Category Archives: Geopolitics

Chinese sites linked to ‘Stop the Steal’ video fake


And a Trump spawn helped spread it.

From the Independent:

A Chinese bot network played a key role in spreading disinformation during and after the US election, including a debunked video of “ballot burning” shared by Eric Trump, a new study reveals.

The misleading video shows a man filming himself on Virginia Beach, allegedly burning votes cast for Donald Trump. The ballots were actually samples. The clip went viral after Trump’s son Eric posted it a day later on his official Twitter page, where it got more than 1.2m views.

The video was believed to have originated from an account associated with the QAnon conspiracy theory. But the study by Cardiff University found two China-linked accounts had shared the video before this. Twitter has since suspended one of them.

The same Chinese network has spread anti-US propaganda, including calls for violence in the run-up to the 6 January storming of the US Capitol building by a pro-Trump mob. Afterwards. It compared the west’s response to the DC riot to political protests in Hong Kong.

Moore from the study by the Crime and Security Research Institute of Cardiff University’s Social Science Research Park:

On US election day (03/11/20), a misleading video of a man filming himself allegedly burning Trump-voting ballots on Virginia Beach was detected circulating across several platforms. Although the ballots were later revealed to be samples, the video quickly went viral when Eric Trump’s official Twitter page shared a link to it a day later, with this version alone receiving more than 1.2 million views.

Initially, the video was widely assumed to originate from a QAnon-associated account, but the Cardiff University investigation has uncovered evidence that two China-linked accounts, one of which has since been suspended by Twitter, shared the video prior to this. Researchers believe this led to the content, which continues to be shared today, gaining significant spread.

OSCAR’s initial research into this network began seven days before the US election. Detailed in the first of two reports, the team uncovered more than 400 accounts engaging in suspicious activities. These were forwarded to Twitter, which suspended them within a few days.

The team’s latest analysis contained in a second report has revealed a number of additional accounts associated with the network which are still operational, suggesting it is more complex and resilient than previously estimated. Their findings show operators reacted quickly to the events in the Capitol on 6 January by introducing a new range of high quality, English-language propaganda videos targeting the US within hours of the violence taking place.

There is strong evidence of links to China; posts include use of the Chinese language and a focus upon topics suited to Chinese geopolitical interests. More recent analysis shows the accounts were solely active in Chinese office hours; there was limited activity during a Chinese national holiday; and English language use appears to have been derived from machine translation tools.

What’s sauce for the goose. . .

We find it hard to get terribly upset by other governments acting the way the U.S. has done to so many other nations in the past.

As Peter Beinart noted in an Atlantic review in 2018:

During the Cold War, America’s leaders saw nothing wrong with electoral interference, so long as the United States was conducting it. Dov Levin, a postdoctoral fellow at the Institute for Politics and Strategy at Carnegie Mellon University, has identified 62 American interventions in foreign elections between 1946 and 1989. The large majority—like Russia’s in 2016—were conducted in secret. And, overall, America’s favored candidates were no more committed to liberal democracy than their opponents; they simply appeared friendlier to American interests. In 1968, for instance, Lyndon Johnson’s administration—fearful that the people of Guyana would choose a socialist, Cheddi Jagan—helped Jagan’s main opponent, Forbes Burnham, win an election marked by massive voter fraud. Burnham soon turned Guyana into a dictatorship, which he ruled until his death in 1985.

U.S. officials sometimes claimed that the left-leaning candidates America worked to defeat were more authoritarian than their right-leaning opponents. But as the Boston College political scientist Lindsey O’Rourke notes in her forthcoming book, Covert Regime Change: America’s Secret Cold War, “There is no objective truth to their claim that the leftist parties” the U.S. “targeted were ‘inherently antidemocratic.’ To the contrary, many of these groups had repeatedly committed themselves to working within a democratic framework, and, in some cases, U.S. policymakers even acknowledged this fact.” The University of Kansas’s Mariya Omelicheva, who has also researched America’s Cold War election meddling, told me she “cannot think of a case in which America’s democracy concerns superseded its national-security concerns.”

For the Chinese, keeping America in turmoil is logical, given the Trump administration’s hostility to the Asian giant. And domestic turmoil in the U.S. helps keep attention diverted from China’s increasingly aggressive push for dominance in Asia, most recently seen in it’s latest anti-Taiwan moves today.

Capitol seizure’s foreign policy fallout certain


From an essay by Emma Ashford, senior fellow in the New American Engagement Initiative at the Atlantic Council’s Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security, writing in Foreign Policy:

Wednesday’s insurrection worsens two concrete foreign-policy problems for the United States. First, it will increase the likelihood that other governments will be wary of any binding commitments or in-depth cooperation with the United States. Four years of Trump have already convinced countries in Europe and Asia that U.S. commitments may not be worth the paper they are written on, particularly in an increasingly partisan environment. The Iran nuclear deal, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and the Paris climate accords were all victims of a shift to a more partisan, seesaw form of foreign policy. This week’s violence in Washington and the broader political turmoil since the November election have added to those concerns that future U.S. elections may not even be free and fair.

Second, it increases the likelihood that other countries will start to see the United States as a risk factor in the international system rather than a stabilizer. There is something to this fear: U.S. actions in the Middle East since 2001 helped to destabilize it, contributing to Europe’s refugee crises. U.S. sanctions policy has often been costly and unpopular with other countries. And the Trump administration’s brinkmanship over the last few years—with Iran, North Korea, and even with China—has been far more destabilizing than stabilizing. The risk of a U.S. leadership untethered from public scrutiny, or a nation that retains a massively powerful military while its domestic politics become ever more erratic and undemocratic, is one that other countries cannot take lightly.

We would note that for many countries, the U.S. has been anything but a stabilizer.

The first major action of the the newly formed Central Intelligence agency involved fixing an Italian election, setting a precedent for further remote-control coups in countless countries, most notably Iran, where it set off a chain of events still resonating today.

Trump: Hit Iran, just don’t start WWIII


Looks like the White House is cooking up its own seasoned greetings for Tehran, at least so sources say.

From the Independent:

President Trump has reportedly told his top foreign policy advisers that they can do anything they want to Iran, as long as they do not “start World War III.”

Administration officials told The Daily Beast that President Trump has “checked out” over Iran, and has handed decision-making powers over to US secretary of state Mike Pompeo and other members of his White House team. 

Officials said that the US president has told Mr Pompeo and other officials to implement any action they want to take in Iran before the end of his presidency, as long as it does not start “World War III.”

President Trump has been personally involved in the administration’s “maximum pressure” approach to Iran since 2016, implementing multiple sanctions on the country and ordering the killing of its top general, Qassem Soleimani, on 3 January 2020, according to Business Insider.

No doubt Israel is involved, and given Iran’s announced intention to ramp up its uranium enrichment program, fireworks are inevitable

Trump highly popular in only two countries


One is Kenya, which we couldn’t grasp initially, given his characterization of African nations as “shithole countries.” But looking closer, Kenya is a majority Christian country with a strong subset of evangelicals, Trump’s own base in the U.S., who were literally praying for him to win.

And, as we noted at length in yesterday’s post about Mike Pompeo and Mike Pence, evangelical Christianity also plays a huge role in Trump’s popularity in the other country to give him high marks, Israel [not because Israels are Christian, but because Christian Zionists in the Trump administration are Israel Firsters.

The numbers, via the Pew Research Center [click on the image to enlarge]:

Hoping for ‘Rapture’, Pompeo ups ante on Israel


In two stunning moves, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has doubled down on the Trump administration’s radically pro-Israel policies.

The first move, via BBC News:

The US has declared as anti-Semitic a prominent international movement which calls for a complete boycott of Israel over its treatment of the Palestinians.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) was “a cancer”, adding the US would stop funding groups linked to it.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the move “wonderful”.

BDS however rejected the charge, saying it opposed “all forms of racism, including anti-Jewish racism”.

And the second, also from BBC News:

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has toured a Jewish settlement in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, marking the first such visit by a top US official.

The trip to Psagot came a year after Mr Pompeo said the settlements did not contradict international law, reversing a long-held US position.

The declaration outraged Palestinians, who oppose settlements on land they claim for a future independent state.

Mr Pompeo will later pay a similar visit to the occupied Golan Heights.

President Donald Trump last year officially recognised Israeli sovereignty over the strategic plateau, which Israel seized from Syria in the 1967 Middle East war and annexed in 1981.

Trump has persistently radicalized American Mideast policy, and these latest highly provocative actions can can only heightened already aroused passions.

The question, then is why?

For Trump the answer is easy. To win votes, he has consistently acted to grab to votes and support of a subset of highly motivated radical Christian evangelicals driven by an apocalyptic Biblical agenda.

The radicals inside the administration

Consider this from Mother Jones in January:

In March, during an interview in Jerusalem with the Christian Broadcasting Network [founded by another apocalyptic preacher, Pat Robertson], Pompeo showed his familiarity with another Iran-centric Bible story popular with End Times evangelicals. In the story, a Persian king is urged to slaughter the Jews in his kingdom at the urging of the evil adviser Haman. But his Jewish Queen Esther convinces him not to and saves her people. Asked whether he thought Trump could be a modern-day Esther, saving the Jews from Iran, Pompeo replied, “As a Christian, I certainly believe that’s possible.” The secretary of state’s End Times beliefs made headlines again after the [3 January U.S. targeted assassination of Iranian Gen. Qassem], as meme-makers circulated a quote from a speech he made in a Kansas church in 2015. A few days after the Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage, Pompeo said: “We will continue to fight these battles. It is a never-ending struggle. … until the Rapture.”

Now add into the equation the [for the moment] Number Two in Trumpland, a second Mike, via Sky News:

Trump’s advisers on Iran include key players like Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Vice President Mike Pence.

Both believe there is a battle between good and evil that will end with the “Rapture” – following an apocalyptic war in the Middle East, Jesus Christ will return to Israel, bestowing eternal redemption to Christians, who will be “raptured” or ascended, into heaven. Jews, however, will be punished.

Pompeo and Pence embrace the idea of a biblical prophecy to mark the end times, which must be brought about by an escalation of violence in the Middle East. Pompeo has been particularly open about his beliefs.

Last year, Pompeo sat for an interview with the Christian Broadcasting Network and was asked if he thought Trump had been “raised for such a time as this, just like Queen Esther, to help save the Jewish people from the Iranian menace?” and Pompeo responded: “As a Christian, I certainly believe that’s possible.”

That same year, a reporter noticed an open Bible in Pompeo’s office, with a Swiss Army knife marking his place at the end of the book of Queen Esther.

And the two Mikes have a lot in common, as the National Catholic Reporter reported on 9 July:

Vice President Mike Pence and U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo both addressed a Christian pro-Israel group July 8, lifting up the U.S. ally as a bastion of inclusivity and railing against Iran.

Pence and Pompeo delivered their remarks at the annual summit of Christians United for Israel, a conservative Christian organization led by the Rev. John Hagee, which claims more than 6 million members.

Both politicians used the opportunity to defend the administration and champion what they argued were President Trump’s successes.

Hagee was a very happy man when Trump picked Pompeo as Secretary of State, and Citizens United for Israel [CUFI] greeting Pompeo’s 26 April 2018 Senate confirmation with an official hallelujah:

On Thursday, leaders of Christians United for Israel (CUFI), the nation’s largest pro-Israel organization, applauded the Senate’s confirmation of Mike Pompeo to serve as Secretary of State.

The bipartisan vote in favor of the nomination comes on the heels of a rigorous grassroots and lobbying campaign waged by the Christian Zionist group. In addition to asking members in key states to call their senators’ offices to express support for the nomination, CUFI’s action alerts generated more than 60,000 emails into Senate offices.

“Our membership is the backbone of our organization and they rose to the occasion to ensure the President’s nominee was confirmed. When a large, committed group of Americans stands together and speaks with one unequivocal voice, our leaders listen,” said CUFI founder and Chairman Pastor John Hagee.

And Hagee, like Pompeo, is a big fan of the Book of Esther, holding her up as an exemplar of how to handle Iran.

The Vice President also has deep ties with CUFI, as he recalled to group’s annual summit in Washington on 8 July 2019:

You know, Karen and I have always treasured our relationship with Christians United for Israel. In fact, we worked hand-in-hand with this organization back when I was governor of the state of Indiana. And with your strong support, I was proud to sign the toughest anti-BDS legislation of any state in America. And I thank you for your support.

But you deserve to know: Remarkably, today, all but one Democrat running for President voted against the Combating BDS Act in the United States Senate.

John Hagee, militant and ready for End Times

Hagee is a Christian Zionist.

He is, more specifically, a Christian Zionist who happens to run head a megachurch in San Antonio.

But what is a Christian Zionist?

From the 29 May 2008 edition of the Independent:

Christian Zionists are a large subset – an estimated 30 million strong in the US – of evangelical Christians whose rigidly literal-minded reading of Bible prophecy has locked them into a passionate embrace with the most hawkish sections of Israeli society, namely, the far right of Likud and the settler movement.

For Christian Zionists there can be no Palestinian state, first, because the Bible doesn’t mention any such thing, and second, because God promised all that land and, as Pastor Hagee has claimed, “10 times more” to Israel. For Christian Zionists the world is hurtling towards its end at Armageddon, a little to the north of Jerusalem. Two-thirds of the world’s Jews, all those who have not accepted Jesus as their saviour, will perish in a war that will pit an “Anti-Christ” and the Muslim world (especially Iran), and probably Russia too, against all true, born-again Christians and a returning Jesus Christ.

As this last imperative and Hagee’s offensive take on the Holocaust amply prove, Christian Zionism should not be confused with philo-Semitism. Many Jews, especially Israelis, know this. The Israeli writer Gershom Gorenberg has put the case very well in his book, The End of Days: Christian Zionists “don’t love real Jewish people. They love us as characters in their story, in their play, and that’s not who we are, and we never auditioned for that part, and the play is not one that ends up good for us.”

And he’s got some pretty strong — and peculiar — beliefs, as the American Conservative reported on 28 January 2013:

Christians United for Israel is led by the storied Reverend John Hagee, who is known most notably for claiming that New Orleans was being punished by God in the form of Hurricane Katrina because the city had been preparing to hold a gay rights parade on the morning the storm came. Oh, and also his claim that Hitler was fulfilling God’s Will in driving the Jews of Europe to Palestine.

According to a no-longer-online 2008 article in the Washington Spectator, Hagee has another Big Idea: “The United States must join Israel in a pre-emptive military strike against Iran to fulfill God’s plan for both Israel and the West.”

From the 18 July 2008 Vancouver Sun, some telling detail:

Republican presidential nominee John McCain once sought the endorsement of Texas mega-church pastor John Hagee. But once McCain got it he was forced to reject it. Why? Because Hagee has denounced Catholicism as “The Great Whore,” called for the destruction of Islam, demonizes homosexuals, thinks global warming is a hoax and constantly insists the U.S. should attack Iran because it will help usher in the Second Coming.

Hagee’s also a fervent supporter of the State of Israel against its Muslim neighbours. But he doesn’t bother to tell Jews that Christians of his ilk expect all Jews to convert to Christianity. If they don’t, such end-times Christians believe Jews will suffer eternal damnation when Jesus returns in the Last Judgment.

The deeper agenda is the end. . .of everything, and Israel is the center of it all’

More from a May 2008 Politico report:

Hagee’s commitment to Israel, however, is itself controversial: It’s rooted in the belief that the Jewish state will — soon — be the site of Armageddon.

Hagee, who leads the evangelical group Christians United for Israel, is a proponent of U.S. aid and support for Israel, and he is a major ally of Israeli conservatives who reject any “land for peace” formula in dealing with the Palestinians. But Hagee is viewed with distrust by some Jews and Israelis because his brand of Christian Zionism closely links support for Israel to the end of the world and the conversion of the Jews to Christianity.

Hagee’s predictions are very clear. Armageddon, the final battle, could begin, he wrote in his 2007 book “Jerusalem Countdown,” “before this book gets published.”

The Antichrist “will be the head of the European Union,” he writes.

Using geographical calculations based on the Book of Revelation, he writes that Israel will be covered in “a sea of human blood” in the final battle.

The Jews, however, will survive the battle, Hagee says, long enough to have “the opportunity to receive Messiah, who is a rabbi known to the world as Jesus of Nazareth.”

“They will be blessed beyond their wildest imagination,” he writes.

A 28 October 2019 report in the San Antonio Current adds a further dimension to an already chilling tale:

Hagee was instrumental in lobbying for the Trump administration to relocate the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, a move that ignited deadly protests inside the country. The pastor also has a long history of inflammatory statements, including the claim that all Muslims want to destroy Christianity and that the Catholic Church is the “great whore” described in the Bible.

A pending federal lawsuit filed by Palestinian families accuses Hagee and affiliated organizations of funneling millions of dollars into illegal Jewish settlements in occupied Palestinian territories.

More from an 9 August 2018 Texas Observer story, describing a Hagee speech to believers in Jerusalem:

Hagee offered a simple homily: Jerusalem is the preordained capital of Christ’s 1,000-year empire, during which Christians and Jews (or at least some of them) shall live in peace after the unsaved have endured seven years of unspeakable horrors — a glorious end-times scenario for which Donald Trump paved the way by moving the embassy. Got it?

“President Trump proclaimed Jerusalem to be the capital of Israel, and then — sucking the oxygen out of the air — he moved the U.S. embassy … something five other presidents did not have the courage to do,” Hagee said that morning, before lauding Trump’s pullout from the Iran nuclear deal and railing against Islamic terrorism.

Hagee’s peculiar take on Hitler

Think Progress noted a peculiar spin on Hitler in a 28 February 2008 report:

Speaking to the 2007 AIPAC conference, Hagee compared supporters of a two-state solution in the Middle East to Nazis. Hagee also echoed right-wing Israeli politician Binyamin Netanyahu, telling the audience that “Iran is Germany and Ahmadinejad is the new Hitler.”

But it gets weirder, as the Jewish Telegraph Agency reported on 30 August 2008:

In his 2006 book “Jerusalem Countdown,” Pastor John Hagee claims that Hitler was the product of these “half-breed Jews.” Hagee also states that the anti-Christ, who he claims is alive today, is “partially Jewish, as was Adolf Hitler.”

But it was a 15 May 2008 report from Bruce Wilson in Talk to Action that ties it all together by quoting directly from a Hagee sermon:

God says in Jeremiah 16 – “Behold I will bring them the Jewish people again unto their land that I gave unto their fathers” – that would be Abraham, Isaac and Jacob – “Behold I will send for many fishers and after will I send for many hunters. And they the hunters shall hunt them” – that will be the Jews – “from every mountain and from every hill and from out of the holes of the rocks.” If that doesn’t describe what Hitler did in the Holocaust… you can’t see that. So think about this – I will send fishers and I will send hunters. A fisher is someone who entices you with a bait. How many of you know who Theodore Herzl was? How many of you don’t have a clue who he was? WOO… Sweet God! Theodore Herzl is the father of Zionism. He was a Jew that at the turn of the 19th century said – “this land is our land, God wants us to live there”. So he went to the Jews of Europe and said, “I want you to come and join me in the land of Israel”. So few went, Herzl went into depression. Those who came founded Israel; those who did not went through the hell of the Holocaust. Then god sent a hunter. A hunter is someone who comes with a gun and he forces you. Hitler was a hunter. And the Bible says – Jeremiah righty? – “they shall hunt them from every mountain and from every hill and out of the holes of the rocks”, meaning: there’s no place to hide. And that will be offensive to some people. Well, dear heart, be offended: I didn’t write it. Jeremiah wrote it. It was the truth and it is the truth. How did it happen? Because God allowed it to happen. Why did it happen? Because God said, “my top priority for the Jewish people is to get them to come BACK to the land of Israel”. Today Israel is back in the land and they are at Ezekiel 37 and 8. They are physically alive but they’re not spiritually alive. Now how is God going to cause the Jewish people to come SPIRITUALLY alive and say, “the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, He is God”?”

Why it all matters

Nancy LeTourneau, writing for Washington Monthly on 7 January caught the essence of the predicament:

One of the things Hagee is known for is the elaborate charts he has created to predict the rapture and events leading up to the end times. He also has a history of making bigoted statements about Catholics, Jews, and Muslims. John McCain was forced to distance himself from the pastor after he received an endorsement for his presidential campaign in 2008. Clearly, neither Pompeo nor Pence share those concerns about Hagee and his organization.

What we are witnessing is a secretary of state who is conducting U.S. foreign policy in alignment with Christian Zionism, with the support of the vice president. While neoconservatives like John Bolton have their own twisted logic for wanting regime change in Iran, it is the belief that events in the Middle East align with Biblical prophecy about the end times that motivates Christian Zionists like Pompeo, Pence, and Hagee.

As I noted when the same crowd celebrated Trump’s decision to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, rising tensions in the Middle East are a feature, not a bug, for these folks. That’s because all of this was prophesied thousands of years ago as a prelude to the rapture. In other words, they welcome the escalation.

Let’s not forget that Christians have been predicting the imminent end of the world for almost 2000 years, and they’ve been wrong every single time.

But for the past four years we’ve had one apocalyptic at one remove from the most powerful man on earth, aided for the past two year by another true believer setting the nation’s foreign policy.

From their perspective what difference does global warming make, since most of us are headed for a much hotter place, or so they believe.

Trump’s security purge: Spooking the spooks


America’s security organs have always been a mixed blessing.

No government can function without them, but they’ve always been tempting toys for tyrants and those with tyrannical ambitions.

Richard Nixon used the CIA in his Watergate schemes, and the George W. Bush administration used them to cook up the lies the White House used to justify the post-9/11 war on Iraq.

And let’s not forget that FBI Director J. Edger Hoover once used illegal bugs to try to coerce Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. into committing suicide.

In the late 1930’s, Soviet leader Joseph Stalin purged the KGB [his foreign intelligence service] and the upper ranks of his military in the 1930s because he didn’t like what they were telling him, easy the way to the Nazi invasion, and Donald Trump is following that same well-trod path.

Arie Perliger, Director of Security Studies and Professor at the University of Massachusetts Lowell, devles into Trump’s urge to purge in this essay from The Conversation, an open source academic journal written for the lay audience:

Trump’s purge of defense agencies comes at a vulnerable time for US national security

President Donald Trump’s recent firing of Defense Secretary Mark Esper and subsequent resignations from the department of four more top civilian officials – either in protest or under pressure – are raising alarms in Washington. All were replaced by people with questionable qualifications.

One defense official described the situation to CNN as “scary” and “very unsettling.”

On Nov. 17, Trump also fired the cybersecurity director at the Department of Homeland Security, who had rejected the president’s claims of election fraud. Trump is reportedly weighing the additional termination of CIA director Gina Haspel as part of a late-term purge.

The transition period between two administrations, especially ones that are ideologically opposed, can be a socially and politically unstable time. Trump’s refusal to concede increases that instability this year.

Major personnel changes at America’s defense and intelligence agencies make it difficult for these departments to maintain the daily operations that oversee military forces and protect U.S. national security – much less follow strategic plans.

A lapse in preparedness can be deadly. According to the 9/11 Commission, the unusually short transition period between the Clinton and Bush administrations – truncated by the dispute over the election’s outcome – resulted in some of the intelligence and policy deficiencies that allowed Al-Qaida to attack and kill close to 3,000 Americans.

Politicizing national security

Political appointments have always influenced the American security apparatus. But this problem has intensified dramatically in recent years. If security and intelligence agencies make decisions based on narrow political considerations like satisfying the personal grudge or campaign promise of a president, it can put lives at risk.

Trump’s latest Defense Department appointments have some necessary policy experience. But their main attribute appears to be loyalty to the president. Loyalty goes beyond partisanship. It means policy decisions may be subject to the personal interests of the president.

For example, Defense Secretary Esper may have lost his job for opposing the sped-up withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan now underway. A withdrawal is in line with Trump’s 2016 campaign pledge to end “endless wars.” One former CIA official described the Afghanistan troop drawdown as “reckless.”

Brig. Gen. Antony Tata, who on Nov. 10 replaced Esper’s second-in-command James Anderson as undersecretary of defense for policy, is known for his vocal criticism of Democrats. In one 2018 tweet he called former President Barack Obama a “terrorist leader.”

U.S. intelligence has also become politicized under Trump.

The roles of CIA director and director of national intelligence have both traditionally been held by nonpartisan figures with substantial military and intelligence experience. Trump replaced one such figure, former Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, with a series of partisan appointees, some of whom were never vetted or confirmed by the Senate. Finally he chose John Ratcliffe, a Republican congressman loyal to Trump who has no intelligence experience.

Lives at stake

Politicization undermines the ability of the intelligence community to deliver an unbiased, accurate and critical assessment of U.S. security policies and potential threats. That compromises the standing and effectiveness of these agencies.

“If people believe that our intelligence community is politicized, it will lose its credibility,” wrote intelligence veteren Michael Morell, a former CIA acting director, in a blunt Oct. 12 Washington Post op-ed. “Its views on important issues will carry less weight with policymakers and the American people, and it will therefore be less effective in warning of threats to our national security.”

Continue reading

Trump asks aides if he can bomb Iran


Oh, great.

From the New York Times:

President Trump asked senior advisers in an Oval Office meeting on Thursday whether he had options to take action against Iran’s main nuclear site in the coming weeks. The meeting occurred a day after international inspectors reported a significant increase in the country’s stockpile of nuclear material, four current and former U.S. officials said on Monday.

A range of senior advisers dissuaded the president from moving ahead with a military strike. The advisers — including Vice President Mike Pence; Secretary of State Mike Pompeo; Christopher C. Miller, the acting defense secretary; and Gen. Mark A. Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff — warned that a strike against Iran’s facilities could easily escalate into a broader conflict in the last weeks of Mr. Trump’s presidency.

Any strike — whether by missile or cyber — would almost certainly be focused on Natanz, where the International Atomic Energy Agency reported on Wednesday that Iran’s uranium stockpile was now 12 times larger than permitted under the nuclear accord that Mr. Trump abandoned in 2018. The agency also noted that Iran had not allowed it access to another suspected site where there was evidence of past nuclear activity.

Mr. Trump asked his top national security aides what options were available and how to respond, officials said.

After Mr. Pompeo and General Milley described the potential risks of military escalation, officials left the meeting believing a missile attack inside Iran was off the table, according to administration officials with knowledge of the meeting.

Map of the day II: Autocracy rises globally


The V-Dem Institute. based at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden’s Department of Political Science, supported by a large team of social scientists and 3.2000 country experts on six continents, keep track of the state of democracy worldwide.

Their latest annual report, Autocratization Surges — Resistance Grows, tracks the disturbing rise in autocratic governance around the globe.

Here’s a summary of their findings, via their website:

• Autocratization – the decline of democratic traits – accelerates in the world: for the first time since 2001, autocracies are in the majority: 92 countries – home to 54% of the global population. Almost 35% of the world’s population live in autocratizing nations – 2.6 billion people.
• EU has its first non-democracy as a member: Hungary is now classed as an electoral authoritarian regime.
• Major G20 nations and all regions of the world are part of the “third wave of autocratization”: autocratization is affecting Brazil, India, the United States of America, and Turkey, which are major economies with sizeable populations, exercising substantial global military, economic, and political influence. Latin America is back to a level last recorded in the early 1990s while Eastern Europe and Central Asia are at post-Soviet Union lows. India is on the verge of losing its status as a democracy due to the severely shrinking of space for the media, civil society, and the opposition under Prime Minister Modi’s government.
• Pro-democracy resistance grows from 27% in 2009 to 44% in 2019 amidst the autocratization surge. During 2019, citizens in 29 democracies mobilized against autocratization, such as in Bolivia, Poland, and Malawi. Citizens staged mass protests in 34 autocracies, among them Algeria, Hong Kong, and Sudan.

And now for the map, taken from the report itself, showing which countries are becoming more democratic [greens] and which are sliding into autocracy [browns], most notably the good ol’ USA:

Figure 2 shows where in the world democracy has advanced (green) or retreated (orange) as measured by LDI score over the last 10 years. It demonstrates that the “third wave of democratization” set off by the 1974 Carnation revolution in Portugal that 3 The Liberal Democracy Index (LDI) aggregates V-Dem’s Electoral Democracy Index (EDI) and Liberal Component Index (LCI). The first captures whether the components of Robert Dahl’s “polyarchy” (1971) are present de facto. The latter measures whether electoral democracy is complemented by civil liberties, the rule of law and sufficient constraints on the executive by the judiciary and legislature as vital elements of liberal democracy. 4 To save space, the regional averages are illustrated without confidence intervals. intensified during the 1990s is clearly over. Over the last ten years, more nations have become characterized by autocratization than by democratization as this map shows.

Maps of the day: Worst case climate scenario


The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [IPCC] was created in established in 1988 by the World Meteorological Organization [WMO] to evaluate the impacts of global warming triggered by the rise of greenhouse gases.

To assess likely impacts, the IPCC uses scenarios based on Representative Concentration Pathways [RCPs], RCP8.5 as the worst case alternative, leading to a global temperature rise of 2.6 to 4.8 degrees Celsius by the end of the century.

While the RCP 8.5 scenario remains controversial, the fact remains that it could be worse, given that we still don’t understand the complex feedback loops arising from interactions of a complex of systems we are only beginning to discern – as with the spiking methane emissions triggered by polar warming.

From today’s Guardian comes word of a stunning find off the Siberian coast:

Scientists have found evidence that frozen methane deposits in the Arctic Ocean – known as the “sleeping giants of the carbon cycle” – have started to be released over a large area of the continental slope off the East Siberian coast, the Guardian can reveal.

High levels of the potent greenhouse gas have been detected down to a depth of 350 metres in the Laptev Sea near Russia, prompting concern among researchers that a new climate feedback loop may have been triggered that could accelerate the pace of global heating.

The slope sediments in the Arctic contain a huge quantity of frozen methane and other gases – known as hydrates. Methane has a warming effect 80 times stronger than carbon dioxide over 20 years. The United States Geological Survey has previously listed Arctic hydrate destabilisation as one of four most serious scenarios for abrupt climate change.

The report concludes on an ominous note:

Temperatures in Siberia were 5C higher than average from January to June this year, an anomaly that was made at least 600 times more likely by human-caused emissions of carbon dioxide and methane. Last winter’s sea ice melted unusually early. This winter’s freeze has yet to begin, already a later start than at any time on record.

From the 14 October edition of the Washington Post, published before today’s news, comes another startling fact:

The worldwide number of methane hot spots has soared 32 percent so far this year despite the economic slowdown, according to satellite imagery analyzed by a private data firm.

Comparing the first eight months of 2019 to the same period in 2020, the Paris-based firm Kayrros said methane leaks from oil and gas industry hot spots climbed even higher in Algeria, Russia and Turkmenistan, growing by more than 40 percent. The largest contributors to rising methane releases were the United States, Russia, Algeria, Turkmenistan, Iran and Iraq, Kayrros said.

And Reuters adds another ominous note:

There is more than three times as much carbon frozen in permafrost as in all of the forests on the planet, including the Amazon, scientists say.

So why worry about methane?

From a 14 October Deutsche Welle interview with Stanford University Environmental Sciences professor Rob Jackson:

“Well, since industrial activity began, methane has contributed about a quarter of all the warming that we’ve seen and it’s far more potent, molecule for molecule or kilogram for kilogram than carbon dioxide is on a 20-year time frame. It’s 80 or 90 times more potent. And even over a century, it’s about 30 times more potent than carbon dioxide. So CO2 is still the dominant greenhouse gas we look at. But methane is second and provides a lot of opportunities to make a difference right now because it’s so powerful.”

Another significant source of methane is fracking, the hydraulic fracturing of shale deposits to extract oil and natural gas [i.e., methane].

A 2015 report by Robert W. Howarth of Cronell University’s Department of Ecology and Environmental Biology made this observation:

We concluded that 3.8% [±2.2%] of the total lifetime production of methane from a conventional gas well is emitted into the atmosphere, considering the full life cycle from well to final consumer.11 The data available for estimating emissions from shale gas were more scarce and more poorly documented at that time, but we estimated that the full life cycle emissions of shale gas were ∼1.5-fold higher than that of conventional natural gas, or 5.8% [±2.2%].

On 13 August. The Trump administration reduced or eliminated most regulations on emissions releases from fracking, and Joe Biden says he’ll continue to allow the controversial technique – already tied to earthquakes and environmental and health problems.

Mapping out an alarming future

If there’s one single factor most responsible for the rapid rise of autocratic movements in the last few decades, it would have to be immigration.

The rising numbers of refugees streaming into Europe and the U.S. have given rise to virulent racist and ultra-nationalist movements headed by headed by authoritarians who seize of immigrants as scapegoats for seething resentments fueled by rising economic inequality caused by the plague of neoliberalism.

A May report, Future of the human climate niche, just published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and written by an international, interdisciplinary academic team reveals that many regions already accounting for large numbers of refugees will bear the brunt of climate change.

Consider this map from their report:

The accompanying text:

Projected geographical shift of the human temperature niche. [Top] Geographical position of the human temperature niche projected on the current situation [A] and the RCP8.5 projected 2070 climate [B]. Those maps represent relative human distributions [summed to unity] for the imaginary situation that humans would be distributed over temperatures following the stylized double Gaussian model fitted to the modern data [the blue dashed curve in Fig. 2A]. [C] Difference between the maps, visualizing potential source [orange] and sink [green] areas for the coming decades if humans were to be relocated in a way that would maintain this historically stable distribution with respect to temperature. The dashed line in A and B indicates the 5% percentile of the probability distribution.

While RCP8.5 remains controversial, in light of the rapid rise in methane emissions from the warming poles and and still-unknown by inevitable synergetic feedback loops and failure of governments to take action, we suspect the reality may prove even worse.

Chart of the day: Expert/public clash on key issues


From the Pew Research Center comes a graphic illustration of the often vast differences in opinion over key issues confronting the world help by international relations experts and the general publics in the world’s advanced economies:

More from the report:

Foreign policy might not be the primary issue of the 2020 presidential election campaign, but Americans have clear ideas on the various threats facing the United States. Recent Pew Research Center surveys find that Americans are especially concerned about the spread of infectious diseases and are more likely than not to blame China for its role in the current COVID-19 pandemic.

But foreign policy experts have distinctly different perspectives. A September survey of 706 international relations scholars in the U.S. as part of the College of William & Mary’s Teaching, Research and International Policy (TRIP) poll found that their assessment of the current crises facing America and the world are often at odds with those of the U.S. general public.

These experts are less concerned about terrorism, more concerned about climate change and much more positive about China’s response to the coronavirus outbreak, even as they are harshly critical of the U.S. response. However, scholars and the American people do agree that U.S. policy should work to promote human rights in China, even at the expense of economic relations.

The scholars also tended to express much less concern about various issues than people in 13 other advanced economies surveyed by Pew Research Center.

Quote of the Day: Uncle Sam’s Coup-coup


Fromm Evo Morales, ousted as Bolivia’s democratically elected president until his ouster by an American-backed military coup on 10 November 2019 after false claims were made that Morales, South America’s first Indian leader since the European conquests.

Morales discussed the coup in an interview with Jacobin:

It seems that in Bolivia we are returning to the times of the Inquisition. The racist right has used the Bible to make others hate. They use the Bible to steal, to kill, and to commit genocide. They use the Bible to discriminate, to burn Wiphalas [indigenous flags], to kick the downtrodden and indigenous women. It was racist groups with money that inserted that mentality.

Last December, Republican senator Richard Black acknowledged that the coup had been planned in the United States, taking advantage of this opportunity [opened up by the racist right in Bolivia]. I was surprised by what the owner of Tesla [Elon Musk] said on July 24: he confessed to having taken part in the coup.

So, the coup was directed against us and for [control over] our natural resources, for lithium. We had decided to industrialize lithium, and started on our international reserves. [Commercialization] deals had been signed with Europe, with China. As part of the patriotic agenda marking the bicentenary of our independence, we had planned to build forty-one plants, more than fifteen for potassium chloride, lithium carbonate, lithium hydroxide, three for lithium batteries, and other plants for inputs but also for by-products. But I said, the United States does not enter here — and that was our crime.

As for that bit about Elon Musk, consider this from Counterpunch:

On July 24, 2020, Tesla’s Elon Musk wrote on Twitter that a second U.S. “government stimulus package is not in the best interests of the people.” Someone responded to Musk soon after, “You know what wasn’t in the best interest of people? The U.S. government organizing a coup against Evo Morales in Bolivia so you could obtain the lithium there.” Musk then wrote: “We will coup whoever we want! Deal with it.”

Schadenfreude alert: Who meddles in elections?


Now that Georgia’s Republican Secretary of State is claiming – based on no evidence whatsoever – Democrats have hacked his state’s election, it’s time for a reminder of the identity of the world’s number one election-rigger.

Guess what?

It’s Uncle Sam.

We begin with a video report from The Intercept:

A Short History of U.S. Meddling in Foreign Elections

Program notes:

Meddling in foreign elections is bad. I think we can all agree on that. And almost everyone – bar Donald Trump – seems to believe that the Russian government meddled in the 2016 election. So that should be condemned. Here’s the problem, though: U.S. politicians and pundits cannot credibly object to Russian interference in U.S. elections without also acknowledging that the United States doesn’t exactly have clean hands. Or are we expected to believe that Russian hackers were the first people in human history to try and undermine a foreign democracy? In this video, I examine the ways in which the the United States has, in fact, spent the past 70 odd years meddling in elections across the world.

From flagship public broadcaster WNYC in New York comes a glimpse of the depth of Uncle Sam’s ongoing meddling:

For decades, American intelligence agencies have historically used clandestine tactics to put leaders into office who are favorable to U.S. national interests. This practice of meddling dates back to the early days of the CIA and was seen as a necessary strategy to contain the Soviet Union during the Cold War.

It’s something Tim Weiner has explored in great detail. He’s won the Pulitzer Prize for his work on clandestine national security programs, and his books include “Enemies: A History of the FBI” and “Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA.” He says election meddling is not a grey area for the CIA.

“Several months after the CIA was created in 1947, it set out to steal the Italian election in 1948 to support the Christian Democrats who were pro-American, against the socialist Democrats, who were pro-Moscow, and they won,” says Weiner. “It’s just the beginning of a long, long story.”

After seeing success in Italy, the CIA took this formula — which involved using millions of dollars to run influence campaigns — and brought it across the world to places like Guatemala, Indonesia, South Vietnam, Afghanistan, and beyond.

“The president [of Afghanistan] after the American invasion post-9/11 was a paid CIA agent, Hamid Karzai,” Weiner says. “The list is very long, and it’s part of what the CIA does in political warfare.”

A report from the Fort Worth Star-Telegram adds up the numbers:

Dov Levin, a researcher with the Institute for Politics and Strategy at Carnegie Mellon University, created a historical database that tracks U.S. involvement in foreign elections. According to Levin, the U.S. meddled in other nation’s elections more than 80 times worldwide between 1946 and 2000. Examples include Italy in 1948; Haiti in 1986; Nicaragua and Czechoslovakia in 1990; and Serbia in 2000.

A more recent example of U.S. election interference occurred in Israel in 2015. A Washington Post report in 2016 revealed U.S. taxpayer dollars were used in an effort to oust Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. According to a bipartisan report from the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations (PSI), $350,000 in grants from the U.S. State Department were used “to build valuable political infrastructure—large voter contact lists, a professionally trained network of grassroots organizers/activists, and an impressive social media platform” not only to support peace negotiations, but to launch a large anti-Netanyahu grassroots organizing campaign.

Through the years, the U.S. has also gone so far as to fund the election campaigns of specific parties; make public announcements in favor of the candidates they support; and threaten to withhold foreign aid should voters favor opposition candidates.

More on Levin’s numerical findings on American interference comes from across the pond, via Britain’s Channel 4 News:

According to his research, there were 117 “partisan electoral interventions” between 1946 and 2000. That’s around one of every nine competitive elections held since Second World War.

The majority of these – almost 70 per cent – were cases of US interference.

And these are not all from the Cold War era; 21 such interventions took place between 1990 and 2000, of which 18 were by the US.

“60 different independent countries have been the targets of such interventions,” Levin’s writes. “The targets came from a large variety of sizes and populations, ranging from small states such as Iceland and Grenada to major powers such as West Germany, India, and Brazil.”

It’s important to note that these cases vary greatly – some simply involved steps to publicly support one candidate and undermine another.

But almost two thirds of interventions were done in secret, with voters having no idea that foreign powers were actively trying to influence the results.

Forbes reports on some of the methods employed:

The U.S. uses numerous tools to advance its interests. Explained Nina Agrawal of the Los Angeles Times: “These acts, carried out in secret two-thirds of the time, include funding the election campaigns of specific parties, disseminating misinformation or propaganda, training locals of only one side in various campaigning or get-out-the-vote techniques, helping one side design their campaign materials, making public pronouncements or threats in favor of or against a candidate, and providing or withdrawing foreign aid.”

It’s not clear how much impact Washington’s efforts had: Levin figured the vote increase for U.S.-backed candidates averaged three percent. The consequences often didn’t seem to satisfy Washington; in almost half of the cases America intervened at least a second time in the same country’s electoral affairs.

Ironically, given the outrage directed at Moscow today, in 1996 Washington did what it could to ensure the reelection of Boris Yeltsin over the communist opposition. The U.S. backed a $10.2 billion IMF loan, an ill-disguised bribe were used by the Yeltsin government for social spending before the election. Americans also went over to Russia to help. Time magazine placed Boris Yeltsin on the cover holding an American flag; the article was entitled “Yanks to the Rescue: The Secret Story of How American Advisers Helped Yeltsin Win.”

The Hill gives a voice to the interventionist hidden hand:

When asked whether the U.S. interferes in other countries’ elections, James Woolsey said, “Well, only for a very good cause in the interests of democracy.”

“Oh, probably, but it was for the good of the system in order to avoid communists taking over,” he told Laura Ingraham on her Fox News show on Friday night.

Woolsey served as CIA director under former President Clinton. His comments follow a federal indictment released on Friday that accused 13 Russian individuals and three Russian groups of attempting to influence the 2016 presidential election.

The Russian embassy to the United Kingdom quoted Woolsey on Saturday, adding the comment: “Says it all.”

Yep.

There’s lot’s more, after the jump. . Continue reading

Charts of the day: Global democracy’s sad decline


The Varieties of Democracy [V-Dem Institute at the University of Gothenburg. Sweden, tracks the status of liberal democracies around the world, charting their progress with the aid of a large poll of international experts, using a system that evaluaties each country on the basis of whether or not their governments are electoral, liberal, participatory, deliberative, and egalitarian.
https://pol.gu.se/english/varieties-of-democracy–v-dem-

As their website notes, “V-Dem disaggregates these five principles into dozens of lower-level Components of Democracy such as regular elections, judicial independence, direct democracy, and gender equality.

V-Dem’s latest annual assessment, Democracy for All? V-Dem Annual Democracy Report 2018, contains two charts dramatically illustrate the rapid decline of democracy.

First, a global look at changes across the world:

Number of countries with significant changes on Liberal Democracy Index [right index population-weighted]

And a look closer to home at the rapid decline of American democracy in the Age of Trump:

The United States’ ranking on the V-Dem Liberal Democracy Index fell from seven in 2015 to 31 in 2017. There is clear evidence of autocratization on several indicators. The lower quality of liberal democracy stems primarily from weakening constraints on the executive.

Now get out and vote, dammit!

Maps of the day: Climate change and refugees


Nothing has contributed more to the rise of 21st Century global fascist populism than the surge of refugees from the war zones of Middle East and North Africa [MENA], and Latin America as darker-skinned folks fleeing from crises zones flood the paler-skinned nations of North America and Europe..

And the situation can only get worse and climate change fuels an intensification of the refugee streams, with higher temperatures and lower precipitation strike the same regions already generating the refugee flood,

Consider the following maps from the just-released report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [IPCC]:

Projected mean temperature [top] and mean precipitation changes [bottom] at 1.5°C global warming [left] and 2°C global warming [right] compared to pre-industrial time period [1861-1880].

As both Mexico and the MENA region fall victim to a drastic reduction in precipitation and higher temperatures in areas already marked by soaring violence, life will grow harder and the temptation to flee grows ever stronger, tensions in the the developed world can only grow stronger as violent and virulent populism soars.

In all the regions affected, U.S. foreign policy has favored oppressive tyrants, installed with the backing of military forces from the developed North, backed by banksters and corporateers eager to “develop” the resources of the afflicted regions, including oil, agriculture and water.

For those nostalgic for the Obama years, consider the military campaigns that the “liberal” administration sponsored, actions which only stoked the flames.

The Trump administration has only added more fuel to the flames by pulling the U.S. out of the climate accord, setting the stage for more refugees and the accelerated rise of fascist parties in the North.

In the rods of the immortal Bette Davis, “Fasten your seatbelts. It’s going to be a bumpy night.”

Climate change fuels soaring heat wave deaths


On 1 June 2017, Donald Trump made a momentous and lethal declaration:

I am fighting every day for the great people of this country. Therefore, in order to fulfill my solemn duty to protect America and its citizens, the United States will withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord — (applause) — thank you, thank you — but begin negotiations to reenter either the Paris Accord or a really entirely new transaction on terms that are fair to the United States, its businesses, its workers, its people, its taxpayers. So we’re getting out. But we will start to negotiate, and we will see if we can make a deal that’s fair. And if we can, that’s great. And if we can’t, that’s fine.

As President, I can put no other consideration before the wellbeing of American citizens. The Paris Climate Accord is simply the latest example of Washington entering into an agreement that disadvantages the United States to the exclusive benefit of other countries, leaving American workers — who I love — and taxpayers to absorb the cost in terms of lost jobs, lower wages, shuttered factories, and vastly diminished economic production.

Thus, as of today, the United States will cease all implementation of the non-binding Paris Accord and the draconian financial and economic burdens the agreement imposes on our country. This includes ending the implementation of the nationally determined contribution and, very importantly, the Green Climate Fund which is costing the United States a vast fortune.

Trump’s agenda is simple: Anything that gets in the way of the aspirations of billionaires to become the world’s first trillionaires must be abolished, even is millions of deaths ensue.

What else would you expect from a narcissistic real estate developer [and always remember that he is precisely and simply that]. And from our decades on reporting on real estate developers, we have learned that they hate nothing more than environmental regulations.

In pulling out of the Paris Agreement, a document signed by 179 nations thus far, Trump has donned another executive title, Mass Murderer-In-Chief.

Among the many consequences of his anti-environmentalism will be a massive spike in global deaths associated with the heat waves that have set new records and spawned a lethal rash of wildfire across the globe.

This map from a just-published worldwide study of the soaring rates of heat waves associated with climate change reveals some of the extent of the crisis [click on the image to enlarge]:

So how did they arrive at their alarming conclusions, and what did they find? From the study:

  • We developed a model to estimate heatwave–mortality associations in 412 communities within 20 countries/regions from January 1, 1984 to December 31, 2015. The associations were used to project heatwave-related excess mortality, with projected daily mean temperature series from four scenarios of greenhouse gas emissions during 1971–2099.
  • We used three scenarios of population changes (low, moderate, and high variant) and two adaptation scenarios  (no adaptation and hypothetical adaptation).
  • If people cannot adapt to future climate change, heatwave-related excess mortality is expected to increase the most in tropical and subtropical countries/regions, while European countries and the United States will have smaller increases. The more serious the greenhouse gas emissions, the higher the heatwave-related excess mortality in the future.
  •  If people have ability to adapt to future climate change, the heatwave-related excess mortality is  expected to still increase in future under the most serious greenhouse gas emissions and high-variant population scenarios. However, the increase is expected to be much smaller than the no adaptation scenario.

A somber warning from Down Under

More on the study, including it’s impacts on one lesser-impacted nation, there’s this more Australia’s Monash University, via Newswise:

If people cannot adapt to future climate temperatures, deaths caused by severe heatwaves will increase dramatically in tropical and subtropical regions, followed closely by Australia, Europe and the United States, a global new Monash–led study shows.

Published today in PLOS Medicine, it is the first global study to predict future heatwave-related deaths and aims to help decision makers in planning adaptation and mitigation strategies for climate change.

Researchers developed a model to estimate the number of deaths related to heatwaves in 412 communities across 20 countries for the period of 2031 to 2080.

The study projected excess mortality in relation to heatwaves in the future under different scenarios characterised by levels of greenhouse gas emissions, preparedness and adaption strategies and population density across these regions.

Study lead and Monash Associate Professor Yuming Guo said the recent media reports detailing deadly heatwaves around the world highlight the importance of the heatwave study.

“Future heatwaves in particular will be more frequent, more intense and will last much longer,” Associate Professor Guo said.

“If we cannot find a way to mitigate the climate change (reduce the heatwave days) and help people adapt to heatwaves, there will be a big increase of heatwave-related deaths in the future, particularly in the poor countries located around the equator.”

A key finding of the study shows that under the extreme scenario, there will be a 471 per cent increase in deaths caused by heatwaves in three Australian cities (Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne) in comparison with the period 1971-2010.

“If the Australia government cannot put effort into reducing the impacts of heatwaves, more people will die because of heatwaves in the future,” Associate Professor Guo said.

The study comes as many countries around the world have been affected by severe heatwaves, leaving thousands dead and tens of thousands more suffering from heatstroke-related illnesses. The collective death toll across India, Greece, Japan and Canada continues to rise as the regions swelter through record temperatures, humidity, and wildfires.

Associate Professor Antonio Gasparrini, from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and study co-author, said since the turn of the century, it’s thought heatwaves have been responsible for tens of thousands of deaths, including regions of Europe and Russia.

“Worryingly, research shows that is it highly likely that there will be an increase in their frequency and severity under a changing climate, however, evidence about the impacts on mortality at a global scale is limited,” Associate Professor Gasparrini said.

“This research, the largest epidemiological study on the projected impacts of heatwaves under global warming, suggests it could dramatically increase heatwave-related mortality, especially in highly-populated tropical and sub-tropical countries. The good news is that if we mitigate greenhouse gas emissions under scenarios that comply with the Paris Agreement, then the projected impact will be much reduced.”

Associate Professor Gasparrini said he hoped the study’s projections would support decision makes in planning crucial adaptation and mitigation strategies for climate change.

In order to prevent mass population death due to increasingly severe heatwaves, the study recommends the following six adaption interventions, particularly significant for developing countries and tropical and subtropical regions:

  • Individual: information provision, adverting
  • Interpersonal: Information sharing; communication; persuasive arguments; counseling; peer education
  • Community: Strengthening community infrastructure; encouraging community engagement; developing vulnerable people group; livelihoods; neighborhood watch
  • Institutional: Institutional policies; quality standards; formal procedures and regulations; partnership working
  • Environmental: Urban planning and management; built environment; planting trees; public available drink water; house quality
  • Public policy: Improvement of health services; poverty reduction; redistribution of resources; education; heatwave-warning system

Generations divide over U.S.foreign policy


America’s youngest adults think it’s high time for the United States to step back from its imperial role on the world stage, while the oldest American’s are beginning to lose their love to the Big Stick.

Perhaps it’s because they grew up, unlike earlier generations, living fully with the blowback from generations of aggressive interventions into the affairs of others, and the mountains of debt this country has incurred from belligerence and bullying.

Perhaps at no previous time in the nation’s history has it become so startlingly apparent that all those bloody adventures have done nothing beyond profiting plutocrats who have no intention of sharing the wealth harvested from oceans of blood.

From Bruce Jentleson, Professor of Public Policy and Political Science at Duke University, writing in The Conversation, an open access journal:

Millennials, the generation born between 1981 and 1996, see America’s role in the 21st century world in ways that, as a recently released study shows, are an intriguing mix of continuity and change compared to prior generations.

For over 40 years the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, which conducted the study, has asked the American public whether the United States should “take an active part” or “stay out” of world affairs.

This year, an average of all respondents – people born between 1928 and 1996 – showed that 64 percent believe the U.S. should take an active part in world affairs, but interesting differences could be seen when the numbers are broken down by generation.

The silent generation, born between 1928 and 1945 whose formative years were during World War II and the early Cold War, showed the strongest support at 78 percent. Support fell from there through each age group. It bottomed out with millennials, of whom only 51 percent felt the U.S. should take an active part in world affairs. That’s still more internationalist than not, but less enthusiastically than other age groups.

There is some anti-Trump effect visible here: Millennials in the polling sample do identify as less Republican – 22 percent – and less conservative than the older age groups. But they also were the least supportive of the “take an active part” view during the Obama administration as well.

Four sets of additional polling numbers help us dig deeper.

Military power: Only 44 percent of millennials believe maintaining superior military power is a very important goal, much less than the other generations. They also are less supportive of increasing defense spending.

And when asked whether they support the use of force, millennials are generally disinclined, especially so on policies like conducting airstrikes against Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime, using troops if North Korea invades South Korea, and conducting airstrikes against violent Islamic extremist groups.

American ‘exceptionalism’: Millennials also were much less inclined to embrace the idea that America is “the greatest country in the world.” Only half of millennials felt that way, compared to much higher percentages of the other three generations. In a related response, only one-quarter of millenials saw the need for the U.S. to be “the dominant world leader.”

These findings track with the 2014 American National Election Study, which found that while 78 percent of silent, 70 percent of boomer and 60 percent of Gen X respondents consider their American identity as extremely important, only 45 percent of millennials do.

Continue reading

Climate change fuels soaring heat wave deaths


On 1 June 2017, Donald Trump made a momentous and lethal declaration:

I am fighting every day for the great people of this country. Therefore, in order to fulfill my solemn duty to protect America and its citizens, the United States will withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord — (applause) — thank you, thank you — but begin negotiations to reenter either the Paris Accord or a really entirely new transaction on terms that are fair to the United States, its businesses, its workers, its people, its taxpayers. So we’re getting out. But we will start to negotiate, and we will see if we can make a deal that’s fair. And if we can, that’s great. And if we can’t, that’s fine.

As President, I can put no other consideration before the wellbeing of American citizens. The Paris Climate Accord is simply the latest example of Washington entering into an agreement that disadvantages the United States to the exclusive benefit of other countries, leaving American workers — who I love — and taxpayers to absorb the cost in terms of lost jobs, lower wages, shuttered factories, and vastly diminished economic production.

Thus, as of today, the United States will cease all implementation of the non-binding Paris Accord and the draconian financial and economic burdens the agreement imposes on our country. This includes ending the implementation of the nationally determined contribution and, very importantly, the Green Climate Fund which is costing the United States a vast fortune.

Trump’s agenda is simple: Anything that gets in the way of the aspirations of billionaires to become the world’s first trillionaires must be abolished, even is millions of deaths ensue.

What else would you expect from a narcissistic real estate developer [and always remember that he is precisely and simply that]. And from our decades on reporting on real estate developers, we have learned that they hate nothing more than environmental regulations.

In pulling out of the Paris Agreement, a document signed by 179 nations thus far, Trump has donned another executive title, Mass Murderer-In-Chief.

Among the many consequences of his anti-environmentalism will be a massive spike in global deaths associated with the heat waves that have set new records and spawned a lethal rash of wildfire across the globe.

This map from a just-published worldwide study of the soaring rates of heat waves associated with climate change reveals some of the extent of the crisis [click on the image to enlarge]:

So how did they arrive at their alarming conclusions, and what did they find? From the study:

  • We developed a model to estimate heatwave–mortality associations in 412 communities within 20 countries/regions from January 1, 1984 to December 31, 2015. The associations were used to project heatwave-related excess mortality, with projected daily mean temperature series from four scenarios of greenhouse gas emissions during 1971–2099.
  • We used three scenarios of population changes (low, moderate, and high variant) and two adaptation scenarios  (no adaptation and hypothetical adaptation).
  • If people cannot adapt to future climate change, heatwave-related excess mortality is expected to increase the most in tropical and subtropical countries/regions, while European countries and the United States will have smaller increases. The more serious the greenhouse gas emissions, the higher the heatwave-related excess mortality in the future.
  •  If people have ability to adapt to future climate change, the heatwave-related excess mortality is  expected to still increase in future under the most serious greenhouse gas emissions and high-variant population scenarios. However, the increase is expected to be much smaller than the no adaptation scenario.
A somber warning from Down Under
More on the study, including it’s impacts on one lesser-impacted nation, there’s this more Australia’s Monash University, via Newswise:
If people cannot adapt to future climate temperatures, deaths caused by severe heatwaves will increase dramatically in tropical and subtropical regions, followed closely by Australia, Europe and the United States, a global new Monash–led study shows.

Published today in PLOS Medicine, it is the first global study to predict future heatwave-related deaths and aims to help decision makers in planning adaptation and mitigation strategies for climate change.

Researchers developed a model to estimate the number of deaths related to heatwaves in 412 communities across 20 countries for the period of 2031 to 2080.

The study projected excess mortality in relation to heatwaves in the future under different scenarios characterised by levels of greenhouse gas emissions, preparedness and adaption strategies and population density across these regions.

Study lead and Monash Associate Professor Yuming Guo said the recent media reports detailing deadly heatwaves around the world highlight the importance of the heatwave study.

“Future heatwaves in particular will be more frequent, more intense and will last much longer,” Associate Professor Guo said.

“If we cannot find a way to mitigate the climate change (reduce the heatwave days) and help people adapt to heatwaves, there will be a big increase of heatwave-related deaths in the future, particularly in the poor countries located around the equator.”

A key finding of the study shows that under the extreme scenario, there will be a 471 per cent increase in deaths caused by heatwaves in three Australian cities (Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne) in comparison with the period 1971-2010.

“If the Australia government cannot put effort into reducing the impacts of heatwaves, more people will die because of heatwaves in the future,” Associate Professor Guo said.

The study comes as many countries around the world have been affected by severe heatwaves, leaving thousands dead and tens of thousands more suffering from heatstroke-related illnesses. The collective death toll across India, Greece, Japan and Canada continues to rise as the regions swelter through record temperatures, humidity, and wildfires.

Associate Professor Antonio Gasparrini, from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and study co-author, said since the turn of the century, it’s thought heatwaves have been responsible for tens of thousands of deaths, including regions of Europe and Russia.

“Worryingly, research shows that is it highly likely that there will be an increase in their frequency and severity under a changing climate, however, evidence about the impacts on mortality at a global scale is limited,” Associate Professor Gasparrini said.

“This research, the largest epidemiological study on the projected impacts of heatwaves under global warming, suggests it could dramatically increase heatwave-related mortality, especially in highly-populated tropical and sub-tropical countries. The good news is that if we mitigate greenhouse gas emissions under scenarios that comply with the Paris Agreement, then the projected impact will be much reduced.”

Associate Professor Gasparrini said he hoped the study’s projections would support decision makes in planning crucial adaptation and mitigation strategies for climate change.

In order to prevent mass population death due to increasingly severe heatwaves, the study recommends the following six adaption interventions, particularly significant for developing countries and tropical and subtropical regions:

  • Individual: information provision, adverting
  • Interpersonal: Information sharing; communication; persuasive arguments; counseling; peer education
  • Community: Strengthening community infrastructure; encouraging community engagement; developing vulnerable people group; livelihoods; neighborhood watch
  • Institutional: Institutional policies; quality standards; formal procedures and regulations; partnership working
  • Environmental: Urban planning and management; built environment; planting trees; public available drink water; house quality
  • Public policy: Improvement of health services; poverty reduction; redistribution of resources; education; heatwave-warning system

Chart of the Day: Asylum-seekers in Europe 2016


The story, from Eurostat:

In 2016, 1,204,300 first-time asylum seekers applied for international protection in the Member States of the European Union (EU), a number slightly down compared with 2015 (when 1,257,000 first-time applicants were registered) but almost double that of 2014 (562,700).

Syrians (334,800 first-time applicants), Afghans (183,000) and Iraqis (127,000) remained the main citizenship of people seeking international protection in the EU Member States in 2016, accounting for slightly more than half of all first time applicants.

6 in 10 applied for asylum in Germany

With 722 300 first time applicants registered in 2016, Germany recorded 60% of all first-time applicants in the EU Member States. It was followed by Italy (121,200, or 10%), France (76,000, or 6%), Greece (49,900, or 4%), Austria (39,900, or 3%) and the United Kingdom (38,300, or 3%).

Among Member States with more than 5,000 first time asylum seekers in 2016, numbers of first time applicants rose most compared with the previous year in Greece (38,500 more first time asylum seekers in 2016 than in 2015, or +339%), Germany (280.500 more, or +63%) and Italy (37,900 more, or +46%). In contrast, the largest decreases were recorded in the Nordic Member States – Sweden (-86%), Finland (-84%) and Denmark (-71%) – as well as in Hungary (-84%), Belgium (-63%), the Netherlands (-55%) and Austria (-53%).

Highest number of first time applicants relative to the population in Germany, lowest in Slovakia

Compared with the population of each Member State, the highest number of registered first-time applicants in 2016 was recorded in Germany (8.789 first-time applicants per million inhabitants), ahead of Greece (4,625), Austria (4,587), Malta (3,989), Luxembourg (3,582) and Cyprus (3,350). In contrast, the lowest numbers were observed in Slovakia (18 applicants per million inhabitants), Portugal (69), Romania (94), the Czech Republic and Estonia (both 114). In 2016, there were in total 2,360 first time asylum applicants per million inhabitants in the EU as a whole.

Around 30% of first time asylum seekers were Syrians

Syria (28% of the total number of first-time applicants) was again in 2016 the main country of citizenship of asylum seekers in the EU Member States. Of the 334,800 Syrians who applied for the first time for asylum in the EU in 2016, almost 80% were registered in Germany (266,250). In total, Syrians represented the main citizenship of asylum seekers in thirteen EU Member States.

Afghanistan (15% of the total number of first-time applicants) remained the second main country of citizenship of asylum seekers in the EU Member States in 2016. Of the 183,000 Afghans seeking asylum protection for the first time in the EU Member States in 2016, nearly 70% applied in Germany (127,000). Afghans represented the main citizenship of asylum seekers in five EU Member States.

With 127,000 first -time applicants (or 11% of the EU total) in 2016, Iraq was the third country of citizenship of asylum seekers in the EU Member States. Three-quarters applied in Germany (96,100).

Map of the day: Pentagon’s German base hunger


While the TrumpPutinBromance™ is much in the news, the Pentagon is eyeing a beefed up military presence in Deutschland and has been scouting bases abandoned since the end of Cold War 1.0:

The US Army is scouting two sites in northern Germany for potentially basing new American troops in Europe. The bases would mark a geographic shift for the US military, which is largely based in the country’s south. From Deusche Welle.

The story, via Deutsche Welle:

The US Army has scouted two sites in northern Germany for potentially basing new American troops in Europe, according to its command in Wiesbaden.

Survey teams recently visited facilities at Bad Fallingbostel and Bergen, two longtime military communities in Lower Saxony that border a large NATO training area. Local news reports placed the number of potential soldiers at 4,000—roughly the size of a combat brigade.

US Army Europe, the command responsible for American soldiers on the continent, released a statement saying the surveys were meant to provide options should the American and German governments approve a force increase in the future.

“At this time no decisions have been made; we are engaged in prudent planning only,” the statement said.

>snip<

Citing concerns over Russia, American commanders have recently pushed to increase the number of permanently stationed forces in Europe. Army Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti, commander of all American forces in Europe, told Congress last year that he believed a heavy armor brigade should be stationed on the continent.

U.S. missiles in Korea prompt a Chinese warning


The Game of Zones is heating up, a clash of powers triggered by an American vision of a unipolar world and growing Chinese assertiveness.

Throw in historical legacies and conflicting claims over marine resources and you’ve got reason to take heed.

China takes issue with U.S. missiles in South Korea

with the Korean government signing an agreement with with a Korean conglomerate to swap the company’s golf course for military land to install a U.S.-provided anti-missile.

The ostensible reason for the base is North Korea’s nuclear missile program, but the Chinese see it differently.

From Xinhua, China’s official state news agency:

China on Monday warned against the deployment of an advanced U.S. missile defense system in the Republic of Korea (ROK), saying China’s security interests should not be undermined.

There were media reports that the Lotte Group board of directors met on Monday to approve a land swap deal between the military and Lotte — a move to facilitate the deployment of the U.S. Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense (THAAD).

The THAAD deployment initiated by the United States and the ROK seriously undermines regional strategic balance and the strategic security interests of regional countries including China, and is not favorable to safeguarding peace and stability in the Korean Peninsula, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang said at a regular news briefing.

“China has stressed time and again that it understands the reasonable security concerns of certain parties, but one country’s security should not come at the expense of another,” Geng said.

China regrets the persistent ignoring of its concerns over security interests, the spokesperson said. “China expresses firm opposition and strong dissatisfaction,” he said.

China will take necessary measures to safeguard its security interests, and the U.S. and the ROK will have to bear all the resulting consequences, the spokesperson said.

Meanwhile in Japan. . .

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has been doing some fast spinning after it emerged that a private school owner hailed as an ideological colleague turned out to be an openly racist zealot.

Abe’s regime has been the recipient of major Pentagon largess, boosted by Barack Obama’s Asian Pivot, a policy based o containment of China’s growing military prowess and the ongoing disputes over rights to the islands and resources of the China Seas.

The latest on Abe’s flub from the Japan Times:

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Monday sought to deny allegations that he is linked to an Osaka-based ultranationalist kindergarten as the public outcry over the operator and its alleged efforts to indoctrinate children with xenophobia and pre-war militarism grows.

At the center of the controversy is Tsukamoto Kindergarten, a private school that recently came under fire for distributing letters to parents that accused Korean residents and Chinese of “possessing wicked thoughts.”

It has also emerged that the principal, Yasunori Kagoike, had briefly used Abe’s name in the past to raise funds to build Mizuho no Kuni, an elementary school slated to open April this year.

It was at this elementary school that Abe’s wife, Akie, had assumed the position of honorary principal until Thursday last week, when her name was abruptly removed from the school’s website amid a groundswell of public attention focused on the pair’s dealings with Moritomo Gakuen, which runs both schools.

TV footage has surfaced online over the past few days showing kindergartners participating in a sports festival at Tsukamoto, lined up, standing at attention, and shouting a nationalist chant that said: “Japanese adults should make sure South Korea and China repent over treating Japan as a villain,” and “refrain from teaching lies in history textbooks.”

>snip<

On Feb. 17, Abe had described Kagoike as someone with an “admirable passion for education” and “whose ideology is similar to mine.”