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Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Sleepy Hollow redux: Ninth wave of mysterious sleeping sickness strikes Kazakhstan

sleeping boy

© RT

People suffering from the sleeping sickness are diagnosed with various diseases.

New cases of the inexplicable disorder, dubbed "Sleepy Hollow," have appeared in Kalachi, the village in Kazakhstan where every tenth villager, including children, has mysteriously fallen asleep in broad daylight, some unable to wake up for days on end.

manbek Kalzhanov, head of the administration of Esil district, told Interfax. "

According to Kalzhanov, the overall situation in Kalachi, a village in northern Kazakhstan, is under control. The local hospital is fully operational, along with a school, attended by about 40 students.

Meanwhile, most of the inhabitants of the village, which used to be home to over 600 residents, have agreed to move to other areas, local official Sergey Kulagin said.

he said.

sleeping woman

© RT

People in Kalachi have been suffering from the "sleep epidemic" for the past couple of years.

The first cases of the " were reported in March 2013. Everyone in the village has a family member or a friend who has fallen asleep for no apparent reason, according to locals.

Igor Samusenko, father of a child who is suffering from the illness, earlier told RTD.

a woman told RTD. Other patients may behave

Despite numerous attempts to find the cause of the inexplicable disorder, the Sleepy Hollow riddle still remains unknown.

Groups of scientists and medics, including virologists, radiologists and toxicologists, have visited the village in an attempt to find the cause of the mystery illness, all in vain.

Last month Professor Leonid Rikhvanov, from the Department of Geo-ecology and Geo-chemistry in the city of Tomsk, said that Soviet-era uranium mines could be to blame, with radon gas from the nearby mines seeping to the surface, poisoning local residents.

Radon is a colorless, odorless gas that is created through the decay of uranium. Breathing it is believed to cause lung cancer.

Rikhvanov said. People have described further symptoms, including hallucinations, memory loss, dizziness and nausea.

Rikhvanov said experts previously failed to detect radon because conventional methods of measuring radiation fail to detect it in the air.

While radiation levels in the town and at the mine closest to it are at a normal 16 micro-roentgen per hour, the RTD team's Geiger counter showed an alarming 268 micro-roentgen per hour at an abandoned, filled-in mineshaft further from the village. However, an independent analysis of Kalachi's water, soil, and vegetation samples did not detect any abnormalities.

People suffering from the sleeping sickness have been diagnosed with a range of diseases. While children are being treated for toxic encephalopathy (a brain malfunction), adults are said to have suffered strokes. But after several days in intensive care, they are usually back to normal - until they feel abnormally sleepy again. Some doctors assert that mass psychosis is to blame.

Cop shoots and kills little girl's pony

An Oregon family is demanding answers after a Sheriff's deputy shot and killed their pony. The family says they had no idea the officer was going to shoot the family pet, and it all happened without their knowing and for no good reason whatsoever.

Crista Fitzgerald of Clackamas County explained that the 30-year-old American Miniature Horse, named Gir, had no problems aside from being old. But when he escaped from his stall in a Molalla barn overnight on February 18th, an officer shot and killed him.

"I locked his stall door, and I always do a double check. The next morning I came back out before I had class in the morning, which is around 10, and he was gone," Crista explained.

She said that Gir didn't get very far from the barn before being shot.

"We started knocking door-to-door. And the first house we came to he was laying in their yard," she recounted.

At first the family thought that Gir was taking a nap. But as they got closer to him, they saw that he had been shot multiple times.

"We walked up closer and I bent down to pet him, and that's when I saw the pool of blood behind his cheek bones. The neighbor came out and told us she had called the sheriff's department and they put him down," Fitzgerald told local reporters.

"When I called the officer he said that he had gotten out on the highway and gotten hit by a car and broke both of his back legs," she added.

A spokesman for the Clackamas County Sheriff Office, Sgt. Nathan Thompson told local KATU News that the officer claimed that the horse "had broken legs."

Sgt. Thompson also lied and claimed that the deputy called the Oregon Humane Society to ask about euthanizing the horse and they told him to just go ahead and shot it. But a spokeswoman for OHS said that this is not true; they never received a call from anyone at the Sheriff's Department about the horse, and they would not have given them this advice if they had.

Fitzgerald said she didn't believe the department's story that Gir had broken legs. She claims that there was no sign of anything wrong with the horse's legs when she saw her dead family pet.

"My vet said there was absolutely nothing wrong with him," she added.

The body of the horse was sent to Oregon State University's veterinary lab for an autopsy. They confirmed that there were no broken bones whatsoever in the horses legs, only in the jaw, which was shattered by one of the bullets from the deputy's weapon.

"If I had gone out and shot the pony I'd be in jail right now. That's cruel," Fitzgerald said.

"He was part of our family... There's no way to replace him," she said, saying that her children don't understand where Gir went, or why a police officer would hurt him.

Watch the local report below...

US ally in Libya allegedly joins Islamic State and leads its forces in the country

Abdelhakim Belhadj

© AP Photo/ Francois Mori, File

Abdelhakim Belhadj

Belhadj, a Libyan national and former head of the al-Qaeda-linked Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, was considered by President Barack Obama's administration and some members of Congress as a "willing partner" in the overthrow of Gaddafi in 2011.

"Now, it's alleged he is firmly aligned with ISIS and supports the training camps in eastern Libya," Catherine Herridge, chief intelligence correspondent for , said Tuesday on "America's Newsroom."

Also on Tuesday, Sara Carter of tweeted: "Abdelhakim Belhadj is now the leader of #IslamicState in #Libya. At CIA rendition camp — let go, later participated overthrow #Qaddafi."

Belhadj indeed was held in a secret CIA detention center, and his connection to the spy agency remains murky. In 2004, Belhadj and his pregnant wife were arrested in Kuala-Lumpur airport in Malaysia. He was transferred to a CIA "black-site" in Bangkok before being turned over to Gadhafi's government, which threw him in the Abu Selim Prison.

Belhadj was freed in 2010 by the Gadhafi regime as part of a reapproach toward local Islamists. In 2011, however, he chased the Gadhafi family out of Tripoli as the leader of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group that was backed by the US and NATO.

Despite Belhadj's well-known ties to al-Qaeda, he was made head of the Tripoli Military Council, a position he held until resigning to run for office in May 2012.

He has also been connected to terrorist operations around the world, including the 2004 Madrid train bombings and the murder of two Tunisian politicians at behest of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Belhadj's reported move to Islamic State would bolster the terrorist group's efforts to recruit Libya's existing militant forces, which includes as many as 3,000 fighters, according to the .

This would not be the first time western-backed "moderate rebels" who were recruited to fight terrorists ended up crossing to Islamic State or al-Qaeda. In Syria, the so-called "Hazm movement" defected to al-Qaeda-affiliated al-Nusra front, while 3,000 members of the Free Syrian Army pledged support to Islamic State.

In Libya, Islamic State militants already are receiving "tangible assistance" from training camps at a new support base near the port city of Derna in the eastern part of the country, according to counter-terrorism sources who spoke with ' Herridge.

The situation raises fresh security concerns as the US and its allies struggle to keep tabs on the terror group as it expands throughout the Middle East.

An unnamed source told Herridge they would not be surprised "if the next 9/11 came out of Libya."

US Ambassador to Cyprus relieved of duty after controversial tweets

John Koenig

The American Ambassador to Cyprus, John Koenig, has been promptly 'relieved of duty' after he posted on his Twitter account what was essentially a clever ploy to link Cyprus President Anastasiades (who recently visited Moscow) to the assassination of Boris Nemtsov.

Bonehead move...oh yeah!

But considering that John Kerry, America's top diplomat, almost bombed Syria over a fake Youtube video, and sanctions have been placed on Russia over tweets that say Putin has invaded Ukraine...I guess Ambassador Koenig's social media mishap is tiny in the grand scheme of American propaganda goofs.

Nonetheless it was still a bonehead thing to tweet about.

In the twitter conversation, Ambassador Koenig even goes as far as accusing the Cypriot President of hanging out with 'bad company'...in reference to Russia's democratically elected and wildly popular President Vladimir Putin.

Koenig also tried to imply that Putin was the mastermind behind the Nemtsov murder by tweeting:

"I wouldn't suggest Anastasiades is linked to Nemtsov assassination. Be real. But Putin could be."

Of course Koenig is not a forensic expert, Moscow homicide detective, or even US Ambassador to Russia, but he still felt he needed to jump on the western media "Trash Russia" express train.

Koenig rightfully got skewered by folks on twitter who told the Ambassador to focus on the Cyprus problem and not an internal Russian murder investigation.

The Ambassador was likewise chastised for his complete lack of professionalism, and behaviour that is unbecoming of an Ambassador of the United States of America.

In a statement he issued on Monday, Koenig said "My question on Twitter, was misunderstood".

The US Embassy has announced that another diplomat will be named to take the place of John Koenig, adding that Koenig's term as US Ambassador to the Republic of Cyprus is for three years and his departure in the Summer of 2015 has always been anticipated. Of course it has.

The reports...

His tweets, not the type expected from an ambassador, seemed calculated to provoke, although he denied this was his intention. But the truth is, regardless of his intentions, his comment did provoke because it was undiplomatic and out of order.

The original tweet said: "What do people in #Cyprus think about the week in Russia as seen from here? Anastasiades visit and statements, #Nemtsov assassination?"On Monday, Koenig said, "it is unfortunate that some suggested I linked the two issues," and explained that he "simply wanted to get the reaction of the Cypriot people on two different issues." This was not the most convincing response and the ambassador is smart enough to know that his tweet could have been interpreted in the way many of his followers had interpreted it.

And he persisted with the link in subsequent tweets: "Week was big 4 Cyprus-Russia, ended with killing of Nemtsov," tagging on the snide remark, "The company you keep." Was this remark not intended to "provoke or imply anything", as he claimed yesterday? If it were not he would not have put the two issues together.

Whatever has happened to traditional diplomacy, of carefully-drafted documents being delivered to the foreign ministry of a country and ambassadors restricting their rarely-made public comments to non-controversial issues? And since when do ambassadors seek people's reactions to events through social media? It is not as if Koenig's followers on Twitter represented a cross-section of Cypriot society.

The reaction to the ambassador's tweets was not restricted to his followers. Even Anastasiades [Cyprus President] felt obliged to make a public statement, pointing out that the American ambassador, instead of helping improve relations was continuously contributing towards the straining relations.

Russian EU envoy Vladimir Chizhov - Gas blockade of Donbass sure sign Kiev no longer sees territory as its own

gas blockade donbass

© ITAR-TASS/Donat Sorokin

From the standpoint of logic the Ukrainian government and Naftogaz are obliged to supply gas to Donbas if they consider this territory as Ukrainian, Russia’s EU envoy says

A stop to gas supply to Donbas by Ukraine may be interpreted by all impartial onlookers as a sure sign Kiev no longer regards the area as its territory, Russia's EU envoy said on the eve of trilateral gas talks in Brussels on March 2.

The problem of gas supplies to Donbas is confined to the need for Kiev to make a choice: how it sees this region, and if it still considers the people living there as Ukrainian citizens. If this is so, from the standpoint of logic the Ukrainian government and Naftogaz are obliged to supply gas there. If they suspend gas supplies to Donbas, every observer will clearly see that Kiev no longer regards this territory as its own," he said.

And from RIN:

Kiev never resumed gas supplies in the Donbass. Donetsk national Republic considers these actions as an economic blockade, said the Commissioner DND on Minsk talks Denis Putilin.

"At this point in time, delivery [from] Ukraine has not resumed. The situation is that they are looking for ways to justify destroyed pipelines gas transmission and more. In reality, it's just one of the elements of the blockade, "said Putilin. Remember, on February 19, Naftogaz said that they had stopped the flow of gas in the Donbass due to critical damage inflicted on transmission infrastructure during combat operations, but then said that delivery began after the break [ceasefire]. Because of this, the Prime Minister of Russia Medvedev D. A. ordered a study of the issue of gas supplies from Russia to the Donbass in the form of humanitarian aid. According to him, citizens in these regions should not be allowed to freeze. Then the head of the Board of Gazprom, Alexey Miller said that the Russian gas company increased supplies of natural gas to the area of Ukraine on Friday. The head of Naftogaz of Ukraine Andriy Korolev said that the Ukrainian Company will not pay for the gas that Gazprom supplies in the Donbass, because, in the opinion of the Ukrainian side, it is contrary to the contract.

IMF's Director Batista spills the beans: Greek bailout was 'to save German and French banks'

© keeptalkinggreece

Bailout, Executive Director, Greece, IMF, interview, Paulo Nogueira Batista.

This was never said officially before! "They gave money to save German and French banks, not Greece," Paolo Batista, one of the Executive Directors of International Monetary Fund told Greek private on Tuesday. Batista strongly criticized not only the euro zone and the European Central Bank but also the IMF and the Fund's managing Director Christine Lagarde for

He urged Greece to directly negotiate with the IMF and favored the restructuring of the Greek debt that is being held by the European partners.

Video: English with Greek subtitles:

[embedded content]

The Chinese put up overseas billboard ads announcing the renminbi as the new world currency

When I arrived to Bangkok the other day, coming down the motorway from the airport I saw a huge billboard - and it floored me.

The billboard was from the Bank of China. It said: "RMB: New Choice; The World Currency"

Given that the Bank of China is more than 70% owned by the government of the People's Republic of China, I find this very significant.

It means that China is literally advertising its currency overseas, and it's making sure that everyone landing at one of the world's busiest airports sees it. They know that the future belongs to them and they're flaunting it.

And it's true. The renminbi's importance in global trade and as a reserve currency is increasing exponentially, with renminbi trading hubs popping up all over the world, from Singapore to London to Luxembourg to Frankfurt to Toronto.

Multinational companies such as McDonald's are now issuing bonds in renminbi, and even sovereign governments are issuing debt denominated in renminbi, including the UK.

Almost every major global player out there, be it governments or major multinationals, is positioning itself for the renminbi to become the dominant reserve currency.

But here's the thing. Nothing goes up and down in a straight line. And China is in deep trouble right now. The economy is slowing down and the enormous debt bubble is starting to burst.

A lot of people, including the richest man in Asia, are starting to move their money out of the country.

So while the long-term trend is pretty clear - China becoming the dominant economic and financial superpower - the short-term is going to look incredibly rocky.

Hysterical society: Colorado 6-year old suspended for pointing his fingers in the shape of a gun


A Colorado Springs first-grader was suspended from school after pointing his fingers at a classmate in the shape of a gun.

Six-year-old Elijah goes to Stratton Meadows Elementary School. On Monday, he pointed at a classmate in the shape of a gun and said, "You're dead."

According to his report, an administrator spoke with him about what being dead means and about not confusing "make-believe" or things in games with reality. And he received a one-day suspension for threats against peers.

"I know they have zero tolerance, but more of a maybe no recess," his dad, Austin Thurston said. "Going as far as a one-day suspension is a little extreme for a six-year-old in a first-grade class."

A spokesperson for Harrison School District 2, which Stratton Meadows is a part of, couldn't give specifics about the case, because it's part of the student's personal record. But she said school administrators feel they issued the appropriate disciplinary action.

She also said school staff speaks with students and parents before a suspension, and they consider current as well as previous behaviors.

Elijah has been at the school since January. His dad said while he had minor behavioral incidents in his previous school, this was the first time he got in trouble at Stratton Meadows.

"Of course I think he was playing," Thurston said. "What six-year-old doesn't play cops and robbers, or cowboys and Indians?"

Thurston said he and his wife have spoken with the boy about guns.

"We just told him there's a time and a place for everything, and we told him school is never a place for that. We let him know that the guns in the wrong hands will be very dangerous," he said. "He knows the difference between really doing that, and just putting your finger up and saying, 'boom you're dead.' We made sure he understands the severity of what he said."

Although the school didn't require it, Elijah is writing an apology letter to the school stating he understands his actions.

[embedded content]

Winters are going to get colder...much colder - NASA consultant

sever winter ice age

The Maunder Minimum (also known as the prolonged sunspot minimum) is the name used for the period roughly spanning 1645 to 1715 when sunspots became exceedingly rare, as noted by solar observers of the time.

Like the Dalton Minimum and Spörer Minimum, the Maunder Minimum coincided with a period of lower-than-average global temperatures.

During one 30-year period within the Maunder Minimum, astronomers observed only about 50 sunspots, as opposed to a more typical 40,000-50,000 spots. (Source)

Climatologist John Casey, a former space shuttle engineer and NASA consultant, thinks that last year's winter, described by USA Today as "one of the snowiest, coldest, most miserable on record" is going to be a regular occurrence over the coming decades.

Casey asserts that there is mounting evidence that the Earth is getting cooler due to a decline in solar activity. He warns in his latest book, that a major alteration of global climate has already started and that at a minimum it is likely to last 30 years.

Casey predicts food shortages and civil unrest caused by those shortages due largely to governments not preparing for the issues that colder weather will bring. he also predicts that wickedly bitter winter temperatures will see demand for electricity and heating outstrip the supply.

Casey isn't alone in his thinking. Russian climate expert and astrophysicist Habibullo Abdussamatov goes one step further and states that we are at the very beginning of a new ice age.

Dr. Abdussamatov points out that Earth has experienced such occurrences five times over the last 1,000 years, and that:

"A global freeze will come about regardless of whether or not industrialized countries put a cap on their greenhouse gas emissions. The common view of Man's industrial activity is a deciding factor in global warming has emerged from a misinterpretation of cause and effect." (source)

Don Easterbrook, a climate scientist based at Western Washington University predicted exactly what Casey is saying as far back as 2008. in his paper he states:

Despite no global warming in 10 years and recording setting cold in 2007-2008, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climatic Change (IPCC) and computer modelers who believe that CO2 is the cause of global warming still predict the Earth is in store for catastrophic warming in this century. IPCC computer models have predicted global warming of 1° F per decade, and 5-6° C (10-11° F) by 2100 which would cause global catastrophe with ramifications for human life, natural habitat, energy, water resources, and food production. All of this is predicated on the assumption that global warming is caused by increasing atmospheric CO2 and that CO2 will continue to rise rapidly.

maunder minimum

The list of climate scientists that are moving into the global cooling camp is growing, many of them base their views on past climate records and history suggests a link between diminished solar activity and bitterly cold winters, as well as cooler summers, in the northern hemisphere.

"My opinion is that we are heading into a Maunder Minimum," said Mark Giampapa, a solar physicist at the National Solar Observatory (NSO) in Tucson, Arizona. "I'm seeing a continuation in the decline of the sunspots' mean magnetic field strengths and a weakening of the polar magnetic fields and subsurface flows."

David Hathaway of NASA's Marshall Solar Physics Center explains:

"We're at the sunspot maximum of Cycle 24. It's the smallest sunspot cycle in 100 years and the third in a trend of diminishing sunspot cycles. So, Cycle 25 could likely be smaller than Cycle 24."

A NASA report of January 2013 details the science behind the sunspot-climate connection and it well worth reading. It should be remembered that since the report was written Solar cycle 24 has been proven to be not the smallest cycle in 50 years, but the smallest for more than 100 years. The last one with sunspot numbers this low was 1906, solar cycle 14.

"Indeed, the sun could be on the threshold of a mini-Maunder event right now. Ongoing Solar Cycle 24 [the current short term 11 year cycle] is the weakest in more than 50 years. Moreover, there is (controversial) evidence of a long-term weakening trend in the magnetic field strength of sunspots. Matt Penn and William Livingston of the National Solar Observatory predict that by the time Solar Cycle 25 arrives, magnetic fields on the sun will be so weak that few if any sunspots will be formed. Independent lines of research involving helioseismology and surface polar fields tend to support their conclusion."

Livingston and Penn are solar astronomers With the NSO (National Solar Observatory) in Tuscon, Arizona. They use a measurement known as Zeeman splitting to gather data on sunspots. They discovered in 1990, that the number of sunspots is dropping and that once the magnetic field drops below 1500 Gauss , that no sunspots will form. (A Gauss is a magnetic field measurement. The Gauss of the Earth is less than one). If the decline continues at its present rate they estimate that the Sun will be spot free by 2016.

If these scientists are correct, we are heading into a period of bitterly cold winters and much cooler summers. Imagine year after year of 'polar vortex ' winters that start early, finish late and deliver unprecedented cold across the country. Cool wet summers will affect food production, as will floods from the melting snow when spring finally arrives.

The American Meteorological Society Journal gives the following information regarding cold related deaths in comparison to heat related deaths in the United States from 1979-1999. The article is entitled Heat Mortality Versus Cold Mortality.

During the study period from 1979 to 1999 a total of 3,829 people died from excessive heat across the United states. An average of 182 deaths per year. For the same time period 15,707 people died of cold, an average of 748 deaths a year.

Based on these figures cold kills four times more people than heat. If these scientists are right you can expect that figure to rise dramatically as energy demand outstrips supply. Power supplies are also impacted by ice storms and heavy snow which will lead to more outages and the disruption that brings. Generally the infrastructure will fail to cope with month after month of excessive cold. Transportation is severely impacted by weather events and that has the knock on effect of hitting the economy as people struggle to get to work. For the unprepared regular food deliveries not making it to stores will leave many hungry and increasingly desperate.

The consequences of global cooling are huge and those who fail to consider it as a possibility are risking their lives and the lives of their families.


NASA: Science News Journal

American Meteorological Society

Marshall Solar Physics


Global Research



US commander in Europe Ben Hodges looses it: says Vladimir Putin wants to destroy NATO


The commander of the US army in Europe has spoken out in support of the military relationship with Britain, amid concerns it could be damaged by defence cuts.

"The US-UK relationship is as important as ever," Lt-Gen. Frederick "Ben" Hodges said. "The UK is our oldest ally and still a leader in NATO. I think the UK will live up to its leadership position."

He accused Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, of seeking to destroy NATO, and warned that Russia could seek to use the sort of "hybrid warfare" seen in eastern Ukraine against a NATO member to test the alliance.

"I am sure Putin wants to destroy our alliance, not by attacking it but by splintering it," he said in a speech to military and political leaders in Berlin.


Notice the angry looking Putin picture The Telegraph chose to use.

He warned that Mr. Putin could try to destabilise a NATO member by using a rebel militia as in eastern Ukraine, or other forms of "ambiguous" warfare.

In the absence of an overt Russian attack, some NATO members could be reluctant to invoke Article 5 of the Washington treaty, under which an attack on one member is an attack on all.

"Once Article 5 is gone, our alliance is over," Gen. Hodges said.

He called for American tanks to be positioned in countries along NATO's eastern flank, as a deterrent to Mr Putin.

Just months after moving its last tanks out of Europe, the US has decided to send some 220 Abrams tanks and Bradley fighting vehicles back in response to the Ukraine crisis.

Gen. Hodges said he had proposed positioning some of the tanks in Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Romania and Bulgaria.

And the US has already agreed to send troops to Poland and the three Baltic states.

Gen. Hodges called for NATO countries to maintain defence spending in the face of the Ukraine crisis.

The chief of staff of the US army, Gen. Raymond Odierno, said he was "very concerned" earlier this week after David Cameron refused to commit to maintaining defence spending at NATO's agreed target of 2 per cent of GDP.

But Gen. Hodges said he was "sure" the UK would continue to meet the 2 per cent target.

"The UK is one of only four NATO members that currently meets its 2 per cent target," he said. "There are 24 that are already below, and many of them are well below." He described German military equipment shortages as "unacceptable".

"For the most powerful nation in Europe, which takes a leadership role in the EU, it is unacceptable to have helicopters that don't fly, or aircraft you can't use," he said Only 42 of Germany's 109 Typhoon fighters are available because of maintenance issues, alongside 38 of its 89 Tornado bombers.

German special forces had to pull out of a joint exercise because there was no working helicopter available for them, and it emerged recently that German troops used broomsticks instead of guns during a Nato training exercise last year.

In Ukraine, the US strategy is to "raise the cost for President Putin" by supporting Ukrainian government forces, Gen. Hodges said.

Europe and the US have been divided over American proposals to arm Ukrainian troops.

"We could give Ukraine 1,000 tanks and they would never invade Russia. No one expects Ukraine to defeat Russia, that's not the point," Gen. Hodges said.

"We have to raise the cost for Putin. Right now he has 85 per cent domestic support. But when mothers start seeing their sons come home dead, when the price goes up, domestic support goes down." A planned American mission to train Ukrainian troops has been put on hold to give the current peace process a chance to succeed.

Gen. Hodges accused Russia of having 12,000 troops inside eastern Ukraine.

"If you don't believe Russia is directly involved in Ukraine now, you'll never believe it. You don't want to believe it," he said.

He accused Russia of seeking to establish control of the mouth of the river Danube, which would give it a stranglehold over the economies of south-eastern Europe.

On Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), Gen. Hodges said he believed the extremists were being funded from within the Arab Gulf states.

"ISIL are getting money, for sure, from some of our friends in the Gulf states. We need to find out who is supporting them, who is allowing the money through," he said.

On a strategy for dealing with ISIL, he was blunt.

"There are some people that need to be killed," he said.

Funding from U.S. trains Christians for private war on Iraq jihadists

VanDyke, who rose to fame as a foreign fighter backing Libyan rebels against Gathafi, is training Christian volunteers to take on jihadists in Iraq.

© www.20min.ch

American Matthew VanDyke

After fighting with rebels in Libya and Syria, Matthew VanDyke has rolled up in northern Iraq, but the celebrity American revolutionary-cum-filmmaker has traded his fatigues for a three-piece suit.

VanDyke, who rose to fame as a foreign fighter backing Libyan rebels against Moamer Gathafi, has just finished leading his new military contracting firm through its first assignment -- training Christian volunteers to take on jihadists.

Funded by Christian groups from abroad, mainly from the United States, the Nineveh Plains Protection Unit (NPU) aims to bring a local Christian militia to bear against the Islamic State group that has seized swathes of Iraq and Syria.

VanDyke is one of the best-known -- and least camera-shy -- figures in an expanding and complex constellation of foreign fighters, organisations and donors getting involved in a private war against the jihadists.

"This is an extension of my work as a revolutionary," he says as he takes a sip from his cappuccino in a cafe in the Kurdish capital of Arbil. "What gives somebody else the right to sit home and do nothing?"

The 35-year-old came to prominence in 2011 when he joined Libyan rebels in the fight to overthrow Gathafi. He was held by regime forces in solitary confinement for more than five months.

The film directed by Marshall Curry, which won the best documentary award at the Tribeca Festival last year, recounts the 35,000-mile motorcycle odyssey that led VanDyke to Libya and which he describes as "a crash course in manhood." Not one to shy away from self-aggrandizement, VanDyke's official website claims that his own documentary on the Syrian conflict, in which he volunteered in 2012, won no fewer than 82 prizes.

VanDyke and troops

© www.cruxnow.com

VanDyke (r) from Libya and Syria to Iraq

A few months ago, VanDyke changed tack and decided to form his military contracting firm, the Sons of Liberty International (SOLI), with the training of a few hundred NPU volunteers as a first assignment.

'Indigenous population'

The Nineveh in the NPU's name refers to a northern region which Iraq's Assyrian Christians and other religious minorities consider their ancestral home.

IS last year declared a "caliphate" over parts of Iraq and Syria it had seized, forcing hundreds of thousands of civilians to flee their homes, including many Iraqi Christians. The mostly Sunni Arab group has been accused of persecuting other communities and this week was reported to have taken several hundred Assyrian Christians hostage in northeastern Syria.

A US-led international coalition launched an air war on the jihadists in August and dispatched forces to train Kurdish and Iraqi federal troops who hope to eventually retake lost ground. In the meantime other -- less official -- parties have been drawn into the conflict from abroad.

The NPU, for example, is being funded by the American Mesopotamian Organization (AMO), a California-based group founded by Assyrian-Americans. It claims to have raised more than $250,000 for the NPU -- which has not yet seen combat -- since December through an initiative dubbed "Restore Nineveh Now."

More than 80 percent of the donations come from the United States, the group's chairman, David Lazar, told AFP by telephone from the United States. He says telethons on the Assyrian National Broadcasting satellite channel generated donations "as high as $50,000 from one person."

As well as financing food, clothing and protection gear, the AMO has hired a "top five" private contracting firm to provide risk assessments and possibly advanced training to NPU recruits, he says.

Many of the donations are coming from members of the Assyrian-American community, like Joseph Baba, a car salesman from Tehran who has lived in the US since 2000 who donated a little less than $10,000 to the group. "I'm a firm believer that the Middle East has to have this indigenous population," he says of Iraq's Christians, speaking to AFP by telephone from his home in California.

'In a grey area'

Baba said he had concerns over the legality of funding a militia -- though the NPU and its supporters balk at the term -- but was reassured by the AMO that it posed no problem.

Still, the issue of training a private force on foreign soil is highly sensitive and the NPU has sent out conflicting messages.

Lazar initially said that Walid Phares, a Fox News terrorism analyst and formerly a prominent leader of the Lebanese Forces Christian militia during the 1975-1990 civil war, was a key supporter. "He's an adviser to us to this whole project, not only the NPU, but he's an adviser to the Restore Nineveh Now initiative and the American Mesopotamian Organization," Lazar said.

But he later denied making the remark and Restore Nineveh Now's spokesman Jeff Gardner said Phares had no involvement.

In an email to AFP, Phares denied any role with the NPU, though he said he advises "a large coalition of US-based Middle East minorities NGOs, known as MECHRIC," of which AMO is a member.

VanDyke's role also seems to have stirred controversy.

Restore Nineveh Now issued a statement on Wednesday acknowledging VanDyke's involvement in the training programme but also stating his contract had been terminated and accusing him of attempting to use the NPU to promote his business.

VanDyke also admits his firm is operating "perhaps in a grey area" in northern Iraq. "We're legally registered as a company. We're not registered as anything else right now." A US State Department spokesman said that a license is needed when defence services, including military training, are provided.

VanDyke throws legal concerns to the wind. "Generally the attitude of the United States seems to be as long as you shoot in the right direction they don't care," he says. "You know, I go and risk my life in other countries, why would I be all that concerned about that?"

#Gitmo2Chicago: Thousands expected to attend Chicago protest against Homan Square torture site

© AP Photo/ Jeff Roberson

The Chicago police department reportedly operates a secret interrogation compound, similar to the CIA's black sites, at the Homan Square warehouse. Practices at the site allegedly include beatings, prolonged shackling and denying detainees legal counsel.

"I have spoken with several people who have been detained and several attorneys who have represented the detained, so people are coming forward, but the more people who do, the harder it will be for CPD to claim this isn't happening at Homan Square," one of the organizers, Billy Joe Mills, wrote on the protest's Facebook event page.

Some 1,500 people are listed as attending, while another 300 have responded that they may be going.

The goals of the demonstration are a public inspection of the alleged interrogation site, a roundtable discussion on the matter, making information available to the public, and for all Chicago detainees to be given access to their attorneys, according to the Facebook page.

Organizers, which include Chicago Anonymous, urge anyone who has been detained at the Homan Square to come forward, as well as police officers who have knowledge of the situation.

Last week, Anthony Hill, an attorney specializing in criminal defense matters, told Sputnik that detainees at Homan Square are held incommunicado and forced to give false confessions.

The Chicago police rejected the claims stating that they abide by all laws.

Also rally will take place Wednesday in Asheville, North Carolina.

"A rally will be held in Asheville to raise awareness concerning the disclosure of Homan Square, a secret interrogation facility ran by the Chicago Police Department," a Facebook event page for the rally reads.

The purpose of the rally is to "shed light on these revelations so that these practices may come to an end," according to the organizers.

US Ambassador to South Korea injured in razor attack

Mark Lippert

© TWITTER/usembassyseoul

Mark Lippert

US envoy to Seoul Mark Lippert was taken to hospital after the attack that followed a lecture Thursday morning, reported the news agency.

Lippert is the United States ambassador to the Republic of Korea. He previously held senior positions in the Department of Defense from May 2012 until September 2014.

Televised pictures showed Lippert bleeding heavily. A suspect was arrested, though officials have not made a statement on his identity or motives.

According to South Korean media, witnesses at the scene said the attacker shouted his name, Kim, several times during the attack. The 55-year-old man named "Kim" reportedly has a criminal record and was last in prison in 2010 for throwing a concrete sculpture at the Japanese ambassador.

Reports say "Kim" used a razor blade to attack the ambassador and shouted "No drills for war," an apparent reference to ongoing South Korea-US military exercises.

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Lippert's injuries are not life threatening.

The White House released an official statement wishing the ambassador a speedy recovery.

Congressman: U.S. should aim for peace in Ukraine, not to humiliate Russia

© AP Photo/ Lauren Victoria Burke

US Congressman Dana Rohrabacher

The United States should aim to establish peace in Ukraine and not repeatedly to humiliate Russia, US Congressman Dana Rohrabacher said on Wednesday.

"Our goal should be to try to have peace in that part of the world [Ukraine], not to try to humiliate Russia again and again and again," Rohrabacher said during US Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland's hearing in the US Congress on the United States' Ukraine policy.

The Chairman of the US House's Europe, Eurasia, and Emerging Threats Subcommittee noted that if the United States' real goal is to defeat and humiliate Russia, the people of Ukraine will continue to "suffer and suffer and suffer."

During the hearing, the US lawmakers also raised the question of the United States providing Ukraine with defensive weapons.

Nuland announced on Wednesday that the United States sanctions team is currently in Europe to discuss with European allies imposing additional sanctions on Russia over the Ukrainian crisis.

The United States has been assisting Ukraine with economic and non-lethal military support since the Kiev government began a military operation against independence fighters in Ukraine's eastern regions of Donetsk and Luhansk last April.

More lies please! Polls show Netanyahu's popularity was boosted by US speech


© Desconocido

The face of terrorism

Israeli opinion polls on Wednesday showed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu got a slight boost in popularity after his U.S. speech slamming an emerging nuclear deal with Iran , but he is still running neck and neck with his leading rival in a March 17 election.

A survey published by Channel 10 television indicated Netanyahu's Likud party would gaining two seats to 23 compared with what he had a week ago. That would still leave him in a tie with Isaac Herzog's Zionist Union.

The country's Channel 2 television had Netanyahu's right-wing party up by one seat to 23, just behind Herzog's left-of-center list.

In separate surveys conducted by the channels on each candidate's individual popularity, Netanyahu was favored by 44 percent for the job of prime minister, up two percentage points from a week ago. Herzog's number declined by two percentage points to 35 percent, results by Channel 10 showed.

But Netanyahu was further ahead of his rival in a Channel 2 popularity poll, with 47 percent choosing him and 28 percent opting for Herzog. All the surveys indicated Netanyahu had more potential political allies with whom to build a new governing coalition after the election.

In Israel's parliamentary election system, the public chooses parties rather than individual candidates, and the head of the party with the most political allies is the one who usually wins a presidential mandate to form a government.

Israeli critics said that Netanyahu, seeking a fourth term in office, risked damaging Israel's strategic alliance with Washington by speaking in the U.S. Congress on Tuesday, for the sake of wooing voters before the closely contested election.

Netanyahu came under strong criticism from the Obama administration for his speech, which Washington said had injected destructive partisanship into U.S.-Israeli ties.

Republicans, who control Congress, had invited Netanyahu to speak without consulting President Barack Obama or other leading Democrats. As many as 60 of the 232 Democratic members of Congress boycotted the address.

Netanyahu rejected Obama's charges that his speech had offered "no viable alternatives" to an international deal being worked out with Tehran, saying he had presented a practical alternative in Washington to a "deeply flawed" nuclear accord being negotiated with Iran.

In defense of Dr. Willie Soon's humble quest for truth

As a follow up to the statement made yesterday by Dr. Willie Soon, this essay is appropriate. Christopher Monckton of Brenchley answers the campaign of assaults on the reputation of Dr. Willie Soon, an unsalaried astrophysicist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics - Anthony

willie soon

The recent campaign of concerted assaults on Dr Soon's reputation

Recently the Boston Globe, The New York Times, the Washington Post, the Guardian, Scientific American and even Nature, as well as many other media outlets and environmentalist weblogs, have mounted what appears to be a costly, malevolent and carefully coordinated campaign of assaults on the reputation of Dr Willie Soon, falsely alleging that in several of his published scientific papers he had failed to disclose that some of the funding for his research has come from fossil-fuel interests.

This campaign of libels was calculated to damage Dr Soon's reputation, to undermine the credibility of his research results, and to threaten his employment at the Center for Astrophysics by improperly suggesting that he has acted unethically and dishonestly. I propose to knock the worst of these libels on the head. This will be a long read, but well worth it.

Dr Soon's affiliation to the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics

The Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics is, in the words of its current Director on its 50th anniversary in 2005,

"the world's largest and most diverse center for the study of the Universe, comprising the astronomy and astrophysics programs of two renowned scientific institutions: the Smithsonian Institution and Harvard University. 2005 marks the 50th anniversary of Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory's move to Cambridge to affiliate with Harvard in the partnership that would, in 1973, be formalized as the Center for Astrophysics."

Dr Soon has been a solar physicist at the Center for a quarter of a century. His research specialty is the influence of changes in solar activity on the Earth's climate and the study of stars of the same type as the Sun. Since 1994, together with various distinguished co-authors, he has published some 60 research papers on these and related topics.

Indeed, the director of the Center himself, in an interview with a journalist for the Chronicle of Higher Education who later wrote a libelous article stating that in his published research papers Dr Soon should not have said he is affiliated to the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, regrettably lent some credence to this allegation by stating that "from a legal point of view" there was "no such entity as the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics":

"The problem, according to Charles R. Alcock, a Harvard professor of astronomy who also serves as director of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, is that the 'center' refers primarily to a shared set of physical facilities. Almost everyone working at those facilities, Mr. Alcock said, is either an employee of Harvard or an employee of the Smithsonian, a federally administered collection of museums and research centers.

"'From a legal point of view,' he said, 'there is no such entity as the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.' And Mr. Soon is employed only by the Smithsonian, Mr. Alcock said. 'It's always been that way. He has never had any Harvard appointment.'"

The director of the Center is not only a Harvard professor but also director of the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, which shares the same postal address and premises at 60 Garden Street, Cambridge, Massachusetts as the Center.

The fact that in 2005 the director himself had described the marriage of the Observatory and Harvard as having been "... formalized as the Center for Astrophysics" suggests that, contrary to the director's present statement that the Center does not exist as a legal entity, there was in fact some formal process, event, act or deed by which the entity known as the "Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics" came into some form of legal existence in 1973, when the Observatory moved to Cambridge "to affiliate with Harvard" in a "partnership".

Furthermore, funding proposals for Dr Soon's research, written on the letterhead of the Observatory and signed by the director, bear the following box that appears prominently at the foot of the page:

harvard smithsonian

Either there is, as the director's 2005 statement published on the Center's own website states, a legal entity of some sort that has operated since it was formalized in 1973 as the "Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics", in which event the director's present statement to the contrary is false and damaging to Dr Soon's reputation; or there is no such entity as the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, in which event the director's signing and presenting funding proposals in the name and on the letterhead of an observatory that is prominently described in those proposals as "a member" of that non-existent entity - proposals which were intended to lead and did lead to the award of grants - seem more than somewhat irregular, if not illegal.

Furthermore, Dr Soon has never made any statement in any of his published papers, or anywhere else as far as he can remember, to the effect that he has a "Harvard appointment", as the director's remarks to the Chronicle of Higher Education imply. He has always stated, correctly and surely blamelessly, that his affiliation is to the "Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics".

At no time has anyone at the Observatory or the Center told Dr Soon that he should not state in his published papers that he is affiliated to the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, to which - after all - the Observatory is by the director's own admission itself affiliated. On the contrary: a previous director had given specific instructions, not since rescinded, that all researchers should identify themselves in their published papers as affiliated to the Center.

Nor can it be credibly asserted that the Center was until recently unaware of the manner in which Dr Soon had declared his affiliation in his scientific papers over the past quarter of a century: for a member of senior management (a botanist) has seen fit to pass judgment on the quality of Dr Soon's research (in astrophysics), from which it may legitimately be inferred that he had read - or at any rate ought to have read - at least one of Dr Soon's 60 published papers in order to come to a view on the quality of his research.

I now turn to that widely-published allegation - unsupported by evidence or even by argument - that Dr Soon's research is not of "the highest quality".

An attack on the quality of Dr Soon's published scientific research

The Chronicle of Higher Education quotes Mr W. John Kress, the Smithsonian Institution's "interim under-secretary for science", as follows:

"Mr. Kress even admitted a lack of confidence in his own employee's work. 'Up until now, it has not been an issue of our scientists' not disclosing their sources of funding,' he said. 'As far as we can see, up until just recently, that appeared to be the case with Willie Soon. He was publishing science. He may have interpreted his results in various ways, but the actual data and the results reflected his research, which, although I would say is not the highest-quality research, was research carried out in a scientific process.'"

Now, Dr Kress is entitled to his own private opinion as to the quality of Dr Soon's research. But, as an office-holder in an institution to which the Observatory is affiliated and with which the Center is connected, Dr Kress is not entitled to fuel the fire and compound the libels against Dr Soon, a researcher of long standing at the Center, by offering to the news media a gratuitous, unsupported and insupportable allegation that his research is unmeritorious.

For in speaking thus, and in not making it clear whether his opinion (whether expert or inexpert) was that of the Smithsonian, he was bound to give the impression that the Center had "a lack of confidence" in Dr Soon's work.

What makes Dr Kress' crass remark still more offensive is that the Smithsonian had given Dr Soon an award in 2003 for

"detailed scholarship on biogeological and climatic change over the past 1,000 years ... in official recognition of work performance reflecting a high standard of accomplishment".

In 2004, Dr Soon received the Petr Beckmann award of the Doctors for Disaster Preparedness for

"courage and achievement in defense of scientific truth and freedom".

In 2014, he received the Courage in Defense of Science Award, with a monetary prize, from the George C. Marshall Institute. The award was presented at the Heartland Institute's Ninth International Conference on Climate Change held in Las Vegas that year.

The Smithsonian Institution's statement of February 22, 2015

Under the pressure of complaints from external lobbyists about a recent paper co-authored by Dr Soon in the Science Bulletin and about other earlier research contracts most details of which had been divulged in releases of information to Greenpeace or its associated front groups over many years, the director of the Center for Astrophysics has announced that its Inspector-General will conduct an investigation into this affair for the Center.

On February 22, the Smithsonian Institution issued the following statement:

"The Smithsonian is greatly concerned about the allegations surrounding Dr. Willie Soon's failure to disclose funding sources for his climate change research.

"The Smithsonian is taking immediate action to address the issue:

"Acting Secretary Albert Horvath has asked the Smithsonian Inspector General to review the matter.

"Horvath will also lead a full review of Smithsonian ethics and disclosure policies governing the conduct of sponsored research to ensure they meet the highest standards.

"Wei-Hock (Willie) Soon is a part-time researcher at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory in Cambridge, Mass. He was hired to conduct research on long-term stellar and solar variability. The Smithsonian does not fund Dr. Soon; he pursues external grants to fund his research.

"The Smithsonian does not support Dr. Soon's conclusions on climate change. The Smithsonian's official statement on climate change, based upon many decades of scientific research, points to human activities as a cause of global warming."

The Center should certainly investigate the attacks against Dr Soon. In normal circumstances one would expect any such review to conclude that the orchestrated campaign against him is improper and was motivated not by any desire to reach the truth but by a malicious intent to cast doubt upon the value of his published research and to threaten his position at the Center.

That said, the statement from the Smithsonian above makes it apparent that a disinterested review of the matter by a senior Smithsonian staff member is now not possible.

As will be explained below, in conducting any such review the Smithsonian would in effect be investigating its own contracts with the funders of Dr Soon's research, about which it already knows all that there is to know. It is the Center, not Dr Soon, that accepted the financial support from external entities; the Center agreed, signed and holds the contracts.

An attack on Dr Soon's scientific views about the climate question

The concluding paragraph of the Smithsonian's statement of February 22 says:

"The Smithsonian does not support Dr. Soon's conclusions on climate change. The Smithsonian's official statement on climate change, based upon many decades of scientific research, points to human activities as a cause of global warming."

This offensive passage is simply unacceptable. First, it is improper for the Smithsonian to prejudge the issue to the extent of saying it does not support Dr Soon's "conclusions on climate change" (whatever that might mean in their interpretation of the matter). It is not the business of the Smithsonian managers to say - except in peer-reviewed papers by their researchers - whether or not they support any of their staff members' conclusions on climate change, or on any other topic.

Secondly, the only "conclusion" by Dr Soon "on climate change" to which the Smithsonian statement implicitly refers is that human activities are not

"a major cause of global warming".

For otherwise why would the institution have bothered to mention that its own

"official statement on climate change ... points to human activities as a cause of global warming"?

Prejudice against Dr Soon is again evident in the wording that has been selected.

Just as it is the responsibility of individual researchers to be able to provide scientific evidence to back research papers or public statements that they issue in their area of expertise, so it is no less incumbent on academic institutions such as the Smithsonian not to misrepresent the scientific conclusions of its researchers.

Let me be quite clear. At no time has Dr Soon ever said, written, or even implied that human activities are not "a cause of global warming".

Indeed, throughout the Science Bulletin paper on Why models run hot, it is self-evident not only that I and my co-authors, including Dr Soon, accept that our returning some CO2 to the atmosphere from which it originally came will cause some global warming, but also that we are thoroughly familiar with the scientific reasons why - all other things being equal - more CO2 in the atmosphere will cause some warming.

The true scientific debate is not about whether CO2 causes some warming. Rather, the debate is about how much warming it will cause.

The Smithsonian's false implication that Dr Soon had reached the "conclusion" that human activities are not "a cause of global warming" is, in the circumstances, gravely damaging to him, since it suggests that he repudiates (for instance) such proven scientific results as the fundamental equation of radiative transfer.

Allegations of undeclared conflict of interest

The central allegation that stands against Dr Soon is that he had had a "conflict of interest" in that he had received much of his research funding from fossil-fuel corporations and foundations but had failed to declare it in a dozen of his 60 published papers.

The Smithsonian's statement of February 22, 2015, regrettably lends credence to these allegations by stating that its inspector-general proposes to investigate allegations surrounding "Dr. Soon's failure to disclose funding sources for his climate change research".

It would have been pardonable to talk of investigating whether "allegations that Dr. Soon had failed to disclose funding sources for his climate change research are true or false".

However, the Smithsonian's unfortunate wording, which had not been cleared with Dr Soon in advance as it should have been, strongly suggests the Center has already decided he had dishonestly failed to disclose his sources of funds. The wording as it stands is an open invitation to unethical "journalists" to persist in their libels against him.

Accordingly, at least two assertions in the Smithsonian's short statement of February 22, 2015, are untrue, unfair, and calculated to be profoundly detrimental to Dr Soon's scientific reputation.

The conclusion is obvious. It is essential that any investigation into this matter be chaired not by the Smithsonian's inspector-general but by a senior scientist altogether unconnected with the Smithsonian, with Harvard, with the Observatory, or with the Center, and who is wholly independent of their management.

The non-governmental grant-funding process

In answering the untruthful criticisms that on frequent occasions Dr Soon had had but had failed to disclose a financial conflict of interest, I shall begin by explaining how the grant-funding process works for the many scientists, like Dr Soon, who receive no stipend from the Center but must earn their living out of grants made by government bodies, corporations, or foundations to whom they must apply for grants. Individual grants are usually tied to specific research projects.

At the Center, the rule - which Dr Soon has always scrupulously followed - is that all grant applications for proposed scientific research must be approved in advance both by the director's office and by his department, the Center's Solar, Stellar and Planetary Sciences Division. For this reason, all grants awarded are automatically known to the Center at once. Dr Soon has no power to accept any grant unless and until the office of the Director has approved not only the amount and source of the grant but also the research purpose for which it was awarded.

Dr Soon, simply by stating his affiliation to the Center, as he has done without complaint from anyone for decades in all his published papers arising from research supported by specific grants, has made full and sufficient disclosure that he has no conflicts of interest regarding his research: for the Smithsonian Institution's Statement of Values and Code of Ethics, which applies to the Center, specifies that his superiors themselves provide the oversight to prevent any undue influence by donors, sponsors or other outside parties on any scholarship or publications that stem from externally donated funds.

The Center deducts 30-40% of any external grant to cover its own overhead costs. Indeed, the director of the Center has recently admitted that Dr Soon ends up with less than half of each grant. Much has been made of the fact that he has brought in some $1.2 million in grants over ten years. That means he received an average of less than $60,000 a year, out of which he had to pay his research costs, including travel, equipment, materials, publications and research assistance. On what little was left, he has managed to feed his young family. In some years, he'd have been better off flipping burgers.

As a working scientist, Dr Soon has no authority to sign any research contract to receive any grant, let alone to decide or to dictate the terms of such contracts. Those matters are reserved to the Center.

As has been shown by public reproduction of facsimiles of the contracts between the Smithsonian and relevant external providers,[1] Dr Soon's signature is not on any of the contracts that have been made with the Observatory to support his research. It is, therefore the Center that carries the responsibility for accepting and properly administering the external payments that support his work. He is merely employed by the Center to discharge research that is paid for out of the external grants for which the Observatory has entered into contracts.

Given that external contracts are signed and held by the Observatory, and given that in 2012, in response to 2009/2010-onward series of requests by Greenpeace under the Freedom of Information Act the Institution chose to make public the details of all such contracts that had been used to fund Dr Soon's stipend, claims that he has failed to disclose information about who has funded his past research are manifestly false.

Neither Dr Soon nor any of the many other scientists employed by the Center on external grants actually write or sign grant contracts. Instead, as is both proper and conventional in large research institutes, contracts are prepared by the Observatory's administrative staff. After a contract relevant to Dr Soon's expertise has been written and approved by the outside funders, his job is to undertake scientific research in the agreed area, and to report the results in papers written either on his own or in conjunction with his scientific colleagues. He is paid by the Observatory, not by any external funders, to carry out those duties.

The 2015 Science Bulletin paper Why models run hot

The current press campaign against Dr Soon began after he had co-authored a paper titled Why models run hot: results from an irreducibly simple climate model, published in January 2015 in China's leading learned journal of scientific research, the Science Bulletin of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, co-sponsored by the National Natural Science Foundation of China.

I was the lead author of the paper, written with Dr Soon, Professor David Legates and Dr William Briggs, Statistician to the Stars. We concluded - in line with a substantial and growing body of recent peer-reviewed research on the question how much global warming our industrial activities may cause - that doubling the CO2 concentration in the atmosphere, which, on the average of the six projections made by the IPCC in 2007 will not occur for at least 100 years,[2] might eventually make the world warmer by as little as 1 Celsius degree, not the 3, 5, or even 10 Cº that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and various government scientists have tried to suggest.

Neither I nor any of my co-authors received any funding of any kind from any source for any part of any research conducted by us in the preparation and writing of this paper. The paper was researched and written entirely in our own time and at our own expense. As we correctly stated to the journal, therefore, we have no conflict of interest whatsoever.

Each of the four authors of the Science Bulletin paper has a lively and expert academic interest in our subject, and we wrote our paper because we considered - rightly, as events have turned out (for there have already been more than 22,500 downloads either of the abstract or of the full paper) - that other researchers would find our simple model of the climate interesting and helpful.

Both Dr Legates and I have had our scientific integrity challenged for the same reason that Dr Soon's integrity is being challenged: to divert attention away from the embarrassing scientific questions we have raised about the present "official" version of global-warming science.

It is surely time to focus on the science itself. Using our model, anyone with a little knowledge of math and physics can determine climate sensitivity relative to CO2 concentration changes not unreliably by using nothing more complex than a pocket calculator. Within hours after the Daily Mail ran a strongly supportive news piece about our paper, an EU-funded environmentalist extremist group had telephoned round and obtained instaquotes from half a dozen rent-by-the-hour "scientists" about our paper, but, as our point-by-point refutation demonstrates, several of them had not even read it and not one had raised a serious scientific objection to it.

In the Science Bulletin paper we have made climate science accessible to all - and scientists worldwide are responding to our initiative with enthusiasm. Our paper, available online at www.scibull.com, is the most-downloaded scientific paper in the 60-year archive of the Science Bulletin. It has been downloaded an order of magnitude more often after just one month than its nearest rival has accrued since almost a quarter of a century ago.

The content and conclusions of Dr Soon's papers

By the very nature of the scientific research Dr Soon conducts and publishes, a prejudice in favour of any particular viewpoint at the behest of any funding entity cannot be credibly alleged against him. It is noteworthy that in the recent campaign of libels against him there has not been, as far as I know, a single suggestion that any particular result or conclusion was reached in part or in whole because either that particular research project or his scientific work in general was funded by fossil-fuel interests.

Even the Center's dreadful interim science czar has conceded that what Dr Soon is publishing in the journals is recognizable as science. It is not propaganda, for neither the subject-matter nor the methodology nor the results nor the conclusions of his research is of a character that permits tampering or skewing to suit a particular political or financial vested interest.

Our paper for Science Bulletin is a case in point. It was not a paper that could, by its nature, in any circumstances be reasonably considered to have given rise to any conflict of interest on my part or on the part of any of my co-authors. For in it we merely introduced and explained our simple model, setting out in detail the origin or derivation of each equation and the appropriate interval for each relevant parameter, and supporting and illuminating our methodology and conclusions with almost 60 references to previously-published reviewed papers in the learned journals of climatology.

A model is not in itself a conclusion: it is an instrument that anyone can scrutinize and, if thought fit, use. We demonstrated in our paper that if one were to use the official values of our model's parameters the model would generate climate-sensitivity values near-identical to the official values. Our model, therefore, was not in any way tailored to generate artificially low climate sensitivities.

After we had calibrated our model using the official parameter values, we then selected parameter values that we considered appropriate and ran the model again to establish whether it was capable of determining the rate of warming in the 25 years since the IPCC's First Assessment Report of 1990. Our model indeed faithfully reproduced the observed rate of global warming, which was about half the central rate that the models on which the IPCC had relied had predicted in 1990.

We regarded this experiment as a respectable test of our model, since about half the period from 1990-2014 fell during the warming phase of the Pacific Decadal Oscillation that ended in 2001 and half fell during the subsequent cooling phase. These phases, which last 30 years, giving a 60-year cycle, must be carefully allowed for: otherwise the error made by many early models would arise: they based their predictions on the warming rate from 1976-2001, a period wholly within a warming phase of the Pacific Decadal Oscillation. This was one reason for the models' exaggeration of the predicted rate of global warming.

Anyone reading our paper may or may not agree with our choice of parameters and hence with our revised estimates of climate sensitivity, which are very much lower and very much closer to observed reality than those of the more complex models. Since we very plainly stated the official values of all key parameters and explained the fact of and reasons for any departures we had made from those official values in our own determination of climate sensitivity, the entire process was fully transparent, allowing any reader of our paper to substitute his or her own choice of parameter values for ours.

There was, therefore, no prejudice of any kind in our paper, which was a straightforward and very popular account of the principal methods and parameters for determining the climate sensitivity.

The very popularity of our paper may have been the reason for what appears to have become a concerted and now-prolonged campaign by news media and environmentalist extremist campaigning groups of a certain political stamp to allege that Dr Soon has, but has failed to declare, conflicts of interest in numerous earlier papers authored or co-authored by him.

These allegations were reported gleefully in the Boston Globe, the New York Times, the Washington Post, Nature, Scientific American, and many other media outlets and news pages of science journals in a manner calculated not only to divert attention from the conclusions of our paper but also to damage Dr Soon's reputation in his scientific calling, to put his employment at the Center at risk, to deter more serious journals from accepting future papers bearing his name as an author, to deter potential funders for fear of adverse publicity, and thus to threaten not only his livelihood but also the science he loves.

The Smithsonian's application of Freedom of Information rules

An important precedent in the public disclosure of sources of research funding and related research matters that is especially relevant to the matter under discussion was set by the Center for Astrophysics in 2009/2010.

At that time, the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics and the Smithsonian Institution decided - against advice from 58 distinguished scientists, including Dr Soon's former divisional director, Dr. Eugene Avrett, and a 1993 Chemistry Nobel Prize laureate, Dr. Kary Mullis - that Dr Soon's personal emails, and all related grant proposals and details, should be made publicly available to Greenpeace in response to a request made under the Freedom of Information Act, from which the Smithsonian is by law substantially exempt.

It was obvious what would happen. The information that Dr Soon had truthfully disclosed to the Center for its internal purposes has now been made public and has been unfairly exploited by external vested interests to launch attacks on him, his colleagues, and the Center because the interests of these outside groups are threatened by his scientific findings.

Greenpeace itself has been notoriously coy about the hundreds of millions it receives in funding every year. In at least one country its charitable status has been extinguished; in another it has attracted condemnation from the government for willfully causing damage to the environment. Yet it presumes to lecture Dr Soon about morality.

The news media's skewed coverage of climate science

The adequacy, truthfulness and motives of the media in their everyday coverage of the global warming issue fall to be questioned, together with the degree to which headlines about the details of Dr Soon's external research support are really addressing a significant issue alongside other climate-related news.

CO2 emissions have actually risen since 1990 at a rate faster than the IPCC's "business-as-usual" prediction made that year.

co2 graph

Nevertheless, (though this crucial and revealing fact has never been reported in any mainstream news medium: you'll only find it at breitbart.com), global temperature has risen at less than half the rate the IPCC predicted in 1990 with what it called "substantial confidence".

temperature graph

According to the Remote Sensing Systems' satellite global-temperature dataset, there has now been no global warming at all for more than the past 18 years. All other datasets show a little warming. Most are within statistical shouting distance of the RSS result.

warming graph

Over those same 18 years, atmospheric CO2 has risen by 10 percent, which represents close to one-third of the human-related CO2 returned to the atmosphere from which it came since the start of the Industrial Revolution.

Hurricanes, tropical cyclones, typhoons, extra-tropical storms, floods, and droughts were all formerly predicted by the IPCC to increase in intensity, frequency, or duration.

storm graph

None has done so, and there is simply no empirical evidence that the occurrence of weather-related disasters is on the increase. What can be safely said is that the number of deaths caused by extreme weather has declined rapidly.

weather deaths graph

Also, sea level has been predicted to rise rapidly, but the European Envisat satellite showed sea level to have risen at a rate of just 1.3 inches per century from 2004 - 2012.

sea level graph

At the same time, the GRACE gravitational-anomaly satellites, the most accurate method of measurement we have, showed sea level actually falling from 2003 - 2009.

sea level graph

According to Professor Nils-Axel Mörner, who has written more than 600 learned papers in his 50-year career studying sea level, global average sea level may not be rising at all at the moment.

Global sea-ice extent shows practically no trend since the satellites first began looking in 1978.

sea ice graph

Very few of the surely not uninteresting facts in this summary of recent evidence relevant to manmade climate change has been reported properly in the media. Some news media, such as those whose "journalists" have libeled Dr Soon, have done their best never to publish any of it.

It is surely repellent that mainstream science and environmental "journalists" have failed to report either the total absence of global warming in the past decade and a half, or the near-total absence of warming's predicted and supposedly apocalyptic consequences. And yet at the same time these persons have the impertinence to call Dr Soon dishonest for allegedly having failed to disclose grants that he has in fact always promptly, properly, and fully disclosed to his employing institution, which evaluates the grants and accepts them only if they find no conflict of interest.

How does a scientist engender a conflict of interest anyway?

The notion of "conflict of interest" declarations is a relatively new phenomenon for scientific publications, especially in solar and climate physics. Though declarations of interest are a well understood and applicable procedure in political or financial matters, it is far from clear that they have any part to play in science.

The reason is that in science it is the scientific method itself that ensures the accuracy, applicability, and usefulness of results.

The idea that because money to conduct research is derived from, say, the EPA, NSF, or Exxon-Mobil implicates a scientist in a conflict of interest is not fruitful, for by extension then all scientists have a conflict of interest all the time (unless they have private means and are working unpaid; and even then they may be living off the interest from ill-gotten investments in, say, the hydrocarbon business).

Science is different from politics or commerce in that who pays for a piece of research - whether it should be Genghis Khan or Mother Teresa - is simply irrelevant to making judgments about the validity of the research product, which stands or falls depending upon its consistency with the facts and the ability of other scientists independently to confirm the results.

What conflict of interest can possibly arise if a scientist simply conducts his research and experiments driven by his own curiosity and ability, and then reports his results in a paper submitted to a scientific journal?

Dr Soon, for instance, simply do not know what interests the funders of his research have, though he does know that he has not been influenced by any of them. He does not know what conclusions they would like him to reach. He simply writes his scientific proposals, which are submitted to the potential funders, who are asked if they are willing to fund the proposed research. Where is the conflict of interest in that?

Furthermore, should anyone want the full list of the agencies that have funded Dr Soon, from his post-doctoral days in 1991 till now, that list is available from the Center. Dr Soon's sole interest is in continuing to do scientific research wherever he can be useful.


In conclusion, it would be useful for readers to understand that over the past few years Dr Soon has probably made less take-home pay annually than a very junior EPA employee, or the janitor at the IPCC. He could certainly earn much more money by working on other scientific topics or by identifying himself as supporting the notion of a human-caused global warming crisis.

He loves his science, he loves his country and he pays his taxes alongside every other citizen.

Telling people that Willie Wei-Hock Soon is so corrupt that he is trying to hide all the cash he has received from corporate sources for his quarter of a century of research at the Center for Astrophysics is false, mean-spirited, and insulting. Allowing such attacks to stand, and to allow politics and fear tactics to silence Dr Soon or any other scientist, or to censor scientific publications, would not only be a personal calumny against him: it would also be a blow against scientific freedom of expression the world over.

The author gratefully acknowledges the assistance of Professor Robert Carter in drafting this article.


[1] wattsupwiththat.com

[2] IPCC (2007, p. 803, Table 10.26).

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Whitewash: Federal government will not charge Darren Wilson in murder of Michael Brown

© Getty Images

Darren Wilson

Darren Wilson, the white police officer whose fatal shooting of an unarmed black 18-year-old in Ferguson, Missouri, led to months of unrest and revived a debate on race and law enforcement in the US, will not face federal criminal charges.

The Department of Justice announced on Wednesday that after a six-month inquiry it has concluded no civil rights charges should be brought against Wilson for killing Michael Brown. A grand jury in St Louis decided last November not to indict Wilson on state charges.

"There is no evidence upon which prosecutors can rely to disprove Wilson's stated subjective belief that he feared for his safety," the Department of Justice report concluded, according to law enforcement officials.

The decision concludes the second half of a politically-charged investigation into Wilson's shooting of Brown on 9 August following an altercation in a residential side-street.

An attorney for Wilson said the Justice Department's decision amounted to an "exoneration" of the former Ferguson officer. "Obviously the reaction is one of relief," Neil Bruntrager told CBS. "It's been a long road for him. Now he needs to get on with his life."

It was widely expected by protesters who allege that Brown's killing was a criminal act.

"Michael Brown's death, though a tragedy, did not involve prosecutable conduct on the part of officer Wilson," US attorney general Eric Holder said at a press conference in Washington.

Holder reminded those disappointed by the inquiry's conclusion that he had promised during a visit to Ferguson "not that we would arrive at particular outcome, but that we would pursue the facts, wherever they might lead".

Describing the federal inquiry as "both fair and rigorous from the start", he said its conclusions were "supported by the facts we have found".

"I urge you to read this report in full," Holder said.

In a statement issued by their attorneys, Brown's parents said they were "saddened by this decision", adding that it meant "that the killer of our son wouldn't be held accountable for his actions".

Prosecutors might have charged Wilson under a 19th-century federal law - known technically as Section 242 of Title 18 - that makes it a crime for anyone acting with government authority to "wilfully deprive a person of a right or privilege protected by the Constitution or laws of the United States."

Evidence that Wilson intentionally victimised Brown because of his race would have been needed for civil rights officials at the Justice Department to prosecute the 28-year-old officer, who quit his job at the Ferguson police department following the state grand jury's decision.

The same high bar was in place for a two-year investigation into the 2012 killing in Florida of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed black teenager, by George Zimmerman, a neighbourhood watchman. The Justice Department said last month thatZimmerman would not be charged.

Wilson's supporters accused Eric Holder, the attorney general, of burying news that no charges would be brought on the same day his officials accused Ferguson police of a pattern of racial bias in a sweepingly critical report after a review of the department's practices.

"The FBI appeared to conclude their inquiries into officer Wilson months ago," said Ron Hosko, the president of the law enforcement legal defense fund. "Yet the Attorney General seems to have delayed the announcement of this decision despite knowing the conclusions."

Protests erupted on the streets of Ferguson, a small northern suburb of St Louis, after Brown's death in August. For successive nights, heavily armed police clashed with demonstrators, firing teargas and rubber bullets to drive hundreds of people out of the centre of the town. A night of rioting, looting and arson followed November's grand jury decision.

An attorney for Brown's family was expected to comment later on Wednesday. Wilson's attorney could not be reached for comment.