– A Pseudo-Ottoman Blog: Occasional Musings –

‘Findings released for the first time by the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty Organization — which operates a network of sensors that monitors Earth around the clock, listening for the infrasound signature of nuclear detonations — confirmed that between 2000 and 2013, 26 explosions on Earth’s atmosphere were detected, ranging in energy from 1,600 kilotons — all caused by asteroid impacts. To put it in perspective, the atomic bomb that destroyed Hiroshima in 1945, exploded with an energy impact of 15 kilotons. While most of these asteroids exploded too high in the atmosphere to do any serious damage on the ground, the evidence is important in estimating the frequency of a potential “city-killer-size” asteroid. The Earth is continuously colliding with fragments of asteroids, the largest in recent times exploding over Tunguska, Siberia in 1908 with an energy impact of 5-15 megatons (24 April 2014)’.

The B612 Foundation is an organisation founded by astronauts Ed Lu and Rusty Schweickart, their mission is to “to find a way to stop dangerous asteroids from impacting Earth after seeing our fragile blue planet from space”.[1] And, explaining the issue at hand, the dedicated FAQ webpage explains that the “B612 Foundation is a not-for-profit 501(c)3 organization dedicated to opening a new frontier of space exploration and protecting Earth from potentially devastating impacts by asteroids. B612 is the name of the asteroid home of the Little Prince, the hero of Antoine de Saint-Exupery’s novela, Le Petit Prince“.[2]

 

[1] “Starting the mission” B612 Foundation. https://b612foundation.org/our-story/.

[2] “FAQ”. B612 Foundation. https://b612foundation.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/FAQ-FINAL-5.30.13-1.pdf.

Cenk Uygur and the Young Turks’ team talk about Tayyip Erdoğan’s attempt to throttle the freedom to tweet as you please . . . (20 April 2014).

Already a week ago now, the news agency Reuters reported that “Turkey urged executives from Twitter to open an office and start paying Turkish tax on Monday [, 14 April] in the first direct talks since a two-week ban imposed on the site as the government battled a corruption scandal. Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan’s government blocked Twitter and YouTube in March, drawing international condemnation, after audio recordings, purportedly showing corruption in his inner circle, were leaked on their sites. The block was lifted 10 days ago after the constitutional court ruled that it breached freedom of expression, a decision Erdogan has since said was wrong and should be overturned. YouTube remains largely blocked in Turkey. The prime minister on Saturday [, 12 April] accused Twitter of being a ‘tax evader’, repeating his combative stance ahead of the talks between his government and the San Francisco-based company”.[1]

As for the Gezi protesters who got arrested on account of their tweets, late in February Today’s Zaman reported that at “the first hearing of a trial of 29 Gezi protesters over messages they posted on Twitter, a lawyer of several defendants has demanded that Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan attend the next hearing to testify as he is named as the sole victim in the indictment. According to an indictment completed by an İzmir prosecutor last week, three years’ imprisonment is being sought for 29 Gezi protesters for the Twitter messages. In the indictment, Erdoğan is seen as the sole victim of the tweets that the protesters sent and the plaintiff is written as ‘civil law’ in the indictment. In the first hearing of the trial at the İzmir 1st Criminal Court on Monday, lawyer Can Onur told the court that if Erdoğan is the victim of the case, he should be called to testify. Another lawyer, Eren İlhan Güney, told the judge that Erdoğan is seen as the sole victim in the indictment, but the ‘actual victims are the protesters and their families in the courtroom’. The protesters’ Twitter messages are considered as an organized crime activity by the prosecutor who completed the indictment, Turkish media reported”.[2]

The report explains that “[d]uring [Gezi] protests on May 31, 2013, hundreds of people were detained but later released. Seventy-four protesters faced criminal charges of inciting violence and damaging public property as well as being members of terrorist organizations bent on destroying public order. The investigation started on June 5, 2013, by the İzmir Police Department’s Organized Crime Unit. Thirty-nine people were detained for Twitter messages which were considered offensive and provocative. In the indictment it was stated that 33 banks, 17 ATM machines, 75 shops, 10 houses, 20 police cars and 31 private cars were damaged but that there was no proof that the 29 on trial took part in these incidents”.[3]

 

[1] Orhan Çoşkun, ” Turkey accuses Twitter of ‘tax evasion’, calls for local office” Reuters (14 April 2014). http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/04/14/us-turkey-twitter-idUSBREA3D0TY20140414.

[2] “Gezi protests’ Twitter suspects demand Erdoğan testify as victim” Today’s Zaman (24 February 2014). http://www.todayszaman.com/news-340332-gezi-protests-twitter-suspects-demand-erdogan-testify-as-victim.html.

[3] “Gezi protests’ Twitter suspects demand Erdoğan testify as victim”.

‘A discussion with Patrick Bond on the lack of political will to deal with climate change and the forces mobilizing for action (20 April 2014)’.

The Guardian‘s Leo Hickman writes that the “seven-year task undertaken by hundreds of the world’s leading scientists, who sifted through thousands of the latest peer-reviewed studies examining the causes, impacts and mitigation options of climate change, is over. The last of the Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change’s (IPCC) three “working group” reports was published [on Sunday, 13 April 2014] in Berlin and the take-home message was crystal clear: ‘The high-speed mitigation train needs to leave the station very soon and all of global society needs to get on board’, said the chair, Rajendra Pachauri. This is now the fifth time that the IPCC has been through this Herculean process of summarising the latest climate science and repackaging it as digestible information for the world’s governments and policymakers. The message from the IPCC over the past two decades has been consistently clear and compelling. For anyone to downplay or deny its findings would be irresponsible, short-sighted and, above all, a gross failure of risk analysis”.[1]

In 140 characters, Hickman summarises the IPCC message: “[c]limate change is real. We are to blame. It will get worse if we fail to act. The solutions are available and affordable. But time is short”.[2] The IPCC report is not all doom and gloom really, as the report’s co-chair Prof Ottmar Edenhofer said on 13 April: “It will not cost the earth to save the planet . . . This report outlines the challenges, but it provides hope. Modest hope”.[3]

The admission that there is modest hope available in the report appears like confessing that there is no hope left . . . Or is there??? In the run-up to the Copenhagen summit in 2009, Stanford University’s Mark Z. Jacobson and Mark A. Delucchi wrote A Plan for a Sustainable Future, a publication with the telling subtitle “How to get all energy from wind, water and solar power by 2030″. The authors confidently proclaim that “[o]ur plan calls for millions of wind turbines, water machines and solar installations. The numbers are large , but the scale is not an insurmountable hurdle; society has achieved massive transformations before. During World War II, the U.S. retooled automobile factories to produce 300,000 aircraft, and other countries produced 486,000 more. In 1956 the U.S. began building the Interstate Highway System, which after 35 years extended for 47,000 miles , changing commerce and society. Is it feasible to transform the world’s energy systems? Could it be accomplished in two decades? The answers depend on the technologies chosen, the availability of critical materials, and economic and political factors”.[4] In other words, it is all an issue of political will, or rather political leadership not hampered by commercial and/or corporate considerations. Jacobson and Delucchi propose a radical switch to WWS or Wind, Water, and Sunlight as a means of achieving a viable and sustainable future, as summarised by the publication’s editors in a sidebar: “Supplies of wind and solar energy on accessible land dwarf the energy consumed by people around the globe. The authors’ plan calls for 3.8 million large wind turbines, 90,000 solar plants, and numerous geothermal, tidal and rooftop photovoltaic installations worldwide. The cost of generating and transmitting power would be less than the projected cost per kilowatt-hour for fossil fuel and nuclear power. Shortages of a few specialty materials, along with lack of political will, loom as the greatest obstacles”.[5] The “lack of political will” appears to be the biggest hurdle, as the leaders of men more often than not serve the interests of Big Capital and their own wallets . . . rather than those of their constituencies or electorates.

 

[1] Leo Hickman, “IPCC report: the scientists have done their bit, now it is up to us” The Guardian (April 2014). http://www.theguardian.com/environment/blog/2014/apr/14/ipcc-report-scientists-world-seize-opportunity-roadmap.

[2] Leo Hickman, “IPCC report: the scientists have done their bit, now it is up to us”.

[3] Leo Hickman, “IPCC report: the scientists have done their bit, now it is up to us”.

[4] Mark Z. Jacobson and Mark A. Delucchi, “A Plan for a Sustainable Future” Scientific American (November 2009). pp. 58-9.

[5] Mark Z. Jacobson and Mark A. Delucchi, “A Plan for a Sustainable Future”, p. 59.

‘Voters in India are choosing their next government, in what is the world’s biggest election, where more than eight hundred million people are eligible to vote.Al Jazeera reporters are on the ground in several key places.Sohail Rahman reports from New Delhi, Nidhi Dutt is in Muzaffarnagar, and Faiz Jamil is in Gurgaon (10 April 2014)’.

The leader of the BJP Narendra Modi is a man with a frightening reputation: in 2002, when he was Chief Minister of the state of Gujarat it is alleged that he initiated and encouraged violence against Muslims, thereby leading to the deaths of about 2,000 people . . . earning him the nickname the Butcher of Gujarat. And now Modi is on the verge of becoming India’s next Prime Minister, as he seems much favoured by India’s business class. As reported by Sangeetha Kandavel and Sanjay Vijayakumar: “Murugappa Group Chairman A Vellayan chastised the Congress-led [United Progressive Alliance] and all but supported BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi in a rare instance of political candour from a conservative business family. In an exclusive interview . . . the chairman of the Rs 22,500-crore group . . . said the UPA government had announced many well-intentioned policies but did not implement them”.[1] In other words, it seems like a foregone conclusion that India will once again be ruled by the Hindu Nationalists or the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) for the foreseeable future.

 

[1] Sangeetha Kandavel and Sanjay Vijayakumar, “Narendra Modi government would be positive for the economy, UPA a disaster: Murugappa Group chief A Vellayan” ET (10 April 2014). http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/news-by-company/corporate-trends/narendra-modi-government-would-be-positive-for-the-economy-upa-a-disaster-murugappa-group-chief-a-vellayan/articleshow/33521949.cms.

‘Sen. Rand Paul is accusing former Vice-President Dick Cheney of advocating for invading Iraq in 2003 in order to make profits off of the country’s oil. Pushing back indirectly, the former Halliburton CEO said he is concerned with the growing trend of isolationism in the Republican Party, a reference to Paul. Cheney has often been called the “architect” of the Iraq War, and routinely faces criticism from the left as well as Libertarians on the right over the US’ involvement in the country. RT’s Lindsay France has a timeline of the tit for tat between these two influential Republicans (7 April 2014)’.

Turns out, crackpots sometimes do make sense . . . or, even Rand Paul can state the obvious . . . Last year the International Business Times‘ Angelo Young reported that the “accounting of the financial cost of the nearly decade-long Iraq War will go on for years, but a recent analysis has shed light on the companies that made money off the war by providing support services as the privatization of what were former U.S. military operations rose to unprecedented levels. Private or publicly listed firms received at least $138 billion of U.S. taxpayer money for government contracts for services that included providing private security, building infrastructure and feeding the troops. Ten contractors received 52 percent of the funds, according to an analysis by the Financial Times that was published [on 19 March 2013]. The No. 1 recipient? Houston-based energy-focused engineering and construction firm KBR, Inc. (NYSE:KBR), which was spun off from its parent, oilfield services provider Halliburton Co. (NYSE:HAL), in 2007. The company was given $39.5 billion in Iraq-related contracts over the past decade, with many of the deals given without any bidding from competing firms, such as a $568-million contract renewal in 2010 to provide housing, meals, water and bathroom services to soldiers, a deal that led to a Justice Department lawsuit over alleged kickbacks, as reported by Bloomberg. Who were Nos. 2 and 3? Agility Logistics (KSE:AGLTY) of Kuwait and the state-owned Kuwait Petroleum Corp. Together, these firms garnered $13.5 billion of U.S. contracts. As private enterprise entered the war zone at unprecedented levels, the amount of corruption ballooned, even if most contractors performed their duties as expected. According to the bipartisan Commission on Wartime Contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan, the level of corruption by defense contractors may be as high as $60 billion. Disciplined soldiers that would traditionally do many of the tasks are commissioned by private and publicly listed companies. Even without the graft, the costs of paying for these services are higher than paying government employees or soldiers to do them because of the profit motive involved. No-bid contracting – when companies get to name their price with no competing bid – didn’t lower legitimate expenses. (Despite promises by President Barack Obama to reel in this habit, the trend toward granting favored companies federal contracts without considering competing bids continued to grow, by 9 percent [in 2012], according to the Washington Post.). Even though the military has largely pulled out of Iraq, private contractors remain on the ground and continue to reap U.S. government contracts. For example, the U.S. State Department estimates that taxpayers will dole out $3 billion to private guards for the government’s sprawling embassy in Baghdad. The costs of paying private and publicly listed war profiteers seem miniscule in light of the total bill for the war. [In early March 2013], the Costs of War Project by the Watson Institute for International Studies at Brown University said the war in Iraq cost $1.7 trillion dollars, not including the $490 billion in immediate benefits owed to veterans of the war and the lifetime benefits that will be owed to them or their next of kin”.[1] Cheney worked for Halliburton during a five-year period, from 1995 onwards, and when he quit the post to join the Bush administration, this real-life Darth Vader “received $12.5m in salary. He also held $39m-worth of stock options when he quit the company in 2000″, as worded by the Guardian‘s Pratap Chatterjee in 2011.[2] Chatterjee adds gleefully that “Halliburton’s board of directors voted to award [Cheney] early retirement when he quit his job, even though he was too young to qualify under his contract. That flexibility enabled him to leave with a retirement package, including stock and options, worth millions more than if he had simply resigned. Plus, Halliburton paid out Cheney an extra $1m during the time he served as vice-president”.[3] And what did he do with all that loot, he started by “selling 100,000 Halliburton shares in May 2000, for an immediate profit of $3m. In 2005, Cheney exercised most of what remained of his Halliburton stock options for a $6.9m profit, all of which he donated to charity. (Most of it was donated to the Richard B Cheney Cardiac Institute at George Washington University)” adds Chatterjee.[4]

Now, after all is said and done, Rand Paul appears to notice Cheney’s ill-made gains . . .In fact, now-Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) made the above-quoted remarks as long ago as 2009. Paul said the following: “He’s being interviewed [in 1995], I think, by the American Enterprise Institute, and he says it would be a disaster [to enter Iraq], it would be vastly expensive, it would be civil war, we’d have no exit strategy. He goes on and on for five minutes — Dick Cheney saying it would be a bad idea. And that’s why the first Bush didn’t go into Baghdad. Dick Cheney then goes to work for Halliburton. Makes hundreds of millions of dollars — their CEO. Next thing you know, he’s back in government, it’s a good idea to go into Iraq”.[5] In Cheney’s defense, John Bolton, who served as Bush 43’s ambassador to the United Nations, released this statement: “Senator Paul should repudiate his remarks and apologize to Vice President Cheney”.[6] In all fairness, Cheney appears to have acted in good faith when the Bush-Cheney Administration awarded a no-bid contract to KBR, Inc., as he only received an “extra $1m” from the parent company Halliburton during his tenure at the helm of the U.S. ship of state . . .

 

[1] Angelo Young , “Cheney’s Halliburton Made $39.5 Billion on Iraq War” International Business Times (20 March 2013). http://readersupportednews.org/news-section2/308-12/16561-focus-cheneys-halliburton-made-395-billion-on-iraq-war.

[2] Pratap Chatterjee, “Dick Cheney’s Halliburton: a corporate case study” The Guardian (08 June 2011). http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/cifamerica/2011/jun/08/dick-cheney-halliburton-supreme-court.

[3] Pratap Chatterjee, “Dick Cheney’s Halliburton: a corporate case study”.

[4] Pratap Chatterjee, “Dick Cheney’s Halliburton: a corporate case study”.

[5] Jennifer Rubin, “Rand Paul’s unwelcome 2009 accusations about Dick Cheney” The Washington Post (07 April 2014). http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/right-turn/wp/2014/04/07/rand-pauls-unwelcome-2009-accusations-about-dick-cheney/.

[6] Jennifer Rubin, “Rand Paul’s unwelcome 2009 accusations about Dick Cheney”.

March 26, 2014. Obama highlights Putin threat to EU during keynote speech in Brussels. President Obama delivers an address that touch upon the U.S.-European relations amid the ongoing crisis in Ukraine. U.S. President Barack Obama highlights Russian tensions during keynote speech in Brussels. Obama urges greater NATO presence in states bordering Russia.

(LATimes) BRUSSELS — President Obama is urging European and North Atlantic Treaty Organization leaders to bolster the military alliance’s presence in countries in Eastern and Central Europe near Russia, part of an effort to ward off further Russian aggression in the wake of its annexation of Crimea from Ukraine. Speaking after a meeting with European Union leaders, Obama said he has suggested that European leaders review and update their “contingency plans” at an April meeting. He said the alliance needs to “do more to ensure that a regular NATO presence among some of these states that may feel vulnerable is executed.” Obama’s made the remarks before meeting with NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen at the midpoint of his European trip this week. The president’s visit has been dominated by the crisis in Ukraine, and by the attempt to craft a unified U.S.-European strategy to deter Russian President Vladimir Putin from another land grab in the former Soviet republic. The president has ruled out U.S. military involvement in the dispute, noting that Ukraine is not a NATO member and not covered under the treaty. Still, he has had to reassure other NATO members in Eastern and Central Europe that NATO stands ready and prepared. The White House said Obama would push NATO to step up its efforts with more visible training and exercises in the region, as well as initiating the review of defense plans and improving the readiness of the NATO Response Force. On Wednesday, Obama made an appeal to unnamed member countries that have reduced defense spending in tight economic times, taking a toll on the 55-year-old alliance. “If we’ve got collective defense, it means that everybody’s got to chip in. And I have had some concerns about a diminished level of defense spending among some of our partners in NATO; not all, but many. The trend lines have been going down,” Obama said. “The situation in Ukraine reminds us that our freedom isn’t free and we’ve got to be willing to pay for the assets, the personnel, the training that’s required to make sure that we have a credible NATO force and an effective deterrent force.”

‘The Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham have publicly crucified a man in Raqqa, Syria, for “purposefully killing a Muslim to take his money”. Before the crucifixion ISIS shot the man in the head from point blank range, the execution being just the latest extreme act of violence carried out by the group as they implement their fundamentalist laws (24 March 2014)’.

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