TBR News April 13, 2016

Apr 13 2016

The Voice of the White House

Washington, D.C. April 13, 2016: “There is very muted but very serious concern about the probability that a small, radical Muslim group will release verola (or smallpox) virus at some point in the very near future. It is believed by a number of world health agencies that the fanatics, who stole the virus from a German lab, will release this to wreak havoc on the West in general and Christians in specific. That this disease is expected to kill off 40% of the world’s population, including Muslims, seems to have escaped their notice. The rest of us should demand that vaccine be produced with convenient rapidity. The Russians have large stores of vaccine but since America has put useless sanctions on that country, their desire to cooperate is strictly limited. Pride goeth before a fall and a haughty spirit before destruction.”


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Dislodged fireproofing felled World Trade Center

by Harry von Johnston, PhD

The twin towers of the World Trade Center would probably be standing today, if the impact of the planes used in the September 11, 2001 attack had not destroyed fireproofing material, experts said.

After what it described as the most detailed examination of a building failure ever conducted, the US Commerce Department’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) said it would be suggesting major changes to the way skyscrapers are built and managed.

In assessing the events that led to World Trade Center’s collapse, the NIST report said the structural impact of the planes and subsequent jet fuel-ignited, multi-floor fires were not in themselves enough to bring the towers down.

“The reason the towers collapsed is because the fireproofing was dislodged,” said Shyam Sunder, lead investigator for the NIST building and fire safety investigation into the disaster.

If the fireproofing had remained in place, Sunder said, the fires would have burned out and moved on without weakening key elements to the point of structural collapse.

He drew an analogy with the 2003 Columbia space shuttle disaster when the absence of a small piece of insulation foam — knocked off during launch — allowed fire to seep into the shuttle’s entire wing span during re-entry with catastrophic results.

New alternatives to traditional fireproofing should be explored, Sunder said, citing a paint-like substance which, if applied in sufficient layers, would stick “even if a plane hit it.”

Nearly 2,750 people were killed in the attack on the World Trade Center by members of Osama bin Laden’s Al-Qaeda network.

Roughly 17,400 people were in the skyscrapers at the time of the attack, and NIST estimated that the death toll would have been closer to 14,000 if the two towers had been filled to their 50,000-person capacity.

The report said each jet severed perimeter columns, damaged interior core columns and dislodged fireproofing as they penetrated the buildings. The weight carried by the severed columns was spread to others.

Fires caused by the jet fuel were fed by the building contents and oxygen entering through breached walls and windows.

“The floors weakened and sagged from the fires, pulling inward on the perimeter columns,” the report said.

“Floor sagging and exposure to high temperatures caused the perimeter columns to bow inward and buckle — a process that spread across the faces of the buildings.

“Collapse then ensued,” it said.

In examining the emergency services response on September 11 and the evacuation procedures, the NIST report echoed other probes in highlighting a lack of coordination and poor communications equipment.

The report cited one senior emergency services officer inside the north tower of the trade center as saying he would have known more about what was going on if he had been watching it on television.

“The lack of timely information sharing and inadequate communication capabilities, likely contributed to the loss of emergency responder lives,” the report concluded.

The evacuation of the twin towers has generally been called a success, with 87 percent of the occupants — including more than 99 percent of those below the floors hit by the planes — managing to get out.

The south tower collapsed 56 minutes after impact and the north tower in 102 minutes.

The NIST report noted that a full-capacity evacuation would have taken around four hours — a fatal length of time.

Occupants were often unprepared for the physical challenge of evacuating from higher floors. “It’s pretty demanding, especially if you want to do it fast,” Sunder said.

The NIST report, running to some 10,000 pages, is still in draft form, with a final version, complete with definitive findings and recommendations, to be released in September.

           But how can this be? Haven’t brilliant, fearless reporters like Christopher Bollyn and other daring bloggers exposed the Real Truth behind the 911 disaster?

What has happened to the Plasmoid Clouds exposé ?

The Chinese/Bulgarian Guided Missiles ?

The ex-Soviet Scientists working with the CIA, Mossad, the Rothschild family and the Illuminati?

What about the self-sacrificing US Army Special Forces who actually went inside the buildings, acting on orders from Laura Bush and the Freemasons, and blew the Twin Towers, and themselves, up?

And the acres of foreign rocket engine parts strewed all over New York’s streets, or huge lakes of molten steel found by unidentified rescue workers in the cellars of the WTC, months after the attack? Was the result of the dreaded ‘Thermeet’ that never cools and was invented by two fictional Danish scientists?

God, will these disillusions never end? Here we have reassurance that all is not lost after all. And believe it, a stunning report will emerge on how Nicolas Tesla’s Z-Ray, controlled by former KGB officers stationed on Planet X, actually brought down the two buildings, as well as the Pentagon!



Conversations with the Crow

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

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

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

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

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


Conversation 115


Date: Wednesday, December 10, 1997

Commenced: 3:05 PM CST

Concluded: 3:30 PM CST


RTC: How are you today, Gregory? Getting ready for Christmas?

GD: Just another day, Robert. A bit quieter. I’m sure the business people regret that they have to shut up on Christmas because they might make a few more dollars. Just a commercial venture these days. Did you ever hear ‘Green Christmas’ ? The song?

RTC: I can’t say that I have.

GD: A pointed satire in the manifest and bald-faced greed of the season, Robert. Thanksgiving is nothing but the Massacre of the Turkeys but Christmas is highlighted by the figurative ringing of the cash register bells and the crisp crackle of greenbacks. And many lovely and totally innocent trees are sacrificed for what was always a Roman pagan holiday.

RTC: Indeed?

GD: The Saturnalia. End of the year celebration to take up the extra days. Evergreens in abundance. Presents given and received.

RTC: No star in the sky?

GD: None that I have read about. And no three wise men from some unspecified place bearing gifts. The whole scene was lifted from the Romans and the Ascension of Christ taken directly from the cult of Isis which was very popular in Rome at the time.

RTC: Then you reject the historical accuracy of the New Testament?

GD: Entirely. After the fact fiction almost entirely and historically totally inaccurate. The Gospels came from a source document written about 45-50 AD and were constantly being cleaned up to reflect the changes of the day. None of them were written closer to the events chronicled than about a hundred years. And the Revelations book was written by a lunatic confined on the island of Patmos which was a Roman nut house colony and about 96 AD. John was supposed to be living there with the Virgin Mary so you figure it out.

RTC: Aren’t there historical references to Jesus?

GD: None. The writings of Flavius Josephus, a renegade Jew of the time, had an inserted reference to Jesus but it has long been known as a gross ex post facto insertion by pious Christians in the second century. All fake, Robert, like the so-called Shroud of Turin. That dates to 1300.

RTC: How did the image get on it?

GD: Painted a naked model with egg tempera paint and pushed the cloth down over the body. That simple. Of course, the Vatican knows it’s a fake but they don’t discuss it because it is a big drawer for the pious of soul and incredulous of belief. In Vienna, in the cathedral of St. Stephan, we find the skull of that saint but at St. Polten, the skull of St. Stephan as a fifteen year old boy.

RTC: You’re putting me on.

GD: (Laughter) No, I’m not. And the sacred bones of St. Agnes turned out to be part of the spine of a goat. I wonder how Michelangelo would have depicted that one? With lots of muscle and a small penis. A wonderful artist but gay as a goose. And that brings me to yet another interesting aspect of the whole business. If you really look into the Gospels and try to discern the teachings of Jesus, you will realize that Jesus was an Essene. Now our modern theologians can discuss Jesus in detail and the Essenes in equal detail but never, ever at the same time. That’s would not be correct.

RTC: And why is that, pray tell?

GD: Well, because the Essenes were an all-male organization. They were communistic in their community activities with shared purses and so on and hated women. They bred with them and if the babies were male, all well and good but if female, both mother and child were expelled. They boys they kept.

RTC: There seem to be sinister overtones here, Gregory. Are you saying….?

GD: Yes, I am saying. Like the Spartans and Zulus, the Essenes were homosexuals.

RTC: Now, Jesus H. Christ, Gregory, by implication, by what you are saying and assuming you are accurate, was Jesus a fairy?

GD: It’s ‘gay’ now, but yes, that’s the way it appears. Don’t forget James the Beloved of Christ.

RTC: Are you certain about the facts…never mind your warped conclusions…the facts?

GD: Always. Yes, look it all up. None of it is connected but study the Essene cult. They were eventually shut down but it’s all there for you to find. But there never has been made a connection between Jesus and that group. Yet study the preachings of Jesus, or at least what the Gospels claim are the preachings, and then study the Essene dogmas and you at once see very clear and unmistakable parallels.

RTC: I could look all of this up but you seem to know your history. Of course you can’t say such things because you can never get it public. You do like to get involved in useless quests.

GD: No, but I like facts, not fictions. And I find it very, very entertaining that our evangelical Christians loathe and want to kill off any homosexual they can find. I doubt if any of them would even bother to do the research on the subject because a closed mind is a wonderful thing to behold.  And as another interesting fact, the so-called ‘Dead Sea Scrolls’ are Essene writings. Consider that the scholars have been pouring over these for years and yet only a few garbled passages have been released to the public. Why? Because the writings bear out what I just told you and our Jewish chums have agreed to shut up about it. I suppose they get more cluster bombs and nerve gas from Washington with which to civilize the Palestinians in return for said silence. I’m not joking about this, Robert.

RTC: Sadly, probably not. Jim was so determined to serve Tel Aviv’s interests that I’m afraid he has set this country up for future decades of Muslim hatred. Well, I doubt if I’ll see the results of this pandering in my lifetime.

GD: Yes, you’re no doubt right but the wheel always turns, Robert. And the sins of the fathers shall be visited upon their children.

RTC: More biblical exhortations, Gregory?

GD: The Devil can cite scripture, Robert, and your chums down in the Gerbil Palace consider me to be, at the least, a minor devil. Know the truth, Robert, and the truth shall set you free. More likely get you ten to twenty for having a kilo of smack in your glove compartment. Of course you never put it there but the alternative would be a dead baby suddenly being found in your suitcase at the airport. Societies or their control groups have a way with such things. The prisons are full of dissenters and more than a few have been gassed, electrocuted or hanged. Justice is depicted with a blindfold but I think she would be more appropriate wearing a gas mask to avoid the stench of the rotting bodies of the innocent dead sacrificed in her name.


(Concluded at 3:30 P.M. CST)





From the FAS Project on Government Secrecy

Volume 2016, Issue No. 34

April 13, 2016


In a number of national security policy areas, there is a long-term trend in favor of greater transparency and disclosure. For example, the U.S. Army openly published a manual last week on Techniques for Information Collection During Operations Among Populations (ATP 3-55.4). It supersedes and replaces a previous publication from 2007 (FM 2-91.6) that was for restricted distribution and was marked For Official Use Only.

But in some other areas, the arrow of transparency is pointed backwards and previously unclassified categories of records are becoming newly restricted or classified.

That appears to be the case with The National Military Strategy of the United States of America. It was publicly released as an unclassified document in 2015, but the forthcoming edition that is to be completed by the end of next year will be classified.

“The [next] national military strategy will be a classified document,” said Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, in a March 29 speech at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

He acknowledged that up to now the National Military Strategy was “an unclassified document that has historically, you know, been written for the public.” But the next Strategy will not be made public, although “we will certainly articulate to the public the guts of a national military strategy,” he said.  He did not elaborate on the rationale for classification of the hitherto unclassified document, except to say that “in my mind, what the national military strategy ought to do is drive the development of our operation[al] plans. And more importantly, drive the development of viable options that we would need in a crisis [or] contingency.” His speech was reported in Defense News (April 5) and the US Naval Institute News (March 29).

The Congressional Research Service said “it can be assumed” that Special Operations Forces “will figure prominently in DOD’s new classified military strategy document.” But CRS warned that “a high or increased level of U.S. SOF involvement in the nation’s new classified military strategy could come with a price…. there could be a tendency to assign them an inordinate amount of responsibility under this new strategic construct.” See U.S. Special Operations Forces (SOF): Background and Issues for Congress, updated April 8, 2016.


The transfer of presidential power from one Administration to the next “is a complex and multi-faceted undertaking” that actually begins several months before the general election, an updated report from the Congressional Research Service explains.

The law known as the Presidential Transition Act (PTA) “includes a number of provisions related to the pre-election portion of the presidential transition. It directs the President and the incumbent Administration to establish a specified transition-related organizational infrastructure, with some features ongoing and others operational during a presidential election year only.”

Among other things, “the PTA authorizes eligible candidates to fund pre-election transition activities through their campaigns. The statute also establishes a process for designating and preparing career officials who will likely act as agency leaders during the transition process. It further provides for the negotiation, before the election, of memoranda of understanding between the incumbent President and eligible candidates concerning post-election transition matters.”

The requested FY2016 budget for pre-election presidential transition activities is $13.278 million. See Presidential Transition Act: Provisions and Funding, updated April 12, 2016.

Other new and updated reports from the Congressional Research Service this week include the following.

U.S. Carbon Dioxide Emission Trends and the Role of the Clean Power Plan, April 11, 2016

The Selective Service System and Draft Registration: Issues for Congress, April 11, 2016

Friended, but not Friends: Federal Ethics Authorities Address Role of Social Media in Politics, CRS Legal Sidebar, April 12, 2016

Puerto Rico’s Current Fiscal Challenges, updated April 11, 2016

Unaccompanied Children from Central America: Foreign Policy Considerations, updated April 11, 2016

Navy LX(R) Amphibious Ship Program: Background and Issues for Congress, updated April 11, 2016



Panama Papers indicate spies used Mossack Fonseca to ‘conceal’ activities

Secret agents from several countries, including intermediaries of the CIA, reportedly used the services of Mossack Fonseca law firm to hide their schemes. The claims are the latest in the Panama Papers leak.

April 12, 2016


German newspaper “Süddeutsche Zeitung” reported on Tuesday that “secret agents and their informants have made wide use of the company’s services” and opened shell companies to conceal their activities wrote the newspaper. “Among them are close intermediaries of the CIA,” the newspaper reported.

Data breach

The Munich-based newspaper obtained a huge stash of 11.5 million documents from the Panamanian firm Mossack Fonseca and shared them with more than 100 media groups through the International Consortium.

The massive data breach implicated tax dodgers from Reykjavik to Riyadh. On Tuesday, the “Süddeutsche” reported that Mossack Fonseca clients also included “several players” in the 1980s Iran-Contra scandal, which saw senior US officials facilitate secret arms sales to Iran in a bid to secure the release of American hostages and fund Nicaragua’s Contra rebels.

The Panama Papers also reveal that “current or former high-ranking officials of the secret services of at least three countries… Saudi Arabia, Colombia and Rwanda” are listed amongst the company’s clients, the paper said.

Among them was Sheikh Kamal Adham, the former Saudi intelligence chief who died in 1999. Adham “spent the 1970s as one of the CIA’s key intermediaries” in the Middle East, the daily said.

Political leaders implicated

The huge leak, which hit headlines on April 3, shed light on how the world’s rich and powerful have used offshore companies to stash their assets. As a result, Iceland’s Prime Minister Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson resigned and pressure has mounted on a slew of other leaders around the world, including British Prime Minister David Cameron, who revealed that he had inherited an offshore fund, set up by his father.


What’s Behind the Explosions of Violence in Palestine? — The Destruction of Religious Sites and “Extrajudicial Executions” of Palestinian Teenagers

March 22, 2016

by David Palumbo-Liu

Louise Hewlett Nixon Professor, Stanford University


If what we see going on in Israel-Palestine is not yet a third Intifada, one may not be far off. As presented in the mainstream press, the stabbings of Israeli settlers, the rock-throwing, the mass uprisings, all seem chalked up to some inexplicable proclivity toward violence on the part of Palestinians. Nothing could be further from the truth. The fact of the matter is that this wave of violence comes in response to an on-going campaign to desecrate and destroy holy sites that anchor non-Jewish peoples to their faiths — not only are mosques being destroyed, so too are Catholic churches. Most egregiously, Israeli groups are attempting to replace the al-Aqsa mosque with a Jewish temple. In mid-September “Israeli forces entered the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound’s southern mosque on Tuesday sparking the third straight day of violent clashes at the third holiest site in Islam. Dozens of Palestinians were injured in the clashes, during which Israeli forces fired stun grenades, tear gas canisters and rubber-coated steel bullets at Palestinian worshipers.” These efforts are part of what is called “temple activism.”

Parallel to the illegal destruction of Palestinian homes and the building of settlements, what we find here is the destruction and appropriation of holy sites.

It is important to note that this purposeful destruction of religious institutions continues a process we witnessed during Israel’s attack on Gaza last summer:

In the aftermath of Operation Protective Edge, Israel’s 51-day military assault, the Palestinians in Gaza are faced with the huge task of reconstruction. Most of the shattered civilian infrastructure can be replaced, but Palestine’s cultural heritage in Gaza, built over a thousand years and more, has been damaged irrevocably. Many of Gaza’s most ancient sites have been left in ruins by Israel’s attack on the territory. Houses of worship, tombs, charity offices and cemeteries have all been damaged by the shelling, but Gaza’s historic mosques have been the worst affected. Many of these sites date back to the time of the first Islamic caliphs, the Ottoman Empire and the Mamluk Sultanate.

Protective Edge damaged 203 mosques, of which 73 were destroyed completely. Two churches were also damaged, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Endowments and Religious Affairs. The targeting of mosques by the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) in the latest offensive was three times more than in the 2008-2009 attack, the ministry’s report said.

The current clashes over the Noble Sanctuary have been depicted in the mainstream press in the usual fashion — omitting or distorting key details to make it appear that there is nothing that warrants the violence coming from Palestinians. The Institute for Middle East Understanding has issued a corrective to that. Two key points stand out. The IMEU notes that while some news accounts assert that Israelis pushing for greater access to the Noble Sanctuary mosque (known as the Temple Mount to Jews) just want religious freedom, what we actually find is the appropriation of another religion’s holy sites.

The right-wing Israeli individuals and groups that are pushing for more access and Jewish prayer in the Noble Sanctuary want to remove the Muslim holy sites that it houses and replace them with a Jewish temple. On its website, one of the movement’s most prominent organizations, the Temple Mount and Land of Israel Faithful Movement, declares as its objective:

“Liberating the Temple Mount from Arab (Islamic) occupation. The Dome of the Rock and the Al Aqsa mosque were placed on this Jewish or biblical holy site as a specific sign of Islamic conquest and domination. The Temple Mount can never be consecrated to the Name of G-d without removing these pagan shrines.”

Second, IMEU debunks the idea that Israeli authorities reject attempts to change the status quo in the Noble Sanctuary and oppose actions by Jewish extremists that provoke tensions over it:

While Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said repeatedly that he has no intention of changing the status quo in the Noble Sanctuary, senior officials in his current and previous governments have openly called for the construction of a Jewish temple in the Noble Sanctuary, including Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel of the extreme right wing Jewish Home party and Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely of Netanyahu’s Likud party. In July 2013, then-Housing and Construction Minister Ariel declared to an “archeological conference” in the occupied West Bank: “We’ve built many little, little temples… but we need to build a real Temple on the Temple Mount.”

Without this context the violence we are witnessing now seems inconceivable. But a people deprived of their land, their resources, their human rights, indeed of thousands of their loved ones, is reacting now to the destruction and appropriation of an essential set of cultural and religious sites. These acts of destruction are not random — they are targeted acts of intimidation and brutality, and as racist and bigoted in nature as the burnings of black churches we saw in the US south last July.

And it is predominantly young Palestinian people, seeing what they consider the brutal theft of their religion and culture, who are paying a disproportionate price in an asymmetrical war — knives and stones against armor-plated vehicles and heavily protected soldiers with rifles with laser sights.

Here are excerpts from Amnesty International’s report on the killing of a young woman, 18-year-old Hadeel al-Hashlamoun, an event they termed an “extrajudicial execution”:

Israeli soldiers shot and mortally wounded 18-year-old Hadeel al-Hashlamoun after they stopped her at a checkpoint in the Old City in Hebron. Pictures of the stand-off that led to her death and accounts by eyewitnesses interviewed by Amnesty International show that she at no time posed a sufficient threat to the soldiers to make their use of deliberate lethal force permissible. This killing is the latest in a long line of unlawful killings carried out by the Israeli forces in the occupied West Bank with near total impunity…

According to [one witness], Abu Aisheh, the soldier who had shot first got up and moved closer to her, until he was about a metre away, and then shot at her upper body four or five times again while she was lying motionless on the ground. He said that the soldier shot a few times despite other soldiers yelling at him to stop.

Israeli authorities claim that a metal detector found that al-Hashlamoun had a knife, but this has been disputed. Amnesty International addresses this possibility:

Even if al-Hashlamoun did have a knife, Israeli soldiers, who are protected with body armour and heavily equipped with advanced weapons, could have controlled the situation and arrested her without threatening her life. Open fire regulations of the Israeli military in the occupied West Bank allow soldiers to open fire only when their lives are in imminent danger, and Amnesty International concludes that this was not the case in the shooting of al-Hashlamoun, as she was standing still and separated from the soldiers by a metal barrier. There was no attempt to arrest al-Hashlamoun, according to the eyewitnesses, or to use non-lethal alternatives. To then shoot al-Hashlamoun again multiple times as she lay wounded on the ground indicates that her killing was an extrajudicial execution.

Obviously both sides of the conflict will have their version to present when asked about many of these sorts of incidents. Yet a pattern of obfuscation, misinformation, distortion, unequal punishment and immunity from prosecution is emerging. For example, the New York Times reported the killing of two Palestinian youths in the occupied West Bank last year: “Mohammad Mahmoud Odeh Salameh, 16, and Nadeem Siam Nawara, 17, were fatally shot in the chest during a demonstration in Beitunia, a West Bank town outside Ramallah. A spokeswoman for the Israeli military said the matter was still under investigation but no live bullets had been fired — an assertion disputed by Palestinian officials.”

New York Times story also reports another, quite different version of this event: “Ahmad Badwan of the Palestinian Medical Relief Committee, whose ambulances attended to the victims, disputed [that] account in an interview, saying the protest ‘began peacefully’ and ‘turned into violence when the Israeli Army used live fire to disperse stone throwers.’” So far, both sides have equal claim to the truth.

Yet a videotape shows that neither boy was actively participating in the protest or posing a threat to Israeli soldiers when shot. And the result of a forensics investigation refutes the Israeli claim that their forces were not using live ammunition:

After undertaking an autopsy of the body of Nadim Nawarah, 17…, forensic pathologists have determined that a live bullet was the cause of his death. The Palestinian teenager was killed by Israeli forces on May 15 during clashes in the West Bank town of Beitunia… At the request of the Nawarah family, Al Haq, Defense for Children International-Palestine, Physicians for Human Rights and B’Tselem coordinated the attendance of the international forensic pathologists.

Responding to the conclusions of the autopsy, the four non-government organizations stated: “These findings underline the urgency of our demand that the criminal investigation into the Beitunia killings be conducted efficiently and concluded promptly.”

And that is what Representative Betty McCollum (D-Minn) too is demanding. In a letter to Ambassador Anne Woods Patterson and Assistant Secretary of State Tom Malinowski, McCollum notes:

Nadeem’s murder was captured on video by local security cameras as well as [by] international journalists. One can literally watch the murder of this Palestinian teenager as he walks innocently down the street. A 16-year-old youth, Mohammed Dahar, was shot and killed in the same location, one hour after Nadeem’s murder. Like Nadeem, Mohammed was innocently walking down the street, and his murder was also captured on video.

McCollum then makes three critical requests, stating:

1) The case must be raised with Israeli officials, impressing on them that the US government expects a fair, transparent and credible trial. The person(s) responsible for the murder of this Palestinian youth must be held accountable;

2) I would request that a US State Department official be present to observe the conduct of the trial to ensure appropriate standards of justice are achieved;

3) Finally, I request the State Department investigate whether the killing of Nadeem Nawara and Mohammed Daher constitute violations of the “Leahy Law.” If a Leahy Law violation occurred, then the 38th Company of the Israeli Border Patrol should be ineligible to receive future US military aid and training, and all border police involved in this incident should be denied US visas as stipulated by the law.

There are three reasons why this letter is extremely important. First, it shows that the killing of Palestinian youths by Israeli soldiers, police and settlers is not uncommon at all; rather, such murders can take place at demonstrations and checkpoints, but also on quiet streets, and with clear pre-meditation. Second, the letter brings out the fact that these actions are materially supported by our US taxpayer dollars, and thus we have a special obligation to, as McCollum does, insist in fair, transparent trials and that those responsible be held accountable. Finally, her letter indicates her concern that justice may not be delivered solely through the agency of the Israeli justice system.

Indeed, routine mishandling of investigations is complemented by a two-tiered system of justice—this is a crucial point. Emily Schaefer Omer-Man, Coordinator of the Criminal Accountability of Israeli Security Forces project for Yesh Din notes:

Israel operates a dual legal system in the West Bank. In practice, this means that a Palestinian and an Israeli settler who stand accused of the same crime, committed in the exact same territory, experience fundamentally separate criminal justice systems, from arrest through interrogation, trial and punishment. The Palestinian is tried under the Israeli Military Court system of laws, procedures and penalties and his or her Israeli settler neighbor is tried under the Israeli civilian criminal justice system.

The result is a system that is both separate and unequal, and which denies basic due process rights to the Palestinian population living under occupation.

Finally, changes in the laws regarding police action have been modified to guarantee that such crimes will only increase. Here is Haaretz’s report on the discussions which recently took place, loosening the constraints on the use of open fire and punishing the parents of children who are convicted of throwing stones (such collective punishment is illegal under international human rights law):

“Until recently, police officers would open fire when their own lives were at risk,” Netanyahu said. “From now on, they will be allowed to open fire — and they will know they have a right to do so — when anyone’s life is in danger.”

The cabinet also decided to take measures against minors over the age of 14 who throw stones, as well as their parents. The measures include revoking stipends of parents whose children are sentenced to prison. The cabinet will examine the legality of fining parents to minors aged 12-14, and imposing bail on parents to minors under the age of 12.

Again, we in the US know very well how “risk“ to police officers can be very loosely interpreted. In Israel, a 10-year-old throwing a rock in an officer’s direction now constitutes a “threat” answerable with a live bullet.

A few months ago, over a thousand Black activists, scholars, cultural workers, students and organizations issued a statement of solidarity with Palestinians, and a recent film featuring Ms Lauryn Hill, Danny Glover, Angela Davis, Omar Barghouti, Nora Erakat and many others gives visual expression to that solidarity. These activists draw the parallels between life under Israeli occupation and life under American racism. As Cornel West declared,

There is no doubt that Gaza is not just a “kind of” concentration camp, it is the hood on steroids. Now in the black community, located within the American empire, you do have forms of domination and subordination, forms of police surveillance and so forth, so that we are not making claims of identity, we are making claims of forms of domination that must be connected.

When people’s schools, hospitals and mosques are purposefully bombed, when an illegal blockade strangles their economy, when they are deprived of electricity and water and when their homes and places of worship are taken over brutally, it is no wonder they will resist and fight against those committing those acts. With this rash of summary executions of Palestinian youths, seemingly sanctioned by the state, it is no wonder that those interested in social and racial justice in the United States will find these stories deeply disturbing, and familiar. And people of conscience will act. We can boycott Israeli products, and academic and cultural institutions, divest from companies that profit from investments in Israel, and call for sanctions. We can answer the call for solidarity emanating from Palestinian civil society — the legal, non-violent movement called BDS.

In so doing we are saying that the status quo is unacceptable and we refuse to go along with it.


Brutal, ugly & illegal: 9 things you need to know about the Israeli occupation of Palestine

The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement is gaining new ground by the day. Here’s why

April 11, 2016

by David Palumbo-Liu


As this story goes to press, the American Anthropological Association is voting on an academic boycott resolution in solidarity with the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement. If it passes the resolution, it will become the largest academic association in the world to do so, joining dozens of professional academic organizations, unions, and student unions in the United States and Europe. The AAA boycott resolution has now also just received an endorsement from twenty-two Israeli anthropologists, whose letter reads in part:

“We agree that we have reached a crisis point, where under certain international conditions, another mass expulsion of Palestinians could occur—or worse… We believe it is possible to take a positive stand against this reality. The Palestinian call for BDS is at its core an anti-colonial, non-violent form of international protest against an enormously violent occupation.”

The Occupation is at the forefront of the U.S. political scene as well, even when politicians dance around the issue. Recently, four candidates for president, including Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, made it a point to voice their ardent support for Israel at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) convention. The title of an article in Haaretz says it all: “The Candidates at AIPAC: Pandering by Numbers: Clinton or Trump? What does it matter? The AIPAC conference was Benjamin Netanyahu’s victory lap.”  The article summarizes the sorry spectacle thusly:

The word “pandering” doesn’t even begin to describe it. Throughout the night, all four candidates courted applause by prating of sanctions on Iran — even Clinton, who had been forced to embrace the Iran deal by virtue of her affiliation with Obama, all but shied away from it.

All the candidates admonished the Palestinians for fostering a “culture of hatred and death,” but not one mentioned the occupation of the West Bank, or the unremitting humanitarian crisis that is Gaza. It was Jewish pandering by numbers, and it won them all uproarious applause and standing ovations.

Bernie Sanders alone had the courage to buck the tide and actually insert a modicum of truth, ethics, and reality, though as usual the mainstream media did not mention it. As The Intercept reported:

In a speech from Salt Lake City, which had been offered as a telecast to AIPAC — an offer that was denied — the Vermont senator reiterated his support for Israel’s security. He also insisted that “peace also means security for every Palestinian. It means achieving self-determination, civil rights, and economic well-being for the Palestinian people.”

Sanders called it “absurd” for Israel to pursue more settlements in response to violence. “Peace will also mean ending the economic blockade of Gaza,” he said. “And it will mean a sustainable and equitable distribution of precious water resources so that Israel and Palestine can both thrive as neighbors.”

Also in stark contrast to the non-debate on this essential element of U.S. foreign policy is the recent news that Senator Patrick Leahy and 10 House members have written a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry asking him to investigate claims that Israeli and Egyptian security forces have performed “gross human rights violations.” As Politico explains, “Leahy’s signature is particularly noteworthy because his name is on a law that conditions U.S. military aid to countries on whether their security forces are committing abuses.”

Despite the fact that Israel’s illegal Occupation and its persistent violations of human rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territory have gained wider and wider condemnation both here and internationally, most Americans still know very little about the exact nature of the Occupation, its deep historical roots, and its deadly impact on the lives of common Palestinians. This is not surprising, given the virtual media blackout of the term. As the Foundation for Middle East Peace points out, at the AIPAC conference none of the participants dared utter the word, “Occupation,” which has clear and legitimate legal meaning. The Foundation asks, why?

“This is hardly a radical word. It’s one whose applicability has been affirmed by the High Court of Justice in Israel, and has been used by Prime Ministers such as Ehud Barak and even Ariel Sharon. It also has the merit of describing the situation on the ground in the West Bank, and legally still applies to Gaza as well. The fact that Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza are governed under military law, rather than civil law, is evidence that Israel itself recognizes the legal fact of occupation, despite what its right wing politicians might claim.”

It is precisely because the Occupation is illegal by international law that Israel cannot tolerate its iron-fisted control and exploitation of Palestinian land being given that name. It is also why none of the presidential candidates that spoke at AIPAC dared utter the word—to do so would have laid bare the fact that by shouting out their support for Israel they were at the same time declaring their support for an illegal Occupation that the even the U.S. State Department decries.

Given all the weight placed on the term “Occupation,” we need to know exactly what that term means and why it is become the focal point of so much energetic and committed human rights work here and internationally. Here are 9 core reasons why you should care about the Occupation, and know what our mainstream political leaders and even some educators do not want you to know.

  1. The Occupation is illegal.

What do we mean by the “Israeli Occupation”? In 1967 Israel seized what is now termed the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT) in an act of war. The United Nations condemned this action, and expressed that condemnation in Resolution 242 (November 1967), which emphasizes “the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war and the need to work for a just and lasting peace in which every State in the area can live in security.” The UN document sets forth principles calling for “withdrawal of Israel armed forces from territories occupied in the recent conflict; termination of all claims or state of belligerency and respect for and acknowledgment of the sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence of every State in the area and their right to live in peace within secure and recognized boundaries free from threats or acts of force.” This is a precise statement that insists on the inviolable right of the Palestinians to a state.

Instead of Israel acting in accord with this resolution, which was passed unanimously by the UN Security Council–of which the United States is a member–what we have is an unbroken history of Israel denying Palestinians their rights and land stretching back decades. What is more, not only has there been no the reduction in the appropriation of Palestinian land, Israel has also persistently expanded its illegal acquisition of land and its building of illegal settlements. As UN Secretariat Ban Ki-Moon has noted, these actions have contributed to the rise in violence in the OPT. He called the settlements an “affront to the world.”

Human Rights Watch describes Israel’s numerous violations of international law and human rights conventions:

Israeli settlements in the West Bank violate the laws of occupation. The Fourth Geneva Convention prohibits an occupying power from transferring its citizens into the territory it occupies and from transferring or displacing the population of an occupied territory within or outside the territory. The Rome Statute, the founding treaty of the International Criminal Court, establishes the court’s jurisdiction over war crimes including the crimes of transfer of parts of the civilian population of an occupying power into an occupied territory, and the forcible transfer of the population of an occupied territory. The ICC has jurisdiction over crimes committed in or from the territory of the State of Palestine, now an ICC member, beginning in June 13, 2014, the date designated by Palestine in a declaration accompanying its accession.

Israel’s confiscation of land, water, and other natural resources for the benefit of settlements and residents of Israel also violate the Hague Regulations of 1907, which prohibit an occupying power from expropriating the resources of occupied territory for its own benefit. In addition, Israel’s settlement project violates international human rights law, in particular, Israel’s discriminatory policies against Palestinians that govern virtually every aspect of life in the area of the West Bank under Israel’s exclusive control, known as Area C, and that forcibly displace Palestinians while encouraging the growth of Jewish settlements.

U.S. State Department spokesperson John Kirby plainly states:

“Our long-standing position on settlements is clear. We view Israeli settlements activity as illegitimate and counterproductive to the cause of peace. We remain deeply concerned about Israel’s current policy on settlements including construction, planning and retroactive legalisations.”

When U.S. Ambassador to Israel Daniel Shapiro drew attention to the double legal standards applied in the Occupied Territory–“At times it seems Israel has two standards of adherence to rule of law in the West Bank – one for Israelis and one for Palestinians”—he was dismissively called a “little Jew boy” by an aide to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Given all this, it is more than strange to hear Hillary Clinton and others defend a regime that continues practices that our own State Department has condemned as illegal and highly problematic for U.S. and world interests, and, in Clinton’s case, even promise to increase military aid to this regime so it can act even more effectively against international law and US policy.

  1. It violates human rights, and Israel acts with impunity.

Along with dismissing the slew of international human rights listed above, Israel has so blocked any inspection of the Occupied Palestinian Territory by human rights inspectors that Makarim Wibisono, UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories, tendered his resignation in January. He stated: “Unfortunately, my efforts to help improve the lives of Palestinian victims of violations under the Israeli occupation have been frustrated every step of the way.”

More from the UN:

The Special Rapporteur stressed that upon taking up the mandate in June 2014, he was assured that he would have access to the Occupied Palestinian Territory. “I took up this mandate with the understanding that Israel would grant me access, as an impartial and objective observer,” he said.

Repeated requests for access, both written and oral, have been unsuccessful. “With no reply from Israel to my latest request, in October 2015, to have access by the end of 2015, it is with deep regret that I accept the premise upon which I took up the mandate, which is to have direct access to the victims in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, will not be fulfilled,” the Special Rapporteur said.

Mr. Wibisono said that that throughout his tenure, the Government of the State of Palestine cooperated fully with the mandate.

The Special Rapporteur voiced deep concern at the lack of effective protection of Palestinian victims of continuing human rights violations and violations of international humanitarian law.

Wibisono’s predecessor as UN Special Rapporteur, Richard Falk, had this to say in 2013: “Neither Israel nor its proxies can justify the facts on the ground in occupied Palestine, so they distract, distort and defame to allow the violations to go on.”

Per the UN:

In a news release, Mr. Falk underlined that “irresponsible and dishonest smear campaigns to discredit those who document these realities do not change the facts on the ground after Israel launched the war that began its occupation of Palestine.”

According to Mr. Falk, Israel is actively confiscating Palestinian water and land, having seized an additional 60,000 square meters of land near Nablus just this week.

“Israel continues to annex Palestinian territory; Israel persists in demolishing Palestinians’ homes and populating Palestine with Israeli citizens; Israel maintains a policy of collectively punishing 1.75 million Palestinians through its imposition of a blockade on the Gaza Strip; and Israel prosecutes its occupation with impunity, refusing to accept the world’s calls to respect international law,” he said.

In its Overview of the situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, Amnesty International echoes precisely these concerns:

In the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, Israeli forces committed unlawful killings of Palestinian civilians, including children, and detained thousands of Palestinians who protested against or otherwise opposed Israel’s continuing military occupation, holding hundreds in administrative detention. Torture and other ill-treatment remained rife and were committed with impunity. The authorities continued to promote illegal settlements in the West Bank, and severely restricted Palestinians’ freedom of movement, further tightening restrictions amid an escalation of violence from October, which included attacks on Israeli civilians by Palestinians and apparent extrajudicial executions by Israeli forces. Israeli settlers in the West Bank attacked Palestinians and their property with virtual impunity. The Gaza Strip remained under an Israeli military blockade that imposed collective punishment on its inhabitants. The authorities continued to demolish Palestinian homes in the West Bank and inside Israel, particularly in Bedouin villages in the Negev/Naqab region, forcibly evicting their residents. They also detained and deported thousands of African asylum-seekers, and imprisoned Israeli conscientious objectors.

  1. It’s the only continuous, ongoing project of colonization in the world.

Illegal confiscation of Palestinian land, demolition of Palestinian homes, and the building of illegal settlements are all part of a continuous, systematic program to inflict misery, hardship, and death upon a captive population in what British Prime Minister David Cameron famously called “an open air prison camp.” The aim is to permanently annex all Palestinian land, a blatant violation of international law.

  1. It’s killing people quickly, in attacks such as the one mounted in the summer of 2014.

The UN reports that during that onslaught on an imprisoned people by one of the most powerful military forces in the world, “at least 2,104 Palestinians died, including 1,462 civilians, of whom 495 were children and 253 women.” Amnesty International has also drawn attention to “extrajudicial executions” on the streets. As reported in Salon:

For Palestinians living under illegal Israeli military occupation, violent repression is a quotidian burden. The U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reported that Palestinians were injured 14,000 times in the year 2015 alone; another 136 Palestinians were killed. These were the largest figures the U.N. agency had since it began documenting the violence in 2005.

Peaceful Palestinian protests are broken up by Israeli soldiers on an almost daily basis. It is not uncommon for average citizens to be shot, or to be woken up in the middle of the night in raids by Israeli soldiers.

According to a report by the NGO Defense for Children International-Palestine, Israeli forces shot at least 30 children across the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem in the first three months of 2015.

  1. It’s killing people slowly, too.

One way is by maintaining a stranglehold on Palestinians through an illegal embargo, through siphoning off electricity and water, through destruction of infrastructure, through unemployment. The UN reports that “These restrictions have reduced access to livelihoods, essential services and housing, disrupted family life, and undermined the people’s hopes for a secure and prosperous future.”

Horrifically, the Israeli government actually commissioned a study to see how few calories it could allot Palestinians, lest their deaths under the Occupation become widespread and known. In other words, they wanted to stop just short of starving Palestinians in captivity to death. Haaretz notes:

After a three-and-a-half-year legal battle waged by the Gisha human rights organization, the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories has finally released a 2008 document that detailed its “red lines” for “food consumption in the Gaza Strip.”

The document calculates the minimum number of calories necessary, in COGAT’s view, to keep Gaza residents from malnutrition at a time when Israel was tightening its restrictions on the movement of people and goods in and out of the Strip, including food products and raw materials.

The cabinet decision stated that “the movement of goods into the Gaza Strip will be restricted; the supply of gas and electricity will be reduced; and restrictions will be imposed on the movement of people from the Strip and to it.” In addition, exports from Gaza would be forbidden entirely. However, the resolution added, the restrictions should be tailored to avoid a “humanitarian crisis.”

  1. It’s especially harmful to children and young people.

For example, in January 2015 UNESCO released its “Rapid Assessment of Higher Education Institutions in Gaza,” which found that student deaths during the conflict constitute more than a quarter — or 27.4 percent — of total civilian deaths incurred in Palestine. A recent study found that since 2000 Israel has arrested and imprisoned over 7,000 children.

Our own US government conducted its own investigation and issued a report:

The annual country reports on human rights practices, which include a specific section covering the situation of human rights in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT), raises a number of issues related to ill-treatment of Palestinian child prisoners and denial of fair trial rights in Israeli military courts. It notes other grave violations against Palestinian children, including the killing and maiming of Palestinian children and attacks on schools in Gaza by Israeli forces.

  1. Many organizations, religious groups, and individuals have withdrawn support of the Occupation by divesting and by boycotting.

These include civic leaders and artists, writers and musicians such as Bishop Desmond Tutu, Junot Diaz, Lauryn Hill, Chuck D, Roger Waters, Cornel West, and Angela Davis.

Over a thousand black activists and scholars signed a statement of solidarity. The level of international support for BDS is slowly reaching the level of support the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa achieved.

In June 2014, the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA) passed a divestment resolution, and the United Methodist Church voted to divest from G4S, “a British company highly complicit in Israel’s military occupation of Palestine profiting from gross human rights violations against Palestinian political prisoners, including child prisoners.”

Activists, many of them college students, also pressured Bill Gates to divest from G4S, and he did so in 2014, completely selling off all holdings in that company. And now the firm itself has decided to end its business operations in Israel. As Mondoweiss reports:

“British security company G4S, the world’s largest, has responded to a four-year long global BDS campaign protesting its role in Israeli violations of Palestinian human rights by announcing yesterday it will sell its Israeli subsidy in the coming ’12 to 24 months.’ In describing the move, the Financial Times reported that G4S was ‘extracting itself from reputationally damaging work.’”

A serious discussion about the brutality, ugliness, and illegality of the Occupation is evident in actions taking place in the Jewish community as well, including this tellingly entitled event. Jewschool remarks:

It’s not every day that journalist Peter Beinart and Rabbi Brant Rosen, two major Jewish American thought leaders with divergent views on Israel, wind up in the same room. But that’s exactly what will happen this summer when Beinart, a self-identified liberal Zionist who opposes BDS, and Rosen, the co-chair of the Jewish Voice for Peace Rabbinical Council, come together to participate in the Center for Jewish Nonviolence’s 2016 summer campaign, “Occupation is Not Our Judaism.”

  1. You’re supporting it financially and politically.

The U.S. sends Israel some $3.1 billion of your tax dollars every year—and that is just in terms of direct, unrestricted military aid. And Hillary Clinton promises to increase that sum even more. That’s our money that allows for the subjugation of Palestinians and the maintenance of the Occupation, our money that is being used to violate international law, human rights conventions, and even our own State Department’s policy.

Along with that, the U.S. has consistently offered Israel a shield from UN resolutions and other modes of censure and sanction. In a letter to donors, Hillary Clinton deplorably takes her obstruction of justice for Palestinians as a badge of honor, trumpeting her consistent efforts to keep Israel beyond the reach of the law by stifling any and all criticism of Israel:

“As Senator and Secretary of State, I saw how crucial it is for America to defend Israel at every turn. I have opposed dozens of anti-Israel resolutions in the UN, the Human Rights Council, and other international organizations.”

If you are at all committed to international human rights, you cannot morally allow Israel to exceptionalize itself, to grant itself immunity, aided and abetted by politicians such as Clinton.

We in the United States find ourselves in the Orwellian situation wherein our State Department puts on the public face of condemning the Occupation–all in accordance with international law–while at the same time Congress votes over and over again to increase military aid and diplomatic cover to Israel.

  1. It is part and parcel of a tripartite set of wrongs done to the Palestinians.

It is crucial that the Occupation be seen in this context for us to gauge its true severity. Along with the Occupation, historically we have the expulsion of three quarters of a million Palestinians from their land in 1948 and the continued denial of full rights and privileges to Palestinians living in Israel. Ending the Occupation is a major step, but full justice for the Palestinians must take into account these two other pieces, which is exactly what the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement does.

Thus, for people like Hillary Clinton to pledge support to Israel, casting it in the position of victim and the aggressed upon, and the Palestinians as irrational terrorists, is morally repugnant and disingenuous. What would you do if you were robbed of your land and homes, attacked violently by one of the most powerful military forces in the world while being a captive population, and your appeals to the international community to uphold and safeguard your rights and lives by the very dictates it created are in turn censored, silenced, and attacked? When you decide that the best way to gain those rights is through a legal, non-violent movement for boycott, divestment and sanctions, and that movement is declared illegal by nations and states simply because it asks Israel to comply with international law? We should think of this deep history when newscasters express puzzlement that Palestinians are increasingly desperate and taking to extreme measures. Any talk of “dialogue” under these conditions, with such a tremendously uneven playing field, is absurd. The efforts to gain rights for Palestinians have to take place under ethical and fair circumstances, and that is what people are mobilizing for.


Russia pushes back ‘Putin’s bridge’ to annexed Crimea by a year

April 13, 2016


Tuzla Spit, Russia-Russia has pushed back the completion date of a showcase multi-billion dollar bridge to link the Russian mainland with annexed Crimea by one year, saying the original plan had to be adjusted to take account of the weight of the trains that will cross it.

The Kremlin sees the bridge, which will span the Kerch Strait, as vital to integrating Crimea, which it seized from Ukraine in 2014. President Vladimir Putin has called the project an historic mission.

Extending 19 km (11.8 miles), the project, which will be two separate parallel structures – one for road and another for train traffic – will be the longest bridge Russia has ever built and the longest such dual-purpose span in Europe.

Construction of the road part is on schedule, but Reuters has learned that the rail segment deadline has been put back by a year, giving the contractor – a firm controlled by Putin’s former judo partner with no experience of building bridges – more time to complete the 212-billion-rouble ($3.2 billion) project.

The delay underscores the huge logistical, financial and political challenges the Kremlin faces trying to breathe life into the economically deprived Black Sea peninsula at a time when it cannot draw on Western expertise due to sanctions imposed on Russia.

A Russian government order from last year said the bridge had to be operational by Dec. 18, 2018 – a deadline Putin has repeatedly emphasized given the importance of the project to the struggling Russian economy and to Crimea, which Moscow can only supply by sea and air because of a Ukrainian land blockade.

But Rosavtodor, Russia’s federal road agency, said in answer to questions from Reuters that the deadline had now been changed and that the rail segment would not be operational until the end of 2019, a year later than initially planned.

“In the process of government experts reviewing the project to build a bridge across the Kerch Strait the deadlines were worked out in detail,” a spokesman for the agency said in a statement, calling the original deadline “preliminary”.

Building the railway bridge was more time-consuming and technically complex than the road one, he said, because it would have to bear more weight and would need signaling and special communications equipment.

He did not explain why those factors were not taken into account in the original plan.

“Because of this the bridge builders will need a little more time to do the rail part of the bridge and plan to start train traffic before the end of 2019,” the spokesman said.

The rail element was independent of the road component, he said. That part is on track to open on time at the end of 2018.

Minutes of a meeting Putin held with ministers last month during a visit to the construction site for the bridge – dubbed “Putin’s bridge” by some Russians – show the president was informed about the delay at the time and was initially unhappy with what he heard.

The mention of a delay at the meeting near Tuzla Spit – a wind-lashed body of sand that juts into the Kerch Strait towards Crimea – went unnoticed by the media at the time.

The minutes, available on the Kremlin’s website, show Transport Minister Maxim Sokolov gave Putin a different explanation to the one supplied by Rosavtodor to Reuters, telling him the railway part was being built later because there was only light rail traffic in Crimea in winter, an excuse that appeared to irritate Putin.

“Railway traffic is light for as long as there is no railway (bridge),” Putin shot back. “If there will be one (a railway bridge) then ports will start to work differently and then there will be traffic.”


The contract to build the bridge was last year handed to a firm controlled by Arkady Rotenberg, a close ally of Putin’s and his former judo partner. He owns 51 percent of Stroygazmontazh (SGM), the lead contractor.

Rotenberg is under Western sanctions because of Crimea’s annexation and Russia’s support for separatists in eastern Ukraine. He cannot raise capital in the West or hire Western sub-contractors to help his firm complete the project.

SGM’s primary expertise is in building gas pipelines and related infrastructure. It has not built a bridge before and has been forced to hire Russian sub-contractors who have.

A spokeswoman for SGM-Most, the SGM unit handling the project, referred questions about the deadline to Rosavtodor.

Ivan Bedelev, the head of the local administration in Taman, the nearest town to the bridge on the Russian mainland side, said he thought the builders had not realized what they were taking on.

“The original plan was to deliver the road and rail elements all together,” Bedelev told Reuters. “But I guess they sized it up and assessed their own strength and decided to change the plan.”

The bridge will require major road improvements on both sides of the Kerch Strait. There too problems have arisen.

Construction of a planned four-lane 300-km (186-mile) highway meant to link the Crimean end of the bridge with the contested peninsula’s capital has not yet begun after a dispute between the project’s designers and the Crimean authorities. The details are unclear.

Putin, who has a penchant for publicly dressing down ministers, complained at the meeting last month about what he said was the failure of any ministry or individual to take responsibility for overseeing the stalled project to build a highway to the bridge, saying the current setup was “a road to nowhere.”

The president, known for his flashes of dark humor, said: “There should be a specific person who can be hanged if it’s not done.”

(Additional reporting by Gleb Stolyarov; Editing by Pravin Char)




This is how far seas could rise thanks to climate change

If climate change continues, we can expect a large rise in sea level this century, and it will only get worse in the centuries to come

April 11, 201

by Vivien Cumming


Picture yourself on a beautiful beach, anywhere in the world. Your favourite beach, maybe. The waves are lapping on the shore, the Sun is sparkling over the water and there is a refreshing ocean breeze.

Now imagine this beach has gone forever. Sea level has risen and the shoreline has moved inland by hundreds of metres, drowning stretch after stretch of former coastline in the process.

It might be a struggle to envision dramatic transformations to such familiar places, but climate change scientists say there is overwhelming evidence that sea levels are indeed rising, and at a rapid rate. So how high will sea levels go? And at what cost to coastal communities?

It was in the early 20th Century that scientists first realised that sea levels were on the move.

In 1941 Beno Gutenberg, a geophysicist, analysed the data from tide gauges – instruments along coastlines that measure sea level – and noticed something odd. Over the period that reliable tide gauge data existed at the time – about 100 years – sea level was rising.

Tide gauge data is now considered quite unreliable, but in 1993 NASA and the French space agency sent satellite-borne radar altimeters into space. Consequently we now have a much more accurate picture of sea level over the entire globe. These instruments confirmed that sea level is rising.

We now know that our warmer climate is driving the change. For instance, simple physics tells us that as water warms up, it expands.

“Thermal expansion through warmer ocean waters was the largest contributor to global sea level rise over the past century,” says John Krasting, a physical scientist at the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory.

This thermal expansion will continue, but there is another, more notorious problem that could lead to really dramatic changes in sea level in the future: the melting of the world’s glaciers and ice sheets could release vast quantities of water into the oceans. How bad could it get?One way to answer these questions is to study past sea level changes

Geologists can look at sedimentary rocks in order to locate past shorelines, effectively searching for fossilised beaches that will tell them what the height of the ocean was. Some scientists study clues to past sea level found in the shells of ancient organisms buried in ocean sediments and salt marshes.

One ancient time period of particular interest is the Pliocene – about 3 million years ago.

According to Maureen Raymo, a world-renowned climate scientist at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory at Columbia University; “Temperatures in the Pliocene are estimated to have been 2 to 3C warmer than pre-industrial values, which means that they were 1 to 2C warmer than today.”

The temperatures in the Pliocene are similar to the 2C warming limit set by governments in Paris last year, making this time period very useful for understanding future sea level rise.

What is scary is that the best estimates for mid-Pliocene sea levels range from 10 to 40m above present. In other words, “the geologic record would say that this amount of warming would guarantee significant sea level rise”, says Raymo.

Back to the present. We have recently learned that it is not just the magnitude of sea level change we should worry about – it is the pace. A study published in March 2016 found that sea level rise in the 20th Century was faster than in any of the previous 27 centuries.

What is unique about this study is that the scientists brought together rigorous statistical techniques and much higher-resolution sea level records developed over the last decade to produce the first high-resolution global sea level database for the last 3,000 years.

Robert Kopp, a climate scientist at Rutgers University and the lead author of the study says; “This record shows us with 95% probability that it’s been at least since 800 years BCE [or 2,800 years ago] that sea level has risen as fast as it did in the 20th Century.” And, he adds, “the last two decades have seen global sea level rise more than twice as fast as it did in the 20th Century”.

The study highlights the extreme sensitivity of sea level to even minor fluctuations in temperature.

“Fundamentally, this extraordinary rise in sea level goes hand in hand with an extraordinary rise in temperature,” says Kopp. “Physics tells us that global temperature change and global sea level change should go hand-in-hand. Our new record shows that they did so over the Common Era.”

Knowing that we are currently experiencing unprecedented sea level rise is helpful. But it does not tell us how high we might expect the oceans to rise in the future, which is vital information if we want to put in place appropriate coastal planning measures.

Another paper published at the same time looked at this second question. The authors used improved calculations to predict sea level rise and found that worldwide we can expect the oceans to be between 50cm and 130cm higher by the end of this century, if greenhouse gas emissions are not reduced rapidly.

This data also comes in line with the predictions made by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that sea level will rise by 50cm to 100cm by 2100.

There is a range in these predictions because a number of different emissions scenarios are used to make the calculations, and also because there are still uncertainties about when and how quickly ice sheets will melt.

Anders Levermann, Research Domain Co-Chair for Adaptation at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and one of the authors of the paper, explains that computer models for the large ice sheets on Greenland and Antarctica have significantly improved, but large uncertainties remain: especially with respect to the iceberg discharge off Antarctica.

A study published in March 2016 emphasises how large those uncertainties are.

Two researchers considered how warming could potentially undermine the ice cliffs around Antarctica and speed up the rate of ice loss there. This process, they say, could see Antarctica alone contribute as much as 1m to sea level by the end of the century – suggesting we might see a total of 2m of sea level rise by 2100.A sea level rise of 2m is alarming – but compared to the Pliocene, when sea levels are thought to have been up to 40m higher than now, it is perhaps a surprisingly small figure. The reason for the difference comes down to uncertainty when looking at the past and predicting the future.

Raymo explains that, up until now, thermal expansion and the melting of mountain glaciers have dominated the sea level rise. In future, the melting of Greenland and Antarctic ice will play an increasingly larger role, but these changes will unfold potentially with timescales of centuries.

So how high could sea level really get?

“Theoretically, if all the ice on the planet melted, sea level would rise by about 55m,” Raymo explains – although she adds that this is unlikely to occur anytime soon.

“The last time this happened on Earth, about 40 million years ago, atmospheric CO2 levels may have been as high as 1000 parts per million, according to the latest research.” Carbon dioxide levels are currently just over 400 ppm.

But even if the maximum rise in sea level this century is unlikely to be more than 2m from the global mean, that will still be enough to inundate many low-lying coastal areas, increase the dangers of flooding and displace millions of people, unless costly sea defences are built.

And there is something else that sea defence planners might want to keep in mind. Regional sea level changes can deviate from the global mean, so some places get it worse than others.

This regional variability is illustrated by a 2016 paper that found variations in sea level rise between the Atlantic and the Pacific. John Krasting, the lead author of the study explains; “our modelling study finds that sea level in the Atlantic is rising faster than the Pacific under present day carbon emission rates.” As a result, Atlantic coastal towns may be more affected by sea level rise than Pacific ones.

Could we slow down sea level rise?

Kopp says that we could in principle, but only if governments and individuals begin to take action. “To slow down the rise in sea level, we need to stop the rise in temperature, which means we need to phase out the use of carbon-emitting energy technologies.”

Other scientists agree that this plan is our only viable option.

There have been some other ideas, though. One of these was to pump water from the ocean onto Antarctica so that it would freeze again.

Scientists at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact have investigated this eccentric geo-engineering idea in a study published in March 2016. They found that the pumped water would freeze to solid ice as hoped, but the weight it would add to the Antarctic ice sheet would probably speed up ice-flows into the ocean.

To store the water as ice for a millennium would require more than one-tenth of the present annual global energy supply to balance the current rate of sea level rise. So perhaps it is not the best solution.

“If we continue to do business as usual and churn out emissions,” says Levermann, “not even such an immense macro-adaptation project as storing water on Antarctica would suffice to limit long-term sea level rise.”

So whatever happens, greenhouse gas emission reductions are vital if sea level rise is to be kept manageable. Additionally, substantial investment into local coastal protection will be required.

Without that sort of investment, we might see a gradual abandonment of coastal areas. This would lead to a huge degree of turmoil when you consider that 44% of the world’s population lives within 150km of the coast.

For a sense of how traumatic such coastal abandonment might be, consider this. Humans faced a similar scenario at the very end of the last ice age, and it left such an impression that stories from those difficult times have echoed down the years to the present.

Sea level was about 120m lower at the peak of the last ice age, 20,000 years ago, when huge volumes of seawater were locked away in glaciers and ice sheets.

As the ice melted the seas rose rapidly again until about 8,000 years ago when sea level began to stabilise. By then shorelines had retreated over 100km in some places.

In Australian aboriginal culture there are flooding legends from those times that have been passed down from generation to generation. They tell of drowned shorelines and lost hunting grounds.

There is also a lost world just off the British coast that was home to thousands of Stone Age settlers. Doggerland was an area of low-lying land that now lies under the North Sea and English Channel. Britain has not always been an island; it was once connected to mainland Europe until rising seas drowned those settlements.

The unpopular truth is that human-induced climate change, and the rise in sea level it is causing, is now changing our coastlines again. The impacts will be felt for generations to come.





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