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Nick Turse: Castle Black
« Reply #3990 on: November 06, 2019, 06:46:52 AM »
Nick Turse: Castle Black

As distinct from other peoples, most Americans do not recognize — or do not want to recognize — that the United States dominates the world through its military power. Due to government secrecy, our citizens are often ignorant of the fact that our garrisons encircle the planet. This vast network of American bases on every continent except Antarctica actually constitutes a new form of empire — an empire of bases with its own geography not likely to be taught in any high school geography class. Without grasping the dimensions of this globe-girdling Baseworld, one can’t begin to understand the size and nature of our imperial aspirations or the degree to which a new kind of militarism is undermining our constitutional order. — Chalmers Johnson

They called it Castle Black, an obvious homage to the famed frozen citadel from the HBO series Game of Thrones. In the fantasy world of GoT, it’s the stronghold of the Night’s Watch, the French Foreign Legion-esque guardians of the northern border of the Seven Kingdoms.

This Castle Black, however, was all too real and occupied by U.S. Special Operations forces, America’s most elite troops. In its location, at least, it was nearly as remote as its namesake, even if in far warmer climes — not on the northern fringe of Westeros but at the far edge of eastern Syria.

Today, the real Castle Black and most of the archipelago of U.S. outposts only recently arrayed across the Syrian frontier are emptying out, sit abandoned, or are occupied by Russian and Syrian troops. At least one — located at the Lafarge Cement Factory — lies in partial ruins after two U.S. Air Force F-15 jets conducted an airstrike on it. The purpose, according to Colonel Myles Caggins, a spokesman for Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve (CJTF-OIR), the U.S.-led military coalition fighting ISIS, was to “destroy an ammunition cache, and reduce the facility’s military usefulness.”

“Only yesterday they were here and now we are here,” a Russian journalistannounced after taking selfies at the abandoned base at Manbij where U.S. forces had served since 2015 alongside allied Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a coalition of mainly Kurdish and Arab fighters. “It appears as though the U.S. servicemen fled in their armored vehicles,” said another reporter with RT’s Arabic service, as she walked in front of American tents and equipment at the hastily abandoned outpost. Photographs show that when U.S. troops bugged out, they also left behind other standard stuff from American bases abroad: “crude dick drawings,” a football, fridges stocked with Coca-Cola, an open package of animal crackers, a can of Pringles, and a paperback copy of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo.

“I see a big problem with it. And it shows just how unplanned and half-assed this ‘withdrawal’ is,” U.S. Marine veteran Anderson Bryant, who — in 2016 — fought alongside the SDF after leaving the Corps, told Military Times. “Though ISIS doesn’t have the infrastructure to take and hold territory or bases anymore, just leaving equipment to be taken after a retreat looks bad for sure.”

Bryant was just one of many to decry the abandonment of most of Washington’s Syrian outposts. “U.S. troops and their allies feel humiliated after abandoning their bases in Syria to be taken over by gleeful Russians,” read the headline of a Business Insider article, while a New York Times piece put it this way: “Pullback Leaves Green Berets Feeling ‘Ashamed,’ and Kurdish Allies Describing ‘Betrayal.’”

A Base by Any Other Name…

After President Trump abruptly ordered the withdrawal of most U.S. forces from Syria earlier this month, a Turkish military incursion into the area those troops had previously occupied set off a humanitarian catastrophe — sending nearly 200,000 civilians fleeing from the Syrian frontier, about one third of them children. President Trump implied the troops were coming “back home,” but his secretary of defense promptly contradicted him and indicated they would simply be redeployed in the region. After being abandoned by their U.S. allies, the SDF struck a deal with Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad and Syrian and allied Russian troops moved into the area as well. In the chaos, some Islamic State prisoners escaped from SDF prisons.

Back in the United States, rare bipartisan outrage erupted as members of Congress lambasted the president for his decision. Vice President Mike Pence was then dispatched to Turkey to try to mitigate what was widely hailed by the Washington establishment as a foreign policy disaster. Then, in the wake of a Pence-negotiated “ceasefire” that Turkey didn’t agree to and that failed to fully materialize, President Trump took a victory lap after which Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan vowed to “crush” the heads of America’s abandoned Kurdish allies if they didn’t ethnically cleanse themselves from the area. In the end, the withdrawal of 1,000 U.S. military personnel turned out to be largely illusory, as an influx of new forces to a different part of Syria left troop levels almost unchanged.  

In the midst of this chaos, however, something strange occurred. Just as America’s Syrian bases, including its two main headquarters — Advanced Operational Base West and Advanced Operational Base East — the Lafarge Cement Factory, and a facility at Manbij were being abandoned, in another sense entirely they suddenly came to exist (at least in news reports anyway). This is something that Castle Black, in its relatively brief life, never officially did. When I asked about its status in late August, for example, Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve refused to even acknowledge the existence of such a base. Now, the outpost and its status are no secret at all. “Castle Black is closed,” CJTF-OIR’s media team told TomDispatch more recently.

According to the Pentagon’s official inventory of bases, the Department of Defense (DoD) “manages a worldwide real property portfolio” that spans 45 foreign countries. All told, there are 514 official “DoD sites” overseas, the majority of them in Germany (194 sites), Japan (121 sites), and South Korea (83 sites). This list, however, has never included mention of even one base in Syria — or, for that matter, any of the well-known U.S. garrisons, large and small, in Afghanistan or Iraq.

The common estimate of foreign U.S. military bases is actually around 800. Such a count is little more than an educated guess because of the cloak of secrecy the Pentagon has thrown over the subject. To obfuscate things further, the military employs a plethora of euphemisms to avoid calling U.S. military outposts like Castle Black precisely what they are.

Officially, Castle Black was never a base. It was, instead, a “Mission Support Site” or MSS. And while U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM), which oversees United States military operations in the Middle East, acknowledges the existence of MSSes, it won’t provide even a basic count of them, let alone more detailed information about such outposts, significant numbers of which exist across the region. The media operations staff of CJTF-OIR responded in an email to a TomDispatch request on the subject this way: “Due to operational security reasons, a total number and locations of the various mission support sites are not available.”

And keep in mind that such Military Support Sites only begin to scratch the surface when it comes to the Pentagon’s inventory of non-base outposts. So when else is a military base not a military base? When, for example, it’s an Initial Contingency Location, which, according to a Pentagon “Contingency Basing” manual, is characterized by austere infrastructure and limited services. Or when it’s a Temporary Contingency Location, which provides “near-term support for a contingency operation” and is characterized by “expedient infrastructure.” Or even when it’s a Semipermanent Contingency Location, which provides support for prolonged contingency operations and is characterized by “enhanced infrastructure.” Or when it’s a full-fledged Contingency Location — a “non-enduring location outside of the United States that supports and sustains operations during contingencies or other operations.”

Such U.S. non-bases also include Forward Operating Sites (FOSes), which are officially defined as “scalable” locations intended for “rotational use by operating forces.” While “rotational use” might make such a place sound like a distinctly temporary location, possibly one abandoned for long stretches, that’s hardly the case. Camp Lemonnier in the sun-bleached Horn-of-Africa nation of Djibouti, for example, is not only an FOS, but also America’s largest base on the African continent and the headquarters for Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA), which includessoldiers, sailors, and airmen, some of them members of the Special Operations forces. The camp — which also supports CENTCOM — couldn’t be less temporary, having expandedfrom 88 acres to 600 acres, while the number of troops stationed there has jumped by more than 500%, to 5,500, since 2002.

Another type of outpost is a cooperative security location, or CSL, which is supposedly neither “a U.S. facility or base.” According to the Pentagon’s official definition, it has “little or no permanent United States presence” and “is maintained by periodic Service, contractor, or host nation support.” This, too, is completely disingenuous. A CSL in the remote smuggling hub of Agadez, Niger, for example, is the premier U.S. military outpost in West Africa. That drone non-base, located at Nigerien Air Base 201, not only boasts a $100 million-plus construction price tag but, with operating expenses, is expected to cost U.S. taxpayers more than a quarter of a billion dollars by 2024 when the 10-year agreement for its use ends.

The primary types of places that the Pentagon will actually call “bases” are huge World War II and Cold War legacy sites like Ramstein Air Base in Germany, Kadena Air Base in Okinawa, Japan, and Camp Humphreys in South Korea. These they call “Main Operating Bases.” Humphreys, for example, began its existence in 1919 as Pyeongtaek Airfield, a product of the brutal Japanese occupation of Korea. Since the Korean War (1950-1953), the U.S. military has occupied the site, transforming it into America’s largest overseas military base. The Pentagon refers to Forward Operating Sites, Cooperative Security Locations, and Main Operating Bases as “enduring locations” which are meant to afford “strategic access” to American forces and support Washington’s security interests for the “foreseeable future.”

Despite these and other euphemisms for bases that appear in the Defense Department’s 2019 edition of Joint Publication 4-04 “Contingency Basing”and its most recent “Base Structure Report,” many other types of smaller baselets get scant attention — including Combat Outposts and Fire Support Bases. Even more types are noted in various official publications and military news releases, often with conflicting definitions. The Army’s Ranger Handbook, for instance, defines a “patrol base” as a “security perimeter” set up when a squad or platoon is “conducting a patrol,” but notes that it should “not be occupied for more than a 24-hour period (except in an emergency).” An Army counterinsurgency manual, on the other hand, states that a “patrol base can be permanent or temporary.” And a 2008 CENTCOM news releasementioned that soldiers with the 2nd Battalion, 502nd Infantry Regiment had been stationed at Iraq’s Patrol Base Copper for seven months.

While Mission Support Sites are mentioned in a few Pentagon publications, they are also poorly defined. When asked just what an MSS actually is, an official at CENTCOM offered this none-too-illuminating response: “Mission support sites, or bases, are sites that temporarily exist to provide support for as long as a mission requires.” That same official went on to note that the U.S. and its allies had “opened and closed numerous bases throughout the campaign in Syria and Iraq,” but refused to provide details or even a simple count of how many bases had been closed, let alone opened. The CJTF-OIR media team was a bit more forthcoming, explaining that a mission support site is “comparable to an initial contingency location (ICL) or a patrol base” and that such facilities support up to 200 personnel for a “total duration of operations lasting less than six months.”

Winter Is Coming for U.S. Military

Castle Black is now officially shuttered. Despite its closing and that of its sister outposts, as part of Donald Trump’s “withdrawal” from Syria, American troops remain in that country. “CJTF-OIR continues to maintain a presence in Syria and Iraq as part of our mission to achieve the enduring defeat of Daesh,” spokesperson Col. Myles Caggins III told TomDispatch, using the Arabic acronym for ISIS.

Commander Sean Robertson, a Pentagon spokesperson, was even more specific. “U.S. forces continue a deliberate, phased, and orderly withdrawal from Syria, with the exception of the al-Tanf garrison,” he told TomDispatch. While Robertson refused to “discuss operational details such as numbers or timelines,” it has been widely reported that al-Tanf, a small base in the south of Syria, is still home to about 150 U.S. forces. (It, in turn, is supported from across the Jordanian border by a quick reaction force, additional troops, and artillery.) The CJTF-OIR media team also added that the “Kobani Landing Zone and other sites remain open to facilitate the additional movement of troops and equipment outside of Syria.” Reports now indicate that U.S. troop levels will stabilize at around 900, just 100 troops less than before the announced withdrawal.

The abandonment of about a dozen outposts across northeastern Syria likely constitutes the largest mass closure of military bases of the Trump presidency. (Since the Pentagon refuses to provide an accurate count of overseas outposts, however, there’s no way to make certain of that.) Still, while this reduction of outposts in Syria is significant, it hardly constitutes a substantial drawdown of U.S. forces in the region (especially at a moment when President Trump may be sending tanks and armored vehicles, with all the necessary supporting forces, into the area around Syria’s oil fields). With the president either reshuffling troops in Syria or merely relocating them elsewhere in the Middle East and a new contingent of American forces deploying to Saudi Arabia, there will actually be a net gain in U.S. troops in the region at this moment of supposed reduction.

Perhaps the only true end result of the drawdown in Syria — given that the finale of Game of Thrones ran earlier this year — is the likely demise of U.S. military outposts named for that HBO show’s fictional redoubts. With the real Castle Black gone and the fictional one consigned to the dustbin of pay-for-play streaming services, tomorrow’s bases will undoubtedly be named for emerging cultural touchstones, not last season’s leavings.

Still, given Washington’s penchant for Middle Eastern military missions, the likelihood of yet more U.S. bases across the region (whatever their official designations), and talk of several Game of Thrones prequels still to come, there may be ample opportunities for the next set of off-the-books military bases to carry the names of even more ancient Seven Kingdoms castles, keeps, and citadels.


Nick Turse is the managing editor of TomDispatch and a fellow at the Type Media Center. He is the author of Next Time They’ll Come to Count the Dead: War and Survival in South Sudan.

Copyright 2019 Nick Turse. First published in TomDispatch. Included in Vox Populi with permission.

“The old world is dying, and the New World struggles to be born: now is the time of monsters.”

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A Note of Caution After This Election Day — And Before the Next
« Reply #3991 on: November 07, 2019, 06:33:31 AM »
A Note of Caution After This Election Day — And Before the Next

Today’s Democratic success does not portend tomorrow’s Trumpian failure, because white nationalism has a long winning streak

LOUISVILLE, KY - NOVEMBER 05: Apparent Gov.-elect Andy Beshear celebrates with supporters after voting results showed the Democrat holding a slim lead over Republican Gov. Matt Bevin at C2 Event Venue on November 5, 2019 in Louisville, Kentucky. Bevin, who enjoyed strong support from President Donald Trump, did not concede after results showed Beshear leading 49.2 percent to 48.8 percent, a difference of less than 6,000 votes, with 100 percent of precincts reporting. (Photo by John Sommers II/Getty Images)

Apparent Gov.-elect Andy Beshear celebrates with supporters after voting results showed the Democrat holding a slim lead over Republican Gov. Matt Bevin at C2 Event Venue on November 5, 2019 in Louisville, Kentucky. Bevin, who enjoyed strong support from President Donald Trump, did not concede after results showed Beshear leading 49.2 percent to 48.8 percent, a difference of less than 6,000 votes, with 100 percent of precincts reporting

John Sommers II/Getty Images

Matt Bevin is the villain who gets caught at the beginning of the action movie. He’s the flunky, then henchman, the guy whose demise serves a plot device. He is the assistant bogeyman at best, the loudmouth whom ultimately proves disposable. We don’t know yet what will happen at the end.

That the outspoken and brusque Kentucky governor lost his seat in a narrow defeat to state attorney general Andy Beshear on Election Night is an unabashed good thing. This is the guy who, two years ago, more closely echoed Donald Trump’s remarks on Charlottesville than perhaps any public official and likened the moving of Confederate monuments to the actions of genocidal dictators like Hitler. The president who judged his race as a bellwether for his own popularity even called him a pain before the election. “If you lose, it sends a really bad message,” he told Republicans at a pro-Bevin rally on Monday night. “You can’t let that happen to me.”

Like the GOP and its television network, Fox News, Donald Trump tried to pretend as if Bevin’s loss bore good tidings for the party and for Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell, who faces a contentious re-election race against Democratic challenger Amy McGrath next year. But like most everything, Trump may also be wrong about the result being bad for him. It probably doesn’t mean much of anything for 2020. Nor do many of the other positive results nationwide for Democrats.

Do the 2019 Election Results Tell Us Anything About 2020?
Trump Brags About GOP Governor Losing in State He Won by 30 Points

As long as the president still has his cult of personality and is still selling white supremacy, and as long as domestic disenfranchisement is pairing with foreign election interference to silence American voters whom Republicans don’t like, Trump stands a great chance of being re-elected.

Bevin, like many feckless henchmen, lost his job due to his own incompetence. He stubbornly refused to let Kentuckians in on the Medicaid expansion. He signed an unpopular teacher pension law. He meddled with Kentucky’s popular and highly successful health insurance exchange. And he made a host of knuckleheaded mistakes while campaigning. But by combining Trump’s endorsement with a parroted brand of the president’s bigotry in a red state, Bevin came close to winning anyway. Viewed through the lens of 2020, that’s terrifying.

If we look past Trump for one minute, we can see some truly substantive victories for the left on Tuesday night.

The pro-choice Beshear — who, in replacing Bevin, is succeeding his father Steve as Kentucky governor — has vowed to immediately restore the voting rights of 140,000 residents convicted of nonviolent felonies — one of every four black people in the state. Speaking of which, thanks to Florida’s Amendment 4, many citizens returning from incarceration voted in the state for the first time in years, or ever. There are now six state attorneys general who are African American. And seeing progressives sweep four key commonwealth attorney contests in Virginia — in large part because a racial gerrymander is now gone — may have flown under the radar when liberals celebrated a Democratic takeover of its legislature, but promises like Jim Hingeley’s to bring reforms “in the face of mass incarceration” shouldn’t go unnoticed when we’re looking for more progressives in prosecutor roles.

Those are progressive achievements worth recognizing and honoring, but they’re not reasons for the media to predict Trump’s demise. Even more perilously, they’re certainly not reason for the left to engage in self-congratulation or to get complacent about the task ahead. Trump’s presidency is an ongoing national emergency, and it should be treated as such until both the candidate and what he stands for are firmly defeated (and he is removed, physically and otherwise, from office).

Action films are more predictable than elections. It seems premature to consider Bevin’s political demise to have much bearing on what will happen at the end to the archvillain. Still, if there are warning signs for anyone, they are not so much for Trump, but for Democrats. There is the danger of self-congratulation at a moment like this, the temptation to think that they have cracked some kind of code. If anything, they should take heed from Bevin’s apparently quixotic struggle to overturn Beshear’s victory.

Kentucky’s Republican Senate president, Robert Stivers, now claims that the legislature should decide the race. And Bevin himself is now asking the state to check the voting machines and absentee ballots after telling his supporters about unspecified election “irregularities.” If Trump were to lose next November, that will likely be more predictive of what we’ll see from the president than any of the tea leaves that folks are reading about this election and what it means for 2020.

“The old world is dying, and the New World struggles to be born: now is the time of monsters.”

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Time to 'Break Facebook Up,' Sanders Says
« Reply #3992 on: November 07, 2019, 06:51:25 AM »
Time to 'Break Facebook Up,' Sanders Says After Leaked Docs Show Social Media Giant 'Treated User Data as a Bargaining Chip'
"As I have been saying the privacy frame is bullshit," said another critic. "Facebook is all about criminal behavior to monopolize ad money."


Mark Zuckerberg

Mark Zuckerberg, chief executive officer and founder of Facebook, attends the Viva Tech start-up and technology gathering at Parc des Expositions Porte de Versailles on May 24, 2018 in Paris. (Photo: Christophe Morin/IP3/Getty Images)

After NBC News on Wednesday published a trove of leaked documents that show how Facebook "treated user data as a bargaining chip with external app developers," White House hopeful Sen. Bernie Sanders declared that it is time "to break Facebook up."

When British investigative journalist Duncan Campbell first shared the trove of documents with a handful of media outlets including NBC News in April, journalists Olivia Solon and Cyrus Farivar reported that "Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg oversaw plans to consolidate the social network's power and control competitors by treating its users' data as a bargaining chip, while publicly proclaiming to be protecting that data."

With the publication Wednesday of nearly 7,000 pages of records—which include internal Facebook emails, web chats, notes, presentations, and spreadsheets—journalists and the public can now have a closer look at exactly how the company was using the vast amount of data it collects when it came to bargaining with third parties.

Technically still under protective order in a California state civil lawsuit that the startup app developer Six4Three filed against Facebook in 2015, the leaked documents from the case include 3,799 pages of sealed exhibits, 2,737 pages of exhibits, 415 pages of related notes and summaries, and a 20-page memorandum (pdfs). More than 1,000 pages are labeled "highly confidential."

According to Solon and Farivar of NBC:

Taken together, they show how Zuckerberg, along with his board and management team, found ways to tap Facebook users' data—including information about friends, relationships, and photos—as leverage over the companies it partnered with. In some cases, Facebook would reward partners by giving them preferential access to certain types of user data while denying the same access to rival companies.

For example, Facebook gave Amazon special access to user data because it was spending money on Facebook advertising. In another case the messaging app MessageMe was cut off from access to data because it had grown too popular and could compete with Facebook.

All the while, Facebook planned to publicly frame these moves as a way to protect user privacy, the documents show.

Open Markets Institute fellow Matt Stoller tweeted in response to NBC's report Wednesday: "As I have been saying the privacy frame is bullshit. Facebook is all about criminal behavior to monopolize ad money."

The document dump comes as Facebook and Zuckerberg are facing widespread criticism over the company's political advertising policy, which allows candidates for elected office to lie in the ads they pay to circulate on the platform. It also comes as 47 state attorneys general, led by Letitia James of New York, are investigating the social media giant for antitrust violations.

The Week's national correspondent Ryan Cooper, who also responded to NBC's report on Twitter, wrote that "there are some practical (but not insurmountable) problems with putting antitrust regulations on say, Amazon. [But] Facebook you could just shut it down and the world would be a far better place."

The call from Sanders (I-Vt.) Wednesday to break up Facebook follows similar but less definitive statements from the senator.

One of Sanders' rivals in the 2020 Democratic presidential primary race, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), released her plan to "Break Up Big Tech" in March. Zuckerberg is among the opponents of Warren's proposal, which also targets other major technology companies like Amazon and Google.


“The old world is dying, and the New World struggles to be born: now is the time of monsters.”

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Smartphones Are Killing The Planet Faster Than Anyone Expected
« Reply #3993 on: November 10, 2019, 04:25:43 AM »
Smartphones Are Killing The Planet Faster Than Anyone Expected
Researchers are sounding the alarm after an analysis showed that buying a new smartphone consumes as much energy as using an existing phone for an entire decade.




Before you upgrade your next iPhone, you may want to consider a $29 battery instead. Not only will the choice save you money, it could help save the planet.

A new study from researchers at McMaster University published in the Journal of Cleaner Production analyzed the carbon impact of the whole Information and Communication Industry (ICT) from around 2010-2020, including PCs, laptops, monitors, smartphones, and servers. They found remarkably bad news. Even as the world shifts away from giant tower PCs toward tiny, energy-sipping phones, the overall environmental impact of technology is only getting worse. Whereas ICT represented 1% of the carbon footprint in 2007, it’s already about tripled, and is on its way to exceed 14% by 2040. That’s half as large as the carbon impact of the entire transportation industry.

Smartphones are particularly insidious for a few reasons. With a two-year average life cycle, they’re more or less disposable. The problem is that building a new smartphone–and specifically, mining the rare materials inside them–represents 85% to 95% of the device’s total CO2 emissions for two years. That means buying one new phone takes as much energy as recharging and operating a smartphone for an entire decade.


[Source Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash (smoke)]
Yet even as people are now buying phones less often, consumer electronics companies are attempting to make up for lost profits by selling bigger, fancier phones. The researchers found that smartphones with larger screens have a measurably worse carbon footprint than their smaller ancestors. Apple has publicly disclosed that building an iPhone 7 Plus creates roughly 10% more CO2 than the iPhone 6s, but an iPhone 7 standard creates roughly 10% less than a 6s. So according to Apple, the trend is getting better, but the bigger phones companies like Apple sell seem to offset some gains. Another independent study concluded that the iPhone 6s created 57% more CO2 than the iPhone 4s. And despite the recycling programs run by Apple and others, “based on our research and other sources, currently less than 1% of smartphones are being recycled,” Lotfi Belkhir, the study’s lead author, tells me.

In any case, keeping a smartphone for even three years instead of two can make a considerable impact to your own carbon footprint, simply because no one has to mine the rare materials for a phone you already own. It’s a humbling environmental takeaway, especially if you own Samsung or Apple stock. Much like buying a used gasoline-fueled car is actually better for the environment than purchasing a new Prius or Tesla, keeping your old phone is greener than upgrading to any new one.

Smartphones represent a fast-growing segment of ICT, but the overall largest culprit with regards to CO2 emissions belongs to servers and data centers themselves, which will represent 45% of ICT emissions by 2020. That’s because every Google search, every Facebook refresh, and every dumb Tweet we post requires a computer somewhere to calculate it all in the cloud. (The numbers could soon be even worse, depending on how popular cryptocurrencies get.) Here, the smartphone strikes again. The researchers point out that mobile apps actually reinforce our need for these 24/7 servers in a self-perpetuating energy-hogging cycle. More phones require more servers. And with all this wireless information in the cloud, of course we’re going to buy more phones capable of running even better apps.

As for what can be done on the server end, Belkhir suggests that government policies and taxes might make a difference–whatever needs to be done to get these servers migrated over to renewable energy sources. Google, Facebook, and Apple have all pledged to move to 100% renewable energy in their own operations. In fact, all of Apple’s servers are currently run on renewable power. “It’s encouraging,” says Belkhir of these early corporate efforts. “But I don’t think it’d move the needle at all.”

If this all sounds like bad news, it’s because it absolutely is bad news. To make matters worse, the researchers calculated some of their conclusions conservatively. The future will only get more dire if the internet of things takes off and many more devices are hitting up the cloud for data.

“We are already witnessing internet-enabled devices, ranging from the smallest form factor such as wearable devices, to home appliances, and even cars, trucks and airplanes. If this trend continues . . . one can only wonder on the additional load these devices will have on the networking and data center infrastructures, in addition to the incremental energy consumption incurred by their production,” the team writes in the study. “Unless the supporting infrastructure moves quickly to 100% renewable power, the emergence of IoT could potentially dwarf the contribution of all the other traditional computing devices, and dramatically increase the overall global emissions well beyond the projections of this study.”

Indeed, tech’s carbon footprint is beyond what any one designer, one company, or even one government regulator can contain. As consumers, we have more reason than ever to hesitate when it comes to our next shiny tech splurge. The bottom line is that we need to buy less, and engage less, for the health of this entire planet.

The original version of this article stated that, according to Apple environmental reports, the iPhone 7 Plus production created 25% more CO2 emissions than an iPhone 6s. The figure is 10%, and the text has been updated to reflect that.
“The old world is dying, and the New World struggles to be born: now is the time of monsters.”

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Re: Smartphones Are Killing The Planet Faster Than Anyone Expected
« Reply #3994 on: November 10, 2019, 04:32:17 AM »

RE
Save As Many As You Can

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What Everybody Seems To Be Missing About Trump’s Crazy Letter…
« Reply #3995 on: November 11, 2019, 09:55:35 AM »
What Everybody Seems To Be Missing About Trump’s Crazy Letter…



The date.

October 8th. That’s less than 48 hours after Trump got off the phone with Turkey’s President Erdogan, telling him in the first place he was pulling remaining U.S. troops out of Syria.

So the fact that the letter didn’t get publicized (initially by a Fox program host) until the last day or so, is kind of obscuring the fact that it was actually written 10 days ago.

Which means, this isn’t some new example of Trump getting tough, this is an example of Trump getting ignored.

In fact, according to the the government affiliated Daily Sabah newspaper, the Turkish government launched “Operation Peace Spring”: the strongest and most violent assault yet on Kurdish-held areas of Syria on October 9th. One day after the Trump letter.

So this letter didn’t come in response to Turkey going faster and deeper into Syria than anyone in the White House apparently expected, laying waste to fighters who formerly were the U.S.’ staunchest allies in the region against ISIS: the Kurds. This letter came before. And Turkey’s President did it anyway.

We’re not going to review the letter. If you haven’t seen it yet, we’re providing a link to it here, or by clicking on the photo above. (The White House has confirmed that it is real.) And let’s forget about the “crazy” aspect most everybody else appears to be focused on for the moment. Let’s even go as far as entertaining the remote possibility Trump woke up to the horror he’d wrought, and was just trying to do his best, the best way he knew how.

Yes, Turkey’s economy is in a shambles right now, so much so that it had been threatening President Erdogan’s de facto status as “President for Life”. And yes, Trump (and Europe, which isn’t happy about what Turkey is doing either) could make that worse. (Turkey is the U.S.’ 32nd biggest trading partner, and the U.S. actually racks up a small trade surplus.)

At the same time, what better way to fire up the fidelity of the Turkish populace than a big victory over the Kurds? And a big land grab in Syria, that’ll give Turkey a place to move many of the refugees it’s been housing since ISIS caused so many to flee? As we’ve mentioned before, based on the overall number of people in the country, Turkey currently has the highest percentage of refugees of any country in the world.

But more important than all of that, to both Turkey and President Erdogan’s standing, this is perceived in Turkey as a victory over the U.S.

Trump stepped down and let Erdogan dominate. If you factor in the date, that’s what this letter, and its subsequent non-reaction, is all about.

While Trump’s actions always seem impetuous, Turkey’s had this all planned out for years. It was just a matter of opportunity.

Also, Turkey already had a “Plan B”: Russia. Even though Turkey is a NATO member, earlier this year it bought a missile defense system from Russia, over the objections of the U.S. (The U.S. is at least temporarily withholding some fighter jets as a result.)

But that purchase also created some well-timed good will and freer channels of communication between Turkey and Russia. Russia supports Syria’s tyrannical government, with which the Kurds now have been forced into an alliance. So Russia will be part of any eventual power sharing with Turkey, as well as approving the creation of any relocation zones in Syria for those refugees now in Turkey.

That’s also a big part of why Erdogan’s acting like he could care less about what Trump has to say. The damage Turkey’s done now can’t be undone. (The fact that it was done with Trump’s blessing and then suddenly not, not withstanding).

So at this point, the focus naturally shifts to Russia. That’s why Erdogan’s already got meetings scheduled with Russia’s President Putin next week in the Russian resort town of Sochi (which is actually not that far from Turkey). He did also sit down today with U.S. Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Ankara, the capital of Turkey, after initially saying he’d talk only to Trump. And there probably will be a ceasefire at some point.

But Trump can’t abdicate all responsibility, and still expect to be a major player. And at this point it’s unlikely that a ceasefire can even happen without Russia’s blessing.

Then again, the image below doesn’t really seem like Trump standing tough against an “unhinged” adversary either (although he uploaded it himself to his feed with that apparently in mind):


“The old world is dying, and the New World struggles to be born: now is the time of monsters.”

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Homeland Security will soon have biometric data on nearly 260 million people
« Reply #3996 on: November 14, 2019, 03:16:14 AM »
What could possibly go wrong?

Homeland Security will soon have biometric data on nearly 260 million people



REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

DHS already operates the second-largest biometrics database in the world.

The US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) expects to have face, fingerprint, and iris scans of at least 259 million people in its biometrics database by 2022, according to a recent presentation from the agency’s Office of Procurement Operations reviewed by Quartz.

That’s about 40 million more than the agency’s 2017 projections, which estimated 220 million unique identities by 2022, according to previous figures cited by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), a San Francisco-based privacy rights nonprofit.

A slide deck, shared with attendees at an Oct. 30 DHS industry day, includes a breakdown of what its systems currently contain, as well as an estimate of what the next few years will bring. The agency is transitioning from a legacy system called IDENT to a cloud-based system (hosted by Amazon Web Services) known as Homeland Advanced Recognition Technology, or HART. The biometrics collection maintained by DHS is the world’s second-largest, behind only India’s countrywide biometric ID network in size. The traveler data kept by DHS is shared with other US agencies, state and local law enforcement, as well as foreign governments.

The first two stages of the HART system are being developed by US defense contractor Northrop Grumman, which won the $95 million contract in February 2018. DHS wasn’t immediately available to comment on its plans for its database.

Biometrics “make it possible to confirm the identity of travelers at any point in their travel,” Kevin McAleenan, US president Donald Trump’s recently-departed acting DHS secretary, told congress last year. The criteria used by US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers, a division of DHS, to screen out specific travelers as suspicious is top secret, but was determined in conjunction with Palantir, the Silicon Valley data-mining firm co-founded by controversial billionaire and ardent Trump supporter Peter Thiel. The EFF said it believes CBP could be tracking travelers “from the moment they begin their internet travel research.” As the group has noted, DHS says “the only way for an individual to ensure he or she is not subject to collection of biometric information when traveling internationally is to refrain from traveling.”

Deep intel

Last month’s DHS presentation describes IDENT as an “operational biometric system for rapid identification and verification of subjects using fingerprints, iris, and face modalities.” The new HART database, it says, “builds upon the foundational functionality within IDENT,” to include voice data, DNA profiles, “scars, marks, and tattoos,” and the as-yet undefined “other biometric modalities as required.” EFF researchers caution some of the data will be “highly subjective,” such as information gleaned during “officer encounters” and analysis of people’s “relationship patterns.”

EFF worries that such tracking “will chill and deter people from exercising their First Amendment protected rights to speak, assemble, and associate,” since such specific data points could be used to identify “political affiliations, religious activities, and familial and friendly relationships.”

But DHS and CBP already track relationships between travelers, and a recently unsealed criminal case filed in federal court demonstrates how effective the method can be. After a suspected drug trafficker fled from a security checkpoint inside San Francisco International Airport earlier this year, investigators analyzed his network of relationships. They identified a woman who claimed to be his girlfriend when the two flew to the US from New Zealand last January.

Their research revealed that the woman “had exhibited suspicious travel patterns,” and happened to be in the States at that time. She was set to fly to Sydney, Australia after only a three-day stay, and on another recent trip had spent just two days in the US before returning home.

CBP officers intercepted the woman on the jetway as she was boarding her flight. A search turned up about 0.33 pounds of pure methamphetamine hidden inside her clothing, neck pillow, and vagina.

Privacy concerns

EFF researchers said in a 2018 blog post that facial-recognition software, like what the DHS is using, is “frequently…inaccurate and unreliable.” DHS’s own tests found the systems “falsely rejected as many as 1 in 25 travelers,” according to EFF, which calls out potential foreign partners in countries such as the UK, where false-positives can reportedly reach as high as 98%. Women and people of color are misidentified at rates significantly higher than whites and men, and darker skin tones increase one’s chances of being improperly flagged.

“DHS is also partnering with airlines and other third parties to collect face images from travelers entering and leaving the US,” the EFF said. “When combined with data from other government agencies, these troubling collection practices will allow DHS to build a database large enough to identify and track all people in public places, without their knowledge—not just in places the agency oversees, like airports, but anywhere there are cameras.”

Hackers, who can seemingly now touch nearly every aspect of modern life, are also of concern. In June, CBP announced that a federal subcontractor had suffered a “malicious cyberattack,” resulting in the theft of tens of thousands of photos used in CBP’s facial-recognition database. The images were captured at a single, unnamed, US border crossing over a period of six weeks, and did not include passport details or other sensitive personal information, according to CBP. Less than a year earlier, the DHS inspector general’s office found that CBP had “not ensured effective safeguards for information, such as images and video, collected on and transmitted from” its border drone fleet.

Frank Slijper, project leader of the Arms Trade group at Pax, a Netherlands-based peace nonprofit, says we are all partially to blame for the existence of a creeping surveillance state.

“We have allowed it with social media platforms as well—we blindly embrace them until we realize how they start controlling our lives, and then get angry at Facebook,” Slijper told Quartz.

“Hopefully the general public becomes more aware of the risks that come with the more immediate advantages of all these new digital technologies [like] free social media, quickly paying [bills], smoothly going through airport control.”

“The old world is dying, and the New World struggles to be born: now is the time of monsters.”

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Welcome to a World in Which All Hell Is Breaking Loose
« Reply #3997 on: November 18, 2019, 05:36:21 AM »
Welcome to a World in Which All Hell Is Breaking Loose

What the U.S. military will be doing in a climate crisis future.

U.S. Army personnel drive through flood waters in Fort Ransom, ND. (Photo: US Army)
U.S. Army personnel drive through flood waters in Fort Ransom, ND. (Photo: US Army)

The Situation Room, October 2039: the president and vice president, senior generals and admirals, key cabinet members, and other top national security officers huddle around computer screens as aides speak to key officials across the country. Some screens are focused on Hurricane Monica, continuing its catastrophic path through the Carolinas and Virginia; others are following Hurricane Nicholas, now pummeling Florida and Georgia, while Hurricane Ophelia lurks behind it in the eastern Caribbean.

On another bank of screens, officials are watching horrifying scenes from Los Angeles and San Diego, where millions of people are under mandatory evacuation orders with essentially nowhere to go because of a maelstrom of raging wildfires. Other large blazes are burning out of control in Northern California and Alaska, Idaho, Oregon, and Washington State. The National Guard has been called out across much of the West, while hundreds of thousands of active-duty troops are being deployed in the disaster zones to assist in relief operations and firefighting

With governors and lawmakers from the affected states begging for help, the president has instructed the senior military leadership to provide still more soldiers and sailors for yet more disaster relief. Unfortunately, the generals and admirals are having a hard time complying, since most of their key bases on the East and West Coasts are also under assault from storms, floods, and wildfires. Many have already been evacuated. Naval Station Norfolk, the nation’s largest naval base, for example, took a devastating hit from Monica and lies under several feet of water, rendering it inoperable. Camp Pendleton in California, a major Marine Corps facility, is once again in flames, its personnel either being evacuated or fully engaged in firefighting. Other key bases have been similarly disabled, their personnel scattered to relocation sites in the interior of the country.

Foreign threats, while not ignored in this time of domestic crisis, have lost the overriding concern they enjoyed throughout the 2020s when China and Russia were still considered major foes. By the mid-2030s, however, both of those countries were similarly preoccupied with multiple climate-related perils of their own — recurring wildfires and crop failures in Russia, severe water scarcity, staggering heat waves, and perpetually flooded coastal citiesin China — and so were far less inclined to spend vast sums on sophisticated weapons systems or to engage in provocative adventures abroad. Like the United States, these countries are committing their military forces ever more frequently to disaster relief at home.

As for America’s allies in Europe: well, the days of trans-Atlantic cooperation have long since disappeared as extreme climate effects have become the main concern of most European states. To the extent that they still possess military forces, these, too, are now almost entirely devoted to flood relief, firefighting, and keeping out the masses of climate refugees fleeing perpetual heat and famine inAsia and Africa.

And so, in the Situation Room, the overriding question for U.S. security officials in 2039 boils down to this: How can we best defend the nation against the mounting threat of climate catastrophe?

The Unacknowledged Peril

Read through the formal Pentagon literature on the threats to American security today and you won’t even see the words “climate change” mentioned. This is largely because of the nation’s commander-in-chief who once claimed that global warming was a “hoax” and that we’re better off burning ever more coal and oil than protecting the nation against severe storm events or an onslaught of wildfires. Climate change has also become a hotly partisan issue in Washington and military officers are instinctively disinclined to become embroiled in partisan political fights. In addition, senior officers have come to view Russia and China as vital threats to U.S. security — far more dangerous than, say, the zealots of ISIS or al-Qaeda — and so are focused on beefing up America’s already overpowering defense capabilities yet more.

“Inter-state strategic competition, not terrorism, is now the primary concern in U.S. national security,” the Department of Defense (DoD) affirmed in its National Defense Strategy of February 2018. “Without sustained and predictable investment to restore readiness and modernize our military to make it fit for our time, we will rapidly lose our military advantage.”

Everything in the 2018 National Defense Strategy and the DoD budget documents that have been submitted to Congress since its release proceed from this premise. To better compete with China and Russia, we are told, it’s essential to spend yet more trillions of dollars over the coming decade to replace America’s supposedly aging weapons inventory — including its nuclear arsenal — with a whole new suite of ships, planes, tanks, and missiles (many incorporating advanced technologies like artificial intelligence and hypersonic warheads).

For some senior officers, especially those responsible for training and equipping America’s armed forces for combat on future battlefields, weapons modernization is now the military’s overriding priority. But for a surprising number of their compatriots, other considerations have begun to intrude into long-term strategic calculations. For those whose job it is to house all those forces and sustain them in combat, climate change has become an inescapable and growing concern. This is especially true for the commanders of facilities that would play a critical role in any future confrontation with China or Russia.

Many of the bases that would prove essential in a war with China, for example, are located on islands or in coastal areas highly exposed to sea-level rise and increasingly powerful typhoons. Naval Support Facility Diego Garcia, a major logistical and submarine base in the Indian Ocean, for example, is situated on a low-lying atoll that suffers periodic storm flooding and is likely to be submerged entirely well before the end of the century. The Ronald Reagan Ballistic Missile Defense Test Site, focused on preparing American defenses against the future use of nuclear missiles by either North Korea or China, is located on Kwajalein Atoll in the midst of the Pacific Ocean and is also destined to disappear. Similarly, the country’s major naval base in Asia, at Yokosuka, Japan, and its major air facility, at Kadena on the Japanese island of Okinawa, are located along the coast and are periodically assaulted by severe typhoons.

No less at risk are radar facilities and bases in Alaska intended for defense against Russian Arctic air and naval attacks. Many of the early-warning radars overseen by the North American Aerospace Defense Command, or NORAD, a joint U.S.-Canadian operation, are located on the Alaskan and Canadian shores of the Arctic Ocean and so are being threatened by sea-level rise, coastal erosion, and the thawing of the permafrost on which many of them rest.

Equally vulnerable are stateside bases considered essential to the defense of this country, as well as its ability to sustain military operations abroad. Just how severe this risk has become was made painfully clear in late 2018 and early 2019, when two of the country’s most important domestic installations, Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida and Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska, were largely immobilized by extreme storm events — Hurricane Michael in one case and a prolonged rainfall in the other.

Tyndall, located on a narrow strip of land projecting into the Gulf of Mexico, housed a large fraction of America’s F-22 “Raptor” stealth fighter jets along with the 601st Air and Space Operations Center (601st AOC), the main command and control unit for aerial defense of the continental United States. In anticipation of Michael’s assault, the Air Force was able to relocate key elements of the 601st AOC and most of those F-22s to other facilities out of the hurricane’s path, but some Raptors could not be moved and were damaged by the storm. According to the Air Force, 484 buildings on the base were also destroyed or damaged beyond repair and the cost of repairing the rest of the facilities was estimated at $648 million. It is, in fact, unclear if Tyndall will ever again serve as a major F-22 base or house all the key military organizations it once contained.

Offutt Air Force Base plays a similarly critical role in America’s defense operations, housing the headquarters of the Strategic Command (USSTRATCOM), which is responsible for oversight of all U.S. nuclear strike forces, including its intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs). Also located at Offutt is the 55th Wing, the nation’s premier assemblage of reconnaissance and electronic-warfare aircraft. In March 2019, after a severe low-pressure system (often called a “bomb cyclone”) formed over the western plains, the upper Missouri River basin was inundated with torrential rains for several days, swelling the river and causing widespread flooding. Much of Offutt, including its vital runways, was submerged under several feet of water and some 130 buildings were damaged or destroyed. USSTRATCOM continued to operate, but many key personnel were unable to gain access to the base, causing staffing problems. As with Tyndall, immediate repairs are expected to run into the hundreds of millions of dollars and full restoration of the base’s facilities many millions more.

Wildfires in California have also imperiled key bases. In May 2014, for example, Camp Pendleton was scorched by the Tomahawk Fire, one of several conflagrations to strike the San Diego area at the time. More than 6,000 acres were burned by the blaze and children at two on-base schools had to be evacuated. At one point, a major munitions depot was threatened by flames, but firefighters managed to keep them far enough away to prevent a catastrophic explosion.

An even more dangerous fire swept through Vandenberg Air Force Base, 50 miles north of Santa Barbara, in September 2016. Vandenberg is used to launch satellite-bearing missiles into space and houses some of the Ground-Based Midcourse Defense missile interceptors that are meant to shoot down any North Korean (or possibly Chinese) ICBMs fired at this country. The 2016 blaze, called the Canyon Fire, burned more than 12,000 acres and forced the Air Force to cancel the launch of an Atlas V rocket carrying an earth-imaging satellite. Had winds not shifted at the last moment, the fire might have engulfed several of Vandenberg’s major launch sites.

Such perils have not (yet) been addressed in Pentagon documents like the National Defense Strategy and senior officers are normally reluctant to discuss them with members of the public. Nonetheless, it’s not hard to find evidence of deep anxiety among those who face the already evident ravages of climate change on a regular basis. In 2014 and 2017, analysts from the U.S. Government Accountability Office visited numerous U.S. bases at home and abroad to assess their exposure to extreme climate effects and came back with startling reports about their encounters.

“At 7 out of 15 locations we visited or contacted,” the survey team reported in 2014, “officials stated that they had observed rising sea levels and associated storm surge and associated potential impacts, or mission vulnerabilities.” Likewise, “at 9 out of 15 locations we visited or contacted, officials stated that they had observed changes in precipitation patterns and associated potential impacts,” such as severe flooding or wildfires.

Look through the congressional testimony of top Pentagon officials and you’ll find that similar indications of unease abound. “The Air Force recognizes that our installations and infrastructure are vulnerable to a wide variety of threats, including those from weather, climate, and natural events,” said John Henderson, assistant secretary of the Air Force for installations, environment and energy, at a recent hearing on installation resiliency. “Changing climate and severe weather effects have the potential to catastrophically damage or degrade the Air Force’s war-fighting readiness.”

Threats to the Home Front

At a time when U.S. bases are experiencing the ever more severe effects of climate change, the armed forces are coming under mounting pressure to assist domestic authorities in coping with increasingly damaging storms, floods, and fires from those same climate forces. A prelude to what can be expected in the future was provided by the events of August and September 2017, when the military was called upon to provide disaster relief in the wake of three particularly powerful hurricanes — Harvey, Irma, and Maria — at the very moment California and the state of Washington were being ravaged by powerful wildfires.

This unprecedented chain of disasters began on August 26th, when Harvey — then a Category 4 hurricane — made landfall near Houston, Texas, and lingered there for five agonizing days, sucking up water from the Gulf of Mexico and dumping it on that area in what proved to be the heaviest continuous rainfall in American history. With much of Houston engulfed in flood waters, the DoD mobilized 12,000 National Guard and 16,000 active-duty Army troops to assist in relief operations.

Such cleanup operations were still under way there when Irma — a Category 5 storm and one of the most powerful hurricanes ever detected in the Atlantic Ocean — struck the eastern Caribbean, Puerto Rico, and southern Florida. Guard units sent by Florida’s governor to assist in Texas were hastily recalled and the Pentagon mobilized an additional 4,500 active-duty troops for emergency operations. To bolster these forces, the Navy deployed one of its aircraft carriers, the USS Abraham Lincoln, along with a slew of support vessels.

With some Guard contingents still involved in Texas and cleanup operations just getting under way in Florida, another Category 5 storm, Maria, emerged in the Atlantic and began its fateful course toward Puerto Rico, making landfall on that island on September 20th. It severed most of that island’s electrical power lines, bringing normal life to a halt. With food and potable water in short supply, the DoD commenced yet another mobilization of more than 12,000 active-duty and Guard units. Some of them would still be there a year later, seeking to restore power and repair roads in remote, harshly affected areas.

If finding enough troops and supply systems to assist in these relief operations was a tough task — akin to mobilizing for a major war — the Pentagon faced a no less severe challenge in addressing the threats to its own forces and facilities from those very storms.

When Hurricane Irma approached Florida and the Keys, it became evident that many of the Pentagon’s crucial southern installations were likely to suffer severe damage. Notable among them was Naval Air Station (NAS) Key West, a major hub for U.S. operations in the Caribbean region. Fearing the worst, its commander ordered a mandatory evacuation for all but a handful of critical personnel. Commanders at other bases in the storm’s path also ordered evacuations, including at NAS Jacksonville in Florida and Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay in Georgia. Aircraft at these installations were flown to secure locations further inland while Kings Bay’s missile-carrying submarines were sent to sea where they could better ride out the storm. At least a dozen other installations were forced to relocate at least some personnel, planes, and ships.

Clusters of Extreme Events

While the extremity of each of these individual climate disasters can’t be attributed with absolute certainty to climate change, that they occurred at such strength over such a short time period is almost impossible to explain without reference to it. As scientists have indicated, the extremely warm waters of the Atlantic and Caribbean contributed to the fury of the three hurricanes and extreme dryness in California and the American West has resulted in severe recurring wildfires. All of these are predictable consequences of a warming planet.

That means, of course, that we can expect recurring replays of summer 2017, with multiple disasters (of ever-increasing magnitude) occurring more or less simultaneously. These, in turn, will produce ever more demands on the military for relief services, even as it is being forced to cope with the impact of such severe climate events on its own facilities. Indeed, the National Research Council (NRC), in a report commissioned by the U.S. Intelligence Community, has warned of just such a future. Speaking of what it termed “clusters of extreme events,” it noted that warming temperatures are likely to generate not just more destructive storms, but also a greater concentration of such events at the same time.

“Given the available scientific knowledge of the climate system,” the report notes, “it is prudent for security analysts to expect climate surprises in the coming decade, including… conjunctions of events occurring simultaneously or in sequence, and for them to become progressively more serious and frequent thereafter, and most likely at an accelerating rate.”

Combine the ravages of Harvey, Irma, Maria, Katrina, and Sandy with the wildfires recently blasting across California and you get some sense of what our true “national security” landscape might look like. While the Pentagon, the National Guard, and local authorities should be able to cope with any combination of two or three such events, as they did in 2017 (although, according to critics, the damage to Puerto Rico has never been fully repaired), there will come a time when the climate assault is so severe and multifaceted that U.S. leaders will be unable to address all the major disasters simultaneously and will have to pick and choose where to deploy their precious assets.

At that moment, the notion of focusing all our attention on managing military rivalries with China and Russia (or other potential adversaries) will appear dangerously distracting. Count on this: U.S. forces sent to foreign bases and conflicts (as with the never-ending wars of this century in the Greater Middle East and Africa) will undoubtedly be redeployed homeward to help overcome domestic dangers. This may seem improbable today, with China and Russia building up their arsenals to counter American forces, but scientific analyses like those conducted by the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the NRC, suggest that those two countries are then no less likely to be facing multiple catastrophes of their own and will be in no position to engage in conflicts with the United States.

And so there will come a time when a presidential visit to the Situation Room involves not a nuclear crisis or the next major terrorist attack, but rather a conjunction of severe climate events, threatening the very heartbeat of the nation.


Michael T. Klare is the Five College Professor of Peace and World Security Studies at Hampshire College in Amherst, Massachusetts. His newest book, All Hell Breaking Loose: The Pentagon’s Perspective on Climate Change has just recently been published. His other books include: Rising Powers, Shrinking Planet: The New Geopolitics of Energy and Blood and Oil: The Dangers and Consequences of America’s Growing Dependence on Imported Petroleum

Copyright 2019 Michael Klare. First published in TomDispatch. Included in Vox Populi with permission.

BEAUMONT, Texas (Aug. 31, 2017) 1st Sgt. John Finney, assigned to the 4th Reconnaissance Battalion, 4th Marine Division, Marine Forces Reserve (MFR), conducts door to door welfare checks in a U.S. Marine Corps F470 Zodiac combat rubber raiding craft during search and rescue operations in wake of Hurricane Harvey, in Beaumont, Texas. MFR is posturing ground, air, and logistics assets in order to support FEMA, state and local response efforts due to Hurricane Harvey. (U.S. Navy photo/Released)
“The old world is dying, and the New World struggles to be born: now is the time of monsters.”

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Hong Kong protests spark call for Australian university students to come home
« Reply #3998 on: November 18, 2019, 05:48:35 AM »
Hong Kong protests spark call for Australian university students to come home
\

Updated

Australian university students on exchange in Hong Kong are being urged to come home immediately, as protesters take their pro-democracy fight to campuses across the city.

Key points:

  • Australian university students are being told to leave Hong Kong immediately and come home
  • Police skirmished with militant students at major university campuses around the Chinese-ruled city
  • The protests are in their fifth month and show no sign of ending

University students in Hong Kong have barricaded campuses and stockpiled makeshift weapons amid escalating violence, including two deaths.

The University of Sydney has started contacting its students in the Chinese-administered city, after Hong Kong University (HKU) and other institutions suspended classes for the last few weeks of the semester.

"Your safety is our utmost concern and based on all the information available to us, and in light that HKU has now suspended/cancelled the semester, the University of Sydney requires you to depart HK immediately and make your way back to Australia," the email sent to students by exchange coordinators on Friday morning said.

Windows are smashed, while others are tagged with graffiti reading "LIBERTY OR DEATH" during the Hong Kong protests.Photo: Classes at Hong Kong universities for the remaining weeks of the semester have been cancelled. (ABC News: Steve Wang)

"If you have already left HK, please let me know where you are now.

"If you need assistance and advice on how to depart HK, please let me know and USYD will assist you."

Classes for the remaining weeks of this year's academic semester have been cancelled after protesters at Hong Kong universities, including Hong Kong Polytechnic and the Chinese University of Hong Kong, hurled petrol bombs and bricks and even shot arrows at police in recent days.

Authorities have met the increased violence with tear gas, rubber bullets and water cannons filled with blue dye.

'It could be anyone like me who could be shot next'

A woman stands in front of a wall plastered with posters and paper.Photo: Erin Jory only had a couple of weeks left on her exchange, but she has been told to return within a few days. (ABC News: Steve Wang)

University of Queensland student Erin Jory was due to wrap up an exchange at the University of Hong Kong within weeks, but has now been told by her university that she will need to return by Tuesday.

"It's unfortunate that it's going to end this way, but it's obviously not possible to study on the campus anymore, so it makes sense to leave," the 21-year-old said.

Access to the campus at the University of Hong Kong is blocked by makeshift barricades, with student protesters checking IDs of visitors.

Bricks are laid on the ground while chairs and tables are piled into a barricade. Students walk nearby.Photo: Students built barricades out of chairs and tables, as well as bricks and mortar. (ABC News: Steve Wang)

But while it looks unruly, Ms Jory said she did not felt unsafe studying there.

"Just even talking to the protesters, they're all kids my age, like me, fighting for what they believe in. It's just really sad to think it could be anyone like me who could be shot next," she said.

A fellow Australian, law student Haytham Chernov, has also been ordered to head home by the University of Sydney.

"It's not how I anticipated on ending my degree. It's somewhat anticlimactic," he said.

A man with a moustache and glasses stands in front of a pole with graffiti on it at night time.Photo: Haytham Chernov said the campus looked like it was being prepared for war. (ABC News: Steve Wang)

Since commencing an exchange semester in August, he has watched as the protests evolved from mass street marches to smaller, more violent confrontations with police.

"There were a few times when I inadvertently ended up in an MTR (Mass Transit Railway) station that was closed down — it was quite scary seeing all the riot police come in and arrest people, and a few times I came across some tear gas," he said.

"But the most emotional thing was coming in for class on Monday morning and seeing the campus transformed, almost preparing for a war."

Despite the upheaval, he said Hong Kong still felt like a safe city with a supportive community.

A person wearing a yellow helmet, clear goggles and a gas mask at night.Photo: Protesters at Hong Kong universities have clashed with police in recent days. (AP: Ng Han Guan)

The warning to return to Australia did not carry with it an exemption for students from completing their studies, as HKU is allowing its courses and exams to be sat online.

"This is good news because it means that you can complete the remainder of your work and still receive the academic credit provided you pass all the units," the email said.

"We expect that you will complete the studies remotely in order to complete the semester's coursework."

Two deaths as violence escalates

A Sol beer bottle has a rag cable-tied to the top of it, turning it into a Molotov cocktail for use in the Hong Kong protests.Photo: Petrol bombs and Molotov cocktails have been used by protesters. (ABC News: Steve Wang)

A 70-year-old street cleaner, who videos on social media showed had been hit in the head by a brick thrown by "masked rioters", died on Thursday, authorities said.

Earlier this month, a student protester died after falling from a parking lot during demonstrations.

Police on Tuesday fired tear gas in the heart of the central financial district and at two university campuses to break up pro-democracy protests — a day after shooting a protester at close range, wounding him.

A "rioter" also doused a man with petrol before setting him on fire. The man, who suffered burns to his torso and head remains in a critical condition.

On Thursday, Australia's Foreign Minister Marise Payne said it was "essential" that police responded to the protests "proportionately".

"We reiterate our view that it is crucial for all sides — police and protestors — to exercise restraint and take genuine steps to de-escalate tensions," Senator Payne said in a statement.

Protests in Hong Kong are in their fifth month and show little sign of ending, as pro-democracy advocates continue to demand Hong Kong's chief executive Carrie Lam stand down from the local government and a review of police conduct be launched.

Student actions 'another step closer to terrorism'

Thousands of students remain hunkered down at several universities, surrounded by piles of food, bricks, petrol bombs, catapults and other homemade weapons.

Police said the prestigious Chinese University had "become a manufacturing base for petrol bombs" and the students' actions were "another step closer to terrorism".

Around 4,000 people, aged between 12 and 83, have been arrested since the unrest escalated in June.

A protester uses an arrow to guide cars on the Tolo Highway outside the Chinese University of Hong Kong.Photo: Police said they came under arrow fire at the Chinese University of Hong Kong campus. (AFP: Philip Fong)

The unrest began as a kickback against an attempt by the city's Beijing-backed government to hustle through a bill that would have allowed the extradition of accused criminals to mainland China.

Protesters are angry about what they see as police brutality and meddling by Beijing in the freedoms guaranteed under the "one country, two systems" formula put in place when the territory returned to China from British rule in 1997.

China denies interfering and has blamed Western countries, including Britain and the United States, for stirring up trouble.

But the anger has recently turned towards anyone seen to be affiliated with China.

On Friday, Hong Kong's Secretary for Justice Teresa Cheng, who was in London to promote the Chinese-ruled city as a dispute resolution and deal-making hub, was targeted by a group of protesters who shouted "murderer" and "shameful".

The Hong Kong Government said Ms Cheng suffered "serious bodily harm", but gave no details.

Blockade at HK Polytechnic UniversityPhoto: Protesters walk past barricades of bricks on a road near the Hong Kong Polytechnic University in Hong Kong. (AP: Kin Cheung)

The Chinese embassy in the UK said Ms Cheng was pushed to the ground and sustained a hand injury.

"[Ms Cheng] was besieged and attacked by dozens of anti-China and pro-independence activists," the Chinese embassy said in a statement.

The incident showed that the "violent and lawless perpetrators" were now taking their violence abroad, it said.

China has lodged a formal complaint with Britain and urged British authorities to bring the perpetrators to justice.

On Friday, Video footage of the Chinese People's Liberation Army garrison headquarters near Hong Kong's central business district showed more than a dozen troops conducting what appeared to be anti-riot drills against fake protesters carrying black umbrellas.

A congressional advisory body urged the US Congress on Thursday to enact legislation that would suspend the special economic status Hong Kong enjoys under US law if China deployed security forces to crush the protests.

ABC/Reuters

Topics: unrest-conflict-and-war, government-and-politics, university-and-further-education, education, hong-kong, australia, sydney-2000

First posted

“The old world is dying, and the New World struggles to be born: now is the time of monsters.”

Offline Surly1

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Kurt Volker, witness requested by Republicans, debunks many of their arguments
« Reply #3999 on: November 19, 2019, 03:11:56 PM »
Kurt Volker, impeachment witness requested by Republicans, debunks many of their arguments
He said that he didn’t believe Joe Biden was corrupt, and that he regrets the push for investigations.


When House Intelligence Committee Democrats offered Republicans the opportunity to suggest impeachment inquiry witnesses, Kurt Volker — the former US special representative to Ukraine — made the list.

And yet in his opening statement Tuesday, Volker made a number of points that seemed quite bad for the case President Donald Trump’s defenders are trying to build.

For one, Volker said that “the accusation that Vice President [Joe] Biden acted inappropriately” with regard to Ukraine “did not seem at all credible to me” — contradicting Trump’s unsupported insistence that Biden acted corruptly in helping push out Viktor Shokin, a Ukrainian prosecutor whom the administration and American allies considered corrupt.

Volker also said that, previously, he drew a distinction between investigating Burisma (the Ukrainian gas company Hunter Biden sat on the board of) and the Bidens. He understood Trump officials were pushing for investigations into Burisma, which he considered appropriate. But “in retrospect, I should have seen that connection differently” — admitting it was inappropriate and “unacceptable,” and targeted at the Bidens.

And Volker said that former Ukrainian prosecutor general Yuri Lutsenko, who has made allegations about the Bidens’ corruption that Rudy Giuliani promoted, isn’t credible. Indeed, Volker even said that he told Giuliani this in private — and that Giuliani agreed. All this debunks a counter-narrative pushed by Trump’s allies, in which the President was legitimately concerned about corruption in Ukraine.

The GOP may have wanted to call Volker because, in his initial testimony, he said he did not know of any linkage between nearly $400 million in withheld military aid for Ukraine with the investigations that Trump was demanding.

However, Volker says in his new opening statement, “I have learned many things that I did not know at the time of the events in question.” By that, he seems to be referring to Sondland’s recent admission that he did, in fact, tell the Ukrainians the aid was linked to the investigations.

Your guide to the Donald Trump impeachment saga

Impeachment, explained

Understand the impeachment process, from its history to what comes next. Explore the full guide here.

Volker had also previously testified that a White House meeting on July 10 between US and Ukrainian advisers was uneventful. But other witnesses testified that Sondland brought up “investigations” in front of the Ukrainians, National Security Adviser John Bolton abruptly ended the meeting. Afterward, some participants moved to a different room (the Ward Room), and Sondland again asked the Ukrainians about investigations.

Now Volker says he recalls some of that: “Ambassador Sondland made a generic comment about investigations,” he said. “I think all of us thought it was inappropriate.” (However, he says that he still doesn’t recall Sondland asking the Ukrainians again about investigations in the Ward Room. “I may have been engaged in a side conversation, or had already left the complex,” he said.)

You can read Volker’s full opening statement at this link.

“The old world is dying, and the New World struggles to be born: now is the time of monsters.”

Offline Surly1

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Banned in China?
« Reply #4000 on: November 20, 2019, 03:55:59 AM »
Video came to me labeled, "Video is Banned in China (Watch Before Deleted) Hong Kong Protests"
So I watched it. Some decent insights into the story on the ground in Hong Kong.

<a href="http://www.youtube.com/v/Z3ZIJ96zm0g" target="_blank" class="new_win">http://www.youtube.com/v/Z3ZIJ96zm0g</a>
“The old world is dying, and the New World struggles to be born: now is the time of monsters.”

Offline K-Dog

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Re: The Surlynewz Channel
« Reply #4001 on: November 20, 2019, 08:10:45 AM »
<a href="http://www.youtube.com/v/6_RdnVtfZPY" target="_blank" class="new_win">http://www.youtube.com/v/6_RdnVtfZPY</a>

It made me find out what this is all about.
Under ideal conditions of temperature and pressure the organism will grow without limit.

Offline azozeo

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Re: The Surlynewz Channel
« Reply #4002 on: November 20, 2019, 10:51:12 AM »
<a href="http://www.youtube.com/v/6_RdnVtfZPY" target="_blank" class="new_win">http://www.youtube.com/v/6_RdnVtfZPY</a>

It made me find out what this is all about.

Those masks must get awful hot & sweaty & itchy by the end of the days REVOLT  :coffee:
I know exactly what you mean. Let me tell you why you’re here. You’re here because you know something. What you know you can’t explain, but you feel it. You’ve felt it your entire life, that there’s something wrong with the world.
You don’t know what it is but its there, like a splinter in your mind

Offline K-Dog

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Re: The Surlynewz Channel
« Reply #4003 on: November 20, 2019, 11:43:09 PM »
<a href="http://www.youtube.com/v/6_RdnVtfZPY" target="_blank" class="new_win">http://www.youtube.com/v/6_RdnVtfZPY</a>

It made me find out what this is all about.

Those masks must get awful hot & sweaty & itchy by the end of the days REVOLT  :coffee:

The joys of AI facial recognizance.  I expect when some company goes to the police and city council in nine of ten American Burbs and says if we install a facial recognition system for you at your major intersections you will earn $2000 a day profit sniping people as they pink lights the average local government will be down for the robo-snitch faster than the panties of a horny slut can hit the floor.  Technology is always good, rinse and repeat. 

One hundred and 38 a pop.  Some people will not be able to avoid getting popped, so you will be straight up ass raping them, but the company selling the robo id system goes to the council and police chief and sez we have statistics which say it all makes for a better safer world, so you can tell your critics to shut the fuck up.  And the whole city council gets to go to Vegas don't you know.  The mayor can go in March.

Get ready itch baby.  Coming to an America near you.
« Last Edit: November 20, 2019, 11:46:07 PM by K-Dog »
Under ideal conditions of temperature and pressure the organism will grow without limit.

Offline Surly1

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Re: The Surlynewz Channel
« Reply #4004 on: November 21, 2019, 12:29:41 AM »
<a href="http://www.youtube.com/v/6_RdnVtfZPY" target="_blank" class="new_win">http://www.youtube.com/v/6_RdnVtfZPY</a>

It made me find out what this is all about.

Those masks must get awful hot & sweaty & itchy by the end of the days REVOLT  :coffee:

The joys of AI facial recognizance.  I expect when some company goes to the police and city council in nine of ten American Burbs and says if we install a facial recognition system for you at your major intersections you will earn $2000 a day profit sniping people as they pink lights the average local government will be down for the robo-snitch faster than the panties of a horny slut can hit the floor.  Technology is always good, rinse and repeat. 

One hundred and 38 a pop.  Some people will not be able to avoid getting popped, so you will be straight up ass raping them, but the company selling the robo id system goes to the council and police chief and sez we have statistics which say it all makes for a better safer world, so you can tell your critics to shut the fuck up.  And the whole city council gets to go to Vegas don't you know.  The mayor can go in March.

Get ready itch baby.  Coming to an America near you.

Absolutely true, and Coming to A Theater Near You.

They already do this with license plate scanners. Companies so licensed prowl parking lots, even on private property, and ID cars with outstanding personal property tax bills. they then boot the cars, then tow them to an "undisclosed location." No one will tell you where your car is, or why this has happened, and it is left to the unhappy driver to unwind the scam. Meanwhile, while your car is in impound, the "rental" fee they charge you for stealing your car ticks away @ $175/day.

Wash, rinse, repeat.

I know whereof I speak because my wife, prior to living with me, had lived for two months in the city in which I worked. I made the mistake of lending her my car and driving mine to work, whereupon the above unfolded.  She found herself on the hook for taxes owed that she never knew she owed, and for which she had never been notified. Too bad, so sad... but the city got paid. And as long as the city gets paid, it's all good, amirite?

When the revolution come, there will be Second Amendment solutions for owners of towing companies.
“The old world is dying, and the New World struggles to be born: now is the time of monsters.”

 

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