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TBR News June 14, 2018

Jun 14 2018

The Voice of the White House 

Washington, D.C. June 14, 2018: “Eliezer ‘Elie’ Wiesel aka Wiesel Lázár; born September 30, 1928 and died July 2, 2016 wass a Romanian-born Jewish  writer, professor, political activist. In a  California court case, Elie Wiesel, a self-styled eyewitness of the so called Holocaust, stated under oath in a court case that while at Auschwitz he was tattooed on his left arm with the number: A7713.

Wiesel added that his father’s tattooed number was: A7712.

But, according to a former prisoner at Auschwitz, Hungarian Jew Miklos Gruner, who was at the camp the same time claimed by Elie Wiesel, the number A7713 was assigned to a very different person, Gruner’s friend: a Lazar Wiesel, NOT Elie Wiesel.

The first names “Elie” and “Lazar” are diminutives of the Hebrew name, Eleazar. Thus, Gruner contends, Elie Wiesel  committed a crass deception and imposture by pretending to be Gruner’s friend and former fellow prisoner, Lazar Wiesel.

First of all, let’s take a close look at Elie Wiesel’s left arm. And while we’re at it, at his right arm as well. Evidently, no sign of an imprinted tattoo can be seen.

Second, Gruner – who in his book Identity Theft sets out to prove that Elie Wiesel is a fraud – received a letter from the Auschwitz Museum in October of 2003, affirming that the number, A7713, claimed by Elie Wiesel as his, was indeed in fact assigned to Gruner’s friend, Lazar Wiesel, recorded as being born on September 4 1913, NOT September 30 1928, the birth date of Elie Wiesel.

The Auschwitz Museum Letter also affirmed to Gruner that the number, A7712, which Elie Wiesel attributes to his father Shlomo, was actually given to Abraham Wiesel, Lazar’s older brother.

In his book, Night, Elie Wiesel opens with the statement that upon arriving at Auschwitz-Birkenau in June of 1944 when Wiesel was only 15, he saw before him: “Gigantic flames leaping up from a ditch into which Jewish babies were thrown.”

Gruner calls this an outright lie, asserting in his book, Identity Theft: “I had never seen ditches with open fire where children were burning.”

This was later verified in 1988 by American Federal Court expert in execution technology, Fred Leuchter, who reported that Auschwitz, being built upon a swamp with a high water table, made it impossible for bodies to be burned in ditches.

In January of 1945, the Auschwitz prisoners, which included Miklos Gruner and his friend, Lazar Wiesel, were transferred to Buchenwald.

Liberated by the Americans that spring, a photo was taken by a US soldier that was later entitled, “Crowded Bunks in the Prison Camp at Buchenwald.”

Elie Wiesel had referred to this photo as proof of his internment, and had pointed to a man on the second row as being himself.

Again, Gruner says “No!” noting that the man Wiesel claims to be himself was a man in his thirties and not a boy of 16, the age Elie Wiesel would have been at the time.

Note that the man had an aquiline nose and has full lips while the teenage Wiesel’s nose is obviously concave and his lips, thin.

The thirty-year-old looking man also has a receding hair line while the hairline of Wiesel when a teen was well up to the base of his forehead.

In 1986, Miklos Gruner was invited to meet Elie Wiesel in Stockholm. The Swedish hosts informed him that this was the same person he knew in the camps under the name Lazar Wiesel.

Upon meeting Elie Wiesel, Gruner said afterward: “I was stunned to see a man I didn’t recognize at all – he was certainly not my friend and fellow prisoner.”

Gruner also recalled that he was surprised that Wiesel could not speak Hungarian but spoke English with a strong French accent even though Elie Wiesel claims he grew up in Sighet, Hungary.

Gruner and all the other evidence makes a strong case that the Nobel Prize Laureate Wiesel was nothing less than an impostor!”

The Table of Contents

  • Biggest obstacle to Trump dealing with North Korea is his political foes at home
  • New York sues to dissolve Trump Foundation, cites illegal conduct
  • Apple to undercut popular law-enforcement tool for cracking iPhones
  • Apple strikes blow to Facebook as it clamps down on data harvesting
  • DW’s Health News: Lifestyle-related cancers on the rise
  • Israel’s use of lethal force ‘could amount to war crimes’
  • The Knesset officially declares that Israeli democracy is for Jews only
  • UN votes to blame Israel for excessive force against Palestinians in Gaza
  • US upsets China with new de facto embassy in Taiwan
  • Erdogan threatens ‘operation’ against Moody’s for Turkey review
  • Turkish lira touches record low as Erdogan pledges more govt control of economy
  • Canadian citizen held for months after border agents dismiss papers as fake
  • Antarctica ramps up sea level rise
  • No vacancy: Housing crisis dogs Florida Keys months after Irma

 Biggest obstacle to Trump dealing with North Korea is his political foes at home

June 14, 2018

by Finian Cunningham


President Donald Trump appeared to blindside everyone this week when he announced he was cancelling “war games” on the Korean Peninsula as a gesture of peaceful intent towards North Korea.

If Trump stands by that commitment then it will be key to a successful resolution of the decades-old conflict, with the specific result of North Korea fulfilling its vow to scrap nuclear weapons.

Significantly, following his meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, Trump referred to the annual joint military exercises between US and South Korean forces as “provocative” and “inappropriate” in the new context of peaceful exchange.

Until recently, the Trump administration – like previous US administrations – had refused to consider a reciprocal move over suspending its war maneuvers on the Korean Peninsula in return for North Korea’s nuclear disarmament.

Trump appeared to abandon that policy in a personal and spontaneous token of goodwill to Chairman Kim when the two leaders held historic face-to-face talks on Singapore’s Sentosa Island this week.

Even the Pentagon seemed to be caught by surprise, as were US allies Japan and South Korea.

Trump’s Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has followed up with visits to his South Korean and Japanese counterparts to “assure” them that US defense pacts are “ironclad”.

Notably, however, Pompeo did not resile from Trump’s announcement of cancelling the joint military drills due to take place later this year.

In a follow-on trip to Beijing, Pompeo accepted Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi’s stated position that “security guarantees” to North Korea were essential for delivering on a denuclearization process for the Korean Peninsula.

What this comes down is that the Trump administration has, in effect, adopted the formula prescribed by both China and Russia of a “freeze-freeze” trade-off.

Over the past year, Beijing and Moscow have been consistently calling for a step-by-step process of diplomatic engagement between the US and North Korea, whereby the latter’s commitment to decommission its nuclear weapons is met by the Americans scaling back their military forces.

In particular, the issue of annual joint military exercises has long been a big bone of contention for North Korea. Indeed, not only North Korea, but neighboring China and Russia as well.

Ever since the end of the Korean War (1950-53), the US has mobilized tens of thousands of troops, warships and warplanes every year in what it calls “defense drills”. The military exercises occur twice a year and are conducted with South Korean forces, as well as with Japanese.

Given that the Korean War was never officially ended with a formal peace treaty, but rather only with a truce, the North Korean side has sound reason to be alarmed by these large-scale maneuvers. The exercises include the deployment of nuclear-capable warplanes in practice bombing sorties. Even more provocatively, the US-led forces carry out rehearsals for “decapitation strikes” on North Korea aimed at exterminating the countries leadership.

Seen from North Korea’s point of view, this background of relentless threat and intimidation is the main impetus for the nation embarking on a clandestine nuclear weapons program – as a matter of self-defense and survival.

If the Americans take away the perceived existential threat from their massive military presence on North Korea’s borders, then there is an opportunity for North Korea to seriously consider disarmament of its nukes.

To his credit, President Trump seems to have belatedly realized just how destabilizing those military exercises are, especially in the present context of confidence-building with North Korea in a process of denuclearization.

The US war games were cancelled before during the 1990s when the Clinton administration tried to dissuade North Korea from developing nuclear weapons. During the subsequent GW Bush administration, the Americans backtracked on certain commitments of financial and technological aid to Pyongyang, according to former State Department official Lawrence Wilkerson. That was a major factor in why North Korea resumed its nuclear program, which culminated in building the bomb under present leader Kim Jong-un.

It remains to be seen whether Trump will stick to his avowed cancelling of war games.

A US military spokesperson in South Korea was quoted as saying they “had not received any instructions to cease training exercises, and a joint drill planned for the autumn would go ahead unless they were instructed otherwise.”

Following Trump’s surprise announcement in Singapore, it seemed that the Pentagon had not been consulted on the proposal to halt maneuvers. It now remains to be seen if Trump has enough practical authority over Washington military planners to implement his offer to North Korea.

There is also the question of US allies in the region putting pressure on Washington. Immediately after the Singapore summit, Japan’s Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera expressed concern, saying that the joint US drills were “vital to East Asian security”.

South Korea has taken a more pragmatic approach. Like the Pentagon and Japan, Seoul appeared to be blindsided by Trump’s cancellation plan. But President Moon Jae-in’s office has since hinted that South Korea is prepared to go along with suspending military exercises in order to “further dialogue”.

Probably the biggest obstacle to Trump’s engagement with North Korea is his political enemies at home. Reaction to his meeting with Kim from Democrats and large sections of the anti-Trump news media was negative. The president was castigated for giving too many concessions to Kim and for affording North Korea a “propaganda victory”.

One can envisage a media campaign being whipped up over the coming months for Trump to resume military exercises on the Korean Peninsula as a way to demonstrate “support for our allies” in the face of “North Korean aggression”.

This, ironically, underscores why Trump and Kim need to work closely together to implement a reciprocal peace deal. If North Korea delivers on its commitment to begin a measurable disarmament process and Trump reciprocates with security guarantees then the entire process can move forward with success.

South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in has a crucial role to play too. President Moon is dedicated to a comprehensive peace settlement between the two divided Koreas and the eventual denuclearization of the peninsula. The South Korea leader is well aware that the North needs and deserves security guarantees.

It can be expected therefore that the South Korean leadership will back Trump in his prudent call for dropping the war games.

Any objective observer can readily understand that the only way to reach a sustainable peace settlement is for all sides to stand down the antagonisms.

It is only a conceited American notion that its forces are somehow “defensive” and “benign”. If there is to be a constructive engagement for peace then the US side must listen to what North Korea’s grievances are. A major grievance is the intimidation from US forces operating on a massive scale along its borders.

Trump appears to have acquired that insight. The president has eschewed a high-handed, imperious stance of demanding unilateral concessions from North Korea. That way is unworkable and fraught with explosive tensions.

Trump at last has realized that with regard to North Korea, it takes two to tango.

New York sues to dissolve Trump Foundation, cites illegal conduct

June 14, 2018

by Jonathan Stempel


NEW YORK (Reuters) – New York’s attorney general on Thursday sued U.S. President Donald Trump, three of his children and his namesake foundation, alleging “persistently illegal conduct” at the nonprofit including support for Trump’s 2016 campaign.

Barbara Underwood, the attorney general, asked a New York state judge to dissolve the Donald J. Trump Foundation, and impose bans on Trump, his sons Donald Jr and Eric, and his daughter from holding leadership roles in New York charities.

Underwood said her office’s 21-month investigation, begun under her predecessor Eric Schneiderman, uncovered “extensive unlawful political coordination” by the foundation with Trump’s campaign, as well as “repeated and willful self-dealing” to benefit Trump’s personal and business interests.

The Republican president attacked the lawsuit in a series of tweets that blamed Democratic politicians in his home state.

“The sleazy New York Democrats, and their now disgraced (and run out of town) A.G. Eric Schneiderman, are doing everything they can to sue me on a foundation that took in $18,800,000 and gave out to charity more money than it took in, $19,200,000,” Trump wrote. “I won’t settle this case!”

The Trump Foundation issued a statement criticizing the lawsuit as “politics at its very worst” and accusing the attorney general of holding its $1.7 million in remaining funds “hostage for political gain.”

The lawsuit adds to legal problems affecting Trump, including a probe by Special Counsel Robert Mueller into whether Trump’s 2016 campaign colluded with Russia. Trump and Russia have denied there was any collusion.

The lawsuit filed in the state Supreme Court in Manhattan is seeking $2.8 million of restitution plus penalties, a 10-year ban on Trump serving as a director of a New York nonprofit, and one-year bans for his children.

“As our investigation reveals, the Trump Foundation was little more than a checkbook for payments from Mr. Trump or his businesses to nonprofits, regardless of their purpose of legality,” Underwood said in a statement. “That is not how private foundations should function.”

Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Additional reporting by Ginger Gibson and Doina Chiacu in Washington and Brendan Pierson in New York; Editing by David Gregorio and Chizu Nomiyama

Apple to undercut popular law-enforcement tool for cracking iPhones

June 13, 2018

by Joseph Menn


SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – Apple Inc (AAPL.O) said on Wednesday it will change its iPhone settings to undercut the most popular means for law enforcement to break into the devices.

The company told Reuters it was aiming to protect all customers, especially in countries where phones are readily obtained by police or by criminals with extensive resources, and to head off further spread of the attack technique.

The privacy standard-bearer of the tech industry said it will change default settings in the iPhone operating system to cut off communication through the USB port when the phone has not been unlocked in the past hour.

That port is how machines made by forensic companies GrayShift, Cellebrite and others connect and get around the security provisions that limit how many password guesses can be made before the device freezes them out or erases data. Now they will be unable to run code on the devices after the hour is up.

These companies have marketed their machines to law enforcement in multiple countries this year, offering the machines themselves for thousands of dollars but also per-phone pricing as low as $50.

Apple representatives said the change in settings will protect customers in countries where law enforcement seizes and tries to crack phones with fewer legal restrictions than under U.S. law. They also noted that criminals, spies and unscrupulous people often use the same techniques. Even some of the methods most prized by intelligence agencies have been leaked on the internet.

“We’re constantly strengthening the security protections in every Apple product to help customers defend against hackers, identity thieves and intrusions into their personal data,” Apple said in a prepared statement. “We have the greatest respect for law enforcement, and we don’t design our security improvements to frustrate their efforts to do their jobs.”

Apple began working on the USB issue before learning it was a favorite of law enforcement.

The setting switch had been documented in beta versions of iOS 11.4.1 and iOS12, and Apple told Reuters it will be made permanent in a forthcoming general release.

Apple said that after it learned of the techniques, it reviewed the iPhone operating system code and improved security. It decided to simply alter the setting, a cruder way of preventing most of the potential access by unfriendly parties.

With the changes, police or hackers will typically have an hour or less to get a phone to a cracking machine. That could cut access by as much as 90 percent, security researchers estimated.

This also could spur sales of cracking devices, as law enforcement looks to get more forensic machines closer to where seizures occur. Undoubtedly, researchers and police vendors will find new ways to break into phones, and Apple will then look to patch those vulnerabilities.

The setting change could also draw criticism from U.S. law enforcement officials who have been engaged in an on-again, off-again campaign for legislation or other ways to force technology companies to maintain access to users’ communications.

Apple has been the most prominent opponent of those demands. In 2016, it went to court to fight an order that it break into an iPhone 5c used by a killer in San Bernardino.

Then-FBI Director James Comey told Congress that without compelling Apple to write new software to facilitate the digital break-in, there would be no way to learn if the shooter’s device contained evidence of a conspiracy. The FBI ultimately found a contractor that broke into the phone without Apple’s cooperation.

Apple and most private security experts argue that government contractors and others can usually find means of cracking devices. They also say that weakening encryption by design would lead to more hacking by those outside of government.

Until recently, current FBI Director Christopher Wray repeatedly claimed that the Bureau had been unable to get into more than 7,000 phones in 2017. Last month, the Washington Post reported that the true number was less than a third as high. The FBI blamed “programing errors.” wapo.st/2lbOiUd

Reporting by Joseph Menn; Editing by Greg Mitchell and David Gregorio

 Apple strikes blow to Facebook as it clamps down on data harvesting

Rules appear to target services like Onavo Protect, which claims to protect user data even as it feeds information to Facebook

June 13, 2018

by Olivia Solon

The Guardian

Apple has updated its rules to restrict app developers’ ability to harvest data from mobile phones, which could be bad news for a Facebook-owned data security app called Onavo Protect.

Onavo ostensibly provides users with a free virtual private network (VPN) which, it claims, helps “keep you and your data safe when you browse and share information on the web”. What is not immediately obvious is that it feeds information to Facebook about what other apps you are using and how much you are using them back to the social networking giant.

“The problem with Onavo is that it talks about being a VPN that keeps your data private, but behind the scenes it’s harvesting your data for Facebook,” said Ryan Dochuk, CEO of the paid-for VPN TunnelBear. “It goes against what people generally expect when they use a VPN.”

Onavo has been a Trojan horse for Facebook (in the classical sense, not as malware), allowing it to gather intelligence on the apps people use on tens of millions of devices outside its empire. This real-time market research highlights which apps are becoming popular and which are struggling. Such competitive intelligence can inform acquisition targets and negotiations as well as identify popular features it could copy in rival apps it.

As first reported by Bloomberg, Apple’s new App Store rules explicitly ban the collection of “information about which other apps are installed on a user’s device for the purposes of analytics or advertising/marketing”, which appears to be intentionally worded to clamp down on apps like Onavo.

“Apple has been very clear that it’s pro-privacy,” ,” said Joseph Jerome, a privacy specialist from the Center for Democracy and Technology, “and with every iteration of iOS [Apple’s mobile operating system] has been trying to restrain the ability of apps to know what’s going on on the device if a user hasn’t authorised it.”

Onavo started life in Tel Aviv in 2010 as a startup that helped people reduce their wireless bills by compressing incoming data on an iPhone or Android device. It also highlighted which apps were using the most data. For mobile publishers, it provided analytics to help them keep track of how their apps were performing against competitors. In May 2013, it launched a VPN called Onavo Protect, which promised to protect people’s data when they were browsing the web from their phone on a public wifi network.

Facebook bought the company in October 2013 for an undisclosed sum, estimated to be between $100m and $200m.

VPNs work by redirecting and encrypting all data leaving your computer, phone or tablet and sending it to another server in another location. They position themselves as tools for protecting people’s privacy and security, but that very much depends on who is running the VPN and how they make their money.

“This server is in a really privileged position,” said Dochuk. “Essentially, it needs 100% of consumer trust because 100% of their data is going through that server.”

This means whoever runs the VPN knows which apps are installed on your device and how much you use them; which websites you visit; and your device type and location.

There are some VPNs, such as TunnelBear, that cover their server and bandwidth costs through paid subscriptions and others, like Hola and Onavo, that provide a free service to the end user, but extract value from the data they collect or by selling people’s unused bandwidth.

“If you’re not paying with your money you are probably paying with your data,” said Will Strafach, a security specialist who has analysed the Onavo app.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Facebook employees have put the Onavo data to good use by monitoring the performance of rival Snapchat, particularly after Facebook’s Instagram app launched similar features. Onavo’s data also reportedly helped guide Facebook’s decision to buy WhatsApp for $19bn in 2014 and to clone the popular group video chat app Houseparty.

In written questions following CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s congressional testimony in April, lawmakers asked Facebook whether its use of data gleaned from Onavo violated the privacy consumers expect of a VPN.

Facebook said that it explained what data it would receive when a user installed the app.

“This helps us improve and operate the Onavo service by analysing your use of websites, apps and data,” Onavo Protect’s App Store messaging reads. “Because we’re part of Facebook, we also use this info to improve Facebook products and services, gain insights into the products and services people value, and build better experiences.”

Users have to accept these terms before using the app.

The company has acknowledged it uses Onavo to monitor competitors, but it insists this is not unusual: “Websites and apps have used market research services for years.”

Facebook said it did not connect the app usage data collected through Onavo to the data collected from an individual’s Facebook account.

Strafach said it would be easy for Facebook to connect the data if the person also had the Facebook app installed on their phone.

“You just have to trust that they are not doing that,” he said.

Given Facebook’s recent track record with data privacy, that trust may have slightly eroded.

DW’s Health News: Lifestyle-related cancers on the rise

Did you know that your lifestyle can influence your cancer risk? Or that tea towels can make you sick? DW brings you this week’s health news, all in one handy guide right here!

June 13, 2018

by Larissa Warneck


Global rise in lifestyle-related cancers

The number of cancers related to unhealthy lifestyles has increased over the past ten years, according to a study by the Global Burden of Disease Cancer Collaboration. Lung cancer, which is greatly associated with smoking, was found to be the most common deadliest type of cancer, with two million diagnoses and 1.7 million deaths in 2016. Bowel cancer is the second most common cancer. In 2016, approximately 1.7 million people were diagnosed and 830,000 people died from it. The researchers believe that “Western” diets play a role in the incidence rates of bowel cancer. The highest incidence was found in the Netherlands, and the lowest rates were in Gambia. The occurrence of skin cancer was also greatly related to our exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light, but also to a person’s “innate protection” through skin tone. Although cancer isn’t merely caused by lifestyle, but also genetic factors, these recent data suggest that your lifestyle can reduce or increase your risk of developing a form of cancer. So, quit smoking, eat healthily, protect yourself from the sun, and exercise regularly.

Stressful job stresses heart

People in stressful jobs, such as nurses, secretaries, bus drivers and assembly line workers have a nearly 50 percent higher risk of developing atrial fibrillation. People usually suffer from work stress in jobs with high psychological demands and with little control over their work situation. Atrial fibrillation is the most common heart rhythm disorder, causing up to 30 percent of all strokes. Symptoms include palpitations, fatigue and weakness, light headedness or dizziness, and shortness of breath. If you have a stressful and demanding job, make sure to look after yourself: mindfulness training, such as meditation or yoga, can lower stress levels, as well as taking regular exercise and having a healthy diet.

Culprits on kitchen towels

Most of us know that our kitchens host billions of microorganisms – some of them bad, most of them harmless. But most people handle raw meat and fish in their kitchens and that greatly increases the risk of contamination. Pathogens enjoy damp and warm places, such as kitchen towels. Once there, the risk of cross-contamination is especially high: you think you might be drying your plate, but in fact you’re spreading millions of bacteria onto it. In a recent study, researchers found that the amount of bacteria found on kitchen towels increases in larger households, where more people live, and where there are children. Some of the bacteria that researchers found could cause food poisoning, indicating that the tea towels they tested had been handled unhygienically. Kitchen towels should only be used as long as they are dry, exchanged once a day or at least once a week, and washed at high temperatures to kill off pathogens. The study’s findings were presented at an annual meeting of the American Society for Microbiology in Atlanta.

Foods that fight disease

We know that what we eat greatly influences our health. Now, researchers at the Nutrition 2018 convention in Boston have put together a list of foods that fight different diseases. For instance, a study conducted by the University of Virginia suggests an egg a day improves blood sugar levels and insulin resistance in overweight and obese people. The researchers say eggs can reduce type 2 diabetes risk factors. Meanwhile, researchers at Tufts University, Massachusetts, say eating 1.5 ounces (42.5 grams) of pecan nuts daily can reduce the risk of cardiometabolic disease and type 2 diabetes. Neurological disorders, such as Parkinson’s, may be prevented by eating green leafy vegetables and berries, according to scientists at Rush University, Chicago. And scientists at the University of Massachusetts say that the complex carbohydrates found in edible mushrooms can fight inflammation. And the best news is for coffee lovers: In a study of over 14,000 people, Johns Hopkins researchers discovered that people who drink at least three cups of coffee a day have a lower risk of liver disease.

Israel’s use of lethal force ‘could amount to war crimes’

HRW accusation comes ahead of UN General Assembly meeting to discuss Israel’s excessive use of force in Gaza.

June 13, 2018

Al Jazeera

Israel’s use of lethal force against Palestinian protesters along the Gaza Strip border in recent weeks could amount to war crimes, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said on Wednesday.

The rights group accused Israel of repeatedly using live ammunition “with apparent lethal intent” against Palestinian demonstrators who posed no imminent threat to life.

“Israel’s use of lethal force when there was no imminent threat to life has taken a heavy toll in life and limb,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch.

“The international community needs to rip up the old playbook, where Israel conducts investigations that mainly whitewash the conduct of its troops and the US blocks international accountability with its Security Council veto, and instead impose real costs for such blatant disregard for Palestinian lives.”

Palestinians in the besieged coastal enclave have been staging protests demanding their right to return to the homes and lands their families were expelled from 70 years ago.

Since the protests, dubbed the Great March of Return, began on March 30, Israeli forces have killed 124 Palestinians and wounded more than 3,800 others.

At least 40 Palestinians have had to have their limbs amputated as a result of Israel’s actions along the Gaza border, according to the rights group.

Israeli authorities allege that its soldiers were acting in self-defence and had adhered to the rules of engagement to deter protesters from breaching the fence.

In a controversial ruling earlier in May, Israel’s top court deemed the military’s rules of engagement – and the use of live ammunition – compatible with domestic and international law, arguing that the protests fall into the category of a state of war.

The HRW report came ahead of an emergency UN General Assembly meeting on Wednesday to vote on a resolution condemning Israel’s “excessive use of force.”

Meanwhile, the United States voted against a Kuwait-drafted UN Security Council resolution on June 2 calling for the protection of Palestinian civilians.

US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley described the resolution as “grossly one-sided” as she pinned the blame on much of Palestinians’ suffering on the Hamas movement, which governs the strip.

The Palestinian government in turn submitted in May a referral to the International Criminal Court in The Hague calling on prosecutors to investigate what it called Israel’s “widespread and systematic” crimes.

Israel, however, contends that the Palestinian move is “legally invalid”, seeing that Israel is not a member of the ICC and the court does not have jurisdiction over it.

Israel has been accused of committing war crimes in its three wars in the Gaza Strip over the past decade.

The Knesset officially declares that Israeli democracy is for Jews only

June 13, 2018

by Yossi Gurvitz


In a rare act, the Presidency of the Knesset (a ten-member group representing most parties) last week disqualified a bill moved by Israeli Palestinian parliamentarians from coming to a debate or vote. The bill in question was named “Basic Law: Israel [is a] State of All Its Citizens.”

As the names hints, the bill would have declared that Israel belongs not to its Jews but to all its residents. The Knesset Presidency decided the bill was too dangerous to come to a vote.

The bill was put forward by the Joint List, a mega-party composed of three Israeli-Palestinian parties, forced to run together because the Zionist majority hiked the percentage of votes needed for a seat in the Knesset to 4%, which none of the parties would pass on its own, in an explicit attempt to ban them.

The chances of the bill passing even a preliminary reading was slim: similar to the chance that a baked pig, an apple in its mouth, would spread its wings and fly. The following parties supported the Presidency decision: Likud, Labor, Yesh Atid, Kulanu, Israel Beteinu and Torah Judaism. A member of another party, Betzalel Smotrich of the Jewish Home (Naftali Bennett’s party), abstained, saying that even though he thought the decision was justified, he did not think the Presidency had the authority to disqualify a bill.

Together with the eight Members of Knesset of the Jewish Home, the Presidency could field 95 MKs out of 120 to vote the bill down. And yet, it was considered too dangerous to debate.

Just what was so problematic in the bill? The Knesset legal counsel, Eyal Yanon, said it clearly:

“[The bill] contains several articles which are meant to change the character of Israel from the national state of the Jewish People into a state which grants equal status, from the national point of view, to the Jewish nation and the Arab nation.”

That is, the very debate about the bill would have raised troubling questions, proving yet again that a Jewish state and a democratic one cannot co-exist. They’re a contradiction in terms. A democratic country allows for a peaceful change of its form of regime. Capitalistic Great Britain lived under a socialist government. Almost every democratic country (sorry, Switzerland!) granted women the vote in the 1910’s or 1920’s. The franchise in the US today does not resemble what it was in 1791 or even 1871. Western countries have changed – not without blood and fire, true – from a regime controlled by the upper and bourgeois classes to one that, through gritted teeth, was forced to give rights to the working classes. This came about as a result of a stubborn struggle, which often had a grassroots wing, but always had a parliamentary one.

This wasn’t so long ago: As Obama noted in his Selma March speech, the marchers were “called Communists, half-breeds, outside agitators, sexual and moral degenerates, and worse – everything but the name their parents gave them.” The Selma march was the grassroots wing; the violence used by the white regime – violence which is essential, without which, without the “grave downhill” which is necessary for “taking the top” – forced the parliamentary wing, always more hesitant and “decent”, always a few steps behind the activist wing, to accept the Civil Rights Acts.

Even though relatively passive, the parliamentary wing is critical. No peaceful change can come without it.

Now the Zionist parts of the Knesset struck down the option of parliamentary change. There can be only one regime in Israel: a Jewish one. Democracy is a surplus: in Hebrew we say “medina Yehudit ve’democratit.” A state Jewish and democratic. But the “ve” meaning “and” precedes democratic. The state’s Jewishness is essential; democracy, less so.

But what is this “Jewish state” all about? Embarrassingly, the parties which disqualified the bill can’t seem to agree on that. It’s not easy, nowadays, to know the Likud’s position; as part of its metamorphosis into the monarchical party of the House of Netanyahu, it did not publish a platform in the last two elections. But there are sharp disagreements between Lapid’s party, Yesh Atid, between Labor and the Jewish Brotherhood, and even between the placeholders MKs in Lieberman and Kachlon’s parties there are endless divisions on just what “Jewish state” means.

But on one point, all these parties can agree: Be the Jewish state what it will, whatever face it will wear, it will not be the state of the Israeli Palestinians, and its features will never reflect theirs.

Liberal Zionists have been fond, for the past 50 years, of wasting precious oxygen and time on the question whether there can be a Jewish state which is also democratic. However, in reality as it is lived, not in some ideal, Platonic plane: that is, in the reality as it is shaped by the representatives of the vast majority of Israel’s Jews, 20% of the country’s citizens may not express, in the highest forum of the body politic that calls itself Israel, their views as to the ways the country should be governed and how it would express itself to its citizens.

They can vote, yes; they can even be voted into office; but they cannot have any influence. And we allow them to be elected, more and more, because we desperately need to pretend to the world we’re not Russia, not yet anyway.

The diminishing of the rights of the Palestinians MKs is a slow, slippery process. During the two earlier Knessets, no bills were disqualified. The last time this power was used, in the 18th Knesset (elected in 2009), it was used – you guessed it – to quash two bills authored by a Palestinian MK, Ahmed Tibi. Prior to this case, no use of this power was made.

At the same time, the Knesset and its homo sovieticus chairman, Yuli Edelstein, are busy promoting the Nationality Bill, which will delimit the space allowed Palestinian Israelis even more. The Knesset has made its choice; now let it live with it.

Update: ‘Adala, a human rights organization dealing with protecting the rights of Israeli Palestinians, has petitioned the High Court of Justice, demanding it will declare the Presidency decision illegal.

UN votes to blame Israel for excessive force against Palestinians in Gaza

The UN General Assembly has voted to condemn Israeli violence against Palestinian protesters in Gaza. A US attempt to blame Hamas failed to pass.

June 14, 2018


The UN General Assembly on Wednesday adopted by a sweeping majority a resolution condemning Israel for killing Palestinians in Gaza and rejected a US attempt to pin the blame on Hamas.

The resolution put forward by Algeria, Turkey and the Palestinians secured 120 votes in the 193-member assembly, with 8 votes against and 45 abstentions. The resolution came in response to a similar resolution being vetoed by the United States in the 15-member UN Security Council earlier this month.

The resolution deplores Israel’s use of “excessive, disproportionate and indiscriminate force” against Palestinians, particularly in Gaza.

Australia, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, Togo and the Solomon Islands joined the United States and Israel in voting against the resolution. Germany abstained.

Deaths and injuries

More than 120 Palestinian protesters in Gaza have been killed by Israeli soldiers since late March, as well as nearly 4,000 injured. Israel blames Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, for inciting the protests. No Israelis have been killed.

The resolution goes further in requesting UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres develop proposals “on ways and means for ensuring the safety, protection and well-being of the Palestinian civilian population under Israeli occupation, including … recommendations regarding an international protection mechanism.”

The idea of an international protection force was put forward at  meeting  of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation in Istanbul last month, but would need the support of the UN Security Council where the United States has a veto.

The resolution also calls for “immediate steps towards ending the closure and the restrictions imposed by Israel on movement and access into and out of the Gaza Strip.”

Israel and Egypt have maintained a blockade on Gaza since Hamas took control of the strip in 2007. The blockade and Israeli offensives in Gaza in 2008 and 2014 have turned Gaza into a humanitarian catastrophe, with the UN warning it will be unlivable for its 2 million inhabitants by 2020.

The resolution did condemn rockets fired from Gaza into Israel, but did not explicitly mention Hamas. About 70 rockets were fired into Israel from Gaza on May 29, most of which were intercepted by Israel’s missile defense system.

Reaction from Israel and US

Israeli UN Ambassador Danny Danon told the General Assembly before the vote that in supporting the Arab and Islamic backed resolution UN members were supporting a “terrorist organization” and “empowering Hamas.”

The United States sought to add an amendment to the resolution blaming Hamas for “inciting” violence. The amendment received 62 votes in favor, with 58 against and 42 abstentions. However, it failed to get the two-thirds majority needed to be adopted.

US Ambassador Nikki Haley called the resolution biased against Israel.

“For some, attacking Israel is their favorite political sport. That’s why we are here today,” said Haley. “I wish everyone supporting this one-sided resolution would put as much energy into encouraging President Abbas to the negotiating table,” she said.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is a rival of Hamas and has imposed punitive measures on Gaza. In recent days he has faced protests in the West Bank from Palestinians opposed to his policies against Hamas.

Palestinians officials have said they no longer view the US as a neutral arbiter in any negotiations with the Israelis since US President Donald Trump decided to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and move the US embassy there in May.

US upsets China with new de facto embassy in Taiwan

China’s Foreign Ministry has already lodged a complaint with the US over the new American Institute in Taiwan building. US officials say the complex represents the “strength and vibrancy of the US-Taiwan partnership.”

June 12, 2018


In a move likely to increase tensions between the US and China, the United States opened a $256 million (€225 million) representative office in Taiwan’s capital on Tuesday.

The American Institute in Taiwan has functioned as Washington’s de facto embassy in democratic self-ruled island Taiwan since 1979.

It was opened to conduct relations with Taiwan following Washington’s decision to switch diplomatic recognition to Beijing.

The new building is a significant upgrade from the low-key military building that AIT has used for decades and will serve as the representative office later this summer, AIT Director Kin Moy said at the opening ceremony.

The site spreads over 6.5 hectares (14 acres), including Chinese gardens, in Taipei’s Neihu district. AIT’s Taipei office has almost 500 American and local employees, while its Kaohsiung branch has more than 30 staff members.

China’s Foreign Ministry has lodged stern representations with the United States about the new AIT building, spokesman Geng Shuang said on Tuesday.

‘Close cooperation’

Moy said the new building was “a symbol of the close cooperation and enduring friendship between the United States and Taiwan.”

The US has no formal diplomatic relations with Taiwan but continues to have close economic, political and security ties with the democratic self-ruled island. It is Taiwan’s strongest ally and only foreign arms supplier.

Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen said the complex was a confirmation of the countries’ commitment to a “vital relationship.”

“The friendship between Taiwan and the US has never been more promising. The great story of Taiwan-US relations remains to be filled with the efforts of those that will one day occupy this building,” Tsai said.

Marie Royce, the US’s assistant secretary of state for educational and cultural affairs, said the complex was a symbol of the strength and vibrancy of the countries’ partnership.

“We have faced many trials along this journey, but we have risen to the challenge at every turn, knowing that our shared commitment to democracy would see us through,” said Royce, the highest-ranking State Department official to visit Taiwan since 2015.

‘US cannot be their savior’

In an editorial on Tuesday, the state-run newspaper the Global Times called on Chinese officials to warn their counterparts in Taiwan and the United States against provocation.

“The mainland must continue to build up its deterrence against Taiwanese authorities, making them know that the US cannot be their savior,” the editorial read.

‘US cannot be their savior’

In an editorial on Tuesday, the state-run newspaper the Global Times called on Chinese officials to warn their counterparts in Taiwan and the United States against provocation.

“The mainland must continue to build up its deterrence against Taiwanese authorities, making them know that the US cannot be their savior,” the editorial read.

China continues to claim the island under its “one China” policy, which Taiwan rejects, and hostility toward Taiwan has only grown in Beijing since President Tsai was elected in 2016.

Officials suspect that Tsai wants to push for formal independence.

Recently, Taiwan lost two diplomatic allies after they switched ties to China, while some international companies have changed their websites to show the island as part of China.

Erdogan threatens ‘operation’ against Moody’s for Turkey review

June 14, 2018


Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has pledged to deal with rating agency Moody’s following the parliamentary election after the company’s analysts placed Turkey on review for a downgrade.

“God willing, we will conduct an operation against Moody’s after June 24,” Erdogan told the Ankara-based Anadolu Agency. “Moody’s is making unnecessary statements despite the fact that we are not a member of it. What a shame.”

According to the Turkish president, the US rating agency was pointedly putting Turkey in a difficult situation. The comments come two weeks on from Moody’s putting Turkey on review for a downgrade just months after it cut the country’s credit rating. On June 1, the rating agency said that a lack of clarity about Turkish economic policy had put at risk the country’s Ba2 ratings.

The decision was reportedly taken amid “expectation that the recent erosion in investor confidence in Turkey will continue if not addressed through credible policy actions following the June elections.” The agency also said that “the credibility of Turkey’s policy institutions has been undermined by the ineffectiveness of monetary policy, in part reflecting political interference in the policymaking process.”

Last month, the Turkish lira hit a record low of 4.92 against the US dollar, forcing the country’s central bank to raise rates to tackle a potential currency crisis. Despite that, Turkey managed to raise 4 billion dollars through a bond sale earlier this year, according to the country’s treasury. However, investors are alarmed by the upcoming elections and Erdogan’s promise to take tighter control of monetary policy.

EU endorses counter trade tariffs against the US

The retaliatory tariffs against US duties should be in place by late June or early July

June 14, 2018


European Union countries on Thursday unanimously endorsed a plan to impose import duties on $3.3 billion worth of US products in response to Washinton’s tariffs on steel and aluminium imports from the Canada, the EU, and Mexico, EU sources said.

“Member states have today unanimously supported the commission’s plan for the adoption of rebalancing measures on the US tariffs,” a European Commission source told AFP, adding that they would be implemented “in coming days.”

The retaliatory tariffs against painful duties should be in place by late June or early July.

The “counter-balancing measures” still need to be adopted by the European Commission, whose next meeting is scheduled on June 20.

The EU’s hit-list of products targeted for tariffs with the US reads like a catalogue of emblematic American exports – from blue jeans to motorbikes and whiskey.

Brussels first drew up the list in March when Trump initially floated the 25 percent tariffs on steel imports and 10 percent on aluminium.

‘Trade dispute’

The tariffs, imposed by US President Donald Trump, include a 25 percent tariff on steel imports and a 10 percent tariff on aluminium imports.

Mexico in response to the US tariffs, announced it will impose tariffs on US imports, including pork bellies, apples, grapes, cheeses and flat steel, among other products.

Canada also promised retaliatory tariffs worth $12.8bn on US exports including steel, aluminium, whiskey and orange juice.

The US singles out China, the world’s leading steel producer, as the country it wishes to exclude through tariffs; but China accounts for only 2.4 percent of US steel imports, and both the US and the EU have already slapped punitive tariffs that raise the cost of Chinese steel imports.

Transatlantic ties are at their lowest level for many years due to rows over a host of issues including the tariffs, the Paris climate agreement, the Iran nuclear deal and the new US embassy in Jerusalem.

Turkish lira touches record low as Erdogan pledges more govt control of economy

May 15. 2018


President of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan has announced more state control in the country’s fiscal and economic policy. This triggered a further sell-off in the Turkish lira.

Erdogan announced the measures in a recent interview with Bloomberg. They will come after the presidential election in July, which will end Turkey’s transition to a presidential republic and is set to consolidate Erdogan’s political power.

While the central bank will remain independent, the president will have more control over its decisions, Erdogan announced. “I will take the responsibility as the indisputable head of the executive in respect of the steps to be taken and decisions on these issues,” he said in the interview broadcast Tuesday.

Erdogan’s words sent the lira to a fresh record low of 4.3990 against the dollar. The Turkish currency has slid 13 percent this year. Yields on 10-year government bonds have surged to the highest level in eight years.

Last week, Erdogan criticized the work of the central bank, which has increased interest rates to 13.5 percent from 12.75 percent. “If my people say continue on this path in the elections, I say I will emerge with victory in the fight against this curse of interest rates. Because my belief is: interest rates are the mother and father of all evil,” he said in a meeting with Turkish businessmen.

According to Erdogan, the president is the one people blame for weak monetary policy, and he wants to make sure that he is seen as a president with a strong arm in economics.

“They will hold the president accountable. Since they will ask the president about it, we have to give off the image of a president who is effective in monetary policies,” he said.

“This may make some uncomfortable. But we have to do it. Because it’s those who rule the state who are accountable to the citizens,” he added.

Canadian citizen held for months after border agents dismiss papers as fake

Olajide Ogunye, 47, is suing for $10m after eight months in custody despite producing citizenship documents and a government-issued health card

June 14, 2018

by Leyland Cecco in Toronto

The Guardian

A Canadian man is suing the country’s government after he was arrested by border agents and detained for eight months – despite producing evidence of his citizenship.

Olajide Ogunye, 47, is seeking $10m in compensation from the Canadian government after he spent months incarcerated in what his lawyer has described as a “profoundly disturbing” case of mistaken identity.

Ogunye was approached by border agents and detained outside his Toronto home in June 2016, even though he produced citizenship papers and a government-issued health card.

The agents disputed the validity of the documents and brought him to a detention facility near Toronto Pearson airport, where they fingerprinted him and alleged his prints matched those of a fraudulent refugee claimant who was deported to Nigeria in the 1990s.

“It is shocking,” said Adam Hummel, Ogunye’s lawyer. “Even people who are having their citizenship revoked … are not detained like this.”

The results of the fingerprint analysis – which Hummel says were never shown to his client – were contradicted by numerous sworn affidavits by friends and neighbours who had known Ogunye for years.

Ogunye, who immigrated to Canada from Nigeria with his family and became a citizen in 1996, was moved between Maplehurst correctional facility and Central East correctional centre.

Near-constant security lockdowns – a problem plaguing prisons and jails throughout the country – prevented him from making contact with family members. Traumatized by his detention, he was placed on suicide watch.

“One time, for the whole month, I was crying nonstop. I was crying continuously, he told the CBC. ”The nurse had to give me depression pills to make me calm down.”

Ogunye was released in February 2017. Canada Border Services Agency alleged fraud and impersonation by Ogunye as justification for his detention. It is CBSA policy not to comment on cases before the court.

Targeted arrests, like the one that ensnared Ogunye, are common for clearing a backlog of immigration violations, said a number of lawyers working in immigration and refugee law.

But the arrest of a Canadian citizen by border guards is nearly unheard of, said Max Chaudhary, a Toronto-based immigration lawyer. “That’s simply not what [border] officers do. Their mandate is not with Canadian citizens.”

Chaudhary speculated that if border officials believed Ogunye was a foreign national or permanent resident violation immigration laws, it could explain the duration of the detention – and slow pace in which investigation unfolded.

“It seems quite incredible there could be a case of mistaken identity that could not have been cleared up in a faster amount of time, having this person deprived of his liberty for eight months,” he said.

Ogunye’s case is indicative of a broken system, said Lorne Waldman, a professor of immigration law at Osgoode Hall. Despite years of lobbying for oversight of the agency’s conduct – and assurances from the public safety minister Gooddale that such mechanisms would be put in place – Wadlman said no progress has been made

“Because there’s no oversight, there’s nobody who reviews the conduct of CBSA officers and this matter was allowed to drag on for months and months. It’s extremely unacceptable.”

Hummel and his client charge that the government breached Ogunye’s constitutional rights; he filed the case in Ontario Superior Court on 30 May.

“The very fact that this happened someone who was approached and showed he was a Canadian citizen means that it could happen to anyone if this is how [border agents] are operating,” he said.

Antarctica ramps up sea level rise

June 13, 2018

University of Leeds

Summary:Ice losses from Antarctica have increased global sea levels by 7.6 mm since 1992, with two fifths of this rise (3.0 mm) coming in the last five years alone. The findings are from a major climate assessment known as the Ice Sheet Mass Balance Inter-comparison Exercise (IMBIE). It is the most complete picture of Antarctic ice sheet change to date — 84 scientists from 44 international organizations combined 24 satellite surveys to produce the assessment.

Ice losses from Antarctica have increased global sea levels by 7.6 mm since 1992, with two fifths of this rise (3.0 mm) coming in the last five years alone.

The findings are from a major climate assessment known as the Ice Sheet Mass Balance Inter-comparison Exercise (IMBIE), and are published today in Nature. It is the most complete picture of Antarctic ice sheet change to date — 84 scientists from 44 international organisations combined 24 satellite surveys to produce the assessment.

The assessment, led by Professor Andrew Shepherd at the University of Leeds and Dr Erik Ivins at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California, was supported by the European Space Agency (ESA) and the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).

Their findings show that, prior to 2012, Antarctica lost ice at a steady rate of 76 billion tonnes per year — a 0.2 mm per year contribution to sea level rise. However, since then there has been a sharp, threefold increase. Between 2012 and 2017 the continent lost 219 billion tonnes of ice per year — a 0.6 mm per year sea level contribution.

Antarctica stores enough frozen water to raise global sea level by 58 metres, and knowing how much ice it is losing is key to understanding the impacts of climate change today and in the future.

Professor Shepherd said: “We have long suspected that changes in Earth’s climate will affect the polar ice sheets. Thanks to the satellites our space agencies have launched, we can now track their ice losses and global sea level contribution with confidence.

“According to our analysis, there has been a step increase in ice losses from Antarctica during the past decade, and the continent is causing sea levels to rise faster today than at any time in the past 25 years. This has to be a concern for the governments we trust to protect our coastal cities and communities.”

Dr Ivins said: “The added duration of the observing period, the larger pool of participants, various refinements in our observing capability and an improved ability to assess both inherent and interpretive uncertainties, each contribute to making this the most robust study of ice mass balance of Antarctica to date.”

The threefold increase in ice loss from the continent as a whole is a combination of glacier speedup in West Antarctica and at the Antarctic Peninsula, and reduced growth of the ice sheet in East Antarctica.

West Antarctica experienced the largest change, with ice losses rising from 53 billion tonnes per year in the 1990s to 159 billion tonnes per year since 2012. Most of this came from the huge Pine Island and Thwaites Glaciers, which are retreating rapidly due to ocean melting.

At the northern tip of the continent, ice shelf collapse at the Antarctic Peninsula has driven a 25 billion tonne per year increase in ice loss since the early 2000s.

The East Antarctic ice sheet has remained close to a state of balance over the past 25 years, gaining just 5 billion tonnes of ice per year on average.

Josef Aschbacher, ESA’s Director of Earth Observation Programmes, said: “CryoSat and Sentinel-1 are clearly making an essential contribution to understanding how ice sheets are responding to climate change and affecting sea level, which is a major concern.

“While these impressive results demonstrate our commitment to climate research through efforts such as our Climate Change Initiative and scientific data exploitation activities, they also show what can be achieved by working with our NASA colleagues. Looking to the future, however, it is important that we have satellites to continue measuring Earth’s ice to maintain the ice-sheet climate data record.”

Isabella Velicogna, professor of Earth system science, University of California, Irvine, and senior research scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said: “Gravity measurements from the joint NASA and German Aerospace Center (DLR) GRACE mission help us track the loss of ice mass in the polar regions and impacts on sea level at points around the planet. The data from these spacecraft show us not only that a problem exists but that it is growing in severity with each passing year.”

Eric Rignot, professor of Earth system science, University of California, Irvine, and senior research scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said: “Measurements collected by radar satellites and Landsat over the years have documented glacier changes around Antarctica at an amazing level of precision, so that we have now a very detailed and thorough understanding of the rapid changes in ice flow taking place in Antarctica and how they raise sea level worldwide.”

Benjamin Smith, senior principal investigator, University of Washington Applied Physics Lab, said: “We’re at a really exciting time in Antarctic glaciology, in that we have a lot of mature technologies for measuring ice-sheet changes that were not available when I started in the field in the early 2000s.

“The IMBIE-2 work shows that these have come together just in time to let us watch some really important changes in the West Antarctic Ice Sheet and in the Peninsula. Over the next few years we’re going to see some more types of data, from ICESat-2, GRACE-FO, and NISAR, that should let us keep watching Antarctica change in even finer detail.”

Dr Pippa Whitehouse, NERC Independent Research Fellow at Durham University, said: “Satellites have given us an amazing, continent-wide picture of how Antarctica is changing. The length of the satellite record now makes it possible for us to identify regions that have been undergoing sustained ice loss for over a decade.

“The next piece of the puzzle is to understand the processes driving this change. To do this, we need to keep watching the ice sheet closely, but we also need to look back in time and try to understand how the ice sheet responded to past climate change.”

Michiel van den Broeke, professor of polar meteorology at Utrecht University, said: “To enhance the interpretation of ice sheet mass changes as observed by satellites requires accurate modelling of the amount of snowfall on the ice sheet, something that cannot be reliably measured from space yet.

“Our model results prove that mass loss from the Antarctic ice sheet is caused by acceleration of ice flow in West Antarctica and the Antarctic Peninsula, and that mass variations in East Antarctica are mainly driven by snowfall fluctuations.”

No vacancy: Housing crisis dogs Florida Keys months after Irma

June 14, 2018

by Zachary Fagenson


MARATHON, Fla. (Reuters) – For eight months Terri Metter has made her home in a government trailer parked along a debris-clogged canal in the Florida Keys and she considers herself lucky since Hurricane Irma forced many of her former neighbors to move off the once-idyllic archipelago.

Metter has been bunked down in temporary housing supplied by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) since November, after the Category 4 storm, with winds of up to 130 miles per hour (209 kph), strafed nearby Cudjoe Key on Sept. 10, 2017.

“A few people are finding housing on boats or they’re sleeping on couches, but a lot of people who work here can’t afford to stay and it’s a sad thing,” said the 50-year-old bookkeeper and bartender in Marathon, a city made up of 13 tiny islands about 50 miles east of Key West and 115 miles southwest of Miami.

Though much of mainland Florida escaped major damage, the Keys were devastated. The resort islands, stretching southwest from the tip of the Florida Peninsula into the Gulf of Mexico, are connected by a single, narrow highway that runs along a series of bridges and causeways.

The hurricane destroyed almost 1,200 homes in Monroe County, which includes the Keys and parts of the mainland that are almost entirely in Everglades National Park. That figure excludes trailers, a popular form of housing in the Keys, and homes damaged so severely that owners simply abandoned them.

Overall, 84 people in Florida died as a result of Irma, and the region, including other southeastern states, suffered an estimated $50 billion worth of damage, according to the National Hurricane Center.

As the hurricane approached, Metter evacuated and stayed with family in Michigan, but returned a month later to see the devastation in her neighborhood, where only eight of 50 trailers and homes remained intact. Rotting debris and seaweed filled her home, and she decided rebuilding was the only option.

Others had no choice but to live elsewhere. A lack of affordable, safe housing forced many of those who work in the Keys’ numerous restaurants and hotels to move to the mainland, officials said.

“Folks are living in unlawful spaces that don’t meet code, unsafe spaces, and they have been doing it because they want to be there and it’s the only way they can afford to be there,” said Jaimie Ross, president of the Florida Housing Coalition.

Monroe County Commissioner George Neugent expects many who lost their homes or suffered major damage to never come back. In 2016, the county’s population totaled about 79,000, almost all of them residing in the Keys, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

“I’m estimating between 15 and 25 percent of our population is going to be lost and we lose more and more every day,” he said.

To put a dent in the housing deficit, Monroe County has teamed with private developers and donors on a plan to build homes capable of withstanding 200 mile-per-hour winds that are affordable for hospitality workers. Florida Governor Rick Scott and state lawmakers are also weighing a proposal for 1,300 new housing units for workers in the Keys.

The construction cannot come fast enough as the region braces for what this year’s hurricane season, which began June 1, will bring to the region.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Climate Prediction Center expects the season to be a near-normal to above-normal season in terms of the number and intensity of storms.

The long recovery from Irma and the previous hurricane season has raised doubts with many, said Neil Curran, 45, a contractor and waiter who lost the 42-foot sailboat where he lived off Key West during last year’s storm.

While Curran is renting a new boat after bouncing around more than a dozen FEMA-funded hotel rooms, he said he knew of at least two dozen friends who have left the islands, and more on the cusp of leaving.

“Over the summer, we’re going to see a pretty big mass exodus,” he said.

Reporting by Zachary Fagenson; editing by Ben Klayman, Frank McGurty and G Crosse

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