges, the top US Army commander in Europe, said at a recent training event for the American unit joining the NATO force.
While US forces are “designed not to provoke a conflict but to prevent a conflict,” an official with the US European Command said Tuesday, Russia “continues to increase the intensity of its military activity while operating with an inadequate level of transparency.”
Alexander Grushko, Russia’s ambassador to NATO, declined to comment on the Zapad exercises. But he said the flexible format of Thursday’s meeting with the alliance would allow consideration of “issues related to regional security” and other military activities. Russian officials have expressed hope that the alliance and Moscow are moving to more regular meetings.
September is the traditional month for military exercises and Sweden, a close NATO partner, is planning its biggest military exercise in two decades at the same time.
The Swedish exercise will involve the US and more than a half-dozen NATO allies. Some 19,000 troops will be involved in practicing for the territorial defense of Sweden, including Gotland Island, which US officials consider critical for ensuring allied access to the Baltic States.
Swedish officials said they were aware of the Zapad exercises and would be using caution to ensure no errors occur.
The US contribution to the NATO force is planning its own exercises, including an August drill with Polish and Lithuanian forces to simulate an operation to keep open the Suwalki Gap on the two countries’ border in the event of a Russian incursion.
In an effort to avert miscalculations, the top NATO commander, US Army Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti, will take peacetime control of strategic communications, exercises and force posture.
NATO has long criticized Russia for not opening its exercises up to observers and has said it is far more transparent with its drills. The two sides have been briefing each other in the NATO-Russia Council sessions about exercises.
Russia has said the Zapad exercise will involve 3,000 troops, below the number requiring notification. Retired Gen Philip Breedlove, the former top NATO commander, has estimated 100,000 troops, however, and alliance officials have said it would be the largest exercise ever on the border of the Baltic states.
Write to Julian E. Barnes at email@example.com
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Donald Trump’s Disastrous Plan To Derail US Climate Action Alissa Scheller and Alexander C. Kaufman / The Huffington Post
(March 28, 2017) — President Donald Trump signed a sweeping executive order on Tuesday aimed at reversing much of former President Barack Obama’s efforts to shrink the United States’ carbon footprint.
The long-awaited order instructs the Environmental Protection Agency to review the Clean Power Plan, the Obama administration’s signature policy for slashing greenhouse gas emissions from the utility sector, by far the country’s biggest emitter. This review marks the first step toward scrapping the regulation.
“Perhaps no single regulation threatens our miners, energy workers and companies more than this crushing attack on American industry,” Trump said at the 2 p.m. signing at the EPA. “We’re ending the theft of American prosperity and rebuilding our beloved country.”
Trump’s order also directs the Department of the Interior to lift a temporary ban, put in place last year, on coal leasing on federal lands. In addition, it eliminates federal guidance instructing agencies to factor climate change into policymaking and disbands a team tasked with calculating the “social cost of carbon.”
By undoing the Clean Power Plan, the Trump administration is putting projected carbon emissions back on an upward trajectory. It is also abandoning any hope of meeting the US emissions reduction targets set out in 2015 in the 195-country Paris Agreement, the first global climate pact to include China and the US, the world’s top polluters.
China ratified the Paris climate deal in September. In January, Chinese President Xi Jinping urged the US not to withdraw from the agreement. Trump’s executive order does not contain language critical of the Paris accord, reflecting pressure from Trump’s few advisers who don’t take a hard-line stance against climate science.
To be sure, the Trump administration can’t just get rid of the Clean Power Plan outright. In his previous role as Oklahoma’s attorney general, EPA chief Scott Pruitt sued the Obama administration to block the plan, claiming the rule overstepped the EPA’s legal mandate.
In a victory for Pruitt and other Republican state attorneys general, the Supreme Court issued a stay on implementing the plan in February 2016. But the high court’s 2007 ruling in Massachusetts v. EPA, which categorized greenhouse gases as a pollutant, legally compels the federal environmental agency to police emissions.
“It looks like there’s going to be a reopening of the whole question of the best way, the legal way, to get at the largest source of greenhouse gas pollution in our country, which is the fossil fuel-fired power plants,” Frank Rambo, head of clean energy and air pollution at the nonprofit Southern Environmental Law Center, told The Huffington Post in an interview ahead of the order’s release.
Environmentalists are likely to sue to protect the Clean Power Plan, forcing the White House to prove in court that the regulation meets the legal standard of “arbitrary and capricious.” To successfully employ this standard to overturn a previous court ruling, White House attorneys would have to debunk the overwhelming scientific consensus that global warming is man-made.
The biggest problem with dismantling the Clean Power Plan is that the plan itself represents only a preliminary step toward reaching emissions reduction goals. Even if the plan were to be perfectly implemented, the US would still be progressing only halfway toward achieving its emissions goals for 2025. Trump may fail to completely undo the plan, but his administration seems unlikely to enact other policies to reduce emissions.
Trump pledged to boost the US economy by gutting environmental regulations he blames for holding back businesses. Earlier this month, he proposed slashing the EPA budget by nearly one-third, eliminating popular programs like Energy Star and hampering the agency’s enforcement division. The EPA already rescinded a rule this month requiring oil and gas drillers to report leaks of methane, a greenhouse gas 40 times more potent than carbon dioxide.
Kneecapping US participation in the Paris Agreement could jeopardize the future of the deal itself. The accord, signed in December 2015, set out global emissions targets far below what’s required to prevent world temperatures from surpassing the 3.6-degree Fahrenheit increase that scientists say will irreversibly damage human civilization.
The language of the Paris deal urges the United Nations to reconvene every five years to set new, more stringent goals. If a country as wealthy and powerful as the US fails to meet its baseline commitments, it’s unlikely that poor, developing countries that depend on fossil fuels to grow their economies will make ambitious emissions cuts themselves.
The failure of previous global deals, such as the 1992 Kyoto Protocol, hinged in large part on the US’s refusal to implement emission cuts. And already, Trump has proposed curtailing payments to the U.N.-administered Green Climate Fund, which helps poorer countries build renewable energy infrastructure and prepare for the effects of climate change.
“The world is safer when America is strong,” Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said in a speech before Trump. “Our strength relies on energy.”
(March 29, 2017) — Leaders across the globe are speaking out against President Donald Trump’s executive order rolling back Obama-era policies to curb greenhouse gas emissions, criticizing the move as a setback in the global fight against climate change.
Trump’s order begins the process of reversing regulations put in place by former President Barack Obama to reduce the nation’s carbon footprint. Specifically, the order instructs the Environmental Protection Agency to review Obama’s Clean Power Plan. The order also instructs the Department of the Interior to lift the temporary ban on new coal leases on federal lands.
These moves greatly diminish the United States’ chances of meeting the emissions targets agreed to in the 2015 Paris Agreement, an international climate deal signed by 195 countries with the goal of limiting global temperatures to 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.
After Trump signed the order, many countries reaffirmed their commitment to the Paris deal. Among those speaking out was China, now seen as the de facto global leader on climate policy.
“No matter how other countries’ policies on climate change change, as a responsible large developing country, China’s resolve, aims and policy moves in dealing with climate change will not change,” China Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said Wednesday.
“We are willing to work with the international community to strengthen dialogue and cooperation, to join hands to promote the process of tackling climate change to jointly promote green, low carbon sustainable development for the whole world, to create an even better future for the next generation.”
Laurent Fabius, who played a major role in the Paris climate talks when he was France’s foreign minister, said Trump’s order is a setback for the fight against rising global temperatures.
“The initial decisions from the new US president’s administration concerning the battle against global warming constitute a very serious step backwards,” he said in a statement.
Miguel Arias CaÃ±ete, the European Union’s top climate official, also spoke out against the US president, but vowed to uphold the EU’s commitment to the Paris Agreement.
“We regret the US is rolling back the main pillar of its climate policy, the clean power plan,” he said in a statement. “The continued leadership of the EU, China and many other major economies is now more important than ever. When it comes to climate and the global clean energy transition, there cannot be vacuums, there can only be drivers, and we are committed to driving this agenda forward.”
Germany’s environment minister, Barbara Hendricks, warned Trump that reversing Obama’s climate policies could hurt the American economy as other nations take the lead on renewable energy.
“Whoever tries to change into reverse gear is only going to harm themselves,” she said.
Mollie Reilly is Deputy Politics Editor at The Huffington Post
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Between 2011 and 2014, there were 153 social conflicts based on problems with mining and access to water, most of them reported in the region of Catamarca.
(March 27, 2017) — With a majority voting “No” in a popular referendum Sunday, local communities in Peru’s northern province of Cajamarca scored a landslide victory against transnational mining giant Anglo Gold Ashanti, likely putting a definitive end to the La Colosa project and setting a precedent for the whole country.
According to the preliminary results — 20 percent of the vote is still to be disclosed — almost 98 percent of local residents rejected the extraction project in the area, corresponding to more than 6,000 votes.
The result is now expected to force local authorities to prohibit mining in the town, according to lawyer Diana Rodriguez consulted by daily El Espectador.
However, Anglo Gold Ashanti’s representative in Colombia Carlos Enciso told the daily that the consequences will be “minimal,” quoting a recent ruling issued by the state’s council that the effects of the popular consult cannot be retroactive, but only applies to future projects.
Rodriguez responded that the ruling is not binding and can be appealed, while the government is entitled to question the mining company’s right to exploit its territory.
Although popular and local support is not necessarily a requirement for this kind of project, the government and the companies have historically acknowledged its importance, and a correct and ethical firm should understand such a level of rejection as a sign to remove the project, said Rodriguez.
Between 2011 and 2014, there were 153 social conflicts based on problems with mining and access to water according to the state ombudsman — a high number of those cases occurring in the region of Cajamarca.
Mining companies in Cajamarca claim that they only consume 1 percent of the water resources but researchers show that such calculations correspond to official studies made in 1979, while today it actually uses 128 million cubic meters of water every year with agriculture only uses 68 million cubic meters, according to UNESCO.
Another problem is that current legislation lets mining companies use water resources before an official environmental impact study is finished. And once the study is finished, there are no institutions with the resources to enforce the resulting rules and regulations to protect the water.
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Panic Spreads in Iraq, Syria as Record Numbers
Of Civilians Are Reported Killed in US Strikes Loveday Morris and Liz Sly / The Washington Post
(March 29, 2017) — A sharp rise in the number of civilians reported killed in US-led airstrikes in Iraq and Syria is spreading panic, deepening mistrust and triggering accusations that the United States and its partners may be acting without sufficient regard for lives of noncombatants.
The increase comes as local ground forces backed by air support from a US-led coalition close in on the Islamic State’s two main urban bastions — Raqqa in Syria and Mosul in Iraq.
In front-line neighborhoods in western Mosul, families described cowering in basements for weeks as bombs rained down around them and the Islamic State battled from their rooftops. Across the border in Raqqa, residents desperately trying to flee before an offensive begins are being blocked by the militants, who frequently use civilians as human shields.
Throughout his election campaign, President Trump pledged to target Islamic State militants more aggressively, criticizing the US air campaign for being too “gentle” and asking for a reassessment of battlefield rules. The United States has denied there has been any shift and defended the conduct of its campaign.
But figures compiled by monitoring organizations and interviews with residents paint an increasingly bloody picture, with the number of casualties in March already surpassing records for a single month.
The worst alleged attack was in Mosul, where rescue teams are still digging out bodies after what residents describe as a hellish onslaught in the Mosul al-Jadida neighborhood during the battle to retake it two weeks ago.
Iraqi officials and residents say as many as 200 died in US-led strikes, with more than 100 bodies recovered from a single building. The wooden carts that residents use to carry vegetables and other wares in the once busy market area instead ferried out cadavers recovered from the rubble last week.
The US-led coalition, which has acknowledged carrying out a strike against militants in the area, says it is investigating the reports. “If we did it, and I’d say there’s at least a fair chance that we did, it was an unintentional accident of war,” Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend, the top US commander for Iraq and Syria, said Tuesday at the Pentagon.
Amnesty International on Tuesday said the coalition was not taking sufficient precautions to prevent civilian deaths in Mosul, in a “flagrant violation” of international humanitarian law.
It was just one of numerous incidents across Iraq and Syria in recent weeks that have raised concerns that the United States has flouted rules requiring it to protect civilians. In both countries, politicians and activists say the high numbers of deaths are spreading alarm among civilians and sowing distrust of the US-backed campaign advancing toward their homes.
“People used to feel safe when the American planes were in the sky, because they knew they didn’t hit civilians,” said Hussam Essa, a founder of Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently, which monitors violence in Raqqa province. “They were only afraid of the Russian and regime planes. But now they are very afraid of the American airstrikes.” American planes are “targeting everywhere,” he said.
According to the UK-based organization Airwars, which tracks allegations of civilian deaths in airstrikes, out of 1,257 claims of deaths in US-led coalition airstrikes this month, a record 337 have been assessed as being “fair,” meaning that there is a reasonable level of public reporting of the alleged incident from two or more generally credible sources and that strikes have been confirmed in the vicinity on the day in question.
“The scale of the destruction is huge, and we are reeling from the number of alleged cases, not just in Mosul but in Raqqa, too,” said Chris Woods, the director of Airwars. “Casualty numbers from western Mosul are absolutely shocking. In Syria it’s a car here, a family there. It happens every day.”
The group said in a statement last week that it had stopped monitoring Russian strikes in Syria, in order to focus on accusations linked to the US-led coalition, saying its organization is overwhelmed.
In the first two months of the year, US strikes were responsible for more civilian casualties than Russian strikes for the first time since Russia intervened in Syria’s civil war in 2015, according to Airwars figures. Russian strikes are now climbing again as a partial cease-fire collapses.
Woods said the intensification began during the Obama administration but escalated under Trump. In December, the US-led coalition delegated approval to battlefield commanders in Mosul, speeding up the responsiveness of strikes after a tough battle for the eastern part of the city. The coalition says strikes are subject to the same scrutiny.
“The death of innocent civilians in war is a terrible tragedy that weighs heavily on all of us,” said Col. Joseph Scrocca, a spokesman for the US military in Baghdad, adding that the United States works within the laws of armed conflict. “We set the highest standards for protecting civilians, and our dedication, diligence and discipline in prosecuting our combat operations, while protecting civilians, is without precedence in the history of warfare.”
The escalation of US strikes around the city of Raqqa occurred in February as the United States intensified efforts to train and equip a Syrian force in preparation for an offensive against the city, expected to begin in the coming months.
In March, the tempo increased further, with more sites being targeted that have no obvious military value, according to a Syrian living in Turkey who is from Raqqa and is in regular contact with his family and friends who are still there.
“They are hitting everything that isn’t a small house,” including the barges that ferry passengers across the river dividing the city now that the bridges have been disabled, he said, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of concern for his family.
Among the bigger incidents was a strike last week on a school sheltering displaced people in the town of Mansoura, outside Raqqa, that killed at least 30 people, according to monitoring groups. An attack on a mosque in western Aleppo that the US military said was aimed at known al-Qaeda operatives also appears to have killed dozens of people attending prayers, according to witness accounts and monitoring groups.
The US military said after the Aleppo strike that it had hit a gathering of militants near a mosque but denied striking the mosque itself. The military is conducting an investigation into the incident.
Townsend said the initial indications were that the school strike was “clean” and did not kill civilians.
A wave of continued attacks in the past week in the small town of Tabqa has added to a record toll of 101 civilians killed by US strikes from the beginning of the month to March 21, Essa said. He provided the names of 41 people alleged to have been killed in a three-day period last week in strikes that hit a bakery, a carwash, a slaughterhouse and other targets.
In Iraq and Syria, residents and activists say there has also been a discernible shift in the kinds of targets being hit — with infrastructure such as hospitals and schools coming under fire. The US-led coalition contends that militants are increasingly using such protected buildings as bases for attack, knowing that there are restrictions on bombing them under US rules of engagement.
Tabqa is a crucial step on the path to Raqqa, and it is the current focus of the battle. Reports that the Tabqa dam have also been hit by airstrikes during the fighting have further contributed to the sense of panic after the Islamic State issued a warning on Sunday that the dam could burst.
Townsend said the United States had not been targeting the Tabqa dam and had been using “non-cratering” munitions in that area to protect the site.
Downstream from the dam, residents are terrified by the intensified bombing and of the risk of a dam breach, the Syrian said. His family is desperate to escape, but the Islamic State has erected checkpoints to prevent people from fleeing. “People don’t know what to do,” he said.
In Iraq, too, civilians are trapped as Iraqi forces push into the most densely packed areas of Mosul, including the Old City, where an estimated 400,000 people are trapped in old structures on narrow streets.
The United Nations said Tuesday that at least 307 civilians were killed in western Mosul between Feb. 17 and March 22, warning Iraqi security forces and the coalition to avoid falling into the Islamic State’s “trap” as the group deliberately puts civilians in danger.
With a large amount of artillery and ordnance being fired into the city, though, it is hard to ascertain which deaths the coalition is responsible for, Woods said. Iraqi commanders, who call in airstrikes from the US-led coalition, say its difficult for them to know whether civilians are in houses when many are stuck inside for weeks at a time and it is not possible to see them through drone surveillance.
Lt. Gen. Abdul Ghani al-Asadi, commander of Iraq’s counterterrorism units, said the troops are instead relying on tips from those fleeing as to which houses have civilians inside.
Still, Mosul Eye, a monitoring group in the city, said it had warned Iraqi forces that civilians were trapped in homes in Mosul al-Jadida days before the US strike there and sent coordinates.
Amnesty International said that because the government has told residents to stay in their homes, the US-led coalition should have known that strikes would be likely to result in significant numbers of civilian casualties.
For civilians, many of whom are trapped, the situation is dire.
Nour Mohammed’s family of 23 people hid in a basement in western Mosul for nearly two weeks as explosions rang out around them.
Islamic State militants forced the family to keep the front door open so that they could move in and out of the building freely and fend off the advancing Iraqi forces from the roof.
“We were terrified every time we’d hear the sound of an airplane that they’d bomb us all,” she said as she fled the city last week.
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After years of delays and billions in losses, Toshiba’s atomic energy firm Westinghouse has filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy. As Tokyo Bureau Chief Billy Mallard reports, that is spreading concerns far and wide.
NEW YORK, TOKYO and NEW ORLEANS (March 29, 2017) — Westinghouse Electric Company, which helped drive the development of nuclear energy and the electric grid itself, filed for bankruptcy protection on Wednesday, casting a shadow over the global nuclear industry.
The filing comes as the company’s corporate parent, Toshiba of Japan, scrambles to stanch huge losses stemming from Westinghouse’s troubled nuclear construction projects in the American South. Now, the future of those projects, which once seemed to be on the leading edge of a renaissance for nuclear energy, is in doubt.
“This is a fairly big and consequential deal,” said Richard Nephew, a senior research scholar at the Center on Global Energy Policy at Columbia University. “You’ve had some power companies and big utilities run into financial trouble, but this kind of thing hasn’t happened.”
Westinghouse, a once-proud name that in years past symbolized America’s supremacy in nuclear power, now illustrates its problems.
Many of the company’s injuries are self-inflicted, such as a disastrous deal for a construction business that was intended to control costs and instead precipitated the events that led to the filing on Wednesday. Over all, Toshiba has been widely criticized for overpaying for Westinghouse.
But some of what went wrong was beyond either company’s control. Slowing demand for electricity and tumbling prices for natural gas have eroded the economic rationale for nuclear power, which is extremely costly and technically challenging to develop.
Alternative-energy sources like wind and solar power are rapidly maturing and coming down in price. The 2011 earthquake in Japan that led to the nuclear disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi plant renewed worries about safety.
Westinghouse’s problems are already reducing Japan’s footprint in nuclear power, an industry it has nurtured for decades in the name of energy security. Even before the filing, Toshiba had essentially retired Westinghouse from the business of building nuclear power plants. Executives said they would instead focus on maintaining existing reactors — a more stable and reliably profitable business — and developing reactor designs.
That has made the already small club of companies that take on the giant, expensive and complex task of nuclear-reactor building even smaller. General Electric, a pioneer in the field, has scaled back its nuclear operations, expressing doubt about their economic viability. Areva, the French builder, is mired in losses and undergoing a large-scale restructuring.
Among the winners could be China, which has ambitions to turn its growing nuclear technical abilities into a major export. That has raised security concerns in some countries.
The shrinking field is a challenge for the future of nuclear power, and for Toshiba’s revival plans. Its executives have said they would like to sell all or part of Westinghouse to a competitor, but with a dwindling list of potential buyers — combined with Westinghouse’s history of financial calamity — that has become a difficult task.
Toshiba still faces tough questions. The company is also divesting its profitable semiconductor business and plans to sell a stake to an outside investor to raise capital. Most of the companies seen as possible buyers are from outside Japan. Some Japanese business leaders have expressed fears that the sale will further erode Japan’s place in an industry it once dominated.
After writing down Westinghouse’s value, Toshiba said it expected to book a net loss of $9.9 billion for its current fiscal year, which ends on Friday.
“We have all but completely pulled out of the nuclear business overseas,” Toshiba’s president, Satoshi Tsunakawa, said at a news conference. Of the huge loss, he added, “I feel great responsibility.”
Bankruptcy will make it harder for Westinghouse’s business partners to collect money they are owed by the nuclear-plant maker. That mostly affects the American power companies for whom it is building reactors, analysts say. Now, it is unclear whether the company will be able to complete any of its projects, which in the United States are about three years late and billions over budget.
The power companies — Scana Energy in South Carolina and a consortium in Georgia led by Georgia Power, a unit of Southern Company — would face the possibility of new contract terms, long lawsuits and absorbing losses that Toshiba and Westinghouse could not cover, analysts say.
The cost estimates are already running $1 billion to $1.3 billion higher than originally expected, according to a recent report from Morgan Stanley, and could eventually exceed $8 billion over all.
Dennis Pidherny, a managing director at Fitch Ratings who is sector head of the United States public power group, said that it was possible that the company’s bankruptcy filing could terminate the contracts and that it could be difficult for the utilities to find another builder to take them over.
“There’s still quite a bit of work that needs to be completed,” he said. “The biggest challenge there is quite simply finding another suitable contractor who can complete the contract and have it completed at a quote-unquote reasonable cost.”
That is, if they are constructed at all. Stan Wise, chairman of the Georgia Public Service Commission, said the utilities developing the Alvin W. Vogtle generating station in the state would have to evaluate whether it made sense to continue.
“It’s a very serious issue for us and for the companies involved,” Mr. Wise said. “If, in fact, the company comes back to the commission asking for recertification, and at what cost, clearly the commission evaluates that versus natural gas or renewables.”
In a statement on Wednesday, Toshiba said Westinghouse and affiliated companies were “working cooperatively” with the owners to arrange for construction to continue.
In recent days, the affected companies issued statements saying they were monitoring the situation and exploring their options, as did the Energy Department, which has authorized $8.3 billion in federal loan guarantees for the Georgia project.
“We are keenly interested in the bankruptcy proceedings and what they mean for taxpayers and the nation,” said Lindsey Geisler, a Department of Energy spokeswoman. “Our position with all parties has been consistent and clear: We expect the parties to honor their commitments and reach an agreement that protects taxpayers, promotes economic growth, and strengthens our energy and national security.”
Toshiba said Westinghouse had total debt of $9.8 billion. The Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing was made in federal bankruptcy court for the Southern District of New York.
A decade ago, Toshiba was dreaming of a big global expansion when it bought Westinghouse for a surprisingly high $5.4 billion and made plans to install 45 new reactors worldwide by 2030.
At the same time, Westinghouse was trying to install a novel reactor design, the AP1000. Using simplified structures and safety equipment, it was intended to be easier and less expensive to install, operate and maintain. Its design also improves the ability to withstand earthquakes and plane crashes and is less vulnerable to a cutoff of electricity, which is what set off the triple meltdown at Fukushima.
Nonetheless, it was inevitable that expansions at the Vogtle generating station in Georgia and the Virgil C. Summer plant in South Carolina would hit some bumps along the road to fruition, nuclear executives say.
Not only was the design new, but, because nuclear construction had been dormant for so long, American companies also lacked the equipment and expertise needed to make some of the biggest components and construct the projects.
Indeed, that may ultimately have been at the root of the troubles. The contractor Westinghouse chose to complete the projects struggled to meet the strict demands of nuclear construction and was undergoing its own internal difficulties after a merger.
As part of an effort to get the delays and escalating costs under control, Westinghouse acquired part of the construction company, which set off a series of still-unresolved disputes over who should absorb the cost overruns and how Westinghouse accounted for and reported values in the transaction.
In its bankruptcy filing, Westinghouse said that its top 30 unsecured creditors held over $508 million in claims. Among those creditors are big engineering and construction companies like Fluor and CB&I, and Nuclear Fuel Services, a fuel supplier.
To shepherd its case through Chapter 11, Westinghouse has hired a number of advisers, including the investment bank PJT Partners, the law firm Weil, Gotshal & Manges, and the consulting firm AlixPartners.
Westinghouse also said in its bankruptcy filing that it had taken out an $800 million loan from a group led by Citigroup to support itself through the bankruptcy process.
Diane Cardwell reported from New York, and Jonathan Soble from Tokyo. Michael J. de la Merced contributed reporting from New Orleans.
(March 28, 2017) — International news services now report that Japanâ€™s Toshiba Corporation (9502.T) is preparing to make a chapter 11 bankruptcy filing for its Westinghouse Electric subsidiary as soon as this Monday, March 27. For most of our readers this news evokes little surprise.
This is merely another chapter of a slow moving financial and accounting train wreck involving nuclear design and construction firm Westinghouse and its troubled Japanese parent, Toshiba. But like an old, leaky garbage scow, there is much to clean up in its wake.
The two US utilities with the most at risk are Southern Company and SCANA Corp. Westinghouse is presently constructing two unit, AP 1000 nuclear power stations for each utility. These projects are over-budget and behind schedule. It appears that Westinghouse offered both utilities a fixed price contract for these new nuclear plants.
Our best guess is that this fixed price construction guarantee has doomed Westinghouse and prevented other potentially willing buyers from stepping in. No one it seems is willing to take on this seemingly open-ended nuclear construction liability.
What does this mean for the two domestic utilities embroiled in this international financial quagmire?
First, we expect that they will complete both nuclear construction projects. The bulk of heavy capital expenditures for both utilities seem to be in the 2017-2019 period.
Second, it is in all interest of all potential litigants to see these plants completed. Westinghouse/Toshiba, for one, would at least get to showcase the AP 1000 design and its successor entity could advocate for additional sales of this reactor design.
A working design has value. (What happens in the UK is another matter where Toshiba hoped to build several plants). The utilities, which need new power stations, get large, rate-based, non-fossil base load power generating resources for the next 40-60 years.
The worst-case scenario for utility investors would be if the utilities had to cancel the projects and take big write-offs. But we assign a very low probability to this scenario. Perhaps, more likely, a Westinghouse bankruptcy means abrogation of the fixed price contracts signed with Southern and SCANA. News reports this week indicated that both utilities had hired bankruptcy counsel.
As these plants are brought on line, presumably in the 2020-2021 time frame, the matter will go before the state utility commissions of Georgia and South Carolina. Both commissions approved these nuclear projects. Itâ€™s just that the plants will cost more than expected.
Unfortunately for investors, they will have to live with uncertainty until the regulators make their decisions. There are no clear precedents for the decisions, other than that commissions typically allocate or split unexpected financial burdens like these between shareholders and consumers. And that the amounts at risk wonâ€™t be modest given the size of the projects.
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When a President Can’t Be Taken at His Word Nancy Gibbs / TIME Magazine
“I think you know I was very clear because I think there wasn’t a speech I made, or very few where I didn’t mention that perhaps the best thing that could happen is exactly what happened today, because we’ll end up with a truly great health care bill in the future after this mess known as Obamacare explodes.”
— Donald Trump, after the failure of the Congressional attempt to repeal Obamacare
(March 22, 2017) â€“ In April 1966, the streets of America were crime-ridden, Southeast Asia was threatened by “godless communists,” and some radical theologians were weighing the heretical question that TIME asked on its cover: “Is God Dead?”
It was “a summons to reflect on the meaning of existence,” and while the story was as much about the state of the church as the health of the deity, it nonetheless inspired angry sermons, heartfelt letters and a lively debate at a time when 97% of Americans told pollsters they believed in God.
Half a century later, I suspect that about as many would say they believe in Truth, and yet we find ourselves having an intense debate over its role and power in the face of a President who treats it like a toy.
The old adage that “a lie gets halfway around the world before Truth has a chance to get its pants on” was true even before the invention of Twitter. But it has been given new relevance by an early-rising Chief Executive and his smartphone.
Like many newsrooms, we at TIME have wrestled with when to say someone is lying. We can point out, as we often do, when a President gets his facts wrong. We can measure distortions, read between lines, ask the follow-up question.
But there’s a limit to what we can deduce about motive or intent, the interior wiring of the whopper, as opposed to its explosive impact. Even the nature of coverage becomes complicated: social scientists have shown that repetition of a false statement, even in the course of disputing it, often increases the number of people who believe it.
For Donald Trump, shamelessness is not just a strength, it’s a strategy, as Michael Scherer explores in his cover story. Whether it’s the size of his inaugural crowds or voter fraud or NATO funding or the claim that he was wiretapped, Trump says a great many things that are demonstrably false.
But indicting Trump as a serial liar risks missing a more disturbing question: What does he actually believe? Does it count as lying if he believes what he says? After a visibly awkward meeting, he tweets, “Despite what you have heard from the Fake news, I had a Great meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.”
Where is the line between lie, spin and delusion? Or, as his adviser Kellyanne Conway memorably put it, between facts and alternative facts, the conclusions that he wants the audience to reach vs. the conclusions warranted by the evidence at hand.
During the 2016 campaign, 70% of the Trump statements reviewed by PolitiFact were false, 4% were entirely true, 11% mostly true. Voters were not deceived: nearly two-thirds said that Trump was not trustworthy, including nearly a third of the people who voted for him anyway. Dishonesty in a candidate, far from being disqualifying, became a badge of “disruption.”
Now that he is the President, however, he speaks on behalf of the country, and his words have a vastly different weight. The prospect of a hastily tweeted insult provoking a nuclear-armed rival gives new urgency to the helpful suggestion “Delete your account.”
For a leader who condemns the media so viciously, Trump consumes it voraciously, and what he takes in has become a matter of global significance, most recently when he accused President Obama of outsourcing illegal surveillance to British intelligence.
If he believes accusations leveled by a pundit on Fox News, whom the network’s own anchors dismiss as uninformed, it reveals a great deal about the sources and standards of evidence the President lives by.
Trust is a transaction between leaders and those they lead. Throughout our history, the deeply held beliefs of various Presidents have taken the nation into war, delayed the pursuit of peace, alienated allies, appeased enemies. At other times, presidential beliefs have conquered the continent, freed the slaves, taken us to the moon because the President firmly believed we could get there.
As citizens, it is vital that we be able to believe our President; it is also vital that we know what he believes, and why. This President has made both a severe challenge.
Nancy Gibbs is the managing editor of TIME. She is the co-author, along with TIME’s Michael Duffy, of two best-selling presidential histories: The President’s Club: Inside the World’s Most Exclusive Fraternity and The Preacher and the Presidents: Billy Graham in the White House.
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Mosul Residents Were Told
Not to Flee before Airstrikes that Killed Civilians Guardian Staff and Agencies
LONDON (March 28, 2017) — Residents in Mosul were instructed not to leave their homes ahead of airstrikes last week that are reported to have killed more than 150 civilians, Amnesty International has said.
The recent spike in civilian casualties suggests the US-led coalition in Iraq is not taking adequate precautions to prevent civilian deaths as it battles Isis alongside Iraqi ground forces, according to a report by the human rights group on Tuesday.
The coalition has acknowledged that the US military was behind an airstrike on 17 March that hit a western Mosul neighbourhood. Residents have said at least 150 civilians were killed. US officials have not confirmed that there were civilian casualties but have opened an investigation.
The Pentagon said on Monday it was reviewing more than 700 video feeds of coalition airstrikes on west Mosul. Amid rising concern over a jump in civilian casualties in fighting in Iraq and Syria, Colonel JT Thomas, a spokesman for the US central command, said it was putting a high priority on investigating the Mosul reports.
Donatella Rovera, senior crisis response adviser at Amnesty International, said: “The fact that Iraqi authorities repeatedly advised civilians to remain at home, instead of fleeing the area, indicates that coalition forces should have known that these strikes were likely to result in a significant numbers of civilian casualties. “Disproportionate attacks and indiscriminate attacks violate international humanitarian law and can constitute war crimes.”
Evidence gathered on the ground in Mosul “points to an alarming pattern of US-led coalition airstrikes which have destroyed whole houses with entire families inside”, the Amnesty report stated.
Iraqi forces began the assault on Isis-held Mosul in October after months of preparation and buildup. In January, Iraq declared east Mosul “fully liberated” and government forces are now battling to retake the city’s western half.
Civilians, humanitarian groups and monitoring officials have repeatedly warned of the possibility of increased civilian casualties in western Mosul due to the higher density of the population and the increased reliance on airstrikes and artillery.
Faced with their toughest fight yet against Isis, Iraqi and coalition forces have increasingly turned to airstrikes and artillery to clear and hold territory in Mosul’s west.
In previous battles for Fallujah and Ramadi, those cities were entirely emptied of their civilian population as Iraqi forces battled Isis. In Mosul, the Iraqi government said it had asked civilians to remain in their homes to prevent large-scale displacement.
When the operation to retake Iraq’s second largest city was launched, more than a million people were estimated to still be living in Mosul. Today, the United Nations estimates about 400,000 remain trapped in what is now the last major Iraq stronghold for Isis.
Amnesty International’s report quoted survivors and eyewitnesses of airstrikes that have killed civilians: “They did not try to flee as the battle got underway because they received repeated instructions from the Iraqi authorities to remain in their homes.”
On Monday, Iraqi forces said they had launched new assaults in Mosul’s Old City after the high civilian death toll appeared to prompt a change in tactics.
Iraq’s federal police chief, Lieutenant General Raed Shakir Jawdat, said new advances, supported by air power, were being aided by “precise targeting of selected positions” provided by intelligence. “Our advance aim is to protect civilian lives, infrastructure and private properties,” he was quoted by state TV as saying.
Iraqi parliament speaker Salim al-Jabouri suggested on Monday that operations should be suspended if more civilian casualties occurred. “Should civilian casualties continue, the trend will be to cease operations until necessary plans can be found that ensure civilian safety,” he was cited by Al Arabiya news as saying.
Thomas declined to discuss questions raised in the media on whether President Donald Trump’s administration had eased controls on coalition air strikes against jihadist groups in Syria and Iraq, possibly leading to the surge in civilian deaths.
But he called examining what happened in west Mosul “the priority at this time” for US central command, saying reports of a heavy civilian toll could represent several days of bombing.
“In Mosul, there are multiple days of strikes,” he told journalists in Washington in a Pentagon conference call. “The numbers of civilian casualties that have been reported variously — one of the things we’re looking at is if some of those numbers are cumulative from different incidents, different engagements, in this highly contested, very ferocious battle that’s going on in Mosul.
“We know that we were dropping bombs in the immediate vicinity,” he said, noting that the bombs used are “quite precise”.
US investigators are also looking at the apparent bombing of a school in Mansura near Raqqa, Syria on 21 March, and a building next to a mosque on 16 March in Al-Jineh, in Aleppo province.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group said that 33 people were killed in the Mansura bombing and 49 in Al-Jineh, where the US target was a meeting of Al-Qaida officials.
Associated Press, Agence France-Presse and Reuters contributed to this report.
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