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    Syria: Do you support NATO/Trump or Putin/Assad?

    April 20th, 2017

     

     

    Community Question.

     

    Last week, Donald Trump gave his executive order to bombard military Syrian bases, after Assad’s army allegedly used sarin gas to kill innocent civilians. The response was immediate from Russia and Iran – especially Russia now unwilling to maintain battle tactic communications with the US after the attack.

    How to manage the Middle East without using confrontation has become an issue of epic debates and controversy. The Middle East is the biggest headache known to date of modern day geopolitics. Democracy cannot develop in its full potency on the Middle East, and it might never effectively develop considering its violent history.

    The multilateral cooperation between Russia and the US, is vital for the well-being and stability of the Middle East. Russia is the latest of players to want a piece of the Middle East, but China will likely become another player to dominate the region after their increasing new investments on Iraq, Sudan and Eastern Africa.

    Islamic Terrorism is a cancer to human development, and it must be eradicated one way or another. Dictatorships and autocratic states can either be beneficial according to the eye of the beholder, or reigns of tyranny and national oppression. It is hard to judge whether or not, dictatorships are justified methods of government considering the constant ultra-sectarian fundamentalist movements engulfing the region.

    Russia is likely using Ben-Assad’s regime as an excuse to settle in the region, or simply test its military muscle to preview a future confrontation with the west. Indirectly, the US and NATO want to arbitrarily use western politics in the region to impose their reign democratically or else pay the interventionist price of violating international law. Lastly, the native inhabitants dwell by the culture and costumes of sectarian Islam and quite frankly don’t care about foreign invaders — many would rather join Al-Qaeda or ISIS than truce with westerners.

    The questions

    1)      Do you support the Trump/NATO crusade or the Putin crusade?

    2)      Is Trump’s latest intervention policy justified or unjustified?

    3)      Will the Middle East be split by China, Russia and Iran, if the US ceases to intervene?

    4)      Why should the US protect and serve the interest of Middle Eastern countries who secretly defame and hate US intervention policy? Shouldn’t Europe take the pie considering they’re more dependent on foreign oil exports from the Middle East and have a larger Muslim integration-population?

    5) Anything you want to add?

     

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    Sebastian Sarbu.

    (He is a military analyst and vice-president of National Academy of Security and Defense Planning. Member of American Diplomatic Mission for International Relations)

    “Yes, I support Trump – NATO intervention in Syria. However, I consider more dangerous North Korea and also the Iran.

    I also consider that an intervention  must to be made indifferent of Russia’s reaction.  America is currently the strongest democratic country and must to prove its power. ‘America first’ is not an isolation of America over the rest of the world, but involves American strategic interests and how its defined.

    It is not clear if Russia or China will be involved in the Syria,  but Iran sure will enter and will involve in this conflict.

    Iran will be the next country who will be attacked  by USA; It will be akin the situation of the invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan.

    The new US administration decided to develop a new strategic target to police Iran and Syria. The serious consequences will be for Israel in this war and how it contains the turmoil from other invading countries to secure its borders. The hidden target of a military intervention in Syria and Iran is the European Union — an underling of European construction in the Middle East.

    Its natural in my opinion this strategic competition has taken place between superpowers with new geographic reforms taking place creating a new post global order.”

     

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    Paul Pillar.

    (He is a Non-resident Senior Fellow at the Center for Security Studies of Georgetown University and the Brookings Institution and an Associate Fellow of the Geneva Center for Security Policy. He retired in 2005 from a 28-year career in the U.S. intelligence community)

    “It remains unclear whether the Trump administration has any well-conceived policy backing up the sending of forceful “messages” such as the cruise missile strike on a Syrian airbase.  There is no indication that the president himself has any such strategy in mind.  This president’s inclination for making impulsive gestures, including ones involving military force, may well lead to deeper U.S. involvement in the Middle East, even if that is not what policymakers intend or plan today.  Basic questions such as how the Syrian civil war can and should be resolved remain unanswered.

    The United States does not have any more of a stake in many of the rivalries in the Middle East than other powers do, but most other powers have done a better job than the United States of keeping their interests and expenditures of resources in proper perspective.  Russia has a major interest in Syria because Syria is where the Russians have their only significant presence in the Middle East.  Elsewhere in the region, Russia is relying not on positions on the ground, much less on military intervention, and instead seeks good relations with governments on different sides of regional rivalries, as illustrated by its relationships with both Israel and Iran.

    China looks at the Middle East, as it looks at several other regions, in terms of economic relationships from which China will benefit.  As one of the largest regional states, Iran naturally expects to have a major role in Middle Eastern affairs.  The Iranians realize that this cannot consist of forcefully lording over other states in the region, especially as a largely Shia country within a region in which most people are Sunni.”

     

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    Dale Yeager.

    (He is the CEO of SERAPH and F.L.E.T.C trained Forensic Profiler and U.S. DOJ DOD Federal Law Enforcement SME / Instructor)

    “1)  Do you support the Trump/NATO crusade or the Putin crusade?

    A: Yes I support the U.S. action.

    2) Is Trump’s latest intervention policy justified or unjustified?

    A: Justified. You cannot sit ideally by and watch continued systematic violence against civilians and not respond as a Democracy. The previous administration was indecisive and allowed the death of tens of thousands of innocents. That’s isn’t a political statement that’s a factual one.

    3) Will the Middle East be split by China, Russia and Iran, if the US ceases to intervene?

    A: Yes. They all have a stake in the conflict. China, Russia and Iran benefit financial and strategically from siding with these regimes.

    4)  Why should the US protect and serve the interest of Middle Eastern countries who secretly defame and hate US intervention policy? Shouldn’t Europe take the pie considering they’re more dependent on foreign oil exports from the Middle East and have a larger Muslim integration-population?

    A: As Winston Churchill correctly stated “ Countries do not have friends they have interests.” With a few exceptions, Europe (i.e. the EU) is an indecisive, impotent group of countries. They are trying to retain their high ideals of socialistic unity with mankind while ignoring the reality of the dangers in their own backyards.”

     

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    Steven Hansen. 

    (Publisher and Co-founder of Econintersect, is an international business and industrial consultant specializing in turning around troubled business units; consults to governments to optimize process flows; and provides economic indicator analysis based on unadjusted data and process limitations)

    “1)      Do you support the Trump/NATO crusade or the Putin crusade?

    I support neither – but if I must my position is closer to Putin. The Middle East is not America or Europe – and thinking the Middle East should be democratic (when the prevailing social system is tribal) is a failure route. Toppling Assad is guaranteed to increase the turmoil in the Middle East and possibly create another Libya.

    2)      Is Trump’s latest intervention policy justified or unjustified?  

    I hope Trump is not stupid – hopefully what I do not know would alter my perceptions.

    3)      Will the Middle East be split by China, Russia and Iran, if the US ceases to intervene?

    I have lived almost half my life in the Middle East. I repeat, the Middle East is tribal and no country will ever “control” this region. However, if a country acts like a big brother (like Russia) which supports a government – they will gain some “control”.

    4)      Why should the US protect and serve the interest of Middle Eastern countries who secretly defame and hate US intervention policy? Shouldn’t Europe take the pie considering they’re more dependent on foreign oil exports from the Middle East and have a larger Muslim integration-population? 

    Diplomacy requires both idealism and pragmatism. The USA leans to heavy on idealism which is a mistake. Yes, the enemy of my enemy is my friend. Europe is in no position to do anything in the Middle East as the EU is a zombie in the area of foreign policy. 

    5) Anything you want to add? 

    I am very concerned that the USA intelligence apparatus has an ingrained bias. I believe little of their statements. Show me one example of USA regime change which worked.”

    John Mariotti.

    (He has spoken to thousands of people in the business, professional and university audiences in the US and Europe; he hosted a one-hour talk-radio show on the North American Broadcasting Network, (The Life of Business & the Business of Life); founded & moderated, The Reunion Conference, an annual round table/think-tank for 16 years) 

    1)      Do you support the Trump/NATO crusade or the Putin crusade?

    This is too general a question for such a complex situation. I find it hard to support anything Putin does or wants to do.
    Putin’s motives are all self-serving and not intended to help the US.
    The US must force NATO to step up to its intended role—and NATO countries to spend their fair share (2% of GDP) of the defense bill—especially, above all— Germany.

    2)      Is Trump’s latest intervention policy justified or unjustified?  

    Justified…and long past due…but only as a gesture, not as a long range solution. Obama had neither the guts nor the will to step up to anything where he couldn’t blame the outcome on someone else if it went badly. Trump needs to show the world that when countries’ leaders do bad things, there will be some kind of consequences, short of outright war.

    3)      Will the Middle East be split by China, Russia and Iran, if the US ceases to intervene?

    Probably so, but it is a divided mess no matter who intervene. Nobody can fix the Middle East. All the US can do is intercede to choose who it supports and who it opposes—and that is not always clear.

    4)      Why should the US protect and serve the interest of Middle Eastern countries who secretly defame and hate US intervention policy? Shouldn’t Europe take the pie considering they’re more dependent on foreign oil exports from the Middle East and have a larger Muslim integration-population? 

    Europe should be more involved and the US less involved—but that won’t happen. Nature abhors a vacuum, so if the US doesn’t step in, more evil and bad influences will.”

     

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    Walter Donway.

    (He is a writer on political economy and was a founding trustee of The Atlas Society. He graduated cum laude from Brown University with a degree combining history, political science, philosophy, and literature. He was business/finance reporter for The Worcester Telegram and program officer, program director, and publications director for The Commonwealth Fund and The Dana Foundation. His articles on political economy appeared in the Wall Street Journal among other media networks)

    “Merely to contemplate our policy in Iran since WWII, beginning with our CIA joining British operatives in covert overthrow of the democratically election Mossadegh government in 1953, and return the Shah Pahlavi to the Peacock throne, is to sail to sea with no compass. Libertarians, pointing to contract law, say:  British Petroleum made a 100-year contract for all Iran’s oil; Mossadegh violated the contract. But one shah for personal remuneration sold away Iran’s natural resources for 100 years; is that a “contract” with Iran? And Cold Warriors say, no, no the reason “we” overthrew Iran’s first democratic government is clear. This was 1953. All around the world newly fashioned democratic governments were entering into electoral alliances with their local Soviet-backed communist party. And so, in Iran, the involvement of the Iranian Soviet Tudeh Party with the Mossadegh government.

    Picture it. The Persian Gulf, bordered by Iran, and on Iran’s northern border, the stalinist Soviet Union rapacious for world conquest.  The Tudeh elements take over the Mossadegh government and the one, single most important Middle Eastern strategic goal of the United States–to keep the Soviet Union out of the Middle East–spectacularly collapses with the Red Army streaming down from the north at the “invitation” of the democratically elected government of Iran–as now taken over by the Tudeh element.

    And so, the first democratically elected government in the Middle East’s most powerful nation is overthrown and the dictatorship of the Pahlavi’s is returned to power. And from 1953 until 1979, this works rather well.  The Shah remains our man. He works hard to suppress the mullahs, to create a secular society; and so he does. When the Middle East is united against Israel, the Shah, for “us,” is Israel’s friend. He is an authoritarian, yes; his secret police, SAVAK, established with U.S. guidance, seize, torture, kill political opponents. But, if you are in Iran and stay out of politics, you are free to be prosperous and happy. Just don’t interfere in politics and the future of your country.

    Then, leading up to 1979, U.S. President Jimmy Carter decides that the U.S. must live up to its moral obligations. That means, in the Middle East and elsewhere, to stop supporting authoritarian governments and let the will of the people prevail. The Shah in Iran has gotten into trouble by a grand plan of social engineering to change agricultural policy; the effect is to drive millions of young rural (read: orthodox religious) Iranians off the land and to the cities.  There, a relatively poor, unemployed, restless mass, they turn for guidance, as they were taught, to the mullahs.

    They are the mobs that turn against the Shah, against his “secularized” Iran, to storm Tehran in favor of the the hero of fundamentalist restoration of Islam in Iran, after decades of secularization by the Shah. They are in the streets driving out the Shah and crying for the Ayatollah Komeini.  Carter refused to back the Shah diplomatically and militarily against “the people.” Seeing his great supporter and protector defect, the Shah, too, defects, flying from Iran. The Ayatollah Komeini flies in.  The mobs go wild with delight.

    And, as hard as Jimmy tried, we have not democracy but mob support for the fundamentalist Shiite theocracy of Koeini. We have the resurgence of pure barbarian standards as our diplomats are seized and imprisoned, brutalized, by Iran.  It is a clear, indisputable, classic causa belli.  But nothing can cause the belly of Jimmy Carter to use the military.

    So we had 26 nice years of the Shah, but now have had 38 years of Shiite fundamentalism in Iran, bitterly hostile to the United States, using semi-secret proxies to spread Shiite fundamentalism, often by means of terrorism, through the Middle East.  We have a mighty Middle Eastern country dedicated to the destruction of Israel.  And that country, with a long, long history of Western intervention to get its oil, to shape its politics, is striving for the one sure protection against such intervention: nuclear weapons.

    Our great spiritual ally in the Middle East, Israel, will do anything to stop Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons.  And Israel is right.  Its only final security is to be the only nation in the Middle East with nuclear weapons. One U.S. President Barrack Obama, seen by some as a Jimmy Carter figure, declined to initiate any new U.S. military intervention in the Middle East for eight years. There are good arguments, for that, after our experience in Afghanistan and Iraq. And Mr. Obama did bring the world’s powers together to reach an agreement with Iran on nuclear weapons. The United States did not reach an agreement; ALL the world’s great power reached an agreement. It can and will be enforced.  Iran is under an incredibly bright spotlight.  Even Israel may live with that agreement as long as we enforce it.

    But the U.S. has a pattern in the Middle East:  restrain, then lunge, then restrain.

    Carter was a restrainer.  The Bushes was a lungers.  Obama was a restrainer.  Trump seems to be a lunger. Who has done better, the restrainers or the lungers?

    And so we come to the questions.  And my answer is that we should look to the example of Iran.”

     

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    Syed Qamar Afzal Rizvi.

    (His research interests focus on the international relations, particularly with reference to the EU’s affairs, the United Nations affairs, the US foreign policy and prevention of conflict-studies. He contributed to the publications to the Daily Dawn (a leading English newspaper) and the Pakistan Observer (an Islamabad-based English daily)

    “A-1: As far as the issue of Trump/Nato or the Putin military adventurism is concerned, one can reasonably argue that the incorporation of the hard power doctrine via Trump’s Nato or via Putin’s forces shall not pave the way for a lasting peace in Syria or Middle east. Instead of supporting the policy of military solution, I would like to advocate a policy of liberal synergy based on a Middle eastern metanoia. There is ample evidence gathered and collected from the US intervention in Iraq in 2003 that an American policy of intervention on the Middle Eastern soiled has upped the ante. “Putin intends to start the post-Obama chapter in Syria on his terms, confronting the new American administration with the fait accompli of [Assad] regime victory in Aleppo,” writes Fabrice Balanche of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. “  

    On the diplomatic front, the new Turkey-Russia-Iran alliance threatens to marginalise other outside actors.” Whereas the Trump administration’s current action in Syria shows a hawkish US’s paradigm in the region. The latest incident, which comes at a very odd time – just days after the White House it will no longer pursue the ouster of Assad, cementing the Syrian leader’s resolve not to do anything to infuriate the US administration – means Trump is faced with the same dilemma that faced his predecessor: whether to openly challenge Moscow and risk deep involvement in a Middle East war by seeking to punish Assad for using banned weapons, or compromise and accept the Syrian leader remaining in power at the risk of looking weak.

    A-2: As for Trump’s intervention doctrine, I would like to solicit the point of view that this trump-fostered intervention may not be justifiable since this kind of Monro doctrine sow seeds of hatred and antagonism in the heart and minds of the local inhabitants, the ARABS. To counter- examine this hypothesis, we can go back to the annals of war history and richly get the information that these kinds of western interventions, particularly in the post Cold War era have produced no positive results.

    But it is unfortunate that Hawkish Republican Sens. John McCain and Lindsey Graham are pressing the Trump administration to escalate military efforts to protect the Syrian people against President Bashar Assad. “As part of a broader strategy, we urge the President to take greater military action to achieve our objectives, including grounding the Syrian air force and establishing safe havens inside Syria to protect Syrians,” the senators said in a joint statement on last Tuesday.

    Apparently for the last few decades in the Middle East, the policy of western powers — led by the United States — has been to ensure the flow of oil; maintain stable and secure allies like Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, the Gulf States, Egypt, and Israel; and maintain military and economic influence when needed. But in reality to meet these ends the US administrations have committed some blunders, thereby making the region towards dismemberment. And if the Trump’s administration would not learn from the past mistakes, it would be an irony for both America and the people in the Middle east.

    A-3: it goes without saying that today Middle east is a hot bed of tug between multilateral stake holders. This is not a middle east representing an era of bipolarity once experienced during the years of the Cold War period. Today, Middle east seems to depict a clash between the centripetal and centrifugal forces. The nature of clash is multi-complex. Though presently, Syria is the nucleus of the conflict yet not resolved with prudence and political or diplomatic sagacity, the crisis may entrap the whole middle east. Although Russian-Iranian bilateral are complicated, one thing is clear: Iran has proven to be an asset for Russia in Syria and acts as a hedge against Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia and the Middle East region remain key suppliers of natural oil and gas to the People’s Republic.

    But after 2011, when China lost millions in the likes of war-torn Libya and Syria, it began to pen a slew of deals with alternative providersparticularly in North America. China conducted its first joint counterterrorism drills with Saudi Arabia in the southern Chinese city of Chongqing. It’s been doing the same with other Muslim-majority Asian nations — mostly members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization — over the past few years. Arab politicos and intellectuals have long decried a precarious U.S.-Arab partnership, premised disproportionately on just two things: Ever-fluctuating oil prices and the ebb-and-flow of counterterrorism.

    China promised more than that. Since 2013, Beijing had championed its “One Belt, One Road” (带一路)policy of promoting trade with historical Silk Road trade partners in faraway West Asia. But the rousing slogan hasn’t been met with much innovation in China’s trade agenda.

    A-4: Yes it is correct to say that US must not indulge into the Middle east via a military war. And of course, the European Union diplomacy must be active to resolve the ongoing crisis. France has got deep influence in the ARAB lands. Despite the fact that Britain has left the EU, the British diplomacy may also be of paramount consideration to use its leverage in the said crisis. Germany may also play an instrumental role in engaging itself with the Arab counterparts. Although Europe and the United States have regularly competed for influence in the Middle East, the EU’s growing weight in the region, instead of fueling a new transatlantic face-off, has in fact contributed to improving relations. The EU needs to adjust to the new geopolitical landscape created by the Syrian conflict by recalibrating its position vis-à-vis other major players, contributing to regional security issues, and standing firm on its values. It needs to use its large foreign policy toolbox in a much better-coordinated manner under the leadership of its foreign policy high representative.

    A-5: Here, I would like to add that US’s unwarranted invasion on Iraq in 2003 has been the root cause of promoting political, economic and democratic instability in the Middle eastern region. The Bush doctrine of exporting democracies via regime change caused great turmoil in the region. These kinds of western policies created insecurities, resentment and provocation. Actually, these policies have fired back. Assad’s adamant hold over Damascus reflects this notion. Let the people be the right judges to exterminate or admit these governments, not otherwise America holds this responsibility of examining whose government is good or worse.”

     

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    Andre Vltchek

     (He is a philosopher, novelist, filmmaker and investigative journalist. He has covered wars and conflicts in dozens of countries. Three of his latest books are revolutionary novels, he also produces documentaries. Andre is making films for teleSUR and Al-Mayadeen. After having lived in Latin America, Africa and Oceania, Vltchek presently resides in East Asia and the Middle East, and continues to work around the world)

    “1)      Do you support the Trump/NATO crusade or the Putin crusade?

    A: First of all, the “Crusade” is a very sensitive word here in the Middle East, and people would laugh if you’d say publicly “Russian crusade”. Crusade were some of the first expansionist and imperialist expeditions conducted by Western/European powers. They were bigoted in religious and racial terms. They still are. And they are still deadly affairs coming from the West: predominately the US and Europe. I frankly do not support any “crusades”, and I see Russia as a defender of a sovereign Arab country which is under the savage attack from the US/NATO, and by the terrorist groups (called sometimes “opposition” by the Western press) sponsored by the West.

    2)      Is Trump’s latest intervention policy justified or unjustified?

    A: By what could it be justified? Unjustified, of course.  

    3)      Will the Middle East be split by China, Russia and Iran, if the US ceases to intervene?

    A: When was the Middle East split by anybody else, except by the Europeans and the US? China, Russia and Iran would always find a way how to bring prosperity and independence to the Middle East, while respecting the local culture, if the West would miraculously withdraw from here. After the last 100 years of the British and US “involvement”, there is hardly anything left of the Middle East. Anyone who worked intensively in Iraq, Syria, Palestine, or even Lebanon knows perfectly well that the region had been broken, ruined and played with unceremoniously, from Washington and London.  

    4)      Why should the US protect and serve the interest of Middle Eastern countries who secretly defame and hate US intervention policy? Shouldn’t Europe take the pie considering they’re more dependent on foreign oil exports from the Middle East and have a larger Muslim integration-population?

    I don’t understand the question. Is it seriously suggesting that the “US protects and serves the interests of the Middle East?” And, should Europe which tormented and robbed this part of the world take over the plunder again? Perhaps, forgive me but just “perhaps”, shouldn’t the people of the Middle East be asked whether they want to be “protected” by the West?  

     

    Halyna Mokrushyna.

    (Holds a doctorate in linguistics and MA degree in communication. She publishes in Counterpunch, Truthout, and  New Cold War on Ukrainian politics, history, and culture. She is also a contributing editor to the New Cold War: Ukraine and beyond and a founder of the Civic group for democracy in Ukraine)

    “While reading Jaime Ortega’s contextualization of the question, I was struck by the very framing of the question, which expresses the essence of the West’s approach to the rest of the world. This approach is the source of innumerable conflicts and millions of deaths throughout time and space. It consists of many components, coalescing into a complex nod of motives behind the West interventionist policies. One of the components is rationalism, the supreme principle that guides Western reasoning and acting since the Enlightenment. At the basis of rationalism is the conviction that the human being with its ratio, mind, is the Supreme Being and a Master of Universe. The Human Being, through the mind, strives to know the surrounding world, in the process minimizing the danger of unknown. Unknown generates fear, so the mind fights it with the light of knowledge. Not to fear the unknown requires faith, trust into God, which the rationalism rejects. The Western world, or at least, its ruling elite and bureaucratic machinery, have become largely secularized. The science dethroned faith. We do not live in peace with the world; we manage it. And the question that we pose when it comes to countries, which do not fall into the Western model of society, is not ‘what it is” and ‘let it be.’ The question that we pose is “how to manage it.”

    The technological superiority of Western civilization endowed Westerners with a dangerous, indeed criminal conviction that the Western rationalism and the Western model of society are the best and should be emulated by others. To me, such approach is arrogant and doomed to fail because it ignores the complexity of concrete historical and geographical circumstances and the richness of civilizational diversity that they produced.

    The same technological superiority allowed Westerners to colonize the world, to impose the colonial administration, and to plunder the land and people of colonies. The richness of the Western world comes to a large extent from the colonialist looting of technologically less developed nations.

    The political and economic configurations of the world we live in today are the product of European colonialism. And although the former colonies are now de jure free and independent, they remain an economic appendage of the former colonial powers, providing natural resources and cheap labor to transnational capital. And the Western complex of superiority still defines the foreign policy of Americans and their loyal Western allies.

    Politics are an expression of economic interests. This essential truth is often masked by sanctimonious moralizing of Western politicians on the violation of human rights in non-Western countries and the outrage over the ‘dictatorship’ of forms of government that do not follow the liberal model of democracy. Economic interests drive political actions. All the wars in the Middle East, which the United States and their allies conducted or sponsored in the past and are conducting at present, is about securing a stable access to oil and gas, the main source of our comfortable living in the West.

    The West’s policy in the Middle East is a complex nod of political, economic, and moral reasons. To understand West’s actions in this region, one has to look into the interplay of these reasons, not just isolating economic interests, for example. Looking at American foreign politics solely through the perspective of energy resources will fail to take into account one of the most powerful motivations – the genuine belief of American politicians in the superiority of the American democracy and the desire to export it to the non-Western world. However, because of the incapacity, inability, or unwillingness to understand the Other, this desire has led to disastrous results in Iraq, Libya, Syria, Ukraine.

    Democracy cannot be imposed. It is an oxymoron. Democracy presupposes the free will of people. If democracy is forced upon people through predatory internationals loans which require the destructive economic reforms or through bombings of cities and villages, this is not a democracy. This is a neoliberal imperial interventionism. Democracy can only be developed through education and empowerment of ordinary citizens. But this requires years and years of painstaking work, patience, humility, and love, which hold no market value, whereas loans and weapons bring huge profits.

    It is exactly the interventionist policies of Western powers that stirred the storm in the Middle East. Driven by their arrogant ignorance of the complexity of the region and the economic interests in oil and gas, the US attacked Iraq using a blatant lie as a pretext. I will never forget General Colin Powell with a test tube which allegedly was a proof of Saddam Hussein’s arsenals of chemical weapons. After the invasion, hundreds of thousands of deaths, destroyed infrastructure, the emergence of ISIS, Americans were never able to produce one convincing proof of their claims in the UN Security Council. It turned out to be one big criminal lie.

    I do not think that Russians want a piece of the slice in the Middle East. For one simple reason – they have enough oil and gas. I think Russians had enough of Western arrogance and catastrophic interventionism. They want to prevent the destruction of Syria and an enormous cataclysm which would lead, over again, to millions of refugees, to the emergence of terrorist groups, and to the utterly impotent Western reaction to it. Both Russian President Vladimir Putin and the Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergei Lavrov have repeatedly stated that the regime change in Syria should be decided by the Syrian people, through a democratic election, not through the external powers’ handpicking of their favorite as the new president. Russians are interested in maintaining peace in Syria. And they did not invade Syria like Americans did in Iraq. They did not send massive troops on the ground. They came on the invitation of the Syrian President.

    I find Trump’s decision to bomb Syrian army under the false pretext that it launched a chemical attack against civilians impulsive and irresponsible. First of all, the chemical weapons that Assad regime possessed was destroyed in 2013 under the supervision of UN experts. Russians played a key role in convincing Assad to do it. So the version that Syrian army launched that attack in Idlib province of Syria is highly improbable. Americans jumped at that conclusion hours after the attack happened, and without any serious investigation declared that it was the terrible crime committed by the bloody regime. The news about that attack made the headlines of all Western MSM, while a more deadly and terrible crime by Syrian ‘opposition’ suicide bombers, who attacked buses with civilians, women, and children in western Syria villages, did not receive such a full coverage. It is yet another example of the ideologically eschewed bias of Western MSM who readily talk for hours about alleged crimes of the regime and do not mention the gross violations of human rights by the so-called Syrian opposition.

    It is difficult to accept facts that do not inscribe into the well-established framing of the world, in which the all-powerful West dictates the rules of the game, appoints and takes down heads of the states that cannot oppose the West, designates villains and destroys them.

    It is difficult to accept for the American elites that the world is becoming multipolar and that they are losing their grip on it. Americans are going through a deep and fundamental identity crisis, triggered by the realization that they are not anymore the only superpower that decides the destinies of the world. American imperialism as the foundation of American identity has been challenged by emerging alternative centers of power, such as BRICS. It is a very painful process, but Americans have to go through it if we are to live in a safer, more democratic world. After all, democracy is about pluralism, equality, and the respect of differences. It is about a peaceful resolution of conflicts where one genuinely tries to understand the Other, without bullying or aggressing the opponent. We would all benefit from a diversity of various forms of governments and cultures, not just the dictatorship of false neoliberal democracy, imposed on technologically weaker countries through predatory loans or criminal bombings.

    Western colonialism and post-colonial interventionism produced disastrous results, much worse than if the non-Western countries were left to develop themselves without intervention from abroad. It is time for the West to withdraw. I think not a single external power should have a slice of Middle East. Countries of the region should settle their disputes among themselves, with the West acting as a non-partisan, honest broker. Unfortunately, I am fully aware that such scenario is unrealistic.”

     

    Jaime Ortega-Simo.

    (The Daily Journalist president and founder)

    “I don’t support Donald Trump on this particular issue and I think it’s a very unwise move to attack Assad – a starch defender of religious minorities in the region, as he himself is an Alawite. When Trump ran for office a few months ago, one of his noticeable campaign promises was to stay away from bullying Assad’s regime – a promise not shared by his archrival Hillary Clinton who promoted a neo-conservative scheme to straighten the mess she help create.

    There is only one reason why western countries intervene in Middle Eastern affairs, and has nothing to do with friendships or democracy; unlike the past where the Middle East was a schoolyard for religious control, as we approach a post-religious era, it is all about petro-money. Thus the reason why Trump’s first interventionist move sparked in Syria and not Ukraine, which continues under the direct siege of Russian military forces masked on civilian uniforms protected under Putin’s umbrella. I strongly suspect, countries like Taiwan and Israel will not be secured from China, Russia and Iran in the near future, if the United States loses military grip globally as it did during Obama’s administration.

    Dealing with the Middle East is like dealing with an immovable object – if you cannot move something, then you must blow it up (I don’t mean blowing the Middle East, but sectarian violence). No country has ever seeded democracy on the Middle East and succeeded in reforming the region. Only one empire was 100 percent successful in quenching all the havoc on the region; the Mongol Empire on their quest to harvest the region without tare dealt brutally with sectarian violence to try to prove a point to all surrounding nations after suffering Islamic extremism of its own.

    If the west wants to police the Middle East and deal with ISIS once and for all, it must adopt a ‘neo-mongolist’ attitude in the region to weed-out sectarian tare, otherwise it is completely ridiculous and irrational to believe Western Democracy will solve the conflict with its current international model. The reason why Russia is in Syria is because it knows it can control the problem with force and gain territory and political alliance with autocratic leaderships proven to work in the region. The generals fighting the counterinsurgency in Libya and Egypt have his support, and don’t trust neither NATO nor the US.

    I don’t like Putin as he is the epitome of fake news and anti-journalism; however, the ousting of dictators in the Middle East was one of the most stupid and destructive events to engulf the Middle East in many decades, perhaps centuries – and it wasn’t created by Putin’s neo-soviet mentally to expand militarily worldwide, but by US interventionism. The US has completely torn the Middle East from the inside out. The US attacked Afghanistan and Iraq, but not main Islamist donor states like Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Kuwait to name a few? Geopolitical democracy is as joke, and I learned all I needed to learn of democracy after watching how the western world dealt with Rwanda.

    The US is simply ‘jealous’ Russia decided to intervene in the Middle East. The US threw the toy away with its conflictive policy in Syria and now wants it back as soon as the ‘new kid’ in town arrived. The Russian’s despite their imperialistic agenda, did not launch airstrikes against Iraq when US forces were illegally present in the area. The US reaction against Russia and especially against Assad is completely unjustified. The truth is Syria is a complete fiasco and either the Kurdish, the Turks, Assad’s Regime, ISIS or Russia will control the region – the truth might be the same in Libya and possibly in Afghanistan in the near future as China ventures closer to Baluchistan. The US now feels protective of human rights, not because it cares for the Syrians, but to tell Russia not stretch its arm to expand in the area — the chemical weapons in only an excuse to spank Russia.

    Trump is only going to aggravate the problem in Ukraine, as Sergey Shoygu — the Russian minister of defense — will push Putin to not give up the notion of ‘Russian empire’ and its inspirations to counter US interventionism. China watches the situation and would love for the US and Russia to annihilate each-other in the region while it expands. A lot of experts claim the relationship of Russia and China is great based on their latest energy agreement – I beg to differ, just wait till China and Russia’s interest clashes on Euro-Asia or the Middle East, as they both expand outwards to challenge US supremacy.

    Lastly, chemical weapons cause death like any other weapon. Death is death regardless of the situation, how the UN resolution classifies justified interventionism based on death is quite arbitrary. I don’t see how chemical weapons violate international law, but an 1970 AKA 47 with oxidize bullets or a tele-guided drone play by the rules of engagement. I don’t understand, death is death.”

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    Two Billion People Depend On Imported Food

    April 17th, 2017

    The Daily Journalist

     

    Researchers show empirically: when population pressure increases, food is imported

    The Earth’s capacity to feed its growing population is limited – and unevenly distributed. An increase in cultivated land and the use of more efficient production technology are partly buffering the problem, but in many areas it is instead solved by increasing food imports. For the first time, researchers at Aalto University have been able to show a broad connection between resource scarcity, population pressure, and food imports, in a study published in Earth’s Future.

    Earth’s ability to sustain the growing human population has been under debate for centuries. Several scholars, most notably perhaps Malthus [1798] and the Club of Rome with its report The Limits to Growth/
    ‘Although this has been a topic of global discussion for a long time, previous research has not been able to demonstrate a clear connection between resource scarcity and food imports. We performed a global analysis focusing on regions where water availability restricts production, and examined them from 1961 until 2009, evaluating the extent to which the growing population pressure was met by increasing food imports,’ explains Postdoctoral Researcher Miina Porkka.

    The researchers’ work combined modelled data with FAO statistics and also took into consideration increases in production efficiency resulting from technological development. The analysis showed that in 75% of resource scarce regions, food imports began to rise as the region’s own production became insufficient.

    Even less wealthy regions relied on the import strategy – but not always successfully. According to the research, the food security of about 1.4 billion people has become dependent on imports and an additional 460 million people live in areas where increased imports are not enough to compensate for the lack of local production.

    The big issue, says co-author Dr Joseph Guillaume, is that people may not even be aware that they have chosen dependency on imports over further investment in local production or curbing demand.

    ‘It seems obvious to look elsewhere when local production is not sufficient, and our analysis clearly shows that is what happens. Perhaps that is the right choice, but it should not be taken for granted’

    The international food system is sensitive and price and production shocks can spread widely and undermine food security – especially in poorer countries that are dependent on imports. As a result, further investments in raising production capacity could be a viable alternative. Especially in sub-Saharan Africa and India, there are opportunities to sustainably improve food production by, for example, more efficient use of nutrients and better irrigation systems. Miina Porkka emphasises that the solutions will ultimately require more than just increasing food production.

    ‘Keeping food demand in check is the key issue. Controlling population growth plays an essential role in this work, but it would also be important to enhance production chains by reducing food waste and meat consumption. Since one quarter of all the food produced in the world is wasted, reducing this would be really significant on a global level.’

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    Humanoid Robots To Replace Search And Rescue Workers

    April 12th, 2017

    The Daily Journalist.

     

    Italian researchers are developing a humanoid robot to replace humans in search and rescue operations following disasters. Walk-Man is being taught to move and walk at the Italian Institute of Technology (IIT) in Genoa, and could one day save your life.

    The robot still needs instructions from humans, but in the near future it should be able to assess dangers and environmental conditions before taking action to get the job done.

    The Walk-Man team is currently working on the robot’s software to improve its ability to support itself while walking over rough surfaces.

    IIT senior researcher Nikolaos Tsagarakis explained to euronews that the robot is kind of anthropomorphic: it has joints and motions similar to a human body.

    Credit: Walk-Man

    “You can see the hand, with five fingers, there is a thumb,” said Tsagarakis. “And it was designed for the purpose to perform very powerful manipulations.”

    Walk-Man is being developed within a European Union research project and is fitted with a stereo vision system and a rotating 3D laser scanner.

    Researchers plan to have a human operator take control remotely for advanced problem solving. The robot has already driven a car and can make many human-like movements.

    The researchers’ big technical challenge has been how to control locomotion, balance and manipulation of this 1.80 metre tall robot.

    The robot’s power is similar to a medium-sized car, explained research engineer Ioannis Sarakoglou.

    “Every joint of the robot, let’s say the knee joint or the hip joint, which needs to provide a lot of effort, are similar to the power of a 50 cc scooter engine,” said Sakoglou.

    In places that are safe for humans, robots that look and behave like humans could have advantages over robots on wheels.
    Inspired by nature

    Researchers from ITT get most of their inspiration directly from nature, as Sarakoglou explained:
    “Many principles that exist in biology have given us inspiration on how could be designed a robot. One thing is energy saving, especially through devising mechanisms that are back drivable to make use of swing phases in our natural motion.”

    The WALK-MAN project aims to develop a humanoid robot that can operate in buildings that were damaged following natural and man-made disasters. The robot will demonstrate new skills:

    -Dextrous, powerful manipulation skills – e.g. turning a heavy valve of lifting collapsed masonry,
    -robust balanced locomotion – walking, crawling over a debris pile, and
    – physical sturdiness – e.g. operating conventional hand tools such as pneumatic drills or cutters.

    Credit: Dimitris Kanoulas

    Many of the robot’s actions use gravity rather than energy to move.

    “We try to integrate this inspiration in our designs,” explained Sarakoglou, “to make robots that are energy efficient and can operate well longer than the robot can do at the moment.”
    Search and rescue

    The next step for Walk-Man will be a major test it is expected to pass under the eyes of the Italian Civil Protection authority.

    During the test, the robot will be sent into a building on fire. Its mission: to search and rescue a human being.

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    Archaeogenetic Findings Unlock Ancestral Origins Of Sardinians

    April 12th, 2017

    The Daily Journalist.

     

    The island of Sardinia is remarkable for the fact that an exceptionally high proportion of the population is seemingly descended from people who have occupied it since the Neolithic and Bronze Age, between 8,000 and 2,000 years ago. For centuries after that, they had little interaction with mainland Europe.

    Now, University of Huddersfield researcher Dr Maria Pala has taken part in a project that has helped to unlock the genetic secrets of her Mediterranean homeland. One of the findings is that some modern Sardinians could have evolved from people who colonised the island at an even earlier period, the Mesolithic.

    Credit: University of Huddersfield

    Dr Pala – whose first degree was from the University of Sassari in her native Sardinia – is a Senior Lecturer at the University of Huddersfield and a member of its Archaeogenetics Research Group. The group is led by Professor Martin Richards and includes Dr Francesca Gandini as Research Fellow. They are all co-authors of a new article, titled Mitogenome Diversity in Sardinians: A Genetic Window onto an Island’s Past, appearing in the journal Molecular Biology and Evolution.

    It states that modern Sardinians are a “unique reservoir of distinct genetic signatures” and it describes how the research team, based at a number of UK, European and American universities and institutes, analysed 3,491 DNA samples from the present day population and compared them with 21 ancient samples taken from skeletal remains found in rock-cut tombs spanning from the Neolithic period to the Final Bronze Age.

    Dr Pala   explained that this new study focused on the mitochondrial genome – the maternal line from mothers to daughters – because it provided an unbroken line of descent, much less complex than the whole genome.

    Credit: University of Huddersfield
    It emerged that 78.4 per cent of the modern mitogenomes actually cluster into “Sardinian-specific haplogroups”.

    “That percentage is extremely high,” said Dr Pala. “If you look at Europeans as a whole, you cannot essentially distinguish an English person from an Italian or a French, because Europeans have mixed together for a long time.”

    Credit: University of Huddersfield
    Sardinia has always been an island, but it is believed that there was a time when a lower sea level meant it retained links with the continent, and through these links the first inhabitants reached the island from continental Europe. Then the sea level rose but, despite this, connections with the continent remained active through the Neolithic and Bronze Age, possibly fuelled by the abundance of natural resources such as obsidian and metals present in the island.

    Then, whether suddenly or gradually, these connections were severed or became sporadic so that for thousands of years Sardinians were isolated, developing their own language, culture, society and sense of identity.

    To this day, Sardinians speak their own tongue and they remain genetically distinctive, as the new article co-authored by Dr Pala demonstrates.

    It concludes that: Contemporary Sardinians harbour a unique genetic heritage as a result of their distinct history and relative isolation from the demographic upheavals of continental Europe. Whilst the major signal appears to be the legacy of the first farmers on the island, our results hint at the possibility that the situation might have been much more complex, both for Sardinia but also, by implication, for Europe as a whole. It now seems plausible that human mobility, inter-communication and gene flow around the Mediterranean from Late Glacial times onwards may well have left signatures that survive to this day.

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    Get Rid Of Depressions By Changing How You Think

    March 29th, 2017

    A thought is a thought. It does not reflect reality. New research shows that learning how to ruminate less on thoughts and feelings has a positive effect for individuals with depression.

    Depressed individuals “don’t need to worry and ruminate,” says Professor Roger Hagen in NTNU’s Department of Psychology. “Just realizing this is liberating for a lot of people.”

    Hagen – along with NTNU researchers Odin Hjemdal, Stian Solem, Leif Edward Ottesen Kennair and Hans M. Nordahl – has recently published a scientific paper on the treatment of depression using metacognitive therapy (MCT).

    By becoming aware of what happens when they start to ruminate, patients learn to take control of their own thoughts.

     Photo: Thinkstock
    The study shows that learning to reduce rumination is very helpful for patients with depressive symptoms.

    Some people experience their persistent ruminative thinking as completely uncontrollable, but individuals with depression can gain control over it,” says Hagen.

    The patients involved in the study were treated over a ten-week period. After six months, 80 per cent of the participants had achieved full recovery from their depression diagnosis.

    “The follow-up after six months showed the same tendency,” says Hagen.

    Separating thoughts and reality

    Professionals in the field call it “depressive rumination.” Using metacognitive therapy, you can rid yourself of depression by gaining control of your thoughts.
    Illustration photo: Thinkstock
    Today, medications and cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) are the recommended treatments for depression and anxiety. In CBT, patients engage in analysing the content of their thoughts to challenge their validity and reality test them.

    Metacognitive therapy, by contrast, focuses on lessening the ruminative process.

    “Anxiety and depression give rise to difficult and painful negative thoughts. Many patients have thoughts of mistakes, past failures or other negative thoughts. Metacognitive therapy addresses thinking processes,” Hagen says, rather than the thought content. Patients with depression “think too much, which MCT refers to as ‘depressive rumination.’ Rather than ruminating so much on negative thoughts, MCT helps patients to reduce negative thought processes and get them under control,” he says.

    By becoming aware of what happens when they start to ruminate, patients learn to take control of their own thoughts.

    As Hagen explains, “Instead of reacting by repeatedly ruminating and thinking ‘how do I feel now?’ you can try to encounter your thoughts with what we call ‘detached mindfulness.’ You can see your thoughts as just thoughts, and not as a reflection of reality. Most people think that when they think a thought, it must be true. For example, if I think that I’m stupid, this means I must be stupid. People strongly believe that their thoughts reflect reality.”

    Fewer relapses

    Patients who participated in the study have been pleasantly surprised by this form of treatment.

    “The patients come in thinking they’re going to talk about all the problems they have and get to the bottom of it,” says Hagen, “but instead we try to find out how their mind and thinking processes work. You can’t control what you think, but you can control how you respond to what you think.”

    Today depression and anxiety are treated using medications or so-called cognitive behavioral therapy. This last involves teaching patients to examines their thoughts and analyse them to find evidence to debunk the negative thoughts. Metacognitive therapy is all about helping patients find ways to reduce the amount of time they spend ruminating.

    Photo illustration: Thinkstock

    The problem with several previous depression studies is that many of them did not use any control groups. Since depression often resolves itself over time, the lack of a control group makes it difficult to know whether a treatment was successful, or if the depression just naturally resolved itself.

    NTNU’s study compared the MCT group against one that did not receive treatment, which strengthened the results of their study.

    According to Hagen, a lot of mainstream depression treatment shows a high recurrence rate. Out of 100 patients, fully half relapse after a year, and after two years, 75 of the 100 have relapsed.

    “The relapse rate in our study is much lower. Only a few per cent experienced a depressive relapse,” he says.

    Could become the standard treatment

    The University of Manchester in England has developed the metacognitive therapy approach over the past 20 years, as a form of cognitive therapy. Smaller studies at this university have shown that MCT treatment has had great efficacy in treating depression. A similar, soon-to-be-published study in Denmark has shown the same positive results.

    Hagen hopes that metacognitive therapy will become the most common way to treat depression in Norway.

    “When the national guidelines for the treatment of depression were changed five or six years ago,” Hagen says, “MCT had not been empirically tested.” Given the results of the NTNU and Danish studies, he recommends that professionals in the field consider whether this form of therapy should become the first choice for treating depression in people suffering from this mental disorder. “Many professionals in Norway have expertise in metacognitive therapy,” says Hagen.

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    Can Robots Write Meaningful News?

    March 29th, 2017

    Robots and computers are replacing people everywhere; doctors, pilots, even journalists. Is this leading to a dystopian society, or could it be something positive?

    With this in mind, researchers from the Media Management and Transformation Centre (MMTC) at Jönköping International Business School, Jönköping University have launched the project DPer News (Digital Personalization of the News), with support from the Knowledge Foundation.

    Digitalization is the integration of digital technologies into everyday life, but it is also the process of moving to a digital business. The media industry, and news in particular, is the starting point for the Dper News project, but virtually all industries are facing digitalization.

    Credit: Max Pixel

    “The angle of digitalization is very much in demand today, and companies are eager to get help to transform”, says project director Mart Ots. “The general question is how can algorithms replace humans in repetitive professions? Journalism may not seem like a repetitive job, but when it comes to writing about finance and sports, it very well can be.”

    In some areas, robots can be used to assist journalists by finding and analyzing data, but the journalist still writes the story. In other cases, robots could do the actual writing. The DPer News project wants to find creative methods for robotization that can help the news industry create more interesting news.

    “DPer News is about how we can make news stories that are not just cheap and convenient, but more meaningful and personal. It worries me that just because we can get robots to mine and condense data, that’s all we’ll do”, says Professor Daved Barry. “Robots can target you and quickly give you the content you want, like the latest sports scores. But what about giving you content that would surprise you, that would help you think in out-of-the-box ways?”

    Journalism, at its heart, is a very human enterprise. Can it be done by robots? Representing different views on this, the project involves experts on data mining, innovation and creativity, the news company Hallpressen, and computer consultants Infomaker and PDB. It connects with two other research projects at MMTC: DATAMINE which has received Regional funding, and the Digital Business Innovation Studio has received a grant from Vinnova.

    The project team consists of Daved Barry, Karl Hammar, Anette Johansson, Ulf Johansson, Tuwe Löfström, Henry Lopez Vega, Mart Ots, Andrea Resmini, Ulf Seigerroth, and Håkan Sundell.

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    History of Mokele Mbembe And Expeditions To Africa

    March 29th, 2017

    The Daily Journalist.

    Numerous expeditions have been undertaken to Africa in search of Mokèlé-mbèmbé. During these, there were some sightings that have been argued by cryptozoologists to involve some unidentified dinosaur-like creature. Additionally, there have been several specific Mokèlé-mbèmbé-hunting expeditions. Although several of the expeditions have reported close encounters, none have been able to provide incontrovertible proof that the creature exists. The sole evidence that has been found is the presence of widespread folklore and anecdotal accounts covering a considerable period of time.

    1776: Bonaventure

    The earliest reference that might be relevant to Mokèlé-mbèmbé stories (though the term is not used in the source) comes from the 1776 book History of Loango, Kakonga, and Other Kingdoms in Africa by Liévin-Bonaventure Proyart, a French missionary to the Congo River region. Among many other observations about flora, fauna, and native inhabitants related in his book, Bonaventure claimed to have seen enormous footprints in the region. The creature that left the prints was not witnessed, but Bonaventure wrote that it “must have been monstrous: the marks of the claws were noted on the ground, and these formed a print about three feet in circumference.”

    1909: Gratz

    According to Lt. Paul Gratz’s account from 1909, indigenous legends of the Congo River Basin in modern day Zambia spoke of a creature known by native people as the “Nsanga”, which was said to inhabit the Lake Bangweulu region. Gratz described the creature as resembling a sauropod. This is one of the earliest references linking an area legend with dinosaurs, and has been argued to describe a Mokèlé-mbèmbé-like creature. In addition to hearing stories of the “Nsanga” Gratz was shown a hide which he was told belonged to the creature, while visiting Mbawala Island.

    1909: Hagenbeck

    1909 saw another mention of a Mokèlé-mbèmbé-like creature, in Beasts and Men, the autobiography of famed big-game hunter Carl Hagenbeck. He claimed to have heard from multiple independent sources about a creature living in the Congo region which was described as “half elephant, half dragon.” Naturalist Joseph Menges had also told Hagenbeck about an animal alleged to live in Africa, described as “some kind of dinosaur, seemingly akin to the brontosaurs.” Another of Hagenbeck’s sources, Hans Schomburgk, asserted that while at Lake Bangweulu, he noted a lack of hippopotami; his native guides informed him of a large hippo-killing creature that lived in Lake Bangweulu; however, as noted below, Schomburgk thought that native testimony was sometimes unreliable.

    Reports of dinosaur-like creatures in Africa caused a minor sensation in the mass media, and newspapers in Europe and North America carried many articles on the subject in 1910–1911; some took the reports at face value, others were more skeptical.

    1913: von Stein

    Another report comes from the writings of German Captain Ludwig Freiherr von Stein zu Lausnitz, who was ordered to conduct a survey of German colonies in what is now Cameroon in 1913. He heard stories of an enormous reptile alleged to live in the jungles, and included a description of the beast in his official report. According to Willy Ley, “von Stein worded his report with utmost caution,” knowing it might be seen as unbelievable. Nonetheless, von Stein thought the tales were credible: trusted native guides had related the tales to him, and the stories were related to him by independent sources, yet featured many of the same details. Though von Stein’s report was never formally published, portions were included in later works, including a 1959 book by Ley. Von Stein wrote:

    The animal is said to be of a brownish-gray color with a smooth skin, its size is approximately that of an elephant; at least that of a hippopotamus. It is said to have a long and very flexible neck and only one tooth but a very long one; some say it is a horn. A few spoke about a long, muscular tail like that of an alligator. Canoes coming near it are said to be doomed; the animal is said to attack the vessels at once and to kill the crews but without eating the bodies. The creature is said to live in the caves that have been washed out by the river in the clay of its shores at sharp bends. It is said to climb the shores even at daytime in search of food; its diet is said to be entirely vegetable. This feature disagrees with a possible explanation as a myth. The preferred plant was shown to me, it is a kind of liana with large white blossoms, with a milky sap and applelike fruits. At the Ssombo River I was shown a path said to have been made by this animal in order to get at its food. The path was fresh and there were plants of the described type nearby. But since there were too many tracks of elephants, hippos, and other large mammals it was impossible to make out a particular spoor with any amount of certainty.

    1919-1920: Smithsonian Institution

    A 32-man expedition was sent to Africa from the Smithsonian Institution in Washington D.C. between 1919 and 1920. The objective of this expedition was to secure additional specimens of plants and animals. Moving picture photographers from the Universal Film Manufacturing Company accompanied the expedition, in order to document the life of interior Africa. According to cryptozoologists Loren Coleman and Patrick Huyghe, authors of the Field Guide to Lake Monsters, “African guides found large, unexplained tracks along the bank of a river and later in a swamp the team heard mysterious roars, which had no resemblance with any known animal”. However, the expedition was to end in tragedy. During a train-ride through a flooded area where an entire tribe was said to have seen the dinosaur, the locomotive suddenly derailed and turned over. Four team members were crushed to death under the cars and another half dozen seriously injured. The expedition was documented in the Homer L. Shantz papers.

    1927: Smith

    1927 saw the publication of Trader Horn, the memoir of Alfred Aloysius Smith, who had worked for a British trading company in what is now Gabon in the late 1800s. In the book, Smith related tales told him by natives and explorers about a creature given two different names: “jago-nini” and “amali”. The creature was said to be very large, according to Smith, and to leave large, round, three-clawed footprints.

    1932: Sanderson

    Cryptozoologist Ivan T. Sanderson claimed that, while in Cameroon in 1932, he witnessed an enormous creature in the Mainyu River. The creature, seemingly badly wounded, was only briefly visible as it lurched into the water. Darkly colored, the animal’s head alone was nearly the size of a hippo, according to Sanderson. His native guides termed the creature “m’koo m’bemboo”, in Sanderson’s phonetic spelling.

    1938: von Boxberger

    In 1938, explorer Leo von Boxberger mounted an expedition in part to investigate Mokèlé-mbèmbé reports. He collected much information from natives, but his notes and sketches had to be abandoned during a conflagration with local tribesmen.

    1939: von Nolde

    In 1939, the German Colonial Gazette (of Angola) published a letter by Frau Ilse von Nolde, who asserted that she had heard of the animal called “coye ya menia” (“water lion”) from many claimed eyewitnesses, both natives and settlers. She described the long necked creature as living in the rivers, and being about the size of a hippo, if not somewhat larger. It was known especially for attacking hippos – even coming on to land to do so – though it never ate them.

    1966: Ridel

    In August or September 1966, Yvan Ridel took a picture of a large footprint with three toes, north-east of Loubomo, notable as hippopotami have four toes.

    1976: Powell

    In 1960, an expedition to Zaire was planned by herpetologist James H. Powell, Jr., scheduled for 1972, but was canceled by legal complications. By 1976, however, he had sorted out the international travel problems, and went to Gabon instead, inspired by the book Trader Horn. He secured finances from the Explorer’s Club. Although Powell’s ostensible research aim was to study crocodiles, he also planned to study Mokèlé-mbèmbé.

    On this journey, Powell located a claimed eyewitness to an animal called “n’yamala”, or “jago-nini”, which Powell thought was the same as the “amali” of Smith’s 1920’s books. Natives also stated – without Powell’s asking – that “n’yamala” ate the flowering liana, just as von Stein had been told half a century earlier. When Powell showed illustrations of various animals, both alive and extinct, to natives, they generally suggested that the Diplodocus was the closest match to “n’yamala”.

    1979: Powell

    Powell returned to the same region in 1979, and claimed to receive further stories about “n’yamala” from additional natives. He also made an especially valuable contact in American missionary Eugene Thomas, who was able to introduce Powell to several claimed eyewitnesses. He decided that the n’yamala was probably identical to the Mokèlé-mbèmbé. Though seemingly herbivores, witnesses reported that the creatures were fearsome, and were known to attack canoes that were steered too close.

    1979: Thomas

    Reverend Eugene Thomas from Ohio, USA, told James Powell and Roy P. Mackal in 1979 a story that involved the purported killing of a Mokèlé-mbèmbé near Lake Tele in 1959. Thomas was a missionary who had served in the Congo since 1955, gathering much of the earliest evidence and reports, and claiming to have had two close-encounters himself.[12] Natives of the Bangombe tribe who lived near Lake Tele were said to have constructed a large spiked fence in a tributary of Tele to keep Mokèlé-mbèmbé from interfering with their fishing. A Mokele-mbembe managed to break through, though it was wounded on the spikes, and the natives then killed the creature. As William Gibbons writes, “Pastor Thomas also mentioned that the two pygmies mimicked the cry of the animal as it was being attacked and speared… Later, a victory feast was held, during which parts of the animal were cooked and eaten. However, those who participated in the feast eventually died, either from food poisoning or from natural causes. I also believe that the mythification (magical powers, etc) surrounding Mokèlé-mbèmbés [sic] began with this incident.” Furthermore, Mackal heard from witnesses that the stakes were in the same location in the tributary as of the early 1980s.

    1980: Mackal-Powell

    For his third expedition in February 1980, Powell was joined by Roy P. Mackal. Based on the testimony of claimed eyewitnesses, Powell and Mackal decided to focus their efforts on visiting the northern Congo regions, near the Likouala aux Herbes River and isolated Lake Tele. As of 1980, this region was little explored and largely unmapped, and the expedition was unable to reach Lake Tele. Powell and Mackal interviewed several people who claimed to have seen Mokèlé-mbèmbé, and Clark writes that the descriptions of the creature were “strikingly similar … animals 15 to 30 feet (5 to 9 m) long (most of that a snakelike head and neck, plus long thin tail). The body was reminiscent of a hippo’s, only more bulbous … again, informants invariably pointed to a picture of a sauropod when shown pictures of various animals to which mokele-mbembe might be compared.” Mackal and Powell were interviewed before and after this expedition for the TV program Arthur C. Clarke’s Mysterious World.

    1981: Mackal-Bryan

    Mackal and Jack Bryan mounted an expedition to the same area in late 1981. He was supposed to be joined by Herman Regusters, but they came in conflict in terms of finance, equipment and leadership and decided to split and make separate expeditions. Although, once again, Mackal was unable to reach Lake Tele, he gathered details on other cryptids and possible living dinosaurs, like the Emela-ntouka, Mbielu-Mbielu-Mbielu, Nguma-monene, Ndendeki (giant turtle), Mahamba (a giant crocodile of 15 meters), and Ngoima (a giant monkey-eating Eagle). Among his company were J. Richard Greenwell, M. Justin Wilkinson, and Congolese zoologist Marcellin Agnagna.

    The 1981 expedition would feature the only “close encounters” of the Mackal expeditions. It occurred when, while on a river, they heard a loud splash and saw what Greenwell described as “[a] large wake (about 5″) … originating from the east bank”. Greenwell asserted that the wake must have been caused by an “animate object” that was unlike a crocodile or hippo. Additionally, Greenwell noted that the encounter occurred at a sharp river bend where, according to natives, Mokèlé-mbèmbé frequently lived due to deep waters at those points.

    1987 saw the publication of Mackal’s book, A Living Dinosaur?, in which Mackal detailed his expedition and his conclusions about the Mokèlé-mbèmbé. Mackal tried, unsuccessfully, to raise funds for additional trips to Africa.

    1981: Regusters

    In 1981, American engineer Herman Regusters led his own Mokèlé-mbèmbé expedition, after having a conflict with the Mackal-Bryan expedition that he intended to join. Regusters and his wife Kai reached Lake Tele, staying there for about two weeks. Of the 30 expedition members (28 were men from the Boha village), only Herman Regusters and his wife claim to have observed a “long-necked member” traveling across Lake Tele. They also claim to have tried filming the being, but said their motion picture film was ruined by the heat and humidity. Only one picture was released showing a large, but unidentifiable, object in the lake. The Regusters expedition returned with droppings and footprint casts, which Regusters believed were from the mokele-mbembe.

    It also returned with sound recordings of “low windy roar [that] increased to a deep throated trumpeting growl”, which Regusters believed to be the Mokèlé-mbèmbé’s call. This recording was submitted for technical evaluation with a noted zoological source, but were inconclusive, except to note that the sounds were not attributable to any known wildlife. Despite this result, Regusters’ conclusions about this tape were later challenged by Mackal, who asserted that the Mokèlé-mbèmbé did not have a vocal call. Mackal asserts that vocalizations are more correctly associated with the Emela-ntouka, a similarly described creature found in the Central African legends.

    Herman Alphanso Regusters died on 19 December 2005, aged 72.

    1983: Agnagna

    Congolese biologist Marcellin Agnagna led the 1983 expedition of Congolese to Lake Tele. According to his own account, Agnagna claimed to have seen a Mokèlé-mbèmbé at close distance for about 20 minutes. He tried to film it, but said that in his excitement, he forgot to remove the motion picture camera’s lens cap. In a 1984 interview, Agnagna claimed, contradictorily, that the film was ruined not because of the lens cap, but because he had the Super 8 camera on the wrong setting: macro instead of telephoto.

    1985: Nugent

    In December 1985 Rory Nugent spotted an anomaly moving through the middle of Lake Tele, approximately 1 kilometer from his position on the shore. In his account published as a book, Nugent claimed that it was shaped like a “slender french curve” and moving through the water with little wake. When he went to launch a boat to investigate he was ordered at gunpoint by the natives not to approach it. Nugent wrote that they view the creature as a god “that you can not approach, but if he chooses, this god can approach you.” He also provided some pictures, which are too blurry to be identifiable.

    1985-1986: Operation Congo

    Operation Congo took place between December 1985 and early 1986 by “four enthusiastic but naïve young Englishmen,” led by Young Earth Creationist William Gibbons, They hired Agnagna to take them to Lake Tele, but did not report any Mokèlé-mbèmbé sightings. The British men did, however, assert that Agnagna did “little more than lie, cheat and steal (our film and supplies) and turn the porters against us.” After criminal charges were filed against him, a Congolese court ordered Agnagna to return the items he had taken from the expedition.

    Although the party found no evidence of the Mokèlé-mbèmbé, they discovered a new subspecies of monkey, which was later classified as the Crested mangabey monkey (Cerocebus galeritus), as well as fish and insect specimens.

    1986: Botterweg

    In 1986 another expedition was mounted, consisting of four Dutchmen, organized and led by Dutch biologist Ronald Botterweg, who already had experience with tropical rainforest research in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and who later visited, lived, and worked in several African countries. This expedition entered the Congo down the Ubangi River from Bangui in the Central African Republic, and managed, with considerable organizational challenges, to reach Lake Tele, with a group of guides from the village of Boha, some of which had also accompanied Regusters. Since they had only managed to obtain permission from the local authorities (not having passed by Brazzaville) for a very limited period in the area, they only spent about three days at the lake before returning to Boha. During their stay at the lake they spent as much time as possible observing the lake and its surroundings through from their provisional camp on the north-eastern shore, and navigating part of it by dug-out canoe. No signs of any large unknown animal were found.

    On the way back, arriving at the town of Impfondo, they were detained by Congolese biologist Agnagna and his team, who had just arrived there for an expedition with the British team of Operation Congo, allegedly for not possessing the proper documents. They were detained for a short while, and the largest part of their film and color slides were confiscated, before being released and leaving the country (again by the Ubangui river and Bangui).

    No signs, tracks or anything tangible or visible of the alleged animals was seen or shown whatsoever. Tracks, droppings, and other signs of forest elephants and gorillas were commonly seen, as well as crocodiles in the lake. Despite the fact that the African guides were extremely capable and experienced hunters, guides and experts of the African rainforest, they were not able to show any track or sign of the Mokèlé-mbèmbé and none of the several interviewed guides even claimed ever to have seen one personally, nor its tracks. Remarkable is the fact that the guides that were interviewed by the Dutch expedition and that also accompanied Regusters, stated that they never saw a Mokèlé-mbèmbé during that expedition, although Regusters himself claims to have seen one.

    This expedition received some attention in the Dutch media (radio, TV, and newspapers) from 1985 to 1987, and again in a nostalgic radio show by Dutch radio station KRO on channel Radio 2, on 7 March 2011. Furthermore, this expedition features in a slightly romanticized form as a short story by Dutch novelist author Margriet de Moor (‘Hij Bestaat’, meaning It exists, in the novel ‘Op de Rug Gezien’, meaning Seen from behind).

    1988 Japanese expedition

    In 1988 a Japanese expedition went to the area, led by the Congolese wildlife official Jose Bourges. In 1992, members of a Japanese film crew allegedly filmed video Mokele-mbembe. As they were filming aerial footage from a small plane over the area of Lake Tele, intending to obtain some shots for a documentary, the cameraman noticed a disturbance in the water. He struggled to maintain focus on the object, which was creating a noticeable wake. About 15 seconds of footage was captured, which skeptics have identified as either two men in a canoe or swimming elephants.

    1989 O’Hanlon

    British writer Redmond O’Hanlon traveled to the region in 1989 and not only failed to discover any evidence of Mokèlé-mbèmbé but found out that many local people believe the creature to be a spirit rather than a physical being, and that claims for its authentic existence have been fabricated. His experience is chronicled in Granta no. 39 (1992) and in his book Congo Journey (UK, 1996), published as No Mercy in the USA (1997).

    1992 Operation Congo 2

    William Gibbons launched a second expedition in 1992 which he dubbed “Operation Congo 2”. Along with Rory Nugent, Gibbons searched almost two thirds of the Bai River along with two poorly charted lakes: Lake Fouloukuo and Lake Tibeke, both of which local folklore held to be sites of Mokèlé-mbèmbé activity. The expedition failed to provide any conclusive evidence of the Mokèlé-mbèmbé, though they did further document local legends and Nugent took two photographs of unidentified objects in the water, one of which he claimed was the creature’s head.

    2000: Extreme Expeditions

    In January 2000, the Congo Millennium Expedition (aka. DINO2000) took place, the second one by Extreme Expeditions, consisting of Andrew Sanderson, Adam Davies, Keith Townley, Swedish explorer Jan-Ove Sundberg, and five others. (Adam Davies has spoken of the Mokèlé-mbèmbé on a 2011 BBC video)

    2000: Gibbons

    In November 2000, William Gibbons did some preliminary research in Cameroon for a future expedition. He was accompanied by David Wetzel, and videographer Elena Dugan. While visiting with a group of pygmies, they were informed about an animal called Ngoubou, a horned creature. The pygmies asserted it was not a regular rhinoceros, as it had more than one horn (six horns on the frill in one eyewitness account), and that the father of one of the senior members of the community had killed one with a spear a number of years ago. The locals have noted a firm dwindle in the population of these animals lately, and that they are hard to find. Gibbons identified the animal with a Styracosaurus, but, in addition to being extinct, these are only known to have inhabited North America.

    2001: CryptoSafari/BCSCC

    In February 2001, in a joint venture between CryptoSafari and the British Columbia Scientific Cryptozoology Club (BCSCC), a research team traveled to Cameroon consisting of William Gibbons, Scott T. Norman, John Kirk and writer Robert A. Mullin. Their local guide was Pierre Sima Noutchegeni. They were also accompanied by a BBC film crew. No evidence of Mokèlé-mbèmbé was found.

    2001: BBC Congo

    In 2001, BBC broadcast in the TV series Congo a collective interview with a group of BiAka pygmies, who identified the mokele mbembe as the rhino while looking at an illustrated manual of local wildlife.

    2006: Marcy

    In January 2006, the Milt Marcy Expedition traveled to the Dja river in Cameroon, near the Congolese border. It consisted of Milt Marcy, Peter Beach, Rob Mullin and Pierre Sima. They spoke to witnesses that claimed to have observed a Mokèlé-mbèmbé only two days before, but they did not discover the animal themselves. However, they did return with what they believe to be a plaster cast of a Mokèlé-mbèmbé footprint.

    2006: National Geographic

    A May 2006 episode called “Super Snake” of the National Geographic series Dangerous Encounters included an expedition headed by Brady Barr to Lake Tele. No unknown animals were found.

    2006: Vice Guide to Travel

    In 2006, David Choe travelled to the Republic of Congo in search of the creature for Vice in the segment The Last Dinosaur of the Congo. Choe and his companions failed to find the animal and the focus of the documentary turned to the rituals of their Pygmy guides.

    2008: Destination Truth

    In March 2008, an episode of the SyFy (formerly the SciFi Channel) series Destination Truth involved investigator Joshua Gates and crew searching for the creature. They did not visit the Likouala Region, which includes Lake Tele, but they visited Lake Bangweulu in Zambia instead, which had reports of a similar creature in the early 20th century, called the “‘nsanga”. The crew of Destination Truth kept calling the animal “Mokèlé-mbèmbé” to the locals, when that name is only used in the Republic of the Congo. The name used in that particular spot is “chipekwe”. Their episode featured a videotaped encounter filmed from a great distance. On applying digital video enhancement techniques, the encounter proved to be nothing more than two submerged hippopotami.

    2009: MonsterQuest

    In March 2009 an episode of the History Channel series MonsterQuest involved William Gibbons, Rob Mullin, local guide Pierre Sima and a two-man film crew from White Wolf Productions. It took place in Cameroon, in the region of Dja River, Boumba River, and Nkogo River, near the border with the Republic of the Congo. The episode aired in the summer of 2009, and also featured an interview with Roy P. Mackal and Peter Beach of the Milt Marcy Expedition, 2006. While no sightings were reported on the expedition, the team found evidence of a large underground cave with air vents. The team also received sonar readings of very long, serpentine shapes underwater.

    2011: Beast Hunter

    A March 2011 episode of Beast Hunter on the National Geographic Channel featured a search for Mokele-mbembe in the Congo Basin.

    2012: The Newmac Expedition

    In April 2012 Stephen McCullah & Sam Newton launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund an expedition to the Congo region to search for Mokele-mbembe. Despite raising some $29,000 the expedition suffered financial difficulties and is believed to have been abandoned shortly after the party reached the Congo in July 2012.

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    Surprising Discovery Of Mayan Precious Jewel: “Like Finding The Hope Diamond In Peoria”

    March 14th, 2017

    The Daily Journalist.

    To say that UC San Diego archaeologist Geoffrey Braswell was surprised to discover a precious jewel in Nim Li Punit in southern Belize is something of an understatement.

    “It was like finding the Hope Diamond in Peoria instead of New York,” said Braswell, who led the dig that uncovered a large piece of carved jade once belonging to an ancient Maya king. “We would expect something like it in one of the big cities of the Maya world. Instead, here it was, far from the center,” he said.

    The jewel — a jade pendant worn on a king’s chest during key religious ceremonies — was first unearthed in 2015. It is now housed at the Central Bank of Belize, along with other national treasures.

    The jade once belonging to an ancient Maya king is inscribed with 30 hieroglyphs. It was used during important religious ceremonies.

    Courtesy G. Braswell/UC San Diego

    Braswell recently published a paper in the Cambridge University journal Ancient Mesoamerica detailing the jewel’s significance. A second paper, in the Journal of Field Archaeology, describes the excavations.

    The pendant is remarkable for being the second largest Maya jade found in Belize to date, said Braswell, a professor in the Department of Anthropology at UC San Diego. The pendant measures 7.4 inches wide, 4.1 inches high and just 0.3 inches thick. Sawing it into this thin, flat form with string, fat and jade dust would have been a technical feat. But what makes the pendant even more remarkable, Braswell said, is that it’s the only one known to be inscribed with a historical text. Carved into the pendant’s back are 30 hieroglyphs about its first owner.

    “It literally speaks to us,” Braswell said. “The story it tells is a short but important one.” He believes it may even change what we know about the Maya.

    Also important: The pendant was “not torn out of history by looters,” said Braswell. “To find it on a legal expedition, in context, gives us information about the site and the jewel that we couldn’t have otherwise had or maybe even imagined.”

    Where the jewel was found

    Nim Li Punit is a small site in the Toledo District of Belize. It sits on a ridge in the Maya Mountains, near the contemporary village of Indian Creek. Eight different types of parrot fly overhead. It rains nine months of the year.

    The pendant was pictured on a carved image of a king at the site where it was unearthed.

    Courtesy G. Braswell/UC San Diego

    On the southeastern edge of the ancient Maya zone (more than 250 miles south of Chichen Itza in Mexico, where similar but smaller breast pieces have been found), Nim Li Punit is estimated to have been inhabited between A.D. 150 and 850. The site’s name means “big hat.” It was dubbed that, after its rediscovery in 1976, for the elaborate headdress sported by one of its stone figures. Its ancient name might be Wakam or Kawam, but this is not certain.

    Braswell, UC San Diego graduate students Maya Azarova and Mario Borrero, along with a crew of local people, were excavating a palace built around the year 400 when they found a collapsed, but intact, tomb. Inside the tomb, which dates to about A.D. 800, were 25 pottery vessels, a large stone that had been flaked into the shape of a deity and the precious jade pectoral. Except for a couple of teeth, there were no human remains.

    What was it doing there?

    The pendant is in the shape of a T. Its front is carved with a T also. This is the Mayan glyph “ik’,” which stands for “wind and breath.” It was buried, Braswell said, in a curious, T-shaped platform. And one of the pots discovered with it, a vessel with a beaked face, probably depicts a Maya god of wind.

    Wind was seen as vital by the Maya. It brought annual monsoon rains that made the crops grow. And Maya kings — as divine rulers responsible for the weather — performed rituals according to their sacred calendar, burning and scattering incense to bring on the wind and life-giving rains. According to the inscription on its back, Braswell said, the pendant was first used in A.D. 672 in just such a ritual.

    Two relief sculptures on large rock slabs at Nim Li Punit also corroborate that use. In both sculptures, a king is shown wearing the T-shaped pendant while scattering incense, in A.D. 721 and 731, some 50 and 60 years after the pendant was first worn.

    A stela from Nim Li Punit Maya site in what is now Belize

    By the year 800, the pendant was buried, not with its human owner, it seems, but just with other objects. Why? The pendant wasn’t a bauble, Braswell said, “it had immense power and magic.” Could it have been buried as a dedication to the wind god? That’s Braswell’s educated hunch.

    Maya kingdoms were collapsing throughout Belize and Guatemala around A.D. 800, Braswell said. Population levels plummeted. Within a generation of the construction of the tomb, Nim Li Punit itself was abandoned.

    “A recent theory is that climate change caused droughts that led to the widespread failure of agriculture and the collapse of Maya civilization,” Braswell said. “The dedication of this tomb at that time of crisis to the wind god who brings the annual rains lends support to this theory, and should remind us all about the danger of climate change.”

    The jade pendant was buried around A.D. 800 with other objects, including pottery and a large stone that had been flaked into the shape of a deity.

    Courtesy G. Braswell/UC San Diego

    Still and again: What was it doing there?The inscription on the back of the pendant is perhaps the most intriguing thing about it, Braswell said. The text is still being analyzed by Braswell’s coauthor on the Ancient Mesoamerica paper, Christian Prager of the University of Bonn. And Mayan script itself is not yet fully deciphered or agreed upon.

    But Prager and Braswell’s interpretation of the text so far is this: The jewel was made for the king Janaab’ Ohl K’inich. In addition to noting the pendant’s first use in A.D. 672 for an incense-scattering ceremony, the hieroglyphs describe the king’s parentage. His mother, the text implies, was from Cahal Pech, a distant site in western Belize. The king’s father died before aged 20 and may have come from somewhere in Guatemala.

    It also describes the accession rites of the king in A.D. 647, Braswell said, and ends with a passage that possibly links the king to the powerful and immense Maya city of Caracol, located in modern-day Belize.

    “It tells a political story far from Nim Li Punit,” Braswell said. He notes that Cahal Pech, the mother’s birthplace, for example, is 60 miles away. That’s a five-hour bus ride today, and back then would have been many days’ walk — through rainforest and across mountains. How did the pendant come to this outpost?

    While it’s possible it had been stolen from an important place and whisked away to the provinces, Braswell doesn’t think so. He believes the pendant is telling us about the arrival of royalty at Nim Li Punit, the founding of a new dynasty. The writing on the pendant is not particularly old by Maya standards, but it’s the oldest found at Nim Li Punit so far, Braswell said. It’s also only after the pendant’s arrival that other hieroglyphs and images of royalty begin to show up on the site’s stelae, or sculptured stone slabs.

    It could be that king Janaab’ Ohl K’inich himself moved to Nim Li Punit, Braswell said. Or it could be that a great Maya state was trying to ally with the provinces, expand its power or curry favor by presenting a local king with the jewel. Either way, Braswell believes, the writing on the pendant indicates ties that had been previously unknown.

    “We didn’t think we’d find royal, political connections to the north and the west of Nim Li Punit,” said Braswell, who has been excavating in Belize since 2001 and at Nim Li Punit since 2010. “We thought if there were any at all that they’d be to the south and east.”

    Even if you ignore the writing and its apparent royal provenance, the jade stone itself is from the mountains of Guatemala, southwest of Belize. There are few earlier indications of trade in that direction either, Braswell said.

    We may never know exactly why the pendant came to Nim Li Punit or why it was buried as it was, but Braswell’s project to understand the site continues. He plans to return in the spring of 2017. This time, he also wants to see if he might discover a tie to the Caribbean Sea. After all, that’s a mere 12 miles downriver, a four-hour trip by canoe.

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    Why Do Meteors Make Spooky Sounds?

    February 28th, 2017

    When a meteor is about to conk your neighborhood and gives fair warning by emitting sizzling, rustling and hissing sounds as it descends, you might think that the universe is being sporting.

    Sandia National Laboratories researcher Richard Spalding, recently deceased, examines the sky through which meteors travel.

    But these auditory warnings, which do occur, seem contrary to the laws of physics if they are caused by the friction of the fast-moving meteor or asteroid plunging into Earth’s atmosphere. Because sound travels far slower than light, the sounds should arrive several minutes after the meteor hits, rather than accompany or even precede it.

    So maybe atmospheric shock waves from the meteors are not the cause of the spooky noises

    Photo by Randy Montoya
    Another theory is that the sounds are created by radio frequency emissions. That seems unlikely without designated receivers.

    But what if the sounds are caused by the brilliant, pulsating light emitted by the asteroid as it burns up in Earth’s atmosphere?

    In an article published Feb. 1 in the journal Scientific Reports, the late Sandia National Laboratories researcher Richard Spalding reasoned that such intense light could suddenly heat the surface of objects many miles away, which in turn heats the surrounding air. This could create sounds near the observer. Colleagues John Tencer, William Sweatt, Ben Conley, Roy Hogan, Mark Boslough and Gigi Gonzales, along with Pavel Spurny from the Astronomical Institute of the Czech Republic, experimentally demonstrated and analyzed that effect.

    They found that objects with low conductivity, such as leaves, grass, dark paint and even hair, could rapidly warm and transmit heat into nearby air and generate pressure waves by subtle oscillations that create a variety of sounds. The process is called photoacoustic coupling.

    Sounds concurrent with a meteor’s arrival “must be associated with some form of electromagnetic energy generated by the meteor, propagated to the vicinity of the observer and transduced into acoustic waves,” according to the article. “A succession of light-pulse-produced pressure waves can then manifest as sound to a nearby observer.”

    This bolide appeared over the Flinders Ranges, in the South Australian desert on the evening of the 24th April 2011.
    Credit: Wikimedia Commons

    The experimenters exposed several materials, including dark cloths and a wig, to intense pulsing light akin to that produced by a fireball. The process produced faint sounds similar to rustling leaves or faint whispers. Computer models bear out the results.

    A less extreme version of the photoacoustic effect had been observed in 1880 by Alexander Graham Bell when, testing the possibilities of light for long-distance phone transmissions, he intermittently interrupted sunlight shining on a variety of materials and noted the sounds produced.

    Sandia National Laboratories is a multimission laboratory operated by Sandia Corporation, a wholly owned subsidiary of Lockheed Martin Corp., for the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration. With main facilities in Albuquerque, N.M., and Livermore, Calif., Sandia has major R&D responsibilities in national security, energy and environmental technologies and economic competitiveness.

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    Cameras Can Steal Data From Blinking Computer Hard Drive Led Lights

    February 28th, 2017

    The Daily Journalist.

    Researchers at the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU) Cyber Security Research Center have demonstrated that data can be stolen from an isolated “air-gapped” computer’s hard drive reading the pulses of light on the LED drive using various types of cameras and light sensors.

    In the new paper, the researchers demonstrated how data can be received by a Quadcopter drone flight, even outside a window with line-of-sight of the transmitting computer.

    Air-gapped computers are isolated — separated both logically and physically from public networks — ostensibly so that they cannot be hacked over the Internet or within company networks. These computers typically contain an organization’s most sensitive and confidential information.

    Led by Dr. Mordechai Guri, head of R&D at the Cyber Security Research Center, the research team utilized the hard-drive (HDD) activity LED lights that are found on most desktop PCs and laptops. The researchers found that once malware is on a computer, it can indirectly control the HDD LED, turning it on and off rapidly (thousands of flickers per second) — a rate that exceeds the human visual perception capabilities. As a result, highly sensitive information can be encoded and leaked over the fast LED signals, which are received and recorded by remote cameras or light sensors.

    Credit: Pixabay

    “Our method compared to other LED exfiltration is unique, because it is also covert,” Dr. Guri says. “The hard drive LED flickers frequently, and therefore the user won’t be suspicious about changes in its activity.”

    Dr. Guri and the Cyber Security Research Center have conducted a number of studies to demonstrate how malware can infiltrate air-gapped computers and transmit data. Previously, they determined that computer speakers and fans, FM waves and heat are all methods that can be used to obtain data.

    In addition to Dr. Guri, the other BGU researchers include Boris Zadov, who received his M.Sc. degree from the BGU Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering and Prof. Yuval Elovici, director of the BGU Cyber Security Research Center. Prof. Elovici is also a member of Ben-Gurion University’s Department of Software and Information Systems Engineering and director of Deutsche Telekom Laboratories at BGU.

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    Old Engravings Confirm Ancient Origins of Pointillist Techniques

    February 28th, 2017

    The Daily Journalist.

     

    A newly discovered trove of 16 engraved and otherwise modified limestone blocks, created 38,000 years ago, confirms the ancient origins of the pointillist techniques later adopted by 19th and 20th century artists such as Georges Seurat, Vincent Van Gogh, Camille Pissarro, and Roy Lichtenstein.

    “We’re quite familiar with the techniques of these modern artists,” observes New York University anthropologist Randall White, who led the excavation in France’s Vézère Valley. “But now we can confirm this form of image-making was already being practiced by Europe’s earliest human culture, the Aurignacian.”

    Pointillism, a painting technique in which small dots are used to create the illusion of a larger image, was developed in the 1880s. However, archaeologists have now found evidence of this technique thousands of years earlier — dating back more than 35,000 years.

    Newly discovered limestone slab from Abri Cellier with pointillist mammoth in profile view formed my dozens of individual punctuations and re-shaping of the natural edge of the block to conform to the animals head and back line.

    Photo and drawing by R. Bourrillon.

    The findings appear in the journal Quaternary International.

    Major discoveries by White and his colleagues–which include images of mammoths and horses–confirm that a form of pointillism was used by the Aurignacian, the earliest modern human culture in Europe. These add weight to previous isolated discoveries, such as a rhinoceros, from the Grotte Chauvet in France, formed by the application of dozens of dots, first painted on the palm of the hand, and then transferred to the cave wall.

    Earlier this year, White’s team reported the uncovering of a 38,000-year-old pointillist image of an aurochs or wild cow–a finding that marks some of the earliest known graphic imagery found in Western Eurasia and offers insights into the nature of modern humans during this period. Now, in short order they have found another pointillist image–this time of a woolly mammoth–in a rock shelter of the same period known as Abri Cellier located near the previous find-site of Abri Blanchard.

    Abri Cellier has long been on archeologists’ short-list of major art-bearing sites attributed to the European Aurignacian. Excavations in 1927 yielded 15 engraved and/or pierced limestone blocks that have served as a key point of reference for the study of Aurignacian art in the region.

    This is a graphic rendering of the recently published Blanchard aurochs illustrating the arrangement of punctuations in relation to the animal.

    Photo and drawing by R. Bourrillon

    In 2014, White and his colleagues returned to Cellier, seeking intact deposits that would allow a better understanding of the archaeological sequence at the site and its relationship to other Aurignacian sites. They had their fingers crossed that the new excavation might yield new engraved images in context, but nothing prepared them for the discovery of the 16 stone blocks detailed in the Quaternary International article. One of these, broken in half prehistorically, was found in place with a radiocarbon date of 38,000 years ago.

    Remarkably, the remaining 15 blocks, including the pointillist mammoth, one of three mammoth figures recognized during the new work at Cellier, had been left on-site by the 1927 excavators. As many of the engraved traces are rudimentary and thus difficult to interpret, the original excavators set them aside just in case they might have something inscribed on them. The new article presents evidence that the 38,000 year date for the newly excavated engraving also applies to the new trove and to the other blocks found in 1927 and now housed in the French National Prehistory Museum.

    Over the past decade, with these and other discoveries, White and his team have increased our known sample of the earliest graphic arts in southwestern France by 40 percent. The team includes researchers from the University of Arizona, the University of Toronto, the University of Toulouse, Paris’ Museum of Natural History, and the University of Oxford.

    The research appearing in Quaternary International was supported by the Partner University Fund and the Andrew Mellon Foundation, the Direction régional des affaires culturelles d’Aquitaine (DRAC-Aquitaine), the Institut des Sciences Humaines et Sociales (INSHS) of the CNRS, the Faculty of Arts and Science at NYU, and the Fyssen Foundation.

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    Archaeologists Find 12th Dead Sea Scrolls Cave

    February 16th, 2017

    The Daily Journalist.

    Excavations in a cave on the cliffs west of Qumran, near the northwestern shore of the Dead Sea, prove that Dead Sea scrolls from the Second Temple period were hidden in the cave, and were looted by Bedouins in the middle of the last century. With the discovery of this cave, scholars now suggest that it should be numbered as Cave 12.

    The surprising discovery, representing a milestone in Dead Sea Scroll research, was made by Dr. Oren Gutfeld and Ahiad Ovadia from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s Institute of Archaeology, with the collaboration of Dr. Randall Price and students from Liberty University in Virginia, USA.

    The excavators are the first in over 60 years to discover a new scroll cave and to properly excavate it.

    A piece of parchment to be processed for writing, found rolled up in a jug, in a cave on the cliffs west of Qumran excavated by Hebrew University archaeologists.

    Photo: Casey L. Olson and Oren Gutfeld

    The excavation was supported by the Civil Administration of Judea and Samaria, by the Israel Nature and Parks Authority, and the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA), and is a part of the new “Operation Scroll” launched at the IAA by its Director-General, Mr. Israel Hasson, to undertake systematic surveys and to excavate the caves in the Judean Desert.

    Excavation of the cave revealed that at one time it contained Dead Sea scrolls. Numerous storage jars and lids from the Second Temple period were found hidden in niches along the walls of the cave and deep inside a long tunnel at its rear. The jars were all broken and their contents removed, and the discovery towards the end of the excavation of a pair of iron pickaxe heads from the 1950s (stored within the tunnel for later use) proves the cave was looted.

    Until now, it was believed that only 11 caves had contained scrolls. With the discovery of this cave, scholars have now suggested that it would be numbered as Cave 12. Like Cave 8, in which scroll jars but no scrolls were found, this cave will receive the designation Q12 (the Q=Qumran standing in front of the number to indicate no scrolls were found).

    Fault cliff and entrance (on the left) to a cave near the Dead Sea, excavated by Hebrew University archaeologists, who designated it the 12th Dead Sea Scrolls cave.
    Photo: Casey L. Olson and Oren Gutfeld

    “This exciting excavation is the closest we’ve come to discovering new Dead Sea scrolls in 60 years. Until now, it was accepted that Dead Sea scrolls were found only in 11 caves at Qumran, but now there is no doubt that this is the 12th cave,” said Dr. Oren Gutfeld, an archaeologist at the Hebrew University’s Institute of Archaeology and director of the excavation. “Finding this additional scroll cave means we can no longer be certain that the original locations (Caves 1 through 11) assigned to the Dead Sea scrolls that reached the market via the Bedouins are accurate.”

    Dr. Gutfeld added: “Although at the end of the day no scroll was found, and instead we ‘only’ found a piece of parchment rolled up in a jug that was being processed for writing, the findings indicate beyond any doubt that the cave contained scrolls that were stolen. The findings include the jars in which the scrolls and their covering were hidden, a leather strap for binding the scroll, a cloth that wrapped the scrolls, tendons and pieces of skin connecting fragments, and more.”

    The finds from the excavation include not only the storage jars, which held the scrolls, but also fragments of scroll wrappings, a string that tied the scrolls, and a piece of worked leather that was a part of a scroll. The finding of pottery and of numerous flint blades, arrowheads, and a decorated stamp seal made of carnelian, a semi-precious stone, also revealed that this cave was used in the Chalcolithic and the Neolithic periods.

    Archaeologists Oren Gutfeld and Ahiad Ovadia, from the Hebrew University’s Institute of Archaeology, survey a cave that once contained Dead Sea Scrolls.

    Photo: Casey L. Olson and Oren Gutfeld
    This first excavation to take place in the northern part of the Judean Desert as part of “Operation Scroll” will open the door to further understanding the function of the caves with respect to the scrolls, with the potential of finding new scroll material. The material, when published, will provide important new evidence for scholars of the archaeology of Qumran and the Dead Sea caves.

    “The important discovery of another scroll cave attests to the fact that a lot of work remains to be done in the Judean Desert and finds of huge importance are still waiting to be discovered,” said Israel Hasson, Director-General of the Israel Antiquities Authority. “We are in a race against time as antiquities thieves steal heritage assets worldwide for financial gain. The State of Israel needs to mobilize and allocate the necessary resources in order to launch a historic operation, together with the public, to carry out a systematic excavation of all the caves of the Judean Desert.

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    Download DVD’s In Seconds: Terahertz Wireless

    February 16th, 2017

    Hiroshima University, National Institute of Information and Communications Technology, and Panasonic Corporation announced the development of a terahertz (THz) transmitter capable of transmitting digital data at a rate exceeding 100 gigabits (= 0.1 terabit) per second over a single channel using the 300-GHz band. This technology enables data rates 10 times or more faster than that offered by the fifth-generation mobile networks (5G), expected to appear around 2020.

    Details of the technology will be presented at the International Solid-State Circuits Conference (ISSCC) 2017 to be held from February 5 to February 9 in San Francisco, California [1].

    The THz band is a new and vast frequency resource expected to be used for future ultrahigh-speed wireless communications.

    Terahertz wireless links to spaceborne satellites could make gigabit-per-second connection speeds available to anyone anytime, anywhere on the face of the earth, on the ground or in flight.

    Credit: Fujishima et al. (Hiroshima University)

    The research group has developed a transmitter that achieves a communication speed of 105 gigabits per second using the frequency range from 290 GHz to 315 GHz. This range of frequencies are currently unallocated but fall within the frequency range from 275 GHz to 450 GHz, whose usage is to be discussed at the World Radiocommunication Conference (WRC) 2019 under the International Telecommunication Union Radiocommunication Section (ITU-R). Last year, the group demonstrated that the speed of a wireless link in the 300-GHz band could be greatly enhanced by using quadrature amplitude modulation (QAM) [2].

    This year, they showed six times higher per-channel data rate, exceeding 100 gigabits per second for the first time as an integrated-circuit-based transmitter. At this data rate, the whole content on a DVD (digital versatile disk) can be transferred in a fraction of a second.
    “This year, we developed a transmitter with 10 times higher transmission power than the previous version’s. This made the per-channel data rate above 100 Gbit/s at 300 GHz possible,” said Prof. Minoru Fujishima, Graduate School of Advanced Sciences of Matter, Hiroshima University. “We usually talk about wireless data rates in megabits per second or gigabits per second. But we are now approaching terabits per second using a plain simple single communication channel. Fiber optics realized ultrahigh-speed wired links, and wireless links have been left far behind.
    Terahertz could offer ultrahigh-speed links to satellites as well, which can only be wireless. That could, in turn, significantly boost in-flight network connection speeds, for example. Other possible applications include fast download from contents servers to mobile devices and ultrafast wireless links between base stations,” said Prof. Fujishima. “Another, completely new possibility offered by terahertz wireless is high-data-rate minimum-latency communications. Optical fibers are made of glass and the speed of light slows down in fibers. That makes fiber optics inadequate for applications requiring real-time responses.
    Today, you must make a choice between ‘high data rate’ (fiber optics) and ‘minimum latency’ (microwave links). You can’t have them both. But with terahertz wireless, we could have light-speed minimum-latency links supporting fiber-optic data rates,” he added. The research group plans to further develop 300-GHz ultrahigh-speed wireless circuits.

    This work was supported by the R&D on Wireless Transceiver Systems with CMOS Technology in 300-GHz Band, as part of an R&D program on Key Technology in Terahertz Frequency Bands of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications, Japan.

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    Sex, Drugs, And Rock And Roll Chemistry In The Brain

    February 10th, 2017

    The Daily Journalist.

     

    The same brain-chemical system that mediates feelings of pleasure from sex, recreational drugs, and food is also critical to experiencing musical pleasure, according to a study by McGill University researchers published today in the Nature journal Scientific Reports.

    “This is the first demonstration that the brain’s own opioids are directly involved in musical pleasure,” says cognitive psychologist Daniel Levitin, senior author of the paper. While previous work by Levitin’s lab and others had used neuroimaging to map areas of the brain that are active during moments of musical pleasure, scientists were able only to infer the involvement of the opioid system.

      Daniel Levitin
    Credit: J. Mogil/McGill University

    In the new study, Levitin’s team at McGill selectively and temporarily blocked opioids in the brain using naltrexone, a widely prescribed drug for treating addiction disorders. The researchers then measured participants’ responses to music, and found that even the participants’ favorite songs no longer elicited feelings of pleasure.

    “The findings, themselves, were what we hypothesized,” Levitin says. “But the anecdotes — the impressions our participants shared with us after the experiment — were fascinating. One said: ‘I know this is my favorite song but it doesn’t feel like it usually does.’ Another: ‘It sounds pretty, but it’s not doing anything for me.’”

    Things that people enjoy – alcohol, sex, a friendly game of poker, to name a few – can also lead to addictive behaviors that can harm lives and relationships. So understanding the neurochemical roots of pleasure has been an important part of neuroscience research for decades. But scientists only recently developed the tools and methods to do such research in humans.

    Still, this study proved to be “the most involved, difficult and Sisyphean task our lab has undertaken in 20 years of research,” Levitin says. “Anytime you give prescription drugs to college students who don’t need them for health reasons, you have to be very careful to ensure against any possible ill effects.” For example, all 17 participants were required to have had a blood test within the year preceding the experiment, to ensure they didn’t have any conditions that would be made worse by the drug.

    Music’s universality and its ability to deeply affect emotions suggest an evolutionary origin, and the new findings “add to the growing body of evidence for the evolutionary biological substrates of music,” the researchers write.

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    38,000 Year Old Engraved Image Discovered, Earliest Graphic Image Found In Western Europe

    February 1st, 2017

    The Daily Journalist.

    An international team of anthropologists has uncovered a 38,000-year-old engraved image, above, in a southwestern French rockshelter—a finding that marks some of the earliest known graphic imagery found in Western Eurasia and offers insights into the nature of modern humans during this period.

    “The discovery sheds new light on regional patterning of art and ornamentation across Europe at a time when the first modern humans to enter Europe dispersed westward and northward across the continent,” explains NYU anthropologist Randall White, who led the excavation in France’s Vézère Valley.
    The limestone slab engraved with image of an aurochs, or extinct wild cow, was discovered at Abri Blanchard in 2012
    Credit: Musée national de Préhistoire collections – photo MNP – Ph. Jugie

    The findings, which appear in the journal Quaternary International, center on the early modern humans’ Aurignacian culture, which existed from approximately 43,000 to 33,000 years ago.

    Abri Blanchard, the French site of the recently uncovered engraving, a slab bearing a complex image of an aurochs, or wild cow, surrounded by rows of dots, was previously excavated in the early 20th century. White and his team members began their methodical exploration of remaining deposits at the site in 2011, with the discovery occurring in 2012.

    White contends that Aurignacian art offers a window into the lives and minds of its makers—and into the societies they created.

    “Following their arrival from Africa, groups of modern humans settled into western and Central Europe, showing a broad commonality in graphic expression against which more regionalized characteristics stand out,” he explains. “This pattern fits well with social geography models that see art and personal ornamentation as markers of social identity at regional, group, and individual levels.”

    Abri Blanchard and its sister site, Abri Castanet, previously excavated by White’s team, have long been recognized as being among the oldest sites in Eurasia bearing artifacts of human symbolism. Over time, hundreds of personal ornaments have been discovered, including pierced animal teeth, pierced shells, ivory and soapstone beads, engravings, and paintings on limestone slabs.

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    Nordic Countries Are Bringing About An Energy Transition Worth Copying

    February 1st, 2017

    The Daily Journalist.

     

    What can we learn from the Nordic low-carbon energy transition given the new US leadership vacuum on climate change? A new study by Benjamin K Sovacool offers some important lessons.

    The Trump administration’s “First energy plan” criticises the “burdensome” regulations on the energy industry and aims to eliminate “harmful and unnecessary policies such as the Climate Action Plan” which was introduced by President Barack Obama. It has also deleted all mentions of climate change and global warming from the White House website.

    Given the American leadership vacuum on energy and climate change, national and local planners looking to bring about energy transitions will need to look elsewhere. Five Nordic countries – Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden – could hold answers for how to make the transition to a more energy efficient society generating energy through renewables. About 83% of electricity generation in Nordic countries is low-carbon, of which 63% comes entirely from renewable sources. The Nordic countries are also facilitating other low-carbon transitions across other sectors including heat, buildings, industry, and transport.

    Samsø, a Danish island, generates all its electricity from wind power and biomass.

    Credit: University of Sussex
    A new study outlines broad lessons for how this transition could be replicated elsewhere.

    The energy transition pays for itself (if you factor in the costs of air pollution)

    The total estimated cost of the Nordic energy transition is roughly $357 billion more than business as usual, which comes to a total of less than 1 percent of cumulative GDP between now and 2050. Almost all of these costs will be offset by fuel savings. Even the external costs associated with the health impacts of air pollution alone in the Nordic countries (about $9 to $14 billion annually) are roughly equal to the additional investment needed to achieve a carbon neutral scenario.

    Trade and interconnection with other countries are key for reaching energy targets

    Trade and interconnection with Europe are instrumental to the Nordic countries reaching their carbon and energy targets. Nordic electricity trade must expand considerably— underscoring the need for paralleled, coordinated grid development and interconnections with Great Britain, the Netherlands, Germany, Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia. “It’s as much a regional governance or European challenge as it is a national priority for individual Nordic states,” says Sovacool, a Professor of Energy Policy at the University of Sussex’s Science Policy Research Unit and Director of the Centre on Innovation and Energy Demand.

    Cities and municipalities take the lead

    Cities and municipalities, or ‘subnational actors’ have taken the lead as key actors driving electricity and heat, energy efficiency, transport and the industry sectors to decarbonise, especially given that urbanization rates across the Nordic region are expected to occur at double the rate of previous decades. It is cities that will need to invest in new buildings, sponsor retrofits, erect electric vehicle charging infrastructure, and optimize heat networks.

    Energy transitions take generations

    Even for the Nordic countries, which are relatively wealthy, small, and committed, the transition will take at least three to four more decades. Its success rests upon a number of compelling technological contingencies or breakthroughs, each of which will take time. A few such breakthroughs include a continued phase out of nuclear power; a rapid ramping up of onshore and offshore wind energy; a spectacular diffusion of electric vehicles; a massive increase in bioenergy production; and the commercialization of industrial scale carbon capture and storage. On top of this, households and consumers must learn to adopt better energy management systems and industrial planners must come to install newer cement kilns, electric arc furnaces, and feedstock switching for chemicals, petrochemicals, and paper and pulping.

    Transitions are contingent on other factors, contested and potentially unjust

    For all of its promise, the Nordic transition is contingent upon and unique to its own sociotechnical environment. All the Nordic countries are endowed with plentiful fossil fuels that they can export to generate revenue that they funnel back into domestic decarbonisation process, coupled with a history of strong energy and climate planning and high fuel and electricity prices.

    While the Nordic low-carbon transition has generally been successful and has benefited most within its society, the paper also identifies losers in the transition, including those set to lose their jobs as fossil fuels are displaced. Other potential obstacles to be overcome are a lack of understanding among some citizens about energy and climate topics, and the outsourcing of embodied carbon emissions overseas.

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    Scientist Finds Advanced Geometry No Secret To Prehistoric Architects In US Southwest

    January 28th, 2017

    The Daily Journalist.

    Imagine you are about to plan and construct a building that involves several complicated geometrical shapes, but you aren’t allowed to write down any numbers or notes as you do it. For most of us, this would be impossible.

    Yet, new research from Arizona State University has revealed that the ancient Southwestern Pueblo people, who had no written language or written number system, were able to do just that – and used these skills to build sophisticated architectural complexes.

    Dr. Sherry Towers, a professor with the ASU Simon A. Levin Mathematical, Computational and Modeling Sciences Center, uncovered these findings while spending several years studying the Sun Temple archaeological site in Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado, constructed around A.D. 1200.

    This is a satellite photo of Sun Temple archaeological site with illustrations demonstrating its geometrical properties.

    Credit; Dr. Sherry Towers

    “The site is known to have been an important focus of ceremony in the region for the ancestral Pueblo peoples, including solstice observations,” Towers says. “My original interest in the site involved looking at whether it was used for observing stars as well.”

    However, as Towers delved deeper into the site’s layout and architecture, interesting patterns began to emerge.

    “I noticed in my site survey that the same measurements kept popping up over and over again,” she says. “When I saw that the layout of the site’s key features also involved many geometrical shapes, I decided to take a closer look.”

    The geometrical shapes used within this location would be familiar to any high school student: equilateral triangles, squares, 45-degree right triangles, Pythagorean triangles, and the “Golden rectangle,” which was well known to architects in ancient Greece and Egypt and is often used in Western art due to its pleasing proportions.

    This is a satellite photo of Pueblo Bonito archaeological site with illustrations demonstrating its geometrical properties.

    Credit; Dr. Sherry Towers

    With some geometrical know-how, a straight-edge, a compass or cord, and a unit of measurement, all of the shapes are fairly easy to construct. But, unlike the ancient Greeks, Egyptians and Maya, the ancestral Pueblo people had no written language or number system to aid them when they built the site. Incredibly, their measurements were still near-perfect, with a relative error of less than one percent.

    “This is what I find especially amazing,” Towers says. “The genius of the site’s architects cannot be underestimated. If you asked someone today to try to reconstruct this site and achieve the same precision that they had using just a stick and a piece of cord, it’s highly unlikely they’d be able to do it, especially if they couldn’t write anything down as they were working.”

    During her research, Towers discovered that the site was laid out using a common unit of measurement just over 30 centimeters in length – equal to about one modern-day foot. She also found evidence that some of the same geometrical constructs from Sun Temple were used in at least one other ancestral Puebloan ceremonial site, Pueblo Bonito, located in New Mexico’s Chaco Culture National Historic Park.

    “Further study is needed to see if that site also has the same common unit of measurement,” she says. “It’s a task that will keep us busy for some years to come.”

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    Preserved Fortification, Donkey Stables Dating To King Solomon Discovered

    January 20th, 2017

    The Daily Journalist.

    Intact defensive structure, livestock pens provide insight into complexity of Iron Age copper production

    Some believe that the fabled mines of King Solomon were located among copper smelting camps in Israel’s Timna Valley. The arid conditions at Timna have seen the astonishing preservation of 3,000-year-old organic materials, which have provided Tel Aviv University archaeologists with a unique window into the culture and practices of a sophisticated ancient society.

    An advanced military fortification — a well-defined gatehouse complex — unearthed recently at Timna, including donkey stables, points to the community’s highly-organized defense system and significant dependence on long-distance trade. The research was recently published in The Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports.

     The entrance complex with a two-room gatehouse flanked by animal pens and piles of dung.

    Courtesy Erez Ben-Yosef et al.

    The fortification dates to the reigns of Kings David and Solomon in the 10th century BCE.

    “While there is no explicit description of ‘King Solomon’s mines’ in the Old Testament, there are references to military conflicts between Israel and the Edomites in the Arava Valley,” says Dr. Erez Ben-Yosef of TAU’s Institute of Archaeology and one of the leaders of the Timna research and excavation team, along with his colleagues Dr. Lidar Sapir-Hen and Dr. Dafna Langgut. “According to the Bible, David traveled hundreds of miles outside of Jerusalem and engaged in military conflict in the desert — striking down ‘18,000 Edomites in the Valley of Salt.’ Now, having found evidence of defensive measures — a sophisticated fortification — we understand what must have been at stake for him in this remote region: copper.”

    Military threats

    “Copper was a rare product and very challenging to produce,” Dr. Ben-Yosef continues. “Because copper — like oil today, perhaps — was the most coveted commodity, it landed at the very heart of military conflicts. The discovery of the fortification indicates a period of serious instability and military threats at that time in the region.”

    In the remarkably intact two-room fortification, located in one of the largest smelting camps in the Timna Valley, the researchers also found evidence of a complex long-distance trade system that probably included the northern Edomite plateau, the Mediterranean coastal plain and Judea. The complex featured pens for draught animals and other livestock. According to precise pollen, seed, and fauna analyses, they were fed with hay and grape pomace — high-quality sustenance that must have been delivered from the Mediterranean region hundreds of miles away.

    “The gatehouse fortification was apparently a prominent landmark,” says Dr. Ben-Yosef. “It had a cultic or symbolic function in addition to its defensive and administrative roles. The gatehouse was built of sturdy stone to defend against invasion. We found animal bones and dung piles so intact, we could analyze the food the animals were fed with precision. The food suggests special treatment and care, in accordance with the key role of the donkeys in the copper production and in trade in a logistically challenging region.”

    Archaeology and the Old Testament

    The site was discovered in 1934 by the American archaeologist Nelson Glueck. He called the copper smelting site “Slaves’ Hill,” because he believed it bore all the marks of an Iron Age slave camp, complete with fiery furnaces and a formidable stone barrier that seemed designed to prevent escape. But in 2014 Dr. Ben-Yosef and colleagues debunked this theory, revealing that the diets and clothing of the smelters — perfectly preserved by the desert conditions — pointed instead to a hierarchical, sophisticated society.

    “The historical accuracy of the Old Testament accounts is debated, but archaeology can no longer be used to contradict them,” Dr. Ben-Yosef observes. “On the contrary, our new discoveries are in complete accordance with the description of military conflicts against a hierarchical and centralized society located south of the Dead Sea.”

    Dr. Ben-Yosef and his team plan to continue exploring the ancient societies that worked in these remote copper mines. “The unique preservation of organic materials in Timna, coupled with 21st century research methods including ancient DNA and residue analyses, bear the potential for additional significant discoveries in the future,” says Dr. Ben-Yosef.

    The excavations at the ancient mines of Tinma continue every winter as part of the Central Timna Valley (CTV) Project of Tel Aviv University.

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    Too Much Sitting, Too Little Exercise May Accelerate Biological Aging

    January 20th, 2017

    The Daily Journalist.

     

    Older women with low physical activity and 10 hours of daily sit time had even “older” cells.

    Researchers at University of California San Diego School of Medicine report that elderly women who sit for more than 10 hours a day with low physical activity have cells that are biologically older by eight years compared to women who are less sedentary.

    The study, publishing online January 18 in the American Journal of Epidemiology, found elderly women with less than 40 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity per day and who remain sedentary for more than 10 hours per day have shorter telomeres — tiny caps found on the ends of DNA strands, like the plastic tips of shoelaces, that protect chromosomes from deterioration and progressively shorten with age.

    As a cell ages, its telomeres naturally shorten and fray, but health and lifestyle factors, such as obesity and smoking, may accelerate that process. Shortened telomeres are associated with cardiovascular disease, diabetes and major cancers.

    Sitting and low physical activity may accelerate aging process in older women.

    Credit: N/A

    “Our study found cells age faster with a sedentary lifestyle. Chronological age doesn’t always match biological age,” said Aladdin Shadyab, PhD, lead author of the study with the Department of Family Medicine and Public Health at UC San Diego School of Medicine.

    Shadyab and his research team believe they are the first to objectively measure how the combination of sedentary time and exercise can impact the aging biomarker.

    Nearly 1,500 women, ages 64 to 95, participated in the study. The women are part of the larger Women’s Health Initiative (WHI), a national, longitudinal study investigating the determinants of chronic diseases in postmenopausal women. The participants completed questionnaires and wore an accelerometer on their right hip for seven consecutive days during waking and sleeping hours to track their movements.

    “We found that women who sat longer did not have shorter telomere length if they exercised for at least 30 minutes a day, the national recommended guideline,” said Shadyab. “Discussions about the benefits of exercise should start when we are young, and physical activity should continue to be part of our daily lives as we get older, even at 80 years old.”

    Shadyab said future studies will examine how exercise relates to telomere length in younger populations and in men.

    Additional co-authors include: Caroline Macera, Richard Shaffer, Sonia Jain, Linda Gallo, Michael LaMonte, Alexander Reiner, Charles Kooperberg, Cara Carty, Chongzhi Di, Todd Manini, Lifang Hou, and Andrea LaCroix, all at UC San Diego.

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    Could Secession Be Possible In The US?

    January 19th, 2017

     

    The Daily Journalist Community Question.

     

     

     

    A hypothetical map of a divided United States found online. 

    I hate to predict situations because I tend to nail the coffin after much thought…

    The United States is deeply divided as a nation and the division is worsening to historical levels only seen during the US civil war.  Democracy won’t last forever – no system ever does — and historically nations that started democratic shifted to either secession, civil war or military dictatorships. States like New York, Washington, Vermont and California – to name a few traditional democratic states — no longer feel identified with conservative states like Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Texas…etc. The media and Celebrities are only making the division steepen and inflaming hate between libertarians, progressives and conservatives with negative rhetoric.   

    If one follows the rise of social media closely and the propaganda brewing inside of it, it is clear that the extreme progressives and many non-religious conservatives blame particularly the Jewish media for manipulating news — Antisemitism is only second to Islamophobia online; the religious conservatives blame the liberals and the progressives for betraying constitutional values and destroying the military core with social Utopian experiments to change American traditionalism. The liberals blame the republicans for the neo-conservative model of franchising American fascist values worldwide by bulldozing other cultures into submission– whether fascism can survive in a non-socialist country like the US, as it once did in Italy and Spain remains to be seen.

    Globalization is a financial facet Democrats and Republican politicians fully embrace and protect, yet a globalized world has stiffen the world economy and hurt employment nationwide by outsourcing jobs in exchange of cheap labor significantly increasing gains to borrowers — particularly big banks. At this point, politicians are look upon as capitalist moguls who only serve Wall Street pundits, and not popular interest – lobbying the hallmark of legal corruption.  The rise of Donald Trump in the right and Socialism in the left might and probably will eventually doom the once indestructible core values of a free market economy into a tightly regulated fiscal system.

    Ultimately, the lack of nationalism and patriotism observed today as compared to the Roosevelt Era – which unified the country to recover from the Great Depression and enter War World Two — might end as the final precursor of secession among states given the actual ideological disunion of the country and downfall of military protectionism.  In the end of the day, Auburn Alabama will never feel like NYC, and California will never become Montana.  

    In Europe the situation will probably end with multiple dictatorships or the rise of new nationalist leaderships that will abandon the European Union like England.  The future doesn’t look very bright despite the multiple attempts to unify it.

    The questions follow, If worst came the worst.

    1)      Do you think America is deeply divided? Is it getting worst?

    2)      Is secession becoming a real possibility in the US? Do states like Alabama and Arizona represent states like New York and California at a federal level?

    3)      If secession happens in the near future, how would it impact the US dollar and how would it affect trade?

    4)      Could a state like California or Texas be better off ruling itself than having to depend on the federal government which doesn’t represent their states interest? Example the state of Texas disliking Barack Obama’s policy, and the state of California disliking Donald Trump’s Policy.

    5)      Would you approve secession states in the US?

     

    rsz_pic1314_2

    Themistocles Konstantinou.

    (Present Military data Analyst. Hellenic National Defense General Staff, Athens Greece)

    “Despite the fact that I am not an American citizen, I strongly believe that this nation must be united and not separated. I don’t want to express an opinion on this but I know that divided nations collapsed very quickly. I beg US the administration to be a government for all the people. The impact will be a disaster for all over the world not only the US.”

     

    rsz_steven-hansen

    Steven Hansen. 

    (Publisher and Co-founder of Econintersect, is an international business and industrial consultant specializing in turning around troubled business units; consults to governments to optimize process flows; and provides economic indicator analysis based on unadjusted data and process limitations)

    “I consider all five questions the same question.

    The  USA constitution was written in a way that the federal government was not to interfere in states rights. Since WWI there has been a significant interference by the federal government in items which should be states issues – marriage, health care, religion, social security, labor laws, environmental laws …..

    Each state should be different and have different rules. Economically it sets up 50+ state incubators to understand what works and what does not work. Texas does NOT need to have the same laws as California.

    The question becomes should states be able to secede? I believe the only way forward involves chaos – and a state seceding would cause chaos and then the change of the existing system. Nobody can say with any certainty what would happen to the dollar or trade.”

     

    rsz_6-7-sebastian-sarbu_tifet_679806b0f8

    Sebastian Sarbu.

    (He is a military analyst and vice-president of National Academy of Security and Defense Planning. Member of American Diplomatic Mission for International Relations)

    “I don’t believe in a possible secessionist movement. If social America prospers then the integrity of the US will maintain itself united.

    The risk is another. It consist in problematic issues and upset citizens who can generate a social crisis in America.

    The ability of new politically leadership is to combat fake news and any form of extremism and to ensure the public safety, restoring the trust in solid US institutions.”

     

    prp8

    Paul Pillar.

    (He is a Non-resident Senior Fellow at the Center for Security Studies of Georgetown University and the Brookings Institution and an Associate Fellow of the Geneva Center for Security Policy. He retired in 2005 from a 28-year career in the U.S. intelligence community)

    “America certainly is deeply divided, and it has continued to get worse.  Among the factors reinforcing this trend is the tribal manner of absorbing beliefs, in which things are accepted as true because leaders of one’s political tribe say they are true.  Secession is not a prospect; rather, we will see more of what we have now: political paralysis and dysfunction, and continued erosion of a common civic culture.  History offers numerous examples of nation-states still holding together and appearing as only one country on a map despite major, animosity-laden political divisions.”  

    rsz_z--rspor--small4

    Robert A. Slayton. 

    (Professor of History, Chapman University. Research Specialist in Housing, Chicago Urban League Author of seven books, including Empire Statesman: The Rise and Redemption of Al Smith)

    “I completely agree that we are at a level of tension not seen since the Civil War.

    And it just starting, with a long way to go.  Besides the factors you mentioned, the president is a verbal provocateur and his stated agenda is to disrupt the status quo.

    I do not see secession, but a rising anger of epic proportions, with outbursts of violence growing in scale, intensity, and frequency to record levels.

    There is also one other strand you did not mention.  There is a growing sense of post-war norms being shattered in the West:  Brexit, Trump, Le Pen in France, etc.  This reminds me a lot of Europe on the brink of World War I.  In both cases there was massive disruption because of economic/technological changes (in the early example the first and second wave of the Industrial Revolution, now computers).  In both cases there was massive disruption of society:   jobs, the family, new forms of protest and challenges to the political order.In 1914 an episode in a small place was the spark, and cascaded from there.  I think that is not outside the realm of possibility now.”

     

    Claude Forthomme. 

    (Senior Editor of Impakter Magazine. Passionate traveller (80 countries+) 25 years experience in United Nations: project evaluation specialist; FAO Director for Europe/Central Asia)

    “The idea of the United States falling apart and becoming the Disunited States of America is premature, and, in my opinion, not even realistic. I just don’t believe it. It looks bad because ideas online are taken up by anyone and everyone, and spread around like candies. Anyone and everyone who doesn’t understand anything about how the world really functions has as much say, and is heard as much as people in the know.

    The Internet acts as a megaphone for division, but it doesn’t mean that the division is real or is ever going to happen. Are we going to believe the trolls and the spreaders of fake news?

    Yes, at first, people listen and many may even buy in. At this point in time, as I write (12 January 2017), fakes news are an epidemic. But I have hopes, strong hopes that people are not that stupid. They will catch on. They will learn that they have been taken in by Trump and his 0.1 Percent cabinet. The billionaires in the Federal government will do whatever it takes to shield themselves from the people and make their own businesses thrive. Once middle America realizes it has been taken for a ride, it will rebel.

    But this won’t happen overnight. First Trump must put into action his plans to take on China and Mexico, stop globalization, destroy international trade and health care and pull the US out of the Paris climate Accord. Once everything is destroyed and stuff in supermarkets, groceries and apparel stores start costing twice as much as before, the white middle class that supported Trump will wake up.

    And when they do, nobody will talk of secession, everyone will talk of getting rid of this Tweeting Presidency. I believe in America and American values. And Americans won’t allow Trump to make America small again. ”

     

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    Dale Yeager.

    (He is the CEO of SERAPH and F.L.E.T.C trained Forensic Profiler and U.S. DOJ DOD Federal Law Enforcement SME / Instructor.)

    “1)      Do you think America is deeply divided? Is it getting worst?

     Yes, it is and it has been fueled by the current administration which clearly had an agenda to change social systems within the U.S.

    2)      Is secession becoming a real possibility in the US? Do states like Alabama and Arizona represent states like New York and California at a federal level?

    Americans are Americans. This doomsday idea is unrealistic.

    3)      If secession happens in the near future, how would it impact the US dollar and how would it affect trade?

    This will not happen guaranteed.

    4)      Could a state like California or Texas be better off ruling itself than having to depend on the federal government which doesn’t represent their states interest? Example the state of Texas disliking Barack Obama’s policy, and the state of California disliking Donald Trump’s Policy.

    That would be treason. We have for over 200 years agreed to be a United States. If they did that they would suffer economic loss and anarchy.

    5)      Would you approve secession states in the US?

    No, it is treason.”

     

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    Paul Winghart.

    (He is an economist. Paul is a two-time nominee (2011, 2012) for selection into the Financial Advisor/Private Wealth magazine’s national Due Diligence/Research Manager All-Star Team)

    “In perhaps the greatest bit of economic irony ever to behold the U.S., it is the dynamic of division that is greatest unifying force right now and it is getting worse. Basically, via the mostly invisible force of surplus productivity, everyone is being further detached from their own personal and unique economic potential.

    Being unable to mental and emotionally frame a pathway to one’s potential. Much less identify the blockage that is surplus productivity, means that people are having a much more difficult time relating to themselves, much less anyone else around even though they are struggling with the same issue.

    Because everyone’s economic potential is unique, you can’t appreciate fully someone else’s issues with surplus productivity just as they can’t appreciate yours. An analogy would be that while everyone is indeed in the same economic boat, the fog is so thick that you can’t even see anyone else who is in the boat with you.

    This situation, festering since 2000, is only likely to get worse as we begin to see surplus productivity encroach on all facets of the U.S. economy. I wrote an article that was published on LinkedIn a few months ago entitled The Greatest American Irony – The Economics That Is Uniting Us Is Dividing Us that goes into this dynamic in much more detail.

    I for one would not be in favor of seccession. However, I do believe  that states should break-up into smaller states. Many economists have argued that the U.S. could/ should be actually somewhere around 75 to 100 states and that can be down by making California, for example, into 6 different states.”

     

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    Jose Luis Chalhoub Naffah.

    (He is a political scientist with a masters in international oil trading and an independent politics consultant on politics and geopolitical risk based in Venezuela focusing on Russia AMD Middle East issues)

    “1.) Certainly the U.S. is going through important Socio-political issues and most of this is related to the rise of racism and xenophobic sentiments fostered by the arrival of Barack Obama to the presidency of the U.S. — and now with the winning of Donald Trump, both related to the rise of anti-black and anti-white anti-Latino and anti-Asian and anti- Muslim action and sentiment, but ironically this has been happening utmost at the best economic moment the US has experienced. Yes, the U.S. is getting importantly divided and could get worse if not properly assessed by the Trump administration and the radical groups not controlled timely.

    2.) Secession as such is now a threat for the union of the U.S. but not for all the states or the majority of the states of the union but for the demographic and economically relevant states like California and Texas, but since the economy in general is going through an important positive momentum, then this issue could be downplayed. Yet, secession also could be importantly played out by foreign players interested in destabilizing the U.S. Certainly not every state has equal representation and interests at the federal level and that’s why not every state has interest in separating from the U.S. just like the lesser resourced country in the EU wont want to see the union vanish.

    4.) Certainly oil states, but mostly Texas given its oil production, reserves and size —-does not only depend on oil and shale oil and gas resources — but also on agriculture and farming, so Texas could be possible be better off and it has had some previous initiatives of separating from the U.S. :I could only bet for this state. California is in no positive economic position to carry out a secessionist strategy from Washington — a political distaste ideologically speaking. I don’t see either Mexico or China making California another state of their own.

    5.) I would never approve such kind of political and geopolitical strategy, but now that we are watching how social and political dynamics in anti-globalization evolve quickly and separatism becoming a rule not the exception, then I would not rule out such a possibility in the general analysis.

     

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    Dr. Christopher Warburton. 

    (He holds a Ph.D in International Economics from Fordham University in New York. He has published several peer-reviewed articles and books on stabilization theory, market failure, monetary policy, exchange rates, international trade law, forensic economics, international crimes, and transitional justice)

    “1. America is deeply divided and the American polarization is nothing new. It  might get worse if a substantial amount of voters continue to be unenlightened,   unemployed, and abandoned. Immigration, income inequality, and poverty have become drivers of xenophobic sentiments. From the foregoing, the adverse socio-economic attributes  have become symptoms of national discontents and alienation.

    2. Secession is unlikely. Historically, States have voted to reflect their interests and confidence in those who aspire to higher office. Democracy is  a political ideology that works reasonably well when it is not susceptible to perversion, subterfuge, and complacence. In effect, it can be subverted from within and without political boundaries. As humans gravitate toward a corruption of the democratic system, because of political biases and self-enrichment, democracy ceases to function as it should. The Founding Fathers were much more diligent in safeguarding the fundamental principles of democracy. A longtime ago, political leaders were more interested in country first. Today, it seems to be pocket first; a perversion of the spirit and intent of democratic principles.

    Obviously, citizens need to exercise their rights in a democracy for a democratic state to function properly. Citizens must vote and be allowed to vote. The infrastructure for voting must be freely accessible and sufficient. The sight of long lines of voters who are expected to vote within a very limited time span is indicative of a blemish on any democratic system.  A system  ceases to be democratic when voting is suppressed. It is needless to say that voting requires a minimum amount of intelligence and civic awareness. When the central pieces of a democratic system are missing , a democratic state can no longer function as a composite whole and  the cohesion of a body politic begins to disintegrate. Yet, the strength of the American system, is that political leaders are judged by their performances even when voters make sentimental choices.

    National leaders who infuriate a substantial amount of the  American electorate  can be rest assured that they will be voted out of office. For these reasons, political parties  have alternated in the roles of leadership without the fear of regional secession even when the American voters are less vigilant. The voters eventually pull themselves by their bootstraps when they are confronted with adversity. Yet, the will of the majority must count in any democratic society. The tyranny of the majority or minority requires  measured rectification to maintain a balance of the expectations of voters in any democratic society.

    3. Apart from the political improbabilities of secession, the economic reasons for cohesion are equally compelling. Once upon a time, US States were using different currencies. It did not work out too well. The very thought of secession presumes the possibility of the multiplicity or duplicity of currencies, which imposes transaction costs and raises the question about the acceptability of State-issued currencies. Trade will ultimately be contingent on the economic resources that are available to each seceding State.

    Obviously, Sates that are not well endowed will have to find resources that will determine their comparative advantage. The paucity of such resources will spell doom, and demographic issues of domestic migration to areas of opportunity will generate unwanted external effects like crime and economic destabilization. States that are less endowed and excluded from the union will not receive federal financial support. These imaginary conditions are highly improbable. The result of a US election cannot be extraordinarily catastrophic. However, the persistence or long-lasting encouragement of economic and political deprivations against the will of voters can become very destabilizing.

    4. Since secession is improbable and counterproductive, Americans are only left with some pointed and very important options: (i) they must safeguard the principles of democracy from corrosive internal and external denigration, (ii) they must ensure that national interest supersedes parochial pecuniary interests, (iii) they must address the issue of  income inequality and poverty, (iv) they must utilize opportunities to exercise their civic responsibilities, ( v) they must ensure that the voting   infrastructure is accessible, sufficient, and uniform, and (vi) American voters who lack knowledge about the principles of government and international relations will do well to educate themselves about such matters to become enlightened citizens. When voters exercise their civic responsibilities and national interest supersedes parochial interests, the body politic will be preserved and discussions about secession will fade away or become moot.”

     

    John Mariotti.

    (He has spoken to thousands of people in the business, professional and university audiences in the US and Europe; he hosted a one-hour talk-radio show on the North American Broadcasting Network, (The Life of Business & the Business of Life); founded & moderated, The Reunion Conference, an annual round table/think-tank for 16 years) 

    “1)      Do you think America is deeply divided? Is it getting worse?

    Yes, America is deeply divided, but it was at its worst in 2016. Strangely enough, the unique coalition of voters who supported Donald Trump are a blend of formerly split groups. There is no way the far left and far right will ever reconcile completely, but that was the same in the days of the Founding Fathers. America’s Constitution actually was designed to force them to find compromises that would hold the country together instead of splitting it apart, while serving the American people’s best interests. Government is intended to work for the American people, not vice versa.

    2)      Is secession becoming a real possibility in the US? Do states like Alabama and Arizona represent states like New York and California at a federal level?

    No. The huge differences between liberal states (NY, CA) and conservative states (TX & Southern tier), cities and rural areas, simply exhibit the diversity of America. As more Americans move South, a natural blending of ideologies will occur. Secession is no answer. It is a great cop-out to avoid reasonable dialogue about the best compromise solutions.

    3)      If secession happens in the near future, how would it impact the US dollar and how would it affect trade?

    If it happened, which it won’t, it would totally disrupt how the US$ is viewed globally, and similar disrupt trade. But there is no other viable reserve currency in the world either.

    4)      Could a state like California or Texas be better off ruling itself than having to depend on the federal government which doesn’t represent their states interest? Example the state of Texas disliking Barack Obama’s policy, and the state of California disliking Donald Trump’s Policy.

    No. The Federal government needs to cede more power back to the states. Obama’s regime contradicted the Constitution’s intention that the states have as many rights and do as much as possible locally … and the Federal government do as little as possible. That need to be restored. Contrary to Obama and his allies, the Federal government seldom knows best, and does most things poorly. wasting enormous sums of taxpayer money while doing so—to achieve flawed solutions. Continental Europe is proving that right now.

    5)      Would you approve secession states in the US?

    Absolutely not. To even consider it is a lazy, arrogant cop out. Reasonable people can find compromises if they want to and choose to have dialogue over it. The biggest problem in the divisiveness in America is not the people. It is the sensationalism seeking media, which is dominated by liberals to an unhealthy extent (as is education). As long as the American people let media feed them their biased, and politically motivated “news,” this will not improve. What many people dislike about Donald Trump is his intention to “blow up” this untenable situation. It is, however, one of his greatest callings to “Make America Great Again.”  Nobody has to agree with everything. However, every elected official MUST set aside their selfish, biased positions and find positions that represent the will and wishes of the people they were elected to represent.”

     

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    Nick Dranias.

    (He is President & Executive Director of Compact for America Educational Foundation. He is a constitutional scholar and an expert in the law of interstate compacts. He has appeared as a constitutional scholar on Fox News, MSN-NBC, NPR, and many other outlets)

    “1)       Do you think America is deeply divided? Is it getting worst?

    America is deeply divided and if our system of federalism—allowing for state and local control of most policy issues—were working the division would not necessarily be a threat, but a basis for policy competition and persuasion for residents and businesses, with the best state or city winning the competition. The problem has been that the federal government under the outgoing administration did as much as possible to obliterate that safety release for division and healthy policy competition (except in the field of marijuana production), and by consolidating ever more power in a centralized location, transformed such division into a nearly existential political conflict. Perhaps the new administration will reverse course, but if not, further centralization will exacerbate the problem.

    2)       Is secession becoming a real possibility in the US? Do states like Alabama and Arizona represent states like New York and California at a federal level?

    Secession is not a real possibility, nor should it be tried. The effort failed in the civil war and it will certainly fail today. Plus, there is too much division internal to all states to extract an entire state from the union. There are communities within states that have their own policy ideas that need the autonomy to make core policy decisions. That’s why powerful ideas like the Prosperity States Compact should be used whereby states can agree to create autonomous local communities that can robustly restore the constitution and free market policies for those who want them. The vehicle of a compact is recommended because it preserves that policy environment from political interference and with congressional consent can also restore limits on federal power.

    3)       If secession happens in the near future, how would it impact the US dollar and how would it affect trade?

    It won’t happen.

    4)       Could a state like California or Texas be better off ruling itself than having to depend on the federal government which doesn’t represent their states interest? Example the state of Texas disliking Barack Obama’s policy, and the state of California disliking Donald Trump’s Policy.

    No.

    5)       Would you approve secession states in the US?

    No. The ProsperityStates.org effort is both more politically plausible, more effective and more likely to actually result in greater freedom.”

     

    Halyna Mokrushyna.

    (Holds a doctorate in linguistics and MA degree in communication. She publishes in Counterpunch, Truthout, and  New Cold War on Ukrainian politics, history, and culture. She is also a contributing editor to the New Cold War: Ukraine and beyond and a founder of the Civic group for democracy in Ukraine)

    “Without any doubt, America is divided. The last presidential election showed it very clearly. There is a deep ideological divide between traditionalist, conservative Americans and neoliberal, ‘progressive’ Democrats. I took the ‘progressive’ into brackets not accidentally, because Democrats of Hillary Clinton’s likes are hypocritical demagogues, pretending to be preoccupied with destinies of little people, while in reality serving interests of the elite to which they belong. Real progressives, like Senator Sanders, do not stand a chance in a non-socialist country that the US is, and I do not think that socialism is ever possible in the States.

    What shocked me the most in the aftermath of Trump’s victory in the presidential election is a violent, immature reaction to it of Democratic Party supporters. They launched street protests, called upon members of the Electoral College not to vote for Trump, doubted the results of counting. They are so nice when their representatives sit in the White House, but when somebody else dares to challenge their ideology and power, their politeness and civility suddenly disappear. A quote from Churchill comes to mind: ‘Some people’s idea of [free speech] is that they are free to say what they like, but if anyone says anything back, that is an outrage’. Democracy is a democracy precisely because it allows the multiplicity of voices to be heard and represented politically.

    Neo-liberal rulers even successfully convinced many Americans that Russians hacked the DNC servers and influenced the results of the election. It is ironic how the American spy agencies, without any convincing proof, are accusing Russians of intervening in the U.S domestic affairs. The U.S. has been meddling in other countries’ politics for decades, the last example being the coup d’état in Ukraine, which resulted in the awakening of right-wing nationalism, oppression of the opposition, and the disintegration of the economy.

    Yes, America is divided ideologically, but what country isn’t? American intellectual and political elites are in panic mode because they have finally understood that their country is not exceptional and it is subject to the same fragility as any other. American elites thought self-indulgently and arrogantly that their country is well shielded from the destruction which they have been bringing to other countries. It is very difficult to give up the self-illusion of superpower and self-righteousness and accept the political and intellectual multipolarity. It is easier to blame one’s problems on others, and Russia is the ready-made escape goat for sins of American military industrial moguls.

    In my opinion, we are witnessing the decline of American domination in the world, and this is good. Globalization, promoted by both Republican and Democrat elites, brought cheap products to the masses, but stripped American working class of jobs and is deskilling American workers. The election of Donald Trump who promised to bring back industries into the U.S. is a good thing for America and the rest of the world. Globalization in the current configuration is a very eschewed world system that is not sustainable in the long run, as it serves interests of the transnational elite. Transnational capitalists dislike nationalism precisely because it threatens their freedom to move production anywhere in the world where the labour is cheaper, where taxes are much lower, and where various regulations do not exist. Nationalism as protection of one’s own interests is a positive thing as long as it does not mutate into hatred and exclusion of others.

    We are witnessing the rise of such nationalism in Europe. I disagree with Jaime Ortega that it would lead to the emergence of dictatorships. It might lead to the emergence of nationalist leaders, but coming to power of dictators is highly improbable, given the traumatic and tragic experience of Nazism in Europe.

    Is secession possible in the U.S.? I do not think so. Separatism in any country historically is based on ethnic/cultural cleavages, not on ideological ones, and in that sense, America has a strong unity. Different actors on the margins of mainstream politics might entertain the idea of leaving the confederation, but they will never gather a sufficient support from ordinary citizens and the elites. There is no genuine social movement in the States that would promote the idea of secession. Even if such a movement were present, as it was in Quebec in 1960-1970, the economic reality check would dispel the enchantment of sovereignty. The defeat of Quebec sovereignists in the referendum of 1995 by a close margin of one percent was due to a large extent to fear of economic instability that the separation of Quebec would bring. People think about their basic needs first. It is difficult to lure into an uncertain adventure somebody who already lives in more or less easy circumstances.

    Secession in the States is not viable economically, it does not have the support of the elites and the population at large, and it will not happen. That is why I will not speculate what would happen to the trade and the American dollar.

    As to whether I would approve or disapprove the secession, it would up to American citizens to decide, and I am not one of them.

    Last point: democracy is possible without capitalism. The elites instilled into us the idea that free market and democracy are inseparable twins, but it is a false ideological construct. It is quite possible to have a centrally planned economy and a political system reflecting the interests of diverse population. Entrepreneurship is a very positive phenomenon and a drive of economic development, which should be allowed and encouraged. But any large, nation-wide production units should be under public ownership as it would allow a more transparent and just management and distribution of income across society. It would also prevent the accumulation of excessive riches in the hands of few people. What is needed for the building of such democracy is the political will of the elites, or a revolution, and both seem highly unlikely in the world we currently live in.”

     

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    Jon Kofas. 

    (Retired Indiana University university professor academic writing. International political economy — fiction)

    “Is Secession a Possibility? In case of Secession, what would be its impact on the dollar and trade?

    By 2016, the majority of Americans were angry and dissatisfied with their government led by a neoliberal Cold War Democrat President Obama whose actions did not match his rhetoric when it came to social justice and economic opportunity for all. Two weeks before the presidential election of 2016, a survey indicated that the nation was sharply divided on nearly everything from race relations to health care. The majority of people, 20% more than in 2012, believed the country was headed in the wrong direction and blamed the establishment Democrats and Republicans.

    Polarization was evident when considering evangelical Protestants who associated America’s glory with the Eisenhower administration, an era when institutionalized racism was legal and witch hunts against dissidents entailed absolute conformity in a country that called itself a democracy and castigated totalitarian Russia. Many populist conservatives that voted Trump are not bothered if their president violates the constitution and goes above the law to crush all enemies foreign and domestic, from ISIS in Iraq to illegal aliens and Black Lives Matter in the inner cities. In short, if authoritarianism is what it takes for social integration, then so be it, as far as the populist right wing is concerned. That populist conservatives lump together jihadists, illegal aliens, and minority activists speaks volumes of deep-seated cultural, political and institutional racism.

    Beyond the obvious socioeconomic divisions that tend to be much more evident in southern states and rural areas, coastal states are enjoying higher living standards than the rest of the country and are culturally very different from most states except the larger Midwestern and even some large southern cities. The “Red-state” (Republican) vs. “Blue-state” (Democrat) divide transcends class and reflects more of a cultural and ideological chasm that reflects historic societal conditioning. Although it is true that the social, cultural, religious, financial, and political elites have shaped the ideological/cultural chasm largely to suppress class solidarity which poses a threat to capitalism, this divide is deeply rooted in American history layered with the experiences of the dominant white Western European culture as hegemonic subordinating all others.

    As a political tool of rallying support behind the flag, shifting blame to external enemies has limited staying power, although the US did very well using Communism for half a century to achieve a domestic and international political consensus. Although large segments of the population feel excluded by the institutional structure, indoctrination has them convinced that enemies du jour are to blame, whether they are Russian and WIKILEAKS hackers, illegal immigrants, Muslims, the Chinese, etc. According to Pew Research public opinion data, the US did not become divided in 2016 as a result of the general election. The divisions in fact predate 9/11 and become sharper with the ideological/political gap widening as the income gap widened after the great recession of 2008. The decline in living standards follows a corresponding rise in the phenomenon of culture clashes and various socially excluded and differentiated groups seeking integration by different political means.  https://www.quora.com/HowandwhyhastheUnitedStatesbecomesodividedpoliticallyandsocially

    Considering the US progressive tradition was limited to the trade union movement from the late 19trh century until the Great Depression but thoroughly co-opted, and considering the women’s movement along with all other identity politics issues were also co-opted by the Democrat Party, there is no historical tradition of an effective progressive grassroots movement that takes under its umbrella all socially excluded and differentiated groups.  Given this reality people turn to the right when a populist extreme right wing demagogue like Trump comes along and promises to restore the American Dream, although in practice will deliver more wealth concentration that will lead to even lower social integration levels than what he inherited.

    Is Secession a Good Idea? Would liberal California or conservative Texas be better off as breakaway Republics?

    Considering the polarizing societal conditions, one could imagine how perpetual division, even secession may enter the public discourse. Secession is a deep-seated fear or wish on the part of some Americans who see that country geographically, ideologically, politically, racially, ethnically and culturally divided. It is true that southern states do not reflect the values or lifestyles of the coastal states. It is equally true that the smaller less populated southern states enjoy as many votes in the senate as the larger coastal states, thus determining the national agenda for the majority of the population. Does such a system reflect the will of the people, the social contract, or is it simply a reflection of states’ rights mentality that had relevance during the pre-Civil War slave era?

    Secession was tried in the 1860s and failed miserably despite the considerable confidence of the southern elites who believed that their interests were better served by closer integration with England than the northern states. The secession movement that resulted in the Civil War suggests that secession is beyond the realm of possibility. Of course, people understand politics on the basis of their educational level, their family and local influences, their religious and ideological-political leanings, as well as cultural conditioning.

    Rural Mississippi populist Republicans who link their identity to the Christian faith view New York Democrats as leftist atheists interested in destroying cherished southern traditions and values. In such case, the individual subordinates material self interest to religious faith and culture, as Samuel Huntington argued in “Clash of Civilizations” referring to a Middle East-West conflict rather than a domestic culture clash. Conservatives are spending billions of dollars every year trying to convince the masses to disregard their material self interests and focus on religion, cherished traditions, and loyalty to the nation, even if that means that every year their living standards decline and their prospects and those of their children for social integration diminish. 

    Conclusions

    Not just the mass anti-Trump-inauguration demonstrations estimated at more than 200,000 people, but the media wars, social media and mainstream media ‘fake news’, the political elites’ wars, the struggle for the country’s direction either toward a more authoritarian course or a liberal bourgeois based on pluralism, all provide a glimpse of a polarized society where social integration is the presumptive theoretical goal but exclusion and differentiation are realities. Although dialogue about the issues concerning the lives of the middle class and working people raises conflict in a capitalist society, the question is to what degree and how do the bourgeois political parties deal with social integration to achieve political consensus.

    Under an imaginary scenario of secession, the cultural elites and some people on either side of the cultural divide would be happy if they were not bound by the federal government pursuing an ideological and political agenda with which they disagree sharply. Clearly, there is an ideological, political and cultural chasm between Texas and California, at so many levels, despite similarities especially in the larger cities of both states. It is also the case that while in many southern and rural areas there is convergence of religious dogma and conservative political ideology.

    States have a great deal in common and would not give up the safety and security of the federal umbrella which makes possible US global reach partly because it has military bases around the world, military alliances, and the strong dollar as a reserve currency that is overvalued to the benefit of those holding it. Unless their privileges are taken from them by force as has been the case in revolutions, financial elites always manage to protect, preserve and expand their interests by backing the political status quo even if they have to reform it with a more progressive agenda, or support authoritarian policies, whichever side manages to forge a better popular consensus. 

    The reality of the well-integrated economy with global ties takes precedent over all other issues. California and Texas have economies largely in the primary sector of production but also in banking and high tech. This means that they need markets beyond their state borders and beyond US borders. Not just the costs of running an independent nation-state with sovereign currency, trade and investment policy that is in line with international organizations such as the WTO, World Bank, IMF, but also the reality of a mobile work force would complicate matters and make the breakaway states less competitive.

    In the end, the political, ideological and cultural benefits would be so minor to the breakaway states, and economic costs so high that they would rejoin the union even if they were given the freedom to form their own nation. There is strength in unity and weakness in division. However, human beings are indeed irrational and material interests are not their only motivating factor in political choices. Indoctrinated by “Manifest Destiny” ideology and the American Dream of achieving greatness again even by association with the nation-state, people will sacrifice self-interest as they perceive it so they may satisfy their illusions such as identity with the militarily strong nation.

    One possible scenario for the future of the US amid rapidly changing demographics is that it may resemble some aspects of post-Mandela South Africa. South African blacks have entered the political arena and government bureaucracy, they enjoy political rights and in theory equal protection under the law, but the economy and the entire institutional structure is designed to serve the white capitalist minority. As much as the US criticizes Russia for its authoritarianism and crony capitalism, is it that far off and is it not moving in that direction rather than the direction of the Scandinavian countries?

    As the trend of massive wealth concentration under a corporate welfare state continues to erode the middle class and working class, the struggle against the tide of domestic and global history will keep America at war with itself and tilt it even more toward the road of authoritarianism and militarism after the next inevitable deep recession. Because popular expression of discontent lacks class solidarity owing to cultural divisions and identity politics in America, political leadership will not be under the umbrella of a leftist or even a center-left movement. America’s future is an even more authoritarian regime with roots at the local and state levels financed by wealthy individuals like the Koch brothers among other likeminded billionaires, finding expression at the federal level with populist demagogues like Trump.”

     

    Jaime Ortega-Simo.

    (The Daily Journalist president and founder)

    “It looks very unrealistic to suggest secession today is a viable outcome in the United States. A few riots and a few protest could not possibly pave the way towards separation. But one important concept I learned throughout the history of the world is that looks and appearances can deceive and be undermined by the most avid observers.  What looks like small bumps and modest swells in society end up transforming the nation’s political framework! Geographically speaking, the US is simply too vast size wise to not consider separation. The issues that affect Montana, are just not the issues hurting Florida.

    The United Sates is in real trouble and it’s highly unlikely the current ideological war initiated by the media unites the country. I compare this to a hallow ball which exterior is made out of plastic covered gold with sharp nails impacting the inside.  The gold exterior is the American economy; the air inside represents the lack of values, and the nails represent the political and ideological divisions pinning down the gold exterior as the ball moves and bounces. The ball depends on its gold surface made of plastic, once it blows up, the nails will fly away.

    Financially – for now—the United States remains united under financial prosperity that keeps most people secure without fully embracing ideological revolts despite growing tension among different factions; however, the real problem is that United States is ideologically divided and states like California no longer represent the nationalistic and patriotic values of conservative states like Alabama or Kentucky.  Every state differs financially from one another and in the past few years cities like Chicago and Atlantic City have suffered bankruptcy — it has worsened over the years. In fact, people from Chicago, Michigan, California, Ohio and other financially hit states have started to migrate to the southwest in search for new opportunities!  States that financially prosper don’t want to deal with welfare states that rely on government aid to sustain themselves, and welfare states want to use federal powers to keep their disastrous state policy running at the cost of raising taxes to whatever is left of the middle class.

    As I mentioned earlier, the silent generation and the generation that preceded them, helped reshape America during the Great Depression and united to fight against Nazi Germany; nationalism, military faith and patriotism were on all-time high. Today the opposite is true and after talking to plenty of military colleagues and war vets, I can guarantee they see politicians the same way Julius Caesar saw the Aristocracy in Rome – a cancer of society run by corrupt elites. The Democratic Party is particularly blamed for their incursion on inciting division– a situation never seen before the American Civil war.

    Then the progressive media has initiated a race war vilifying police officers and victimizing criminals to generate more views and incentivize their networks at the cost of inflaming hate among ethnic groups; white versus black media sensationalism generates vast amount of converts, viewership and new subscribers. The media is making local news, national news to create controversy and generate higher ratings to out-rate their competition. Yet, the media won’t cover the ethnic war between Mexicans and blacks in America taking place in the south, west and southwest – and it’s a bad scenario. Such issue is making white Americans despise Blacks and blacks hate whites and other minorities that also reciprocate with violence. The US flag is now viewed as a fascist symbol of worldwide interventionism and genocide, it no longer represents “the home of the brave and the proud”.  The media has created an unrecoverable ethnic war in America to incentivize their networks, at the expense of social divisions. Just wait and see…

    Then we have the growing tension between Wall Street and the millennial generation. The millennials believe in massive conspiracy theories and despise banks and bureaucrats. The millennials have adopted socialism and other far left ideologies to counter the pro-capitalist dogmas run inside Government. Wall Street is completely disconnected with the average Joe and they only care about finding legal loopholes to evade government regulations from interfering with their interest. Companies will purchase robots and hire illegal immigrants to avoid paying more money to low income Americans— never mind outsourcing jobs and its impact on employment. In America corporations and elites have the same leverage as politicians and escape prosecution while the average Joe suffers the full consequences of the law.  Justice exist at insignificant local and state levels, but loses traction at Supreme Court level, when the criminals trialed own large reserves of money.

    The division steepens further between progressives, liberals and conservatives. The rotten relationship is headed toward more divisions constantly impacting the core values of strong nationalism in America. The wealthy baby boomer liberals see the new young progressives like fake democrats, who want to take the party to the far left, diffuse privatization and unjustly distribute their wealth. The conservatives view liberals as the progenitors of the progressive movement and view both ideologies as cancerous to America.  Progressivism has turned nationalism into fascism, and military incursions into interventionism; nationalism, patriotism, traditionalism are all viewed as enemies of Darwinian-democracy.  Even in education, the palpable war between conservatives, liberals and progressives is vicious and unforgiving. A few decades ago the left and the right and the center were united under nationalism and military efficiency, today no longer is the case.

    The Democratic Party challenged the election and took part on the vote recount started by Jill Stein. This is the start of a negative narrative which will make Republicans in the near future contest elections results not satisfied by the results. The left should have accepted the election results and not blame Putin. The CIA’s report shows Russia, China, Iran and many other countries breach government servers on a regular basis. The pentagon was breached over 300 times in the past three years and information has been leaked.

    Also the growing list of politicians skipping Trump’s inauguration is alarming and will send a rancid signal to Trump supporters across the US, who will start to boycott democratic initiatives as a response. The Democratic Party has brought such negativity to itself, and it has lost significant power in congress, now dominated by republicans.

    People underestimate the power of comments on social media and its impact and influence on people’s reactions and opinion.  Conventional ideological battles were traditionally fought with constant revolutions, uprisings and public discontent.  The western world has changed its beat with the rise of technology; ideological battles today are fought online and unlike mainstream media which filters its opinion, the online world is unfiltered.  Such unfiltered system allows hate to spread like wildfire. Just like the health consequences of smoking a cigarette without filters, are the ideological consequences of not filtering forums, comment sections and opinion pieces online.  Now if the government decided to regulate the internet, democracy would cease to exist and it would cluster more coals to the growing hatred between Americans and government. If the Government doesn’t regulate the internet, democracy will pay the consequences regardless. No good options…

    Realistically, I think the only reason why states have not separated in America is because the pillars of the financial system haven’t collapsed and reach the levels of the Great Depression;  Once we reach that level, I not only believe secession is a likely possibility but a new civil war is probable. America is not united and the fact that various high level entrepreneurs and celebs openly express “they don’t feel like Americans anymore” among millions of other people, sparks the start of the problem to arise. Mark my words, secession is closer than what most people think and its sugar coated on hopes that the US economy wont crash.”

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