Links September 2019

September 24, 2019

Enlightened skepticism seems the best approach in all matters concerning news sources.

If one follows established media outlets of the big powers, it appears that accuracy, honesty, impartiality, and lack of bias are rare. This applies also to the few relevant alternative media channels and even to well intended dissident bloggers.

Following the news and comparing the often vastly differing interpretations is nevertheless important to understand events and developments, especially in complex circumstances where the causal connections are not obvious.

But media consumers should never forget that reports and analyses can be based on false assumptions. The basic methods of propaganda are still:

a) Repeating the same lie again and again, hammering it into the brains of readers, listeners, viewers.

b) Presenting disputable premises as proven facts or common knowledge.

c) Smearing and ridiculing skeptics, dissidents, and anybody who dares to question the officially approved narrative.

For longtime blog followers this is nothing new.

A few (mostly suggestive) questions:

Can it be true that the social climate gets more tense, that many people are frightened, desperate, distressed, and aggressive?

Is violent crime increasing?

In the USA violent crime in 2016 was up 3.5 percent compared to 2015. The previous year increase from 2014 to 2015 was 4 percent. In 2016, the murder rate was up nearly 8 percent compared to 2015, a little less than the increase of 10 percent from 2014 to 2015. Violent crime and murder decreased slightly in 2017, but California’s violent crime rate increased by 1.5 percent.

Violent crime in England and Wales has risen by 19 percent from 2017 to 2018.

Worldwide statistic trends though are inconsistent and statistics may be manipulated.

Are there protests and strikes manifesting social discontent?

49,000 US General Motors workers strike for a second week. The UAW (United Auto Workers) union has unsuccessfully tried to prevent the strike. The union is deeply corrupt, there is a widening federal investigation about kickbacks and embezzling, prosecutors until now have charged 11 UAW officials. 

Youth activists, inspired by 16 year old Swedish climate missionary Greta Thunberg, organized a global strike on September 20. There were over 2,500 events scheduled in 163 countries. 4 million people are said to have participated globally. In New York an estimated 250,000 people joined the strike. 

In early September, prominent climate scientists had published a petition calling on educators to “act with urgency and solidarity by leaving classrooms together. 

The newly formed Earth Strike movement calls for a global general strike beginning September 27 https://www.earth-strike.com/about-us/.

There was also an attempt to disrupt commuter traffic in Washington D.C. on September 23, as demonstrators positioned vans, cars, and even a sailboat in the middle of major streets and intersections. Law enforcement was busy making arrests and trying to remove both people and vehicles from the streets.

In France the weekly gilets jaunes (yellow vest) marches continue, though the crowds are smaller. 106 participants were arrested in Paris this weekend. The movement began in November last year, originally sparked by hikes in fuel taxes. 

This week the protests in Paris coincided with a demonstration by climate activists and a separate march by the Workers Force union against a planned retirement reform. Masked “black-clad“ anarchists infiltrated the demonstrations, sporadically clashing with police throughout the day. The black-clad protesters also set fire to bins and a motorbike and threw paint over the front of a bank.

At least one person died and several were injured during violent protests in the Haitian capital Port-au-Prince where the local police used tear gas and rubber bullets to suppress protests and prevent them from reaching the National Palace.

Chanting anti-government slogans, marchers blamed the government for a fuel shortage and rising diesel prices. The fuel crisis has shut down schools, public institutions and businesses across the Caribbean nation already wracked by systemic corruption.

In June a high court report accused President Jovenel Moise of an “embezzlement scheme” to siphon off Venezuelan aid money intended for road repairs across the country, but Moise refuses to step down and the Haitian Congress doesn’t start impeachment proceedings.

Unemployment is still 20 percent and prices of basic consumer goods continue to rise.

In Egypt protesters gathered in Cairo, Alexandria, Damietta, Mansoura, Mahalla al-Kubra, Suez, and other cities, clashing with police despite a law banning demonstrations. Discontent over rising prices and strict austerity measures is swelling and has led to similar protests before. Heavily armed security forces, sometimes supported by armed vehicles, dispersed the demonstrators. 

In Hong Kong thousands of masked protesters descended on the satellite town Sha Tin, erecting barricades, ransacking a shopping mall, tearing down fences, wall panels, and other public installations. Three stations of the Hong Kong light rail system were vandalized, ticket machines and CCTV cameras smashed with hammers. Trains were stopped by an emergency ramp which protesters had put onto the tracks.

At least 26 people were killed as Indonesia’s Papua region plunged into fresh unrest on September 23, as protesters burned down a government office and other buildings in Wamena city.

Thousands of protesters took to the streets of Algiers in defiance of a heavy security presence to demand the removal of the country’s powerful army chief. Demonstrators gathered near the iconic post office square, which was the centre of the months-old protests that forced longtime President Abdelaziz Bouteflika to resign in April.

Protests are useful to make friends, build lasting contacts, and find activist groups where one can participate. Protests help to fine-tune the message and gauge popular support. And if one can avoid traffic pollution, a bit of exercise in the open air has certainly health benefits.

On the other hand, protesting can be dangerous and unhealthy if the police uses batons, tasers, tear gas/pepper spray, rubber bullets, beanbag rounds, and directed-energy weapons.

Caution and discipline are needed to prevent hooligans and criminals joining in and using protest actions for their less than noble aims.

In Zimbabwe, after protests in August dozens of protest organizers and union leaders have disappeared. This method to quell unrest is widely used throughout the world.

Can protests, strikes, and boycotts upend old power structures, can they usher in a paradigm shift and a new social contract? 

Or are they only meaningful as accompanying actions, intended to connect and synchronize local grassroots movements, who are the relevant forces doing the hard work of reorganizing society, culture, and economy?

Feline news:


Environmental news:

The Western industrial countries lack of concern for the environment made it cheaper for them to develop. Now poorer countries, who are struggling to develop and close the gap, are being told that they need to respect the environment for the good of the planet.

In fact, they do need to respect the environment, but the rich countries have to pay them to do it. After all, it is a problem the rich Western countries created. This may not be a politically popular position, but it is a honest one and the only plausible way to limit global warming.

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-49415973 Destroying the Amazon rainforest.
https://www.rt.com/news/467228-fires-amazon-brazil-africa/ A somewhat strange report, leaving the question open if the forest fires in Brazil and Africa are just a normal seasonal occurrence or caused by human activity. Is RT following Russian propaganda lines which downplay ecological issues?
https://theconversation.com/its-not-just-brazils-amazon-rainforest-thats-ablaze-bolivian-fires-are-threatening-people-and-wildlife-122335 Forests ablaze also in Bolivia.
https://truthout.org/articles/its-not-just-the-amazon-we-must-also-protect-congo-basin-peatlands-from-fire/ The Congo Basin peatlands, second largest rainforest after the Amazon, are evenly threatened.
http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20190822-why-is-the-arctic-on-fire Forest fires in the Arctic.
https://www.asiatimes.com/2019/09/article/fierce-jungle-blazes-threaten-indonesia/ Forest fires in Indonesia.
https://www.csmonitor.com/Environment/2019/0828/Where-there-s-wildfire-there-s-smoke.-Protecting-clean-air-refugees Better ventilation, air filters, air conditioning, emergency smoke shelters, but nothing to mitigate climate change, reduce industrial pollution, stop deforestation and habitat destruction. At what point will the costs of environmental catastrophes force humans to scale down their resource consumption and reduce industrial activity?

https://wamu.org/story/19/08/29/whatever-happened-to-the-kids-whose-lead-levels-were-off-the-charts/ Terrible! And nobody holds mining corporations and Western consumer societies accountable.
https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/sep/06/oil-and-gas-companies-undermining-climate-goals-says-report Business as usual.
https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/aug/07/fossil-fuel-lobby-pollute-politics-climate-crisis George Monbiot, the author of this article, tries to uphold his and the Guardians environmental credentials to make his advocacy for US-interventions in the Middle East and other questionable views more palatable to his readers. Articles like this have no consequences, they don’t hurt nobody (and, most crucially, don’t hurt the bottom line), they are ignored and immediately forgotten.
https://www.vox.com/energy-and-environment/2019/9/19/20873714/sparrows-blackbirds-birds-north-america-study-science From the article: “Scientists keep telling us that something is going devastatingly wrong in the natural world.” Leaving the question open, what the cause  could be.

This article brought an old Beatles song to my mind, whose lyrics in the context of environmental news get a new dark meaning:

Blackbird singing in the dead of night
Take these broken wings and learn to fly
All your life
You were only waiting for this moment to arise
Blackbird singing in the dead of night
Take these sunken eyes and learn to see
All your life
You were only waiting for this moment to be free
Blackbird fly, blackbird fly
Into the light of a dark black night
Blackbird fly, blackbird fly
Into the light of a dark black night
Blackbird singing in the dead of night
Take these broken wings and learn to fly
All your life
You were only waiting for this moment to arise
You were only waiting for this moment to arise

Economic news:

https://www.foreignaffairs.com/reviews/review-essay/2019-08-12/population-bust A very promising headline and the sub-headline is even better
https://www.ineteconomics.org/perspectives/blog/the-sacrificial-rites-of-capitalism-we-dont-talk-about Interesting essay about self interest, sacrifice, and sacred rites in capitalism.

Media and technology news:

Most developments in computers over that last decade has had the effect of hiding the predation going on behind the scenes on internet connected devices.

Much of the time spent loading webpages is connected with interrogating your PC to see where else you’ve been, what you’ve been doing, what programs you use, and sharing that data with entities that sell the information to advertisers and other interested parties.

All this information is combined to a “user profile,” which becomes more detailed and complete every time you log on to the internet.

Over time, the interrogation and sharing has become deeper and broader, thereby slowing down the computer noticeable, but as processors run faster and memory became cheaper the degradation of performance could be masked, keeping the user happy and ignorant.

In the end, with each new model and each new software update we get machines that more efficiently surveil our every move while more and more efficiently hiding that fact.

And yet, not all people can be fooled all the time. According to a new Pew Research Center survey, four years ago technology companies were widely seen as having a positive impact on the USA. But the share of US citizens who hold this view has tumbled 21 percentage points since then, from 71 percent to 50 percent.

While negative views of technology companies’ impact on the country have nearly doubled during this period, from 17 percent to 33 percent. 

https://eu.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2019/08/28/doorbell-camera-firm-ring-working-more-than-400-police-forces/2140022001/ Surveillance camouflaged as “neighborhood watch.”
https://www.globalresearch.ca/hollywood-reboots-russophobia-new-cold-war/5687362 A long and winding, but accurate and informative article. It’s worth to take the effort and read it.
https://www.telesurenglish.net/news/Twitter-Suspends-Accounts-of-Cubas-Largest-Media-Outlets-20190912-0004.html It is war, as you should have realized by now, and US corporations are obliged to censor enemy propaganda.

Why for heavens sake do Western powers push 5G? China’s lead in 5G also gives it a head start in a vast array of industrial and consumer applications and the new 5G systems would embed quantum cryptography, preventing US intelligence agencies from eavesdropping on the world’s communications.

No US company produces 5G equipment, and the European alternatives to Huawei, Ericsson and Nokia, offer an inferior and more expensive product.

Vice President Mike Pence’s visited Poland to sign a “security pact” requiring “rigorous reviews” of telecommunications suppliers (that is Huawei). It obligates the Poles to nothing except a formal review process.

Poland will not accept US demands to exclude Huawei from Poland’s buildout of 5G broadband. During the early 2010s, the United States ignored Poland entirely, but Huawei made a long-term commitment and built the country’s entire telecommunications infrastructure. To exclude Huawei at this point would be disruptive as well as prohibitively expensive. Besides technological issues, Poland’s economic future is bound up with China’s. Poland’s flagship national project, an enormous new airport 40 kilometers east of Warsaw, will be “China’s gateway to the continent.”

Germany’s telecom regulator undertook a similar review process and declared last April that “no equipment supplier, including Huawei, should, or may, be specifically excluded.” German and Chinese government and industry sources report that the Chinese telecom giant persuaded the German government that its 5G technology would not enable China to spy on the Germans, but rather would prevent the United States from doing so. A senior German official is said to have told US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that Germany was not aware of China tapping Chancellor Angela Merkel’s mobile phone, as the US reportedly did in 2013.

Imperial news:

US President Trump is changing the Endangered Species Act through administrative rules to make it easier for enterprises to get permissions for oil and gas extraction, for mining, logging, ranching, road-building, and property development, all activities which will accelerate the rate of species extinctions.

As a person who spent most of his life in high-rise penthouses Trump doesn’t understand much about the stunning complexity of earth’s natural environment and the millions of species that depend on the interconnected “web of life.” And like his soulmate Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, he views environmental protections as an impediment to economic development.

As Trump’s re-election chances depend on a thriving economy, he tries to support industrial investments by removing regulatory hurdles, especially ones concerning the environment. In addition to loosened regulations the EPA and other environmental agencies are weakened by cuts of staff and funding. 

According to a study by the Economic Policy Institute, top executives at major companies in the USA earn 278 times more than their employees. In 2018 the average annual salary of chief executives at the country’s top 350 companies was 17.2 million dollars (including share options). From 1978 to 2018, top executives’ pay grew by more than 1,000 percent, while workers’ salaries grew by less than 12 percent.

https://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2019/08/19/pers-a19.html Mass media silence about Epstein’s death.
https://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2019/08/29/epst-a29.html The Epstein story continues.
https://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2019/08/31/epst-a31.html The Epstein story continues, but not in the New York Times.

One possible explanation for the ridiculous spectacle of Epstein’s murder under the highest possible security would be the fact that he worked with a foreign intelligence outfit (for instance Mossad), and that his entire island operation was a giant security service honey-trap to obtain embarrassing information about important people.
https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2019/sep/06/from-mind-control-to-murder-how-a-deadly-fall-revealed-the-cias-darkest-secrets Another “suicide.”
https://theduran.com/major-university-study-finds-fire-did-not-bring-down-tower-7-on-9-11/ Even if one tries to avoid conspiracy theories, the plentiful examples of blatant corruption, looting of public goods, false flag massacres, assassinations, and other atrocities have sufficiently proven that the US state is a monstrous criminal enterprise beyond imagination (of a normal decent human being). Nothing can be ruled out!
https://khn.org/news/starving-seniors-how-america-fails-to-feed-its-aging/ The richest nation on earth and some of its citizens starve?
https://truthout.org/articles/hepatitis-a-races-across-the-united-states/ Hepatitis A epidemic.
https://gen.medium.com/the-rich-are-revolting-2cc54e158af3 Inequality makes even some rich people uncomfortable.
https://www.rollingstone.com/politics/politics-news/trump-methane-rule-climate-crisis-878427/ While the US war on terror is still ongoing, the US war against nature is gaining speed.
https://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2019/09/07/subw-s07.html The subway system is in disrepair — why not just use a helicopter?

Imperial conquest news:

US media reports, that Israeli officials consider a military strike on Iran, with or without the approval of the USA. They believe that US President Donald Trump, unlike his predecessor Barack Obama, will decide not to oppose and hinder such an attack.

Is Russia really seen as a military threat? SIPRI (Stockholm International Peace Research Institute) estimates Russia to be only the world’s sixth biggest defense spender in 2018, well behind the USA, China, Saudi Arabia, India, and France.

https://venezuelanalysis.com/analysis/14635 Achieving food sovereignty to survive the US blockade.
https://www.blackagendareport.com/foreign-aid-rwanda-suffering-rwandans-and-congolese Hair-raising!
https://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-49589075 US bribes and threats.
https://www.asiatimes.com/2019/09/opinion/sweden-tries-to-have-it-both-ways-in-yemen/ Saudi Arabian war criminals meet  European hypocrites.
https://truthout.org/articles/iraqi-children-test-positive-for-depleted-uranium-near-former-us-air-base Spreading democracy or spreading disease?

Armageddon news:

https://science.sciencemag.org/content/365/6455/761 An article about “strategic and managed climate retreat” which leaves the most crucial question open: Where shall all the people go?
https://www.rollingstone.com/culture/culture-features/climate-crisis-goodell-survive-extreme-heat-875198/ Long read but very well written.
https://www.afp.com/en/news/15/cancer-now-leading-cause-death-rich-countries-doc-1jy7m82 Could it be the poisons that we spread?

Uncategorized news:


News from cat land:

The cats are healthy and happy. Summer has ended and the first leaves are falling down, but it is not cold yet. Aunt Rosy and Princess Min Ki have become more quiet, they are 16 and 15 years old and feel their age.

Our lovely Rita girl has finally overcome her chronic cold and she has grown considerably to become as big as Aunt Rosy and Princess Min Ki. Which relegates my sweet cat angel Lucia again to be the smallest cat of the family. Lucia very much loathes to be the smallest cat and she suffers from her perceived inferiority. I always tell her that she should not mind because she is my most adorable and most intelligent cat friend (which is not flattery and entirely true), but she only replies that Lady Linda just scratched her nose in a brawl and Gandhi Jr. rudely pushed her away from the food cup. Gandhi Jr. is a bit insensitive but he surely is not aggressive and if Lucia just would take a stance he would certainly retreat and leave here alone.

But for that Lucia simply lacks self confidence.

Lucia clearly has a special place in my heart, and yet, I cannot favor her too overtly as this would make the other cats jealous and resentful. A tricky situation and a reminder again, that  feline relations are as complicated as human relations.

Rita and Gandhi Jr. are still best friends and they never miss our walks in the forest. Princess Min Ki most often joins while Aunt Rosy and Lucia participate infrequently. There were times when the whole cat family participated but after Mia’s death things fell apart and the old times will not come back, at least so it looks at the moment.

In the forest we basically follow two routes which both avoid the areas where hunters could be. I found out that the cats on their own also stick to these routes and only slightly deviate. This makes it less likely that they are ambushed and murdered by hunters.

A few days ago we were walking again, Gandhi Jr, a joyful and playful Rita, I, and Princess Min Ki, following in a little distance because she doesn’t want to be bothered by Rita. Forest vegetation has changed a lot in the last years, with invasive grass species taking over most open areas and suffocation the original ground cover.

There are still areas of middle-aged forest where the ground is covered with various kinds of moss, while ferns and low scrubs give a unique and mysterious appearance. These are my favorite places and the cats love them too. They sniff around and inspect decomposing tree trunks and huge broken down branches, fortunately they don’t find the blind worms which are surely there, they only discover ant heaps. But ants don’t like to be disturbed and have taught my feline companions already a lesson or two to stay away from their home.

As we were wandering through one of these areas suddenly a huge bird descended from a tree top to sail away from us, followed instantly by a second evenly large bird. They were making no sound and everything was completely silent. I only became aware of them because of the shadow which they did cast onto the ground. Though it is rather dark in these places, rays of sunlight still illuminate the ground.

A few moments later a slightly smaller bird followed the two. Now it was clear that this was an owl family and we accidentally had intruded into their territory. As the owls had flown in exactly the direction of our route, two minutes later we approached them a second time and they had to flee us again. But they didn’t complain, they remained silent.

The cats were stunned and frightened by the owls, they instantly had taken cover. I’m not sure that smaller cats like Lucia and Wendy could fend off the owls if attacked.

I have not seen an owl for two years, I’m glad that they still exist.

Yesterday evening, as I was working in the garden, suddenly a little blue light appeared before my eyes. It was a tiny firefly and it hovered around me, accompanying me for a few minutes. Like most other species they have also declined and I have not seen one for years, though my forest garden and the little garden ponds are exactly what they need.

Sightings of rare animals always make my day, they encourage me to continue the garden experiment and the environmental advocacy.

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