Tuesday, April 30

Readings 4/30 Updated 1:10 PM

Senior [Iraqi] MP Slams US for Creating Safe Zone for ISIL at Iraq-Syria Border

The Hidden Challenge of the Restoration of Notre-Dame
Afghanistan’s Hired Guns

The number of private contractors in America’s longest war jumped at an unprecedented rate in the last three months. By Paul D. Shinkman Senior National Security Writer, US News & World Report, April 26, 2019
The extent to which the U.S. needs more security contractors because of a deteriorating situation on the ground is unclear, largely because the Trump administration, like its predecessors, has opted to withhold pertinent information. Faced with reports of a rising death toll among Afghan soldiers and national police officers, the government in Kabul – with U.S. support – stopped releasing those figures two years ago.

From Foreign Policy News summaries, 4/29, 4/30
Second Cyclone Hits Mozambique
Top News: A powerful cyclone hit Mozambique while the country was still recovering from another devastating storm six weeks ago. Cyclone Kenneth caused widespread flooding, killed at least nine people, and has destroyed 35,000 homes. It’s the first time in recorded history two cyclones have hit Mozambique in one season. Cyclone Idai hit the country six weeks ago, killing over 600 people.

Heavy rains are forecast for the next several days, which U.N. officials fear will worsen the situation. Aid agencies and workers are struggling to deliver relief supplies to people in rural areas affected by the cyclone due to damaged roads.

Japan: Emperor Akihito told those gathered at his abdication ceremony that he “wished Japan and the world peace and prosperity.” He is the first Japanese monarch in 200 years to step back from his role, a move which will formally take effect at midnight. The Emperor’s son, Crown Prince Naruhito, will ascend the Chrysanthemum Throne on Wednesday.


Monday, April 29

Readings 4/29

If Sam is right, Steele didn't need Russians:

4/28 Sic Semper Tyrannis:  
From Pat Lang's comment section. Sam commenting: "While I knew about Nellie Ohr and her DOJ husband , what I didn't know was that while she worked for Fusion GPS , fusion was a FBI contractor that had access to NSA database until Admiral Rogers shut it down . Sounds Like Brennan's CIA laundered information to EX-CIA Nellie Ohr when she was working for Fusion GPS who then laundered this info to Steele , another person employed by Fusion who then gave this back to Bruce Ohr of DOJ who then gave it to the FBI . And they all got paid for their " research " . This then was used to deceive the FISA court . But Admiral Rogers went to this court and warned Trump of the spying and violations of constitutional rights . Shortly after Obama fired admiral Rogers . Sounds fishy to me ? what do you think ?"

4/28 from MoA week in review
A six-part investigation of Greta Thunberg and the powers behind her climate campaign:
Cory Morningstar (aka @elleprovocateur) - The Manufacturing of Greta Thunberg – A Decade of Social Manipulation for the Corporate Capture of Nature [ACT VI – Crescendo]Similar powers are behind the New Green Deal (explained here (vid)) that some Democrats are pushing for. Cory ends her piece with a link to a highly recommendable 2004 talk by Arundhati Roy on The NGO-ization of resistance (vid).
On a quite similar note:
Jacob Levich (aka @cordeliers) - Bill Gates and the Myth of Overpopulation

‘We will not bow to the giant’: Indian farmers sued by PepsiCo reject any settlement

Earth Losing 50,000 Square Miles Tropical Rain Forest Annually

Friday, April 26

Four minutes

I'll return in two weeks. Until then,
Best regards to all,

Neo-Nazis okay in Ukraine but not US, eh, Mr Biden?

From Politico, April 25:
The campaign world knew that Joe Biden would announce his presidential bid Thursday in an early morning video release. But few were expecting it would be so dark and funereal.
Filled with extensive footage of white supremacists marching with torches, scenes of Nazi and Confederate flags and pegged to President Trump’s reaction to the 2017 racist march in Charlottesville [Virginia], the 3-minute, the 30-second spot was an unlikely announcement video — especially for Uncle Joe, one of the last of the happy warriors.
Politico might have pointed out that in addition to being a happy warrior, he was for years a staunch supporter of the infamously pro-neo-nazi regime of Ukraine's President Peto Poroshenko, who thank God lost his bid for reelection earlier this month.  

So I'm having a hard time squaring that with Biden's words in the campaign launch video. To return to the Politico report (which features the video): 
The former vice president spoke gravely about the violence in Charlottesville and the Klansmen and neo-Nazis who sparked it — “their crazed faces illuminated by torches, veins bulging and baring the fangs of racism, chanting the same anti-Semitic bile heard across Europe in the 30s.”
He didn't have to cast as far back as the 1930s. From The Nation's May 2018 report, America’s Collusion With Neo-Nazis:
§ That stormtrooper-like assaults on gays, Jews, elderly ethnic Russians, and other “impure” citizens are widespread throughout Kiev-ruled Ukraine, along with torchlight marches reminiscent of those that eventually inflamed Germany in the late 1920s and 1930s. 
§ And that the police and official legal authorities do virtually nothing to prevent these neofascist acts or prosecute them. On the contrary, Kiev has officially encouraged them by systematically rehabilitating and even memorializing Ukrainian collaborators with Nazi German extermination pogroms and their leaders during World War II, renaming streets in their honor, building monuments to them, rewriting history to glorify them, and more.
§ Or that Israel’s official annual report on anti-Semitism around the world in 2017 concluded that such incidents had doubled in Ukraine and the number “surpassed the tally for all the incidents reported throughout the entire region combined.” By the region, the report meant the total in all of Eastern Europe and all former territories of the Soviet Union.
As The Nation clearly explains and as the Ukrainian-American author Lev Golinkin clearly explained in 2017 for The Hill (The reality of neo-Nazis in Ukraine is far from Kremlin propaganda), it is nonsense that the Russians made up or exaggerated stories about the Poroshenko regime's involvement with neo-Nazis.

Here readers outside the U.S. might ask whatever possessed  Biden to launch his campaign with references that bring to mind his tolerance for neo-Nazis. 

Perhaps Biden's advisors wanted to inoculate him as best they could against the point I've brought up, should it become an issue in the Democratic primary or the national election if he wins the primary. One thing is certain. Biden would have virtually the entire U.S. mainstream media on his side if he dismissed as Russian propaganda evidence about Poroshenko's involvement with neo-Nazis. As The Nation observed:
Americans cannot be faulted for not knowing these facts. They are very rarely reported and still less debated in the mainstream media, whether in newspapers or on television. To learn about them, Americans would have to turn to alternative media and to their independent writers, which rarely affect mainstream accounts of the new Cold War.
And yet:
The significance of neo-Nazism in Ukraine and at least the tacit official U.S support or tolerance for it should be clearly understood:
§ This did not begin under President Trump but under President George W. Bush, when then Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko’s “Orange Revolution” began rehabilitating Ukraine’s wartime killers of Jews, and it grew under President Obama, who, along with Vice President Joseph Biden, were deeply complicit in the Maidan coup and what followed.
Then too the American mainstream media scarcely noticed. Still worse, when a founder of a neo-Nazi party and now repackaged speaker of the Ukrainian parliament visited Washington in 2017, he was widely feted by leading American politicians, including [Republican] Senator John McCain and Representative Paul Ryan. ...
When it comes to Ukraine, government officials and politicians on both sides of the political aisle, and the media outlets that act as their mouthpieces have a great deal to keep under the rug. They're able to do this because they know many American voters couldn't find Ukraine on a map. 


Scientific American takes a whack at explaining the Biotic Pump

Clearing Forests May Transform Local—and Global—ClimateJudith D. Schwartz, March 4, 2013, Scientific American
The "biotic pump" theory argues that natural forests act as a “pump” that draws moisture inland. According to this concept, first described in a 2007 paper by Russian physicists Victor Gorshkov and Anastassia Makarieva of the Saint Petersburg Nuclear Physics Institute in the peer-reviewed Hydrology and Earth System Sciences, condensation, rather than temperature differential, is a primary driver of weather.
Here's a snapshot of the concept: The concentration of trees in wooded areas means a high rate of transpiration. This moist air cools as it ascends and the water vapor condenses, producing a partial vacuum. This creates an air pressure gradient, whereby the forest canopy sucks in moist air from the ocean. According to Gorshkov and Makarieva, forests don't merely grow in wet areas, they create and perpetuate the conditions in which they grow.
Without forest cover—specifically mature, natural forest to ensure sufficient biomass and resilience—moisture is no longer pulled in, the physicists say. Rain becomes erratic and ultimately stalls.
The Russian scientists associate the unprecedented heat and drought in their country over the last few years with rapid deforestation in western Russia.
The theory is controversial; indeed, it challenges the viability of the climate models currently in use. The theory “explains why in forested regions precipitation does not decrease with distance from the ocean, even thousands of kilometers, while the interiors of deforested parts of continents become dry already a few hundred kilometers away from the oceanic coast,” they wrote in an e-mail. 
"Condensation of water vapor over forests creates pressure gradients that have been shown to be sufficient to drive winds that bring moisture from ocean to land."
Should the biotic pump be confirmed by further research, it brings new urgency to the need to protect forests. 
“Most climate models recognize the role of 'precipitation cycling' in forests, but not moisture transport by forests,” Makarieva and Gorshkov say. The difference is significant: if deforestation means simply reduced evaporation, the decline of precipitation would be significant but not catastrophic, around 15 percent; however, rains depend on imported moisture. If the vehicle for transport—an intact forest—is impaired, that's a different story.
The physicists say: “In our theory, imported moisture will decline if the forest is destroyed, especially in the inland portion of the continent. If there is no imported moisture there is nothing to be evaporated, so the water cycle will undergo a dramatic—not minor—reduction of intensity.” 
In the Amazon, they add, this could be up to 90 percent.

Even more fun is watching Dr Makarieva explain air to non-theoretical physicists.  "You know, some people think when it rains the air goes down. This is not so." 

(8:53 minute mark, YouTube) 

I'm hoping if I keep this up long enough I'll get an email from Dr Makarieva asking, "What part don't you understand?" 

What I really want to know is whether greenhouse gases become more of a temperature determinant the more that biotic pumps fail; i.e., the more that mature coastal forests are wiped out.     


Islamic State,.al-Qaeda training camps and hideouts in Latin America

The John Batchelor Show has been warning about this for years but it's nice to see Russian military intelligence catching up:

GRU chief warns of ISIS & Al-Qaeda terrorist camps in Latin America
26 April, 2019 - 02:50 Edited 05:39

The activity of jihadists affiliated to Islamic State and Al-Qaeda has been spotted in Latin America as they recruit fighters and promote extremist ideology among local Muslims, Russian GRU chief Igor Kostyukov said.

"Among the new risk factors is the emergence of jihadist training camps and hideouts in the region," Igor Kostyukov, the head of Russia's main intelligence directorate (the GRU), said during the annual Moscow Conference on International Security.

The jihadists currently operating in Latin America are linked to Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS) and Al-Qaeda, he added.
"They recruit fighters to bolster their ranks in the Middle East and North Africa, collect funds and promote extremist ideology among the region's six-million Muslim population," Kostyukov warned. He didn't name specific countries where the jihadist camps have been discovered.

Last year, Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales Cabrera said that around 100 people linked to IS and other groups were arrested in his country and deported to where they came from.


See also: "ISIS & Al-Qaeda still a threat as jihadist cells spread in Europe, Asia – Moscow" April 18, RT

Plague of Human Locusts

I think it must be redundant to speak of a locust "swarm" because locusts are just desert grasshoppers in swarming mode, which changes their behavior and appearance.  Anyhow, when really bad times hit desert regions where grasshoppers hang out, the solitary creatures band together in search of food, and this is how they can and have driven farming societies to starvation. 

Human locust behavior isn't new but currency-based societies in the globalized era have made the behavior endemic, a feature of life so ordinary and manifest in so many ways that it masks its horrific destructiveness. But the bottom line for humanity in this era is that everything that can be converted to cash value is up for grabs by swarms of humans who, just as with locusts, won't stop until they've destroyed the source of their sustenance.

So. When they have stolen all the sand from river shores in India, that will finally solve the problem of the sand mafias.  When they have carted away all the mountains in Lebanon to make dirt and rocks for construction projects -- no more mountains, no more worries about the mountain dirt mafias. And when the wood mafias cart off the last of Cambodia's forests, that will certainly solve the problem of tree theft in Cambodia. 

It's a little harder to see how, say, globalized food companies such as Pepsi are engaged in locust behavior, but be assured that when they've finished patenting every type of agriculture product it will be quite evident that Pepsi's snack food division is stuffed with locusts in suits.

Is there any way to stop large numbers of humans from acting like locusts in this era? This isn't really a problem so it doesn't have a solution although it has many problematical aspects. It's not so much our numbers but that such large numbers have to earn money to purchase the food they eat. Genuine subsistence farming still exists in pockets across the world but for the majority of humans, survival comes down getting hold of enough money to stave off starvation. 

Which is to say a great many people have to earn money in any way they can, and if how they do this is ultimately very destructive, the immediate is their problem. It's the same with grasshoppers who swarm but the difference is that while they ultimately die of starvation after chewing through every bit of vegetation in sight, the vegetation can be pretty quickly replaced. Humans have extended their swarming behavior to a vast number of things that keep civilization going and which can't readily be replaced.

The double-edged aspect of currency is that it's such an efficient means of payment that once societies come to depend on it, alternative means -- subsistence and barter systems -- fall into disuse. Once a medium of exchange has no competition, that leads to profligate waste. But as long as there's always some way obtain currency there's no impetus to stop wasting it, and no brake on the means to obtain it.

That's where things stand today for the human race. So this is not so much a problem as a civilization, one that rests on a shaky foundation of market valuations of food rather than food security itself. To put this in graphic terms, you can appreciate that the foundation is shaky when a farmer in the Afghan boonies says he has to go to a city to get a job so he can earn enough money to buy food for his family.

And if he can't get a job in the city? Well, he can always go to work for the Taliban and set IEDs, or work for a dope mafia, or steal sand for a sand mafia or trees for a tree mafia or water for a water mafia, or whatever.

Another way would be to teach the farmer how to do subsistence farming that works for this era and still allows him to sell or barter whatever surplus his farm can produce.

It's not rocket science, you understand. But it's up against a way of life, a way of thinking, that few people question. Yet this way of thinking didn't come about in a few years; it took centuries to establish itself. The good news is that much of the thinking was imposed on large swaths of the world fairly quickly via loan-making development organizations such as the World Bank. What is done quickly has a chance to be changed relatively quickly. 

Indeed, as I mentioned recently, the World Bank is coming round to the 'stay in place' concept, where you teach a more modern type of subsistence farming to jobless starving farmers rather than herd them into DP camps -- or cities that can't support them.

So in this manner and others, some people are feeling their way toward considering King Bhumibol's advice. From In Thailand, A Return to Sufficiency by Shawn W. Crispin, October 5, 2006, Asia Times Online [the link is no longer working]:
The monarch's self-sufficiency-economy concept gained currency in the aftermath of the 1997-98 Asian financial crisis. In a now-famous 1997 speech, Bhumibol called on the Thai population to scale back its reliance on exports and shift toward a more self-sufficient, localized economic system, where 25% of the economy would be geared toward local production for individual needs.
"A careful step backward must be taken; a return to less sophisticated methods must be made with less advanced instruments," the highly respected monarch said.
 I doubt his Majesty or his advice was respected in the International Financial Community but cracks appearing in the foundation of our global civilization are today pounding home his point. 

Regarding the currency society -- when you see families earning $117,000 a year in San Francisco designated "low income," this is a sign that we've turned currency into a god, and a stupid one at that. 

Once again, we didn't back ourselves into this mess overnight, and it will take time to back ourselves out. As to whether our forests, mountains, and rivers will be around long enough to see humans scrape together common sense -- maybe we should go ask a locust.


Thursday, April 25

"It may sound strange -- forests causing wind, forests causing rain -- but the physics is quite convincing."

"At present, the [climate] models are incorrect because they are missing one the key mechanisms of how the global climate works."

11:00PM February 1, 2013

THE world's great forests have long been recognised as the lungs of the earth, but the science establishment has been rocked by claims that trees may also be the heart of its climate.

Not only do trees fix carbon and produce oxygen; a new and controversial paper says they collectively unleash forces powerful enough to drive global wind patterns and are a core feature in the circulation of the climate system.

If the theory proves correct, the peer-reviewed international paper co-authored by Australian scientist Douglas Sheil will overturn two centuries of conventional wisdom about what makes wind. And it will undermine key principles of every model on which climate predictions are based.

The paper, Where do winds come from? A new theory on how water vapour condensation influences atmospheric pressure and dynamics, is not designed to challenge the orthodox view on climate science. But Sheil, a professor of forest ecology and conservation at Southern Cross University's School of Environment, Science and Engineering, says he is not surprised that is how the paper has been received internationally.

Boiled down, he says, bad science is protecting shoddy climate models.

The paper, lead authored by Anastasia Makarieva, sparked a long-running and furious debate about whether it should be published at all. At the end of a bruising assessment process the editorial panel of the prestigious journal Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics chose to publish and be damned.

In an accompanying statement the journal editorial board said: "The paper is highly controversial, proposing a fundamentally new view that seems to be in contradiction to common textbook knowledge. The majority of reviewers and experts in the field seem to disagree, whereas some colleagues provide support, and the handling editor (and the executive committee) are not convinced that the new view presented in the controversial paper is wrong.

"The handling editor (and the executive committee) concluded to allow final publication of the manuscript in ACP in order to facilitate further development of the presented arguments, which may lead to disproof or validation by the scientific community."

Sheil says the key finding is that atmospheric pressure changes from moisture condensation are orders of magnitude greater than previously recognised. The paper concludes "condensation and evaporation merit attention as major, if previously overlooked, factors in driving atmospheric dynamics".

"Climate scientists generally believe that they already understand the main principles determining how the world's climate works," says Sheil. "However, if our hypothesis is true then the way winds are driven and the way rain falls has been misunderstood. What our theory suggests is that forests are the heart of the earth, driving atmospheric pressure, pumping wind and moving rain."

In a blistering assessment of the paper, international climate scientist Isaac Held of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration recommended that publication be rejected.

"The authors make an extraordinary claim that a term that is traditionally considered to be small, to the point that it is sometimes neglected in atmospheric models and, even when not neglected, rarely commented on, is in fact dominant in driving atmospheric circulations," Held said. "A claim of this sort naturally has to pass a high bar to be publishable, given the accumulated evidence, implicit as well as explicit, that argues against it. I am afraid that this paper does not approach the level required.

"I have done my best to keep an open mind, but do not see any cogent arguments that overturn the conventional wisdom."

In reply, the authors claimed Held's logic was bad for science.

"A higher bar for unconventional ideas automatically implies a lower bar for conventional ones," they said. "Introducing a positive feedback - relating the height of the higher bar to the number of studies that have passed the lower bar - in time, if this continues, a once-vibrating scientific community can be trapped in dogma."

Shiel says he is not surprised at the resistance from within the climate science establishment. "These guys are under a barrage of claims every day and we are just another one," he says. "But we are serious scientists, we have serious reasons for looking at this and if you can show us where our analysis is wrong, that's fine, that's how science works.

"Accepting our theory would basically mean the climate models are wrong. It wouldn't mean that theories about carbon dioxide and greenhouse gasses are wrong.

"The basic physical issues are still there. Winds are still caused to some degree by temperature differences, global warming will still be potentially caused by greenhouse gasses. But what we are saying is one of the major reasons that air moves around the surface of the globe, and one of the main reasons that rain falls where it does, is to do with these patterns of moisture evaporation and condensation."

For Sheil, who returned last year from working at the Institute of Tropical Forest Conservation based in the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in Uganda, the significance of the findings goes way beyond climate-change politics.

It could have dramatic consequences for how vegetation is considered and managed. And it could have ramifications for securing future rainfall for some of the world's most impoverished regions.

"Our theory also explains how declines in both rainfall and rainfall reliability can result from forest loss elsewhere," Sheil says. "Such patterns have been observed in various parts of the world and are clearly of major importance for many people - for example, those who are suffering from the increasingly irregular monsoon rains in West Africa.

"I would have said Australia is a desert because of the global climate cycles, but if you do the calculations, a forest across the surface of Australia would produce forces strong enough to water it and you wouldn't need to irrigate.

"When we look at the Amazon and ask, is the forest there because there is a lot of rain, we are saying, no, it is the other way around: the rain is there because there is a lot of forest.

"It may sound strange -- forests causing wind, forests causing rain -- but the physics is quite convincing."

Climate scientists, however, still say the significance is not as great as has been claimed.

"It has now gone from a discussion about mechanism to a discussion about magnitude," Sheil says, adding that a key objective of his work is to make climate models more reliable.

"At present the models are incorrect," he says, "because they are missing one the key mechanisms of how the global climate works. I know it does sound amazing to say this, but once you look at these models they are not as detailed and not as smart as you would think.

"A lot of it is, they are calibrated to fit. There is a little bit of people hiding the problems, and that is bad science."

H/T Tallbloke's Talkshop

Tuesday, April 23

Sri Lanka bombings look to me like a military-run op

ISIS has taken advantage of the perpetrators' silence to lay claim to the bombings on Easter Sunday that by this morning's count killed 321 Sri Lankans and wounded 500.  Islamic State also claimed that they carried out the bombings in retaliation for the massacre of Muslims at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand on March 15. That would be a neat trick given that planning for the Sri Lankan bombings was clearly well underway prior to March 15.

For their part, Sri Lanka's government has pointed the finger of blame at a radical Sri Lankan Muslim outfit called National Thowfeek Jamaath, whose prior claims to violence were defacing some Buddhist statues, or trying to, and some fistfights with Buddhist monks in the Buddhist-majority country.

So whodunit? More to the point, who planned and oversaw a highly-sophisticated attack in multiple locations in South Asia that went off with clockwork coordination? Gee, I wouldn't want to take a guess.

April 23, 2019, 10.37 AM IST
Lashkar-e-Taiba has fanned radicalism in Sri Lanka
By Bharti Jain, TNN
The Economic Times [India]

  • Indian intelligence has been tracking the influence of Wahabism, with its hardline Islamic beliefs, in eastern Sri Lanka
  • India warned that the region could develop into an operational zone for Lashkar-e-Taiba and like-minded jihadi groups
  • LeT trying to build bases in Sri Lanka over the past one-and-a-half decade, as part of a broader design to "encircle" India
NEW DELHI: India had tipped off Sri Lanka several times over the possibility of a jihadi attack and Indian agencies also pointed to National Thawheed Jamaat (NTJ) having a number of associates and followers in Pakistan.
The Pakistan link to violent groups in Sri Lanka was underlined by Lashkar's charity front Falah-i-Insaniyat advertising in 2016 its presence in the island nation apart from its activities in Syria, Afghanistan, Myanmar and Somalia. The NTJ has been seeking to harness a growing radicalisation, the seeds of which were sown by Lashkar and its 'charity' wing Idara Khidmat-e-Khalq.
March 27, 2019, 04.40 PM IST
India, Sri Lanka hold joint military drill to boost counter-terror cooperation
PTI via The Economic Times 
COLOMBO: India and Sri Lanka have begun a two-week joint military exercise in the island nation with an aim to bring synergy and cooperation including in the field of counter-terrorism between the two armed forces, officials said Wednesday.

The 'Mitra Shakti - VI' annual exercise is designed to bolster military relations further between the armies of India and Sri Lanka, the Sri Lanka Army said.

It aims to share knowledge on military tactics, experience, exchange of infantry technicalities, counter-terrorism practices, long-range reconnaissance patrol, small group operations, effective employment of infantry weapons, simulated attacks on terrorist hideouts, suicide bombing and improvised explosive devices, officials said.
In New Delhi last week, the Indian Army said that "the exercise will go a long way in further cementing the relationship between both nations and will act as a catalyst in bringing synergy and cooperation at grassroots-levels between both the armies".
Lashkar e-Taiba. Now where have I heard that name before? [muttering to herself] Pakistan's military has so many lashkars I can't keep them straight. [frowning in concentration]  Ah yes. Mumbai, India. 2008. "26/11."


Monday, April 22

Happy Earth Day! Expect surprises!

"Global vegetation and climate are linked in both directions: when climate changes, so will vegetation, and when vegetation changes, so will the climate. These links are more important, more complex, and more poorly characterised than most people realise."

Fear not, even if you only understand 10 percent of Sheil's paper, 10 percent is better than 100 percent understanding of the 'greenhouse gases' explanation of climate change.  

Forests, atmospheric water and an uncertain future: the new biology of the global water cycle
By Douglas Sheil
20 March 2018

Forest Ecosystems journal via Springer Link

Theory and evidence indicate that trees and other vegetation influence the atmospheric water-cycle in various ways. These influences are more important, more complex, and more poorly characterised than is widely realised. While there is little doubt that changes in tree cover will impact the water-cycle, the wider consequences remain difficult to predict as the underlying relationships and processes remain poorly characterised. Nonetheless, as forests are vulnerable to human activities, these linked aspects of the water-cycle are also at risk and the potential consequences of large scale forest loss are severe. 
Here, for non-specialist readers, I review our knowledge of the links between vegetation-cover and climate with a focus on forests and rain (precipitation). I highlight advances, uncertainties and research opportunities. 
There are significant shortcomings in our understanding of the atmospheric hydrological cycle and of its representation in climate models. A better understanding of the role of vegetation and tree-cover will reduce some of these shortcomings. I outline and illustrate various research themes where these advances may be found. These themes include the biology of evaporation, aerosols and atmospheric motion, as well as the processes that determine monsoons and diurnal precipitation cycles. 
A novel theory—the ‘biotic pump’—suggests that evaporation and condensation can exert a major influence over atmospheric dynamics. This theory explains how high rainfall can be maintained within those continental land-masses that are sufficiently forested. Feedbacks within many of these processes can result in non-linear behaviours and the potential for dramatic changes as a result of forest loss (or gain): for example, switching from a wet to a dry local climate (or vice versa). Much remains unknown and multiple research disciplines are needed to address this: forest scientists and other biologists have a major role to play. New ideas, methods and data offer opportunities to improve understanding. Expect surprises.
Introduction and background
The availability of water determines where life, including people, can occur and is in turn influenced by such life—again including people. Increasing human populations and improving living standards are impacting the earth’s surface (Godfray et al. ; Sayer et al. ). Over one third of the Earth’s ice-free land comprises agriculture, pasture and urbanisation (Ramankutty et al. ). 
One and a half million square kilometres of dense tree-cover were lost between 2000 and 2012 (gross 2.3 million lost and 0.8 million gained, Hansen et al. ). At the same time, evaluations indicate major increases in people with impeded access to fresh water and also in those exposed to floods (e.g., Arnell et al. ). For those confronting these issues, a concern is whether we know enough to understand, predict, and address how land cover influences water availability.
Water vapour comprises one quarter of 1 % of the mass of the atmosphere—equivalent to just two and half centimetres of liquid over the entire Earth (atmospheric water in the form of liquid droplets and ice adds less than one hundredth to this miniscule total). The behaviour of this atmospheric water nonetheless governs water availability on land. Terrestrial life, including human life, depends on and impacts this availability. Understanding these links and vulnerabilities is vital if we want to avoid the water scarcity, droughts and floods that may otherwise result from changing land cover.
Global vegetation and climate are linked in both directions: when climate changes, so will vegetation, and when vegetation changes, so will the climate. These links are more important, more complex, and more poorly characterised than most people realise.
Water availability raises more tangible concerns for most people than do temperature and carbon. In any case, those concerned with temperature recognise 
1) that around half the solar energy that falls on land is converted into the evaporation of water thus cooling the land surface (Pokorny et al. ; Wang and Dickinson ), 
2) that water vapour is the dominant greenhouse gas on our planet (Ravishankara ; Sherwood et al. ) and
3) that the distribution of clouds and snow cover exert a major influence on planetary albedo (the proportion of incident light reflected back into space) and energy balance (Donohoe and Battisti ; He et al. ). 
Those concerned with carbon recognise that water is the most limiting factor for terrestrial ecosystem carbon uptake, and that uncertainties over water imply uncertainties over biomass and carbon fixation (Polis ; Good et al. ; Bernacchi and VanLoocke ; Thorley et al. ; Viglizzo et al. ; Taylor et al. ; Zhu et al. ). 
Furthermore, those concerned with environmental conservation, stability and the maintenance of species diversity recognise both the significance of freshwater biodiversity (supporting over 126,000 species of plants and animals, many of them vulnerable, on 0.8% of the world’s surface, Garcia-Moreno et al. ) and the links between terrestrial diversity and moisture (Kreft and Jetz ; Sheil et al. ; Viglizzo et al. ).

Sunday, April 21

Happy Easter!

Reuters/Philippe Wojazer via CBS News, April 16, 2019


Saturday, April 20

"La guerre de l'ombre en Syrie - CIA, P├ętrodollars et Djihad"

English: "The Shadow War in Syria ..." 

Published in French on March 14, 2019. H/T Joshua Landis. Publisher's description [Google translation from Amazon French]:


A book that explains how for years the CIA has sold weapons to its worst enemies -- Al Qaeda -- to try to overthrow Bashar al-Assad with the complicity of France and Saudi Arabia. A game of influence that has never been denounced.

~~ Timber Sycamore Operation [Wikipedia]. This code name does not tell you anything. It nevertheless denotes a gigantic shadow war, whose main objective was to overthrow Bashar al-Assad. Led by the CIA and its allies in the fall of 2011, and halted in the summer of 2017, this secret campaign attracted little Western media attention. However, it mobilized billions of dollars and tens of thousands of tons of weapons and ammunition, thus helping a rebellion whose most effective forces were linked or affiliated with al-Qaeda.

The result of five years of research, this book explains how Washington, London, Paris and their Middle East allies supported the anti-Assad jihadist nebula, including the "Islamic State".

Questioning some of the greatest experts in Syria and the Arab world, the author describes how -- under the guise of supporting "moderate rebels" -- the Western powers and their partners have reinforced the same Islamist movement accused of the attacks of 11 September [2001] and [13 November 2015 - Paris]. A striking and disturbing investigation, which challenges many of the accepted ideas about the Syrian conflict.

~~ Independent journalist, author and translator, Maxime Chaix holds a Master 2 "History, theory and practice of human rights". Specializing in strategic issues, intelligence, covert operations, US foreign policy and jihadism. He has published analyses in, Paris Match, and Le Devoir in order to inform Western populations about the militarism of their leaders.

He is particularly interested in the causes and consequences of the wars of regime change in Iraq, Libya, and Syria.


Long War Journal's Thomas Joscelyn said it all in one sentence in 2017:  "[T]here is no evidence that any truly moderate force is effectively fighting Assad."

Those who poured money and weapons into Syria in the attempt to bring down the Syrian government always knew that any 'moderate' forces would easily be overwhelmed by the hard-core Islamist fighters. So calling those government leaders "militaristic" wouldn't describe what they are. But then there's nothing more useless than telling a demon, 'You know what your problem is? You're a demon.'  They already know.