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Monday, April 5

Ask how criminals profit from remittances for real story of huge US border crossings

 Two reports from the John Batchelor Show on CBS Audio Network, Pacific Watch segment with Jeff Bliss, Special Edition:

"Two million migrants --including 200,000 unaccompanied children and 1.1 million single males -- encountered at the border by the end of the year" (Audioboom Podcast)

"Mexican Cartels use China's Tik Tok to recruit US-based human traffickers" (Audioboom Podcast)

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Big business, yes? I believe you can get an idea of how big from a May 31, 2019 Forbes report written by Kenneth  Rapoza, a Forbes Senior Contributor (emphasis mine): 
Central American Migrant Remittances Breaking Records, Beats Foreign Investment

Either migrants are making more money than ever before, or their numbers are increasing even as economists like Paul Krugman insist the border crisis only exists in President Donald Trump's head.

Central Americans are sending home billions of dollars, giving poor governments there little incentive to improve social safety nets for the working class leaving for the U.S.

In 2017, El Salvador brought in a record $792 million from foreign direct investment, according to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, or UNCTAD. It is unclear if that includes remittances from their people living abroad. If it did, or if it did not it doesn't matter here. El Salvadoreans sent home a record breaking $534.2 million as of December 2018, according to that country's central bank.

Guatemala FDI was $1.14 billion in 2017. That's chump change compared to what their foreign workers are sending home to family. Last year, they sent a record breaking $9.3 billion in remittances, according to the Bank of Guatemala.

And then there's Honduras, the next group of Central American countries populating migrant caravans heading to the U.S. border in numbers never before seen.

FDI to Honduras was $1.18 billion in 2017, according to UNCTAD. Remittances were $427 million in December after hitting a record 12-month high of $456 million in May.

The dependence of these small nations on migrants to sustain the livelihood of some of the population has led these countries to do little to stop an ever increasing outflow from Central America. There is very little political will to solve this crisis. Trump's "tough love" policy at least gets nations thinking about it.

According to the World Bank, remittances accounted for 21.1% of El Salvador's GDP, 19.9% of Honduras' GDP, and 12.1% of Guatemala's. By comparison, remittances are only 3% of Mexico's GDP and 0.2% of Brazil's.

Mexico's trade relationship with the U.S. helps. And it's large domestic market cannot be compared to tiny Central American countries. For instance, Mexico brought in $22.8 billion in FDI in 2017, based on UNCTAD's numbers while their all-time remittance high, reached in 2018, was $9.05 billion, according to their central bank.

Mexico's remittances are worth more than Pemex oil and gas sales.

[...]

I think the Forbes report could explain the mystery of why the crime cartels are now outfitting 'migrants' with wristbands that contain too much data to simply identify whether the banded 'migrant' has passed through a cartel checkpoint on the way to the U.S. southern border. The governments of the Central American nations, who seem by now to be almost openly in league with the cartels, would need to keep close track of who is entering the USA. They would want an estimate of the remittances they can expect from migrants who get work in USA.  If they're doing more than keeping tabs -- using gang members to remind workers with jobs in the U.S. and their families to keep up the remittances,  the workers would be in effect slave labor.             

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Friday, April 2

Weaponized mass migrations across southern U.S. border, a narco-terror elite in Honduras

 The New John Batchelor Show on CBS Audio Network has been chronicling the latest mass incursions across the U.S. southern border, most of which are passing through Mexico from Central American countries. 

A JBS segment from the other night is headlined, Honduras said to be dominated by narco-terror-linked elite led by the presidency. John's discussion with Joseph Humire and Colombian Senator Maria Fernanda Cabal highlights that U.S. authorities have been seeing "more and more high-ranking officials in Latin America being involved with drug trafficking." 

Humire explains that U.S. authorities are aware of the connection between the narco-crime wave in Honduras (and other Central American states) and the mass incursions across the American southern border. 

Humire also mentions indications that the migrations are now "weaponized," and that the U.S. military is well aware of this. Listen to the discussion for more explanation but in brief the weaponization of mass migration means the incursions are being constructed and used by foreign entities as a weapon against the United States.

My concern is that the weaponization aspect will fix U.S. attention to a militarized response to the mass incursions happening over and above the million legal immigrants to America annually.  

I see weaponization, along with other factors usually cited. as causing the incursions -- extreme poverty, corruption, and cartel/gang violence -- as consequences of farmland theft that has been steadily escalating in Latin America for at least two decades. With regard to the land grabs in Honduras, a 2017 article reported:
According to Tanya Kersson, author of Grabbing Power: The New Struggles for Land, Food and Democracy in Northern Honduras, a few powerful landowners grabbed more than 21,000 hectares in a short period between 1990 and 1994. This accounted for 70 percent of peasant lands in the Lower Aguan Valley, one the most fertile areas in the country and the site for much of the land conflict in Honduras.
Land grabs and violence against rural Hondurans have gotten worse since the 1990s. The 2009 military coup gave the large landholders even more flexibility in expelling small landholders from their land.

From the report, much of the expulsion has been done through legalistic machinations against farmers who for generations didn't have or need written proof they owned their property. When farmers and their activist supporters organize protests against the chicanery, they are murdered. 

So my suggestion is that actually stopping the cross-border incursions depends on returning dispossessed farmers and their families to their rightful lands. Unless this is done, militarized tactics and bribing corrupt or outright criminal regimes with 'development' projects will produce only the most temporary relief from the incursions. Focusing entirely on the land grabs would be too much to ask of the American government and indeed of all Americans who want action now. Yet unless the root cause of the incursions is dealt with, they will continue.   

But is the solution I propose doable? I'd say it's more doable than continuing to go in circles, which has been the American response for years to what is obviously a crisis, both for the U.S. and the countries the émigrés are fleeing.  

For now, listen to what John Batchelor and his guests have to say about the mass migrations. Another JBS segment on the crisis is PacificWatch: Special Report: San Diego refuge at $6500 per child per day (Audioboom podcast). There are additional recent podcasts on the border incursions. See the JBS Audioboom page.

I'd also recommend that you read the entire 2017 article I quoted above. The caveat is that the title of the report states the land grabs are "partly" to blame for the "skyrocketing" violence that has driven so many Hondurans to flee their country. Yet I think the article itself makes clear there is a direct, cause-and-effect link between the violence and large-scale ousting of Honduran landholders.

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A chance of Ethiopia's return to greatness but a threat from the Congo Basin could destroy it

 John Batchelor of the New John Batchelor Show at CBS Audio Network and Gregory Copley, Editor and Publisher of Defense & Foreign Affairs, in discussion last night about "Fragile Egypt and the Red Sea Wars of Somalia, Ethiopia, Tigray and Eritrea" (Audioboom free podcast). 

Gregory outlines the war situation and then explains that Ethiopia and Eritrea are talking about reunification; that is, the rump of Ethiopia and Eritrea rejoined. If this happens some of the Middle East's biggest problems will be resolved and Ethiopia will restore to a greatness it hasn't seen since the days of Emperor Haile Selassie.  

I hate to cast a pall over such hopeful news but I'm still in shock from revelations that relate to the Biotic Pump theory. With regard to Ethiopia I'll return to the June 2020 Science Magazine report I published March 31 headlined, "A controversial Russian theory claims forests don’t just make rain—they make wind:"

 [...]

Two years ago, at a meeting of the United Nations Forum on Forests, a high-level policy group on which all governments sit, David Ellison, a land researcher at the University of Bern, presented a case in point: a study showing that as much as 40% of the total rainfall in the Ethiopian highlands, the main source of the Nile, is provided by moisture recycled from the forests of the Congo Basin.
Egypt, Sudan, and Ethiopia are negotiating a long-overdue deal on sharing the waters of the Nile. But such an agreement would be worthless if deforestation in the Congo Basin, far from those three nations, dries up the moisture source, Ellison suggested.

“Interactions between forests and water have been almost entirely ignored in the management of global freshwater resources.”

The biotic pump would raise the stakes even further, with its suggestion that forest loss alters not just moisture sources, but also wind patterns. The theory, if correct, would have “crucial implications for planetary air circulation patterns,” Ellison warns, especially those that take moist air inland to continental interiors.
[...]

I'll interject that the Russian government wasted precious years ignoring the Biotic Pump theory so while the theoretical physicists who proposed it are Russian, it's a grim irony that the Science Magazine editor termed the theory Russian. Well the government has finally awakened from its slumber, we learn from the Science Magazine report.

The question with regards to Gregory's report, and Ethiopia's fate, is whether governments in the Congo Basin region will also awaken. They make quite a long list. From Wikipedia's article:

Congo is a traditional name for the equatorial Middle Africa that lies between the Gulf of Guinea and the African Great Lakes. It contains some of the largest tropical rainforests in the world.

 Countries wholly or partially in the Congo region:

I understand from Gregory's discussion that Ethiopia's government has a lot on its plate but I'd say they need to emphasize to Congo governments of a gravest danger that might not be fully apparent to them at this time, or one that they've pushed to the bottom of the list in favor of 'development' and 'modernization' projects. This is not about modernization. This is life or death.  

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Thursday, April 1

I think weaponization of mass migration is red herring UPDATED 5PM ET

This post is under repair. I'll be publishing an edited version under a different title, I hope by 4 PM ET.

UPDATE

I've published the edited version under the title Weaponized mass migrations across southern U.S. border, a narco-terror elite in Honduras

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Tuesday, March 30

If biomass industry keeps expanding, pray Biotic Pump theory is wrong

"First published in 2007 by two Russian physicists, Victor Gorshkov and Anastassia Makarieva, the still little-known biotic pump theory postulates that forests are the driving force behind precipitation over land masses. Since the biotic pump turns modern meteorology on its head, it has faced stiff resistance from some meteorologists and journals." 
-- From an explainer at Bing about the pump  

"Since then, there has been neither validation nor disproof, but largely a standoff."
-- From the following report

I was watching with half an eye a short version of Burned, a  documentary about the evils of burning wood pellets for fuel -- not that the film is boring but I was biomassed out after plowing through articles on the topic. Suddenly I snapped to attention as a map of the United States showed where industrial forest cutting for wood pellets was happening. I blinked at one part of the map and blurted, "That's coastal area! What would Gorshkov and Makarieva say about that?!"

Turns out Gorshkov wouldn't have anything to say because he's dead. He died in 2019, at the age of 84, I have just learned to my sorrow. 

But I recalled Makarieva saying years ago that it's the mature coastal forests that are most critical to preserve. That's if we don't want to transform the interiors of our countries into desert, so the Biotic Pump argument goes.   

The memory of her words sent me scurrying around the internet to see if there's been any progress on explaining the Biotic Pump theory. Judith Schwartz took a stab at the challenge for Scientific Americans readers but that was in 2013.  (Clearing Forests May Transform Local -- and Global --Climate: "Researchers are finding that massive deforestation may have a profound, and possibly catastrophic, impact on local weather.") 

I see we have another try, almost a year ago, at Science magazine.  Okay, I'll give it whirl:

A controversial Russian theory claims forests don’t just make rain—they make wind
June 18, 2020
Science Magazine, AAAS

Half of the Amazon’s rain comes from the forest’s own moisture. Could it also make winds that ferry rain across continents?

Every summer, as the days get long, Anastassia Makarieva leaves her lab in St. Petersburg for a vacation in the vast forests of northern Russia. The nuclear physicist camps on the shores of the White Sea, amid spruce and pine, and kayaks along the region’s wide rivers, taking notes on nature and the weather. “The forests are a big part of my inner life,” she says. In the 25 years she has made her annual pilgrimage north, they have become a big part of her professional life, too.

For more than a decade, Makarieva has championed a theory, developed with Victor Gorshkov, her mentor and colleague at the Petersburg Nuclear Physics Institute (PNPI), on how Russia’s boreal forests, the largest expanse of trees on Earth, regulate the climate of northern Asia. It is simple physics with far-reaching consequences, describing how water vapor exhaled by trees drives winds: winds that cross the continent, taking moist air from Europe, through Siberia, and on into Mongolia and China; winds that deliver rains that keep the giant rivers of eastern Siberia flowing; winds that water China’s northern plain, the breadbasket of the most populous nation on Earth.

With their ability to soak up carbon dioxide and breathe out oxygen, the world’s great forests are often referred to as the planet’s lungs. But Makarieva and Gorshkov, who died last year, say they are its beating heart, too. “Forests are complex self-sustaining rainmaking systems, and the major driver of atmospheric circulation on Earth,” Makarieva says. They recycle vast amounts of moisture into the air and, in the process, also whip up winds that pump that water around the world. The first part of that idea—forests as rainmakers—originated with other scientists and is increasingly appreciated by water resource managers in a world of rampant deforestation. But the second part, a theory Makarieva calls the biotic pump, is far more controversial.

The theoretical foundation of the work has been published, albeit in lesser known journals, and Makarieva has received support from a small coterie of colleagues. But the biotic pump has faced a head wind of criticism, especially from climate modelers, some of whom say its effects are negligible and dismiss the idea completely. The dispute has made Makarieva an outsider: a theoretical physicist in a world of modelers, a Russian in a field led by Western scientists, and a woman in a field dominated by men.

Yet, if correct, the idea could help explain why, despite their distance from the oceans, the remote interiors of forested continents receive as much rain as the coasts—and why the interiors of unforested continents tend to be arid. It also implies that forests from the Russian taiga to the Amazon rainforest don’t just grow where the weather is right. They also make the weather. 

“All I have learned so far suggests to me that the biotic pump is correct,” says Douglas Sheil, a forest ecologist at the Norwegian University of Life Sciences. With the future of the world’s forests in doubt, “Even if we thought the theory had only a small chance of being true, it would be profoundly important to know one way or the other.”

Many meteorology textbooks still teach a caricature of the water cycle, with ocean evaporation responsible for most of the atmospheric moisture that condenses in clouds and falls as rain. The picture ignores the role of vegetation and, in particular, trees, which act like giant water fountains. Their roots capture water from the soil for photosynthesis, and microscopic pores in leaves release unused water as vapor into the air. The process, the arboreal equivalent of sweating, is known as transpiration. In this way, a single mature tree can release hundreds of liters of water a day. With its foliage offering abundant surface area for the exchange, a forest can often deliver more moisture to the air than evaporation from a water body of the same size.

[Two Graphics: Routes of flying rivers, and Biotic Pump in action]

The importance of this recycled moisture for nourishing rains was largely disregarded until 1979, when Brazilian meteorologist Eneas Salati reported studies of the isotopic composition of rainwater sampled from the Amazon Basin. Water recycled by transpiration contains more molecules with the heavy oxygen-18 isotope than water evaporated from the ocean. Salati used this fact to show that half of the rainfall over the Amazon came from the transpiration of the forest itself.

By this time, meteorologists were tracking an atmospheric jet above the forest, at a height of about 1.5 kilometers. Known as the South American Low-Level Jet, the winds blow east to west across the Amazon, about as fast as a racing bike, before the Andes Mountains divert them south. Salati and others surmised the jet carried much of the transpired moisture, and dubbed it a “flying river.” The Amazon flying river is now reckoned to carry as much water as the giant terrestrial river below it, says Antonio Nobre, a climate researcher at Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research.

For some years, flying rivers were thought to be limited to the Amazon. In the 1990s, Hubert Savenije, a hydrologist at the Delft University of Technology, began to study moisture recycling in West Africa. Using a hydrological model based on weather data, he found that, as one moved inland from the coast, the proportion of the rainfall that came from forests grew, reaching 90% in the interior. The finding helped explain why the interior Sahel region became drier as coastal forests disappeared over the past half-century.

One of Savenije’s students, Ruud van der Ent, took the idea further, creating a global model of airborne moisture flow. He combined observational data on rainfall, humidity, wind speed, and temperature with theoretical estimates of evaporation and transpiration to create the first model of moisture flow at scales larger than river basins.

In 2010, van der Ent and his colleagues reported the model’s conclusion: Globally, 40% of all precipitation comes from the land rather than the ocean. Often it is more. The Amazon’s flying river provides 70% of the rain falling in the Río de la Plata Basin, which stretches across southeastern South America. Van der Ent was most surprised to find that China gets 80% of its water from the west, mostly Atlantic moisture recycled by the boreal forests of Scandinavia and Russia. The journey involves several stages—cycles of transpiration followed by downwind rain and subsequent transpiration—and takes 6 months or more. “It contradicted previous knowledge that you learn in high school,” he says. “China is next to an ocean, the Pacific, yet most of its rainfall is moisture recycled from land far to the west.”

IF MAKARIEVA IS CORRECT, the forests supply not just the moisture, but the winds that carry it.

For a quarter-century, she worked with Gorshkov, initially as his pupil, at PNPI—part of Russia’s foremost civil and military nuclear research agency, the Kurchatov Institute. They were mavericks from the start, studying ecology in a place full of physicists who use neutron beams from nuclear reactors to study materials. As theorists, she says, they had “exceptional freedom of research and thought,” pursuing atmospheric physics wherever it took them. “Victor taught me: Do not be afraid of anything,” she says.

In 2007, in Hydrology and Earth System Sciences, they first outlined their vision for the biotic pump. It was provocative from the outset because it contradicted a longstanding tenet of meteorology: that winds are driven largely by the differential heating of the atmosphere. When warm air rises, it lowers the air pressure below it, in effect creating space at the surface into which air moves. In summer, for example, land surfaces tend to heat faster and draw in moist breezes from the cooler ocean.

[Photo of Gorshkov and Makarieva]

Makarieva and Gorshkov argued that a second process can sometimes dominate. When water vapor from forests condenses into clouds, a gas becomes a liquid that occupies less volume. That reduces air pressure, and draws in air horizontally from areas with less condensation. In practice, it means condensation above coastal forests turbocharges sea breezes, sucking moist air inland where it will eventually condense and fall as rain. If the forests continue inland, the cycle can continue, maintaining moist winds for thousands of kilometers.

The theory inverts traditional thinking: It is not atmospheric circulation that drives the hydrological cycle, but the hydrological cycle that drives the mass circulation of air.

Sheil, who became a supporter of the theory more than a decade ago, thinks of it as an embellishment of the flying river idea. “They are not mutually exclusive,” he says. “The pump offers an explanation of the power of the rivers.” He says the biotic pump could explain the “cold Amazon paradox.” From January to June, when the Amazon Basin is colder than the ocean, strong winds blow from the Atlantic to the Amazon—the opposite of what would be expected if they resulted from differential heating. Nobre, another early acolyte, enthuses: “They don’t start with data, they start with first principles.”

Even those who doubt the theory agree that forest loss can have far-reaching climatic consequences. Many scientists have argued that deforestation thousands of years ago was to blame for desertification in the Australian Outback and West Africa. The fear is that future deforestation could dry up other regions, for example, tipping parts of the Amazon rainforest to savanna. Agricultural regions of China, the African Sahel, and the Argentine Pampas are also at risk, says Patrick Keys, an atmospheric chemist at Colorado State University, Fort Collins.

In 2018, Keys and his colleagues used a model, similar to van der Ent’s, to track the sources of rainfall for 29 global megacities. He found that 19 were highly dependent on distant forests for much of their water supply, including Karachi, Pakistan; Wuhan and Shanghai, China; and New Delhi and Kolkata, India. “Even small changes in precipitation arising from upwind land-use change could have big impacts on the fragility of urban water supplies,” he says.

Some modeling even suggests that by removing a moisture source, deforestation could alter weather patterns beyond the paths of flying rivers. Just as El Niño, a shift in currents and winds in the tropical Pacific Ocean, is known to influence weather in faraway places through “teleconnections,” so, too, could Amazon deforestation diminish rainfall in the U.S. Midwest and snowpack in the Sierra Nevada, says Roni Avissar, a climatologist at the University of Miami who has modeled such teleconnections. Far-fetched? “Not at all,” he says. “We know El Niño can do this, because unlike deforestation, it recurs and we can see the pattern. Both are caused by small changes in temperature and moisture that project into the atmosphere.”

Two years ago, at a meeting of the United Nations Forum on Forests, a high-level policy group on which all governments sit, David Ellison, a land researcher at the University of Bern, presented a case in point: a study showing that as much as 40% of the total rainfall in the Ethiopian highlands, the main source of the Nile, is provided by moisture recycled from the forests of the Congo Basin. 

Egypt, Sudan, and Ethiopia are negotiating a long-overdue deal on sharing the waters of the Nile. But such an agreement would be worthless if deforestation in the Congo Basin, far from those three nations, dries up the moisture source, Ellison suggested. “Interactions between forests and water have been almost entirely ignored in the management of global freshwater resources.”

The biotic pump would raise the stakes even further, with its suggestion that forest loss alters not just moisture sources, but also wind patterns. The theory, if correct, would have “crucial implications for planetary air circulation patterns,” Ellison warns, especially those that take moist air inland to continental interiors. 

Lan Wang-Erlandsson, who researches interactions between land, water, and climate at Stockholm University, says it’s time for water resource managers to shift their focus from water and land use within a river basin to land-use changes occurring outside it.

“We need new international hydrological agreements to maintain the forests of source regions,” she says.

THE THEORY’S SUPPORTERS are a minority. In 2010, Makarieva, Gorshkov, Sheil, Nobre, and Bai-Lian Li, an ecologist at the University of California, Riverside, submitted what was meant to be a landmark description of the biotic pump to Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics, a major journal with open peer review. Titled “Where Do Winds Come From?” the paper faced a barrage of criticism online, and it took the journal many months to find two scientists willing to review it. Isaac Held, a meteorologist at Princeton University’s Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory, finally volunteered—and recommended rejection.

“This is not a mysterious effect,” he says. “It is small and included in some atmospheric models.” 

Critics said the expansion of air from heat released when water vapor condenses counteracts the space-creating effect of condensation. But Makarieva says the two effects are spatially separate, with the warming effect happening aloft, and the pressure drop of condensation occurring closer to the surface, where it generates the biotic wind.

The other reviewer was Judith Curry, then an atmospheric physicist at the Georgia Institute of Technology, who has long had concerns about the atmospheric dynamics at the core of climate models. She felt it was important to publish the paper and says the standoff was “very bad for climate science, which badly needs an infusion from hard-core physicists.” 

After three years of debate, the journal’s editor overruled Held’s recommendation and published the paper, saying it was published “not as an endorsement” but “to promote continuation of the scientific dialogue on the controversial theory [that] may lead to disproof or validation.”

Since then, there has been neither validation nor disproof, but largely a standoff. Gavin Schmidt, a climate modeler at Columbia University, says, “It’s simply nonsense.” The authors’ responses to criticisms were “really just mathematics that gave no one any confidence that there was any point in continuing the dialogue.” 

Jose Marengo, a meteorologist in Brazil and head of the National Centre for Monitoring and Warning of Natural Disasters, says: “I think the pump exists, but it’s very theoretical right now. The climate model community hasn’t embraced it, but the Russians are the best theoreticians in the world, so we need proper field experiments to test it.” 

Yet no one, including Makarieva, has yet proposed clearly what such a test might look like.

For her part, Makarieva is building on the theory, arguing in a series of recent papers that the same mechanism can affect tropical cyclones, which are driven by the heat released when moisture condenses over the ocean. 

In a 2017 paper in Atmospheric Research, she and her colleagues proposed that biotic pumps set up by the forests on land draw moisture-rich air away from the cyclone nurseries. This, she says, might explain why cyclones rarely form in the South Atlantic Ocean: The Amazon and Congo rainforests between them draw so much moisture away that there is too little left to fuel hurricanes.

Kerry Emanuel, a leading hurricane researcher at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, says the proposed effects “while not negligible are very small.” He prefers other explanations for the lack of South Atlantic hurricanes, such as the region’s cool waters, which send less moisture into the air, and its strong shearing winds, which disrupt cyclone formation.

Makarieva is equally dismissive of the traditionalists, saying some of the existing theories for hurricane intensity “conflict with the laws of thermodynamics.” She has another paper on the topic under peer review at the Journal of the Atmospheric Sciences. “We are concerned that, despite the editor’s encouragement, our work will get rejected once again,” she says.

Even if Makarieva’s ideas are fringy in the West, they are taking root in Russia. Last year, the government began a public dialogue to revise its forestry laws. Aside from strictly protected areas, Russian forests are open to commercial exploitation, but the government and the Federal Forestry Agency are considering a new designation of “climate protection forests.” 

“Some representatives of our forest department got impressed by the biotic pump and want to introduce a new category,” she says. The idea has the backing of the Russian Academy of Sciences. Being part of a consensus rather than the perennial outsider marks a change, Makarieva says.

This summer, the coronavirus lockdown put the kibosh on her annual trip to the northern forests. Back in St. Petersburg, she has settled down to respond to yet another round of objections to her work from anonymous peer reviewers. She insists the pump theory will ultimately prevail. “There is a natural inertia in science,” she says. With a dark Russian humor, she invokes the words of the legendary German physicist Max Planck, who is said to have once remarked that science “advances one funeral at a time.”

Posted in:
Earth
Physics

doi:10.1126/science.abd3856

Fred Pearce
Fred Pearce is a journalist in London.

[END REPORT]

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Tuesday, March 23

Two reports for Bill Gates watchers

Both articles are from The Nation. 

One, published February 16, 2021 is Bill Gates, Climate Warrior. And Super Emitter: "The billionaire’s new book, a bid to be taken seriously as a climate campaigner, has attracted the usual worshipful coverage. When will the media realize that with Gates you have to follow the money?"  The author, Tim Schwab, has done just that. 

Schwab is a freelance journalist based in Washington, D.C., whose investigation into the Gates Foundation was part of a 2019 Alicia Patterson Foundation fellowship. 

Also according to The Nation, in the name of full disclosure (something Mr Gates has great trouble doing), "Four years ago Tim Schwab was employed as a researcher for Food & Water Watch, an NGO that works on agricultural and energy issues."

The other Nation article, also by Tim Schwab, was published October 5, 2020 and titled While the Poor Get Sick, Bill Gates Just Gets Richer: "The billionaire’s pandemic investments, like much of his work, remain a secret."

I don't begrudge Gates his wealth yet there are increasingly worrisome ways in which he's sought to profit in the name of charity. The revelations in February article are probably not news to committed Gates watchers, but some in the earlier report are jaw-droppers.

I knew Gates was deeply involved with vaccines but I had no idea until reading The Nation report of the extent to which he had promoted AstraZeneca's Covid vaccine. At this moment the vaccine is in such trouble there are predictions it will bite the dust. I'll assume that Gates is doing everything he can to prevent that from happening, but that's just the problem -- his power, no small part of which is derived from showing how to make big profits from humanitarian causes, now more than equals his wealth.

See also: 



German Study Reveals Why AstraZeneca Vax Can Cause Brain Blood Clots as WHO, EU Give Jab Green Light; Sputnik News, March 20

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Monday, March 22

John Batchelor's radio show moves on

After 20 years John Batchelor has retired from WABC radio in New York City. John's next move is to the media giant CBS. An anonymous source told me that with the exception of WABC the same radio stations around the U.S. that had syndicated Batchelor's show while at WABC will carry the CBS one. See John's Wikipedia page for a partial listing of the affiliate stations.

We'll learn more in the coming days about the transition; for now, the podcasts from John's new show are posted at the Audioboom page and can be accessed for free.

Onward!

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Friday, March 19

Transhumanism and gene-editing Covid vaccines: Dr Frankenstein would approve.


Gene-editing, Moderna, and transhumanism
By Christina Lin
August 5, 2020
The Times of Israel

About the author:

Dr. Christina Lin is a US-based foreign policy analyst specializing in China-Mediterranean relations. She has extensive US government experience working on national security issues and was a CBRN (chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear) research consultant for Jane's Information Group.

***
As gene-based mRNA vaccines from Moderna are being designed and tested at warp speeds to fight Covid-19, this is also bringing the debate over transhumanism into the forefront.

Transhumanism is a type of futurist philosophy aimed at transforming the human species by means of biotechnologies. Transhumanists see disease, aging and death as undesirable and unnecessary, and aim to transform human beings into post-human species with greater capacities than those of present human beings.

The philosophy is based on secular humanism and sees human nature as an evolutionary work-in-progress with room for improvement and enhancement. However, it is more radical in that it promotes not only traditional means of improving human nature such as education and cultural refinement, but also direct application of medicine and technology to overcome basic biological limits.

Transhumanists give special attention to genetic engineering, robotics, molecular nanotechnology and artificial intelligence, and the Covid-19 pandemic is providing gene-based vaccines a chance to break through into the global health market.

Moderna and gene-editing

Currently there are various companies such as Inovio, Moderna and CanSino Biologics that are testing mRNA and DNA vaccines to counter SARS coronavirus-2 (SARS CoV-2) which causes Covid-19, but Moderna is the front runner that recently nabbed $472 million from U.S. government’s Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) to develop the vaccine. This is in addition to the $483 million it had already received back in April, bringing its total funding to $955 million.

With U.S. government funding at nearly $1 billion for one company, Moderna may be too big to fail. However, this is perplexing for a company that has never produced a single vaccine. According to a CNN report, Moderna was only established in 2010, has never brought a product to market, nor gotten any of its nine or so vaccine candidates approved for use by the FDA.

However, it has been a long-term Pentagon contractor for biodefense, working closely with Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA) on gene-editing and mRNA therapeutics. DARPA is focused on developing emerging disruptive technologies to maintain a competitive edge over adversaries, including many ‘transhuman’ projects such as genetic engineering and soldier enhancement via robotics.

In the case of Moderna and mRNA therapeutics, DNA vaccine is considered a new paradigm that would disrupt the pharmaceutical industry. Its vision is to harness a new technology that synthesizes messenger RNA, or mRNA—which is an instruction manual in every living cell for creating protein—to prompt the human body to make its own medicine.

So instead of injecting a piece of virus into a person to stimulate the immune system, the synthesized genes would be shot into the body whereby the genes are edited, deleted, added, to re-engineer human DNA to resist the disease. If successful, scientists hope DNA vaccines could be a “transformative” treatment for heart disease, metabolic and genetic diseases, kidney failure and even cancer. Moreover, it could be an effective form of biodefense to protect the population against biological warfare, which is also the mandate for DARPA and BARDA.

Transhumanism and hybrids

Indeed, DARPA is also developing other forms of human enhancement in addition to gene editing. Already scientists are merging robotics with the human body in brain-to-computer interface (BCI), wherein individuals with physical injuries can regain their functions, and soldiers become smarter and more powerful through the fusing of their brain with machines.

In a way, the Pentagon is now building real iron man similar to the American superhero based on the Marvel Comics character. Soldiers in exoskeleton suits are physically more powerful than those without, while other soldiers with bionic limbs perform better than adversaries with human limbs. When one adds artificial intelligence with BCI, the sky is the limit for an army of these genetically modified and robotically enhanced humanoids.

The U.S. is not the only country engaged in human enhancement and transhumanism, as Russia and China are also in hot pursuit with exoskeletons, vaccines and brain implants. As this competition gains traction, one wonders what the future of their militaries may look like as human beings are steadily integrated with machines to become armies of iron man.

Here the Book of Daniel may lend some insights. In interpreting King Nebuchadnezzar’s dream of an image with a head of gold, chest and arms of silver, belly and thighs of bronze, legs of iron, and feet of iron and clay, Daniel revealed the parts as the sequence of world empires, with the feet of iron and clay being the last.

In Daniel 2:43 it is written, “as you saw iron mixed with ceramic clay, they will mingle with the seed of men; but they will not adhere to one another, just as iron does not mix with clay,” that seems to describe a hybrid of man (clay) mixed with machine (iron). And as transhumanism and biotech gain momentum, armies of hybrid humans of iron and clay may be a real possibility in a not too distant future world.

[See illustration at the Times of Israel website for an artist's depiction of the Biblical imagery.]

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