Monday, October 24, 2016

Newsletter 10-24-16

Monday Oct. 24, 2016, Issue #232
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1.   Photo of The Month — Police Kill Another Unarmed Black Man
2.   And the Winner is....
3.   African Women Climb Mountain for Land Rights
4.   The Black-White Pay Gap
5.   Americans Work 25% More Than Europeans
6.   Clinton and Putin: An Unexpected Conversation
7.   Mosul Braces Itself for Next Bloody Chapter
8.   Pentagon Predicts Dystopian Urban Wars
9.   Turkey Air Raid Kills 200 Kurdish Fighters In Syria
10. New $100 Million U.S. Drone Base in Africa
11. It’s Time To Decriminalize Drug Use and Possession
12. U.S. Hands off Syria — Unity Statement
13. Activists Foil Oil Pipelines and Trains
14. Why We are Singing for Water
15. Climate Change: Rich Countries Must Help the Poorest
16. U.S. Turns Back on Palestinians 

17. 'Hanoi Hannah' Has Died
18. Thailand: King Dies, Military Still Rules
19. Penguins Returned to the Sea
20. Dogs Comprehend Human Vocabulary and Tone
21. Bees now are an Endangered Species 

1.   PHOTO OF THE MONTH — Police kill another unarmed black man 

Ebonay Lee holds up her fist at a line of El Cajon, California, sheriff’s deputies during one of several protests this month against the Sept. 28 killing of Alfred Olango, 38, a refugee from Uganda. Police shot and killed the unarmed man one minute after arriving at the scene. They claimed the victim pulled an object from his pocket, pointed it at officers and assumed a "shooting stance." One officer tried and failed to subdue the man with a stun gun — Olango was reportedly acting erratically — before a second officer fired several times. Police chief Jeff Davis said the dead man was actually holding an electric cigarette in his hands, not a weapon.

Olango’s sister said after the shooting that she had called police three times to help her brother, whom she described as mentally ill. She had told police he was sick and not acting like himself. “I just called for help, and you came and killed him,” she said. One of the officers involved in the shooting was Richard Gonsalves, who was demoted last year from sergeant to officer after a colleague, officer Christine Greer, alleged that he repeatedly made unwanted sexual advances.
Police Cartoon:  august 2016 police cartoon scared



Angry and crude Trump backers aren't going away if he loses.

By Jack A. Smith, editor

This exceptionally enervating election is almost over but its political and social implications will last into the future, even if, as expected, Donald Trump loses to Hillary Clinton.

The conditions that created this shocking national event will continue regardless. "Trumpism," if not the disgraceful Trump himself, will remain part of the Republican party — and, of course, he still has a slight chance of winning. Clinton, for her part, has some dangerous goals in the Middle East and toward Russia and China

Both the successful uprising in the far right Republican party and the failed but nearly successful liberal uprising in the center-right Democratic party shocked the ruling establishments of both organizations. Who guessed the American people were so upset with the status quo? The government had mentioned nothing about it beforehand. The two parties had said and evidently knew nothing. The corporate mass media was silent.

Those to the left of the Democratic party were surprised as well but they had long been publicly critical of the conditions that finally drove much of the predominantly white working class and sectors of the poor, middle class and millennials to demand a new deal from their respective two political associations.

The biggest cause is an economic system that privileges the top 10% at the expense of the bottom 90%, particularly those in the lower 70%. A lesser but real factor is America's continual warfare. Why else does the white working class behind Trump tolerate his call for peace with Russia as Clinton becomes ever more threatening to Moscow? Another cause is the extreme dislike of Clinton by Republicans that allows misogynist Trump to treat so outrageously the first woman presidential candidate of a major party.

For 40 years the U.S. working class has increasingly experienced lower wages and benefits as well as fewer jobs at all due to the free trade and neoliberal policies of the ruling class and its business component. Hardest hit are workers without a college education or worst of all those who did not graduate from high school. This writer is old enough to remember when white students who left high school at 16 without a diploma were employed fairly quickly. I also know young college graduates today (with large student debts) in low paying retail or other jobs no matter how energetically they seek more remunerative positions.

White Anger

Various studies indicate that the white working class is especially disturbed by the lack of jobs and better pay. An article titled "The Great White Nope" by Jefferson Cowie in the (November-December) issue of Foreign Affairs notes:

".... According to a recent analysis published by the Brookings Institution, poor Hispanics are almost a third more likely than their white counterparts to imagine a better future. And poor African Americans — who face far higher rates of incarceration and unemployment and who fall victim far more frequently to both violent crime and police brutality — are nearly three times as optimistic as poor whites. Carol Graham, the economist who oversaw the analysis, concluded that poor whites suffer less from direct material deprivation than from the intangible but profound problems of 'unhappiness, stress, and lack of hope....'

"A stunning U-turn in the fortunes of poor and working-class whites began in the 1970s, as deindustrialization, automation, globalization, and the growth of the high-technology and service sectors transformed the U.S. economy. In the decades since, many blue-collar jobs have vanished, wages have stagnated for less educated Americans, wealth has accumulated at the top of the economic food chain, and social mobility has become vastly harder to achieve.

"Technological and financial innovations have fostered economic and social vitality in urban centers on the coasts. But those changes have brought far fewer benefits to the formerly industrial South and Midwest. As economic decline has hollowed out civic life and the national political conversation has focused on other issues, many people in 'flyover country' have sought solace in opioids and methamphetamine; some have lashed out by embracing white nationalist rage. As whites come closer to becoming a plurality in the United States (or a “white minority,” in more paranoid terms), many have become receptive to nativist or bigoted appeals and thinly veiled promises to protect their endangered racial privilege: think of Trump’s promise to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexican border and his invocation of an unspecified bygone era when the United States was 'great,' which many white Trump supporters seem to understand as a reference to a time when they felt themselves to be more firmly at the center of civic and economic life."

Trump And Russia

Trump has said he wants to create a better relationship between the U.S. and Russia, and that as president he would engage President Vladimir Putin about this matter. He has also remarked that there is no proof yet that that the Russian government is responsible for hacking a Democratic party computer and that of John Podesta, Clinton’s campaign chairman.  Both included some embarrassing Emails from Clinton that were distributed by WikiLeaks, including the contents of her "secret" speeches to Wall Street and other venues.

As noted in the Sept. 26 issue of the Activist Newsletter I agree with Trump on the matter of improving relations with Russia and the lack of proof that the Russian government hacked the Emails. (Check out this referenced article if you have not already done so because it endeavors to explain contemporary Russia and Putin as well as Moscow's role in Ukraine, Crimea, Syria and relations with the U.S. Click on 09-26-16 Newsletter Russia.)

Clinton backed regime change in Libya. She landed just after government fell. It's a bad mess now. 

Anti-Russia/Putin Clinton

The Clinton campaign has turned Trump's comments on Russia into its main target. On Oct.20, the day after the third and last debate, the New York Times reported that if she wins the election "she will enter the White House with the most contentious relationship with Russia of any president in more than three decades, and with a visceral, personal animus toward Vladimir V. Putin, its leader.... In a reversal of political roles, Mrs. Clinton, the Democratic candidate, is the one portraying Mr. Putin as America’s newest archenemy....

"Much of the Democratic foreign policy establishment has become as hawkish as Mrs. Clinton on the subject of Russia, a view that seems almost certain to outlast the campaign. Privately, some of her longtime advisers are already thinking about what mix of sanctions, diplomatic isolation and international condemnation they might put together if they take office to deal with Mr. Putin and the fragile economic state he runs, an update of the 'containment' strategy that George F. Kennan formulated for President Harry S. Truman in 1947."

That strategy was the basis of the Cold War. Who wants a new Cold War — this time between two capitalist countries with massive arsenals of nuclear weapons? And we suspect that Clinton's real goal is regime change in Moscow.

Could this  be Hillary and Vladimir,in better days?
In general Clinton is recognized as a war hawk. As secretary of state she argued with President Obama about taking greater military action against the government of Syria and conviced him to bomb and invade Libya. She plans to be tougher on both Russia and  China.

Regarding the allegations of Russian hacking, Nation contributing editor Stephen F. Cohen, a longtime Russia expert, said Oct. 18: "In fact no actual evidence for this allegation has been produced, only suppositions or, as Glenn Greenwald has argued, 'unproven assertions.'"

He noted that MIT expert, Professor Theodore Postol, has written that there is "no technical way that the U.S. intelligence community could know who did the hacking if it was done by sophisticated nation-state actors."

Cohen suggested, "the charges, leveled daily by the Clinton campaign as part of its 'McCarthyite Kremlin-baiting' of Donald Trump, are mostly political." He also pointed out it is far from clear that the Kremlin actually favors Trump, despite Clinton’s campaign claims."

Trump's Disgraceful Campaign

Trump's campaign has been the most disgraceful in U.S. history, replete with climate change denial, outrageous conspiracy theories, allegations against Muslims and Mexicans, frequent lies, outright racism, America-first nationalism, distrust of immigrants, false accusations of ballot rigging and extreme contempt toward his opponent, among other failings. It finally took a video of Trump bragging about his of sexual harassment of women to do him in.

If Clinton wins, it will be an advance for the United States to finally elect a woman president. She remains a powerful part of the anti-liberal Democratic center right wing and a servant of Wall Street but has pledged to fight for some of the liberal policies advocated by her primary rival Sen. Bernie Sanders. She did so to defeat him, of course, and her efforts in this case will be superficial.

A Clinton presidency will be haunted by the Republican party and by defeated Trump and his constituency of millions of fanatics who think "crooked Hillary" belongs in prison. 

Much depends on the composition of the post-election Congress. It's doubtful the Democrats can win the House given the large number of gerrymandered GOP seats — a product of Republican control of so many state legislatures. . But there is a possibility Democrats will gain a majority in the Senate. This will make a difference in terms of the Supreme Court and other matters that do not require House approval. If both houses of Congress remain in the hands of the right wing very little can be done

Assuming Trump is defeated, the temporarily displaced Republican leadership will largely return to power after making concessions to his devoted followers. After that it's probably going to be total war against the Clinton government for the next four years, even worse than the GOP's sabotage during the nearly eight years of gridlocked Obama's leadership. 


They climbed  Kilimanjaro for women's rights.
By Activist Newsletter and TELESUR

Twelve women scaled to the top of Tanzania's 19,341-foot high Mt. Kilimanjaro Oct. 17 to demand land rights.

Thousands of women from across the African continent converged at the foot of Mount Kilimanjaro for a three-day action Oct. 15 that demanded rights for women, while a contingent of the women scaled up the mountain, reaching the peak two days later. “We are not just climbing the mountain,” tweeted Action Aid, the organizer of the climb. “We are taking the issues of rural women farmers to the top.”

The gathering coincided with the International Day of Rural Women and was dubbed "the Kilimanjaro initiative." Uniting behind the social media campaign #Women2Kilimanjaro, the women demanded governments implement laws and policies to reverse the barriers women face in accessing land rights, such as early marriage, poor access to information and unfair inheritance.
According to the organization TakePart, while women are responsible for 80% of agricultural production on the continent, only 1% of land is owned by women, a situation going back to colonial times.
Thousands rallied at base of mountain as climbers ascended.
At the convergence, a charter was drafted that will be given to the United Nations, the African Union, and the African Rural Women Assembly for implementation of these demands. A petition was also circulated to various leaders in the days before the meeting.

Last November, four regional caravans from throughout Africa, saw women from 16 African countries meet in Arusha, Tanzania, to strategize on land ownership issues. The initiative was first conceived by rural women in 2012 with support from civil society organizations in a meeting held in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.
By Valerie Wilson — From the Economic Policy Institute, Oct. 4, 2016

As you can see from the figures below, while a college education results in higher hourly wages—both for whites and blacks—it does not eliminate the black-white wage gap. African Americans are still earning less than whites at every level of educational attainment:

A recent EPI report "Black-white wage gaps expand with rising wage inequality" shows that this gap persists even after controlling for years of experience, region of the country, and whether one lives in an urban or rural area. In fact, since 1979, the gaps between black and white workers have grown the most among workers with a bachelor’s degree or higher—the most educated workers. More school will certainly increase wages, but education alone is not enough to overcome the effects of racial discrimination in pay. Closing this part of the racial pay gap begins with consistent enforcement of anti-discrimination laws in the hiring, promotion, and pay of women and minority workers, as well as greater transparency around within-firm pay by race, ethnicity, and gender.
Hourly Wage Gap                                              White                                   Black 
Less than HS                                                         $13.57                                  $11.25
High school                                                           $18.00                                  $14.24
Some college                                                          $19.80                                  $15.85
College                                                                   $31.83                                  $25.77
Advanced degree                                                    $39.82                                  $33.51

By Ben Steverman, Bloomberg. Oct. 18

Americans are addicted to their jobs. U.S. workers not only put in more hours than workers do almost anywhere else. They’re also increasingly retiring later and taking fewer vacation days.

A new study tries to measure precisely how much more Americans work than Europeans do overall. The answer: The average person in Europe works 19% less than the average person in the U.S. That’s about 258 fewer hours per year, or about an hour less each weekday. Another way to look at it: U.S. workers put in almost 25% more hours than Europeans.

Hours worked vary a lot by country, according to the unpublished working paper by economists Alexander Bick of Arizona State University, Bettina Bruggemann of McMaster University in Ontario, and Nicola Fuchs-Schundeln of Goethe University Frankfurt. Swiss work habits are most similar to Americans, while Italians are the least likely to be at work, putting in 29% fewer hours per year than Americans do. 


By the Activist Newsletter

After reading through many excerpts from the new trove of disclosures about the content of the paid speeches Hillary Clinton refused to make public, the following is the only one that truly caught me by surprise, a not unpleasant surprise at that. It's from an Oct. 28, 2013, speech to the Jewish United Fund of Metropolitan Chicago Vanguard Luncheon.

Clinton: "One time, I was visiting with him [Vladimir Putin] in his dacha outside of Moscow, and he was going on and on, you know, just listing all of the problems that he thinks are caused by the United States. And I said, ‘Well, you know, Mr.’ — at that time, he was still prime minister. I said, ‘You know, Mr. Prime Minister, we actually have some things in common. We both want to protect wildlife, and I know how committed you are to protecting the tiger.’

Putin and a tiger.
"I mean, all of a sudden, he sat up straight and his eyes got big and he goes, ‘You care about the tiger?'  I said, ‘I care about the tiger, I care about the elephant, I care about the rhinoceros, I care about the whale.  I mean, yeah, I think we have a duty. You know, it’s an obligation that we as human beings have to protect God’s creation.’

"He goes, ‘Come with me.’   So we go down the stairs, we go down this long hall, we go into this private inner sanctum.  All of his, you know, very beefy security guys are there, they all jump up at attention, you know, they punch a code, he goes through a heavily-armed door. And then we’re in an inner, inner sanctum with, you know, just this long, wooden table, and then further back, there’s a desk and the biggest map of Russia I ever saw.  And he starts talking to me about, you know, the habitat of the tigers and the habitat of the seals and the whales.  And it was quite something.”

— According to the World Wildlife Fund: "The endangered Siberian tiger is making a comeback, a fresh census has found." The numbers have increased about 10% over the last decade, thanks to the program launched by Putin  and the work of the WWF.


Mother and two children successfully escaping from Islamic State contrtolled Mosel.
By Patrick CockburnThe Independent (UK), Oct. 19, 2016

Mosel has been a dangerous place since the US-led invasion of 2003. It is the greatest Sunni Arab city of Iraq during an era in which the Sunni had lost their old predominance and have struggled against Shia-dominated governments in Baghdad and Kurdish rulers next door in Iraqi Kurdistan.

It is a battle that is still going on as the Iraqi army and Shia paramilitaries advance on Mosul from the south while Kurdish Peshmerga come from the east. The way is cleared for both by air strikes, predominantly by the US air force, attacking Isis fighters dug into ruined villages and hiding in deep tunnels.

If the anti-Isis forces ultimately succeed in recapturing Mosul it will be the fifth time the city has changed hands in the course of 13 years of war. The first time was in April 2003 when the Iraqi army was breaking up and surrendering and the Kurdish Peshmerga burst into the city. There was looting on a mass scale which the Arabs blamed on the Kurds and vice versa, but in fact both took part. I saw crowds ransack the governor’s mansion, the Central Bank and the university.

The Arabs, three-quarters of the city’s population of two million, were appalled by the Kurdish incursion. I visited the biggest hospital in Mosul where the director Dr. Ayad Ramadani told me that “the Kurdish militias are looting the city. Today the main protection is from civilians organized by the mosques.” By the entrance to the hospital, a family was loading the body of a deceased relative into the back of a truck when there was a burst of machine gun fire. This frightened the truck driver who sped away leaving the body behind and the family angrily waving their fists after him.

Relations between Arabs and Kurds did not get much better over the following years. The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) claimed parts of Nineveh province around Mosul which it said had a Kurdish majority or had historically belonged to the Kurds. Mosul sits at the heart of a fascinating but confusing ethnic and sectarian mosaic made up of Arabs, Kurds, Shabak, Yazidis and Christians of different dominations. Few of these communities had any liking for the others.

The Kurdish takeover was followed by the Americans and for the rest of 2003 General David Petraeus commanded the 101st Airborne Division in the city. He could see how the “de-Baathification” campaign mandated by the US authorities in Baghdad was alienating former Iraqi army officers and officials who were now out of a job. A high proportion of the army officer corps had always come from Mosul and, in keeping with this military tradition, the defense minister under Saddam Hussein was from the city. Petraeus issued de-Baathification certificates on his own authority so these unemployed officers were at least eligible for a job.

It was not enough. The Americans over-confidently thinned out their troops and then withdrew the remainder to take part in the recapture of Fallujah. In November 2004, Iraqi armed opposition fighters raced into the city, the newly reformed Iraqi army fled and the rebels captured arsenals of weapons. They withdrew after a few days and Baghdad, backed by the US, regained a shaky control.

But Baghdad’s rule was always contested between 2004 and 2014. There were repeated guerrilla attacks. I would travel from Irbil in KRG to visit the Kurdish deputy governor whose well-fortified office was on the far side of the Tigris river. But we either had to drive very fast or go more slowly in convoys defended by troops and armored vehicles.
                                         Map of Islanic State in Retreat      From Stratfor
In 2014 IS insurgents stormed into Iraq spreading toward Baghdad. In recent months Iraqi state forces, militias, Kurdish soldiers, and foreign fighters — with help from a U.S.-led coalition — have been regaining control. An offensive to retake Mosul and expel IS is underway.

Al-Qaeda in Iraq never entirely lost its grip on Mosul even when it was at its lowest ebb before 2011. Local businesses had to pay it protection money, close down or risk assassination. A Turkish businessman with several big construction contracts there recalled later that he had to pay $500,000 (£400,000) a month and, when this was increased and he refused to pay up, one of his employees was killed. He stopped work, withdrew his staff to Turkey and complained to the government in Baghdad. But their only proposal was that he pay the protection money and add the sum to his contract price.

The government was much disliked in Mosul, but even so the Isis capture of the city in June 2014 was an astonishing victory of a few thousand fighters against a garrison that was meant to total 60,000 and may have had as many as 20,000 soldiers and police. The difference between the two figures was made up of “ghost soldiers” who did not exist or never came to the barracks but whose salaries were taken by officers. Many other soldiers had simply gone on leave to Baghdad and never come back as the security situation deteriorated. When Isis attacked the army and police dissolved.

Isis was never popular in Mosul but they ferociously suppressed all dissent. They drove out the Christians and murdered and enslaved the Yazidis. They blew up iconic monuments like Jonah’s Tomb. People may have disliked them, but there was not much they could do about it.

Isis also benefited from fear among Sunni in the city about what would happen if the Iraqi army and Shia paramilitary militias came back. They know that the whole five or six million Sunni Arab population of Iraq, a fifth of the 33 million population, are under threat and as many as a third have been displaced. In the sectarian war in Baghdad in 2006-7 the Sunni in Iraq had been driven into several enclaves, mostly in the west side of the city, which US diplomats described as “islands of fear”. This is now happening in the rest of Iraq. Other Iraqis may see them as complicit in Isis’s crimes and seek vengeance. Whatever conciliatory statements come from Iraqi leaders, sectarian and ethnic hatreds are running deep and people in Mosul face a frightening and uncertain future.


 German bombers appeared in the skies over Guernica in the late afternoon of April 26, 1937, and immediately transformed the sleepy Spanish market town into an everlasting symbol of 
the atrocity of war. Pablo Picasso, through 
the use of black, gray and white shades, was
able to evoke the horrors of war. Now worse wars are on the horizon.
By Nick Turse, The Intercept, 10-12-16

The year is 2030. Forget about the flying cars, robot maids, and moving sidewalks we were promised. They’re not happening. But that doesn’t mean the future is a total unknown.

According to a startling Pentagon video obtained by The Intercept, the future of global cities will be an amalgam of the settings of “Escape from New York” and “Robocop” — with dashes of the “Warriors” and “Divergent” thrown in. It will be a world of Robert Kaplan-esque urban hellscapes — brutal and anarchic supercities filled with gangs of youth-gone-wild, a restive underclass, criminal syndicates, and bands of malicious hackers.

At least that’s the scenario outlined in “Megacities: Urban Future, the Emerging Complexity,” a five-minute video that has been used at the Pentagon’s Joint Special Operations University (JSOU). All that stands between the coming chaos and the good people of Lagos and Dhaka (or maybe even New York City) is the U.S. Army, according to the video, which The Intercept obtained via the Freedom of Information Act.

The video is nothing if not an instant dystopian classic: melancholy music, an ominous voiceover, and cascading images of sprawling slums and urban conflict. “Megacities are complex systems where people and structures are compressed together in ways that defy both our understanding of city planning and military doctrine,” says a disembodied voice. “These are the future breeding grounds, incubators, and launching pads for adversaries and hybrid threats.”

The video was used as part of an “Advanced Special Operations Combating Terrorism” course offered at JSOU earlier this year for a lesson on “The Emerging Terrorism Threat.” JSOU is operated by U.S. Special Operations Command, the umbrella organization for America’s most elite troops. JSOU describes itself as geared toward preparing special operations forces “to shape the future strategic environment by providing specialized  (JSOU) professional military education, developing SOF specific undergraduate and graduate level academic programs and by fostering special operations research.”

Megacities are, by definition, urban areas with a population of 10 million or more, and they have been a recent source of worry and research for the U.S. military. A 2014 Army report, titled “Megacities and the United States Army,” warned that “the Army is currently unprepared. Although the Army has a long history of urban fighting, it has never dealt with an environment so complex and beyond the scope of its resources.” A separate Army study published this year bemoans the fact that the “U.S. Army is incapable of operating within the megacity.”

"Satan and Son" by Francisco Goya, the Spanish painter 
known for his works on the consequences of war.

These fears are reflected in the hyperbolic “Megacities” video. As the film unfolds, we’re bombarded with an apocalyptic list of ills endemic to this new urban environment: “criminal networks,” “substandard infrastructure,” “religious and ethnic tensions,” “impoverishment, slums,” “open landfills, over-burdened sewers,” and a “growing mass of unemployed.” The list, as long as it is grim, accompanies photos of garbage-choked streets, masked rock throwers, and riot cops battling protesters in the developing world. “Growth will magnify the increasing separation between rich and poor,” the narrator warns as the scene shifts to New York City. Looking down from a high vantage point on Third Avenue, we’re left to ponder if the Army will one day find itself defending the lunchtime crowd dining on $57 "NY Cut Sirloin" steaks at (the plainly visible) Smith and Wollensky.

Lacking opening and closing credits, the provenance of “Megacities” was initially unclear, with SOCOM claiming the video was produced by JSOU, before indicating it was actually created by the Army. “It was made for an internal military audience to illuminate the challenges of operating in megacity environments,” Army spokesperson William Layer told The Intercept in an email. “The video was privately produced pro-bono in spring of 2014 based on ‘Megacities and the United States Army.’… The producer of the film wishes to remain anonymous.”

According to the video, tomorrow’s vast urban jungles will be replete with “subterranean labyrinths” governed by their “own social code and rule of law.” They’ll also enable a proliferation of “digital domains” that facilitate “sophisticated illicit economies and decentralized syndicates of crime to give adversaries global reach at an unprecedented level.” If the photo montage in the video is to be believed, hackers will use outdoor electrical outlets to do grave digital damage, such as donning Guy Fawkes masks and filming segments of “Anonymous News.” This, we’re told, will somehow “add to the complexities of human targeting as a proportionally smaller number of adversaries intermingle with the larger and increasing number of citizens.”

“Megacities” posits that despite the lessons learned from the urban battle at Aachen, Germany, in 1944, and the city-busting in Hue, South Vietnam, in 1968, the U.S. military is fundamentally ill-equipped for future battles in Lagos or Dhaka.

“Even our counterinsurgency doctrine, honed in the cities of Iraq and the mountains of Afghanistan, is inadequate to address the sheer scale of population in the future urban reality,” the film notes, as if the results of two futile forever wars might possibly hold the keys to future success. “We are facing environments that the masters of war never foresaw,” warns the narrator. “We are facing a threat that requires us to redefine doctrine and the force in radically new and different ways.”

Mike Davis, author of “Planet of Slums” and “Buda’s Wagon: A Brief History of the Car Bomb,” was not impressed by the video.

“This is a fantasy, the idea that there is a special military science of megacities,” he said. “It’s simply not the case.… They seem to envision large cities with slum peripheries governed by antagonistic gangs, militias, or guerrilla movements that you can somehow fight using special ops methods. In truth, that’s pretty far-fetched.… You only have to watch ‘Black Hawk Down’ and scale that up to the kind of problems you would have if you were in Karachi, for example. You can do special ops on a small-scale basis, but it’s absurd to imagine it being effective as any kind of strategy for control of a megacity.”

The U.S. military appears unlikely to heed Davis’s advice, however. “This is the world of our future,” warns the narrator of “Megacities.” “It is one we are not prepared to effectively operate within and it is unavoidable. The threat is clear. Our direction remains to be defined. The future is urban.”

— Watch “Megacities: Urban Future, the Emerging Complexity” at:


Syrian Kurd fighters on lookout for enemy.
By Jason Ditz,, Oct. 20, 2016

Turkey has long insisted they view the Kurdish YPG and ISIS as basically the same enemy. Overnight incidents around the city of Afrin, however, show that when the two forces are in close proximity, the Turkish military is definitely going after the Kurds.

The Kurdish YPG forces were launching an offensive near Afrin against the ISIS fighters when a flurry of Turkish airstrikes were launched against them, described as the single biggest attack Turkey has launched against Kurds since their invasion back in August. Turkish officials estimated 200 Kurds killed.

Turkey has long objected to Washington's support for the Kurds in Syria, and particularly complained about the Kurds taking formerly ISIS-held areas. Afrin is its own sore spot for Turkey, since it is far west of the rest of Syrian Kurdistan, though it has been a Kurdish area since at least the 19th century.

Since Turkey’s August invasion, they’ve demanded the Kurds withdraw from any area west of the Euphrates River, and have also talked of taking full military control of their entire border region with Syria, which would include a large amount of Kurdish territory. So far, they’ve not attempted ground invasions of any Kurdish-held lands, but these airstrikes are a continuation and escalation of the existing hostility toward the Kurds, and suggest the invasion may be only a matter of time.


By Answer Coalition, Oct.20, 2016

The U.S. military is building a new $100 million drone base in Agadez, the largest city in Niger, a land-locked country in Northwest Africa bordering Libya, Algeria, Nigeria and Mali.

The U.S. military already had a significant presence in Niger with an air-base in the capital Niamey, which is currently used to provide intelligence to the French-led invasion forces in Mali. The new drone base will host the newer and larger models of “Predator” drones, expanding the deadly drone program of U.S. military with the ability to launch attacks in neighboring countries such as Libya, Mali and Nigeria.

This is essentially a new milestone in the expansion of the U.S. military presence in Africa as AFRICOM (African Command) establishes another major military outpost to be added to an extensive network of more than 60 outposts and access points already present....

Continued at


By Tess Borden, ACLU, Oct. 14, 2016

Police arrest more people for drug possession than any other crime in America. Every 25 seconds someone is arrested for possessing drugs for their own use, amounting to 1.25 million arrests per year. These numbers tell a tale of ruined lives, destroyed families, and communities suffering under a suffocating police presence.

For the past year I have been investigating how the law enforcement approach to personal drug use has failed. The resulting report, “Every 25 Seconds: The Human Toll of Criminalizing Drug Use in the United States,” calls on state legislatures and Congress to decriminalize personal drug use and possession. It comes at a time when the country is recognizing that the so-called “war on drugs” hasn’t stopped drug dependence and that we desperately need to address the problems of mass incarceration, race, policing, and drug policy.

For personal drug use, it is time to replace our criminal justice model with a public health one instead.
The consequences of arresting, prosecuting, and incarcerating people for personal drug use are devastating. I met people who were prosecuted for tiny amounts of drugs, in one case an amount so small that the laboratory could not even weigh it and simply called it “trace.” That man was sentenced to 15 years in Texas.

On any given day, nearly 140,000 people are behind bars for drug possession, while tens of thousands more are cycling through jails and prisons or struggling to make ends meet on probation or parole. Still others are serving sentences for other offenses that have been lengthened because of a prior conviction for drug possession. A conviction for drug possession can keep people from accessing welfare assistance and even the voting booth. It can also subject them to stigma and discrimination by potential landlords, employers, and peers.

I met a woman I’ll call “Nicole” in the Harris County Jail in Texas. Nicole was detained pretrial for months on felony drug possession charges for residue inside paraphernalia. While she was in jail, her newborn learned to sit up on her own. When the baby visited jail, she couldn’t feel her mother’s touch because there was glass between them.

Nicole ultimately pled guilty to possession of 0.01 grams of heroin. She would return to her children later that year, but as a “felon” and “drug offender.” She would have to drop out of school because she no longer qualified for financial aid. She would no longer be able to have a lease in her name and would have trouble finding a job. And she would no longer qualify for the food stamps she had relied on to feed her family.

Forty-five years after the “war on drugs” was declared, rates of drug use haven’t significantly declined, and criminalization hasn’t stopped drug dependence. In fact, criminalization has driven drug use underground, making it harder for people who use drugs to access the help they sometimes really want and need. The “war on drugs” has caused enormous harm to individuals and families — harm that often outstrips the harm of drug use itself. And it has made communities less safe by deeply corroding the relationship between police and communities of color and focusing precious law enforcement resources on nonviolent drug use instead of violent crimes, less than half of which result in an arrest.

Our research also reiterates that enforcement of U.S. drug laws and policy discriminates against communities of color. Although Black and white people use drugs at equivalent rates, a Black person is 2.5 times more likely to be arrested for drug possession. In many states that ratio is significantly higher. In Manhattan, a Black person is 11 times more likely to be arrested for drug possession than a white person.
As Lisa Ladd told me in New Orleans, the scales of justice are out of balance. Lisa’s son, Corey Ladd, was sentenced to 20 years in prison for possessing half an ounce of marijuana. His prior convictions were also for drug possession, and so under Louisiana law he was treated as a “habitual offender” because of habitual drug use.

Corey’s only child, Charlee, was born while he was incarcerated; he held her in his arms for the first time in Angola prison. Charlee is four now and thinks she visits her father at work. Corey told me, “She asks when I’m going to get off work and come see her.” Charlee could be a teenager by the time her father comes home.

It is time for state legislatures and Congress to decriminalize personal drug use and possession. Decriminalization needs to be paired with a stronger investment in public health, emphasizing evidence-based prevention; education around the risks of drug use and dependence; and voluntary, affordable treatment and other social services in the community. Decriminalizing personal drug use and possession will improve countless lives.

End the culture of warrior policingtake action!
It’s the moral responsibility of our government to enact this change for the health and

—The author is a Fellow at the American Civil Liberties Union and Human Rights Watch.


The Activist Newsletter is among a growing list of signatories to the following statement. Below are points of unity for a newly formed Ad Hoc Coalition to oppose the U.S.-led aggression against Syria.
An Urgent Message for Peace on the Eve of Wider War
We raise our voices against the violence of war and the enormous pressure of war propaganda, lies and hidden agendas that are used to justify this war and every past U.S. war.
We, the undersigned organizations and individuals, endorse the following Points of Unity and will work together as an Ad Hoc Coalition to help put an end to the regime change intervention by the United States, NATO and their regional allies and the killing of innocent people in Syria:
The continuation of the war in Syria is the result of a U.S.-orchestrated intervention by the United States, NATO, their regional allies and reactionary forces, the goal of which is regime change in Syria.

This policy of regime change in Syria is illegal and in clear violation of the United Nations Charter, the letter and spirit of international law and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

This policy of forced regime change is threatening the security of the region and the world and has increased the danger of direct confrontation between the United States and Russia, with the potential of a nuclear catastrophe for the whole world.

War and U.S. and EU sanctions have destabilized every sector of Syria’s economy, transforming a once self-sufficient country into an aid-dependent nation. Half the Syrian population is now displaced. A UN ESCWA report reveals these U.S. sanctions on Syria are crippling aid work during one of the largest humanitarian emergencies since World War II. The one third of Syrian refugees in surrounding Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey have been hit hard by U.S. cuts to UNICEF. This forces desperate refugees to struggle to reach Europe.

No foreign entity, be it a foreign government or an armed group, has the right to violate the fundamental rights of the Syrian people to independence, national sovereignty and self-determination. This includes the right of the Syrian government to request and accept military assistance from other countries, as even the U.S. government has admitted.

Only the people of Syria have the inalienable right to choose their leaders and determine the character of their government, free from foreign intervention. This right cannot be properly exercised under the conditions of U.S.-orchestrated foreign intervention against the Syrian people.

Our opposition is to forced regime change in Syria by U.S.-backed foreign powers and their mercenaries. It is not our business to support or oppose President Assad or the Syrian government. Only the Syrian people have the right to decide the legitimacy of their government.

The most urgent issue at present is peace and putting an end to the violence of foreign intervention that has resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people and the displacement of millions of Syrians both internally or as refugees abroad.
Based on these Points of Unity, we, as individuals and organizations—in an Ad Hoc Coalition—agree on the following demands and commit ourselves to working together to help achieve them:
An immediate end to the U.S. policy of forced regime change in Syria and full recognition and compliance by the U.S., NATO and their allies with principles of international law and the U.N. Charter, including respect for the independence and territorial integrity of Syria.

An immediate end to all foreign aggression against Syria, and serious efforts toward a political resolution to the war.

An immediate end to all military, financial, logistical and intelligence support by the U.S., NATO and their regional allies to all foreign mercenaries and extremists in the Middle East region.

An immediate end to economic sanctions against Syria. Massive international aid for displaced people within Syria and Syrian refugees abroad.
Only in a peaceful and independent Syria, free of foreign aggression, can the people of Syria freely exercise their sovereign rights, express their free will and make free choices about their government and their country’s leadership.
We invite all supporters of peace and peoples’ right to self-determination around the world to join hands of cooperation in this effort to achieve these most humanitarian demands.
We need jobs, healthcare, education and an end to racist police violence here at home, not U.S. wars abroad!!
If you wish to sign this unity statement go to the coalition website at There is also a list of the organizations that  have signed.


Oil trains are being protested as well as pipelines.
By Nick Cunningham

Oil producers and pipeline developers are having a rough time trying to get their product to market, running into resistance from protestors and seeing projects fall by the wayside.

The latest came from Royal Dutch Shell, backed out of a plan this month to build an oil train terminal in Washington State. The rail terminal would have received 400,000 barrels per day of oil from North Dakota's Bakken oil fields, but Shell said that the project no longer made sense with the ongoing slump in crude oil markets, and crucially, because capital availability is getting tighter.

The setback is only the latest in a string of defeats for developers of energy infrastructure around the country. Also this month, city planners in San Luis Obispo rejected a proposed rail terminal that would service a Phillips 66 refinery in central California.

Yet another oil train terminal met defeat in Benicia, CA, a project that would service a refinery owned by Valero. Moreover, the U.S. Surface Transportation Board, a federal rail regulator, affirmed Benicia’s right to reject the terminal. The decision is important because it grants local communities more power to deny permits for energy infrastructure, which should raise an alarm bell for energy developers around the country. The Huffington Post summed up the latest developments nicely with a headline reading “West Coast Deals Four Major Blows to Big Oil.”

The Bakken made Harold Hamm a billionaire. His Continental Resources, based in Oklahoma, leased the rock beneath the North Dakota prairie before anyone thought it would pay. 
Once fracking technology made drilling possible, Hamm's fortune climbed
 to $16 billion; the fall in oil prices has reduced it to $10 billion.

Additionally, the fate of the much higher-profile 1,172-mile Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) is up in the air. Many Native American tribes have joined the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in mass demonstrations against the pipeline (see next article). An appellate court gave Energy Transfer Partners the green light to resume construction but the Obama administration’s U.S. Army Corps of Engineers reiterated its request for a voluntary cessation of construction while the matter can be reviewed. The Dakota Access Pipeline would carry crude oil from the Bakken to refineries in Iowa and Illinois.

"This development (with Shell), along with the developments regarding the DAPL, will hurt Bakken producers' netbacks," according to Reuters. In other words, the stoppage of pipelines will hurt oil producers’ profits.

The problem of infrastructure is not just one for North Dakota producers. Environmental opposition to oil pipelines and other infrastructure became a national issue with Keystone XL, but the fight did not end there. Projects around the country are facing setbacks. For energy executives, the trend should be alarming because protests are only swelling with and spreading.

On October 11, environmental activists managed to shut several major oil sands pipelines traveling from Canada into the United States. The outage was temporary, but the coordinated efforts disrupted more than 2 million barrels per day across four major pipelines. In Minnesota, activists used bolt cutters on valves at an Enbridge pipeline that runs from Alberta. In Montana, protestors interfered with a valve at a Spectra Energy pipeline, Bloomberg reports. The original Keystone pipeline (not Keystone XL) saw production shut down by TransCanada. In Washington State, Kinder Morgan temporarily idled operations at its Trans Mountain pipeline. The outages are hardly likely to have a material impact on oil flows, but the coordinated effort, hitting multiple very large transnational oil pipelines at once, was a PR coup. The disruptions also illustrate the worsening business climate for fossil fuel companies.

The environmental protest movement has grown more sophisticated and widespread, and only shows signs of expanding. Their effect is clearly reaching all the way to Washington. Instead of waiting years, as it did with the Keystone XL fight, the Obama administration moved to nip the problem of the Dakota Access pipeline in the bud when it asked its developers to voluntarily stop construction.

In Canada, activists are putting a great deal of pressure on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, demanding that he kill off several major pipelines that seek to take Alberta oil to international markets. Trudeau is on the verge of making several key decisions on high-profile pipelines, and several of them will likely be met with defeat.

With so much fossil fuel development – coal, gas, oil – going on in North America, there is no shortage of targets.

— From Oil, Oct. 12, 2016. Nick Cunningham is a Vermont-based writer on energy and environmental issues. You can follow him on twitter.


 Note: All 4 photos depict the Standing Rock Sioux protest against  the North Dakota Access Pipeline.

By Linda Hogan, a Chickasaw woman

Why are we singing for water in front of men with guns and surveillance helicopters? We are singing for water and for the protectors of Earth’s waters. We sing for water. Long-legged birds stand at the edges of lakes and rivers to watch for fish, their nests hidden in the rushes. A doe crosses land and stands guard as her little one drinks. All our brother and sister animals follow their worn paths to needed waters. Trees and plants subsist with the rain, snow, and groundwater in a place where living Earth supported large herds of bison for thousands of years.

As for us, we were water beings from the beginning. We rained from the broken waters of our mothers to enter this world. We drank from our mothers to thrive. Water is our life-blood, and like all creations on this blue planet, we were born to its currents and passages. So we sing for those who pray to protect the wide, long Missouri River on its elemental journey.

Near the Cannonball River, a place of chokecherries, Indiangrass, and other plants, thousands of people are camped. They know that by legal treaty rights the Missouri River and the land of this region belong to the Standing Rock Sioux. Water flows beneath the skin of this Earth body, and vast clear aquifers lie deeper in the near ground, with rivers and tributaries above. The “Plains” may be the wrong word to use for places existing in the midst of all the ground water and watersheds that support life here: animals, birds, food and medicine plants, expanses of wildflowers in the spring and then the harsh, cold seasons of winter. The tall grasses live because of waters from snow and rain.

My own nation, the Chicaza, lived with the Mississippi River throughout much of our long history. We called that wide rush of water The Long Person. She was our Grandmother and supplied everything we needed to survive. With great sorrow, we were removed from our homeland in 1837. We left in order to avoid future genocide. The U.S. government planned to place all of the tribes into Indian Territory and build a wall around it, opening the rest of the country to settlers. Large numbers of Native peoples were chased toward what is now Oklahoma, but many of the Plains nations managed to remain, avoid capture, and try to return to their beloved homelands.

While many Northern Plains nations escaped life in Oklahoma, continuing actions by the federal government resulted in a shrinking land base for the Dakota and Lakota, including the Dawes Act of 1889, which opened most land for settlers throughout the country. The Fort Laramie Treaty is the only treaty that remains unbroken by the United States. Now it is a corporation breaking the heart of the people, ignoring the treaty rights and the water guaranteed to the Sioux by that 1868 treaty. The state government of North Dakota also has not upheld the treaty and backs the corporation, Energy Transfer Partners/Sunoco.

Most Native peoples and others are hoping the Standing Rock Sioux Nation will hold steady to all their treaty rights to the Missouri River, that the land and water will remain healthy and intact, and that the Dakota Access pipeline will never pass beneath the river nor cross the land in any way.

Thousands of water protectors have arrived to show their solidarity. The chiefs and leaders of over 300 tribal nations have appeared to speak of their own concern for the water and land. Others have sent water, money, and supplies.

Along these waterways, many negotiations decreased the land base, but the river system has grown even more important as trail and trade, especially for survival and subsistence for people who refused to give up their land for any hundred million dollars offered by the United States.

Other states are also affected by work on the Bakken crude pipeline. Citizens in Iowa have had their homes condemned by the Texas company that began fracking the Bakken fields. Fracking makes the land more vulnerable and more likely to shift and move, affecting tectonic plates. Water is removed and injected back into Earth with secret chemicals, their exact toxic ingredients protected by patents. This makes for a vulnerable Earth. The lawsuits in Iowa have at least slowed operations.

Bakken crude comes from one of the most dangerous work sites now in operation. Working men have been charred to death by explosions and fires, electrocuted. Native women near these “man camps” have been subject to abuse, rape, and sometimes have disappeared, often into the sex trafficking business, sometimes murdered.

Standing Rock, this part of the Plains, is the world of well-known leader and holy man Sitting Bull. It is land crossed during the time of the Fort Laramie Treaty, signed in what is now Wyoming. In my mind’s eye as I’ve studied the history, I see the many leaders of nations crossing this land to participate in negotiations with the American government. Wearing beautifully made regalia, most traveled on horseback or with wagons, the chiefs and the women ambassadors of nations who thought the Fort Laramie Treaty would be a resolution to their problems. Even those who had earlier disputes came together with one another in kinship, camping together, sharing meals, and creating new relationships.

Now the chiefs of many tribal nations and other representatives have arrived again, this time to join in common protection for the water of this Earth and in solidarity with the Standing Rock and Lakota. This is still the land of the Standing Rock Sioux and other Lakota Nations, still held together by the words and memory of Sitting Bull, who loved and protected his people. No company or state has the right to take a thin, dirty business through it, a pipeline certain to break, destroying the water and contaminating the future.

But the Dakota Access Corporation sent its private, aggressive militia to declare its own war on the people. With that amount of harassment, the water protectors could certainly be in danger. We already saw on the news that, after being told where the burial sites and sacred lands were, the bulldozers went to those areas and tore through the earth, the opposite of what was expected. What drives such hostility is hard to imagine.

The planes and helicopters have been flying over the vulnerable past and future of the land. What look like SWAT teams and men with assault rifles are set loose to aim the weapons of their anger or use attack dogs on the people who are only protecting the water, or were chopping wood or cooking for the others when the armed men arrived.

Protesters seek to halt bulldozer.
It stays with me. What drives this hatred is impossible for me to understand. I think of the pilots and these men and I wonder, do they go home at times to happiness, to their own families? Do they carefully tend gardens or gently touch their loved ones? Do they protect their children from bullies? Do those with such fury on their faces think that the others are human beings like themselves? Do they realize that flying over the lands of the First People causes fear? Forever I will think of one picture, quickly removed from a website, showing a man point an assault rifle too near a crying girl, maybe 8 years old, her hair neatly French braided, her clothing impeccable.
I am a Chickasaw woman no longer on the waters of the Mississippi, but my daughters and grandchildren are Oglala Lakota. We know how many tribes in the South became extinct centuries even before the fur trappers and gold seekers journeyed to these Northern Plains. We’ve all survived massacres and hunger from the loss of our food sources, from freezing winters, even before the time of Custer’s wars in this region.
Photographs from space reveal that Earth is a water planet. No living thing survives without water. It is for that reason space explorers search for planets that may contain this element; it is a sign of life.
Most First People have chants or songs about the sacred nature of water. Water is even used for baptism in Christian religions. I hear that even the waters have their distinct songs as they journey toward the oceans.
We live on a single globe of water, all of it one entity. It is alive, this elemental force, this yearning sacred creation, longing to reach an ocean. This is our body, and perhaps we are a part of its soul. It is always moving away, traveling and then returning, in its glorious circle. And we know that when we sing for water, we sing for ourselves.
At this time, we need to pray and sing for water in other locations as well. To name only a few, the San Juan River and its Animas tributary is still too polluted for use by the Navajo after the great wall of pollution from the Gold King Mine spill. The Menominee are fighting a mining site at their water’s source. California tribes have had water taken by bottling companies and their sacred springs have dried. The Amazon and other rivers in South America are under duress from mining, oil, deforestation, and mega-dams.
—From Yes Magazine, Oct. 4, 2016



One  of numerous climate justice protests in Africa.
By Ian Johnston,  Environment Correspondent, the Independent, Oct. 18, 2016

A drought in southern Africa affecting 40 million people is just "a grim foretaste of just the kind of suffering and hunger we are going to see in the years ahead" unless poor countries get more help with the effects of climate change, Oxfam has warned after 38 developed countries claimed they were on track to meet their pledges to provide aid.

As part of the Paris Agreement of Climate Change, rich states promised to raise $100 billion a year by 2020 to help the poorest ones, either by providing money directly or persuading private companies to contribute.

While the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) found earlier this year that they were on course to fall billions of dollars short of this target, the countries themselves have now produced a “roadmap” report saying they are confident it will be met based on a few "modest assumptions."

However Oxfam warned that instead of giving money, most countries were lending it, while others were rebranding ordinary aid as climate finance.

Tracy Carty, climate policy lead for Oxfam, said far too little money was being given to help countries cope with changes that are already happening. She pointed to this year’s devastating drought affecting southern Africa, where more than half a million children are suffering from "severe, acute malnutrition, 3.2 million have reduced access to safe drinking water and 40 million need humanitarian aid," according to the United Nations. Drought conditions have also been experienced further north in places like Somaliland.

“That is a grim foretaste of just the kind of suffering and hunger we are going to see in the years ahead unless countries have support to adapt their agriculture systems in particular, which in Africa and elsewhere are extremely sensitive to climate change," Carty told The Independent. [Over half a million children are currently suffering from severe acute malnutrition in seven priority countries in Southern Africa, while 3.2 million children have reduced access to safe drinking water as a direct result of the El NiƱo-induced drought.]

A terrible drought in Africa.
She said the roadmap was a positive move because "it’s the first time developed countries have said how they will meet the $100 billion, but things just need to step up significantly”. There are questions about whether this will be anywhere near enough.

The fund includes about $20bn a year to help countries adapt to climate change, rather than attempt to reduce its severity, for example by switching from fossil fuels to renewable energy. But Oxfam pointed out the United Nations had estimated that developing countries would need to spend $140 to $300 billion a year to adapt to climate change by 2030. 

And there are other problems with the rich nations’ promises. Carty said most countries were guilty of "over-counting," for example by using the full-face value of loans towards the total. "So in terms of this being a real transfer of finance to developing countries… when countries are counting the full-face value, that’s inflating their numbers,” she said.

Some countries also count an overly high proportion or even the full value of an aid project towards the total. So if they are building a school with flood defenses, they claim the total sum should be treated as climate finance, not just the defenses.
"Every dollar that is miscounted or over-counted, it’s the poorest people in the least developed countries who are suffering the most – that’s a dollar they are not going to get," Carty said.

In a statement, Oxfam called on world leaders meeting at a climate conference in Morocco in November to "quadruple adaptation support by 2020," pointing out that the world’s poorest people were the “least responsible and most vulnerable to climate change."


Palestinian protests in Ramallah during President Obama's visit in 2013. (Photos: Times of Israel)
By Sandy Tolan

Washington has finally thrown in the towel on its long, tortured efforts to establish peace between Israel and the Palestinians. You won’t find any acknowledgement of this in the official record. Formally, the U.S. still supports a two-state solution to the conflict. But the Obama administration’s recent 10-year, $38-billion pledge to renew Israel’s arsenal of weaponry, while still ostensibly pursuing “peace,” makes clear just how bankrupt that policy is.

For two decades, Israeli leaders and their neoconservative backers in this country, hell-bent on building and expanding settlements on Palestinian land, have worked to undermine America’s stated efforts -- and paid no price. Now, with that record weapons package, the U.S. has made it all too clear that they won’t have to. Ever.

The military alliance between the United States and Israel has long been at odds with the stated intentions of successive administrations in Washington to foster peace in the Holy Land. One White House after another has preferred the “solution” of having it both ways: supporting a two-state solution while richly rewarding, with lethal weaponry, an incorrigible client state that was working as fast as it could to undermine just such a solution. 

This ongoing duality seemed at its most surreal in the last few weeks.  First, President Obama announced the new military deal, with its promised delivery of fighter jets and other hardware, citing the “unshakable” American military alliance with Israel.  The following week, at the United Nations, he declared, “Israel must recognize that it cannot permanently occupy and settle Palestinian land.” Next, he flew to Israel for the funeral of Shimon Peres, and in a tribute to the Nobel Prize-winning former Israeli president, spoke of a man who grasped that “the Jewish people weren’t born to rule another people” and brought up the “unfinished business” of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. (Peres is remembered quite differently by Palestinians as an early pioneer of settlement building and the author of the brutal Operation Grapes of Wrath assaults on Lebanon in 1996.) Not long after the funeral, the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu brazenly approved a new settlement deep in the West Bank, prompting the State Department to “strongly condemn” the action as “deeply troubling.” 

Such scolding words, however, shrivel into nothingness in the face of a single number: 38 billion.  With its latest promise of military aid, the United States has essentially sanctioned Israel’s impunity, its endless colonization of Palestinian land, its military occupation of the West Bank, and its periodic attacks by F-16 fighter jets and Apache helicopters using Hellfire missiles on the civilians of Gaza. 

Anti-Obama protester in Ramallah.
Yes, Hamas’s crude and occasionally deadly rockets sometimes help provoke Israeli fire, and human rights investigations have found that both sides have committed war crimes.  But Israel’s explosive power in the 2014 Gaza war, fueled in large part by American military aid and political support, exceeded that of Hamas by an estimated 1,500-to-1.  By one estimate, all of Hamas’s rockets, measured in explosive power, were equal to 12 of the one-ton bombs Israel dropped on Gaza.  And it loosed hundreds of those, and fired tens of thousands of shells, rockets and mortars.  In the process, nearly 250 times more Palestinian civilians died than civilians in Israel.

Now, with Gaza severed from the West Bank, and Palestinians facing new waves of settlers amid a half-century-long military occupation, the U.S. has chosen not to apply pressure to its out-of-control ally, but instead to resupply its armed forces in a massive way.  This means that we’ve finally arrived at something of a historic (if hardly noticed) moment.  After all these decades, the two-state solution, critically flawed as it was, should now officially be declared dead -- and consider the United States an accomplice in its murder.  In other words, the Obama administration has handed Israel’s leaders and the neoconservatives who have long championed this path the victory they’ve sought for more than two decades....

The author has reported from more than 35 countries and is a professor at the Annenberg School for Journalism and Communication at USC. He is the author of the international bestseller, The Lemon Tree, and of the acclaimed Children of the Stone about one Palestinian’s dream to establish music schools under Israel’s military occupation. His website is
"Hanoi Hannah"  at 86, and still receiving visitors and photographers.
From The Economimist and the Activist Newsletter

Trinh Thi Ngo, the broadcaster for the wartime Voice of Vietnam listened to by innumerable GIs, died on Sept. 30th, aged 87. Her pseudonym on the air was Thu Huong, or Autumn Fragrance, but U.S.  soldiers called her Hanoi Hannah.

The voice was faint, for the signal was weak between Hanoi and the Central Highlands. Nonetheless, at 8 p.m. Saigon time, after a day spent avoiding mantraps and pursuing the ever-elusive Vietcong, GIs would try to unwind by listening to the young woman they called “Hanoi Hannah.” As they cleaned their rifles, smoked herbs and broke out a beer or two, their precious radios, strapped up for protection with ragged black tape, crackled with tones that might have been those of a perky high-school cheerleader.

“GI Joe, how are you today?” asked the sweet-sounding girl, of men to whom any girl would have sounded sweet. “Are you confused? Nothing is more confused than to be ordered into a war to die or be maimed for life without the faintest idea of what’s going on. You know your government has abandoned you. They have ordered you to die. Don’t trust them. They lied to you.”
Some soldiers would scoff or talk loudly for the time the program lasted. They listened, though, to the songs she played, sent over by Stateside sympathizers: Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, Elvis Presley and her own favorite, Pete Seeger’s deeply melancholy “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?” Upbeat numbers, such as Petula Clark’s “Downtown,” would have even dog-tired men frenziedly dancing. But then Hannah would switch the mood again, reading out (courtesy of Stars and Stripes, the soldiers’ own newspaper) the names of recent American casualties and their hometowns. “Defect, GI,” she would urge each man. “It is a very good idea to leave a sinking ship. You know you cannot win this war.”

The range of her knowledge was disturbing. She announced exactly where units were and, though troops cheered when she mentioned them, they were chilled to be tracked down. She knew the names of all the crew on ships that had just arrived, and once wished a wistful happy birthday to a soldier who had just been killed. Many listened because her information, written by the North Vietnamese defense ministry, was sometimes more accurate than what could be gleaned from sanitized US Armed Forces Radio: revealing in 1967, for example, that rioting was going on in Detroit. Some believed she even knew whether their girls were cheating on them back home, and with whom.
Trinh Thi Ngo as young broadcaster.

Of course, she was not omnipotent at all: just a petite, smiling, lively young woman who translated, and then read faithfully in faultless American-English, the scripts she was given. Voice of Vietnam had started, in 1945, with Ho Chi Minh’s declaration of the independence of his country; but when she joined ten years later, at 25, she was reading English-language news bulletins rather than full-fledged propaganda. With the mass arrival of American troops in 1965 her broadcasts, previously 5-6 minutes once a day, were extended to 30 minutes three times a day. And it was she who had the exaltation of announcing to the world, on April 30th 1975, that Saigon was at last liberated and Vietnam unified. [Pro-Vietnamese Australian journalist Wilfred Burchett taught Trinh Thi Ngo how to conduct her programs. He covered the war from start to finish in Vietnam and his unique reports in the U.S. Guardian Radical Newseekly were must reading for many in the U.S. antiwar movement.]

She spoke out for the cause, but also because she adored the English language: the language, that is, as mediated by Hollywood and spoken by stars. Her education, in a prosperous family under French colonial rule, had been in French schools, but she was lured very early by the cinema and, there, the fascinating “music” of English. She reckoned she went five times to “Gone with the Wind”, fortified with bread and sausages for the length of the film, listening intently to the raptures of Vivien Leigh and whatever Clark Gable drawled from under his pencil moustache. Private English lessons soon followed, and English at university. As well as perming her hair and applying bright lipstick to look at least a little like a starlet, she practiced and practiced her English intonation. In her early days at Voice of Vietnam she had Australians for mentors; but it was America that echoed in the way she spoke.

This being so, her broadcasts were not aggressive. Ideology played little part in them; she never joined the Communist Party, feeling patriotic enough. Her delivery was pitched to be persuasive, neither intimate nor tough: striving to demoralize each man a little, advising him to go AWOL or frag his officers, yet evincing concern for him. Only the bombing of Hanoi in December 1972, which forced them to abandon the studio, made her angry. The programs were explicitly dedicated “to the American people,” or “our American friends”, meaning all Americans who opposed the war. Early on, that meant agitators like Jane Fonda, who sent her good tapes and then, mystifyingly to her, seemed to abandon the cause. Later, increasingly, she felt she had the tacit support of most citizens of the United States.
Ex-soldiers who visited her in later years, when she had given up her broadcasting in Hanoi for domestic calm in hotter, noisier Ho Chi Min City, found a woman of impeccable manners in exquisite silk blouses and strings of pearls. She dreamed of following her painter son to America, of seeing New York and the Golden Gate Bridge. She had no animus against Americans. Her English, however, was getting rusty, and needed the lubricant of speaking it. So she was happy to say, laughing, “Let bygones be bygones,” as often as she was asked.


The masses regarded him as a good king. His son as successor wil be another matter.
By Stratfor

The world's longest-reigning monarch, Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej, died Oct. 13 after ruling for 70 years. According to Thai junta leader Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha, Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn will now take his place on the throne.

The passing of the widely revered king triggers an epochal transition in Thailand. For more than a decade, Thailand has been locked in an uneasy stasis regarding the future of its monarchy. The king was seen as a benevolent and stabilizing force in Thailand, wielding power deftly and sparingly. The crown prince, on the other hand, is unpopular and considered to be reckless and prone to scandal. In a society that attaches celestial importance to the throne and largely views the monarchy as the guardian of Thai culture and values, the prince is seen as unfit to be king and a danger to the position's legitimacy with the Thai public.

Moreover, among Thai elites who have used the monarchy to preserve the establishment's standing, the prince is a threat to material and political interests. Such concerns are exacerbated by the once-apparent cozy relationship between the prince and self-exiled former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. The uncertainty surrounding the royal succession helped fuel the cycle of violent protests Bangkok found itself trapped in after Thaksin was ousted in 2006.

However, the king's passing is unlikely to plunge Thailand into political chaos any time soon, as was once feared. The immediate elevation of the crown prince signals that the struggle for the throne, which some worried would be deeply destabilizing, was settled well in advance. Moreover, after gaining public approval of the military-drafted constitution in an August referendum, the [dictatorial] Thai junta is well positioned to enforce political stability for at least the next year, with Thaksin neutralized for the time being. [For now, according to the N.Y. Times, "Thailand is formally headed by Prem Tinsulanonda, 96, a former prime minister and the head of the powerful Privy Council, who assumed the role of regent pro tempore in the absence of a king."]

The country will go through a lengthy period of elaborate state-mandated mourning, and any plans to organize mass protests (say, if the royal succession gives the junta impetus to delay the August 2017 elections indefinitely) will not be tolerated. To maintain the monarchy's image of infallibility, the royalists will heavily promote the public works of the more popular Princess Sirindhorn while portraying King Bhumibol as a guiding light even after death.

Nonetheless, the destabilizing effects of succession will be felt more over the long term as the power landscape in Thailand adjusts to a weakened monarchy. The king's careful reign helped preserve a delicate balance of political and business power among the monarchy, military and political classes. The 64 year-old prince will not inherit his father's prestige or influence and is unlikely to gain it over time. The military that overthrew an elected government in 2014 will attempt to fill the vacuum, but it will be fundamentally ill-suited to play a similarly unifying role once the official mourning period passes and Thailand's myriad political divisions begin to return to the fore.
Healed penguins return to the sea.
By the Activist Newsletter

People watch as 15 African Penguins are released into the sea Oct 8 in Simonstown near Cape Town, South Africa. These penguins were either injured or sick, and were rehabilitated by an organization called the Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds. The African Penguin is listed as endangered, with a population only approximately 2.5% the size of what it was 80 years ago. #
(Photo: Rodger Bosch / AFP / Getty)

Trained dogs around functional magnetic scanner (fMRI).
By Science News from American Association for the Advancement of Science

Dogs have the ability to distinguish vocabulary words and the intonation of human speech through brain regions similar to those that humans use, a new study reports.

Attila Andics et al. note that vocabulary learning "does not appear to be a uniquely human capacity that follows from the emergence of language, but rather a more ancient function that can be exploited to link arbitrary sound sequences to meanings."

Words are the basic building blocks of human languages, but they are hardly ever found in nonhuman vocal communications. Intonation is another way that information is conveyed through speech, where, for example, praises tend to be conveyed with higher and more varying pitch. Humans understand speech through both vocabulary and intonation.

Here, Andics and colleagues explored whether dogs also depend on both mechanisms. Dogs were exposed to recordings of their trainers' voices as the trainers spoke to them using multiple combinations of vocabulary and intonation, in both praising and neutral ways.

For example, trainers spoke praise words with a praising intonation, praise words with a neutral intonation, neutral words with a praising intonation, and neutral words with neutral intonation.

Researchers used fMRI imaging to analyze the dogs' brain activity as the animals listened to each combination. Their results reveal that, regardless of intonation, dogs process vocabulary, recognizing each word as distinct, and further, that they do so in a way similar to humans, using the left hemisphere of the brain.

Also like humans, the researchers found that dogs process intonation separately from vocabulary, in auditory regions in the right hemisphere of the brain. Lastly, and also like humans, the team found that the dogs relied on both word meaning and intonation when processing the reward value of utterances.

Thus, dogs seem to understand both human words and intonation. The authors note that it is possible that selective forces during domestication could have supported the emergence of the brain structure underlying this capability in dogs, but, such rapid evolution of speech-related hemispheric asymmetries is unlikely.
Humans, they say, are only unique in their ability to invent words.


Bees are important pollinators for various native plants in Hawaii. (Photo: Forest and Kim Starr)
By Shreya Dasgupta

In a positive move for bees, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service has added seven species of yellow-faced bees in Hawaii to the endangered species list.

These are the “first bees in the country to be protected under the Endangered Species Act,” according to the Xerces Society, a non-profit organization that petitioned the Food and Wildlife Service in 2009 to protect the bees. This decision follows the proposed listing of the rusty patched bumble bee  —  a once-common species endemic to North America that has faced a drastic decline in number.

These bees pollinate a variety of native plant species, including some of Hawaii’s most endangered plant species, which could become extinct if the bees were wiped out.... Their habitats are rapidly disappearing due to developmental activities along the coasts, fire, the loss of native vegetation to invasive plant species, as well grazing by feral ungulates such as pigs. In fact, the remaining bee populations are so small and rare now that they are especially vulnerable to the slightest of changes to their habitats or stochastic event.