OSCE 45 Years On: Time to Regain Prominence – By Arkady SAVITSKY (Strategic Culture Foundation)

OSCE 45 Years On: Time to Regain Prominence
Arkady SAVITSKY | 09.07.2018 | WORLD / Europe

The OSCE Parliamentary Assembly is holding its 27th Annual Session on 7-11 July 2018 in Berlin. This month the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe marks its 45-year anniversary. It was established as the Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe (CSCE) in July 1973 to be renamed Organization in 1995. The Helsinki Act adopted by the Conference remains the cornerstone of European security. The Russian and US lawmakers used the event for meeting each other on the sidelines before the upcoming Trump-Putin Helsinki summit scheduled for July 16. The Organization provides a forum for discussions and the opportunity should not be missed.

In the heat of the Cold War, the CSCE served as an inclusive, consensus-based platform for constructive dialogue no matter how adverse the weather was. It’s hard to overestimate the important role the 1975 Helsinki Act played in making Europe a safer place.

Since the 1990s, the OSCE has been declared obsolete numerous times but it is still unique and its raison d’être can hardly be questioned. Reviving the Helsinki spirit and restoring confidence that existed those days should be a top priority at the time the attempts to build a single security system in the Euro-Atlantic area have evidently led to nowhere. The common goal of creating a value-based security community from Vancouver to Vladivostok, envisioned in OSCE documents after the end of the Cold War, has never materialized. Today Europe is divided and unstable, balancing on the brink of slipping into anarchy and a new Cold War.

It has turned into a continent where double standards prevail, color revolutions are staged and sanctions wars are raging, while the idea of US exceptionalism is used to justify violations of international law. But sanctions and violations do not help build security architecture.

The ramifications of instability in the MENA region, triggered to large extent by US and NATO military interventions, pose a serious threat to Europe. The crisis in Ukraine, the Nagorno-Karabakh stand-off, the situation in Kosovo and the status of Transnistria remain unsolved problems.

The OSCE has to large extent lost its role as a security forum able to effectively handle problems. This has happened for a range of reasons, including the NATO eastward expansion, the erosion of treaty-based stability and inability to find solutions to regional conflicts.

The treaties concluded within the OSCE framework are either dead or about to take the final breath. The Treaty on Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE) has become a thing of the past. The Open Skies Treaty is facing an uncertain future.

The turbulent times dictate the need for the OSCE’s notable comeback to turn the tide and strengthen European security. In 2018, Italy chairs the OSCE and the country’s new government can play a positive role in making the Organization reappear on the radar and regain its relevance.

Practical steps can be taken. The 2011 Vienna Document on Confidence and Security-Building Measures (CSBMs) could be updated. The discussions on “Steinmeier Initiative” in the area of conventional arms control could be a start of OSCE-brokered process. In 2008, Russia submitted for OSCE consideration the draft Treaty on European Security. It was largely ignored by Western nations and swept under the rug as time dragged by. Probably if the attitude had been different then, Europe would have been a much safer place today. Now the German initiative, which is in essence a repetition of what Moscow offered ten years ago, has been waiting to be put on the OSCE agenda since 2016. Is it the right moment for wasting time instead of starting talks?

The ongoing Structured Dialogue (SD) on security challenges is a good step towards the revival of multilateral security dialogue. The Organization can be used as an effective communication channel for more frequent military-to-military contacts to prevent escalation and enhance predictability and transparency. It is especially important in view of fruitless attempts to make the NATO-Russia Council an effective forum for addressing burning security problems. Finally, the OSCE could initiate a new negotiation process with the aim of having a “Helsinki Act II” document signed.

The OSCE needs reforms. Its decision-making process has proven to be ineffective. All decisions are taken by consensus. With so many members, it’s unrealistic. The most complex and important issues are supposed to be discussed at the level of heads of state. There has been no OSCE summit since 2010. The Organization has no Charter. Russia has proposed to prepare one numerous times but the initiative is left hanging in the air.

Not all is doom and gloom. Far from it. The newly formed Italian government led by PM Giuseppe Conte has the reputation of being able to adopt inventive approaches and see things in a new light. It’s full of desire to contribute into making the OSCE an effective multilateral forum able to enhance European security. Swiss diplomat Thomas Greminger, the new OSCE Secretary General, is resolute to get the Organization back to the days of glory. The 25th OSCE Ministerial Council will be held in Milan on 6 and 7 December 2018. There still time to work on new proposals to make the Organization regain its prominence.

Tags: OSCE

US, Iran Clash in Hormuz Strait: Not an Improbable Scenario – By Peter KORZUN – (Strategic Culture Foundation)

US, Iran Clash in Hormuz Strait: Not an Improbable Scenario

The US remains adamant in its desire to cut Iran’s oil exports to zero, even if it hurts importing countries. America’s secondary sanctions on firms dealing with Iran would “snap back” on August 6 for trade in cars and metals and on November 4 for oil and banking transactions. The “wind down” period varied between 90 and 180 days is intended to allow entities to end businesses in Iran. There will be no waivers. India, China and Turkey are the oil importers expected not to succumb to US pressure.

Brian Hook, the State Department’s director of policy and planning, said “Our goal is to increase pressure on the Iranian regime by reducing to zero its revenue from crude oil sales.” The US has already approached Saudi Arabia on the subject of increasing exports to compensate for the reduction of Iranian oil on the world market.

The goal is to hit Iran’s economy against the background of ongoing protests inside the country. Last July, John Bolton openly called for regime change in Tehran. He was not national security adviser at the time but nothing makes believe he has changed his views since then.

Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani warned the United States about consequences. He said shipments from other countries would be disrupted if Iranian oil exports were suspended. Qassem Solaimani, the commander of the Al Quds Force in the Revolutionary Guards, joined him to confirm that his country will block oil shipments through the Hormuz Strait if the US administration stops Iranian oil exports. Mohammad Ali Jafari, the commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, said that “either all can use the Strait of Hormuz or no one.”

If Iran does what it threatens to do, oil prices will rise up to $100 a barrel, maybe much more, saying farewell to President Trump’s dream of cheap oil to spur US economic growth. Venezuela can also come under sanctions to facilitate the price hike. But expensive oil will boost America’s shale production. The US appears to pursue two mutually exclusive goals at once. On July 4, President Trump was angry chastising OPEC in a tweet for not doing anything about gas prices going up in the United States. He did not make precise why and how exactly OPEC should bring US gas prices down. From the point of view of US economic interests, the withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal does not look like a very wise step. But Mr. Trump has already shot himself in the foot and it’s too late to stop now as countering Iran has become a pillar of his foreign policy.

The US military has already responded to confirm its readiness to protect the freedom of navigation. But Iran appears to be adamant. It has too little to lose if the economy collapses as the US wants it to. Iran, Kuwait, Qatar, the UAE, and the largest parts of Saudi Arabian and Iraqi oil exports go through the Hormuz Strait, which accounts for 20 percent of the world oil trade (about 35% of the petroleum traded by sea) or 17-18 million barrels a day plus about 3 million barrels of oil products. Add to it liquefied natural gas shipped from Qatar. The oil goes to different parts of the world and there is no alternative route. Only Saudi Arabia (two pipelines exporting totally 5.1 million barrels a day), the UAE (a pipeline with a capacity of 1.5 million barrels a day) and, to a lesser extent, Iraq (a pipeline to Turkey with an output of 1.5 million barrels) have land transit routes used at 40%, 20% and 40% of their capacities respectively.

The Iranian Navy poses a serious threat but its missiles capable of attacking US warships will be spotted by the American Qatar-based X-band radar station in as little as four minutes. They will be countered by Patriot and Terminal High Altitude Air Defense (THAAD) interceptors located in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and the United Arab Emirates augmented by US Navy cruisers and destroyers equipped with Aegis missile defense systems. The Persian Gulf monarchies will probably join the battle.

Mines laid in Hormuz Strait waters will require a long and difficult effort to clear them. US frigate Samuel B. Roberts was nearly sunk after hitting a mine in 1988 during the Tanker War. International law allows for peacetime mining of high-seas areas under certain strict conditions. Laying mines in national waters is hardly an act of war. The Hormuz Strait is completely enclosed by the 12-mile territorial seas of the littoral states. They have special protection under the UN Convention of the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) not ratified by the United States.

According to different estimates, Iran has a stockpile of 3,000 to 6,000 mines, including bottom-moored buoyant contact and multiple-influence rocket-propelled straight-rising ones. Mine laying activities conducted on a large scale by surface ships aviation can hardly be undetected but submarines can lay enough mines clandestinely to make ship captains think twice before risking a movement through the Strait without a mine clearing ship leading the way. The US Navy has a few Avenger type mine countermeasures ships based in Bahrain.

As a result of the United States’ unilateral decision to withdraw from the nuclear deal and impose sanctions, a potential confrontation is brewing in the Strait of Hormuz. A war is not an impossible scenario. Without oil revenues, Iran will be pushed to the last resort.

‘Rulers need myth that US is a democracy to give Americans illusion of control’ – Lee Camp – By RT

‘Rulers need myth that US is a democracy to give Americans illusion of control’ – Lee Camp
Jeff Bezos has $141 billion, and 63 percent of Americans say they can’t afford a $500 emergency. The system of massive inequality is unsustainable, but it keeps going thanks to the myths we are told, Lee Camp says.

Comedian Lee Camp breaks down the eight great myths of American society in the latest edition of his satirical talk show Redacted Tonight on RT.

In the opening segment, Camp says that the corporatocracy is steadily tightening its grasp, the insanely wealthy get richer every day, and the poor get exploited more and more.

63 percent of Americans can’t afford a $500 emergency. Yet, on the other end of the spectrum, the rear end of the spectrum, if you will, and you should, Amazon head Jeff Bezos is now worth a record $141 billion. Meanwhile, worldwide 1 in 10 people only make $2 a day. Do you know how long it would take one of those people at $2 a day to make the same amount as Jeff Bezos has? 193 million years. And that’s if they only buy single-ply toilet paper. And yet there are riots in the streets for the most part, at least not in the US.

Camp is puzzled why we are okay with this and says the reason is “the myths we are all sold.

Myths that are ingrained in our social programming from birth when our heads are still soft. These myths are accepted and basically never questioned,” Camp said, adding that he feels it is his job to lay them all out.

Myth #8:  We have a democracy

If you think that we still have a democratic republic, ask yourself this: when was the last time Congress did something that the people of America wanted that was not in the benefit of corporations? You probably can’t do it, right?

Camp claims that Congress doesn’t do “a damn thing without the approval of their sugar daddies.”

He noted that even the Carter Center and former President Jimmy Carter believe that America has been transformed to an oligarchy – a small corrupt elite group controls the country without much input from the people.  

The rulers need the myth that we’re a democracy to give us the illusion of control,” he said.

Check out the other seven myths here:

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Pepe Escobar: The world – from ‘New York aristocracy’ to the end of US hegemony – By Pepe Escobar (Zero Hedge) (SOTT)

Wall mural

© Hooked/abovetopsecret.com

Brazilian-born journalist Pepe Escobar, who is perhaps best known for predicting the War on Terror in a column he published for the Asia Times just weeks before 9/11, sat down for an interview with Balkan info earlier this month, during which they discussed a wide range of topics, ranging from the Deep State’s role in green lighting President Trump’s rise to power, to the imminent Soviet-style collapse of the US. Along the way, he shared his views on the US’s complex and often adversarial relationships with China and Russia, as well as the hidden motives undergirding the US’s relationship with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

The interview began – as these interviews so often do – with an examination of the Trump presidency, with Escobar explaining the dualistic nature of Trump’s unique position as both an “insider” and an “outsider” in US politics.

Trump, Escobar explains, wasn’t born into the Manhattan aristocracy. And though the “Masters of the Universe” – a group that includes the country’s top bankers along with the leaders of the military and intelligence communities – were initially reluctant to embrace him (as were many factions within the Republican Party), they eventually changed their minds once they understood that he would advocate for their interests.

He’s not born in lower Manhattan…and he’s not part of the New York aristocracy, the establishment that’s been there for some 150 to 200 years…he’s still regarded in New York as a wealthy outsider. But in the end, he was accepted by some sectors of the Republican Party – even though they initially didn’t want to accept him – Washington, some sectors of the Republican Party.”
[…]
He was the candidate of the establishment from the beginning, or he was a genuine candidate whose regime has now been disturbed by the Deep State. He was vetoed by the establishment – this is something that people who know how the Deep State works in DC they will tell you always the same thing: You don’t become a candidate for a President of the United States if you are not vetted…by the people who actually run the US.

Trump was vulnerable to this manipulation because he doesn’t have a nuanced enough understanding of geopolitics…which has forced him to rely on advisors whispering in his ear…advisors whose intentions aren’t always working in the best interest of the president, or the American people, for that matter. One example is Trump’s insistence on instigating a trade war between China and the US. While China has many ways to retaliate against the US, as least when it comes to finding markets for their goods, US companies have more options than their Chinese peers.

Trump still doesn’t understand that the retaliation is going to be really huge from the Chinese and they have ways of hurting badly – they even have ways of ratcheting up taxes on products made in the Midwest. But they’re going to lose much more than we do. We have other markets. We export more to Asia, we export more to South America and we export more to Europe.

The conversation then slowly drifted to the Middle East and the US’s long-term ambitions in one of the world’s most politically unstable regions. According to Escobar, the US isn’t merely interested in a partnership with Saudi Arabia – instead, the Deep State’s long-term interest is control of the country’s oil reserves by any means necessary.

If there is really a long-term plan for Saudi Arabia it’s that the Americans want to control Saudi Arabia completely. The ultimate prize would be Saudi Arabia as well, because then they would get all the oil that’s left.

Next up in Escobar’s tour of US interests in Asia and Europe were China and Russia have emerged as the US’s primary geopolitical enemies. Terrorism and North Korea are merely distractions, Escobar contends. China and Russia could potentially bring about the demise of US hegemony – in fact, it’s a cause that both countries are actively working toward. Why? Because the downfall of the US would be in their own economic, in their economic best interest.

China’s role, as the biggest economic threat to the US, is particularly interesting, Escobar contends. But complexities underlying China’s will to dominant geopolitics is lost on most Americans because they simply don’t understand Chinese culture.

Westerns don’t know how China functions because they haven’t read Chinese history. They don’t understand how they view themselves, especially now that they are the second economic power and soon to be the first. This lack of understanding…it’s a mix of hubris…and profound ignorance. Everyone [the US] tries to antagonize, and everyone they brand as enemies, are subject to US propaganda. China and Russia are the top two threats to the US. It’s not terrorism…it’s China and Russia. So everything the military-industrial complex does from here on it’s with an eye toward Russia and China.

But how will Americans know when their homeland’s status as global hegemony is on the verge of collapse? There are a few different paths Escobar believes this process will take, with the most likely outcome being a “Soviet style” collapse following a period of decay – and that process has already begun. There’s also the possibility that the US provokes – and then loses – a “World War” against China and Russia (a possibility that we have previously explored).

There are only two ways about it. The first one is a sort of slow decay, which is already happening by the way, and a sort of implosion, Soviet Union-style. The second is they launch a really hard-core war against China or against Russia or against both. And this is obviously the apocalyptic option for all of us, because as we all know the next war is going to be the last one.

Comment: Trump has, at least, the ability to keep everyone guessing. For stodgy, dictated, politically entrenched idealism that America has become vulnerable to, the impulsive, sometimes quirky, sometimes flatly wrong Trump is a shot in the arm. For some, it is energizing. For others, it hurts like hell.

Israel Aiding Saudi Arabia In Developing Nuclear Weapons – by Whitney Webb – (MINT PRESS)

israel - saudi arabia
Wahhabis with Nukes?

Saudi interest in developing nuclear weapons dates back to the 1970s, when the kingdom learned of major steps taken by both Israel and India in the development of nuclear armaments.

RIYADH, SAUDI ARABIA – The Israeli government has begun selling the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia information on how to develop nuclear weapons, according to a senior official at the Israeli military organization iHLS (Israel’s Homeland Security). Ami Dor-on, a senior nuclear commentator at the organization — which is partially funded by U.S. weapons-giant Raytheon – came forward because of his concern over the emerging nuclear arms race in the region. The cooperation between the two countries in helping the Saudis to develop a nuclear weapons program is just the latest sign of their warming relationship, with Israel recently calling the Saudi crown prince “a partner of Israel.”

Israel has been a nuclear power for decades, though its nuclear arsenal is undeclared and the country has refused to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Estimates of its arsenal vary, with most suggesting that Israel possesses from 100 to 200 nuclear weapons. Israel was aided in the development of its nuclear program by Western powers, particularly France. Much of the Western “help” Israel received, however, was the result of covert thefts of nuclear material from countries such as the United States and Belgium.

While Dor-On, speaking to news outlet Arabi21, did not elaborate on the details of the information being exchanged, he stated that the sharing of this information was likely to be just the beginning of Israeli involvement in a future Saudi nuclear weapons program, which would likely see Israel “take the initiative to develop Saudi Arabia’s effort to acquire nuclear weapons” as a result of “the growing Saudi-Israeli relations.”

Both Israel and Saudi Arabia have justified their acquisition of nuclear weapons by citing concerns about Iran’s nuclear capabilities. However, Iran — unlike Israel — has never developed any nuclear weapons and its capacity to develop one is virtually nil under the conditions set by the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JPCOA). Though the U.S. recently left the deal, Iran has since announced that it would continue to abide by the agreement if the other signatories also agreed to do so.

Dor-On additionally expressed his concern over the Saudis’ acquiring of nuclear weapons and a wider nuclear arms race in the region, stating that “this information should shock us as we see the world is changing for the worse, following the race for the possession of nuclear weapons that pass right over our heads in the Middle East.”

He also noted that Israel’s decision to begin sharing nuclear secrets with Saudi Arabia was motivated by a similar offer recently made by Pakistan to the Saudis — in which Islamabad had announced its ability to transfer nuclear-weapons expertise to the Gulf kingdom “within a month” — stating that the Israeli government did not want to “leave it [the development of a Saudi nuclear program] solely to Pakistan.” Pakistan’s offer was likely related to the fact that the Saudis have long been widely viewed as the chief financier behind Pakistan’s nuclear program.

 

Saudi nuclear weapons progress and status not clear

While the announcement that the Saudis may soon develop nuclear weapons with the help of Israel and other regional players will likely cause concern throughout the international community, it is hardly the first indication of Saudi ambition to acquire weapons of mass destruction. Indeed, Saudi interest in developing nuclear weapons dates back to the 1970s, when the kingdom learned of major steps taken by both Israel and India in the development of nuclear armaments.

Not long after financing the Pakistani program, the Saudis procured a Chinese ballistic missile system capable of carrying nuclear warheads — warheads that Pakistan had made for the Saudis in 2013 and were awaiting delivery, according to a BBC report published at the time. Three years later in 2016, former CIA Operations Officer Duane Clarridge confirmed this to FOX News — stating that, through their financing of the Pakistani nuclear program, the Saudis had access to several nuclear bombs. Clarridge declined to comment on whether those nuclear weapons that had been “sitting ready for delivery” in Pakistan a few years prior had since been delivered to Saudi Arabia.

Watch | Former CIA Officer Duane Clarridge Tell FOX News that the Saudis had several nuclear weapons back in 2016:

More recently, Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman publicly announced this March, during an interview with CBS News, that the country would seek to develop nuclear weapons, were Iran to do so. In that interview, the Crown Prince stated that “Saudi Arabia does not want to acquire any nuclear bomb; but, without a doubt, if Iran developed a nuclear bomb, we will follow suit as soon as possible.” However, he did not make reference to the claim that the Saudis had already acquired access to such weapons years prior.

Furthermore, around the same time as the Crown Prince’s interview, reports surfaced claiming that the Saudis had asked the United States for permission to enrich uranium with the goal of producing a nuclear weapon.

 

Would Saudi nukes find their way into the hands of terrorists? A very real concern

The possibility that the Saudis already have access to nuclear weapons, and hope to soon develop them domestically, has been met with concern by analysts, particularly given the kingdom’s documented history of funneling weapons to terrorist groups such as Al Qaeda, Daesh (ISIS), and Jaish al-Islam, among others. Were the Saudis to domestically produce their own nuclear weapons, it is very much a possibility that the kingdom would include them in its future weapon shipments to the radical Wahhabist groups they actively support.

Another area of concern is the kingdom’s disrespect for civilian life and tendency to wage total war when embroiled in a military conflict. For instance, in Yemen, where the Saudis have been attempting to oust the Houthis from power since 2015, the Saudi-led coalition has repeatedly bombed civilian infrastructure and imposed a blockade of the country that has prevented food, medicine and fuel from reaching the majority of Yemen’s population of around 28 million. As a result, 18.5 million Yemenis are expected to face starvation by this December and a “preventable” cholera epidemic of historic proportions continues to claim innocent life.

The Saudis’ willingness to inflict such misery on a civilian population as part of a military conflict is yet another indication of the danger inherent in their acquiring the ability to manufacture nuclear weapons.

Top Photo | Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu and Saudi Arabia’s King Salman

Whitney Webb is a staff writer for MintPress News and a contributor to Ben Swann’s Truth in Media. Her work has appeared on Global Research, the Ron Paul Institute and 21st Century Wire, among others. She has also made radio and TV appearances on RT and Sputnik. She currently lives with her family in southern Chile.

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Dangers of Sodium Metabisulfite – By ROBIN WASSERMAN (LIVESTRONG.COM)

 

by  ROBIN WASSERMAN

Dangers of Sodium Metabisulfite

 
 
 

You’ve probably encountered many products containing sodium metabisulfite without even realizing it. Sodium metabisulfite preserves food and is used extensively in commercial wine making. It is a bleaching agent in the textile, pulp and paper industries. It is also used in the chemical, pharmaceutical, film and photographic industries, and even in water and sewage treatment plants. However, pure sodium metabisulfite can be quite hazardous.

Video of the Day

 
 

Inhalation

Sodium metabisulfite may cause respiratory problems.

 
 

Inhalation of sodium metabisulfite irritates your respiratory tract. Symptoms include coughing and shortness of breath. In some individuals, sodium metabisulfite may cause an allergic, asthma-type reaction.

Ingestion

Sodium metabisulfite can cause gastrointestinal problems.

 
 

Ingesting pure sodium metabisulfite irritates your gastrointestinal system as it reacts with acid in your stomach by releasing sulfurous acid. Ingesting high amounts may cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pains, circulatory disturbance and central nervous system depression. A fatal dose is estimate to be 10 g for the average adult.

Skin Contact

Sodium metabisulfite can cause skin irritation

 
 

When placed in direct contact, pure sodium metabisulfite can irritate skin causing redness, itching and pain.

Eye Contact

Sodium metabisulfite can irritate eyes.

 
 

Similar to skin irritation, direct contact of sodium metabisulfite with your eyes can cause irritation, pain, stinging, tearing, redness, swelling, corneal damage and blindness. These effects may be irreversible.

Allergic Reactions

Sodium metabisulfite can cause allergic reactions.

 
 

Sodium metabisulfite causes extreme allergic reactions in certain sulfite-sensitive individuals, resulting in broncho constriction, shortness of breath, wheezing, coughing, gastrointestinal disturbances, rapid swelling of the skin, flushing, tingling sensations and shock.

Study finds alarming decline in biodiversity worldwide By Philip Guelpa – (WSWS)

A recently released United Nations-supported study presents a grim picture of the accelerating decline in biodiversity (the variety of plant and animal species) across the globe and its dire implications for the not-too-distant future of life on Earth, including humans.

Flooding in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina due to uncontrolled development in wetlands

The study, composed of multiple reports by over 550 researchers, was conducted by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES). It contends that the increasingly rapid loss of plant and animal species due to habitat degradation, invasive species, and pollution is happening in tandem with climate change. Together, these processes, if not halted, will soon have catastrophic environmental consequences, amounting to a sixth mass global extinction, which will threaten the very survival of humanity.

Biological ecosystems are a complex, dialectical interaction of plant, animal, and microbial life forms with each other and their physical environment, evolving over millennia. These systems are not static. They change over time due to the dynamic of unity and conflict of opposites of their myriad biological and physical constituents. In general, the greater the species diversity (number of different species) within an ecosystem, the more stable it is, barring external perturbations (e.g., the impact that caused the mass extinction, including dinosaurs, about 66 million years ago) and the more slowly change takes place.

By contrast, the lower the species diversity, the greater is the tendency toward instability and the more vulnerable an ecosystem is to catastrophic collapse. High diversity will generally buffer the degree to which changes in any particular constituent of the system will affect the system as a whole. The role of one species, known as its ecological niche, may gradually be filled by one or more other species, leading to gradual change.

With lower diversity, however, ecosystems tend to be more fragile. The loss of any one species will likely have a much greater impact on the system as a whole, creating instability and possible catastrophic collapse. It is less likely that another species will evolve or adapt with sufficient rapidity to fill the “gap” in the system, potentially resulting in a cascading series of disruptions. If the trends documented in the IPBES reports continue, the world’s biological systems are likely to go into this kind of severe crisis within the next few decades.

Humans have had a significant impact on natural ecosystems, especially since the Industrial Revolution. However, in no way are we “decoupled” from the natural environment. Such systems remain a vital part of our survival—affecting weather and climate, food resources, potable water and breathable air.

The authors of the IPBES study provide a range of examples to illustrate both the variety and rapidity of species loss and environmental degradation, which are occurring across the globe.

Among the direct and substantial impacts of species decline and extinction, the study found that exploitable fisheries in the Asia-Pacific region are on track to be exhausted by 2048. This will result in severe economic losses as well as dietary privation for millions.

Habitat destruction by forest clearing in Mexico

In Africa, where more than 60 percent of the human population depends directly on natural resources, the study projects that half of some bird and mammal species could be lost by 2100. Of the continent’s historically recorded species, more than 20 percent are threatened, endangered, or already extinct. The recent effective extinction of the northern white rhinoceros, which received much media attention, is just one iconic example.

In Europe, 42 percent of land species have suffered notable declines during the past decade alone. Half of existing wetlands have been lost since 1970.

The destruction of wetlands and their associated plant and animal communities around the world, both inland and along coastlines, results in accelerated erosion, pollution, and loss of protection against flooding, as seen, for example, during last year’s Atlantic hurricane season.

Over the last 500 years, since Europeans began colonizing the Americas, 30 percent of the hemisphere’s biodiversity has been lost. The study projects that over the next decade, if present trends continue, that figure will rise to 40 percent, indicating its rapid acceleration. Nearly one quarter of the existing species that were studied are threatened.

Trees are key to the production of atmospheric oxygen, essential for the survival of humans and other animals. However, since 1990, over 130 million hectares of rainforest have been lost. In northeastern Brazil, part of the Amazon rainforest, which is often referred to as the “Lungs of the Earth,” between 2003 and 2013 alone, the area under cultivation more than doubled to 2.5 million hectares.

The reports’ authors highlight the combined effects of direct human-caused landscape modification and of climate change on the decline in biodiversity. By 2050, climate change may equal or surpass landscape modification as the primary cause of species decline. In either case, the planet is well on its way to becoming a biological wasteland. These findings are not new, only confirming and re-emphasizing the critical urgency of the situation. Previous studies have painted a similar picture (see: “Scientists warn of ‘biological annihilation’ as Earth’s mass extinction accelerates”).

While the IPBES study documents the growing danger posed by the rapid and accelerating global decline in biodiversity, it presents only general notions as to what might be done to halt the process and avert catastrophe, without any mechanisms for implementation aside from the good will of business and political leaders. As with other such studies, the researchers can only lament the complete inadequacy of response to their dire warnings so far. Robert Watson, the chair of the IPBES, stated, “The time for action was yesterday or the day before. Governments recognize we have a problem. Now we need action, but unfortunately the action we have now is not at the level we need.”

Mass extinctions have happened five times previously during the existence of life on earth (see:  “The Sixth Extinction by Elizabeth Kolbert”). In each of those instances the causes were natural. The currently developing sixth mass extinction differs in that it is directly related to human activity. However, contrary to statements in the report and in numerous other pronouncements in the media and elsewhere, the cause is not human moral failure, overpopulation, or the need to eat less red meat.

The poor farmer in Brazil who is forced to clear more land in order to eke out an existence, the factory worker in China or the US whose plant spews out toxic chemicals, etc., are not responsible for the resulting environmental degradation.

The responsibility lies with the anarchic and profit-driven capitalist system that disdainfully ignores the consequences of its actions and prevents the development and implementation of rational, scientifically based solutions to the problems of climate change and environmental degradation. As the world capitalist crisis deepens and inter-imperialist rivalries intensify, environmental concerns will increasingly be swept aside, as is already the case under the Trump administration in the US.

If, on the other hand, the vast resources now horded by the world’s elites or squandered in wars were instead used to eradicate poverty, end pollution, develop and expand clean energy, and generally organize society for the benefit of the many rather than the few, the developing crisis could be halted and reversed. That can only happen under the democratic control of the working class implementing the socialist reorganization of society.

The author also recommends:

Climate change and the struggle against capitalism
[14 July 2017]

 

The author also recommends:

Climate change and the struggle against capitalism
[14 July 2017]

Trump lacks ‘mental capacities,’ Iran says after US pulls out of nuclear deal – By RT

Trump lacks ‘mental capacities,’ Iran says after US pulls out of nuclear deal
The speaker of Iran’s parliament has offered a particularly scathing review of US President Donald Trump’s decision to pull the US out of the Iran nuclear deal, saying Trump does not have the “mental capacity” for his job.

Trump announced that he was withdrawing the United States from the landmark deal on Tuesday, sparking an avalanche of criticism from both sides of the political divide in America and also upsetting the international community, including US allies and Russia.

The speaker of Iran’s parliament, Ali Larijani, took a particularly dim view of the decision telling the Iranian assembly that: “Trump does not have the mental capacity to deal with issues.”

“Trump’s abandoning of the nuclear deal was a diplomatic show… Iran has no obligation to honor its commitments under the current situation,” Larijani said. “It is obvious that Trump only understands the language of force.”

Members of parliament also chanted “Death to America,” and burned a US flag and a symbolic copy of the nuclear pact, known officially as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), Reuters reports.

President Hassan Rouhani said Iran would remain committed to the deal despite Washington’s decision to withdraw from it. “If we achieve the deal’s goals in cooperation with other members of the deal, it will remain in place… By exiting the deal, America has officially undermined its commitment to an international treaty,” Rouhani said in a televised speech.

Rouhani added that he has ordered the foreign ministry to negotiate with European countries, China, and Russia in coming weeks. “If at the end of this short period we conclude that we can fully benefit from the JCPOA with the cooperation of all countries, the deal would remain,” he said.

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said Trump’s announcement was “silly and superficial.” He went on: “He had maybe more than 10 lies in his comments. Mr. Trump, I tell you, on behalf of the Iranian people: You’ve made a mistake.”

Reaction at home and abroad

The 2015 agreement lifted sanctions on Iran in exchange for Tehran limiting its nuclear program. Trump’s decision to back out of it has been met with a chorus of disapproval at home and abroad.

The Senate’s second-ranking Democrat, Dick Durbin, labelled it “a mistake of historic proportions” which “isolates the United States from the world.” Several GOP lawmakers also questioned Trump’s decision. “I just don’t think that it’s a wise move,” Arizona Republican Senator Jeff Flake told CNN, adding that it makes the US less reliable in the eyes of both its partners and adversaries.

A host of international powers also condemned the decision and vowed to protect the deal. Russia’s acting foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, said that Russia remains committed to the pact, while France’s foreign minister, Jean-Yves Le Drian, insisted the deal was not dead.

“The deal is not dead. There’s an American withdrawal from the deal but the deal is still there,” he said. “The region deserves better than further destabilization provoked by American withdrawal. So we want to adhere to it and see to it that Iran does too, that Iran behaves with restraint.”

On Wednesday, China said it regrets the decision because it raises the risk of conflict in the Middle East. The Asian power said it will safeguard the deal and called on all relevant parties to assume a responsible attitude. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the United States will be the loser from President Trump’s decision.

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SAUDI SNAFU IN LEBANON; MORE RODENTS LEAVE TOWNS FOR LALA LAND – By ZIAD FADEL

DAMASCUS-BAYT SAHM:

“RIDE GREYHOUND AND LEAVE THE DRIVING TO US”.  That’s right folks.  Buses clad in a variety of colors, 40 to be exact, have left Bayt Sahm in the East Ghouta to take remnant rodents to either Jaraablus on the Turk border or to Idlib where they can disport with fellow vermin of every ethnicity and culture.  Like backpacking college students of the 70’s, they can now engage in cultural exchanges with Chechens, Uighers, Uzbekis, Albanians, Eskimos and Trobriand warriors.  With their caterwauling brats screeching their lungs out like the nocturnal cats of Beirut, they shall wend their way into a new world of malignancy – where homosexuals are routinely put to death because of they way they were born; where non-rodents can be swindled and shook down for the dishonest tax that’s meant to protect them; where women are handed from one rat to another in a solemn ritual of brotherliness and sexual socialism.  It’s all coming to Idlib and Jaraablus.  And so is the Syrian Army.

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HOMS: 

Al-Rastan:  The birthplace of legendary Minister of Defense, Lt. Gen. Mustafaa Talaas, has become the new focal point of humiliation for Ahraar Al-Shaam, inter alia, with the turnover of all heavy weapons and the departure of their thieves on government- supplied buses.  Included in the handover were 6 T-62 tanks, 3 BMB armored vehicles, 2 Shilkas, a huge number of mortars and cannons.  Al-Rastan, which is, frankly, like Jisr Al-Shughoor, a hotbed of ignorance and minoritarian bigotry, is going back to being what it has always been historically:  the city you least like to visit in Syria.  Why Al-Rastan is as welcoming as Gary, Indiana, Newark, New Jersey, Flint, Michigan or even Tizi-ouzo, Algeria.  An invitation to Al-Rastan should be treated with the same zeal as one to spend an afternoon under the boardwalk in Coney Island, Brooklyn, the rats fighting for first dibs on your buttocks.

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LEBANON:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wearing his iconic Italian restaurant tablecloth, MBS beams for the camera while singing:  “I’m the one who broke the bank at Monte Carlo.”………He’s not smiling today.

You all read my last exclusive post which revealed 2 “top secret” memos indicating a strong Saudi preference for Sa’ad Al-Hareeri, the stillborn, oaf son of the late gazillionaire and atomized prime minister of Lebanon whose assassination sparked a fitful withdrawal of Syrian Deterrent Forces from the country.  The memos made very clear the generous support Saudi Arabia was going to unload on Hareeri to strengthen his hand in the Lebanese Parliament.  And just as you might think, whenever the Saudis apply their Lilliputian brains to anything, it was going to be a devastating fiasco!

Yeah, sure.  I know.  Geagea did okay,  In fact, better than ever with his rabid Lebanese Forces candidates.  It’s true.  But, it just ain’t enough to get him over any hump in Leb politics.  I’m afraid that Geagea will always be the proverbial “also-ran”.

Hizbollah’s victory is all the more sweet because the Saudis are gnashing their teeth over how they managed to lose their grip on Lebanon.  Financially, they were top dog.  Now, with MBS’s realignment with the Zionist Settler State, Lebanon correctly saw the twilight of Saudi involvement coming, strengthened all the more by MBS’s curious vilification of Palestinians for not returning to the nauseating, episodic dead-end of peace negotiations under the aegis of the perversely pro-Zionist United States.  What other nincompoop but Trump would send 3 rapacious, Ashkenazi Zionist zealots to strike a deal with the Palestinians over land the negotiators believe was given to Jews by some imaginary deity?

Hizbollah and its allies now have a full majority in the Parliament.  With 128 seats available, HZB and its allies control 67, giving them a “veto” vote over any legislation deemed unacceptable.  Even, dedicated, pro-Assad politicians like Jameel Al-Sayyid won a seat.  Al-Sayyid won his seat despite a 4-year stint in prison on orders from German democracy-loving judge, Detlev Mehlis, who didn’t mind having 4 Lebanese generals wallow for 48 months without charges.  They were released eventually and never indicted for anything.  German justice.

Syria, despite the tumult of a 7-year insurgency, still managed to win on this front, also, handing Saudi chimpanzees a stinging defeat at every level, on every front and in all political dimensions.  The biggest winner,is, of course, Iran.

 

 

 

 

 

Putin prioritizes economic breakthrough, quality of life in swearing-in speech – By RT

Putin prioritizes economic breakthrough, quality of life in swearing-in speech
After being sworn in as president for the fourth time, Vladimir Putin told Russian citizens that he saw a major economic breakthrough to prosperity as the main goal, adding that only a truly free society is capable of such step.

Putin thanked the Russian people for their support and said that he felt a tremendous responsibility for every citizen and the country as a whole. He also thanked voters for their record level of support at the March 18 presidential elections.

The president said that he considered it “his duty and the meaning of his whole life” to do everything for Russia, for its peaceful and prosperous future, for the preservation of the Russian people and for happiness of every family.

To achieve these goals Russia needs to be modern and dynamic, to quickly respond to all challenges, in order to strengthen its positions in the global economy, Putin noted. He said that the objectives would be set in the near future and the solutions that would lead to meeting those objectives will become historical milestones that would determine the fate of the nation for decades to come.

Putin emphasized that he was deeply convinced that only a truly free society was capable of such achievements, as such a society can easily incorporate everything new and progressive and rejects all that is unjust, inert and weighed down with unnecessary bureaucratic procedures.

It is the harmonious unity of a free citizen, a responsible civil society and a powerful and responsible democratic state in which I see the solid foundation for Russia’s future development,” the president said.

He also noted that Russian citizens had realized that, while their country is changing together with the modern world, it should not forget its own roots, history and the multi-ethnic culture.

Putin stated that Russia had become an active, powerful and influential player in international politics and that the country’s security and defense potential was as strong as ever. He promised that he and other senior officials would pay primary attention to these issues in the coming years. He also said that Russia would support equal dialogue with foreign nations, promote mutually beneficial joint projects and deepen the ties with the interested countries in the business, humanitarian, cultural and scientific spheres.

Our main goal that Russia, the country of opportunities for its people, allows for self-realization of every person” Putin said, adding that he personally saw a deep connection between the major nationwide objectives and the tasks that ordinary people set before themselves on a daily basis.

We need to expand the freedom space for the entrepreneurs and scientists, for people of creative professions and active citizens, for all who strive for a renewal. I see this as a guarantee of a succession of our political course and stable development of Russia,” he said.

Putin concluded his speech by expressing his confidence that Russia and its people would succeed in a new breakthrough, like has already happened throughout history, noting that a good team could solve the most difficult of all tasks.

We will definitely succeed! I believe that it will be so. I will do everything that is in my power for this,” he said.

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