TBR News February 13, 2016

Feb 13 2016

The Voice of the White House

Washington, D.C. February 13, 2016: ”The MidEast has long been a hotbed of seething unrest. This is a mixture of religious strife, the need for oil and the brutal expansionism of the state of Israel. Proxy wars have raged, funded and fueled by the Saudis and their American business friends but the decisive intervention of Vladimir Putin in the Syrian civil war has proved to be a tipping point. The theft, by Turkey, of Syrian oil and its subsequent sales to both Israel and the United States, has been stopped. Huge floods of Syrian refugees have poured into Turkey, Russian support of breakaway Kurdish peoples in Turkey have further disrupted another of the US’s purchased allies. The balance of power has clearly shifted and the bewilderment of American militants is becoming more and more evident.”


Conversations with the Crow

On October 8th, 2000, Robert Trumbull Crowley, once a leader of the CIA’s Clandestine Operations Division, died in a Washington hospital of heart failure and the end effects of Alzheimer’s Disease. Before the late Assistant Director Crowley was cold, Joseph Trento, a writer of light-weight books on the CIA, descended on Crowley’s widow at her town house on Cathedral Hill Drive in Washington and hauled away over fifty boxes of Crowley’s CIA files.

Once Trento had his new find secure in his house in Front Royal , Virginia, he called a well-known Washington fix lawyer with the news of his success in securing what the CIA had always considered to be a potential major embarrassment. Three months before, July 20th of that year, retired Marine Corps colonel William R. Corson, and an associate of Crowley, died of emphysema and lung cancer at a hospital in Bethesda, Md. After Corson’s death, Trento and his Washington lawyer went to Corson’s bank, got into his safe deposit box and removed a manuscript entitled ‘Zipper.’ This manuscript, which dealt with Crowley’s involvement in the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, vanished into a CIA burn-bag and the matter was considered to be closed forever

After Crowley’s death and Trento’s raid on the Crowley files, huge gaps were subsequently discovered by horrified CIA officials and when Crowley’s friends mentioned Gregory Douglas, it was discovered that Crowley’s son had shipped two large boxes to Douglas. No one knew their contents but because Douglas was viewed as an uncontrollable loose cannon who had done considerable damage to the CIA’s reputation by his on-going publication of the history of Gestapo-Mueller, they bent every effort both to identify the missing files and make some effort to retrieve them before Douglas made any use of them.

Douglas had been in close contact with Crowley and had long phone conversatins with him. He found this so interesting and informative that he taped  and later transcribed them.

These conversations have been published in a book: ‘Conversations with the Crow” and this is an excerpt.




Conversation No. 56

Date: Thursday, January 2, 1997

Commenced: 1:35 PM CST

Concluded: 2:10 PM CST


RTC: A New Year, Gregory. Will we see it out, do you think?

GD: Probably. Unless, of course, we have the Rapture and you and I are left behind. Are you particularly religious, Robert? If you are, I will refrain from comment so soon after the celestial birthday.

RTC: Nominal, just nominal. Say what you like.

GD: I don’t know if you want that, Robert. I have very strong views on some aspects of religion.

RTC: A Christmas indulgence from me, Gregory.

GD: Every society needs a moral core. Mostly, Robert, religion supplies this. For the Nazis and the Communists, Hitler and Stalin supplied the religious themes, but not here. Why is America the compost heap that produces, not flies from maggots, but the Christian Jesus freaks out of absolutely nothing but pulp fiction? The Gospels are all forgeries, written a long time after the events depicted in them and they have been constantly changed over the centuries to reflect various political and economic needs. I mean, Robert, that there is not one bloody word in the New Testament depictions of Jesus that could be considered to have even a gram of historical accuracy. I could go on for hours about this subject, but the whole fabric of the Christian conservatives or the rampant Jesus freaks is that their dogma is based on total and very clear fraud. The so-called Battle of Armageddon, for example, is nowhere in the Bible…

RTC: Are you serious?

GD: Look it up, Robert. Revelations 16:16 is the sole mention of it. Just a geographical name, that’s all. No blitzkrieg of Jesus versus the Evil Ones. Nothing at all. It was all pure invention.

RTC: Well, if not in the Bible, who made it up?

GD: One Charles Fox Parham, that’s who made it up. He was a very nasty type who ran a bi-racial church in Los Angeles around the turn of the century, before he was chased out. And, of course, he did time in jail for defrauding his flock of money and, more entertainingly, buggering little boys in the fundament. Oh my yes, he made up the whole Rapture story and ranted on endlessly about a fictional Battle of Armageddon. It’s like having the Church of the Celestial Easter Bunny or the Divine Santa Claus. At least there really was a Saint Nicholas, but the Easter Bunny is as fictitious as Jesus the Water Walker.

RTC: I don’t recall learning about that as a child at all.

GD: Of course not, you belong to the original Christian church, Robert, not one of the later cults. Neither the Catholics or the Eastern Orthodox people have this silly Rapture business anywhere in their early literature. This was a fiction started up at the beginning of this century by some nut named Blackstone who claimed that Jesus was coming. I think the word ‘rapture’ didn’t come I into use until about 1910. It’s just more nut fringe fiction, nothing more.

RTC: Well, I haven’t had much in the way of contact with these people except to chase off the Jehovah’s Witnesses who bang on my door and try to shove all kinds of pamphlets on me. In the long run, Gregory, you should learn to avoid the lunatics and concentrate on more important issues. There are always nuts. Didn’t they burn witches in Salem?

GD: The same types, only then they were in power. Now they lust after power so they can shove their fictional crap onto the sane part of society.

RTC: Well, then, what about the ones who don’t believe in evolution?

GD: The same types. We have them across the street. Told me yesterday the world was only 6,000 years old and dinosaurs and men commingled in Kansas somewhere. You can’t tell these people anything. They just keep repeating that whatever fiction you go after is in the Bible. When you ask them to show you, they get angry. Nuts always get angry when you puncture their fantasy balloons.

RTC: And Armageddon? I vaguely recall something about a battle between the Antichrist somewhere.

GD: But not in the Bible. The only reference to Armageddon is Revelations 16:16 and it just mentions the name of the place, nothing about a battle, Jesus, Satan, the Antichrist or my cousin Marvin. Nothing. But when you tell the nuts this, they almost froth at the mouth. They’ll tell you the battle is there and when you make them open their chrome-plated Bible and look, they flip back and forth and get more and more upset. Of course it isn’t there so they make faces and later they tell me, with great triumph, that they asked Pastor Tim and he said it was all there. Of course when I ask them for chapter and verse, they don’t have it.

RTC: Gregory, a word of fatherly advice here. Why bother with these idiots? Who cares what they believe? Are they of use to you in some project? If they are, be patient and go along with them. If they aren’t, drop them.

GD: But they are annoying. Robert, if I told you the Japanese attacked Spain in 1941, wouldn’t such stupidity annoy you? RTC: No, it wouldn’t. When I was in harness, I heard worse than the babbling of the Jesus nuts, believe me. Senior Company people acting like spoiled children because no one listened to their pet theories about this country, that economy, that head of state, that foreign political party and on and on. Sometime…. no, more often than I liked, some rabid lunatic did us all kinds of damage, as witness the Gottleib mind control stupidity. People like that, Gregory, should be taken out for a trip on your boat or a walk in the Pine Barrens and simply shot. What did Joe Stalin say? ‘No man…no problem.” I often had to listen to these boring nuts, but you don’t. I had to make excuses to get away from them, but you don’t have to deal with them in the first place. Most small-minded people fixate on something utterly unimportant and think they have discovered the wheel. Yes, I agree that religious loonies are probably the worst, but, believe me, the political experts are almost as bad. They hop up and down shouting, ‘Listen to me! Listen to me!’ And who gives a damn what they think? No, I agree with you about the Jesus freaks but there are legions, I say, legions of others that are just as fixated, just as crazy, just as annoying, so you would be far better served if you just shut them out of your mind and turned your talents to other matters more important. Take some comfort in the thought that just as their lights go out and the darkness swallows them that they realize in the last second that there is no heaven, no Jesus and nothing but the embalmer’s needle and the worms. Nothing. But then their brains have turned to Jello and they don’t care anymore because they have returned to the dirt that they came from.

GD: I agree, Robert, I agree with you, but I still get annoyed. But these nuts, and you can add the Jewish Holocaust nuts to the pile, demand you do not say this or read that or watch that movie. They aren’t content to live in their basements and talk to themselves or tyrannize over their poor children and wives, so they rush out into the street and issue orders as if anyone cared or worse, as if they really mattered. That I object to strongly. I have waded through tens of thousands of pages of official German papers and I can tell you, without any doubt, that the Germans did not gas millions of Jews. What do these creeps do? They tell the archives to seal the papers that make them out professional liars and attack anyone who dares to question them. The holocausters and the Jesus freaks are cut from the same piece of God’s underwear. I think the dirty parts to be sure.

RTC: (Laughter) Oh, Gregory, such passion for so little. They both think they are really important and that people actually listen to them, and even care about their unimportant obsessions. Ignore the Jews, too, Gregory, like you should ignore the Jesus freaks.

GD: Ah, but the Jews control the media and most of the publishing houses. If you write, you don’t get published. Now if I made up some fantasy that said the Germans burned two hundred million Jewish babies, I would be a best seller, number one on The New York Times book reviews and a great one on the lecture and TV interview circuit. Of course about ten people would read my fictions, but no one would be rude enough to talk about that. Christ, most of the Holocaust books are pure fiction and the rantings about the Rapture are right in with them.

RTC: Well, I can see some sense here and I admit it is difficult to get away from obnoxious Hebrews, but why not try? I find that if you ignore people like this, eventually they will go away and annoy people in public lavatories. Just another step to oblivion.

GD: I really shouldn’t bore you with you with my own obsessions but I do not suffer fools gladly.

RTC: God, there are so many of them.

GD: I remember my grandfather and one of his pet comments to bombastic idiots he encountered at social functions. He would smile and say, ‘I beg your pardon, sir, but are you anybody in particular?’

RTC: (Laughter) I don’t suppose any of the gas bags got that.

GD: No, but grandfather did, and so did I. I remember once my mother started yelling at me non-stop because I had come in late from a night with the ladies and the bottle. I listened to her rantings for about an hour and finally, after she ran out of steam, she asked me if I had anything to say and I told her, very politely, that I had been trying to tell her for the longest time that she had some hairpins coming loose just over her right ear.

RTC:(Laughter) My Lord, Gregory, what a put-down. Whatever did she do?

GD: She was so worn out shouting that she just stared at me with her mouth open and before she could get her wind back, I went in my room and locked the door. She stood in front of it yelling that I was disrespectful, until my father came out and made her go back into the house because the lights were going on in the neighbor’s homes. I had a warm and caring family life, Robert, believe it. But I didn’t have to listen to the braying of human donkeys all the time. Just the occasional parental psychotic episode. Now they come up with glazed eye and threads of drool dripping from their mouths while they clutch at you and screech, ‘Jesus, Jesus,’ or ‘six million, six million.’ Oh how I would love to give them lobotomies with a chain saw.

RTC: I don’t think you would have much luck with a lobotomy, Gregory. Most creatures like that don’t have brains.

GD: No, Robert, they don’t. What they do have are knots on the top of their spine to keep their asses from plopping down onto the sidewalk.

(Concluded: 2:10 PM CST)


13 Worst Processed Foods You Should Never Buy
There are certain modern foods which contribute greatly to health problems and obesity. By simply avoiding them, you can revolutionize your health and lose weight. Here are 13 processed foods which you should always try to avoid:
1. Chicken nuggets They are ubiquitous finger foods which are very attractive and satisfy hunger very easily. You should not go for them even if you get them in the freezer section or in a restaurant. They are usually made with more salt, preservatives and fat than anyone needs. 2. French fries They contain very high amount of calories such that eating them regularly can make diabetes and weight management difficult. Their nutrition is also very low since they have very little effect on the blood sugar level. If you really want them, bake them at you home without oil.
3. Potato chips and other fried snacks They undermines ones efforts to reduce weight. They do this by adding much salt, calories and preservatives without much nutrition or fiber which can help in slowing down its digestion. 4. Soda They are empty calories without anything nutritional. They also contain substances which can hurt you especially the high fructose corn syrup which is worse than sugar. It has been proved to cause blood glucose spikes damaging the liver cells. Soda contributes to obesity and encourages bacterial diseases and cancer by providing an acidic medium in the body. 5. Hot dogs and other processed meats. The vast majority of processed meats and hotdogs in the market contain loads of artificial flavors, MSG, salt, cheap unhealthy fillers and other preservatives. Mechanically separated meat is normally processed under extreme pressure and heat losing their nutritional value. 6. Fast- food hamburgers It is a diabetes risk factor. This is according to a study that was carried out recently which showed that, women eating them in restaurants two or more times a week are likely to receive a diabetes diagnosis than those who do not. 7. Sugary cereals Breakfast cereals especially those in brightly covered boxes taken in many households. But they have added sugar which contributes to diabetes. Although high fiber diet has been proved to manage and prevent diabetes, these cereals have very low dietary fiber. Look for cereals which provide about 5 grams of fiber and avoid those with large amounts of sugars. 8. Chips These contain a lot of fat and calorie and are salted in most cases which make it more harmful for your health. You should avoid chips as much as you can as the amount of calories and fats they contain are more than your body needs and they end up accumulating in your body adding to your weight. They are a leading cause of obesity and all its harmful effects. 9. Granola bars Their marketing is exceptionally deceptive encouraging people to buy them. The fact is that they have very high amounts of high fructose corn syrup, HFCS to make them sweet. Some have very tiny pieces of honey but most of the sweetness is derived from HFCS. At times, they are loaded with lots of sodium and fats making them unhealthy. 10. Store-bought cookies, crackers, cakes and muffins. All these foods have been grouped together because their effects on the health are similar. Beyond the high levels of salts and sugars, they also contain trans fat. Trans fat is added to make them more profitable since it is cheaper than healthy fats. It also prolongs their expiry date and improves their outer texture. 11. Powered iced tea mixes or prepared flavored iced tea. They are really tempting as they are very easy and cheap to make. They are made from inexpensive tea bags and then kept in the fridge in a jug. They are not as healthy as their preparation could suggest. Instead, they are very unhealthy since they are heavily loaded with artificial flavors, high fructose corn syrup and other sugars. 12. Margarine It is an alternative form butter which is used by very many people. The main disadvantage about it is that it is full of trans fats which are linked to many problems related to health such as obesity. It also contains free radicals, preservatives, emulsifiers and hexane. All these components are harmful for your health. 13. Microwave popcorn This food is popular among snackers and moviegoers but it is still one of the unhealthiest foods you can take. The genetically modified corn used to make it is unhealthy as is the preservative chemicals and the processed salt. Additionally, it contains diacetyl which is a chemical which is known to destroy lungs. If you have to take popcorn, stick to the organic kernels that you can prepare on your own using healthy ingredients such as coconut oil and grass-fed butter.”



US beginning to understand need for military cooperation with Russia in Syria – Lavrov

February `12, 2016


The US has finally begun to understand that it needs to cooperate with Russia militarily if a solution to the crisis in Syria is to be found, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference.

For the hostilities in Syria to finally come to an end, “there is a need for quick response mechanisms and cooperation between servicemen ‘on the ground’ – both on humanitarian issues and matters regarding a ceasefire,” Lavrov said.

Unfortunately, the US has shied away from military cooperation [with Russia], with the exception of deconfliction issues. Now, I believe they understand that in order to move forward in resolving the Syrian crisis military contacts can no longer be avoided,” he added.

The FM urged the members of the International Syrian Support Group (ISSG) – which comprises the US, Russia, and the United Nations – to fulfill the agreements reached in Munich on Thursday.

Now, it is vital to implement what has been agreed.  Sometimes we reach some agreements but our partners, as a matter of fact, are not very much willing to implement them,” he said. 

I hope this time the situation will be different,” Lavrov added

ISSG has worked out an ambitious plan to end hostilities in Syria with verifiable results within a week, revive the Geneva-3 peace talks, and immediately begin delivering humanitarian aid to civilians.

Lavrov expressed hope that an agreement on military cooperation with Washington will lead to the establishment of a “truly joint front against terrorism,” which has been advocated by Moscow for a long time.

The minister has previously stressed that the Russian air campaign against the Islamic State (IS, Daesh, formerly ISIS/ISIL) and Jabhat al-Nusra terror groups in Syria will continue, regardless of the ceasefire.  

It is stated in our documents – and we talked about it – that the ceasefire will not include Islamic State, Jabhat al-Nusra, and other affiliated organizations that have been recognized as terrorist by the UN Security Council. That is why our Aerospace Defense Forces will carry on with their operation against these organizations,” he explained.

The US also hailed the Munich agreement as “an important step” in bringing the Syrian conflict to an end, but White House spokesman Eric Schultz stressed that “the work is far from over.”

In the coming days, we will be looking for actions, not words, to demonstrate that all parties are prepared to honor their commitments,” Schultz said.

The working group on the ceasefire in Syria, which will be chaired by Russia and the US, is scheduled to meet in Geneva, Switzerland next week, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov told TASS.

The stalled talks between the Syrian government and the opposition should resume “as soon as possible,” though so far no date has been fixed for the restart, UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura said.

Meanwhile, the newly-established Task Force on Humanitarian Access in Syria held its first meeting on Friday, stating that it must be granted immediate access to the civilian populations in the country’s besieged areas.

We have already submitted requests for access to the parties surrounding besieged areas… We expect to get such access without delay,” Jan Egeland, Senior Advisor to the UN Special Envoy for Syria, said.

The Task Force is due to hold its second meeting next week to “assess the progress made, and maintain the pressure for incremental and unimpeded aid deliveries,” he added.

The Syrian civil war, in which the government of President Bashar Assad has been battling various opposition groups, including jihadists from Islamic State and Jabhat al-Nusra, has been raging since March of 2011, taking the lives of over 250,000 people, according to UN estimations.

The US-led coalition began bombing IS in Syria in 2014 after the terror group captured large swathes of land in the war-torn nation and neighboring Iraq.

Russia launched its air campaign against terror targets in Syria in September of 2015 at the official request of President Bashar Assad.


Four billion people face severe water scarcity, new research finds

Water shortages affecting two-thirds of world’s population for a month every year and the crisis is far worse than previously thought

February 12, 2016

by Damian Carrington

The Guardian

At least two-thirds of the global population, over 4 billion people, live with severe water scarcity for at least one month every year, according to a major new analysis.

The revelation shows water shortages, one of the most dangerous challenges the world faces, is far worse previously than thought.

The new research also reveals that 500m people live in places where water consumption is double the amount replenished by rain for the entire year, leaving them extremely vulnerable as underground aquifers run down.

Many of those living with fragile water resources are in India and China, but other regions highlighted are the central and western US, Australia and even the city of London.

These water problems are set to worsen, according to the researchers, as population growth and increasing water use – particularly through eating meat – continues to rise.

In January, water crises were rated as one of three greatest risks of harm to people and economies in the next decade by the World Economic Forum, alongside climate change and mass migration. In places, such as Syria, the three risks come together: a recent study found that climate change made the severe 2007-2010 drought much more likely and the drought led to mass migration of farming families into cities.

If you look at environmental problems, [water scarcity] is certainly the top problem,” said Prof Arjen Hoekstra, at the University of Twente in the Netherlands and who led the new research. “One place where it is very, very acute is in Yemen.”

Yemen could run out of water within a few years, but many other places are living on borrowed time as aquifers are continuously depleted, including Pakistan, Iran, Mexico, and Saudi Arabia.

Hoekstra also highlights the Murray-Darling basin in Australia and the midwest of the US. “There you have the huge Ogallala acquifer, which is being depleted.” He said even rich cities like London in the UK were living unsustainably: “You don’t have the water in the surrounding area to sustain the water flows” to London in the long term.

The new study, published in the journal Science Advances on Friday, is the first to examine global water scarcity on a monthly basis and at a resolution of 31 miles or less. It analysed data from 1996-2005 and found severe water scarcity – defined as water use being more than twice the amount being replenished – affected 4 billion people for at least one month a year.

The results imply the global water situation is much worse than suggested by previous studies, which estimated such scarcity impacts between 1.7 billion and 3.1 billion people,” the researchers concluded. The new work also showed 1.8 billion people suffer severe water scarcity for at least half of every year.

Farming is the biggest user of water and the growing global population requires more food. Furthermore, changing diets are having a major impact, as people with rising incomes eat more meat.

Taking a shorter shower is not the answer” to the global problem, said Hoekstra, because just 1-4% of a person’s water footprint is in the home, while 25% is via meat consumption. It takes over 15,000 litres of water to make 1kg of beef, with almost all of that used to irrigate the crops fed to the cattle.

Another unique aspect of the new research was that it included environmental water requirements, ie the water needed to ensure that life survives in the rivers and lakes. Fish can be important sources of food for people, who also use waterways for transport.

Even just one month of severe water scarcity can have a devastating impact on the health of a river, said Hoekstra: “An empty river is not a river.” Rivers that run dry before they reach the end of their course, or come close to doing so, include the Colorado river in the western US and the Yellow river in China.

David Tickner, chief freshwater adviser at WWF-UK, said: “This paper is another pointer to the urgency of this challenge. Billions of people, and many economies, are increasingly suffering because of water-related risks which could be better managed. The same risks are causing a collapse in aquatic wildlife around the globe.”

Hoekstra said caps on water use should be put in place for all river basins, companies should be transparent about how much water is needed to make their products and look to reduce it while investors should incorporate water sustainability into their decision-making.


Oregon militia standoff: final holdouts plead not guilty after surrender

A total of 25 people have been charged in the occupation of the Malheur national wildlife refuge, including protest leaders Ammon and Ryan Bundy

February 13, 2016

by Jason Wilson in Portland and Sam Levin in San Francisco

The Guardian

The final four holdouts at the Oregon militia standoff, who are charged with conspiring against the federal government, pleaded not guilty one day after their dramatic surrender.

David Fry, a 27-year-old occupier from Ohio and the very last protester to turn himself in after intense FBI negotiations, appeared in federal court in Portland on Friday, wearing a green anti-suicide smock. Fry initially refused to stand down, telling mediators in a phone call live-streamed on YouTube that he was willing to die for his anti-government beliefs and that he was having suicidal thoughts.

The other three who surrendered on Thursday – the 41st day of the armed occupation – before Fry did are Jeff Banta, a 46-year-old Nevada man, Sean Anderson, 47, of Riggins, Idaho, and his wife Sandy Anderson, 48.

A total of 25 people have been charged in the occupation of the Malheur national wildlife refuge, including protest leaders Ammon and Ryan Bundy, the sons of Cliven Bundy, the Nevada rancher who led a 2014 standoff against the government in Nevada.

The occupiers, who first seized the federal buildings on 2 January in protest of government land-use regulations and the imprisonment of two ranchers, are accused of impeding US officers with “force, intimidation and threats”.

The elder Cliven Bundy was also arrested on Wednesday night, on multiple federal charges stemming from his confrontation with the government two years ago.

Nevada assemblywoman Michele Fiore, a Republican lawmaker and supporter of the Bundys, was at federal court in Portland Friday afternoon – after skyrocketing to national fame for her critical role negotiating the surrender of the Malheur holdouts.

The final four jailed protesters were pleased to see Fiore in attendance at the packed court hearing, said Mike Arnold, Ammon’s attorney, who also sat in on the proceedings.

They exchanged an emotional moment,” Arnold said, noting that Sandy Anderson was in tears when she arrived. “They blew kisses at one another. I think it gave [Sandy] the additional spirit to get through the hearing.”

Fry, too, seemed to be much calmer than he was during the tense standoff the day prior, Arnold said. “He appeared to be in good spirits.”

Because an earlier indictment against the occupation leaders was initially sealed, Ammon and others have not had an opportunity to enter a plea, Arnold added. At a 24 February arraignment, Ammon plans to plead not guilty, the attorney added.

Outside the courthouse, Fiore dominated a press conference, which included other out-of-state politicians and Bundy’s legal team. Fiore read out a statement from Ammon Bundy, which said that federal agencies have been “taking ranches, mines and properties all over the United States”.

The statement further defended the “hard stand” taken at the refuge, and repeated the occupiers’ claim that the federal government had no right controlling the public land in rural Harney County.

Fiore supported the Bundys in her comments, declaring that the occupiers were arrested because “they exercised their political free speech”. She also criticized high levels of incarceration in the US and described the protesters as “a bunch of cowboys camping” whose actions did not warrant imprisonment.

When asked if she supported further armed demonstrations, Fiore responded, “Have you seen anyone at the refuge point a firearm at you?”

Two other Republican Nevada legislators, Shelly Shelton and John Moore, also spoke in support of Bundy and his fellow occupiers. Moore, an assemblyman, and Fiore are both part of US presidential candidate Ted Cruz’s Nevada leadership team.

Moore also defended slain militia spokesman LaVoy Finicum, an Arizona rancher who state troopers shot and killed during an attempted arrest last month on a rural highway near the refuge.

Referencing his experience as a US army ranger, Moore claimed that Finicum was killed in an “ambush”, not unlike those Moore himself had “employed in foreign countries”.

Fiore, who gained attention last year for her gun-filled family Christmas card, was wearing a necklace with a miniature revolver during the news conference. She came close to tears when describing how her experiences as a “mother and grandmother” had guided her through her attempts to talk the last occupiers down.

Fiore earned cheers from a small crowd of around 20 pro-Bundy protesters who had gathered outside the courtroom early in the afternoon.

Waving “Don’t Tread on Me” signs and American flags, the protesters were a mixture of longtime patriot-movement activists and newer converts who had been mobilized by the occupation in Oregon.

Steve Shallenberger, a Portland resident who said he has been involved with “constitutionalism” since the early 1980s, said that his persistent worry was “government overreach”. He also slammed a political system that “only ever offers you the chance to support the lesser of two evils”.

Tom Oreste, also of Portland, said he became suspicious of the government after the terrorist attacks of 9/11 and the official explanations of it “which don’t stack up”.

(In the US, the National Suicide Prevention Hotline is 1-800-273-8255. In the UK, the Samaritans can be contacted on 08457 90 90 90. In Australia, the crisis support service Lifeline is on 13 11 14. Hotlines in other countries can be found here.)

Syrian army edges towards Islamic State bastion, jets hit rebel towns

February 13, 2016

by Tom Perry and Paul Carrel


Beirut/Munich-Syrian government forces were poised to advance into the Islamic State stronghold of Raqqa province and allied Russian jets kept up air strikes on rebel-held towns north of Aleppo, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported on Saturday.

An advance into Raqqa would re-establish a Syrian government foothold in the province for the first time since 2014 and may be aimed at pre-empting any move by Saudi Arabia to send ground forces to fight Islamic State militants in Syria.

Russia is pressing ahead with its four-month-old air campaign in support of President Bashar al-Assad ahead of “a cessation of hostilities” agreed by major powers on Friday. The agreement is due to come into effect in a week.

The Syrian army announced the capture of more ground in the northern Aleppo area, where its advances backed by allied Lebanese Hezbollah and Iranian fighters have cut the main rebel supply route from Turkey into opposition-held parts of Aleppo.

If its forces retake Aleppo and seal the Turkish border, Damascus would deal a crushing blow to the insurgents who were on the march until Russia intervened last September, shoring up Assad’s rule and paving the way to the current advances.

The cessation of hostilities agreement falls short of a formal ceasefire, since it was not signed by the warring parties – the government and rebels seeking to topple Assad in the five-year-long war that has killed 250,000 people.

Russia has said it will keep bombing Islamic State and the al Qaeda-linked Nusra Front, which in many areas of western Syria fights government forces in close proximity to insurgents deemed moderates by Western states.

Helped by Russian air power, the Syrian army and its allies have been pursuing offensives on crucial front lines of western Syria, while also attacking Islamic State further east.

The Observatory said government troops were just a few kilometres (miles) from the provincial borders of Raqqa after making a rapid advance eastwards along a desert highway in the last few days from Ithriya. The Syrian army could not immediately be reached for comment.

The Syrian government has not had a major foothold in Raqqa province since Islamic State insurgents captured Tabqa air base in 2014. “They are on the provincial borders of Raqqa,” Observatory director Rami Abdulrahman told Reuters.

The ultra-hardline Islamic State, whose main aim is to expand its “caliphate” rather than toppling Assad and reforming Syria, is being targeted in separate campaigns by a U.S.-led alliance and the Syrian government with Russian air support.

U.S.-allied Kurdish forces are also fighting Islamic State in Raqqa. Last year, they advanced into Raqqa province from the northeast, capturing an Islamic State-held town at the border with Turkey.

Gulf states that want Assad gone from power have said they would be willing to send in troops as part of any U.S.-led ground attack against Islamic State. U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter said on Friday he expected Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to send commandos to help recapture Raqqa.

In what may have been a response to those remarks, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said on Saturday there was no need to scare anyone with a ground operation in Syria.

The Syrian government has said that any foreign forces in the country without its consent will be fought.


Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister, Adel al-Jubeir, said in an interview published on Saturday that Russia’s military interventions will not help Assad stay in power. “There will be no Bashar al-Assad in the future,” he told a German newspaper.

The complex, multi-sided civil war in Syria, raging since 2011, has drawn in most regional and global powers, producing the world’s worst humanitarian emergency and attracting jihadist recruits from around the world.

A U.S. State Department spokesman said on Friday Assad was “deluded” if he thought there is a military solution to the war.

Two Syrian rebel commanders told Reuters on Friday insurgents had been sent “excellent quantities” of Grad rockets with a range of 20 km (12 miles) by foreign backers in recent days to help confront the Russian-backed offensive in Aleppo.

Foreign opponents of Assad including Saudi Arabia and Turkey have been supplying vetted rebel groups with weapons via a Turkey-based operations centre.

Some of these groups have received military training overseen by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency. The vetted groups have been a regular target of the Russian air strikes.

Russian warplanes carried out at least 12 raids on rebel-held towns north of Aleppo overnight Friday-Saturday, the Observatory said.

The army said late on Friday it had captured three areas to the northwest of Aleppo – advances confirmed by the Observatory.

French Prime Minister Manuel Valls called on Russia on Saturday to stop bombing civilians in Syria, saying this was crucial for achieving peace in the country.

“France respects Russia and its interests … But we know that to find the path to peace again, the Russian bombing of civilians has to stop,” Valls said in a speech at a security conference in Munich.

Russia has denied targeting civilians. Medvedev said on Saturday it was simply not true.

“There is no evidence of our bombing civilians, even though everyone is accusing us of this,” Medvedev told a security conference in Munich, moments after French Prime Minister Manuel Valls said Russian bombing of civilians must stop.

“Russia is not trying to achieve some secret goals in Syria. We are simply trying to protect our national interests,” he said, adding that Moscow wanted to prevent Islamist militants getting to Russia.

(Additional reporting by Shadia Nasralla in Munich and Denis Dyomkin in Moscow; Writing by Tom Perry; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

The U.S. Military Suffers from Affluenza:Showering the Pentagon with Money and Praise

by William J. Astore


The word “affluenza” is much in vogue. Lately, it’s been linked to a Texas teenager, Ethan Couch, who in 2013 killed four people in a car accident while driving drunk. During the trial, a defense witness argued that Couch should not be held responsible for his destructive acts. His parents had showered him with so much money and praise that he was completely self-centered; he was, in other words, a victim of affluenza, overwhelmed by a sense of entitlement that rendered him incapable of distinguishing right from wrong. Indeed, the judge at his trial sentenced him only to probation, not jail, despite the deaths of those four innocents.

Experts quickly dismissed “affluenza” as a false diagnosis, a form of quackery, and indeed the condition is not recognized by the American Psychiatric Association. Yet the word caught on big time, perhaps because it speaks to something in the human condition, and it got me to thinking. During Ethan Couch’s destructive lifetime, has there been an American institution similarly showered with money and praise that has been responsible for the deaths of innocents and inadequately called to account? Is there one that suffers from the institutional version of affluenza (however fuzzy or imprecise that word may be) so much that it has had immense difficulty shouldering the blame for its failures and wrongdoing?

The answer is hidden in plain sight: the U.S. military. Unlike Couch, however, that military has never faced trial or probation; it hasn’t felt the need to abscond to Mexico or been forcibly returned to the homeland to face the music.

Spoiling the Pentagon

First, a caveat. When I talk about spoiling the Pentagon, I’m not talking about your brother or daughter or best friend who serves honorably. Anyone who’s braving enemy fire while humping mountains in Afghanistan or choking on sand in Iraq is not spoiled.

I’m talking about the U.S. military as an institution. Think of the Pentagon and the top brass; think of Dwight Eisenhower’s military-industrial complex; think of the national security state with all its tentacles of power. Focus on those and maybe you’ll come to agree with my affluenza diagnosis.

Let’s begin with one aspect of that affliction: unbridled praise. In last month’s State of the Union address, President Obama repeated a phrase that’s become standard in American political discourse, as common as asking God to bless America. The U.S. military, he said, is the “finest fighting force in the history of the world.”

Such hyperbole is nothing new. Five years ago, in response to similar presidential statements, I argued that many war-like peoples, including the imperial Roman legions and Genghis Khan’s Mongol horsemen, held far better claims to the “best ever” Warrior Bowl trophy. Nonetheless, the over-the-top claims never cease. Upon being introduced by President Obama as his next nominee for secretary of defense in December 2014, for instance, Ash Carter promptly praised the military he was going to oversee as “the greatest fighting force the world has ever known.” His words echoed those of the president, who had claimed the previous August that it was “the best-led, best-trained, best-equipped military in human history.” Similar hosannas (“the greatest force for human liberation the world has ever known”) had once been sprinkled liberally through George W. Bush’s speeches and comments, as well as those of other politicians since 9/11.

In fact, from the president to all those citizens who feel obliged in a way Americans never have before to “thank” the troops endlessly for their efforts, no other institution has been so universally applauded since 9/11. No one should be shocked then that, in polls, Americans regularly claim to trust the military leadership above any other crew around, including scientists, doctors, ministers, priests, and — no surprise — Congress.

Imagine parents endlessly praising their son as “the smartest, handsomest, most athletically gifted boy since God created Adam.” We’d conclude that they were thoroughly obnoxious, if not a bit unhinged. Yet the military remains just this sort of favored son, the country’s golden child. And to the golden child go the spoils.

Along with unbridled praise, consider the “allowance” the American people regularly offer the Pentagon. If this were an “affluenza” family unit, while mom and dad might be happily driving late-model his and her Audis, the favored son would be driving a spanking new Ferrari. Add up what the federal government spends on “defense,” “homeland security,” “overseas contingency operations” (wars), nuclear weapons, and intelligence and surveillance operations, and the Ferraris that belong to the Pentagon and its national security state pals are vrooming along at more than $750 billion dollars annually, or two-thirds of the government’s discretionary spending. That’s quite an allowance for “our boy”!

To cite a point of comparison, in 2015, federal funding for the departments of education, interior, and transportation maxed out at $95 billion — combined! Not only is the military our favored son by a country mile: it’s our Prodigal Son, and nothing satisfies “him.” He’s still asking for more (and his Republican uncles are clearly ready to turn over to him whatever’s left of the family savings, lock, stock, and barrel).

On the other hand, like any spoiled kid, the Defense Department sees even the most modest suggested cuts in its allowance as a form of betrayal. Witness the whining of both those Pentagon officials and military officers testifying before Congressional committees and of empathetic committee members themselves. Minimalist cuts to the soaring Pentagon budget are, it seems, defanging the military and recklessly endangering American security vis-a-vis the exaggerated threats of the day: ISIS, China, and Russia. In fact, the real “threat” is clearly that the Pentagon’s congressional “parents” might someday cut down on its privileges and toys, as well as its free rein to do more or less as it pleases.

With respect to those privileges, enormous budgets drive an unimaginably top-heavy bureaucracy at the Pentagon. Since 9/11, Congressional authorizations of three- and four-star generals and admirals have multiplied twice as fast as their one- and two-star colleagues. Too many generals are chasing too few combat billets, contributing to backstabbing and butt-kissing. Indeed, despite indifferent records in combat, generals wear uniforms bursting with badges and ribbons, resembling the ostentatious displays of former Soviet premiers — or field marshals in the fictional Ruritarian guards.

Meanwhile, the proliferation of brass in turn drives budgets higher. Even with recent modest declines (due to the official end of major combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan), the U.S. defense budget exceeds the combined military budgets of at least the next seven highest spenders. (President Obama proudly claims that it’s the next eight.) Four of those countries — France, Germany, Great Britain, and Saudi Arabia — are U.S. allies; China and Russia, the only rivals on the list, spend far less than the United States.

With respect to its toys, the military and its enablers in Congress can never get enough or at a high enough price. The most popular of these, at present, is the under-performing new F-35 jet fighter, projected to cost $1.5 trillion (yes, you read that right) over its lifetime, making it the most expensive weapons system in history. Another trillion dollars is projected over the next 30 years for “modernizing” the U.S. nuclear arsenal (this from a president who, as a candidate, spoke of eliminating nuclear weapons). The projected acquisition cost for a new advanced Air Force bomber is already $100 billion (before the cost overruns even begin).  The list goes on, but you catch the drift.

A Spoiled Pentagon Means Never Having to Say You’re Sorry

To complete our affluenza diagnosis, let’s add one more factor to boundless praise and a bountiful allowance: a total inability to take responsibility for one’s actions. This is, of course, the most repellent part of the Ethan Couch affluenza defense: the idea that he shouldn’t be held responsible precisely because he was so favored.

Think, then, of the Pentagon and the military as Couch writ large. No matter their mistakes, profligate expenditures, even crimes, neither institution is held accountable for anything.

Consider these facts: Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya are quagmires. The Islamic State is spreading. Foreign armies, trained and equipped at enormous expense by the U.S. military, continue to evaporate. A hospital, clearly identifiable as such, is destroyed “by accident.” Wedding parties are wiped out “by mistake.” Torture (a war crime) is committed in the field. Detainees are abused. And which senior leaders have been held accountable for any of this in any way? With the notable exception of Brigadier General Janis Karpinski of Abu Ghraib infamy, not a one.

After lengthy investigations, the Pentagon will occasionally hold accountable a few individuals who pulled the triggers or dropped the bombs or abused the prisoners. Meanwhile, the generals and the top civilians in the Pentagon who made it all possible are immunized from either responsibility or penalty of any sort. This is precisely why Lieutenant Colonel Paul Yingling memorably wrote in 2007 that, in the U.S. military, “a private who loses a rifle suffers far greater consequences than a general who loses a war.” In fact, no matter what that military doesn’t accomplish, no matter how lacking its ultimate performance in the field, it keeps getting more money, resources, praise.

When it comes to such subjects, consider the Republican presidential debate in Iowa on January 28th. Jeb Bush led the rhetorical charge by claiming that President Obama was “gutting” the military. Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio eagerly agreed, insisting that a “dramatically degraded” military had to be rebuilt. All the Republican candidates (Rand Paul excepted) piled on, calling for major increases in defense spending as well as looser “rules of engagement” in the field to empower local commanders to take the fight to the enemy. America’s “warfighters,” more than one candidate claimed, are fighting with one arm tied behind their backs, thanks to knots tightened by government lawyers. The final twist that supposedly tied the military up in a giant knot was, so they claim, applied by that lawyer-in-chief, Barack Obama himself.

Interestingly, there has been no talk of our burgeoning national debt, which former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen once identified as the biggest threat facing America. When asked during the debate which specific federal programs he would cut to reduce the deficit, Chris Christie came up with only one, Planned Parenthood, which at $500 million a year is the equivalent of two F-35 jet fighters. (The military wants to buy more than 2,000 of them.)

Throwing yet more money at a spoiled military is precisely the worst thing we as “parents” can do. In this, we should resort to the fiscal wisdom of Army Major General Gerald Sajer, the son of a Pennsylvania coal miner killed in the mines, a Korean War veteran and former Adjutant General of Pennsylvania. When his senior commanders pleaded for more money (during the leaner budget years before 9/11) to accomplish the tasks he had assigned them, General Sajer’s retort was simple: “We’re out of money; now we have to think.”

Accountability Is Everything

It’s high time to force the Pentagon to think. Yet when it comes to our relationship with the military, too many of us have acted like Ethan Couch’s mother. Out of a twisted sense of love or loyalty, she sought to shelter her son from his day of reckoning. But we know better. We know her son has to face the music.

Something similar is true of our relationship to the U.S. military. An institutional report card with so many deficits and failures, a record of deportment that has led to death and mayhem, should not be ignored. The military must be called to account.

How? By cutting its allowance. (That should make the brass sit up and take notice, perhaps even think.) By holding senior leaders accountable for mistakes. And by cutting the easy praise. Our military commanders know that they are not leading the finest fighting force since the dawn of history and it’s time our political leaders and the rest of us acknowledged that as well.

Russian PM Medvedev says new Cold War has begun

Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev has said tensions between Russia and the West have reached Cold War levels. Other leaders also warned of dangerous divisions within Europe.

February 13, 2016


Speaking at the Munich Security Conference on Saturday, Medvedev said the world had “slid into a new period of Cold War” as differences grew between the West and Russia over conflicts in Syria and Ukraine.

“Almost every day we are accused of making new horrible threats either against NATO as a whole against Europe or against the US or other countries,” he told delegates at the meeting in the southern German state of Bavaria.

Medvedev said, however, that in the face of the challenges currently facing the world, such as regional conflicts, terrorism and the migration crisis, Russia needed to be regarded as a partner. He added that differences between Moscow and the rest of the world were not unbridgeable.

“Our positions differ, but they do not differ as much as 40 years ago when a wall was standing in Europe,” he said, and cited several instances of agreements that had been achieved since then, including on issues such as disarmament, Iran’s nuclear program and piracy.

Sanctions ‘mutually damaging’

The Russian prime minister accused the West of expansionist policies toward formerly Soviet-ruled eastern Europe since the end of the Cold War, saying they were deepening the rift with Moscow.

“European politicians thought that creating a so-called belt of friends at Europe’s side, on the outskirts of the European Union, could be a guarantee of security, and what’s the result? Not a belt of friends but a belt of exclusion,” he said.

Medvedev also called into question the sagacity of sanctions imposed on Russia by the West over its annexation of Crimea and its support of pro-Moscow rebels in eastern Ukraine, saying they damaged both sides and calling instead for global cooperation to combat what he called a widening economic crisis in the world.

In responding to questions posed after his speech, he also denied accusations that Moscow was attacking civilians in Syria as part of its military offensive there to prop up the government of President Bashar al-Assad.

Russia’s military operations in Syria are a cause of concern in many Western countries, who fear that civilians and “moderate” rebels opposed to Assad’s rule might be targeted. Moscow says its airstrikes aim only to combat radical Islamist forces such as “Islamic State.”

‘European project could disappear’

Earlier, French Prime Minister Manuel Valls also mentioned Russia’s bombing campaign in Syria, reiterating the accusation that civilians were being killed in the attacks. Valls said Moscow’s airstrikes were an obstacle to efforts to bring peace to the country, which has been wracked by five years of civil war.

Valls also warned that European unity was under siege amid economic challenges and the difficulties posed by a massive influx of refugees and migrants, mostly coming from the Middle East and Africa.

“The European project can go backwards or even disappear if we don’t take care of it,” he said. “If Europe doesn’t show it can respond, not only to economic challenges but also to security challenges, then the European project wil be finished because the people won’t want it anymore.”

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier also called for more European unity amid “stormy times.”

“External crises and inner strength are obviously inseparable,” he said. “We can defy the storms that are raging outside the EU only if we stand together in the EU.”

The remarks come as the EU’s Schengen zone, which allows free travel between member states, comes under increased threat as ever more countries close their borders in view of the number of refugees and migrants attempting to enter the bloc.

U.S. Allies Now Fighting CIA-Backed Rebels

Not long ago, U.S. jets and Shia militias worked together to battle ISIS. Today, those militias are trying to take down American proxies in Syria.

February 12, 2016

by Nancy A. Yousef

The Daily Beast

Iraqi militias who once fought ISIS with U.S. help are now working with Russian and Iranian forces to crush American-backed rebels in the strategic Syrian city of Aleppo, two defense officials have told The Daily Beast.

At least three Shia militias involved in successful battles against ISIS in Iraq—the Badr Brigade, Kata’ib Hezbollah, and the League of the Righteous—have acknowledged taking casualties in fighting in south and southeast Aleppo province. U.S. defense officials confirmed to The Daily Beast that they believe “at least one” unit of the Badr Brigade is fighting in southern Aleppo alongside other Iraqi militia groups. Those groups are backed by Russian airpower and Iranian troops—and all of whom are bolstering President Bashar al-Assad’s Syrian Arab Army.

Reports on social media say the Iraqi militias in Syria are armed with U.S. tanks and small arms they procured on the Iraqi side of the border. Those reports could not be independently confirmed.

The presence of militias fighting on behalf of Assad—a dictator that the U.S. has pledged to depose—is yet another reminder of the tangled alliances that the United States must thread as it pursues seemingly contradictory policies in its battles against the self-proclaimed Islamic State. In Iraq, these Shia militias were battling on behalf of the U.S.-backed government. In Syria, they are fighting against an American-supported rebel coalition that includes forces armed by the CIA.

In other words: The forces the U.S. once counted on to take back Iraq’s cities are the same ones the Russians now are counting on to get Aleppo back. And those militias are fighting units of the American-backed Free Syrian Army—including the 16th Division, elements of Jaish al Nasr, and Sultan al Murad—according to Nicholas Heras, a research associate at the Center for a New American Security.

U.S. officials claim not to be alarmed. “On our list of problems, one Badr brigade in Syria is way down there,” one U.S. official explained.

But the role of the Shia militias continues to be controversial. The militias are backed and funded by Iran—Badr, in fact, was created as a branch of the Iranian military. But in Syria, their role is part of the increasingly effective one-two punch of the Russian/Iranian alliance that has given the Syrian government the upper hand in the battle for Aleppo.

U.S. officials agree that without those Iraqi militias, the Syrian Army would be too weak to hold territory on their own.

It is perhaps because of these dynamics that both Russia and the U.S agreed to a “cessation of hostilities” in Syria late Thursday, to begin in one week. Even if Aleppo fell, Assad forces’ hold on the city and the country would be tenuous, at best, and would depend on unending Russian/Iranian support, an unappealing proposition for two states with fragile economies. For the U.S., the deal offered hope for ending uncomfortable alliances that had militias that once served it interests fighting opposition forces it was no longer willing to back militarily.

In the last week, Russia has launched hundreds of punishing, largely indiscriminate strikes in Aleppo. That’s allowed forces loyal to Assad—including the Iraqi militias—to move in and reclaim parts of Aleppo, cutting off the main supply route to the city. According to the Red Cross, at least 50,000 refugees have sought to flee to Turkey since the Russian assault began.

Without the Russian airstrikes the Shiite militias would not have been as successful,” said Phillip Smyth, a researcher at the University of Maryland who studies Shiite militias. At the same time, “It is clear that Iran is routing as many fighters as possible to Syria, particularly on the Aleppo front.”

To make matters worse for the U.S. effort in Syria, among the opposition groups now losing territory in Aleppo are groups once backed by the United States. Unfortunately, those groups are also intermingled with Jabhat al Nusra, al Qaeda’s Syrian affiliate and a member of the U.S. list of terrorist organizations. The great irony of Aleppo is that U.S. strikes against the Islamic State have the perverse effect of benefiting al Qaeda.

It was Nusra forces who, in 2013 and 2014, were key in pushing ISIS out of Aleppo.

Today Nusra and its allies now are largely fighting back the Russian/Iranian offensive alone.

The fall of Aleppo, Syria’s biggest city, would be a major win for Assad supporters and potentially leave Syria with two major rival forces—ISIS and the Assad regime.In Iraq, the Shiite militias, known as Popular Mobilization Forces, were key to important wins against the Islamic State in Amiri and Tikrit, former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein’s hometown. With the help of U.S. airstrikes, the militias were able to claim those cities from ISIS and end the jihadist group’s land grab across Iraq.

Fighting in Syria is a more lucrative undertaking, however. During the battle for the Iraqi cities of Amerli and Tikrit, militia members earned roughly $720 a month, according to Iraqi government officials. In Syria, the militiamen earn as much as $1,500 a month, Smyth said. The pay increase is a powerful incentive to join the battle—as if the appeal to sectarian loyalty were not enough.

U.S. officials are quick to say that they have never directly coordinated with the militias—small wonder, given that the Badr Brigade, for one, targeted hundreds of American troops in Iraq with Iranian-provided explosively formed projectile bombs, one of that war’s deadliest weapons.

But U.S. officials also acknowledged that the pro-Iranian militias benefited from U.S. airstrikes in Amerli and Tikrit, something the militias themselves refused to acknowledge. Only “weak people like the Iraqi army” wanted U.S. help, Haider al Amiri, the head of the Badr Brigade, said of the battle for Tikrit. He publicly celebrated Iranian support.

Either way, the fall of Amerli and Tikrit last year paved the way for the coalition and Iraqi forces to reclaim the city of Ramadi, the biggest prize to be taken back from ISIS so far. That, in turn, allowed the militias to increase their influence over Iraqi security matters.

The U.S. has been notably silent on the role of its erstwhile Iraqi allies in the ongoing battle in Syria, though it no longer predicts that Russia will become bogged down in the conflict as the Russian airstrikes provide the cover needed for the Iranian-backed forces to advance.

Meanwhile, on Thursday, Kurdish forces captured a military base in Aleppo, near the Turkish border.

with additional reporting by Michael Weiss

21st Century US ‘dustbowl’ risk assessed

February 13, 2016

by Jonathan Amos


US scientists have modelled how a 1930s-like “dustbowl” drought might impact American agriculture today, and found it to be just as damaging.

But the research shows the effects to be very sensitive to temperature, meaning the potential losses would be far worse later this century if Earth’s climate heats up as expected.

A repeat of 1930s weather today would lead to a 40% loss in maize production.

In a 2-degree warmer world, it becomes a 65% reduction, the team projects.

“The 1930s were really extreme and, yes, the chances of the same precipitation distribution happening again are small,” explained Joshua Elliott, from the University of Chicago’s Computation Institute.

“But the temperature distribution wasn’t any more extreme than we’ve seen in 2012 or 1998, for example.

“And what we see at higher temperatures is that these crops – maize and also soy – are so sensitive that an average year come mid-century could be as bad as 1936, even with normal precipitation,” he told BBC News.

Dr Elliott was speaking here at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

He has been taking part in a discussion session on so-called “food shocks”, where the failure of key crops can lead to rapid global price hikes.

Dr Elliott is a member of a joint US-UK taskforce that last year assessed the resilience of the world’s food system. The fall-out from extreme weather was deemed to be a major concern, especially if future climate change is not moderated by a reduction in the emission of heat-trapping gases from the burning of fossil fuels.

Looking at the production of the major grains – rice, wheat, maize and soybeans – the taskforce’s scientists found that the chances of a one-in-100-year production disruption was likely to increase to a one-in-30-year event by 2040.

Implementing reforms that would enable the system to cope better in the future was seen as a priority.

Northern shift

One factor that does not help is the way that production of some of these important crops is highly concentrated.

The US, for example, is the leading producer in the world for maize, with most of it grown in just Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, and Illinois.

But Dr Elliott said this concentration would have to be broken up, that a different and more varied approach would be needed if more extreme weather became the norm in the decades ahead. Maize might be better grown further north than the traditional Midwest states, he suggested.

“It’s most likely they will have to start growing other crops.

“Maybe by mid to late century, Iowa will be known as the cotton state rather than the corn state, because cotton will basically have been eradicated out of much of the southern states because the temperature thresholds will have blown way past what cotton can handle there.

“Assuming there is enough water in Iowa, because cotton is a very thirsty crop, it could become the cotton state.”

Kirsty Lewis, from the UK’s Met Office, is looking at the weather connections between important “breadbaskets”.

The US Midwest is the dominant hub for maize, but the northeastern plains of China are not too far behind.

How likely is it that both regions could suffer bad growing seasons in the same year?

A search through the meteorological records would seem to suggest that whenever one stumbles, the other seems to do OK.

Dr Lewis is now running multiple simulations on a climate model to test whether there really is some sort of teleconnection between the two.

“Is there a physical mechanism why that’s the case, or is it just by chance?” she asks.

“They may be physically linked, possibly by larger-scale drivers to do with ocean temperatures – that kind of thing. But will this change in the future; and if it doesn’t, can we be sure we understand why the pattern will continue?”

For Tim Benton, from the UK’s Global Food Security Programme, a change of attitude is required on the part of all the players in the global food system, to recognise that extreme weather is going to be an ever-present threat in the future.

“How do we build resilience? Well, we need to understand better what the risks are, and that’s a research question and lots of people around the world are doing that now,” he said.

“We can also adapt agriculture and plan more for the bad years.

“Rather than seeing bad years as something that’s rare and unlikely, we should go into each season with an expectation that ‘average weather’ doesn’t exist anymore. It’s either too hot, or too wet, or too cold or too dry.

“An average summer is very difficult to find these days.”


No responses yet

Leave a Reply