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Links August 2015

August 18, 2015

News roundup

Saudi Arabia and its Gulf allies are escalating the war effort in Yemen, but the Houthi rebels and former President Saleh show no sign of bending. The Saudis seized Aden and the air base  Al-Anad north of Aden. In Taiz, forces loyal to Saudi ally Mansour Hadi claim to control much of the city. The UAE has deployed over 1,500 troops to Aden. Yet capital Sanaa and most of what used to be North Yemen remain firmly in the Houthi’s control.

Al-Qaeda controls Al-Mukkala — the Saudis don’t touch them.

As the war continues, the Yemeni people are heading toward a humanitarian disaster, facing shortages of water, food, and medical supplies.

For its part, the USA is accelerating arms deliveries to the Saudi kingdom and other Gulf states, to help them continue the air and naval blockade. Without the US and UK supply of weapons, ammunition, logistical and technical assistance, and diplomatic protection in the UN, the Saudis would not be able to wage this war.

Syria

Ankara is going after the Kurds and totally ignoring IS (Islamic State). Turkey’s purported new stance against IS is nothing more than a smokescreen for an all-out war against the PKK. Turkish foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu put it bluntly: “There is no difference between PKK and Daesh [Arabic acronym for IS].”

President Erdogan’s offensive against the PKK comes at a price and has left Turkey with a bill of up to 40 billion US$ due to the costs of a weakened lira, higher interest rates, lower exports, and reduced tourism revenues. The more the conflict escalates, the more the bill will increase.

Turkish tanks 5

The long time discussed “security zone” (no-fly-zone / buffer zone) in northern Syria takes slowly and clandestinely shape. The zone is meant to be 90 kilometers deep, stretching from Aleppo to the Euphrates. Western media are completely silent about the Turkish invasion, which is, after all, a blatant bridge of national sovereignty, the universally disrespected but still nominally upheld basic principle of the dominant Westphalian model of state foundation.

According to DEBKAfile (Israel’s notorious disinformation outlet) a large Turkish military contingent crossed into northern Syria via Bab Al-Salame on August 11. It is made up mainly of ethnic Turkmeni fighters (Sultan Murad brigade and Fatih Sultan Mehmet Brigade) trained for their mission by Turkish MIT officers. This arrangement aims to let Ankara off owning up to a Turkish military invasion of Syria. The units are armed with tanks and artillery and have Turkish fighter jet air cover. At least 5,000 soldiers are involved.

Until now the operation apparently proceeds smoothly with the Turkish soldiers just taking over positions of retreating Islamic militants. If the Turkish forces ever encounter IS, Jabhat al-Nusra, Jabhat al-Shamiya, Jaish al-Islam, Ahrar al-Sham, Jund al-Aqsa, or other more or less moderate Islamic terror groups, there will be most likely fierce exchanges of celebratory gunfire, aiming high enough not to hurt the other party. Western media will report heavy clashes.

Al-Nusra has already retreated from the envisioned security zone, staging fake battles for the media is seemingly not deemed worth the effort.

Ahmet Davutoglu

The US and its Turkish ally know that they have only a few months to finish what they started and depose of the elected government in Syria before part of the billions of dollars of frozen Iranian funds are returned to Tehran and used to assist with Damascus’ defense.

In addition to this particular threat the political situation in Turkey and Saudi Arabia is volatile, both countries face an economic downturn and internal dissent.

And yet:

The alienation between the Bashar al-Assad regime in Syria and the rest of the Arab world is maybe not as irreversible, as commonly thought. The head of Syria’s powerful National Security Bureau Brig. Gen. Ali Mamlouk was received by Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman in Riyadh in late July.

Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem arrived in Muscat after a two-day visit to Tehran. Oman has a rare genius for undertaking mediatory missions and pursues a unique foreign policy amongst the GCC states of keeping a line open to Tehran at all times.

Russia’s diplomatic efforts were spearheaded by Sergey Lavrov’s meeting with his Saudi and Qatari counterparts in Doha at the GCC conference, which also saw him have a conversation with Kerry. Syria was obviously on the agenda, and it’s likely that Russia spoke with the Saudis about a possible proxy pull-out, with the Qataris about dropping their support for Al Nusra, and with the US about the practicality of working with President Assad. The meeting with the Saudi and Qatar ministers was reportedly not overly productive.

Simultaneously with Lavrov’s visit to Doha, Russian Special Envoy to the Middle East Mikhail Bogdanov attended a meeting with the Syrian and Iranian Foreign Ministers in Tehran.

There is growing speculation about a likely meeting of the foreign ministers of Saudi Arabia, Iran and Syria. The eminence grise of Iranian politics, former president Hashemi Rafsanjani made a significant remark:

“We do not inherently have any issues with Saudi Arabia … Syria, Iraq, Yemen, and Bahrain are among the issues that have created a distance … It is possible to normalize the situation with a swift move … I really believe it is possible.”

There are no fail-safe measure that Russia can resort to in the event that diplomacy doesn’t reach the desired results, but Russia could embed its active Syrian-based military advisors into the Syrian Arab Army’s frontline positions and send airborne troops to deter US or Turkish air strikes.

Russia will clearly use diplomacy until that way gets exhausted. If diplomacy fails all bets are off but Russia has signaled that it is prepared for a military solution to defend Syria and Russian interests (Tartus) in the Mediterranean.

Syria map safe zone

Ecuador’s Cotopaxi volcano has become active and President Rafael Correa declared a nationwide state of emergency to prepare for a possible major eruption. This could make the Tianjin explosion (104 dead and counting) look benign.

Japan restarted a reactor at the Sendai Nuclear Power Plan, ending a 2-year ban on nuclear power generation. One Fukushima is not enough to chain the minds of energy addicted humans.

Feline news
http://www.cbsnews.com/news/lost-cat-miraculously-survives-california-wildfire/
http://bigstory.ap.org/article/03024c97a2744f95a5833a9b18b7d262/going-vacation-your-cats-can-enjoy-luxury-digs-too
http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/08/14/us-usa-oldestcat-oregon-idUSKCN0QI2LC20150814

Environmental news
https://medium.com/matter/it-s-not-climate-change-it-s-everything-change-8fd9aa671804
http://www.tomdispatch.com/post/176029/tomgram%3A_subhankar_banerjee%2C_fire_at_world%27s_end/
http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/the-point-of-no-return-climate-change-nightmares-are-already-here-20150805?page=7
http://phys.org/news/2015-08-amazon-slowly-eaten-gold-illegal.html
http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/a_haven_from_the_animal_holocaust_20150802
http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/global-water-shortage-exacerbated-by-droughts-and-misuse-a-1047527.html Bringing one of the most pressing ecological problems to mainstream consciousness could be seen as honorable, but the Spiegel, Germany’s notorious disinformation magazine uses the opportunity to praise Israel’s water policies while ignoring the annexation of the Golan Heights, which supply 16 percent of Israel’s water, the for Israel very favorable water treaty of 1994 with Jordan, and the illegal exploitation of the West Bank aquifers. Israel, and Israeli settlements, take about 80 percent of the aquifer’s flow, leaving the Palestinians with just 20 percent. The Spiegel staff also seems to be ambivalent on water privatization.
https://firstlook.org/theintercept/2015/08/11/dupont-chemistry-deception/ Important!

Economic news
http://petras.lahaine.org/?p=2044
http://www.globalresearch.ca/tsipras-and-varoufakis-approve-of-home-evictions-and-expropriation-of-depositors/5464886
http://mycatbirdseat.com/2015/07/92337-greece-rescue-without-debt/
http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2015/07/the-coming-greek-bank-nationalization-bail-in-and-privatization.html
http://triblive.com/opinion/featuredcommentary/8811564-74/thomae-economy-greece#axzz3hcdHrH7X
https://www.jacobinmag.com/2015/07/germany-greece-austerity-grexit/
http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/europpblog/2015/07/29/extreme-working-hours-have-radically-increased-in-many-western-european-countries-since-the-start-of-the-1990s/
http://www.globalresearch.ca/the-quadrillion-dollar-derivative-debt-and-the-bail-in-when-you-deposit-funds-in-a-bank-it-becomes-their-money/5466586 The waiting game (for the financial breakdown).
http://rbth.co.uk/business/2015/08/10/grants_worth_23000_to_give_russian_farmers_a_boost_48393.html

global debt 60 trillion

Imperial news
http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/the-fix/wp/2015/07/27/gun-control-americans-increasingly-see-more-guns-as-the-solution-not-the-problem/
http://www.alternet.org/civil-liberties/5-black-women-have-been-found-dead-jail-last-month
http://shadowproof.com/2015/08/13/black-women-with-mental-illness-suffer-horrific-abuses-in-la-county-jails/
http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2015/jul/30/samuel-dubose-officers-kelly-brinson
http://www.globalresearch.ca/puerto-rico-in-the-hurricane-of-americas-economic-crisis/5466018
http://www.workers.org/articles/2015/08/02/workers-distressed-as-infrastructure-crumbles/
http://www.deseretnews.com/article/865633375/Job-insecurity-is-the-new-normal-Heres-how-its-affecting-your-family-life.html
http://hosted.ap.org/dynamic/stories/U/US_FOOD_BANKS_IN_DEMAND?SITE=AP&SECTION=HOME&TEMPLATE=DEFAULT&CTIME=2015-08-13-13-27-53
http://www.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/who-are-biggest-killers-america-numbers-will-shock-you

USA spending 2015

Imperial conquest news
http://petras.lahaine.org/?p=2045
http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-07-29/how-war-has-destroyed-syria-s-economy-in-four-charts
http://www.zenit.org/en/articles/syrian-patriarch-aid-given-to-moderates-is-taken-by-extremists
http://news.yahoo.com/family-islamic-state-leader-raped-american-hostage-190501666–politics.html Not to forget: IS = US.
http://www.counterpunch.org/2015/07/29/the-ichkerization-crime-wave-in-ukraine/
http://slavyangrad.org/2015/08/10/whitewashing-bandera-for-a-us-audience/
http://slavyangrad.org/2015/08/10/americas-dark-history-of-supporting-ukrainian-fascists-and-war-criminals/
http://www.workers.org/articles/2015/08/07/a-personal-essay-on-two-cubas-on-july-26-in-miami/ One only has to compare Haiti, Jamaica, the Dominican Republic, and Costa Rica with Cuba to realize how beneficial the US blockade for Cubans was. Cubans will hopefully resist the siren calls of US propaganda.
http://www.middleeasteye.net/columns/pentagon-prepares-century-climate-emergencies-and-oil-wars-2021134422

Armageddon news
http://thearchdruidreport.blogspot.co.at/2015/07/the-cimmerian-hypothesis-part-three-end.html The Archdruid has written better texts but this is still high above the average blog or newspaper article. It presents the interesting theory of a positive feedback loop which make city dwellers lose contact with nature and consequently with reality. This is only one of the many things which are going on in industrialized societies but it surely has an impact.

Local/personal/gardening news

The second heatwave here was even more taxing than the first. The month of July has been the hottest in the 248 years since temperatures have been recorded. August will probably be the same. The number of hours of sunshine for June was 20 percent higher than the long-term average across the country, while 20 percent less rain than average was recorded. Night temperatures were not below 21 degrees Celsius.

Heat and drought have caused massive crop failures especially for fruits, corn, and soy. The national crop insurance estimates the damage to be over 100 million Euros until now, a significant sum for a small European country.

drought vine 1

It was the same in all of Europe, with record breaking temperature between 37 and 41 degrees Celsius (Cyrus 57 degrees Celsius), damaged crops and dying trees. In Germany a third of all newly planted trees are said to have died.

Severe Wildfires were (and in some cases still are) raging in Bulgaria, Croatia, Ukraine, and in all southern European countries.

The weather conditions were hampering electricity transmission as low river levels resulted in cooling restrictions of the thermal power plants, while higher demand for air-conditioning squeezed the reserve margins required by the system. Poland’s national supplier had to cut electricity for factories and the local unit of the world’s largest steel maker ArcelorMittal halted some of its operations.

forest fire 8

The heatwave disrupted ship traffic on main European rivers (Danube, Rhine, Elbe).

Climate change is now getting serious, but I was prepared for this, wearing appropriate (or no) cloth, spending a lot of time in the cellar, where it is some 10 degrees cooler, having the windows and curtains open in the night and closed during daytime.

The cellar is big and comfortable, two rooms are usable as office and bedroom, there is even an ethernet connection via power line adapters and I have a computer installed.

I changed my work schedule and was working in the garden from 5 am to 11 am, after that having lunch, a nap, or doing housework, and being out in the garden again from 6 pm to 9 pm.

The big problem was water. I expected the heat but I didn’t quite expect the severe drought. I knew of course that hotter means drier since evaporation increases with temperature. But I didn’t grasp that the relationship between the two is non-linear: as temperature creeps up, evaporation rises exponentially.  

My homeland is fortunately a rainy place but during the second heatwave in August the ground in the forest was bone dry. There were even warnings about the possibility of forest fires and a farmers association advised all members to fill up the sewage trailers with water just in case.

I collect all rainwater from the roofs of the house and the bigger greenhouse with four diverters and have 16 rain barrels with some 2600 liter capacity installed, but the rainwater was used up in a few days. In my dire need I excavated a 30 year old lawn sprinkler from one of the treasure boxes on the loft. I kept this piece through all the years despite its ostensible uselessness because I hate to throw things away which still work.

The sprinkler worked well indeed and when I looked around in the hardware stores I found out that it is still sold in a slightly modified version and beyond that it is clearly the most efficient and intelligent system. Also the cheapest, and for that reason it is most times hidden in the very back of the shelves.

I bought a second sprinkler of the cheap and efficient kind and a few advanced garden hose nozzles and installed the sprinklers at two points which together cover half of the garden. The rest of the garden was irrigated with the hoses or with watering cans. All irrigation was done in the morning from 5 am to 9 am. Fortunately there is a huge fir tree in the southeast of the garden which provides shadow during the morning hours. The forest on the east side of the property also provides shadow in the morning. 

I used lot of municipal water and it will be costly. I will have to inform myself about drip irrigation though at the moment it seems that it will not bring any advantage. The best I can do is to further increase the humus layer, which is still the superb water storage, and plant more trees and bushes to increase foliage. I have now 28 fruit trees, some 160 blueberry bushes, a thousand strawberry plants, and many colonies of mint, lemon balm, sage, etc.

Unfortunately the fruit trees will need many years to form a protecting canopy but there is a faster growing alternative: 11 grapevines and uncounted profusely growing blackberry bushes cover a respectable area and there are 2 meter high trellis set up on which they can climb, creep, entwine, and grow. The trellis form covered passageways where one can walk around without being exposed to the stinging sun. There are several areas that are completely covered by the grapevines and where it is substantially cooler as in the open. If anything goes well, a microclimate like in the tropical forests will evolve, keeping most of the humidity inside the shielding canopy.

Despite my irrigation efforts I lost about 10 blueberry bushes. In Fall and Spring 20 new bushes will be planted, but only in shadow areas. Lemon balm, mint, and strawberries have reached the status of weeds, Sage, thyme, yarrow stand their ground, while marigold and camomile need protection and additional seeding. Fennel came by itself, I have now three plants which are more than 2 meters high. I never imagined that fennel could become that big. Dill unfortunately has disappeared, next year I’ll try to introduce it again. The ferns are doing surprisingly well in spite of the drought.

Glechoma hederacea (ground-ivy) at the moment is the most prevalent weed and I’m not even sure if I should call it a weed. It belongs to the mint family, is rich in vitamin C, and can be used for tee and as salad. Creeping buttercup (ranunculus repens) is indeed creeping up everywhere and it has tenacious roots. It has no practical use and is poisonous, so I have to be careful and eliminate it with every possible method. Ground elder (Aegopodium podagraria) is also tenacious and regarded as a nuisance, but it is a minor problem here.

==========

The heatwave has ended and it is significantly cooler. It has rained for two days and all the rain barrels are filled up again. It feels like Autumn. When I looked around during the forest walk with the cats yesterday I saw a lot of dead bushes. I also have never before seen so many yellow leaves in August.

Meteorologists say, that there will be a third (or fourth) heatwave, but it should not be that severe because the days get shorter as the season progresses. Anyway, a continuous period of high temperatures and drought with a few rainy days in between cannot be called a heatwave anymore, this is the new normal climate that we have to get used to in the coming years.

The new climate had also three positive effects, two of which I didn’t foresee. First, most plants grew with unprecedented fervor due to the higher sun radiation and the yields were exceptional high (that was expected). Second, fungal infection were not a problem because of the dryness. Third, there were nearly no mosquitos, horse flies, ticks, or other blood sucking insects. In August I always had to apply repellents to exposed skin (face, hands), which I don’t like because of possible unknown side effects of the chemical ingredients (Icaridin, DEET, Citriodiol). This year no repellents were needed.

Call me crazy but somehow I enjoyed the heatwave, I could get used to this climate. The big problem  is the water scarcity and there is also the prospect that it will get even hotter as climate change progresses. Scary!

drought walking

Will we be one of the species being wiped out in the first phase of the human caused sixth mass extinction, the Holocene extinction? Or will we last a little bit longer to witness the result of our destructive activity, the unfolding horror of famine and pandemics, the dying of the last tropical forests, the fight for the last drops of potable water, the complete silence of a barren landscape — bereaved of any life?

Many people say now we have passed the point of no return, but I don’t give up hope. There are many uncertainties in human predictions, we are not as clever as we pretend to be. I still think that nature is more adaptable and forgiving than we imagine.

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