Chart of the day II: A global glacial meltdown

From the Environmental Protection Agency:

This figure shows the cumulative change in mass balance of a set of "reference" glaciers worldwide beginning in 1945. The line on the graph represents the average of all the glaciers that were measured. Negative values indicate a net loss of ice and snow compared with the base year of 1945. For consistency, measurements are in meters of water equivalent, which represent changes in the average thickness of a glacier. The small chart below shows how many glaciers were measured in each year. Some glacier measurements have not yet been finalized for the last few years, hence the smaller number of sites.

This figure shows the cumulative change in mass balance of a set of “reference” glaciers worldwide beginning in 1945. The line on the graph represents the average of all the glaciers that were measured. Negative values indicate a net loss of ice and snow compared with the base year of 1945. For consistency, measurements are in meters of water equivalent, which represent changes in the average thickness of a glacier. The small chart below shows how many glaciers were measured in each year. Some glacier measurements have not yet been finalized for the last few years, hence the smaller number of sites.

Mr. Fish: We’re Surrounded!

From Clowncrack, his blog of didactic dementophobia:


ISIS and the U.S., legacy of a troubled history

Until 2003 Chris Hedges held one of the most prestigious jobs in American journalism, Mideast bureau chief for the New York Times, until he was reprimanded by the paper for speaking against the American invasion of Iraq at a college commencement in Rockford, Illinois.

These days he hosts Days of Revolt, a weekly interview series for Telesur English.

Today we’re posting a two-part discussion on the rise of ISIS and the long troubled history of imperial ambitions in the Middle East with Professor Sabah Alnasseri, a native of Basra, Iraq, who teaches Middle East politics at York University in Toronto.

And with that, the first episode:

Days of Revolt – ISIS, The New Israel

From the transcript:

HEDGES: So let’s begin with ISIS, which is historically an extremely important movement within the Middle East. The 1916 Sykes-Picot Agreement, which is named for the French and British diplomats that carved up the Middle East among the colonial–among the empire, essentially turning countries in the Middle East into protectorates, has only been changed twice. The first time was the Israeli independence movement, which rose up in Palestine, and now with ISIS, which controls an area roughly the size of Texas.

The mechanisms that were used to redraw the map in the Middle East are the same: the use of foreign money, the use of foreign fighters, the tactics of ethnic cleansing and terrorism, and this mythical vision, in the case of Israel, the re-creation of Judea and Samaria from the Bible, the land of Israel, and in the case of ISIS, the re-creation of the seventh century caliphate.

And these tactics have could prove quite effective. In both cases, in the case of Israel and in the case of ISIS, you could argue, especially with ISIS having roughly 20,000 foreign fighters, that these are forces that are as dependent on the areas outside the Middle East as within the Middle East. And I wondered if you could kind of address that phenomenon, this phenomenon that we are watching.

ALNASSERI: Right. Right. I mean, you are right, because ISIS has a kind of settler colonialist form the way they occupy space, cleanse the space, plunder the resources.

HEDGES: Which is what–as Israel does.

ALNASSERI: Exactly, and carve out territory for itself.

But to understand the phenomenon of ISIS, we needed to contextualize it within the setbacks and counterrevolution against the Arab revolutions, the amount of violence, of intervention, in Libya, for instance, the war in Libya, the civil war in Syria, now the war also in Yemen, and–.

HEDGES: And Egypt. We can’t forget Egypt.

ALNASSERI: Exactly. We don’t forget Egypt. And the failure of this peaceful, nonviolent revolutions, this amount of violence, of counterrevolutionary violence, created this Frankenstein, this phenomenon. So you can say ISIS is a Hegelian-Fischer synthesis of two form of violence.

Now, what is so interesting about ISIS and why it is so attractive for many young, unemployed, mostly Arab fighters–most of the fighters, by the way, they come from Libya or Tunisia and so on, less from Europe, etc. It’s mostly from the Middle East. What attracted them to ISIS is that when these peaceful revolution failed, revolutions turn into kind of jihadism, that ISIS is much more effective in its leadership, organization, logistical structure, and its geologies, than all the other peaceful, nonviolent movements, mass movements.

And the second part:

Days of Revolt – The Revolutionary Age

From the transcript:

HEDGES: So I think what we want to focus on in this segment is the dynamics of revolutionary change in an age of globalism and neoliberalism, how it will look like revolutions in the past, and how it will look like something else. And I know this is something you have examined.

ALNASSERI: Right. Right. I will start with the end of the Cold War and the breakdown of of the Soviet Union, because this world historical context is very important in understanding any kind of politics, revolutionary or otherwise.

Since the ‘90s, we observe the dominant political form [of] Europe, the United States, but also other parts of the world is populism. Before, at least until the ‘70s, political parties were organized around specific classes, articulated interests of classes, the social democracy for the working class, etc. But since the ‘90s, the dominant political form of the ruling classes is populism. And that’s not a coincidence with this neoliberal offensive, with half of the world open to be conquered by neoliberalism after the breakdown of the Soviet Union. There is a radical shift in the form of politics, articulation of interests, representation, etc. So what we see is that the majority of the population on a worldwide scale actually are excluded from the political system, are not represented. Their interests are not articulated.

So I believe that within this context–and that’s why the current revolutions are different than the historical one–that revolutions and revolt probably is the only political form available for the popular classes to introduce a radical change in the [crosstalk]

HEDGES: Well, I agree completely, and that is the thesis of my own book, Wages of Rebellion. But what about nationalism? I mean, nationalism still remains a powerful force.

ALNASSERI: Yes, yes and no, because nationalism now is embedded in an international and global context. So even nationalist movement, if they are not linked to a wider movement and solidarity and support, their prospective of success is almost zero. You can see this. Take the example of SYRIZA in Greece. SYRIZA, the first right approach was to say that you need a Europe-wide movement and solidarity in order to empower SYRIZA in Greece to deal with the European Central Bank, with the IMF, etc., and E.U. Commission, etc. So there’s a sense of embedding nationalist, or nationalist, say, movement within a wider context, a regional or international context. I think this is very important. It’s different than the old form of internationalism we knew in the 19th and 20th century, because the old form of internationalism was different in three instances. The first one, it was mostly European-centered, not international in this sense. The second point is it was mostly class-based. And third, all these revolt and revolution were organized by a political party with a strong leadership.

HEDGES: But that wasn’t true for the Communist Party. There was an internationalist element to that.

ALNASSERI: Yeah, but again, if you look at it historically, we’ll see mostly within Europe–there are some connection to other part of the world, but mostly it was within Europe, and I think that’s a big difference today. We have–you can call it the first international of the people. And it’s cross-class. It’s not nation- or nation states-centered, and it’s not articulated, organized by a specific political party.

Operation Condor is coming home to roost

Operation Condor, by Brazilian cartoonist Carlos Latuff.

Operation Condor, by Brazilian cartoonist Carlos Latuff.

Wednesday marked the 40th anniversary of the start of Operation Condor [previously], a U.S.-backed pogrom of leftist and populist leaders in Latin America, carried out with the help of then Sceretary of State Henry Kissinger and the Central Intelligence Agency.

In the ensuing purge a thousand or more political activists were tortured and murdered, and a leader figure of the Latin Left, along with a young American woman, died in a car bombing in this nation’s capital. An unknown number of dissidents were disposed of by being stripped naked as they were flown out over the South Atlantic and dropped into the ocean, the basis for the Latuff cartoon.

As for that bombing in Washington, the National Security Archive of George Washington University reported on 8 October:

The CIA concluded that there was “convincing evidence” that Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet “personally ordered his intelligence chief to carry out the murder” of exiled critic Orlando Letelier in Washington D.C., according to a SECRET memo prepared for President Ronald Reagan in 1987. “Pinochet decided to stonewall on the US investigation to hide his involvement,” the CIA review also noted, and as part of the cover-up considered “even the elimination of his former intelligence chief,” DINA director Manuel Contreras, who had overseen the assassination plot.

The CIA intelligence review remains classified. But it was quoted in a dramatic report to President Reagan, dated on October 6, 1987, from his Secretary of State, George Shultz, as part of his efforts to convince the president to cut U.S. ties to Pinochet and press for the return of democracy in Chile. “The CIA has never before drawn and presented its conclusion that such strong evidence exists of his [Pinochet’s] leadership role in this act of terrorism,” the Secretary of State informed the President.

The National Security Archive today said it would file a Freedom of Information Act petition to secure the declassification of the CIA assessment and the raw intelligence reports it was based on. “This document is clearly the holy grail of the Letelier-Moffitt case,” said Peter Kornbluh who directs the Archive’s Chile Documentation Project. Kornbluh called on the agency “to release this document to complete the Obama administration’s special declassification project on Chile.”

Letelier, a former minister in the Allende government, and his 25-year old colleague, Ronni Karpen Moffitt, were killed by a car-bomb planted by agents of the Chilean secret police on September 21, 1976, as they drove to work down Massachusetts avenue in Washington D.C. Moffitt’s husband, Michael, was the sole survivor of the bombing.

The memory of the horrors of Operation Condor remain very much alive, and a trial now underway may finally win some small measure of justice for the survivors.

From CCTV America:

Operation Condor: A dark time for Latin America

Program notes:

On November 25th, 1975 – high-ranking officials from several South American countries gathered for a meeting in Santiago with a dark agenda. It was then that Operation Condor was launched and military dictatorships were able to swap information to hunt down political opponents.

Map of the day: Serious mental illness rates

From SAMHSA, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services:

Serious Mental Illness in the Past Year among Persons Aged 18 or Older, by Substate Region: Percentages, Annual Averages Based on 2008, 2009, and 2010 NSDUHs

Serious Mental Illness in the Past Year among Persons Aged 18 or Older, by Substate Region: Percentages, Annual Averages Based on 2008, 2009, and 2010 NSDUHs

Trump trumps Trump for arrogant bombast

First this form David Horsey, editorial cartoonist of the Los Angeles Times:

BLOG Assinine

Just how sociopathic is Trump?

Well, consider his latest demonstration of his total lack of compassionate humanity.

That a self-absorbed narcissist could become the leading presidential candidate for the GOP is hardly surprising, given the inherent narcissistic character ofr the neoliberal corporatist agenda the party has adopted.

But that such a candidate could openly mock a journalist for the simple fact of being disabled is simply breathtaking.

From BBC News:

Republican presidential contender Donald Trump has been criticised for mocking a disabled New York Times reporter.

Mr Trump performed an impression of Serge Kovaleski, who suffers from a congenital joint condition, at a rally.

He has used a 2001 article by Mr Kovaleski to back up widely disputed claims that “thousands” of Muslims in New Jersey celebrated the 9/11 attacks.

More from the Washington Post, where Kovakleski worked at the time of the 9/11 attacks:

The gesture was all the more personal because Kovaleski covered Trump while reporting for the New York Daily News between 1987 and 1993, a tumultuous period for Trump in which he struggled through several financial setbacks.

“The sad part about it is, it didn’t in the slightest bit jar or surprise me that Donald Trump would do something this low-rent, given his track record,” Kovaleski said.

Trump campaign spokeswoman Hope Hicks declined to comment on the record about the incident. A campaign official speaking on background said Trump was “not aware of any condition and was not mocking his physical appearance in any way.”

A New York Daily News headline sums up:

Donald Trump’s marathon of meanness reaches new low, mocks reporter’s physical handicap during campaign rally

And now for the video of the event, from CNN:

Trump mocks reporter with disability

Program notes:

Donald Trump is under fire again, this time for mocking a New York Times reporter that suffers from a chronic condition. CNN’s John Berman reports.

As for the rumors of celebrating Muslims, here’s an excerpt of a story from the 23 September Newark Star-Ledger:

Hours after the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center, a story spread across the state: Palestinians in Paterson were celebrating in the streets.

Braced for a riot, the Paterson police rushed to South Main Street, the center of the city’s Middle Eastern community.

“When we got there,” Paterson Police Chief Lawrence Spagnola said, “They were all in prayer.”

In the ensuing days, the rumor went national, lighting up talk radio phone lines. In the end, it was nothing more than rapid-fire urban myth. But it spawned fear of a backlash against Middle Eastern residents that sent this vibrant strip of Turkish pastry shops and Palestinian groceries into virtual lockdown for days. And for Paterson, a downtrodden city struggling to remake itself, it was yet another black eye that is proving difficult to heal.

Ironically, five men were detained after a witness called police to report a group filming the burning towers, apparently celebrating, as ABC News reported:

Maria says she saw three young men kneeling on the roof of a white van in the parking lot of her apartment building. “They seemed to be taking a movie,” Maria said.

The men were taking video or photos of themselves with the World Trade Center burning in the background, she said. What struck Maria were the expressions on the men’s faces. “They were like happy, you know … They didn’t look shocked to me. I thought it was very strange,” she said.

She found the behavior so suspicious that she wrote down the license plate number of the van and called the police. Before long, the FBI was also on the scene, and a statewide bulletin was issued on the van.

The five were all Israeli citizens — three of them in the country illegally — and at one time were suspected of links to Mossad, the Israeli equivalent of the CIA. The intelligence links were never proven and the five were deported.

But Trump never mentioned them, needless to say.

They didn’t fit the narrative.

Heavens above: Another Hubble image

NASA’s Hubble space telescope has given us puny mortals the most incredible images of the universe we inhabit, and we love to post them from time to time.

Here’s one of the most spectacular yet:

Grand swirls

From NASA:

This new Hubble image shows NGC 1566, a beautiful galaxy located approximately 40 million light-years away in the constellation of Dorado (The Dolphinfish). NGC 1566 is an intermediate spiral galaxy, meaning that while it does not have a well-defined bar-shaped region of stars at its center — like barred spirals — it is not quite an unbarred spiral either.

The small but extremely bright nucleus of NGC 1566 is clearly visible in this image, a telltale sign of its membership of the Seyfert class of galaxies. The centers of such galaxies are very active and luminous, emitting strong bursts of radiation and potentially harboring supermassive black holes that are many millions of times the mass of the sun.

NGC 1566 is not just any Seyfert galaxy; it is the second brightest Seyfert galaxy known. It is also the brightest and most dominant member of the Dorado Group, a loose concentration of galaxies that together comprise one of the richest galaxy groups of the southern hemisphere. This image highlights the beauty and awe-inspiring nature of this unique galaxy group, with NGC 1566 glittering and glowing, its bright nucleus framed by swirling and symmetrical lavender arms.

This image was taken by Hubble’s Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3) in the near-infrared part of the spectrum. A version of the image was entered into the Hubble’s Hidden Treasures image processing competition by Flickr user Det58.

Image Credit:  ESA/Hubble & NASA, Acknowledgement: Flickr user Det58