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Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Ice age on the way: Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say

Gulf Stream stops Britain from freezing over in Winter

The Gulf Stream that helps to keep Britain from freezing over in winter is slowing down faster now than at any time in the past millennium according to a study suggesting that major changes are taking place to the ocean currents of the North Atlantic.

Scientists believe that the huge volumes of freshwater flowing into the North Atlantic from the rapidly melting ice cap of Greenland have slowed down the ocean "engine" that drives the Gulf Stream from the Caribbean towards north-west Europe, bringing heat equivalent to the output of a million power stations.

However, the researchers believe that Britain is still likely to become warmer due to climate change providing the Gulf Stream does not come to a complete halt - although they remain unsure how likely this is.

Calculations suggest that over the 20th century the North Atlantic meridional overturning circulation - the northward flow of warm surface water and the southward flow of deep, cold water - has slowed by between 15 and 20 per cent, said Professor Stefan Rahmstorf of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany.

© Getty Images

Scientists believe that huge volumes of freshwater flowing into the North Atlantic from the rapidly melting ice cap of Greenland have slowed down the ocean “engine” that drives the Gulf Stream

"There is more than a 99 per cent probability that this slowdown is unique over the period we looked at since 900 AD. We conclude that the slowdown many have described is in fact already underway and it is outside of any natural variation," Professor Rahmstorf said.

The scientists calculated that some 8,000 cubic kilometres of freshwater has flowed from Greenland into the Atlantic between 1900 and 1970, and this rose significantly to 13,000 cubic kilometres between 1970 and 2000.

Freshwater is lighter than salty water which means that it tends to float on the surface of the ocean and in doing so disturbs the normal sinking of dense, cold saltwater to the ocean floor, which is the main driver of the Atlantic circulation.

© Getty Images

An iceberg in Ilulissat, Greenland; researchers have been studying the phenomena of the melting glaciers and their long-term ramifications for the rest of the world

In a study published in the journal Nature Climate Change, Professor Rahmstorf and colleagues point out that maps of global surface temperatures have consistently indicated an overall warming trend around the world, except for the region of the North Atlantic south of Greenland.

"It is conspicuous that one specific area of the North Atlantic has been cooling in the past hundred years while the rest of the world heats up," said Professor Rahmstorf, who added that previous research had indicated that a slowdown in ocean currents may be the explanation.

"Now we have detected strong evidence that the global conveyor has indeed been weakening in the past hundred years, particularly since 1970," he said.

The study used proxy measurements of the Atlantic currents, using ice cores, tree rings, coral growth and ocean and lake sediments, to estimate regional temperature variations and so assess how the Gulf Stream has changed over the past 1,000 years.

© Getty Images

Machair, a grassy coastal habitat found only in north-west Scotland and the west coast of Ireland, is one of the several elements of the UK’s “cultural heritage” that is at risk from climate change

Jason Box of the Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland, who helped to calculate the amount of freshwater flowing into the Atlantic from melting ice caps, said that the slowdown can be linked to man-made climate change.

"Now freshwater coming off the Greenland ice sheet is likely disturbing the circulation. So the human-caused mass loss of the Greenland ice sheet appears to be slowing down the Atlantic overturning, and this effect might increase if temperatures are allowed to rise further," Dr Box said.

Michael Mann of Pennsylvania State University said: "Common climate models are underestimating the change we're facing, wither because the Atlantic overturning is too stable in the models or because they don't properly account for Greenland ice melt, or both."

80 percent of your food contains carcinogens

© seattleorganicrestaurants.com

Two days ago, an agency of the World Health Organization issued a report concluding that glyphosate, the key ingredient in Monsanto's Roundup, likely causes cancer in humans.

If you eat foods that contain genetically modified organisms (GMOs), you are consuming glyphosate—because the U.S. EPA not only allows glyphosate residue on your food, the agency actually raised the allowed limits in 2013.

How do you know you're eating GMO foods? You don't. Because Monsanto and the EPA, USDA and FDA made certain of that by refusing to require labels on GMO foods. Even though about 80 percent of processed foods in the U.S. contain GMO ingredients.

You may be thinking, is it worth it to keep funding these state GMO labeling campaigns, when Monsanto and Big Food come in with their hundreds of millions of dollars to snuff them out?

The answer is a resounding yes. Here's why.

First, it's more urgent than ever for your health. The FDA just signed off on the GMO apple and the GMO potato, and will likely sign off on GMO salmon and GMO wheat. This, in addition to new GMO corn and soy varieties the USDA recently approved—crops engineered to withstand massive doses of a toxic combination of both glyphosate and 2,4-D (a form of which was used to make Agent Orange).

More and more studies are being done on the toxic effect of glyphosate on human health. But this most recent study, from the World Health Organization, may be the most incriminating of all—and yet, we have no indication from the U.S. government that it will heed this new warning and take action.

Second, Monsanto's lobbyists are pushing Congress to pass a law that would kill states' rights to pass GMO labeling laws.

Word is that within weeks, if not sooner, Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.) will reintroduce what activists have labeled the DARK ACT—Deny Americans the Right to Know. The bill is an attempt to strip states' of their constitutional right to pass GMO labeling laws.

If we pass GMO labeling laws in Maine, Rhode Island and Massachusetts, in addition to the law already passed in Vermont, we'll make it much more difficult for Congress to take on all four of these states.

The House Agriculture Committee is holding a full committee hearing on the costs and impacts of GE food labeling—likely a preamble to the reintroduction of Pompeo's bill.

Third, it is absolutely essential that we not give up this fight—your fight—or we risk sending the wrong message to Monsanto, and state and federal lawmakers.

We may have (very narrowly) lost several key state battles, but those battles launched a massive national public education campaign, and helped launch similar initiatives and legislative campaigns in more than 20 states.

Without the support of people like you—concerned consumers, voters, moms and dads, from every generation and every point across the political spectrum—most Americans still wouldn't know what a GMO is or why it matters, much less that they are being denied this basic information on food packaging—information that consumers in more than 60 countries rightfully have.

Instead, thanks to you, more than 90 percent of Americans are now standing up to demand the right to know.

It is absolutely critical that we keep this fight alive. That's why we're asking for your support so we can provide resources to these important GMO labeling battles in New England.

We need to raise another $145,000 to meet our goal of $200,000 by March 31 to fund GMO labeling in Maine, and in other New England states, including Massachusetts. Details on how to donate online, by check or by phone here.

Donations made to the Organic Consumers Fund, our 501(c) 4 lobbying arm, are not tax-deductible. If you want to support the grassroots advocacy and education campaigns in these states, you can make a tax-deductible donation to our 501(c)3 here.

Thank you!

In Solidarity, Ronnie Cummins

"The Day After Tomorrow" just got one step closer to reality!

© Joe Raedle/Getty Images

In the 2004 blockbuster The Day After Tomorrow, abrupt climate change plunges the world into chaos. According to new research published Monday, the idea that underpins the film's plot—that rapid Arctic ice melt could cause dramatic changes to the global climate system—just got one step closer to reality.

Of particular concern are the profound changes happening in the Greenland ice sheet: It appears that the massive amount of freshwater from melting Greenland glaciers has now begun to slow the ocean's circulating currents.

Monday's study, published in the journal , is as frightening as it is significant. Among its authors are some of the biggest names in climate science: Jason Box, a glaciologist at the Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland, whose ongoing "Dark Snow" project is measuring the rapid melting of ice in Greenland; and Michael Mann, a meteorologist at Penn State University, whose famous 1999 "hockey stick" graph showed the sharp influence of human greenhouse gas emissions in context of 1,000 years of temperature data from ice cores and tree rings. Mann's graph was so powerful it became a lightning rod of climate denial.

Fresh water is less dense than saltwater. So when glacial melt from Greenland enters the ocean, it resists the natural sinking motion at the northern edge of the Gulf Stream and slows down the Atlantic's deep current—creating a ripple effect across the entire planet.

The study uses a library of ice cores, tree rings, coral, and sediments to generate a new reconstruction of the historical strength of the Atlantic's circulation based on temperature changes. The team found recent changes in ocean circulation are "unprecedented" since at least the year 900 A.D., about as far back as these proxy data can reliably go. According to the paper, the probability of a similar circulation slowdown caused by natural variability alone (with from human-caused climate change) was less than 0.5 percent.

The effect they identified is "stronger than what current state-of-the-art climate models predict," said Mann, likely due to the increasing influence from a melting Greenland.

But don't expect a new ice age like in the movie. Nearly every square inch of the Earth's surface has been warming for decades now—the 2000s were one of the warmest decades in more than 11,000 years, and the 2010s are on pace to be even hotter. Global warming is still the dominant trend and will overwhelm most of the effect of a slowdown in ocean circulation. But a small portion of the North Atlantic near southern Greenland has bucked the trend. It's here that the new paper focuses its attention. That small patch of ocean actually experienced its coldest three-month stretch on record this past winter.

Despite all the warming that's taken place since 1970, one little blip of the North Atlantic (shown here in green) has begun to actually cool.

In a blog post describing the study, lead author Stefan Rahmstorf of Potsdam University in Germany says this past winter's pronounced cooling in the North Atlantic "suggests the decline of the circulation has progressed even further now than we documented in the paper." Rahmstorf's past work has focused on the impact of climate change on ocean circulations, particularly the thermohaline circulation, Earth's primary oceanic "conveyor belt" circulation, which is driven by geographic differences in temperature and salinity. (=heat, =salt.) That's the same mechanism identified as a tipping point in the global climate system. (By the way, Rahmstorf is also a fan of .) Since fresh, warm water is less dense than cold, salty water, scientists like Rahmstorf have long argued the thermohaline circulation may slow down as the climate warms and Arctic ice melts.

Monday's study showed that process has likely already begun. In a press statement, Rahmstorf said, "we have detected strong evidence that the global conveyor has indeed been weakening in the past hundred years, particularly since 1970."

In emails to Slate, both Box and Mann agreed Monday's paper was one of the most important of their careers. "This is yet another example of where observations suggest that climate model predictions may be too conservative when it comes to the pace at which certain aspects of climate change are proceeding," said Mann.

Previous research by Box and others has shown Greenland's melting is accelerating, but the scientific community had been unclear on how fast those changes were impacting ocean circulation. "We now see an effect of Greenland melting besides the obvious sea level rise contribution," said Box.

Now, before you go calling Dennis Quaid for backup as you plot your southward snowshoe journey on I-95, the movie's apocalyptic global-warming-induced cool-down was vastly overdone. In the real world, rapid changes in the climate system take years or decades to play out, not days. Long-term cooling would likely be limited to that spot in the North Atlantic, far from land. But even that seemingly slow rate of change, while not as thrilling on the big screen, has potentially major implications for slow-adapting cities and ecosystems.

"If the slowdown of the Atlantic overturning continues, the impacts might be substantial," says Rahmstorf. "Disturbing the circulation will likely have a negative effect on the ocean ecosystem, and thereby fisheries and the associated livelihoods of many people in coastal areas. A slowdown also adds to the regional sea-level rise affecting cities like New York and Boston." A separate recent study found a sharp 4-inch surge in East Coast sea levelsin just one year, around 2009, that was linked to the slowdown in the Atlantic current as water piled up.

Should melting of Greenland continue to accelerate, there's a small chance that the entire thermohaline circulation could collapse, though that's not likely to happen for several more decades. Still, the implications would be huge: up to 30 inches of extra sea level rise along the East Coast, stronger winter storms, and an interruption of the Atlantic marine food chain. Prior to Monday's study, a survey of experts put the risk of a full collapse scenario at around 10 percent over the next century. Those odds were likely boosted a bit with the new results.

The study comes as the Northeast United States, particularly Boston, finishes one of the coldest and snowiest winters in history—though, in an email to Slate, Mann said it was "unclear" there was any connection between the implications of his new study and the recent spate of cold weather.

BEST OF THE WEB: Extreme weather, meteor fireballs, and Earth Changes in March 2015 (VIDEO)

© HawkkeyDavisChannel

Earth changes have taken place the past few weeks or so. Animals are listed among the dead.

I've been working 50+ hours a week, sorry if there's any mistakes. Thanks for watching and stay safe..

This series does not mean the world is ending! These are documentaries of series of extreme weather events which are leading to bigger earth changes. If you're following the series, then you're seeing the signs. It's much more than one video!

[embedded content]

Follow me on Facebook for much more

Second mahout to be killed by elephant within 5 days in Kerala, India

© Yathin S Krishnappa

Asian elephant.

}The district authorities have resolved to strictly enforce the prescribed norms for management of captive elephants in the wake of second incident within five days in which a man was killed by an elephant in Karuvatta, near Haripad.

In the latest-such case, a 52-year-old mahout was crushed to death by an elephant, named Chirakkadavu Thiruneelakandan, which was brought from Ponkunnam during a procession that was taken out in connection with a festival at the Thiruvilanjal Devi Temple on Sunday by around 10 p.m. The mahout, Unnikrishnan Nair, who hailed from Padeethathil house in Karuvatta, was knocked down and was trampled by the elephant. The animal could be brought under control only within two hours.

The incident came close on the heels of another in which a 72-year-old ex-serviceman was killed by an elephant. Which ran amok when being readied for the festival at the same temple at Karuvatta. The victim, who was reading a newspaper on his courtyard, was hit by the elephant's trunk and was killed on the spot. The pachyderm was brought under control, but not before it damaged several vehicles and other properties along the busy Karuvatta-Haripad stretch.

According to him, the necessary permits must be obtained for parading elephants by producing the relevant certificates at least seven days prior to the procession. The applications must be submitted at either the office of the Assistant Conservator of Forest (Social Forestry) at Kommady or the Divisional Forest Office at Ranni. The required documents include the fitness, insurance, ownership, veterinary doctor's and microchip certificates, data book and the notice of the particular programme.

The organisers must inform the details of the programme to the nearest police station and the Forest Range office at least 72 hours prior to the function. As per the prescribed norms, elephants cannot be paraded within 11 a.m. and 3.30 p.m. Special permission must be obtained from the Collector if any unavoidable circumstances related to belief and temple rituals arose. In any case, the animal can be paraded for only a maximum of six hours in a day.

The district authorities will no longer issue permits for using elephants at festivals that were introduced after 2012. A minimum distance of 3 km must be maintained for elephants from the public. Elephants must not be made to walk on tarred roads at noon.

Vatican Radio: UNICEF and WHO are sterilizing girls through vaccines

© patheos.com

Kenya Catholic Bishops

Vatican Radio last week charged that United Nations organizations promoting population control are using vaccines to surreptitiously sterilize women in Third World countries. Kenya's Ministry of Health, along with the UN organizations — World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF — deny the charges, which carry the full weight of the Vatican. Vatican Radio is the official "voice of the Pope and the Church in dialogue with the World."

"Catholic Bishops in Kenya have been opposed to the nationwide Tetanus Vaccination Campaign targeting 2.3 million Kenyan women and girls of reproductive age between 15-49 years, terming the campaign a secret government plan to sterilize women and control population growth," reported Vatican Radio, as it took the occasion of the ordination of a Kenyan Bishop, Joseph Obanyi Sagwe, as an opportunity to remind the world of its concern.

The church, which operates 30% of Kenya's health care facilities and has been providing health care in Kenya for more than 100 years, is not opposed to vaccinations. To the contrary, its health facilities have long been administering vaccines as part of its public health mission.

But the church and official organizations such as the Catholic Health Commission of Kenya and the Kenya Catholic Doctors Association assert that a tetanus vaccine program sponsored by WHO and UNICEF has been laced with HCG, or human chorionic gonadotropin, a hormone that the human embryo produces after conception to enable it to be implanted in the womb (HCG is also the chemical tested for in pregnancy tests). When the body receives HCG via a tetanus vaccine, it acts as an antigen, stimulating the production of antibodies to HCG. Those antibodies cause the woman's body to reject future embryos, effectively sterilizing her.

The charges in Kenya, similar to others in Mexico, Nicaragua and the Philippines, led Kenya's parliamentary Committee of Health to create a Joint Committee of Experts, made of experts from Kenya's Ministry of Health and the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops, to investigate the conflicting claims, which included government assurances that the tetanus vaccines used in the WHO-UNICEF Vaccination Campaign had been tested and found free of HCG.

The Ministry of Health then refused to provide the Expert Committee with the vaccine vials it claimed to have sampled and tested. The Catholic Bishops did provide the expert committee with nine sample vials that had been used in the WHO-UNICEF campaign. Upon testing, the Expert Committee found that one third of the WHO-UNICEF vials did indeed contain HCG. Separately, 50 tetanus vials that weren't involved in the WHO-UNICEF campaign were tested and found to be free of HCG.

The church and the government are now in a stand-off. The Ministry of Health has pulled its experts from the Expert Committee and refuses to accept a final report on the controversy. The church, for its part, is warning parishioners to avoid the tetanus vaccine, requesting apologies for the victims from WHO and UNICEF for conduct both "unethical and immoral," and insisting that "no further vaccination campaigns should be undertaken in this county without an all-inclusive sampling and testing exercise before, during and after the vaccination campaign."

Massive landslide buries parts of Peruvian town amid heavy rains

landslide peru

© REUTERS/ Mariana Bazo

A woman carries a baby as she walks past debris of houses after a massive landslide in Chosica, March 24, 2015.

Seven people were killed and more were feared dead in Peru after a massive landslide buried parts of a town amid heavy rains, authorities said on Tuesday.

Six were missing and 25 injured in the disaster in Chosica, some 30 kilometers (18.6 miles) east of Lima, said Alfredo Murgueytio, the head of the National Civil Defense Institute, Indeci.

"There are likely more dead bodies under the debris," Murgueytio said on local broadcaster RPP.

TV images showed water and mud rushing over the town's sloped streets and a distraught woman waving a picture of a missing girl.

The main road connecting Lima to the center of Peru, a top global producer of copper and gold, remained blocked since Monday, police said.

landslide peru

People remove debris of cars and houses after a massive landslide in Chosica, March 24, 2015.

The landslide destroyed 65 houses and rendered another 45 unlivable, said Indeci.

Landslides and avalanches in Peru, mainly in rural towns in the Andes and Amazon, have killed 28 people and destroyed 1,245 houses so far this year, according to Indeci.

Chosica, a town tucked between mountains and next to a river, has been damaged by landslides several times in the past.

The art of developing patience


Many of us have a problem with patience. That is, we lack it. We might be impatient in all areas of our lives. Or we might get impatient in certain situations.

We might get impatient while waiting in line at the store, or sitting in bumper-to-bumper traffic. Or waiting for an email to arrive in our inbox. Or hearing back from a potential employer.

Of course, the pace of our world doesn't help with cultivating patience. Our society's tempo is rapid-fire. We press "send" on an email, and it works in seconds (and how annoyed do you get if it takes a few seconds longer to actually send?). Our food comes with a time guarantee, or it's free.

We're able to walk into a grocery store, walk through any aisle and grab exactly what we need (without waiting hours in line only to find that the item sold out hours ago).

You probably know that being impatient isn't helpful or healthy. When we try to speed things up, we only get worked up and stress ourselves out. Which affects everything from ruining a good meal to pushing people away, said Casey Radle, LPC, a therapist who specializes in anxiety, depression and self-esteem at Eddins Counseling Group in Houston, Texas.

She shared this example: You text your partner, but don't hear back right away. You start growing impatient, which triggers feelings of frustration and insecurity. You start sending more and more texts. As a result, your partner gets annoyed or upset. They ignore you or send a frustrated text back, which triggers a fight.

Thankfully, if patience isn't one of your virtues, you can learn to change your ways. Below, Radle shared five strategies that can help — no matter what your triggers are.

1. Adopt some relaxation tools. One valuable relaxation tool, which is always available to you, is deep breathing. Radle suggested taking deep, deliberate breaths. "Take approximately three to four seconds for each of these steps: inhale to fill up your lungs, hold, exhale slowly, and then pause before inhaling again." Pair your deep breathing with a calming mantra, such as: "I am breathing in relaxation, and I am breathing out stress."This helps you shift your attention from the source of your impatience to your breathing, slowing your heart rate and soothing your nervous system, she said.

Other tools include meditation, guided imagery, progressive muscle relaxation and yoga, Radle said.

2. Get curious. Curiosity "involves refraining from making assumptions and/or drawing conclusions based on limited information," Radle said. She shared this example: If you haven't heard back from a potential employer, don't automatically assume they're not interested in hiring you. Or don't conclude they're being rude or inconsiderate, she said.Instead, consider alternate explanations. Maybe the employer is out of the office. Maybe it's taking longer than they expected to interview all the candidates. Maybe they're negotiating with HR. Maybe they're waiting for your references to return their calls.As Radle said, "Who knows for sure? Without all the facts, it's not fair to you or to anyone else to make assumptions."

3. Dig deeper. Pinpoint which part of the situation is anxiety-provoking for you, Radle said. Then "focus on your own emotional needs instead of focusing on the irritation and frustration you're experiencing." She suggested asking ourselves these questions: "What do I need right now? What about this is so uncomfortable? What would help me tolerate the waiting? What might be a better, more productive focus of my emotional energy?"

4. Accept the discomfort. According to Radle, "Acceptance involves recognizing that lots of aspects of our lives are beyond our scope of control and that not everyone in the world operates on our timelines." She suggested accepting that waiting is uncomfortable, versus believing it's intolerable. Even though it might seem counter-intuitive, acceptance can be freeing and can bring calm. If you're stuck in traffic, accepting that there's nothing you can do helps you arrive at your destination a whole lot calmer than trying to exert control in an uncontrollable situation. Which, of course, is futile.

(This is where practicing your relaxation techniques can really help, since it's hard for us to remember this when we're already triggered and fuming.)

5. Use the word "yet." Radle suggested "befriending the word 'yet.'" "Those three little letters infuse a great deal of hope, optimism, and tolerance into our lives." That is, you haven't heard back from the employer yet. You haven't gotten to the front of the line yet. You haven't achieved your goals yet. You haven't found the right job yet. You haven't found your home yet.

Patience is a muscle we can strengthen. The key is to employ some relaxation strategies, avoid making assumptions and refocus on our emotional needs.

10 shocking facts about sunscreen

After reading study after study reporting the alarming increase in skin cancer cases over the last several years, I've started to wonder what sunscreen might have to do with it. I recently came across the research of Dr. Elizabeth Plourde, the author of Sunscreens Biohazard - Treat as Hazardous Waste. Dr. Plourde is a hormone specialist with 25 years of extensive medical research and writing to her credit who has recently focused her attention on the hormonally disruptive chemicals utilized in sunscreens. I had the opportunity to speak with her a few days ago and here are the most disturbing conclusions of her research:

1. Sunscreens are now in 97 percent of Americans' blood streams and in 85 percent of breast milk samples.

2. The rapid increase in melanoma cases demonstrates sunscreen is NOT the answer. Sunscreens contribute to its cause because they leave the skin open to deeper penetrating radiation! The FDA only requires UV filtering, but UV rays only make up 4 percent of the solar radiation spectrum. Sunscreen use exposes the skin longer to near infrared rays that account up 47 percent of solar radiation and penetrate deeper than UV rays.

3. Sunscreen chemicals pass through the placenta causing fetal development disruption. Fish show gender disruption due to sunscreen chemicals' strong hormonal influences, indicating the same gender disruption can occur in human fetuses. Common in the news today are children with gender identity confusion.

4. Sunscreen could play an indirect role in the development of autism. Recent statistics show that autism is continuing to rise and to increase more rapidly in boys, which highlights the importance of addressing the many connections that connect the development of autism with the use of sunscreens:

  • The ratio of autistic boys compared to girls has risen from 4:1 to 4.6:1, or approximately 5 boys to every girl. Sunscreens are more potent anti-testosterones than Flutamide, the anti-testosterone drug given to prostate cancer patients to block the action of their testosterone. This would impact male development more than female development.

  • Autistic children demonstrate thyroid disruption. Sunscreens demonstrate the ability to disrupt normal thyroid development in the fetus. Abnormal thyroid affects speech and cognitive skills, both are aspects of the spectrum of autistic disorders.

  • Autism rates vary by race. () 2008 reconfirms Caucasians have a higher incidence rate than either African Americans or Hispanics. More Caucasians use sunscreen than the other two groups, as evidenced by the higher percentage of sunscreen chemicals found in their blood.

  • The rise in autism incidence parallels the rise in sunscreen use. In the 1970s and 1980s when sunscreens were introduced, the incidence of children diagnosed with autism was approximately 1 in 2,000. The 2008 reports that it is now 11 per 1,000.

  • Vitamin D is identified as crucial to proper brain development before the age of 2. Sunscreen blocks vitamin D production and proper brain development cannot take place. The deficiencies in the brain development — as a result of low vitamin D — are being identified in autistic children.

  • Aluminum is suspected as a cause of autism. Sunscreens contain aluminum — whether it is listed on the label or not — as it is used in processing the ingredients.

5. Vitamin D deficiency is becoming pandemic. Sunscreen use prevents the ability of the skin to manufacture our vitally important vitamin D. Diseases that occur from low vitamin D are increasing at rapid rates, including cancers. The cost for cancers resulting from vitamin D deficiencies in 2004 alone are estimated to be between $40 and 56 billion.

6. Coral die within 96 hours of exposure to low levels of sunscreen chemicals. The stress created by these toxins makes coral less resistant to slight temperature fluctuations.

7. Phytoplankton, the crucial bottom of the food chain, die because they absorb sunscreens' zinc oxide until they explode.

8. Sunscreen chemicals are now ubiquitous in our lakes and rivers around the world.

9. Upon exposure to sunscreen chemicals, fish become "inter-sexed" as they develop both male and female reproductive organs. Some even stop spawning all together.

10. Sunscreen chemicals are even in muscles of the fish we eat.

All of this may seem a little overwhelming because it flies in the face of conventional wisdom and everything we have been taught by dermatologists and skincare experts over the last decade. I'm sure you may be as disturbed as I am, but I have some practical suggestions that will help you to transition into a skin-protective program from the outside in and the inside out.

Learn also about the safest sunscreen on the market.

Massive wildfires threaten ancient forests in Chile

wildfire chile

Aerial view of smoke columns are seen over mountains on the Conguillo National Park in Chile on March 22, 2015

Chile has declared a red alert for three national parks and reserves where massive wildfires are threatening forests that are thousands of years old, officials said Tuesday.

The fires have been raging for more than a week in the southern region of La Araucania, which has been hit by a severe drought.

The National Emergency Office (ONEMI) warned they would likely spread and intensify.

"It's going to be difficult to contain this fire today and tomorrow, but we hope that by Thursday we can effectively have it under control," said the vice minister of the interior, Madmuh Aleuy.

The head of national forest service CONAF, Aaron Cavieres, said firefighters were battling to keep the blaze away from populated areas.

"High temperatures and strong winds of more than 50 kilometers (30 miles) an hour are complicating our work to contain the fires," he said.

The fires are burning in three protected areas: China Muerta National Reserve, Nalca Lolco National Reserve and Conguillio National Park.

They have burned more than 5,700 hectares (14,000 acres) of parkland so far, including more than 300 hectares in Conguillio, an Andes mountain park popular with tourists because of its volcanos and centuries-old monkey puzzle trees.

The trees (Araucaria araucana), members of the pine family, can live for more than 1,000 years and grow as tall as 50 meters (165 feet). They are considered sacred by indigenous Mapuche people, and Chile has declared them part of its unique natural heritage.

chile wildfires

Aerial view of smoke columns are seen over mountains on the Conguillo National Park, Chile, on March 22, 2015

Environmentalists have warned that the fires are threatening hundreds of plant species and animal life.

The head of environmental group Accion Ecologica, Luis Mariano Rendon said at the weekend it was a "massive environmental catastrophe."

map chile wildfires

Map of Chile locating where wildfires are threatening ancient forests

CONAF said firefighters would begin spraying some areas with a chemical flame retardant to create firebreaks.

Three planes and four helicopters are backing up 200 firefighters in the area, some 700 kilometers (450 miles) south of the capital Santiago.

But strong winds prevented the planes from taking off Tuesday.

Thirty Argentine firefighters joined the effort in the neighboring country. Chile has also reached out to Brazil and Uruguay for help, Aleuy said.

In all, 99 forest fires are raging in five Chilean regions. They have burned nearly 20,000 hectares, CONAF said.

Chilean authorities say climate change is causing more forest fires in the South American country, which has seen a decline in precipitation and an increase in temperatures.

Assange: U.S. responsible for ISIS, Israel supported Hamas to divide and conquer


© Reuters / John Stillwell

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.

Julian Assange has given an interview to an Argentinian paper from his Ecuadorian embassy asylum where he spent more than 1,000 days. He spoke about why US meddling in Ukraine led to civil war, how the West helped ISIS and Israel supported Hamas.

US has long wanted to bring Ukraine to West

The United States has spent "a lot of time trying to bring Ukraine to the West," the WikiLeaks founder said in an interview to , Argentinian newspaper on Monday.

"If it cannot be with a NATO membership, at least it becomes independent from Moscow's sphere of influence, to reduce Russian industrial-military complex and its naval bases in Crimea."

Kiev first step closer to NATO was in December 2014, when President Petro Poroshenko signed a law canceling the Ukraine' non-bloc status and promised to hold a national referendum on NATO accession in the next five to six years.'

In January, Kiev authorities announced that the Ukrainian army would take part in 11 international military drills in 2015 to bolster NATO standards in troops.

One more attempt of US and Europe to 'bring Ukraine closer to the West' was spending "billions of dollars on the creation of NGOs," said Assange, adding that "through these institutions, the West promised to end corruption in Ukraine."

ISIS result of Western adventurism

Meddling of Western countries in the Middle East led to creation of the Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS), an Islamist group that is currently gaining a massive following across the wider Middle East and Africa, Assange said.

"The IS is a direct result of the adventurism of the West," Assange said.

He says the "adventurism" of Western countries has already destroyed the Libyan and Syrian society and now is "destroying Iraq for oil and other geopolitical reasons."

Many people know that arms are being transported to Syria, that there are attempts to reduce Iranian influence in postwar Iraq by supporting the Sunnis, he said. But "what we don't know is that in recent years in recent years Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey have increased their power and managed to gain certain independence from the US."

As a result, Washington ceased to be "the only geopolitical actor" pushing developments in the Middle East, believes Assange.

Israel supported Hamas in its infancy

The WikiLeaks founder accused Israeli authorities of supporting Hamas group at its early stages in order to divide the Palestinian resistance.

"Our cables reveal that Israel supported Hamas in its infancy, that Hamas was used as an instrument to divide the Palestine Liberation Organization [PLO] and the Palestinian resistance," Assange told the paper.

Assange has been living in the Ecuadorian embassy in London while awaiting safe passage to the Central American country, where he has been granted asylum. Staking out the building, in case the Australian should leave the premises, has already cost British taxpayers a hefty £10 million, according to govwaste.co.uk.

Assange has not been charged with a crime, but is wanted for questioning in Sweden regarding allegations of sexual misconduct brought against him in 2010.

An arrest warrant was issued for Assange in 2010 in the of wake sexual assault allegations leveled against him by two Swedish women. He denied the allegations of sexual misconduct and rape and managed to avoid extradition to Sweden by seeking refuge in the embassy in 2012.

He repeatedly announced that he is ready to answer all questions concerning his sexual assault allegations within the sanctity of the embassy. However, Swedish prosecutors were reluctant to do so until March this year.

"If Assange gives his consent, the prosecutor will promptly submit a request for legal assistance to the British authorities to further continue the investigation," the Swedish Prosecution Authority said in a statement.

Assange's Swedish lawyer welcomed the Swedish prosecutors' request to interview Assange in London, but added that the whole process of questioning could take time.

"We welcome [this] and see it also as a big victory ... for Julian Assange that what we have demanded is finally going to happen," Per Samuelson said.

Assange supporters fear that if he is deported to Sweden he will likely face espionage charges in America over his role in publishing sensitive, classified US government documents.

But even if Sweden drops the case, he faces arrest by UK police for jumping the bail granted while the British courts considered a European arrest warrant issued by Stockholm.

In June 2014, 56 international human rights and free media organizations signed a letter addressed to US Attorney General Eric Holder calling upon the US government to end all criminal investigations into Assange's actions as editor-in-chief of WikiLeaks, and to cease harassing the organization for publishing materials in the public interest.

Head of Kiev Rada's committee on culture and spirituality wanted by Interpol for rape


Cambodia issued an Interpol Red Notice A-1857/3-2015 for the prosecution of Mykola Kniazhytskyi, Ukrainian MP, journalist and head of TVi editorial board. According to the letter he received from the Ukrainian bureau of Interpol, he is wanted for rape under Article 239 of Cambodian Penal Code. According to the Red Notice, the alleged rape took place in on September 9, 2011 in Phnom Penh (Cambodia).

Mr. Kniazhytskyi was an author of a recently adopted Law No. 1317 "On the introduction of changes to certain Laws of Ukraine concerning the protection of television and radio space of Ukraine". The Law put an end to the abuse of Russian propagandist TV shows and movies in Ukraine.

According to Mykola Kniazhytskyi, that could be the reason for his Interpol Red Noticed arranged. Moreover, he's been threatened by a Russian businessman Konstantin Kagalovskiy, with whom he had a conflict earlier. Konstantin Kagalovskiy is considered to be an influential person in Cambodia, taking into account he is considered to be an important investor there.

The interesting fact is that the Interpol Notice appeared on March 11, around a week after Cambodian FM visited Moscow (2-4 March 2015). Another question is unclear, why is the rape case was opened 4 years after it allegedly happened.

According to his press-service, on the alleged date of rape, Mykola Kniazhytskyi was in Kyiv at the TV studio on air at the show "Evening with Mykola Kniazhytskyi", which was seen by approximately 1.5 million of Ukrainians.

Iraqi commander: Tapped ISIS communications confirm US aid of arms and food

US ISIS weapons

Weapons "intended" for Kurdish fighters dropped at ISIS-held location.

A commander of Iraq's popular forces disclosed that wiretapping of ISIL's communications has confirmed the reports that the US planes have been airdropping food and arms supplies for the Takfiri terrorists.

"The wiretapped ISIL communications by Iraqi popular forces have revealed that the US planes have been dropping weapons and foodstuff for the Takfiri terrorist group," Commander of Iraq's Ali Akbar Battalion told FNA on Wednesday.

He noted that tapping on ISIL disclosed the terrorist group's regular contacts with the US army, and said, "They exchanged sentences like if they would have a share of the ammunition dropped near (Spiker Military Base) or responses such as 'you will also receive your share'."

"The US forces by dropping weapons and ammunition for ISIL, specially in Yassreb, Al-Ramadi and near Spiker Base in Hay al-Qadessiya have provided a lot of help to the ISIL," he added.

Many similar reports by Iraqi officials and forces have surfaced in the last few months.

In February, an Iraqi provincial official lashed out at the western countries and their regional allies for supporting Takfiri terrorists in Iraq, revealing that the US airplanes still continue to airdrop weapons and foodstuff for the ISIL terrorists.

"The US planes have dropped weapons for the ISIL terrorists in the areas under ISIL control and even in those areas that have been recently liberated from the ISIL control to encourage the terrorists to return to those places," Coordinator of Iraqi popular forces Jafar al-Jaberi told FNA.

He noted that eyewitnesses in Al-Havijeh of Kirkuk province had witnessed the US airplanes dropping several suspicious parcels for ISIL terrorists in the province.

"Two coalition planes were also seen above the town of Al-Khas in Diyala and they carried the Takfiri terrorists to the region that has recently been liberated from the ISIL control," Al-Jaberi said.

Meantime, Head of Iraqi Parliament's National Security and Defense Committee Hakem al-Zameli also disclosed that the anti-ISIL coalition's planes have dropped weapons and foodstuff for the ISIL in Salahuddin, Al-Anbar and Diyala provinces.

In January, al-Zameli underlined that the coalition is the main cause of ISIL's survival in Iraq.

"There are proofs and evidence for the US-led coalition's military aid to ISIL terrorists through air(dropped cargoes)," he told FNA at the time.

He noted that the members of his committee have already proved that the US planes have dropped advanced weaponry, including anti-aircraft weapons, for the ISIL, and that it has set up an investigation committee to probe into the matter.

"The US drops weapons for the ISIL on the excuse of not knowing about the whereabouts of the ISIL positions and it is trying to distort the reality with its allegations.

He noted that the committee had collected the data and the evidence provided by eyewitnesses, including Iraqi army officers and the popular forces, and said, "These documents are given to the investigation committee ... and the necessary measures will be taken to protect the Iraqi airspace."

Also in January, another senior Iraqi legislator reiterated that the US-led coalition is the main cause of ISIL's survival in Iraq.

"The international coalition is only an excuse for protecting the ISIL and helping the terrorist group with equipment and weapons," Jome Divan, who is member of the al-Sadr bloc in the Iraqi parliament, said.

He said the coalition's support for the ISIL is now evident to everyone, and continued, "The coalition has not targeted ISIL's main positions in Iraq."

In Late December, Iraqi Parliamentary Security and Defense Commission MP disclosed that a US plane supplied the ISIL terrorist organization with arms and ammunition in Salahuddin province.

MP Majid al-Gharawi stated that the available information pointed out that US planes are supplying ISIL organization, not only in Salahuddin province, but also other provinces, Iraq TradeLink reported.

He added that the US and the international coalition are "not serious in fighting against the ISIL organization, because they have the technological power to determine the presence of ISIL gunmen and destroy them in one month".

Gharawi added that "the US is trying to expand the time of the war against the ISIL to get guarantees from the Iraqi government to have its bases in Mosul and Anbar provinces."

Salahuddin security commission also disclosed that "unknown planes threw arms and ammunition to the ISIL gunmen Southeast of Tikrit city".

Also in Late December, a senior Iraqi lawmaker raised doubts about the seriousness of the anti-ISIL coalition led by the US, and said that the terrorist group still received aids dropped by unidentified aircraft.

"The international coalition is not serious about air strikes on ISIL terrorists and is even seeking to take out the popular (voluntary) forces from the battlefield against the Takfiris so that the problem with ISIL remains unsolved in the near future," Nahlah al-Hababi told FNA.

"The ISIL terrorists are still receiving aids from unidentified fighter jets in Iraq and Syria," she added.

Hababi said that the coalition's precise airstrikes are launched only in those areas where the Kurdish Pishmarga forces are present, while military strikes in other regions are not so much precise.

In late December, the US-led coalition dropped aids to the Takfiri militants in an area North of Baghdad.

Field sources in Iraq told al-Manar that the international coalition airplanes dropped aids to the terrorist militants in Balad, an area which lies in Salahuddin province North of Baghdad.

In October, a high-ranking Iranian commander also slammed the US for providing aid supplies to ISIL, adding that the US claims that the weapons were mistakenly airdropped to ISIL were untrue.

"The US and the so-called anti-ISIL coalition claim that they have launched a campaign against this terrorist and criminal group - while supplying them with weapons, food and medicine in Jalawla region (a town in Diyala Governorate, Iraq). This explicitly displays the falsity of the coalition's and the US' claims," Deputy Chief of Staff of the Iranian Armed Forces Brigadier General Massoud Jazayeri said.

The US claimed that it had airdropped weapons and medical aid to Kurdish fighters confronting the ISIL in Kobani, near the Turkish border in Northern Syria.

The US Defense Department said that it had airdropped 28 bundles of weapons and supplies, but one of them did not make it into the hands of the Kurdish fighters.

Video footage later showed that some of the weapons that the US airdropped were taken by ISIL militants.

The Iranian commander insisted that the US had the necessary intelligence about ISIL's deployment in the region and that their claims to have mistakenly airdropped weapons to them are as unlikely as they are untrue.

Ignoring 1.8 million Gazans struggling with 97% water contamination, the world celebrates World Water Day

As the world marks the World Water Day, Gaza's 1.8 million-population is struggling to cope with lack of clean water.The coastal aquifer, Gaza's main water source, is heavily contaminated with various pollutants including high levels of nitrates.

Dumping of untreated sewage into the sea has been a major cause for the pollution. The reason: lack of electricity to operate treatment plants.

Water contamination levels are three times higher than the World Health Organization standards for safe drinking water.

Experts have warned of a humanitarian disaster as the water pollution levels have reached near one hundred percent.

© EWASH 2010

95% contamination: Wastewater flowing through the Rafah regional waste dump.

During the recent Israel war on Gaza Israeli forces targeted the infrastructure of the territory including water and sewage networks.

Israeli restrictions on the entry of equipment and materials have also slowed the completion of water desalination and filtration stations.

The severity of Gaza's water crisis is likely to increase in the coming summer months.

With water pollution levels rising experts blame the problems on the Israeli blockade as well as Israel's stealing of Gaza Strip's underground water for many years.

[embedded content]

Iran response to Netanyahu victory: No difference to Israeli political parties

© Reuters / Nir Elias

Following the surprise win of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud party, a spokesman for Iran's Foreign Ministry said that there is no difference between the Israeli political parties.

"For us there is no difference between the Zionist regime's political parties. They are all aggressors in nature," Marizeh Afkham, a spokesman for Iran's Foreign Ministry, told reporters at a weekly news conference in Tehran, the semi-official Mehr News Agency reports.

Hamas also said it made no difference who won the election as all of them deny the Palestinian people their rights.

"Palestinian resistance is strong and capable of making its mark. The leaders of the occupation must think again about their stances after the failure in Gaza," said Hamas spokesman Sami Abu-Zuhri.

A chief Palestinian negotiator in the collapsed peace talks with Israel, Saeb Erekat, said Netanyahu's win showed his "campaign based on settlements, racism, Apartheid and the denial of fundamental rights of the Palestinian people had paid off."

Netanyahu's campaign focused mainly on security issues, such as the threat from Iran's nuclear program as well as the Palestinian issue and had initially won little support from voters.

Netanyahu had even warned US President Barak Obama's administration that it was negotiating "a bad deal" with Iran over its nuclear program.

Whereas the Zionist Union, Netanyahu's principle opposition, campaigned on the lack of housing and the cost of living in Israel, and initially appeared to be in the lead.

Russia agrees to give 10% gas discount to Turkey

© Reuters / Ahmed Saad

Turkey's Energy Minister Taner Yildiz

Russia's Gazprom and Turkish pipeline company Botas have agreed a 10.25 percent discount on Russian gas supplied to Turkey, said Turkish Minister of Energy and Natural Resources Taner Yildiz.

"The documents on the discount haven't yet been signed, but that's a technical detail. The main thing is that we have agreed, and the signatures are on their way," said Yildiz Wednesday at a news conference, adding that all the rumors about problems in the negotiations with Russia are groundless.

In February, Yildiz said that after complex and lengthy negotiations Russia had agreed to give Turkey a discount of 10.25 percent on gas supplies. Gazprom had only confirmed reaching an agreement on the price, but not on the size of the discount.

A discount was part of last year's agreement between Moscow and Ankara over the construction of the Turkish Stream pipeline under the Black Sea. Turkish Stream will be laid instead of the South Stream pipeline canceled in December 2014.

Gazprom is interested in starting construction as soon as possible as pipe-laying equipment has been waiting for four months in Varna, Bulgaria, and the company paying for the storage.

However, Gazprom needs to receive permission from Ankara to start construction in Turkish territorial waters. The request was sent in late January, but the permission has not yet been received.

Deputy Head of the European Commission Maros Sefcovic, who is responsible for the creation of the EU energy union, said during his visit to Turkey on Tuesday that a decision on Turkish Stream cannot be taken without consultations with the European Commission.

At the same time Turkish officials are in negotiations about the TANAP pipeline from Azerbaijan the construction of which officially began on Tuesday. The TANAP plan envisages Turkey becoming a key hub through which the gas pipeline will go to South-East Europe from the Caspian region.

In 2014 Gazprom exported 27.4 billion cubic meters of gas to Turkey via the Blue Stream pipeline laid under the Black Sea, as well as via the Trans-Balkan pipeline through Ukraine.

Russia plans to increase gas supplies after Gazprom and Botas signed a memorandum of understanding on the construction of the Turkish Stream. The pipeline will have a capacity of 63 billion cubic meters with 50 billion cubic meters of gas to be supplied through a new hub on the Turkish-Greek border.

The pipeline is expected to supply 15.75 billion cubic meters to Turkish consumers and the delivery is scheduled to begin in December 2016.

An occupation that never ends - U.S. to keep troops in Afghanistan through 2015

© Reuters/Mohammad Ismail

Obama will keep 9,800 U.S. troops In Afghanistan through 2015, after Afghan President Ghani requested flexibility in drawdown plan.

"We are bound by common interests and will act together to ensure both the safety of United States and the safety of Afghanistan. That is the important consideration. Numbers are a means; they are not an end in themselves," Ghani said.

President Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai, in office since September last year, is currently visiting the US.The Afghan delegation spent all day Monday in meetings with senior US officials, including Defense Secretary Ash Carter and Secretary of State John Kerry.

Washington has pledged to fund Afghan security forces to the tune of $4 billion a year through 2017. The US is eager to show that the new government in Kabul is reliable and competent enough to solve its own problems, while being appreciative of American help.

Egypt signs natural gas deal with Gazprom

© Reuters / Desmond Boylan

Russia's Gazprom Global LNG has signed a deal with Egyptian Natural Gas Holding Company (EGAS) to supply 35 shipments of liquefied natural gas (LNG) by 2020, according to the company and Egypt's Ministry of Petroleum.

Gazprom Global LNG and EGAS have agreed on LNG sales, the company confirmed on its website Tuesday, adding that both parties were in the final stages of a long term commercial arrangement.

35 LNG shipments will be supplied to Egypt over 5 years, according to Egypt's Ministry of Petroleum. Gazprom will start shipping to EGAS in the second half of 2015, with 7 cargoes arriving each year. EGAS has already signed contracts with Noble Group who will deliver a seven LNG cargoes and Vitol for nine shipments of LNG over two years.

As the West escalates its sanctions rhetoric against Russia, Egypt has shown it wants to align closer with Moscow. Last month Russian President Vladimir Putin paid a two-day visit to Cairo, where he agreed to bring the two economies closer and start working towards using domestic currencies in trade settlements. Both sides then said that they wanted to open up new prospects for trade and investment cooperation and reduce dependence on the trends in the world markets.

Last month Egypt agreed to establish a free trade zone with the Russian-led Eurasian Economic Union, which includes Russia, Armenia, Belarus, and Kazakhstan. Bilateral trade between the two countries has increased significantly over the past years, in 2014 it increased by almost 50 percent compared to the previous year, valued at more than $4.5 billion. They also agreed to create a Russian industrial zone near the Suez Canal as Russian businesses have stakes in more than 400 Egyptian companies.

Russia and Egypt have also increased cooperation in agriculture, following Moscow's one-year ban on EU, US, Australian, Canadian, and Norwegian food exports in August.

The two countries agreed to work jointly on new investment projects, especially in transport, manufacturing and energy -both oil and nuclear.

Will Democrats back Obama's UN push for a two-state Israel-Palestine solution?

J Street crowd

© jewishexponent.com

J Street was founded to promote meaningful American leadership to end the Arab-Israeli and Palestinian-Israel conflicts peacefully and diplomatically.

The Obama Administration has broadcast that since Benjamin Netanyahu announced that there will never be a Palestinian state so long as Netanyahu remains Prime Minister of Israel, the US may end its policy of blocking consideration of the Israel-Palestine conflict at the United Nations Security Council. In particular, the US may support a Security Council resolution that lays out parameters for a diplomatic resolution of the conflict, and the US may support a resolution against Israeli settlements in the West Bank.

If the Obama Administration makes such a move, will Democrats support it? Here is some preliminary evidence that Democrats will be ready to support the Administration.

The reports that J Street will support such a push at the UN by the Obama Administration:

In terms of policy, taking on the fight means stating J Street's open support to moving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to the United Nations Security Council...

This position puts J Street at odds with most other pro-Israel organizations, led by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, which have been preparing to lobby against the administration's move.

In addition, the notes, J Street is urging the Administration to challenge the flow of US tax dollars to Israeli settlements in the West Bank:

The group is also calling on the U.S. government, Ben-Ami said, to "examine how it can eliminate funding" to Jewish settlements in the West Bank by taking a closer look at how government agencies provide funding to Israel and the way the IRS views donations going to settlements. J Street called on its members and supporters to make sure the Jewish charitable organizations they donate to do not support settlers beyond the Green Line.

Americans for Peace Now is calling on its supporters to "Stand Up for Peace, Stand Up to Bibi":

The recent Israeli elections definitively unmasked the real Benjamin Netanyahu.

  • Netanyahu cynically campaigned as an adversary of President Obama

  • Netanyahu brazenly ruled out a two-state peace agreement with the Palestinians

  • Netanyahu flagrantly incited racism and intolerance in the Israeli body politic [...]

President Obama needs to hear from you today! Tell him that you will support him as he stands up to Bibi - including at the UN, with respect to a potential nuclear agreement with Iran, with respect to international pressure on settlements, and with respect to the Palestinians.

More than 20,000 Americans have signed a petition to President Obama at MoveOn, urging him to lift the "diplomatic shield" that has protected Netanyahu's policies towards the Palestinians from censure at the United Nations Security Council.

We are on uncharted political terrain. Not so long ago, it would have been hard to imagine that 60 Democrats would ostentatiously skip a speech by Netanyahu to a joint session of Congress. Not so long ago, AIPAC - which backed Netanyahu's speech - was perceived as invincible in Washington. But so far, AIPAC has failed in its efforts to get Congressional Democrats to join with Republicans to try to blow up diplomacy with Iran.

Public engagement with Congressional Democrats has helped change the balance of forces on Iran diplomacy. Public engagement with Congressional Democrats can help change the balance of forces on Israel-Palestine diplomacy.

Massive sinkhole appears on N3 highway in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa

© Jonathan Burton

A massive sinkhole over two metres deep and three metres wide appeared on the N3 highway in Pietermaritzburg on Thursday, leading to the closure of one of the busy freeway's lanes.

The Durban-bound portion of the road near the Peter Brown offramp has been repaired numerous times, but it collapsed when a bus travelling over the sunken area collided with a truck in the early hours of Thursday.

Easter weekend

WBHO engineer Jacques Grobler, who has been contracted to repair the sinkhole, said he was hoping to fix the portion of road before the Easter weekend.

"We had a machine on site this morning to start excavating the bottom of the sinkhole and to investigate the problem."

He said once they identified the cause of the collapse, they would build up the hole layer by layer and "try to repair it before the Easter weekend".

Road Traffic Inspectorate spokesperson Zinhle Mngomezulu said the hole was 2.4 metres deep and would easily swallow the nose end of a car.

Photos of the sinkhole were plastered all over social media as local residents and travellers shared concerns over the collapsed portion of road.


Comments poured in on The Witness's Facebook page from locals who said they had hit the sunken patch of road days before it collapsed.

Local Andries Keyser said he hit the sunken patch of road on Monday whilst towing an empty bulk fuel trailer behind his bakkie.

"There was a few split seconds where my vehicle was less of a bakkie and more of a light cargo aircraft," he said.

Another local, Yolanda Jacobs Ogilvie, said whilst driving over the sunken portion of road, she could feel the road was not stable.

"I drove over that patch one million times going home and you could feel something was up as it really knocked your car when you hit it."

To add to the congestion caused by the sinkhole on Thursday, a truck overturned a few metres behind the sinkhole, causing a two-kilometre traffic jam.

Mngomezulu said the truck lane was closed for almost two hours as a tow truck worked to remove the damaged vehicle.

U.S. takeover of Ukraine wipes out 25% of country's economy

© RIA Novosti / Vitaliy Ankov

Ukraine's economy has contracted by a quarter due to the conflict in the south east of the country as hundreds of facilities are closed, said Prime Minister Arseny Yatsenyuk.

"We've lost a quarter of the Ukrainian economy. Hundreds of facilities were closed because of war..."Yatsenyuk said on Tuesday in a conference call to regional governors over budget fulfillment.

At the same time the government managed to collect more in taxes than in the previous year, he added.

Talking about Ukraine's fiscal position, Yatsenyuk said the government had managed to accumulate almost $670 million in its single treasury account.

"I had a look at the latest statistics. A year ago, the single treasury account held 108,000 hryvnia ($4,600), this morning there were 15.5 billion hryvnia ($670 million)," he said.

The funding from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) will help Ukraine service external debt, while tax revenues will be used to finance defense and social benefits, he added.

On March 13 the Ukrainian Ministry of Finance confirmed it had received the first tranche of $5 billion as part of the IMF's four-year bailout program. The total amount of money to be granted to Ukraine from all other foreign creditors will be about $40 billion.

Earlier in March Ukrainian Finance Minister Natalia Jaresko said the IMF's $17.5 billion would not be enough to revive the country's ailing economy, and that the government would seek more financial assistance from international lenders.

Although the Ukrainian government expects the international aid to help the country overcome the crisis in the short-term, experts suggest the terms of imposing austerity measures would only make the situation worse, as many Ukrainians already live below the poverty line and further cuts in social spending would bring no good. Ukraine's GDP has shrunk 6.5 percent since the crisis started and the currency has lost around 80 percent of its value. Inflation is expected to hit 27 percent by the end of 2015.

Fire Rescue officials pull man out of sinkhole in Dania Beach, Florida


Fire Rescue officials have pulled a man out of a sinkhole at a boat yard in Dania Beach.

Sky 10 was above the scene about 4:30 p.m. as firefighters could be seen helping a man, as his legs appeared to still be stuck in the sinkhole in the area of Northeast 7th Avenue off S. Federal Highway.

Firefighters were eventually able to pull the man onto a stretcher just before 4:45 p.m.

He was then rushed to a nearby hospital by ambulance.

No other details were immediately released.

No tornadoes reported anywhere in the U.S. in March

© Justin Hobson

An F5 tornado.

With only about two-dozen twisters recorded so far this year during a period when 100 or more are typical, the U.S. appears to be in a tornado drought as cool, stable air prevents the ingredients of the violent storms from coming together, meteorologists said Friday.

No tornadoes have been reported so far in March, when tornado season often begins ramping up for parts of the country. The last time the U.S. had no twisters in March was nearly 50 years ago, according to figures from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Storm Prediction Center in Norman.

Forecasters at the prediction center reported earlier this week that since the beginning of the year, it has issued only four tornado watches and no severe thunderstorm watches — less than 10 percent of the average 52 tornado watches issued by mid-March. The center hasn't issued a watch in March, something that's never happened in its record of watches dating to 1970, said Greg Carbin, warning coordination meteorologist for NOAA's Storm Prediction Center.

"Every day that goes by is quite remarkable (because) we're normally seeing very active day-to-day weather somewhere in the country," Carbin said. "Four watches is also unprecedented.

Even in tornado-prone Oklahoma, the dominant weather pattern of cold, stable air that prevents a tornado's ingredients from coming together means the state is again starting storm season in sluggish fashion, a repeat of the year before, said state climatologist Gary McManus.

"We haven't had the prime conditions here in Tornado Alley because the predominant weather pattern doesn't lend itself to severe weather," McManus said. "Not only are we not seeing the tornadoes, we're not seeing the supercell storm systems that spawn these tornadoes."

Adam Houston, associate professor of atmospheric science at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, cautioned that with spring just starting, so too is the peak time for tornadoes, and conditions are likely to change. For example, it was May when twisters raked the Oklahoma City suburbs of Moore and El Reno during a two-week period in 2013, killing dozens of people and injuring hundreds more.

"January and February are not active months, so (the tornado drought) hasn't been particularly surprising," he said. "If we're having this conversation in June, then there would be something substantial here."

The Saker interviews Paul Craig Roberts on the state of U.S. Empire and its plans for global control

I had been wanting to interview Paul Craig Roberts for a long time already. For many years I have been following his writings and interviews and every time I read what he had to say I was hoping that one day I would have the privilege do interview him about the nature of the US deep state and the Empire. Recently, I emailed him and asked for such an interview, and he very kindly agreed. I am very grateful to him for this opportunity.

The Saker


The Saker: It has become rather obvious to many, if not most, people that the USA is not a democracy or a republic, but rather a plutocracy run by a small elite which some call "the 1%". Others speak of the "deep state". So my first question to you is the following. Could you please take the time to assess the influence and power of each of the following entities one by one. In particular, can you specify for each of the following whether it has a decision-making "top" position, or a decision-implementing "middle" position in the real structure of power (listed in no specific order)

  • Federal Reserve

  • Big Banking

  • Bilderberg

  • Council on Foreign Relations

  • Skull & Bones

  • CIA

  • Goldman Sachs and top banks

  • "Top 100 families" (Rothschild, Rockefeller, Dutch Royal Family, British Royal Family, etc.)

  • Israel Lobby

  • Freemasons and their lodges

  • Big Business: Big Oil, Military Industrial Complex, etc.

  • Other people or organizations not listed above?

Who, which group, what entity would you consider is really at the apex of power in the current US polity?

Paul Craig Roberts: The US is ruled by private interest groups and by the neoconservative ideology that History has chosen the US as the "exceptional and indispensable" country with the right and responsibility to impose its will on the world.

In my opinion the most powerful of the private interest groups are:

The Military/security Complex

The 4 or 5 mega-sized "banks too big to fail" and Wall Street

The Israel Lobby


The Extractive industries (oil, mining, timber).

The interests of these interest groups coincide with those of the neoconservatives. The neoconservative ideology supports American financial and military-political imperialism or hegemony.

There is no independent American print or TV media. In the last years of the Clinton regime, 90% of the print and TV media was concentrated in 6 mega-companies. During the Bush regime, National Public Radio lost its independence. So the media functions as a Ministry of Propaganda.

Both political parties, Republicans and Democrats, are dependent on the same private interest groups for campaign funds, so both parties dance to the same masters. Jobs offshoring destroyed the manufacturing and industrial unions and deprived the Democrats of Labor Union political contributions. In those days, Democrats represented the working people and Republicans represented business.

The Federal Reserve is there for the banks, mainly the large ones.The Federal Reserve was created as lender of last resort to prevent banks from failing because of runs on the bank or withdrawal of deposits. The New York Fed, which conducts the financial interventions, has a board that consists of the executives of the big banks. The last three Federal Reserve chairmen have been Jews, and the current vice chairman is the former head of the Israeli central bank. Jews are prominent in the financial sector, for example, Goldman Sachs. In recent years, the US Treasury Secretaries and heads of the financial regulatory agencies have mainly been the bank executives responsible for the fraud and excessive debt leverage that set off the last financial crisis.

In the 21st century, the Federal Reserve and Treasury have served only the interests of the large banks. This has been at the expense of the economy and the population. For example, retired people have had no interest income for eight years in order that the financial institutions can borrow at zero costs and make money.

No matter how rich some families are, they cannot compete with powerful interest groups such as the military/security complex or Wall Street and the banks. Long established wealth can look after its interests, and some, such as the Rockefellers, have activist foundations that most likely work hand in hand with the National Endowment for Democracy to fund and encourage various pro-American non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in countries that the US wants to influence or overthrow, such as occurred in Ukraine. The NGOs are essentially US Fifth Columns and operate under such names as "human rights," "democracy," etc. A Chinese professor told me that the Rockefeller Foundation had created an American University in China and is used to organize various anti-regime Chinese. At one time, and perhaps still, there were hundreds of US and German financed NGOs in Russia, possibly as many as 1,000.

I don't know if the Bilderbergs do the same. Possibly they are just very rich people and have their proteges in governments who try to protect their interests. I have never seen any signs of Bilderbergs or Masons or Rothchilds affecting congressional or executive branch decisions.

On the other hand, the Council for Foreign Relations is influential. The council consists of former government policy officials and academics involved in foreign policy and international relations. The council's publication, Foreign Affairs, is the premier foreign policy forum. Some journalists are also members. When I was proposed for membership in the 1980s, I was blackballed.

Skull & Bones is a Yale University secret fraternity. A number of universities have such secret fraternities. For example, the University of Virginia has one, and the University of Georgia. These fraternities do not have secret governmental plots or ruling powers. Their influence would be limited to the personal influence of the members, who tend to be sons of elite families. In my opinion, these fraternities exist to convey elite status to members. They have no operational functions.

The Saker: What about individuals? Who are, in your opinion, the most powerful people in the USA today? Who takes the final, top level, strategic decision?

Paul Craig Roberts: There really are no people powerful in themselves. Powerful people are ones that powerful interest groups are behind. Ever since Secretary of Defense William Perry privatized so much of the military in 1991, the military/security complex has been extremely powerful, and its power is further amplified by its ability to finance political campaigns and by the fact that it is a source of employment in many states. Essentially Pentagon expenditures are controlled by defense contractors.

The Saker: I have always believed that in international terms, organizations such as NATO, the EU or all the others are only a front, and that the real alliance which controls the planet are the ECHELON countries: US, UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand aka "AUSCANNZUKUS" (they are also referred to as the "Anglosphere" or the "Five Eyes") with the US and the UK are the senior partners while Canada, Australia and New Zealand are the junior partners here. Is this model correct?

Paul Craig Roberts: NATO was a US creation allegedly to protect Europe from a Soviet invasion. Its purpose expired in 1991. Today NATO provides cover for US aggression and provides mercenary forces for the American Empire. Britain, Canada, Australia, are simply US vassal states just as are Germany, France, Italy, Japan and the rest. There are no partners; just vassals. It is Washington's empire, no one else's.

The US favors the EU, because it is easier to control than the individual countries.

The Saker: It is often said that Israel controls the USA. Chomsky, and others, say that it is the USA which controls Israel. How would you characterize the relationship between Israel and the USA - does the dog wag the tail or does the tail wag the dog? Would you say that the Israel Lobby is in total control of the USA or are there still other forces capable of saying "no" to the Israel Lobby and impose their own agenda?

Paul Craig Roberts: I have never seen any evidence that the US controls Israel. All the evidence is that Israel controls the US, but only its MidEast policy. In recent years, Israel or the Israel Lobby, has been able to control or block academic appointments in the US and tenure for professors considered to be critics of Israel. Israel has successfully reached into both Catholic and State universities to block tenure and appointments. Israel can also block some presidential appointments and has vast influence over the print and TV media. The Israel Lobby also has plenty of money for political campaign funds and never fails to unseat US Representatives and Senators considered critical of Israel. The Israel lobby was able to reach into the black congressional district of Cynthia McKinney, a black woman, and defeat her reelection. As Admiral Tom Moorer, Chief of Naval Operations and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said: "No American President can stand up to Israel." Adm. Moorer could not even get an official investigation of Israel's deadly attack on the USS Liberty in 1967.

Anyone who criticizes Israeli policies even in a helpful way is labeled an "anti-Semite."

In American politics, media, and universities, this is a death-dealing blow. You might as well get hit with a hellfire missile.

The Saker: Which of the 12 entities of power which I listed above have, in your opinion, played a key role in the planning and execution of the 9/11 "false flag" operation? After all, it is hard to imagine that this was planned and prepared between the inauguration of GW Bush and September 11th - it must have been prepared during the years of the Clinton Administration. Is it not true the the Oklahoma City bombing was a rehearsal for 9/11?

Paul Craig Roberts: In my opinion 9/11 was the product of the neoconservatives, many of whom are Jewish allied with Israel, Dick Cheney, and Israel. Its purpose was to provide "the new Pearl Harbor" that the neoconservatives said was necessary to launch their wars of conquest in the Middle East. I don't know how far back it was planned, but Silverstein was obviously part of it and he had not had the WTC for very long before 9/11.

As for the bombing of the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, US Air Force General Partin, the Air Force's munitions expert, prepared an expert report proving beyond all doubt that the building blew up from the inside out and that the truck bomb was cover. Congress and the media ignored his report. The patsy, McVeigh, was already set up, and that was the only story allowed.

The Saker: Do you think that the people who run the USA today realize that they are on a collision course with Russia which could lead to thermonuclear war? If yes, why would they take such a risk? Do they really believe that at the last moment Russian will "blink" and back down, or do they actually believe that they can win a nuclear war? Are they not afraid that in a nuclear conflagration with Russia they will lose everything they have, including their power and even their lives?

Paul Craig Roberts: I am as puzzled as much as you. I think Washington is lost in hubris and arrogance and

is more or less insane. Also, there is belief that the US can win a nuclear war with Russia. There was an article in Foreign Affairs around 2005 or 2006 in which this conclusion was reached. The belief in the winnability of nuclear war has been boosted by faith in ABM defenses. The argument is that the US can hit Russia so hard in a preemptive first strike that Russia would not retaliate in fear of a second blow.

The Saker: How do you assess the current health of the Empire? For many years we have seen clear signs of decline, but there is still not visible collapse. Do you believe that such a collapse is inevitable and, if not, how could it be prevented? Will we see the day when the US Dollar suddenly become worthless or will another mechanism precipitate the collapse of this Empire?

Paul Craig Roberts: The US economy is hollowed out. There has been no real median family income growth for decades. Alan Greenspan as Fed Chairman used an expansion of consumer credit to take the place of the missing growth in consumer income, but the population is now too indebted to take on more. So there is nothing to drive the economy. So many manufacturing and tradable professional service jobs such as software engineering have been moved offshore that the middle class has shrunk. University graduates cannot get jobs that support an independent existence. So they can't form households, buy houses, appliances and home furnishings. The government produces low inflation measures by not measuring inflation and low unemployment rates by not measuring unemployment. The financial markets are rigged, and gold is driven down despite rising demand by selling uncovered shorts in the futures market. It is a house of cards that has stood longer than I thought possible. Apparently, the house of cards can stand until the rest of the world ceases to hold the US dollar as reserves.

Possibly the empire has put too much stress on Europe by involving Europe in a conflict with Russia. If Germany, for example, were to pull out of NATO, the empire would collapse, or if Russia can find the wits to finance Greece, Italy, and Spain in exchange for them leaving the Euro and EU, the empire would suffer a fatal blow.

Alternatively, Russia might tell Europe that Russia has no alternative but to target European capitals with nuclear weapons now that Europe has joined the US in conducting war against Russia.

The Saker: Russia and China have done something unique in history and they have gone beyond the traditional model of forming an alliance: they have agreed to become interdependent - one could say that they have agreed to a symbiotic relationship. Do you believe that those in charge of the Empire have understood the tectonic change which has just happen or are they simply going into deep denial because reality scares them too much?

Paul Craig Roberts: Stephen Cohen says that there is simply no foreign policy discussion. There is no debate. I think the empire thinks that it can destabilize Russia and China and that is one reason Washington has color revolutions working in Armenia, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan. As Washington is determined to prevent the rise of other powers and is lost in hubris and arrogance, Washington probably believes that it will succeed. After all, History chose Washington.

The Saker: In your opinion, do presidential elections still matter and, if yes, what is your best hope for 2016? I am personally very afraid of Hillary Clinton whom I see as an exceptionally dangerous and outright evil person, but with the current Neocon influence inside the Republican, can we really hope for a non-Neocon candidate to win the GOP nomination?

Paul Craig Roberts: The only way a presidential election could matter would be if the elected president had behind him a strong movement. Without a movement, the president has no independent power and no one to appoint who will do his bidding. Presidents are captives. Reagan had something of a movement, just enough that we were able to cure stagflation despite Wall Street's opposition and we were able to end the cold war despite the opposition of the CIA and the military/security complex. Plus Reagan was very old and came from a long time ago. He assumed the office of the president was powerful and acted that way.

The Saker: What about the armed forces? Can you imagine a Chairman of the JCS saying "no, Mr President, that is crazy, we will not do this" or do you expect the generals to obey any order, including one starting a nuclear war against Russia? Do you have any hope that the US military could step in and stop the "crazies" currently in power in the White House and Congress?

Paul Craig Roberts: The US military is a creature of the armaments industries. The whole purpose of making general is to be qualified to be a consultant to the "defense" industry, or to become an executive or on the board of a "defense" contractor. The military serves as the source of retirement careers when the generals make the big money. The US military is totally corrupt. Read Andrew Cockburn's book, Kill Chain.

The Saker: If the USA is really deliberately going down the path towards war with Russia - what should Russia do? Should Russia back down and accept to be subjugated as a preferable option to a thermonuclear war, or should Russia resist and thereby accept the possibility of a thermonuclear war? Do you believe that a very deliberate and strong show of strength on the part of Russia could deter a US attack?

Paul Craig Roberts: I have often wondered about this. I can't say that I know. I think Putin is humane enough to surrender rather than to be part of the destruction of the world, but Putin has to answer to others inside Russia and I doubt the nationalists would stand for surrender.

In my opinion, I think Putin should focus on Europe and make Europe aware that Russia expects an American attack and will have no choice except to wipe out Europe in response. Putin should encourage Europe to break off from NATO in order to prevent World War 3.

Putin should also make sure China understands that China represents the same perceived threat to the US as Russia and that the two countries need to stand together. Perhaps if Russia and China were to maintain their forces on a nuclear alert, not the top one, but an elevated one that conveyed recognition of the American threat and conveyed this threat to the world, the US could be isolated.

Perhaps if the Indian press, the Japanese Press, the French and German press, the UK press, the Chinese and Russian press began reporting that Russia and China wonder if they will receive a pre-emptive nuclear attack from Washington the result would be to prevent the attack.

As far as I can tell from my many media interviews with the Russian media, there is no Russian awareness of the Wolfowitz Doctrine. Russians think that there is some kind of misunderstanding about Russian intentions. The Russian media does not understand that Russia is unacceptable, because Russia is not a US vassal. Russians believe all the Western bullshit about "freedom and democracy" and believe that they are short on both but making progress. In other words, Russians have no idea that they are targeted for destruction.

The Saker: What are, in your opinion, the roots of the hatred of so many members of the US elites for Russia? Is that just a leftover from the Cold War, or is there another reason for the almost universal russophobia amongst US elites? Even during the Cold War, it was unclear whether the US was anti-Communist or anti-Russian? Is there something in the Russian culture, nation or civilization which triggers that hostility and, if yes, what is it?

Paul Craig Roberts: The hostility toward Russia goes back to the Wolfowttz Doctrine:

"Our first objective is to prevent the re-emergence of a new rival, either on the territory of the former Soviet Union or elsewhere, that poses a threat on the order of that posed formerly by the Soviet Union. This is a dominant consideration underlying the new regional defense strategy and requires that we endeavor to prevent any hostile power from dominating a region whose resources would, under consolidated control, be sufficient to generate global power."

While the US was focused on its MidEast wars, Putin restored Russia and blocked Washington's planned invasion of Syria and bombing of Iran. The "first objective" of the neocon doctrine was breached. Russia had to be brought into line. That is the origin of Washington's attack on Russia. The dependent and captive US and European media simply repeats "the Russian Threat" to the public, which is insouciant and otherwise uninformed.

The offense of Russian culture is also there - Christian morals, respect for law and humanity, diplomacy in place of coercion, traditional social mores - but these are in the background. Russia is hated because Russia (and China) is a check on Washington's unilateral uni-power. This check is what will lead to war.

If the Russians and Chinese do not expect a pre-emptive nuclear attack from Washington, they will be destroyed.

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