• All governments lie, but disaster lies in wait for countries whose officials smoke the same hashish they give out.

  • I.F. Stone

donderdag 27 juli 2017

Self-Censoring Mainstream Media

NYT, Reuters, Economist journalists self-censor reports from Israel so as not to be ‘savagely targeted’ — John Lyons

In the U.S. the Israel lobby is rarely mentioned critically in the mainstream media. But check out this segment on the political show Drum on Australia’s ABC two days ago:veteran Middle East correspondents Antony Loewenstein and John Lyons describe the relentless pressures from Israel and its lobby on journalists who are critical of Israel.
The show’s host Ellen Fanning notes that in Lyons’s new book (Balcony Over Jerusalem: A Middle East Memoir) he recalls sitting with a leading correspondent from Agence France-Presse and asking him How many foreign correspondents censor themselves? Lyons:
He replied, “Everybody,” and he’s one of the toughest bureau chiefs around. As part of the book I interviewed The New York Times, the Economist, Reuters, AFP, and I found a common trait. Reuters even has their own special words that we’re allowed to use that won’t upset the Israelis. And I went there with the view that I’d been in Washington and New York, I would report it as I saw it. But every time I would write about settlements, something that’s factual, you get targeted, as a journalist.
If you write the truth of what you see in front of you in Israel and the West Bank, you will be savagely targeted.
Lyons is a veteran journalist. He served as six years as Jerusalem correspondent for The Australian, and is now the paper’s associate editor.
The targeting isn’t just from Israel, but from Israel’s overseas lobby. Lyons:
Well I’ve written a chapter in the book called The lobby which is about the Australian lobby essentially, it looks at the various trips that all sorts of politicians and journalists and everybody takes. Relentless caravans coming through Jerusalem, that’s the subtle part of it…. But I can tell…from my own experience, inside The Australian, which is a very strongly pro-Israeli newspaper, but my editors, the pressures upon them, which they’ve talked about for the book– the pressure is, It’s made clear that they’re not happy with your performance, and the endless complaints–
I did a Four Corners report two years or three years ago. And then you’re tied up for months and months defending it. In the end we defended every claim… Before the Four Corners even went to air, one of the groups in Melbourne was circulating it, this is the complaint link, click on it, and file an automatic complaint to the ABC.
So the trips are the “subtle” part of it!
Here is that Four Corners report from 2014: it documents the fact that the Israeli army is targeting Palestinian boys for arrest and detention, and “threatening children with rape,” in an effort to make life in the West Bank intolerable for Palestinians. These practices have of course not ended. (And remember that on 60 Minutes five years ago, the late Bob Simon called out Michael Oren for calling higher-ups in an effort to interfere with his report on Christians leaving Palestine.)
Antony Loewenstein is also a veteran journalist. He has published several books on Palestine and other global issues and lately wrapped up a year and a half in Jerusalem. He says:
What John says is correct. I’ve been writing about it for 15 years. The way it often works is a journalist who is critical– Jewish, non-Jewish, Muslim, Palestinian, Christian, whatever– if you are critical of the settlements, if you are critical of the occupation, if you are critical of the Israeli government, if you are critical of the way the Israel lobby in Australian in my view perniciously and dishonestly pressures media organizations, ABC and others, and governments, you will be targeted privately or publicly.
What about the Palestinian lobby? Fanning asks. Loewenstein:
There’s a lobby that exists, it is small but growing. It has influence but it’s relatively insignificant. That’s more just the nature I think of how political power works in this country.
Anyone who spends time in Israel or the West Bank or Gaza, which as John says has been occupied for 50 years … It’s now in my view permanent. We have to ask ourselves why so many people in the media and the political elites refuse to say the reality. Occupation that is permanent is something that is ugly…
There needs to be far more honesty with politicians here and journalists who don’t give in to Israel lobby bullying, which happens all the time.
Though Loewenstein later observes that public opinion has shifted dramatically, despite the vehemently pro Israel media.
And he concludes:
The lobby has a right to exist. the point is that groups like AIJAC [Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council] are so belligerent and far right, they are supporting Israeli government policies that are pro settlement, pro occupation, anti-Arab and deeply racist
The Israel lobby in Australia has already attacked Loewenstein for his comments on the show.
It goes without saying that the Israel lobby will continue to exercise outsize power so long as journalists and politicians refuse to speak about it openly. That’s not happening in the U.S.
(P.S. Here is Loewenstein’s latest, a report on how the 1967 war led to that “Permanent Occupation.”)
Thanks to Ofer Neiman.

New York Times Zionist

Tour Israel first-class with ‘New York Times’ 

cheerleader Jodi Rudoren

US Politics 
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Whatever bomb hit the planet with global inequality, it has hit journalism too. The ad above took up a full page in The New York Times yesterday, for a round-the-world trip sponsored by the newspaper on a private Boeing 757 next February and March: 26 days, 9 countries, 50 travelers, and the ticket price a mere $135,000.
Go behind the headlines on an exclusive, globe-spanning journey, created by the New York Times in collaboration with the world’s foremost luxury travel company, Abercrombie & Kent.
The trip is offensive to traditional journalistic values, which are democratic (afflict the comfortable, comfort the afflicted). From Abercrombie and Kent’s site:
Travel in a group of just 50 guests, joined by some of The Times’s most noteworthy journalists and local contributors, who offer firsthand perspectives on the people and places that shape our world. Join a dedicated flight crew aboard an exclusively chartered Boeing 757 with first-class, fully lie-flat seats, accompanied by A&K’s top-notch Tour Directors and local experts, for an around-the-world adventure like no other.
Jodi Rudoren
“Traveling with you in Israel” will be Jodi Rudoren, former bureau chief for the newspaper in Jerusalem. She now serves as editorial director of NYT global, the effort to expand the Times‘s reach overseas.
Rudoren as the guide is concerning because there is no mention of Palestine, and because of her track record as bureau chief. We repeatedly knocked Rudoren’s coverage from Israel from 2012-2015 as biased; she highlighted the Israeli Zionist narratives of redeeming the land for Jews; acted as a stenographer for the Israeli army when it whitewashed war crimes that shocked the world; and said that Palestinians were “ho-hum” when their children got killed. When we said she was a Zionist, and cited her background in the pro-Israel Jewish community in Boston and the fact that she had first gone to Israel as a teen with United Synagogue Youth, Rudoren responded, It depends what your definition of Zionist is. As if this is a mystery unknowable to a journalist.

Oliver Stone in Conversation with Robert Scheer

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Live at Truthdig: Oliver Stone in Conversation with Robert Scheer 

Posted on Jul 26, 2017

   The book cover for “The Putin Interviews.” (Skyhorse Publishing)

“The Putin Interviews,” a new Showtime series by Academy Award-winning screenwriter, director and producer Oliver Stone, and a corresponding book, couldn’t come at a more perfect time. Stone hopes the show and the excerpts of his conversations with Vladimir Putin will help ease tensions between the U.S. and Russia—tensions that are growing every day.
Truthdig Editor in Chief Robert Scheer, who wrote the foreword for “The Putin Interviews” transcript, will sit down with Stone to discuss his experience interviewing Putin over several years. The conversation, sponsored by Truthdig and KPFK, is taking place Wednesday, July 26 in Los Angeles (tickets for the event are still available).
A pre-show reception with Stone begins at 6 p.m. PDT. Truthdig will live stream the interview, which will run from 7 p.m. PDT to 9:30 p.m. PDT. Tune in to Truthdig’s Facebook page to watch the live discussion when it begins.


Why Hope Is Dangerous When It Comes to Climate Change


Why Hope Is Dangerous When It Comes to Climate Change

Global warming discussions need apocalyptic thinking.

Bernhard Staehli/iStock/Thinkstock
Pessimism isn’t popular at the moment.
Bernhard Staehli/iStock/Thinkstock
Lots of people worry about climate change, but as David Wallace-Wells shows in his recent New York magazine piece, the future is almost certainly worse than you imagine. Drawing on a wide range of experts, he tracks how climate change could alter every aspect of planetary existence. Ocean acidification gives rise to oxygen-eating bacteria. Melting ice results in the absorption of more sunlight and greater warming. Rising temperatures hasten the destruction of plants that replenish our oxygen. As things get worse, they will get worse faster.
Given the thoroughness of Wallace-Wells’ evidence, the ending comes as a bit of a surprise.
We have not developed much of a religion of meaning around climate change that might comfort us, or give us purpose, in the face of possible annihilation. But climate scientists have a strange kind of faith: We will find a way to forestall radical warming, they say, because we must.
The same “strange kind of faith” is behind condemnations of the piece as alarmist. Some climate scientists have questioned Wallace-Wells’ treatment of the evidence. Radical warming can be slowed, they say, but if journalists or scientists scare people they risk disrupting the important work that needs to be done. The climate scientist Michael Mann, in a widely circulated Facebook post, worries about the “danger in overstating the science in a way that presents the problem as unsolvable, and feeds a sense of doom, inevitability and hopelessness.” The fear is that people won’t devote the necessary political and economic resources to these problems if there isn’t some hope that it will work out in the end.
When we look at more mainstream predictions, however, there doesn’t seem to be much reason for hope. Although we are unlikely to experience the “doomsday” scenario described by Wallace-Wells, we will likely see increases that will exacerbate existing inequalities as we experience changes in weather patterns that affect life in coastal cities, the production of food, and global conflicts (as Mann himself explains). Even if things aren’t going to be as bad as the worst-case scenario, the future still isn’t looking good.
As concerns about climate change have intensified, philosophers have increasingly devoted attention to how we might balance hopefulness with confronting the ways that the climate is already changing. Like the scientists who spoke to Wallace-Wells, many philosophers worry that pessimism is a threat to this work. For example, ethicist Kathryn Norlock has written on the importance of maintaining hope even when pessimism is a rational response. The burden of hope falls particularly on those who live in affluent societies. Indulging despair would risk sabotaging any adequate collective response to the situation. We should also resist the temptation to single out groups of people as responsible for climate change. Instead, we should forgive those we think are guilty of environmental harm in order to maximize our ability to work together for a better world. Now is not the time for blame, Norlock says, but for new forms of ecocitizenship.
Norlock’s argument makes sense on one level. Relatively affluent people are free to throw up their hands in defeat at the prospect of climate change, safe in the knowledge that they (and their children) have the resources to mitigate its consequences, at least for a little while. If there’s nothing to be done, you might as well enjoy things while you can. It is important to combat this resignation, but resignation and hope aren’t our only options. Though there are risks to embracing pessimism and fear, they are a necessary aspect of confronting our situation. And more positive outlooks entail their own problems. Hoping that science will provide a solution is its own kind of surrender, relieving the pressure of confronting the ways of life that have given rise to climate change in the first place. This hope also downplays the fact that such solutions likely will entail living in a world marked by pain and suffering directly and indirectly caused by what we have done to nature.
These demands that we hope against all evidence are examples of what Lauren Berlant calls “cruel optimism.” Berlant describes the way people hope for something that is impossible or fantastical. What makes this cruel, rather than just tragic, is that the hope is itself part of the problem. Think of the way that dreams of success and wealth function in American society. Low-paid employees in precarious positions are told that determination and hard work will result in greater opportunities and economic security. In actuality, class mobility is very limited. The optimism at the heart of the American dream is cruel: Workers invest in a dream that actually leaves them more open to exploitation rather than challenging the wider economic system.
Berlant’s “cruel optimism” is a useful way of thinking about the demand to stay hopeful in the face of climate change. The hope that we will invent technological means of preserving our way of life is itself part of the problem. It is not that we live in a world where our economics, politics and culture happen to contribute to climate change, but that life in “the West” is essentially destructive of the rest of nature. As sociologist Jason Moore explains, we depend on “cheap nature”—the stores of energy and raw materials that we extract from the earth. Climate change results from activities that are rapidly depleting those stores and the consequences of climate change mean the stores won’t be replenished anytime soon. The problem isn’t an accidental byproduct of our way of life—it’s our very way of life.
The term Anthropocene, once confined to academic journals and conferences, is now casually dropped in podcasts and splashed across magazines like Slate. It refers to the geological epoch in which humanity became a force that changed the environment. Moore suggests using Capitalocene as an alternative to Anthropocene. As the Guardian reports, a recent study shows that 100 companies are responsible for 71 percent of the greenhouse-gas emissions since 1998. While almost all people play some role in the degradation of the environment, climate change is also something done to people by other people. It isn’t humanity as such that is responsible, but the specific forms of production and consumption that are the basis of the capitalist Western world.
That world is ending: a world of eating food shipped from country to country, a world of discount airlines, widespread meat consumption, and constant air conditioning. The problem with hoping for a technological solution to climate change is that it is often insufficiently critical of the ways of life that wreaked havoc on the rest of nature. It is easier to hope for a wild geoengineering solution than face the reality that billions of people need to change their daily habits in order to lessen the immense suffering appearing on the horizon. This hope cruelly prevents us from confronting the deep structural challenge of rethinking the way that some humans relate to nature. Obviously not all people experience this world in the same way, and it is a further tragedy that those who have contributed the least to climate change will be among those who experience its consequences earliest.
Some responses to Wallace-Wells’ piece have decried its alarmism and despair. But Slate’s Susan Matthews has already argued that it is not alarmist enough. I agree—and I would add that its hopeful conclusion also avoids the pessimism necessary for confronting the reality of the changes ahead.
Pessimism isn’t popular at the moment. As Jill Lepore wrote in New Yorker earlier this summer, “Radical pessimism is a dismal trend.” Considering recent novels that offer pessimistic pictures of political and ecological futures, she concludes that dystopia is no longer “a fiction of resistance.” It despairs instead of calling for action.
The accusation that pessimism results in political paralysis is frequently made in the process of advocating hope. In the most recent edition of her book Hope in the Dark, Rebecca Solnit argues that pessimists focus on disappointment as a way of avoiding taking action, decrying every possibility as imperfect and inadequate. She differentiates hope from both optimism and pessimism by its acceptance of uncertainty. Optimists think everything will be fine, pessimists think everything will be terrible, but those who are hopeful act in the belief that actions will, in some way and at some point, matter.
Solnit’s uncertain hope, while not naive optimism, still does not help us answer the fundamental questions posed by climate change: What should we hope for? What shouldn’t we hope for? What should we hope against? Solnit, like many, poses pessimism and hope as two mutually exclusive options. Yet the first can be a condition for the second. We cannot answer the question “What should we hope for?” without confronting that for which we should despair.
If Moore is right, then the patterns of production and consumption at the heart of the global economy are integral to global warming. Maybe that way of life isn’t worth saving. Kafka reportedly once said that there is “plenty of hope, an infinite amount of hope—but not for us.” Rather than investing in technological salvations that will allow us to prolong a way of life that is destroying the rest of nature, we can embrace pessimism. In abandoning hope that one way of life will continue, we open up a space for alternative hopes.
This article is part of Future Tense, a collaboration among Arizona State UniversityNew America, and Slate. Future Tense explores the ways emerging technologies affect society, policy, and culture. To read more, follow us on Twitter and sign up for our weekly newsletter.
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Global Warming: 'More Fire and Anthrax for the Arctic'

More Fire and Anthrax for the Arctic: Study Finds 21 to 25 Percent of Northern Permafrost Will Thaw at Just 1.5 C of Warming

In the far north, the land is rippling, trembling, subsiding, and blowing up as greenhouse gasses are released from thawing frozen soil. Meanwhile, old diseases are being released from thawing carcasses and presenting a health hazard to locals. Strange processes that are likely to accelerate soon as global warming approaches 1.5 degrees Celsius and between 21 and 25.5 percent of all the vast region of Northern Permafrost thaws out.
(More methane blowholes like this one in Yamal are likely as permafrost thaw accelerates in the coming years and pockets of methane explosively remove the land above. How extensive permafrost thaw becomes is directly dependent on how much fossil fuel human societies decide to burn. Image source: The Siberian Times.)
Arctic Carbon Feedbacks Accelerating
Carbon feedbacks from the thawing permafrost are a serious concern. And they should be. There’s about 1,400 billion tons of carbon locked away in that massive region of frozen ground. More than twice the amount humans have already emitted into the atmosphere. And though frozen permafrost carbon stays locked away, thawed permafrost carbon tends to become biologically active — releasing into soils, the water and the air.
Already, this thawing has generated a worrying effect. During the 20th Century, it was estimated that about 500,000 tons of methane were released from the Siberian land-based permafrost region. By 2003, as this permafrost zone warmed, the annual rate of release was estimated to be 3.8 million tons per year. And by 2013, with still greater warming, the rate of release had grown to 17 million tons per year. This compares to a global emission of methane from all sources — both human and Earth System-based — of about 500 million tons per year.
(Megaslump craters like the one at Batagaika, formed by subsidence, are also a result of permafrost thaw. Such features are likely to grow and proliferate as the Earth warms and permafrost thaw expands.)
That’s a thirty-fold acceleration in the rate of Siberian permafrost methane emission over a little more than one generation. One that occurred as temperatures rose to about 1 C above 1880s averages and into a range not seen for about 150,000 years. It’s a warming that has produced visible and concerning geophysical changes throughout the Arctic permafrost environment. In Siberia, lands are subsiding even as more and more methane and carbon dioxide are leeching out. And in the Yamal region of Arctic Russia, temperatures warming into the upper 80s (30 C+) during summer appear to have set off a rash of methane eruptions from the soil even as ancient reindeer carcasses release anthrax spores into the environment as they thaw. From a report this week in The Guardian:
Long dormant spores of the highly infectious anthrax bacteria frozen in the carcass of an infected reindeer rejuvenated themselves and infected herds of reindeer and eventually local people. More recently, a huge explosion was heard in June in the Yamal Peninsula. Reindeer herders camped nearby saw flames shooting up with pillars of smoke and found a large crater left in the ground. Melting permafrost was again suspected, thawing out dead vegetation and erupting in a blowout of highly flammable methane gas.
21 to 25.5 Percent of Northern Permafrost Set to Thaw over Next Two Decades
In total, 14 methane blow out craters are now identified throughout the Yamal region. A testament to the growing carbon feedback coming from previously frozen and inactive stores.
(Permafrost losses are likely to be quite considerable over the coming decades — which is likely to produce serious knock-on effects for local and global environments. But continued fossil fuel burning through end Century produces more catastrophic results. Image source: Responses and changes in the permafrost and snow water equivalent in the Northern Hemisphere under a scenario of  1.5 C warming.)
But, unfortunately, these kinds of weird, disturbing, and often dangerous changes to northern environments are just a foreshadowing of more to come. For a recent scientific study has found that just 1.5 degrees Celsius worth of warming will force between 21 and 25.5 percent of the northern permafrost to thaw. A process that is already underway, but that will continue to accelerate with each 0.1 degree Celsius of additional warming. The study found that the faster human atmospheric greenhouse gas emissions build up, the more rapidly permafrost would thaw once the 1.5 C threshold was reached. Under a rapid human reduction of greenhouse gasses (RCP 2.6 scenario), permafrost thaw was reduced to 21 percent in the study. But under worst case human fossil fuel emissions (RCP 8.5 scenario), the accelerated rate of warming resulted in 25.5 percent permafrost thaw.
Perhaps more concerning was the fact that the study found that this 1.5 C temperature threshold was reached by as early as 2023 under the worst case fossil fuel burning scenario even as it was held off only to 2027 if rapid fossil fuel burning reductions were achieved. A broader sampling of studies and natural variability hold out some hope that 1.5 C might be pushed back to the early to mid 2030s in the absolute best case. However, considering the amount of human emissions already released and in the pipeline even under the best cases, it appears that crossing the 1.5 C threshold sometime in the near future is unavoidable at this time (barring some unforeseen massive global response and mobilization).
(Permafrost losses under different human emissions scenarios through 2100 show that continued fossil fuel burning results in between 47 and 87 percent loss of permafrost area by 2100 [RCP 4.5 and 8.5]. Image source: Responses and changes in the permafrost and snow water equivalent in the Northern Hemisphere under a scenario of  1.5 C warming.)
Overall, the study found that surface permafrost losses lagged the crossing of the 1.5 C threshold by only about 10 years. And that the lowest emissions scenarios (RCP 2.6) resulted in a leveling off of permafrost losses to 24 percent by 2100. Meanwhile, the worst case human greenhouse gas emissions scenarios (RCP 8.5) resulted in 87 percent permafrost area reductions by 2100.
Risk of Serious Carbon Feedback Far Worse With Fossil Fuel Burning
With so much carbon locked away in permafrost, heightened rates of thaw present a risk that longer term warming might eventually run away as millions and billions of tons of carbon are ultimately liberated. Under moderate to worst case human fossil fuel burning scenarios, it is estimated that permafrost carbon emissions could approach 1 billion tons per year or more. At about 10 percent or more of the present human emission, such a rate of release to the atmosphere is about equivalent to that achieved during the last hyper-thermal event of 55 million years ago (the PETM). Moreover, a heightened response by large methane stores could result in a more immediate warming effect as methane is 28 to 36 times more potent a heat trapping gas than carbon dioxide over Century time scales.
A risk of serious carbon feedbacks that accelerate rates of warming this Century and over the longer term is not inconsiderable even with a 24 percent loss of Permafrost under the best case scenario identified by this study. However, the likelihood of a much more serious feedback under continued fossil fuel burning is far more apparent.
Hat tip to Spike