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TBR News September 21, 2017

Sep 21 2017

The Voice of the White House

Washington, D.C., September 21, 2017:” Sir Roger David Casement was born on September 1, 1864 in Dublin County, Ireland. Although from an Ulster Protestant family, Casement was sympathetic to the cause of the Irish nationalist movement which sought to establish an Irish state free of British political and military control.

As a diplomat in the service of the British government, Casement gained great recognition for exposing the numerous atrocities practiced by the Belgians against the natives in their Congo colony, an endeavor that forced the Belgians to reform their administration. While posted to Brazil, Casement uncovered similar murderous activity by Brazilians in the Putymayo River area. This activity gained him a knighthood in 1912.

At the end of 1913, retired from the Foreign Service for health reasons, Casement became involved with the Irish nationalist movement and formed the Irish National Volunteers. After the outbreak of the First World War in 1914, Casement went to Germany in November of that year and attempted to secure German aid for an Irish rising against the British. The Germans proved to be unwilling to participate in this venture and Casement went back to Ireland in a German submarine on April 12, 1916. It was his intention to persuade the Irish nationalists to halt their impending Easter rising but he was captured in Ireland by the British a week later, removed to London where he was imprisoned in conditions of considerable barbarity and brutally treated until such time as he was put on trial for treason, found guilty and sentenced to death by hanging.

International attempts to secure a reprieve for Casement because of his previous humanitarian activities were nullified by the sudden release by British intelligence of diaries purporting to have been written by Casement which detailed alleged homosexual activities. Casement was duly hanged on August 3, 1916.

It has been long believed that the diaries were produced on the order of Captain Reginald Hall, Chief of Naval Intelligence. Captain, later Rear Admiral, Reginald Hall, had been appointed Director of British Naval Intelligence in October of 1914. He was a brilliant but completely amoral intelligence officer and as the war progressed, virtually dictated British naval policy.

Unscrupulous to a degree, Hall has long been suspected as being the moving force behind the forgery of the Casement diaries. Hall also is believed to have caused the sinking of the Lusitania in 1915 in the hopes of dragging the United States into the European war that Britain had little chance of winning. He did this by planting a fake report from an alleged German agent in the United States to the effect that the Lusitania was shipping Canadian troops to Europe. Hall’s gambit did not work but the later sinking of the HMS Hampshire with the detested Lord Kitchner on board, did.

The Easter rising was eventually suppressed by the British Army under circumstances of singular atrocity against the participants in particular and the population of Dublin in general. Boys as young as twelve were hanged for curfew violations and unarmed civilians, including women, were shot and bayonetted in the streets by the occupying forces. One of the leaders of the rising, though dying of untreated gangrene, was dragged from his cell and tied to a stretcher before being shot by a firing squad.

This was a strikingly ugly episode in the history of a country with an official policy that resulted in countless historical examples of similar oppressive actions but noteworthy in that it was performed, not in some remote and unobserved area of Africa or India but within the borders of ostensibly civilized England and directed against white Christians.

The question of the authenticity of the diaries immediately arose and has attracted strong partisanship on both sides of the issue. In 1959, the British government released the diaries for inspection by scholars. Predictably, sympathetic British academics proclaimed them original while others held opposite views.

In February of 1965, Casement’s remains were finally returned to Ireland and given a state funeral. The funeral oration was read by Irish President Eamon de Valera.”


Table of Contents

  • Push to unseal the draft Whitewater indictment against Hillary Clinton gets court date
  • Russia warns U.S. it will target U.S.-backed fighters in Syria if provoked
  • Why World Powers Fear the Kurdish Referendum Could Derail Isis Fight
  • Are the two Mexican earthquakes connected – and are more on the way?
  • Afghanistan Again?
  • Afghanistan Wars: The Reason
  • The real danger to U.S. national security
  • The X26
  • Hurricanes release energy of 10,000 nuclear bombs
  • Bits and Pieces


 Push to unseal the draft Whitewater indictment against Hillary Clinton gets court date

September 20, 2017

by Teresa Welsh


A federal appeals court will hear a case brought by Judicial Watch on Friday to make public draft indictments of Hillary Clinton from the Whitewater scandal in the 1990s.

Judicial Watch, a conservative watchdog group that files Freedom of Information Act requests, wants copies of the documents that the National Archives and Records Administration has declined to release. It filed a FOIA request for the documents in March 2015 and in October 2015 the group sued for the 238 pages of responsive records.

According to Judicial Watch: “The National Archives argues that the documents should be kept secret, citing grand jury secrecy and Clinton’s personal privacy.”

But Judicial Watch says that because so much about the Whitewater case has already been made public, “there is no secrecy or privacy left to protect.”

The documents in question are alleged drafts of indictments written by Hickman Ewing, the chief deputy of Kenneth Starr, the independent counsel appointed to investigate Bill and Hillary Clinton’s alleged involvement in fraudulent real estate dealings. Although others were sentenced for their role in the matter, neither Clinton was ever prosecuted.

Ewing told investigators he drafted the indictments in April 1995. According to Judicial Watch, the documents pertain to allegations that Hillary Clinton provided false information and withheld information from those investigating Whitewater.


Russia warns U.S. it will target U.S.-backed fighters in Syria if provoked

September 21, 2017

by Andrew Osborn


MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russia said on Thursday it had warned the United States it would target areas in Syria where U.S. special forces and U.S.-backed militia were operating if its own forces came under fire from them, something it said had already happened twice.

Russia was referring to the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), an alliance of Kurdish and Arab militias fighting with the U.S.-led coalition, which Moscow said had diverted from the battle to take Raqqa to Deir al-Zor, where Russian special forces are helping the Syrian army push out Islamic State militants.

The Russian Defence Ministry said the SDF had taken up positions on the eastern banks of the Euphrates with U.S. special forces, and had twice opened fire with mortars and artillery on Syrian troops who were working alongside Russian special forces.

“A representative of the U.S. military command in Al Udeid (the U.S. operations center in Qatar) was told in no uncertain terms that any attempts to open fire from areas where SDF fighters are located would be quickly shut down,” Major-General Igor Konashenkov said in a statement.

“Fire points in those areas will be immediately suppressed with all military means.”

In Deir al-Zor province of eastern Syria, Islamic State is battling two separate offensives, launched by the SDF on one side and the Syrian army and its allies on the other.


The Syrian army, backed by Russian and Syrian war planes, has captured about 100 km (160 miles) of the west bank of the Euphrates this month, reaching the Raqqa provincial border on Wednesday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported.

Syrian troops also crossed to the eastern side of the river on Monday. The SDF’s advances have been on the eastern bank of the river.

The convergence of the two rival offensives has increased tensions in Deir al-Zor. The U.S.-backed militia said on Saturday they had come under attack from Russian jets and Syrian government forces, something Moscow denied.

The SDF warned on Monday against any further Syrian army advances on the eastern riverbank.

On Tuesday Russia’s Defence Ministry said the waters of the Euphrates had risen as soon as the Syrian army began crossing it, suggesting this could only have happened if upstream dams held by the U.S.-backed opposition had been opened.

Konashenkov, in his Thursday statement, questioned the nature of SDF’s relationship with Islamic State (IS). Russian drones did not detect any clashes between the two groups when SDF fighters approached Deir al-Zor, he said.

Editing by Gareth Jones


Why World Powers Fear the Kurdish Referendum Could Derail Isis Fight

September 20, 2017

by Patrick Cockburn

The Unz Review

The Kurdish leadership is coming under intense international pressure to postpone the referendum on independence due to take place in Kurdish-controlled parts of northern Iraq on 25 September.

Outside powers see the poll as destabilising Iraq and neighbouring countries at the very moment when Isis and its self-declared caliphate are being defeated. But Kurdish President Masoud Barzani, who called the referendum, says he intends to go ahead with it and it would be a humiliating failure for him to back down at this late stage, having rekindled the fires of Kurdish nationalism so successfully.

“Barzani and his advisers do not take the threats from Iran and Turkey seriously, saying that they have heard them all before and nothing happened,” says the veteran Kurdish leader Omar Sheikhmous. He adds: “I hope they are right.”

He himself warns that the Kurds are very isolated regionally and internationally, pointing out that the UN, US, UK, France and Germany are opposed to the referendum, as are neighbouring states such as Iran and Turkey as well as the Iraqi government in Baghdad. He draws a parallel with the historic betrayal of the Iraqi Kurds by the US and Iran to Saddam Hussein in 1975, when they similarly found themselves without allies.

Mr Barzani is accused by his critics of calling the poll to secure his own power as leader of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and head of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) by exploiting Kurdish patriotism. He can take advantage of the weakness and divisions of his traditional Kurdish political rival, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, which cannot oppose a referendum without being charged with betraying the Kurdish right to self-determination for which they have fought for 100 years.

By playing the nationalist card, Mr Barzani also diverts the attention of voters away from the disastrous economic state of the KRG since 2014 when it lost its share of central government oil revenues and the price of its own oil plummeted. Irbil is full of half-completed buildings with rusting cranes beside them while many government employees have not been paid for months.

Even if the referendum was born out of political manoeuvring within Iraqi Kurdistan, it has now built up its own momentum as Kurds rally around their red, white and green flag. There have been enthusiastic mass rallies all over KRG. “Barzani has shown that he is a real leader and has stood up to pressure to cancel the vote,” says Kamran Karadaghi, a commentator on Kurdish affairs and previously chief of staff to the former Kurdish President of Iraq Jalal Talabani. He recalls that politicians and officials in Baghdad used to make jokes in the past about Kurdish threats to secede from Iraq, but believes they will do so no longer.

Mr Karadaghi says that the Baghdad government has made a mistake in “denouncing the referendum as a sort of Frankenstein”, which will inevitably produce violence and war. He believes that this overreaction on the part of Baghdad and foreign powers serves only to anger and provoke the Kurds, citing as an example the threat by former Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki who demanded this week that the referendum be cancelled and said that “we will not allow the creation of a second Israel in northern Iraq”.

Despite the political uproar it has provoked, the referendum does not oblige Mr Barzani to secede from Iraq and establish an independent Kurdish state, though it will show that such a move has massive popular support. It will be very different from the British vote for Brexit in the referendum in 2016 because it does not force Kurdish leaders to break away from Iraq. A more certain result of the referendum will be that it will bolster Mr Barzani and the KDP in presidential and parliamentary elections 35 days later on 1 November. Previously, he held his post unconstitutionally, having outstayed his term as president which ran out in 2015, and effectively closed down the Kurdish parliament by preventing its speaker entering the Kurdish capital Irbil where it sits.

In Irbil, the KRG authorities do not appear to have taken any concrete measures on the ground to open the way to practical independence. This is partly because the KRG already behaves, in most respects other than international recognition, very much like an independent state, having achieved political and military autonomy under a US air umbrella when Saddam Hussein withdrew the Iraqi army in the aftermath of the Gulf war and Kurdish uprising in 1991. This was enhanced further by the US invasion in 2003 when the Kurdish peshmerga joined the anti-Saddam coalition, advancing south and capturing Kirkuk and Mosul. They later withdrew from Mosul city, though not from much of the province around it, but never from Kirkuk and its oil fields.

Among the issues brought into play by the referendum is not only the right to independence of Iraqi Kurdistan but the territorial extent of that entity, which contains many disputed areas, many inhabited by both Kurds and Arabs as well as other minorities such as the Yazidis and Christians. This has always been a combustible issue, particularly in Kirkuk because of its oil fields and its ethnic diversity. Kirkuk city has large and potentially restive Arab and Turkmen communities and there are signs that the furore over the referendum is raising the political temperature. The Baghdad central government has dismissed the powerful Kurdish governor of Kirkuk, Najmaldin Karim, but he remains in office. On Monday night, gunmen on motorcycles opened fire on the office of a Turkmen political party and one of them was killed and two wounded when the guards shot back. Some hours later, a police patrol including the brother of the dead man attacked another Turkmen office. These were small scale skirmishes but they could escalate, particularly if the Shia militias move into Kurdish held areas.

It is not only Kirkuk city that is contested. The KRG took advantage of the defeat of the Iraqi army in northern Iraq and the capture of Mosul by Isis to expand its territory by 40 per cent, taking over disputed areas. The Kurds were always going to have difficulty clinging onto these lands, once Isis was defeated by a rejuvenated Iraqi army backed by the US. The disputed territories issue was already becoming more contentious after the Iraqi armed forces recaptured Mosul in July and the defeat of Isis ceased to dominate Iraqi political priorities. Baghdad has now declared the referendum illegal and made vague threats of military action, which the Kurds are ignoring or treating with contempt. A danger here is that Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi may feel that he must do something to confront Kurdish actions or

lose the political benefits of victory over Isis.

Mr Barzani says that after an overwhelming “yes” vote in the referendum next week, nothing dramatic will happen but rather a slow and amicable divorce between the Kurds and the Iraqi central government. This might happen, but northern Iraq is the site of so many ethnic, sectarian, territorial and international disputes that it is difficult to see them all being resolved or bypassed without violence.


Are the two Mexican earthquakes connected – and are more on the way?

Two earthquakes have hit Mexico within two weeks, both occurring on the Cocos tectonic plate. But are they related, and could Mexico face more tremors?

September 21, 2017

by Hannah Devlin, science correspondent, and Justin McCurry in Tokyo

The Guardian

Mexico has been hit by its second deadly earthquake in less than two weeks. Are the two seismic events in Mexico related, and could they indicate more tremors are on the way?

Two days after the second earthquake in Mexico, large quakes struck the Pacific island of Vanuatu and off the north-east coast of Japan.

Both Mexican quakes occurred on the Cocos tectonic plate, which runs along the western coast of Mexico, and is sliding beneath the neighbouring North American tectonic plate to the north-east at a rate of about three inches per year.

The 7.1 magnitude quake, which struck shortly after 6pm local time on Tuesday, occurred 120km south-east of Mexico City. This came just 11 days after a magnitude 8.1 quake off the coast of southern Mexico.

In each case, the tremors originated from within the Cocos plate, deep beneath the surface, rather than being caused by friction at the interface. Tuesday’s quake occurred at 50km depth and the earlier quake was even deeper, at 70km.

As the Cocos plate is forced downwards, it deforms – causing the structure to kink and crumple. But this process is not smooth and incremental. Instead, stress builds up inside the plate over months or years until a threshold is reached and it is suddenly released in a giant tremor.

“What happened yesterday was most likely a tearing motion in the subducting Cocos plate,” says Prof David Rothery of the Open University.

A similar mechanism is thought to be responsible for the earlier recent quake, but seismologists do not think that one led to the other. Stephen Hicks, of the University of Southampton, said: “It’s quite a long way for them to be directly linked. It might have slightly increased the stress, but if it did it’s a tiny amount and the fault must have been close to rupturing anyway.”

Experts have dismissed the possibility of any causal relationship between the Mexico quakes and those in other locations along the seismically active Pacific “ring of fire”.

A 6.4 magnitude quake struck Vanuatu’s Erromango island early on Thursday local time, but caused no damage, according to the US Geological Survey and local authorities.

Hours earlier, a 6.1 magnitude earthquake was recorded 283 kilometres off the coast of north-east Japan, the same region that was devastated by a tsunami following a 9.0 magnitude quake in March 2011. The disaster killed more than 18,500 people and triggered a triple meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.

But Hongfeng Yang, an assistant professor in the Earth System Sciences Programme at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, said the fact that this week’s three big quakes had all occurred within such a short timeframe was a coincidence.

“They are really far away from each other so that physical mechanisms to link them together are weak,” Yang told the Guardian.

“There is a chance, however, to trigger distant earthquakes by seismic waves generated by prior earthquakes located far away. But the likelihood of that triggering earthquakes larger than magnitude 5 is nearly zero.”

Mexico City is particularly vulnerable because it sits on an ancient lake bed that is filled with deep layers of sediment, which can magnify the shaking. “Once the seismic wave enters that bowl, it reverberates around,” said Hicks. “It behaves like a bowl of jelly.”

Unlike some natural disasters, scientists have yet to devise a reliable way to predict when earthquakes will occur. However, planning for the worst can hugely reduce the devastation caused and death toll of future quakes.

The most recent quakes in Mexico will, once again, raise questions about whether the appropriate building codes were adhered to. “The Enrique Rébsamen elementary school where many children died looks like a modern building, and ought to have had inbuilt earthquake resilience,” said Rothery. “Had it been properly constructed it should not have collapsed, and I expect questions will be asked”.


Afghanistan Again?

The American Military’s Repetition-Compulsion Complex

by Ann Jones



Here we go again! Years after most Americans forgot about the longest war this country ever fought, American soldiers are again being deployed to Afghanistan. For almost 16 years now, at the command of three presidents and a sadly forgettable succession of generals, they have gone round and round like so many motorists trapped on a rotary with no exit. This time their numbers are officially secret, although variously reported to be 3,500 or 4,000, with another 6,000-plus to follow, and unknown numbers after that. But who can trust such figures?  After all, we just found out that the U.S. troops left behind in Afghanistan after President Obama tried to end the war there in 2014, repeatedly reported to number 8,400, actually have been “closer to 12,000” all this time.

The conflict, we’re told, is at present a “stalemate.” We need more American troops to break it, in part by “training” the Afghan National Army so its soldiers can best their Taliban countrymen plus miscellaneous “terrorist” groups.  In that way, the U.S. military — after only a few more years of “the foreseeable future” in the field — can claim victory.

But is any of this necessary? Or smart? Or even true?

A prominent Afghan diplomat doesn’t think so. Shukria Barakzai, a longtime member of the Afghan parliament now serving as Afghanistan’s ambassador to Norway — herself a victim in 2014 of a Taliban suicide bomber — told me only weeks ago, “The Taliban are so over! They just want to go home, but you Americans won’t let them.”

She reminded me that the Taliban are not some invading army. (That would be us.) They are Afghan citizens, distinguished from their countrymen chiefly by their extreme religious conservatism, misogyny, and punitive approach to governance. Think of them as the Afghan equivalent of our own evangelical right-wing Republicans. You find some in almost every town. And the more you rile them up, the meaner they get and the more followers they gain.  But in times of peace — which Afghanistan has not known for 40 years — many Taliban most likely would return to being farmers, shopkeepers, villagers, like their fathers before them, perhaps imposing local law and order but unlikely to seek control of Kabul and risk bringing the Americans down on them again.

Few Afghans were Taliban sympathizers when the U.S. overthrew the Taliban regime in 2001. Now there are a great many more and they control significant parts of the country, threatening various provincial capitals. They claim to be willing to negotiate with the Afghan government — but only after all American forces have left the country.

For the Trump administration, that’s not an option. (Think what a negotiated peace would mean for our private arms manufacturers for whom America’s endless wars across the Greater Middle East are a bonanza of guaranteed sales.) Instead, the president has put “his” generals in the Oval Office to do what generals do. Those in charge now — James Mattis, H.R. McMaster, and John Kelly — are all veterans of the Afghan or Iraq wars and consequently subject to what Freud labeled the “repetition compulsion”: “the blind impulse to repeat earlier experiences and situations,” often in the expectation that things will turn out differently. You’d think these particular generals, having been through it all before, would remember that very little or nothing ventured in Afghanistan (or Iraq) by “the greatest military the world has ever known” has worked out as advertised. As Freud pointed out, however, “The compulsion to repeat… replaces the impulsion to remember.”

But I was in Afghanistan too and, strangely enough, I remember a lot.

“Where Is the Money You Promised Us?”

I first went to Kabul in 2002 to work with women and girls just emerging from five long years of confinement in their homes. I found a shambles, a city in ruins. Whole districts had been reduced to rubble by civil war among factions of the mujahidin, the Afghan fundamentalists who, with U.S., Saudi, and Pakistani support, had driven the Red Army out of their country in 1989, only to be overwhelmed by the onslaught of the Taliban in the 1990s.  By 2001, when Americans made plans to bomb Kabul to unseat that Taliban regime, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld complained that there were “no good targets left to bomb.” When we finished bombing anyway, thousands of Kabulis had been killed, thousands had fled, and thousands more remained, living in makeshift shelters among toppled houses or in the blue U.N. tents that came to encircle much of the fallen city.

I lodged with an aging American woman who had lived in Afghanistan since the 1960s when her husband, a businessman, took part in America’s Cold War competition with the Soviet Union for the allegiance of Afghans.  The first morning, when I awoke chilled to the bone, she thrust some filthy paper bills into my hand, wrapped a woolen scarf around my head, and sent me out into the snow in search of bread. I turned a corner into a field of tumbled walls and there, on what had once been another corner, heat poured from an ancient brick bake-oven. I joined a line of men and waited my turn until long, flat loaves, hot from that oven, were thrust into my arms. Those hard-eyed Afghan men watched as I handed over my shabby bills and wrapped the loaves in the tail of my scarf. Who was I? What was I doing here? By week’s end, they would nod a greeting and make a space in the queue for me.

The Afghans I met were like that then: wary and guarded but curiously open and expectant. The Taliban was finished. Done. Gone. Some of its members, in plain sight, had joined the new American-installed government, but at least they had changed the color of their turbans and, for the time being, their tune. Poor and suffering as most Afghans were, they were prepared to jump at a new beginning, and they were open to anyone who seemed to have come to help.

As the American presence increased, Afghan optimism only expanded. Local leaders attended “informational” meetings called by American officials and never even complained about the aggressive military dogs — unclean by Islamic standards — that searched the premises and sometimes sniffed the Afghan men themselves. They listened to American plans to establish in their country the very best political system imaginable: democracy. There was talk of respect for human rights; there were promises of investment, prosperity, peace, and above all “development.”

Near the end of the second year of such meetings, an Afghan rose — I was there — to ask two embarrassing questions: “Where is the money you promised us? Where is the development?”  The American ambassador had a ready answer.  The promised funds were being used at first to establish American offices (with heating, air conditioning, the Internet, the works) and to pay American experts who would eventually provide the promised development and, in the process, inculcate respect for human rights, and oh, yes, women.

Let us not forget women. In 2005, First Lady Laura Bush flew into the capital (briefly) to dedicate a refurbished American dormitory for women at Kabul University. After all, the Bush administration had “liberated” Afghan women. Military security again sent in the dogs, leaving tearful students to burn their defiled clothing afterward.

By 2011, however, the State Department had dropped women’s rights from its set of designated objectives for the country and somehow human rights disappeared without notice, too.  Still, a succession of American ambassadors advised Afghan leaders to be patient. And so they were for what seems, in retrospect, like a very long time. Until, eventually, they were not.

The Experts Speak

Between then and 2015, I returned to Afghanistan almost every year to lend a hand to organizations of Afghan women and girls. I haven’t been back in two years, though — not since I recognized that, as an American, I am now a hazard to my Afghan colleagues and their families.

The accretion of witless insults, like those dogs, or the pork ribs in the MREs (Meals Ready to Eat) that the U.S. military hands out to Afghan soldiers, or endless fatal U.S. airstrikes (mistakes!) on villages, hospitals, wedding parties, and Afghan National Security Forces have all added up over the years, making Americans unwelcome and their Afghan friends targets.

You undoubtedly noticed some of the headlines at the time, but the Afghanistan story has proven so long, complicated, and repetitive that, at this point, it’s hard to recall the details or, for that matter, the cast of characters, or even why in the world we’re still there doing the same things again and again and again.

The short version of that long history might read like this: the U.S. bombed Afghanistan in 2001 without giving the Taliban government either time to surrender or to negotiate the surrender of their country’s most problematic foreign guest, the Saudi Osama bin Laden. The Bush administration then restored to power the ultra-conservative Islamic mujahidin warlords first engaged by the CIA under William “Bill” Casey, its devout Catholic director, to fight the “godless communists” of the Soviet Union in the long proxy war of the 1980s. Afghans polled in 2001 wanted those warlords — war criminals all — banned forever from public life. Washington, however, established in Kabul a government of sorts, threw vast sums of cash at its selected leaders heading an administrative state that did not yet exist and then, for years to come, alternately ignored or denounced the resulting corruption it had unthinkingly built into its new Afghan “democracy.” Such was the “liberation” of the country.

The story of the last 15 years there is largely a sum of just such contradictory and self-defeating acts.  During that time, American officials regularly humiliated Hamid Karzai, their handpicked president. They set up a centralized government in Kabul and then, through Provincial Reconstruction Teams, controlled by the U.S. military, they also supported a passel of provincial warlords hostile to that government. They sent their military to invade Iraq, while the Taliban who were never allowed to surrender (as Anand Gopal recounts in his riveting book No Good Men Among the Living) regrouped and went back to war.  In 2007, they undermined Afghan efforts to negotiate peace with the Taliban, opting instead to “surge” more American troops into the country, doubling their numbers in 2008, and then to continue to spend a fortune in taxpayer dollars (at least $65 billion of them) training hundreds of thousands of Afghan soldiers and police to do the fighting their elected government had wanted to stop.

In 2006 — ancient history now — I published a book, Kabul in Winter, partly about the scams I’d seen perpetrated by or on the U.S. military, the select crew of private American contractors flooding the country, and the cloistered experts of the U.S. Agency for International Development. Not long after, a prominent filmmaker invited an Afghan woman who was a physician and a member of that country’s parliament, plus Anand Gopal and me, to travel to Washington.  We were to explain our experiences in Afghanistan to influential members of various Washington think tanks who might have an effect on foreign policymaking.

We came prepared to talk, but those Washington experts asked us no questions. Instead, they spent our time together telling us what to think about the country we had just left. I remember, in particular, four young Americans, all newly minted Ivy League “experts” we met at a leading “progressive” think tank. They described in great detail their 20-year plan for the economic and political development of Afghanistan, a country, they said, they all hoped to visit one day. The Afghan doctor finally laughed out loud, but she was not amused. “You know nothing about my country,” she said, “but you plan its future into the next generation. This is your job?” It proved to be the job as well of two administrations (and now, it seems, a third).

Time to Kill Terrorists

The election of 2014, though riddled with “irregularities,” brought the first peaceful transfer of presidential power in Afghanistan, from Hamid Karzai to Ashraf Ghani.  With it came renewed hope that the wild dream of an Afghan-style peaceful democracy might work after all.  It was a longing barely diminished by Ghani’s choice for vice president: Abdul Rashid Dostum, an Uzbek warlord notorious for war crimes of surpassing brutality.

2014 was also the year President Obama chose to end the war in Afghanistan once and for all. Only he didn’t. Instead he left behind those under-counted thousands of American soldiers now being joined by thousands more. For what purpose?

American victory certainly hasn’t materialized, but the greatest military the world has ever known (as it’s regularly referred to here) cannot admit defeat. Nor can the failed state of Afghanistan acknowledge that it has failed to become anything other than a failure. Afghan-American Ashraf Ghani, who once co-wrote a scholarly book tellingly entitled Fixing Failed States, surrendered his U.S. citizenship to become Afghan president, but he seems unable to fix the country of his birth.

In May 2017, Ghani welcomed back to Kabul and into public life, after an absence of 20 years, the notorious Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, founder of the party Hezb-i-Islami and most favored among the mujahidin during the 1980s by Pakistan’s intelligence agency, the ISI, and the CIA, and most hated by Kabuli civilians for having randomly shelled the city throughout the civil war of the 1990s. In Kabul in 2002, I found it rare to meet a person who had not lost a house or a relative or a whole family to the rockets of “the Butcher of Kabul.” Now, here he is again, his war crimes forgiven by a new “Americanized” president, and an Afghan culture of impunity reconfirmed.

Meanwhile, halfway around the world, Donald J. Trump forgot his denunciation of “Obama’s war,” adopted the “expertise” of his generals, and reignited a fading fire. This time around, he swore, “We are not nation-building again. We are killing terrorists.”

The American effort is now to be exclusively military.  There will be no limits on troop numbers or time spent there, nor any disclosure of plans to the enemy or the American public.  There is to be no more talk of democracy or women’s rights or human rights or peace negotiations.

Announcing his new militarized “strategy” in a long, vague, typically self-congratulatory speech, Trump lacked even the courtesy to mention the elected leader of Afghanistan by name. Instead, he referred only to assurances given to him by Afghanistan’s “prime minister” — an official who, as it happens, does not exist in the government Washington set up in Kabul so long ago. Trump often makes such gaffes, but he read this particular speech from a teleprompter and so it was surely written or at least vetted by the very military which now is to dictate the future of Afghanistan and U.S. involvement there — and yet, a decade and a half later, seems to know no more about the country and its actual inhabitants than it ever did.

“I studied Afghanistan in great detail and from every conceivable angle,” Trump claimed, and yet he staked his case for escalating the war once again on a shopworn, cowardly ploy: we must send more troops to honor the sacrifice of the troops we sent before; we must send more troops because so many of those we sent before got killed or damaged beyond repair.

Lessons Learned (and Unlearned)

We can’t allow Afghanistan to become a safe haven for terrorists, Trump insisted, echoing (however unintentionally) Barack Obama and George W. Bush before him.  He seems unaware that the terrorists who acted on 9/11 had found safe haven in San Diego and Oakland, California, Phoenix and Mesa, Arizona, Fort Lee and Wayne, New Jersey, Hollywood and Daytona Beach, Florida, and Newton, Massachusetts, among other American towns and cities.  On 9/11, those 19 terrorists possessed 63 valid U.S. driver’s licenses issued by many different states. It was in the United States that all 19 of those terrorists found safety.  It was here, not in Afghanistan, that the prospective pilots for those hijacked planes learned to fly.

Now, as more troops depart for Afghanistan, I can’t help but think of what I learned when, after so many years of living and working among Afghan civilians, I finally embedded with American troops in 2010. My first lesson was this: there is no such thing in the American military as a negative after-action report. Military plans are always brilliant; strikes always occur as expected; our soldiers are (it goes without saying) heroic; and goals are naturally accomplished without fail.  No wonder the policymakers back in Washington remain convinced that we have the greatest military the world has ever seen and that someday we will indeed succeed in Afghanistan, although we haven’t actually won a war of any significance since 1945.

My second lesson: even officers who routinely file such positive reports may be blindsided by the bogus reports of others. Take, for example, a colonel I met in eastern Afghanistan in 2010.  He was newly returned to a forward base he had commanded only a few years earlier. Overwhelmed with surprise and grief, he told me he had been “unprepared” — which is to say uninformed by his superiors — to meet “conditions” so much worse than they had been before. He was dismayed to lose so many men in so short a time, especially when American media attention was focused on the other side of the country where a full-scale battle in Helmand Province was projected to be decisive, but somehow seemed to be repeatedly postponed.

Judging by my own experience on forward bases, I believe we can hazard a guess or two about the future of the American war in Afghanistan as the latest troops arrive. First, it will be little different from the awful past. Second, it will produce a surfeit of Afghan civilian casualties and official American self-congratulation. And finally, a number of our soldiers will return in bad shape, or not at all.

And then, of course, there are the dogs again: this time, a black one — unclean, as always, by Islamic standards — in silhouette with a Taliban flag bearing an Islamic text from the Quran on its side.  That was what the Americans printed on a leaflet dropped from planes over Parwan province, home of America’s enormous Bagram Air Base. That was supposed to win Afghan hearts and minds, to use an indelible phrase from our war in Vietnam.

Afghans, insulted again, are in an uproar. And the U.S. military, all these years after invading Afghanistan, still doesn’t get this thing about dogs. Yes, the dog thing seems a little irrational and odd, but no more so than the Virgin Birth or the Rapture. The obscurity of such a simple fact to the military brass again brings the Vietnam era to mind and, from a great Pete Seeger antiwar song, another indelible line: “Oh, when will they ever learn?”

Afghanistan Wars: The Reason

September 21, 2017

by Christian Jürs

It ought to be recognized that the so-called Afghan opium pipeline runs through the United Arab Emirates on its way to Kosovo where it is refined into heroin and shipped up into Europe.

Opium crops located in Afghanistan, over 95% of the world’s opium production, and protected by US CIA people and elements of the American military are responsible for the bulk of the illegal heroin markets.

There is a deliberate effort to convince the bulk of the public that opium is a Taliban operation but in fact it is not

An ‘Afghanistan Opium Survey’ details the ongoing and steady rise of Afghan opium production. In stated: “In 2016, opium production had increased by approximately 25 times in relation to its 2001 levels, from 185 tons in 2001 to 4800 tons in 2016.”

In 2011 a US MI report had stated, very clearly, that US military convoys operating from Pakistani ports were specifically used to ship both raw opium and refined heroin out of that country and to South American ports.

And then there are the origins, and development of the CIA’s modus operandi.

In what is called the Golden Triangle area, during the Vietnam war, when the CIA imposed a food-for-opium scheme on Hmong tribesmen from Laos — complete with a heroin refinery at the CIA headquarters in northern Laos and the set-up of nefarious Air America to export the raw gum opium by CIA-owned aircraft, to Columbia where it was, and is, being refined into heroin.

During its involvement with the war in SEA, the CIA used the Hmong groups to counter the activities of the Pathet Lao groups. The Hmongs used the profits from their opium productions to live on. The CIA protected the opium trade and very soon, realizing the profits to be made from it, expanded their control over the opium-growing business.  The Hmong were very important to CIA operations and the CIA was very concerned with their well-being. The CIA began to export raw opium from the north and east of the Plain of Jars to Long Tieng and later, during the height of the Vietnam wars, began to take a great interest in the very large and successful Afghanistani opium fields.

A Pakistani intelligence report based on Pashtun sources, most specifically indicates that the controlling factor in the opium production is not Muslim but American.

According to Pakistani government intelligence, the CIA is heavily involved with al-Quaeda and IS and introduced them into Afghanistan for guerrilla actions so as to be able to convince Washington to increase the number of American troops into that country to protect the highly profitable opium fields.

If one looks at a map showing the locations of the known opium fields in Afghanistan and then looks at another map showing US military units in place, the two are nearly identical.

Russian intelligence is well aware that the US CIA and the Pentagon are secretly supporting the Saudi-raised Sunni IS, a branch of which is now very active in Afghanistan.

It is very well known that a major portion of Afghanistani gum opium is taken over by CIA people and most of it is shipped to Columbia.

A portion of this opium goes to Kosovo where it is also refined and then shipped up through Germany to Russia. This annoys the Russians who have made a strong effort to put a halt to something that killed over 50,000 Russians last year from heroin overdoses.

Here we have an interesting situation.

Russia, with good reason, objects to having heroin smuggled into her country and attempts to put a stop to it.

The United States, a country that, via its agencies, is heavily involved in the trade, objects to this.

Therefore, in addition to all Russia’s oil and gas which America badly needs, the US has an excellent motive for making Russia a handy enemy.

Enemies are necessary to stimulate the public interest in supporting more profitable (to some at least) wars.


The real danger to U.S. national security

Why President Trump must not apply ‘prophylactic offense’ to North Korea

by Douglas Macgregor

September 19, 2017

The Washington Times

President Lyndon Baines Johnson (LBJ) was usually more interested in delivering tirades than seeking advice, but in February 1968 LBJ needed answers. According to Gen. William Westmoreland, the commander of U.S. Forces in Vietnam, the unanticipated Tet Offensive had transformed the Vietnam War. If LBJ wanted to win the war in Vietnam, Westmoreland and the Joint Chiefs insisted they needed 200,000 more troops.

Former Secretary of State Dean Acheson was a key adviser to the president, a thoughtful man who saw himself as a public servant, not as a public figure. After listening for years to general officers who promised success in Vietnam was just around the corner, Acheson was disgusted, but not surprised. “With all due respect, Mr. President,” Acheson advised LBJ, “The Joint Chiefs of Staff don’t know what they are talking about.”

President Trump would do well to heed Dean Acheson’s advice today. The assertions made by Mr. Trump’s generals that “time is running out” for North Korea sound a lot like a national military strategy of “prophylactic offense.” In other words, attack the opponent before the opponent has the chance to strike.

In theory prophylactic offense sounds macho and appealing, but in Northeast Asia it’s dangerous. North Korea is really a large concentration camp populated by millions of starving desperate people including its own soldiers, but its Stalinist leadership would welcome an attack by Washington.

The reason is simple: An attack out of the blue by Washington would drive Beijing into a pointless and self-defeating war (that Beijing wants to avoid) with Washington, thus rescuing North Korea from certain extinction. Russia, North Korea’s only remaining supporter would be the only power to benefit from such a conflict.

The point, Mr. President, is that North Korea is not the greatest danger to the United States. The greatest danger is that advisers in uniform who promise military success will instead blunder into a major war with an American military establishment that is poorly organized, exhausted and unready for action against the modern armed forces of regional powers in Northeast Asia, Eastern Europe or the Near East.

Worse, American military action would occur at a time when America’s economic recovery hangs by a thread and, thanks to two decades of uncontrolled immigration from the developing world, America’s national cohesion is weaker than at any time in its history since 1861. Recent events in Charlottesville are also symptomatic of the divisions that plague America.

It would behoove President Trump to follow the instincts of Candidate Trump. Recognize that for Americans the mystique of “righteous military action” in Afghanistan and Iraq, conceived in the aftermath of 911 has completely worn off. Keep in mind that despite every possible military advantage in more than a decade of desultory battles with weak Arab and Afghan insurgents — opponents without armies, air forces or air defenses — Mr. Bush’s and Mr. Obama’s generals, like LBJ’s generals, offered rosy predictions, but consistently failed to deliver success in the “global war on terror.”

Today American public support for a powerful national defense establishment is strong, but Americans will not support an open-ended war in Northeast Asia when its government has not identified attainable strategic aims worthy of sacrifice. To date, such a strategic formulation does not exist and there is little reason to expect generals whose only experience of war is against weak insurgent enemies to do so now.

Americans accept the burden of preserving the peace by maintaining the world’s most powerful military establishment. However, Americans want a military strategy that maintains the military power to win a war that Americans are compelled to fight, but otherwise constrains the use of American military power within constitutional parameters.

History teaches that political and military leaders who argue for military action are always convinced that the resulting war will be short and decisive.

Yet, the military and political leaders fail to conduct an accurate self-assessment of the nation’s strengths and weaknesses. In the end, the national capability to employ military power, rather than the valid strategic requirement to use force, tends to dominate national security decision-making.

Without leadership from you, Mr. President, the aforementioned strategy you advocated as candidate and the will to execute it will not emerge. The first step on the road to positive change is to heed Dean Acheson’s advice. LBJ waited too long to heed it. Don’t repeat his mistake.

Douglas Macgregor, a retired U.S. Army colonel and decorated combat veteran, is the author of “Margin of Victory” (Naval Institute Press, 2016).


The X26

The X26, Taser’s most powerful stun gun, was removed from the sales lineup in 2014. Behind the phase-out, a truth: The popular weapon posed a higher cardiac risk than other models.More power, more risk and a quiet exit for Taser’s best-selling product

September 21, 2017

by Lisa Girion


SCOTTSDALE, Arizona – The X26 is in a class by itself.

The electrified dart gun is sleek, lightweight and compact. Yet Taser International says its capacity to stop suspects is second to none.

Introduced in 2003, the X26 was Taser’s third model and quickly became its “gold standard.” Taser’s No. 1 moneymaker for a decade, the X26 contributed more than half of all revenues for much of that time.

But its takedown power came at a price: higher cardiac risk, a Reuters examination of scientific literature and corporate, court and patent records found

When its darts impale flesh, the X26 delivers more electricity than any other Taser and almost twice that of newer “smart” weapons.

Taser stopped selling the X26 in the United States and Canada in 2014, telling police customers its analog workhorse was approaching obsolescence. That was five years after Taser launched the first of its “smart” digital weapons – all less likely to endanger the heart.

After signs of the outsize risk of the X26 surfaced, Taser neither alerted police nor recalled its best-selling weapon. It remains on the hips of police officers to this day. The company attempted to retrofit the X26 to reduce its maximum electrical output. In the end, Taser abandoned the effort.

Its engineers were unable to rein in the one attribute that, scientists told Reuters, is most responsible for a Taser’s capacity to stop suspects, as well as potentially endanger their hearts: its charge, the amount of electricity in each of its rapid-fire electrical pulses.

The greater the electrical output, the greater the risk to the human heart, said Dr Zian Tseng, a professor at the University of California at San Francisco and a cardiac electrophysiologist at UCSF Health.

“If there’s more energy, it’s able to capture the heart muscle easier,” said Tseng, who has published studies on Tasers funded by UCSF and the U.S. National Institutes of Health. “Therefore, it’s a higher cardiac risk.”

Taser says there has never been a reason to recall the X26. The risk of all of its weapons is low and outweighed by their benefits, company spokesman Steve Tuttle said.

Taser disputes the idea that the X26 poses special risks. Instead, it emphasizes that its newer models are safer. Its view, Tuttle told Reuters, is that because the charge of the new Tasers is “well below” the maximum charge of the X26, “it further increases cardiac safety margins.”

A weapon’s charge isn’t the only factor affecting safety, Tuttle said. Other considerations include the shape of the pulses of electricity emitted by conducted electrical weapons, or CEWs, as Taser calls them.

“By the proper definition, all Taser CEWs are extremely safe,” he said.

The company’s leadership does not believe any Taser has ever triggered a fatal cardiac arrest, Tuttle said.

Yet across the United States, medical examiners and coroners have cited the manufacturer’s stun guns as a cause or contributor in more than 150 deaths, Reuters reported in August.

Taser’s development of its “smart” weapons came at an inflection point driven in part by the very success of the X26. Taser had sold 425,000 weapons, most of them X26s, and counted 15,000 police agencies as customers. It was time to sell old customers new products, the company said.

“There’s a $600 million upgrade opportunity, and we’re going to be aggressively going after them,” founder and chief executive Rick Smith said on a 2009 call introducing the X3, the first of its “smart” weapons, to stock analysts. “These cops we’ve found out are like kids in a candy store.”

Taser encouraged cash-strapped cities to apply for federal stimulus funds to pay for the upgrades, and many did.

The plan coincided with peak litigation: 46 wrongful death lawsuits were filed over police use of Tasers in 2009.

The company sold its “smart” models as upgrades, touting improvements, such as laser sights and backup shots. Taser’s announcement for the X3 said its ability to adjust its electrical output “enhanced safety.” A footnote reported that its “output pulse” was less than the maximum delivered by the X26.

Taser offered millions in discounts, including hundreds of dollars off the price of a new weapon for every “legacy” trade-in.

Now that the company has persuaded many law enforcement agencies to upgrade, it has heard another complaint: The new Tasers don’t work as well as the old ones – posing a risk to its own customers.

A lawsuit filed by a Houston police officer challenges the game-changing promise Taser made about its stun guns – that the weapons operate in an electrical sweet spot, emitting just enough juice to take down even the most determined suspect but not enough to endanger the heart. Taser, which recently changed its name to Axon Enterprise Inc, disputes the allegations.  (See related story).


There are many ways to characterize electricity: Volts, amps, joules, watts. Media coverage of the stun guns has tended to highlight the 50,000 volts that propel the Taser’s electricity.

But that voltage never reaches the targets. And it’s not what matters most when it comes to cardiac hazard. The key, as CEO Smith told a court in 2008, is the delivered charge, measured in microcoulombs.

Tasers send pulses of electricity along copper wires into targets through barbed darts. The charge is the number of electrons in each pulse.

Smith’s first electrified dart gun, the Air Taser introduced in 1995, emitted a charge of 70 microcoulombs per pulse. As Smith later described, that wasn’t enough to stop determined suspects.

In a demonstration in Prague, Smith told police in a letter, a “pumped up” volunteer “managed to fight his way through” the Air Taser.

Smith got to work developing a better Taser. He told the patent office it was a matter of public safety: If police officers relied on a too-weak stun gun to stop suspects, there could be “dire consequences.”

“The muscles must lock up,” he warned.

In 1999, Smith unveiled the M26, the first electroshock weapon designed to lock up muscles. The M26 packed a bigger charge, with each pulse delivering 85 microcoulombs of electricity, according to early electrical specifications published by Taser.

In 2003, Taser pushed the charge higher with the X26, in part by increasing the duration of each pulse. Early specifications said the X26 delivered 100 microcoulombs per pulse.

The X26 offers “the highest degree of takedown power ever available with the same level of safety,” Taser said in information distributed to police instructors in January 2004.

The X26 captured the market. Taser’s 2004 revenues, the model’s first full year of sales, surged 177 percent.

It was not only more effective but also lighter and more compact. The bulkier M26s tended to be left in squad cars. The X26 was easier to holster, to have at the ready.

There was an early complaint from cops: After the X26 knocked suspects down, some were able to get back up and break the Taser wires toward the end of the 5-second shock.

Initially, the X26 had been designed to deliver 19 pulses per second for the first two seconds, dropping to a slower rate of 15 pulses for the last three seconds. The idea had been that it would take more juice to knock suspects down than to keep them down, Taser explained in a 2004 bulletin to police. The slower rate would extend battery life.

Before the first year of sales was out, the company reconfigured the X26 – sending a software update out with a new power pack. With that, the X26 was retrofitted to deliver a reliable 19 pulses per second for the full length of a trigger squeeze.

Two years later, in 2006, a medical journal article carried some troubling news about the X26.

Canadian doctors published a study showing that both the M26 and the X26 captured pig hearts and sent them racing. The study also showed that the X26 captured them nearly every time – about double the rate of the M26.

Capture is not necessarily dangerous. But a heart captured by a rapidly moving outside source of electricity can lead to potentially lethal ventricular fibrillation.

The authors theorized the longer duration of the X26 pulse could explain its greater potency. Taser criticized the study, saying its use of synthetic adrenalin to mimic the effects of stress made the pigs’ hearts more vulnerable.


In 2008, more than four years after Taser launched the X26, it learned that the output of the weapon could be as much as a third higher than it had disclosed in its early spec sheets. Taser updated its specifications after a company-funded study showed that when the darts impale flesh, the X26 can deliver a charge of up to 135 microcoulombs.

In 2009, Taser got another surprise: As Reuters reported Wednesday, a Taser “captured” a human heart.

The episode occurred during the company’s own test of the forthcoming model X3. The weapon’s electronic pulses grabbed the heart of a police volunteer identified only as Subject No. 8 and held it in thrall for 10 seconds. It raced at 240 beats per minute – four times his resting heart rate.

The researchers halted the test and notified company officials. Taser immediately lowered the charge and took the X3 to market with a target output of 63 microcoulombs.

“We had a reasonable scientific basis for the device being safer based on the lower charge,” Dr Donald Dawes, a research consultant on the study, told Reuters.

Two weeks after the capture episode, Smith introduced the dialed-down X3 to stock analysts. On a July 29, 2009 call, he said the X3’s safety margin was “about double” that of the X26. He compared the two weapons to different generations of motor vehicles.

The older stun gun “is like a 1999 minivan, very safe with the crumple zones and airbags and all that,” Smith said. “Is a 2009 minivan even safer? Sure, it’s got side airbags now and there’s been more technology advances.”

A training course Taser issued the next month explicitly linked safety to electrical output. According to the instructor’s notes for Slide 44, “63 charge units is about the optimal level to achieve incapacitation while maximizing safety.”

Taser considered retrofitting the X26 but abandoned the idea when engineers were unable to work it out, Magne Nerheim, Taser’s vice president for research, told a court earlier this year. In an email, Tuttle said the X26 lacked enough space and memory to add “charge metering technology.”

In September 2009, two months after No. 8’s episode, Taser issued its first cardiac hazard warning and advised police to avoid chest shots.


Hurricanes release energy of 10,000 nuclear bombs

The Atlantic hurricane season is at its midway point but has already seen some mega-storms. Even average hurricanes release huge amounts of energy. Where does it all come from?

September 21, 2017

by Jennifer Collins


Those who have experienced a hurricane know the devastation one can wreak when mighty winds bear down, flattening homes, ripping up trees and creating huge storm surges. These storms are powerful. In fact, “during its life cycle a hurricane can expend as much energy as 10,000 nuclear bombs,” says NASA.

At the halfway point, the 2017 Atlantic hurricane season has been defined as “very active” with seven hurricanes. Four of those seven — Harvey, Irma, Jose and Maria — have reached Category 3 or higher on the Saffir-Simpson scale. That means they are strong — very strong.

Jose was downgraded to a tropical storm, but the other three followed hot on each other’s heels, causing deaths and immense destruction, when they made landfall, through flooding and wind gusts of up to 130 miles per hour (209 kilometers per hour).

Because of their destructive and deadly force, the names Irma, Harvey and Maria will be retired from use, according to Philip Klotzbach, a meteorologist specializing in Atlantic seasonal hurricane forecasts.

But where does all that force come from?

Hurricanes — or tropical cyclones — form over waters where humidity is high, sea surface temperatures are warm (more than 26 degrees Celsius) and light winds prevail. Those conditions usually occur in the summer and early autumn in the tropical North Atlantic and North Pacific.

These cyclones use “warm, moist air as fuel,” according to NASA. The air moves up and away from the ocean’s surface, causing an area of low air pressure to form. Air from high-pressure areas moves into the low-pressure zone. It warms and rises too.

The cycle continues, and as that warm, moist air rises and cools, the water in it forms clouds. The clouds multiply; the wind whips up and grows, continuing to be fed by the ocean’s heat and water. The storm system’s rotation speeds up and forms a calm area of low pressure in the center, known as the eye. The strongest winds occur outside of this in the eye wall.

Global warming

Hurricanes generally weaken when they make landfall because they lose their warm water fuel. But scientists believe global warming could increase the frequency and intensity of hurricanes and tropical storms, as ocean water heats up. More warm water equals more fuel.

The most powerful hurricanes usually form in the Gulf and Caribbean, where the water is warm even in the deep sea. The Atlantic’s deeper waters are typically cooler. As a hurricane grows and whips up deep, cold water, it loses fuel. This might be changing as the Atlantic heats up. Irma, for instance, had the strongest recorded winds of any hurricane to form in the open Atlantic.


Bits and Pieces

Family identifies man dragged by semi

by Louie Gilot

El Paso Times

The widow of the man who died Sunday in a gruesome hit-and-run in East El Paso County asks the trucker who apparently dragged body parts as far as Arizona to come forward.

“If he just could tell me the truth, I’m not going to condemn him. It’s probably not his fault,” said a tearful Yvonne Colon-Rivera, the widow of Frank Paul Rivera, 33, of Tornillo.

Officials have yet to positively identify the crash victim as Rivera, and they awaited the DNA analysis of a leg with a foot, another foot, a hand and part of a face found Sunday on westbound Interstate-10 in Marana, a northwest suburb of Tucson. Marana police said the time frame of the 2:45 a.m. crash and the 12:25 p.m. discovery makes it likely that the remains were brought over by the truck coming from El Paso.

Officials only said they were looking for a white tractor-trailer.

Family members and co-workers of Frank Rivera, a car salesman at Dick Poe Chrysler, said they were sure of the identity of the crash victim. Rivera, they said, was driving home to Tornillo in his 1994 Chevrolet Silverado pickup.

El Paso sheriff’s deputies said the driver of the Silverado lost control of the truck and rolled over across the median and into a westbound lane. The driver was ejected and run over by a passing 18-wheeler. The rig did not stop after crushing the body and spreading body parts between Tornillo and Fabens.

Ten hours later in Marana, I-10 commuters spotted more remains, about 10 feet apart.

“We never had something like this,” Marana police Sgt. Bill Derfus said.

Rivera lived on the Tornillo farmland that was passed from generation to generation in his family for the past 100 years, his widow said. He was building a corral to raise goats and chickens with his children, 5-year-old Samantha and 3-year-old Paul.

“He wanted his kids to know how to be farmers and follow in his ancestors’ footsteps,” Colon-Rivera said. “He was a rugged cowboy who told his kids he loved them 10 times a day. He was unique.”

Colon-Rivera will bury her husband in Tornillo as soon as the authorities turn over his remains, she said.







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