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Monday, 15 December 2014

Video shows John Crawford's girlfriend aggressively questioned after Ohio police shot him dead in Walmart

John Crawford_girlfriend

© Youtube still

Police aggressively questioned the tearful girlfriend of a young black man they had just shot dead as he held a BB gun in an Ohio supermarket - accusing her of lying, threatening her with jail, and suggesting that she was high on drugs.

Tasha Thomas was reduced to swearing on the lives of her relatives that John Crawford III had not been carrying a firearm when they entered the Walmart in Beavercreek, near Dayton, to buy crackers, marshmallows and chocolate bars on the evening of 5 August.

"You lie to me and you might be on your way to jail," detective Rodney Curd told Thomas, as she wept and repeatedly offered to take a lie-detector test. After more than an hour and a half of questioning and statement-taking, Curd finally told Thomas that Crawford, 22, had died.

"As a result of his actions, he is gone," said the detective, as she slumped in her chair and cried.

Crawford had been shot by police officer Sean Williams, after a customer called 911 and claimed the 22-year-old was pointing a gun at passersby. Surveillance footage released later showed Crawford picking up the BB rifle from a shelf, wandering the aisles and occasionally swinging the gun at his side while he spoke on his cellphone to his ex-girlfriend.

A 94-minute police video recording, released to the by the office of Mike DeWine, the Ohio attorney general, in response to a public records request, shows Thomas, 26, being interviewed by Curd after she was driven from Walmart to the Beavercreek police department. Curd later told investigators he had not yet been told Crawford only had a BB gun that had been on sale at the store.

Curd promptly asked Thomas whether she and Crawford had criminal records. Already tearful and breathless, Thomas explained that she may have had some traffic offences and had been arrested for petty theft as a juvenile.

The detective then became increasingly aggressive and banged on the table between them with his hand. "Tell me where he got the gun from," Curd repeated. Thomas insisted Crawford had been carrying only a white plastic grocery bag when they arrived at Walmart to buy the ingredients to make s'mores at a family cook-out.

Asked one of several times whether Crawford owned a gun, Thomas said: "Not that I know."

Curd told her: "Don't tell me 'not that you know', because that's the first thing I realise somebody's not telling me the truth".

He later repeated: "You need to tell me the truth" and "You need to be truthful."

Crawford's family and their attorneys have stressed since his death that under Ohio's open-carry firearms laws and Walmart's regulations, he would have been allowed to carry a real rifle with him around the store.

Crawford was talking on his cellphone to LeeCee Johnson, the mother of his two sons, when he was shot by Williams. Curd repeatedly suggested to Thomas that Johnson, who was in fact at home in Cincinnati, may also have been in the Walmart store and that Crawford was there to attack her.

"Did he ever mention 'I'm going to shoot that bitch' or something like that?" the detective asked Thomas, who insisted that Crawford had not. Johnson, whom Thomas had never met, was miles away and listened over the phone while Crawford died.

At several points during the interview Thomas swore to God, and on the lives of her three children, the grave of her late brother and "on everything I have" that she was telling the truth, but Curd remained dismissive.

Curd also pushed Thomas on whether she was intoxicated, asking her: "Have you been drinking? Drugs? Your eyes are kind of messed-up looking". After she told him that Crawford had smelled of marijuana, Curd took down notes. He went on to ask whether Crawford had been suicidal.

Tressa Sherrod with her son, John Crawford III.

© Associated Press

Tressa Sherrod with her son, John Crawford III.

The detective, a 26-year veteran of Beavercreek, was interviewed about his involvement in the case three days later, by two special agents from the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation, which had taken over the inquiry. Curd explained to the agents that he "believed the deceased had brought a weapon into the Walmart and geared the interview with that assumption".

"Curd stated that he became aggressive during the interview with Thomas because of his (Curd) disbelief that if Mr Crawford brought a gun inside Walmart, Ms Thomas didn't see the gun," the agents noted in their report, which was released by the Ohio attorney general's office in September.

After the case was handed to a special prosecutor, a grand jury decided in September that Williams and another officer involved should not face criminal charges. Williams was in 2010 responsible for the only other fatal police shooting in Beavercreek's recent history.

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Inside an internet addiction treatment center in China

(Image: Fernando Moleres/Panos Pictures)

IN CHINA, if you are a kid who spends a long time online, you had better watch out. Your parents may send you off for "treatment".

At the Internet Addiction Treatment Centre in Beijing, children must take part in military-style activities, including exercise drills and the singing of patriotic songs. They are denied access to the internet. One of the first experiences internees undergo is brain monitoring through electroencephalography (EEG). The programme is run by psychologist Tao Ran, who claims the brains of internet and heroin addicts display similarities.

The rise of such centres has, in some cases, been coupled with reports of brutality. One camp in Henan province was recently criticised after it was alleged that a 19-year-old girl died following corporal punishment doled out by officers.

FLASHBACK: Masters and Disasters: Researchers able to predict marital happiness by measuring kindness and generosity

couple sketch

© sketchblog/flickr

Every day in June, the most popular wedding month of the year, about 13,000 American couples will say "I do," committing to a lifelong relationship that will be full of friendship, joy, and love that will carry them forward to their final days on this earth.

Except, of course, it doesn't work out that way for most people. The majority of marriages fail, either ending in divorce and separation or devolving into bitterness and dysfunction. Of all the people who get married, only three in ten remain in healthy, happy marriages, as psychologist Ty Tashiro points out in his book The Science of Happily Ever After, which was published earlier this year.

Social scientists first started studying marriages by observing them in action in the 1970s in response to a crisis: Married couples were divorcing at unprecedented rates. Worried about the impact these divorces would have on the children of the broken marriages, psychologists decided to cast their scientific net on couples, bringing them into the lab to observe them and determine what the ingredients of a healthy, lasting relationship were. Was each unhappy family unhappy in its own way, as Tolstoy claimed, or did the miserable marriages all share something toxic in common?

Psychologist John Gottman was one of those researchers. For the past four decades, he has studied thousands of couples in a quest to figure out what makes relationships work. I recently had the chance to interview Gottman and his wife Julie, also a psychologist, in New York City. Together, the renowned experts on marital stability run The Gottman Institute, which is devoted to helping couples build and maintain loving, healthy relationships based on scientific studies.

John Gottman began gathering his most critical findings in 1986, when he set up "The Love Lab" with his colleague Robert Levenson at the University of Washington. Gottman and Levenson brought newlyweds into the lab and watched them interact with each other. With a team of researchers, they hooked the couples up to electrodes and asked the couples to speak about their relationship, like how they met, a major conflict they were facing together, and a positive memory they had. As they spoke, the electrodes measured the subjects' blood flow, heart rates, and how much they sweat they produced. Then the researchers sent the couples home and followed up with them six years later to see if they were still together.

From the data they gathered, Gottman separated the couples into two major groups: the masters and the disasters. The masters were still happily together after six years. The disasters had either broken up or were chronically unhappy in their marriages. When the researchers analyzed the data they gathered on the couples, they saw clear differences between the masters and disasters. The disasters looked calm during the interviews, but their physiology, measured by the electrodes, told a different story. Their heart rates were quick, their sweat glands were active, and their blood flow was fast. Following thousands of couples longitudinally, Gottman found that the more physiologically active the couples were in the lab, the quicker their relationships deteriorated over time.

But what does physiology have to do with anything? The problem was that the disasters showed all the signs of arousal - of being in fight-or-flight mode - in their relationships. Having a conversation sitting next to their spouse was, to their bodies, like facing off with a saber-toothed tiger. Even when they were talking about pleasant or mundane facets of their relationships, they were prepared to attack and be attacked. This sent their heart rates soaring and made them more aggressive toward each other. For example, each member of a couple could be talking about how their days had gone, and a highly aroused husband might say to his wife, "Why don't you start talking about your day. It won't take you very long."

laughing couple

© unknown

The masters, by contrast, showed low physiological arousal. They felt calm and connected together, which translated into warm and affectionate behavior, even when they fought. It's not that the masters had, by default, a better physiological make-up than the disasters; it's that masters had created a climate of trust and intimacy that made both of them more emotionally and thus physically comfortable.

Gottman wanted to know more about how the masters created that culture of love and intimacy, and how the disasters squashed it. In a follow-up study in 1990, he designed a lab on the University of Washington campus to look like a beautiful bed and breakfast retreat. He invited 130 newlywed couples to spend the day at this retreat and watched them as they did what couples normally do on vacation: cook, clean, listen to music, eat, chat, and hang out. And Gottman made a critical discovery in this study - one that gets at the heart of why some relationships thrive while others languish.

Throughout the day, partners would make requests for connection, what Gottman calls "bids." For example, say that the husband is a bird enthusiast and notices a goldfinch fly across the yard. He might say to his wife, "Look at that beautiful bird outside!" He's not just commenting on the bird here: he's requesting a response from his wife - a sign of interest or support - hoping they'll connect, however momentarily, over the bird.

The wife now has a choice. She can respond by either "turning toward" or "turning away" from her husband, as Gottman puts it. Though the bird-bid might seem minor and silly, it can actually reveal a lot about the health of the relationship. The husband thought the bird was important enough to bring it up in conversation and the question is whether his wife recognizes and respects that.

People who turned toward their partners in the study responded by engaging the bidder, showing interest and support in the bid. Those who didn't - those who turned away - would not respond or respond minimally and continue doing whatever they were doing, like watching TV or reading the paper. Sometimes they would respond with overt hostility, saying something like, "Stop interrupting me, I'm reading."

These bidding interactions had profound effects on marital well-being. Couples who had divorced after a six-year follow up had "turn-toward bids" 33 percent of the time. Only three in ten of their bids for emotional connection were met with intimacy. The couples who were still together after six years had "turn-toward bids" 87 percent of the time. Nine times out of ten, they were meeting their partner's emotional needs.

* * *

By observing these types of interactions, Gottman can predict with up to 94 percent certainty whether couples - straight or gay, rich or poor, childless or not - will be broken up, together and unhappy, or together and happy several years later. Much of it comes down to the spirit couples bring to the relationship. Do they bring kindness and generosity; or contempt, criticism, and hostility?


© Stock.Xchng

"There's a habit of mind that the masters have," Gottman explained in an interview, "which is this: they are scanning social environment for things they can appreciate and say thank you for. They are building this culture of respect and appreciation very purposefully. Disasters are scanning the social environment for partners' mistakes."

"It's not just scanning environment," chimed in Julie Gottman. "It's scanning the partner for what the partner is doing right or scanning him for what he's doing wrong and criticizing versus respecting him and expressing appreciation."

Contempt, they have found, is the number one factor that tears couples apart. People who are focused on criticizing their partners miss a whopping 50 percent of positive things their partners are doing and they see negativity when it's not there. People who give their partner the cold shoulder - deliberately ignoring the partner or responding minimally - damage the relationship by making their partner feel worthless and invisible, as if they're not there, not valued. And people who treat their partners with contempt and criticize them not only kill the love in the relationship, but they also kill their partner's ability to fight off viruses and cancers. Being mean is the death knell of relationships.

Kindness, on the other hand, glues couples together. Research independent from theirs has shown that kindness (along with emotional stability) is the most important predictor of satisfaction and stability in a marriage. Kindness makes each partner feel cared for, understood, and validated - feel loved. "My bounty is as boundless as the sea," says Shakespeare's Juliet. "My love as deep; the more I give to thee, / The more I have, for both are infinite." That's how kindness works too: there's a great deal of evidence showing the more someone receives or witnesses kindness, the more they will be kind themselves, which leads to upward spirals of love and generosity in a relationship.

There are two ways to think about kindness. You can think about it as a fixed trait: either you have it or you don't. Or you could think of kindness as a muscle. In some people, that muscle is naturally stronger than in others, but it can grow stronger in everyone with exercise. Masters tend to think about kindness as a muscle. They know that they have to exercise it to keep it in shape. They know, in other words, that a good relationship requires sustained hard work.

"If your partner expresses a need," explained Julie Gottman, "and you are tired, stressed, or distracted, then the generous spirit comes in when a partner makes a bid, and you still turn toward your partner."

In that moment, the easy response may be to turn away from your partner and focus on your iPad or your book or the television, to mumble "Uh huh" and move on with your life, but neglecting small moments of emotional connection will slowly wear away at your relationship. Neglect creates distance between partners and breeds resentment in the one who is being ignored.

The hardest time to practice kindness is, of course, during a fight - but this is also the most important time to be kind. Letting contempt and aggression spiral out of control during a conflict can inflict irrevocable damage on a relationship.

"Kindness doesn't mean that we don't express our anger," Julie Gottman explained, "but the kindness informs how we choose to express the anger. You can throw spears at your partner. Or you can explain why you're hurt and angry, and that's the kinder path."

John Gottman elaborated on those spears: "Disasters will say things differently in a fight. Disasters will say 'You're late. What's wrong with you? You're just like your mom.' Masters will say 'I feel bad for picking on you about your lateness, and I know it's not your fault, but it's really annoying that you're late again.'"

* * *

For the hundreds of thousands of couples getting married this month - and for the millions of couples currently together, married or not - the lesson from the research is clear: If you want to have a stable, healthy relationship, exercise kindness early and often.

When people think about practicing kindness, they often think about small acts of generosity, like buying each other little gifts or giving one another back rubs every now and then. While those are great examples of generosity, kindness can also be built into the very backbone of a relationship through the way partners interact with each other on a day-to-day basis, whether or not there are back rubs and chocolates involved.

One way to practice kindness is by being generous about your partner's intentions. From the research of the Gottmans, we know that disasters see negativity in their relationship even when it is not there. An angry wife may assume, for example, that when her husband left the toilet seat up, he was deliberately trying to annoy her. But he may have just absent-mindedly forgotten to put the seat down.

Or say a wife is running late to dinner (again), and the husband assumes that she doesn't value him enough to show up to their date on time after he took the trouble to make a reservation and leave work early so that they could spend a romantic evening together. But it turns out that the wife was running late because she stopped by a store to pick him up a gift for their special night out. Imagine her joining him for dinner, excited to deliver her gift, only to realize that he's in a sour mood because he misinterpreted what was motivating her behavior. The ability to interpret your partner's actions and intentions charitably can soften the sharp edge of conflict.

"Even in relationships where people are frustrated, it's almost always the case that there are positive things going on and people trying to do the right thing," psychologist Ty Tashiro told me. "A lot of times, a partner is trying to do the right thing even if it's executed poorly. So appreciate the intent."

Another powerful kindness strategy revolves around shared joy. One of the telltale signs of the disaster couples Gottman studied was their inability to connect over each other's good news. When one person in the relationship shared the good news of, say, a promotion at work with excitement, the other would respond with wooden disinterest by checking his watch or shutting the conversation down with a comment like, "That's nice."

We've all heard that partners should be there for each other when the going gets rough. But research shows that being there for each other when things go right is actually more important for relationship quality. How someone responds to a partner's good news can have dramatic consequences for the relationship.

In one study from 2006, psychological researcher Shelly Gable and her colleagues brought young adult couples into the lab to discuss recent positive events from their lives. They psychologists wanted to know how partners would respond to each other's good news. They found that, in general, couples responded to each other's good news in four different ways that they called: passive destructive, active destructive, passive constructive, and active constructive.

Let's say that one partner had recently received the excellent news that she got into medical school. She would say something like "I got into my top choice med school!"

If her partner responded in a passive destructive manner, he would ignore the event. For example, he might say something like: "You wouldn't believe the great news I got yesterday! I won a free t-shirt!"

If her partner responded in a passive constructive way, he would acknowledge the good news, but in a half-hearted, understated way. A typical passive constructive response is saying "That's great, babe" as he texts his buddy on his phone.

In the third kind of response, active destructive , the partner would diminish the good news his partner just got: "Are you sure you can handle all the studying? And what about the cost? Med school is so expensive!"

Finally, there's active constructive responding. If her partner responded in this way, he stopped what he was doing and engaged wholeheartedly with her: "That's great! Congratulations! When did you find out? Did they call you? What classes will you take first semester?"

Among the four response styles, active constructive responding is the kindest. While the other response styles are joy-killers, active constructive responding allows the partner to savor her joy and gives the couple an opportunity to bond over the good news. In the parlance of the Gottmans, active constructive responding is a way of "turning toward" your partners bid (sharing the good news) rather than "turning away" from it.

Active constructive responding is critical for healthy relationships. In the 2006 study, Gable and her colleagues followed up with the couples two months later to see if they were still together. The psychologists found that the only difference between the couples who were together and those who broke up was active constructive responding. Those who showed genuine interest in their partner's joys were more likely to be together. In an earlier study, Gable found that active constructive responding was also associated with higher relationship quality and more intimacy between partners.

Couple at Beach

© Hanna Monika Cybulko | Dreamstime

There are many reasons why relationships fail, but if you look at what drives the deterioration of many relationships, it's often a breakdown of kindness. As the normal stresses of a life together pile up - with children, career, friend, in-laws, and other distractions crowding out the time for romance and intimacy - couples may put less effort into their relationship and let the petty grievances they hold against one another tear them apart. In most marriages, levels of satisfaction drop dramatically within the first few years together. But among couples who not only endure, but live happily together for years and years, the spirit of kindness and generosity guides them forward.

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No proof tying Boston bombing suspects to triple murder


All dead: Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 2011 murder victim Brendan Mess, Ibragim Todashev.

For nearly any crime requiring a "Whodunnit" answer in Boston around the time of the April 15, 2013, Marathon bombing, the authorities answered: The Tsarnaev brothers.

One egregious crime pinned on them was a grisly Sept. 11, 2011, triple murder in Waltham, Mass.

Now, prosecutors in the trial of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev have delivered a shocking reversal. They admit to having no evidence that his dead brother, Tamerlan, was involved in the slayings.

That wasn't the case right after the bombing: law enforcement fingered Tamerlan as the perpetrator, and suggested Dzokhar may have been involved. Much of the media has presented it as fact ever since.

This is a pattern we've seen since the bombing: The government feeds prejudicial information (usually anonymously) to the press, implying Tamerlan and Dzhokhar's guilt, despite having flimsy or no evidence. In the most extreme example, prosecutors had to completely recant their accusation that the brothers robbed a 7-Eleven .

The Waltham triple murder case got the same treatment. Within weeks of the bombing on Boylston Street, law enforcement officials confidently proclaimed they had a "growing" amount of "forensic evidence," along with a written confession from a now-dead friend of Tamerlan's, that implicated Tamerlan in the Waltham slaying.

But now, the government admits that, other than the confession, it "has no evidence that Tamerlan Tsarnaev actually participated in the Waltham murders." And it turns out that the damning confession has some serious holes in it too.

So, what happened? First, a little history.

Cold Case: The Waltham Murders

On Sept. 12, 2011, the bodies of Brendan Mess, 25; Erik Weissman, 31; and Raphael Teken, 37; were discovered in Mess's Waltham apartment, their throats slashed, with pounds of marijuana and thousands of dollars in cash scattered over them.

Investigators immediately assumed that these murders in a small suburban community outside Boston likely involved some type of illicit drug dispute. But the trail to the perpetrators of the triple homicide soon went cold - until the Marathon bombing.

While the public was still riveted by wall-to-wall news coverage of the bombing, law enforcement began to speculate about the Tsarnaevs' involvement in the slayings. Tamerlan had been friends and an occasional martial arts and boxing sparring partner with one of the three victims, officials told the media.

But the government's own story called into question the behavior of law enforcement officials in the same case. Despite the fact that Tamerlan's link to the murder victims was known then, it appears he was never questioned about the crime. This is just one of the many inexplicable mysteries surrounding Tamerlan's pre-bombing relationship with authorities.

Pointing the Finger

The Boston bombing somehow changed everything.

Eight days after the attack, the first reported the possible link, and sourced it to an unnamed relative of one of the victims. The families of the victims asked that the investigation be reopened in light of the bombing.

An ABC news report three weeks later upped the ante: Law enforcement had "forensic evidence" tying the brothers to the slayings, the network said, quoting unidentified Massachusetts investigators.

But how solid was this evidence linking the Tsarnaevs to Waltham? All but nonexistent. We know that because Dzhokhar Tsarnaev's defense team in the bombing trial asked prosecutors to share the proof they had of Tamerlan's involvement in the Waltham murders.

Why does Tamerlan's participation in a murder have anything to do with his younger brother's trial for a wholly separate crime, the Marathon Bombing? The defense is trying to gather proof that Tamerlan dominated his younger brother, which would help Dzokhar's arguments against the death penalty. Presiding Judge George O'Toole ultimately denied the defense request.

Nonetheless, the answer the prosecution gave in court filings demonstrated one thing: that what was leaked to multiple news outlets as evidence was nothing more than innuendo.

In terms of incrimination, all that's left is the confession by the dead friend of Tamerlan's, Ibragim Todashev. Which also appears, on close scrutiny, to raise more questions than it answers.

In fact, uncovered an important inconsistency in Todashev's description of the crime scene that calls its legitimacy into question. Due to an improper redaction which made the confession public, the magazine was able to compare Todashev's written description of the victims with what the first eyewitness encountered at the crime scene.

Taped or Not Taped

When referring to the three victims, Todashev wrote in broken English that "we taped their hands up." (Please see a photo of the handwritten confession here).

But the first eyewitness to the gruesome scene, Hiba Eltilib, girlfriend of Brendan Mess, said otherwise: "None of their hands were tied as I recall," she said in an interview.

So here we have another example of the authorities' early assertions about the Tsarnaevs looking suspiciously shaky under close scrutiny. The Tsarnaevs' imputed connection to the Waltham murders rests on nothing but a questionable confession by a friend - a man who was later shot down by an FBI investigator while being interrogated. And dead men tell no tales.

Meanwhile, as so often happens in these high-profile cases, the initial allegations are still widely circulating in media accounts, while the later, potentially exculpatory information barely registers in the mind of the public.

Certainly there's a lot of pressure on public officials to solve particularly horrific crimes like the Waltham murders. But a year-and-a-half after the government's confident claims of Tamerlan's guilt, we're finding out that what they really have is next to nothing.

Can this rush to judgment be blamed on expediency, wishful thinking, or something else?

Want something else to read? How about 'Grievous Censorship' By The Guardian: Israel, Gaza And The Termination Of Nafeez Ahmed's Blog

UN 'peacekeepers' use live ammo and chemical agents against Haitian protesters

Haitian police and UN peacekeepers have attacked protesters with live ammo and chemical agents as several thousand opposition supporters tried to march on the presidential palace, demanding new leadership.

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Haiti has seen many anti-government protests in recent months calling for President Michael Martelly to step down, amid a growing anger over the high levels of government corruption. Elections have been delayed now for years.

People took to the streets again today. As the video above shows, the protest march approaching the Presidential Palace faced a barrage of gunfire and tear gas. While major media outlets have the audacity to falsely claim that Haitian police and UN peacekeepers fired only into the air to disperse the protest while on the same page show a photo of the man seen below taking aim at head height. It is profoundly clear that shots to kill were taken.

Haiti protest

© unknown

Hands up, don't shoot.

President Michel Martelly said Friday night that he accepted all the findings of a report this week from a government-appointed commission, including its recommendation that the prime minister resign.

Martelly said during a brief televised speech that Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe was prepared to resign, but an actual date for that to happen was not given.

UN peacekeeper Haiti

© unknown

UN Peacekeepers Haiti

© unknown

Want something else to read? How about 'Grievous Censorship' By The Guardian: Israel, Gaza And The Termination Of Nafeez Ahmed's Blog

Propaganda Works: According to the American people, torture is justified, and effective

Following the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report on CIA interrogation practices in the period following the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, 51% of the public says they think the CIA methods were justified, compared with just 29% who say they were not justified; 20% do not express an opinion.

The new national survey by the Pew Research Center, conducted Dec. 11-14 among 1,001 adults, finds that amid competing claims over the effectiveness of CIA interrogation methods, 56% believe they provided intelligence that helped prevent terrorist attacks, while just half as many (28%) say they did not provide this type of intelligence.

Partisan divides on these questions are wide. A large majority of Republicans (76%) say the interrogation methods used by the CIA after 9/11 were justified. Democrats are divided – 37% say the methods were justified, while 46% disagree. About twice as many liberal Democrats (65%) as conservative and moderate Democrats (32%) say the CIA’s interrogation techniques were not justified

More Say CIA Interrogation Methods Were Justified than Unjustified 

Extreme moderates: Syrian 'opposition' losing ground, ISIS gaining upper hand


© AP

Follow the leader, guys! Don't let Uncle Sam down!

The U.S. has given up on the Fee Syrian Army in the north of Syria:

The United States has stopped paying most of the pro-western rebels fighting in northern Syria and has suspended the delivery of arms to them, rebel commanders told McClatchy Tuesday.

Some of the FSA mercenaries, now no longer getting paid, are joining jihadi groups:

As many as 800 to 1,000 fighters from U.S.-vetted rebel groups already have joined Nusra, ...

The stop of support in the north is confirmed by additional reports. That this is likely real can also be seen in the number of arms video posted. The U.S. gave TOW anti-tank missiles to the mercenaries but demanded video uploads to prove their use. Eliot Higgins, though not always trustworthy, counted these numbers:

TOW videos posted by the opposition by month Apr 9 May 16 Jun 16 Jul 37 Aug 35 Sep 44 Oct 58 Nov 26 Dec 3

The U.S. is still paying for some small FSA groups within Aleppo city but these are now surrounded by the Syrian Arab Army and unlikely to be able to hold their positions. Their hold of Aleppo city is politically symbolic and therefore something the U.S. wants them to keep. It is the reason why the UN envoy is trying to negotiate a ceasefire for Aleppo. Syria and Russia are playing along but Aleppo will likely be completely in government hands before any ceasefire is reached.

It is also noteworthy that some "western" media are no longer friendly with the FSA and that its atrocities are now finally "news": Syrian rebel 'hell cannons' kill 300 civilians: monitoring group

The "rebel" position in the south, supported by the U.S. through Jordan and Israel, is different. There Jabhat al-Nusra is leading a southern attack directed against Damascus disguised under the FSA mantle:

As part of the attempt to surround Damascus, al-Nusra Front was able to continue a simultaneous offensive to the south of the capital. The offensive led to significant advances in Dara'a province, including the taking of the government's military base in Dara'a city. Because Dara'a borders directly on Damascus province (Rif Dimashq), these advances set up a future offensive into Damascus proper.

The official FSA mercenaries in the south have announced another alliance but this one, like many of the older ones, will fail. The U.S. knows that al-Nusra, al-Qaeda in Syria, is the dominant force in the south and is, unlike in the north, supporting these al-Qaeda affiliates. Colonel Pat Lang remarked

I have been told that the nearly complete collapse of the unicorn army of FSA moderates has caused the US to covertly approach Nusra with a proposal to offer support if Nusra will scale back its IS-like habit of butchering its enemies when they are captured. That would include a more tolerant attitude toward US journalists.

A leopard does not change its spots and Nusra does not stop its beheadings. A video from Sheik Miskeen, a town halfway between Jordan and Damascus which is currently the center of fight in the south, shows dead Syrian soldiers who were beheaded after Nusra, with the help two large suicide vehicle bombs, captured a military housing area.

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U.S. support for the Nusra attack in the south is directed by the CIA in Jordan. But the training program in Jordan and the support may also stop soon as the money for these programs is running out. Congress at least no longer supports these "adventures":

As Congress struggles to pass a bill to fund the government for the rest of the year, one curious and significant item was left on the cutting room floor: a request from the Barack Obama administration for $300 million to expand the secret CIA program to arm the "moderate" Syrian rebels.

I expect that the attacks in the south will soon run out of steam. The U.S. knows that its side in the war, the Fee Syrian Army as well as Jabhat al-Nusra, can not win:

In a grim assessment of the U.S.-backed Syrian rebels, a senior State Department official said on Wednesday that the country's armed opposition will not be able to topple the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad now or in the foreseeable future, despite the existence of a Pentagon program to train and equip 5,000 rebels per year.

The Pentagon is deliberately walking very slow with that train and equip program. It may well end before it achieves any results.

The only enemies left to fight for the Syrian Arab Army are remnants of the FSA/Jabhat al-Nusra and the Islamic State.

The Islamic State has achieved nothing in its campaign on the Kurdish enclave Kobane. The Kurds are holding their positions and while it is sad that the city gets destroyed through the fighting the Islamic State is losing lots of materials and people. The U.S., which is supporting the Kurds in Kobane with a few air attacks, wants to keep it that way. Kobane is used to destroy wave after wave of Islamic State attack groups and to exhaust its reserves. The Islamic State has looked for new targets in east Syria and decided to attack the military airport in Deir Ezzor, held by the Syrian army. Several waves of attacks with suicide bombers and lots of IS infantry have had no success there. Deir Ezzor is well supplied and well defended and will be another point where IS is using up its reserves.

The U.S. has given up on the attacks in north Syria. In the south its support for Jabhat al-Nusra is indefensible on political and moral grounds. It will have to stop before it attracts more public scrutiny. Otherwise some Republicans in Congress may find that direct support for al-Qaeda by the Obama administration is an impeachable offense.

Soon the Islamic State will be the only significant threat left to fight in Syria. But the Islamic State is loosing large parts of its energy (and money) due to heavy losses in fights on several fronts. It is still a serious enemy and may achieve this or that surprise. But I doubt that it is an existential threat to the Syrian government and the Syrian people.

Want something else to read? How about 'Grievous Censorship' By The Guardian: Israel, Gaza And The Termination Of Nafeez Ahmed's Blog

Ten horrifying technological threats to mankind

Nano technology

© Unknown

Nano technology

Technology is the archetypal golden calf of the modern age. Everything that naturally exists in a purely analog and resonant state is being artificially mechanized, computerized, digitized and hybridized (think half-human, half-robot on this one). And with this gradual suffocation of the living, breathing fabric of our world comes the ominous threat of eventual human extinction, as the very essence of humanity is systematically uprooted in favor of a wholly synthetic and programmed existence.

Much of what is considered technological advancement these days is inherently evil and has the potential to be used as a collective weapon of mass destruction against life itself. Synthetic biology, for instance, which involves re-engineering genes to manufacture fake organisms, is one such example that threatens to set off an unpredictable chain reaction of devastation and death within the larger ecosystem of life itself.

"The idea that technology is neutral or amoral is a myth that needs to be dispelled," said Patrick Lin, director of the Ethics + Emerging Science Group at California Polytechnic University, as quoted by . "The designer can imbue ethics into the creation, even if the artifact has no moral agency itself. This feature may be too subtle to notice in most cases, but some technologies are born from evil and don't have redeeming uses...."

Here are 10 other examples of horrifying technologies that, if fully implemented, could spell the death of humanity (H/T io9):

1. Weaponized nanotechnology. Nanotechnology has been billed as the solution to other supposedly imperfect technologies that rely on "flawed" natural materials. By giving scientists the ability to manufacture structures from the ground up, to precise molecular specifications, nanotechnology is often hailed as revolutionary in its potential to transform the way that we harvest energy, transfer and store information, and eat.

But nanotechnology is easily weaponized and has the potential to take on a life of its own. According to io9, the threat of nanotechnology is two-fold: It has the potential to deconstruct into both unchecked self-replication and exponential growth. If this should occur unexpectedly, or be intentionally brought about, governments and other ominous forces could unleash it into the world and trigger a self-replicating army of planet-killing "biomass killers," which would leave in their wake an endless stream of useless "grey goo" byproducts.

2. Conscious machines. The idea of artificial consciousness, or machines that bear real human consciousness traits, is still something of a sci-fi pipe dream. But some scientists are actively developing ways to make it a reality, including efforts to engineer human brains inside machines, which would bear seemingly functional, human-like traits.

"Since we plan to use artificial intelligence in place of human intellectual labor, I think it would be immoral to purposely program it to be conscious," stated futurist Louie Helm, as quoted by io9. "Trapping a conscious being inside a machine and forcing it to do work for you is isomorphic to slavery."

3. Artificial superintelligence. Building upon this idea is the horrifying concept of artificial "superintelligence." Machines intentionally designed with intellects superior to those of humans could easily outsmart humans and literally take over the world. Even if so-called firewalls were built into the technology, it is entirely possible that super-smart AIs could still try to enslave humanity, from which there would likely be no escape.

4. Time travel. There's very little evidence that time travel is even remotely possible at this point. But if quantum science was somehow able to develop a way to transcend the physical confines of time and space, the result would likely be catastrophic, both existentially and paradoxically. Even from a cultural perspective, if traveling back and forth between the ages were possible, it would more than likely trigger irrevocable turmoil between disparate civilizations.

5. Mind-reading devices. This one is already a reality, with scientists in the Netherlands having come up with a way to scan people's brains in order to determine what letter they're looking at on a screen. The fast food chain Pizza Hut recently developed a similar technology that scans customers' retinas to determine what toppings they want on their pizzas.

"Such devices, if used en masse by some kind of totalitarian regime or police state, would make life intolerable," explains io9. "It would introduce an Orwellian world in which our 'thought crimes' could actually be enforced."

6. Brain-hacking devices. If the powers-that-be get their way, the whole of surviving humanity will eventually be micro-chipped, allowing for the likely uploading of people's thoughts and thought processes into a singular database. An international team of neuroscientists has already developed a way for people to communicate directly from brain to brain over the internet, opening up the possibility of this information being hacked.

7. Autonomous robots. If machines ever gain a similar level of intelligence as humans, they could easily be programmed to kill humans. The U.S. military is already developing this type of technology in the form of pilot-less killing drones, for instance, as well as robot tanks and other advanced forms of weaponry that don't require actual human operators.

8. Weaponized pathogens. It is speculated that diseases like Ebola, H1N1 "swine" flu, "seasonal" flu and various other virulent pathogens may have already been weaponized. If further tweaked, these viruses could be intentionally unleashed on humanity, potentially killing off half or more of the world's population.

9. Virtual prisons. If radical lifespan-enhancement technology successfully leads to humans living to 100, 200 or even longer, it is possible that the criminal justice system will have to be altered in response. Convicted criminals could one day have to serve much longer prison sentences, for instance, which if combined with so-called mind-uploading technology could lead to "virtual" prisons in which prisoners are subjected to artificial confinement within their own heads.

10. Genetically modified organisms. GMOs have already been linked to sterility, organ damage, allergies and other chronic illnesses in humans. And as they continue to be planted and harvested in open-air fields, their traits are progressively spreading and infecting other plants and crops, which will eventually trigger widespread crop failures and famine, not to mention an endless stream of new "superbugs" and "superweeds."







Want something else to read? How about 'Grievous Censorship' By The Guardian: Israel, Gaza And The Termination Of Nafeez Ahmed's Blog

Trading sleep for work is hazardous to your health


© redOrbit

Did you try to catch up on sleep this weekend? You're not alone. More than one third of American adults report getting less than 7 hours of sleep on weekdays, and many of them try to sleep extra-long on weekends to make up for it.

This isn't a particularly healthy way to live -- insufficient sleep is associated with obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, and a host of other physical ailments. Drowsy driving causes around 80,000 automobile accidents every year, 1,000 of which are typically fatal.

The simple reason for shortchanging sleep on the weekdays? Work. A team of researchers examined nearly 125,000 responses to the American Time Use Survey to calculate two things: first, how much sleep we're getting, and second, what we're doing instead of sleeping.

Compared to normal sleepers, so-called "short sleepers" -- those who are getting 6 hours or less on weeknights -- worked 1.5 more hours on weekdays and nearly 2 hours more on weekends and holidays. Perhaps not surprisingly, "the highest odds of being a short sleeper were found among adults working multiple jobs, who were 61 percent more likely than others to report sleeping 6 hours or less on weekdays," according to a press release about the study.

To put it another way: to the extent that we're trading sleep for work, our jobs are literally killing us.

Aside from work, commuting was the activity most likely to compete with sleep for time, followed by socializing, sleeplessness (e.g., lying in bed unable to sleep), and personal grooming. That latter finding led to this dry observation from the authors: "Although a certain level of body hygiene is important for social and physical well-being, excessive time spent in these activities may reduce sleep time at both ends of the sleep period."

TV-watching was ranked only 9th in the list of activities exchanged for less sleep.

The researchers found no difference in sleep time between private sector and government workers. But interestingly, the self-employed had significantly lower odds of being a short sleeper. This finding led to the researchers prescribing greater flexibility in work schedules, particularly in work start time, as one policy change that could help people sleep more: "making the work start time more flexible may help increase sleep time; even if total time spent working is kept constant," they conclude.

They also found that for every hour work or class started later in the morning, respondents' reported getting 20 minutes more sleep. More flexibility in work start times would thus help people naturally disposed to night-owl hours (are you a night-owl? We've got a quiz for that). Research suggests that this would lead not only to more productivity in the workplace, but also fewer instances of ethical lapses while on the clock.

Beyond that, the more sleep we get the healthier we are. To the extent that healthier employees are more productive employees, policy changes that let workers get more sleep could have benefits for businesses' bottom lines.

Want something else to read? How about 'Grievous Censorship' By The Guardian: Israel, Gaza And The Termination Of Nafeez Ahmed's Blog

Ron Paul: All I want for Christmas is a real Government shutdown

Ron Paul

© money.cnn.com

Former Congressman Ron Paul

The political class breathed a sigh of relief Saturday when the US Senate averted a government shutdown by passing the $1.1 trillion omnibus spending bill. This year's omnibus resembles omnibuses of Christmas past in that it was drafted in secret, was full of special interest deals and disguised spending increases, and was voted on before most members could read it.

The debate over the omnibus may have made for entertaining political theater, but the outcome was never in doubt. Most House and Senate members are so terrified of another government shutdown that they would rather vote for a 1,774-page bill they have not read than risk even a one or two-day government shutdown.

Those who voted for the omnibus to avoid a shutdown fail to grasp that the consequences of blindly expanding government are far worse than the consequences of a temporary government shutdown. A short or even long-term government shutdown is a small price to pay to avoid an economic calamity caused by Congress' failure to reduce spending and debt.

The political class' shutdown phobia is particularly puzzling because a shutdown only closes 20 percent of the federal government. As the American people learned during the government shutdown of 2013, the country can survive with 20 percent less government.

Instead of panicking over a limited shutdown, a true pro-liberty Congress would be eagerly drawing up plans to permanently close most of the federal government, staring with the Federal Reserve. The Federal Reserve's inflationary policies not only degrade the average American's standard of living, they also allow Congress to run up huge deficits. Congress should take the first step toward restoring a sound monetary policy by passing the Audit the Fed bill, so the American people can finally learn the truth about the Fed's operations.

Second on the chopping block should be the Internal Revenue Service. The federal government is perfectly capable of performing its constitutional functions without imposing a tyrannical income tax system on the American people.

America's militaristic foreign policy should certainly be high on the shutdown list. The troops should be brought home, all foreign aid should be ended, and America should pursue a policy of peace and free trade with all nations. Ending the foreign policy of hyper-interventionism that causes so many to resent and even hate America will increase our national security.

All programs that spy on or otherwise interfere with the private lives of American citizens should be shutdown. This means no more TSA, NSA, or CIA, as well as an end to all federal programs that promote police militarization. The unconstitutional war on drugs should also end, along with the war on raw milk.

All forms of welfare should be shut down, starting with those welfare programs that benefit the wealthy and the politically well connected. Corporate welfare, including welfare for the military-industrial complex that masquerades as "defense spending," should be first on the chopping block. Welfare for those with lower incomes could be more slowly phased out to protect those who have become dependent on those programs.

The Department of Education should be permanently padlocked. This would free American schoolchildren from the dumbed-down education imposed by Common Core and No Child Left Behind. Of course, Obamacare, and similar programs, must be shut down so we can finally have free-market health care.

Congress could not have picked a worse Christmas gift for the American people than the 1,774-page omnibus spending bill. Unfortunately, we cannot return this gift. But hopefully someday Congress will give us the gift of peace, prosperity, and liberty by shutting down the welfare-warfare state.

Want something else to read? How about 'Grievous Censorship' By The Guardian: Israel, Gaza And The Termination Of Nafeez Ahmed's Blog

Majority of Americans approve torture: poll

© REUTERS/Kacper Pempel

A barbed wire fence surrounds a military area is in the forest near Stare Kiejkuty village, close to Szczytno in Northeastern Poland, in this January 24, 2014 file photo. Poland threatened to halt the transfer of al Qaeda suspects to a secret CIA jail on its soil 11 years ago, but became more "flexible" after the Central Intelligence Agency gave it a large sum of money, according to a U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee report released on December 9, 2014.

In the wake of last week's release of the Senate Intelligence Committee's report on the CIA's detention and interrogation program, 69 percent of Americans consider waterboarding to be torture, but 49 percent think aggressive interrogation tactics like waterboarding are sometimes justified. 36 percent think they are not justified.

More than half (57 percent) think that such interrogation tactics provide reliable information that helps prevent terrorist attacks at least some of the time. Fifty-two percent of Americans think the release of information regarding the CIA interrogation tactics poses a threat to U.S. security; a third doesn't think it will have an impact.

Waterboarding and Aggressive Interrogation Tactics

Forty-nine percent of Americans think waterboarding and other aggressive interrogation tactics are sometimes justified to get information from suspected terrorists, but just over a third -- 36 percent -- think they are never justified. The percentage who thinks these tactics are justified has risen slightly from three years ago.

More than seven in 10 Republicans (73 percent) and half of independents (50 percent) think these tactics are sometimes justified. Most Democrats (54 percent) do not. Those who have heard or read a lot about the report are even more likely than Americans overall to say these tactics are justified.

One of the techniques highlighted in the report is the use of waterboarding, in which the sensation of drowning is created by either dunking a restrained prisoner in water or pouring water over the prisoner's face. As they did five years ago, most Americans consider this technique to be torture, including majorities of Democrats (83 percent), independents (67 percent), and half of Republicans. The percentage of Americans who do not consider waterboarding torture is unchanged, at 26 percent.

Among Americans who consider waterboarding torture, half think these practices are not justified. 87 percent of those who do not consider waterboarding torture think these tactics are justified.

The report outlined a number of other techniques used by the CIA to interrogate suspected terrorists in the years after the 9/11 attacks -- such as threatening to sexually abuse a prisoner's mother, forcing a prisoner to stay awake for up to 180 hours, and forcing them to bathe in ice water. Most Americans consider these tactics to be torture (by percentage, below):

  • Threaten to sexually abuse prisoner's mother (73 percent)

  • Forced to stay awake up to 180 hours (70 percent)

  • Waterboarding (69 percent)

  • Forced ice water bath (57 percent)

Fifty-seven percent of Americans think these tactics provide reliable information that help prevent terrorist attacks at least some of the time, including 23 percent who think this happens often. Twenty-four percent think this rarely happens, while just 8 percent think these tactics never provide reliable information.

President Obama banned the use of waterboarding and several other aggressive interrogation methods in January 2009. However, 57 percent of Americans think waterboarding and other aggressive interrogation techniques are still being used by the CIA.

The Senate Intelligence Committee Report

Six in 10 Americans say they don't know enough about the Senate Intelligence Committee report on the CIA interrogation program to assess its fairness, but among those with an opinion, more are inclined to say the report left important things out than say it was a fair representation. Forty-one percent of Americans who have heard or read a lot about it think the report left important things out.

Just over half of Americans (52 percent) think the release of information in the report regarding CIA interrogation tactics poses a threat to U.S. security; a third doesn't think it will have an impact. There are partisan differences: Most Republicans (64 percent) and more than half of independents (55 percent) think the release of the report does pose a threat, while Democrats are more divided.

There is some skepticism about whether the CIA told the President and Congress the truth about its treatment of prisoners. Only 18 percent think the agency was telling the truth about its interrogation program. 44 percent think the CIA was mostly truthful but hiding something, and 17 percent of Americans think the CIA was mostly lying about its treatment of prisoners.

More broadly, when asked if suspected terrorists should have the same legal rights as other criminal suspects, 56 percent don't think they should, particularly Republicans (79 percent). Forty-seven percent of Democrats say suspected terrorists should have the same legal rights, while 41 percent think they should not.



Torture and Reaction to the Senate Intelligence Report

December 11-14, 2014

Q1. How much have you heard or read about the recent report by the Senate Intelligence Committee on the detention and interrogation program used by the CIA in the years after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks?


Total Rep Dem Ind

% % % %

A lot 30 33 25 32

Some 33 32 33 34

Not much 31 29 35 29

Nothing at all 5 5 6 3

Don't know/No answer 1 1 * 1

Q2. From what you have heard or read, do you think the Senate Intelligence Committee's report on the detention and interrogation program used by the CIA is a fair representation of what occurred, or did it leave important things out, or don't you know enough to say?

Fair representation 12 12 13 10

Left important things out 24 30 19 26

Don't know enough to say 61 55 64 61

Don't know/No answer 3 4 4 3

Q3. When it comes to how prisoners were being treated in the CIA's detention and interrogation program, do you think the CIA was telling the truth to the President and Congress, mostly telling the truth but hiding something, or mostly lying?

Telling the truth 18 31 12 15

Mostly telling truth, hiding something 44 41 51 41

Mostly lying 17 12 20 17

Don't know/No answer 21 15 17 27

Q3a. Do you think the public release of information about the CIA detention and interrogation program poses a threat to the security of the U.S., or don't you think its release will have an impact on U.S. security?

Threat to U.S. security 52 64 40 55

No impact on U.S. security 33 24 45 28

Don't know/No answer 15 12 15 17

Q3b. Do you think it is sometimes justified to use water boarding and other aggressive interrogation tactics to get information from a suspected terrorist, or are these tactics never justified?



Justified 49 73 32 50 45

Not justified 36 19 54 32 40

Depends (vol.) 4 4 4 4 6

Don't know/No answer 10 5 10 13 9

Q3c. Do you think the use of water boarding and other aggressive interrogation tactics are still being used by the CIA to get information from suspected terrorists, or do you think these tactics are no longer being used by the CIA?

Total Rep Dem Ind

% % % %

Still being used 57 57 63 53

No longer used 20 22 19 20

Were never used (vol.) 1 1 1 1

Don't know/No answer 22 20 18 26

Q4. In a procedure known as 'waterboarding,' interrogators produce the sensation of drowning in a restrained prisoner either by dunking him in water or pouring water over his face. Do you consider this procedure a form of torture, or not?



Torture 69 51 83 67 71

Not torture 26 45 13 26 26

Don't/no answer 5 4 3 7 3

Q5. Do you consider forcing a prisoner to stay awake for up to 180 hours to be a form of torture, or not?

Torture 70 50 86 68

Not torture 27 46 12 27

Don't/no answer 4 4 2 5

Q6. Do you consider forcing a prisoner to take an ice water bath to be a form of torture, or not?

Torture 57 39 76 53

Not torture 39 57 21 42

Don't/no answer 4 3 3 5

Q7. Do you consider threatening to sexually abuse a prisoner's mother to be a form of torture, or not?

Torture 73 63 87 68

Not torture 23 33 13 24

Don't/no answer 4 4 1 7

Q9. How often do you think the use of water boarding and other aggressive interrogation tactics provide reliable information that helps prevent terrorist attacks -- often, sometimes, rarely or never?

Often 23 35 13 24

Sometimes 34 35 36 33

Rarely 24 16 30 23

Never 8 5 12 7

Don't know/No answer 11 10 9 14

Q11. Do you think suspected terrorists being detained by the U.S. should have the same legal rights as other individuals who are suspected of a crime, or should they not have the same legal rights?

Total Rep Dem Ind

% % % %

Same legal rights 34 18 47 32

Not same legal rights 56 79 41 56

Depends (vol.) 3 2 3 4

Don't know/No answer 7 2 9 8

Unweighted Weighted

Total Respondents 1,003

Total Republicans 257 224

Total Democrats 310 321

Total Independents 436 458

Want something else to read? How about 'Grievous Censorship' By The Guardian: Israel, Gaza And The Termination Of Nafeez Ahmed's Blog

SOTT Exclusive: EU helps ISIS by banning the export of jet fuel to Syria


© AP/ Jacquelyn Martin, File

On December 12th, Reuters reported the following:

European Union governments agreed on Friday to ban the export of jet fuel to Syria from Sunday, saying it was being used by the Syrian air force for indiscriminate attacks against civilians.

As has become the norm for the 'European Union governments,' they all agreed on something that has no basis in reality. There is actually no proof that the Syrian Air Force is targeting civilians. Are we supposed to believe that amid fighting foreign backed insurgents, the Syrian government decided to take a break and bomb their own people? For what purpose? To justify further intervention from the U.S. and their coalition of the guilty? Should we forget that the U.S. has a long history of fabricating atrocities just for that purpose? Just last year we had the alleged chemical weapons attack which nearly lead to another U.S. sponsored 'humanitarian bombing' if it weren't for Russia. The claims that 'Assad gassed his own people' turned out to be fictitious as are those that he is now bombing civilians.

Mainstream media propaganda aside, there is plenty of evidence that the U.S. air strikes are targeting civilians. Here are a few reports from SOTT.

Despite the EU decrying the 'indiscriminate attacks against civilians,' banning the export of jet fuel will do nothing but cause more civilian casualties as it would weaken the Syrian Army which has been effectively countering the foreign sponsored insurgency that the U.S. unleashed in the region.

By their actions we can see that it's not the civilians that the EU stooges worry about, but pleasing their masters in U.S. who care about nothing but "degrading, disrupting and destroying" Syria using a proxy-terrorist force of their own creation.

In 2013 policymakers from the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) published an article which points out to a possible motive behind the United States/EU decision to ban the export of jet fuel to Syria.

Syria is not Libya. Bashar Assad's troops are well armed, and his ground forces are waging successful campaigns against rebel forces across the country. But eliminating Assad's ability to take to the air and tilting the balance of power in favor of anti-Assad rebels - as the United States and its allies did with the fighters who eventually overthrew Moammar Gadhafi - is both achievable and advisable.


Ante Sarlija (Profile)

Born and raised in Croatia, Ante joined the SOTT editorial team in 2014. He is also a part of the Croatian SOTT translation team. His area of interest includes, among other things, Philosophy and Politics. In his spare time he enjoys reading, researching, listening to music and smoking.

Want something else to read? How about 'Grievous Censorship' By The Guardian: Israel, Gaza And The Termination Of Nafeez Ahmed's Blog

Homeland Security warns that major coronal mass ejection could be catastrophic to civilization

CME coronal mass ejection

Homeland Security officials are warning that a major coronal mass ejection, solar flare or electromagnetic pulse may be inevitable and catastrophic to modern civilization. The devastation to the electric grid and modern infrastructure could impact the lives of more than 100 million, and cause untold casualties during prolonged outages.

Homeland Security conducted a study assessing the risks with these extreme solar events (as well as manmade EMPs).

Via Free Beacon

DHS' Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) stated in an internal 2012 fact sheet outlining its response plan for severe "space weather" that the actual impact and damage from a future solar storm is not known.


The report outlines the scenario for a major "coronal mass ejection" from the Sun that will first be detected by U.S. satellites. The magnetic band reaches the earth within 24 to 72 hours, affecting up to 100 million people.

The largest such storms, called G-5s, would cause transformers and transmission lines to be "severely damaged."

The storms last from hours to a day but can disrupt electric power grid operations, GPS satellites, aircraft operations, manned space flight, satellite operations, natural gas distribution pipelines, and undersea communications cables.

Though acknowledging they lack sufficient information about what exactly might happen, it is clear enough what kind of damage and disruption of service it might pose for the infrastructure that everyone depends upon.

Major solar events happened in 1859 with the Carrington Event and in 1921 with huge magnetic storm. The federal government and the utility companies both admit that another event of this magnitude would take down the existing power grid and could affect some 100 million people, likely damaging many other services as well.

Former CIA official Peter Pry warned that a large solar flare "could have catastrophic consequences for civilization."

"We are running out of time to prepare," Pry said, noting that NASA reported in July that Earth narrowly missed a second Carrington Event.

While the grid might be repaired within in hours and days for most, as many as 10 million could face prolonged life without electricity. It could be literally months - and possibly even years - before the power is restored.

Are you even remotely prepared for that kind of event? The government is admittedly NOT prepared and has no way to feasibly take care of that many people during a mass disruption event:

"How would the government deal with 10 million, or many more, Americans without power for two months, or even longer?"


"An analysis of the space weather impacts indicates that the greatest challenge will be to provide life-saving and life-sustaining resources for large numbers of people that experience long-term power outage from damage to the U.S. electrical grid," the FEMA document, dated March 1, 2012, states.

The FEMA fact sheet noted the findings of a 2010 study by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the agency that monitors sun storms, warning that an extreme solar storm could leave "130 million people without power for years," and destroy or damage more than 300 hard-to-replace electrical grid transformers.

Even more worryingly is the government secrecy and failure to adequately prepare the public for an event that could happen at any time, and is considered 'overdue.'

The report was released only after Mark Sauter, a security adviser and published author on Homeland Security, filed a FOIA request:

Sauter said FEMA's more-than-200-page response plan for dealing with a solar storm was blacked out from the released documents.

"This makes one wonder why FEMA is refusing to release the government's space weather response plan," he said.

Sauter questioned whether the government is taking the threat of a major solar storm seriously, or is "just going through an obligatory bureaucratic exercise that in reality reflects DHS/FEMA crossing its fingers and hoping that such a plan will never need to be used."

Though it should be strongly noted, it should come as no surprise that the federal government cannot and will not be able to take care of everyone during a massive power outage, and especially not during an extended breakdown of society, services and infrastructure.

Many preppers have been hedging for this cataclysm for some time, and have known that extreme solar events pose a significant threat that, again, may prove to be a question of when not if.

Daisy Luther outlines several important areas to consider when preparing to survive potentially prolonged power outages and disruptions to services. Going off-grid requires significant planning, investment and a reorientation of mindset - but it can be done.

Have you planned for:

Off-grid Water

If you haven't located water sources near your home, it's time to break out the topographical maps of your area and find them! A low-tech water plan might include some or all of the following:

  • A manual pump for your well

  • Buckets and wheelbarrows for hauling water from a nearby source

  • Rain barrels for water harvesting (THIS is an inexpensive option with mixed reviews)

  • A gravity-fed water filtration system (we have THIS ONE)

  • A water dispenser for convenient access to filtered water (Be sure to get one with the bottle on top so that it can be operated without electricity, and not one that uses an electric pump to pull the water up from the bottom)

  • Storage units for water such as cisterns or tanks

  • Portable water filter bottles for safe water when you are away from home (we have THIS ONE)

Off-grid Shelter and Warmth

Homes these days aren't built to function without a connection to the power grid. If you aren't fortunate enough to live in an older home that was designed for off-grid living, look at some ways to take your home back a century or so. A secondary heating system is vital in most climates.

  • An antique oil heater can use lots of different oils and requires little effort for installation (THIS SITE is loaded with information about Perfection oil heaters)

  • Have a woodstove installed

  • Clean your chimney and get your fireplace working

  • Set up an outdoor fireplace with large rocks to bring inside for radiant heat (this won't get you super warm but it's better than nothing)

  • Have a good supply of blankets, warm clothes, and cold-rated sleeping bags

  • Learn techniques to stay warm with less heat

Off-grid Food

Not only do you need access to food, but you also need a way to cook it and a way to keep your refrigerated and frozen items from spoiling.

Off-grid Sanitation and Hygiene

How will you keep clean and deal with human waste in the event of a long-term emergency?

Off-grid Lighting

The world is a scary place when it's dark, and most of us have forgotten how dark TRUE dark really is, due to light pollution and the proximity of neighbors. Here are some lighting solutions for an off grid world:

  • Solar garden lights - store them outside to be charged during the day and bring them in and put them in vases where they're needed at night

  • Oil lamps - you can recycle used cooking oil or use rendered fat to power these - they give a brighter light and can be used for reading and close-work (Learn more HERE)

  • Candles - stock them and learn to make them

  • Solar powered flashlights

Renewable power is practical power.

One exception to my no-generators rule is renewable power. If you can afford a solar set up for your home, then very little would change about your day-to-day life, aside from you being one of the few people with power. You don't have to go totally solar to have power for a few important items. Assuming you have electronics in working order, they can be powered with solar, wind, or water.

Most of us can't afford an entire set up but these are some options to consider:

  • Build a DIY portable solar recharging station - learn how to make it HERE

  • Solar-powered systems for specific items - learn more HERE

  • Use wind power - learn more HERE

  • Use water power - learn more HERE

Recommended Resources:

The Prepper's Blueprint: Prepare Yourself For Any Disaster

52 Weeks to Preparedness (Free Online Web Series)

Want something else to read? How about 'Grievous Censorship' By The Guardian: Israel, Gaza And The Termination Of Nafeez Ahmed's Blog

Endangered northern white rhinos on brink of total extinction

© Wikipedia/ Sheep81

Scientists will make every effort to save the endangered subspecies of the world's biggest northern white rhinos through artificial insemination of female species, although the chances are slim, Vladimir Krever, the WWF Russia coordinator of biodiversity conservation program told RIA Novosti.

Earlier, the San Diego Zoo reported that one of only six northern white rhinoceros remaining in the world died of old age on Sunday, December 14. The rhino, named Angalifu, was almost 44 years old and arrived in San Diego from Sudan in August 1990.

"Angalifu's death is a tremendous loss to all of us. Not only because he was well beloved here at the park but also because his death brings this wonderful species one step closer to extinction," said Randy Rieches, the San Diego Zoo Safari Park curator as cited by the Daily Mail.

Vladimir Kremer emphasized that the wild species of the northern white rhino had been exterminated long ago and only females rhinos are left in the zoos. The scientist pointed out that the sperm of Angalifu was harvested and frozen by researchers in a cryogenic laboratory. Mr. Kremer said that scientists would try to carry out artificial insemination in order to breed new animals. However, the scientist doubts that the experiment will prove successful.

According to Mr. Kremer, scientists should focus on preserving the southern wild white rhinos, which are now extremely vulnerable to poaching. Traditional Asian medicine makes frequent use of powdered rhino horn as a cure for various illnesses, including fevers and even cancer, and to improve virility.

In total, there are five rhino species existing in their natural habitat: three of them can be found in Southern and South-Eastern Asia and the other two in Africa. All of them are currently on the verge of extinction. Well-equipped poaching gangs are exterminating these rare animals, using helicopters, night-vision equipment and veterinary drugs, making their protection a hard task for conservationists.

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Dubai Crashed, Qatar Crashed, And The Rest Of The Gulf States Got Smoked

Share prices in energy-rich Gulf Arab states fell sharply at the start of the week Sunday, dragged down after oil prices plunged to new lows.

The decline was across the board on almost all of the region's seven bourses, as investors went into a panic sell-off soon after trading kicked off.

Dubai's benchmark DFM Index lost 6.2 percent to 3,373.51 points, pulled down by market leader Emaar Properties, which shed 8.0 percent, and construction giant Arabtec, which lost 7.2 percent.

The index shed 7.2 percent on Thursday.

Abu Dhabi Securities Exchange recovered slightly at mid-session, trading down 3.6 percent at 4,212.07 points with energy stocks declining 5.3 percent and the real estate and banking sectors also falling.

The Saudi Tadawul All-Shares Index, the largest in the Arab world, dipped 3.3 percent to 8,113.22 points, a 12-month low.

dubai 3 monthBloomberg.comA disastrous last three months for the Dubai stock market.

Leading the decline was the petrochemicals sector, with Saudi Basic Industries Co. SABIC losing 5.6 percent.

The main index on the Qatar Exchange, the second biggest bourse in the Gulf, dived 7.2 percent to 10,959.0 points, a level last seen in early January. Market leaders in banking and industry contributed to the slide.

Kuwait Stock Exchange deepened losses, losing 3.2 percent to 6,254.62 points, a 22-month low, despite the listing of VIVA, a third mobile phone operator 26 percent-owned by Saudi Telecom.

The Muscat Securities Market lost 2.72 percent to 5,649.49 points, while the Bahrain bourse was unchanged.

Global oil prices tanked Friday to fresh five-year lows after a gloomy crude demand downgrade from the International Energy Agency (IEA) and more weak Chinese economic data.

US benchmark West Texas Intermediate for January delivery plunged to $58.80 per barrel -- the lowest level since May 20, 2009 -- having already closed under the psychological level of $60 on Thursday.

Brent crude for January meanwhile slipped to $62.75 in morning London deals, striking a low point last witnessed on July 16, 2009.

The oil market -- which has shed almost 50 percent since June -- plumbed the latest lows after the Paris-based IEA slashed its 2015 demand outlook, despite plunging prices.

The six nations of the Gulf Cooperation Council -- Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates -- depend heavily on oil revenues which make up around 90 percent of their total income.

Peru offended with Greenpeace's Nazca lines stunt

greenpeace nasca lines

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Greenpeace damages Nazca site.

Greenpeace is apologizing to the people of Peru after pulling a stunt at the site of the sacred Nazca lines. Government officials claim the action damaged the ancient markings.

Before dawn on Monday, 20 Greenpeace activists went to site of the historic Nazca lines and laid out massive yellow letters reading "Time for Change: The Future is Renewable." Currently, the United Nations is holding the Lima Climate Change Conference in the country, and the stunt was apparently intended to catch the attention of officials gathered there.

According to a press release on Greenpeace's website, the group meant for the message -- which can be seen from the sky -- "to honor the Nazca people, whose ancient geoglyphs are one of the historic landmarks of Peru. It is believed that one of the reasons for the Nazca's disappearance can be linked to massive regional climate change."

However, the government of Peru did not take it as an honor.

"It's a true slap in the face at everything Peruvians consider sacred," Deputy Culture Minister Luis Jaime Castillo told Associated Press.

nazca letters

© www.cnn.com

Greenpeace activists arranging letters of their message next to a famous hummingbird geoglyph

The Greenpeace activists entered a "strictly prohibited" area near the famed figure of a hummingbird, according to Associated Press. Entrance to this area is permitted only with authorization, and those who get approval must wear special footwear.

"They are absolutely fragile," the minister said of the geoglyphs. "They are black rocks on a white background. You walk there and the footprint is going to last hundreds or thousands of years. And the line that they have destroyed is the most visible and most recognized of all."

The Peruvian government plans to open a criminal investigation into the matter and is reportedly attempting to bar those who participated in the act from leaving the country, per Reuters. A charge of "attacking archeological monuments" carries a sentence of up to six years in prison.

A spokesperson for Greenpeace told that International Executive Director Kumi Naidoo is in Peru and plans to meet with authorities. The group is looking into the incident and "taking this very seriously."

Greenpeace apologized in a statement published to its website Thursday, saying:

Without reservation Greenpeace apologizes to the people of Peru for the offense caused by our recent activity laying a message of hope at the site of the historic Nazca Lines. We are deeply sorry for this.

We fully understand that this looks bad. Rather than relay an urgent message of hope and possibility to the leaders gathering at the Lima UN climate talks, we came across as careless and crass. We have now met with the Peruvian Culture Ministry responsible for the site to offer an apology.

The Nazca lines feature hundreds of straight lines and geometric figures, along with 70 animal and plant designs made by moving rocks and dirt to create a "negative" image, according to . While mystery still surrounds the site, the lines are believed to have been etched between 500 B.C. and A.D. 500, according to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Culture Organization. It was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1994.

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