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Links March 2018

March 6, 2018

It is happening again. An experiment in direct democracy, equality, and self-sufficiency is being destroyed by an evil warrior nation which has nothing more to contribute to humanity than nationalistic arrogance, bigotry, baseness, and indifference to the suffering of fellow humans.

The experiment of communalism, which the Kurds in Afrin have established, is right now being crushed by Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Turkey. Erdogan, following his Ottoman dreams, wants to annex parts of northern Syria. He also claims Greek islands in the Aegean sea and Turkish warships blocked a drilling rig reaching Cyprus, but the westward expansion has to wait for now, the Kurds come first.

Why does evil always win? Why does a despicable character like Erdogan not simply disappear off the face of earth? No, he must not necessarily suffer, it would be sufficient if he just would not be there anymore. A sudden heart attack maybe? It probably would not help much, because nationalism, Islamism, misogyny, intolerance are deeply rooted in Turkey and there are many likeminded people waiting to replace Erdogan.

The Kurds in Afrin are slaughtered, and the Western public, always displaying great sympathy for the Kurd’s cause, is shockingly silent, as mainstream media focuses attention on Eastern Ghouta, a suburb of Syria’s capital Damascus, where radical Islamists have dug in to torment the population of the capital with nearly daily mortar and rocket attacks.

These random, senseless attacks are not just an annoyance, and though most just hit empty space, they also frequently cause destruction, injuries, and death among the civilian population, including women and children. Ending this terror is a priority of the Syrian army, but until now there were not enough troops available to do it.

The Syrian army has amassed some 15,000 soldiers around Eastern Ghouta and is pounding Islamist positions with artillery and bombing raids. The Syrians are up against fanatical jihadis, willing to sacrifice their lives in surprise suicide bombing attacks, it is necessary to eliminate as many as possible before the ground offensive moves forward.

Western media consequently have gone in overdrive to save their Islamic rebels from defeat and a broad propaganda campaign with pictures of injured children and bombed hospitals has started. It is a cheap copy of the propaganda war waged before Eastern Aleppo fell, the reports are the same, sometimes even the pictures are the same.

Human corridors for the civilian population were opened, but the Islamists try to block them and have issued strong warnings:

Do not take or keep enemy leaflets.
Do not leave your homes or shelters without permission.
Do not try to leave Eastern Ghouta.
Violators will be punished, based on wartime conditions!

https://ingaza.wordpress.com/2018/02/28/un-feigns-outrage-over-ghouta-while-terrorists-rockets-rain-down-on-damascus/
http://www.aina.org/news/20180305193458.htm

Whatever victories Islamic propaganda warriors and their Western friends may achieve, the Eastern Ghouta offensive of the Syrian army is progressing quickly. Another success “The Tiger” General Suheil al-Hassan will be able to add to his impressive resume.

It’s only a matter of time before Aftris, Hawsh al Ashari, Reyhan, and Hawsh Qubaybat fall and after that, all what is left will be built-up areas. This is just dense urban jungle. Douma, the biggest town in East Ghouta, will likely be isolated after the surrounding towns Beit Sawa and Madyara are taken. Jaysh al Islam has reportedly withdrawn from Misraba, leaving just some locals behind. If this is true the Ghouta enclave will be cut in two within a day.

After that it is expected that the Syrian troops will storm Hamouriyah, Saqba and Jisreen while also opening fronts at Ain Terma and Irbeen or Jobar to keep the Islamists of Faylaq al-Rahman and HTS (al-Nusra) busy. The east of the enclave is probably the least fortified part of the urban areas and could turn out as Faylaq al-Rahman’s Achilles heel. Ain Terma, Zamalka and Irbeen could be the places where they make their last stand — if they don’t surrender.

Douma will be a hard nut to crack. Syrian’s hope that Jaysh al Islam will just give up, lay down their weapons and agree to be evacuated in “green buses” to Idlib. It would be the best for everyone and their situation is untenable anyway, surrender would spare many lives.

Religious fanatics unfortunately don’t think in theses categories.

The Kurd’s plight in the meantime is forgotten, they are not that important. After all, aren’t they socialists, or even communists? Whatever may happen to them, toppling the devilish dictator “butcher” Assad, who since seven years steadfastly refuses to obey after the USA told him repeatedly to step aside, has still priority above anything else.

Watch out for the next sarin gas attack, staged by the White Helmets to prompt a Western invasion of Syria or at least an air war a la Libya.

After the USA has set up 20 bases onto Syrian territory, amounting to a stealth invasion, and the bombing of Syrian troops by Western airplanes in Deir ez-Zor, Syria is turning into a powder keg that’s ready to explode. One honestly has to worry about what’s going to happen in the next few months.

The Pentagon announced, that operations against Islamic State holdouts in eastern Syria have paused. IS has to be kept alive to justify the US invasion of Syria. This is the only logical explanation, why the USA stops mopping up IS after the terrorists got steamrolled by Syrian, Iraqi, and Kurdish forces.

Israel is building a security zone in southern Syria where it has recruited seven gangs of Islamist insurgents. The dispute between Lebanon and Israel over the Leviathan and Tamar sub-sea gas fields could get hot at any time. Lebanon has moved closer to Russia and has signed a military cooperation treaty. The conflict between Iran and the Saudi Arabia / Israel axis continues simmering. The closer the handcuffs get to Netanyahu the more likely he will escalate in order to distract.

Enough said.

Feline news:

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-5374953/Snake-coils-neck-cat-live.html
http://www.khaosodenglish.com/news/crimecourtscalamity/crime-crime/2018/02/22/near-extinct-swamp-cats-seized-bangkok-home/
https://www.thedailybeast.com/the-man-saving-aleppos-homeless-kittens Includes some war propaganda but they have at least to admit that life goes on in Aleppo even after the Islamists were driven out.

Environmental news:

The numbers don’t add up and the plans don’t work.

Biogeochemical pollution, climate change, deforestation, and biodiversity loss, these are the four planetary boundaries, that humans have exceeded, risking irreversible and abrupt environmental change. Sub categories would be: Habitat loss and soul degradation caused by massive land clearing, land use practices, urbanization, weakening of environmental protections, invasive plant and animal species.

120 million tons of synthetic nitrogen fertilizers are used in agriculture each year. Half of the world’s crops are grown with the help of nitrogen, and it is being used less efficiently than ever before. In India, efficiency has slipped to 30 percent, in China to 25 percent, the global average is 42 percent. Only 42 percent reaches the plant roots, 58 percent (70 million tons) are washed into waterways, lakes, oceans, where nitrogen unleashes algal blooms and creates dead zones.

8 million tons of plastic enter the ocean every year.

Temperatures in Arctic soar 45 degrees above normal. As warm air spills into the Arctic from all sides, the world’s northernmost weather station experienced more than 24 hours of temperatures above freezing.

The number of undernourished people increased from 770 million in 2015 to 842 million in 2016 – meaning one eighth of the world population still lacks food security.

Yet, consumerism is alive and thriving (driving). For the first time last year, S.U.V.s (sport utility vehicles) made up more than one in three cars sold globally as drivers in China, Australia, and Europe ditched sedans. For US driver, S.U.V.s and pickup trucks were the preferred choices since time immemorial.

https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2018/02/07/world/science-health-world/ozone-layer-declining-populated-zones-study-finds/#.Wnw1VSOZMUR The worldwide depletion of the ozone layer despite a reported closure of the “ozone hole” is not news and was mentioned here already several times. It is stunning, that scientists needed that long to also notice it.
https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/wait-the-ozone-layer-is-still-declining1/
https://www.counterpunch.org/2018/02/06/nuclear-reactors-bankrupting-their-owners-closing-early/ Good so. The danger is, that the “invisible hand” of the markets could be replaced by the “invisible hand” of corrupt lawmakers, pulling money out of taxpayers pockets to keep non competitive technologies alive.
http://www.tri-cityherald.com/news/local/hanford/article200202639.html
https://weather.com/science/environment/news/2018-02-07-permafrost-mercury-stores-climate-change Minamata everywhere. Why is Minamata Bay not a UNESCO World Heritage Site?
https://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2018/02/iran-khuzestan-drought-dust-storms-rouhani-budget.html? The whole Middle East is in an environmental crisis.
http://www.scmp.com/week-asia/politics/article/2132771/journey-waste-has-west-learned-its-lesson-chinas-plastic-ban
http://e360.yale.edu/features/in-defense-of-biodiversity-why-protecting-species-from-extinction-matters
http://www.yesmagazine.org/planet/we-are-drowning-in-plastic-and-fracking-companies-are-profiting-20180214
https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/feb/14/decline-in-krill-threatens-antarctic-wildlife-from-whales-to-penguins?
https://www.counterpunch.org/2018/02/16/global-warming-zaps-oxygen/
https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/feb/13/a-national-disgrace-australias-extinction-crisis-is-unfolding-in-plain-sight?
https://www.counterpunch.org/2018/02/16/are-modern-cities-sustainable/
https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-018-02132-9 Household chemicals.
https://www.nationalgeographic.com/magazine/2018/03/drying-lakes-climate-change-global-warming-drought/
https://truththeory.com/2018/02/05/coca-cola-nestle-privatize-largest-reserve-water-south-america/
https://dgrnewsservice.org/civilization/repression/environmental-defender-guadalupe-campanur-tapia-murdered-mexico/ R.I.P.
http://www.atimes.com/article/cambodia-laos-losing-last-trees/ Swift deforestation.
http://science.sciencemag.org/content/359/6377/760.full Everyday chemicals are harmful too.
https://qz.com/1203988/african-elephants-are-migrating-to-safety-and-telling-each-other-how-to-get-there/ They are clever — if they would only have means to defend themselves.
https://dgrnewsservice.org/civilization/ecocide/habitat-loss/yellowstone-turns-blind-eye-sacred-facilitates-genocide/

Economic news:

https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/trevor-smith/after-carillion-can-capitalism-clean-up-its-act-or-will-marx-have-final-word Privatizations of public services always fail to meet expectations. They are bad for customers, good for shareholders.
https://www.counterpunch.org/2018/02/15/greeces-colossal-cave-in/ Greece as sacrificial lamb for neoliberalism.
https://metamag.org/2018/02/21/opinion-economic-growth-is-not-compatible-with-environmental-sustainability/ “Anyone who believes that economic growth can go on forever in a finite world is either a madman or an economist.”
http://inthesetimes.com/working/entry/20934/whole-foods-amazon-ups-tracking-orwell-dystopia
https://ellenbrown.com/2018/02/27/funding-infrastructure-why-china-is-running-circles-around-america/
http://evonomics.com/new-invisible-hand-conversation-peter-barnes-david-sloan-wilson/ Private property vs. common good.

Media and technology news:

The propaganda wars are steaming hot and they could eventually lead to real wars with bullets and bombs. Western left intellectuals take proudly part in these wars and find out, that finally they are on the right side of history, finally they are quoted by mainstream media.

Whatever the term “left” has meant in the past, at present it is devoid of any practical meaning. Belonging to the left is just a pose, including a social media account and a selfie.

Some lefties plea for better labor conditions and health care at home, but they couldn’t care less about the neo-colonialist plunder of the world, which after all is needed to pay for what remains of citizens benefits and social entitlements (as long as we eat well and have long vacations we are fine with neo-colonial exploitation).

Only Western left intellectuals have the inherited right to make fully qualified judgements on such important topics as: whether China is communist or not, whether Russia under President Putin is governed well, whether Iran is socialist or just a barbarous theocratic state, whether Assad’s government is legitimate, whether the North Korean leadership is insane or whether President Maduro of Venezuela “just went too far.”

http://medialens.org/index.php/alerts/alert-archive/2018/863-a-load-of-tosh-the-bbc-showbiz-news-and-state-propaganda.html

Heavy physical work, the care of home and children, petty quarrels with neighbors, films, football, beer, and above all, gambling filled up the horizon of their minds. To keep them in control was not difficult…. All that was required of them was a primitive patriotism which could be appealed to whenever it was necessary to make them accept longer working hours or shorter rations. And when they become discontented, as they sometimes did, their discontentment led nowhere, because being without general ideas, they could only focus it on petty specific grievances.”

George Orwell, 1984

http://inthesetimes.com/working/entry/20899/elon-musk-spacex-tesla-falcon-heavy-launch

Imperial madness news:

The State Department has signed a deal with the Pentagon to transfer 40 million US$ from the Defense Department’s budget to bolster the Global Engagement Center, an office set up during the Obama years to expose and counter foreign propaganda and disinformation. The money will be used to supply grants to civil society groups, media providers, academic institutions, private companies, and other organizations that are working on projects to counter disinformation. 

An estimated 3.1 million adolescents aged 12 to 17 in the US had at least one major depressive episode. Depression affects more than 16 million US adults.

17 people died after 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz, a former student at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, who had been expelled for disciplinary reasons, opened fire at the High School campus in Parkland, Florida. It was the sixth school shooting incident in 2018 that has either wounded or killed students. Since the Columbine massacre in 1999, 150,000 students at primary and secondary schools in the United States have experienced a school shooting on their campuses, with more than 400 deaths.

Senate leaders have reached a two-year deal that would set defense spending at $700 billion for 2018 and $716 billion for 2019.

Since 1982, between 3 and 10 percent of water systems in the United States have failed to meet federal health standards.

http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2018/02/27/balt-f27.html This is unprecedented. The entire subway system of a city is shot down because the tracks are worn out. It seems that providing transportation so people can go to work is less important than to develop new nukes.
https://www.counterpunch.org/2018/02/14/trump-privatizes-america/ Who would have thought that handing over infrastructure rebuilding and maintenance to private, profit oriented companies would increase fees and tolls? Who would have imagined, that projects fail, companies go bankrupt, and the public is left paying to clean up the mess? Wasn’t that ironclad law of capitalism, that profits are privatized while losses are nationalized known to decision makers?
http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2018/02/08/spai-f08.html War preparations.
http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2018/02/10/food-f10.html Food insecurity.
https://www.globalresearch.ca/making-america-great-through-exploitation-servitude-and-abuse/5628697 Well observed, well formulated, but what are the remedies?
https://www.truthdig.com/articles/deadly-rule-oligarchs/ Chris Hedges calling out empire again. Nothing new, but well written.
https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/the-next-recession-suck-unemployment-benefits-republican_us_5a7e0362e4b08dfc93040b5e?ncid=txtlnkusaolp00000618
https://newrepublic.com/article/147011/rural-americas-drinking-water-crisis
http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2018/02/19/coal-f19.html Environmental crimes of the coal industry.
https://www.globalresearch.ca/mass-incarceration-for-profit-the-dual-impact-of-the-thirteenth-amendment-and-the-unresolved-question-of-national-oppression-in-the-united-states/5629726
https://www.counterpunch.org/2018/03/01/pulling-teeth-how-medicaid-is-failing-the-poor-at-the-dentists-office/
https://www.counterpunch.org/2018/03/02/someone-tell-a-reporter-the-rich-are-destroying-the-earth/
Imperial conquest news:

Comment by John Chuckman about Russian President’s Putin reluctance to speak of a New Cold war:

I understand Putin’s reluctance to admit to or discuss a new Cold War with the United States. And, as seems obvious from the Russian side, there is no desire for one.

But I do think he misspeaks when he says analysts who speak of Cold War are only doing propaganda. That is in fact quite wrong, although he likely says it out of concerns of state.

There are very powerful forces in the United States looking to start a new Cold War, whether you choose to give it that name or another.

I don’t know what other name to apply to a seemingly endless stream of provocations like the coup in Ukraine, provocations like the NATO roll-up of tanks right to the Russian border, efforts to sabotage Russian armament sales abroad, efforts to prevent Russian gas sales in Europe, provocations like America’s illegal occupation of parts of Syria, constant slights by the State Department in its statements, the idiocy about Russian election interference, and a whole list of still other matters.

If that isn’t a deliberate effort to regenerate the Cold War, then we need new language for what it is they are doing.

Those in America’s establishment who adhere to the doctrine, “full-spectrum dominance” and who are spending absolutely sinful amounts of money on the Pentagon and security services sure seem like Cold Warriors to me.

They view Russia as a unique problem, the only country in the world that can obliterate them, and it endlessly rankles them. China will likely reach a similar capacity, but it is not there yet.

The Neocons, very influential elites in Washington for about two decades and generators of a whole stream of destruction in the Middle East with the Neocon Wars, certainly look at Russia this way.

Their basic axiom is that the United States should use the power it has to dominate. They do this, I believe, mainly because they are focused on Israel and have come to believe only a fairly ruthless United States can provide Israel’s best security guarantee.

Israel enjoys a rather unusual position in the world, being both an ostensibly independent country – and one with an inordinate set of demands, given its size – yet also being a de facto colony of the United States, a dual reality fraught with dangers.

Now, Russia keeps reasonably good relations with Israel, but Israel’s drive to dominate its region can only unavoidably come into conflict with Russia’s aim of increasing its influence in the region, assisting its allies, and perhaps gaining new ones. The case of Syria sticks out.

So, while I am an admirer of President Putin, I cannot agree with just what he has said here, but I know he has good reasons for saying so.

The US administration has asked to allocate funds for the construction of 37 Aegis SM-3 missile defense systems in Romania and Poland and on ships along the respective coasts. The systems are made by Lockheed Martin and will cost 1.8 billion US$.

https://www.strategic-culture.org/news/2018/02/18/us-is-executing-global-war-plan.html
http://www.tomdispatch.com/post/176383/tomgram%3A_nick_turse%2C_the_u.s._military%27s_drug_of_choice/ Calling out the biggest dealer.
http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2018/02/13/sobc-f13.html A well researched piece about Russian domestic politics.
https://lobelog.com/another-unnecessary-war/ From an Israeli dissident.
http://www.tomdispatch.com/post/176384/tomgram%3A_michael_klare%2C_militarizing_america%27s_energy_policy/
https://www.workers.org/2018/02/11/ecuador-at-the-crossroads/ If nothing else helps, bribe the president. Every man has his price.
http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2018/02/17/russ-f17.html War preparations.
http://www.tomdispatch.com/post/176386/tomgram%3A_stephanie_savell%2C_the_hidden_costs_of_america%27s_wars/
https://journal-neo.org/2018/02/17/lebanon-should-it-be-devil-deep-blue-sea-or-russia/
https://original.antiwar.com/Rebecca_Gordon/2018/02/22/9-11-hijackers-iraqis-right/

Armageddon news:

https://www.counterpunch.org/2018/02/26/waiting-for-the-debris-flows/
http://www.lrb.co.uk/v40/n04/meehan-crist/besides-ill-be-dead Sea level rise.
http://www.atimes.com/article/china-really-threatening-us-nuclear-weapons/ MAD (mutual assured destruction) becomes more mad.

Uncategorized news:

http://cindysheehanssoapbox.blogspot.com/2017/11/the-emancipation-of-women-cindy-sheehan.html
https://global.handelsblatt.com/politics/germany-mass-surveillance-social-credit-china-big-data-886786 Social credit rating.
https://www.alternet.org/personal-health/it-will-take-political-revolution-cure-epidemic-depression
http://www.aina.org/news/20180305193827.htm

News from cat land:

The ice is slowly melting and it will soon become clear, which plants are waking up from hibernation and which are gone forever. In recent years there were some mild winters where even annual plants (marigold for instance) survived, defying their classification and living for another year, but this winter was not mild. It was short though, lasting only through February and for two weeks in December.

One of the first things I did in the garden was to put some twigs into the garden grinder, but the grinder refused to work and just bleeped and blinked its LEDs, a signal that it is defect and needs repair. The grinder is apparently also annual, actually biennial, it lasted for two years. It has a three year warranty, so no money is lost, but I have to carry the heavy thing to the hardware shop and then fetch it again when it is repaired or exchanged.

One year warranty left and I wonder, how long beyond the warranty period the machine will last. This is a top of the line model, costing 600 Euros. On a related note: The chamotte tiles of the wood stove which I renewed last summer are already showing cracks, maybe I have to exchange them this summer again.

Most things which are sold today are crap, deliberately designed to last just one or two years. This is the “crappification of everything.” Things are also not designed to be easily mended, they are not assembled by screwing, soldering, they are glued and pressed together, so nobody can disassemble them without damaging the case or housing.

The “right to repair” initiatives are laudable but they are counteracted by manufacturers who increasingly restrict repair information to authorized repair centers, leaving consumers and independent repair people unable to deal with even simple problems. It’s most times easier and cheaper to buy something new.

Waste by design.

There are still some patches of snow left, refusing to melt and waiting for a warm, sunny day to do so. Some mice seemingly came out of their holes, but they didn’t last long and only a few remains (mainly gall bladders and heads) are left on the pavers in the garden. The cats are very untidy.

Shall I pity the mice or just take it philosophically?

Nature is cruel and unforgiving, I know. And the cats are my dear friends. They are glad that winter comes to an end, they want to have fun, they want to kill mice.

The cat family grew together during the cold days, gathering around the stove, sharing the small space, overcoming their territorial instincts. Gandhi Jr. and Rosy, his grand aunt, were always good friends, this winter their friendship grew even closer. Rosy’s fur resembles a bit that of Mia, Gandhi’s late mother, and it appears, that Gandhi has chosen her as his step mother. He is a big boy with his more than 6 kilograms, so much bigger than Rosy.

Lucia, the little cat angel, is overweight and her fur is a bit shaggy. I was concerned and went to the veterinarian, who took blood samples and even made an x-ray. Nothing was found, Lucia fortunately is healthy, it seems. On our last forest walks she was again climbing trees and running circles around the other cats. Nevertheless, she has to lose weight, and that is hard!

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