TBR News October 3, 2017

Oct 03 2017

The Voice of the White House

Washington, D.C., October 3, 2017: “We will be out of office until October 4.”


Table of Contents

  • After Las Vegas Shooting, Fake News Regains Its Megaphone
  • As Las Vegas grieves, investigators struggle to uncover motive behind shooting rampage
  • The Kurdish Independence Referendum Was a Political Miscalculation
  • Las Vegas police look for motive in deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history
  • A Mix of Hope, Fear and Anger in Catalonia After Millions Vote for Independence From Spain
  • Catalan referendum: Anti-police strike hits public services
  • EU agrees new rules to limit cheap Chinese imports: sources
  • Watching terrorism videos online could result in 15yr jail term
  • America: The Dictatress of the World
  • Turkish inflation again accelerates in September
  • When Rising Seas Hit Home: Hard Choices Ahead for Hundreds of US Coastal Communities (2017)


After Las Vegas Shooting, Fake News Regains Its Megaphone

October  2, 2017

by Kevin Rose

The New York Times

When they woke up and glanced at their phones on Monday morning, Americans may have been shocked to learn that the man behind the mass shooting in Las Vegas late on Sunday was an anti-Trump liberal who liked Rachel Maddow and MoveOn.org, that the F.B.I. had already linked him to the Islamic State, and that mainstream news organizations were suppressing that he had recently converted to Islam.

They were shocking, gruesome revelations. They were also entirely false — and widely spread by Google and Facebook.

In Google’s case, trolls from 4Chan, a notoriously toxic online message board with a vocal far-right contingent, had spent the night scheming about how to pin the shooting on liberals. One of their discussion threads, in which they wrongly identified the gunman, was picked up by Google’s “top stories” module, and spent hours at the top of the site’s search results for that man’s name.

In Facebook’s case, an official “safety check” page for the Las Vegas shooting  prominently displayed a post from a site called “Alt-Right News.” The post incorrectly identified the shooter and described him as a Trump-hating liberal. In addition, some users saw a story on a “trending topic” page on Facebook for the shooting that was published by Sputnik, a news agency controlled by the Russian government. The story’s headline claimed, incorrectly, that the F.B.I. had linked the shooter with the “Daesh terror group.”

Google and Facebook blamed algorithm errors for these.

A Google spokesman said, “This should not have appeared for any queries, and we’ll continue to make algorithmic improvements to prevent this from happening in the future.”

A Facebook spokesman said, “We are working to fix the issue that allowed this to happen in the first place and deeply regret the confusion this caused.”

But this was no one-off incident. Over the past few years, extremists, conspiracy theorists and government-backed propagandists have made a habit of swarming major news events, using search-optimized “keyword bombs” and algorithm-friendly headlines. These organizations are skilled at reverse-engineering the ways that tech platforms parse information, and they benefit from a vast real-time amplification network that includes 4Chan and Reddit as well as Facebook, Twitter and Google. Even when these campaigns are thwarted, they often last hours or days — long enough to spread misleading information to millions of people.

The latest fake news flare-up came at an inconvenient time for companies like Facebook, Google and Twitter, which are already defending themselves from accusations that they have let malicious actors run rampant on their platforms.

On Monday, Facebook handed congressional investigators 3,000 ads that had been purchased by Russian government affiliates during the 2016 campaign season, and it vowed to hire 1,000 more human moderators to review ads for improper content. (The company would not say how many moderators currently screen its ads.) Twitter faces tough questions about harassment and violent threats on its platform, and is still struggling to live down a reputation as a safe haven for neo-Nazis and other poisonous groups. And Google also faces questions about its role in the misinformation economy.

Part of the problem is that these companies have largely abrogated the responsibility of moderating the content that appears on their platforms, instead relying on rule-based algorithms to determine who sees what. Facebook, for instance, previously had a team of trained news editors who chose which stories appeared in its trending topics section, a huge driver of traffic to news stories. But it disbanded the group and instituted an automated process last year, after reports surfaced that the editors were suppressing conservative news sites. The change seems to have made the problem worse — earlier this year, Facebook redesigned the trending topics section again, after complaints that hoaxes and fake news stories were showing up in users’ feeds.

There is also a labeling issue. A Facebook user looking for news about the Las Vegas shooting on Monday morning, or a Google user searching for information about the wrongfully accused shooter, would have found posts from 4Chan and Sputnik alongside articles by established news organizations like CNN and NBC News, with no obvious cues to indicate which ones came from reliable sources.

More thoughtful design could help solve this problem, and Facebook has already begun to label some disputed stories with the help of professional fact checkers. But fixes that require identifying “reputable” news organizations are inherently risky because they open companies up to accusations of favoritism. (After Facebook announced its fact-checking effort, which included working with The Associated Press and Snopes, several right-wing activists complained of left-wing censorship.)

The automation of editorial judgment, combined with tech companies’ reluctance to appear partisan, has created a lopsided battle between those who want to spread misinformation and those tasked with policing it. Posting a malicious rumor on Facebook, or writing a false news story that is indexed by Google, is a nearly instantaneous process; removing such posts often requires human intervention. This imbalance gives an advantage to rule-breakers, and makes it impossible for even an army of well-trained referees to keep up.

But just because the war against misinformation may be unwinnable doesn’t mean it should be avoided. Roughly two-thirds of American adults get news from social media, which makes the methods these platforms use to vet and present information a matter of national importance.

Facebook, Twitter and Google are some of the world’s richest and most ambitious companies, but they still have not shown that they’re willing to bear the costs — or the political risks — of fixing the way misinformation spreads on their platforms. (Some executives appear resolute in avoiding the discussion. In a recent Facebook post, Mark Zuckerberg reasserted the platform’s neutrality, saying that being accused of partisan bias by both sides is “what running a platform for all ideas looks like.”)

The investigations into Russia’s exploitation of social media during the 2016 presidential election will almost certainly continue for months. But dozens of less splashy online misinformation campaigns are happening every day, and they deserve attention, too. Tech companies should act decisively to prevent hoaxes and misinformation from spreading on their platforms, even if it means hiring thousands more moderators or angering some partisan organizations.

Facebook and Google have spent billions of dollars developing virtual reality systems. They can spare a billion or two to protect actual reality.


As Las Vegas grieves, investigators struggle to uncover motive behind shooting rampage

October 3, 2017

by Tim Craig, Mark Berman and Matt Zapotosky

The Washington Post

LAS VEGAS — Investigators struggled Tuesday with a chilling but baffling array of clues in the wake of the deadliest mass shooting in modern American history — including a hotel room arsenal fit for a commando team — yet were still left trying to explain the chain of events that caused a 64-year-old retiree to turn a concert ground here into a killing field.

“I can’t get into the mind of a psychopath,” said Joseph Lombardo, the sheriff of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, on Monday.

At the same time, the probes stretched from a ranch-style home near the Arizona border to the 32nd-floor hotel suite used by Stephen Paddock as a place to scan the crowds at a country music festival and then open fire — leaving at least 59 people dead and hundreds more injured in the rain of bullets or trampled in the panicked rush for cover late Sunday. He then killed himself as SWAT officers closed in.

And once again, a stunned nation was left to grapple with a city riven by tragedy and a resurgent debate over gun control and gun violence. The White House and many Republicans said it was a time to mourn rather than launch into political battles, while some Democrats renewed calls for gun safety legislation.

Lombardo warned that the number of dead in Las Vegas could rise, as an additional 527 were thought to have been injured. Hospitals across the region continued to treat patients from the scene, many of them seriously injured. Sunrise Hospital and Medical Center said that as of Tuesday morning, it had 68 patients from the rampage, 33 of them in critical condition.

While the nation learned more about the lives cut brutally short as well as the heroic actions of people on the ground, few answers were available as to what, if anything, may have motivated the rampage.

Authorities described a level of preparation that suggested the attack was planned in advance. Police said Paddock arrived on Thursday, three days before the shooting, at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino on the southern end of the Las Vegas Strip. He took more than 10 suitcases into his suite, officials said.

Paddock aroused no suspicion from hotel staff even as he brought in 23 guns, some of them with scopes. One of the weapons he apparently used in the attack was an AK-47 type rifle, with a stand used to steady it for firing, people familiar with the case said.

Authorities said a sweep of law enforcement databases showed Paddock had no known run-ins with police. Paddock was the son of a bank robber who was once on the FBI’s most-wanted list, but investigators have turned up no clear links to any criminal enterprises or international terrorist groups — despite repeated claims by the Islamic State that Paddock carried out the carnage in its name.

Among the questions investigators still have: How a former accountant with a penchant for high-stakes gambling obtained a weapon that sounded to those on the ground like it could fire as an automatic, and how he was able to bring it and many other weapons into a Vegas hotel suite undetected.

Investigators believe at least one of the guns functioned as if it were fully automatic, and they are now trying to determine if he modified it or other weapons to be capable of spitting out a high volume of fire just by holding down the trigger, people familiar with the case said.

Investigators also found at least 19 additional firearms, thousands of rounds of ammunition and the chemical tannerite, an explosive, at Paddock’s home in Mesquite, Nev. They also found ammonium nitrate, a chemical that can be used in bomb making, in Paddock’s vehicle, Lombardo said.

Gun purchase records indicate Paddock legally bought more than two dozen firearms over a period of years, according to a person close to the investigation. Guns & Guitars, a store in Mesquite, Nev., said in a statement that Paddock purchased some of his weapons there, but employees followed all procedures required by law, and Paddock “never gave any indication or reason to believe he was unstable or unfit at any time.” Lombardo said Paddock also seemed to have purchased guns in Arizona.

Police and hotel security scoured several floors of the hotel looking for the shooter and came upon Paddock’s suite, Lombardo said. At some point, Paddock fired through the door and hit a security guard in the leg, he said, adding that the guard is expected to survive.

SWAT officers ultimately stormed the room and some fired shots, though Paddock is believed to have killed himself, Lombardo said.

More than 22,000 people had been at the Route 91 Harvest festival, a three-day country music concert with grounds across the street from the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino, when the shooting began about 10 p.m. Sunday, according to police. As country star Jason Aldean played what was expected to be one of the last sets of the night, Paddock opened fire — his bullets flying from a window on the casino’s golden facade, which Paddock had smashed with some type of hammer.

“People were getting shot at while we were running, and people were on the ground bleeding, crying and screaming. We just had to keep going,” said Dinora Merino, 28, a dealer at the Ellis Island casino who was at the concert with a friend. “There are tents out there and there’s no place to hide. It’s just an open field.”

The dead included a behavioral therapist who was soon to be married, a nursing assistant from Southern California, a commercial fisherman and an off-duty Las Vegas city police officer. Two other officers who were on duty were injured, police said; one was in stable condition after surgery, and the other sustained minor injuries. Another off-duty officer with the Bakersfield Police Department in Southern California also sustained non-life-threatening injuries, according to a statement from the department.

Syed Saquib, a surgeon on duty Sunday night at University Medical Center, said the hospital treated 104 patients, most of whom had gunshot wounds.

“Those that could be saved, were saved,” Saquib said. “There were a few that came in with devastating, non-survivable injuries.”

John Soqui drove seven hours from Arizona to see his 29-year-old niece, who had been shot in the head. Jovanna Martinez-Calzadillas, from suburban Phoenix, had been attending the concert with her husband, a military police officer, Soqui said. Her husband, who was not injured, carried Martinez-Calzadillas away from the concert after she had been shot, relatives said.

“There is just so much hate in this world, and she is my little niece, and I just want to get the guy who shot her,” said Soqui, 51.

Soqui then remembered that Paddock had apparently taken his own life before police stormed into his hotel room. “I want to die, kill myself, just so I can get him,” Soqui added. “So many people have been affected by this, and it’s just killing me that there are people like that out there.”

President Trump ordered flags flown at half-staff and said he would visit Las Vegas on Wednesday.

Leaving the White House to visit hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico on Tuesday morning, Trump repeated his praise for police in Las Vegas and their response, saying of law enforcement that “what happened in Las Vegas is in many ways a miracle.” He also said that “we’ll be talking about gun laws as time goes by.”

Eric Paddock, Stephen Paddock’s brother, said he was stunned to learn that his brother could be responsible for such violence.

Stephen Paddock had no history of mental illness nor did he have problems with drugs or alcohol, Eric Paddock said, noting that his brother was a high-stakes gambler, sometimes wagering hundreds of dollars on a single hand of video poker.

When he spoke to the FBI, Eric Paddock said he showed agents three years of text messages from his brother, including one that mentioned winning $250,000 at a casino. A federal law enforcement official said investigators had reviewed reports suggesting Paddock engaged in high-dollar gambling, and they are trying to determine whether he faced financial strains.

Eric Paddock said his brother was “wealthy,” in part because he had no children to support. Stephen Paddock had worked in the past as an accountant, and he had real estate investments in the Orlando area, Eric Paddock said.

Lockheed Martin, the defense giant, said that Paddock had worked for the company for three years in the 1980s.

Police said they believe Paddock was a “lone wolf” attacker, though they were still interested in speaking more with a woman named Marilou Danley who lived with him in Mesquite, Nev., a little more than an hour outside of Las Vegas on the Arizona border. Danley, Paddock’s 62-year-old girlfriend, was found outside the country — as of Monday afternoon, in Tokyo — and was not involved in the shooting.

“We still consider her a person of interest,” Lombardo said Monday. He said investigators also are exploring a report that Paddock attended a different music festival in September.

Not long after the shooting, the Islamic State claimed responsibility, though law enforcement authorities were quick to reject that assertion. “We have determined, to this point, no connection with an international terrorist group,” Aaron Rouse, the special agent in charge of the FBI in Las Vegas, said at a news briefing.

Zapotosky and Berman reported from Washington. Lynh Bui, Felicia Mello and Heather Long in Las Vegas; Barbara Liston in Orlando; Justin Glawe in Mesquite, Tex.; and Derek Hawkins, Travis M. Andrews, Brian Murphy, Wesley Lowery and Julie Tate in Washington contributed to this report, which will be updated throughout the day.


The Kurdish Independence Referendum Was a Political Miscalculation

October 1, 2017

by Patrick Cockburn

The Unz Review

The Iraqi government has banned international flights to the Kurdish capital Irbil from 6pm this Friday, isolating the Kurds in Iraq  to a degree they have not experienced since the overthrow of Saddam Hussein in 2003. The isolation is political as well as geographical as traditional Kurdish allies, like the US, UK, France and Germany, have opposed the referendum on Kurdish independence while near neighbours in Turkey, Iran and Baghdad are moving to squeeze the Kurds into submission.

The referendum succeeded in showing that the Kurds, not just in Iraq but in Turkey, Iran and Syria, still yearn for their own state. Paradoxically, the outcome of the poll has demonstrated both the strength of their demand for self-determination and the weakness of their ability to obtain it. The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) is revealed as a minnow whose freedom of action – and even its survival – depends on playing off one foreign state against the other and keeping tolerable relations with all of them, even when they detested each other. In the past an American envoy would go out one door just as the head of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards came in the other.

The referendum has ended, perhaps only temporarily, these delicate balancing acts at which the Kurdish leadership was very skilled. In the last few weeks, the US has denounced the referendum in forthright terms, emboldening Iraq, Turkey and Iran to punish the Kurds for their undiplomatic enthusiasm to be an independent nation.

The poll was always a dangerous gamble but it is too early to say that it has entirely failed: minority communities and small nations must occasionally kick their big power allies in the teeth. Otherwise, they will become permanent proxies whose agreement with what their big power ally wants can be taken for granted. The skill for the smaller player is not to pay too high a price for going their own way. Iraq, Turkey and Iran have all made threatening statements over the last few days, some of them bombast, but they can hit the Kurds very hard if they want to.

The Kurds are in a fix and normally they would look to Washington to help them out, but under President Trump US foreign policy has become notoriously unpredictable. Worse from the Kurdish point of view, the US no longer needs the Iraqi Kurds as it did before the capture of Mosul from Isis in July. In any case, it was the Iraqi armed forces that won a great victory there, so for the first time in 14 years there is a powerful Iraqi army in the north of the country. We may not be on the verge of an Arab-Kurdish war, but the military balance of power is changing and Baghdad, not Irbil, is the gainer.

Anxious diplomats and excited journalists describe Iraq as “being on a collision course”, but the different parties will not necessarily collide. Muddling through is not only a British trait. But there is no doubt that the situation has become more dangerous, particularly in the disputed territories stretching across northern Iraq from Syria to Iran.

The referendum always had a risky ambivalence about it which helped ignite the present crisis. It all depended on what audience Kurdish President Masoud Barzani was addressing: when he spoke to Kurdish voters, it was a poll of historic significance when the Kurds would take a decisive step towards an independent state.

But addressing an international and regional audience, Barzani said he was proposing something much tamer, more like an opinion poll, in which the Iraqi Kurds were politely indicating a general preference for independence at some date in the future. Like many leaders who play the nationalist card, Barzani is finding that his rhetoric is being taken more seriously than his caveats. “Bye, Bye Iraq!” chanted crowds in Irbil on the night of the referendum.

Much of this was born of Barzani’s bid to outmanoeuvre his political rivals in Kurdistan by re-emerging as the standard bearer of Kurdish nationalism. He will benefit from his decision to defy the world and press ahead with the vote when it comes to the presidential and parliamentary elections in KRG on 1 November.

But the price of this could be high. It is not only Barzani who is facing an election in which national self-assertion is an issue in the coming months. Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has a parliamentary election in 2018 and does not want to be accused of being insufficiently tough on the Kurds. Banning of international flights to Irbil is far less than many Iraqi MPs say they want.

By holding a referendum in the disputed territories, Barzani promoted this issue to the top of the Iraqi political agenda. It might have been in the interests of the Kurds to let it lie since the contending claims for land are deeply felt and irreconcilable. Optimists believe that Irbil and Baghdad could never go to war because they are both too dependent militarily on foreign powers. It is true that the Iraqi armed forces and the Kurdish Peshmerga alike could not have held off and defeated Isis without close air support from the US-led coalition. But by putting the future status of the KRG and the territories in play, Barzani has presented the Iraqi government, Turkey and Iran with a threat and an opportunity.

The four countries with Kurdish minorities fear that secessionism might spread, but a further problem is that they do not believe that an Iraqi Kurdish state would be truly independent, but would shift into the orbit of another power. The Iranians are paranoid about the possibility that such a state would be an American base threatening Iran. Politicians in Baghdad say that, if the Kurds are serious about self-determination, they would cling onto the oil fields of Kirkuk and be dependent on Turkey through which to export their crude.

Once the KRG dreamed of becoming a new Dubai with gleaming malls and hotels, but since 2014 it has looked more like Pompeii. The skyline is punctured by dozens of half completed tower blocks beside rusting cranes and abandoned machinery. The boom town atmosphere disappeared in 2014 when the price of oil went down, money stopped coming from Baghdad and Isis seized Mosul two hours’ drive away. The state is impoverished and salaries paid late, if at all. This will now all get a lot worse with airports and border crossings closed and 35,000 federal employees no longer being paid.

At all events, the political landscape in Iraq and Syria is changing: we are at the beginning of a new political phase in which the battle to defeat Isis is being replaced by a power struggle between Arabs and Kurds.


Las Vegas police look for motive in deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history

October 3, 2017

by Alexandria Sage, Lisa Girion


LAS VEGAS (Reuters) – Police sought clues on Tuesday to explain why a retiree who enjoyed gambling but had no criminal record set up a vantage point in a high-rise Las Vegas hotel and poured gunfire onto a concert below, slaying dozens of people before killing himself.

The Sunday night shooting spree from a 32nd-floor window of the Mandalay Bay hotel, on the Las Vegas Strip, killed at least 59 people before the gunman turned a weapon on himself. More than 500 people were injured, some trampled, in the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history.

The gunman, identified as Stephen Paddock, 64, left no immediate hint of his motive for the arsenal of high-powered weaponry he amassed, including 42 guns, or the carnage he inflicted on a crowd of 22,000 attending an outdoor country music festival.

Paddock was not known to have served in the military, to have suffered from a history of mental illness or to have registered any inkling of social disaffection, political discontent or radical views on social media.

“He was a sick man, a demented man,” U.S. President Donald Trump told reporters. “Lot of problems, I guess, and we’re looking into him very, very seriously, but we’re dealing with a very, very sick individual”

He declined to answer a question about whether he considered the attack an act of domestic terrorism.

U.S. officials also discounted a claim of responsibility by the Islamic State militant group.

Police said they believed Paddock acted alone.

“We have no idea what his belief system was,” Clark County Sheriff Joseph Lombardo told reporters on Monday. “I can’t get into the mind of a psychopath.”

Although police said they had no other suspects, Lombardo said investigators wanted to talk with Paddock’s girlfriend and live-in companion, Marilou Danley, who he said was traveling abroad, possibly in Tokyo.


A Mix of Hope, Fear and Anger in Catalonia After Millions Vote for Independence From Spain

October 2 2017

by Robert Mackey

The Intercept

Catalonia remained on edge Monday, a day after millions voted for independence from Spain in a referendum that the central government used force to disrupt, severely limiting turnout but also raising questions about the legitimacy of a democracy that orders the police to beat voters.

As the European Union spurned an appeal from the president of the Catalan autonomous region, Carles Puigdemont, to facilitate talks with Spain about what comes next, tens of thousands of students marched through the streets of Barcelona with their mouths taped shut, to express their frustration about the Spanish government denying them a voice.

There was particular outrage at the violence inflicted on voters by members of Spanish police forces who were called in to block the referendum after a Spanish court ruled that it was unconstitutional. The images of police officers beating voters and firing rubber bullets at polling places on Sunday stunned and horrified Catalans, and rage at the police only grew on Monday as more video clips were broadcast and circulated on social media.

In Barcelona, hundreds of protesters blocked traffic outside the headquarters of the Spanish national police force in the city, where Catalan nationalists were tortured during the dictatorship of Gen. Francisco Franco. As protesters screamed abuse at the Spanish police inside the building, the autonomous Catalan police force, the Mossos, was called in to keep the peace.Outside Barcelona, in the town of Calella, residents demanded that Spanish Guardia Civil officers be withdrawn after video showed that plainclothes officers had attacked protesters outside their hotel.

The officers were evacuated from Calella after a day of angry protests.Rage at the national police was not dimmed by the revelation that officers billeted at the port of Barcelona posed with the Spanish flag for a triumphal victory photograph after attacking Catalan voters.

How the crisis can be defused without further violence remains a mystery, but the next step for Catalans seeking to put pressure on the government of Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy is a general strike called for Tuesday.The planned action appears to have widespread support, even from opponents of independence who feel that Spain denied them their democratic rights by hampering the referendum. Major Spanish trade unions refused to sanction the strike, but it was supported by the city of Barcelona and important Catalan cultural and sporting institutions, including FC Barcelona and the Sagrada Familia cathedral.

The images of police violence enflamed opinion in Catalonia and abroad, yet instilled fear locally and likely had a chilling effect on voter turnout, leaving the legitimacy of the result in doubt.

A Catalan activist who asked to be identified only by his first name, Jordi, because he feared retribution from the Spanish authorities, told The Intercept that he was distraught to hear that turnout for the referendum had been limited to about 42 percent and blamed the images of police beating voters for convincing many supporters of independence to stay home on Sunday. The activist also said that he feared that the Spanish government might be planning to arrest the Catalan president to provoke a crisis on the streets that would justify calling in a far larger security force, perhaps including the military.

The sense of frustration and hopelessness was expressed across Catalonia on Monday night in a form of noisy protest known as a casserolada, in which keys are shaken and casseroles, pots, and pans are banged on loudly.


Catalan referendum: Anti-police strike hits public services

October 3, 2017

BBC News

Crowds are thronging central Barcelona and blocking roads across Catalonia in a protest strike over police violence during the independence referendum.

There is little public transport, after Catalan trade unions called the strike to show public anger at Spanish police tactics during Sunday’s disputed vote.

More than 50 roadblocks caused big traffic jams. Barcelona port was at a standstill, union sources said.

However, the city’s El Prat airport and its taxis are operating normally.

Many small businesses across Catalonia have shut for the day. Schools, universities and medical services are also closed or operating at a minimum level.

Barcelona’s metro traffic was cut to a 25% service during rush hour and no trains at all at other times.

Top tourist attractions were also closed, including the city’s famous Sagrada Familia church

Mercabarna – Barcelona’s massive wholesale market – was left deserted as some 770 food businesses closed for the day.

The strike was called in protest at “the grave violation of rights and freedoms” seen during Sunday’s ballot. Almost 900 people were hurt as Spanish police tried to prevent voting, in a referendum declared illegal by the Madrid government.

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said the vote made a “mockery” of democracy.

Some police officers were seen firing rubber bullets, storming into polling stations and pulling women by their hair.

Thirty-three police officers were also injured in Sunday’s clashes, Catalan medical officials said.

However, more than 2.2m people reportedly voted in spite of this. The Catalan government says the vote in support of independence was nearly 90%, but official results have not yet been released.

Turnout was relatively low at a reported 42%, potentially weakening the position of Catalan President Carles Puigdemont.

On Monday evening the Spain national football team abandoned a training session after fans booed and whistled at defender Gerard Pique, who has strongly backed the Catalan referendum.

Guardia Civil police mingled among the crowd, as some fans waved Spanish flags and anti-Pique placards.

He plays for FC Barcelona, which announced that it had joined the strike. “None of the professional teams or the youth teams at FC Barcelona will train tomorrow,” the club said on Monday evening.

Catalan rage: Separatism or populism?

By Europe editor Katya Adler

It would be wrong to interpret the anger and anguish so palpable in Catalonia right now as an expression of political unity. Catalans are as divided as ever on the question of independence.

What unites them today is a seething fury and resentment at the heavy-handedness of the Spanish government, represented by Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, with what Catalans perceive as his Madrid-centric arrogance, brutishness and disregard for the rights of individuals.

This is far less about separatism than populism. Anti-establishment, nationalist sentiment a la Catalana.


EU agrees new rules to limit cheap Chinese imports: sources

October 3, 2017


STRASBOURG (Reuters) – The European Union agreed on Tuesday new rules to guard against cheap Chinese imports, ending 18 months of wrangling over trade ties with Beijing, sources said.

The European Union and many of China’s other trading partners have debated whether to treat China as a “market economy”, which Beijing says was its right at the end of 2016, some 15 years after it joined the World Trade Organization.

Following negotiations with EU governments, the European Parliament and the European Commission, the new EU rules will now treat all WTO countries in the same way but will make exceptions for cases of “market distortion”, such as excessive state intervention, a condition set to include China.

The EU kicked off discussions early in 2016 and held public consultations, gathering over 5,000 opinions on how to handle trade complaints against China.

After a number of failed attempts, the European Commission, member states and EU lawmakers overcame their differences on Tuesday, the sources said.

Until now, China has been treated as a special “non-market” case, meaning EU investigators decide that its exports are artificially cheap if the prices are below those of a third country, such as the United States.

China last year launched a complaint at the WTO against Europe and the United States over their trade defense practices.

The European Commission, supported by the EU’s 28 member states, believes the rules for China needed to be changed and proposed that for all WTO members, including China, dumping means selling for export at below domestic prices.

However, if those prices are subject to “significant market distortions”, investigators can instead construct a fair value using international benchmark prices.

Such distortions could include state interference, including state-owned enterprises, cheap financing or discrimination in favor of domestic producers.

Critics, which include many in the European Parliament, say the new rules shift the burden of proof from Chinese to EU producers, making it much harder to impose measures.

The European Parliament has said that if distortions are shown to exist in a given country then the onus should be on its exporters to show that their prices are market-conform.

Reporting by Philip Blenkinsop; editing by Robin Emmott


Watching terrorism videos online could result in 15yr jail term

October 3, 2017


People who watch terrorist propaganda online could face up to 15 years behind bars, Home Secretary Amber Rudd has announced, in a move designed to tighten laws tackling radicalization.

Speaking at the Conservative Party Conference on Tuesday, Rudd said those found guilty of repeatedly viewing extremist material such as bomb-making instructions and far-right propaganda could now face lengthy jail terms.

The new law will extend an existing ban on downloading and storing the content on a PC to repeatedly watching it on sites like YouTube.

“I want to make sure those who view despicable terrorist content online including jihadi websites, far-right propaganda and bomb-making instructions will face the full force of the law,” Rudd said.

“Changes will enable police and the security service to keep pace with modern patterns of internet use and intervene earlier in an investigation given the speed with which online radicalization is taking place.”

A defense of “reasonable excuse” would still be available to academics, journalists or others who may have a legitimate reason to view such material.

Rudd ramped up her calls for internet giants such as Google and Facebook to do more to tackle the scourge of online extremism. She criticized firms such as WhatsApp for developing encrypted software that has held back the authorities from investigating suspicious activity.

The government has said end-to-end encryption has kept it from reading terrorists’ and criminals’ messages. Experts warn that the same technology also keeps private citizens from having their messages read by criminals and is used to secure banking technologies.

Rudd said such platforms are being used by sex offenders as well as terrorists.

“We also know that end-to-end services like WhatsApp are being used by pedophiles. I do not accept that it is right that companies should allow them and other criminals to operate beyond the reach of law enforcement.

We must require the industry to move faster and more aggressively. They have the resources and there must be greater urgency.”

The tightening of the law around viewing terrorist material is part of a review of the government’s counterterrorism strategy following the increasing frequency of terrorist attacks in Britain this year.

Home Office analysis, seen by the Guardian, shows that since September 1, 2016, Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) supporters have published almost 67,000 tweets in English, promoting links to their propaganda on a range of online platforms.

The figures also show that in the first eight months of this year, more than 44,000 links to IS propaganda were created and shared.

During her speech, Rudd also announced that selling highly corrosive substances to under 18s will be made illegal.

“Acid attacks are absolutely revolting. You have all seen the pictures of victims that never fully recover. Endless surgeries. Lives ruined. So today, I am also announcing a new offence to prevent the sale of acids to under 18s.”

She also claimed Britain would not be safe with a Labour government.

“They have spent three decades opposing anti-terrorist laws. They’ve talked of their ‘friends’ in Hamas and Hezbollah. They are silent on the anti-Semitism that festers in their party. They won’t clearly condemn the actions of the IRA. They don’t support police officers shooting to kill. They’ve called for the dismantling of the police, the disbandment of MI5 and the disarming of police officers.”


America: The Dictatress of the World

by Jacob G. Hornberger

October 2, 2017


On July 21, 1821, John Quincy Adams, who would go on to become the sixth president of the United States, warned that if America were ever to abandon its founding principle of non-interventionism in foreign affairs, she might well become the dictatress of the world.

Adams issued his warning in a speech he delivered to Congress, a speech that has gone down in history with the title “In Search of Monsters to Destroy.”

Adams was referring to the fact that the United States was founded as a constitutional republic, one whose military forces did not go around the world helping people who were suffering the horrors of dictators, despots, civil wars, revolutions, famines, oppression, or anything else. That’s not to say that America didn’t sympathize with people struggling to experience lives of freedom, peace, and prosperity. It was simply that the U.S. government would not go abroad to slay such monsters.

Here is how Adams expressed it:

Wherever the standard of freedom and independence has been or shall be unfurled, there will her heart, her benedictions and her prayers be. But she goes not abroad in search of monsters to destroy. She is the well-wisher to the freedom and independence of all. She is the champion and vindicator only of her own. She will recommend the general cause, by the countenance of her voice, and the benignant sympathy of her example.

Adams was summing up the founding foreign policy of the United States, a policy of non-interventionism in the affairs of other nations, specifically Europe and Asia.

And that’s the way the American people wanted it. If Americans had been told after the Constitutional Convention that the U.S. government would be intervening around the world, there is no way that they would have ever approved the Constitution.

In fact, as a practical matter, throughout the 18th and 19th centuries, there is no way that U.S. officials could have gone abroad in search of monsters to destroy. That’s because a nation needs a powerful military to go abroad and free people from dictators and despots or save people from famines or other bad things that happen in life.

When the Constitution called the federal government into existence, the last thing the American people wanted was a powerful military. They were overwhelmingly opposed to what they called “standing armies,” which was a term used describe a big, permanent military establishment. That was why there was Pentagon, no big, permanent military-industrial complex, no CIA, and no NSA for more than 100 years after the country was established. The American people didn’t want those types of governmental apparatuses to be part of our nation’s political system.

The reason Americans were so opposed to standing armies is because they believed that standing armies constituted a grave threat to their freedom and economic well-being. They knew, from both first-hand experience and through history, that dictators and despots used powerful military establishments to destroy the freedom and prosperity of the citizenry, oftentimes in the name of keeping them safe, secure, and prosperous.

So, while there was a basic military force throughout the 19th century — large enough to suppress Native Americans or even to defeat a neighboring Third World nation like Mexico in the Mexican War, it certainly was nowhere near as large enough to cross the oceans and invade and conquer European or Asian countries. The one big exception, of course, was the Civil War, but the army immediately demobilized upon the conclusion of the war.

Things started changing with the Spanish American War in 1898. There were those who argued that America could not be a great nation without owning overseas colonies, like the British and French Empires. Opposed to that sentiment was the mindset that had guided the founding of the country: that empire and foreign interventionism would end up destroying the country from within.

The interventionists prevailed. First, U.S. officials misled and double-crossed the colonies of the Spanish Empire by leading them to believe that the United States was intervening against Spain to help the colonies win their independence. It was a lie. As the colonies soon learned, the real aim was to step into the shoes of the Spanish Empire by acquiring its colonies. That’s how the United States ended with Puerto Rico, Guam, the Philippines, and Cuba.

Second, the trend toward empire as a way to make America great was followed by foreign interventionism, with World War I and World War II being premier examples.

That was followed by the conversion of the U.S. government from a constitutional republic to what is known as a “national-security state,” a governmental apparatus characterized by a massive, permanent standing military establishment and secretive agencies with the power to assassinate and spy on the citizenry, in the name of preserving “national security.”

That was followed by massive interventions “in search of monsters to destroy” through assassinations, coups, invasions, occupations, support of dictatorships, and regime change: Korea, Guatemala, Iran, Cuba, Congo, Brazil, Chile, Grenada, Panama, Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, Syria, and others.

Here is how Adams eloquently expressed what would happen to America if she were ever to abandon our nation’s founding principles of anti-empire and non-interventionism:

She well knows that by once enlisting under other banners than her own, were they even the banners of foreign independence, she would involve herself, beyond the power of extrication, in all the wars of interest and intrigue, of individual avarice, envy, and ambition, which assume the colors and usurp the standard of freedom. The fundamental maxims of her policy would insensibly change from liberty to force. The frontlet upon her brows would no longer beam with the ineffable splendor of freedom and independence; but in its stead would soon be substituted an imperial diadem, flashing in false and tarnished lustre the murky radiance of dominion and power. She might become the dictatress of the world: she would be no longer the ruler of her own spirit.

No one can seriously deny that Adams has been proven correct — that America — or, more correctly, the U.S. government — has become the dictatress of the world — issuing orders and commands to people and regimes all over the world and backing them up with coups, assassinations, sanctions, embargoes, invasions, and occupations, and all headed today by a democratically elected president who has all the traditional traits of an old-fashioned dictator or despot.


Turkish inflation again accelerates in September

The annual inflation rate in Turkey rose for the second month in a row and is now over 11 percent, well above the government’s 5-percent target. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan blames high interest rates.

October 3, 2017


Turkey’s annualized inflation rate rose to 11.2 percent in September, the state-run statistics agency Turkstat reported on Tuesday, with the costs of education and transportation seeing the biggest monthly gains.

The overall increase was slightly below market expectations, but shows a return to higher costs, after a period earlier this year in which the inflation rate dipped into single digits.

However, there was a significant increase in core inflation, which hit its highest levels since February 2004, according to QNB-Finansbank.

“What is even more concerning is that the upward trend will likely extend to the upcoming months,” according to a note from the bank, which said inflation may hit 11.5 percent by the end of the year.

Turkey has seen strong economic expansion this year, in part due to rising exports, fiscal stimulus and credit growth, which has also led to consumer-side demand increases, putting pressure on inflation.

Passing the blame

Dispite growth in exports, the trade deficit has also continued to widen. The Turkish lira is again under pressure compared to the dollar and the euro. Last month, the central bank raised its inflation forecast for the end of the year to 9.72 percent and kept interest rates on hold.

But Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is having none of it and is in a belligerent mood. On Tuesday he said that the country has not been able to lower inflation because of high interest rates which were at levels that discouraged investment; once again reiterating his unorthodox view of the link between interest rates and inflation.

Conventional economic wisdom suggests that inflation should go down as interest rates are raised since this softens demand and weakens the money supply growth in an economy, and many central banks have used this policy tool in the past.

“We still have not been able lower inflation and this is due to interest rates,” He said in a speech to deputies from his ruling AK Party after Turkstat’s data was released.

“If we cannot secure the fall in interest rates, if we cannot succeed here, then beware — plenty of calamities await us. We must definitely deal with this,” he added.


When Rising Seas Hit Home: Hard Choices Ahead for Hundreds of US Coastal Communities (2017)


There comes a threshold of chronic flooding that makes normal routines impossible and forces communities to make difficult, often costly choices.

If saltwater regularly soaked your basement or first floor, kept you from getting to work, or damaged your car, how often would it have to happen before you began looking for a new place to call home?

This national analysis identifies when US coastal communities will face a level of disruptive flooding that affects people’s homes, daily routines, and livelihoods. It identifies hundreds of communities that will face chronic inundation and possible retreat over the coming decades as sea levels rise.

The findings highlight what’s at stake in our fight to address sea level rise and global warming. They also provide affected communities a measure of how much time they have to prepare.

Chronic inundation

Each community has a threshold for sea level rise and chronic flooding beyond which sustaining normal routines becomes impossible.

For this national analysis, that chronic inundation threshold is defined as flooding that occurs 26 times per year (on average, once every other week) or more. Communities where more than 10 percent of usable land exceeds this threshold are deemed chronically inundated.

Three different sea level rise scenarios were assessed through 2100:

A “high scenario,” in which emissions rise through the end of the century and ice sheets melt faster to yield about 6.5 feet of sea level rise.

An “intermediate scenario” that projects carbon emissions peaking around mid-century and about 4 feet of sea level rise globally, with ice melting at a moderate rate that increases over time.

A “low scenario” that assumes carbon emissions decline steeply and warming is limited to less than 2 degrees Celsius—in line with the primary goal of the Paris Climate Agreement. Sea level rise is driven primarily by ocean warming with very little ice loss.

Key findings

By 2035, about 170 communities—roughly twice as many as today—will face chronic inundation and possible retreat from affected areas under the intermediate or high scenarios, with more than 100 seeing at least a quarter of their land chronically flooded.

By 2060, about 270 communities will face chronic inundation with intermediate sea level rise. This number jumps to 360 under the high scenario. About 40 percent of chronically inundated communities in either scenario would see at least half of their land flooded.

By 2100, about 490 communities—including roughly 40 percent of all oceanfront communities on the East and Gulf Coasts—will face chronic inundation and possible retreat with intermediate sea level rise, with nearly 300 seeing at least a quarter of their land chronically flooded. The number of communities jumps to about 670—including roughly 60 percent of all oceanfront communities on the East and Gulf Coasts—under the high scenario.

If we act today to achieve the temperature and emissions reductions goals outlined in the Paris Climate Agreement, and succeed in slowing the acceleration of sea level rise, about 380 communities could avoid chronic inundation this century.

Preparing for impacts

The solutions that can help protect individual communities from increased flooding fall into three broad categories: defending against the sea, accommodating rising water, and retreating from flood-prone areas. In practice, many communities will seek to combine these approaches. Not all approaches will work everywhere. Many are costly to sustain, and rising seas may simply preclude some options.

Robust federal and state-level policies and resources will be vital to help communities understand their risks, assess their choices, and implement adaptation plans. To effectively prepare, the country must take bold measures commensurate with the scale of the coastal risks.

The wise choice

As we look ahead to the end of this century, we have a choice. If we take aggressive action to address climate change, and succeed in slowing the acceleration of sea level rise, many communities—nearly 400 identified by this analysis—could avoid chronic inundation this century. If, however, sea levels rise along the high scenario, those communities face the risk of chronic inundation by 2100.

At this crossroads, reducing global warming emissions must be a national priority. The US can still make deep cuts in heat-trapping emissions and contribute to global efforts to limit climate change. We can still avoid some of the most serious human consequences and losses that our coasts face this century.

We have time to respond. We must use it wisely.


Figuring out how fast Greenland is melting

July 5, 2017

Source:University of Arizona


A new analysis of Greenland’s past temperatures will help determine how fast the island’s vast ice sheet is melting. Other research shows the accelerated melting of Greenland’s ice sheet is contributing to sea level rise. The new study provides the most accurate estimates of Greenland’s 20th century temperatures by combining the best two of previous analyses. The finding will help improve climate models so they more accurately project future global climate change and its effects.

A new analysis of Greenland’s past temperatures will help scientists figure out how fast the island’s vast ice sheet is melting, according to a new report from University of Arizona atmospheric scientist

The ice sheet has been shrinking since 1900 and the yearly loss of ice has doubled since 2003, other researchers have shown. The accelerated melting of the Greenland ice sheet is contributing to sea level rise.

The glaciers and ice sheet of Greenland cover a land area greater than the European countries of Germany, France, Spain and Italy combined. If all Greenland’s ice melted, sea levels would rise by about 7 meters (23 feet).

Figuring out how fast the island’s ice has melted and will melt in the future requires knowing the past and the present surface air temperatures, according to UA researchers J. E. Jack Reeves Eyre and Xubin Zeng.

“Greenland is particularly important to global climate change because it has the potential to cause a big change in sea level,” lead author Reeves Eyre said. “Knowing how it’s going to change over the next century is important.”

Calculating an average yearly surface temperature for the whole of Greenland is difficult. During most of the 20th century, the only weather stations were along the coast. There was no network of weather stations in Greenland’s interior until 1995.

Other groups of researchers have used combinations of weather station readings, satellite remote sensing data, statistical analyses and climate models to calculate the island’s annual surface temperatures back to 1901. However, the results of those analyses disagree with one another substantially.

How Greenland’s massive ice sheet will respond to future warming is not well understood, said Zeng, a UA professor of hydrology and atmospheric sciences.

By combining the best two of the previous analyses, the UA study provides the most accurate estimates of Greenland’s 20th century temperatures, said Reeves Eyre, a doctoral student in the UA Department of Hydrology and Atmospheric Sciences.

The finding will help improve climate models so they more accurately project future global climate change and its effects.

“That’s why we look at the historical period — it’s not about the history. It’s about the future,” said Zeng, who holds the Agnese N. Haury Endowed Chair in Environment.

Reeves Eyre and Zeng’s research article, “Evaluation of Greenland near surface air temperature data sets,” is published online July 5 in the open-access journal The Cryosphere.

NASA, the U.S. Department of Energy and the UA Agnese Nelms Haury Program in Environment and Social Justice funded the research.

Knowing Greenland’s past temperatures is important for improving climate models, because scientists test regional and global climate models by seeing how well they predict what the climate was in the past.

Previous analyses of the island’s past temperatures came up with contradictory results: Some said the 1930s were warmer than present, while other analyses said the opposite.

To find the best estimate of 20th century temperatures, the UA scientists compared 16 different analyses. The UA team compared more datasets covering the period 1901 to 2014 and used more information from weather stations and field expeditions than previous studies.

“We are the first to bring all those datasets together,” Zeng said.

To avoid bias from lumping temperature data from different elevations, Reeves Eyre and Zeng divided the temperature data into three categories: data from coastal regions, data from lower than 1,500 meters (about 4,900 feet) and data from above 1,500 meters.

The coastal regions of Greenland are ice-free year-round, whereas the glaciers and ice sheet at the intermediate elevation melt some in the summer, but refreeze in the winter, Reeves Eyre said. The ice sheet and glaciers at the intermediate elevations are shrinking a bit each year because temperatures are increasing.

Above 1,500 meters, the ice generally does not melt and may even gain mass, he said. However, the bit of ice gained at the highest elevations does not offset the loss of ice at the lower elevations.

The UA study resolves the discrepancies among the other analyses and provides the best estimates of Greenland’s past temperatures.

“The combination of the MERRA2 and GISTEMP (analyses) gives the most accurate results over the 20th century,” he said. “Putting them together is more than the sum of the parts. Neither of them individually can do what both of them together can do.”

Although some previous analyses suggest the 1930s were warmer than it is now, the UA analysis shows that current temperatures are warmer than the 1930s. The long-term trend for Greenland’s ice sheet appears to be for ever-higher surface temperatures, he said.

“By studying a wide range of available data and combining two of the best data sources, we’ve come up with a combination that best represents the whole distribution of temperatures over Greenland from 1880 to 2016,” Reeves Eyre said. “Using this dataset is the best way to evaluate climate models and their projection of temperature change over Greenland.”









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