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TBR News August 18, 2018

Aug 18 2018

The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Isaiah 40:3-8 

Washington, D.C. August 18, 2018: “While the far righters in America are thrilled to have a right wing bigot in the White House,those on the opposite political spectrum are most certainly not. As an example, the wealthy owners of Silicon Valley tech firms have been buying up lower income housing in San Francisco for their overpaid staff and the dispossessed tenants often end up on the street. No one cares about this and the idea is to get them off the streets because the befoul the landscape and are not worthwhile looking at. In San Francisco, there is very serious sociological trouble brewing and political activists are tending the fires under enormous kettles of growing discontent. Busses containing the electronic mavens en route from Sunnyvale to San Francisco to their new homes are being attacked on Highway 280 and soon enough, some soul will discover that a match tossed into a loaded dumpster behind an apartment house will serve as an entertaining eviction notice to the elitist occupants. Friends in the City have been informing us about this trend and this is not limited to San Francisco. And the comical part of all this is that almost all of the Silicon Valley electronic palaces are built on alluvial fill and if an expected earthquake does not level them the slowly rising ocean levels in San Francisco Bay will drown them. Life goes on and then you die.”


The Table of Contents

  • Donald Trump has said 2291 false things as U.S. president: Number 3
  • Paul Manafort trial: judge won’t release jurors’ names over safety concerns
  • Trump blames ‘politicians who run DC (poorly)’ after military parade cancelled
  • Commentary: Trump’s botched Turkey policy
  • Do you approve or disapprove of the way Donald Trump is handling his job as president?
  • The Plan
  • Russia says drone attacks on its Syria base have increased
  • Why is San Francisco … covered in human feces?
  • ‘It can’t get much hotter … can it?’ How heat became a national US problem
  • 2018’s global heat wave is so pervasive it’s surprising scientists
  • The world’s first floating farm making waves in Rotterdam


Donald Trump has said 2291 false things as U.S. president: Number 3

August 8, 2018

by Daniel Dale, Washington Bureau Chief

The Toronto Star, Canada

The Star is keeping track of every false claim U.S. President Donald Trump has made since his inauguration on Jan. 20, 2017. Why? Historians say there has never been such a constant liar in the Oval Office. We think dishonesty should be challenged. We think inaccurate information should be corrected

If Trump is a serial liar, why call this a list of “false claims,” not lies? You can read our detailed explanation here. The short answer is that we can’t be sure that each and every one was intentional. In some cases, he may have been confused or ignorant. What we know, objectively, is that he was not teling the truth.

Last updated: Aug 8, 2018

  • Jan 29, 2017

“My policy is similar to what President Obama did in 2011 when he banned visas for refugees from Iraq for six months.”

Source: Facebook statement on travel ban affecting seven predominantly Muslim countries

in fact: Trump is wrong that Obama “banned” Iraqi refugees. After two Iraqi refugees were arrested on terrorism charges, Obama increased scrutiny of new refugee applicants, slowing down the process significantly, but did not ban Iraqis entirely or ban all new refugees. Iraqi refugees were admitted to the U.S. in every month of 2011, government figures show, and 9,388 were admitted in total in 2011.

  • Jan 30, 2017

“But we cut approximately $600 million off the F-35 fighter, and that only amounts to 90 planes out of close to 3,000 planes. And when you think about $600 million, it was announced by Marillyn (Hewson), who’s very talented, the head of Lockheed Martin. I got involved in that about a month ago. A lot was put out, and when they say a lot, a lot meant about 90 planes. They were having a lot of difficulty. There was no movement and I was able to get $600 million approximately off those planes.”

Source: Remarks at the White House

in fact: Whether or not Trump secured additional discounts from Lockheed, he is wrong that there had been “no movement” until he got involved: the company had been moving to cut the price well before Trump was elected, multiple aviation and defence experts say. Just a week after Trump’s election, the head of the F-35 program announced a reduction of 6 to 7 per cent — in the $600 million to $700 million range. “Trump’s claimed $600 million cut is right in the ballpark of what the price reduction was going to be all along,” wrote Popular Mechanics. “Bottom line: Trump appears to be taking credit for years of work by the Pentagon and Lockheed,” Aviation Week reported, per the Washington Post.

Trump has repeated this claim 13 times

“Only 109 people out of 325,000 were detained and held for questioning. Big problems at airports were caused by Delta computer outage, protesters and the tears of Senator Schumer.”

Source: Twitter

in fact: This is false and misleading in multiple ways. The Delta computer outage happened a full day and a half after the chaos over Trump’s ban on all new refugees and on travel by nationals from seven mostly Muslim countries. The peaceful protesters at airports did not cause “big problems.” Nor, of course, did Schumer’s emotional speech. In reality, the poorly explained order caused confusion around the word, resulting in hassles at airports and beyond for tens of thousands of people — far more than were detained upon entry. And while it is not clear if Trump was correct that “only” 109 people had been detained at the time, Homeland Security officials said a day later that 721 people had been denied boarding.

Trump has repeated this claim 2 times

  • Feb 1, 2017

“I don’t watch CNN.”

Source: Black History Month “listening session”

in fact: All available evidence suggests that Trump is at least an occasional CNN viewer. Though he has repeatedly claimed since May 2016 that he was boycotting the network, he has frequently commented on its content within a week of doing so — sometimes live, during a show. Eight days after this latest claim to not be watching CNN, he tweeted immediate criticism of an interview by CNN morning host Chris Cuomo.

Trump has repeated this claim 2 times

  • Feb 2, 2017

“‘Trump taps first woman to CIA second in command’.”

Source: Facebook and Twitter

in fact: Trump’s appointee, Gina Haspel, is the second female CIA deputy director, not the first: Barack Obama appointed Avril Haines to that post. Trump was quoting an inaccurate headline in The Hill newspaper — it was soon changed — but the president does not get a pass when publicizing inaccurate claims about his own administration, even if he did not make them up himself.

“Smart! ‘Kuwait issues its own Trump-esque visa ban for five Muslim-majority countries.'”

Source: Facebook

in fact: Kuwait imposed no such ban. The Kuwaiti government later told its state news agency that it “categorically denies these claims,” and representatives of countries supposedly affected, like Pakistan, also said the story was wrong. Trump was sharing a link to an entirely inaccurate headline from the Jordanian website Al Bawaba, not making it up himself, but the president does not get a pass for promoting false information.

“I love Australia as a country, but we had a problem where for whatever reason, President Obama said that they were going to take probably well over 1,000 illegal immigrants who were in prisons, and they were going to bring them and take them into this country. And I just said, ‘Why?’…1,250. It could be 2,000, it could be more than that.”

Source: White House meeting with Harley-Davidson

in fact: The people in question are refugees, not illegal immigrants, who are living in island detention centres off of Australia. As Australia’s prime minister repeatedly told Trump, and as Trump’s own press secretary concurred, the agreement covers 1,250 people, not 2,000.

Trump has repeated this claim 2 times

“Do you believe it? The Obama Administration agreed to take thousands of illegal immigrants from Australia.”

Source: Twitter

in fact: The people in question are refugees, not illegal immigrants; the agreement covers 1,250 people, not “thousands.”

Trump has repeated this claim 2 times


Paul Manafort trial: judge won’t release jurors’ names over safety concerns

Judge T.S. Ellis says he won’t make names public: ‘I’ve received criticism and threats … I imagine they would, too’

August 17, 2018

by Sabrina Siddiqui in Washington

The Guardian

The judge in the trial of Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort has said he will not release the names of the jurors in the high-profile case because he has received threats and fears for their safety.

Judge T.S. Ellis, who spoke in court as the jury convened for its second day of deliberations on Friday, explained his decision not to release the names and addresses of jurors to the media due to concerns about their “peace and safety”.

“I had no idea this case would excite these emotions,” Ellis said. “I don’t feel right if I release their names.”

Ellis also revealed he had personally been threatened and was being protected by US marshals. Jury lists are usually made public unless a judge articulates a reason for keeping them secret.

“I’ve received criticism and threats,” Ellis said. “I imagine they would, too.”

His comments came hours after Donald Trump defended Manafort as “a good person” and declined to rule out a pardon as a jury spent Friday deliberating the fate of the former campaign chairman.

“I think the whole Manafort trial is very sad,” Trump told reporters on the South Lawn at the White House, before departing for a fundraiser on Long Island. “I think it’s a very sad day for our country. He happens to be a very good person, and I think it’s very sad what they’ve done to Paul Manafort.”

Manafort faces 18 counts of tax evasion and bank fraud. Asked if he would pardon him, Trump said: “I don’t talk about that now.”

The president also reiterated a line often pushed by his White House: that Manafort only worked for him for a short time. In fact the 69-year-old political consultant managed the campaign for nearly five months, a pivotal period in which Trump secured the Republican presidential nomination.

Trump’s comments came as a jury convened in Alexandria, Virginia, following a three-week trial in which federal prosecutors called 27 witnesses to testify against Manafort. The list included Manafort’s deputy on the Trump campaign, Rick Gates, who struck a plea deal and has been cooperating with the special counsel, Robert Mueller.

Although the trial is focused on Manafort’s finances and not Russian interference in the 2016 election, it is the first major test of Mueller’s investigation. Manafort faces up to 305 years in prison.

Trump has downplayed the allegations against Manafort before. In a tweet earlier this month, he likened him to an infamous mobster.

“Looking back on history, who was treated worse, Alfonse Capone, legendary mob boss, killer and ‘Public Enemy Number One,’ or Paul Manafort, political operative & Reagan/Dole darling, now serving solitary confinement – although convicted of nothing?” Trump wrote, spelling the gangster’s first name incorrectly.

“Where is the Russian Collusion?”

Trump has repeatedly sought to discredit Mueller’s investigation as a “witch-hunt”, even as the special counsel has brought indictments against 32 individuals and three companies, securing five guilty pleas.

This week the president stripped the fromer CIA director John Brennan of his security clearance and threatened similar action against other former intelligence and law enforcement officials. Most have spoken out against Trump.

Although Trump’s move against Brennan prompted fierce criticism in national security circles, the president claimed on Friday he had received a “tremendous response”.

“Security clearances are very important to me. Very, very important,” Trump said, adding he would next target a justice department official, Bruce Ohr.

Ohr’s wife, Nellie, was employed during the 2016 campaign by Fusion GPS, the firm that commissioned an infamous dossier on Trump’s ties to Russia that was authored by Christopher Steele, a former British spy.

Trump denied suggestions he is attempting to silence his critics, saying he had given Brennan a “bigger voice” by stripping his clearance.

“There’s no silence,” Trump said. “Many people don’t even know who he is, and now he has a bigger voice. And that’s OK with me because I like taking on voices like that.

“I’ve never respected him. I’ve never had a lot of respect.”


Trump blames ‘politicians who run DC (poorly)’ after military parade cancelled

Washington mayor hits back at Trump’s reprimand after reports emerged that planned parade could have cost $92m

August 17, 2018

Associated Press in Washington

The military parade Donald Trump ordered up for Veterans Day will not happen in 2018, the US defense department said, after reports emerged that the event could cost around $92m – more than three times the price first suggested by the White House.

Trump blamed “local politicians who run Washington, D.C. (poorly)“ for the delay in tweets on Friday, saying the cost was “ridiculously high” and they “know a windfall when they see it”.

He said he would instead attend a parade at Andrews air force base and go to Paris for events on 11 November to commemorate Armistice Day.

The mayor of Washington DC, Muriel Bowser, responded to Trump’s allegations in a tweet. The city’s costs for hosting the event are understood to be a fraction of the military costs.

“Yup, I’m Muriel Bowser, mayor of Washington DC, the local politician who finally got thru to the reality star in the White House with the realities ($21.6m) of parades/events/demonstrations in Trump America (sad),” she wrote.

Col. Rob Manning, a Pentagon spokesman, said on Thursday that the military and the White House had “now agreed to explore opportunities in 2019”.

The parade’s cost has become a politically charged issue, particularly after the Pentagon canceled a major military exercise planned for August with South Korea, in the wake of Trump’s summit with the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un.

Trump said the drills were provocative and that dumping them would save the US “a tremendous amount of money”. The Pentagon later said the Korea drills would have cost $14m.

US officials had told the Associated Press earlier on Thursday that the proposed new parade would cost about $92m, citing preliminary estimates.

According to the officials, roughly $50m  would cover Pentagon costs for aircraft, equipment, personnel and other support for the November parade in Washington. The remainder would be borne by other agencies and largely involve security costs. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss early planning estimates that have not yet been finalized or released publicly.

Officials said the plans had not yet been approved by the defense secretary, Jim Mattis.

The parade was expected to include troops from all five armed services the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and Coast Guard as well as units in period uniforms representing earlier times in the nation’s history. It was expected to involve a number of military aircraft flyovers.

Earlier this year, the White House budget director told Congress that the cost to taxpayers could be $10m to $30m.

One veterans group weighed in on Thursday against the parade. “The American Legion appreciates that our president wants to show in a dramatic fashion our nation’s support for our troops,” said national commander Denise Rohan.

“However, until such time as we can celebrate victory in the war on terrorism and bring our military home, we think the parade money would be better spent fully funding the Department of Veteran Affairs and giving our troops and their families the best care possible.”

Trump decided he wanted a military parade in Washington after he attended France’s Bastille Day celebration in the center of Paris last year. As the invited guest of the French president, Emmanuel Macron, Trump watched enthusiastically from a reviewing stand as the French military showcased its tanks and fighter jets, including many US-made planes, along the famed Champs-Elysées.

Several months later Trump praised the French parade, saying: “We’re going to have to try and top it.”


Commentary: Trump’s botched Turkey policy

August 17, 2018

by Howard Eissenstat


The crisis between the United States and Turkey, a NATO ally and traditional bulwark of American policy in the Middle East, is serious. While the relationship between them has often been fraught, the two countries have generally managed to keep difficulties within acceptable limits. No longer.

Most of the blame lays at the feet of Turkey’s irascible President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who has led a lurching foreign policy that has estranged all of Turkey’s traditional allies and most of its neighbors. In a recent New York Times column, Erdoğan offered a long list of grievances his country has against the United States. The American list of grievances is equally long.

Erdoğan is not simply an autocrat at home; he is one who has taken on an international role that often challenges U.S. interests. Ankara has growing ties with Iran that includes help with busting U.S. sanctions against Tehran; supported Jihadist movements in Syria, including some affiliated with al Qaeda; enjoys a close relationship with Hamas in the Palestinian territories, supports Islamist extremists in Libya and, perhaps most importantly, is developing an entente with Vladimir Putin’s Russia. To all of this, add Erdoğan’s practice of arresting foreign citizens and consular staff as political leverage, something many call “hostage diplomacy.” Allies can – and do – sometimes have differences and work at odds. These issues speak of something entirely different: an ally that is also a strategic rival.

There are nonetheless good reasons why the United States should be working hard to right this relationship. There is no reason to believe that a clear break with the United States would improve any of these behaviors. Moreover, Turkey’s continued role in NATO – it cannot be kicked out of the treaty organization, though it may leave of its own accord – will continue to be a point of difficulty. This, presumably, is why Putin has worked so hard to coax Turkey away from Washington; he is less interested in creating a happy union with Turkey than in poisoning NATO itself. Moreover, Turkey continues to play a significant operational role in many NATO activities and is a partner in important weapons programs. On a more basic level, it is a large country in an important region. A stable, economically successful Turkey is in everyone’s interest.

In the face of these realities, the U.S. officials have attempted to paper over differences and win Turkey back to the fold almost entirely through warm words and quiet engagement. The Trump administration’s “get tough” policy, initiated this month, is a welcome change. Unfortunately, however, the policy has been late in coming and clumsily implemented.

Strategic issues might have been easier to resolve if the United States had taken a stronger stand on clear infringements of the norms of international relations. When Erdoğan’s security staff roughed up journalists and peaceful protestors in Washington in 2016, there was barely a ripple of protest. In 2017, his security detail did it again, in a far bloodier attack. This time, at least, Congress took some symbolic action and the State Department protested. Charges were levied against several, but dropped in March, in advance of then Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s visit to Turkey.

This decision highlights a failed policy of appeasement undertaken by both the Obama and Trump administrations. In particular, the American response to detained U.S. citizens and consular staff has ranged from passive to vacillating. The U.S. decision in October 2017 to suspend visa services at its diplomatic posts in Turkey was too late in coming (more than a year after some of the detentions), but was at least a step in the right direction. Only two months later, however, the State Department suddenly reversed course and ended the visa suspension without its demands being met. Turkey could be forgiven for believing that the United States was simply incapable of hard ball.

Donald Trump’s frequent and public embrace of Erdoğan were taken by many in Turkey as a signal that the two leaders could bond and create a new, warmer relationship.

But those hopes came apart after Turkey’s detention of Andrew Brunson, the U.S. evangelical pastor now facing terrorism charges. Trump has made Brunson the focus of his negotiations with Erdogan, pushing hard for the pastor’s release.

The singling out of Brunson is not surprising, given that his case received considerable attention from American evangelicals – an important part of Trump’s base – and was seen as reinforcing a broad concern for Christians in the Middle East.

Nonetheless, this focus undermined the U.S. position in three ways. First, it seemed to ignore other equally deserving American prisoners. Second, it reinforced Erdoğan’s belief that the United States was not particularly interested in the rule of law and that its Middle East policies are shaped by a disdain for Muslims. Thirdly, and most importantly, it suggested to Erdoğan that he had, in Brunson, a hostage of tremendous value, who would be only “given back” in return for something of similar high value.

The Trump administration compounded these errors by attempting to negotiate a trade to free Brunson. The details of these negotiations are still murky, but it appears that White House officials hoped that, by helping to free a Turkish national held in Israel and offering early release for Hakan Atilla, a banker jailed in the United for Iran sanctions busting, and possibly lowering potential fines in a related case against Turkey’s Halkbank. The deal apparently fell through because Trump balked after Erdoğan pushed to get even more out of Washington. The U.S. response has been less standing on principle than outrage that a shady deal fell through.

Trump’s decision to put teeth to concerns about Turkey’s hostage was done so suddenly in response to the failed negotiations that it gave Erdoğan little time and little public cover for a retreat. In particular, the choice of tariffs as the primary means of sanctioning Turkey was poorly thought through. Turkey’s economy is teetering on the edge of crisis; Trump’s sanctions may well tip it over the edge – allowing Erdoğan to blame the United States for Turkey’s economic turbulence rather than having to address his own government’s bad practices. Indeed, maximizing the cost to the Turkish economy seems to have been Trump’s intent: he announced the tariffs in a tweet which came out just as Berat Albayrak, Turkey’s minister of finance (and Erdoğan’s son-in-law), was making a speech aimed at calming markets.

Further damage to Turkey’s economy is not in the interest of the United States or America’s allies in Europe. And because Trump has used tariffs so gratuitously against so many different countries, including China, Mexico, and Canada, Turkey has garnered rather more sympathy than it might otherwise have.

A “get tough” policy with Turkey was long overdue. Unfortunately, the Trump administration has botched the job. In diplomacy, sticks, as much as carrots, can be a useful tool, if they bring about behaviors that are favorable to your country. The White House took an unhappy marriage and steered it towards an angry – and equally unhappy – divorce.

Howard Eissenstat is an Associate Professor of Middle East History at St. Lawrence University and a Nonresident Senior Fellow at the Project for Middle East Democracy



Do you approve or disapprove of the way Donald Trump is handling his job as president?

Weekly averages from Gallup Daily tracking

Approve Disapprove No opinion  
% % %  
2018 Aug 6-12 39 56 5
2018 Jul 30-Aug 5 41 54 5
2018 Jul 23-29 40 55 6
2018 Jul 16-22 42 54 4
2018 Jul 9-15 43 52 4
2018 Jul 2-8 41 56 4
2018 Jun 25-Jul 1 42 53 5
2018 Jun 18-24 41 55 3
2018 Jun 11-17 45 50 4
2018 Jun 4-10 42 54 4
2018 May 28-Jun 3 41 55 4
2018 May 21-27  40 55 6
2018 May 14-20 42 54 5
2018 May 7-13 43 52 5
2018 Apr 30-May 6 42 52 5
2018 Apr 23-29 42 53 5
2018 Apr 16-22 38 57 6
2018 Apr 9-15 39 55 6
2018 Apr 2-8 41 54 5
2018 Mar 26-Apr 1 39 56 5
2018 Mar 19-25 39 55 5
2018 Mar 12-18 40 56 4
2018 Mar 5-11 39 56 4
2018 Feb 26-Mar 4 39 55 6
2018 Feb 19-25 39 56 5
2018 Feb 12-18 37 59 4
2018 Feb 5-11 40 57 3
2018 Jan 29-Feb 4 40 57 3
2018 Jan 22-28 38 57 5
2018 Jan 15-21 36 59 5
2018 Jan 8-14 38 57 5
2018 Jan 1-7 37 58 4


Donald Trump’s Presidential Job Approval Ratings

Approval rating        Dates
Most recent weekly average   39 Aug 6-12, 2018
Term average to date   39 Jan 20, 2017-present
High point, weekly average   45 Jan 20-29, 2017, and Jun 11-17, 2018
Low point, weekly average            35 four times, last on Dec 11-17, 2017



The Plan

August 17, 2018

by Christian Jürs

A constant subject for the high-level intelligence people inside the Beltway is the progress of what is called ‘The Plan.’

This is a long-term program, formulated and implemented, by the far-right element in the government and eagerly supported by the so-called neo-cons.

The purpose of this program is to destabilize Russia, force Putin and his supporters out of office and replace them, as was done during the reign of the CIA-friendly Yeltsin, with persons friendly to the United States aims and, especially, friendly to US business interests.

Russia is in possession of a very large reservoir of natural resources from oil to gold and American interests very nearly had their controlling hands on all of this during the Yeltsin years but lost it when Putin got in control.

They hate his intractable nationalism and have done, and are doing, everything they can to discredit, defeat and eventually oust him.

A major part of The Plan has been to get physical control of countries surrounding Russia from the Baltic states to the ‘Stans and to ring Russia with American-oriented and friendly countries.

Putin, aware of this because of the obviousness of the plottings and also because of very high-level information leaks from Washington, responded and with deadly effect. Georgia was run by a domestic politician who was eccentric, egotistical but in the pocket of Washington, and who allowed American troops and their military equipment to pour into the country.

But two Georgian provinces, inhabited mostly by Russians, objected to the blatantly pro-West government in Tiblisi and protested.

Georgia’s answer was to threaten force and, with full American support, to mass Georgian troops on the borders of these provinces.

Putin responded by sending a Russian military strike force into the area in support of the break-away areas and this caused a two-fold retreat on the part of American supporters. The military units rapidly evacuated west to the Black Sea and US Naval evacuation while an army of CIA personnel fled in terror to the airport at Tiblisi to avoid capture. This demarche disillusioned a number of eastern European countries who then toned down their anti-Russian rhetoric and made pacific moves towards the Kremlin.

A very high-level Polish government contingent flying into Smolensk to confer with the Russians were destroyed when their aircraft, responding to faked ground signals at the fog-shrouded Smolensk airport, slammed into the ground, wiping out the top level Poles. The Russians did not destroy the Poles but American intelligence operatives did.

This pointless slaughter was designed to teach wavering cantonists a lesson.

And the so-called “Orange Revolution” in the Ukraine was entirely a CIA operation.

The government in that country was replaced with a pro-Western one and the Ukraine was then viewed in Washington as another country to stock with threatening American missiles and troops.

When the Ukrainians tired of the corruption that inevitably is attendant upon a pro-West government and eventually elected a pro-Russian president, the CIA predictably responded by fomenting civil strife in Kiev and when that appeared to be waning, had their surrogates start shooting at random into the crowd to stir up public anger.

Putin’s response was to occupy the Russian-populated Crimea, hold an election that overwhelmingly supported union with Russia and gained the important naval base at Sebastopol that the Ukraine had promised to the US Navy and, more important, the Crimean off-shore oil fields and a coastline that permitted an easier installation of the South Stream oil transmission line from Russian oil fields to southern Europe.

The fury of the balked intelligence and governmental organs in Washington has been monumental and because a restive Europe is presenting a disunited front in the dictated attacks on Russia, more pressure is being planned to further threaten and pressure Putin.

The oil-rich Arctic is a prime future battlefield selected by Washington to engage the Russians, but the latter hold most of the geo-political cards.

And attempts to economically isolate Russia can easily backfire and create economic chaos with America’s economic powers.

The Russians hold 118 billion dollars worth of US Treasury certificate and their tenative allies, the Chinese, hold one trillion dollars of the same certificates. Should these countries, against whom the United States has been conducting clandestine political warfare, ever decide to jointly dump these financial instruments, the collapse of the dollar as the leading international currency would create an economic crisis that could easily prove fatal to Washington.

When tempted to fight fire with fire, remember that the fire department usually uses water.



Russia says drone attacks on its Syria base have increased

August 16, 2018

by Dimitry Kozlov and Sergei Grits


HEMEIMEEM AIR BASE, Syria (AP) — Russian air defense assets in Syria have downed 45 drones targeting their main base in the country, its military said Thursday, after an attack by the Islamic State group on a Syrian army base a day earlier killed seven troops.

The Russian Defense Ministry spokesman, Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov, said that five of them were shot down in the last three days near the Hemeimeem air base. The base in the province of Latakia serves as the main hub for Russian operations in Syria.

Konashenkov said that while the drones appear primitive, they use sophisticated technologies and have a range of up to 100 kilometers (60 miles). He charged that the militants wouldn’t have been able to assemble the drones without outside help, but didn’t specify who might have assisted them.

The Russian general noted that the number of drone attacks have increased recently, adding that all of them were launched by militants based in the northern province of Idlib.

Idlib has become the main base for President Bashar Assad’s foes, which moved there after being forced out from other areas across Syria as part of surrender deals often negotiated with the Russians on behalf of the Syrian government.

With Russia’s support, Assad’s forces have regained control over key cities, like Aleppo, Homs and Daraa, the southern city where the uprising against the government began in March 2011. The authorities also have restored control over key highways, allowing safe travel all the way form the Jordanian border in the south to the central province of Hama.

In Homs, regional Gov. Talal Barazi told international reporters during a trip organized by the Russian Defense Ministry that a key bridge on a highway linking the Homs and Hama provinces that was destroyed in 2012 has been restored.

Barazi said that later this year his administration plans to start restoring the old part of Homs that was ravaged by fierce fighting in 2014.

He said that about 650 rebels who had left the province and moved to Idlib have come back to Homs and agreed to lay down their arms.

Barazi said that the historic city of Palmyra, home to one of the Middle East’s most spectacular archaeological sites, could be open for tourist visits by next summer. Many of the city’s archaeological treasures were badly damaged by the Islamic State group in 2015. Palmyra is a world heritage site protected by the United Nation’s cultural agency.

In Aleppo, Hazem Ajan, the director of the city’s industrial cluster, told reporters that about 500 companies have resumed operations in the area since the government reclaimed control in 2016.

Meanwhile, in eastern Syria, at least seven soldiers were killed with the Islamic State group attacked an army position near the city of Deir el-Zour, a monitoring group said Thursday.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the attack on Wednesday near the Taim oil field was the militants’ closest approach to the Deir el-Zour air base since the government recaptured it from the group last year.

Mohammad Hassan, a media coordinator for the activist-run Deir Ezzor 24, said at least 12 soldiers and five IS militants were killed in the clashes.

A recent U.N. report warned that IS, which once boasted of commanding a caliphate stretching across northern Syria and Iraq, is adopting a guerrilla profile.

The group may still have up to 30,000 members distributed between Syria and Iraq, according to the U.N. report.

Also Thursday, Assad and his wife Asma visited one of the tunnels once used by rebels outside Damascus to move vehicles, weapons, and fighters while they were under siege, the president’s office said. Government forces have uncovered a network of tunnels underneath the Eastern Ghouta suburbs of the capital since they seized the area from opposition forces in a fierce campaign earlier this year.

The tunnel visited by the Assads was decorated with reliefs sculpted by a team of artists supervised by the government showing soldiers fighting and triumphing over their opponents.

Associated Press writer Philip Issa in Beirut contributed to this report.


Why is San Francisco … covered in human feces?

People aren’t pooping on the streets because they unlearned basic hygiene. Rather, the incidents reflect shameful levels of inequality in the city

August 18, 2018

by Nathan Robinson

The Guardian

It’s an empirical fact: San Francisco is a crappier place to live these days. Sightings of human feces on the sidewalks are now a regular occurrence; over the past 10 years, complaints about human waste have increased 400%. People now call the city 65 times a day to report poop, and there have been 14,597 calls in 2018 alone. Last year, software engineer Jenn Wong even created a poop map of San Francisco, showing the concentration of incidents across the city. New mayor London Breed said: “There is more feces on the sidewalks than I’ve ever seen growing up here.” In a revolting recent incident, a 20lb bag of fecal waste showed up on a street in the city’s Tenderloin district.

A city covered in poop is so disgusting it has to be almost comical. But the uptick in street defecation is the symbol of a human tragedy. People aren’t pooping on the streets because they have suddenly forgotten what a bathroom is, or unlearned basic hygiene. The incidents are part of a broader failure of the city to provide for the basic needs of its citizens, and show the catastrophic, socially destructive effects of unchecked inequality.

It’s impossible to talk about street feces without talking about homelessness and housing. While there aren’t actually more homeless people than there have been in the past, the gentrification of San Francisco has had a severe effect on the homeless. Development has pushed homeless residents out of secluded spaces, and there is less and less space for them to inhabit as “places where homeless people used to sleep becoming offices and housing”, in the words of a city official. The city routinely clears away encampments, causing people to wander around the city in search of a new temporary space.

Poop on the streets has another obvious cause: a lack of restroom access. Many businesses restrict their bathrooms to customers only, precisely because they don’t want their facilities to be frequented by the homeless. But the “privatization of bathrooms” means people are left without obvious places to go. There are even websites offering tips on how to go to the bathroom in San Francisco, such as by pretending to be interested in furniture at Crate & Barrel or finding the “hidden gem” of a bathroom on the second floor of a Banana Republic. The city has installed 25 small self-cleaning public toilets and recently commissioned a set of futuristic-looking new bathrooms, but a few dozen toilets for a city of 870,000 is woefully insufficient. Bathroom access should be considered a basic right, and it’s worth considering the idea of banning “customers only” toilets. In a city with generous public spaces and a commitment to equal access, no one would ever have to use the street.

But bathrooms are only part of the problem. Housing itself is just as much a contributor. San Francisco spends hundreds of millions of dollars a year on anti-homelessness initiatives, but it has only managed to keep the number of homeless people from growing further. There are still 7,500 homeless residents who have no chance of finding accommodation in a city where a studio apartment costs $2,500 a month. This kind of inequality demands a radical solution. For all the talk about encouraging developers to build affordable housing, a better plan may simply be to have the city build housing itself. As Peter Gowan and Ryan Cooper put it in a report for the People’s Policy Project, “social housing” has gotten a bad reputation over the years, but partly because it has never been invested in properly. Gowan and Cooper say the solution is simpler than it looks: cities with housing crises need to simply build houses.

A broader problem, though, is the lack of interest that many San Franciscans seem to have in improving the lives of the homeless. Many seem to view this population as a simple inconvenience, such as the tech bro who complained to the mayor about having to see “homeless riff-raff” or the rich woman who took out a full-page ad in the San Francisco Chronicle to report having seen a homeless man with a pair of scissors.

There is a self-interested reason why such people should want to do something about homelessness. No doubt city officials were spooked last month when a major medical convention was canceled due to organizers’ fears of the homeless. But there are “solutions” that simply put the problem out of mind  – like Michael Bloomberg’s proposal to give every homeless person a one-way bus ticket out of the city. And there are those which will actually mitigate the effects of inequality. These will cost much more, and demand some self-sacrifice from the city’s uber-wealthy.

San Francisco has begun to take measures to address the problem of street defecation. The city has launched a “Poop Patrol” to make sure the sidewalks are kept clean of waste. But the problem is a systemic one, and is the predictable consequence of being one of the least affordable cities in the country. It’s what happens when desperate people have no place to go.

Nathan Robinson is the editor of Current Affairs


‘It can’t get much hotter … can it?’ How heat became a national US problem

Heat now kills more Americans than floods, hurricanes or other natural disasters – but cities are facing it almost entirely alone

August 14, 2018

by Oliver Milman in Philadelphia

The Guardian

On yet another day of roasting heat in Phoenix, elderly and homeless people scurry between shards of shade in search of respite at the Marcos De Niza Senior Center. Along with several dozen other institutions in the city, it has been set up as a cooling centre: a free public refuge, with air conditioning, chilled bottled water, boardgames and books. Last summer a record 155 people died in Phoenix from excess heat, and the city is straining to avoid a repeat.

James Sanders, an 83-year-old who goes by King, has lived in the city for 60 years and considers himself acclimatised to the baking south Arizona sun. “It does seem hotter than it used to be, though,” he says as he picks at his lunch, the temperature having climbed to 42C (107F) outside. “Maybe it’s my age. Maybe the wind isn’t blowing. It can’t get much hotter than this though. Can it?”

The heatwave that has recently swept the US has put 100 million Americans under heat warnings; caused power cuts in California where temperatures in places such as Palm Springs approached 50C (122F); and resulted in deaths from New York to the Mexican border, where people smugglers abandoned their clients in the desert. Further north, in Canada, more than 70 people perished in the Montreal area after a record burst of heat.

Record temperatures raise wrenching questions about the future viability of cities such as Phoenix, where taking a midday jog or doing a spot of gardening can pose a deadly risk. Climate change is spurring increasingly punishing heatwaves that are projected to cause tens of thousands of deaths in major US cities in the coming decades.

“There’s a point where the human body can’t cool itself, which means you are either in an air-conditioned space or you’re having serious health problems,” says Gregory Wellenius, an epidemiologist at Brown University. “Some places in the US will get to that point. The way we live, work and play will be altered by rising temperatures.”

Heat already kills more Americans than floods, hurricanes or other ecological disasters. That puts sweltering cities like Phoenix – where flights were cancelled last year because it was simply too hot – under growing pressure. But heat is rapidly becoming a national problem.

Recent research suggests warming conditions are leading to suicides, as rising nighttime temperatures deprive Americans of sleep and respite from scorching days. A new study, released last week, predicts that a warming climate will drive thousands to emergency rooms for heat illness. The very hottest days experienced in the US could be a further 15F warmer this century if greenhouse gas emissions aren’t curbed.

A national plan to deal with heat, however, remains a distant prospect, as the Trump administration attempts to demolish almost every measure to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. It has also outlined deep cuts to climate programmes, and steered federal agencies away from adapting to more frequent and more extreme weather events such as heatwaves, flooding and stronger storms. For the most part, US cities are facing burgeoning heatwaves on their own.

The Center for Disease Control states that around 650 deaths occur a year due to heat but Wellenius argues that this is too conservative, as heat isn’t always explicitly cited on death certificates; with related mortality the total swells to around 3,500. Crucially, the death toll is afflicting US cities that haven’t previously had to spend much time fretting about heat.

Research published by Wellenius and colleagues last year found the burden of these deaths is shouldered by unlikely places, far from the parched cacti and canyons of the west. The relatively cooler eastern cities of Philadelphia and Baltimore jointly have the most excess deaths due to heat in the entire US, at 37 fatalities per million people each year, the research found. July temperatures in Baltimore and Philadelphia have a long-term average of around 25C; in Phoenix it’s 34C. In all three cities, as elsewhere on the planet, the average is climbing.

Beyond setting up the cooling centres, mainly in libraries, so far the response in Philadelphia has focused on raising public awareness, with city officials bombarding residents with advice in English and Spanish to“Stay Cool Philly!”, avoid the sun, drink water, and check on elderly neighbours.

“I think some of the other things people are in the west may be a little more attuned to the issues – like don’t jog your five miles at noon, do it at 5am,” says Dr Caroline Johnson, a senior official at the Philadelphia Department of Public Health. “Some of that may come as a surprise to people around here.”

Improvements in treating heat exhaustion and heat stroke mean that spikes in hospitalisations – around 40 people were taken to hospital in Philadelphia for heat in the first week of July – don’t necessarily lead to a surge in deaths. But older cities in the US north east, like Philadelphia, were built at a time when rapid change into a new climate was virtually unimaginable.

Much of Philadelphia’s older housing is packed tightly together in terraces, with little air circulation and no air conditioning. Roofs are still slathered in tar, rather than more expensive reflective materials, trapping more heat. “They’re like little ovens in there,” says Johnson.

Clusters of these houses, largely found in poorer, minority areas in the north and east of the city, can be as much as 4C (8F) hotter than the Philadelphia average, according to city officials. Leafier, wealthier suburbs can be as much as 7C (14F) cooler than the average. Being poor often means hotter homes, waiting in the sun at bus stops rather than sitting in air-conditioned Ubers, and being unable to escape to cooler climes on vacation.

“When it gets real hot I try to keep an eye on the older residents,” says Joann Taylor, who has lived in the largely black and Latino district of Hunting Park for 47 years. “They don’t have air conditioning, so I just tell them to keep the blinds closed. The houses could do with some updates to cope with the heat.”

Philadelphia has embarked upon a mission to slash its greenhouse gas emissions, plant hundreds of thousands of new trees, and upgrade its parks in order to provide a haven from the warmth. But the spectre of a particularly deadly summer – perhaps a repeat of July 1993 when 118 people died in Philadelphia due to heat – feels ominously close. Without a severe drop in emissions, Philadelphia will spend around 100 days a year above 32C (90F) within 30 years, double the number of hot days experienced in 2000.

“I think what scares me is that the projections are that things are only going to get worse,” says Christine Knapp, director of Philadelphia’s office of sustainability, sitting in her mercifully cool office as the city endured the latest in a string of days over 30C (86F).

“This heatwave is very emblematic of what we will likely continue to have. My aunt lives in Arizona where it’s hot all the time. They set up [Phoenix] knowing that was a desert; you go from your air-conditioned car between air-conditioned spaces. They are hotter but they’re better prepared than we are.”

But while Phoenix’s buildings are newer and largely air conditioned, any power outage can cause an emergency situation. And familiarity with the burning sun doesn’t provide any protection from it – of the 155 people who died in the Phoenix area last summer, all but three were from Arizona.

“We encounter this feeling from the populace that perhaps once you’ve acclimated to the weather here or you’ve lived here for a certain amount of time, you’re no longer really as vulnerable to the heat,” says Kate Goodin, an epidemiologist at the health department of Maricopa County, in which Phoenix sits. “Obviously, that’s not true socially or biologically.”

Phoenix is looking to create long corridors of shade-providing trees to allow people to venture out of their homes and cars during the day.

But the future warmth will be brutal and lengthy. Maricopa County will spend two-thirds of the typical year in heat of more 37C (100C) by the time today’s preschoolers are drawing a pension. Further adaption will be possible, but the ability to carve out a comfortable life in the desert is being gradually dismantled.

Those wealthy enough to move have an escape route. Disadvantaged communities face starker realities. “There’s some system changes that we need to be making so that people can live within this community if they so choose,” Goodin says.

Though the federal government is currently trying to extricate itself from the scientific reality of climate change, at some point it will have to deal with the societal implications of huge swathes of the country requiring expensive modifications to support a human populace.

“It’s only a matter of time until the west is completely insufficiently prepared for climate change,” says Brian Petersen, a climate change and planning academic at Northern Arizona University. “If we really wanted to be prepared we would be doing a lot of different things that we’re not doing.

“The fact is, there’s not going to be enough refuge for everybody.”


2018’s global heat wave is so pervasive it’s surprising scientists

July 27, 2018

by Andrew Freedman


The deadly heat waves, floods and fires occurring from Japan to the Middle East, and North America to Europe have clear links to human-caused climate change, according to climate scientists, and this summer’s abnormal weather is just the beginning of what’s in store for us in coming years.

Why it matters: The biggest near-term impacts of climate change on society come in the form of weather and climate extremes, so this summer illustrates the danger of even a relatively small amount of warming. So far, the planet has only warmed by close to 1°C, or 1.8°F, above preindustrial levels. We’re on a trajectory to reach 3 degrees Celsius, or 5.4°F, by 2100.

The big picture: All-time high temperature records, along with heavy rainfall milestones have fallen as a warmer, wetter climate exerts its influence on day-to-day weather. Here are just a few of the records set so far:

  • In North America: Los Angeles set an all-time high temperature record of 111°F on July 6. Montreal, Canada also set its all-time high temperature record, during a deadly Quebec heat wave in early July. This week, Death Valley, California, has broken three straight daily records with a high of 127°F. Update, July 31, 2018: Death Valley is poised to set a record for the hottest month ever recorded on Earth, with an average temperature of 108°F, breaking last year’s record by about half a degree.
  • Several locations are reporting that July was their warmest all-time month, including the normally temperate Caribou, Maine.
  • In Europe: Unprecedented heat led to a wildfire outbreak in Scandinavia, and record highs have been set all the way above the Arctic Circle this month. According to the U.N., Sodankyla, Finland hit 89.2°F, or 31.8°C, on July 17, which was an all-time record for that location.
  • On Sunday, Sortland, in far northern Norway, saw the temperature reach 87.8°F, or 31.0°C, which was an all-time high for any month at that location, according to meteorologist Etienne Kapikian.
  • July 27 was the hottest temperature on record in Amsterdam, at 34.8°C, or 94.6°F.
  • Remarkably, in northern Norway, Makkaur, set a new record high overnight low temperature of 25.2°C, or 77°F, on July 18.
  • Heat records have also fallen in the U.K., Ireland and France. In London, high temperatures hit 35°C on Thursday, and were forecast to potentially eclipse that on Friday. The U.K. is suffering through one of its driest years on record.
  • In Asia, Chinese media is reporting that “22 counties and cities” have had their hottest July on record. South Korea set its all-time high temperature record on Aug. 1, when the temperature soared to 40.7°C, or 105.2°F, in Hongcheon, according to the Korea Meteorological Administration.

It was the highest ever recorded across the country since the KMA started compiling the data in 1907. The previous high of 40 degrees Celsius was logged at the southeastern city of Daegu in North Gyeongsang province on Aug. 1 in 1942.

Temperature in the capital Seoul reached a daily high of 39.6 degrees Celsius in midday, marking the highest in 111 years. The previous high was 38.4 degrees Celsius recorded on July 24, 1994.

  • In the Middle East: Quriyat, Oman, which likely set the world’s hottest low temperature ever recorded on June 28, when the temperature failed to drop below 109°F, or 42.8°C.
  • In Africa: Ouargla, Algeria, may have set Africa’s all-time highest temperature on July 5, with a reading of 124.3°F, or 51.3°C.
  • In Asia: Japan set a national temperature record of 106°F, or 41.1°C, in a heat wave that followed deadly floods.

According to an analysis published Friday, climate scientists found a clear link between climate change and extreme heat in Europe, particularly in Scandinavia, although year-to-year variability prevented researchers from making definitive statements.

“We found that for the weather station in the far north, in the Arctic Circle, the current heat wave is just extraordinary – unprecedented in the historical record,” said Geert Jan van Oldenborgh, senior researcher at the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute (KNMI).

Comparison between maximum June land temperatures in 1976, when Europe had a major heat wave, and 2018. Adapted from Zeke Hausfather/Berkeley Earth; Graphic: Axios Visuals

And it’s not just heat records that are noteworthy this summer. Large expanses of forests are burning in response to hot, dry conditions, from Scandinavia to Siberia, and California to Oregon. The Ferguson Fire forced Yosemite National Park to close this week at the peak of tourist season. Another conflagration killed at least 84 outside Athens earlier this week.

  • In addition, extreme precipitation events have struck, which is another expected consequence of climate change since warmer air holds more water vapor.

Between the lines: Climate scientists told Axios that while they are not surprised by the simultaneous extremes observed so far this summer — reports have warned about this for years — they are taken aback by the severity and number of these extreme events.

“Even for somebody who understands extreme weather and how climate change affects extreme weather, what’s happening this summer is incredible,” said Bernadette Woods, chief meteorologist and climate matters program director at Climate Central, a nonpartisan climate science research and communications group.

  • Likewise, Michael Wehner, a climate researcher at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California, called 2018 “an unusual year.”

“While I expect that high temperatures records will continue to be broken at abnormally high rates because of global warming, I would not have guessed that so many would be broken in the same year,” he said via email.

Noah Diffenbaugh, a climate scientist at Stanford University, published a study last year that found a fingerprint of climate change in heat milestones worldwide. The study found that climate change has boosted the odds of record-breaking heat across more than 80% of the surface area of the globe for which reliable observations were available.

“Not only should we not be surprised to see the increasing frequency of the hot extremes and wet extremes, but even more directly they actually should be expected”

— Noah Diffenbaugh, a climate scientist at Stanford University

The bottom line: One point climate scientists emphasized is that as average global temperatures increase, the impacts of climate change are becoming more visible.

Daniel Swain, a climate researcher at UCLA, told Axios: “From my perspective as a climate scientist, one of the most striking (and disconcerting) aspects of this is that we’re now seeing decades-old scientific predictions being validated in the real world, right before our eyes,” he said via email.

“And now we’re seeing these changes manifest themselves in a very tangible sense in London, and Tokyo, and Delhi, and Los Angeles, and Washington D.C.—places where hundreds of millions of people live.”

— Daniel Swain, climate scientist at UCLA

Go deeper: Yosemite National Park evacuated as wildfire worsens

Heat records fall in the Arctic as fires erupt in Sweden and Siberia

Special report: A 30-year alarm on the reality of climate change


The world’s first floating farm making waves in Rotterdam

August 17, 2018

by Simon Fry, Technology of Business reporter

BBC News

The world’s first offshore dairy farm opens in the Port of Rotterdam this year, with the aim of helping the city produce more of its own food sustainably. But will such farms ever be able to produce enough to feed the world’s growing urban populations?

A Dutch property company, Beladon, is launching the world’s first “floating farm” in a city port.

It has built the offshore facility right in the middle of Rotterdam’s Merwehaven harbour and will use it to farm 40 Meuse-Rhine-Issel cows milked by robots.

Built-up urban areas may not seem like the most sensible places to run farms, but reducing the distance food travels before it reaches consumers’ plates makes environmental sense as it reduces transport pollution.

And if the global population grows to 9.8 billion by 2050 as expected, 70% are forecast to live in cities – up from 55% today.

So urban indoor farms, where produce is grown vertically on stacks of shelves under ultraviolet lights, are – literally – on the rise.

  • Vertical farm start-up Plenty raises $200m

Beladon’s farm, which is on three levels and is anchored to the ocean floor, is expected to open at the end of 2018 and produce about 800 litres of milk a day.

Peter van Wingerden, an engineer at Beladon, came up with the idea in 2012 when he was in New York working on a floating housing project on the Hudson river.

While there, Hurricane Sandy struck, flooding the city streets and crippling its transport networks. Deliveries struggled to get through and within two days it was hard to find fresh produce in shops.

“Seeing the devastation caused by Hurricane Sandy I was struck by the need for food to be produced as near as possible to consumers,” says Mr van Wingerden.

So the idea came up to produce fresh food in a climate-adaptive way on the water.”

The concept would be resilient against hurricanes, too, he adds.

At first people thought the idea was “weird, funny or unbelievable”, he says, but they have started to come round.

“With increasing demand for healthy food, fast-growing urbanisation and climate change, we can’t rely on the food production systems of the past any more,” he says.

Later in 2012, his team began working on the design and talking to the Port Authority in Rotterdam. Despite its initial hesitations about the potential noise and smell, the port gave Beladon a space to build a prototype.

Since then the farm has taken shape, and earlier this summer its floating platform was moved by barge from Zaandam in the north of Holland, to Rotterdam.

Peter’s wife and business partner, Minke van Wingerden, says the farm will start with 40 cows, enough for the venture to break even. But she says it is “easily scalable”, with larger operations promising “obvious efficiencies”.

The farm also aims to reuse and recycle as much as it can.

“At least 80% of what our cows eat will be waste products from Rotterdam’s food industry,” says the farm’s general manager, Albert Boersen.

That might include grains discarded by local breweries, leftovers from restaurants and cafes, by-products from local wheat mills, and even grass clippings, all collected and delivered in electric trucks provided by local “green waste” firm GroenCollect.

“We will grow duckweed as an animal feed, too,” says Ms van Wingerden. “It is high in protein, fast-growing and can be nurtured with cow urine. We will have an installation of four or five vertical platforms growing the plant under special LED lights.”

The project will even generate some of its own energy – hydrogen produced through electrolysis powered by solar panels.

Once up and running, the farm will produce and pasteurise milk and yoghurt on-site and sell it in Rotterdam. It will also process and sell its own cow manure.

Dr Fenton Beed, a team leader at the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation, thinks urban farms are useful because they tend to use less water, fertiliser and pesticide than conventional production systems.

But he also acknowledges that space limitations may prevent enough food being produced to supply the world’s burgeoning urban populations.

“Constraints to producing food in controlled environments include costs for initial investment, LED lighting and continuous energy supplies,” says Dr Beed.

“That means that unless policies incentivise the engagement of smaller producers, this technology will be reserved for income-rich private and public entities.”

But such concerns aren’t stopping companies like Plenty from attracting significant investment.

The San Francisco-based start-up produces leafy greens in indoor farms and claims it can grow up to 350 times more per square metre than outdoor field farms.

Its crops are grown on six-metre vertical poles, using hydroponics – a water-only feeding system – and LED lights. No soil or pesticides are used. Infrared sensors monitor how the crops are faring so that the system can adjust light, heat and water flow accordingly.

Since it was founded in 2013, Plenty has raised $226m (£177m) from investors such as Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, SoftBank’s Vision Fund and Innovation Endeavors. This year it will expand its US operations and open its first farm in the Middle East.

Japan’s Spread is another firm developing automated vegetable-growing in vertical urban settings with its Techno Farm concept.

Back in the Netherlands, Peter and Minke van Wingerden are looking at opportunities to build more floating farms around the country, as well as in Asia.

“We hope to make many more floating farms, but also welcome others copying us or coming up with concepts contributing to these goals,” says Mr van Wingerden.

“Healthy, sufficient food production is key to a better, cleaner, safer world.”





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