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Offline knarf

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But Employers Definitely Aren’t Racist

We’ve written voluminously about America’s worsening student debt crisis.

It’s a tough subject to broach because personal responsibility demands that people repay what they borrowed. But between soaring tuition costs (enabled in part by the ease with which students can obtain loans that are effectively underwritten by the U.S. taxpayer) and the fact that increasingly, the skills cultivated in undergraduate and graduate programs are disconnected from those employers apparently value, the prospect of repayment is becoming so far-fetched for some borrowers that forgiveness may be the only feasible option if we want to avoid a scenario wherein the student debt albatross ends up crippling the U.S. economy.

For context, here’s a snapshot of tuition inflation:



And here’s a rather poignant visual that shows how enormous the burden truly is (the outstanding stock of student debt in America is now larger than the entire USD high yield market):



This is already affecting homeownership and it seems entirely likely that before it’s all over, it will show up in all manner of high level econ data if something isn’t done to ameliorate the situation.


(Wells Fargo)

Again, we’re inclined to say that all of this debt should not in fact be forgiven, especially when it was incurred by folks who enrolled in reputable institutions.

Obviously, for-profit fraud (like the kind that the President himself perpetrated through “Trump U.” only to end up paying out a $25 million settlement to thousands of students earlier this year) is an entirely different story. That debt should be forgiven no questions asked. But whatever you want to say about the supposed disconnect between the labor market and the skills being taught at reputable colleges and universities, someone who takes their education seriously should probably be able to figure out a way to use the skills they attain to make a living.

But wait. It turns out there’s another caveat. A new study from Brookings details a rather alarming set of statistics derived from new data on student debt and repayment, released by the U.S. Department of Education in October 2017.

As it turns out, the student debt crisis for African Americans is particularly acute. Indeed, the numbers are so alarming that one can’t help but wonder if maybe prospective employers might be … oh, I don’t know … racists?

You can read excerpts from the Brookings report below and decide for yourself. While we would note that there are of course all manner of plausible explanations for this rather desperate state of affairs, you’d be obtuse if you didn’t at least acknowledge the possibility that the problem boils down to systemic oppression of African Americans in the labor force.

Via Brookings

    THE SPECIAL CASE OF BLACK BA GRADUATES

    Unlike for other demographic groups, for black students the debt crisis is not limited to dropouts and for-profit entrants. In a previous Brookings report (October 2016), co-author Jing Li and I highlight the black-white gap in student loan debt among bachelor’s degree (BA) graduates, and show how the gap widens in the four years following graduation.[9]

    The newly released data tracking entrants for 12 years allow the tracking of BA graduates for an even longer follow-up (for the vast majority who take less than 8 years to complete their BA), and produce even more alarming results. While our previous report found that the black-white gap in total debt tripled after graduation, Table 3 below shows that with longer follow up the gap more than quadruples, from $10,301 at graduation to $43,372 at the end of the 12-year follow-up. The increasing gap over time is due both to higher levels of graduate school borrowing among black BA completers, as well as lower rates of repayment.

    While BA completers as a whole default at a low rate (of just six out of every 100, see Table 2), the default rate among black graduates is more than five times the rate of white graduates (21 versus 4 percent). In fact, a black BA graduate is more likely to default than a white college dropout (21 versus 18, not shown).

    The outcomes of black BA graduates cannot be explained solely by lower levels of parental income or education. The default rate of black graduates is significantly higher than the default rate for first generation, low-income graduates (13 percent, not shown in table). Scott-Clayton and Li (2016) provide evidence that poorer labor market outcomes and for-profit enrollment at the graduate level contribute to high rates of default among black college graduates.



https://heisenbergreport.com/2018/01/12/stunning-study-shows-black-college-grads-more-likely-to-default-on-student-debt-than-white-dropouts-but-employers-definitely-arent-racist/
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Life on land and tropical overheating 250 million years ago
« Reply #10441 on: January 12, 2018, 04:49:54 PM »

The Permian-Triassic world 250 million years ago, showing all continents fused as the supercontinent Pangaea, the tropical belt (orange and yellow colours), and reptile distributions.

One of the key effects of the end-Permian mass extinction, 252 million years ago, was rapid heating of tropical waters and atmospheres.

How this affected life on land has been uncertain until now.

In a new study published today, Dr Massimo Bernardi and Professor Mike Benton from the School of Earth Sciences at the University of Bristol show how early reptiles were expelled from the tropics.

Geologists had already shown that ocean temperatures rose by 10-15 degrees centigrade as a result of global warming triggered by massive volcanic eruption.

The huge volcanoes erupting in Siberia belched thousands of tonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, setting off a chain reaction that involved global warming, acid rain, and loss of oxygen from the sea bed.

Together, these environmental crises led to the death of 95 percent of species.

Ten main lines of reptiles survived the crisis and re-populated the Earth in the subsequent Early Triassic time. However, they avoided the tropics, as did fishes and other animals in the oceans. The tropical clear-out was understood to have lasted several million years, but the new work shows that is not the case.

Dr Bernardi, the lead author, now Curator for Palaeontology at MUSE Science Museum in Trento, northern Italy, said: "We thought of using all available data to make our study as comprehensive as possible.

"Up to now, people used only the skeletons of the early reptiles from before and after the crisis, but these are found only in Russia and South Africa, so it is impossible to document any latitudinal shifts.

"We had been building a huge database integrating both skeletal and footprint data, and this allowed to fill a lot of the gaps, over Europe and North America for example."

Co-author, Professor Benton, added: "Our analyses show that the land reptiles moved north by 10 or 15 degrees to escape the tropical heat.

"The footprint and skeleton data agree in this, but we had to consider how the geographic distributions of fossils matched available land masses and the availability of rock. After all kinds of checking for possible errors, we are clear this is a real effect."

As the turmoil in the Early Triassic settled down, reptiles moved back to the tropics, but also maintained their temperate faunas. The turmoil then had a stimulating effect, and many new groups came on the scene, including the first dinosaurs.

Dr Bernardi said: "This was an important time in the history of life. It marks the end of ancient kinds of animals in the oceans and on land, and the beginning of the modern-style faunas we see today.

"What we have done is to try to dig deeper into our understanding of the exact consequences of rapid global warming during a well-documented historical event. This might be helpful in understanding what might happen in the future as we undergo more global warming today."

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/01/180109214946.htm
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Whistleblower Grigory Rodchenkov will testify but 'life under 'serious threat'
« Reply #10442 on: January 13, 2018, 03:44:31 AM »

Grigory Rodchenkov fled to the United States after Moscow issued an arrest warrant

The whistleblower whose evidence led to Russia's ban from next month's Winter Olympics is preparing to testify against those involved - even though his life is under "serious threat", his lawyer says.

Former Russian anti-doping official Grigory Rodchenkov fled to the United States after his allegations about a state-sponsored doping programme.

Russia was banned from the Games after Rodchenkov's claims were investigated - though athletes who can prove they are clean can compete as neutrals.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has handed life bans to 43 athletes involved in the doping programme - though 42 of those have appealed to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (Cas).

Their cases will be looked at in the coming weeks and Rodchenkov's lawyer, Jim Walden, says his client will likely give evidence at the hearings.

Walden told BBC Radio 5 live that the threat to Dr Rodchenkov - who was director of Russia's anti-doping laboratory during Sochi 2014 - from Russian retaliation needs to be taken "very seriously".

He added: "We know that Dr Rodchenkov is at the top of the Russian hate list. We know that at least one official has called for Dr Rodchenkov's execution."

But Rodchenkov is still preparing to at testify at the Cas hearings of the athletes and that of Russia's Deputy Prime Minister and former sports minister Vitaly Mutko, who is also banned for his alleged part in the doping scandal.

"He's very focused on what he needs to do in the next several weeks," Walden said.

"Grigory is expected to testify at both proceedings. He's focused on preparing for that. After he gets through these, it's incumbent upon us to make sure he's safe."

Following previous claims that Rodchenkov also has information about doping in football, Walden told BBC Radio 5 live that Fifa, the sport's world governing body, "is considering whether to hire an independent investigator" to look into claims Russia's alleged state-sponsored doping programme included football players.

Russia is hosting the World Cup this summer - though Mutko recently stood down from the tournament's organising committee to focus on contesting his ban.
'IOC chief should resign'

Also speaking to BBC Radio 5 live, Bryan Fogel - the film-maker whose Oscar-nominated Netflix documentary Icarus also helped to expose Russia's alleged state-sponsored doping programme - called on IOC president Thomas Bach to resign.

"The damage to the Olympic movement is unfathomable," Fogel said. "We have to start asking ourselves, why are we having these Olympics? What point are these Olympics other than for a lot of people to make a lot of money at the expense of clean athletes?

"When faced with the biggest scandal in Olympic history - a 40-year-scandal that calls into question the entire history of the Olympic Games - how do they act? They act by giving Russia a slap on the wrist.

"The worldwide community should be calling for the resignation of Thomas Bach. The leadership at the IOC is not the leadership the world should be having if these Games are going to continue."

The BBC has requested a response from both the IOC and Fifa.

http://www.bbc.com/sport/winter-sports/42674331
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KFC Canada starts accepting Bitcoin for a bucket of chicken, immediately sells out
« Reply #10443 on: January 13, 2018, 03:50:23 AM »
Many commenters on the Facebook post appeared to regard the promotion as a joke


KFC Canada jumps on the cryptocurrency bandwagon.

TORONTO — A professed failure to understand Bitcoin has not deterred KFC Canada from accepting the cryptocurrency as payment for a bucket of fried chicken.

A limited-time marketing promotion for a “Bitcoin Bucket” was launched Thursday afternoon by the quick-serve restaurant chain — so limited, in fact, that it appeared to sell out of the ten-piece chicken buckets entirely between 10 a.m. and 11 a.m. ET on Friday.

“Sure, we don’t know exactly what Bitcoins are, or how they work, but that shouldn’t come between you and some finger lickin’ good chicken,” the company said in a posting on its Canadian Facebook page that featured a live tracker of the virtual currency’s value superimposed on a bucket of chicken.

For a Bitcoin payment worth the equivalent of $20, a customer could order a bucket of 10 chicken tenders, with waffle fries, a side dish, gravy and two dips. The post provides a link to a digital ordering hub that allowed users to make a payment using the Bitcoin payment service provider BitPay.

Many commenters on the Facebook post appeared to regard the promotion as a joke.

“$20 bucket today, $5 bucket tomorrow, $200 bucket next week,” wrote Nathan Hudson, alluding to the cryptocurrency’s volatility.

Others noted the cost of the bucket would come out to about $40 due to a $20 transaction fee.

The promotion is also highlighted on Twitter, where KFC Canada alluded to Bitcoin’s alleged founder, Satoshi Nakamoto, a pseudonym for one or several unknown individuals who launched the virtual currency. “If Satoshi reveals his true identity, his bucket is on us,” KFC said.

Despite some customer doubts, KFC Canada said Friday that the deal is real and that while the promotion was “temporarily sold out,” people would again be able to pay with Bitcoin later on Friday.

“While it is unusual and quirky, it is a legitimate way to purchase KFC,” said a company spokesman, adding the chain had already received a number orders that will be fulfilled this evening.

http://business.financialpost.com/news/retail-marketing/no-joke-kfc-canada-starts-accepting-bitcoin-for-a-bucket-of-chicken-immediately-sells-out
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Iran rejects Trump's call for changes to nuclear deal
« Reply #10444 on: January 13, 2018, 03:53:31 AM »

Mohammad Javad Zarif, the Iranian foreign minister, accused Trump of making 'desperate attempts to undermine a solid multilateral agreement'

Iran has said it will not accept any changes to the terms of the 2015 nuclear deal, after US President Donald Trump threatened to pull out of the agreement unless its "terrible flaws" are fixed.

The Islamic Republic's foreign ministry said in a statement that it would not "move beyond its commitments" to the existing agreement, to which Trump has extended the US commitment for another 120 days, Iran's state-run Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) reported on Saturday.

"Iran strongly announces that it will make no measure beyond its Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) commitments and will make no changes in the nuclear deal neither now nor in the future," the statement said.

The nuclear deal, formally known as the JCPOA, has eased sanctions on Iran in exchange for Tehran halting uranium enrichment. It was agreed upon by the United States under the administration of former President Barack Obama, Iran and five other countries in July 2015.

Trump announced on Friday that the US would keep the pact in place and waive sanctions against Iran for the "last time", in order to secure agreement from the US' European allies to fix its "terrible flaws".

"Despite my strong inclination, I have not yet withdrawn the United States from the Iran nuclear deal," he said in a statement.

"Instead I have outlined two possible paths forward: either fix the deal's disastrous flaws, or the United States will withdraw," he added. "This is the last chance. In absence of such an agreement [between the US and European powers], the United States will not again waive sanctions in order to stay in the Iran nuclear deal."
'Critical components'

Trump said four "critical components" must now be worked into the agreement: immediate inspections at all sites requested by international inspectors, measures to ensure Iran "never even comes close to possessing a nuclear weapon", no policy "expiration date", and no distinction between the Islamic Republic's long-range missile and nuclear weapons programmes regarding the imposition of sanctions.

The US president is required to renew the existing deal every 120 days under American law.

Russia's deputy foreign minister, Sergei Ryabkov, condemned Washington's comments as "extremely negative", the Kremlin-backed Russian Information Agency (RIA) news agency reported on Saturday.

Mohammad Javad Zarif, the Iranian foreign minister, accused Trump of "desperate attempts to undermine a solid multilateral agreement", tweeting on Friday: "JCPOA is not renegotiable: rather than repeating tired rhetoric, US must bring itself into full compliance -just like Iran."

European leaders had urged "all parties to continue to fully implement this agreement" ahead of Trump's announcement.

Federica Mogherini, the European Union's foreign policy chief, said earlier this week that the "deal is working; it is delivering on its main goal, which means keeping the Iranian nuclear programme in check and under close surveillance".

http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2018/01/iran-rejects-trump-call-nuclear-deal-180113092352006.html
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'Shithole' nationalism
« Reply #10445 on: January 13, 2018, 03:56:17 AM »
One thing that is upsetting about the comments that US President Donald Trump made calling African and African-descent nations "shitholes" is that his African and African-descent supporters from the 2016 election period haven't come out to support him on that. After all, loyalty counts for something, doesn't it? Some of these people are my friends, mind you. Any takers? Come on, now. Y'all were loud in 2016, time to show your face again, fellow #shithole inhabitants.

Seriously, though. There's a couple of things going on here. First of all, I want to address the fact that Donald Trump is flamingly out of his mind. Where I come from - proudly a #shitholecountry - we generally try to be kind to our elders whose minds have clearly gone into the void while leaving them physically behind. Because there are values connected to the concept of Utu (or as non-East Africans call it, Ubuntu) that demand a basic level of common decency from individuals. It's a social contract thing.

As a consequence, I am largely horrified on a daily basis that his people are letting The Donald run around nekkid-minded in public every day under the pretext that he doesn't have a formal mental health diagnosis. The only response that's appropriate from out here is a gentle eye-roll and some prayers for America. This man is dying a slow and horrible public death and here I am writing about it. Utu forgive me.

The other issue is condescension. Dear media, telling us that Donald Trump is a racist is ... not news. It is low-hanging fruit. He's a mean old git who promised to build a wall between the US and Mexico to appeal to his voters. Was anyone surprised that he also despises people from continents he has never visited, especially considering he can hardly read to expand what appears to be a tragically limited intellect? Nope. It only adds insult to injury that we have to talk about this as though it merits consideration. Another overpriviledged American goes Heart of Darkness. Been there, done that.

This is the continent of untold racial injuries, of apartheid and Zimbabwe and the Namibia situation we don't talk about. Congo and Libya selling slaves in this here present day. Of Sudan and Sudan, Somalia and Kenya, al-Shabab and the IMF structural adjustment programmes with their long tails of woe. Of genocides both internal and external, of injustices that popular culture and rate-chasing modern media tries its best to forget.

Because you know what? Everything I have said above about #shithole countries is applicable to the United States of America and everywhere else. Genocide, slavery, rape, sexual slavery, extreme patriarchy, religious nuttiness, gun-toting fools, horrendous presidents, electoral shenanigans, corruption, inefficiency, brutality, apartheid (what are "Native American reservations"… like, seriously?), the drug trade, you name it. It takes a #shithole to recognise one.

Good old Trump who is in way over his head is simply expressing the anxieties of a decaying society that maybe needs to start talking to itself about these things, among others. I understand, the fear of the rise of Russia. More pertinent to #shitholecountries, the American preoccupation with the rise of China in Africa where all the good minerals, land and natural resources are, is no bueno. The decline of oil power makes them crazy. There's a lot going on. It isn't surprising to act out when you're cornered. If Trump is America's Id, well …

Fortunately, the thing about #shitholecountries is that we survive, always have ... and most menacingly, we always will. This continent is going to hit a billion and a half not too far from now. The superbly highly-skilled immigrants America rejects (African immigrants to the US are consistently the most highly qualified "type" of immigrant, look it up) will find elsewhere to do their work (Jyna, probably) and repatriate their knowledge and money. And we can reproduce like champions. Like I said, I understand. There is something frightening about the inevitability of the browning of the world, and the slow and grinding demise of a certain kind of privilege.

By the way, could someone please tell Donald Trump that a #shitholecountry feminist woman columnist is praying for America to dump him for his own good and mental health? And that he needs to embrace the inevitable browning of the world? His personal apocalypse is here. Because anything I can do to drive him closer to the edge of completely undeniable unfitness-for-office is something I will do gladly. Utu, forgive me, some things just have to be done.

http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/trump-shithole-remark-africa-180112170017744.html
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Zhou Youguang: Why Google honours him today
« Reply #10446 on: January 13, 2018, 03:59:01 AM »

Zhou Youguang is known as 'the father of Pinyin', the Chinese phonetic language

Described as "the father of Pinyin", or Chinese phonetic language, and hailed as the man who simplified Chinese, Zhou Youguang would have been 112 this Saturday.

In his honour, Google is changing its logo in 12 countries to a doodle, or illustration, of him and his contribution to Chinese language.

This is his story:
Love for China

    "Bring light to the world". Born in Changzhou in 1906, Zhou Youguang showed interest in linguistics at the early age of 12; he graduated from high-school with honours.

    Named Zhou Yaoping, he adopted the pen name "Yougang" because he wanted to "bring light" to the world.

    Hard road to university. In 1923, Zhou enrolled the university of St. John's University, Shanghai. He was not able to attend because of financial woes, but friends and relatives raised the admission fee and helped him pay for tuition.

    He graduated in 1927, majored in economics and took supplementary coursework in linguistics.

    Sino-Japanese war. In 1933, he married Zhang Yunhe. He moved to Japan to continue his studies, but returned in 1937, at the start of the Sino-Japanese war.

    After the Japanese were defeated in 1945 at the end of World War Two, Zhou worked in Sin Hua bank where he was stationed overseas, first in New York City and then in London.

    "Modern, resurgent China". In 1949, he returned after the establishment of Communist China, excited to take part in a resurgent country. "We all thought that China had a very good opportunity to develop; we didn't expect the later turmoil. History misled us," Zhou told the Guardian.
    Back in China, he taught economics at Fudan University in Shanghai. However, his path did not lead him to remain as an economist.

    History misled us

Romanization of the language

    Reforming the Chinese language. In 1955, the government placed Zhou at the head of a committee to reform the Chinese language.
    He was called by Zhou Enlai, a person he met in his bank job who was now the second leader in China.

    "Linguistics was just a hobby". Zhou initially declined, saying that linguistics was only his hobby, but he was not allowed to refuse the offer. He moved to Beijing, where he began a three-year effort, and developed the invention of Pinyin.

    A pronunciation guide. Pinyin was made the official romanization in 1958. It is only a pronunciation guide, and not a substitute writing system.

    "Mao disliked greatly the economists". His job protected him from Mao's policies. "Mao disliked greatly the economists - especially economic professors from America," Zhou said in an in interview. "By that time, I had shifted to the line of language and writing ... If I had remained in Shanghai teaching economics, I think I certainly could have been imprisoned for 20 years."

    Chinese labour camp. But in 1969. accused of being a reactionary academic, he was sent to work in a labour camp where he worked in the rice fields. He spent more than two years there.

    Once he was released, he went back home and continued writing about language.

    Encyclopedia Zhou. In the 1980s, he helped oversee the translation into Chinese of the Encyclopedia Britannica, earning him the nickname of "Encyclopedia Zhou".
    Critical of the government. Zhou was the author of more than 40 books, many of which were banned for being critical of the government. Around 10 of them were published after he turned 100.

    He started a blog on Sina and continued blogging until he was 105 years old.

    Regarding the government, the linguist told AFP: "In all honesty I haven’t got anything good to say about Mao Zedong."

    Chinese people becoming rich isn't important, human progress is ultimately progress towards democracy.

    Zhou Youguang

http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2018/01/zhou-youguang-google-honours-today-180112133907283.html
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Could ISIL stage a comeback?
« Reply #10447 on: January 13, 2018, 04:03:27 AM »

After being captured by ISIL during the group's swift rise in 2014, the city of Mosul was among many areas reclaimed by Iraqi forces last year

The past year has witnessed a dramatic reversal of fortunes for the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant group, which suffered a stunning series of defeats in its former strongholds.

From Mosul to Hawija in Iraq, and from Raqqa to al-Bab in Syria, ISIL has been driven from key territory, leaving the group's expansive vision of a caliphate in tatters. To date, more than 98 percent of the areas it previously held have been retaken, and more than seven million Syrians and Iraqis have been freed from the group's control, according to the US-led coalition battling ISIL.

Meanwhile, the ISIL fighters who evaded death or capture have "gone to ground" in rural areas between Iraq and Syria in an effort to regroup and replenish, experts note.

"The Islamic State of today organisationally looks profoundly different to the Islamic State of just a few years ago ... No more does it control a contiguous territory, no more does it have control over urban centres, cities or towns," said Charlie Winter, a senior research fellow at the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation and Political Violence at King's College London.

"Instead, it appears to have gone to ground, returned to its covert insurgent roots. This means that it's more like an archipelago of all the territories that together still form what it considers to be the Islamic State, what it still considers to be a caliphate," Winter told Al Jazeera. "But it is no longer operating or able to operate in the same way that it was in 2014 or 2015 or 2016."
Rise and fall

In January 2014, ISIL, also known as ISIS, took Raqqa as its capital, holding the city until Syrian forces reclaimed it late last year. By June of 2014, ISIL had also taken Iraq's second city, Mosul, and held it until Iraqi forces separately retook the eastern and western halves earlier in 2017.

At its peak, ISIL controlled a vast swath of territory that defied the Syria-Iraq border, maintaining key urban strongholds from Fallujah to Tikrit to Aleppo - gains that have all since been reversed.

Last month, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi declared "the end of the war" against ISIL in his country, announcing that Iraqi forces had secured total control over the Syria-Iraq border. But while battles still remain to be fought in both countries, it is highly unlikely that the group could stage a comeback similar to its meteoric rise four years ago, analysts say.

"That moment was a unique one in terms of the circumstances that gave rise to it: the chaos of the Syrian civil war, free access to the borders with Turkey, streams of foreign fighters coming in, etcetera," Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi, a research fellow at the Middle East Forum, told Al Jazeera.

And while some of the conditions that facilitated the group's rise remain in place, ISIL's resources have been significantly depleted in the intervening years.

Although the group has managed to maintain a governance project in certain areas, such as through its affiliate Jaysh Khalid bin al-Waleed in Deraa, the group primarily operates as an "insurgency" today, Tamimi noted.

"It's still a major concern in the border areas where, despite claims by both the Syrian government and the US-backed SDF [Syrian Democratic Forces], the Islamic State still holds some territory in the eastern province of Deir Az Zor and operates relatively freely in the desert borderlands with Iraq," he said.

According to Colonel Thomas Veale, a spokesperson for the US-led international coalition fighting ISIL, work is ongoing to clear fighters from the areas where they remain, including rural parts of Anbar province and the Middle Euphrates River Valley in Syria.

"The remaining ISIS terrorists are cut off from their leadership and from their logistical support. It is only a matter of time until the SDF and coalition eradicate ISIS from every area within our area of operation," Veale told Al Jazeera.

Of the estimated 40,000 ISIL fighters believed to be operating in Syria and Iraq at the group's peak in 2015, it is unclear how many remain alive or active, but Veale noted that 98 percent of the more than 100,000 square kilometres of territory the group once controlled has been recaptured. "As the result of our combined effort, the overwhelming majority of ISIS terrorists have been taken off the battlefield," he said.
Returning fighters

In the meantime, ISIL is continuing to disseminate propaganda - albeit on a more limited scale than in the past - in an effort to assert its continued existence, Winter said. On the group's Telegram channel, photos periodically emerge of fighters hanging out in caves, suggesting they are "biding their time" underground until the group is ready for a resurgence.

"That's essentially what the organisation seems to have called for since the fall of Raqqa," Winter said.

Also problematic is the issue of ISIL fighters who have fled Syria and Iraq and started returning home.

Turkey, a transit point for many foreign fighters en route to join ISIL, could also be their path on the way out, putting the country at further risk. In the final days of the battle for Raqqa, it is unclear how many ISIL fighters were smuggled out through this route - and how many among them were still "committed to the cause", Tamimi said.

Foreign fighters didn't just dry up because ... it got difficult to get into Syria from Turkey. They dried up because it became a less appealing thing to join.

Charlie Winter, senior research fellow at the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation and Political Violence at King's College London

Despite the threat of individual attacks, however, the prospect of a large-scale resurgence of foreign ISIL fighters in another country is unlikely, experts say.

"Foreign fighters didn't just dry up because ... it got difficult to get into Syria from Turkey. They dried up because it became a less appealing thing to join," Winter said. "The Islamic State never had mass appeal, but the appeal that it did have was at its peak in 2014, 2015 and early 2016, when it did look like a successful organisation, when it did look like you could go to join it and not end up having to die in a suicide bomb or after a coalition air strike or something like that. That part of the Islamic State brand no longer exists."

Instead, for the time being, ISIL has been encouraging its supporters to launch localised attacks in their home cities and provinces to keep up a global sense of momentum.

"The inability to quell the Islamic State as an insurgency problem, even if it fails to regain formal control of territories it lost, [remains] a concern, as in Diyala, and likely the issue will become notable in Nineveh too," Tamimi said.
Lingering effects

Meanwhile, residents of the areas once controlled by ISIL have been struggling to rebuild their lives. Parents whose young children were trapped under ISIL's rule must grapple with the lingering effects of indoctrination or years of missed education. Experts say the full scale of the problem is unknown, as there has been no opportunity yet for an exhaustive assessment.

"There might actually be a lost generation," Nadim Houry, the director of the terrorism and counterterrorism programme at Human Rights Watch, told Al Jazeera.

From the trail of unexploded ordnance left by ISIL, to the razing of entire neighbourhoods in battle, to the lack of basic services such as water and electricity, to the stigmatisation of women who suffered sexual violence under ISIL's rule, families face myriad challenges in their quest to move on.

"There is a real crisis today ... of sort of what is the broader strategy, the broader plan," Houry said, noting that many people "are just still trying to comprehend what happened".

"There are a lot of energetic, well-intentioned people working locally [to rebuild]," he said. "I think what is missing, is there is a lack of international support and international vision for the day after ISIS. All the energy of the international coalition has been focused on the war effort, and a lot of resources were put into it, but actually very little resources, very little thought, were provided for the day after."

http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2018/01/isil-stage-comeback-180112093936503.html
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Offline knarf

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 Julian Assange has once again sent Twitter into a frenzy of speculation with another cryptic tweet – this time posting an image of a famous chess strategy, prompting suggestions the whistleblower is preparing ‘checkmate’.

The chessboard tweeted by Assange, unaccompanied by any text, shows a move from the Capablanca vs Marshall chess game of 1918 – considered one of the greatest defensive games of all time.

Julian Assange
⌛‏ @JulianAssange



The story goes that then-reigning US champion Frank Marshall spent years planning a surprise attack against Cuban rival José Raúl Capablanca, even avoiding playing the move in earlier matches so that he could spring it suddenly on his opponent at the right moment.

Nevertheless, Capablanca (represented on the board by white pieces) skilfully defeated Marshall’s attack and went on to win the game.

 Bruce King‏ @CrowdvBank
Replying to @JulianAssange

This position is from Capablanca (Cuban, World Champion) vs. Marshall (US Champion) in 1918: http://www.chessgames.com/perl/chessgame?gid=1095025
It's one of the greatest defensive games of all time, from one of the greatest players, refuting the deadly Marshall Gambit.
More: http://www.chesshistory.com/winter/extra/marshallgambit.html
Meaning?



Speculation mounted over which color represented Assange and what exactly he was trying to convey with the mysterious tweet.

One Twitter user suggested that Assange’s choice to post this particular position may indicate that he has already left the Ecuadorian Embassy in London. Another interpretation, posted by the same user, mused that the ‘game’ could still be in play, but with Assange in a strong position.

     Bruce King @CrowdvBank
    Replying to @agree1967 @JulianAssange

    It's a famous chess game, but it is for JA to reveal why he chose it for his #AssangeChessPosition.
    The story is US Champion Marshall had plotted this attack vs Capablanca for years, but JRC anyway escaped to win.

    Maybe JA has departed the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, & the UK?

    Bruce King @CrowdvBank

    Another interpretation: the game might still be in progress but JA is in a strong position against opposing US interests.

    Fwiw, the chess engine at http://chess24.com  assigns the equivalent of a 2 pawn advantage to white (Capablanca) in the #AssangeChessPosition = easy win. pic.twitter.com/D3etFIMVSg
    1:08 AM - Jan 13, 2018



 Michelle C‏ @mcaffer62
Replying to @JulianAssange



Other avid chess fans pointed out that although checkmate is not inevitable, it could mean the game is coming to a close.

According to Twitter users the play tweeted by Assange suggests that three moves are needed to checkmate, generating other theories that the tweet relates to the impending publication of the US Department of Justice report into the FBI handling of the Hillary Clinton email investigation.

Or perhaps it’s just anticipating Trump’s upcoming ‘Fake News’ awards, others quipped. In any case the burning question remains: whose move is it?

Assange also changed the icon beside his Twitter profile name from a blue diamond to an egg timer – an image associated with Wikileaks and used on its website.



The Wikileaks founder, known for his profuse tweeting, has in the past two weeks only sent three tweets – all cryptic and igniting much conjecture online. Last week the Ecuadorian Embassy in London confirmed to RT.com that the WikiLeaks founder was still in the building.

The Ecuadorian Foreign Ministry announced this week that it had granted citizenship to Assange. The UK Foreign Office, however, rejected a request from Quito to grant the
whistleblower diplomatic status.

https://www.rt.com/news/415802-assange-cryptic-chess-tweet/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=RSS
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Offline knarf

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The world’s most expensive oil
« Reply #10449 on: January 13, 2018, 04:16:24 AM »


 When asked about the most expensive oil grade out there, those working in the oil industry are caught blindsided because there’s no easy way to answer this question.

The price of crude oil is determined by its physical characteristics (low-density, low-sulphur grade blends generally cost more, but there are several exceptions to this rule), classic supply-demand conditions, distance from main marketing outlets and trading hubs, potential risks and general market sentiment.

To make matters even more complicated, speculation plays a major part in price-setting, since the volume of futures trading significantly exceeds that of physical volumes.

So it is possible to pinpoint the world’s most expensive oil?

First, it’s helpful to start by identifying the cheapest crude on the market today. Oil traders often receive offers to buy unknown grades from countries that one could never even associate with oil production, so it’s sensible to focus on established oil grades, for their price development is much easier to follow. Western Canadian Select, a basket of the heavy tar sands coming from Alberta, traded with a $30 per barrel discount to West Texas Intermediate (WTI) in December. Pipeline bottlenecks were the most important factor behind such a massive discount, after the closure of Transcanada’s Keystone pipeline between Alberta and Oklahoma due to leaking in South Dakota and Enbridge’s rationing of its Edmonton-Wisconsin pipeline.

Pipeline bottlenecking isn’t unique or specifically related to Canada. The U.S. benchmark WTI traded at a significant discount to Brent due to oversupply-induced bottlenecking against the background of the U.S. crude market transforming from a south-to-north crude flow-based system to a north-to-south one. Thus, one might infer that availability plays an important role in the value-setting of crude grades—seaborne grades usually take advantage over inland ones because they are easier to move.

Generally, the less refining a crude grade needs, the more expensive it will be, so light and sweet grades should be more expensive.

Saudi Arabia’s pricing practices reflect the way sweeter grades are valued higher than heavier ones. Every month, Saudi Aramco announces its official selling price for next-month loading cargoes, in the form of a differential to be used against Oman/Dubai (for Asian supplies) or first-month Brent futures (for supplies to Northwestern Europe and the Mediterranean). Arab Heavy (27.4° API, 2.8 percent Sulphur) is generally traded at a discount to both Brent and Oman/Dubai, whilst Arab Extra Light (38.4° API, 1.2 percent Sulphur) is traded at a premium. Needless to say, the recently added Arab Super Light (49° API, 0.1 percent Sulphur) that’s specifically marketed for Asian buyers comes on average with a hefty $3-4 per barrel premium.

Taking into consideration the above-mentioned facts, you might be amazed to discover that the world’s most expensive oil is Malaysian.

Tapis, the Malaysian crude benchmark traded in Singapore, has for a long time held the title of the world’s most expensive grade. Its lightness (43-45° API) and extremely low Sulphur content (0.04 percent) make for a highly valuable refining asset. At the time of writing it had broken the much-hyped $70 market.

However, having started production in 1979, Tapis has been falling since 1998 and its current production of 200,000 bpd is half of what it was 20 years ago. Hence, the most expensive oil grades now are Kikeh (35° API, 0.1 percent Sulphur), Miri Light (36.3° API, 0.08 percent Sulphur) and Kimanis (38.6° API, 0.06 percent Sulphur), currently trading at $4 per barrel premium to Dated Brent (in December 2017, they’ve oscillated in the +$4-4.50 per barrel premium interval).

In many ways, the Malaysian grades’ remoteness created this demand for them – Australian and Southeast Asian refiners are willing to pay the extra premium to have the crudes sooner than to wait for Brent (similar quality characteristics) or other grades to arrive there.

It’s important to remember that the current situation and market conditions don’t necessarily mean they’re long term. Current market conditions are in many ways influenced by OPEC’s November 2016 decision to cut oil production worth 1.2 million barrels per day. An overwhelming majority of this cut affected sour production—in fact, more than 90 percent of the production cuts related to high-sulfur grades. As a consequence, crude differentials between sweet-light crudes and sour-heavy crudes narrowed, all the more so as major oil-producing nations not participating in the OPEC deal—namely the United States, Nigeria and Libya—ramped up sweet production in 2016-2017.

By January 2020, when the International Maritime Organization’s (IMO) new bunker fuel requirements take effect, sweet light crude should pull substantially away from heavier grades, regardless how the OPEC deal works out. The IMO suggests that from 2020 onward, bunker fuel should contain max. 0.5 percent Sulphur (compared to the max. 3.5 percent specification currently in vigor), which would adversely affect fuel oil demand and high fuel-oil yielding grades. Since vacuum residue accounts for more than third of the Mexican Maya or Venezuelan Merey yields, we should see a further widening of differentials. These changes will most likely leave Malaysian grades unaffected, but will likely cause a stir or two for the others.

Keep up to date on global events’ impact on oil prices with the world’s first free oil price data tool.

https://www.rt.com/business/415794-worlds-most-expensive-oil/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=RSS
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Offline knarf

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Plaintiffs that sued TEPCO and the Japanese government in Fukushima, Japan.

A final decision to release over a million tons of radioactive water from the crippled Fukushima plant should be made “within this year,” as its operator is running out of land to store the waste, Japan’s nuclear regulator said.

Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), the operator of the Fukushima plant, is short on time to decide what to do with some one million tons of radioactive water it has been storing in hundreds of tanks at the plant, Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority [NRA] Chairman Toyoshi Fuketa told the mayor of Naraha, a town near the stricken facility, on Thursday.

“We will face a new challenge if a decision [about the release] is not made within this year,” Fuketa said, as reported by Japan Today.

Toxic water at the plant is being diluted through a processing system that can remove 62 types of radioactive material except tritium, which, the NRA chairman claimed, is totally safe to the environment.

“It is scientifically clear that there will be no impact on marine products or to the environment,” Fuketa assured the mayor.

TEPCO has been constantly adding new water tanks to store the water it uses to keep the melted fuel rods cool, as well as the groundwater contaminated in the process. According to Japan’s nuclear watchdog, there are currently 650 tanks at the facility that store about one million tons of water. As of July last year there were 580 tanks and 770,000 tons of liquid.

The increase means TEPCO and the Japanese government have very little time before the capacity to hold water at the plant is overstretched. Fuketa estimates it may take an additional “two or three years” to prepare for the dumping after the decision is made.

“(TEPCO) has been building new tanks, but it will eventually run out of land,” an unnamed NRA official said, according to The Japan Times.

While both the NRA and TEPCO claim the tritium-contaminated water does not pose any risk to maritime life, local fishermen’s unions have been staunchly opposing the pending release, arguing the release of the radioactive water would stir speculation and make their work impossible.

Last July, TEPCO announced the decision was “already made” to release the tritium-contaminated water, with the company’s chairman Takashi Kawamura saying TEPCO “could have decided much earlier.” However, after facing a backlash from local fishermen, the effort has stalled without ever going ahead.

Apart from the potential massive discharge of radioactive water into the sea, the facility is slowly endangering the environment with regular leaks and groundwater contamination. Last September, TEPCO admitted that six of its indicators malfunctioned and were showing substantially higher groundwater levels than in reality. As a result, the company said the contaminated water might have been leaking into the soil for five months before it discovered the problem.

In March 2011, a massive tsunami triggered by a 9.0-magnitude earthquake caused a fuel meltdown in three of the plant’s reactors, which led to massive release of radiation. The Fukushima disaster is regarded as the most serious nuclear catastrophe since the Chernobyl nuclear accident in 1986.

https://www.rt.com/news/415786-fukushima-dump-radioactive-water-watchdog/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=RSS
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U.S. troops and Afghan National Army (ANA) soldiers are seen onboard a helicopter in Uruzgan province, Afghanistan July 7, 2017.

 The Pentagon intends to deploy an estimated 1,000 new combat advisers to Afghanistan as part of the Trump administration’s planned troop surge, according to reports.

As early as February, members of an Army security-force assistance brigade from Fort Benning, Georgia, will be sent to work as combat advisers to Afghan National Security Forces. Their deployment will bring the number of American personnel in the country to about 14,000.

US military officials told the Wall Street Journal the Pentagon hopes to dramatically increase the American military presence in Afghanistan in time for spring, when the “fighting season” begins.
With operations against Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) winding down in Syria and Iraq, the US military also plans to send more helicopters, ground vehicles, artillery and other equipment to Afghanistan.

A large fleet of armed and unarmed drones will also be sent to the country, which will provide the US advisers with air support, as well as intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance.
President Trump announced in August that 3,000 to 4,000 more troops would be sent to Afghanistan in an attempt to finally score a decisive victory in a war that has dragged on for more than fifteen years.

As part of Trump’s strategy, the White House has delegated substantial decision-making authority to his generals. The new management style has been coupled with a penchant for secrecy regarding troop deployment numbers.

General John Nicholson, the head of US forces in Afghanistan, told reporters last month there would be more US boots on the ground in the coming months, but did not provide specifics.
There are “well over 1,000 advisers out at any given time,” Nicholson said, but in 2018 “this [number] will increase dramatically.”

In December, the White House omitted the number of troops stationed in Afghanistan from a semi-annual report meant to bring greater accountability to the executive branch on military matters.

https://www.rt.com/usa/415764-afghanistan-troops-drones-surge/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=RSS
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Offline knarf

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Global Warming Stirs the Methane Monster
« Reply #10452 on: January 13, 2018, 04:35:31 AM »


It’s January, yet methane hydrates in the Arctic are growling like an incensed monster on a scorching hot mid-summer day. But, it is January; it’s winter, not July!

On January 1st Arctic methane at 2,764 ppb spiked upwards into the atmosphere, which, according to Arctic News: “Was likely caused by methane hydrate destabilization in the sediments on the seafloor of the Arctic Ocean.” (Source: Unfolding Arctic Catastrophe, Arctic News, January 2, 2018) Once again, with emphasis, it’s January; it’s winter, and there’s little or no sunshine above the Arctic Circle. So, what gives? Why are alarming levels of methane spewing into the atmosphere in the dead of winter?

For starters, record low sea ice volume, which has been dropping like a leaden weight for years because of human-generated (anthropogenic) global warming. That’s a recipe for trouble, big time trouble as methane hydrates (lattices of ice that entrap methane molecules) get exposed to warmer water. In that regard, average sea ice volume throughout 2017 was at record lows.

Making matters worse yet, extraordinarily warm water currents flow into the Arctic from nearby ocean waters that have been absorbing 90% of global warming. Ergo, Arctic water in thin ice does not cool down without a lot of thick ice to melt the warm water currents. So, abnormally warm water remains into winter months and, in time, reaches sediments at the bottom of the ocean, disrupting methane hydrates, which have stored tonnes of methane over millennia. However, in due course, all hell breaks loose with large-scale methane eruptions, one of those “Naw, it can’t be happening” moments.

Here’s the problem: On average, sea surface temps were 23.35°F warmer during the period October 1 to December 30, 2017 compared to the 30-year average temperature. On October 25th, the sea surface was as warm as 63.5°F. For the Arctic, that’s hot, not just warmer. And, that brings forth a big-gulp question: What’s going to happen in summertime when methane hydrates are more exposed?

After all, methane (CH4) is a dominating greenhouse gas that makes carbon dioxide (CO2) look like a piker during initial years and packs the walloping risk of runaway global warming, which, in turn, threatens agricultural sources of food… not a good scenario. Imagine the chaos, considering the fact that “runaway” means totally out of control!

In all, an impending disaster seems destined to happen, but nobody knows when. It will likely occur unexpected by an ill advised, crass, blundering, philistine society blindsided by a scorched planet and extensive loss of foodstuff. Chaos spreads throughout when all of a sudden, unexpectedly, crops fail. One bad crop season follows another and another. For example, Syria, where its 2006-11 devastating drought caused 75% of Syria’s farms to fail and 85% of livestock to die. That’s a wipeout!

In the end, as crops fail, it’s too late to take remedial action beyond dealing with dystopian warring factions locked in bloodthirsty combat over morsels of foodstuff.

Not only that, one more nasty early warning sign of trouble is right around the corner: The National Snow & Ice Data Center (NSIDC) January 3rd year-end headline reads: “Baked Alaska and 2017 in Review,” stating: “… notably high temperatures prevail over most of the Arctic, especially over Central Alaska.” That’s permafrost country! That’s where tonnes and tonnes and tonnes of methane lies in-waiting to spring loose into the atmosphere. After all, global warming is the kissing cousin to methane buried in permafrost.

And, of equivalent concern on a worldwide basis: “In 2016 – now and at least for another year, the hottest year on record – global sea ice extent suffered a precipitous drop, plummeting from a fairly average 2015 value to a new record low. Now, as we wrap up 2017, data from the US National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) shows that annual average global sea ice extent has dropped again, hitting an even lower record value.” (Source: Global Sea Ice Hits New Record Low for 2nd Year Straight, The Weather Network, January 8, 2017)

Meantime, the two poles, north and south, are in the early stages of collapse. Scientists know it, and there is lots of chatter about geo-engineering and assorted methodologies to fix anthropogenic global warming before it consumes civilization in a fireball, but those proposals are in dreamland for the moment. Hopefully, one of their fixit ideas works “to scale” because the planet is likely too big for geo-engineering schemes to work without some kind of unintended consequence, which may be worse than the original fix. In fact, nobody really knows for sure what will happen when the biosphere is forced to behave according to computer-designed plans. It’s an enormous undertaking!

Therefore, it is recommended that today’s push-button, screen-watching youth learn survival skills rather than playing games for hours on end, endlessly, moronically pre-occupied with electronic fantasylands, because one day in the near future that fantasy turns to harsh reality, likely hitting hard, really hard.

After all, eco-migrants, numbering tens of thousands, are already worldwide phenomena, especially along the southern and eastern Mediterranean Sea regions, where land is turning bone dry faster than anywhere else on the planet. It’s the start of the Great Global Warming Migration scenario… but, pray tell, where to?

https://www.counterpunch.org/2018/01/12/global-warming-stirs-the-methane-monster/
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Offline Eddie

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Re: 'Shithole' nationalism
« Reply #10453 on: January 13, 2018, 10:00:12 AM »
One thing that is upsetting about the comments that US President Donald Trump made calling African and African-descent nations "shitholes" is that his African and African-descent supporters from the 2016 election period haven't come out to support him on that. After all, loyalty counts for something, doesn't it? Some of these people are my friends, mind you. Any takers? Come on, now. Y'all were loud in 2016, time to show your face again, fellow #shithole inhabitants.

Seriously, though. There's a couple of things going on here. First of all, I want to address the fact that Donald Trump is flamingly out of his mind. Where I come from - proudly a #shitholecountry - we generally try to be kind to our elders whose minds have clearly gone into the void while leaving them physically behind. Because there are values connected to the concept of Utu (or as non-East Africans call it, Ubuntu) that demand a basic level of common decency from individuals. It's a social contract thing.

As a consequence, I am largely horrified on a daily basis that his people are letting The Donald run around nekkid-minded in public every day under the pretext that he doesn't have a formal mental health diagnosis. The only response that's appropriate from out here is a gentle eye-roll and some prayers for America. This man is dying a slow and horrible public death and here I am writing about it. Utu forgive me.

The other issue is condescension. Dear media, telling us that Donald Trump is a racist is ... not news. It is low-hanging fruit. He's a mean old git who promised to build a wall between the US and Mexico to appeal to his voters. Was anyone surprised that he also despises people from continents he has never visited, especially considering he can hardly read to expand what appears to be a tragically limited intellect? Nope. It only adds insult to injury that we have to talk about this as though it merits consideration. Another overpriviledged American goes Heart of Darkness. Been there, done that.

This is the continent of untold racial injuries, of apartheid and Zimbabwe and the Namibia situation we don't talk about. Congo and Libya selling slaves in this here present day. Of Sudan and Sudan, Somalia and Kenya, al-Shabab and the IMF structural adjustment programmes with their long tails of woe. Of genocides both internal and external, of injustices that popular culture and rate-chasing modern media tries its best to forget.

Because you know what? Everything I have said above about #shithole countries is applicable to the United States of America and everywhere else. Genocide, slavery, rape, sexual slavery, extreme patriarchy, religious nuttiness, gun-toting fools, horrendous presidents, electoral shenanigans, corruption, inefficiency, brutality, apartheid (what are "Native American reservations"… like, seriously?), the drug trade, you name it. It takes a #shithole to recognise one.

Good old Trump who is in way over his head is simply expressing the anxieties of a decaying society that maybe needs to start talking to itself about these things, among others. I understand, the fear of the rise of Russia. More pertinent to #shitholecountries, the American preoccupation with the rise of China in Africa where all the good minerals, land and natural resources are, is no bueno. The decline of oil power makes them crazy. There's a lot going on. It isn't surprising to act out when you're cornered. If Trump is America's Id, well …

Fortunately, the thing about #shitholecountries is that we survive, always have ... and most menacingly, we always will. This continent is going to hit a billion and a half not too far from now. The superbly highly-skilled immigrants America rejects (African immigrants to the US are consistently the most highly qualified "type" of immigrant, look it up) will find elsewhere to do their work (Jyna, probably) and repatriate their knowledge and money. And we can reproduce like champions. Like I said, I understand. There is something frightening about the inevitability of the browning of the world, and the slow and grinding demise of a certain kind of privilege.

By the way, could someone please tell Donald Trump that a #shitholecountry feminist woman columnist is praying for America to dump him for his own good and mental health? And that he needs to embrace the inevitable browning of the world? His personal apocalypse is here. Because anything I can do to drive him closer to the edge of completely undeniable unfitness-for-office is something I will do gladly. Utu, forgive me, some things just have to be done.

http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/trump-shithole-remark-africa-180112170017744.html

The missing part of this whole stupid exchange, which almost nobody gets....is that these shitholes weren't shitholes until the colonial system of disenfranchising whole populations of people and extracting all the resources from undeveloped nations MADE them into shitholes.

Dear rich elites, please note: They may be shitholes, but they're YOUR shitholes.
What makes the desert beautiful is that somewhere it hides a well.

Offline knarf

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Somewhere, Away From It All
« Reply #10454 on: January 13, 2018, 03:58:49 PM »
On the northwest coast of Washington State, a community has chosen to live off the grid, some of them for the simplicity and saved money, some for safety.


“My choice to live this way isn’t about suffering for an ideal,” Rowan Sharp said. “It’s about improving my experience.”

OLYMPIC PENINSULA, Wash. — Somewhere on the Olympic Peninsula, which extends from the northwest coast of Washington, a community has chosen to live independent of the public supply of water, electricity and other utilities on which most residents rely. Linked by a diffuse network of shared friends and land, they would be impossible to locate without insider knowledge. Dense forest obfuscates their dwellings — tiny houses, trailers, a landlocked houseboat — often accessible only by dirt roads or footpaths.

Water and mist frame the peninsula, with the Pacific Ocean to the west, the Strait of Juan de Fuca to the north and the Hood Canal to the east. The community here emphasizes the importance of this landscape to their livelihood. Not only do some draw their water for dishes and bathing from the creek down the hill, but many are also financially sustained by the land, working as farmers, fishermen and gardeners.


Somewhere on the Olympic Peninsula.

Though the members of this community all know each other, they reside in scattered locations — some shared, some individual. Several of the residents have an interest in anarchy and far-left politics, but there are no explicit ideologies that govern the inhabitants. Instead, they abide by unwritten guidelines of shared emotional and physical space.

These extend to, as Chris Gang, 30, tells it, “the idea that you can pee anywhere at any time. What comes along with that is a process of feeling less internal shame around what’s going on with your body, that there are parts of your body that are supposed to be private.” The compost toilet, in full view of the main cottage, illustrates his point (though there is a door installed for those who prefer privacy).

Mr. Gang, who has dramatic brows offset by bleached hair, believes that a resistance to bodily shame resonates with a longer history of queer intentional communities. “Queers have been creating chosen families forever, to the extent that we’ve been out of societal structures forever,” he said.


Chris Gang, 30, showers outside.


Sacha Kozlow and his home.


Mr. Kozlow’s kitchen.

Maxfield Koontz, 28, a genderqueer farmer and basketry artist, also points to this history, deflecting the misunderstanding that “rural” and “queer” are incompatible identities. Soft-spoken and elegant, Koontz brought up the Radical Faeries movement. A countercultural organization founded in the late 1970s by Harry Hay, Radical Faeries advocated the formation of rural back-to-the-land queer sanctuaries, many of which still exist.

These themes echo Lauren Field’s photographic body of work, which explores sites of queerness and the sublime, as in images of trans friends perched, contrapposto and Venus-like, along the California coast.

Koontz’s sweetheart, Ezra Goetzen, 35, lives across the woods in a tiny house, poised on the slope of a lush gully. A transgender/genderqueer psychotherapist who splits time between this tiny cabin and a family home in Seattle, Dr. Goetzen was born in Poland and has the careful articulation of someone who learned English as a second language, punctuated by theatrical flourishes. Dr. Goetzen said that what keeps people from pursuing an off-the-grid lifestyle is “this really puritanical, overly hygienic life.” People think, Dr. Goetzen said, that they will “get sick from looking at a compost bucket.”


Maxfield Koontz, left, and Ezra Goetzen.


Emmy Madav, 31, weaving in front of her cabin.


Ms. Sharp, 30, on her sailboat.

For many, the decision to leave the grid is born out of economic necessity; urban areas become uninhabitable, as both the resources and the number of people who can afford to have access to them dwindle.

The influx of wealthy outsiders from Seattle and elsewhere has created a housing crisis for residents of the Peninsula, who often cannot afford to purchase the land that has sustained them. This inequity affects those who live on the grid as well, including Lex Helbling, 29, a farmer who was forced out of a deal to purchase her rented farm from her landlord.

“Money is so powerful,” Ms. Helbling said. “Money, power and class drove the landlord’s decision. They wanted to think about farming as the picture they saw on the milk carton —  beautiful, green grass, sunny all the time.”


Water and mist frame the Olympic Peninsula.

Over the duration of Field’s project, the fallibility of the description “off the grid” became apparent. Beyond the fact that some of those pictured here do have limited access to various water and power supplies, the phrase suggests a total exit from society and a life of isolation.

Emmy Madav, 31, instead emphasized the intense, even abrasive forms of intimacy that living in this way instigates: “It’s funny, because most people think of rural living as really isolated, and I feel often overwhelmed and overstimulated [by] the amount of people in that little house.”


Lex Helbling cleaning out her farm.


Linens hang to dry.


Because there is no plumbing, community members use compost toilets.

Others noted the systems of privilege that allow them to live in this way. Dr. Goetzen acknowledged the erasure of indigenous genocide inherent in some modern homesteading movements: “It’s important to note what the native tribes were doing here before, that they’re still here, that this kind of semi-utopia we’re building is on settled, colonized land.”

Eight federally recognized tribes reside on the peninsula, physically relegated to narrow strips of reservations, mostly along the peninsula’s west side. The residue of colonial violence marks the map: Western explorers renamed various landmarks with Anglicized, altered versions of their traditional indigenous names.


Billie Delaney, 30.


Community members draw water for dishes and bathing.


“It’s not that I think if everyone were to live off the grid and use less light bulbs, then that would save the planet,” Chris Gang said. “But it’s a helpful way of keeping in touch with the world around us.”

Sacha Kozlow, 35, is a blacksmith living in a tiny cabin he built, insulated with animal hides. Chewing on a eucalyptus toothpick, his dog draped around his shoulders like a shawl, Mr. Kozlow recounted his upbringing in a cult in rural Montana.

During his youth, he said, cult leaders preached the myth of Atlantis, submerged into the ocean when its people courted homosexuality. Mr. Kozlow’s early years, as a young transgender boy not yet out, evince the cruelty of allegory, the threat at the heart of any “semi-utopia.”

“Utopia” comes from the Greek “ou-topos,” or “no-place.” It promises a paradise lost, defined by nonexistence. Many of the people Field photographed emphasized the temporary nature of living in this way, the gift of transience hemmed by the threat of eviction. Mobility, which is something like freedom, allows the construction of ephemeral utopias, no-places, gone by morning.


Ezra Goetzen and Maxfield Koontz at home.

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/13/style/washington-olympic-peninsula-queer-intentional-community.html
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