News

1.5 Million Died of Tuberculosis in 2013

The World Health Organization has also released new data on a disease that kills far more people each year than Ebola. Nine million people developed tuberculosis last year, and 1.5 million of them died, even though the disease is curable. About 3.5 percent of cases were drug-resistant.

Migrating Monarch Butterfly Population in Mexico Drops to Record Low

The number of Monarch butterflies who fly south to spend the winter in Mexico has dropped to its lowest level since record keeping began more than 20 years ago. A new report finds the butterflies covered less than two acres of forest in December compared to nearly 45 acres during their peak in the mid-1990s. Researchers attribute the decline to factors including deforestation, extreme weather from climate change, and a rise in genetically modified corn and soybean crops designed to resist Monsanto’s Roundup weedkiller. Widespread dousing with the herbicide has destroyed milkweed, the butterflies’ food source. Experts fear the Monarchs’ annual migration from Canada and the United States to Mexico is at risk of disappearing entirely.

Climate Change Whistleblower Rick Piltz Dies After Cancer Battle

Piltz resigned from the U.S. Global Change Research Program in 2005 and provided documents which revealed how the George W. Bush administration was editing government climate reports to downplay the threat of climate change. Just days after the story broke in The New York Times, Philip Cooney, the White House official who made the edits, resigned to return to his former job as an oil industry lobbyist. Piltz later started the Climate Science Watch blog at the Government Accountability Project.

React to the killing of innocents in Middle East

Also boycott following Israeli related companies

Intel, Motorola, Hewlett-Packard (HP), Amazon.com, IBM, Pampers, Coca-Cola, Caterpillar
GAP, Banana Republic, Calvin Klein, BOSS, M&S, DKNY which uses Delta-Galils textile
Gillette, Head & Shoulders, Vicks, Old Spice, Procter & Gamble (P&G), Johnson & Johnson, Revlon, McDonald’s, Nestle, Milkmaid, Maggi, KitKat, L’Oréal

Please reduce oil use as energy source as well as fertilisers, plastics etc in the chemical industry.
This list is not complete.

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US Providing Cover for Terrorists in Syria; Fighting ISIS in Iraq

US may attempt to arm and provide air cover for terrorists in Syria after claiming success in fighting ISIS in Iraq using Kurds.
As predicted, the “sudden” appearance of the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq (ISIS) in northern Iraq weeks ago, has created the rhetorical framework within which the United States and its regional partners will attempt to militarily intervene in both Iraq and Syria. Token US airstrikes have already been underway in Iraq, and it is now revealed that US special operation forces have been operating in Syria, under the guise of attempting to rescue abducted and now slain American journalist, James Wright Foley.
The New York Times in an article titled, “U.S. Tried to Take Foley and Other Hostages From ISIS,” claimed:

A secret nighttime military mission authorized by President Obama to rescue Americans held captive in Syria failed early this summer when a team of two dozen Delta Force commandos raided an oil refinery in the northern part of the country but found after a firefight with Islamic militants that there were no hostages to be saved, administration officials said Wednesday.

With one American journalist, TIME reporter Steven Sotloff, still missing and allegedly being held by ISIS terrorists, further US military incursions into Syrian territory may be attempted under a similar alleged pretense. To further justify expanding across the border and into Syria already ongoing US military operations in Iraq, the Western media has begun claiming that ISIS leadership, “fearing” US airstrikes, are fleeing to safety in neighboring Syria.
The Wall Street Journal in its article, “Iraqis Say Some Commanders of Insurgency in Iraq Retreat to Syria,” claimed:

According to the Iraqis, the commanders went to eastern Syria, where Islamic State has built an operational base amid the chaos of civil war over the past few years. The insurgents are able to dash across the border into Syria, where that base continues to offer the space to recruit and reorganize largely unchallenged.

“They’ve got much better cover in Syria than they do in Iraq,” said Will McCants, an expert on militant Islam at the Brookings Institution and a former State Department adviser. “When they have that kind of strategic depth, they’re just allowed to live another day.”

Clearly, the answer, left for readers to arrive at on their own, is that these “successful” US airstrikes in Iraq must be carried over into Syria – where mission creep can do the rest, finally dislodging the Syrian government from power after an ongoing proxy war has failed to do so since 2011. After arming and aiding the Kurds in fighting ISIS in Iraq, the US will attempt to make a similar argument regarding the arming of terrorists in Syria and providing them direct US air support to defeat ISIS – and of course – Damascus.

It should be remembered that ISIS itself is a creation of the United States, Saudi Arabia, Israel, Qatar, and has been harbored and provided material assistance by NATO-member Turkey for years. Portrayed by various names by the Western media – ISIS, al-Nusra, the “Free Syrian Army” – in reality it is a conglomerate of Western-backed mercenary forces raised as early as 2007 to overthrow the government in Damascus and confront Iranian influence across the entire region, including in Lebanon and in Iraq.

— source globalresearch.ca

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Hundreds of sea-floor methane plumes spotted by sonar

Plumes of bubbles streaming from hundreds of newly discovered sea-floor seeps between North Carolina and Massachusetts are likely to contain methane and could be adding as much as 90 tonnes of the planet-warming gas to the atmosphere or overlying waters each year, research published today in Nature Geoscience1 suggests.

An estimated two-thirds of the emissions emanate from sediments at depths where methane-rich ices may be decomposing due to warming waters along the ocean bottom, the researchers say. Effects of these plumes on climate and ocean chemistry are not yet clear, but could extend well beyond the plumes themselves.

Sonar spots

The bubble streams showed up on sonar scans of the sea floor taken between September 2011 and August 2013 during oceanographic expeditions ranging from Cape Hatteras in North Carolina to Georges Bank off Cape Cod. Altogether, researchers analysed data covering a 94,000-square-kilometre arc (an area about the size of Indiana or Hungary) that includes the edge of the continental shelf and the steep slope just seaward of it, says co-author Adam Skarke, a geologist at Mississippi State University in Starkville. Within a distance of about 950 kilometres, the team found about 570 bubble plumes — an astounding number considering that scientists had previously reported only a handful in the region, he notes.

Although some of the plumes extended hundreds of metres above the ocean floor, the bubbles emanating from deep-water sources typically dissolved into the sea long before they could breach the surface, says Skarke.

Methane sources

“I’m not that surprised that people haven’t seen these things before,” says Tim Minshull, an oceanographer at the University of Southampton, UK, who was not involved in the work. “These features are quite narrow, sometimes just a few metres across, and the ocean’s a big place.”

Researchers have not yet collected samples of the bubbles, says Carolyn Ruppel, a geophysicist with the US Geological Survey in Woods Hole, Massachusetts, and a co-author on the study. Nevertheless, they are presumed to contain methane because of their sources, she notes. Some of the shallow-water seeps are likely to be in now-submerged areas that were methane-producing wetlands during the most recent ice age, when sea levels were more than 100 metres lower than they are today.

However, many of the sources along the continental slope lie at cold depths in which ices have formed at high pressures within sea-floor sediments, which once trapped methane produced by microbes living there. These ices may now be slowly breaking down because of the warming of overlying waters, says Skarke. At least one previous study2 has hinted that warming waters are destabilizing methane-rich ices at moderate depths farther south along the US Atlantic coast.
Ocean acidification

Sampling the bubbles, along with the waters in and around the plumes, will help scientists to estimate the effects of the methane emissions, says Skarke. The gas reacts with, and thereby diminishes, dissolved oxygen, a process that creates carbon dioxide that will tend to acidify surrounding waters.

“This is a very careful study that lays the groundwork for further research,” says Ronald Cohen, a geologist at the Carnegie Institution for Science in Washington DC, who was not involved in the study. Among other things, he notes, “scientists would like to know what these sources are, how much methane they’re producing, and how those sources vary over time.”

Although Skarke and his colleagues suspect that warming waters may be boosting rates of methane emission, the amounts of carbonate minerals seen at some deep sites visited by remotely operated vehicles — which are created by methane-munching microbes and typically accumulate at less than 5 centimetres per 1,000 years — suggest that some of the seeps have been active for a millennium or more.

— source nature.com

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Airports’ global bird slaughter – 100,000s gassed, shot, poisoned

Aircraft share airspace with birds, so collisions, or ‘bird strikes’ as they’re known in the trade, are inevitable. A bird strike in New York, the ‘Hudson Miracle’, seared the threat to aviation safety into the consciousness of air crew and passengers alike.

On 15th January 2009, Canada geese were sucked into both engines of a US Airways Airbus 320 shortly after take-off from New York’s La Guardia Airport. The speed of the aircraft magnifies the force of impact of the collision and both engines lost power.

Disaster was narrowly averted by the pilot, Chesley Sullenberger, who saved the lives of all on board by successfully ditching the plane in the Hudson River.

Collisions with aircraft are almost always fatal for birds. When they are sucked into and minced up in engines the species might only be identified by DNA sequencing analysis of remains. When birds collide with the nose, wings or fuselage of a plane they leave blood smeared dents. Birds can smash through the windshield of small aircraft, leaving pilots spattered with blood.

Culling geese

Shortly after the Hudson incident New York’s three main airports – JFK, La Guardia and Newark – began culling Canada geese. This escaped public attention until June 2010, when wildlife officials rounded up nearly 400 birds in Prospect Park and took them to a nearby building, where they were gassed with carbon dioxide at a lethal concentration.

Residents’ shock the following day, when they found the park devoid of geese, triggered the establishment of GoosewatchNYC, a lively campaign for co-existence with urban wildlife and humane alternatives to culling.

Campaigners pointed out the futility of killing the geese. DNA testing revealed that the geese in the Hudson bird strike were not resident birds, but a migratory species which had flown south from northern Canada.

GoosewatchNYC drew attention to the carnage that would be necessary should authorities attempt to eliminate the risk of aircraft collisions with migratory birds: “In order to guarantee preventing a repeat occurrence would essentially require killing every bird on the eastern seaboard.”

While not adopting such an extreme policy, authorities increased culling. By autumn 2013 geese were being rounded up from municipal properties within a 160 square kilometre area.

On 6th June 2010, a collision with geese brought down another plane. A Boeing 737 departing from Schiphol Airport, carrying six crew and 156 passengers, was seriously damaged when it struck a flock of geese. The pilot struggled with the controls when the left engine lost power and caught fire, but managed to land the safely back at Schiphol.

Investigators discovered the mangled carcasses of 24 geese in the landing gear and the electronics compartment. Seven more were found dead on the runway. Geese are attracted to agricultural land around the airport, and, in 2012, 5,000 were gassed.

Bird protection groups suggested planting crops that would not attract geese, but the area where geese are deemed a hazard to aircraft was extended to cover a 20 kilometre radius around the airport, and a further 10,000 were gassed between January and July 2013.

Airport kill lists

Community opposition to bird culling in New York intensified in December 2013 when snowy owls were added to the kill list. After five bird strikes at JFK involving snowy owls, in the space of just two weeks, three were shot.

In response to an online petition urging a cease fire, that quickly garnered 63,000 signatures, the Port Authority stopped killing snowy owls and committed to adopting non-lethal alternative methods. Now, snowy owls will be trapped and relocated, the most humane option, but only feasible for managing small numbers of birds.

The first ever snowy owl to be spotted near Honolulu Airport’s runways was not so lucky. Attempts to frighten it away with flares and catch it in a net failed, so a wildlife official shot it.

New York Port Authority’s reprieve for snowy owls was not extended to other species. In January, it announced plans to eliminate the entire population of 2,200 wild mute swans, aside from a few to be held in captivity.

Conveniently for the airports, landowners and authorities concurred in the view that the mute swans are ‘pests’ – and promulgated the view that, in addition to posing a risk to airliners, the birds attack people, destroy vegetation and pollute water because their droppings contain E-coli.

GooseWatchNYC founder David Karopkin pointed out that the swans had been living in the state for almost 200 years and demanded that the ‘outrageous’ plan be scrapped. Within a few weeks 50,000 people had commented on the plan and the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) announced that it would be revised.

But airports’ culling practices have exacted a heavy toll on many species of birds. In May 2014 records showed that, over a five year period, JFK Airport wildlife control officers had shot 26,000 birds.

More than 1,600 of these were from 18 protected species that airports did not have permission to kill including red-winged blackbirds, snowy egrets and American kestrels. In spite of the slaughter, the number of collisions has not declined.

To the south, in New Jersey, the picture is similar. 6,000 animals, mainly birds, have been killed in the name of air safety. Here too, the number of collisions with aircraft has not declined.

Over on the west coast, five airports in the San Francisco Bay area shot 3,000 birds in a two-year period up to May 2013, including 57 red-tailed hawks. Medium-sized birds such as gulls, ducks and hawks, and even small birds including starlings and blackbirds are also targetted, as dense flocks can being down a plane.

Worcester Airport in Massachusetts shoots small birds including swallows, horned larks and snow bunting. Sea-Tac (Seattle-Tacoma) Airport’s wildlife hazard management programme involves killing ‘invasive’ species, including 2,000 starlings per year.

Between 1990 and 2012 bird strike investigations throughout the US identified the remains of no less than 482 species, including loons, starlings, grebes, pelicans, cormorants, herons, storks, egrets, vultures, hawks, eagles, cranes, sandpipers, pigeons, owls, turkeys and blackbirds.

But the number of bird strikes has continued to rise since the Hudson incident, reaching 9,000 in 2012. The real level is probably double this amount because airlines are not required to report minor incidences. The continued rise in bird strikes gives credence to the opinion of a number of experts, who argue that culling is ineffective, creating vacant habitats that are rapidly populated by other birds.

Shooting, poisoning

In the aftermath of the Hudson incident airports around the world adopted a hard-line approach to birds.

Lishe Airport, on China’s east coast, which had previously dealt with migrating egrets, stopping to feed on nearby grassland, with gunshot sounds and capturing them in nets began spraying rat poison on the birds’ food sources and shooting them.

Changi responded to the post-Hudson panic by inviting the local gun club to shoot birds including white-bellied sea eagles. Following a public outcry Changi stopped shooting birds and stepped up its efforts to keep them away, by eradicating their food sources, covering up water sources and installing ‘anti-perching devices’ slopes and spikes on top of buildings, and dispersing them with lasers.

Yet airport artwork appropriates avian imagery; 1,216 bronze droplets connected to motors form the world’s largest ‘kinetic sculpture’, moving to create a hot air balloon, a kite, a flock of birds and other flight related shapes.

Outdoor artwork at Auckland Airport includes five albatross sculptures crafted from cast iron. This whimsical installation belies the airport’s brutal approach to birdlife.

When the airport conducted its first black swan cull this July, 788 were shot from a helicopter. The swans had moved to the area because their habitat – lakes several kilometres away – was destroyed. Intensive agriculture, especially dairy herds, removed aquatic vegetation which served as their food source.

In Britain, red kites, distinctive birds of prey with angled wings and a forked tail were reintroduced to the Chiltern hills after being hunted almost to extinction. Sometimes they wander onto RAF Benson airfield, where a ‘considerable programme of non-lethal measures’ failed to prevent four collisions over the last two years. The airfield has been issued with a license to shoot red kites if there is a risk of collision with aircraft.

At least shooting kills the majority of birds quickly. At Houston’s Bush Intercontinental Airport, in Houston, United Airlines poisoned hundreds of birds by laying out corn kernels laced with a toxin. The poison, a nerve agent, was not fast-acting; birds took up to an hour to die. Videos taken by airport employees showed pigeons and great-tailed grackles suffering convulsions.

Perhaps the cruellest method of destroying birdlife is the enlistment of another species, by the Beijing Air Force. Two monkeys were trained to remove birds’ nests, because of concerns over millions of migratory birds flying northwards during spring. Each monkey can remove between six and eight nests a day; by May, they had removed a total of about 180.

Deterrence methods

For the most part, airports use a variety of methods to make sites inhospitable to birds and frighten them, only resorting to culling should these measures fail to keep them away. Fruit trees, grasses and other plants that attract insects and small mammals that birds feed on are removed.

Sometimes vegetation is simply replaced with asphalt. Detention ponds, built to protect the airport from flooding, are covered with netting or hollow plastic balls, have steeply sloped sides and are surrounded by quarry ‘spalls’ – sharp edged stones that are painful for birds to walk on. Beyond the airport boundary, water sources that birds need for drinking and food might be filled in or covered up.

After a plane collided with two peacocks Sri Lanka’s new Mattala Airport in January, authorities began destroying habitats – removing vegetation and closing water holes, having recognised that culling would be met with protests. Yet, like many airports, Mattala is adorned with artwork suggesting an affinity with birdlife; on the approach road there is a giant metal sculpture of peacock.

Vancouver Airport’s wildlife control programme comprises predatory falcons trained to chase them away, bright lights, strings of tinsel, patrol boats and pyrotechnic noise makers. But the airport still uses shotguns. In 2010, 1,987 birds were shot, more than double the average over the previous five years. Yet the number of bird strikes for the year, 217, was higher than the average of 189 over the previous five years.

Biotechnologists in New Zealand have come up with a more comprehensive approach to habitat management. A grass that repels birds has a ‘symbiotic fungus’ growing within it, which reduces the population of insects that attract birds, and makes birds sick if they ingest it, so they don’t return.

Test plots at Christchurch, Auckland and Hamilton airports have reduced the number of birds by 95%, so this must surely be considered a success. However this also demonstrates that such approaches to reduce the risk of bird strikes will also impact on wider biodiversity.

A growing number of airports use avian radar to detect birds. It is effective at distances of up to 9.5 kilometres and can even identify species. But it tends to be used in conjunction with deterrence measures.

For example, Dallas/Fort Worth Airport also uses propane cannons, pyrotechnic shells fired from a handgun with a range of sounds to target different species and falcons. However this arsenal of dispersal methods is of limited effectiveness – last year planes collided with 333 birds, the main victims being doves.

Few fatalities from bird strikes

The manner in which airports are stepping up the slaughter would suggest that bird strikes are a major cause of serious air accidents. In fact, the vast majority of afflicted planes land safely. About 5,000 collisions with birds occur every year, but airliners are built to withstand the impact.

The Hudson bird strike, so alarming because an emergency landing on a runway was not possible, was a highly unusual occurrence of birds being sucked into both engines.

Furthermore, only a small proportion of bird strikes result in fatalities. Since 1988, wildlife strikes, predominantly birds but also animals wandering onto runways, have destroyed about 229 planes worldwide. More than 250 people were killed, but this is a small proportion of deaths caused by air accidents.

In 2013 alone there were 265 air crash fatalities, and that was the safest year on record. Over the last ten years the annual average was 720 fatalities. The majority of serious air accidents are caused by mechanical failure, bad weather, pilot error, or a chain of events involving one or more of these factors. More human lives could be saved by increasing efforts to address these aspects of air safety.

Keep airports away from birds!

And the most effective way of minimising bird strikes, aside from constraining aviation growth so that skies are not so crowded, is not to build airports in or near important bird habitats and migratory flightpaths.

The threat to birds and air safety is a key reason for opposing any new airports, or airport expansions, in areas important for birds. One such is Istanbul’s third airport, which has already commenced on wetlands and forests to the north of the city.

Another – still at an early stage where it may be successfully combatted – is the proposed new hub airport for the UK in the Thames estuary, widely known as ‘Boris Island’ thanks to the strong support given to it by London Mayor Boris Johnson.

As highlighted by RSPB, which is “vehemently opposed to the construction of an airport in the Thames Estuary and that includes any and all of the latest proposals that have come forward”, the proposed airport would devastate valuable – and highly protected – habitat that supports hundreds of thousands of year-round and migratory birds.

The Thames Estuary contains a Special Area of Conservation (SAC) and five Special Protection Areas (SPA), sites protected under EU law. All of the proposed airport sites conflict with one or more of them.

— source theecologist.org

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Climate scientists dub this year’s El Niño “a real enigma”

Last month, forecasters were predicting with 90 per cent certainty we’d see an El Niño by the end of the year, driving severe weather patterns worldwide. But with little sign so far of the ocean and atmospheric changes scientists expected, those odds have dropped off quite a bit.

We’ll probably still see an El Niño before the year’s out but it’s unlikely to be a strong one, scientists are saying.

What is an El Niño?

Every five years or so, a change in the winds causes a shift to warmer than normal ocean temperatures in the equatorial Pacific Ocean – a phenomena known as El Niño.

Together, El Niño and its cooler counterpart La Niña are known as the El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO). Between them, they’re responsible for most of the fluctuations in global weather we see from one year to the next.

Sea surface temperature during El Niño (left) and La Niña (right). Red and blue show warmer and cooler temperatures than the long term average. [Credit: Steve Albers, NOAA]

What happens when an El Niño hits?

Each time a switch occurs, changes in the ocean and atmosphere above it affect global temperature and rainfall patterns worldwide.

In El Niño years, Indonesia and Australia see below average rainfall, while South America and parts of the United States see more than usual.

The ocean releases heat into the atmosphere in El Niño years. Added to the warming we’re seeing from greenhouse gases, this puts El Niño years among the warmest on record.

You can see this in the graph below showing global temperature between 1950 and 2013. Five of the top ten warmest years are El Niño years (orange bars).


Global temperature anomalies for 1950-2013 showing the phase of the El Niño-La Niña cycle (Credit: NASA/GSFC/Earth Observatory, NASA/GISS)

When will the next El Niño be?

Since the last El Niño in 2009/2010 the Pacific has been in either a neutral or La Niña phase. Most of 2012 and all of 2013 saw neutral conditions – and we’re still in neutral phase now.

Earlier this year, the ocean looked to be primed for an El Niño, with above average temperatures in the eastern Pacific lasting throughout March and May.

But the atmosphere has “largely failed to respond” to sea surface temperatures and scientists’ confidence in an El Nino developing in 2014 has eased a bit, says the Australian Bureau of Meteorology, whose climate models now put the chances of this happening at about 50 per cent.

The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) suggests higher odds. Its latest predictions suggest a 70 per cent chance of an El Niño in Summer and 80 per cent during autumn or winter.

You can see in the graph below how climate models forecast sea surface temperatures in the Pacific will evolve in the next few months. Each colour is a different model.

Forecasts for sea surface temperature anomaly, as of 15th July 2014. Source: the International Research Institute (IRI) for Climate and Society at Columbia University.

How strong will the next El Niño be?

Back in April, professor Mat Collins from Exeter University told us that although conditions in the Pacific at the time looked similar to those before the large 1997/8 event, the ocean can change very quickly.

In other words, the signs were there but it was still too soon to say if the next event would be a strong, moderate or weak one. We asked Collins what he thinks now, and he said:

“I think this year’s El Nino has been a real enigma. Many of us were thinking that it would be a big event this year, but now the signal is pretty weak and a strong event seems quite unlikely.”

NOAA is now predicting a “weak-to-moderate” event and the Australian Bureau of Meteorology has eased its projections for the next El Niño’s potential strength too, saying:

“If an El Niño were to occur, it is increasingly unlikely to be a strong event.”

Will we see the hottest year on record?

Back in April, scientists suggested the next El Niño, on top of continuing greenhouse gas warming, could see surface temperatures topping the charts for the warmest year on record.

At the time, Collins told us:

“[T]he influence of El Niño on global mean temperatures is well known so my guess is the chance of seeing a record warm year is pretty high, especially if it is a large event”.

But any temperature-boosting potential of the next El Niño looks fairly limited at the moment, Collins says:

“If you compare the situation now with the state of the Pacific in summer 1997 (i.e. before the big 1997/98 event), it is very different … [Right now] we just have some weak and disorganised sea surface temperature anomalies, pretty average trade winds and even the subsurface ocean doesn’t have much of a signal.”

We could still see chart-topping temperatures even without an El Niño. 2013 and 2002 were the 4th and 6th hottest years on record, respectively, despite ENSO-neutral conditions.

So far, 2014 equals 2002 as the 3rd warmest January to June on record, with global surface temperatures 0.67 degrees Celsius above the 20th century average. The map below shows regions with June temperatures four degrees higher than the 1981-2010 average.


Land and surface temperatures in June 2014, compared to the 1981-2010 average. Source: NOAA

Are El Niños getting stronger?

Recent research suggests ENSO events have been unusually strong in the later part of 20th century compared to the past 7,000 years – 42 per cent stronger, on average.

Professor Kim Cobb from Georgia Tech university told us recently how human-caused warming could increase the strength of ENSO:

“[C]limate change is much more than ‘global warming’ […]. Because ENSO involves feedbacks between the wind strength, ocean temperature, and circulation, a change in any related climate parameter would arguably have some effect on ENSO strength”.

A new paper in Nature Climate Change suggests El Niños and La Niñas are likely to intensify with rising greenhouse gases, peaking at 13 per cent stronger than the late 20th century average by about 2040.

But after 2040, the authors expect to see ENSO events weaken again as different rates of warming across the Pacific Ocean bring about a change in the winds, the paper explains.

Given the destructive consequences of El Niño and La Niña, it’s not hard to see why research into the potential links with greenhouse gas warming is so important.

As for what this year’s El Niño has in store, the next official update from the Australian government is expected on 12th August.

— source skepticalscience.com

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A guide to staying secure

Now that we have enough details about how the NSA eavesdrops on the internet, including today’s disclosures of the NSA’s deliberate weakening of cryptographic systems, we can finally start to figure out how to protect ourselves.

For the past two weeks, I have been working with the Guardian on NSA stories, and have read hundreds of top-secret NSA documents provided by whistleblower Edward Snowden. I wasn’t part of today’s story – it was in process well before I showed up – but everything I read confirms what the Guardian is reporting.

At this point, I feel I can provide some advice for keeping secure against such an adversary.

The primary way the NSA eavesdrops on internet communications is in the network. That’s where their capabilities best scale. They have invested in enormous programs to automatically collect and analyze network traffic. Anything that requires them to attack individual endpoint computers is significantly more costly and risky for them, and they will do those things carefully and sparingly.

Leveraging its secret agreements with telecommunications companies – all the US and UK ones, and many other “partners” around the world – the NSA gets access to the communications trunks that move internet traffic. In cases where it doesn’t have that sort of friendly access, it does its best to surreptitiously monitor communications channels: tapping undersea cables, intercepting satellite communications, and so on.

That’s an enormous amount of data, and the NSA has equivalently enormous capabilities to quickly sift through it all, looking for interesting traffic. “Interesting” can be defined in many ways: by the source, the destination, the content, the individuals involved, and so on. This data is funneled into the vast NSA system for future analysis.

The NSA collects much more metadata about internet traffic: who is talking to whom, when, how much, and by what mode of communication. Metadata is a lot easier to store and analyze than content. It can be extremely personal to the individual, and is enormously valuable intelligence.

The Systems Intelligence Directorate is in charge of data collection, and the resources it devotes to this is staggering. I read status report after status report about these programs, discussing capabilities, operational details, planned upgrades, and so on. Each individual problem – recovering electronic signals from fiber, keeping up with the terabyte streams as they go by, filtering out the interesting stuff – has its own group dedicated to solving it. Its reach is global.

The NSA also attacks network devices directly: routers, switches, firewalls, etc. Most of these devices have surveillance capabilities already built in; the trick is to surreptitiously turn them on. This is an especially fruitful avenue of attack; routers are updated less frequently, tend not to have security software installed on them, and are generally ignored as a vulnerability.

The NSA also devotes considerable resources to attacking endpoint computers. This kind of thing is done by its TAO – Tailored Access Operations – group. TAO has a menu of exploits it can serve up against your computer – whether you’re running Windows, Mac OS, Linux, iOS, or something else – and a variety of tricks to get them on to your computer. Your anti-virus software won’t detect them, and you’d have trouble finding them even if you knew where to look. These are hacker tools designed by hackers with an essentially unlimited budget. What I took away from reading the Snowden documents was that if the NSA wants in to your computer, it’s in. Period.

The NSA deals with any encrypted data it encounters more by subverting the underlying cryptography than by leveraging any secret mathematical breakthroughs. First, there’s a lot of bad cryptography out there. If it finds an internet connection protected by MS-CHAP, for example, that’s easy to break and recover the key. It exploits poorly chosen user passwords, using the same dictionary attacks hackers use in the unclassified world.

As was revealed today, the NSA also works with security product vendors to ensure that commercial encryption products are broken in secret ways that only it knows about. We know this has happened historically: CryptoAG and Lotus Notes are the most public examples, and there is evidence of a back door in Windows. A few people have told me some recent stories about their experiences, and I plan to write about them soon. Basically, the NSA asks companies to subtly change their products in undetectable ways: making the random number generator less random, leaking the key somehow, adding a common exponent to a public-key exchange protocol, and so on. If the back door is discovered, it’s explained away as a mistake. And as we now know, the NSA has enjoyed enormous success from this program.

TAO also hacks into computers to recover long-term keys. So if you’re running a VPN that uses a complex shared secret to protect your data and the NSA decides it cares, it might try to steal that secret. This kind of thing is only done against high-value targets.

How do you communicate securely against such an adversary? Snowden said it in an online Q&A soon after he made his first document public: “Encryption works. Properly implemented strong crypto systems are one of the few things that you can rely on.”

I believe this is true, despite today’s revelations and tantalizing hints of “groundbreaking cryptanalytic capabilities” made by James Clapper, the director of national intelligence in another top-secret document. Those capabilities involve deliberately weakening the cryptography.

Snowden’s follow-on sentence is equally important: “Unfortunately, endpoint security is so terrifically weak that NSA can frequently find ways around it.”

Endpoint means the software you’re using, the computer you’re using it on, and the local network you’re using it in. If the NSA can modify the encryption algorithm or drop a Trojan on your computer, all the cryptography in the world doesn’t matter at all. If you want to remain secure against the NSA, you need to do your best to ensure that the encryption can operate unimpeded.

With all this in mind, I have five pieces of advice:

1) Hide in the network. Implement hidden services. Use Tor to anonymize yourself. Yes, the NSA targets Tor users, but it’s work for them. The less obvious you are, the safer you are.

2) Encrypt your communications. Use TLS. Use IPsec. Again, while it’s true that the NSA targets encrypted connections – and it may have explicit exploits against these protocols – you’re much better protected than if you communicate in the clear.

3) Assume that while your computer can be compromised, it would take work and risk on the part of the NSA – so it probably isn’t. If you have something really important, use an air gap. Since I started working with the Snowden documents, I bought a new computer that has never been connected to the internet. If I want to transfer a file, I encrypt the file on the secure computer and walk it over to my internet computer, using a USB stick. To decrypt something, I reverse the process. This might not be bulletproof, but it’s pretty good.

4) Be suspicious of commercial encryption software, especially from large vendors. My guess is that most encryption products from large US companies have NSA-friendly back doors, and many foreign ones probably do as well. It’s prudent to assume that foreign products also have foreign-installed backdoors. Closed-source software is easier for the NSA to backdoor than open-source software. Systems relying on master secrets are vulnerable to the NSA, through either legal or more clandestine means.

5) Try to use public-domain encryption that has to be compatible with other implementations. For example, it’s harder for the NSA to backdoor TLS than BitLocker, because any vendor’s TLS has to be compatible with every other vendor’s TLS, while BitLocker only has to be compatible with itself, giving the NSA a lot more freedom to make changes. And because BitLocker is proprietary, it’s far less likely those changes will be discovered. Prefer symmetric cryptography over public-key cryptography. Prefer conventional discrete-log-based systems over elliptic-curve systems; the latter have constants that the NSA influences when they can.

Since I started working with Snowden’s documents, I have been using GPG, Silent Circle, Tails, OTR, TrueCrypt, BleachBit, and a few other things I’m not going to write about. There’s an undocumented encryption feature in my Password Safe program from the command line); I’ve been using that as well.

I understand that most of this is impossible for the typical internet user. Even I don’t use all these tools for most everything I am working on. And I’m still primarily on Windows, unfortunately. Linux would be safer.

The NSA has turned the fabric of the internet into a vast surveillance platform, but they are not magical. They’re limited by the same economic realities as the rest of us, and our best defense is to make surveillance of us as expensive as possible.

Trust the math. Encryption is your friend. Use it well, and do your best to ensure that nothing can compromise it. That’s how you can remain secure even in the face of the NSA.

— source theguardian.com

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Peak Meat Production Strains Land and Water Resources

The steady growth of global meat production comes at considerable cost. Industrial methods in the livestock sector cut down forests to expand grazing lands and use large quantities of water. Production uses grains (such as corn or soybeans) for animal feed and relies on heavy doses of antibiotics in animals. Beef is particularly resource-intensive. Limiting these environmental and health impacts requires not only a look at how much meat people eat, but also at the kind of meat that they consume worldwide, writes Worldwatch Institute Senior Researcher Michael Renner.

Global meat production rose to a new peak of 308.5 million tons in 2013, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). In response to growing purchasing power, urbanization, and changing diets, meat production has expanded more than fourfold over just the last five decades. Even more startlingly, meat production has grown 25-fold since 1800.

The growth in meat consumption has not been constrained by rising prices in the last decade. Worldwide, meat consumption stood at 42.9 kilograms (kg) per capita in 2013. Even though the gap is beginning to close, people in industrial countries continue to eat much larger quantities of meat (75.9 kg) than those in developing nations (33.7 kg).

Close to 70 percent of the planet’s agricultural land is used for animal pasture. Another 10 percent is used to grow grains to feed livestock (for meat and dairy). Producing beef is much more resource-intensive than producing pork or chicken, requiring roughly three to five times as much land to generate the same amount of protein. Beef production alone uses about three fifths of global farmland but yields less than 5 percent of the world’s protein.

Meat production also consumes a lot of water. Agriculture uses about 70 percent of the world’s available freshwater, and one third of that is used to grow the grain fed to livestock. Beef is by far the most water-intensive of all meats. The more than 15,000 liters of water used per kilogram is far more than is required by a number of staple foods, such as rice (3,400 liters per kg), eggs (3,300 liters), milk (1,000 liters), or potatoes (255 liters).

Worldwide, more than 40 percent of wheat, rye, oats, and corn production is fed to animals, along with 250 million tons of soybeans and other oilseeds. Feeding grain to livestock improves their fertility and growth, but it sets up a de facto competition for food between cattle and people.

Heavy doses of antibiotics are used to speed animal growth and reduce the likelihood of disease outbreak in cramped conditions. In the United States, 13,600 tons of antibiotics were sold for use in livestock operations in 2011—almost four times the 3,500 tons used to treat ill people. Even this number, however, pales in comparison with the possibly more than 100,000 tons used in China’s meat production.

Alternative practices could reduce these environmental and health impacts. Solutions like switching feed from grains to grass and other plants, using natural instead of synthetic fertilizers, and ending factory-style livestock operations are a start. But dietary choices also make a big difference. Until broader changes sweep through the meat-production system, eating less meat, or choosing lower-impact meats, typically means leading a less resource-intensive life.

Country and Regional Highlights from the Report:

Asia’s 131.5 million tons of meat accounted for close to 43 percent of world output in 2013. Europe was second (58.5 million tons), followed by North America (47.2 million tons) and South America (39.9 million tons).
Chinasingle-handedly accounted for nearly half of global pig meat production in 2013.
The two most important exporters of meat in 2013 were the United States (7.6 million tons) and Brazil (6.4 million tons), together representing 45 percent of global trade.
Just two countries—Australia and New Zealand—were responsible for a stunning 84 percent of the world’s lamb and mutton exports.
The 10 largest meat companies, measured by their 2011–13 sales, are headquartered in just six countries: Brazil (JBS, BRF, Marfrig), United States (Tyson Food, Cargill, Hormel Foods), Netherlands (Vion), Japan (Nippon Meat Packers), Denmark (Danish Crown AmbA), China (Smithfield Foods- acquired by Shuanghui International Holdings in 2013).

— source worldwatch.org

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Wanna fight with me?

Venturi to realise 600+ km/h electric speed record

Venturi likes to take up a challenge. The Monaco-based manufacturer of electric sports cars and competitor in the all-electric FIA Formula E Championship is also known for its current land speed record with an electric vehicle. Set in 2010, the Venturi BB-2.5 reached 495 km/h. But improvements made on the new machine might take speed trails to a whole new level.

This project was initiated five years ago and is carried out in partnership with the Ohio State University, enabling them to set the benchmark in the field of high-performance electric vehicles at the Bonneville Salt Flats in the United States.

It’s not glory that attracts the team of top engineers to get listed in the records, but Venturi wisely uses its programme to test electric powertrains and components in extreme conditions. It represents a thorough R&D programme that moves Venturi forward.

Pushing boundaries

There are more challenges to tackle. A Citroën Berlingo powered by Venturi set an unassisted distance record for an electric vehicle: covering 14,900 kilometres from Shanghai to Paris. A next journey was set in Africa where access to electricity is limited. 6,000 kilometres were covered; including 600 km of rough terrain was overcome. But can you also imagine sending a vehicle to Antarctica? Venturi likes to push the boundaries of technology and will soon send a purpose built electric vehicle to the coldest place on earth to help scientists carrying out their research safely.


One of the two 1,500 hp electric motors (3,000 hp total)

New FIA speed record?
The ‘Venturi Buckeye Bullet’ also carries the name of ‘La Jamais Contente’ (the never satisfied), honouring Camille Jenatzy’s electric car, the first vehicle that breached the 100 km/h barrier already in 1899.

Venturi reached 487 km/h at the Bonneville Salt Flats with a hydrogen fuel cell powered vehicle in 2009 and sharpened its record to 495 km/h a year later. That one was set with state-of-the-art battery technology under the hood.

This week, Venturi aims to set a new FIA electric world speed record with its VBB-3, a four wheel drive 2,200 kW (3,000 hp) machine with a total torque up to 2,800 Nm. This is a significant improvement for the vehicle that is 11.35 metres in length.

ny length of the course can measure the land speed record. Only the middle mile and kilometre will be timed and the average of two runs (both directions) will determine the average speed. Both runs must be achieved within one hour to qualify for FIA certification.

Roger Schroer will pilot the Venturi VVB-3. The driving instructor from the Transportation Research Centre in Ohio is one of the 60 members of the 300 mph Club, passing the 300 miles per hour (482,8 km/h) on an official timed run. Venturi expects that Schroer might soon enter the very elite 400 mph Club, now consisting of just seven drivers.

— source electricautosport.com

Get lost you oil.

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Russian plan is a godsend for Obama

Noam Chomsky talking:

It saves him from what would look like a very serious political defeat. He has not been able to obtain virtually any international support for this—the action he’s contemplating. Even Britain wouldn’t support it. And it looked as though Congress wasn’t going to support it either, which would leave him completely out on a limb. This leaves him a way out.

He can maintain the threat of force, which incidentally is a crime under international law, that we should bear in mind that the core principle of the United Nations Charter bars the threat or use of force, threat or use of force. So all of this is criminal, to begin with, but he’ll continue with that. The United States is a rogue state. It doesn’t pay any attention to international law.

He—it was kind of interesting what he didn’t say. This would be a perfect opportunity to ban chemical weapons, to impose the chemical weapons convention on the Middle East. The convention, contrary to what Obama said, does not specifically refer just to use of chemical weapons; it refers to production, storage or use of chemical weapons. That’s banned by the international norm that Obama likes to preach about. Well, there is a country which happens to be—happens to have illegally annexed part of Syrian territory, which has chemical weapons and is in violation of the chemical weapons convention and has refused even to ratify it—namely, Israel. So here’s an opportunity to eliminate chemical weapons from the region, to impose the chemical weapons convention as it’s actually formulated. But Obama was very careful not to say that he—for reasons which are too obvious to go into—he—and that gap is highly significant. Of course, chemical weapons should be eliminated everywhere, but certainly in that region.

The other things that he said were not unusual, but nevertheless kind of shocking to anyone not familiar with U.S. political discourse, at least. So he described the United—he said that for seven decades the United States has been “the anchor of global security.” Really? Seven decades? That includes, for example, just 40 years ago today, when the United States played a major role in overthrowing the parliamentary democracy of Chile and imposing a brutal dictatorship, called “the first 9/11″ in Latin America. Go back earlier years, overthrowing the parliamentary system in Iran, imposing a dictatorship; same in Guatemala a year later; attacking Indochina, the worst crime in the postwar period, killing millions of people; attacking Central America; killing—involved in killing—in imposing a dictatorship in the Congo; and invading Iraq—on and on. That’s stability? I mean, that a Harvard Law School graduate can pronounce those words is pretty amazing, as is the fact that they’re accepted without comment.

So what he said is I’m going to lie like a trooper about history; I’m going to suppress the U.S. role, the actual U.S. role, for the last seven decades; I’m going to maintain the threat of force, which is of course illegal; and I’m going to ensure that the chemical weapons convention is not imposed on the region, because our ally, Israel, would be subjected to it. And I think those are some of the main points of his address.

yes, a good idea to look at the videos of the gas attack in Syria. But then we could also look at the photos of deformed fetuses in Saigon hospitals still appearing decades after John F. Kennedy launched a major chemical warfare attack against South Vietnam, 1961, dousing the country with poisonous dioxin-laced Agent Orange. Dioxin is one of the major carcinogens. The attack was aimed at food crops, in an effort—and at ground cover, part of a general assault against the country—a huge number of atrocities, millions of people killed. The chemical—the effects of chemical warfare are felt until today, partially by American soldiers, too. Or we could look at the photos of other deformed fetuses coming regularly in Fallujah, attacked by U.S. Marines in November 2004, killing several thousand people, destroying much of the town, using weapons which—of unknown character, but which left radiation levels that epidemiologists have estimated are comparable to Hiroshima. And the effects of that on high cancer rates, on deformed fetuses, on children devastated by horrifying deformities, that we could look at, too. Now, those are the ways in which the U.S. has brought—has been the anchor for global security for seven decades. Can run through the record, if there were time, but everyone should know it. These, of course—that’s not said.

The U.S.—the idea that the U.S. has introduced and imposed principles of international law, that’s hardly even a joke. The United States has even gone so far as to veto Security Council resolutions calling on all states to observe international law. That was in the 1980s under Reagan. No state was mentioned, but it was evident that the intention was to request the United States to observe international law, after it had rejected a World Court judgment condemning it for what was called unlawful use of force—it means international terrorism—against Nicaragua. In fact, the U.S. has been a rogue state, the leading rogue state, radically violating international law, refusing to accept international conventions. There’s hardly any international conventions that the U.S. has accepted, and those few that it has accepted are conditioned so as to be inapplicable to the United States. That’s true even of the genocide convention. The United States is self-authorized to commit genocide. In fact, that was accepted by the International Court of Justice. In the case of Yugoslavia v. NATO, one of the charges was genocide. The U.S. appealed to the court, saying that, by law, the United States is immune to the charge of genocide, self-immunized, and the court accepted that, so the case proceeded against the other NATO powers but not against the United States. In fact, the United States, when it joined the World Court—it helped introduce the modern World Court in 1946, and joined the World Court, but with a reservation. The reservation is that international agreements, laws, do not apply to the United States. So the U.N. Charter, the charter of the Organization of American States, the U.S. is immune to their—self-immunized to their requirements against the threat and use of force, intervention and so on.

It’s kind of astonishing. I mean, by now it’s hard to be astonished, but it should be astonishing that a president of the United States, who is furthermore a constitutional lawyer or a graduate of Harvard Law School, can say things like this, in the full knowledge that the facts are exactly the opposite, radically the opposite. And there are millions and millions of victims who can testify to that. Right today is—happens to be an important date, the 40th anniversary of the overthrow of the parliamentary democracy of Chile, with substantial U.S. aid, because we insisted on having a vicious dictatorship, which became a major international terror center with our support, rather than allowing a Democratic Socialist government. Well, that’s—these are some of the realities of the world. Now, the picture that the president presented is—it doesn’t even merit the name fairy tale.

The appropriate response would be to call for imposing the chemical weapons convention in the Middle East—in fact beyond, but we’ll keep to the Middle East—which would mean that any country that is in violation of that convention, whether it has accepted it or not, would be compelled to eliminate its chemical weapons stores. Just maintaining those stores, producing chemical weapons, all of that’s in violation of the convention, and now is a perfect opportunity to do that. Of course, that would require that U.S. ally Israel give up its chemical weapons and permit international inspections. Incidentally, this should extend to nuclear weapons, as well. The further step would be to move towards the kinds of negotiations, Geneva negotiations, that the U.N. negotiator, Lakhdar Brahimi, has been calling for, with Russian support and with the United States kind of dragging its feet. Obama misstated that, too, last night. That’s the one thin hope, and it’s pretty thin, for some way to allow Syria to escape what is in fact a plunged, virtual suicide.

The United States is a violent military state. It’s been involved in military action all over the place. It invaded South Vietnam, practically destroyed Indochina, invaded Iraq, elicited a Sunni-Shia conflict, which is now tearing the region to shreds. I don’t have to run through the rest of the record. But the United States moves very quickly to military action, unilaterally. It can—sometimes can get some allies to go along. In this case, it can’t even do that. And it’s just a routine. The United States is self-immunized from international law, which bans the threat or use of force. And this is taken for granted here. So, for example, when President Obama repeatedly says all options are open with regard to Iran, that’s a violation of fundamental international law. It says we are using the threat of force, in violation of international law, to which we are self-immunized. There’s nothing new about this. Can you think of any other country that’s used military force internationally on anything remotely like the scale of the United States during these seven decades when, according to Obama, we’ve been the anchor of global security?

The threat and use of force can be effective. So, for example, Russia was able to control Eastern Europe for 50 years with the threat and occasional use of force. Hitler was able to take over Czechoslovakia with the threat of force. Yes, it often works, no doubt. That’s one of the reasons it’s banned under international—under international law.

The reason—the pretexts for imposing—for carrying out a forceful act have generally declined, to the point that even the British government hasn’t accepted them, and the Congress was apparently going to reject them, and the United States, the government, resorted to the—what is usually the last—the last resort, when everything else fails, saying our credibility is at stake. That’s correct. U.S. credibility is at stake. Obama issued an edict, and it has to be enforced. That’s a familiar doctrine. It’s one of the leading doctrines of world affairs. Credibility of powerful, violent states must be maintained. It’s—occasionally called it the Mafia doctrine. It’s essentially the doctrine by which the godfather rules his domains within the Mafia system. That’s one of the leading principles of world order: Credibility has to be maintained.

But that has many variants. Sometimes it’s called the domino theory. If we don’t impose our will here, the dominos will start to fall, others will begin to be disobedient. In the case of Chile 40 years ago, to go back to that, what Latin Americans called the first 9/11, Henry Kissinger explained that Chile, under Allende, he said, is a virus that might spread contagion elsewhere, all the way to southern Europe. And he wasn’t saying that Chilean troops were going to land in Rome. He was concerned, rightly, that the model of peaceful, parliamentary democracy might spread, in which case the contagion would spread beyond, and the U.S. system of domination would erode.

Just earlier on the program, you had an interview with Saul Landau, the late Saul Landau, with regard to [Cuba], and exactly the same doctrine applies there. The U.S. carried out—invaded Cuba, Bay of Pigs invasion. When that failed, Kennedy launched an enormous terrorist campaign, murderous terrorist campaign. The goal was to bring “the terrors of the earth” to Cuba, as Arthur Schlesinger described it, Kennedy’s adviser, Latin American adviser. It was in the hands of Robert Kennedy, and it was no joke. It was very serious. Now, that’s been followed by 50 years of economic warfare, very harsh economic warfare, all unilateral. The world was overwhelmingly opposed to it. But it doesn’t matter: We, as a rogue state, we do what we like. And the reasons are explicit in the internal record. The reasons, you go back to the early ’60s, the internal government record explains that Castro is guilty of what they called “successful defiance” of the U.S. principles going back to the Monroe Doctrine, 1823—no Russians, just the Monroe Doctrine, which established, in principle, our right to dominate the hemisphere. The U.S. wasn’t powerful enough to do it then, but that was the principle, and Castro is carrying out “successful defiance” of that principle, therefore he must—Cuba must be subjected to massive terrorism, economic warfare and strangulation. That’s been going on for 50 years. Same principle, the Mafia principle.

The same was true in Vietnam. The primary motive for the Indochina wars, going back to the early 1950s, was presented here as the domino theory. But what that meant was, if you read the internal records, that there was a fear, a justified fear, that successful independent development in Vietnam might spread through the region, might spread contagion through the region. Others would attempt the same path, that itself was of no great significance, but it might spread as far as Indonesia, which has rich resources, and there, too, there might be a move towards independent development, independent of U.S. domination. And it was even feared that that might bring in Japan. John Dower, the famous Asia historian, described Japan as the “superdomino.” The U.S. was concerned, deeply concerned, that if Southeast Asia moved toward independent development, Japan would “accommodate,” the word that was used, to East and Southeastern Asia, becoming its technological industrial center and creating a system, an Asian system, from which the U.S. would maybe not be excluded, but at least which it wouldn’t control. Now, the U.S. had fought the Second World War to prevent that. That’s Japan’s new order, and it was in danger of being reconstituted if Indochina gained independence. That’s the domino theory. And that was understood. McGeorge Bundy, Kennedy-Johnson national security adviser, in retrospect, observed that the Vietnam War—the United States should have called off the Vietnam War in 1965. Why 1965? Well, because in 1965 a U.S.-backed military coup took place in Indonesia, slaughtering hundreds of thousands of people, wiping out the only mass-based political party and instituting a regime of torture and terror, but opening the country up to Western exploitation, with its rich resources, and that meant that the Vietnam War was essentially over. The U.S. had won its main objectives. It was pointless to continue it.

Now, this policy is—these are major principles of world affairs, and they’re understandable, and they’re understood. So, go back to Cuba again. When Kennedy came into office, he was concerned with changing Latin American policy. He developed the—set up a Latin American research commission. It was headed by Arthur Schlesinger, his historian who was his adviser, and they came out with a report. It was presented by Schlesinger to the president. And in it, Schlesinger described the problem of Cuba. He said the problem of Cuba is the Castro idea of taking matters into your own hands, an idea which may have resonance in other parts of Latin America, where the mass of the population is subjected to the same kind of harsh repression that they are in Cuba. And if this idea spreads, the U.S. system of control erodes. Well, going back to the Middle East, it’s the same.

— source democracynow.org

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