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TBR News February 19, 2017

Feb 19 2017

The Voice of the White House


Washington, D.C. February 19, 2017: “One of the most important factors in the progress of what passes for modern civilization is the possession, or control, of oil.

At one point, the U.S. produced oil but eventually the fields began to dry up.

We allied ourselves with the Saudis because they had a good deal of oil. Now, the balance has shifted. Russia has oil. A number of Shi’ite countries have oil. Russia has made alliances with Iran, the part of Iraq that has oil and Syria which not only has oil but also ports on the Mediterranean.

America planners are annoyed at this situation.

The U.S. tried to get Russian oil when their man, Yeltsin, was persuaded to de-nationalize Russian oil and offer it for sale.

A group of gangsters, backed by Western oil companies, bought up all the Russian oil assets but were then blocked by the new Russian president, Putin.

The Saudis started IS but are now out of money and running out of oil. That means that the Saudis will no longer be our allies and the balance of power will certainly shift.

The U.S. cannot stand a rival that has its hands on oil so look for the captive press to scream about the rise of another evil empire, one that will need an increase in taxes and military spending to keep America safe from the evil ones and keep her cars on the road.

Fortunately, the press has shot itself in the foot and is no longer the powerful moving factor it once was in American domestic political control.

And when the Saudis run out of oil, we will have to either nuke Russia and steal the oil or try to deal with them.

This might be difficult, given the hate propaganda the oligarchs have generated but in business, what makes money is what is the most important.”

Table of Contents

  • New U.S. travel ban to spare green card holders: Trump official
  • Bill Gates: Bioterrorism could kill more than nuclear war — but no one is ready to deal with it
  • Meet the U.S. Nonprofit That Funds the Israeli Guards Who Terrorize Palestinians
  • Four NATO Nations Would Pick Russia to Defend Them If Threatened: Poll
  • Tentative ceasefire agreed for eastern Ukraine
  • Donald Trump savages media at Florida rally
  • Mass exodus of Polish army’s top ranks in protest over political interference from government
  • Trump administration to expand groups of immigrants to be deported: documents
  • TWA Flight 800: A microcosm of how fantasy is presented as fact
  • Crowding into the behavioral sink: John Calhoun and the rats

New U.S. travel ban to spare green card holders: Trump official

February 18, 2017


A new version of a Trump administration travel ban will not stop green card residency holders or travelers already on planes from entering the United States, U.S. Secretary for Homeland Security John Kelly said on Saturday.

U.S. President Donald Trump’s initial attempt to clamp down for security reasons on immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries and on refugees snarled to a halt amid a judicial backlash and chaos at airports.

“The president is contemplating releasing a tighter, more streamlined version of the first (order). And I will have opportunity to work (on) a rollout plan, in particular to make sure that there’s no one in a sense caught in the system of moving from overseas to our airports,” Kelly said at the Munich Security Conference.

Asked whether green card residency permit holders would be allowed in, Kelly said: “It’s a good assumption and, as far as the visas go, … if they’re in motion from some distant land to the United States, when they arrive they will be allowed in.”

He promised “a short phase-in period to make sure that people on the other end don’t get on airplanes. But if they’re on an airplane and inbound, they’ll be allowed to enter the country.”

A draft of the replacement executive order shows that the administration aims to put restrictions on citizens of the same seven Muslim-majority countries covered by the initial order, according to the Wall Street Journal, which cites an internal State Department memo.

The replacement order could be issued as early as Tuesday, the Journal reported, citing a U.S. government official.

The administration would seek to implement the new order a week to two weeks after it is signed, and covers citizens from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen, the Journal said.

Trump’s original order, which he said was meant to head off attacks by Islamist militants, barred people from those same countries from entering for 90 days and excluded all refugees for 120 days, except those from Syria, who were banned indefinitely.

The abrupt implementation of the order last month plunged the immigration system into chaos, sparking a wave of criticism from the countries affected, and from Western allies and some of America’s leading corporations, especially technology firms.

(Reporting By Shadia Nasralla and Diane Bartz in Washington; Editing by Kevin Liffey and David Gregorio)

Bill Gates: Bioterrorism could kill more than nuclear war — but no one is ready to deal with it

February 18,2017

by Avi Selk

Washington Post

A genetically engineered virus is easier to make and could kill more people than nuclear weapons — and yet no country on Earth is ready for the threat, Bill Gates warned world leaders Saturday.

No one on his panel at the Munich Security Conference argued with him.

“The next epidemic has a good chance of originating on a computer screen,” said Gates, who made a fortune at Microsoft, then spent much of it fighting disease through his global foundation.

Whether “by the work of nature or the hands of a terrorist,” Gates said, an outbreak could kill tens of millions in the near future unless governments begin “to prepare for these epidemics the same way we prepare for war.”

His co-panelists shared some of the same fears.

“Disease and violence are killing fewer people than ever before, but it’s spreading more quickly,” said Erna Solberg, the prime minister of Norway. “We have forgotten how catastrophic those epidemics have been.”

She recalled the Black Death, which she said killed more than half her country’s population and created a 200-year recession in Europe.

“It’s not if, but when these events are going to occur again,” said Peter Salama, executive director of the World Health Organization. “We need to ramp up our preparedness.”

Gates, who founded the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation with his wife in 2000, has been worrying about the world’s ability to stop a deadly pandemic since Ebola killed thousands two years ago, while governments and militaries struggled to stop it from spreading through West Africa.

“NATO countries participate in joint exercises in which they work out logistics such as how fuel and food will be provided, what language they will speak, and what radio frequencies will be used,” Gates wrote in 2015 in the New England Journal of Medicine. “Few, if any, such measures are in place for response to an epidemic.”

He took the same message to Reddit a year later, when a commenter asked which technologies the world was better off without.

‘”I am concerned about biological tools that could be used by a bioterrorist,” Gates wrote. “However the same tools can be used for good things as well.”

Before his panel on Saturday, Gates told the Telegraph: “It would be relatively easy to engineer a new flu strain” by combining a version that spreads quickly with one that kills quickly. Unlike a nuclear war, such a disease would not stop killing once released.

At Munich, Gates ran down all the ways that the world’s great powers were unprepared: governments out of touch with the companies that make vaccines, international health departments out of touch with one another, and militaries that may not have considered responding to a biological threat.

“Who’s this alternate group that’s going to deal with the panic?” Gates said. “Who’s got the planes and the budget? Maybe the fire department?”

While some others on the panel — “Small Bugs, Big Bombs” — focused on the threat of natural diseases, Gates called for “germ games” simulations, better monitoring to spot outbreaks early, and systems to develop vaccines within weeks — rather than the 10-year lead time he said was more common.

“We need a new arsenal of weapons, antiviral drugs, antibodies, vaccines and new diagnostics,” he said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s website lists seven agents — including anthrax, plague and bleeding fevers such as Ebola — as potential ingredients in a bioterrorist’s cookbook.

The center’s sections on surveillance and “planning for all bioterrorism” cite research papers that are mostly more than a decade old.

In his New England Journal of Medicine article, Gates said the United States’s last epidemic simulation took place in 2001. At the end of President George W. Bush’s administration, a bipartisan report accused the U.S. government of doing too little to address the threat of bioterrorism. Two years into Barack Obama’s presidency, a congressional panel gave the government an ‘F’ in preparedness.

On Saturday, the Munich panelists named only a handful of countries working fast enough to identify and address the threat.

“Rwanda is a leader,” Gates said. “If an epidemic started there, we’d see it quickly.”

Meet the U.S. Nonprofit That Funds the Israeli Guards Who Terrorize Palestinians

Israeli settlements in the West Bank are illegal—but donations to the U.S. nonprofits that support them are tax-deductible. Our investigation found that one such nonprofit, the One Israel Fund, subsidizes guards who constrict the movement of Palestinians and harm their economic livelihood.

February 15, 2017

by Alex Kane


The money trail to Israeli settlements begins on a main thoroughfare in the quiet New York suburb of Cedarhurst. Inside a brownish-red building next to a Judaica gift shop, up the stairs to the second floor, and behind the glass doors of Suite 210 are the offices of the One Israel Fund.

This unassuming office on Long Island is where donors send their checks before the One Israel Fund directs the money 6,000 miles across the ocean, to Israel, to help “brave pioneers establish and maintain a safe and secure life in our Biblical Heartland.”

The bulk of the money goes to aid Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank. These settlements, located on Palestinian land conquered by Israel in the 1967 war, are considered by most of the world to be illegal under international law, as the Geneva Conventions prohibit settling conquered lands.

Between 2001 and 2014 (the years for which records are available), the One Israel Fund raised at least $26 million from donors across the United States, making it one of the wealthiest pro-settlement nonprofits in the country. Scott Feltman, the One Israel Fund’s executive vice-president, says the organization is “strictly humanitarian.” Most of the money goes to initiatives that fortify the settlements: hospitals, religious schools, playgrounds and senior centers.

“Our goal,” Feltman says, “is to make sure that the people who are living there … have what they need in order to remain secure and to live normal lives and flourish as they would anywhere else in the country.”

But not all of the One Israel Fund’s spending fits the typical definition of “humanitarian.” According to its tax records, the organization has given at least $960,000 to security personnel in Israel and the occupied West Bank. The money has gone toward armored vests, security vehicles, guard trainings and surveillance equipment.

Each settlement typically has a security director, known as a ravshatz, who is a civilian employed by the settlement but armed and specially trained by the Israeli military. (The word ravshatz—plural ravshatzim—is an acronym for the Hebrew words rakaz bitahon shotef tzahali, meaning coordinator of security with the army.) There are about 265 such security guards living in Israeli settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem and along Israel’s borders with the Gaza Strip and Lebanon. The ravshatzim are considered the settlements’ first line of defense against Palestinian militant attacks.

“We’re dealing with a situation of a constant enemy … looking to cause harm,” says Feltman. “We just try our best to fill in whatever gaps there may be to enable the communities to prevent potential attacks.”

But some of these guards harass and threaten Palestinians, according to human rights advocates and residents of Palestinian villages. Ravshatzim have opened fire upon and shot tear gas at Palestinians, and blocked Palestinians from working their farms.

The One Israel Fund says that between December 2014 and 2016, it delivered armored vests to every security guard in the occupied West Bank. Human rights groups have documented a number of alleged abuses by ravshatzim in that time period. When In These Times showed the One Israel Fund’s public social media posts to Palestinians living near settlements, they pointed to guards receiving equipment and identified them as routine harassers.

Because the One Israel Fund is a registered nonprofit, the donors who underwrite the equipment receive tax write-offs from the U.S. government. American taxpayers are effectively subsidizing settlers in the West Bank who constrict Palestinian movement and harm their economic livelihood.

A threat from the hilltop

Ravshatzim are armed by the state and fall under the authority of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). But they are paid by the settlement where they reside. This places them in a dual role. They are participants in an ideologically driven settlement process that displaces Palestinians, and they are under the command of a force meant to, at least on paper, prevent friction between settlers and Palestinians (though many critics of the occupation say that soldiers often see West Bank settlers as their partners in maintaining Israeli rule).

According to an Israeli army spokesperson, ravshatzim help maintain “the safety and security of Israeli communities” and have “been able to thwart terrorist attacks.”

While some settlement guards stick to securing their communities, others seem to spend much of their time patrolling outside the settlement. Shabtay Bendet is a former ravshatz from Yitzhar and Rechelim, and he is now a journalist for the Israeli news outlet Walla News. He tells In These Times that when he was a guard in Rechelim, he patrolled outside the settlement to “frighten” neighboring Palestinians so they would move away. Driving Palestinians off their land clears the path for settlement expansion, he explains—and expansion is a primary goal of Israel’s West Bank settlers. And by handing over equipment to guards in order to “thwart terrorist attacks,” the One Israel Fund is arguably helping to intimidate and push out Palestinians.

The Israeli settlement of Yitzhar lies deep in the northern West Bank, about an hour’s drive from Jerusalem through topsy-turvy roads. Like many Israeli settlements, it sits on a hill overlooking Palestinian villages, part of what the Israeli scholar Eyal Weizman calls the “architecture of Israeli occupation,” in which settlers on hilltops can peer down and keep a close eye on Palestinian movement.

About 1,300 settlers live in Yitzhar’s squat, one-story homes. Most are deep believers in the ideology of the Israeli settlement project, which since 1967 has grown to include a population of about 600,000 Jews. The settlers believe this is the Jews’ biblical homeland, and that they have a right to be here. Yitzhar is expanding: On hills below the main hilltop, mobile homes sprawl across the land. These are Israeli “outposts”—settlements built without government permission.

Yitzhar, which has received at least $12,900 in security equipment from the One Israel Fund, has a particular reputation for violence and extremism. The bus stop on the way out is plastered with posters declaring “Kahane was right”—a reference to Rabbi Meir Kahane, an ultra-right Israeli politician who advocated the expulsion of Palestinians from Israel and the occupied territories. Israeli human-rights groups such as B’Tselem and Rabbis for Human Rights routinely document Yitzhar settlers descending from their hilltop into the Palestinian villages below to throw rocks at farmers and set fire to olive trees.

The nearby Palestinian village of Burin, visible from the road out of the settlement, is a frequent target. According to residents of Burin, their harassers include Yitzhar’s ravshatz, Yitzhak Levy.

In August 2014, the human rights group Yesh Din helped file a criminal complaint against Levy for driving over plants on a plot of land owned by a Burin villager. According to Yesh Din, the police closed the case the following year, saying the offender was “unknown”—a common reason given when complaints against settlers are dismissed.

Yesh Din subsequently documented three separate incidents in which Levy kicked Palestinians off their land. Twice, it says, Levy reportedly threatened to kill villagers by cocking his rifle and drawing his finger across his throat. He also threatened to bring other settlers to chop down trees in Burin—no idle threat, as settlers routinely cut down trees in the village.

Several Burin residents interviewed by In These Times described the ravshatz as a singularly menacing presence. Munir Qadus, a villager, says that, according to an eyewitness he spoke with, Levy shot tear gas into a schoolyard in Burin in February 2014. Village youth responded by throwing stones. The army intervened, shooting more tear gas canisters, blanketing the schoolyard in the acrid, choking gas.

Another villager, who asked not to be named because he fears retaliation, says he has had repeated run-ins with Levy over the last two years. He says the guard has threatened to destroy his olive grove or shoot him if he returns to it. The farmer was too frightened to plow the land in fall 2015, leading to a diminished harvest the next year.

When In These Times contacted Levy to ask about these allegations his relationship with the One Israel Fund, he was unwilling to talk.

But the One Israel Fund’s Facebook page boasts of lavish donations to Yitzhar’s security operations, which its ravshatz directs. In a photo album from October 2012 titled “Itzhar – Keeping It Real,” two armed men look straight into the camera, assault rifles slung to the side, as they stand next to a thermal surveillance camera—a $10,000 tool—delivered to them by the One Israel Fund. Other photos, taken in October 2015 and in February 2016, show Marc Provisor, director of the One Israel Fund’s security projects, personally giving one of these men two armored vests, which cost $1,450 apiece. An ex-ravshatz who lives in the settlement of Shilo, Provisor travels across the West Bank handing out equipment to guards.

None of the recipients in the photos are identified. Yitzhak Levy does not have an online presence, so In These Times was unable to determine conclusively whether he appeared in the photos. However, when shown the Facebook albums, multiple Burin villagers identified the red-bearded man receiving equipment as “the ravshatz.”

Presented with claims that Levy harassed villagers and asked about its vetting process for recipients, One Israel Fund did not respond.

Life under siege

Three hours south of Burin is Kiryat Arba, an urban settlement of about 7,000. It is surrounded by a barbed wire fence and is close enough to the Palestinian city of Hebron that the Islamic call to prayer can be heard.

The One Israel Fund has provided significant support to Kiryat Arba’s security guards, subsidizing a new security vehicle and a high-tech surveillance system to monitor the perimeter.

Abd al-Kareem al-Jabari, a 59-year-old Palestinian ironworker, lives sandwiched between Kiryat Arba and the neighboring settlement of Givat Ha’avot, on land that has been in his family for generations. Since building his house in 1998, he says, his family has endured repeated attacks. Israeli settlers, he says, have thrown stones at them, burned their trees, stabbed his 10-year-old son in the stomach and beaten his 11-year-old son in the face, damaging his eye.

But it’s not only ordinary settlers who harass the family. Jabari says that Kiryat Arba guards have blocked his access to his farmland on more than one occasion. “They say, ‘It’s our land and go away,’ ” he says. “It’s just harassment.”

They’ve also come to his home, he says. In 2007, Jabari says, he was constructing a wall beside his house when two settler guards ran toward him and opened fire with their guns. While Jabari was not hurt by the gunshots, the incident shook his family.

Twenty-five members of Jabari’s family live crowded into one house, so in spring 2016, he began building another house on his property. When bulldozers came to break ground, Jabari says, a guard drove up and parked, walked onto the property and told the bulldozer driver to stop working. He then called the branch of the local military that handles matters of zoning and construction, Jabari says. The military told the guard that Jabari had the right to build.

Jabari identified this guard in a photograph on the One Israel Fund’s Facebook page. The guard is leaning on a truck with a smile; the caption reads “One Israel Fund was proud to aid in the purchase of a new security vehicle in Kiryat Arba.”

In These Times reached out to the guard for comment but was told by a Kiryat Arba security employee that he could not answer questions. The other guard identified by Jabari did not respond to requests for comment.

Human rights advocates say that no one holds the ravshatzim accountable for their actions. An Israeli army representative told In These Times that the army examines all allegations against guards and, following press reports of settler guard abuse, has taken preventative measurse, “including internal inquiries and efforts to refresh and reinforce rules and regulations for all Civilian Security Coordinators.” The spokesperson added that “a Civilian Security Coordinator indicted for committing an offense in the line of duty will be dismissed from his position.”

Getting that indictment, though, is difficult. Yesh Din has helped file 23 criminal complaints with the Israeli police against settler security guards. But the group has never secured a criminal indictment. A Yesh Din report published in 2015 found that, over the past decade, 91 percent of cases of settler violence against Palestinians or their property were closed without an indictment.

“What we typically find is that the ravshatz will say, ‘That just didn’t happen, that’s not the case,’ and then nothing comes out of the complaint,” says Yesh Din lawyer Emily Schaeffer Omer-Man. “The testimony of settlers, including ravshatzim, is given more credence than that of Palestinians.”

Charitable acts

The One Israel Fund is part of a network of pro-settlement charities in the United States that collectively raise millions of dollars from the most ardent supporters of Israel. The nonprofits draw from a small pool of right-wing donors, such as the bingo magnate Irving Moskowitz (who died last year) and the hedge funder Henry Swieca. Between 2009 and 2013, 50 pro-settlement groups raised over $220 million in the United States, according to an investigation by the Israeli daily Haaretz.

In recent years, groups such as the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee have sought to revoke pro-settlement groups’ status as 501(c)3s, which allows donations to be tax-deductible, by filing administrative complaints with the IRS.

Lawyers have also filed civil lawsuits against pro-settlement groups on behalf of Palestinians. In May 2013, the law firm Melito & Adolfsen P.C. sued the One Israel Fund and other pro-settler groups, charging that they violate U.S. laws by funding terrorism against Palestinians. Their claims rested on allegations that settlers carried out Molotov cocktail attacks, stonings and beatings targeting the Palestinian plaintiffs.

But so far, pro-settlement groups have prevailed. The lawsuit against the One Israel Fund was dismissed in May 2014. The judge ruled that the suit did not prove the groups knowingly fund terrorism, and that there was no relationship between the money given to settlements and terrorist acts. Nor has the IRS publicly responded to the challenges to the groups’ nonprofit status.

It’s a striking fact of U.S. tax policy. For decades, donors to settlement nonprofits have received tax breaks from the U.S. government, while presidents from both parties have spoken out against Israeli settlements.

But with President Donald Trump, it’s unclear whether this contrast will remain. During his presidential campaign, Trump said that he has no problem with West Bank settlement building. In fact, in 2003, Trump donated $10,000 to American Friends of the Beit El Yeshiva Center, a group that raises money for Beit El’s ravshatz, in addition to funding schools at the settlement. Trump has selected the nonprofit’s president, David Friedman, as his ambassador to Israel. But in early February, the White House said new settlement expansion may not be helpful in achieving an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal.

Mitchell Plitnick, the vice president of the anti-settlement Foundation for Middle East Peace, said that it’s important to bring “to light how much funding from settlements is coming from the United States, so that there’s a discussion within the Jewish community. People just don’t talk about it.”

Meanwhile, Palestinians are left to wonder at the fact that U.S. nonprofits are funding their tormentors.

“The settlement guards [incite] the settlers and the army to harass people more,” said Hakem, a resident of Iraq Burin who says he was harassed by a One Israel Fund-supported guard. “It’s very strange to hear about a nonprofit supporting settler violence.”

Four NATO Nations Would Pick Russia to Defend Them If Threatened: Poll

February‎ ‎17‎, ‎2017‎ ‎

by Marc Champion


Who you gonna call? For the citizens of four NATO countries asked which military power they’d want fighting on their side if attacked, the answer was simple — Russia.

That was among the findings of a multi-nation Gallup poll published just ahead of Friday’s annual gathering of the transatlantic security community in Germany that appeared to map out shifts in the post-Cold War security alliances which have come under renewed strain and scrutiny since Donald Trump’s election to the U.S. presidency.

By far the largest number of countries polled by WIN/Gallup International chose the U.S. for their go-to defense partner, suggesting that it remains the world’s only military power with truly global reach and alliances.

At the same time, however, China and Russia picked each other, war-torn Ukraine and Iraq split down the middle, while those four members of the U.S.-led North Atlantic Treaty Organization — Bulgaria, Greece, Slovenia and Turkey — plumped for Russia.

As U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis tours Europe delivering a message of tough love to NATO allies — increase spending or see the U.S. “moderate’’ its support — the poll shows the world’s gradual political reorganization around different security poles, according to Kancho Stoychev, vice president of WIN/Gallup International.

“It isn’t surprising that Russians and Chinese chose each other, but it is new,’’ said Stoychev. “It shows us something very important — that U.S. policy over the last 20 years has driven Russia into the arms of China, which is quite strange because Russia is fundamentally a part of Europe.’’

Moving Beyond

At the same time, some of the results in European NATO countries showed how their fundamental security choices were moving beyond the alliance, he said. Bulgaria and Greece, for example, see their biggest security threat coming from Turkey. Although Turkey is also a NATO member and so theoretically an ally, its invasion and occupation of Northern Cyprus in 1974 showed that these countries cannot rely on NATO to protect them, so they look to Russia.

Similarly, in Western Europe, some NATO members are increasingly looking to other Europeans for security, according to Stoychev. Although 30 percent of Belgians chose the U.S. in the survey, more chose European partners — 25 percent France and 12 percent the U.K. — while almost as many Swedes chose the U.K. (29 percent) as the U.S. (31 percent).

Chancellor Angela Merkel, who is due to address the Munich conference on Saturday and then meet with Vice President Mike Pence, warned the U.S. against retreating from its global role and insisted that NATO has been a source of American strength. Speaking to reporters in Berlin, she said that Germany is committed to eventually reaching the 2 percent of gross domestic product target, yet “questions of development aid, crisis prevention and others are just as important.”

While political and economic realities mean it will take years for most NATO allies to meet the 2 percent target that Mattis is demanding, “the Europeans are scared to death’’ by the possibility that NATO might crumble at a time when Russia has become increasingly assertive, said James Davis, dean of the school of economics and science at Switzerland’s St. Gallen University, speaking in the margins of the annual Munich Security Conference.

“If you know anything about the history of the last 200 years in Europe, this week’s announcement that the Romanians and Czechs are going to put core military units under German command is kind of shocking,’’ said Davis.

Orthodox Christian

Yet while those fears should drive NATO members together, there are so many different threat perceptions and other forces pulling it apart that it may not happen, said Davis. He noted that the Gallup poll also broadly reflects a divide between the Orthodox Christian world and Western Christianity, with Orthodox Greece and Bulgaria opting for Russia, while Ukraine and Bosnia Herzegovina — which are also religiously divided — split down the middle.

Catholic Slovenia, which largely escaped the brutal wars that accompanied the dismembering of Yugoslavia in the 1990s, was an exception in narrowly opting for Russia. So was Romania, a mainly Orthodox Christian nation that picked the U.S. But these shifts and fractures are spreading well beyond the Balkans, according to Davis.

“When I teach I have 18 year old students in front of me and I can tell you that the good old days when there was solidarity in the face of a Soviet threat is ancient history to them,’’ said Davis. He added that acceptance in European populations that the U.S. should play a leading global role had eroded badly as a result of the Iraq war and could well erode further with Trump in the White House.

WIN/Gallup International polled about 1,000 people in each of 66 countries around the world, between October and December 2016. The survey’s margin of error was plus or minus 3.5 to 5 percent.

Tentative ceasefire agreed for eastern Ukraine

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has said a truce between pro-Russian rebels and Ukraine’s army will start on Monday. But Kyiv has said it is “not at all” happy with the deal made at the Munich Security Conference.

February 18, 2017


Lavrov told reporters in Germany on Saturday that the recent uptick in violence in eastern Ukraine would come to a halt within two days.

“On February 20 the ceasefire regime will start and withdrawal of heavy military hardware will also start … We have actively supported this decision and obviously expressed a conviction that this time, failure should not be allowed to take place,” he said.

Lavrov spoke on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference, where a new deal was reached by Ukraine, Russia, Germany and France. Earlier this month, eastern Ukraine experienced the worst violence since a 2015 peace deal brought relative calm to the region.

Kyiv downbeat

But despite Lavrov describing the talks as “positive,” Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin told reporters he was “not at all” happy with the results of Saturday’s talks.

“We need a kind of powerful result, not just a couple of statements,” he told Reuters news agency.

German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel said further meetings were planned in the coming weeks to ensure the ceasefire holds. Several Western politicians have called on Moscow to use its influence with pro-Russian separatists to quell the fighting.

Merkel pressures Moscow

Earlier on Saturday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel called on Moscow to stick to the previous ceasefire agreement she helped broker in Minsk, Belarus, to bring an end to the three-year conflict between Ukrainian forces and pro-Russian separatists.

“The Minsk agreement is the only thing we have at the moment to move forward talks and the possibility of solving the problems,” she said. “When we don’t have anything else, I am against throwing something away that may still carry hope.”

Close to 10,000 people have been killed in Ukraine’s mostly Russian-speaking eastern industrial regions since the conflict began against Kyiv’s pro-Western government, after the ouster of the former Soviet Republic’s Kremlin-backed president in 2014.

Donald Trump savages media at Florida rally

February 18, 2017

BBC News

US President Donald Trump has launched another fierce attack on the media at a “campaign rally for America” event in the state of Florida.

He told the crowd in Melbourne the media did not want “to report the truth” and had their own agenda.

He also defended the achievements of his presidency so far, insisting that a spirit of optimism was sweeping the US.

Mr Trump had attacked the media at a press conference on Thursday, as pressure mounted on his presidency.

His national security adviser Michael Flynn quit earlier in the week. Mr Trump is to interview candidates for the role on Sunday.

On Saturday, President Trump and his wife Melania were greeted by thousands of supporters at the rally in a state he won in November’s election. Protesters have also promised to line the route to the venue.

In his speech, Mr Trump said he wanted to speak to Americans “without the filter of fake news”.

Describing the media as “dishonest”, he repeated his assertion that some outlets “don’t want to report the truth” and were making up their stories about him.

“We will continue to expose them,” he said, pledging to “win, win, win”.

In his speech, the president also:

  • Repeated his campaign pledge to keep America “safe” and said the country would “have strong borders again”
  • Said Americans would have “a great healthcare plan” and Obama reforms would be repealed
  • Stressed that the White House was running “so smoothly”, dismissing claims that his administration was in disarray
  • Promised to “downsize the bloated bureaucracy” and “drain the swamp” in Washington
  • Said a plan would be developed to “totally destroy” so-called Islamic State
  • Promised to create more jobs in the US and rebuild the country’s military

It is unusual for a sitting president to hold a rally in the style of those held during election campaigns.

One supporter, Gene Huber from West Palm Beach, said the decision to hold a rally was not a concern. “No jitters at all,” he told the AFP news agency. “This is a world leader now who’s taking control.”

Throughout the week, Mr Trump launched attacks on the media while indicating his excitement at facing crowds in Florida again.

On Thursday, he held a 76-minute press conference where he told reporters their level of dishonesty was out of control, citing coverage of his campaign’s alleged contacts with Moscow.

Michael Flynn, Mr Trump’s national security adviser, resigned on Monday after he misled Vice-President Mike Pence about whether he had discussed US sanctions with Russia’s ambassador before his own appointment.

Meanwhile, the New York Times reported earlier this week that members of Mr Trump’s campaign and other Trump associates had repeated contacts with senior Russian intelligence officials in the year before the election.

While in Florida, Mr Trump is staying at his Mar-a-Lago resort for the third weekend in succession. In a tweet, he referred to the property as the “Southern White House”, although the private club is part of Mr Trump’s portfolio and is not government property.

While there, he will interview four candidates for the role of national security adviser. They are:

  • Acting adviser Keith Kellogg
  • Former US envoy to the UN John Bolton
  • Lt Gen HR McMaster
  • Lt Gen Robert Caslen

Mass exodus of Polish army’s top ranks in protest over political interference from government

February 17. 2017

by Matthew Day

The Telegraph/UK

The Polish Army is on the brink of dysfunction after an exodus from its top ranks in protest over political interference by the government.

Some 26 generals and 260 top officers have left their posts in the last 16 months, frustrated with an apparent favouring of soldiers loyal to Law and Justice, Poland’s governing party, and the defence ministry’s failure to consult them on changes to the army’s structure.

The loss of senior staff has raised question marks over the government’s handling of a key Nato military at a time when Poland and the alliance face increasing security threats from Russia and the war in neighbouring Ukraine.

Stanislaw Koziej, a retired general who also served as head of Poland’s National Security Council, said the scale and the pace of the resignations pose a “risk to the effective function of the army”.

Some of those leaving are from the highest echelons of the army, including Chief of the General Staff General Mieczyslaw Gocul, who stepped down at the end of January.

Educated at staff colleges in the UK and Canada, the 53-year-old general represented a new breed of Polish officer, intimate with Nato practice and well versed in modern warfare.

His resignation came as thousands of US troops started to deploy in Poland as part of a Nato plan to bolster defences in Eastern and Central Europe.

“As you know a soldier has no other way to protest against the actions of his political superiors other than leaving the service, and that is what we are seeing,” General Koziej told The Telegraph. “The high command does not necessarily disagree with the decisions themselves but the way political power is exercised: overt political interference into the competencies of the army command, civil servants taking the role of political superiors and the politicisation of the army along party lines.

“The scale and speed of the changes generate a risk to the effective functioning of the army,” he added.

Critics claim the ruling Law and Justice party is giving top posts to party loyalists, while anybody considered politically suspect or tainted with a legacy from Poland’s communist era is removed. Similar purges are reported to be taking place in the civil service, public media and state run institutions.

The army has also been left frustrated by the siphoning off of precious resources to fund and support a new territorial defence force. Advocated for by Antoni Macierewicz, the Polish defence minister, the territorial units when up and running will be answerable to the defence ministry and outside army command, prompting fears they will become a political force but lacking the professional capabilities of highly-trained regular troops.

Poland’s government denies charges of political interference, attributing the loss of senior officers to natural processes such as retirement, and a reorganisation of the command structure of the Polish Army.

Trump administration to expand groups of immigrants to be deported: documents

February 18, 2017

by Julia Edwards Ainsley


The Trump administration plans to direct immigration agents to greatly expand the categories of immigrants they target for deportation, according to drafts of two memos seen by Reuters and first reported by McClatchy news organization on Saturday.

Two sources familiar with the plans told Reuters the documents have been approved by Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly, but are under final review by the White House. They are expected to be released to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) early next week.

Under the orders, hundreds of thousands of people would face expedited removal proceedings, including those that had not been prioritized for deportation under former President Barack Obama.

The memos are guidance to instruct agents in the field to implement two executive orders signed by Trump on Jan. 25 intended to deter future migration and drive out more illegal migrants from the United States.

One memo instructs ICE agents to ignore Obama’s memos on immigration priorities that targeted only recent arrivals and convicted criminal migrants for deportation. Instead, migrants who have been charged with crimes but not convicted would be prioritized for deportation. The guidance also allows ICE agents wide discretion in deciding who to deport and considers anyone in the United States illegally to be subject to deportation.

The guidance does leave in place Obama’s 2012 executive action that protected 750,000 people brought to the United States illegally by their parents. The fate of the policy, known as DACA, has been hotly debated within the White House, according to sources familiar with the discussions. Trump said in a news conference Friday that DACA was a “very difficult subject” for him.

The ICE memo also states that immigrants will not be afforded rights under U.S. privacy laws.

The second memo instructs CBP officers to crack down on illegal migration at the border by holding migrants in detention until a determination in their case is made.

The Department of Homeland Security did not deny any information contained in the draft memos but did not provide further detail.

A source familiar with the guidance said the memos were scheduled to be distributed on Friday but the White House made a last-minute request to review them. It is not known whether the White House may alter the guidance.

Kelly said in one of the memos that illegal immigration across the U.S. border with Mexico had “created a significant national security vulnerability to the United States.”

(Reporting by Julia Edwards Ainsley and Diane Bartz)

 TWA Flight 800: A microcosm of how fantasy is presented as fact

February 18, 2017

by Harry von Johnston. PhD

Whenever a disaster happens that, unlike a volcanic eruption or a huge forest fire, cannot be immediately explained, a great gathering of self-serving individuals begin to spout forth theories, plans, tales of “secret documents,’ and “confidential communications” with unnamed “experts.”

The purpose of expounding these weird tales generally is to draw attention to the expounder. That no reputable segment of any media bothers with discussing these theories is always attributed to control by an irate Government who are furious at the brilliance of the theorist and who spend endless hours spying on them, opening their solicitations from NAMBLA and installing microphones in their desks at the local Humane Society.

As a case in point, let us consider a well-known tragedy. First come the actual facts and then the actual fictions.

On July 17, 1996, TWA Flight 800, a Boeing 747-131 registered as N93119, took off from John F. Kennedy International Airport (New York) en route to Charles De Gaulle International Airport (Paris).

The aircraft was flying more than eight miles off the cost of East Moriches, New York (part of Long Island) when the fuel tank exploded. The aircraft banked and the front part of the aircraft broke off. The wind pushed the aircraft into a climb. Then, the aircraft went into a dive, causing the wings to break off the aircraft. Pieces of the aircraft plummeted down into the Atlantic Ocean, killing all 230 passengers on board.

After what has been billed as the longest and most expensive accident investigation in American aviation history, the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board  (NTSB) investigation found that the flammable fuel/air mixture of the center wing fuel tank probably ignited due to electrical failure in the center fuel tank, causing the plane to explode in flight.

The FBI agreed that there had been no criminal act after examining all the plane’s wreckage that had been recovered.

In May of 1997, mechanics discovered a fuel leak in a Boeing 737-200 that they believed was caused by the kind of electrical arcing suspected of causing the TWA Flight 800 fatal explosion. NTSB investigators believed that the same kind of arcing from the wiring in the center fuel tank of TWA Flight 800 sparked the explosion that brought the plane down.

As a result of extensive and very through testing, the NTSB issued an “airworthiness directive” requiring the immediate inspection of the wiring of older 747s. In April, it recommended further inspections and design changes in the wiring of 747s and in Boeing 707s and C-130 transport planes, as well.

Eight years after the crash, in February 2004, the FAA indicated that it would start the process of ordering airlines to install a fuel tank inerting system in most of their aircraft. It was stated that the order would probably actually be issued within two years, and then the airlines would be required to install the devices over the subsequent seven years. The FAA stated that, including the TWA Flight 800 crash, there had been three fuel tank explosions in airliners over the previous 14 years (the two others having occurred on the ground),

Various groups and individuals continue to maintain that the plane was downed by a bomb or missile, and that there was a subsequent cover-up to disguise the real cause of the crash.

The “terrorist theory” was, as usual, one of the first to be mentioned, especially due to the fact that the accident happened during the Summer Olympic Games in Atlanta, where a bomb exploded ten days later.

In the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, these alternate explanations have been revisited, as some officials and commentators have mentioned this disaster among lists of terrorist attacks. Cmdr. William S. Donaldson, a retired Naval officer who conducted an independent investigation, disagrees with the official theory.

According to Commander Donaldson, “jet airliners built by the American aerospace industry have logged at least 150 thousand years of flight time. Not once has there ever been a spontaneous fuel tank explosion on any fuel tank while airborne” (Letter to NTSB 11-14-97).

Donaldson concluded that the airplane was “shot down by missiles.” He interviewed hundreds of witnesses and said he reconstructed the flight paths of these missiles by triangulating the eyewitness accounts. Soon after, a photo that a passenger of a North American Airlines plane arriving at JFK supposedly took, seemed to support the missile theory because the “photo” showed a “missile” missing the NA Airlines jet narrowly.

The late Pierre Salinger, a former White House press secretary to President John F. Kennedy and ABC News journalist, prominently and repeatedly claimed he had proof that the flight was downed by a missile from a U.S. Navy ship. The documents on which he relied were later found to be vague rumors that had been distributed over Usenet, with attributions only to many “unnamed experts”.

Some people briefly gave the name of Pierre Salinger Syndrome to the tendency to believe things that one reads on the bloggers of the Internet.

One such theory has the US Navy conducting tests of submarine-to-air missiles, accidentally hitting Flight 800, and then covering up the fatal error. After initial denials, the U.S. Navy later admitted that USS Wyoming (SSBN-742), commissioned only days before, was conducting sea trials in the area, and that USS Trepang (SSN-674) and USS Albuquerque (SSN-706) were conducting unspecified operations in the area. It should be noted that all three of these submarines lacked any surface to air missile armament as part of their standard munitions load out (as do all submarines).

It is possible that any of the three subs could have been carrying MANPADS missiles. However all three subs were more than 50 miles (80 km) away from the crash site, very far outside the range of any MANPADS missile in the world.In response to these facts, the conspiracy people have suggested the possibility is that the type of missile involved may have been classified.

Another possible alternate theory involving the US Navy is that a missile was fired from the USS Normandy (CG-60), operating 185 nautical miles (340 km) south of the TWA 800 crash site. This is well outside of the range of currently deployed standard missiles carried by US ships, almost double the range of the current Block IIIB versions, and just within the future Block IV ER versions.

Even if this were a test of a Block IV version, although there is no evidence for this, at the extreme range in question the engine would have long burned out and the warhead would be gliding. This contradicts the main claim that a missile was involved, which is a number of eyewitness accounts claiming to have seen “a missile trail almost vertical under the explosion site.” Furthermore, inventories of USS Normandy’s missile complement immediately following the crash of TWA 800 showed no missiles missing from the inventory, according to the US Navy

Regardless of the very faint possibility of any number of missiles and missile launch platforms being in the vicinity of TWA 800 at the time of the accident, no evidence of any kind of a missile impact exists within the recovered wreckage, according to a study conducted by the Department of Defense’s Office of Special Technology

However, at least one individual involved at higher levels with the FBI’s portion of the recovery operations has stated publicly that he saw during his involvement predominant evidence in the state of the wreckage, the form of the wreckage field, the state of the victim’s remains, public and confidential actions by the airlines, investigation officials, and the Navy following the event, and other factors that convinced him the crash was the result of an “accidental missile strike.”

Unfortunately, they have neglected to produce their evidence, claiming that the FBI and the CIA broke into their apartment and stole it, along with certain magazines, a picture of Matt Drudge in a leather thong and a six pack of warm beer.

One of the usual “reliable eyewitnesses” was a Malvina Tidwell of Long Island who claimed she and her husband, Oscar, (since deceased) “positively identified” an Arab submarine, firing rockets, from their vantage point of the beach where they were looking for driftwood. “I knew it was an Arab sub,” Tidwell said, “because they had men with beards running around the deck and a green flag with Arab writing on it.”

Mrs Tidwell is legally blind and her husband, who also gave a long interview to the alternative media, was suffering from advanced Alzheimer’s Disease and believed that he was the illegitimate son of Harry Truman.

For instance, the following affidavit, dated January 2003 (and which looks very much like blogger information that was passed around the internet shortly after the crash), is being listed as one of the “articles of evidence” in recent FOIA suits pressed by Captain Ray Lahr against the National Transportation Safety Board: This document states he viewed “radar tapes” and took part in “phone conversations” which convinced him Flight 800 was a victim of friendly fire, and that he later passed on this information to Pierre Salinger (Note such anomalies as the doubling of every statement in the affidavit, the second half being a reworded version of the first half).

Elaine Scarry, in a number of articles in the New York Review of Books, has raised the possibility of electromagnetic interference being responsible for the accident.

It has also been suggested that an electronic death ray developed by the brilliant Nicholas Tesla and utilized by a mysterious group calling itself the Hidden Hand brought down the plane in furtherance of a plan that no one seems to know about.

The Hidden Hand was supposed to have  detonated an atomic bomb over Houston, Texas on Christmas Day of 2004 but apparently was unsuccessful as Houston, unfortunately, is still intact.

A number of strange “alternate theories” surrounding TWA 800 relied on so-called eye witness accounts as collected by the FBI. However, very few of the witnesses were within five miles (8 km) of TWA 800 at the time of the accident, according to a witness map provided by the NTSB. The vast majority of the witnesses were too far away from the accident scene to discern any significant details, and some witnesses describe events that are well beyond the visual acuity of humans

Ex- CBS Investigator Kristina Borjesson, (email: FKLB@aol.com) and co-workers (including Oliver Stone) were on a documentary project for ABC, until it was aborted. Ms. Borjesson’s “documentary” involved the scores of the usual “eyewitnesses” who were desperate for their fifteen minutes of fame and who claimed they saw “something streaking from the ocean toward the plane.”

This documentary was for a show, Declassified, that was being produced by Oliver Stone and slated to air on ABC. But the Stone connection grew controversial, and ABC canceled the program. CBS also immediately dissociated itself from Ms. Borjesson.

Josh Howard, a senior producer at 60 Minutes, said, “Her official relationship with CBS ended before she pitched that story. (About mythic ‘rocket fuel’ being found on a strip of cloth alleged to have come from one of the passenger seats on Flight 800) She had maybe a month to go on her contract. She was anxiously looking around for other projects to prolong her employment.”

The 800 flight number was retired and replaced with flight 924 after the crash, although TWA continued to operate flights between New York and Paris. In spring 2001, TWA merged with American Airlines.

Of the exposers of the Real Truth, thoroughly discredited Pierre Salinger has since died and Ms Borjesson has slipped into professional oblivion, along with many others.


Crowding into the behavioral sink: John Calhoun and the rats

Calhoun, J. B. (1962). Population density and social pathology. Scientific American, 206(3), 139-148.

The effects of crowding on our behavior is something that has interested psychologists for decades. You have probably noticed how your emotions and behavior change when you are in a situation that you perceive as very crowded. You may withdraw into yourself and try to become invisible; you might look for an escape; or you may find yourself becoming irritable and aggressive. How you react to crowding depends on many factors.

You will notice that the title of the article of discussion in this chapter uses the phrase population density rather than crowding. While these may seem very similar, psychologists draw a clear distinction between them.

Density refers to the number of individuals in a given amount of space. If 20 people occupy a 12-by-12-foot room, the room would probably be seen as densely populated. Crowding, however, refers to the subjective psychological experience created by density. That is, if you are trying to concentrate on a difficult task in that room with 20 people, you may experience extreme crowding. Conversely, if you are at a party with 20 friends in that same room, you might not feel crowded at all.

One way behavioral scientists can study the effects of density and crowding on people is to observe places where crowding already exists, such as Manhattan, Mexico City, some housing projects, prisons, and so on. The problem with this method is that all these places contain many factors that can influence behavior. For example, if we find high crime rates in a crowded inner-city neighborhood, there’s no way to know for sure that crowding is the cause of the crime. Maybe it’s the fact that people there are poor, or that there’s a higher rate of drug abuse, or perhaps all these factors combine with crowded conditions to produce the high crime rates. 250

Another way to study crowding is to put human subjects into high-density conditions for relatively short periods of time and study their reactions. While this method offers more control and allows us to isolate crowding as a cause of behavior, it is not very realistic in terms of real-life crowded environments, since they usually exist over extended periods of time. It should be pointed out, however, that both of these methods have yielded some interesting findings about crowding that will be discussed later in this chapter.

Since it would be ethically impossible (because of the stress and other potential damaging effects) to place humans in crowded conditions over long periods of time simply to do research on them, there is a third way of addressing the effects of density: Do research using animal subjects. One of the earliest and most classic series of studies of this type was conducted by John B. Calhoun (1917-1995) in 1962. Calhoun allowed groups of white rats to increase in population to twice the number that would normally be found in a space the size of a 10-by-14- foot room and observed their “social” behavior for 16 months.


Calhoun especially wanted to explore the effects of high density on social behavior. It may seem strange to you to think of rats as social animals, but they do socialize in various ways in their natural environment.

To appreciate what led Calhoun to the study being discussed in this chapter, it is necessary to back up several years to an earlier project he conducted. Calhoun had confined a population of rats to a quarter-acre of enclosed, protected outdoor space. Plenty of food was available; there were ideal protected nesting areas; there were no predators; and all disease was kept to a minimum. In other words, this was a rat’s paradise. The point of Calhoun’s early study was simply to study the population growth rate of the rats in a setting free from the usual natural controls on overpopulation (predators, disease, etc.). After 27 months, the population consisted of only 150 adult rats. This was very surprising since with the low mortality rate of adult rats in this ideal setting, and considering the usual rate of reproduction, there should have been 5,000 adults in this period of time! The reason for this small population was an extremely high infant mortality rate. Apparently, reproductive and maternal behavior had been severely altered by the stress of social interaction among the 150 rats, and very few young rats survived to reach adulthood. Even though this number of rats (150 in a quarter-acre) does not seem to be particularly dense, it was obviously crowded enough to produce extreme behavioral changes.

These findings prompted Calhoun to design a more controlled and observable situation inside the lab in order to study more closely what sorts of changes occur in the rats when they are faced with high population density. In other words, he had observed what happened, and now he wanted to find out why.


In a series of three studies, either 32 or 56 rats were placed in a 10-by-14-foot laboratory room that was divided into four sections or pens (see Figure 1). There were ramps that allowed the rats to cross from pen 1 to pen 2, from pen 2 to pen 3, and from pen 3 to pen 4. It was not possible for the rats to cross directly between pen 1 and pen 4. Therefore, these were end-pens. If a rat wanted to go from 1 to 4, it would have to go through 2 and 3.

The partitions dividing the pens were electrified, so the rats quickly learned that they could not climb over them. These pens consisted of feeders and waterers and enclosures for nests. The rats were supplied with plenty of food, water, and materials for building nests. In order to observe and record the rats’ behavior there was a viewing window in the ceiling of the room.

From his years of studying rats, Calhoun was aware that this particular strain normally is found in colonies of 12 adults. Therefore, the observation room was of a size to accommodate 12 rats per pen, or a total of 48. After the groups were placed in the room, they were allowed to multiply until this normal density was nearly doubled to 80. Once the population level of 80 was reached, young rats that survived past weaning were removed so that the number of rats remained constant.

With this arrangement in place, all that was left was to observe these crowded animals for an extended period of time and record their behavior. These observations went on for 16 months.


It is important to keep in mind that the density of the rats was not extreme; in fact, it was quite moderate. If the rats wanted to spread out, there would only have to be 20 or so per pen. But this is not what happened. When the male rats reached maturity, they began to fight with each other for social status as they do naturally. These fights took place in all the pens, but the outcome was not the same for all of them. If you think about the arrangement of the room, the two end-pens only had one way in and out. So when a rat won a battle for dominance in one of these pens, he could hold his position and territory (the whole pen) simply by guarding the entrance and attacking any other male that ventured over the ramp. As it turned out, only one male rat ended up in charge of each of the end-pens. However, he was not alone. The female rats distributed themselves more or less equally over all four pens. Therefore, the masters of pens 1 and 4 each had a harem of 8 to 12 females all to themselves. And they didn’t take any chances. In order to prevent infiltration, the males took to sleeping directly at the foot of the ramp and were always on guard.

On occasion, there were a few other male rats in the end-pens, but they were extremely submissive.

They spent most of their time in the nesting burrows with the females and only came out to feed. They did not attempt to mate with the females. The females in these pens functioned well as mothers. They built comfortable nests and nurtured and protected their offspring. In other words, life for most of the rats in these end-pens was relatively normal and reproductive behavior was successful. About half of the infant rats in those pens survived to adulthood.

The rest of the 60 or so rats crowded into the middle two pens. Since these two pens each had central feeding and watering devices, there were many opportunities for the rats to come in contact with each other. The kinds of behaviors observed among the rats in pens 2 and 3 demonstrate a phenomenon that Calhoun termed the behavioral sink. A behavioral sink is “the outcome of any behavioral process that collects animals together in unusually great numbers. The unhealthy connotations of the term are not accidental: A behavioral sink does act to aggravate all forms of pathology that can be found within a group” (p. 144). Let’s examine some of the extreme and pathological behaviors he observed:

  1. Aggression. Normally in the wild, male rats will fight other male rats for dominant positions in the social hierarchy. These fights were observed among the more aggressive rats in this study as well. The difference was that here, unlike in their natural environments, top-ranking males were required to fight frequently in order to maintain their positions and often the fights involved several rats in a general brawl. Nevertheless, the strongest males were observed to be the most normal within the center pens.

However, even those animals would sometimes exhibit “signs of pathology; going berserk; attacking females, juveniles, and less active males; and showing a particular predilection—which rats do not normally display—for biting other rats on the tail” (p. 146).

  1. Submissiveness. Contrary to this extreme aggression, other groups of male rats ignored and avoided battles for dominance. One of these groups consisted of the most healthy-looking rats in the pens. They were fat and their fur was full, without the usual bare spots from fighting. However, these rats were complete social misfits. They moved through the pens as if asleep or in some sort of hypnotic trance, ignoring all others, and were, in turn, ignored by the rest. They were completely uninterested in sexual activity and made no advances, even toward females in heat.

Another group of rats engaged in extreme activity and were always on the prowl for receptive females.

Calhoun termed them probers. Often, they were attacked by the more dominant males, but were never interested in fighting for status. They were hypersexual and many of them even became cannibalistic!

  1. Sexual deviance. These probers also refused to participate in the natural rituals of mating. Normally, a male rat will pursue a female in heat until she escapes into her burrow. Then, the male will wait patiently and even perform a courtship dance directly outside her door. Finally, she emerges from the burrow and the mating takes place. In Calhoun’s study, this ritual was adhered to by most of the sexually active males except the probers. They completely refused to wait and followed the female right into her burrow. Sometimes the nests inside the burrow contained young that had failed to survive, and it was here that late in the study the probers turned cannibalistic.

Another group of male rats was termed the pansexuals because they attempted to mate with any and all other rats indiscriminately. They sexually approached other males, juveniles, and females that were not in heat. This was a submissive group that was often attacked by the more dominant male rats, but did not fight for dominance.

  1. Reproductive abnormalities. Rats have a natural instinct for nest building. In this study, small strips of paper were provided in unlimited quantities as nest material. The females are normally extremely active in the process of building nests as the time for giving birth approaches. They gather the material and pile it up so that it forms a cushion. Then they arrange the nest so that it has a small indentation in the middle to hold the young. However, the females in the behavioral sink gradually lost their ability (or inclination) to build adequate nests. At first they failed to form the indentation in the middle. Then, as time went on, they collected fewer and fewer strips of paper so that eventually the infants were born directly on the sawdust that covered the pen’s floor.

The mother rats also lost their maternal ability to transport their young from one place to another if they felt the presence of danger. They would move some of the litter and forget the rest, or simply drop them onto the floor as they were moving them. Usually these infants were abandoned and died where they were dropped. They were then eaten by the adults. The infant mortality rate in the middle pens was extremely high, ranging from 80% to 96%.

In addition to these maternal deficits, the female rats in the middle pens, when in heat, were chased by large groups of males until they were finally unable to escape. These females experienced high rates of complications in pregnancy and delivery. By the end of the study, almost half of them had died.


You might expect that a logical extension of these findings would be to apply them to humans in high-density environments. However, for reasons to be discussed shortly, Calhoun did not draw any such conclusions. In fact, he discussed his findings very little—probably assuming, and logically so, that his results spoke volumes for themselves. He did comment on one clear result: that the natural social and survival behaviors of the rats were severely altered by the stresses associated with living in a high-population-density environment. In addition, he noted that through additional research, with improved methods and refined interpretation of the findings, his studies and others like them may contribute to our understanding of similar issues facing human beings.


As with many of the studies in this book, one of the most important aspects of Calhoun’s studies was that they sparked a great deal of related research on the effects on humans of high-density living. It would be impossible to examine this large body of research in detail here, but perhaps a few examples should be mentioned.

One environment where the equivalent of a behavioral sink might exist for humans is in extremely overcrowded prisons. A study funded by the National Institute of Justice examined prisons where inmates averaged only 50 square feet each (or an area about 7-by-7 feet), compared with less crowded prisons. It was found that in the crowded prisons there were significantly higher rates of mortality, homicide, suicide, illness, and disciplinary problems (McCain, Cox, & Paulus, 1980). Again, however, remember that other factors besides crowding could be influencing these behaviors.

Another interesting finding has been that crowding produces negative effects on problem-solving abilities. One study placed people in small, extremely crowded rooms (only 3 square feet per person) or in larger, less crowded rooms. The subjects were asked to complete rather complex tasks, such as placing various shapes into various categories while listening to a story on which they were to be tested later. Those in the crowded conditions performed significantly worse than those who were not crowded (Evans, 1979).

Finally, what do you suppose happens to you physiologically in crowded circumstances? Research has determined that your blood pressure and heart rate increase. Along with those effects, you tend to feel that other people are more hostile and that time seems to pass more slowly as density increases (Evans, 1979).


Calhoun’s results with animals have been supported by later animal research (see Marsden, 1972). However, as has been mentioned before in this book, we must always be careful in applying animal research to humans. Just as substances that may be shown to cause illness in rats may not have the same effect on human physical health, environmental factors influencing rats’ social behaviors may not be directly applicable to people. At best, animals can only represent certain aspects of humans. Sometimes animal research can be very useful and revealing and lead the way for more definitive research with people. At other times, it can be a dead end.

In 1975, a study was undertaken in New York City that attempted to replicate with people some of Calhoun’s findings (Freedman, Heshka, & Levy, 1975). Data were collected for areas of varying population density on death rates, fertility rates (birth rates), aggressive behavior (court records), psychopathology (admissions to mental hospitals), and so on. When all the data were analyzed, no significant relationships were found between population density and any form of social pathology.

Nevertheless, Calhoun’s work in the early 1960s focused a great deal of attention on the psychological and behavioral effects of crowding. This line of research, as it relates to humans, continues today.


John Calhoun died on September 7,1995, and left behind a legacy of insightful and historically meaningful research. The kinds of social problems discussed by Calhoun in his 1962 article are increasingly relevant to the human condition. Consequently, when scientists undertake research to better understand and intervene in such problems as aggression, infertility, mental illness, or various forms of social conflict, it is not unusual for them to make reference to Calhoun’s research on crowding and behavioral pathology.

An interesting study citing Calhoun’s work, examined changes in animal behavior that accompany domestication (Price, 1999). This author contended that species of animals that are domesticated, that is, kept as pets, have undergone genetic and developmental changes over many generations that have altered their behaviors in ways that allow them to share a common living environment with humans. Basically, what Price is suggesting is that as wild animals have become domesticated over centuries, they have had to adapt to human settings that are very different from their original habitats. This usually includes living in peaceful harmony (most of the time, at least) with others of their own species, other animal species, and humans, usually in relatively crowded conditions. This is accomplished, the author contends, through the evolution of increased response thresholds, meaning it takes a lot more provocation for a domesticated animal to become territorial and aggressive. In other words, dogs, cats, and humans are all able to live together in a relatively small space without running away or tearing each other to pieces as would occur among non-domesticated animals in the wild.

In a different direction, an article by Torrey and Yolken (1998) incorporated Calhoun’s study in examining the association between growing up in crowded conditions and the development of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder (manic-depression): Many studies have found that people who are raised in high-density urban environments are at increased risk for these psychological disorders later in life. Numerous factors are present in crowded, urban settings that may account for such increased risks. However, the authors of this study hypothesized that it is not the increased density of living conditions in the neighborhood, but rather in the individual homes (more people occupying less space) that may explain the higher rates of mental illness later in life. Why? This study contended that exposure to a larger number of infectious agents may account for this association.

Finally, a related study found a possible key difference in human reactions to population density compared to animals. In animal studies, pathology appears to increase in a linear way as a direct result of increased density: as one increases the other increases. However, a study by Regoeczi (2002) found that for humans, the effect of household population density on social withdrawal and aggression actually decreased as the number of people in a single household increased. However, this effect was only observed until the number of people exceeded the total number of rooms; very much beyond that, the antisocial effects begin to appear with increasing density. In other words when living conditions are such that, say, 5 people occupy a 3-room apartment or 7 people are squeezed into a 4-room house, the tendency for people to withdraw and/or display more aggression increases. Two possible causes may be at work here. Either density is causing the pathology, or people who are more withdrawn or more aggressive end up in less crowded living situations, by choice or by ostracism, respectively.

These studies demonstrate how social scientists are continuing to explore and refine the effects of density and crowding. The causes of social pathology are many and complex. The impact of population density, first brought to our attention by Calhoun over 40 years ago, is only one, but a very crucial, piece of the puzzle.


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