TBR News November 15, 2016

Nov 15 2016

The Voice of the White House  

Washington, D.C.  November 15, 2016: ”The actual reasons behind any war are economic and political. The continuing war in Afghanistan is not to bring liberty and joy to the locals but to protect the huge, and very profitable, opium fields there. It is well-known inside the Beltway that the CIA ships raw opium to Columbia where it is turned into heroin, destined for the United States. If one looks at the deployment of American military units in Afghanistan, they will see that they are obviously stations about the opium fields. And Israel was angry with Assad of Syria because he was permitting the Russians to ship surface-to-surface missiles to Hezbollah in southern Lebanon. They wanted him out and we were willing to assist this project. And now the United States has involved itself in another endless, and very costly (to the American taxpayers) war. Let us hope that President-elect Trump sees through these dreary games and puts an end to them. And then that the money from the tax-paying public ought to be put to domestic, not foreign, use.”  

Secret Backdoor in Some U.S. Phones Sent Data to China, Analysts Say

November 15, 2016

by Matt Apuzzo and Michael S. Schmidt

New York Times

WASHINGTON — For about $50, you can get a smartphone with a high-definition display, fast data service and, according to security contractors, a secret feature: a backdoor that sends all your text messages to China every 72 hours.

Security contractors recently discovered preinstalled software in some Android phones that monitors where users go, whom they talk to and what they write in text messages. The American authorities say it is not clear whether this represents secretive data mining for advertising purposes or a Chinese government effort to collect intelligence.

International customers and users of disposable or prepaid phones are the people most affected by the software. But the scope is unclear. The Chinese company that wrote the software, Shanghai Adups Technology Company, says its code runs on more than 700 million phones, cars and other smart devices. One American phone manufacturer, BLU Products, said that 120,000 of its phones had been affected and that it had updated the software to eliminate the feature.

Kryptowire, the security firm that discovered the vulnerability, said the Adups software transmitted the full contents of text messages, contact lists, call logs, location information and other data to a Chinese server. The code comes preinstalled on phones and the surveillance is not disclosed to users, said Tom Karygiannis, a vice president of Kryptowire, which is based in Fairfax, Va. “Even if you wanted to, you wouldn’t have known about it,” he said.

Security experts frequently discover vulnerabilities in consumer electronics, but this case is exceptional. It was not a bug. Rather, Adups intentionally designed the software to help a Chinese phone manufacturer monitor user behavior, according to a document that Adups provided to explain the problem to BLU executives. That version of the software was not intended for American phones, the company said.

“This is a private company that made a mistake,” said Lily Lim, a lawyer in Palo Alto, Calif., who represents Adups.

The episode shows how companies throughout the technology supply chain can compromise privacy, with or without the knowledge of manufacturers or customers. It also offers a look at one way that Chinese companies — and by extension the government — can monitor cellphone behavior. For many years, the Chinese government has used a variety of methods to filter and track internet use and monitor online conversations. It requires technology companies that operate in China to follow strict rules. Ms. Lim said Adups was not affiliated with the Chinese government.

At the heart of the issue is a special type of software, known as firmware, that tells phones how to operate. Adups provides the code that lets companies remotely update their firmware, an important function that is largely unseen by users. Normally, when a phone manufacturer updates its firmware, it tells customers what it is doing and whether it will use any personal information. Even if that is disclosed in long legal disclosures that customers routinely ignore, it is at least disclosed. That did not happen with the Adups software, Kryptowire said.

According to its website, Adups provides software to two of the largest cellphone manufacturers in the world, ZTE and Huawei. Both are based in China.

Samuel Ohev-Zion, the chief executive of the Florida-based BLU Products, said: “It was obviously something that we were not aware of. We moved very quickly to correct it.”

He added that Adups had assured him that all of the information taken from BLU customers had been destroyed.

The software was written at the request of an unidentified Chinese manufacturer that wanted the ability to store call logs, text messages and other data, according to the Adups document. Adups said the Chinese company used the data for customer support.

Ms. Lim said the software was intended to help the Chinese client identify junk text messages and calls. She did not identify the company that requested it and said she did not know how many phones were affected. She said phone companies, not Adups, were responsible for disclosing privacy policies to users. “Adups was just there to provide functionality that the phone distributor asked for,” she said.

Android phones run software that is developed by Google and distributed free for phone manufacturers to customize. A Google official said the company had told Adups to remove the surveillance ability from phones that run services like the Google Play store. That would not include devices in China, where hundreds of millions of people use Android phones but where Google does not operate because of censorship concerns.

Because Adups has not published a list of affected phones, it is not clear how users can determine whether their phones are vulnerable. “People who have some technical skills could,” Mr. Karygiannis, the Kryptowire vice president, said. “But the average consumer? No.”

Ms. Lim said she did not know how customers could determine whether they were affected.

Adups also provides what it calls “big data” services to help companies study their customers, “to know better about them, about what they like and what they use and there they come from and what they prefer to provide better service,” according to its website.

Kryptowire discovered the problem through a combination of happenstance and curiosity. A researcher there bought an inexpensive phone, the BLU R1 HD, for a trip overseas. While setting up the phone, he noticed unusual network activity, Mr. Karygiannis said. Over the next week, analysts noticed that the phone was transmitting text messages to a server in Shanghai and was registered to Adups, according to a Kryptowire report.

Kryptowire took its findings to the United States government. It plans to make its report public as early as Tuesday.

Marsha Catron, a spokeswoman for the Department of Homeland Security, said the agency “was recently made aware of the concerns discovered by Kryptowire and is working with our public and private sector partners to identify appropriate mitigation strategies.”

Kryptowire is a Homeland Security contractor but analyzed the BLU phone independent of that contract.

Mr. Ohev-Zion, the BLU chief executive, said he was confident that the problem had been resolved for his customers. “Today there is no BLU device that is collecting that information,” he said.

Adam Goldman contributed reporting

Chuck Schumer: The Worst Possible Democratic Leader at the Worst Possible Time

November 14 2016

by Jon Schwarz

The Intercept

When Barack Obama leaves the White House, New York Sen. Chuck Schumer will almost certainly be elected Senate minority leader — and therefore become the highest ranking Democratic official in America.

That’s a terrible roll of the dice for Democrats, because Schumer might as well have been grown in a lab to be exactly the wrong face for opposition to Donald Trump:

  • Schumer, who’s just about to turn 66, grew up in Brooklyn and went to the same high school as Bernie Sanders. Then their lives diverged: Schumer, the smartiest of the smartypants, got a perfect score on the SATs and then went to Harvard and Harvard Law School. He was elected to the New York State Assembly at 23, the U.S. Congress at 29, and the U.S. Senate at 47. He’s never had any adult job outside elected office.
  • He possesses the same impressive political acumen as Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign, sagely explaining “For every blue-collar Democrat we lose in western Pennsylvania, we will pick up two moderate Republicans in the suburbs in Philadelphia, and you can repeat that in Ohio and Illinois and Wisconsin.”
  • Schumer’s done more than anyone except Bill and Hillary Clinton to intertwine Wall Street and the Democratic Party. He raises millions and millions of dollars from the finance industry, both for himself and for other Democrats. In return, he voted to repeal the Glass-Steagall Act in 1999 and voted to bail out Wall Street in 2008. In between, he slashed fees paid by banks to the Securities and Exchange Commission to pay for regulatory enforcement, and eviscerated congressional efforts to crack down on rating agencies.
  • Schumer has long been the Democrats’ point man in efforts to craft a bipartisan deal to slash taxes on multinational corporations.
  • Schumer voted for the Patriot Act in 2001, and sponsored its predecessor, the Omnibus Counterterrorism Act of 1995. During a Senate hearing, Schumer explained that “it’s easy to sit back in the armchair and say that torture can never be used. But when you’re in the foxhole, it’s a very different deal.” In certain cases, he said, “most senators” would say “do what you have to do.” Schumer also defended the New York Police Department’s surveillance of Muslims across the region, which Trump has cited as a national model.
  • In October 2002, Schumer voted for the Iraq War by giving George W. Bush authority to invade. In a speech explaining his vote, Schumer warned of Iraq’s imaginary yet “vigorous pursuit of biological, chemical and nuclear weapons.”
  • Schumer voted against Barack Obama’s deal to limit Iran’s ability to enrich uranium and potentially develop a nuclear weapons program.
  • Perhaps worst of all, Schumer gave Anthony Weiner his start, first hiring him on his staff, then encouraging him to run for office and then endorsing Weiner in the race for Schumer’s seat when Schumer was running for the Senate in 1998. Thanks, Chuck.

Are there any positive things about Chuck Schumer? Well …  he did vote against NAFTA in 1993, and while he’s supported other trade deals since, he made negative noises about the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Also, he’s a talented matchmaker with as many as 11 marriages to his credit. And he’s the second cousin once removed of Amy Schumer, which you might see as good or bad, depending.

Police make raids against suspected ‘IS’ supporters across 10 states in Germany

Authorities have carried out more than 200 searches against suspected radical fundamentalists. German media reported that the targets were part of the well-known “True Religion” Salafist group.

November 15, 2016


A string of raids were carried out across Germany early on Tuesday morning against suspected “Islamic State” (IS) sympathizers. According to news agency DPA, the raids took place in more than 200 homes and offices across 10 federal states.

Authorities carried out searches targeting individuals belonging to the “True Religion” Salafist group (“Die wahre Religion”), who have stirred up controversy for passing out a particularly fundamentalist translation of the Koran.

The Interior Ministry confirmed the actions in a tweet, and announced a ban of the organization.

Some 65 raids were carried out in the state of Hesse, 15 of them in the city of Frankfurt alone. Every one of the searches took place in Berlin or the former West.

Salafism promotes a very strict interpretation of Islamic scripture and the use of Sharia law to impose order. The “True Religion” Salafists targeted in Tuesday’s raid have become infamous in Germany in recent years for disseminating copies of the Koran emblazoned with the slogan “Read It!” before they were banned from doing so in pedestrian zones by Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière.

A Twitter account appearing to represent the group claimed that “the Koran has been banned in Germany,” going on to say “we have delivered Allah’s message.”

De Maizière elaborated on the cause of the raids in a press conference later in the day. He said that this particular translation of the Koran was used to “spread messages of hate and anti-constitutional ideologies,” adding that “more than 140 young people have traveled to Syria and Iraq to join terrorist groups after participating in the ‘Read It!’ campaign.”

The raids came just one week after German authorities began a renewed crackdown on the country’s top Salafist ideologues, including 32-year old hate preacher Abu Walaa. Walaa, an Iraqi who has been in Germany since 2000, is suspected of supporting IS interests in Germany.

Massive special op against Islamists carried out in 10 German federal states, 60 cities

November 15, 2016


German police have carried out a large-scale operation targeting Islamists across ten German federal states, the country’s Interior Ministry (Bundesministeriums des Innern) reported on Tuesday. The raids took place in 60 cities, including capital Berlin.

According to the German media, police have searched offices and mosques believed to have links to the Islamist missionary network ‘The True Religion,’ which is known to have been distributing free Korans at infostands throughout Germany.

Germany’s Interior Ministry banned the organization on Tuesday morning. A spokeswoman for the ministry said that authorities believe the group has acted in violation of Germany’s constitution and incited hatred.The media states that the group advocates armed jihad and supports terrorist organizations, citing law enforcement authorities.

Authorities believe over 500 people to be part of the group, which has some 60 local initiatives throughout the country. The investigators are reportedly after the group’s founder, Abou-Nagie, an Islamist hate preacher of Pakistani origin who lives in Cologne. His home in Cologne has been searched, as well as his girlfriend’s in Bonn.

In total, some 190 mosques, offices, and apartments associated with the group have reportedly been searched in 10 federal states.

The raids were carried out in Hesse, North Rhine-Westphalia, Bavaria, Bremen, Lower Saxony and Hamburg. The operation is also being carried out in the capital, Berlin, where some 50 apartments and offices have been searched. In total, police raided the network’s premises in 60 German cities, German Interior Minister Thomas de Maziere said at a press conference that followed the operation.

There have been no reports of arrests as of yet.

The group is widely known for its ‘Lies!’ (read) initiative, which distributes free copies of the Koran while calling on Germans to “read the noble” book.

This morning, apparently in response to the police operation, they wrote a post declaring that “Germany has banned the Koran.”

The ‘Lies!’ activists have reportedly distributed around 3.5 million copies of the Koran in Germany so far. Authorities in some German cities have banned their actions, but activists have often ignored them, and distributed the books from backpacks and bags in response.

Numerous young Muslims have been radicalized during the Koran distribution campaigns, Interior Minister Thomas de Maziere told reporters. At least 140 ‘Lies!’ activists and supporters have already moved to Syria and Iraq to fight alongside the jihadists, he said. Some terror suspects in Essen, who participated in a bomb attack on a Sikh temple in April, were previously known as ‘Lies!’ activists, according to Die Welt.

Germany has been on high terror alert in recent months. In July of this year, the country suffered three lone-wolf assaults. In all cases, the perpetrators had either direct links to the Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) terror group or were inspired by radicalism.

De Maiziere warned back in September that there were more people in Germany capable of committing terrorist acts than ever before. According to the minister’s data, more than 520 people are could potentially commit “unexpected” and “high-profile” terrorist attacks inspired by Islamism.

Anti-terror raids have been carried out across the country on several occasions, in which a number of suspected radicals have been detained. In October, German police conducted several raids in five federal states in response to an “imminent terror threat.”

‘Islamist hyperextremism’ could bring world to brink of catastrophe – report

Catholic charity says the kind of religiously motivated violence espoused by Isis has led to attacks in one in five countries in last two years

November 15, 2016

by Sam Jones

The Guardian

A new and deadly wave of Islamist “hyperextremism” is undermining global peace and stability with an impact felt in the Middle East, Africa and the west, according to a new report that calls for urgent action to protect religious diversity.

The Religious Freedom in the World 2016 report, produced by the Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need, says the kind of religiously motivated violence espoused by Islamic State has given rise to attacks in one in five countries worldwide over the past two years.

It argues that the “Islamist hyper-extremism” of Isis – a phenomenon whose hallmarks are systematic attempts to drive out all dissenting groups, unprecedented levels of cruelty, a global reach and the effective use of social media – is having a devastating impact around the world.

“In parts of the Middle East – including Syria and Iraq – this hyper-extremism is eliminating all forms of religious diversity and is threatening to do so in parts of Africa and the Asian subcontinent,” says the report. “The intention is to replace pluralism with a religious monoculture.”

The study says that such violence and intolerance have been a major of cross-border migration. In June, the UN said that a record 65.3 million men, women and children had been forced from their homes by war and persecution last year, leaving one in every 113 people a refugee, internally displaced or seeking asylum.

The effects of Islamist hyperextremism are felt most keenly in the Middle East and some African countries, but the report notes that the west is far from immune. “[The phenomenon] is at risk of destabilising the socio-religious fabric, with countries sporadically targeted by fanatics and under pressure to receive unprecedented numbers of refugees, mostly of a different faith from the indigenous communities.

“Manifest ripple effects include the rise of rightwing and populist groups, restrictions on free movement, discrimination and violence against minority faiths, and a decline in social cohesion, including in state schools.”

Father Jacques Mourad, a Syriac-Catholic priest whom Isis held in Syria for five months last year, says that people of all faiths have to find a way to respect one another and their differences. In his foreword to the study, he writes: “Our world teeters on the brink of complete catastrophe as extremism threatens to wipe out all trace of diversity in society. But if religion teaches us anything, it is the value of the human person, the need to respect each other as a gift from God.”

He adds that if the cycle of violence is to be broken, “we need to replace war with peace … It is time to cast aside religious hatred and personal interests and learn to love one another, as our faiths call us to do.”

Beyond its focus on extremist Islamism, the report stresses that people of faith are suffering “a renewed crackdown” in China and Turkmenistan and are being denied their human rights in North Korea and Eritrea. It also says the situation has improved for some faith minorities in countries such as Bhutan, Egypt and Qatar over the past two years.

John Pontifex, the editor-in-chief of the study, said it was intended to serve as a wake-up call to the “evident genocidal intent” of religious hyperextremism, and urged faith groups to do more to address the hatred within their ranks. “What prospects are there for peace when powerful sections within specific faith groups have nothing but contempt for those who do not share their world-view – and who deny the right to life not just to people of other faiths, but also to moderates from among their own community?” he said.

Pontifex also said that western policymakers had to “rethink their whole outlook” and acknowledge the pivotal role that religion plays in global politics. “It’s no longer compatible to say that traditional faith practice belongs to the past when the evidence shows that for millions and million of people – a new generation – religion is at the centre of their lives, driving everything they do,” he said.

Russian carrier takes part in massive strikes on terrorists in Syria’s Idlib & Homs provinces – MoD.

November 14, 2016


The Russian military has launched a large-scale operation against terrorists stationed in Homs and Idlib provinces of Syria, Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu said on Tuesday.

“Today at 10:30 and 11:00 we launched a large-scale operation against the positions of Islamic State and Al-Nusra [terrorist groups] in the provinces of Idlib and Homs,” Shoigu said at a meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and the top leadership of the Russian Armed Forces.

Terrorist positions have been hit with cruise missiles from the frigate ‘Admiral Grigorovich’, Shoigu added.

The strikes are targeting factories and arms depots operated by the jihadists in Syria, he said.

“The main targets of the strikes are warehouses with ammunition, [terrorist] gatherings and terrorist training centers, as well as plants for the production of various kinds of weapons of mass destruction of the population,” Shoigu detailed.

He stressed that terrorists had actual factories, not merely workshops, for weapons production. “They are factories, not workshops, more specifically the plants for the production of all sorts of rather serious means of mass destruction.”

“Clearly, this is a well-established industrial production, these are the targets for today’s strikes. And they will continue,” the minister stated.

The minister noted that the Russian military had thoroughly surveilled the targets before striking them, choosing the most important.

“You are aware that we have sent a large group of our radiation, chemical and biological protection troops to determine the toxic substances which are used by terrorists. Within the past week they used them twice – in one case, 27 people were hospitalized and three died, in the other case 30 people were hospitalized – I mean the Syrian Army soldiers,” Shoigu said.

Journalists asked presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov about the possibility of the operation which started on Tuesday to be expanded to include Aleppo.

“Aleppo has not been mentioned in the report of the defense minister; it concerned other areas – Homs and Idlib [provinces],” Peskov told the press.

Air cover for Russian forces

President Vladimir Putin previously ordered the Defense Ministry to provide reliable air cover for the Russian forces in Syria. On Tuesday, Shoigu said the Russian military has been covered with S-300 and S-400 Triumph air defense systems.

“The S-400 has been running for a long time now. Apart from that, we have added S-300 to cover the sea area, nearly all the way to Cyprus,” the minister said.

“Additionally, the Bastion coastal missile complexes have covered almost the entire coastline,” Shoigu said, noting that “with these complexes, we are able to destroy both sea and ground targets” at distances of 350km for sea targets and nearly 450km for ground targets.

Shoigu noted that the issue of providing cover from low-flying targets has also been solved.

“That’s what the Pantsir complexes have been deployed there for,” he said, also reporting that Syrian S-200 air defense systems have been restored over the past four months.

‘Mere lie’: Russian military denies reports it bombed Aleppo hospital

Russian jets have not been in the vicinity of Aleppo for the last 28 days and thus could not have targeted the region, Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Major General Igor Konashenkov said on Tuesday.

“Russian Air Force aircraft as well as Syrian air forces have not bombed Aleppo for the last 28 days at all,” Konashenkov said.

Reports by some media outlets regarding an alleged attack on a third hospital in Aleppo carried out by Russian forces is “a mere lie,” Konashenkov added.

A Trump Doctrine – ‘America First’

November 15, 2016

by Patrick J. Buchanan


However Donald Trump came upon the foreign policy views he espoused, they were as crucial to his election as his views on trade and the border.

Yet those views are hemlock to the GOP foreign policy elite and the liberal Democratic interventionists of the Acela Corridor.

Trump promised an “America First” foreign policy rooted in the national interest, not in nostalgia. The neocons insist that every Cold War and post-Cold War commitment be maintained, in perpetuity.

On Sunday’s “60 Minutes,” Trump said: “You know, we’ve been fighting this war for 15 years. … We’ve spent $6 trillion in the Middle East, $6 trillion – we could have rebuilt our country twice. And you look at our roads and our bridges and our tunnels … and our airports are … obsolete.”

Yet the War Party has not had enough of war, not nearly.

They want to confront Vladimir Putin, somewhere, anywhere. They want to send U.S. troops to the eastern Baltic. They want to send weapons to Kiev to fight Russia in Donetsk, Luhansk and Crimea.

They want to establish a no-fly zone and shoot down Syrian and Russian planes that violate it, acts of war Congress never authorized.

They want to trash the Iran nuclear deal, though all 16 U.S. intelligence agencies told us, with high confidence, in 2007 and 2011, Iran did not even have a nuclear weapons program.

Other hardliners want to face down Beijing over its claims to the reefs and rocks of the South China Sea, though our Manila ally is talking of tightening ties to China and kicking us out of Subic Bay.

In none of these places is there a U.S. vital interest so imperiled as to justify the kind of war the War Party would risk.

Trump has the opportunity to be the president who, like Harry Truman, redirected U.S. foreign policy for a generation.

After World War II, we awoke to find our wartime ally, Stalin, had emerged as a greater enemy than Germany or Japan. Stalin’s empire stretched from the Elbe to the Pacific.

In 1949, suddenly, he had the atom bomb, and China, the most populous nation on earth, had fallen to the armies of Mao Zedong.

As our situation was new, Truman acted anew. He adopted a George Kennan policy of containment of the world Communist empire, the Truman Doctrine, and sent an army to prevent South Korea from being overrun.

At the end of the Cold War, however, with the Soviet Empire history and the Soviet Union having disintegrated, George H.W. Bush launched his New World Order. His son, George W., invaded Iraq and preached a global crusade for democracy “to end tyranny in our world.”

A policy born of hubris.

Result: the Mideast disaster Trump described to Lesley Stahl, and constant confrontations with Russia caused by pushing our NATO alliance right up to and inside what had been Putin’s country.

How did we expect Russian patriots to react?

The opportunity is at hand for Trump to reconfigure U.S. foreign policy to the world we now inhabit, and to the vital interests of the United States.

What should Trump say?

“As our Cold War presidents from Truman to Reagan avoided World War III, I intend to avert Cold War II. We do not regard Russia or the Russian people as enemies of the United States, and we will work with President Putin to ease the tensions that have arisen between us.

“For our part, NATO expansion is over, and U.S. forces will not be deployed in any former republic of the Soviet Union.

“While Article 5 of NATO imposes an obligation to regard an attack upon any one of 28 nations as an attack on us all, in our Constitution, Congress, not some treaty dating back to before most Americans were even born, decides whether we go to war.

“The compulsive interventionism of recent decades is history. How nations govern themselves is their own business. While, as JFK said, we prefer democracies and republics to autocrats and dictators, we will base our attitude toward other nations upon their attitude toward us.

“No other nation’s internal affairs are a vital interest of ours.

“Europeans have to be awakened to reality. We are not going to be forever committed to fighting their wars. They are going to have to defend themselves, and that transition begins now.

“In Syria and Iraq, our enemies are al-Qaida and ISIS. We have no intention of bringing down the Assad regime, as that would open the door to Islamic terrorists. We have learned from Iraq and Libya.”

Then Trump should move expeditiously to lay out and fix the broad outlines of his foreign policy, which entails rebuilding our military while beginning the cancellation of war guarantees that have no connection to U.S. vital interests. We cannot continue to bankrupt ourselves to fight other countries’ wars or pay other countries’ bills.

The ideal time for such a declaration, a Trump Doctrine, is when the president-elect presents his secretaries of state and defense.

Putin & Trump discuss Syria and US-Russia relations in phone call – Kremlin

November 14, 2016


US President-elect Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin have held their first telephone call, in which the two leaders discussed Syria and agreed to improve and develop bilateral ties, the Kremlin said in a statement.

In their telephone conversation, the two leaders agreed that they share a common view on “uniting efforts in the fight with the common enemy number one – international terrorism and extremism,” the Kremlin said in a statement published on its website late Monday. The Kremlin added that Putin and Trump also discussed ways to settle the Syria crisis.

Putin and Trump paid special attention to the importance of establishing a stable basis for bilateral relations by developing trade and economic ties between the two countries and working toward “constructive cooperation,” the Kremlin said.

The president and the president-elect agreed to keep in contact by telephone and have discussed the idea of meeting in person.

Next year, Russia and the US will celebrate 210 years since the beginning of their diplomatic relations, which might motivate them “reversing towards pragmatic, mutually beneficial cooperation that would satisfy the interests of both countries, promote stability and safety around the world,” the statement also says.

Trump’s team has issued a statement saying Putin congratulated the US president-elect on his election victory.

Trump is “very much looking forward to having a strong and enduring relationship with Russia and the people of Russia,” the statement said.

Russian parliament speaker Vyacheslav Volodin told NTV Channel on Sunday that Putin and Trump share views on a wide range of matters which might “radically change the situation” in US-Russia relations.

“Putin and Trump have numerous common points and shared views,” Volodin said.

He noted that outgoing President Barack Obama had ignored Russia’s initiatives and deliberately “whipped up tensions, therefore contributing to the growing animosity” between the two countries, while Trump might assume a far different attitude toward Russia.

“If Trump brings his promises to life, it will radically change the situation. We have only seen Trump as a candidate but we are yet to see what [kind of] president he will be,” the Duma speaker said.

Earlier Monday, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that Moscow didn’t plan to contact President-elect Trump before his inauguration in January 2017, but he couldn’t

entirely rule out the possibility of such contacts, including letters, telephone calls and meetings. Peskov’s statement came in response to speculations that Donald Trump’s team had contacted Russian officials on numerous occasions.

Here’s The Foreign Policy Stance That Should Displace Neocons

Liberal interventionism and neoconservatism offer us the same militaristic approaches. It’s time for a new, more thoughtful approach to our foreign policy.

November 3, 2016

by Daniel L. Davis

the Federalist

For the past few decades, there have been two dominant schools of thought on foreign policy: the liberal interventionist camp, and the neoconservative interventionist group. The intellectual foundation for these two schools of thought was always thin, but both have failed to create positive outcomes for U.S. global interests. If America’s vital national interests are to be safeguarded, we need new ways of thinking and acting international stage—ways that accurately reflect the evolving and sometimes chaotic world of 2016.

It’s time to jettison the old ways of thinking for a new school of thought that takes the world as it exists—some of which is violent, anarchic, and threatening, and other of which is peaceful, stable, and friendly—and form an American foreign policy that firmly defends the security and freedom of American citizens while fostering, to the extent possible, a stable international environment.

This new thinking would be willing to push the envelope in seeking the most stable world possible, guaranteeing the security of our country, and providing the greatest economic opportunity possible.

Neocons and Liberal Interventionists Embrace the Same Militaristic Approach

Neoconservatism has held that to secure America, the U.S. needs to go abroad militarily to shape the internal affairs of other countries, even if that means preemptively striking hostile powers and actors. The liberal interventionist school of thought has generally focused on using military power to resolve humanitarian concerns abroad, support for international law, and likewise spread democracy to other nations.

Unfortunately for the neoconservatives, it has become painfully clear over the past decade that relying on the military to solve the majority of international problems has produced a worsening of the very conditions it sought to solve. Liberal interventionists have had a heart for those on the wrong side of inequality globally, but have believed that using or threatening to use force was an effective way to solve problems.

Both schools of thought have it wrong. This fact has made them operationally indistinguishable. This is why neoconservatives or military primacists, like Lindsey Graham, often recommend similar military actions to liberal interventionists, like John Kerry. There is now effectively one bipartisan school of thought in foreign policy. Some scholars have called it “liberal hegemonialism” or “primacy.”

When Republicans are in charge of the White House or Congress, the fused hybrid most often manifests itself by deploying lethal military power to select global hotspots, trying to coerce or destroy opponents in an attempt to bend them to U.S. will.

When Democrats have the power, they almost reflexively use military power to compel states to adopt American-approved democracy, or behave in ways they believe others ought to behave, whether others agree or not.

But the difference between the actions taken by the GOP and Democratic parties is more a nuance than a distinction. The Republicans can’t seem to accept that the Cold War no longer exists. And Democrats appear unwilling to recognize that some violent actors are irredeemable. Both have failed America, and today’s new reality demands a new school of foreign policy thought.

We Need a New Theory of Foreign Policy

Any new theory of foreign policy must have a rational basis for operating in today’s complex, hostile, friendly, violent, peaceful, pessimistic, and challenging world. The character and culture of the United States must form the basis for international policies within this often unstable environment. It must protect American citizens, safeguard the Constitution and the freedoms it enumerates, and foster the most effective trade relations possible. It must also:

  • Be supported by a powerful, world-class military, yet be restrained and prudent in its application abroad.
  • Use this dominant power abroad when the security of the United States is either attacked or credible evidence shows an attack is genuinely imminent—yet use these measures only when thorough diplomatic efforts have been exhausted, truly as a last resort.
  • Seek win-win negotiations with other states in diplomatic and economic matters.
  • Accept the demonstrated will of the people in other nations in choosing how they want to be governed, even if it is not a system we would choose or prefer.
  • Respect other countries—their various, rich, and complex cultures—accept they represent many ideologies and ways of thinking, often different than that of the United States, even if we wish they might follow our liberal democratic example.
  • Promote considerable diplomatic engagement, working towards ever-improving relations with the nations of the world, and—to the extent it is possible—be at peace with all.
  • Aggressively engage the world in international trade, seeking new markets for U.S. goods while solidifying those that already exist.
  • Seek to help other peoples with humanitarian assistance of various types when requested, and when doing so, not compromise U.S. national security or interests.
  • Advocate for diplomatic relations with other nations in cases where there is any chance of fostering peace or global stability.
  • Recognize that states will at times be in opposition to the U.S. When this situation occurs, appropriate counteractions will be taken to safeguard American citizens.
  • Recognize there are limits to power and that, however desirable a favored outcome, the U.S. cannot always force it into being.
  • Seek to promote freedom, respect, and democracy abroad—but primarily believe this is most effectively done when we model it such that others desire, on their own and in their own way, to adopt them.
  • Reserve the freedom to take any action that proves necessary to safeguard American security however a threat may manifest itself.

This new school of thought would not:

  • Hold select nations to be permanent enemies or permanent friends.
  • Seek to use lethal military power as a policy option of first choice.
  • Believe that the United States has either the obligation or the authority to impose its culture or form of government on others abroad.

If America Doesn’t Fight Every War, That’s Okay

There is a thinking that quietly undergirds the beliefs of sizable numbers of Americans across the political spectrum regarding the use of force abroad. Namely, they believe that if the U.S. military doesn’t “lead” by fighting extremism or stopping civil wars like those raging in Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan, then other forces will “fill the vacuum” to our detriment. This is a commonly held fear, but one that is not supported by the historical record.

In the 1950s and 60s, there was great fear that if Vietnam fell to Communism, other nations would fall under its domination like dominos falling on one another. Yet after a decade of war and the deaths of over 50,000 Americans, Vietnam did fall to the Communists. No harm to the United States resulted, and no other nations followed their example.

It is inescapable that some peoples in the world have not, do not, and may never like America. It is equally true that this dislike does not necessarily translate into a professed desire or (more importantly) a military ability to kill us. We needn’t automatically confront, contain, or attack them militarily.

When dislike turns to hostility and it’s possible that others may seek to harm American citizens or allies, then other measures become necessary. Further, since it is impossible to know when, why, or how hostile forces may seek to harm America, it is appropriate and necessary to maintain a strong military that can immediately and powerfully respond to a range of threats. We should engage the world more, not less, but in productive ways.

Let us dismiss worn-out theories of foreign policy. They may have had utility in the past but are now obsolete. It is time to adopt updated guiding principles. In short, it’s time to move forward with a foreign policy that works.

Empire of Chaos

With President Trump, Is the American Experiment Over?

by Tom Engelhardt


The one thing you could say about empires is that, at or near their height, they have always represented a principle of order as well as domination.  So here’s the confounding thing about the American version of empire in the years when this country was often referred to as “the sole superpower,” when it was putting more money into its military than the next 10 nations combined: it’s been an empire of chaos.

Back in September 2002, Amr Moussa, then head of the Arab League, offered a warning I’ve never forgotten.  The Bush administration’s intention to invade Iraq and topple its ruler, Saddam Hussein, was already obvious.  Were they to take such a step, Moussa insisted, it would “open the gates of hell.”  His prediction turned out to be anything but hyperbole — and those gates have never again closed.

The Wars Come Home

From the moment of the invasion of Afghanistan in October 2001, in fact, everything the U.S. military touched in these years has turned to dust.  Nations across the Greater Middle East and Africa collapsed under the weight of American interventions or those of its allies, and terror movements, one grimmer than the next, spread in a remarkably unchecked fashion.  Afghanistan is now a disaster zone; Yemen, wracked by civil war, a brutal U.S.-backed Saudi air campaign, and various ascendant terror groups, is essentially no more; Iraq, at best, is a riven sectarian nation; Syria barely exists; Libya, too, is hardly a state these days; and Somalia is a set of fiefdoms and terror movements.  All in all, it’s quite a record for the mightiest power on the planet, which, in a distinctly un-imperial fashion, has been unable to impose its military will or order of any sort on any state or even group, no matter where it chose to act in these years.  It’s hard to think of a historical precedent for this.

Meanwhile, from the shattered lands of the empire of chaos stream refugees by the millions,numbers not seen since vast swaths of the globe were left in rubble at the end of World War II.  Startling percentages of the populations of various failed and failing states, including stunning numbers of children, have been driven into internal exile or sent fleeing across borders and, fromAfghanistan to North Africa to Europe, they are shaking up the planet in unsettling ways (as theirfantasy versions shook up the election here in the U.S.).

It’s something of a cliché to say that, sooner or later, the frontier wars of empires come home to haunt the imperial heartland in curious ways.  Certainly, such has been the case for our wars on the peripheries.  In various forms — from the militarization of the police to the loosing of spy drones in American skies and of surveillance technology tested on distant battlefields — it’s obvious that America’s post-9/11 conflicts have returned to “the homeland,” even if, most of the time, we have paid remarkably little attention to this phenomena.

And that, I suspect, is the least significant way in which our wars have been repatriated.  What Election 2016 made clear was that the empire of chaos has not remained a phenomenon of the planet’s backlands.  It’s with us in the United States, right here, right now.  And it’s come home in a fashion that no one has yet truly tried to make sense of.  Can’t you feel the deep and spreading sense of disorder that lay at the heart of the bizarre election campaign that roiled this country, brought the most extreme kinds of racism and xenophobia back into the mainstream, and with Donald Trump’s election, may never really end?  Using the term of tradecraft that Chalmers Johnson borrowed from the CIA and popularized, think of this as, in some strange fashion, the ultimate in imperial blowback.

There’s a history to be written of how such disorder came home, of how it warped the American system and our democratic form of governance, of how a process that began decades ago not in the stew of defeat or disaster but in a moment of unparalleled imperial triumph undermined so much.  If I had to choose a date to begin that history, I think I would start in 1979 in Afghanistan, a country that, if you were an American but not a hippie backpacker, you might then have had trouble locating on a map.  And if someone had told you at the time that, over the next nearly four decades, your country would be involved in at least a quarter-century of wars there, you would undoubtedly have considered him mad.

Thought of a certain way, the empire of chaos began in a victory so stunning, so complete, so imperial that it essentially helped drive the other superpower, that “Evil Empire” the Soviet Union, to implode.  It began, in fact, with the desire of Jimmy Carter’s national security adviser, Zbigniew Brzezinski, to give the Soviets a bloody nose, or to be more precise, a taste of America’s Vietnam experience, to trap the Red Army in an Afghan quagmire.  In that light, the CIA would run a massive, decade-long covert program to fund, arm, and train fundamentalist opponents of the leftwing Afghan government in Kabul and of the occupying Red Army.  To do so, it fatefully buddied up with two unsavory “allies”: the Saudis, who were ready to sink their oil money into support for Afghan mujahedeen fighters of the most extreme sort, and the Pakistani intelligence service, the ISI, which was intent on controlling events in that land, no matter the nature of the cast of characters it found available.

In the fashion of Vietnam for the Americans, Afghanistan would prove to be what Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev called “the bleeding wound” for the Russians.  A decade later, the Red Army would limp home in defeat and within two years a hollowed-out Soviet Union, never as strong as Washington imagined, would implode, a triumph so stunning that the American political elite initially couldn’t take it in.  After almost half a century, the Cold War was over; one of the two remaining “superpowers” had left the global stage in defeat; and for the first time since Europeans set out on wooden ships to conquer distant parts of the globe, only a single great power was left standing on the planet.

Given the history of those centuries past, the dreams of Bush-Cheney & Co. about how the U.S. would dominate the world as no power, not even the Romans or the British, had ever done seemed to make a certain sense.  But in that triumph of 1989 lay the seeds as well of future chaos.  To take down the Soviets, the CIA, in tandem with the Saudis and the Pakistanis, had armed and built up groups of extreme Islamists, who, it turned out, had no intention of going away once the Soviets were driven from Afghanistan.  It won’t exactly shock you if I add that, in those decisions, in that triumphant moment, lay the genesis of the future 9/11 attacks and in some curious fashion, even perhaps the future rise of a presidential candidate, and now president-elect, so bizarre that, despite the billions of words expended on him, he remains a phenomenon beyond understanding.

As our first declinist candidate for president, Donald J. Trump did at least express something new and true about the nature of our country.  In the phrase that he tried to trademark in 2012 and with which he launched his presidential campaign in 2015 — “Make America Great Again” — he caught a deeply felt sense among millions of Americans that the empire of chaos had indeed arrived on our shores and that, like the Soviet Union a quarter-century ago, the U.S. might ever so slowly be heading into an era in which (minus him, naturally) “greatness” was a goner.

Imperial Overreach and the Rise of the National Security State

In the end, those seeds, first planted in Afghan and Pakistani soil in 1979, led to the attacks of September 11, 2001.  That day was the very definition of chaos brought to the imperial heartland, and spurred the emergence of a new, post-Constitutional governing structure, through the expansion of the national security state to monumental proportions and a staggering version of imperial overreach.  On the basis of the supposed need to keep Americans safe from terrorism (and essentially nothing else), the national security state would balloon into a dominant — and dominantly funded — set of institutions at the heart of American political life (without which, rest assured, FBI Director James Comey’s public interventions in an American election would have been inconceivable).  In these years, that state-within-a-state became the unofficial fourth branch of government, at a moment when two of the others — Congress and the courts, or at least the Supreme Court — were faltering.

The 9/11 attacks also unleashed the Bush administration’s stunningly ambitious, ultimately disastrous Global War on Terror, and over-the-top fantasies about establishing a military-enforced Pax Americana, first in the Middle East and then perhaps globally.  They also unleashed its wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the U.S. drone assassination program across significant parts of the planet, the building of an unprecedented global surveillance state, the spread of a kind of secrecy so all-encompassing that much of government activity became unknowable to “the People,” and a kind of imperial overreach that sent literally trillions of dollars (often via warrior corporations) tumbling into the abyss.  All of these were chaos-creating factors.

At the same time, the basic needs of many Americans went increasingly unattended, of those at least who weren’t part of a Gilded Age 1% sucking up American wealth in an extraordinary fashion.  The one-percenters then repurposed some of those trickle-up funds for the buying and selling of politicians, again in an atmosphere of remarkable secrecy.  (It was often impossible to know who had given money to whom for what.)  In turn, that stream of Supreme Court-approved funds changed the nature of, and perhaps the very idea of, what an election was.

Meanwhile, parts of the heartland were being hollowed out, while — even as the military continued to produce trillion-dollar boondoggle weapons systems — the country’s inadequately funded infrastructure began to crumble in a way that once would have been inconceivable.  Similarly, the non-security-state part of the government — Congress in particular — began to falter and wither.  Meanwhile, one of the country’s two great political parties launched a scorched-earth campaign against governing representatives of the other and against the very idea of governing in a reasonably democratic fashion or getting much of anything done at all.  At the same time, that party shattered into disorderly, competing factions that grew ever more extreme and produced what is likely to become a unique celebrity presidency of chaos.

The United States with all its wealth and power is, of course, hardly an Afghanistan or a Libya or a Yemen or a Somalia.  It still remains a genuinely great power, and one with remarkable resources to wield and fall back on.  Nonetheless, the recent election offered striking evidence that the empire of chaos had indeed made the trip homeward.  It’s now with us big time, all the time.  Get used to it.

Count on it to be an essential part of the Trump presidency.  Domestically, for instance, if you thought the definition of American political dysfunction was a Congress that would essentially pass nothing, just wait until a fully Republican-controlled Congress actually begins to pass bills in 2017.  Abroad, Trump’s unexpected success will only encourage the rise of right-wing nationalist movements and the further fragmention of this planet of increasing disorder. Meanwhile, the American military (promised a vast further infusion of funds by The Donald during the election campaign) will still be trying to impose its version of order in distant lands and, so many years later, you know perfectly well what that will mean.  All of this should shock no one in our new post-November 8th world.

Here, however, is a potentially shocking question that has to be asked: With Donald Trump’s election, has the American “experiment” run its course?


From the FAS Project on Government Secrecy

Volume 2016, Issue No. 93

November 15, 2016


The proper selection and validation of enemy targets in war is a critical function for military planners and intelligence analysts. Errors can result in horrific civilian casualties and may also be strategically counterproductive.

“In extreme cases, failure to exercise due diligence in target development can result in outcomes that have negative strategic repercussions for the United States and its allies,” a newly disclosed Pentagon manual on targeting acknowledges (in bold type).

Procedures for correctly identifying and approving targets are described in the manual. See Target Development Standards, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Instruction 3370.01B, 230 pages, 6 May 2016 (Unclassified, For Official Use Only).

A target is “an entity or object that performs a function for the adversary considered for possible engagement or other action,” the manual explains.

“Targets fall into one of five target types: facility, individual, virtual, equipment, or organization.”

“Examples include POL [petroleum, oil or lubricant] or PWR [electric power] sites (facilities), the chief accountant of a terrorist group (individual), a Web site (virtual), mobile radar (equipment), or a motorized infantry brigade (organization).”

“A terrorist network is the adversary, not a target. A front company (an entity) that ships lethal aid (a function) for the terrorist network (the adversary) would be a target.”

“Collateral effects are unintentional or incidental adverse consequences of target engagement. Such effects are not unlawful so long as it is not excessive in light of the overall military advantage anticipated from the engagement.”

“While all targets are entities, not all entities in the battlespace are valid targets. To be validated as a target, the function of the entity must be tied to commander’s objectives (operationally relevant) and meet Law of War (LOW) requirements,” the manual notes.

The manual applies to the Department of Defense and the military services. It does not govern lethal operations by the Central Intelligence Agency.


“With a change of presidential administrations taking place in January, some in Congress are paying renewed attention to a parliamentary mechanism that might enable the new Congress and the new President to overturn agency final rules of the Obama Administration issued after late-May 2016,” a newly updated brief from the Congressional Research Service explains.

“The inauguration of Republican Donald J. Trump as President in 2017 may present a finite window during which the [congressional] disapproval mechanism might be used more successfully.” See Agency Final Rules Submitted After May 30, 2016, May Be Subject to Disapproval in 2017 Under the Congressional Review Act, CRS Insight, updated November 9, 2016.

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

Legislative Actions to Repeal, Defund, or Delay the Affordable Care Act, updated November 10, 2016

“Regulatory Relief” for Banking: Selected Legislation in the 114th Congress, updated November 10, 2016

Retirement Benefits for Members of Congress, updated November 10, 2016

Staff Tenure in Selected Positions in Senate Committees, 2006-2016, November 9, 2016

Staff Tenure in Selected Positions in Senators’ Offices, 2006-2016, November 9, 2016

Staff Tenure in Selected Positions in House Committees, 2006-2016, November 9, 2016

Staff Tenure in Selected Positions in House Member Offices, 2006-2016, November 9, 2016

U.S. Trade with Free Trade Agreement (FTA) Partners, updated November 9, 2016

China Issues Decision on Hong Kong Legislative Council Controversy, CRS Insight, November 9, 2016

Navy Force Structure: A Bigger Fleet? Background and Issues for Congress, updated November 9, 2016

Gun Control: FY2017 Appropriations for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) and Other Initiatives, November 9, 2016.

Arctic ice pack the size of Florida melted after ‘extreme cyclone’

November 15, 2016


Swirling hot winds caused large chunks of Arctic Ocean ice to melt last year, meaning water usually holed up as ice in glaciers unexpectedly flowed into the sea.

Data obtained by NASA’s climate monitor, the Atmospheric Infrared Sounder, has revealed how a cyclone carrying warm air from the North Atlantic swept across parts of the polar region in December 2015.

An ice pack the size of Florida disappeared from around the Barents and Kara Seas off Russia in just 10 days, according to the space agency, as the extremely humid air brought temperatures 10 degrees Celsius (50 Fahrenheit) higher than normal.

Atmospheric measurements recorded onboard the NASA’s Aqua satellite found that the “extreme” cyclone thinned ice by four inches from December 27 to January 5.

The unseasonably warm storm occurred at a time of the year when ice in the region typically builds up rather than melts.

“As a result of this cyclone, the concentration of the sea ice in the Barents and Kara Seas decreased by 10 percent and the sea ice edge moved northward,” said Linette Boisvert, author of the NASA atmospheric study.

The disruption coincided with some of the lowest levels of ice ever documented by the Aqua satellite.

“In our study, we found that the thinnest ice was completely melted out by the storm. Maybe in the coming years, if we start with a thinner winter ice pack we’ll see extreme events like these cause even bigger melt-outs across the Arctic,” said Alek Petty, of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center.

The tail end of 2015 meant bad news for the world’s ice caps, and 2016 is unlikely to be much better. The UN’s World Meteorological Organization suspect the past 12 months will be the hottest ever recorded.

“Another year. Another record. The high temperature we saw in 2015 are set to be beaten in 2016,” said WMO Secretary General Petteri Taalas in a statement.

“In parts of Arctic Russia, temperatures were 6 degrees Celsius to 7 degrees Celsius above the long-term average. Many other Arctic and sub-Arctic regions in Russia, Alaska and northwest Canada were at least 3 degrees Celsius above average.”

Echoing NASA’s statement on the possibility of more natural disasters, Taalas added: “‘Once in a generation’ heatwaves and flooding are becoming more regular. Sea level rise has increased exposure to storm surges associated with tropical cyclones.”

The preliminary report blames the powerful El Nino for a spike temperatures at the start of the year and says sea levels have jumped from the previous annual rise of 3.5mm (0.14 inches) to 15mm in the 18 months up to February.

Just a nudge could collapse West Antarctic Ice Sheet, raise sea levels 3 meters

November 2, 2015

by Carolyn Gramling

Science Magazine

It won’t take much to cause the entire West Antarctic Ice Sheet to collapse—and once it starts, it won’t stop. In the last year, a slew of papers has highlighted the vulnerability of the ice sheet covering the western half of the continent, suggesting that its downfall is inevitable—and probably already underway. Now, a new model shows just how this juggernaut could unfold. A relatively small amount of melting over a few decades, the authors say, will inexorably lead to the destabilization of the entire ice sheet and the rise of global sea levels by as much as 3 meters.

Previous models have examined the onset of the collapse in detail. In 2014, two papers, one in Science and one in Geophysical Review Letters, noted that the Thwaites Glacier, which some scientists call the “weak underbelly” of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, has retreated dramatically over the past 2 decades. Most Antarctic researchers chalk this up to warm seawater melting the floating ice shelves at their bases; seawater temperatures there have risen since the 1970s, in part because of global temperature increases. Right now, an underwater ledge is helping anchor the glacier in place. But when the glacier retreats past that bulwark, it will collapse into the ocean; then seawater will intrude and melt channels into the ice sheet, setting the juggernaut in motion.

Scientists agree that this is going to happen, says Eric Rignot of the University of California, Irvine, lead author of the Geophysical Review Letters paper. “The real central question is the time scale.”

But most models have focused on short-term timescales, decades or a few centuries at most, says Anders Levermann, a climate scientist at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany and co-author of the new paper. He and climate scientist Johannes Feldmann, also of the Potsdam climate center, wanted to examine how the destabilization would progress in the longer term, over hundreds to thousands of years. “The big question was how far [the instability] would reach inland,” Levermann says.

To study this, they ran computer simulations focusing on the dynamic forces that would act on the ice over time, from frozen inland ice to fast-flowing ice streams to floating ice shelves. They used the model first to simulate existing, observed subsurface melting within the Amundsen Sea, a region of West Antarctica that includes two vulnerable glaciers, Thwaites and the Pine Island Glacier. The model simulated current observations of enhanced, rapid melting until it recreated the current positions of the glaciers. Then they turned down the heat: They returned the model’s ocean and atmosphere conditions to those existing in the later 20th century, rather than the current 21st century conditions that have been causing rapid melting. “We wanted to show [how] it unfolds without us pushing it anymore,” Levermann says.

What they found was that local destabilization of the Amundsen Sea region of West Antarctica ultimately causes the entire ice sheet to fall into the ocean over several centuries to several thousands of years, gradually adding 3 meters to global sea levels, they report online today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The model shows that “there’s no holding back,” Levermann says: Just a few decades of melting leads to “thousands of years of ice motion.” More than 150 million people globally live within just 1 meter of the sea; in the United States, a sea level rise of 3 meters would inundate many of the East Coast’s largest cities, including New York and Miami.

One of the most startling results, he adds, was the knock-on effects of the melting. In an earlier study, the team found that the neighboring Filchner-Ronne and Ross ice shelves would not collapse on their own; the seafloor topography would keep them anchored in place and prevent the destabilizing inward rush of seawater. But when the Amundsen Sea region is destabilized, the model showed, the entering seawater was able to erode those ice shelves from the inside out.

“This paper does confirm what we hypothesized, that knocking out the Pine Island Glacier and Thwaites takes down the rest of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet,” says Ian Joughin, a glaciologist at the University of Washington, Seattle, who co-authored last year’s Science paper. He adds, however, that the model’s weakness is its resolution; it shows the destabilization of the glaciers occurring roughly 60 years from now, whereas present observations suggest that collapse is already underway. As a result, Joughin says, the model’s time scale for the collapse is probably too long. “It’s more likely measured in centuries rather than millennia.”

Indeed, “the jury is still out” on whether Feldmann and Levermann’s study got the time scale right, Rignot says. The long-term evolution of an ice sheet “is a very complex modeling problem. Some of the variables controlling the models are not all that well known,” he adds, including forces such as winds, ocean circulation, and how icebergs calve. “There is not a model out there that is getting it right, because they all have caveats. I think the discussion is ongoing, and is only going to be more interesting with time.”





No responses yet

Leave a Reply