on: November 23, 2021, 08:08:50 AM
Started by Alyse - Last post by Tyehimba
The Origins of Sex
July 7, 2015 in Science 0
In the landmark 1986 book Origins of Sex, biologist Lynn Margulis and science writer Dorion Sagan trace the first appearance of sex back billions of years, to bacteria. Here, they describe the complex evolutionary history that their book will seek to untangle. The following is an excerpt from the introduction.
Everyone is interested in sex. But, from a scientific perspective, the word is all too often associated with reproduction, with sexual intercourse leading to childbirth. As we look over the evolutionary history of life, however, we see that sex is the formation of a genetically new individual. Sex is a genetic mixing process that has nothing necessarily to do with reproduction as we know it in mammals. Throughout evolutionary history a great many organisms offered ad exchanged genes sexually without that sex ever leading to the cell or organism copying known as reproduction. Although additional living beings are often reproduced by a contribution of genes from more than a single parent, sex in most organisms is still divorced from growth and reproduction, which are accomplished by nonsexual means.
Biologically, sex is part of the rich repertoire of life. Any specific instance of a sexual event is complex. Each event in a sexual process—for example, fertilization in a plant or animal—has its own specific history. Originally unrelated phenomena, such as genetic exchange (as in DNA recombination) and cell reproduction, often became entangled after having evolved from separate beginnings. The story of sex starts with an account of the earliest life on Earth. The private activities of early cells are involved even today in courtship among human beings. The intimate behavior of single cells has simply been elaborated to include animals and their behaviors and societies. Mammalian sex is a very late and special variation on a far more general theme.
The origin of sex is a problem that has long perplexed. It lends itself to innovative mythmaking (mythopoiesis); many cultures have imagined a primordial unisexual oneness that, under the influence of a celestial personality, was split into light and dark, heaven and earth, male and female, and so on. In the march of knowledge, however, mythical accounts of the origin of sex have been abandoned. We now realize, thanks to the insights of Darwinian evolution, that the sexual differences that loom so large in the daily lives of men and women did not arise at some specific time in the history of the human species. Evolution takes us far beyond the origin of apes and men, who at their first appearance were undoubtedly already fully sexual. Sex itself arose even earlier than the many species of sexual creatures with which we are familiar. It was present on the Earth when microbes, organisms that cannot be seen without a microscope, totally dominated the planetary surface. Sex was here for hundreds of millions of years before the first animals or plants appeared.
What keeps organisms that have sexual differences from devolving into the asexual state is, as we shall show, a completely different matter from how sex came about in the first place. Biologists, although they have tried, have not been able to prove that sexual organisms have an intrinsic advantage over asexual ones. Many have struggled with the question of how sexual organisms can afford to expend the biological “cost” of mating in every generation. Asexual organisms, since they can have more offspring per unit time, are, in Darwinian terms, more “fit.” this sort of analysis implies that sexuality should disappear. But in animals sexuality is tenaciously maintained. We show here that this problem of the maintenance of sex (that which keeps animals and plants from becoming asexual) must be clearly distinguished from the problem of the origins of sex (the ways in which sex first evolved). There has been some confusion between these two aspects of sexual theory. The mix-up between remaining sexual and becoming sexual is one which we will try to steer well clear of throughout this book.
The origin of sex was not a one-time event. Sex is not a singular but a multifaceted and widespread phenomenon; it has developed several times, at the very least. The two most consequential appearances of sex were in tiny microbes—a half to about five micrometers long. Sex first appeared in bacteria. Later, in larger, more complex microbes called “protists,” a new and different kind of sex evolved. Sex in bacteria is a biological mixing and matching on the molecular level: the splicing and mending of DNA molecules. Bacterial sexuality is very different from the meiotic sex of protists, fungi, plants, and animals, and it evolved far earlier. Meiosis, or cell division resulting in reduction in the number of chromosomes, and subsequent fertilization, or reunion of cells to reestablish the original chromosomal number, first occurred in protists. Protists, microbes generally from ten to a hundred micrometers long, are ancestral to fungi, animals, and plants. As protists evolved and gave rise to these other groups of organisms, sex was preserved. From a cellular vantage point, human sex is almost identical to that of some of the protistan microbes.
Excerpted from Origins of Sex: Three Billion Years of Genetic Recombination by Lynn Margulis and Dorion Sagan. Copyright 1986. http://blog.yalebooks.com/2015/07/07/the-origins-of-sex/
on: December 06, 2020, 07:36:47 PM
Started by Makini - Last post by Makini
|Privileged people, privileged plantsA study of Cape Town’s plant life shows how post-apartheid poverty and inequality is mirrored in and exacerbated by ecological patterns
From 1948 until the early 1990s, the practice of institutionalised racism, known as apartheid, was in place in Cape Town and across South Africa.
The ghost of apartheid lives on not only as developmental, educational and wealth disparities, but also in the ecologies of the city.
A study published in Landscape and Urban Planning highlights the connection between the racial composition and wealth of a neighbourhood and its level of ecological poverty.
Centre researchers Erik Andersson, Julie Goodness and Thomas Enqvist were part of a team of researchers conducting in-depth ecological surveys that measured functional traits of plants, which give an indication of resilience and vulnerability to environmental shocks.Urban ecologies and urban filters
Cape Town is a biodiversity hotspot. It is situated in the smallest most diverse floristic region in the world, the Cape Floristic Region, which holds 44% of the flora of South Africa. Despite its beauty and cultural diversity, racial fault lines run deep and poverty levels are high.
When a landscape is urbanized there is a filtering of the ecology whereby some species thrive, and others are suppressed, or weeded out. This human mediated filtering process can be by design, as in gardens. Filtering can also happen as a by-product of human processes like fire suppression and pollution, which change the assemblages of plant species.
In the study, the researchers consider how different filtering processes have led to impoverished ecologies in Cape Town.
With humans in control, there has been a shift away from plants that need animals to spread their seeds and for pollination.
Co-author Erik Andersson argues, “The ability to purchase plants from nurseries renders the need to produce and disperse seed obsolete.” These unnatural ecologies are especially vulnerable, which pose a problem - as global populations grow, so too will the importance of our green spaces.
“For the majority of the next generation, the green spaces of our cities will be the first ‘natural’ landscapes they encounter in life.”Apartheid planning resistant to change
Environmental injustice is often exacerbated by systematic traps, making it difficult to depart from injustices from the past. The researchers found that plant communities mirror historical apartheid planning that is resistant to change.
Through apartheid planning in Cape Town different racial groups were provided designated areas in which to reside.
Julie Goodness explains, “privileged white people were allocated neighbourhoods that received excellent municipal services and had easy access to the city centre while black and coloured people were forcefully relegated to further flung neighbourhoods with limited municipal infrastructure and services."
And today, the current market-based allocation of housing has done little to transform racially and socio-economically distinct neighbourhoods.The luxury effect
The authors combined an environmental justice approach with a thorough ecological survey method. They did not simply measure plant cover and biodiversity, in their study they also calculate ecological functionality.
Plots were surveyed across an urban to natural gradient and along a socio-economic gradient. At one end of this gradient, are the privileged white neighbourhoods, and at the other end are poor, predominantly black neighbourhoods. The observed decline in species richness along this gradient is known as the luxury effect.
In poorer black neighbourhoods, there are fewer green spaces, and less diverse plant functional groups. This means that ecological functions are less resilient to environmental shocks.
For example, some plants are important in urban settings for temperature regulation, and if there are very few species providing this service, then the neighbourhood becomes more vulnerable to heat if these plants are wiped out in a drought or other environmental shock. When more species perform the same functions, as was found in wealthier white neighbourhoods, the service of for example temperature regulation is more likely to withstand shocks and changes.
Through this lens of environmental injustice, environmental drivers that perpetuate social inequality were made clearly visible.
The authors conclude with explicit recommendations, including the creation of a database of locally appropriate indigenous species with associated traits and horticultural requirements as a useful next step.
“This could be used to inform city planting schemes as well as public campaigns run through nurseries, with greater attention required in poorer neighbourhoods.”
on: June 19, 2020, 11:02:33 AM
Started by News - Last post by News
|By Margaret Kimberley
June 17, 2020blackagendareport.com
Millions of white people glorify mass murderers because their sense of identity and place in society is deeply tied to white supremacy.“It is important to name and shame the mass murderers.”
The perpetrators of crimes against humanity are often elevated to positions of respect and admiration. It all depends on who did the killing, and who was killed. Now the murderers are being called to account. The new movement in the United States against police and other state violence has inspired this welcome change taking place all over the world. The criminals are being exposed decades and even centuries after their atrocities took place. There is no statute of limitations for murder nor should there be for calling out people who have the blood of millions on their hands.
Statues of Belgium’s King Leopold have been defaced and even removed. Leopold held the Congo as his personal fiefdom, the Congo Free State, where he killed as many as 15 million people who were forced to work on rubber plantations. The cruelty of murder and mutilation was exposed after a more than 20-year reign of terror. George Washington Williams, a black American journalist, played a key role in bringing the genocide to public attention.
Instead of Adolf Hitler being the only European who comes to mind when genocide is mentioned, the name Leopold ought to have the same effect. But Hitler killed Europeans and Leopold killed Africans. The crimes of one are widely known while the other escapes condemnation because his crimes were erased. “King Leopold killed as many as 15 million people who were forced to work on rubber plantations.”
The same can be said of Winston Churchill. During World War II he presided over a famine in colonial India caused by the theft of rice and wheat which supplied Britain’s armies. An estimated 3 million people died but starvation in Bengal province was not his first opportunity to commit mass murder. After World War I he advocated gassing Iraqis who rebelled against British rule. “I am strongly in favor of using poison gas against uncivilized tribes.” He had already ordered chemical weapons attacks against the Russian Bolsheviks in 1918.
Now Churchill’s statue in London’s parliament square is covered in a large box to protect it from protesters. A group scrawled graffiti which correctly labeled as a racist the man who said that his Indian victims “breed like rabbits.”
The taboos are falling just like the statues that honored slave traders and Indian killers in this country. Robert E. Lee’s monument in Richmond, Virginia is now covered in graffiti and a likeness of George Floyd, whose murder at the hands of police motivated people to denounce the killers whose crimes are covered up. Too many historians choose to affirm corrupt systems rather than tell the truth. But the people are ignoring entreaties from all the elites and are taking matters into their own hands.“Churchill said that his Indian victims ‘breed like rabbits.’”
Christopher Columbus is among those being exposed. His voyages on behalf of the Spanish crown were followed by other European invasions which brought disease and bloody conquest against indigenous populations from the tip of South America all the way to Alaska. This genocide was the precursor to the trans-Atlantic slave trade which brought Africans to suffer as chattel throughout North and South America..
But there is a reaction to every action and when the question of removing the Columbus statue in New York City was raised, governor Andrew Cuomo demurred, “But the statue has come to represent and signify appreciation for the Italian-American contribution to New York.” Columbus was born Cristoforo Colombo in Genoa. This need for Cuomo and others to hang on to the criminal is obvious. Columbus puts Italians at the center of the settler colonial state. They are not the southern European catholic immigrants who were often looked down upon when they first arrived. Columbus makes them white Americans and they cling to him lest they lose that imprimatur.
Everyone should work mightily to remove the stain of mass murderers who even define how we identify ourselves. The name Columbus came to mean America itself. We are left with a South American nation, Colombia, named after him. The U.S. capital is the District of Columbia, while Canada’s far western province is doubly colonized with the name British Columbia and cities like Columbus, Ohio and institutions like Columbia University abound. The indigenous who suffered because of his invasion now have their culture labeled pre and post Columbian. The crimes continue as millions of people are forcibly linked to the genocidaire.“Columbus puts Italians at the center of the settler colonial state.”
New York’s governor is not alone in trying to stem the tide of truth telling. A group of white men armed with guns and other weapons felt the need to protect a statue of Columbus in Philadelphia . This intransigence tells us why it is so important to name and shame the mass murderers. Their credibility must be destroyed if white supremacy is ever to become a thing of the past. The statues must go and so must excuse making for atrocities if whites are the perpetrators and non-whites are the victims.
The hand wringing over monument removal is not just connected to reverence for these individuals. While millions of people want change, millions more do not and they hold on to Columbus or Leopold or Churchill or Robert E. Lee because their identity and place in society is firmly tied to white supremacy. If a Columbus statue comes down so might a small portion of white entitlement and its privileges.
The monuments to genocide must come down. The discomfort caused to the elites is of no concern to anyone who wants to strike at the heart of racism as practiced around the world. Good-bye and good riddance to Churchill, Columbus, Leopold and all of their ilk.Margaret Kimberley’s Freedom Rider column appears weekly in BAR, and is widely reprinted elsewhere. She maintains a frequently updated blog as well at patreon.com/margaretkimberley and she regularly posts on Twitter @freedomrideblog. Ms. Kimberley lives in New York City, and can be reached via e-Mail at Margaret.Kimberley(at)BlackAgendaReport.com. COMMENTS?
Please join the conversation on Black Agenda Report's Facebook page at http://facebook.com/blackagendareporthttps://www.blackagendareport.com/freedom-rider-churchill-columbus-and-leopold-fall-down
on: April 11, 2020, 08:25:58 PM
Started by News - Last post by News
|By Margaret Kimberley
April 10, 2020 - blackagendareport.com
The Trump administration wants a hot war with Iran or Venezuela, or both, and those of us claiming to be anti-war must be on our guard and ready for action.“The Democrats who say Trump must ask permission before killing people will in all likelihood give him the approval he seeks.”
The Donald Trump administration hasn’t given up its dream of regime change in Venezuela and Iran. They have vowed not to ease the sanctions that have literally killed thousands of people in both countries. In fact, they have increased them and claim that their efforts to do just that are somehow humanitarian.
All previous attempts to dislodge the elected president of Venezuela have ended in failure. In 2019 the U.S. instigated riots near the Colombian border and a coup attempt which fortunately was more of a photo opportunity than a serious effort by the opposition to take power. Would be usurper Juan Guaido has traveled all over the world and gained the backing of U.S. vassal states without accomplishing the desired result. The recent indictment of president Nicolas Maduro on drug trafficking charges was a sign that they will again up the ante.
When Trump and his attorney general weren’t making up charges out of thin air against Maduro, they muttered about Iranian “sneak attacks.” Not content to murder Iranian general Qassem Soleimani, they have refused to leave Iraq when that country’s parliament ordered them to do so. The rationale is that they are fighting an Iraqi resistance which they claim is directed by Iran. Of course the violence in Iraq is a direct result of the 2003 invasion and occupation which killed 1 million people.“They have refused to leave Iraq when that country’s parliament ordered them to do so.”
The United States is a failed state, but one which still has the largest military in the world and for now the most economic power. It has nothing else to offer except destruction and death as its crumbling infrastructure kills its own people, as can be seen in the COVID-19 outbreak.
There will surely be manufactured pretexts for war, such as the mysterious sinking of a Venezuelan vessel by a supposed “cruise ship” with a hull fit out with ice breaking capabilities. Ice breakers generally do not sail in the Caribbean but we can expect more unlikely events to take place in order to get Congress and the public to prepare for a hot war. The phony Gulf of Tonkin in the 1960s and phony claims of Weapons of Mass Destruction in 2003 are just two of the lies told to justify American aggressions.
The quarantines taking place during the COVID-19 pandemic are an opportune moment for mischief making but those of us claiming to be anti-war must be on our guard and ready for action. We already know that the Trump administration wants a hot war on Iran and we know that the corporate media and the political duopoly will support any effort in that direction.“We can expect more unlikely events to take place in order to get Congress and the public to prepare for a hot war.”
The same compromised journalists who rail against Trump’s vile ramblings during COVID-19 press conferences will quickly fall into line if he claims some justification for a war. The Democrats who say he must ask permission before killing people will in all likelihood give him the approval he seeks. Democrats have already lionized Guaido and signaled that they would give Trump a free hand in Venezuela. They already repeat Trump administration claims about Iran as fact. Neither the New York Times, Washington Post, CNN or MSNBC asked hard questions about the Soleimani assassination, which was a war crime by definition. None of them do the job that journalists are supposed to do and ask why there are sanctions at all or question the premise that America has the right to do what it wants whenever it wants.
It will be up to those who call themselves anti-war to refrain from falling into line and supporting candidates and parties who advocate for more war crimes. The discredited doctrine of lesser evilism must be rejected, and political independence must be the order of the day. Not only should Trump be called to account in case of war, but so must the democrats who give him any support.“Democrats have already lionized Guaido and signaled that they would give Trump a free hand in Venezuela.”
Even in quarantine the people can and must go out into the streets. Mass actions can be done with safety in mind. If protesters have to wear masks and gloves for the sake of safety then so be it. The only thing worse than U.S. aggression would be silence and complicity.
The Soleimani assassination put thousands of people out in the streets demanding no war against Iran. This moment is one that cries out for sustained activity and not for falling into complacency when the Trump team is seemingly quiescent.
There must be unquestioned support for the people of Iran and Venezuela. Any critique of their governments, no matter how valid they may be, must be put on hold. These sovereign nations have a right to self-defense and their people have a right to live in peace. Critique must be reserved for this country, its political parties and its corporate media. They can all be counted on to march in lock step when other nations are attacked. There must be clear resolve to be unsparing in our opposition to all of the aggressors and their accomplices should the worst come to pass. Margaret Kimberley’s Freedom Rider column appears weekly in BAR, and is widely reprinted elsewhere. She maintains a frequently updated blog as well at patreon.com/margaretkimberley and she regularly posts on Twitter @freedomrideblog. Ms. Kimberley lives in New York City, and can be reached via e-Mail at Margaret.Kimberley(at)BlackAgendaReport.com. https://blackagendareport.com/freedom-rider-standing-venezuela-and-iran
on: March 14, 2020, 09:22:06 AM
Started by News - Last post by News
|Vital coronavirus questions answered: What is herd immunity? How can you help yourself?By Ben Spencer for the Daily Mail
March 13, 2020 | Updated: March 14, 2020What is the Government's plan?
Officials want to delay the peak of the outbreak. They can no longer contain the virus – it has arrived and is spreading through the population. In a worst- case scenario, 80 per cent of people will become infected.
By telling people to self-isolate for even the mildest symptoms, they hope to 'flatten the curve' of the crisis – or, as Boris Johnson put it, 'squash the sombrero'.
This means delaying onward transmission and spreading out the number of patients who would overwhelm the NHS if they all contracted the virus at once. They also hope that by delaying the peak to the summer months, they will spare hospitals from simultaneously dealing with coronavirus and winter diseases such as flu and norovirus. There is also a hope that, as the virus passes through the country, we will develop 'herd immunity'What does herd immunity mean?
This is when enough people become resistant to a disease that it can no longer spread among the rest of the population. Because Covid-19 is a new disease, none of us has immunity. But if enough people get the virus – and so become resistant to a second bout – the virus will struggle to find anyone to spread to, and the numbers will start to decline.What does this strategy mean for me?
For most people, officially at least, it is a case of carry on as usual and wash your hands more often. The major directive is that anyone who has symptoms, however mild, should go home for a week. This applies to anyone who develops a persistent cough or has a temperature higher than 37.8C.How many have to get the virus to achieve herd immunity?
Experts believe about 60 per cent of the population (40 million people) need to be immune. That is because the outbreak will start to decline only when most infected people stop passing it on. If each person passes the virus on to one more person, the size of the outbreak will stay the same size. At the moment each person passes it on to about three others, on average, so the outbreak grows quickly. When the rate of onward transmissions falls from three to fewer than one, the outbreak will start to decline. So for the outbreak to tail off, two out of every three people who get the virus need to become immune.Why is the 60% figure lower than for other diseases?
Herd immunity against measles, for example, requires at least 95 per cent of people to be immune to the disease – usually through vaccination. That is because measles is far more contagious – each patient passes the viral infection on to 20 others. If an outbreak is to die out quickly at least 19 of those have to already be immune – so 95 per cent of the original 20.Do all scientists think herd immunity will protect us?
They hope it will work. But critics say several unresolved features of the Covid-19 infection may thwart the strategy. First, we don't yet know how much immunity is triggered in the body of someone who becomes infected. There are have been reports in China, for example, that some people have become infected twice. Second, it is not clear how long immunity lasts. The flu jab, for example, has to be given each year because immunity against influenza quickly wanes, and the virus mutates each year. But immunity against other diseases – such as TB – lasts at least a decade.Would a vaccine help?
Yes. Natural herd immunity is not guaranteed and requires a lot of people to suffer unpleasant illness. And many people will die as a result. A vaccine would accelerate the process, providing immunity without the illness. It would also mean if immunity wanes, an annual jab could be used to top it up. But it is unlikely a vaccine would be ready before the current pandemic ends. It would be invaluable, however, to stop a second wave of the virus hitting next year.How does herd immunity help the elderly?
The elderly are much more vulnerable to coronavirus, so the Government is hoping to exclude them from the wider strategy of 'carry on as usual'. This means 'cocooning' the vulnerable and elderly with a 'ring' of immune people around them. This relies on the theory that those who are most able to withstand the virus – the young and fit who will mostly suffer mild symptoms – will become infected, then become immune, without passing it on to the old and sick.How are older people being protected?
Care homes have been told to take action – including stopping visits from anyone with a cough or fever. Care home residents will be isolated in their rooms and staff will wear protective equipment when they care for them. In hospital, decisions may be taken not to treat the most frail people if intensive care units become overwhelmed with patients.And those who live in their own homes?
Officials have also given notice that in the coming days they may ask all elderly people to stay indoors to protect themselves. But this has not been implemented yet for fear of isolating them for months – a situation that would lead to loneliness and depression.Why isn't the UK taking much more stringent action?
The Government's scientific advisers insist it is a matter of timing. In the next few weeks, as case numbers climb, they may introduce further measures – including telling entire families to self-isolate and closing schools. But they insist the time to do this has not yet arrived.Why not act now?
They believe the crisis is going to last for several months. Delaying the introduction of a 'lockdown' will minimise the impact on society and the economy. It will reduce 'crisis fatigue' and make it more likely that people will follow health advice just when the outbreak is peaking.Aren't some firms taking things into their own hands?
Yes. Employers, businesses and many other organisations are taking action over and above the Government's advice. Concerts, sporting events and conferences have been called off, airlines are cancelling flights, courts are in lockdown and many companies have told their staff to work from home.Why not close schools, like other countries?
Boris Johnson says this would do more harm than good – and have a major impact on the NHS as crucial staff members take time off to look after their children. His advisers say to be truly effective you would have to shut a school for three months or more – and even then it would be almost impossible to stop children from playing with each other, undermining the impact. Elderly people would also suffer extra exposure because they are likely to look after grandchildren sent home from school.What about mass gatherings?
Ministers are expected to ban mass gatherings as early as next weekend – and are drafting emergency legislation next week to allow them to do so. They have been cautious about taking this step because they worried it would place a major burden on society and the economy. In reality, however, the decision has been taken out of the Government's hands. The Premier League has suspended all games until April, the London Marathon has been called off, concerts have been postponed by organisers and charities and academic groups are cancelling annual conferences.What exactly does self-isolating involve?
Anyone who has to self-isolate because they have a cough or a raised temperature has to spend a week at home without leaving. They should stay two metres (three paces) away from other people in the home, sleep alone, and ask for food and supplies to be left outside the door.Do I need a test first?
No. The Government has decided to stop testing people unless they are in hospital. Now anyone who has symptoms, however mild, must self-isolate.Should I contact the NHS?
No. It has been left to people to act responsibly once they have symptoms. The NHS is trying to stop its staff and patients becoming infected – and needs to save resources for the seriously ill.What if my symptoms get worse?
Use NHS 111 online or call NHS 111. If you get seriously ill, dial 999.When can I go back to work?
After seven days, if you feel better and no longer have a fever, you can return to your normal routine. If symptoms last longer than seven days, check NHS 111 online.https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-8110945/Your-vital-coronavirus-questions-answered.html
on: February 10, 2020, 04:12:59 PM
Started by News - Last post by News
|By John Vidal
February 07 2020 - theguardian.com
Armed ecoguards partly funded by the conservation group WWF to protect wildlife in the Republic of the Congo beat up and intimidated hundreds of Baka pygmies living deep in the rainforests, an investigation into a landmark global conservation project has heard.
A team of investigators sent to northern Congo by the UN Development Programme (UNDP) to assess allegations of human rights abuses gathered “credible” evidence from different sources that hunter-gatherer Baka tribespeople living close to a proposed national park had been subjected to violence and physical abuse from the guards over years, according to a leaked draft of the report.Full Article : theguardian.com
on: January 31, 2020, 08:00:16 AM
Started by News - Last post by News
Pipeline or a Pipe Dream: Israel, Turkey Hydrocarbon Conflict is Brewing in the Mediterranean
By Ramzy Baroud
January 31, 2020
Massive natural gas discoveries off the eastern coast of Israel and Palestine is slated to make Tel Aviv a regional energy hub. Whether Israel will be able to translate positive indicators of the largely untapped gas reserves into actual economic and strategic wealth is yet to be seen.
What is certain, however, is that the Middle East is already in the throes of a major geostrategic war, which has the potential of becoming an actual military confrontation.
Unsurprisingly, Israel is at the heart of this growing conflict.
“Last week, we started to stream gas to Egypt. We turned Israel into an energy superpower,” Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, bragged during a cabinet meeting on January 19.
Netanyahu’s self-congratulating remarks came on the heels of some exciting financial news for the embattled Prime Minister, as both Jordan and Egypt are now Tel Aviv’s clients, receiving billions of cubic meters of Israeli gas.
For Netanyahu, pumping Israeli gas to two neighboring Arab countries constitutes more than just economic and political advantages – it is a huge personal boost. The Israeli leader is trying to convince the public to vote for him in yet another general election in March, while pleading to Israel’s political elite to give him immunity so that he can stay out of prison for various corruption charges.
For years, Israel has been exploiting the discovery of massive deposits of natural gas from the Leviathan and Tamar fields – located nearly 125 km and 80 km west of Haifa respectively – to reconstruct regional alliances and to redefine its geopolitical centrality to Europe.
The Israeli strategy, however, has already created potentials for conflict in an already unstable region, expanding the power play to include Cyprus, Greece, France, Italy, and Libya, as well as Egypt, Turkey, Lebanon, and Russia.
On January 2, Netanyahu was in Athens signing a gas pipeline deal, alongside Greek Prime Minister, Kyriako Mitotakis, and Cyprus President, Nicos Anastasiades.
The EastMed pipeline is projected to travel from Israel to Cyprus, to Greece and, ultimately, to Italy, thus transporting eastern Mediterranean gas directly to the heart of Europe.
A few years ago, this scenario seemed unthinkable, as Israel has, in fact, imported much of its natural gas from neighboring Egypt.
Israel’s Tamar field partly rectified Israel’s reliance on imported gas when it began production in 2003. Shortly after, Israel struck gas again, this time with far greater potential, in the massive Leviathan field. On December 31, 2019, Leviathan began pumping gas for the first time.
Leviathan is located in the Mediterranean Sea’s Levantine Basin, a region that is rich with hydrocarbons.
“Leviathan is estimated to hold over 21 trillion cubic feet of natural gas—enough to fill Israeli power-generation needs for the next 40 years, while still leaving an ample supply for export,” wrote Frank Musmar in the BESA Center for Strategic Studies.
Egypt’s share of Israeli gas – 85 billion cubic meters (bcm), with an estimated cost of $19.5 billion – is acquired through the private Egyptian entity Dolphinus Holdings. The Jordanian deal was signed between the country’s national electricity company NEPCO, and American firm, Noble Energy, which owns a 45% stake in the Israeli project.
Jordanians have been protesting Israel’s gas deal en-masse, as they view economic cooperation between their country and Israel as an act of normalization, especially as Tel Aviv continues to occupy and oppress Palestinians.
The echoes of the popular protests have reached the Jordanian parliament which, on January 19, unanimously voted in favor of a law to ban gas imports from Israel. Israel is diversifying beyond exerting regional economic dominance to becoming a big player on the international geopolitical stage as well. The EastMed pipeline project, estimated at €6bn, is expected to cover 10% of Europe’s overall need for natural gas. This is where things get even more interesting.
Turkey believes that the deal, which involves its own regional rivals, Cyprus and Greece, is designed specifically to marginalize it economically by excluding it from the Mediterranean’s hydrocarbon boom.
Ankara is already a massive energy hub, being the host of TurkStream, which feeds Europe, with approximately 40% of its needs of natural gas coming from Russia. This fact has provided both Moscow and Ankara not only with more than economic advantages but geostrategic leverage as well. If the EastMed pipeline becomes a reality, Turkey and Russia will stand to lose the most.
In a series of successive, and surprising moves, Turkey retaliated by signing a maritime border deal with Libya’s internationally-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA), and by committing to send military support to help Tripoli in its fight against forces loyal to General Khalifa Haftar.
“Turkey will not permit any activity that is against its own interests in the region,” Fuat Oktay, Turkey’s Vice-President, told Anadolu News Agency, adding that “any plan that disregards Turkey has absolutely no chance of success.”
Although European countries were quick to condemn Ankara, the latter has succeeded in changing the rules of the game by staking a claim to vast areas that are also claimed by Greece and Cyprus as part of their so-called exclusive economic zones (EEZ).
Not only will Turkey be drilling in Libya’s territorial waters for natural gas, but in disputed water near Cyprus as well. Ankara is accusing Cyprus of violating “the equal claim to discoveries”, an arrangement that followed the military conflict between both countries in 1974.
If the issue is not resolved, the EastMed pipeline project could potentially turn into a pipedream. What seemed like a lucrative deal, with immense geopolitical significance from an Israeli point of view, now appears to be another extension of the wider Middle Eastern conflict.
While the EU is eager to loosen Russia’s strategic control over the natural gas market, the EastMed pipeline increasingly appears unfeasible from every possible angle.
However, considering the massive deposits of natural gas that are ready to fuel struggling European markets, it is almost certain that the Mediterranean natural gas will eventually become a major source of political disputes, if not a war.
Ramzy Baroud is a journalist, author and editor of Palestine Chronicle. His latest book is The Last Earth: A Palestinian Story (Pluto Press, London, 2018). He earned a Ph.D. in Palestine Studies from the University of Exeter and is a Non-Resident Scholar at Orfalea Center for Global and International Studies, UCSB.
on: January 24, 2020, 04:47:14 PM
Started by mdw-ntr - Last post by mdw-ntr
Bend foot addendums
Jealous of attention
Dwellers in douendom
Tension since Toussaint won,
Sentences can’t mention
Women we depend on
For de scent of redemption
At a river,
No christening from Christendom
Who also forgot to claim us,
What a pity!
With a pittance,
Floating down a river aimless.
The soul shivers.
A sliver of a human,
Eli, Eli, Lama Sabacthani
Running backwards, and backwards,
From pot-hounds attacking we.
Dripping water on pages,
Going though, de stages,
Blind and deaf and dumb,
Broad smiles on de faces.
Yes we wear a mask
Worn out by the task
Of presenting dusky skins,
To the muskets
When they asked.
From Icacos, to Marac,
To Diego Martin,
marching, and marching.
Marching, and Marching,
Do de damned,
get a pardon?
Marching and marching,
To beg! For piece of plantain.
And we wan’ leave plantation,
Are we done, with de bargaining?
And we no longer owned.
Daylight come and we wan’ go home.
In we queffen,
Several lessons in downpression.
So clever feet leave impressions,
Come and play!
In de clay!
Ma doh want we
Jumbies mount we
So we catching birds with laglee,
And we staying by Ma Lambee
Aborted sons and daughters
And gawked at
With no pants on!
Caught on camera
In a straw hat.
Walk on hand
See with ears,
Feet in air.
Shaking! We derrière!
Until a feathered snake appears!
Like a faced fear.
Like a trail of tears.
We only place,
Running through the jungle,
Naked as we born,
We laughing till de morning
Pitching marble with de fauns!
Slipping off shoes,
Slipping off in canoes,
Peeing on marble statues
Licking salt from a bruise.
At the refuge for the abused.
There we stay,
And we play
Two eye blank,
at de bank,
Such and such.
Dis day go done,
Tomorrow go come,
And we go wander...
out de mangrove,
And at last
Taste de sun.
Den dem people
Better careful!, when we call
And dem children,
To share de ball.
By Chike Pilgrim
on: January 10, 2020, 07:29:01 AM
Started by News - Last post by News
|by Paul Street
January 10, 2020 - counterpunch.org
United States presidents have long lied about the pretexts for, and the nature of, their murderous and criminal foreign policy actions. Remember George W. Bush and Dick Cheney’s fraudulent claims that Saddam Hussein’s Iraq government possessed vast stocks of “weapons of mass destruction” that threatened the world and that Iraq had participated in the September 11, 2001 jetliner attacks?
Lyndon Johnson obtained Congressional authority to escalate the crucifixion of Vietnam by spreading disinformation about a 1964 naval incident in the Gulf of Tonkin. He campaigned that year on a pledge not to “send American boy 10,000 miles away from home to do what Asian boys ought to be doing for themselves.” The following year he did exactly that, using the Tonkin lie as his justification.
Richard Nixon campaigned for the presidency promising to end the “Vietnam War” while working with Henry Kissinger to undermine peace negotiations in Paris to ensure Hubert Humphrey’s defeat in the 1968 election. Nixon went on to extend and expand the U.S. was on Southeast Asia with the secret bombing of Cambodia.
Ronald Reagan ludicrously justified his regime-change invasion of Grenada with the idiotic claim that the tiny Caribbean island’s radical government posed a lethal threat to the U.S.
George H.W. Bush absurdly sold the U.S. regime-change invasion of Panama as a defense of “democracy” and “human rights.” He advertised his mass-murderous attack on Iraq (“Operation Desert Storm) with the lie that Washington was committed to defending small and peace-loving nations against “wanton aggression.”
Bill Clinton lied when he claimed: that the U.S. bombed a Sudanese pharmaceutical plant because it was manufacturing a chemical nerve agent; that the U.S. bombed Serbia to protect Kosovar Albanians; and that he ordered the military occupation of Haiti to “restore democracy.”
Barack Obama deceptively described his savage aerial destruction of the Libyan government as a noble humanitarian attempt to stop the slaughter of civilians. His assault quickly became an imperial regime-change war with disastrous consequences across North Africa.
Obama promised to end the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan in 16 months. He never moved to fulfill that promise. Along the way, he never felt the need to tell Americans the truth about the endless Afghan campaign. In the words of an Obama national security official quoted by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, “The metrics were always manipulated for the duration of the war.”
Did anyone seriously think the terrible truth-trashing tyrant Donald Trump – a president who has so far totaled up more than 15,000 junk statements (surely a world record) – and his underlings would not contribute to the rich U.S.-presidential tradition of bold imperial mendacity? Trump and his supine bootlickers Mike Pence (Christian Fascist Vice President) and Mike Pompeo (“Secretary of State”) have preposterously claimed that the White House’s assassination of a top Iranian commander on Iraqi soil – an epic war crime – was required because Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani presented “imminent threats to American lives.”
There is no evidence for the claim. “According to one United States official,” the New York Times reported, “the new intelligence indicated ‘a normal Monday in the Middle East’ — Dec. 30 — and General Soleimani’s travels amounted to ‘business as usual.'” Pompeo had been nagging Trump to murder Soleimani for months, the Washington Post has divulged.
Pence even claimed that the assassination was defensible because Soleimani’s Quds Force helped al-Qaida in the 9/11 attacks — a preposterous charge disproved by George W. Bush’s own 9/11 Commission. Yes, Pence went there.
Pompeo denied that Trump threatened to attack Iranian cultural sites even though the videotape of the tangerine-tinted despot doing precisely that is crystal clear.
In a pathetic teleprompter speech awkwardly uttered with stone-faced generals by his side, the United States’ freshly impeached president absurdly argued that the missiles Iran fired at U.S. military bases in retaliation for the assassination “were paid for with funds made available by the last [Obama] administration.” That’s a farcically Orwellian take on Obama’s agreement to unfreeze Iranian assets in return for Teheran agreeing to dismantle its supposed nuclear weapons program.
From the start of his sick presidency and before, Trump has been falsely claiming that Obama and Europe’s nuclear deal left Iran “free to go ahead and create nuclear weapons.”
It isn’t just about Trump and his subordinates, of course. Lyndon Johnson’s Gulf of Tonkin lie was spawned in a bigger Cold War sea that falsely portrayed the Vietnamese national independence and social justice movement as nothing more than an arm of international Communist expansions directed out of Moscow and Beijing.
In a similar vein, Trump’s assassination lies swims in a richly bipartisan sea of U.S.-imperial falsehood on Iran and the Middle East. Democrats, conservatives, and the dominant U.S. media have long and fully participated in advancing the fabricated and dishonest notion that Iran is a uniquely evil, dangerous, belligerent, destabilizing, and terrorist actor in the Middle East – a totally absurd narrative (as I argued in my last CounterPunch essay: ‘By comparison to the Saudis, Israel, and above all their sponsor the U.S., Iran is a defensive power. Its modest interventions beyond its borders are about standard realpolitik defense of regional allies [the Houthi rebels in Yemen, Hezbollah in Lebanon, Hamas in Palestine, the Assad regime in Syria, and the Shiite government in Baghdad, not destabilizing regime change and terrorism.’)
Since they buy into all the idiotic doctrinal nonsense about Iran’s special “terrorist” evil, all but a few establishment politicos pull their punches on the arch criminality of Trump’s assassination of Soleimani. They concede endlessly that Soleimani was a “really evil guy” and “bad actor” who “deserved to die” because he was supposedly responsible for the death of “hundreds of American troops” in Iraq – as if Superpower America (which surrounds Iran with U.S. military bases) hasn’t directly and indirectly killed more than a million people in Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan and Yemen in this century alone; as if Muslims both Persian and Arab don’t have the right to defend themselves against imperial intervention and violence.
Soleimani “won’t be missed,” the talking heads say, dismissing the millions mourning their fallen national hero Soleimani in the streets of Iran.
The pundits fault Trump not so much for committing a war crime as for operating impulsively and without a “clear idea of the [unmentionably imperialist] strategic path forward.” One gets the distinct impression that they would have been perfectly fine with a President Hillary Clinton murdering Soleimani as part of a strategy designed and approved by the Council on Foreign Relations.
Why the timing of Trump’s criminal, high-risk assassination? The most likely explanation is that was an attempt to divert the U.S. media and populace’s attention away from his impeachment trial and to make Trump look strong as he enters the election year with remarkably low approval ratings for a president riding a “strong economy.”
That is not without precedent in U.S. presidential history. Recall that the phrase “wag the dog” was invented in connection with the sociopath Bill Clinton’s launching of bombs and missiles while Congress pursued his impeachment for lying about extra-marital fellatio.
So, same as it ever was with lying imperial presidents in the case of the Soleimani assassination? Yes and no. Consistent with the numerous other indications that Trump has made a qualitative neofascist break with the normal bourgeois conduct of the U.S. presidency, the Trump difference here is at least five-fold:
#1. The remarkably reckless and provocative audacity involved in directly assassinating a top military and political figure in a foreign sovereign state on the territory of another government without the government’s permission.
#2. The strong likelihood that Trump impulsively ordered the Soleimani assassination over and against the advice of most top U.S. military and intelligence officials.
#3. The almost complete absence of any effort to wrap Trump’s brazen crime in the flags of international law and coalition-building.
#4. The strong link Trump made between his action and his determination to demean and discredit the other major U.S. capitalist-imperialist party (the Democrats) and his predecessor.
#5. The openly thuggish, mob-like threats to quickly devastate Iraq (a not-so veiled brandishing of the U.S. nuclear arsenal) and to attack Iran’s cultural sites (also a war crime).
For what it’s worth, I sent this this email to Chicago Tribune columnist Dahleen Glanton this Thursday: ‘Ms. Glanton: did you really write the following in today’s Tribune: “But Wednesday morning, Donald Trump gave us a gift. And we are grateful…Instead of retaliating with military force against Iran for bombing an American military base in Iraq, Trump chose to implement harsher sanctions designed to further weaken the country’s ability to sustain itself economically”? Good God, Ms. Glanton. So, you do not understand that ordinary civilians suffer and die when they live in a nation that cannot “sustain itself economically”? (Perhaps you recall the half-million plus Iraqi children killed by US sanctions in the 1990s). You do not grasp that economic sanctions are a form of crippling and murderous warfare – and part of the context that gives rise to full-on military war? Ms. Glanton, you appear to have lost your moral bearings because you have a “loved one” – you mention your 20-year old nephew – among the US troops who are currently occupying Iraq. Where is your love for the ordinary people, the women, boys, girls, and men of Iran? And why do you think the U.S. has any business occupying the sovereign territory of Iraq (a country “we” criminally and mass-murderously assaulted and occupied in 2003) with military bases in the first place?’ (Email Ms. Glanton at email@example.com
Please help Street keep writing at https://www.paulstreet.org/subscribe/https://www.counterpunch.org/2020/01/10/assassination-lies-and-the-trump-difference/