TBR News September 15, 2017

Sep 15 2017

The Voice of the White House

Washington, D.C., September 15, 2017:” The Center of International Studies, paid for and controlled entirely by the CIA, was set up at MIT in 1951 and other such entities followed at major, and some minor, universities and colleges across the country. Most universities terminated their working arrangements with the CIA but not before an entire generation of willing academics sold their services to the CIA. An inspection of an existing list of academics who worked for the CIA reads like a Who’s Who of the academic world.

By 1971, both the CIA and FBI were heavily engaged in domestic surveillance programs in the United States. These programs grew to be so pervasive and oppressive that in 1971, FBI director Hoover, alarmed at the degree and extent of illegal surveillance, balked at extending the cooperation of his agency any further and was instrumental in causing these enormous internal spy operations to collapse, at least insofar as CIA participation was concerned. Without Hoover’s FBI to assist them, the CIA programs began to wither and die and even James Angleton’s program to open, read and copy first class mail, a serious felony, was exposed and Angleton fired in 1976.

The domestic surveillance programs now in place are conducted by more than one agency and, in theory at least, are all-inclusive.

Every citizen of the United States is supposed to possess a Social Security card and the number on this card is the key used to unlock all the areas where sensitive personal information on all citizens is stored. The computer has simplified not only record keeping but also surveillance activities. Everything pertaining to a citizen is kept in computer files and the government, and some private agencies who work with the government, have unlimited and unrestricted access to these computer files.

Birth and death records, highly personal and often potentially embarrassing medical files, bank accounts, criminal files, credit card records that indicate travel and purchases, tax records, ownership of cars, planes, boats and real estate, credit bureau reports, Social Security and other official agency material and dozens of other records that are the sum and total of the population of the United States are all quickly available to interested officialdom through the offices of the computer systems.

It is no longer possible to fly commercially domestically without producing photo identification and all of this data is made available to various agencies via the computer

Even the television set in the living room (or often more interestingly, the bedroom) can be used as a surveillance device. It is a well-known fact that the functions of the AM and FM units found in all television set can be reversed and the set can be used as a transmitter, even when it is turned off.

None of this is done in a secret location in Washington but is accomplished at the subject’s local cable head. It should be noted that this wonderfully Orwellian program only works if the victim is connected to a television cable system, one of the best reasons for using a satellite disk. Contrary to rumor, the set can only be used for audio transmission, not visual, so bedroom activities can only be heard, not seen.

Not even the fax machine is secure because the technology exists, and is used, to have copies of faxed documents sent directly into a federal office at the same time they are being printed out at the recipient’s home or office.

While it is quite true that the American public are constantly subject to observations like ants in a glass ant farm, they should comfort themselves with the knowledge that this is for their own welfare and certainly not a manifestation of a burgeoning police state.”


Table of Contents

  • After new missile test, U.S. says North Korea threatens whole world
  • The Saudi Project Has Failed
  • Turkey will take its own security measures after Russia defense deal: Erdogan
  • Iraqi Kurdish referendum ‘historic mistake’: Turkey
  • Why no city should want Amazon’s HQ2
  • The U.S. Population Situation
  • ‘Alarm bells we cannot ignore’: world hunger rising for first time this century
  • Home-made bomb injures 22 on packed London commuter train
  • ‘How do we survive?’: fearful Californians prepare for nuclear attack
  • Oil and chemical spills from Hurricane Harvey big, but dwarfed by Katrina


After new missile test, U.S. says North Korea threatens whole world

September 14, 2017

by Jeff Mason and Jack Kim


WASHINGTON/SEOUL (Reuters) – U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson accused North Korea on Friday of threatening the entire world, after Pyongyang fired a missile over Japan for the second time in under a month in defiance of international pressure over its missile and nuclear programs.

In the latest attempt to deal with an issue that has repeatedly frustrated world powers, the U.N. Security Council was due to meet at 3 p.m. ET (1900 GMT) on Friday to discuss the missile launch, at the request of the United States and Japan.

The council’s 15 members unanimously stepped up sanctions against North Korea over a nuclear bomb test it staged on Sept. 3, imposing a ban on North Korea’s textile exports and capping its imports of crude oil.

North Korea has launched dozens of missiles under leader Kim Jong Un as it accelerates a weapons program designed to give it the ability to target the United States with a powerful, nuclear-tipped missile.

Tillerson said in a speech to foreign officials that the tests threaten the world and stressed the United States was working closely with regional allies Japan and South Korea.

“In East Asia, an increasingly aggressive and isolated regime in North Korea threatens democracies in South Korea, Japan, and more importantly, and more recently, has expanded those threats to the United States, endangering the entire world,” Tillerson said.

Taking a tougher line than Tillerson, White House National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster said the United States was fast running out of patience for diplomatic solutions on North Korea.

“We’ve been kicking the can down the road, and we’re out of road,” McMaster told reporters.

“For those … who have been commenting on a lack of a military option, there is a military option,” he said, adding that it would not be the Trump administration’s preferred choice.


North Korea’s latest test missile flew over Hokkaido in northern Japan on Friday and landed in the Pacific about 2,000 km (1,240 miles) to the east, the Japanese government said.

It traveled about 3,700 km (2,300 miles) in total, according to South Korea’s military, far enough to reach the U.S. Pacific territory of Guam, which the North has threatened before.

“The range of this test was significant since North Korea demonstrated that it could reach Guam with this missile,” the Union of Concerned Scientists advocacy group said in a statement. However, the accuracy of the missile, still at an early stage of development, was low, it said.

On Thursday, Tillerson called on China, Pyongyang’s only ally, and Russia to apply more pressure on North Korea by “taking direct actions of their own.”

But Beijing pushed back.

Foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying denied that China held the key to easing tension on the Korean peninsula and said that duty lay with the parties directly involved. She also reiterated China’s position that sanctions on North Korea are only effective if paired with talks.

North Korea staged its sixth and most powerful nuclear bomb test earlier this month and in July tested long-range intercontinental ballistic missiles capable of reaching at least parts of the U.S. mainland.

Last month, North Korea fired an intermediate range missile that also flew over Hokkaido into the ocean.

Warning announcements about the latest missile blared around 7 a.m. (2200 GMT Thursday) in parts of northern Japan, while many residents received alerts on their mobile phones or saw warnings on TV telling them to seek refuge.

The U.S. military said soon after the launch it had detected a single intermediate range ballistic missile but it did not pose a threat to North America or Guam, which lies 3,400 km (2,110 miles) from North Korea.

The missile reached an altitude of about 770 km (480 miles) and flew for about 19 minutes, according to South Korea’s military.

On global markets, shares and other risk assets barely moved and gold fell as traders paid little attention to the latest missile test, shifting their focus to where and when interest rates will go up.


U.S. President Donald Trump has promised not to allow North Korea to threaten the United States with a nuclear-tipped missile.

Russian President Vladimir Putin discussed the launch in a phone call with French President Emanuel Macron and agreed on the need for a diplomatic solution, including through resuming direct talks on North Korea.

Asked about the prospect for direct talks, a White House spokesman said, ”As the president and his national security team have repeatedly said, now is not the time to talk to North Korea.”

South Korean President Moon Jae-in also said dialogue with the North was impossible at this point. He ordered officials to analyze and prepare for possible new North Korean threats, including electromagnetic pulse and biochemical attacks, a spokesman said.

The United States and South Korea are technically still at war with North Korea because the 1950-53 Korean conflict ended with a truce and not a peace treaty. The North accuses the United States, which has 28,500 troops in South Korea, of planning to invade and regularly threatens to destroy it and its Asian allies.

David Wright, of the Union of Concerned Scientists, said the latest test had demonstrated North Korea could reach Guam with a Hwasong 12 missile, although it was not known what payload the missile was carrying.

Wright said it would be difficult for North Korea to use the missile to destroy Anderson U.S. Air Force Base in Guam given what is known about its guidance systems, even if the missile was carrying a high-yield warhead.

Reporting by Jack Kim and Christine Kim in Seoul and Susan Heavey in Washington; Additional reporting by Hideyuki Sano, William Mallard, Tim Kelly and Chehui Peh in Tokyo, Jeff Mason, Mohammad Zargham, Susan Heavey, Idrees Ali and David Brunnstrom in WashingtonTom Miles in Geneva; Masha Tsvetkova and Polina Devitt in Moscow; Christian Shepherd in Beijing; Writing by Linda Sieg and Frances Kerry; Editing by Alistair Bell

 The Saudi Project Has Failed

September 15, 2017

by Rannie Amiri


Books will be written on the designs of the Saudi regime to reshape the greater Middle East. Entire chapters could be dedicated to the depth of United States and Israeli involvement and their shared partnership with the House of Saud and other Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) member states to do so. The titles may even stipulate it as a Saudi-U.S.-Israeli Project for emphasis. That said, the role played by Saudi Arabia within this alliance is not insignificant.

The undertaking has directly touched nearly a half-dozen Arab countries, unified largely by their common effort to resist the import of radical, extremist groups unleashed in retribution for not abiding by the diktats of the Gulf dynasties. Others opposed monarchical rule, their royal proxies or a Saudi-directed foreign policy and attempts to impose a uniform media narrative.

The scope of such a discussion is certainly worthy of a comprehensive and detailed analysis but only a summation is given here. Consider it the last page of the last section of the last chapter.

The Saudi Project has failed. Utterly.


With the fall of Saddam Hussein, alarm bells sounded in Riyadh and other GCC capitals. He was an unpredictable ally yet one perceived to be adept at stemming ostensible Iranian and hence (according to the sectarian mindset), Shia influence from reaching the Arabian Peninsula. Many Gulf states have sizable Shia Arab populations, marginalized politically and socioeconomically particularly in Saudi Arabia and Bahrain. Suddenly, a popularly-elected government assumed power on their doorstep. Imperfect as it was, the Iraqi government reflected the demographics of the war-torn, Shia-majority country. The creation and rise of the Islamic State (IS) was part and parcel of their plan to make sure it would not succeed and indeed, implode. Islamic State funding came primarily from Saudi Arabia. Its Wahabi textbooks were published in the Kingdom. As the former imam of the Grand Mosque in Mecca said, IS leaders, “draw their ideas from what is written in our own books, our own principles.” With the liberation of Mosul and the eviction of IS from other Iraqi cities, it was clear there would be no “caliphate” or return of an authoritarian, presumably Sunni, strongman to Baghdad. Banking on Iraqi exasperation with corruption, poor security and endless terrorist attacks, the people did not take the bait and turn on the government.


There is no greater example of the failure of the Saudi Project than in Syria. Syria is seen as the Arab conduit between Iran and Hezbollah in Lebanon, a key logistical player in the alternatively described “axis of Resistance” or “Shiite crescent.” Rival sponsorship of al-Qaeda and IS by Qatar and Saudi Arabia respectively, and infighting among all factions including the so-called “moderate” rebels backed by the U.S., was a part of its undoing. Witnessing the abhorrent crimes committed by IS in Iraq and their country, the Syrian people also had no appetite or desire to play hosts to takfiri extremists. Neither the Sunni majority nor Christian and Alawite minorities saw the armed groups as a viable alternative to Bashar al-Assad. Islamic State has nearly been driven out of their stronghold in Raqqa and has already from the Lebanese-Syrian border region. The territory they do hold, as in Iraq, is rapidly dwindling. Assad, contrary to all initial predictions, remains firmly in power.


The al-Khalifa family’s intensified crackdown on human rights activists, religious figures and ordinary citizens protesting their absolute rule, the dismantling of civil society and restrictions placed on free expression sends an important signal. Such measures, including revoking the nationality of citizens and imprisoning those who tweet on the regime’s abuses (as has been the fate of the indefatigable Nabeel Rajab), are unsustainable over the long-term. The will of the people has not been broken. They have yet to succumb to the fear the monarchy and its security services, renowned for their torture techniques, desperately want to instill. The despotism of the Saudi-backed regime has not halted the call by Bahrainis for equitable, representative government in the least.


The humanitarian crisis Yemen is testament to the devastation brought about by the disastrous foray of Saudi forces into the poorest of Arab countries. The Houthis, a Zaidi political-religious movement, ousted Saudi-sponsored president Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi and assumed control of the capital in Sept. 2014. While Gulf and Western media would lead one to believe it was Iran who intervened and provided material support to the Houthis, there is little evidence of such. The ceaseless Saudi air campaign has so decimated Yemen that widespread malnutrition, famine and even cholera have emerged. But after three years, the Houthis have not been displaced from Sanaa and Hadi’s government has not been reinstated.


It is ironic that one of the GCC states instrumental in fomenting discord and strife in Syria through support of al-Qaeda and Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated groups was not spared the intrigues of Saudi royals. Unable to tolerate independence from the leadership of King Salman and his designated successor, Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman, Qatar and its flagship news station Al Jazeera deviated from the program and went their own way. Whether by funding groups at odds with those backed by Riyadh or competing with the Saudi-owned media outlet Al Arabiya, Qatar was an outlier. Simply, it was not to be a subservient client state like Bahrain. Hence, an economic and travel blockade was imposed. In the face of the embargo, politically astute Qatar proved good relations with Turkey and Iran had its benefits. The emir was not deposed, Qatar survived economically and there is no indication they will bow to Riyadh’s list of demands anytime soon.

But the destruction wrought, the lives taken, the people displaced, the villages/towns/cities/provinces/countries destroyed, the refugee camps created, the misery inflicted, the Israeli occupation ignored, the sectarianism incited … the toll exacted by the failed Saudi Project for the Middle East is incalculable.

Remarkably, its success would have been even more catastrophic.


Turkey will take its own security measures after Russia defense deal: Erdogan

September 13, 2017

by Tuvan Gumrukcu and Ece Toksabay


ANKARA (Reuters) – President Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday dismissed NATO allies’ concern over Turkey’s deal to buy a missile defense system from Russia and said Ankara would continue to take the security measures it thought right.

Turkey, whose relations with its allies have frayed in recent months, said it opted for the S-400 because Western companies had offered no “financially effective” alternative. But NATO officials have voiced disquiet over the purchase of missiles incompatible with alliance systems.

“They went crazy because we made the S-400 agreement. What were we supposed to do, wait for you? We are taking and will take all our measures on the security front,” Erdogan said in a speech in Ankara.

Western firms which had bid for the contract included U.S. firm Raytheon (RTN.N), which put in an offer with its Patriot missile defense system. Franco-Italian group Eurosam, owned by the multinational European missile maker MBDA and France’s Thales TCFP.PA, came second in the tender.

Turkey, with the second-largest army in the alliance, has enormous strategic importance for NATO, abutting as it does Syria, Iraq and Iran. But the relationship has become fractious.

Erdogan has been infuriated by Washington’s support for Kurdish YPG fighters in the battle against Islamic State in Syria. Turkey sees the YPG as an extension of the militant Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which has waged a three-decade insurgency in Turkey’s largely Kurdish southeast.


The U.S. Pentagon said it had expressed concerns to Ankara about the Russian purchase.

“A NATO interoperable missile defense system remains the best option to defend Turkey from the full range of threats in its region,” spokesman Johnny Michael said in a statement.

France, however, said Turkey’s decision was a sovereign choice which did not require comment from NATO allies. France’s foreign minister is due to visit Turkey on Thursday.

Germany has said it would restrict some arms sales to Turkey, reflecting the diplomatic strain over a security crackdown in Turkey following a failed military coup last year.

Berlin had originally sought to freeze major arms sales, but scaled that back after Turkey said that would harm the joint fight against Islamic State.

Berlin has criticized mass arrests that followed the failed coup and demanded the release of around a dozen German or Turkish-German citizens arrested in recent months.

Turkey originally awarded a $3.4 billion contract for the defense system to China in 2013, but canceled that two years later, saying it would concentrate on developing a system domestically.

Turkey later began talks with Russia, and in July Erdogan said the deal had been signed, although negotiations appear to have been drawn out over financing.

Turkish media quoted Erdogan this week as saying he and Russian President Vladimir Putin were determined that the agreement should proceed.

Writing by David Dolan; Editing by Dominic Evans and Ralph Boulton


Iraqi Kurdish referendum ‘historic mistake’: Turkey

September 14, 2017


ANKARA (Reuters) – Turkey on Thursday welcomed an Iraqi parliament move to reject a referendum on Kurdish independence.

The parliament in Baghdad authorized the prime minister to “take all measures” to preserve Iraq’s unity in response to the move to hold an independence referendum in Iraq’s semi-autonomous Kurdish region on Sept. 25.

Kurdish leader Massoud Barzani vowed to press ahead with the vote, calling it “a natural right”.

“Barzani’s referendum decision is a historic mistake. Turkey will follow policies that take Iraq’s territorial integrity as a basis,” Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdag said.

“The northern Iraq referendum must be canceled, if not it will have a cost and retribution,” he said, adding the move would erode the region’s peace and bring security risks.

Turkey has the region’s largest Kurdish population and fears a ‘Yes’ vote could fuel separatism in its southeast where Kurdish militants have waged an insurgency for three decades in which more than 40,000 people have been killed.

Ankara has built solid ties with Barzani’s administration, founded on strong economic and energy links as well as Ankara and Erbil’s shared suspicions of other Kurdish groups and Iraq’s central government.

Iran and Syria also oppose the vote, fearing it could fan separatism among their own Kurdish populations.

Western powers worry the plebiscite – which would include the oil-producing city of Kirkuk – could ignite conflict with the central government in Baghdad and divert attention from the war against Islamic State militants.

Turkey’s Foreign Ministry, in a statement on Thursday, said: ”We find the (Iraqi Kurdish) leadership’s insistent stance regarding the referendum and its increasingly emotional statements worrying.

“It should be noted that this insistence will definitely have a cost,” it added. “We call on them to act with good sense and abandon this erroneous approach immediately.”

Reporting by Tulay Karadeniz; Additional reporting by Ece Toksabay and Tuvan Gumrukcu; Writing by Daren Butler; Editing by Janet Lawrence



 Why no city should want Amazon’s HQ2

September 14, 2017

by Gregory Scruggs


Amazon, the world’s largest e-commerce retailer by sales and market cap, announced last Thursday a request for proposals for a large North American city to host a second headquarters equal in stature to its downtown Seattle campus. This unexpected move sparked an Olympics-style competition by the likes of Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, San Diego and Toronto to seduce the company.

Mayors and civic leaders are prepared to offer tax breaks, development-ready sites, new aviation connections, and fiber optic lines to lure up to 50,000 highly-paid employees for the $5 billion campus. But they should be careful what they wish for: winning the Amazon beauty pageant might be the ultimate pyrrhic victory, especially if the winner offers too many subsidies. As The Brookings Institution argues, “State and local governments… have proven over and over that they are all too willing to give up their tax base for growth that would have occurred somewhere anyway.”

Although plenty of ailing metropolitan economies could use a shot in the arm, bringing in Amazon is like a heroin injection; it’s a sharp spike that can balloon housing prices and flip entire neighborhoods in the blink of an eye. While a handful of local business owners and real estate developers profit handsomely, the city as a whole can suffer. Some of the challenges, like the skyrocketing cost of housing in Seattle, can be measured. Others, like a loss of local character, are intangible but no less important to many current residents. Seattle’s experience as the country’s leading company town – 19 percent of the prime office space in Seattle is occupied by Amazon, the highest ratio for one company in any American city – offers several warnings for why cities shouldn’t be desperately seeking Amazon.

Seattle, where I live, is undergoing its biggest boom since the Yukon Gold Rush. It’s currently the fastest growing city in the United States. That influx of people, including me, has put a lot of strain on the Emerald City.

House prices routinely climb an average of 10 percent annually. As rents have plateaued nationally, they continue to rise here, again as much as 10 percent per year in popular neighborhoods. This trend persists despite an unprecedented building boom. New apartment buildings keep materializing and single-family homes are regularly replaced by clusters of townhouses, but supply can’t seem to catch up with demand. More and more families making average wages find themselves struggling to afford a home within the city limits, the rates of mega-commuters have soared and rent hikes force more people into homelessness.

The increasing cost of living has followed Amazon’s growth. Over the same period in which rents have skyrocketed – up 57 percent since 2011 – Amazon’s global workforce has grown from 50,000 to 350,000. The largest concentration of Amazonians, over 25,000, is in Seattle. These highly educated tech workers are well-paid, with an average income starting above $100,000. Fast Company put it bluntly in a headline: “How Amazon’s Non-Stop Growth is Creating a Brand-New Seattle.”

In fairness, there are other factors driving Seattle’s housing prices: low-density zoning that sets aside most of the city for only single-family housing, foreign real estate investment, the growth of other tech companies, and the current popularity of the Pacific Northwest. (Home prices have also shot up in Amazon-less neighbors Vancouver, British Columbia and Portland, Oregon.)

But Portland remains the hippie Mecca lovingly ridiculed on the TV show “Portlandia.” Seattle, the city that birthed grunge rock, finds itself turning into something quite different. The Amazon-led influx has dramatically changed the culture in many parts of the city. Neighborhoods increasingly feel dominated by a white, male cohort of recent college graduates making six-figure salaries. The level of angst among people who have lived here for much of their lives is palpable and infectious.

Long-time residents of once-bohemian neighborhoods find their favorite bars overrun by loud groups of Amazon “brogrammers.” In Capitol Hill, Seattle’s famed “gayborhood,” there has been an uptick in anti-LGBT hate crimes on weekend streets increasingly crowded by drunken frat bros and sorority girls.

Amazon isn’t the only company offering highly paid jobs to young people, splitting the local economy between tech haves and non-tech have-nots. (Some speculate that the recent landmark municipal income tax is driving Amazon’s decision to create a second headquarters instead of just expanding in Seattle.)

And some of Seattle’s growth-related issues, like horrible and ever-worsening traffic stemming from a lack of investment in a reliable public transportation system, can be squarely blamed on Seattle’s past myopia.

But Amazon plays an outsized role in the city’s recent transformation. It occupies as much prime commercial real estate as the next 43 Seattle companies combined. With 8.1 million square feet growing to 12 million in the next few years, Amazon’s Seattle footprint dwarfs the size of any one company in another large city. Citi is the next largest big-city corporate tenant by square footage in the U.S. Its 3.7 million square feet in New York City account for only 3 percent of the Big Apple’s Class A office space.

The Amazon effect has generated tremendous resentment. In a region famous for its reserved, sometimes passive-aggressive attitude. Amazonians aren’t harassed on the street. But they are pilloried in other forms, like a dystopian love letter from future Seattle, a bevy of hilarious comics depicting I-survived-to-tell-the-tale stories of working for the behemoth, and a satirical anti-Amazon newsletter that periodically appears pasted on light poles around Capitol Hill. Street protests against the Bay Area tech giants demonstrate that these feelings are shared by the residents of other crunchy, formerly funky cities being economically divided and culturally destroyed by the fast growth of tech. That’s why Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf expressed tepid interest in Amazon, saying, “we would need to address all outcomes a project of this magnitude would create.”

The eventual home of HQ2 may not experience the same shocks as Seattle did. Many poorer or depopulated older cities would gladly trade their problems for Seattle’s. A much bigger city might absorb 50,000 new employees without a change to the local vibe. A city that is already boring might not find its character under assault. A city with more robust mass transit may not find Amazon’s arrival generating so much more traffic and a city with a lot of vacant housing might not see prices reach astronomical levels. But like Cassandra, I must share the warning: Beware of tech CEOs bearing gifts.



The U.S. Population Situation

World Population Balance

U.S. population at the beginning of 2017 was over 324 million.1

  • U.S. population is growing by over 2,000,000 people per year — that’s 240 per hour — about half from new births and half from immigration.1
  • According to a Global Footprint Network data, the U.S. can sustain a population of only about 150 million at a reduced consumption level similar to Europeans.2
  • The U.S. population is using renewable resources twice as fast as they can be regenerated.2
  • If everyone on the planet lived like an average American, it would take over 4 Earths to produce the renewable resources and absorb the wastes needed to support us.3
  • Each additional American requires about 1 acre of built land and highways, which means less land is available for growing food.4
  • Although the average American consumes roughly the same amount of energy as 30 years ago, the U.S. population has increased over 30%. This has led to total U.S. energy consumption rising 25%.5
  • At the current population growth rate, the U.S. population will double in the next 100 years. That will mean more greenhouse gas emissions and other pollution of land, water, and air; less open land; more overcrowding; and more species loss and habitat destruction.
  • Overpopulation has diluted American representative democracy. In 1790 each member of the House of Representatives represented about 34,000 people. Today, each member represents over 735,000.
  • The average American is responsible for over 3 times the greenhouse gas emissions of the global average.6
  • U.S. natural resources are increasingly depleted and polluted:
  • The California Central Valley produces 1/4 of U.S. food. The Central Valley Aquifer loses the water equivalent of 1 Lake Mead – the largest reservoir in the U.S. – each year.7
  • The Colorado River Basin, which supplies water to 40 million people in 7 states, lost the water equivalent of 2 Lake Meads in the past 10 years.8
  • Due to high levels of agricultural and urban pollution runoff, the Environmental Protection Agency found that the majority of streams and rivers in the U.S. cannot support healthy aquatic life.9
  • Half of Iowa topsoil has been lost in the past 150 years. Today, Iowa topsoil is being lost 16 times faster than soil is naturally created.10
  • One in five plant and animal species in the United States – nearly 1,300 total species – is at risk of extinction.11
  • The average American consumes a much larger amount of total resources than the average person from a developing country. For example, the average American uses the energy resources of 17 people from India.12
  • According to a recent Gallup survey, 138 million adults worldwide would permanently migrate to the U.S. if they could.13


1 – U.S. Census. Accessed January, 2017. census.gov/popclock/world.

2 – Global Footprint Network. National Footprint Accounts, 2016 edition.

3- Per Square Mile. Accessed January, 2016. persquaremile.com/2012/08/08/if-the-worlds-population-lived-like/.

4 – Pimentel, David. Global economic and environmental aspects of biofuels.  Boca Raton, London, New York: CRC Press. 2012.

5 – U.S. Census Bureau and U.S. Energy Information Administration data.

6 –  Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency. “CO2 time series 1990-2014 per capita for world countries”. Accessed January, 2016.

7 – Famiglietti, J. S., M. Lo, S. L. Ho, J. Bethune, K. J. Anderson, T. H. Syed, S. C. Swenson, C. R. de Linage, and M. Rodell. “Satellites measure recent rates of groundwater depletion in California’s Central Valley”. Geophysical Research Letters. Volume 38, Issue 3, February, 2011. onlinelibrary.wiley.com/wol1/doi/10.1029/2010GL046442/full.

8 – Castle, S. L., B. F. Thomas, J. T. Reager, M. Rodell, S. C. Swenson, and J. S. Famiglietti. “Groundwater depletion during drought threatens future water security of the Colorado River Basin”. Geophysical Research Letters. Volume 41, Issue 16, August 2014. onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/2014GL061055/abstract.

9 – United States Environmental Protection Agency. Accessed January, 2016. epa.gov/national-aquatic-resource-surveys/national-rivers-and-streams-assessment-2008-2009-results.

10 – Environmental Working Group.  Accessed January, 2016. ewg.org/losingground/report/executive-summary.html.

11 – International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources. “The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species” (2015), version 2015-3. iucnredlist.org.

12 – Population Reference Bureau. 2012 World Population Data Sheet. U.S. Energy Information Administration 2012.

13 – Gallup.com. Accessed January, 2016. gallup.com/poll/161435/100-million-worldwide-dream-life.aspx.


‘Alarm bells we cannot ignore’: world hunger rising for first time this century

UN agencies warn conflict and climate change are undermining food security, causing chronic undernourishment and threatening to reverse years of progress

September 15 2017

by Karen McVeigh

The Guardian

The number of hungry people in the world has increased for the first time since the turn of the century, sparking concern that conflict and climate change could be reversing years of progress.

In 2016, the number of chronically undernourished people reached 815 million, up 38 million from the previous year. The increase is due largely to the proliferation of violence and climate-related shocks, according to the state of food insecurity and nutrition in 2017, a report produced by five UN agencies.

The study also noted a rise in the number of people globally who are chronically hungry, from 10.6% in 2015 to 11% in 2016.

Cindy Holleman, a senior economist at the Food and Agriculture Organisation, said it was hard to know whether the increase was a blip or marked the reversal of a long-term trend. However, she said the rise in conflict and climate change – factors that rank alongside economic slowdown, which makes food hard to access for poor people, as key drivers of food insecurity – was cause for concern.

“Whether it has been a blip and it’s going to go back down again, we’re not sure,” said Holleman. “But we’re sending warning signals. We are sending a message that something is going on.

“If you look at the 815 million [chronically undernourished] people, 489 million or 60% of them are located in countries affected by conflict. Over the last decade we’re seen a significant increase in conflict. We also see that conflict combined with climatic effects is having a significant effect.”

A foreword to the report, written jointly by the heads of the five UN agencies, said: “Over the past decade, conflicts have risen dramatically in number and become more complex and intractable in nature.

“This has set off alarm bells we cannot afford to ignore: we will not end hunger and all forms of malnutrition by 2030 unless we address all the factors that undermine food security and nutrition. Securing peaceful and inclusive societies is a necessary condition to that end.”

Oxfam’s head of food and climate change, Robin Willoughby, said:

“This must act as a wake-up call for international leaders and institutions to do more to resolve the catastrophic cocktail of climate change and conflict around the world. Global failure to tackle these issues affects us all, but it’s the world’s poorest who will suffer most.”

The report is the first UN global assessment of food security and nutrition following the adoption of the sustainable development goals, which aim to end hunger and all forms of malnutrition by 2030.

Progress has been made on reducing global hunger, which affected more than 900 million people at the turn of the century. Over the past year, however, hunger has reached an “extreme level” in many parts of the world, with famine declared in South Sudan in February, and Yemen, north-east Nigeria and Somalia considered on the brink.

People living in countries affected by protracted crisis are nearly two and a half times more likely to be undernourished than those living elsewhere, the report said.

Fueled partly by extreme weather patterns resulting from El Niño, food security “deteriorated sharply” in parts of sub-Saharan Africa, and in south-east and western Asia, said the report.

Chronic child malnutrition continues to fall, but at a slower rate in some regions, the report found. Wasting remains a threat to the lives of 52 million children.

Overweight and obesity rates in children are rising in most regions, and in all regions for adults. Such “multiple burdens” for malnutrition is a “cause for serious concern”, said the report.

Africa has the highest levels of severe food insecurity, affecting 27.4% of the population – almost four times that of any other region. Higher food insecurity was also observed in Latin America, rising from 4.7% to 6.4%.


A comment from a reader. ed

Question:‘What’s positive about Africans?”

Answer: ‘HIV.’



Home-made bomb injures 22 on packed London commuter train

September 15, 2017

by Kevin Coombs and Yann Tessier


LONDON (Reuters) – A home-made bomb on a packed rush-hour commuter train in London engulfed a carriage in flames and injured 22 people on Friday in Britain’s fifth major terrorism incident this year, but apparently failed to fully explode.

Passengers heading into the British capital fled in panic after the blast as the train was about to depart Parsons Green underground station in West London at 8.20 a.m. (0720 GMT).

Some suffered burns and others were injured in a stampede to escape but health officials said none were thought to be in a serious condition.

“We now assess that this was a detonation of an improvised explosive device,” Britain’s top counter-terrorism officer Mark Rowley told reporters.

Police said a hunt involving hundreds of detectives backed by the intelligence services was underway to find out who was responsible. Rowley declined to say if the suspected bomber had been on the train, saying it was a live investigation.

Britain’s threat level remained on its second-highest rank of severe following the “cowardly attack” intended to cause significant harm, said Prime Minister Theresa May. But she added the threat level would be kept under review.

Pictures taken at the scene showed a slightly-charred white bucket with a supermarket freezer bag on the floor of one train carriage. The bucket, still intact, was in flames and there appeared to be wires coming out of the top.

“I was on second carriage from the back. I just heard a kind of whoosh. I looked up and saw the whole carriage engulfed in flames making its way toward me,” Ola Fayankinnu, who was on the train, told Reuters.

“There were phones, hats, bags all over the place and when I looked back I saw a bag with flames.”

Charlie Craven said he had just got on the train when the device exploded.

“Literally within three seconds of putting your bag down, the doors just closing, we hear a loud explosion,” he told Reuters. “I looked around and saw this massive fireball … coming down the carriage.”

He said terrified passengers fled, fearing a second explosion or a gunman, with people being knocked to the ground and crushed in the stampede to escape.

Outside the station, a woman was carried off on a stretcher with her legs covered in a foil blanket while others were led away swathed in bandages. Health officials said 22 were taken to hospital most suffering from flash burns.

Parsons Green is one of the surface stations of London’s underground network.


In 2005, 52 people were killed when four British Islamists carried out suicide bomb attacks on three London underground trains and a bus and this year Britain has suffered four attacks which killed a total of 36 people.

“Another attack in London by a loser terrorist,” U.S. President Donald Trump said on Twitter. “These are sick and demented people who were in the sights of Scotland Yard. Must be proactive!”

May, who returned to London to chair a meeting of Britain’s emergency response committee, said police and security services were working to track down those responsible.

Asked about Trump’s tweet, she replied: “I never think it’s helpful for anybody to speculate on what is an ongoing investigation.”

Others were more directly critical of Trump. “True or not – and I‘m sure he doesn’t know – this is so unhelpful from leader of our ally and intelligence partner,” May’s former chief of staff Nick Timothy said on Twitter.

A U.S. law enforcement official and a U.S. intelligence source, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the attack might well have been carried out in response to recent Islamic State video messages urging would-be militants to attack trains and other public transport.

One of the officials said the device “doesn’t look very professionally built” and said its rudimentary design suggested the attack was carried out by someone inspired by Islamic State propaganda rather than by a well-trained cell.

Professor Hans Michels, an explosives expert from Imperial College London, said the device appeared to have largely failed.

“The flash flame reported suggests that the ‘explosion’ was only partly successful,” he said. “I must speculate that either the mixture was not of the right composition or that the ignition system was inadequate or not properly placed.”

UK security services believe those behind some of the militant incidents in Britain this year had probably been acting alone and likely radicalized by online material.

In March this year, a man drove a car into pedestrians on London’s Westminster Bridge killing four, before he stabbed a policeman to death outside parliament.

A further 22 people were killed in a suicide bombing at a pop concert in Manchester in May and the following month three Islamist militants drove into pedestrians on London Bridge before stabbing people at nearby restaurants and bars, killing eight.

In June, a van was driven into worshippers near a mosque in north London which left one man dead.

On Thursday, figures showed there had been a record number of terrorism-related arrests in the last year and earlier this week Britain’s most senior counter-terrorism officer Mark Rowley said there had been a shift-change in the threat.

In the three years until March this year, police foiled 13 potential attacks but in the next 17 weeks, there were the four attacks while the authorities thwarted six others, Rowley said.

Additional reporting by Kate Holton, Mark Hosenball, Elizabeth Piper, Paul Sandle, Costas Pitas and Mitch Phillips; writing by Michael Holden; editing by Guy Faulconbridge and Janet Lawrence


‘How do we survive?’: fearful Californians prepare for nuclear attack

Retired Lt Col Hal Kempfer and his group, Knowledge and Intelligence Program Professionals, see Long Beach as a prime target for an attack from North Korea

September 15, 2017

by Andrew Gumbel in Long Beach, California

The Guardian

Hal Kempfer, a noted international security expert, is getting a roomful of California public health officials and emergency responders to think about the unthinkable – a nuclear bomb exploding at the port of Long Beach, about four miles away.His message – coming on the same day North Korea threatened to reduce the mainland United States to “ashes and darkness” and then launched a ballistic missile over Japan – is unvarnished and uncompromising: get ready, because we all need to prepare for what comes after.

“A lot of people will be killed,” he said, “but a large percentage of the population will survive. They will be at risk and they will need help.”

Most likely, Kempfer tells his audience, if the device is fired from North Korea or smuggled in by North Korean agents, it wouldn’t be the sort of high-yield weapon that planners worried about during the cold war, with the potential to wipe out most life and civilization across the Los Angeles region and send radioactive materials halfway across the American continent.

Rather, it’s likely to be a Hiroshima-sized bomb – large enough to obliterate everything within a square-mile radius and kill tens of thousands of people, either immediately or through the lingering effects of radiation. But still leaving millions of survivors across the region who would need help.

“We’re talking about smaller North Korean things,” Kempfer emphasized, though the word “smaller” sounds very far from reassuring. “This is not your traditional nuclear apocalypse scenario.”

Kempfer, a retired Marines lieutenant colonel, is a charismatic speaker, with a keen understanding of the need for humor to leaven the grimness of the subject matter.

And so he talked through what would and would not be left standing after an attack on the port – which, together with its neighbor in San Pedro, is by far the busiest maritime trading hub in the United States and a key component of the global trading system.

He talks about the port and downtown Long Beach being “toast” – no exaggeration, since the blast wave is likely to vaporize everything in its immediate path. But the city health department, the Long Beach airport and fire department might not be; they are all somewhat protected by a hilly area that is likely to halt the initial blast wave. And so the city can, tentatively, think about setting up a center of emergency operations.

Of course, the radioactive fallout created as the explosion gathers up tremendous quantities of dust and ocean water and spits them into the atmosphere would represent a secondary grave risk, especially in the first hours after an attack.

Not to mention the electromagnetic pulse that is likely to knock out electronic systems including phones and computers, the pile-ups expected on the freeways as drivers are blinded by the flash of the explosion, the rush for food, water and gasoline as millions of Angelenos attempt to drive out of the region, and the terror triggered by even the idea of a second, follow-up attack.

Kempfer and his colleague, fellow Marine veteran Matt Begert, sugarcoat little or none of this. They talk about North Korea’s advances in testing intercontinental ballistic missiles – the reason Long Beach’s head of public health emergency management invited them in the first place – about the likelihood that Long Beach is high on North Korea’s target list, and about the likely movements of a deadly radiation plume according to wind, terrain, and urban landscape.

“How do we survive?” a public health worker asks despairingly from the middle of the room in the heat of the presentation.

“If you’re not blown up,” Kempfer retorts, without missing a beat, “that helps.”

He and Begert then talk through a risk assessment matrix, based on history (more applicable to natural disasters), vulnerability, how bad an event could potentially be, and the probability of it occurring. It’s a method Kempfer uses to get local communities to focus on what matters most, not what happens to have been in the news that day or that month. In Long Beach’s case, preparing for an earthquake is still a higher priority, but the nuclear threat is not too far behind.

“If you want to mess up southern California, if you want to mess up the west coast, if you want to mess up our country – where do you attack?” Kempfer asks. “If I’m sitting in North Korea and looking at possible targets, I’m going to be looking at Long Beach very closely.”

Kempfer and his group, Knowledge and Intelligence Program Professionals, are not the first to think through the consequences of a nuclear attack on Long Beach. In 2006, when the worry was more al-Qaida than North Korea, the Rand corporation published a report assessing the impact of a 10-kiloton bomb smuggled into the port in a shipping container.

Rand’s scenario envisaged a significant breakdown in social order, including gunfights over food and gasoline and shootouts on the freeway as desperate families stuck in traffic look for any possible way to hasten their route over the mountains. Rand also imagined the health system collapsing as hospitals and health workers became overwhelmed with hundreds of thousands of people needing decontamination and other treatment.

Kempfer thought a well-coordinated response from the federal government – analogous to the improved performance in the wake of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, compared with the response to Hurricane Katrina in 2005 – could play a crucial role in holding together the social fabric and making sure crucial supplies did not run so low as to start rioting.

Still, neighboring counties – particularly Ventura County, to the north-west of Los Angeles – are themselves deeply concerned about being overwhelmed by millions of evacuees. Ventura, unusually, has prepared a 250-page plan in the event of nuclear attack, which it updates regularly, along with a public information campaign featuring an oddly jaunty musical entreaty to residents to stay indoors until the worst of the radioactive fallout has subsided.

News out of North Korea has created a mini-bonanza for local manufacturers of nuclear fallout shelters. But more important to the vast bulk of the population, Kempfer says, is having some rudimentary knowledge of what it means to “shelter in place” and, for example, to have plastic sheeting on hand to cover up windows and cracks in the doors to minimize the effects of radioactive fallout.

Sandy Wedgeworth, the public health emergency management coordinator, said she and her staff felt energized, not depressed, by what they learned from Kempfer and that the session generated a long to-do list. “We need to look at our county plan and become familiar with it,” she said, “but we also need to think about mutual aid systems and getting resources from elsewhere. Obviously, we don’t have everything we need. The point is knowing where to get more stuff.”

She and her colleagues appeared to concur with Dwight Eisenhower’s old adage, quoted approvingly by Kempfer, that while plans in warfare can be useless, planning is indispensable. “The more education I get,” Wedgeworth said, “the more I understand and the more competent I feel to respond. It’s less scary when you understand the threat and know what to do to meet and mitigate it.”




Oil and chemical spills from Hurricane Harvey big, but dwarfed by Katrina

September 15, 2017

by Emily Flitter and Richard Valdmanis


NEW YORK/BOSTON (Reuters) – More than 22,000 barrels of oil, refined fuels and chemicals spilled at sites across Texas in the wake of Hurricane Harvey, along with millions of cubic feet of natural gas and hundreds of tons of other toxic substances, a Reuters review of company reports to the U.S. Coast Guard shows.

The spills, clustered around the heart of the U.S. oil industry, together rank among the worst environmental mishaps in the country in years, but fall far short of the roughly 190,000 barrels spilled in Louisiana in 2005 after Hurricane Katrina – the last major storm to take dead aim at the U.S. Gulf Coast.

Harvey slammed ashore in Texas on Aug. 26, unleashing record flooding around Houston that destroyed countless homes, displaced around a million people and killed scores.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency warned people affected by the storm to avoid floodwaters, saying they could contain bacteria and other dangerous substances, but the agency has so far provided few details about spills. The EPA said earlier this week it was responding to more than a dozen spills in the wake of Harvey, but said it could not immediately provide volume estimates.

The U.S. Coast Guard reports showed over 22,000 barrels of crude oil, gasoline, diesel, drilling wastewater, and petrochemicals spilled from refineries, storage terminals and other facilities in the days after the storm.

Nearly half of those came from a 10,988-barrel spill of unleaded gasoline from Magellan Midstream Partners’ storage facility (MMP.N) in Galena Park, Texas, according to the reports, confirmed by a company official.

“We expect clean-up operations to be completed within a few weeks,” the company said in an email on Thursday. Most of the gasoline had been removed, it said, including quantities that spilled offsite and into the Houston Ship Channel, and remaining work was mainly focused on removing contaminated soil.

The Coast Guard filings also showed some 365 tons of toxic chemicals like sulfur dioxide, ammonia, toluene, benzene, and carbon monoxide escaped from facilities during the storm.

In addition, some 27 million cubic feet (765,000 cubic meters) of natural gas, 1,000 tons of asphalt, and unknown quantities of other substances from more than 200 other incidents also escaped, according to the data.

Officials for the Coast Guard and the EPA did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the filings.

As some spill estimates were preliminary, it was too early to assess pollution damage from the storm, said Tom Pelton, a spokesman for environmental advocacy group the Environmental Integrity Project.

One company is already raising its spill estimates: Valero Energy Corp (VLO.N) told the EPA it probably underestimated the emissions of dangerous chemicals when the roof of a tank at its Houston refinery collapsed in the storm.

Katrina caused 190,000 barrels of oil spills along the Louisiana coastline, according to Donald Davis, the administrator of the Louisiana Applied Oil Spill Research and Development Program, who presented his findings to the EPA in 2006.

Reporting by Emily Flitter and Richard Valdmanis, Editing by Rosalba O’Brien

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