TBR News June 30, 2017

Jun 30 2017

The Voice of the White House

Washington, D.C., June 30, 2017:”The United States is not run by the President and Congress but by an entrenched bureaucracy, aided by an oligarchy composed of right-wing pseudo-intellectuals and business interests. Congress, and the President, follow their instructions or are undermined and attacked in the media until they become powerless to resist the needs of their controllers. Trump is proving himself to be a blusterer who makes public compulsive statements, promises he never keeps and manages very successfully to antagonize increasingly larger circles of people. He made nice-nice with the President of Taiwan. After a visit from the President of the PRC, he reversed himself and later, swung back to support of Taiwan. He is viewed in foreign capitols as impulsive and eccentric and it is known in certain circles that WikiLeaks has a thick stack of material on Trump which, if released to the public, would do him serious harm. We live in interesting times and those who like peace and quiet can move to Miami and buy a wetsuit to use when they go to their living room.”

Table of Contents

  • TV hosts charge Trump is unstable, accuse him of blackmail
  • ‘It’s a tense environment’: Media braced for further hostility fueled by Trump
  • Republicans rebuke Donald Trump over TV host facelift tweets
  • Make No Mistake, We Are Already at War in Syria
  • Why The Elites Hate Putin
  • U.S. plans to sell Taiwan about $1.42 billion in arms
  • The Invention of the Cold War-1948
  • How can we manage Earth’s land?

TV hosts charge Trump is unstable, accuse him of blackmail

June 30, 2017

by Doina Chiacu


WASHINGTON-Two television hosts attacked by U.S. President Donald Trump questioned the Republican leader’s mental health on Friday and accused him of trying to exert pressure on them over unfavorable coverage, calling it blackmail.

Trump drew a barrage of criticism on Thursday, including from his fellow Republicans, after he called Mika Brzezinski, a co-host of the MSNBC “Morning Joe” program, “low I.Q. Crazy Mika” and said she was “bleeding badly from a face-lift” when she visited his Mar-A-Lago estate around New Year’s Eve.

He referred to her co-host Joe Scarborough, a former Republican U.S. congressman, as “Psycho Joe.”

The two television anchors, who were on friendly terms with Trump early in the 2016 presidential campaign but have been critical of him since he took office, responded with a column in The Washington Post on Friday.

“This year, top White House staff members warned that the National Enquirer was planning to publish a negative article about us unless we begged the president to have the story spiked. We ignored their desperate pleas,” they wrote.

Scarborough added on the “Morning Joe” show on Friday that he received calls from three top administration officials asking the co-hosts to call Trump and apologize for their coverage of his administration. They told him that if he called and apologized, Trump would get the story killed, Scarborough said.

“The calls kept coming, and kept coming. And they were like ‘Call, you need to call. Please call. Come on, Joe. Just pick up the phone and call him,'” Scarborough said. “It’s blackmail.”

In a Twitter message on Friday, Trump effectively denied the allegation, giving a different version of what transpired around the National Enquirer piece.

“Watched low rated @Morning_Joe for first time in long time. FAKE NEWS. He called me to stop a National Enquirer article. I said no! Bad show,” he wrote.

There was no immediate comment from the National Enquirer. The tabloid specializes in scandalous stories about celebrities and has been supportive of Trump.

In the Post column, Brzezinski and Scarborough lambasted Trump as mentally unstable, saying he had an “unhealthy obsession” with their television program, and cited what they called his continued mistreatment of women.

On the “Morning Joe” show, Brzezinski, a daughter of former White House national security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski, said her main concern was how such behavior affects the country.

“I am very concerned as to what this once again reveals about the president of the United States,” said Brzezinski, who is engaged to be married to Scarborough.

Trump uses Twitter prolifically and often as a vehicle to attack critics, including the “Morning Joe” hosts, but Thursday’s tweets were seen by many as offensive.

Brzezinski and Scarborough dismissed as lies Trump’s claims, made in the Thursday Twitter messages, that he refused to have dinner with them or that Brzezinski had had a face lift.

They also said they had seen a change in the president over the last few years.

“President Trump launched personal attacks against us Thursday, but our concerns about his unmoored behavior go far beyond the personal. America’s leaders and allies are asking themselves yet again whether this man is fit to be president,” they wrote in the Post column.

(Reporting by Doina Chiacu; Editing by Frances Kerry)


‘It’s a tense environment’: Media braced for further hostility fueled by Trump

Recent concessions by CNN and the New York Times have emboldened opponents of the press – and they’re taking their lead from the president

June 29, 2017

by Edward Helmore

The Guardian

Mew York-Legal experts are warning of a chilling effect on the media after a series of apparent climbdowns by leading news organisations have increasingly emboldened opponents of the press, including Donald Trump.

“It’s a tense environment,” said Samantha Barbas, an expert in first amendment and communications law at the University of Buffalo. “Public confidence in the media is at an all-time low, people are more sensitive about their reputations and more protective of their privacy. When you have those things, people feel bolder about taking the media on.”

Barbas added that while public distrust of the press predated Trump’s election, “there’s no question that the president’s media-bashing has contributed to public sentiment against the media”.

The warning comes after the former Republican vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin filed a $75,000 defamation lawsuit against the New York Times for publishing an editorial accusing her political action committee of incitement in the shooting of congresswoman Gabby Giffords.

Palin has accused the Times of making a statement it “knew to be false” when it wrote, following the congressional shooting in Alexandria earlier this month: “Sarah Palin’s political action committee circulated a map of targeted electoral districts that put Ms Giffords and 19 other Democrats under stylized crosshairs.”

The Times amended the article and issued a correction on 16 June that read: “An editorial on Thursday about the shooting of Representative Steve Scalise incorrectly stated that a link existed between political rhetoric and the 2011 shooting of Representative Gabby Giffords. In fact, no such link was established.”

In a tweet, the paper wrote: “We’re sorry about this and we appreciate that our readers called us on the mistake. We’ve corrected the editorial.”

In papers filed with the United States district court in New York, Palin’s lawyers argued: “The Times’ conduct was committed knowingly, intentionally, wilfully, wantonly and maliciously, with the intent to harm Mrs Palin.”

Palin’s New York Times suit follows the retraction by CNN of a single-sourced story focusing on the Trump transition team member Anthony Scaramucci and alleged ties between the Trump administration and a Russian investment fund.

CNN said it had pulled the story from its website because “standard editorial processes were not followed” and the network accepted the resignation of three journalists responsible.

“Fake news CNN is looking at big management changes now that they got caught falsely pushing their phony Russian stories. Ratings way down!” tweeted Trump on Tuesday as right-leaning news outlets claimed that CNN, whose patent company Time Warner is currently seeking regulatory approval for a merger with AT&T, had “immediately caved”.

Scaramucci told Fox & Friends on Thursday that he had not explicitly threatened CNN with legal action, but he said: “I had a couple of conversations with senior staff at CNN. I made it very clear to them that the story was not accurate and that it was a defamatory story. I reminded them about my legal background.”

He continued: “I needed to get more aggressive. But I didn’t go to sue them or anything like that. I think that got a little bit overblown, to be honest.”

Trump continued his anti-media tirade on Wednesday, taking on the Washington Post, which is owned by Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon. “The #AmazonWashingtonPost, sometimes referred to as the guardian of Amazon not paying internet taxes (which they should) is FAKE NEWS!” Trump wrote. The White House did not immediately clarify the meaning of the president’s tweet.

And on Thursday he issued a crude tweet about a frequent target: Mika Brzezinski of the popular MSNBC politics show Morning Joe.

The deteriorating relationship between the media and the White House, said Barbas, reflected the broader deterioration of the public’s perception of the media.

That deterioration, she said, could be observed in the successful multi-million dollar legal actions taken against Rolling Stone magazine over its coverage, now retracted, of an alleged gang rape at the University of Virginia, and Hulk Hogan’s privacy claim against Gawker Media, which led to a multimillion-dollar judgment after which Gawker filed for bankruptcy.

“When you have verdicts like the Rolling Stone and Hulk Hogan verdicts, people feel emboldened,” said Barbas. “Courts and juries have shown themselves to be sympathetic to claims against the media, so we have an environment where the media are thinking twice about publishing material that might invade privacy or defame.”

The anti-media sentiment displayed by juries may also have led ABC to settle a $1bn defamation lawsuit with the meat producer Beef Products Inc. The South Dakota-based BPI claimed that ABC had defamed the company by calling its processed beef product “pink slime” and making errors and omissions.

ABC did not disclose the terms of the settlement. News division sources claim that, after three weeks in court, network lawyers settled the case rather than let it go to a jury in a Republican-leaning state. In a statement, ABC said it stood by its reporting but had “concluded that continued litigation of this case is not in the company’s interests” and it remains “committed to the vigorous pursuit of truth and the consumer’s right to know about the products they purchase”.

David Ardia, co-director of the Center for Media Law and Policy at the University of North Carolina, said: “It’s important to see these lawsuits and threats of lawsuits as part of a larger challenge to reporting on government officials and activities. These cases are putting media companies back on their heels, and the end result of that could be a decline in coverage of some public officials and some public issues.”

While public officials may threaten to bring libel litigation, they rarely follow through, in part because of the high bar for the success of cases involving public figures. For that reason, Palin’s lawsuit is rare.

“The filing of libel case is a way to vindicate oneself in the court of public opinion, and it’s a powerful signal to supporters. Often, these cases are dismissed when that initial signal has been heard,” said Ardia. “However, if a plaintiff can get their libel case to a jury, they do tend to win.”

Elevated fears of financial and reputational attrition can already be observed in the Russia-related Scaramucci-CNN case, Ardia said. While the details of the shortcomings in CNN’s reporting remain unclear, the organisation appears to have taken action in part because the allegations in its report relied on one anonymous source.

In its conflict with the press, the Trump administration has repeatedly expressed its unhappiness with the media’s reliance on unnamed sources.

At Tuesday’s White House briefing, the White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders took issue with CNN’s retraction. “I don’t know that it’s that the response isn’t good enough for the president. I think it’s the constant barrage of fake news that is directed at this president, probably, that has garnered a lot of his frustration.”

Media analysts warn that reliance on a single, unnamed source, as in the CNN case, put the media at a disadvantage.

“It’s a risky position because when you rely on a single source, and you’ve promised that source confidentiality, its difficult to defend yourself in libel litigation without identifying your source. It’s one thing to promise confidentiality, but it effectively ties the hands of the organisation in a legal fight.”


Republicans rebuke Donald Trump over TV host facelift tweets

US President Donald Trump has attracted criticism from within his own party for a Twitter tirade against female journalist Mika Brzezinski. Republicans said the comments were “beneath the office” of president.

June 30, 2017


Trump unleashed his attack on Thursday, apparently in response to comments by television host Mika Brzezinski on the left-leaning network MSNBC.

Ironically, it came after Brzezinski had attacked Trump for his “bullying” Twitter tirades.

During the “Morning Joe” show, Brzezinski said that if an executive at NBC, MSNBC’s parent company, “started tweeting wildly about people’s appearances, bullying people… that person would be thrown out. There would be concerns that the person who runs the company is out of his mind.”

Joseph Nye: Trump’s tweets harm US soft power

Trump’s response was aimed at both Mika Brzezinski and her co-host Joe Scarborough. Trump hurled a rapid-fire series of insults in just one Tweet, accusing Brzezinski of having a “low IQ,” being “crazy” and “bleeding badly from a face-lift” while on a visit to his Mar-a-Lago golf resort. Trump called Scarborough a “psycho.”

Many senior Republicans sought to distance themselves from the tweets.

“Obviously I don’t see that as an appropriate comment,” said Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan.

“The president’s tweets today don’t help our political or national discourse and do not provide a positive role model for our national dialogue,” said Republican Senator James Lankford.

‘Please just stop’

One of Trump’s more frequent Republican critics, Senator Ben Sasse of Nebraska, urged the president to restrain himself. “Please just stop. This isn’t normal and it’s beneath the dignity of your office.”

Longtime Republican Senator Lindsey Graham said the tweets were “beneath the office” of president and that they represent “what is wrong with American politics.”

There were also responses on Twitter, including one from Jeb Bush, Trump’s rival for the White House nomination last year.

However, White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders defended the president, saying he was “pushing back against people who have attacked him day after day after day. Where is the outrage on that?”

Brzezinski and Scarborough, who are engaged, have known Trump for years and interviewed him several times during his presidential campaign. They have, however, been highly critical of Trump since he took office.

In addition to his attacks on the mainstream media, Trump has singled out individual journalists before, including a notorious invective against former Fox News and current NBC journalist Megyn Kelly. The president has also made numerous statements about women that have been widely criticized as inappropriate, misogynist, sexist, and offensive to women.


Make No Mistake, We Are Already at War in Syria

Trump’s anti-war promises were just glib campaign rhetoric.

June 30, 2017

by Philip Giraldi

The American Conservative

Something peculiar happens to American presidents after they take office on January 20.

Campaign promises to right the easily perceived misdirections in foreign policy are abandoned, and the new program for dealing with the rest of the world winds up looking very much like the old one. Bill Clinton was an anti-Vietnam War draft dodger who preached the moral high ground for going to war before he turned around and got involved in the Balkans while also bombing Sudan and Afghanistan. George W. Bush promised non-interference and no nation-building overseas, but 9/11 converted him into an exemplar of how to do everything wrong as he sank into the quagmires of Iraq and Afghanistan.

Barack Obama’s margin of victory in 2008 was likely due to the perception that he was the peace candidate, particularly in contrast to his opponent Senator John McCain, but he wound up deeper in Afghanistan, out of, and then back into Iraq, interfering in Syria, and bringing about disastrous regime change in Libya while also allowing relations with Moscow to deteriorate. Donald Trump has surrounded himself with generals after promising no deeper involvement in foreign wars and the generals are telling him that winning wars only requires more soldiers on the ground and just a little more time and effort to stabilize things, all of which are self-serving formulae for policies that have already failed.

And then there are the perennial enemies, with Iran at the top of the list while Russia and China play supporting roles. Some would blame the foreign policy orientation on the Deep State, which certainly is suggestive, but I rather suspect that the flip-flops of recent presidents are also based on some other elements. First, none of them has been a veteran who experienced active duty, which makes war an abstraction observed second hand on PowerPoint in a briefing room rather than a reality. And second, the shaping of their views can be directly attributed to the pervasiveness of the establishment view on the appropriate role for the United States in the world.

Sometimes referred to as America’s “civil religion,” one can also call it “American exceptionalism” or the “leadership of the free world” or even “responsibility to protect” but the reality is that a broad consensus has developed in the United States that enables serial interventionism with hardly a squeak of protest coming from the American people.

Donald Trump has been in office for five months and it would appear that at least some of the outlines of his foreign policy are beginning to take shape, though that may be exaggeration as no one seems to be in charge. The “America First” slogan seemingly does not apply to what is developing, as actual U.S. interests do not appear to be driving what takes place, and there does not seem to be any overriding principle that shapes the responses to the many challenges confronting Washington worldwide.

The two most important observations that one might make are both quite negative. First, lamentably, the promised détente with Russia has actually gone into reverse, with the relationship between the two countries at the lowest point since the time of the late, lamented Hillary Rodham Clinton as Secretary of State. Second, we are already at war with Syria even though the media and Congress seem blissfully unaware of that fact. We are also making aggressive moves intended to create a casus belli for going to war with Iran, and are doubling down in Afghanistan with more troops on the way, so Donald Trump’s pledge to avoid pointless wars and nation-building were apparently little more than glib talking points intended to make Barack Obama look bad.

The situation with Russia can be repaired as Vladimir Putin is a realist head of state of a country that is vulnerable and willing to work with Washington, but it will require an end to the constant vituperation being directed against Moscow by the media and the Democratic Party. That process could easily spin out for another year with all parties now agreeing that Russia intervened in our election even though no one has yet presented any evidence that Russia did anything at all.

Syria is more complicated. Senators Tim Kaine and Rand Paul have raised the alarm over American involvement in that country, declaring the U.S. military intervention to be illegal. Indeed it is, as it is a violation of the United Nations Charter and the American Constitution. No one has argued that Syria in any way threatens the United States, and the current policy is also an affront to common sense: like it or not Syria is a sovereign country in which we Americans have set up military bases and are supporting “rebels” (including jihadis and terrorists) who are seeking to overthrow the legitimate government. We have also established a so-called “de-confliction” zone in the southeast of the country to protect our proxies without the consent of the government in Damascus. All of that adds up to what is unambiguously unprovoked aggression, an act of war.

The war began in earnest when the Obama administration began building bases and sending Special Ops into Syria in the late summer of 2015, after the White House announced that it would “allow airstrikes to defend Syrian rebels trained by the U.S. military from any attackers, even if the enemies hail from forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.”

That policy guaranteed escalation and direct American involvement in the conflict. In the last month, for the first time since the civil war in Syria began in 2011, the United States has directly attacked Syrian government forces or proxies four times, including two air attacks against Iranian militiamen allied to Damascus. Those moves were preceded by the April U.S. Navy launch of 59 cruise missiles in an attack directed against a Syrian air base. The recent escalation has produced a response from Russia, which decried in the strongest terms the latest of these incidents, in which a U.S. F-18 Hornet shot down a Syrian SU-22 fighter-bomber.

Moscow has now threatened to act against any U.S.-led coalition aircraft flying over western Syria, a step that could in short order lead to a Russian-U.S. war in the Middle East.

Syria is currently under attack from the air forces of sixteen nations operating within its airspace loosely affiliated with the U.S. effort to bring about regime change. When Syria resists, it is routinely accused of using “forbidden” weapons by the mouthpieces of the terrorist groups operating inside the country under the American umbrella. Currently, the White House is warning that it has “identified potential preparations for another chemical weapons attack by the Assad regime.” UN Ambassador Nikki Haley elaborated in a tweet, “…further attacks will be blamed on Assad but also on Russia and Iran who support him…”

Syria will “pay a very heavy price” if a chemical attack takes place, according to the White House statement. The U.S. warning will inevitably motivate the so-called rebels to stage an attack themselves and blame it on Damascus, as they have done in the past. It also dangerously escalates the conflict by directly targeting both Russia and Iran as Syrian “accomplices” in war crimes. It is a very dangerous move by the Trump Administration and one that apparently was not coordinated with the Defense and State Departments, which were caught flat footed by the White House announcement. The nature and credibility of the information implicating Syria has not been revealed and is being regarded as an “intelligence matter.”

Much of this acting against actual U.S. interests has come about due to the “worthless ally” syndrome which has been prevalent in Washington for several decades. In the Middle East, where many of the problems begin, there is no coherent policy that has evolved beyond unconditional support for local “allies” Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Turkey and Israel. This has meant in practical terms that the U.S. defers to Riyadh, Ankara, Cairo, and Tel Aviv in nearly all regional matters while it is also the guarantor of a feckless Afghan government.

So in spite of pledges to disengage from the cycle of warfare in the Middle East, the United States seems to be on course for direct involvement in a series of local conflicts with no clear “victory” and exit policy in place. Remove al-Assad and what comes next? What will the Russians do? Will America’s so-called allies Turkey, Israel, and Saudi Arabia be satisfied with dismemberment of the Syrian state or will they insist on pushing on to Tehran? Who would fill that vacuum?

There are certainly other foreign policy black holes, to include the awful decision to rollback normalization with Cuba and the hot-then-cold moves against North Korea. Venezuela, a major U.S. oil supplier, is about to implode and it is not clear if the State Department has any contingency plan in place to deal with the crisis. But Russia and Syria are in a class by themselves as they have the potential to turn into Class A disasters, like Iraq or possibly even worse. And then there is Iran lurking, apparently hated by all the talking heads in Washington and inextricably linked to what is happening in Syria. It is more than capable of becoming the next catastrophe for a White House that is apparently staggering from crisis to crisis. What will Trump do? I am afraid that the lesson learned from the cruise missile attack on a Syrian base in April was that using force is popular, repeat as necessary. That would be a major mistake, but there is every sign that some of the people around Trump have their eyes on escalating and “doing something” in Syria and also against Iran for starters, and if Russia gets in the way we can deal with them too.


Why The Elites Hate Putin

On Oliver Stone’s The Putin Interviews (Part III)

June 30, 2017

by Justin Raimondo


As the “Russia-gate” farce continues to dominate the American “news” media, and President Trump’s foreign policy veers off in a direction many of his supporters find baffling, one wonders: what the heck happened? I thought Trump was supposed to be “Putin’s puppet,” as Hillary Clinton and her journalistic camarilla would have it. The Russian president, in his extended interview with filmmaker Oliver Stone, has an explanation:

“Stone: Donald Trump won. This is your fourth president, am I right? Clinton, Mr. Bush, Mr. Obama, and now your fourth one.

“Putin: Yes, that’s true.

“Stone: What changes?

“Putin: Well, almost nothing.”

Stone is surprised by this answer, and Putin elaborates:

“Well, life makes some changes for you. But on the whole, everywhere, especially in the United States, the bureaucracy is very strong. And bureaucracy is the one that rules the world.”

This is a reiteration of something the Russian president said earlier in the context of Stone’s questions about the US election. Stone asks what he thinks of the various candidates: Trump’s name doesn’t come up, but Stone does ask about Bernie Sanders. Putin replies:

“It’s not up to us to say. It’s not whether we are going to like it or not. All I can say is as follows … the force of the United States bureaucracy is very great. It’s immense. And there are many facts not visible about the candidates until they become president. And the moment one gets to the real work, he or she feels the burden.”

So it doesn’t matter who wins the presidential election, and inhabits the White House, because the national security bureaucracy is forever, and their power is – almost – unchallengeable. And so, given this, Putin’s answer to Stone’s somewhat tongue-in-cheek question, “Why did you hack the election?”, is anti-climactic. The answer is: why would they bother? Putin dismisses the question as “a very silly statement,” and then goes on to wonder why Western journalists find the prospect of getting along with Russia so problematic.

Trump and his campaign, says Putin, “understood where their voters were located” – a reference, I believe, to the surprising results in Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania. Clinton’s supporters “should have drawn conclusions from what they did, from how they did their jobs, they shouldn’t have tried to shift the blame on to something outside.” This is what the more perceptive progressives are saying – but then again I suppose that they, too, are “Putin’s puppets.”

This section of the interviews occurred in February, and so it’s interesting how Putin predicted what would happen to the Trump presidency and the conduct of his foreign policy:

“And I think that Obama’s outgoing team has created a minefield for the incoming president and for his team. They have created an environment which makes it difficult for the new president to make good on the promises he gave to the people.”

To say the least.

There is much more in this series of interviews, including some real news that has been ignored by the “mainstream” media, including:

  • Joint US-Russian efforts to eliminate ISIS in Syria were on the agenda even before Trump took the White House, “But at the last moment,” says Putin, “I think due to some political reasons, our American partners abandoned this project.” (This is yet another vindication of my theory of “libertarian realism,” by the way.)
  • Putin tells Stone that the Ukraine snipers who shot at both the government forces and the anti-government crowds in Kiev – an event that signaled the end of the Yanukovych regime – were trained and financed in the West: “[W]e have information available to us that armed groups were trained in the Western parts of Ukraine itself, in Poland, and in a number of other places.”
  • Putin has evidence of Turkish support for ISIS: “During the G20 summit, when the journalists left the room, I took out photos … and from my place where I was sitting I showed those photos [of ISIS oil being transported to Turkey] to everyone. I showed it to my counterparts. I showed them the route I mentioned earlier. And we have shown these photos to our American counterparts…. Everyone knew about everything. So trying to open a door which is already open is simply senseless. It’s something that is absolutely evident. So it’s not about one single truck – there are thousands of trucks going through that route. It looks as if it were a living pipeline.”
  • At one point, Putin takes out his cell phone and shows Stone a video of a Russian attack on ISIS forces, remarking “By the way, they were coming from the Turkish side of the border.”
  • Putin reveals how US aid reaches jihadists: “According to the data we received, employees of the United States in Azerbaijan contacted militants from the Caucasus.” In a letter from the CIA to their Russian counterparts, the Americans reiterated their alleged right to funnel aid to their clients, and the missive “even named the employee of the US Special Services who worked in the US embassy in Baku.”

And then there’s one specific instance in which the news is anticipated: Stone brings up the Snowden revelation that the Americans have planted malware in Japanese infrastructure capable of shutting that country down, and he speculates that Washington has surely targeted Russia in the same way. Which brings to mind a recent Washington Post story reporting that this is indeed the case.

There’s a lot more in these interviews than I have space to write about: my favorites are the instances in which Stone’s leftism comes up against Putin’s paleoconservatism. At several points the issue of “anti-Americanism” comes up, and the debate between the two is illuminating in that it reveals the Russian leader’s instinctual pro-Americanism, despite his objections to the policies of our government. I had to laugh when Putin asked Stone: “Are you a communist?” Stone denies it: “I’m a capitalist!”

There is also a lot of humor here: Stone insists on showing Putin a scene from “Dr. Strangelove,” the part where the mad scientist rides a nuke, laughing maniacally. The sardonic expression on Putin’s face speaks volumes.  Early on, Stone asks “What is the US [foreign] policy? What is its strategy in the world as a whole?” To which Putin replies: “Certainly, I am going to reply to this question very candidly, in great detail – but only once I retire.” In speaking about Washington’s unilateral abrogation of the ABM Treaty, Stone remarks:

“You know, the American Indians made treaties with the US government and they were the first to experience the treachery of the US government. You’re not the first.”

To which Putin replies: “We wouldn’t like to be the last.” And he laughs.

Putin’s sense of humor is a bit dark, and things get darker still as he predicts what the consequences for Stone will be when “The Putin Interviews” is released:

“You’ve never been beaten before in your life?,” says Putin. “Oh yes, many times,” says Stone. I think Putin was talking about being physically beaten, but, anyway, the Russian leader goes on to say: “Then it’s not going to be anything new, because you’re going to suffer for what you’re about to do.” “No, I know,” says Stone, “but it’s worth it. It’s worth it to try to bring some more peace and consciousness to the world.”

Stone has been pilloried in the US media, by all usual suspects, but what’s very telling is that none of his critics delve into the content of the interviews: they simply accuse Stone of being a “useful idiot,” a phrase from the lexicon of the cold war that’s being revived by the liberals who used to be labeled as such.

And yet when you get down in the weeds, as I have tried to do in this series, one begins to realize the enormity of the hoax that’s been perpetrated on the American people. Putin is routinely described in our media as the principal enemy of the United States: our military brass has been pushing this line, for budgetary reasons, and the Clinton wing of the Democratic Party has been pushing it for political reasons. And yet the lasting impression left by “The Putin Interviews” is of a man who greatly admires the United States, and sees the vast potential of détente between Moscow and Washington, a potential he would like very much to bring to realization.

What we have witnessed in the past few months, however, is that this potential benefit to both countries is being denied by some very powerful forces. The entire “Deep State” apparatus, which Putin is very much aware of, is implacably opposed to peaceful cooperation, and will do anything to stop it. But why?

There are many factors, including money – the military-industrial complex is dependent on hostility between the US and Russia, as are our parasitic “allies’ in Europe – as well as cultural issues. Russia is essentially a conservative society, and our “progressive” elites hate it for that reason. Which brings us to the real reason for the Russophobia that infects the American political class, and that is Putin’s commitment to the concept of national sovereignty.

Nationalism in all its forms is bitterly opposed by our elites, and this is what sets them against not only Putin but also against President Trump. Their allegiance isn’t to the United States as a separate entity, but to the “Free World,” whatever that may be. And their foreign allies are even more explicit about their radical internationalism, bitterly clinging to transnational institutions such as the European Union even as populist movements upend them.

This is the central issue confronting the parties and politicians of all countries, the conflict that separates the elites from the peoples they would like to rule: it is globalism versus national sovereignty. And this is not just a foreign policy question. It is a line of demarcation that puts the parties of all countries on one side of the barricades or the other.

In his famous essay, “The End of History,” neoconservative theorist Francis Fukuyama outlined the globalist project, which he saw as the inevitable outcome of human experience: a “universal homogenous State” that would extend its power across every civilized country and beyond. But of course nothing is inevitable, at least in that sense and on that scale, a fact the elites who hold this vision recognize all too well. So they are working day and night to make it a reality, moving their armies and their agents into this country and that country, encircling their enemies, and waiting for the moment to strike. And Putin, the ideologue of national sovereignty, is rightly perceived as their implacable enemy, the chief obstacle to the globalist project.

That’s why they hate him. It has nothing to do with the annexation of Crimea, or the alleged “authoritarianism” of a country that now has a multi-party system a few short decades after coming out of real totalitarianism. Even if Russia were a Jeffersonian republic, and Putin the second coming of Gandhi, still they would demonize him and his country for this very reason.

As to who will win this struggle between globalism and national particularism, I would not venture a guess. What I will do, however, is to remind my readers that if ever this worldwide “homogenous State” comes into being, there will be nowhere to go, nowhere to hide, no way to escape its power.

Editorial note: This is the third and last part of a three-part series on Oliver Stone’s “The Putin Interviews.”

 U.S. plans to sell Taiwan about $1.42 billion in arms

June 30, 2017

by David Brunnstrom and Arshad Mohammed


WASHINGTON-The United States plans to sell Taiwan $1.42 billion in arms, the first such sale under the administration of Donald Trump and a move sure to anger China, whose help the president has been seeking to rein in North Korea.

U.S. State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert told reporters the administration had told Congress of the seven proposed sales on Thursday.

“It’s now valued about $1.42 billion,” she said.

The State Department said the package included technical support for early warning radar, high speed anti-radiation missiles, torpedoes and missile components.

Nauert said the sales showed U.S. “support for Taiwan’s ability to maintain a sufficient self-defense capability,” but there was no change to the United States’ long-standing “one China” policy, which recognizes Beijing and not Taipei.

The United States is the sole arms supplier to Taiwan, which China deems its own and has never renounced the use of force to bring the self-ruled island under its control.

Beijing has given Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen the cold shoulder since she took power last year because she leads an independence-leaning ruling party and refuses to recognize the “one China” policy.

On Friday, Tsai’s office said that her government will continue “to seek constructive dialogue with Beijing, and promote positive developments in cross-strait relations.”

“(The arms sale) increases Taiwan’s confidence and ability to maintain the status quo of peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait,” Tsai’s office tweeted.

Asked about the sale at an event on Thursday evening in Washington, China’s Ambassador Cui Tiankai said the United States was “incorrigible” when it comes to Taiwan, the official party paper the People’s Daily reported on its website.

“But we should still continue to instruct (them) and continue advancing on the right track of China-U.S. relations because this is what truly fits with for both countries’ long term interests,” the paper quoted Cui as saying.

The sale, which requires congressional approval, would be the first to Taiwan under Trump and the first since a $1.83 billion sale that former President Barack Obama announced in December 2015, to China’s dismay.

The previous package included two navy frigates in addition to anti-tank missiles and amphibious attack vehicles.

A State Department official said the latest package primarily represented “upgrades to existing defense capabilities aimed at converting current legacy systems from analog to digital.”

Taiwan’s defense ministry said the items would enhance air and sea combat capability and early warning defenses. It said Taiwan and the United States would continue to consolidate their security partnership to contribute to long-term stability in the region.


In a strong sign of congressional support, the Republican chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee welcomed what he called the “long-overdue” arms sale.

“Sales of defensive weapons, based on Taiwan’s needs, are a key provision of our commitments as laid out by the Taiwan Relations Act and the Six Assurances,” said Rep. Ed Royce, referring to legislation and informal guidelines that steer U.S. relations with Taiwan.

U.S. officials said in March the administration was crafting a big arms sale to Taiwan, but such talk died down as Trump sought to persuade Beijing to do more to rein in North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs, an increasing threat to the United States.

Earlier on Thursday, China responded angrily and said it had protested to Washington after a U.S. Senate committee approved a bill calling for the resumption of port visits to Taiwan by the U.S. Navy for the first time since the United States adopted a one-China policy in 1979.

The bill also directs the Pentagon to help Taiwan develop an indigenous undersea warfare program and recommends strengthened strategic cooperation with Taipei.

China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman said the bill was in violation of the principles of U.S.-China relations and called on Washington to halt military drills with and arms sales to Taiwan “to avoid further impairing broadly cooperative China-U.S. relations.”

U.S. officials told Reuters this week that Trump – who alarmed Beijing after assuming office by breaking with decades of precedent and talking to Taiwan’s president – was becoming increasingly frustrated with China over its inaction on North Korea and trade.

According to the officials, Trump is now considering trade actions against Beijing, despite having heaped praise on Chinese President Xi Jinping after an April summit.

Also on Thursday, Washington stepped up pressure on Beijing by imposing sanctions on two Chinese citizens and a shipping company for helping North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs and accusing a Chinese bank of laundering money for Pyongyang.

Trump plans to meet Xi again on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Germany next week, U.S. National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster told reporters

(Reporting by Arshad Mohammed, David Brunnstrom and Yeganeh Torbati; Additional reporting by J.R. Wu in TAIPEI and Christian Shepherd in BEIJING; Editing by Richard Chang, Jonathan Oatis, Paul Tait and Michael Perry)

 The Invention of the Cold War-1948

June 30, 2017

by Harry von Johnston, PhD

On May 22, 1945, a German Wehrmacht General, Reinhard Gehlen, the former head of the German Army High Command’s Foreign Armies East, surrendered along with his key staff members to the United States military at Fischhausen in southern Germany.

Gehlen’s unit was responsible for gathering and analyzing military intelligence on the Soviet Union, His staff accomplished this by interrogating prisoners in army POW camps—captured Soviet military personnel and, in their headquarters—Soviet defectors. They also studied battlefield intelligence from captured Soviet documents, maps and code books. Further material was obtained by signals intelligence which listened to Soviet non-coded, low-level combat unit radio traffic. These methods of gathering combat intelligence are standard procedures still used by all armies.

During the war, Gehlen did not have intelligence agents in the Soviet Union. The General was not accustomed to gathering and analyzing Soviet political data. Unlike Müller, whose radio playback section had direct contact with very high-level Soviet intelligence agents inside Russia, Gehlen dealt strictly with combat intelligence.

Reinhard Gehlen was born in 1902 in Erfurt, Germany, the son of a publisher in Breslau. In 1920, he joined the Reichswehr, rising slowly through the ranks as an artillery officer. In 1933 he was sent to the General Staff College, and in 1935, Gehlen became a captain, the lowest rank in the General Staff.

Except for a brief period in 1938 when he was posted to the 18th Artillery Regiment as a battery commander, Gehlen spent his entire career in the German Army as a General Staff officer. On April 1, 1942, Lt. Colonel Gehlen of the General Staff was appointed head of Foreign Armies East in the High Command of the Army (OKH), a position he held until April 9, 1945 when he was fired by Hitler.

Like Müller, Gehlen had microfilmed all his files before the end of the war and he offered them, plus himself and his staff, to US Army intelligence. The offer was accepted. On August 26, 1945, Gehlen and four of his closest assistants were flown to Washington for substantive talks with US authorities. Gehlen was the subject of an inter-agency struggle when Allen Dulles of the OSS, once their station chief in Switzerland during the war, and General William Donovan, commander of the agency, attempted to secure Gehlen and his files for themselves. Dulles eventually won and his assistant Frank Wisner was appointed to oversee the former head of Foreign Armies East.

The Gehlen team was based at Fort Hunt, near Washington. Gehlen began his new career by preparing a series of reports which were well received. In July of 1946, Gehlen returned to Germany, and set up shop at Pullach, a former housing project for elite Nazi officials such as Martin Bormann. Gehlen was instructed to build an intelligence agency capable of conducting the highest level surveillance of the Soviets. His microfilmed files were sold to US intelligence for $5 million. Considering that these files only contained material on Soviet military units that had long been disbanded or were no longer combat ready, Gehlen was very well paid for very cold coffee.

Since Gehlen had no experience with internal Soviet intelligence or with their foreign intelligence, he was hard-pressed to use his former army staff officers to supply the US with relevant material. In 1946, Gehlen hired Willi Krichbaum, formerly the deputy chief of the Gestapo, as his senior agent recruiter. While Gehlen had no experience with Soviet spies, the Gestapo certainly did, and Krichbaum immediately sought out to hire many of his old associates.

At the same time, Krichbaum contacted his former chief, Heinrich Müller, who was now a resident in Switzerland, and a respected and wealthy citizen. Müller was, by no means, inactive in his enforced retirement and was in contact with Krichbaum almost from the beginning of his exile. Lengthy handwritten reports from Krichbaum to Müller spanning nearly three years exist and, while Müller’s correspondence to Krichbaum is not in his files, the Krichbaum correspondence indicates without a doubt, that “Gestapo” Müller was supplying his former deputy with reams of information on prospective employees for the new Gehlen organization, as well as a flood of concise directives on the structure necessary to implement the needs of the US intelligence.

In 1946, Gehlen began the construction of his new agency, while the Soviet military machine in the East Zone of Germany was in the process of down sizing. The Second World War had proven to be a terrible economic disaster to Stalin. His troops were in the process of dismantling German factories which were still intact, ripping up the railroad system, and sending their spoils back to Russia.

The American armed forces were also being sharply reduced, since the war in the Pacific had ended in 1945. Military units were disbanded and their soldiers returned to civilian life as quickly as possible. On the economic front, businesses that had enjoyed lucrative government military contracts found themselves with empty assembly lines and tens of thousands of laid off workers.

It has been said that there never was a good war nor a bad peace. While the latter was certainly beneficial to the Soviets and permitted them to rebuild their economy, it certainly was not beneficial for either the rapidly-shrinking military or business communities in the United States.

This situation permitted the development of the Gehlen organization and secured its position as a vital American political resource. The US had virtually no military intelligence knowledge of the Soviet Union. But the Germans, who had fought against them for four years, had. Gehlen and his military staff only had knowledge of wartime Soviet military units which were either reduced to cadre or entirely disbanded. However, this was of no interest to the senior officials of US intelligence. Gehlen was to become a brilliant intelligence specialist with an incredible grasp of Soviet abilities and intentions. This preeminence was almost entirely fictional. It was designed to elevate Gehlen in the eyes of American politicians including President Truman and members of Congress, and to lend well-orchestrated weight to the former General’s interpretation of his employer’s needs.

In 1948, Stalin sent troops into Czechoslovakia after a minority but efficient communist coup which overthrew the Western-oriented government. This act, in February of 1948, combined with the blockade of West Berlin, then occupied by the British, French and Americans in June of the same year, gave a group of senior American military leaders a heaven-sent opportunity to identify a new and dangerous military enemy—an enemy which could and would attack Western Europe and the United States in the immediate future.

To facilitate the acceptance of this theory, Gehlen was requested to produce intelligence material that would bolster it in as authoritative a manner as possible. This Gehlen did and to set the parameters of this report, Gehlen, General Stephen Chamberlain, Chief of Intelligence of the US Army General Staff, and General Lucius D. Clay, US commander in occupied Germany met in Berlin in February of 1948, immediately after the Czech occupation but before the blockade.

After this meeting, Gehlen drew up a lengthy and detailed intelligence report which categorically stated that 175 fully-equipped Soviet divisions, many armored, were poised to attack. General Clay forwarded this alarming example of creative writing to Washington and followed up with frantic messages indicating his fear that the Soviets were about to launch an all-out land war on the United States.

Although the sequence of events might indicate that Clay was involved in an attempt to mislead US leaders, in actuality, he was misled by Chamberlain and Gehlen. They managed to thoroughly frighten General Clay and used him as a conduit to Washington. He was not the last to fall victim to the machinations of the war party.

The Gehlen papers were deliberately leaked to Congress and the President. This resulted in the Cold War between the Soviet Union and the United States. This was not a historical first by any means. Elements in England at the beginning of the 20th century, alarmed at the growing economic threat of a united Germany, commenced a long public campaign designed to frighten the British public and their leaders into adopting a bellicose re-armament program based on a fictional German military threat.

Gehlen and his organization were considered vital to US interests. As long as the General was able to feed the re-armament frenzy in Washington with supportive, inflammatory secret reports, then his success was assured.

The only drawback to this deadly farce was that the General did not have knowledge of current Soviet situations in the military or political fields. He could only bluff his way for a short time. To enhance his military staffs, Gehlen developed the use of former SS Sicherheitsdienst (SD) and Gestapo people, brought to him by Krichbaum, his chief recruiter.

At the same time, a joint British-American project called “Operation Applepie” was launched with the sole purpose of locating and employing as many of the former Gestapo and SD types now being employed by Gehlen.

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, after all.

During the course of this hunt, the prize was considered to be former SSGruppenführer Heinrich Müller, then in Switzerland. Contact with the former Gestapo Chief was through Krichbaum, acting on Müller’s specific instructions.

In the resulting bidding war, the Americans easily defeated the British, and the British public was spared the possible discovery of Müller appearing, under a new name, on their New Year’s Honors List instead of being made a Brigadier General of Reserve in the United States Army under a new name.

The recently uncovered files on “Applepie” are of such interest that they will be the subject of a further in-depth publication. Other document series of equal importance will include the so-called Robinson papers and a series of reports on the British use of certain former Gestapo and SD personnel in Damascus, Syria by John Marriott of the Security Intelligence Middle East (SIME). Robinson (or Robinsohn as he was known to the Gestapo officials) was a high-level Soviet agent captured in France as a result of the Rote Kapelle investigations. Robinson’s files came into Müller’s possession and revealed an extensive Soviet spy ring in Great Britain. Such highly interesting and valuable historical records should also encompass the more significant intercepts made of Soviet messages by the Gestapo from Ottawa, Canada to Moscow throughout the war. These parallel the so-called Venona intercepts which have been fully translated and are extraordinarily lengthy.

In 1948, control of the Gehlen organization was assumed by the new CIA and put under the direction of Colonel James Critchfield, formerly an armored unit commander and now a CIA section chief.

At this point, Gehlen had a number of powerful sponsors in the US military and intelligence communities. These included General Walter Bedell Smith, former Chief of Staff to General Eisenhower and later head of the CIA; General William Donovan, former head of the OSS; Allen Welch Dulles, former Swiss station chief of the OSS and later head of the CIA; Rear Admiral Roscoe Hillenkoetter, first head of the CIA; General Edwin Sibert of US Army military intelligence and Generals Chamberlain and Clay.

American military intelligence officers were well aware that the Soviet Army threat was hollow and that the Soviets’ act of dismantling the eastern German railroad system was strong proof that an attack was not in the offing, but they were strongly discouraged by their superiors from expressing their views.

In 1954, General Arthur Trudeau, chief of US military intelligence, received a copy of a lengthy report prepared by retired Lt. Colonel Hermann Baun of Gehlen’s staff. Baun, who had originally been assigned to the German High Command (OKW) as an Abwehr specialist on Russia, eventually ended up working for Gehlen’s Foreign Armies East which was under the control of the Army High Command (OKH). Baun was an extremely competent, professional General Staff officer who, by 1953, had taken a dim view, indeed, of the creatures foisted on him by Gehlen. Baun detested Gehlen who had forced him out of his post-war intelligence position with the West. Baun’s annoyance was revealed in a lengthy complaint of Gehlen’s Nazi staff members which set forth, in detail, their names and backgrounds.

General Trudeau was so annoyed with this report that in October of 1954, he took West German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer aside as Adenauer was making an official visit to Washington, Trudeau passed much of this information to the horrified Adenauer, who had spent time in a concentration camp during the war. Adenauer, in turn, raised this issue with American authorities and the matter was leaked to the press.

Allen Dulles, a strong Gehlen backer and later head of the CIA, used his own connections and those of his brother, John, Eisenhower’s Secretary of State, to effectively silence Trudeau by transferring him to the remote Far East.

Trudeau’s warning to Adenauer did not have a lasting effect and on April 1, 1956, former General Reinhard Gehlen was appointed as head of the new West German Federal Intelligence Service, the Bundesnachrichtendiesnt or BND.

This agency is very receptive to the needs of its parent, the CIA, and information they learn goes at once to Langley and conversely, any needs of Langley are at once attended to by the BND.

In this case, as in so many other similar ones, virtue is certainly not its own reward.

How can we manage Earth’s land?

Overpopulation, climate change, mass migration… our relationship with terra firma has never been more complicated. Could Earth’s land be an overlooked, increasingly precious resource?

June 29, 2017

by Richard Gray

BBC News

From the sky, it looks like an entire city is adrift in the Indian Ocean. A forest of tower-blocks rise above the emerald-coloured water while just a handful of trees poke through the canopy of concrete.

For those living in Malé, the overcrowded capital of the Maldives, there is no choice but to build upwards.

Caged by the sea, they have no more land to spread onto, yet the city’s population has soared by nearly 52% since 2006. The last census in 2014 counted 158,000 people crammed into the city’s 2.2 sq miles (5.7 sq km) of space, and officials say the figure has since grown further.

“When people think of the Maldives, it is usually of a beautiful paradise with crystal clear lagoons and white sand beaches,” says Shamau Shareef, the city’s recently elected deputy mayor. “Malé is very different. We have very limited space and life is tough.”

Space is such a premium in Malé that pavements are often less than three feet wide, forcing pedestrians to walk in single file, while many streets have no sidewalk at all.

Rents have risen exorbitantly and, in some of the poorest areas, up to 40 people can be crammed into buildings with just 250 sq feet (23.2 sq metres) of space – about the same size as a small studio flat.

With so many people living under each others’ feet, crime, drugs and domestic violence have risen alarmingly while the city frequently runs out of water. An entirely new island has risen out of the sea from the city’s garbage.

“In the early 1990s the tallest buildings in the city were only two storeys high,” says Shareef. “Now the average height is eight storeys and some are 25 storeys high. People are coming here because this is where the health, education and jobs are, but overpopulation is leading to many socioeconomic problems.”

Although extreme, Malé is an example in miniature of something that is happening on a far larger scale around the world. With 83 million more people appearing on the planet every year, rising populations are placing increasing pressure on the land.

The UN’s latest estimates state that there are 7.6 billion people jostling for space on Earth at present and that number will rise to 9.8 billion by 2050. By the end of the century, their projections say there could be 11.2 billion people on our planet.

Each of those people will need somewhere to live, a place to work, fertile land to provide them with food. They will need water and energy to stay warm or to light their way at night.

They will want roads to drive on and places to park. For the lucky ones, there will be space for their pastimes and leisure activities.

But for all of them, there can be no doubt the impact they will all have on the land – and those impacts are managed – will be one of the grand challenges facing humanity in the coming century.

Habitable vs uninhabitable land

At first, it can be easy to dismiss fears that mankind may one day run out of space as ridiculous. Physically, the land can easily accommodate 11 billion people – there are around 13.4 billion hectares of ice-free land (51.7 million sq miles) on the planet.

But large tracts of land remain virtually uninhabitable due to their climate or their remote location: Enormous tracts of Siberia are too inhospitable to be lived upon. And the huge landmass at the centre of Australia is too arid to support many people, meaning the majority of its population is clustered along its coastline.

Meanwhile, cities and urban areas, like Malé, cannot keep growing indefinitely. They are bound by the natural landscape that surrounds them, whether it’s ocean or mountains. The land that is habitable faces challenges, like crowded cities and growing populations.

“If you have that many people, there will obviously be a much greater demand for natural resources and food production,” says John Wilmoth, director of the UN’s Population Division. “But there has been a lot of misplaced attention that has tried to look at population control or limitation as a solution.”

Experts say it’s misguided to just focus on population numbers, and whether there’s enough space on the planet to fit everyone.

“The countries where populations are growing the most are actually using the least of the Earth’s resources per person,” warns Jonathan Foley, executive director of the California Academy of Sciences who has spent his career studying the impact human civilisation has on the environment. “Those of us in the rich and developed world consume far more than our fair share.”

The cities and towns we live in account for less than 3% of the Earth’s total land area, but between 35% and 40% is used for agriculture. As populations grow, many fear that more land will be used up to grow more food. And land management has a lot to do with resource management – what eat, how we grow it, and how we eat it.

To feed the world’s growing population, a study by researchers at Stanford University estimated that between 2.7 million and 4.9 million hectares (10,400-18,900 sq miles) of additional land will be required. There are around 445 million hectares (1.7 million sq miles) thought to be suitable for growing crops left in the world.

The researchers predicted that increasing demand for food, biofuels, industrial forestry and the spread of urbanisation will result in this reserve of land being completely used up by 2050.

So in the 21st Century, how will be able to manage land to not only fit all the extra people, but also to fit all the crops that will feed the extra people?

Making room for farms

The bad news? The demand for new cropland and pastures for animals is already thought to have caused 80% of the deforestation taking place around the world today, wiping out large areas of rich biodiversity and trees that act as natural sinks for greenhouse gases.

But the good news? According to Foley, it does not have to be this way.

“The way we use land right now is extremely inefficient,” he says. “So much of our land is being used to grow food for livestock – 75% of the world’s agricultural land is used for feeding animals that we then eat ourselves. About 40% of the food grown in the world is also never eaten by anybody – it is thrown away. That means all that land it is grown on is being wasted.”

So, a possible solution: eat less meat and throw less food away.

Already, “there is progress being made,” says Foley. “China is already talking about reducing meat consumption and there are efforts to reduce food waste in Europe and US.” Curbing consumption habits can lead to less land use on agriculture.

About 40% of the food grown in the world is also never eaten by anybody – it is thrown away. That means all that land it is grown on is being wasted – Jonathan Foley, executive director of the California Academy of Sciences

In wealthier parts of the world, however, our consumption extends far beyond just food.

Space for a growing middle class

Increasing prosperity in many parts of the developing world, along with countries like China and India, is leading to a burgeoning global middle class. It’s a group that’s expected to account for 4.9 billion of the population by 2030.

With each of these people buying refrigerators, mobile phones, televisions, computers and cars, the demand for energy is expected to double over the next two decades.

And in a place like Malé – a tiny capital with an exploding population – that’s a grand challenge to tackle.

“We need to be worrying less about whether we are going to be able to grow enough food or provide enough energy and look at the aftereffects of consumption,” argues the UN’s John Wilmoth. “If we have improvements in living standards around the world occurring as population is growing, they will multiply to have much a larger effect on the Earth and the environment.”

Exactly how the world will meet this demand in the face of efforts to reduce climate change could greatly affect how much land we have at our disposal. And that’s a problem for the highly dense population centres on Earth’s coasts.

Rising seas claim coastal land

Historically, trade has fuelled the rise of middle classes and wealth in coastal areas. That’s led many of those cities to be some of the most crowded on our planet.

A study by researchers at Kiel University in Germany and the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research in the UK estimated that there were 625 million people living in low lying coastal areas in 2000. By 2060 they predict this will have soared to more than a billion.

But add in climate change, and things get a lot more complicated.

“The coast is a restricted space and so there is a lot of pressure on the environment and ecosystems there,” says Barbara Neumann, an expert on coastal risks and sea level rise at Kiel University who led the study.

“Sand dunes act like a natural flood barrier, for example. If we take them away we remove a lot of the protection against coastal storms and rising sea levels.”

Rising sea levels due to climate change are likely to put further pressure on these packed coastal regions, she warns. Island nations like the Maldives are particularly vulnerable to loss of land in this way. Miami in Florida is another famous example.

“Malé is just two metres above sea level,” explains Shareef. “We already have sea swells during the monsoon each year but climate change is going to make that worse.”

Further away from the coast, growing populations are spilling onto land that will leave them more vulnerable in the future.

Rising sea levels due to climate change are likely to put further pressure on these packed coastal regions

In Bangladesh, where 80% of the country is a flood plain, tens of millions of people are affected by vast floods that occur every few years. Suddenly, land is at a premium

Even in developed countries like the UK, pressure on housing has resulted in large scale developments on land known to be prone to flooding. In the past decade, flooding in these areas has caused damage that has stretched into billions of pounds.

“We need to balance the population growth and development with conserving the natural systems that protect us,” says Neumann. The low-lying Netherlands, for example, has tackled its problems with flooding by giving the water back some space to spill into. It is an approach that other countries, including the UK, have said they hope to follow.

But changing, turbulent weather patterns might not just affect our city’s own land. It could affect our neighbour’s, too.

Climate change leads to migration

Around 21.5 million people are forced to leave their homes due to weather-related disasters each year.

“Drought in northern Syria led to a mass migration of people from rural areas to cities like Aleppo and became one of the spark plugs for the terrible conflict we are seeing there now,” says Lloyd Axworthy, chair of the World Refugee Council and former foreign minister of Canada. With climate change also expected to exacerbate droughts, floods and storms, Axworthy warns the problem is likely to worsen.

Other countries are having to subsidise and support large populations whose own means of growing food or living has been diminished – Lloyd Axworthy, World Refugee Council

According to the UN Refugee Agency’s latest figures, 65.6 million people were forcibly displaced by conflict and persecution in 2016, around 300,000 more than the previous year and the highest number since World War Two.

“This not a one-off,” warns Axworthy. “There are big areas of land that are running out of the fundamentals of life. Many governments are so bad that they do nothing about this. This means other countries are having to subsidise and support large populations whose own means of growing food or living has been diminished.”

It means there are ever growing challenges to find space for the people uprooted by war, famine and drought. Of the people uprooted last year, 22.5 million sought refuge across international borders. Finding new homes for such large numbers of people is already proving difficult – just 189,300 refugees were admitted by other nations for resettlement in 2016. The majority remain housed in vast camps or living as stateless individuals, all of them requiring food, water and shelter.

Without land of their own to get these fundamentals of life, they have to rely on others to provide them. A list of factors, like war, famine and drought, complicate what countries like Greece and Uganda can choose to do with their land – an influx of refugees from Syria and South Sudan, respectively, have strained already thinly stretched natural resources.

‘A problem that does not recognise borders’

Back in Malé, and in many other places around the world, more mundane reasons than conflict and water shortages are cramming the land.

Access to amenities like healthcare, education and jobs have long drawn rural populations into cities. More than half of the world’s population now live in urban areas. Just like in Malé, this is putting a huge strain on relatively small patches of land.

City living also requires careful planning – while many in the world live relatively comfortable urban lives with running water, sanitation and waste disposal, cities in the developing world are blighted by huge slums where no such infrastructure exists.

Africa and Asia are urbanising faster than any other parts of the world. By 2020 Africa is expected to be our planet’s second most urbanised continent with 560 million people dwelling in cities while Asia will have 2.4 billion. Yet according to the OECD, urban infrastructure in Africa is failing to keep pace and overcrowding is rife.

“The challenge is not that there is not enough space, but that we are not thinking about where people will be and what quality of life they will experience,” says Joel Cohen, head of the Laboratory of Populations at Rockefeller University and Columbia University. “Population growth is occurring most rapidly in the poorest countries where there are already slums. There are estimates that there could be an additional billion people living in slums by the end of the century.”

In short, every place as its own challenges.

In the cramped conditions of Malé, whose Maldives are famed for their natural beauty, nature has been squeezed almost completely out in its capital city. On top of all the other challenges we’ve already gone through, eco-friendliness is yet another bullet to add to the list.

“Twenty years ago we still had a lot of trees here,” says deputy mayor Shareef. “Now they have almost all been chopped down to make way for buildings.

And so on and so forth. Perhaps land’s pervasiveness on the planet, as well as its role as a basic building block of existence, is what invites such an array of issues.

The planet can certainly find space for many more of us to live on. But in the 21st Century, perhaps the real question we need to ask ourselves is who – and what – we want to share that land with.





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