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Pentagon sends jets, warning as Syria bombs near US-backed Kurds

RT | August 19, 2016

The US-led coalition scrambled planes near the northeastern Syrian city of Hasakah, after Syrian SU-24 airplanes dropped bombs “dangerously near” the US Special Forces operators embedded with the Kurdish YPG militia in the area.

Two Syrian Su-24 jets struck Kurdish positions in and near Hasakah, in northeastern Syria, on Thursday, Pentagon spokesman Captain Jeff Davis told reporters.

The strike came close to US Special Forces operators, who were embedded with the so-called Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), comprised of the Kurdish YPG and local Arab militias.

By the time the US jets arrived, the Syrian bombers had already departed. No Americans were wounded in the bombing, according to Davis. The Special Forces were ordered to retreat from the area as a precaution.

When the strikes began, the “coalition forces on the ground” tried reaching the Syrian jets on a common radio frequency, but received no response, Davis added. US forces then reached out to the Russian military, using a previously established channel, and the Russians confirmed their aircraft were not involved.

The Americans made it clear that the US would “take whatever action is necessary” to defend the special operators on the ground, Davis said.

The US has increased air patrols in the area, Davis said.

Local media report that the fighting in Hasakah broke out earlier this week between the pro-government National Defense Forces (NDF) militia and the Kurdish forces, with the Syrian Army role limited to 10 airstrikes against the Kurds.

In a statement, the Syrian Army said it “responded appropriately” to the attempt by Kurdish militias to take over the city.

The US-backed SDF was set up in October 2015, as a proxy force against Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL). The militia recently succeeded in ousting IS from Manbij, a strategic city in northern Syria near the Turkish border.

While the Russian aerospace forces have been invited by the government in Damascus, the presence of US forces in Syria is not authorized under international law.

August 19, 2016 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, Militarism, War Crimes | , | Leave a comment

Why Palestine Matters, Even on the Pitch

By John Wight | CounterPunch | August 19, 2016

The conventional wisdom that politics should be kept out of sport, that sport and politics do not mix, is a myth propagated by an establishment for whom political engagement on any level, apart from that which involves passively entering a voting booth to put your ‘X’ in the appropriate box, is deemed a threat to the status quo.

In truth, sports and politics are two sides of the same coin simply because politics and life are two sides of the same coin.

When it comes to football there is no more political an institution than Celtic Football Club in Glasgow. Formed in 1888 by an Irish Catholic cleric known as Brother Walfrid to raise money to feed and minister to the material needs of poverty-stricken Irish immigrants in the West of Scotland — a migrant community whose presence was regarded as anathema to a native population and workforce on the basis that they were people of an alien religion and culture, competing for the same jobs and thereby lowering the wages of all workers by dint of that eternal law of capitalist economics, supply and demand. It reminds us that we live in a country and a society in Britain that has scarred the world with an Empire that sowed misery and despair on a grand scale when in its pomp, and whose legacy remains a distorting factor across the world to this day.

The consequence for the Irish in Scotland in the late 19th century was that their assimilation into mainstream society was blocked, forcing them to create parallel social structures and organisations of their own for the purposes of survival — material and cultural. Celtic FC came into being as part of this process.

Out of this history has derived a concrete identity and set of values that generations of Celtic fans have embraced, upheld, and carried with pride. Aligned with the republican and nationalist community in the North of Ireland, with their bitter Glasgow rivals Rangers FC associated with Ireland’s loyalist and unionist community, Celtic supporters are typically among the most politically aware and conscious of any demographic in society. For them Celtic is more than just another football club it is a political and social institution, one that has always stood and must continue to stand for justice in the face of injustice, racism, oppression, and apartheid wherever and whenever it arises.

Which brings us onto the furore over the intention of Celtic supporters to fly Palestinian flags during the club’s European Champions League qualifying fixture against Hapoel Beer Sheva of Israel. Celtic supporters, along with the aforementioned republican and nationalist community in Ireland, have embraced the Palestinian struggle against occupation and apartheid as their own. It is an affinity based on a shared experience of colonial oppression and the religious, cultural, and racial bigotry upon which it rests. Laid bare, Israel is a settler colonial state that exists at the negation of the Palestinian people, a people whose existence has been reduced to a living hell on a daily basis as a consequence.

Aside from an occupation that has been extant since 1967, the same year that Celtic FC were making history in Europe, aside from the theft of evermore Palestinian land and resources, the expansion of illegal settlements, economic embargo, hundreds of military checkpoints making free passage impossible, and the erection of an apartheid wall; aside from all that the Palestinians have been subjected to numerous full scale military assaults over the years, utilising the most lethal and destructive weaponry in existence, in which thousands of civilians, women and children among them, have been slaughtered or seriously injured and maimed.

The idea that those who carry Palestinian flags are motivated by anything other than the desire to express solidarity with those suffering injustice and oppression, that instead it is antisemitism and racism which drives such people, this is utterly grotesque and deserving of contempt.

It is not Israel’s Jewish character that is the issue, as those who attempt to delegitimise the Palestinian struggle and those who support it continually maintain. It is Israel’s apartheid character that is the issue, and where better to demonstrate resistance to apartheid than in a packed football stadium alongside thousands of others.

The Palestinian flag is more than a national symbol; it has taken on the mantle of a symbol of defiance in the face of colonial oppression and apartheid, both of which the Ireland to which Celtic FC is historically and culturally rooted has experienced in its long and tortured history.

Sport does not exist in a vacuum and the struggle for justice cannot and should not be parked outside a football stadium for ninety seconds much less ninety minutes. It is why the attempt to ban the Palestinian flag from Celtic Park is tantamount to an attempt to ban justice from Celtic Park.

If such a ban is implemented and succeeds the rumbling that greets it will be the sound of Brother Walfrid turning in his grave.

John Wight is the author of a politically incorrect and irreverent Hollywood memoir – Dreams That Die – published by Zero Books. He’s also written five novels, which are available as Kindle eBooks. You can follow him on Twitter at @JohnWight1

August 19, 2016 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Solidarity and Activism, Timeless or most popular | , , , | 1 Comment

The Upcoming Nicaraguan Election Will Be a Test

By Nil NIKANDROV | Strategic Culture Foundation | 19.08.2016

After three Americans from the US embassy were accused of espionage and tossed out of Nicaragua, a protest was lodged in Managua against this «unwarranted» decision, and the Nicaraguan government was warned that the relationship between the two countries would suffer inevitable damage in tourism, trade, and investment from the US. The State Department issued notice that Americans might face threats in Nicaragua. The war of propaganda waged against Daniel Ortega’s regime has become so ferocious that political commentators are drawing conclusions about Washington’s plans to «end the dictatorship» in Nicaragua once and for all.

The Democratic Initiative of Spain and the Americas (IDEA), an international forum, was created in April of 2015 in order to launch attacks on Ortega and other Latin American «populist» leaders, and Washington was responsible for choosing its members: the chosen favorites include – Álvaro Uribe of Colombia, Alejandro Toledo of Peru, Lucio Gutiérrez of Ecuador, Felipe Calderón of Mexico, Óscar Arias of Costa Rica, José María Aznar of Spain, and others. These politicians work closely with the United States and continue to defer to Washington, even after leaving office.

IDEA released a statement in August that was highly critical of Nicaragua and which reads like something out of the Cold War: «The international community finds the violation of the democratic system in Nicaragua so worrisome that the former Ibero-American heads of state and of government have decided to ask the OAS and the EU to maintain critical oversight of these serious violations of democratic and constitutional order». And it goes on to say that statements by the members of IDEA «may be preceded by certain political and diplomatic actions, as provided by international law … in order to defend democracy and reestablish it where it has been compromised, as in the current example of Nicaragua».

In its attacks on the Nicaraguan government, the US National Security Agency uses materials obtained over the course of years of electronic surveillance of President Ortega, as well as his family and inner circle. Its deft use of such materials makes it possible to circulate all sorts of drivel that is designed to defame politicians who have been marked for public retaliation. Almost every «populist bloc» leader in Latin America is currently up against such cheap shots – Inácio Lula da Silva, Dilma Rousseff, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, Rafael Correa, Nicolás Maduro, Evo Morales, and others.

Daniel Ortega has led his country for 13 years. He has been elected three times: in 1985, 2006, and 2012, and no one is predicting that he will have any opponents in the upcoming Nov. 6 election. Ortega’s political rivals are feuding amongst themselves. Despite the behind-the-scenes efforts of the US embassy, is has not been possible to consolidate the opposition in the run-up to the election. For this reason, the US has launched a blitzkrieg of propaganda against Daniel Ortega, his wife Rosario Murillo, and their grown children. The leitmotif of these «revelations» is a familiar one – some hogwash about the abuse of power, corruption, multi-million-dollar accounts in overseas banks, and the ownership of foreign real estate. The US continues to harp on the supposed parallels with the family of the dictator Anastasio Somoza; «Somoza García amassed a huge fortune, making him and his family some of the richest people in all of Latin America. By the time of his death in 1956 he left his children $200 million, which they managed to triple within a few years. His son, Anastasio Somoza DeBayle, owned 130 real estate holdings, as well as estates, residences, and tracts of land. He was owner of an airline (Líneas Aéreas de Nicaragua), a television station (Televisora de Nicaragua), the San Uribe and San Albino gold mines, and more».

One might well ask, what does Somoza’s wealth have to do with Ortega and his family? Nevertheless, the author of the article writes: «As is usual for totalitarian regimes of the past, there is no reliable information about the finances of the Nicaraguan president and his wife. That knotty question is top secret». Although there is no «reliable information», he goes on to claim that the family owns the Distribuidora Nicaragüense de Petróleos chain of gas stations, plus media outlets including four TV channels, radio stations, newspapers, websites, etc. In addition, Ortega has control over the project to build a transoceanic canal that would link the Pacific and Atlantic oceans, the cost of which is estimated at $50 billion. That mega-project has the backing of the Chinese entrepreneur Wang Jing.

Naturally of course the Chinese-Nicaraguan canal mega-project was met with hostility by Washington. They don’t want anything competing with the updated Panama Canal. And as for the company Distribuidora Nicaragüense de Petróleos, that is a model for energy-sector cooperation between Venezuela and Nicaragua – not some private racket that is allegedly being used by Ortega’s friends for their personal enrichment.

During the years when the Sandinistas were in the opposition, Ortega was constantly faced with the problem of getting access to the media. His attempts to communicate his views to the public invariably ran up against an information boycott. But now the situation has changed drastically. Ortega has turned the tide to his own advantage. The government controls hundreds of Internet websites, as well as the news services Nicaragua Triunfa and Nicaragua Comovamos. Dozens of provincial radio stations work on the side of the government, as do influential national stations like Radio Sandino, La Nueva Radio Ya, Radio Nicaragua, and Radio Primerísima. The work of the government and the president gets favorable coverage by TV channels that are managed by members of the Ortega family – Canal 13, Multinoticias Canal 4, Canal 8, and Telenica Canal 10. The pro-government channels also include Canal 23, Canal Extra Plus, 100 % Noticias, and others. None of the «leftist» Latin American presidents enjoy such an effective mouthpiece for information and propaganda as Ortega.

Yet despite the accusations that it is a dictatorship, the country has no censorship restrictions. The opposition and, consequently, the US embassy have every opportunity to proselytize there. Popular newspapers like La Prensa and El Nuevo Diario and the weekly Confidencial are employed with particular vigor toward this goal. Ortega responds immediately, using fiercely anti-imperialist and anti-American terminology. Nor does he keep silent when Washington directs attacks against Nicaragua’s allies. Ortega’s speeches in support of Russia, Cuba, and friendly governments in Ecuador, Bolivia, and other countries resonate far and wide.

The ideological underpinnings of Ortega’s international policy have remained unchanged throughout recent years: they consist of a fundamental rejection of American hegemony, coupled with patriotism, nationalism, and «socialism with a Nicaraguan face», plus support for the Latin American path to a true people’s democracy. This 70-year-old politician has never altered his revolutionary convictions. That said however, he is a flexible strategist who understands that a superpower can strike at any time and that the US is still unpredictable and dangerous. As the leader of a small country he has no choice but to maneuver, and he manages to do so without compromising his principles.

In December 2015 the CIA launched into yet another act of provocation against Nicaragua. Under the influence of inflammatory media reports about the Obama administration’s possible suspension of the preferential treatment Cuban migrants receive upon entering the US, hundreds rushed to emigrate from that island nation. The route suggested by the «well-wishers» from Miami: first by air from Havana to Ecuador (no visa needed), then by bus across several borders into Mexico, and from there into the US. Nothing to worry about, or so it would seem. However, Nicaraguan counter-intelligence got its hands on some information about CIA plans to use those migrants to stir things up. After arriving in Nicaragua from Costa Rica, their onward path – through Honduras, Guatemala, and Mexico – was to be closed, and the Cuban migrants would find themselves stranded in Nicaragua for a long time. As envisioned by the CIA, they were supposed to be the fuse to the ticking bomb of the country’s destabilization. Therefore, Daniel Ortega’s decision was emphatic: there should be no back doors, and the ones who came up with the whole migrant scheme should be the ones to deal with the mess! Demands that the migrants be admitted were hurled at that «inhumane regime» from all manner of human rights organizations patronized by American foundations. The members of the Central American Integration System (SICA) went public with their criticism of Ortega’s decision. The migrants themselves, as if on cue, tried to crash through the Nicaraguan border, with children and pregnant women planted in their forward ranks. The Nicaraguan government needed time to force the fugitives into Costa Rica. Tensions eased by February-March 2016. Ortega’s government refused to be blackmailed, and Washington had to quietly furnish its ally Costa Rica with financial assistance in order to provide for the migrants and evacuate them by air…

As the date of the Nicaraguan presidential election nears, new acts of provocation should be expected from US intelligence agencies and the American embassy. Ambassador Laura Dogu works assiduously with the Nicaraguan business community, persuading them that the ongoing Sandinista administration and its policy of «socialism with a Nicaraguan face» can only hurt their business interests.

The US embassy has conspicuously stepped up its work with the media and activists from NGOs and indigenous organizations, as well as the country’s youth. US intelligence agencies, diplomats, staffers with USAID (which is in reality a branch of the CIA), and Peace Corps volunteers are pinning their main hopes on Nicaragua’s youth, viewing that demographic as the most promising in the struggle against the Nicaraguan regime.

The Constitution offers no barriers to President Ortega’s reelection. He has been accused of taking control of executive, legislative, and judicial power, but the main factor ensuring his re-election is his broad popular support, which Ortega enjoys thanks to the social programs established during his years in office. Despite his socialist, anti-imperialist views, the president has many supporters in the country’s business community.

The November election forecasts don’t look too auspicious for the conspirators in the US embassy: Daniel Ortega is once again going to be elected president.

August 19, 2016 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , , | Leave a comment

Mexican police executed 22 civilians in drug raid: Rights body

Press TV – August 19, 2016

A human rights body has found that Mexican police killed nearly two dozen civilians in “arbitrary executions” during a raid against a drug cartel in the country’s troubled west last year.

The independent National Human Rights Commission said in a report on Thursday that the massacre happened in the federal police raid against the Jalisco Nueva Generacion cartel in the western state of Michoacan on May 22, 2015.

Police officers committed “violations of the right to life by excessive use of force that entailed the arbitrary execution of 22 civilians,” the commission said.

Meanwhile, commission chief Ismael Eslava said the government forces also perpetrated “aggravated acts of torture on two people who were detained.”

According to the commission report, forensic investigations indicated police had moved the bodies of those killed in the raid and placed guns next to them in an attempt to cover up the crime.

It also noted that a police helicopter fired 4,000 rounds into the farm where the suspects were hiding.

Responding to the document, Renato Sales, the chairman of Mexico’s National Security Committee, rejected the characterization of arbitrary executions and defended the actions of police.

He said the shooting erupted when the suspects refused to drop their weapons. “We do not think the theory of arbitrary executions stands up.”

The government said previously that the helicopter had fired to contain the suspects. It also said that the 42 people killed by police had attacked officers.

The commission report concluded that a total of 43 people were killed in the security operation, including one policeman and numerous suspected criminals, but only 22 of them were deemed arbitrary executions by police.

The commission also found fault with the actions of investigators from the Michoacan Attorney General’s Office, who mishandled ballistics evidence. Medical examiners likewise came under criticism for irregularities in the autopsies and delays in the return of bodies to their families.

The incident is considered as one of the bloodiest battles in the Mexican government’s decade-long campaign against powerful drug gangs across the Latin American state.

Official figures show that more than 35,000 people are currently missing in the country due to drug-related violence, which has also claimed thousands of lives over the past few years.

Police corruption, drug cartels and organized crime are the greatest challenges facing Mexico.

August 19, 2016 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Subjugation - Torture | , , | Leave a comment

Could a Russian-Led Coalition Defeat Hillary’s War Plans?

By Gary Leupp | CounterPunch | August 19, 2016

Joe Scarborough this morning on MSNBC was inveighing against the “ransom” the U.S. supposedly paid to Tehran in return for the release of U.S. prisoners (“hostages”) in Iran. Two other talking heads also used that term “ransom” matter-of-factly to describe what happened while acknowledging that the money had been owed to Iran by the U.S. since the days of the Shah. Just more knee-jerk anti-Iran, anti-nuclear agreement rhetoric.

Then Joe turned to Syria, bemoaning the U.S. “silence” and lack of action to end the carnage, absolutely ignoring the fact that the U.S. has repeatedly tried and failed to recruit and train Syrian allies to fight the regime, is bankrolling rebel groups, and has provided them with arms that have wound up in the hands of al-Nusra and ISIL. He acts as though further U.S. action in Syria (which he imagines the world cries out for, from this last best hope of mankind) would produce better results than it did in Iraq or Libya. It is frightening to see the mainstream media line up with the 51 State Department “dissidents” and Hillary on Syria, while it continues to promote crude anti-Russian and anti-Iranian propaganda.

The representation of Russia as an “existential threat” to the U.S. is preposterous fantasy. Just like the depiction of Iran as a nuclear threat is preposterous, and the notion that Bashar al-Assad’s secular government in Syria is the cause for the emergence of ISIL is sheer delusion.

Russia with 12% the U.S. military budget has military bases in precisely 8 foreign countries: Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgystan, Tajikistan (all nations bordering Russia, and former soviet socialist republics) plus Syria and Vietnam. Its only foreign naval facilities are in the latter two countries. The Sevastopol base in Crimea used to be on Ukrainian territory, but Russia has of course annexed the Crimean Peninisula to ensure continued control of the headquarters of its Black Sea fleet.

The U.S. in contrast has over 650 military bases abroad, and five naval bases on the Mediterranean coast alone, in Spain, Italy and Greece. There are 10,000 sailors stationed at NSA Naples. In that same region the Russians have only their resupply station in Tartus, Syria operative by treaty since 1971, typically with a tiny garrison.

The Russian air force base in Latakia, Syria is a modest operation, incapable of supporting those Tupolev-22M3 long-range bombers and Sukhoi-34 fighter bombers used to bomb ISIL and al-Nusra targets a few days ago in Aleppo and elsewhere. Those took off instead from Sahid Nojeh air base near Hamadan, Iran, causing some Pentagon concern and (false) accusations that the mission somehow violated a UNSC resolution about arming Iran. Moscow is boasting of mission success. (Morning Joe’s upset about that true.)

Russian forces have already done more damage to ISIL, dismissed in January 2014 by President Obama as a minor problem, than the U.S. The U.S. started its bombing of ISIL months before the Russians but Russian strikes have turned the tide of battle in Syria.

One is struck simultaneously with Russia’s relative weakness vis-a-vis the hyperpower, and its creativity in reacting belatedly (just since September 2015) to the U.S.-orchestrated destruction of the Middle East.

Moscow is well aware that pro-Hillary forces in the State Department are rallying in favor of short-term, Libya-like regime change in Syria. But everybody knows there will be no UN fig leaf this time, as there was in 2011. Russia, (and as looks likely, China also) active in the Syrian skies will not accept a “no-fly zone” unilaterally proclaimed by the Exceptional Nation, restricting a sovereign government’s right to deploy aircraft in its own air space.

Moscow has basically carved out a coalition against regime change in Syria, united in abhorrence of ISIL and al-Nusra (now Fateh al-Sham) but pledged to the defense of the existing secular Syrian state and specifically to support for its professional, mostly Sunni and Sunni-led army. The pro-Assad forces now include the Syrian Arab Army and assorted militia, Lebanese Hizbollah fighters, Iraqi Shiite militia fighters, Russia, and Iran. India has repeatedly offered support for the government, and China has just vowed to provide aid and military training.

The Kill Assad Now Coalition on the other hand consists of the Hillary wing of the U.S. State Department, absolute monarchs of Gulf nations where Sharia is the law, and some NATO allies including Turkey. They want to prioritize the destruction of the Assad regime over the destruction of terror groups in Syria. But Turkey’s president Erdogan is reconsidering his foreign relations generally. After the recent coup attempt in which he believes the U.S. was complicit he has met with Putin in Moscow and mended relations strained by the Turkish shooting down of a Russian fighter plane over Syria last November.

Turkey’s foreign minister has intimated that a normalization of relations with Syria is also in the cards. Especially if Turkey shifts (perhaps in return for Russian help in preventing the establishment of a Syrian Kurdistan), it might become well nigh impossible for Hillary to bomb Assad out of power.

Unless of course she wanted to show how strong she is and start World War III. That could be even worse than a Trump presidency, arguably, don’t you think?

August 19, 2016 Posted by | Militarism, War Crimes | , , , | Leave a comment

Clinton Privilege: a Rejoinder to a Popular Charge Against #NeverHillary

By Michael Howard | CounterPunch | August 19, 2016

We’ve all heard the sophism by now: those on the left who refuse to cast a ballot for H.R. Clinton this November need to “check their privilege,” for it is this privilege that precludes the specter of President Trump from keeping them awake at night. In other words, since the Never Hillary camp is mostly white (like every other voting bloc in the US), they need not worry about being persecuted by the nativism and bigotry enabling Donald Trump’s success.

“A Trump presidency,” writes Quiana Fulton for the Inquisitr, “will likely have no impact on white folks’ lives, but for minorities, well, we don’t have the luxury of being ‘Bernie or Bust’ supporters. Our lives are in peril this election cycle.”

Elsewhere, Melissa Hillman puts it into interrogative form: “How privileged do you need to be to imagine that it’s a good idea to risk the actual lives of vulnerable Americans because you ‘hate’ Clinton so much that you vow to stay home if Sanders doesn’t get the nomination?”

And writing for Pajiba, Dustin Rowles asserts that “this whole Bernie or Bust movement is the self-serving, entitled bullshit of people who won’t have to worry about a Trump election because they’re not black, or Muslim, or a woman.”

The game of moral blackmail is a dubious one, but when in Rome….

One notes that the forgoing authors all fail to mention, or perhaps acknowledge, how convenient it is not to have to fear being maimed or killed by shrapnel from an American-made bomb; a privilege all of us, irrespective of gender, race or religion, share equally. Moreover, I’m not aware of an American citizen whose home is liable to be bulldozed to the ground by an occupying army so as to make room for more colonial settlements.

It’s a matter of truncated empathy, it would seem, or else plain racism. A world exists beyond the United States, and other human beings inhabit it. Millions of them—mostly brown people; Muslims—are currently living with and dying from the grisly consequences of American military aggression, of which the moral blackmailers’ favored candidate is very fond. Millions more live and die under the yoke of Zionist brutality, of which the moral blackmailers’ favored candidate is perhaps even fonder.

Not everyone is indifferent to the suffering endured by those unfortunate enough to be born into a region the American Empire saw fit to mutilate. It hardly needs to be said that those of us who aren’t cannot in good conscience bring ourselves to vote for a candidate who counts among her personal mentors a notorious war criminal, and who promises to invite Israel’s prime minister to the White House in her first month in office.

Privilege has precisely nothing to do with it; anyone who says otherwise is either intellectually dishonest or intellectually challenged.

One inevitably wonders whether those With Her who demand that we “check our privilege” have ever bothered to consider the extent of their own, particularly in relation to the people who actually have none at all. If they’ve indeed done so, they evidently don’t want us to know, preferring to come across as moral hypocrites.

August 19, 2016 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Militarism, War Crimes | , , , , | Leave a comment

Alarm over the public loss of trust in science

By Judith Curry | Climate Etc. | August 18, 2016

A blast of fresh air from the new Editor-in-Chief of Science. “Science editor-in-chief sounds alarm over falling public trust. Jeremy Berg warns scientists are straying into policy commentator roles.”

You may recall my previous article that bemoaned what was going on with the journal Science — Editor-in-Chief Marcia McNutt’s op-ed that was published in Science : Beyond the two-degree inferno. If you read my post on this (at the link), I can’t recall much that has disturbed me more than McNutt’s overt alarmisn and advocacy in the context of her role as Editor-in-Chief of Science.

A summary of my concerns:

… my main concern is this – the editorial was published in Science and written by McNutt who is the CHIEF EDITOR for Science.  Science, along with Nature, has far and away the highest impact factor of any scientific journals on the planet – Science matters. Like Nature, Science sends out for review only a small fraction of the submitted papers. Apart from the role the Chief Editor may have in selecting which papers go out for review or eventually get published, this essay sends a message to the other editors and reviewers that papers challenging the consensus are not to be published in Science. Not to mention giving favored status to papers by activist authors that sound the ‘alarm’ – pal review and all that. After all, ‘the time for debate has ended.’

Well, Marcia McNutt has moved on, she is now President of the National Academy of Sciences. I have a separate set of concerns about that one, but at least she is no longer involved in the arbitration of published scientific research in the U.S.’s premier science journal.

There is a new Editor-in-Chief at Science: Jeremy Berg. See the press release from Science [link].  Excerpts:

Jeremy Berg, a biochemist and administrator at the University of Pittsburgh (Pitt) in Pennsylvania, will become the next editor-in-chief of Science magazine on 1 July. A former director of the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS) who has a longstanding interest in science policy.

Times Higher Education has a new article on this:  Science Editor-in-Chief Sounds Alarm Over Falling Public Trust.

Well the title certainly caught my attention. Lets take a look at what Jeremy Berg has to say about his new position. Excerpts from the Times article:

As the new editor-in-chief of Science, a highly selective journal that still has the controversial power to make scientific careers, the biochemist and former University of Pittsburgh senior manager is worried about an apparent rejection of science by some parts of the public – and thinks that academics should look closely at how their own behaviour may have contributed.

“One of the things that drew me to this position… is there’s a crisis in public trust in science. I don’t pretend to have answers to that question but it is something that I care deeply about.”

Berg acknowledges that society’s confidence in science does “wax and wane” over time but thinks that, this time, things are different.

In the US, “scientists have been labelled as another special interest group”, he says.

Part of this is down to the polarisation of American politics and the rise of an anti-intellectual spirit, Berg thinks. His fears echo Atul Gawande, an American health writer, who earlier this year told graduating students at the California Institute of Technology that “we are experiencing a significant decline in trust in scientific authorities”.

But researchers are not entirely blameless for this rising hostility, thinks Berg. Too often they have gone beyond explaining the scientific situation and ventured into policy prescriptions, notably in the case of climate change, he thinks. “The policy issues should be informed by science, but they are separate questions,” he says. “Scientists to some degree, intentionally or otherwise, have been mashing the two together,” he adds, and urges scientists to be more “transparent” about “where the firmness of your conclusions end”.

But some in the scientific community argue that high-profile journals such as Science are partly to blame for the very overhyping of results that Berg decries.

A paper published in 2011 made waves after it found that there was a correlation between journal impact factors (JIFs) – which measure average paper citation rates over the past two years and are highest for prestigious journals such as Science, Nature and Cell – and the rate of retractions. Science had the second highest rate of retractions among the journals studied, below only the New England Journal of Medicine.

JC reflections

Wow. I haven’t been so heartened by statements from ‘establishment’ science in a long time. What is really astonishing is that Science chose Berg, who represents a marked change from the advocacy/activism of McNutt.

Berg gives me some optimism that ‘establishment’ science may move in the direction to address some of the issues raised in my recent post The Troubled Institution of Science.

I look forward to reading Jeremy Berg’s future op-eds in Science.

August 19, 2016 Posted by | Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Science and Pseudo-Science | Leave a comment

The Democrat’s foolish War on Climate

By David Wojick | Climate Etc. | August 17, 2016

The party platform adopted at the Democratic National Convention, on page 45, calls for a national mobilization on the scale of World War II. What enemy deserves the wrath endured by Hirohito and Hitler? Climate change! Democrats want to declare a war on climate.

Here is the amazing declaration: “We believe the United States must lead in forging a robust global solution to the climate crisis. We are committed to a national mobilization, and to leading a global effort to mobilize nations to address this threat on a scale not seen since World War II.”

This scale of mobilization is incredibly expensive and disruptive to people’s lives, something to which the Democrats seem oblivious. Great sacrifices by average Americans were required for mobilization during the Second World War, enforced by massively intrusive government authority. Is this what the Democrats want, the supreme government control that comes with a wartime effort?

To begin, there was widespread government rationing of essential products. For most families, driving was limited to just three gallons of gas a week. If the Democrat’s war on climate is designed to curtail fossil fuel use then will gasoline again be rationed, in spite of longer commutes due to massive post-war suburbanization? What about natural gas and coal-fired electric power? Meat and clothing were also rationed. Will this be repeated?

Even worse, many consumer products were simply not produced; their production prohibited in favor of war materials. These included most appliances, including refrigerators, plus cars, of course. Today’s banned appliance list might well include computers, smart phones and televisions, and again cars, as well as air conditioners and refrigerators. Will all these technologies be stopped in favor of building climate war materials like windmills, batteries and solar panels?

Not only is mobilization horrendous, there is no scientific justification for it. It is now clear that what is called “lukewarming” is probably the correct scientific view. Human activity may be causing a modest global warming that is actually beneficial. Beyond that climate change is natural and so beyond human control.

The only purpose for which a war on climate makes sense is justifying a massive increase in government power. Mobilization means controlling both production and consumption, as well as wage and price controls, all of which require detailed central planning of economic activity. This in turn requires a host of new agencies, programs, boards, etc. We have seen it all before.

Of course we have had so-called “war” policies before, such as the war on drugs. But these were mostly metaphorical policy names, typically just a shift in focus with a modest budget increase. The Democratic platform is very different because it specifies that the scale of the war on climate will be comparable to the Second World War mobilization, which entailed wrenching lifestyle changes.

If the Democrats are in fact serious, then we are talking about central economic planning on a massive scale, imposing great sacrifices on Americans, all in the futile name of stopping climate change. Sacrifice is harmful in its own right so this raises a host of moral issues. Which immediate harms will be deemed less harmful than speculative future climate change? Medical care is now a major sector of the economy, will it be curtailed? Will poverty be left to languish, or even encouraged via wage controls? Will travel be forbidden? Unfortunately the platform gives no clue, so this should be a major election issue.

In fact the specter of a WWII-scale mobilization to fight climate change dwarfs everything else proposed in the Democrats’ platform combined. It is also contrary to most of these other proposals, given the widespread restrictions that mobilization requires. Perhaps they do not understand what they are calling for, but if they do then they need to tell us what it is. Clarifying and justifying this outrageous mobilization declaration is essential to the election process.

Voting for mobilization without knowing what it means would be incredibly foolish.


David Wojick is a former consultant with the Office of Scientific and Technical Information at the U.S. Department of Energy in the area of information and communication science. He has a Ph.D. in the philosophy of science and mathematical logic from the University of Pittsburgh and a B.S. in civil engineering from Carnegie Tech. He has been on the faculty of Carnegie Mellon and the staffs of the U.S. Office of Naval Research and the Naval Research Lab.

August 19, 2016 Posted by | Economics, Malthusian Ideology, Phony Scarcity, Science and Pseudo-Science | , | Leave a comment

BBC, Indian Monsoon, And More Lies

By Paul Homewood | Not A Lot Of People Know That | August 19, 2016

 

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Welcome to the latest barrage of lies and misinformation from the BBC:

This week I went to the scene of terrible tragedy.

A river, swollen by raging monsoon floodwaters, had torn down a bridge on the main road between Mumbai and Goa.

More than 30 people are thought to have died when the great stone structure crashed into the torrent, taking with it two buses and a number of cars.

Some of the bodies were swept more than 60 miles downriver in two days.

We produced a short news report.

In the heart-wrenchingly brutal calculus of the newsroom, this isn’t a major story. But zoom out, and you begin to see the outlines of a much bigger and more worrying picture.

India, indeed the whole South Asia region, has been riding a rollercoaster of extreme weather.

The summer monsoon is the most productive rain system in the world, and this year the region is experiencing a strong one. The floods it caused have affected more than 8.5 million people; more than a million are living in temporary shelters; some 300 people have been killed.

Though what really caught people’s interest was the three baby rhinos rescued from the waters in the north Indian state of Assam.

The fact that 17 adult rhinos drowned got rather less attention.

But the important point is that the region is awash with water. Just a few months ago, it was a very different story. The previous two monsoons were unusually weak. The result was a terrible drought in northern India, and parts of Pakistan and Bangladesh.

And it was exacerbated by another extreme weather event – record heat.

India experienced its highest temperature ever this summer, a blistering 51C.

Rivers ran dry; water holes evaporated; reservoirs became dusty plains. And, once again, the statistics were staggering.

More than 300 million people were affected by water shortages – the equivalent of the entire population of the US. A city of half a million people was left completely dry. It had to rely on supplies brought in by train.

As if that weren’t bad enough, in spite of the drought, the country was hit by a series of unseasonal rain and hailstorms. They caused such terrible damage to crops that some farmers were driven to suicide.

All these examples of extreme weather were widely reported, rightly so. What tended not to be discussed was the underlying cause.

We are all interested in weather; few of us want to be told – once again – that our lifestyles are disrupting the global climate. Yet the truth is that many climatologists believe the monsoon, always fickle, is becoming even more erratic as a result of global warming.

The picture in the last couple of years is complicated by the fact that the world has been experiencing a particularly strong El Nino, the periodic weather variation caused by warming of the sea in the Pacific.

But a series of long-term studies have shown the number of extreme rainfall events in South Asia increasing while low-to-moderate events are decreasing. And increasingly erratic and extreme weather is precisely what scientists expect climate change will bring.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has predicted “rainfall patterns in peninsular India will become more and more erratic, with a possible decrease in overall rainfall, but an increase in extreme weather events”.

Since the monsoon accounts for as much as three-quarters of rainfall in some areas, any change is a huge issue. The more extreme the storms, the more likely we are to see more tragedies like the shattered bridge I visited this week.

Now, since you’ve read this far, I hope you’ll excuse me if I take a moment to ram my point home a little harder because there is growing evidence that climate change isn’t just restricted to South Asia.

Ask anyone who follows the issue and they’ll tell you that this year is already well on the way towards becoming the hottest ever. The previous record was last year; before that it was 2014. In fact, the 11 warmest years have occurred since 1998.

I’m not saying we shouldn’t talk about the weather, just that we need to talk about the climate too.

This is all too typical BBC fare – pick a weather event, hype it up as something unusual, connect it to climate change and say they are going to get worse!

So let’s do a bit deconstruction.

1) Far from the floods being a “terrible tragedy”, the Indians themselves regard heavy monsoon rainfall as being extremely benevolent. Indeed, the reporter Justin Rowlatt’s opening comment reveals the BBC’s metro liberal outlook on the world.

If he had bothered talking to the Indian authorities, he might have discovered that the Indian economy benefits in all sorts of ways, not just agricultural production, for instance here.

As Gaurav Kapur, senior economist at the RBS, Mumbai, stated earlier in the year:

The forecast of a better-than-normal monsoon is a welcome development coming after two years of drought and considering the state of the rural economy and the impact on food inflation. If indeed we end up having a better-than-normal monsoon, and spatial distribution of monsoon and production indicators point to a normal year, then RBI’s comfort for another rate cut will increase.

“Monsoon has a big linkage effect on not only rural income but overall growth and inflation and if we have another sub-par monsoon, then contribution of farm sector to GDP will be near zero.”

The Indians accept that floods are an unfortunate, but necessary evil. It is drought that they really fear.

2) You may have noticed that nowhere is there any input from the India Meteorological Dept, or for that matter any other local experts.

If Rowlatt had bothered to check with the IMD, they would have told him that, so far, this year’s monsoon has been perfectly normal:

 

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http://www.imd.gov.in/pages/press_release_view.php?ff=20160818_pr_51

3) They might also have told him that, historically, big swings from year to year are the norm. Quite simply, there is nothing “extreme”, “erratic”, or otherwise unusual about recent monsoons, despite Rowlatt’s claims.

 

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The consistently wettest period was from the 1930s to 50s, when the world was warming up. By contrast, global cooling after 1960, brought a succession of droughts. HH Lamb described this period:

In the first quarter of the century, there was a severe drought in N and NW India every 3rd or 4th year. Then, as the Earth warmed up and the circumpolar vortex contracted, the monsoon rains penetrated regularly into Northern India, and drought frequency declined to 2 in 36 years, from 1925-60. But since 1960, with the cooling of the Earth and the southern movement of the subtropical high pressure areas, drought frequency has been increasing again and the probability may be now more than once a decade.

4) It is well established that monsoon rainfall tends to be below normal during El Nino years, hence the the dryness of the last two years.

5) Rowlatt refers to a record temperature set earlier this year, clearly in an attempt to link this with the floods. However, long term temperature trends in India are notoriously unreliable, given the massive urban expansion across the country.

Indian monsoons are the result of land warming up faster then the sea in summer, thus drawing in moist air from the ocean.

Significantly, a study by Dr. Roxy Mathew Koll of the Centre for Climate Change Research, Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology last year found that the opposite had been happening, and that the landmass has actually been cooling as The Hindu reported:

The summer monsoon has been showing a weakening trend over the past century with decreasing rainfall over large regions of the Indian subcontinent. The monsoon occurs because the land heats up much more than the ocean and the warm air over the land rises and results in low pressure. This causes the rain-bearing winds from the relatively cooler ocean to blow on to the land and cause rainfall. That is, it is the strong thermal contrast between land and ocean that results in a strong monsoon.

However, a recent study by Dr. Roxy Mathew Koll of the Centre for Climate Change Research, Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology, Pune and others, and published recently in the journal Nature Communications contends that this thermal contrast has been decreasing in the past decades, i.e., the land has been cooling and the ocean warming and the monsoon has shown a decreasing trend during the past century.

August 19, 2016 Posted by | Deception, Science and Pseudo-Science | , | Leave a comment

Putin: Vital to Revive Economic Ties With Ukraine – Putin

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© Sputnik/ Sergey Guneev
Sputnik – 19.08.2016

Russia deems it vital to restore economic relations with Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir Putin said Friday after appointing the former education minister to the post of trade envoy with the neighboring country.

Putin accepted the prime minister’s proposal to appoint Olga Vasilyeva as the new Minister of Education and Science. Her predecessor Dmitry Livanov was assigned special envoy for trade and economic relations with Ukraine.

“The development of trade and economic relations [with Ukraine] should be in the permanent field of our attention,” Putin said during a working meeting with Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev on arrival to Crimea.

Noting Livanov’s “purely civilian” credentials with extensive public sector experience, Putin noted that his “personal business acumen will help in building and reviving economic relations with our neighboring country, which is important to us.”

August 19, 2016 Posted by | Economics | , | Leave a comment