Archive for International
At Timestamp 19:45.
Today, Earth Day 2015, President Obama visits Everglades National Park to talk about climate change and the threat it poses to the water ecology of south Florida. On the first Earth Day in 1970, few Americans had even heard of ecology.
NPR’s Melissa Block spoke with Evelyn Gaiser, an ecologist with the Florida Coastal Everglades Long Term Ecological Research Program, about saltwater incursion into the Everglades. She’ll be reminding the president the Everglades is not just home to birds, snakes, and alligators:
BLOCK: And along with preserving biodiversity, preserving wild space and habitat, of course also you’re seeing a real threat to drinking water with what’s going on in the Everglades, right?
GAISER: That’s exactly right. So the people of Florida depend on that aquifer underneath the Everglades for their drinking water. And as we have insufficient freshwater moving into the Everglades, we see a depletion in the freshwater resources available to the growing population of South Florida.
On the Pacific coast, Californians struggle with an epic drought and reservoirs have all but dried up.
Following up this morning on the must-read Der Spiegel article on the origins of an Islamic State (IS) cooked up by former Saddam Hussein intelligence officers. A trove of documents Der Spiegel obtained late last year reveal the architect of the Islamic State to be a former Iraqi colonel, Samir Abd Muhammad al-Khlifawi, known to IS as Haji Bakr or else “Lord of the Shadows.” Bakr died in January 2014 after implementing his “blueprint for a takeover … not a manifesto of faith, but a technically precise plan for an ‘Islamic Intelligence State’ — a caliphate run by an organization that resembled East Germany’s notorious Stasi domestic intelligence agency.” Bakr and his agents would exploit others’ extremist faith to recruit an army. The Syrian civil war provided the chaos they needed to implement their plan.
Bakr survived quality time in U.S. custody at Camp Bucca and Abu Ghraib Prison to eventually form “a powerful underground organization.” He and a group of former Iraqi intelligence officers conceived a new Islamic State. They made Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi the figurehead. “They reasoned that Baghdadi, an educated cleric, would give the group a religious face” that would attract foot soldiers from abroad. They preferred foreigners rather than Syrian rebels. (Local recruits might be reluctant to commit the atrocities necessary to instill the fear needed for control.) Spies would infiltrate towns and pave the way for takeover:
The spies were told to note such details as whether someone was a criminal or a homosexual, or was involved in a secret affair, so as to have ammunition for blackmailing later. “We will appoint the smartest ones as Sharia sheiks,” Bakr had noted. “We will train them for a while and then dispatch them.” As a postscript, he had added that several “brothers” would be selected in each town to marry the daughters of the most influential families, in order to “ensure penetration of these families without their knowledge.”
Confronting Hatred: 70 Years after the Holocaust played on the local NPR station recently. Narrated by Morgan Freeman, the program looks at “racism, antisemitism, and the ways in which hatred can grow.” I tuned in late and heard a German woman confronting Klansmen. It led me to this 2014 clip from the BBC:
Mo Asumang is a German filmmaker who confronts racism by speaking directly to those who want her excluded from their world. They don’t talk to or know their “so-called enemy,” Asumang says, “so what they do when they talk to me, they talk to reality, and that’s the first thing they have to survive.”
Asumang concedes that her tactics for confronting hatred so directly are not for everyone. But she is inspired by the incredible change she witnessed in her own family, when her grandmother—a former Nazi party member, who worked for the SS—came face to face with a black grandchild.
“How many isolated incidents equal a pattern?” radio host Tavis Smiley asked Bill O’Reilly this week as the two debated police misconduct and mass incarceration.
From mass surveillance to mass incarceration, it appears that government of the people, etc. is increasingly prone to viewing itself as government against the people. The Guardian reported Friday that the Missouri National Guard had to caution its people against referring to Ferguson protesters as “enemy forces“:
A briefing for commanders included details of the troops’ intelligence capabilities so that they could “deny adversaries the ability to identify Missouri national guard vulnerabilities”, which the “adversaries” might exploit, “causing embarrassment or harm” to the military force, according to documents obtained in a Freedom of Information Act request by CNN.
And in an ominous-sounding operations security briefing, the national guard warned: “Adversaries are most likely to possess human intelligence (HUMINT), open source intelligence (OSINT), signals intelligence (SIGINT), technical intelligence (TECHINT), and counterintelligence capabilities.”
National Guard spokesman Capt. Quinn told CNN later drafts of mission plans dialed back the language. Quinnn said, “‘enemy forces’ would be better understood as ‘potential threats.'” So that’s comforting.
Progressive groups are sure to be fuming over the agreement among congressional leaders on approving “fast track” authority:
In what is sure to be one of the toughest fights of Mr. Obama’s last 19 months in office, the “fast track” bill allowing the White House to pursue its planned Pacific trade deal also heralds a divisive fight within the Democratic Party, one that could spill into the 2016 presidential campaign.
With committee votes planned next week, liberal senators such as Sherrod Brown of Ohio are demanding to know Hillary Rodham Clinton’s position on the bill to give the president so-called trade promotion authority, or T.P.A.
“NAFTA on steroids” may have bipartisan support, but the secret trade agreement — congressional staff must have security clearances to view the draft trade pact text — also “enjoys” bipartisan opposition. A Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll in January showed Americans were in no hurry to expand trade: “59% said it could be delayed until next year and 16% said it shouldn’t be pursued at all.” Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch, said in a press release yesterday, “Congress is being asked to delegate away its constitutional trade authority over the TPP, even after the administration ignored bicameral, bipartisan demands about the agreement’s terms, and then also grant blank-check authority to whomever may be the next president for any agreements he or she may pursue.”
You know you’re in trouble when life starts resembling a Schwarzenegger movie. What with economic insecurity, huge income disparity, severe drought in California, massive NSA surveillance, a virtual
war on the poor, police firing on unarmed civilians, and a population pacified with reality TV, The Running Man (1987) comes to mind. In a dystopian, near-future police state, Ah-nold gets framed as “The Butcher of Bakersfield” after a police helicopter crew (following orders) fires on food rioters.
But that was 2017. Today, the Air Force is hot to open your friendly skies to its large Predator, Reaper, Global Hawk, and Sentinel drones. A few weeks ago, I wrote about that at Crooks and Liars. The press focus has been on the FAA’s congressionally mandated commercial drone testing, yet “there is no funding from FAA to support the test sites.” Plus, everywhere you look, the people involved in the testing program seem to include Department of Defense, ex-military, Air National Guard, or members of the defense industry. I wrote:
It’s not that commercial drones aren’t of interest to the private sector. Ask Amazon. But the military and U.S. defense contractors want access to civilian airspace for testing exportable military hardware and for keeping their drone pilots’ skills sharp. Several drone testing programs are fashioned as university research programs and appear as civilian efforts. That might be understandable after George W. Bush’s speech about drones attacking civilians with “chemical and biological weapons,” and after revelations about widespread domestic surveillance here and abroad.
This week’s in-box brought news that one North Carolina Republican, Rep. Chuck McGrady, is re-introducing a bill to permit benefit corporations or B-corps in the state. It has failed to advance in past legislative sessions. B-corps, as I understand them, give directors legal protection for decisions that consider community stakeholders’ interests, not shareholders’ alone. Twenty-eight other states and the District of Columbia permit them:
Under current corporate law in North Carolina, corporations are not allowed to serve a purpose beyond maximizing profit for its shareholders. The North Carolina Benefit Corporation Act, however, would allow businesses to accomplish goals that go beyond the bottom line.
“It’s a for-profit entity that can do nonprofit work,” McGrady said. “They’ve got other purposes. They’re not all about the highest value for the stakeholders.”
A Philadelphia woman was arrested Friday on charges she tried to join the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) group, a day after two women in New York City were charged with plotting to build a bomb and use it for a Boston Marathon-type attack.
Keonna Thomas, 30, was preparing to travel overseas to fight with the armed group and hoped to make it to Syria, authorities said. Instead, she was arrested at her home, which has three small U.S. flags adorning the porch. If convicted, she could face 15 years in prison.
This woman’s arrest comes on the heels of the two New York women arrested Thursday:
“The defendants allegedly plotted to wreak terror by creating explosive devices and even researching the pressure cooker bombs used during the Boston Marathon bombing,” said Assistant Director in Charge Diego Rodriguez, of the FBI’s New York Field Office.
The justice department said the two women have plotted to build an explosive device since at least August of last year and studied chemistry and electricity.
Can Martin Freeman do one for Democrats in 2016?