Via the Institute for Policy Studies’ ‘Other Words’ project, Peter Certo writes:

In our military-revering culture, it’s a strange thing for a president to start a war of words with the grieving families of slain soldiers.

Strange, yes. But from Donald Trump’s campaign season feud with the parents of Humayun Khan, who died protecting fellow soldiers in Iraq, to his recent feud with the mourning widow of La David Johnson, who died on patrol in Niger, it’s no longer surprising.

At root in the latest spat is a comment Trump made to La David’s widow Myeshia Johnson: “He knew what he signed up for.” Myeshia thought that remark was disrespectful — she later said it “made me cry.”

Beyond insensitive, though, there’s a good chance it simply wasn’t true.

Why, after all, should La David have expected to die in a dusty corner of Niger — a Saharan country most Americans (and, one suspects, their president) couldn’t find on a map? And where the U.S. isn’t actually at war?

If you were surprised to learn the U.S. has nearly a thousand troops in Niger, you’re not alone. Senator Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican who serves on the Armed Forces Committee, told NBC he “had no idea.” Neither did Chuck Schumer, the Senate’s top Democrat.

Well, the surprises may keep coming.

The rest.

 

Croatian writer Slavenka Drakulić, whose work for most of the past two-and-a-half decades has focused largely on the 1990s conflict in Yugoslavia, in conversation with Ángel Villarino in an interview for Spain’s El Confidencial (via Eurozine) on the rise of nationalism in Yugoslavia and any parallels in today’s crisis in Catalonia:

How was it at the very beginning? How did the situation start to become critical?

The media were crucial in this process of creating the enemy. My colleagues – journalists and writers, intellectuals and academics – were willing participants in the nationalist propaganda; they were either true believers or opportunists. You have to know that, learning from history, you must first identify the enemy. This is what nationalist propaganda is all about. It is easier if there is an historical enemy, if there were earlier conflicts that you can built on – like WWII in the case of Serbs and Croats. With the help of elements of history (‘ancient enemies’) plus myths and half-truths, you can create an explosive emotional mixture. Ideology, it seems, can overcome economic interest and reason. We all underestimate the power of emotions. At the bottom of these emotions is fear, fear that ‘the enemy’ would, in this case, take your territory. If the nationalist propaganda manages to create fear in people, then the main step towards the conflict is taken, the main obstacle overcome.

After the first bloodshed, the conflict becomes real. The smell of blood is the trigger for the real confrontation. But even that is not real war, because at the beginning the victims are few, so they are still individuals: we know their names. My definition of war is that it starts when there are so many victims that we no longer know their names. War starts when victims become anonymous.

Read the rest. The original interview in El Confidencial (08 Oct).

 

To delve further into Drakulić’s works, check out her 1993 collection of essays, ‘The Balkan Express‘, and her 1999 novel, ‘As If I Am Not There‘.

 

Republished with permission from The Climate News Network under a Creative Commons (CC BY-ND 4.0) license. Posted in its entirety for informational purposes without comment.

by Tim Radford

Ethnic conflict linked to tragic episodes of civil war, waves of refugees and even the collapse of nation states could be made more likely by climate-related disasters.

A team of European scientists say they can demonstrate, “in a scientifically sound way”, a link between civil violence based on ethnic divisions, and episodes of drought, intense heat or other climate-linked weather extremes.

That climate change seems to be a factor in social collapse is now fairly firmly established. Researchers have identified evidence of prolonged drought that preceded the collapse of Assyrian and Bronze Age civilisations in prehistory.

And they have also made a connection between the worst drought in almost a thousand years in the Middle East and the continuing humanitarian tragedy of modern Syria.

Repeated warnings

There have also been repeated warnings that, without concerted international action, global temperatures driven by rising greenhouse gas emissions could rise to make life almost intolerable in regions already increasingly insecure.

The latest finding carries lessons for a planet that has yet to confront the demands of climate change.

Researchers who looked at the patterns of political disturbance and climate-related events weren’t especially concerned with climate change: they were looking for connections. And they found one: a demonstrable probability that inter-ethnic divisions could be brought to flashpoint by extended periods of drought.

They report in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that in the study period of 1980 to 2010, almost a quarter of all armed conflict in ethnically-divided societies could be connected to extremes of heat or drought.

“Our observations, combined with what we know about increasing climate-change impacts, can help security policy to focus on risk regions”

“Although we do not report evidence that climate-related disasters act as direct triggers of armed conflicts, the disruptive nature of these events seems to play out in ethnically-fractionalised societies in a particularly tragic way,” they conclude.

“This observation has important implications for future security policies as several of the world’s most conflict-prone regions − including North and Central Africa, as well as Central Asia − are exceptionally vulnerable to anthropogenic climate change and are characterised by deep ethnic divides.”

The scientists matched data from the reinsurance group Munich Re − which for decades has been recording disaster-related economic damage on a national level − with records of armed conflict.

They then used a mathematical method of coincidence event analysis to see whether a pattern emerged. And even without any accounting for climate change, there it was: a connection between ethnic bloodshed and climate calamity.

Enhancing risk

Study leader Carl-Friedrich Schleussner, scientific adviser at the Berlin thinktank Climate Analytics and researcher at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK), says: “Climate disasters are not directly triggering conflict outbreak, but may enhance the risk of a conflict breaking out that is rooted in context-specific circumstances. As intuitive as this might seem, we can now show this in a scientifically sound way.”

His co-author, Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, director of PIK, says: “Armed conflicts are among the biggest threats to people, killing some and forcing others to leave their home and maybe flee to far-away countries. Hence, identifying ethnic divide and natural disasters as enhancing destabilisation risks is potentially quite relevant.

“Human-made climate change will clearly boost heatwaves and regional droughts. Our observations, combined with what we know about increasing climate-change impacts, can help security policy to focus on risk regions.

“So our study adds evidence of a very special co-benefit of climate stabilisation: peace.” – Climate News Network, 17 August 2016


Tim Radford, a founding editor of Climate News Network, worked for The Guardian for 32 years, for most of that time as science editor. He has been covering climate change since 1988.

 

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Dark Tourism Notebook: NATO Bombing Ruins in Belgrade

McDonald's Billboard by bombed building in Belgrade

A recent request from a photo researcher seeking images of bombed and shelled buildings took me on a search nearly nine years back into my archives to a visit to the Serbian capital Belgrade where I couldn’t let this image of the city’s NATO bombing ruins pass. This McDonald’s High-5 (!) was just across the… Continue reading Dark Tourism Notebook: NATO Bombing Ruins in Belgrade

Study: US Leads Upward Trends in Arms Exports

The United States has expanded its lead as the major global arms exporter, according to a study that monitored international transfers of major conventional weapons released today by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI). From the press release:

The volume of US exports of major weapons rose by 23 per cent between 2005–2009 and 2010–14. The USA’s share of the volume of international arms exports was 31 per cent in 2010–14, compared with 27 per cent for Russia. Russian exports of major weapons increased by 37 per cent between 2005–2009 and 2010–14. During the same period, Chinese exports of major arms increased by 143 per cent, making it the third largest supplier in 2010–14, however still significantly behind the USA and Russia.

‘The USA has long seen arms exports as a major foreign policy and security tool, but in recent years exports are increasingly needed to help the US arms industry maintain production levels at a time of decreasing US military expenditure’, said Dr Aude Fleurant, Director of the SIPRI Arms and Military Expenditure Program.

Read the whole summary here.

Links to SIPRI-produced Databases:

 

Finding Oscar: Ex-Guatemalan Commando Guilty of Concealing Role in Massacre

By  Sebastian Rotella, ProPublica, Oct. 1, 2013, 5:25 p.m. Republished with permission from ProPublica, a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative newsroom. Sign up for their newsletter. RIVERSIDE, Calif. — A federal jury convicted a former Guatemalan army lieutenant Tuesday of immigration fraud, finding that he obtained U.S. citizenship in 2008 by concealing his role in the massacre… Continue reading Finding Oscar: Ex-Guatemalan Commando Guilty of Concealing Role in Massacre

Finding Oscar: ‘They Ordered Us To Kill All The People’

[pullquote align=”right”]By  Sebastian Rotella, ProPublica, Sep. 30, 2013, 9 a.m. Republished with permission from ProPublica, a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative newsroom. Sign up for their newsletter. [/pullquote] RIVERSIDE, Calif. — Shaken by sobs, his head bowed, a former Guatemalan commando testified last week that he wept as he hurled a little boy to his death in… Continue reading Finding Oscar: ‘They Ordered Us To Kill All The People’

Finding Oscar: In U.S. Trial of Massacre Suspect, a Rare Chance for Guatemalan Justice

[pullquote align=”right”]By  Sebastian Rotella, ProPublica, Sep. 24, 2013, 12:29 p.m. Republished with permission from ProPublica, a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative newsroom. Sign up for their newsletter.[/pullquote] In a historic case with international repercussions, a federal trial begins today in Southern California of a former Guatemalan military officer accused of playing a lead role in the massacre… Continue reading Finding Oscar: In U.S. Trial of Massacre Suspect, a Rare Chance for Guatemalan Justice

Republished with permission from The Climate News Network under a Creative Commons (CC BY-ND 4.0) license. Posted in its entirety for informational purposes without comment.

by Tim Radford

Stand by for more violence. As planetary temperatures rise, so does the likelihood of murder, rape and domestic violence, as well as civil war, ethnic bloodshed and invasion, the collapse of government and even the collapse of civilisation.

Three US scientists report today that they analysed 60 studies by 190 scholars published in 26 journals of 45 different conflicts around the world, and spanning thousands of years of human history, and came to one grim, clear conclusion. With every significant shift in temperature there was an increased risk of social or societal violence, they report in the journal Science.

The studies they analysed were drawn from climatology, archaeology, economics, political science and psychology: once they had examined the data and used a common statistical framework to look at the pattern of outcomes, they found increased temperature or extended drought as significant factors.

They found spikes of violence as the thermometer soared in India and in Australia; increased assaults in the US and in Tanzania; ethnic violence in Europe and South Asia, land invasions in Brazil, and civil conflict throughout the tropics. Temperatures even played a role in the collapse of the Chinese empire and of Mayan civilisation.

The authors specifically looked to see if there could be a link between climate and conflict, within three very different categories. These included personal violence, such as rape, assault, murder and domestic violence; intergroup violence and political instability; and institutional breakdowns such as abrupt changes in government or even the collapse of a civilisation. They found a connection in all three types of conflict.

Climate shapes societies

Conflict, they conclude, responded most consistently to temperature: of 21 studies of modern societies, all 21 showed a positive relationship between higher temperatures and raised levels of violence. A separate research paper in Science warns that global average temperatures could increase by 2°C between 2046 and 2065, and by 4°C between 2081 and 2100. Because a study of contemporary and historic conflict required the researchers to identify common factors in very different cultures in very different latitudes, they also had to settle on some way to make sense of the significance of temperature shifts in very different climates.

They chose a statistical yardstick called a standard deviation: the difference from the normal, or average. One standard deviation, says Marshall Burke, a co-author, of the University of California at Berkeley, would be the equivalent to a warming of a country in Africa of 0.4°C for an entire year; or the warming of a US county by 3°C for a given month. These, he says, are moderate changes, but they have a significant impact on those who have to live with such changes. “We found that a one standard deviation shift towards hotter conditions causes the likelihood of personal violence to rise 4% and intergroup conflict to rise 14%”, he said. “Our results shed new light on how the future climate will shape human societies.”

And Edward Miguel, also of Berkeley, said: “We often think of modern society as largely independent of the environment, due to technological advances, but our findings challenge that notion.”

“…we should carefully consider whether our actions today are making our children’s world a more dangerous one…”

Quite how climate links with conflict may differ in each case: in the poorer rural countries, drought and extreme heat affect harvests and therefore food prices in the city markets; in the developed world, crowded cities and hot nights mean more opportunities for sudden flashes of violence between different communities.

Circumstances vary, but the connection with temperature remains in all the cases under review. The study was led by Solomon Hsiang at the University of Princeton, who said: “We need to understand why climate changes cause conflict so we can help societies adapt to these events and avoid the violence. At the same time, we should carefully consider whether our actions today are making our children’s world a more dangerous one.”

The researchers spell it out carefully in their paper: “Given the large potential changes in precipitation and temperature regimes projected in the coming decades, our findings have important implications for the social impact of anthropogenic climate change in both high income and low income countries.”

Noah Diffenbaugh of Stanford University in California and Chris Field of the Carnegie Institution in Washington report that they used a mix of climate models to forecast warming this century. If the emission of greenhouse gases continues according to its present trajectory, they warn in Science, the planet could be 4°C warmer by 2100. All latitudes would be affected, but the highest temperature rises would be over land, and in the high latitudes of the northern hemisphere. This would represent change at an unprecedented rate: 10 times faster than at any time in the past 65 million years.

“The rapid global warming that occurred some 55 million years ago was as large as these warming projections, but that event occurred over many thousands of years, not a mere century”, said Dr Diffenbaugh. – Climate News Network, 1 August 2013


Tim Radford, a founding editor of Climate News Network, worked for The Guardian for 32 years, for most of that time as science editor. He has been covering climate change since 1988.

 

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Remembering Argentina’s Dirty War

I didn’t need the implications, widely reported over the past few days, that Pope Francis might have had a role in Argentina’s Dirty War to recall the horrors of that gruesome period. I’ve crossed paths with reminders everywhere since I arrived in the world’s seventh largest country nearly eight weeks ago: on sidewalks, in parks,… Continue reading Remembering Argentina’s Dirty War

Higgins Boat Restoration (St. Vaast Notebook I)

Here’s a 25-second quickie I shot last month in St. Vaast, France, with D-Day buffs in mind, of a couple guys finishing up a restoration of a Higgins landing craft like those used in the Invasion of Normandy. Funding for the project was to end at the end of May, so I think they’ll manage – just in time.

Harry Morgan, RIP

He was 96. Great scene, beautifully capturing Morgan’s brilliance, in the tail end of this clip here. http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=NpIgQTeAD9c

Sarajevo Tunnel Museum (Sarajevo Notebook III)

[vimeo http://www.vimeo.com/27347352] Here’s a quick stroll through the 25 meters or so that remains of the what locals dubbed Sarajevo’s Tunnel of Hope. During the beginning of Sarajevo’s three-year siege, the city was entirely cut off by Serbian forces. Locals came up with the tunnel idea, dug beneath Sarajevo’s airport, linking the city’s Dobrinja neighborhood… Continue reading Sarajevo Tunnel Museum (Sarajevo Notebook III)