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Whats up with the Atlantic?

By Judith Curry | Climate Etc. | March 25, 2015

The Washington Post has this dramatic headline:  Global warming is now slowing down the circulation of the ocean with potentially dire consequences.

A new paper has been published that has the media talking about The Day After Tomorrow [link].  What is this new paper?

Exceptional twentieth-century slowdown in Atlantic Ocean overturning circulation

Stefan Rahmstorf, Jason E. Box, Georg Feulner, Michael E. Mann, Alexander Robinson, Scott Rutherford & Erik J. Schaffernicht

Abstract. Possible changes in Atlantic meridional overturning circulation (AMOC) provide a key source of uncertainty regarding future climate change. Maps of temperature trends over the twentieth century show a conspicuous region of cooling in the northern Atlantic. Here we present multiple lines of evidence suggesting that this cooling may be due to a reduction in the AMOC over the twentieth century and particularly after 1970. Since 1990 the AMOC seems to have partly recovered. This time evolution is consistently suggested by an AMOC index based on sea surface temperatures, by the hemispheric temperature difference, by coral-based proxies and by oceanic measurements. We discuss a possible contribution of the melting of the Greenland Ice Sheet to the slowdown. Using a multi-proxy temperature reconstruction for the AMOC index suggests that the AMOC weakness after 1975 is an unprecedented event in the past millennium (p > 0.99). Further melting of Greenland in the coming decades could contribute to further weakening of the AMOC.

Published in Nature Climate Change [link]; full manuscript available [here].

Stefan Rahmstorf has a post at RealClimate Whats going on in the North Atlantic?  Excerpt:

The North Atlantic between Newfoundland and Ireland is practically the only region of the world that has defied global warming and even cooled. Last winter there even was the coldest on record – while globally it was the hottest on record. Our recent study (Rahmstorf et al. 2015) attributes this to a weakening of the Gulf Stream System, which is apparently unique in the last thousand years.

Climate models have long predicted such a slowdown – both the current 5th and the previous 4th IPCC report call a slowdown in this century “very likely”, which means at least 90% probability. When emissions continue unabated (RCP8.5 scenario), the IPCC expects 12% to 54% decline by 2100. But the actual past evolution of the flow is difficult to reconstruct owing to the scarcity of direct measurements.

What is new is that we have used proxy reconstructions of large-scale surface temperature (Mann et al, 2009) previously published by one of us  that extend back to 900 AD to estimate the circulation (AMOC) intensity over the entire last 1100 years. This shows that despite the substantial uncertainties in the proxy reconstruction, the weakness of the flow after 1975 is unique in more than a thousand years, with at least 99 per cent probability. This strongly suggests that the weak overturning is not due to natural variability but rather a result of global warming.

Observations

Well, if there is anything I distrust more than climate model simulations of decadal to millennial scale ocean circulations and internal variability, it is Mannian proxy analysis of same. It seems like strip bark bristlecones and Tiljander sediments can tell us about Gulf Stream flow rates, as well as global temperatures. Remarkable.

So what do the actual ocean observations have to say? Anthony Watts has an extensive critique of the paper, pointing to a 2014 paper by oceanographer Thomas Rossby: On the long-term stability of Gulf Stream transport based on 20 years of direct measurements.  The title pretty much speaks for itself, but Rossby had this to say in an interview:

“The ADCP measures currents at very high accuracy, and so through the repeat measurements we take year after year, we have a very powerful tool by which to monitor the strength of the current,” said Rossby. “There are variations of the current over time that are natural — and yes, we need to understand these better — but we find absolutely no evidence that suggests that the Gulf Stream is slowing down.”

In 2010, NASA issued a press release NASA Study Finds Atlantic Conveyor Belt Not Slowing, citing a paper published by Josh Willis of JPL using measurements from ocean-observing satellites and profiling floats.  Punchline:

For now, however, there are no signs of a slowdown in the circulation. “The changes we’re seeing in overturning strength are probably part of a natural cycle,” said Willis. “The slight increase in overturning since 1993 coincides with a decades-long natural pattern of Atlantic heating and cooling.”

Pierre Gosselin cites additional critiques from German scientists. Notably:

Climate scientist Martin Visbeck of the GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research in Kiel sees Rahmstorf’s assertion of the results critically: ‘The study’s focus on the sub-polar part of the Atlantic and the spectral analysis are interesting,’ he says. But there are other AMOC assessments that point to a completely other development. The paper does not offer any strong indication of the development of the AMOC during the past fifty years.”

So, who you gonna believe? Climate models and Mannian proxies, or direct and satellite observations of ocean circulation?

Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation

What is going on the high latitudes of the North Atlantic can’t be understood without the context of the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation. If you are unfamiliar with the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation (AMO), see this summary. For reference, the AMO figures prominently in the stadium wave. While the method to define the AMO is still debated, here I show the canonical analyses from NOAA.

The monthly values of the AMO are shown below.

Slide1

A blow up of the more recent data (through Dec 2014) is shown below:

Slide2

While the AMO index shows substantial variability, there are multi-decadal periods when the index is predominantly positive (warm) and negative (cool). To the extend that past behavior is any guide to the future, the current warm phase is expected to transition to the cool phase sometime in the 2020’s. While the the 1995 transition was sharp, the transition to the next cool phase might be sharp, or it might ‘flicker’ for a few years or even a decade. We’ll have to see how this plays out.

There is some evidence that the warm phase of the AMO has peaked circa 2007, see the upper ocean heat content data shown below.

Slide3

JC summary

What we are seeing in the high latitudes of the North Atlantic is natural variability, predominantly associated with the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation. Based upon observational analyses, there is no sign of a slowdown in the Gulf Stream or the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation.

Now, I am very interested in the AMO, since it strongly influences Atlantic hurricanes, Arctic sea ice, and Greenland climate. We are already seeing a recovery of the Atlantic sector of the Arctic sea ice, and some hints of cooling in Greenland.

With regards to Atlantic hurricanes, Bill Gray and Phil Klotzbach are looking at a new definition of the AMO that they feel relates better to Atlantic hurricane activity [link], and they are seeing a transition to negative values.

And finally, the AMO does not act in isolation (e.g. the stadium wave); there are very interesting things going on in the Pacific also – perhaps a topic for a future post.

March 25, 2015 Posted by | Deception, Science and Pseudo-Science | , , , | 4 Comments

Private army in Kiev: Why oil stand-off in Ukraine shows oligarchs won Maidan revolution

By Dmitry Babich | RT | March 23, 2015

Still from Ruptly video

Still from Ruptly video

Whatever the outcome of the stand-off between President Petro Poroshenko and his subordinate Igor Kolomoysky may be, their conflict over Ukrainian oil giant Ukrnafta reveals realities about post-Maidan Ukraine which mainstream media manages to circumvent.

Firstly, the country is still ruled by oligarchs, not by the people, even though Igor Kolomoysky is formally governor of Dnepropetrovsk region. Kolomoysky’s private army simply took control first of Ukrtransnafta (Ukraine’s oil transportation monopoly) and later of Ukrnafta. What does this tell us about the Ukrainian state?

Secondly, Ukraine’s oligarchs are not at peace with each other; the country is bracing for a major ‘war for assets’ between the country’s richest men (Kolomoysky is worth $2.4 billion on the Forbes list and ‘The Chocolate King’ Poroshenko is worth $1.3 billion).

Thirdly, the Maidan revolution not only left the country without any meaningful legal opposition in the parliament or in the media – as Kost Bondarenko, director of the Kiev-based Foundation for Ukrainian Politics, put it in his article for the Moscow-based Nezavisimaya Gazeta – but the revolution also left Ukraine in a situation of complete lawlessness, when neither laws nor even the words of the president mean much before brutal force and big money (the main weapons of oligarchs).

Igor Kolomoysky, Head of the Dnepropetrovsk Region (RIA Novosti/Mikhail Markiv)

Igor Kolomoysky, Head of the Dnepropetrovsk Region (RIA Novosti/Mikhail Markiv)

The story of the weekend conflict between Ukraine’s president and the governor of Ukraine’s most important industrial region is a perfect illustration of all these sad truths.

Kolomoysky’s men with submachine guns not only took control of Ukrtransgaz on Friday, but the governor of Dnepropetrovsk was apparently untroubled by President Poroshenko’s reprimand for his “unethical behavior” issued the next day.

Kolomoysky’s response to this “scolding” from Poroshenko was widely reported, along with an officially unconfirmed freeze on the accounts of Poroshenko’s companies in Kolomoysky’s bank (Privat-bank).

Adding armed insult to the financial injury, Kolomoysky’s men on Sunday took control of Ukrnafta, the country’s biggest oil company, presenting themselves as members of the “voluntary battalion Dnieper” (a Kolomoysky-sponsored paramilitary group known for its atrocities against civilians in the rebellious Donetsk Region). Despite Poroshenko’s order to disarm the gunmen and the president’s promise that “there will be no pocket armies in Ukraine,” Kolomoysky’s men did not leave the building on Monday; instead, they started to put up metal fences around it.

How could such things happen? The answer is simple: the traditional post-Soviet alliance of big money and political power (the fertile ground for oligarchs) failed to be destroyed, and has been strengthened by the Maidan revolution.

“Let’s face it: Yanukovich was removed by oligarchs. Some of them financed and supported Maidan. Others, more importantly, betrayed Yanukovich, removing the police guard from the building of his administration in February 2014 and switching the political allegiances of oligarch-controlled TV stations in favor of Maidan,” explained Mark Stolyar, former head of the Kiev-based radio station Stolichnye Novosti and a longtime analyst of the Ukrainian media scene. “After Maidan, these oligarchs demanded their part of the spoils, unleashing another redistribution of property.”

In that sense, Maidan’s sponsor, Poroshenko, was just one of the oligarchs who won the seemingly best prize: the formal position of head of state, adding power to money.

But Poroshenko never took his hands off his business assets after being elected president of war-torn Ukraine in spring 2014 – and this mere fact made him vulnerable. Poroshenko promised to strip himself of all assets, except his TV station – Channel 5 – but he never fulfilled his promise. Today, simply by having his assets and money in many regions, including Russian ones, Poroshenko becomes vulnerable to pressure from richer oligarchs, such as Kolomoysky. The reported freeze on Poroshenko’s capital in Privat-bank is a good illustration of what this pressure could look like. This puts Poroshenko in an awkward situation.

“If Poroshenko does not react to Kolomoysky’s challenge now, he will become a toy figure not only to Kolomoysky, but also to other regional strongmen. In this situation, the state will be badly weakened,” said Valentin Zemlyansky, a Ukrainian political analyst, formerly the chief spokesman for Ukraine’s oligarch-controlled company Ukrenergo.

Vladimir Sinelnikov, a Kiev-based correspondent for Russian radio Vesti-FM, is skeptical about Poroshenko’s resolve to cut Kolomoysky to size.

“It is still a big question, who is more powerful, Poroshenko or Kolomoysky. The whole controversy around Ukrnafta started after the Ukrainian parliament put in question Kolomoysky’s control over that company. Kolomoysky controls 42 percent of the stock of this formally state-owned asset. This allowed him to block the meetings of shareholders, which required a vote by 60 percent of the stock for a meeting’s convention. The parliament lowered this minimum to 50 percent, thus limiting Kolomoysky’s powers, but he quickly showed who the true master of the country was,” Sinelnikov said.

So much for Poroshenko’s promise to cut the oligarchs to size.

This story also tells us where all the Western loans to Ukraine went, and where they will most likely go.

The “democratically elected” billionaires ruling Ukraine after the “democratic” coup of February 2014 have not been able to conceal their rivalries for even two weeks since receiving the first $5 billion batch of the $40 billion loan package pledged to Ukraine by the IMF and other Western financial institutions.

Kolomoysky did not shy away from using his “Russia-stopping” battalions for shielding his assets from the state.

There is little doubt that Poroshenko and other Ukrainian officials will find a way to explain to their Western counterparts that their $40 billion was swallowed by the need to contain “Russia’s intervention” from the east. Some of these billions, however, may help Poroshenko and his allies move up the Forbes ratings of Ukraine’s richest men. And again, the State Department won’t see any link there.

March 25, 2015 Posted by | Corruption | , , | Leave a comment

Cop Arrested After Video Shows Her Shoot Unarmed Man in Back Lying Face Down in the Snow

By Cassandra Fairbanks | The Free Thought Project | March 25, 2015

Harrisburg, PA– Hummelstown police Officer, Lisa J. Mearkle was charged with criminal homicide on Tuesday in the shooting death of 59-year-old David Kassick on February 2nd.

Mearkle shot Kassick as he laid face down on the ground in the snow, unarmed, during a routine traffic stop gone awry.

Mearkle had attempted to pull Kassick over for an expired inspection sticker, but the situation escalated when Kassick attempted to flee from the officer.

Eventually Mearkle caught up to the motorist close to his sister’s home where he was staying, but Kassick got out of the vehicle and fled on foot. As he was attempting to run away, he was incapacitated by the officer’s taser which she held in her left hand. With her right hand, she unnecessarily pulled out her service gun and shot the unarmed man twice in the back as he lay face-down on the ground.

The 36-year-old officer claims that she shot the unarmed man because he would not show his hands and she was concerned he may have been reaching in his jacket for a weapon, but the recording from the deployed taser paints a different picture.

District Attorney Ed Marsico has stated that it appeared from the recording that Kassick was simply trying to remove the stun gun probes from his back before his life was taken.

“At the time Officer Mearkle fires both rounds from her pistol, the video clearly depicts Kassick lying on the snow covered lawn with his face toward the ground, furthermore, at the time the rounds are fired nothing can be seen in either of Kassick’s hands, nor does he point or direct anything toward Officer Mearkle,” the arrest affidavit reads.

A syringe was found near his body, and there were unspecified drugs as well as alcohol in his system when he died. His family has admitted that he has struggled with addiction, a personal problem which should not have cost him his life.

“Mr. Kassick is now dead as a result of a traffic stop, a routine traffic stop,” one of the family’s attorneys, Christopher Slusser, told the press. “He should not be dead. He should not have died as a result of that traffic stop. And the manner in which he was shot — you can infer from that what you will.”

Mearkle is currently free on $250,000 bail. She faces potential charges ranging from misdemeanor involuntary manslaughter to felony first-degree murder depending on what the prosecution decides when she is formally arraigned.

March 25, 2015 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Subjugation - Torture | , , , | Leave a comment

New Bill Would Have Teachers Diagnose Psychological Issues in Children and Report them to Police

By Jay Syrmopoulos | The Free Thought Project | March 24, 2015

Dallas, Texas – Texas State Representative Jason Villalba (R-Dallas) is once again in the spotlight after submitting yet another Orwellian proposal, H.B. 985.

Villalba first raised the ire of civil libertarians by proposing a bill, H.B. 2006, which would have eliminated the religious exemption for vaccination, essentially creating a forced government vaccination program without exception.

More recently, Villalba was thrust into the national spotlight when he proposed H.B. 2918, which would usurp citizens of the ability to hold law enforcement accountable for their actions. The bill would negate the people’s ability to create an accurate and impartial record of police interactions by restricting citizens from filming within 25 feet of an officer.

Now with H.B. 985, Villalba intends to give school officials the authority to force psychological screenings of students that teachers and staff diagnose as having mental health issues.

Once the process is set in motion by school officials, parents would be forced to take their child to a mental health professional within 30 days, under threat of suspension of the child from school.

“ …the requirement that the parent or guardian, before the expiration of the 30-day period, to avoid suspension of the student under this section, take the student to the nearest local mental health authority or a physician specializing in psychiatry to receive a mental health screening and a certificate of medical examination for mental illness, as described by Section 533.03522(c), Health and Safety Code, that contains the examining physician’s opinion that the student is not a danger to self or others.”

While under suspension the child would still receive an education, but they would be sent to an “alternative school.”

School administrators would be required under the law to provide the student’s name, address, and information regarding the complaint to the local mental health authorities and the police department upon verification of the complaint.

(i) A school counselor or a principal who receives notice
under. Subsection (b) about a student who subsequently is subject to
a notice of intent to suspend under Subsection (g) shall:
(1) provide the student’s name and address and
information concerning the conduct or statement that led to the
notice of intent to suspend to:
(A) the school district police department, if the
school counselor or principal is employed by a school district and
the district has a police department;
(B) the police department of the municipality in
which the school is located or, if the school is not in a
municipality, the sheriff of the county in which the school is
located; and
(C) the local mental health authority nearest the
school;

Teachers have enough on their academic plates without them being forced to become armchair psychologists in the classroom.

Also, it is highly inappropriate and dangerous for unqualified teachers to play the role of child psychiatrists. Unless they’ve had special training and are certified to diagnose the disorders, it can also be illegal.

We are already witnessing the damage caused by parents believing teachers who think that every child who acts out in their classroom has ADHD. It’s called The Ritalin Explosion.

The idea that students’ personal information would be submitted to mental health facilities and police departments for complaints initiated and investigated by only school officials also causes serious concern.

Is it really necessary to criminalize kids based upon a teacher’s unprofessional assessment of a kids mental health? And what about the student that is mentally healthy, but simply defiant?

Perhaps rather than attempting to legislate away this perceived problem by criminalizing “problem” children, there is a better way. Villalba would have been better served by using his position to help create a program to build sustainable bridges of communication between parents and administrators that assist in identifying and combating mental health problems in students.

Instead, like so many tyrants before him, Villalba tries to solve complex problems using the force of the state.

March 25, 2015 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , | 2 Comments

Florida Laws Target Online Video Anonymity: State-Based Site Blocking?

By Sherwin Siy | Public Knowledge | March 24, 2015

As EFF has noted, a troubling bill has been making its way through the Florida state legislature. The bill, with versions in both the state House and Senate, would require anyone “dealing in…the electronic dissemination of commercial recordings or audiovisual works” to post their “true and correct name, physical address, and email or telephone number” on their site.

The bill defines “commercial recording or audiovisual work” broadly—it’s basically any video meant to be seen by the public (whether for profit or not). The only thing it really excludes are short clips of exiting works or completely private videos. So it encompasses both a posting of my own complete home lip-synch video as well as my posting of a movie trailer or campaign ad.

Apparently, the plan is to make sure that no one can post online video that’s viewable in Florida without the world knowing just where to find you. The privacy and free speech implications of this are staggering—making it illegal to post anonymous video would chill a massive amount of valuable speech.

But what’s the purpose of this bill? Surely the state of Florida isn’t just interested in removing online anonymity, and specifically for video, is it? Is this an attempt like those in Idaho and Utah to prevent the spread of films showing animal abuse? An attempt, like the one in Texas, to go after people posting videos of police activity?

Maybe not, although the bill, on its face, would seem to cover all those cases and strip anonymity from the people posting such videos. But a closer look at the bill indicates something else at work. Failing to put your name on your site doesn’t seem to give the government the right to arrest or sue you; it gives the right to sue to the private party who “owns” or “licenses” the video. In other words, copyright holders and their business partners.

The para-copyright nature of the bill becomes clearer when looking at the staff legislative analysis of the bill, which specifically discusses copyright law, including federal preemption, the DMCA, and its enforcement. Despite it being classified as a “consumer protection” bill, it doesn’t discuss harms to consumers from anonymous videos.

So the Florida bills seem to represent another attempt to target alleged copyright infringers (note that a suit can be brought against someone merely “likely to” share a video) outside of the scope of federal law. And although the bill says that intermediaries like hosts and ISPs can’t be held liable for someone’s video-sharing under this new law, nothing in it says that they won’t be enjoined for the actual video-sharer’s actions. Given the long and growing trend of rightsholders seeking to enjoin non-liable parties in courts, it’s hard not to see this as moving in the same direction.

With a very similar law passed last year in Tennessee, the proposed Florida law seems to be part of a multi-state effort to find new ways of targeting intermediaries in an attempt to work around SOPA’s defeat. The fact that the state law tries to avoid being directly about copyright just means that other forms of speech get targeted, too. What happens when someone depicted in an unflattering campaign video starts claiming that they’re an “owner” via rights of publicity?

In other words, speech and privacy—fundamental values of our society—are merely collateral damage in the pursuit of site blocking—one particularly problematic technique only loosely connected to the values it is supposed to protect.

March 25, 2015 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , | 2 Comments

Bipartisan bill would repeal Patriot Act, cut down American surveillance

RT | March 25, 2015

The bipartisan Surveillance State Repeal Act, if passed, would repeal dragnet surveillance of Americans’ personal communications, overhaul the federal domestic surveillance program, and provide protections for whistleblowers.

House lawmakers Mark Pocan (D-Wis.) and Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) are co-sponsoring bill H.R.1466, which was introduced on Tuesday and would repeal the 2001 Patriot Act, limit powers of the FISA Amendments Act, and prohibit retaliation against federal national security whistleblowers, according to The Hill.

“The Patriot Act contains many provisions that violate the Fourth Amendment and have led to a dramatic expansion of our domestic surveillance state,” said Rep. Massie in a statement. “Our Founding Fathers fought and died to stop the kind of warrantless spying and searches that the Patriot Act and the FISA Amendments Act authorize. It is long past time to repeal the Patriot Act and reassert the constitutional rights of all Americans.”

Specifically, the bill would revoke all the powers of the Patriot Act, and instruct the Director of National Intelligence and the Attorney General to destroy any information collected under the FISA Amendments Act concerning any US person not under investigation.

It would repeal provisions of the FISA Amendments Act to ensure surveillance of email data only occurs with a valid warrant based on probable cause. The bill would also prohibit the government from mandating that manufacturers build mechanisms allowing the government to bypass encryption in order to conduct surveillance.

Additionally, the bill would protect a federal whistleblower’s efforts to expose mismanagement, waste, fraud, abuse, or criminal behavior. It would also make retaliation against anyone interfering with those efforts – such as threatening them with punishment or termination – illegal.

“Really, what we need are new whistleblower protections so that the next Edward Snowden doesn’t have to go to Russia or Hong Kong or whatever the case may be just for disclosing this,” Massie said.

There have been previous attempts to limit dragnet surveillance under the Patriot Act since former National Security Agency analyst Edward Snowden leaked information regarding the programs in 2013, but the Senate bill introduced in 2013 never reached the floor for a vote.

“The warrantless collection of millions of personal communications from innocent Americans is a direct violation of our constitutional right to privacy,” said Rep. Pocan in a statement.

“Revelations about the NSA’s programs reveal the extraordinary extent to which the program has invaded Americans’ privacy. I reject the notion that we must sacrifice liberty for security – we can live in a secure nation which also upholds a strong commitment to civil liberties. This legislation ends the NSA’s dragnet surveillance practices, while putting provisions in place to protect the privacy of American citizens through real and lasting change.”

Portions of the Patriot Act are due for renewal on June 1.

March 25, 2015 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Economist has a funny sense of European values

RT | March 24, 2015

In the same week that The Economist lauded Ukraine’s “commitment to European values,” Kiev’s current regime kicked out Euronews. Who do they think they are kidding?

Ah, The Economist. Without question, it’s is the best informed news magazine in the world… except on subjects I know something about. Take Ukraine for instance, throughout the country’s current crisis, The Economist has been weaving a web of fantasy to its readers. The narrative has continuously blamed Russia for all Ukraine’s misfortunes while painting its post-Maidan oligarchic rulers as being somewhere near God’s right hand.

After wholeheartedly backing last year’s coup, the windy weekly has been unwilling to admit the severity of Kiev’s economic malaise. Instead, it has maintained the pretence that throwing money at its pro-NATO regime will solve all its problems. Anybody who knows the first thing about Ukraine acknowledges that the lion’s share of the dough would be pilfered.

The problem is that a great number of the Western world’s most powerful people take The Economist seriously. The magazine appears both authoritative and credible, and never misses a chance to emphasize its own importance. However, this is “lipstick on a pig” territory. On subjects I’m reasonably informed about (Ireland, Europe, Britain, the ex-USSR for example), The Economist is more often wrong than right. Viewed through that prism, I’m extremely skeptical of the rag’s accuracy on topics I know little of.

In 2005, The Economist announced that Ireland had the highest quality of life in the world. I clearly remember reading the edition in downtown Dublin and that my first thought concerned the quality of the drugs the magazine’s editors were taking. Oddly, I’d penned a column a week earlier for the Ireland On Sunday newspaper predicting a deep recession for my homeland, which was rapidly losing its industrial base as credit-fuelled property madness raged.

Two years later, Ireland’s economy collapsed and a half decade of misery began. Incidentally, the periodical currently lists Melbourne as the best place to reside on earth. If you are in Melbourne right now, given The Economist’s track record, it’s probably best to emigrate before the inevitable happens.

Russia’s strong, determined President

Guided by its pro-interventionist and pro-neo liberal principles, the weekly doesn’t restrict itself to making a dog’s dinner of fiscal forecasts. Indeed, it frequently enters the realm of geopolitics to tackle countries and governments that don’t conform to its worldview. Russia is a case in point. In the 90’s, when Russia was on its knees, The Economist couldn’t get enough of the place. In fact, it broadly welcomed Vladimir Putin’s election in 2000, calling him a “strong, determined man.” By 2002 it trumpeted that “relations between Russia and the West have (sic) rarely been better.”

Now, the same Vladimir Putin is The Economist’s public enemy Number 1 and Russia the re-incarnation of Hitler’s Germany. Moscow’s crime? Standing up for itself and rejecting the Western liberal consensus. Essentially, refusing to pauperize the country to suit a bunch of ideologues in London.

In order to wage its anti-Russia campaign, The Economist pretends to care about Ukraine. The London-based magazine is far from alone in this. Last weekend, it hailed Kiev’s commitment to European values.

“European values like free speech and a commitment to truth remain potent,” it boldly declared. The reason I keep writing ‘it’ is because the article was unsigned, written under the pseudonym ‘Charlemagne.’ The Economist’s journalists don’t sign their work, which is probably for the best considering the kind of rubbish they pen.

The Menace of cliques

The diatribe quotes a scaremongering report written by Peter Pomerantsev and Michael Weiss, two activists connected to the shadowy UAE-backed Legatum Institute. Legatum’s Director of Communications is the former Catholic Herald editor, Cristina Odone, who just happens to be married to Edward Lucas, a senior Editor at The Economist. Mr. Lucas has previously advocated the use of Brezhnev-era KGB methods against RT.

Repeating the canard of “lavishly financed Russian media,” The Economist claims that “cash-strapped, fractious Europe will always struggle.” This is pure hokum. Only last month, Germany increased the budget of its Deutsche Welle news agency to $332 million. Meanwhile, BBC’s World Service has $406 million to splurge in 2015, and that’s just for radio/web. Additionally, France 24 spends around $130 million annually. By what stretch of the imagination is European media financially struggling here?

Snooze and you lose Euronews

Nevertheless, in the same week that The Economist was promoting Ukraine’s adherence to “European values,” Kiev revoked the license for the Ukrainian version of Euronews, suddenly claiming the current arrangement was “disadvantageous”. Now, I can’t think of a less offensive outlet. Euronews is so bland, so insipid that you could leave it on at an Israeli-Palestinian arm wrestling extravaganza and nobody would object.

While a private company, Euronews has received significant funding from Brussels over the years and is widely perceived, rightly or wrongly, as EU TV. The Ukraine edition was previously owned by an Egyptian, Naguib Sawiris, but reports suggest that it’s now controlled by Dymtro Firtash, a Ukrainian oligarch and rival of fellow-billionaire, Petro Poroshenko. Some use the label ‘pro-Russian’ to describe Firtash, but I find that Ukraine’s ultra-rich are usually just pro-themselves.

The Ukrainian President has his own TV network, Channel 5, and apparently objected to competition from Firtash, who he evidently sees as a threat. So, it looks like he used his political power to muffle the voice of Euronews. “European values,” how are you?

Bryan MacDonald is an Irish writer and commentator focusing on Russia and its hinterlands and international geo-politics. Follow him on Facebook

March 25, 2015 Posted by | Corruption, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Senior UN officials slam Israeli human rights abuses

MEMO | March 24, 2015

Israel’s human rights abuses in the Occupied Palestinian Territory came under renewed attack by senior UN officials on Monday.

Addressing the Human Rights Council in Geneva, UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in the Palestinian Territories Occupied since 1967 Makarim Wibisono heavily criticised Israel’s assault on Gaza last year.

“The ferocity of destruction and high proportion of civilian lives lost in Gaza cast serious doubts over Israel’s adherence to international humanitarian law principles of proportionality, distinction and precautions in attack.”

Wibisono described the “lack of respect for human rights” as having “permeated almost every aspect of the daily lives of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza”, touching upon Israel’s “excessive use of force”, as well as settlement construction, threats of “forcible transfer”, and more.

The UN official also noted that “treatment of Palestinians, including children in Israeli detention, was an issue of grave concern” and that Israel “had done too little to follow up on the report [two years ago] by the United Nations Children’s Fund” on the ill-treatment of children in military detention.

The Council was also presented with a report of the Secretary-General on Israeli settlements in the OPT and Syrian Golan, which he said continued to expand.

The Secretary-General described how “Israeli settlements and acts of violence committed by Israeli settlers against Palestinians continue to underpin a broad spectrum of human rights violations against Palestinians.”

The report urged Israel to “cease all settlement activity in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, as well as in the occupied Syrian Golan, and implement relevant United Nations resolutions.”

A second Secretary-General report on the broader human rights situation in the OPT, covering the period from May 2013 to October 2014, further noted that settlements “undermine Palestinian territorial integrity, contrary to international law, and Palestinians’ right to self-determination.”

Obstacles to peace and to Palestinians’ enjoyment of their human rights, including their right to self-determination, must be removed. That means the ending and reversal of all settlement activity in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, the full lifting of the blockade on Gaza and the ending of the occupation of Palestinian land.

Mary McGowan Davis, Chairperson of the Commission of Inquiry on the 2014 Gaza Conflict, gave the Council an oral update on the progression of the Commission. Davis said that Israel had not responded to a request for access, and, that the written report would be presented in June.

March 25, 2015 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, War Crimes | , , , | 1 Comment

US troops, contractors sexually abused Colombian girls with impunity – report

RT | March 25, 2015

Fifty-four Colombian girls were sexually abused by US troops and military contractors between 2003 and 2007, claims a new report by the country’s reconciliation commission. None of the perpetrators were ever prosecuted because US forces had immunity.

The claims are part of an 800-page report by an independent commission established by the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) rebel group. The commission’s goal is to determine the causes and document the consequences of the civil war that has ravaged the country for 50 years and claimed over seven million lives.

“There exists abundant information about the sexual violence, in absolute impunity thanks to the bilateral agreements and the diplomatic immunity of United States officials,” Renan Vega, of the National University of Colombia in Bogota, told Colombia Reports.

Vega authored the portion of the report documenting the allegations of sexual abuse by US military personnel and contractors, deployed in the country under ‘Plan Colombia’ to back the government against FARC and cocaine cartels.

Most of the abuses allegedly took place in Melgar, a town in the province of Tolima, located 61 miles (98 km) southwest of Bogota. In one instance, contractors based at Tolemaida Air Base were abusing more than 50 underage girls and making pornographic videos.

In another instance, in 2007, one US sergeant and a security contractor were accused of sexually assaulting a 12-year-old girl. An investigation by Colombian prosecutors established that the girl had been drugged and assaulted inside the military base by Sergeant Michael J. Coen and contractor Cesar Ruiz. Both were flown out of the country, as terms of the US-Colombian Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) gave US personnel immunity from local laws.

The girl and her family left Melgar and moved to Medellin, claiming harassment and threats from the US-allied government forces.

The Colombian daily El Tiempo reported that Melgar was dealing with a ”a growing societal problem” of sexually exploited minors, “augmented by the presence of foreigners, especially those from the United States tied to oil and military endeavors.” The newspaper reported that there had been 23 formal complaints in 2006 and 13 in 2007. Left-leaning news site El Turbion corroborated the numbers.

According to the government, 7,234 Colombian women were registered as victims of sex crimes during the conflict.

Read more: Immunity for US troops in Afghanistan reveals colonial nature of Security Pact

March 25, 2015 Posted by | Militarism, Subjugation - Torture | , , , , | 1 Comment

Resisting Israeli politics

By Brenda Heard | Aletho News | March 25, 2015

Six months prior to the upcoming UK general election, the Board of Deputies of British Jews published its “2015 General Election Jewish Manifesto.” This forty-page document urges both existing and prospective members of the UK Parliament to support various “policy asks” and to “champion these causes.” The Manifesto was styled after a very similar one created for the 2014 EU elections.  Indeed their goals appear the same: to ensure a pro-Israeli agenda in the House of Commons and beyond.

The 2015 Manifesto does include some discussion of faith-based issues, such as underscoring the need of the Jewish community in the UK to be able to provide Kosher meat and to observe the Sabbath. This discussion is a just and valid participation of citizens in their government. The problem arises, however, when the Manifesto equates Jewish and Israeli. With 58 mentions of Israel, the Manifesto, cloaked in blue and white imagery throughout, even boasts a full-page illustration of the British and Israeli flags flying together.

This self-proclaimed “voice of British Jewry” avows a “very strong attachment to the State of Israel.” Yet it is difficult to reconcile this support with such statements as “The UK Jewish community is committed to peace, security, prosperity and equality for Israel, the Palestinians and the wider Middle East” when this statement was penned less than two months after a vicious Israeli onslaught against Gaza, an indiscriminate rampage that in just fifty days killed at least 2,100 Palestinians, some 70% of whom were civilians, including 519 children. A recent report by the American National Lawyers Guild concluded that “both facts and law refute the Israeli self-defense claims” and that Israel had “collectively punished the entire civilian population.” Indeed, Israeli forces intentionally targeted Palestinian civilians, leaving them dead and wounded, homeless and devastated. There has been no peace, no security, no prosperity and no equality for the Palestinians. Not ever.

Yet the Board of Deputies of British Jews expresses unwavering support for Israel. Any resistance to Israeli policy, the Manifesto maintains, should be denounced by the world. The Manifesto offers scant attention to the Palestinian resistance group Hamas, however, noting that the EU had already classified Hamas as a terrorist organisation, one with whom the UK should “refuse to engage.” Two months after the publication of the Manifesto, the EU General Court removed Hamas from the list of terrorist organisations, stating:

“the General Court finds that the contested measures are based not on acts examined and confirmed in decisions of competent authorities but on factual imputations derived from the press and the internet.”

The Board of Deputies of British Jews promptly condemned this “unacceptable” ruling, and called it “an affront to the values of Europe.” The Board statement also used the opportunity to reiterate various accusations against Hamas—characterisations that have for years engendered the very hearsay that was finally rejected by the EU General Court. The Council of the EU soon appealed the court’s decision. The Board cheered the appeal and the efforts taken to ensure the appeal, stating “we commend the European Jewish Congress on all its work in ensuring that this issue remains on top of the agenda in Brussels.” The power of lobbying for Israel.

As for Lebanon, the Manifesto proudly points out that the UK led the EU designation of Hezbollah’s military wing as a terrorist organisation in 2013. But that action was not enough to appease the Board, which urges the UK to lead the campaign to expand that designation to the “entirety” of Hezbollah. The key here is that Israel and its allies have always wanted to destroy all semblance of Hezbollah, as every aspect of the group builds the pride and strength of a Lebanese populace. It is the will to resist Israeli encroachment—the entire culture of resistance in both Palestine and Lebanon—that Israel wants to break. And this is a sentiment of political Israel, not of “British Jewry.” This has nothing to do with the Jewish faith.

Rather similar to the hearsay problem cited by the EU General Court, the accusations hurled at Hezbollah are based on decades of presumptions that Hezbollah is a ruthless entity to be feared and crushed.  The fervour to destroy Hezbollah has long been evident in the policies of Israel, the US and the UK.  Together, these three bodies have tremendous abilities to create and to seemingly substantiate and certainly to sell the narrative that suits their own agenda.  Perhaps it is time to question these fervent accusations.

The Manifesto asserts that Hezbollah has “launched attacks against European and Jewish civilians worldwide” and offers three examples to illustrate this sweeping and unsubstantiated accusation: Buenos Aires (1994), Bulgaria (2012), Cyprus (2013). The responsibility in each of these incidents is far from conclusive.

The Buenos Aires investigation was at once tainted by the immediate involvement of US and Israeli intelligence services. The case was indelibly ruined by layers of corruption within Argentinian services. Even the Guardian acknowledged the investigation to be a “complex saga of mind-boggling intrigue.” Surely the extensive research published in 2008 by historian Gareth Porter should at the very least create reasonable doubt about Hezbollah’s involvement.

Like Buenos Aires, the Bulgarian case investigation was aided by US and Israeli intelligence services. Several reports raise doubts as to the legitimacy of the judgement process, examples of which: Gareth Porter, here and here; Times of Israel ; Haaretz ; Bulgarian FM Vigenin. Despite Israel’s initial finger-pointing at Hezbollah, the investigation revealed compelling forensic evidence of an Al Qaeda-linked suspect, which was mysteriously dropped only to reveal three Lebanese dual-nationals as suspects. The investigation that struggled for answers somehow, with the help of the US and Israel, was able to link those suspects to Hezbollah. How politically convenient.

In an attempt to offer conclusive evidence of an attack-plotting Hezbollah, the Manifesto offers a fear-inspiring quotation from an allegedly self-confessed Hezbollah member who had seemingly bungled surveillance work in Cyprus and was caught out by Mossad. The man’s “handler,” who was “always wearing a mask,” wanted him to pinpoint Kosher restaurants and to track the arrival times of flights from Israel. But why risk doing such surveillance in person? This information is readily available online, even if it required some creative computing skills. The culprit’s narrative reads more like the stuff of a cheap spy novel than it does the operational expertise of a group with more than thirty-years successful experience. Even if the confessor thought he was, in his nervously ever-changing narrative, revealing some truth, who is to say that he was not led by an imposter to believe he was acting under the direction of Hezbollah, when in fact he was not? Mission not so very impossible.

Still, we are meant to believe that in planning such globally significant missions, Hezbollah was careless enough to leave a paper-trail and to choose men who were inept in their tasks and men who would break under police questioning and tell all. And we are meant to believe that the consistent aid of US and Israeli intelligence has always been strictly objective.

This article is not intended to be a full rebuttal to these specific accusations. The point remains that there is at least reasonable doubt. These accusations are on many levels fuelled by a hatred that has burned for decades, a hatred that would stop at nothing to eradicate the Islamic Resistance of Lebanon. But even if you remain unconvinced of their problematic nature, even if you cannot bring yourself to offer Hezbollah the benefit of the doubt, there remains a double standard in this “Policy Ask” from the Board of Deputies of British Jews. How in the name of civilised democracy can the British Government continue to vehemently denounce Hezbollah, yet eagerly champion an Israeli government that routinely practices that which it condemns?

The Manifesto complains, for instance, that Hezbollah arranged surveillance of Jewish people. Yet we find the following boast in the Board’s EU Manifesto:

“As part of the widespread intelligence cooperation between Israel and the EU, Israel is providing essential information to EU officials enabling them to enforce the proscription [against Hezbollah].”

So it is acceptable for Israel to spy on Lebanese, but not vice versa? The Manifesto also complains Hezbollah allegedly exploited dual-nationals and used false identity papers. Yet this technique is an integral component of Mossad, from false identities and false flags in the 1950s, to political military espionage in the 1960s, to international vigilante justice in the 1970s, to fake passports and double agent killing squads in the 1980s, to assassination attempts in the 1990s, to falsified passports and passport fraud, and assassination after assassination in the 2000s.

These activities tend to be forgotten in the wake of repeated wars on the Lebanese and Palestinians. These activities are often subjectively shrugged off as necessary handling of “legitimate” targets, perhaps with a few unfortunate mistakes. Nonetheless, they exhibit a perpetual defiance of the rule of law, a defiance that is made glaringly clear in Israel’s custom of not only indiscriminate, but also deliberate attacks on the civilian population of the Palestinian territories.

After Israel’s 2006 onslaught on Lebanon, the UN Commission of Inquiry emphasised that one third of the Lebanese casualties were children and stated:

“The Commission highlights a significant pattern of excessive, indiscriminate and disproportionate use of force by IDF against Lebanese civilians and civilian objects. . . The Commission has formed a clear view that, cumulatively, the deliberate and lethal attacks by the IDF on civilians and civilian objects amounted to collective punishment.”

Likewise, after Israel’s 2009 onslaught on Gaza, the UN Fact Finding Mission concluded that:

“what occurred in just over three weeks at the end of 2008 and the beginning of 2009 was a deliberately disproportionate attack designed to punish, humiliate and terrorize a civilian population, radically diminish its local economic capacity both to work and to provide for itself, and to force upon it an ever increasing sense of dependency and vulnerability.”

Following Israel’s 2014 onslaught on Gaza, an Independent Medical Fact-Finding Mission described in detail the reckless, often deliberate targeting of civilians, including the use of the “double tap”: multiple consecutive strikes on a single location that would lead to additional casualties amongst civilian onlookers and rescuers.

Perhaps as much as casualty statistics, this calculated strategy reveals not merely what the Manifesto describes euphemistically as “challenges about integration between different sectors of the population that need to be addressed,” but what one IDF Staff Sergeant described as “contempt for human life.” He was relating a similar tactic ordered by his battalion commander in the West Bank:

“You leave bodies in the field—they told me they did it a lot in Lebanon— you leave a body in the field, and you wait until they come to recover it so you can shoot at them. It’s like you’re setting up an ambush around the body. But those are things I heard about Lebanon. So it happened here [in Nablus], too.”

Contempt for human life happened. Contempt for rule of law happened. Again and again, at the hands of the “democratic state” promoted by the Board of Deputies of British Jews, who in the same instance would like to coax British and Europeans to condemn the very victims of that state’s crimes. While their Manifesto offers a few pages pushing Israeli politics, I offer my recently published book, Hezbollah: An Outsider’s Inside View. Based on eight years of getting to know the people who are Hezbollah, this inside view of the Islamic Resistance of Lebanon offers the opportunity to explore for yourself the militants at the horizon. May common sense, not lobbying efforts, shape the concerns of the British people.

Brenda is the founder and director of Friends of Lebanon, UK.  She is the author of numerous articles and the recently published Hezbollah: An Outsider’s Inside View.  She can be reached at brenda.heard@friendsoflebanon.org.

March 25, 2015 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , , , , , | Leave a comment