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You’ll be Surprised which Congressmen get Most Campaign Money from War Industry

October 24th, 2014 No comments

AJ+

“War is a big industry in the United States, but who profits from it? AJ+ breaks down how much money was contributed by defense contractors to members of Congress in 2014 and exactly who got the bulk of that money.”


These Congressmen Made A Lot Of Money From War – AJ+

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Iraq: Are Senior ISIL Commanders already Defecting in Mosul & Tikrit?

October 24th, 2014 No comments

By Mustafa Habib | Baghdad | via Niqash.org

Senior members of the Sunni Muslim extremist group, the Islamic State, have disappeared from Mosul and Tikrit. Sources suggest they defected for a number of reasons: they fear the end is nigh for their group, the threat posed by unhappy former allies who have already assassinated some of their number and because of promises of money and safety.

Last week was a tough week for the Sunni Muslim extremist group known as the Islamic State, or IS. It had incurred serious losses of manpower in strongholds in both Syria and Iraq.

Figures released by the Iraqi Ministries of Defence and the Interior suggest that the IS group lost around 400 fighters in Iraq and reports from Syria say as many as 500 IS fighters have been killed there, particularly around Kobani where there is fierce fighting but also in strongholds like Raqqa, where airstrikes by an international coalition are having an impact.

And it seems that some of the leaders in the IS group now feel that the writing is on the wall and that the IS group won’t be able to hold onto power for much longer.

Confidential information from inside Iraq military intelligence obtained by NIQASH says that several senior leaders in the IS group have disappeared from areas the group controls – most particularly from inside Mosul, the northern city the group considers it’s Iraqi capital, and from parts of the Salahaddin province.

NIQASH’s source inside Iraqi intelligence says that most of the IS group leaders who disappeared are field commanders, men responsible for administration of combatants and territorial sectors. Most of them are Iraqis too – they are not from among the IS group’s Arab or foreign fighters. And apparently the group of defectors also includes one Ali al-Hamadani, who is thought to be very close to the group’s leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, as well as another senior leader whose name is unknown as yet but who was allegedly responsible for al-Baghdadi’s personal protection.

Asked as to why these senior members may have defected, the source told NIQASH that it was down to the success of local and foreign infiltration into the organisation. The senior members had been promised money and protection, their future safety guaranteed if they left the IS group and gave up information about the group’s plans and movements.

It is also thought that the senior leaders are leaving because they fear that the IS group will not last much longer in Iraq and that they might eventually be killed. If they are caught though, they will also be killed as the sentence for betraying the organisation, as decreed by its leader, al-Baghdadi, is also death.

There has also been a rumour that al-Baghdadi had been moving a large amount of money around, smuggling it out of Iraq and investing it with friendly businessmen in the Gulf States in order to ensure that the IS group has financial stability – in case, one imagines, they lose the money-making territory they currently control.

After rumours about the defection of these senior leaders began to circulate, the IS group held one of their traditional demonstrations of strength and power, organising a parade of vehicles and manpower through Mosul’s streets.

Locals say that other senior members of the IS group –including the group’s spokesperson, Abu Mohammed al-Adnani, the IS-appointed governor of Mosul, Abu Bakr al-Khatouni, and the group’s military leader in Tal Afar, Abu Ala al-Afri – all returned from Syria to take over the posts left empty by the deserters.

After the IS group’s military parade ended, there was a wave of arrests in Mosul, during which many of the former police and military men still living in the city, who had repented for their past jobs, were taken away. They are apparently now being held in former government buildings that the IS group uses as prisons there.

One of the other reasons for the defections are the ongoing threats presented by armed groups inside Mosul, says Zakaria al-Hattab, who leads one of the anti-IS group militias working inside the city. There have been a number of IS members assassinated by unknown assailants in the city.

“Armed factions in Mosul are not yet able to confront the IS group openly,” says al-Hattab, who is currently in Erbil in the semi-autonomous region of Iraqi Kurdistan. But, al-Hattab, adds, he and a group of others are forming militias to try and do exactly that.

The majority of the IS leaders responsible for Mosul’s security and services are Iraqis and possibly also longer-term residents of the city. “Everybody knows them and everybody hates them,” al-Hattab explained to NIQASH. “And the tribal leaders in Mosul who are against the IS group have already made threats against the group’s senior members, saying they will chase them out of the city and kill them once IS is defeated. That’s what has scared these men and they’ve decided to leave before it’s too late.”

“The IS group leaders who defected left because they realized that the whole world was waging war against them,” suggests Rashid al-Samarrai, a local security expert. “They also know that the international coalition is going to benefit hugely from information they’re gleaning on the IS group’s plans and its hiding places.”

Additionally, al-Samarrai says, a lot of the most recent recruits to the IS group in Iraq are locals and former members of Saddam Hussein’s army and intelligence services. Many of them undertook religious training only after, or shortly before, they joined the IS group.

“Senior leaders in the IS group are military personnel who have been trained in warfare,” al-Samarrai says. “They only embraced radical religious thinking a few years ago and their belief in this system is actually fairly weak when compared to the core membership of the IS group, who have embraced radical religious ideas since they were young. The latter group would find it much harder to betray the organisation because they truly believe in it.”

Mirrored from Niqash.org”

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Related video added by Juan Cole:

CNN: “Deal lets 200 join fight against ISIS

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Double-Edged Sword: Can US overcome its Feelings of Exceptionalism?

October 24th, 2014 No comments

By David Bromwich via Tomdispatch.com

The origins of the phrase “American exceptionalism” are not especially obscure. The French sociologist Alexis de Tocqueville, observing this country in the 1830s, said that Americans seemed exceptional in valuing practical attainments almost to the exclusion of the arts and sciences. The Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin, on hearing a report by the American Communist Party that workers in the United States in 1929 were not ready for revolution, denounced “the heresy of American exceptionalism.” In 1996, the political scientist Seymour Martin Lipset took those hints from Tocqueville and Stalin and added some of his own to produce his book American Exceptionalism: A Double-Edged Sword. The virtues of American society, for Lipset — our individualism, hostility to state action, and propensity for ad hoc problem-solving — themselves stood in the way of a lasting and prudent consensus in the conduct of American politics.

In recent years, the phrase “American exceptionalism,” at once resonant and ambiguous, has stolen into popular usage in electoral politics, in the mainstream media, and in academic writing with a profligacy that is hard to account for. It sometimes seems that exceptionalism for Americans means everything from generosity to selfishness, localism to imperialism, indifference to “the opinions of mankind” to a readiness to incorporate the folkways of every culture. When President Obama told West Point graduates last May that “I believe in American exceptionalism with every fiber of my being,” the context made it clear that he meant the United States was the greatest country in the world: our stature was demonstrated by our possession of “the finest fighting force that the world has ever known,” uniquely tasked with defending liberty and peace globally; and yet we could not allow ourselves to “flout international norms” or be a law unto ourselves. The contradictory nature of these statements would have satisfied even Tocqueville’s taste for paradox.

On the whole, is American exceptionalism a force for good? The question shouldn’t be hard to answer. To make an exception of yourself is as immoral a proceeding for a nation as it is for an individual. When we say of a person (usually someone who has gone off the rails), “He thinks the rules don’t apply to him,” we mean that he is a danger to others and perhaps to himself. People who act on such a belief don’t as a rule examine themselves deeply or write a history of the self to justify their understanding that they are unique. Very little effort is involved in their willfulness. Such exceptionalism, indeed, comes from an excess of will unaccompanied by awareness of the necessity for self-restraint.

Such people are monsters. Many land in asylums, more in prisons. But the category also encompasses a large number of high-functioning autistics: governors, generals, corporate heads, owners of professional sports teams. When you think about it, some of these people do write histories of themselves and in that pursuit, a few of them have kept up the vitality of an ancient genre: criminal autobiography.

All nations, by contrast, write their own histories as a matter of course. They preserve and exhibit a record of their doings; normally, of justified conduct, actions worthy of celebration. “Exceptional” nations, therefore, are compelled to engage in some fancy bookkeeping which exceptional individuals can avoid — at least until they are put on trial or subjected to interrogation under oath. The exceptional nation will claim that it is not responsible for its exceptional character. Its nature was given by God, or History, or Destiny.

An external and semi-miraculous instrumentality is invoked to explain the prodigy whose essence defies mere scientific understanding. To support the belief in the nation’s exceptional character, synonyms and variants of the word “providence” often get slotted in.  That word gained its utility at the end of the seventeenth century — the start of the epoch of nations formed in Europe by a supposed covenant or compact. Providence splits the difference between the accidents of fortune and purposeful design; it says that God is on your side without having the bad manners to pronounce His name.

Why is it immoral for a person to treat himself as an exception? The reason is plain: because morality, by definition, means a standard of right and wrong that applies to all persons without exception. Yet to answer so briefly may be to oversimplify. For at least three separate meanings are in play when it comes to exceptionalism, with a different apology backing each. The glamour that surrounds the idea owes something to confusion among these possible senses.

First, a nation is thought to be exceptional by its very nature. It is so consistently worthy that a unique goodness shines through all its works. Who would hesitate to admire the acts of such a country? What foreigner would not wish to belong to it? Once we are held captive by this picture, “my country right or wrong” becomes a proper sentiment and not a wild effusion of prejudice, because we cannot conceive of the nation being wrong.

A second meaning of exceptional may seem more open to rational scrutiny. Here, the nation is supposed to be admirable by reason of history and circumstance. It has demonstrated its exceptional quality by adherence to ideals which are peculiar to its original character and honorable as part of a greater human inheritance. Not “my country right or wrong” but “my country, good and getting better” seems to be the standard here. The promise of what the country could turn out to be supports this faith. Its moral and political virtue is perceived as a historical deposit with a rich residue in the present.

A third version of exceptionalism derives from our usual affectionate feelings about living in a community on the scale of a neighborhood or township, an ethnic group or religious sect. Communitarian nationalism takes the innocent-seeming step of generalizing that sentiment to the nation at large. My country is exceptional to me (according to this view) just because it is mine. Its familiar habits and customs have shaped the way I think and feel; nor do I have the slightest wish to extricate myself from its demands. The nation, then, is like a gigantic family, and we owe it what we owe to the members of our family: “unconditional love.” This sounds like the common sense of ordinary feelings. How can our nation help being exceptional to us?

Teacher of the World

Athens was just such an exceptional nation, or city-state, as Pericles described it in his celebrated oration for the first fallen soldiers in the Peloponnesian War. He meant his description of Athens to carry both normative force and hortatory urgency. It is, he says, the greatest of Greek cities, and this quality is shown by its works, shining deeds, the structure of its government, and the character of its citizens, who are themselves creations of the city. At the same time, Pericles was saying to the widows and children of the war dead: Resemble them! Seek to deserve the name of Athenian as they have deserved it!

The oration, recounted by Thucydides in the History of the Peloponnesian War, begins by praising the ancestors of Athenian democracy who by their exertions have made the city exceptional. “They dwelt in the country without break in the succession from generation to generation, and handed it down free to the present time by their valor.” Yet we who are alive today, Pericles says, have added to that inheritance; and he goes on to praise the constitution of the city, which “does not copy the laws of neighboring states; we are rather a pattern to others than imitators ourselves.”

The foreshadowing here of American exceptionalism is uncanny and the anticipation of our own predicament continues as the speech proceeds. “In our enterprises we present the singular spectacle of daring and deliberation, each carried to its highest point, and both united in the same persons… As a city we are the school of Hellas” — by which Pericles means that no representative citizen or soldier of another city could possibly be as resourceful as an Athenian. This city, alone among all the others, is greater than her reputation.

We Athenians, he adds, choose to risk our lives by perpetually carrying a difficult burden, rather than submitting to the will of another state. Our readiness to die for the city is the proof of our greatness. Turning to the surviving families of the dead, he admonishes and exalts them: “You must yourselves realize the power of Athens,” he tells the widows and children, “and feed your eyes upon her from day to day, till love of her fills your hearts; and then when all her greatness shall break upon you, you must reflect that it was by courage, sense of duty, and a keen feeling of honor in action that men were enabled to win all this.” So stirring are their deeds that the memory of their greatness is written in the hearts of men in faraway lands: “For heroes have the whole earth for their tomb.”

Athenian exceptionalism at its height, as the words of Pericles indicate, took deeds of war as proof of the worthiness of all that the city achieved apart from war. In this way, Athens was placed beyond comparison: nobody who knew it and knew other cities could fail to recognize its exceptional nature. This was not only a judgment inferred from evidence but an overwhelming sensation that carried conviction with it. The greatness of the city ought to be experienced, Pericles imagines, as a vision that “shall break upon you.”

Guilty Past, Innocent Future

To come closer to twenty-first-century America, consider how, in the Gettysburg Address, Abraham Lincoln gave an exceptional turn to an ambiguous past. Unlike Pericles, he was speaking in the midst of a civil war, not a war between rival states, and this partly explains the note of self-doubt that we may detect in Lincoln when we compare the two speeches. At Gettysburg, Lincoln said that a pledge by the country as a whole had been embodied in a single document, the Declaration of Independence. He took the Declaration as his touchstone, rather than the Constitution, for a reason he spoke of elsewhere: the latter document had been freighted with compromise. The Declaration of Independence uniquely laid down principles that might over time allow the idealism of the founders to be realized.

Athens, for Pericles, was what Athens always had been. The Union, for Lincoln, was what it had yet to become. He associated the greatness of past intentions — “We hold these truths to be self-evident” — with the resolve he hoped his listeners would carry out in the present moment: “It is [not for the noble dead but] rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom.”

This allegorical language needs translation. In the future, Lincoln is saying, there will be a popular government and a political society based on the principle of free labor. Before that can happen, however, slavery must be brought to an end by carrying the country’s resolution into practice. So Lincoln asks his listeners to love their country for what it may become, not what it is. Their self-sacrifice on behalf of a possible future will serve as proof of national greatness. He does not hide the stain of slavery that marred the Constitution; the imperfection of the founders is confessed between the lines.  But the logic of the speech implies, by a trick of grammar and perspective, that the Union was always pointed in the direction of the Civil War that would make it free.

Notice that Pericles’s argument for the exceptional city has here been reversed. The future is not guaranteed by the greatness of the past; rather, the tarnished virtue of the past will be scoured clean by the purity of the future.  Exceptional in its reliance on slavery, the state established by the first American Revolution is thus to be redeemed by the second. Through the sacrifice of nameless thousands, the nation will defeat slavery and justify its fame as the truly exceptional country its founders wished it to be.

Most Americans are moved (without quite knowing why) by the opening words of the Gettysburg Address: “Four score and seven years ago our fathers…” Four score and seven is a biblical marker of the life of one person, and the words ask us to wonder whether our nation, a radical experiment based on a radical “proposition,” can last longer than a single life-span. The effect is provocative. Yet the backbone of Lincoln’s argument would have stood out more clearly if the speech had instead begun: “Two years from now, perhaps three, our country will see a great transformation.” The truth is that the year of the birth of the nation had no logical relationship to the year of the “new birth of freedom.” An exceptional character, however, whether in history or story, demands an exceptional plot; so the speech commences with deliberately archaic language to ask its implicit question: Can we Americans survive today and become the school of modern democracy, much as Athens was the school of Hellas?

The Ties That Bind and Absolve

To believe that our nation has always been exceptional, as Pericles said Athens was, or that it will soon justify such a claim, as Lincoln suggested America would do, requires a suppression of ordinary skepticism. The belief itself calls for extraordinary arrogance or extraordinary hope in the believer. In our time, exceptionalism has been made less exacting by an appeal to national feeling based on the smallest and most vivid community that most people know: the family.  Governor Mario Cuomo of New York, in his keynote address at the 1984 Democratic convention, put this straightforwardly. America, said Cuomo, was like a family, and a good family never loses its concern for the least fortunate of its members. In 2011, President Obama, acceding to Republican calls for austerity that led to the sequestration of government funds, told us that the national economy was just like a household budget and every family knows that it must pay its bills.

To take seriously the metaphor of the nation-as-family may lead to a sense of sentimental obligation or prudential worry on behalf of our fellow citizens. But many people think we should pursue the analogy further. If our nation does wrong, they say, we must treat it as an error and not a crime because, after all, we owe our nation unconditional love. Yet here the metaphor betrays our thinking into a false equation. A family has nested us, cradled us, nursed us from infancy, as we have perhaps done for later generations of the same family; and it has done so in a sense that is far more intimate than the sense in which a nation has fostered or nurtured us. We know our family with an individuated depth and authority that can’t be brought to our idea of a nation. This may be a difference of kind, or a difference of degree, but the difference is certainly great.

A subtle deception is involved in the analogy between nation and family; and an illicit transfer of feelings comes with the appeal to “unconditional love.” What do we mean by unconditional love, even at the level of the family? Suppose my delinquent child robs and beats an old man on a city street, and I learn of it by his own confession or by accident. What exactly do I owe him?

Unconditional love, in this setting, surely means that I can’t stop caring about my child; that I will regard his terrible action as an aberration. I will be bound to think about the act and actor quite differently from the way I would think about anyone else who committed such a crime. But does unconditional love also require that I make excuses for him? Shall I pay a lawyer to get him off the hook and back on the streets as soon as possible? Is it my duty to conceal what he has done, if there is a chance of keeping it secret? Must I never say what he did in the company of strangers or outside the family circle?

At a national level, the doctrine of exceptionalism as unconditional love encourages habits of suppression and euphemism that sink deep roots in the common culture. We have seen the result in America in the years since 2001. In the grip of this doctrine, torture has become “enhanced interrogation”; wars of aggression have become wars for democracy; a distant likely enemy has become an “imminent threat” whose very existence justifies an executive order to kill. These are permitted and officially sanctioned forms of collective dishonesty. They begin in quasi-familial piety, they pass through the systematic distortion of language, and they end in the corruption of consciousness. 

The commandment to “keep it in the family” is a symptom of that corruption. It follows that one must never speak critically of one’s country in the hearing of other nations or write against its policies in foreign newspapers. No matter how vicious and wrong the conduct of a member of the family may be, one must assume his good intentions. This ideology abets raw self-interest in justifying many actions by which the United States has revealingly made an exception of itself — for example, our refusal to participate in the International Criminal Court. The community of nations, we declared, was not situated to understand the true extent of our constabulary responsibilities. American actions come under a different standard and we are the only qualified judges of our own cause.

The doctrine of the national family may be a less fertile source of belligerent pride than “my country right or wrong.” It may be less grandiose, too, than the exceptionalism that asks us to love our country for ideals that have never properly been translated into practice. And yet, in this appeal to the family, one finds the same renunciation of moral knowledge — a renunciation that, if followed, would render inconceivable any social order beyond that of the family and its extension, the tribe.

Unconditional love of our country is the counterpart of unconditional detachment and even hostility toward other countries. None of us is an exception, and no nation is. The sooner we come to live with this truth as a mundane reality without exceptions, the more grateful other nations will be to live in a world that includes us, among others.

David Bromwich teaches English at Yale University. A TomDispatch regular, he is the author most recently of Moral Imagination and The Intellectual Life of Edmund Burke: From the Sublime and Beautiful to American Independence.

Follow TomDispatch on Twitter and join us on Facebook. Check out the newest Dispatch Book, Rebecca Solnit’s Men Explain Things to Me, and Tom Engelhardt’s just published book, Shadow Government: Surveillance, Secret Wars, and a Global Security State in a Single-Superpower World.

Copyright 2014 David Bromwich

Mirrored from Tomdispatch.com

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Related video added by Juan Cole:

WBGH: “Andrew Bacevich – Limits of Power: The End of American Exceptionalism”

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Khamenei’s Shadow Has a Mind of its Own

October 24th, 2014 No comments

This picture of Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei appeared on the Facebook Page of al-‘Ahed News, one of Hizbullah’s outlets:

Among the online commentary I’ve seen so far:

Ottoman Sultans used to style themselves “the Shadow of God on Earth,” but I’m pretty sure their shadows pointed the right way.

Perhaps Khamenei is brighter than the sun? I will resist any “brighter than a thousand  suns” remarks while the nuclear talks continue, however.
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Latest Issue of Dabiq Defends Enslavement of Yazidi Women

October 23rd, 2014 No comments

As Matthew Barber recently noted at Syria Comment, the Islamic State’s English magazine Dabiq, which we’ve discussed here before,  has not only acknowledged enslaving Yazidi women, but has justified it. The article in Dabiq’s issue 4 is entitled “The Revival of Slavery Before the Hour.” Besides spending many paragraphs defending enslaving and selling women, they conclude, “May Allah bless this Islamic State with the revival of other aspects of the religion at its hands.”

(If you must, you can find the issue many places online, among them here, with the slavery article on pages 14-17.)

The main theme is “The Failed Crusade,” meaning the West’s anti-ISIS effort. As you can see, the cover shows an ISIS flag flying over the Vatican.

If you’re thinking that they’re just messing with our minds at this point you’re probably right. But the enslavement and sale of Yazidi women is real.  Meanwhile Lizbeth Paulat calls them out by citing the Qur’an, Surat al-Nur (XXIV), 33 (here in the Yusuf ‘Ali translation):

And if any of your slaves ask for a deed in writing (to enable them to earn their freedom for a certain sum), give them such a deed if ye know any good in them: yea, give them something yourselves out of the means which Allah has given to you. But force not your maids to prostitution when they desire chastity, in order that ye may make a gain in the goods of this life.

Similar arguments against slavery by Muslim authorities can be found here.

It also says something about the times we live in that in almost six years of blogging, this is the first post with the tagline, “slavery.” I’d like it to be the last, but . . .


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Iranian Foreign Minister at the Council on Foreign Relations

October 23rd, 2014 No comments

“… It is a sensible and sophisticated presentation that drives US neocons crazy. They can hardly control their grief at no longer having Mr Ahmadinejad around. He was so much easier to hate …” (Gary Sick)
“… 
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STATE Official: “We have to face whether we are going after ISIL or Assad or both, but for the present we just want to postpone the decision.”

October 23rd, 2014 No comments

‘…. Externally, the picture is not much better. While the commanding general of the anti-ISIL operations in Iraq and Syria is reporting optimistically about progress, the two major open questions – the deployment of US ground forces and the long-standing dilemma over Syria – remain unresolved. On the latter, the US finds itself being drawn deeper into Syrian politics in the form of a meeting with the Kurdish PYD party. Its armed wing the YPG is providing the main body of opposition on the ground to ISIL in Syria, but its links to the PKK in Turkey, which the US regards as a terrorist organization, is complicating relations with Ankara. A State Department official put it this way in a comment to us: “We know we have to grapple with the question of whether we are going after ISIL or Assad or both, but for the present we just want to postpone the decision.” The ground troop question is becoming ever more urgent in the light of ISIL’s consolidation in Anbar province from where it can threaten Baghdad airport. As a Democratic strategist commented to us: “The logic of war is forcing the President in a direction to which he is profoundly resistant.” On other subjects, following last week’s high level talks with Iran, a top State Department official is due to clarify the US position in a major speech on October 23rd. Our sense is that US officials feel that an agreement is within grasp – albeit far from assured. As US officials like to repeat: “even if the deal is 98% done, the final 2% could see it fall apart.”..”


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‘Out of courtesy’

October 23rd, 2014 No comments

“… Because of the consistency of such behaviour, the source added, many in the international community have started meeting opposition figures “only out of courtesy”. According to official sources, Saudi Arabia and other key backers in the region have been left dissatisfied by infighting within the opposition…”


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Renewables & the Future of India: IT Center Bangalore goes Solar to avoid Brownouts, High Electricity Bills

October 23rd, 2014 No comments

News9

“The city [of Bangalore] is struggling with frequent power cuts. Those who were smart enough to invest in solar energy are the only ones coping with it. We take you through a few places in Bengaluru [Bangalore] that entirely uses solar power. Thanks to solar energy, for these smart cookies, it’s no hassle of electricity bills or the annoying load shedding!”

NEWS9: Solar so good!

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Climate Treaty Follies: How Inaction is Endangering the World

October 23rd, 2014 No comments

By Tom Giesen

“To be quite candid the idea of a 2°C target is largely out of the window.”

Sir Robert Watson, former IPCC Chair. 2012

Since the late 1990s, the stated goal of world governments has been to hold average global warming to no more than 3.6 degrees F. (2 degrees centigrade). However, many doubt that the goal can be met – it has taken us too long to begin reducing emissions.

The fundamentals are that there is clear scientific evidence that long-wave energy emitted from our sun-warmed earth heats greenhouse gases (CO2, methane, etc.) in the atmosphere and thus causes warming over the entire planet. That process (the greenhouse effect) has been relatively stable; without that process the earth would be much cooler.

However, by burning huge amounts of fossil fuels, we have greatly added to the greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Concentrations of CO2 alone have grown from 280 parts per million in about 1850 to about 400 or so today – a 42% increase. More greenhouse gases mean more rapid and more total warming.

Scientists have long warned us that rising greenhouse gas concentrations have exposed us to substantial harms – planetary warming, extreme weather, forest fires, crop failures, floods, sea level rise – the list goes on and on.

Next year, the nations of the world will gather again to try to create an emissions-reduction treaty. So far, they have failed abysmally at that task. The long-standing goal is to hold average global warming to 3.6 degrees F. above pre-industrial levels. 3.6 degrees F. is the limit because it was thought to be the maximum average temperature rise before we encounter “dangerous climate change”.

By “dangerous” they mean that the earth’s climate system could be altered so that we have, e.g., megastorms that are hard for human populations to survive or a massive die-off of marine species (many humans depend on fish and other marine life for their protein). Worse, scientists tell us that risks to the planetary ecosystem have greatly increased since the 2 degree C / 3.6 degree F. limit was formulated, and that rates of emissions have increased as our energy use has risen – so now we face extra-dangerous change. In the US, emissions were up 2.6 percent last year alone. That is, the rate of greenhouse gas emissions is still increasing today. The likelihood that we can meet the 3.6 degrees F. limit is very low – many scientists say it is now impossible.

Fossil fuels are finite. We will stop using them eventually – the only issue is timing. We could cushion our withdrawal from fossil fuels with a massive switch to renewables, but there is no sign that is happening, save in a few EU nations. Renewables in 2013 were a piddling 4.5% of US energy.

A lot of fossil fuels will eventually be left in the earth, because at some point, it will take more energy to extract a barrel of oil from the earth than can be gained from it – the shorthand is EROEI – energy return on energy invested.

But humanity’s choice, so far, is to continue burning fossil fuels without restraint – a self-destructive decision. Global meetings to reduce emissions are held, hopeful words are spoken – but the emissions continue to rise. We are trashing our planet to facilitate fossil fuel energy uses which end in unimaginable losses of resources.

If our history of fossil fuel use is a guide, we will try to burn all of the remaining accessible fossil fuels – in spite of the global warming that burning those fuels will cause. We are choosing to have our GDP decline later and larger, and in much more difficult circumstances.

The discovery of fossil fuels has furnished us with a short-term, 200-year bonanza; an occasion for an energy orgy; a final fling before the morning-after, when we take a sober look around at the planetary chaos we have caused.

It is likely that we’ll see a hot, depleted, polluted, flooded, overpopulated and essentially alien planet.

Tom Giesen

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Related video added by Juan Cole:

AFP: ” Greenhouse gas levels hit new high, says UN”

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