country:russia

  • #Globalisation is dead and we need to invent a new world order - Open Future
    https://www.economist.com/open-future/2019/06/28/globalisation-is-dead-and-we-need-to-invent-a-new-world-order

    The Economist : Describe what comes after globalisation—what does the world you foresee look like?

    Mr O’Sullivan : Globalisation is already behind us. We should say goodbye to it and set our minds on the emerging multipolar world. This will be dominated by at least three large regions: America, the European Union and a China-centric Asia. They will increasingly take very different approaches to economic policy, liberty, warfare, technology and society. Mid-sized countries like Russia, Britain, Australia and Japan will struggle to find their place in the world, while new coalitions will emerge, such as a “Hanseatic League 2.0” of small, advanced states like those of Scandinavia and the Baltics. Institutions of the 20th century—the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the World Trade Organisation—will appear increasingly defunct.

    The Economist : What killed globalisation?

    Michael O’Sullivan : At least two things have put paid to globalisation. First, global economic growth has slowed, and as a result, the growth has become more “financialised”: debt has increased and there has been more “monetary activism”—that is, central banks pumping money into the economy by buying assets, such as bonds and in some cases even equities—to sustain the international expansion. Second, the side effects, or rather the perceived side-effects, of globalisation are more apparent: wealth inequality, the dominance of multinationals and the dispersion of global supply chains, which have all become hot political issues.

    • global economic growth has slowed, and as a result, the growth has become more “financialised”: debt has increased and there has been more “monetary activism”—that is, central banks pumping money into the economy by buying assets, such as bonds and in some cases even equities—to sustain the international expansion.

      #capitalisme_inversé (cf. La Grande Dévalorisation de Trenkle et Lohoff)

  • The Tiananmen Square massacre, 30 years on - World Socialist Web Site
    https://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2019/06/08/tian-j08.html

    By Peter Symonds, 8 June 2019 - Thirty years have passed since heavily-armed Chinese troops, backed by tanks, moved through the suburbs of Beijing on the night of June 3–4, 1989, killing hundreds, probably thousands, of unarmed civilians. The military forces overwhelmed makeshift barricades with brute force as they made their way to Tiananmen Square—the site of weeks of mass protests by students and workers.

    Those barbaric events, which demonstrated the willingness of the Stalinist Chinese Communist Party (CCP) regime to do anything to stay in power, have gone down in history as the Tiananmen Square massacre. Yet most of deaths during that murderous assault were of workers who courageously tried to halt the progress of troops to central Beijing. Estimates vary, but up to 7,000 were killed and 20,000 wounded.

    Moreover, in the reign of terror that followed throughout China it was the workers who received the harshest penalties, including lengthy jail terms and death sentences. Around 40,000 people were arrested just in June and July, mostly members of Workers Autonomous Federations that had sprung up in the course of the protests.
    Protesters in Tiananmen Square

    What is commonly depicted as the crushing of student protesters was in fact a wave of repression directed overwhelmingly against a mass movement of the working class. What had begun in April as student protests calling for democratic reforms had swelled into the millions as workers joined the demonstrations by mid-May, making their own class demands.

    The Beijing Workers Autonomous Federation was established on April 20 with a handful of workers and rapidly expanded to become a major organising centre by mid-May. On May 17, up to two million people marched through the centre of Beijing, the majority being workers and their families under the banners of their work units or enterprises. Reflecting the impact of events in Beijing, Workers Autonomous Federations were established in a host of major cities, including Changsha, Shaoyang, Xiangtan, Hengyang and Yueyang.

    While moderate student leaders were intent on pressing the CCP bureaucracy for concessions on democratic rights, workers were animated by concerns over deteriorating living standards, soaring inflation and a wave of sackings and closures. The regime’s embrace of the capitalist market since the 1970s had led to widening social inequality and rampant bureaucratic corruption and profiteering. Workers were bitterly hostile to the accumulation of privileges and wealth by the top CCP leaders, such as Deng Xiaoping, Li Peng, Zhao Ziyang, Jiang Zemin, Chen Yun and their family members, and were contemptuous of their claims to be communist and socialist.

    A statement by workers issued on May 25 expressed the rebellious currents in the working class. “Our nation was created by the struggle and labour of we workers and all other mental and manual labourers. We are the rightful masters of this nation. We must be heard in national affairs. We must not allow this small band of degenerate scum of the nation and the working class to usurp our name and suppress the students, murder democracy and trample human rights.” [1]

    Premier Zhao Ziyang had been sympathetic to the demands of student leaders and had counselled making small concessions to calls for basic democratic rights. However, no compromise was possible with the working class, whose unrest threatened the very existence of the regime. As the protest movement rapidly grew in size and confidence, paramount leader Deng Xiaoping removed his ally Zhao as premier, installed hardline Li Peng in his place and ordered the military to violently suppress the protests in Beijing and nationally.
    The crisis of Stalinism

    The resort to such extreme measures was bound up with the profound crisis of Stalinism, not only in China but internationally. In response to deepening economic and social crises, a turn was underway in China, Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union toward the dismantling of centralised bureaucratic planning mechanisms, encouragement of private enterprise and establishment of market mechanisms.

    After assuming the leadership of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union in 1985, Mikhail Gorbachev introduced his keynote policies of perestroika (restructuring) and glasnost (openness and transparency) that laid the framework for greater autonomy for enterprises outside the central planning mechanisms and, under the guise of democratic reform, sought to establish a base of social support for the regime among the petty bourgeoisie.

    Gorbachev’s pro-market restructuring also encouraged the Stalinist regimes in Eastern Europe in their plans for capitalist restoration, making desperate bids to resolve their mounting economic and political crises. These processes dramatically accelerated as Gorbachev signaled that the Soviet Union would not intervene militarily to prop up its Soviet bloc allies, as it had done in Hungary in 1956 to crush the workers’ uprising and in Czechoslovakia in 1968 to end liberal reforms. In December 1987, he announced the withdrawal of 500,000 Soviet troops from Eastern Europe.

    In a very short period of time, during 1989–90, the Stalinist bureaucracies in one Eastern European country after another moved to restore capitalism, dismantling what remained of nationalised property relations and centralised planning.

    In Poland, talks between the government and opposition Solidarity leaders resulted in a deal in April 1989 to hold limited elections. This paved the way for the installation in August of Solidarity leader Tadeusz Mazowiecki as prime minister. He unleashed sweeping pro-market restructuring.

    Similar negotiations in Hungary, where the processes of pro-market restructuring were already advanced, led to a new constitution in August 1989. Multi-party elections in May 1990 resulted in a government that junked what remained of centralised planning and carried out wholesale privatisation.

    Amid a mounting economic and political crisis, Gorbachev visited Berlin in October 1989 to urge the East German government to accelerate pro-market reforms. Erich Honecker resigned as leader two weeks later. On November 9, the government announced the end of all border restrictions and Berlin citizens tore down the hated Berlin Wall. Before the end of the month, West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl unveiled a plan to integrate East Germany with capitalist West Germany—a process that was completed by October 1990.

    The collapse of the Stalinist regimes in Czechoslovakia, Romania and Bulgaria quickly followed. By the end of 1990, governments throughout Eastern Europe were giving full rein to the plunder of state-owned property, an influx of foreign capital and the dismantling of social services, leading to a precipitous deterioration in living standards.

    Gorbachev’s policies in the Soviet Union gave rise to intense pressures within the Stalinist bureaucracy and the emerging layer of entrepreneurs for a far speedier dismantling of all fetters on private ownership and market relations. This found expression in the installation of Boris Yeltsin in July 1991 and the implementation of pro-market “shock therapy.” In December 1991, the Soviet Union was formally dissolved.

    The break-up of the Soviet Union and collapse of the Stalinist states in Eastern Europe led to an orgy of triumphalism in the capitalist media proclaiming the end of socialism. Pundits, politicians and academics, who had foreseen nothing and could explain nothing, exulted over the triumph of the market, even going so far as to pronounce the end of history. In other words, capitalism supposedly represented the highest and final stage of human development. A new period of peace, prosperity and democracy would dawn, they all declared.

    The International Committee of the Fourth International (ICFI), based on the analysis made by Leon Trotsky of Stalinism, had rejected the universal adulation of Gorbachev and warned that his policies were rapidly leading to the dismantling of the gains of the first workers’ state. Its perspectives resolution entitled “The World Capitalist Crisis and the Tasks of the Fourth International,” published in August 1988, made clear that the breakdown of the Soviet Union was not a product of socialism, but rather of Stalinism and its reactionary autarchic conception of “socialism in one country”:

    The very real crisis of the Soviet economy is rooted in its enforced isolation from the resources of the world market and the international division of labour. There are only two ways this crisis can be tackled. The way proposed by Gorbachev involves the dismantling of state industry, the renunciation of the planning principle, and the abandonment of the state monopoly on foreign trade, i.e., the reintegration of the Soviet Union into the structure of world capitalism. The alternative to this reactionary solution requires the smashing of imperialism’s domination over the world economy by linking up the Soviet and international working class in a revolutionary offensive aimed at extending the planned economy into the European, North American and Asian citadels of capitalism. [2]

    In the aftermath of the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the ICFI identified the root cause of the crisis of Stalinism in the processes of the globalisation of production that had been underway since the late 1970s, which had undermined all programs based on national economic regulation. While the crisis of Stalinism was the most immediate and acute expression, these same processes lay behind the international embrace of pro-market restructuring by Social Democratic and Labour parties, and trade unions, and their abandonment of any defence of the social rights of the working class.
    Capitalist restoration in China

    The events in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union had a profound impact in China, where processes of capitalist restoration had been underway since the 1970s. The CCP’s decision in June 1989 to use the military to brutally suppress the working class was in no small measure conditioned by its longstanding fear of a repetition in China of the mass strike movement in Poland in 1980–81 that led to the formation of the Solidarity trade union.

    China specialist Maurice Meisner explained that the involvement of masses of workers in the protests in Tiananmen Square on May 17 “did much to rekindle the ‘Polish fear’ among Party leaders, their decade-old obsession about the rise of a Solidarity-type alliance between workers and intellectuals in opposition to the Communist state. And that fear, in turn, contributed to their fateful decision to impose martial law.” [3]

    While Deng Xiaoping recognised the affinity of Gorbachev’s perestroika with the policies that he had already enacted, he did not embrace the political liberalisation of glasnost, fearing it would undermine the foundations of the CCP regime. When Gorbachev visited Beijing in mid-May 1989 to cement closer Sino-Soviet ties, the Chinese leadership kept him closeted from public view, anxious that his presence would give further impetus to the protests in Tiananmen Square. The rapid collapse of the Stalinist regimes in Eastern Europe only heightened the determination of the CCP bureaucracy to suppress any opposition.

    The roots of the crisis in China lay in the outcome of the 1949 Chinese revolution. The monumental events that brought the Chinese Communist Party to power ended more than a century of imperialist oppression that had mired the country of more than 500 million in squalor and backwardness. It expressed the aspirations of the vast majority of the population for economic security, basic democratic and social rights, and a decent standard of living. Decades of political upheaval and a war against Japanese imperialism from 1937 to 1945 had ravaged the country and left an estimated 14 million Chinese soldiers and civilians dead.

    Like the Soviet bureaucracy, however, the new CCP apparatus was based on the reactionary nationalist program of “socialism in one country,” which was a repudiation of socialist internationalism and Leon Trotsky’s theory of Permanent Revolution which underpinned the October Revolution in Russia in 1917.

    As a result, the course of the revolution and the subsequent evolution of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) proclaimed by Mao Zedong in 1949 was distorted and deformed by Stalinism, which dominated the CCP in the wake of Stalin’s betrayal of the Second Chinese Revolution of 1925–27. Stalin subordinated the very young CCP to the bourgeois nationalist Kuomintang, resulting in crushing blows to the Chinese Communists and working class in April 1927, and again in May 1927. CCP leaders and members who supported Trotsky’s analysis of the tragedy were expelled.

    In the wake of the 1949 Chinese Revolution, the pragmatic, nationalist ideology of Maoism led China rapidly into a blind alley. Mao’s perspective of a “New Democracy” sought to maintain a bloc with the national bourgeoisie, but the CCP government was driven, under conditions of the Korean War and the internal sabotage by bourgeois and petty bourgeois elements, to go further than intended. By 1956, virtually every aspect of the economy was nationalised and subject to bureaucratic planning along the lines of the Soviet Union, but the working class had no say through its own democratic organs.

    The organic hostility of the Maoist regime to the working class was expressed in its repression of Chinese Trotskyists, all of whom were jailed in 1952 amid the rising resistance by workers. As with the Eastern European states, the Fourth International characterised China as a deformed workers’ state, a highly conditional formula that placed the emphasis on the deformed, bureaucratic character of the regime.

    The national autarky of “socialism in one country” generated worsening economic and social turmoil, and crises for which the CCP bureaucracy had no solution, leading to bitter internal factional warfare. Mao’s fanciful scheme for a peasant socialist society, which underpinned his “Great Leap Forward,” ended in economic catastrophe and mass starvation. His factional opponents, led by Liu Shaoqi, followed the Soviet model of bureaucratic planning with its emphasis on heavy industry, but this provided no alternative.

    The economic crisis was greatly worsened by the 1961–63 split with the Soviet Union and the withdrawal of Soviet aid and advisers, as the two Stalinist regimes advanced their conflicting national interests. In a last desperate bid to oust his rivals, Mao unleashed the Cultural Revolution in 1966, which rapidly span out of his control, leading to confused and convulsive social struggles that threatened the very existence of the regime. Mao turned to the military to suppress workers who had taken literally his edict to “Bombard the Headquarters,” resulting in mass strikes in Shanghai and the formation of an independent Shanghai People’s Commune in 1967.

    Incapable of resolving the immense economic and social problems wracking the country, and facing a military confrontation with the Soviet Union, the CCP bureaucracy forged an anti-Soviet alliance with US imperialism that laid the basis for China’s integration into global capitalism. While Deng Xiaoping is generally credited with initiating market reforms, Mao’s rapprochement with US President Richard Nixon in 1972 was the essential political and diplomatic pre-condition for foreign investment and increased trade with the West.

    The process of “opening and reform” went hand-in-hand with the imposition of strict discipline and emphasis on boosting production in workplaces. Maurice Meissner noted: “Factory managers dismissed during the Cultural Revolution were restored to their former posts, accompanied by calls to strengthen managerial authority, labour discipline, and factory rules and regulations—and to struggle against ‘anarchism’ and ‘ultra-leftism.’ There were dramatic increases in foreign trade and in imports of foreign technology. Veteran party leaders attacked during the Cultural Revolution were ‘rehabilitated’ at an increasingly rapid pace; by 1973, it has been noted, ‘the pre-Cultural Revolution cadres were running the government ministries.” [4]

    From 1969 to 1975, the value of foreign trade increased from $US4 billion to $14 billion per annum. From the end of 1972 until mid-1975, China imported whole industrial plants, valued at $2.8 billion, mainly from Japan and western Europe.

    Deng Xiaoping who had been ostracised during the Cultural Revolution as the “No 2 capitalist roader,” was rehabilitated, appointed a vice premier of the state council under Zhou Enlai. Deng led the Chinese delegation to a special session of the UN in 1974 where he declared that the “socialist bloc” no longer existed and China was part of the Third World. In the factional power struggle that followed Mao’s death in 1976, Deng emerged as the dominant figure in the Stalinist bureaucracy. He embraced US imperialism ever more closely, formalising diplomatic relations in 1979, launching a border war against neighbouring Vietnam, and defending US allies such as the Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet.

    From 1978, Deng greatly accelerated the “reform and opening” pro-market reforms. Four Special Economic Zones (SEZs) were established in 1979 in Shenzhen, Zhuhai, Shantou and Xiamen, where foreign entrepreneurs and joint ventures produced goods for export and enjoyed tax breaks and other concessions. A similar system was later implemented in key port cities such as Shanghai. In the countryside, the collectivised communes were dismantled and restrictions removed on the operation of private enterprises. Prices for agricultural produce were lifted. In the cities, moves were made to transform thousands of state-owned enterprises into profit-making corporations. Private enterprises were permitted, the market was increasingly allowed to determine prices for consumer goods, and a “labour market” was initiated, allowing the hiring and firing of workers.

    The pro-market reforms led to the rapid rise of social inequality. Millions of former peasants were left landless and forced to seek employment in the cities. In the SEZs, where the capitalist market was given free rein, corruption and criminal activity was rampant, including smuggling, bribery and the theft of state-owned property. The sons and daughters of the top party leaders took full advantage of their political connections to establish their own business empires. With the lifting of price restrictions, inflation rocketed to 18.5 percent in 1988, to which the regime responded by drastically reducing credit and re-imposing import restrictions. Hundreds of thousands of workers lost their jobs, as private enterprises reduced their workforces or closed down altogether. Unemployment, the loss of job security, as well as skyrocketing prices, combined with disgust at the corruption and enrichment of CCP bureaucrats, fueled the social unrest that erupted in the mass protests by workers the following year.
    Capitalist restoration following Tiananmen Square

    In the aftermath of the bloody crackdown in Tiananmen Square and the police dragnet throughout the country, the factional battle inside the CCP leadership sharpened in the next three years over Deng’s program of capitalist restoration. In ordering the troops against workers and students, Deng had removed his chief ally in pro-market restructuring, Zhao Ziyang, as premier. Former Shanghai party leader Jiang Zemin was installed as a compromise choice to the top post of CCP secretary general. The initiative shifted to the so-called hardliners—Li Peng and Chen Yun, who, in criticising Zhao, were also criticising Deng’s policies.

    However, in advocating restrictions on market relations, Li and Chen based their policies on the status quo ante and the nationalist perspective of “socialism in country,” which had already proven to be a dead-end. They were looking toward the Soviet Union, even as the deformed workers’ states in Eastern Europe were collapsing and Gorbachev’s policies were undermining centralised planning and nationalised property relations. Their so-called “Soviet faction” represented sections of the Chinese bureaucracy whose power and privileges resided in their control of key sections of state-owned industry and the central apparatus in Beijing.

    At the Fifth Plenum in November 1989, Li delivered the main report, based on the recommendations of a revived State Planning Commission. The adopted plan called for cutting inflation to 10 percent in 1990 and economic growth to 5 percent by maintaining tight controls on credit and balancing the national budget. Rural industries would not be allowed to compete with state-owned enterprises. While keeping the SEZs and “open door” policy in place, the new restrictions hit rural and provincial industries, particularly in the south of the country.

    While Deng no longer held any official party or state position, he still retained considerable political clout, especially in the southern provinces where the new profit-making industries were concentrated. Deng had sided with the hardliners in opposing any political liberalisation and, above all, supported the 1989 military crackdown, but he was adamant that the restrictions on private enterprises and foreign investment had to be completely dismantled.

    The snowballing crisis in the Soviet Union brought matters to a head. An attempted Stalinist putsch in August 1991 to oust Gorbachev and Yeltsin and wind back their program of pro-market restructuring ended in dismal failure. China scholar Michael Marti explained: “This one event changed the thinking about the political equation within the Chinese leadership, including that of Deng Xiaoping. The failure of the Soviet Red Army to support the Communist Party of the Soviet Union in its bid to regain control threw the CCP into a panic. The Chinese leadership feared that a precedent had been established.” [5]

    The factional battle lines were drawn. While the “Soviet faction” began to call into question the entire agenda of pro-market reforms, including the establishment of the SEZs, Deng insisted that the levels of economic growth were too low to maintain employment and social stability. “If the economy cannot be boosted over a long time,” he told a meeting of party elders as far back as late 1989, “it [the government] will lose people’s support at home and will be oppressed and bullied by other nations. The continuation of this situation will lead to the collapse of the Communist Party.” [6]

    Deng was also concerned that the crisis in the Soviet Union, following the collapse of Stalinism in Eastern Europe, would greatly change geo-political relations. Not only had Deng’s strategy sought to balance between the US and the Soviet Union, but his economic policies depended on a large influx of foreign investment, which could potentially shift to exploiting new opportunities opening up in the former Soviet republics.

    Along with provincial leaders in the southern provinces, Deng counted on the support of People’s Liberation Army (PLA). The generals had been shocked by the way in which US imperialism and its allies had deployed hi-tech weaponry in the 1990–91 Gulf War to rapidly destroy the Iraqi military. Their conclusion was that China had to invest heavily in modernising the PLA and only Deng’s policies could transform the economy and produce the growth needed to supply that investment.

    Deng set out on his “Southern tour” in January–February 1992, just 20 days after the formal liquidation of the Soviet Union in December 1991, accompanied by top generals, the state security chief Qiao Shi and party elder Bo Yibo. As he visited the SEZs and southern cities, he declared that there would be no reversal of economic policies in the face of the Soviet collapse. Dismissing concerns about growing social inequality, he is said to have declared: “Let some people get rich first.”

    In a showdown with Chen Yun in Shanghai, Deng reportedly shouted: “Any leader who cannot boost the economy should leave office.” Openly backing capitalist restoration, he declared: “We should absorb more foreign capital and more foreign-advanced experiences and technologies, and set up more foreign-invested enterprises. Do not fear when others say we are practicing capitalism. Capitalism in nothing fearsome.” [7]

    Deng prevailed, opening the door for wholesale capitalist restoration that transformed the whole country into a giant free trade zone for the exploitation of cheap Chinese labour. The crocodile tears shed by Western politicians over the Tiananmen Square massacre were rapidly cast aside as foreign investors recognised that the police-state regime in Beijing was willing to use any method, no matter how brutal, to discipline the working class. In 1993, the CCP proclaimed that its objective was a “socialist market economy,” giving a threadbare “socialist” disguise to its embrace of capitalism.

    In 1994, the CCP formally established a “labour market,” by legitimising the sale and purchase of labour power. State-owned enterprises were corporatised into companies run for profit. The unprofitable ones were restructured or shut down. The better equipped, in sectors not designated as strategic, were sold off or converted into subsidiaries of foreign transnationals. A small number were preserved as state-owned “national flagships.”

    Between 1996 and 2005, the number of employees in state- and collective-owned enterprises halved, from 144 million to 73 million workers. Along with guaranteed life-time employment, the “iron rice bowl” of cradle-to-grave services was also dismantled. Essential services that had previously been provided by state-owned enterprises—childcare, education, health care and pensions—were now left to individual workers.
    Chinese capitalism today

    The restoration of capitalism in China over the past 30 years has only exacerbated the underlying social tensions within Chinese society and compounded the political and geo-political dilemmas confronting the CCP apparatus.

    The extraordinary economic expansion of China to become the world’s second largest economy has rested, in the first place, on the immense gains of the 1949 Revolution that unified China for the first time in decades, created an educated and skilled workforce, and developed basic industries and essential infrastructure. The flood of foreign investment into the country transformed China into the sweatshop of the world and produced a massive 11-fold increase in the economy between 1992 and 2010. This rapid growth, however, did not reflect an inherent strength of the Chinese economy, but rather its role in the world economy, dependent on foreign investment and technology.

    The imperialist powers, above all the United States, were more than willing to exploit cheap Chinese labour as long as China’s economic expansion did not challenge their own established geo-political interests. However, the vast quantity of raw materials and energy that Chinese industries require from around the world have increasingly brought it into conflict with the US and other major powers, in Asia, Africa, the Middle East and internationally. Moreover, as China has sought to create its own hi-tech “national champions” such as Huawei and ZTE, the US, under the Trump administration, has declared economic war on Beijing, not just in matters of trade. It has openly opposed Chinese plans to develop and expand hi-tech industries and to more closely link Eurasia to China through massive infrastructure projects under Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative.

    The delusion promoted by CCP leaders that China could, through a “peaceful rise,” become a world power on a parity with the US has been shattered. China’s expansion has brought it into conflict with the global imperialist order dominated by the United States. Under Obama and now Trump, the US has begun using all means at its disposal to ensure its continued global hegemony. Trump’s economic war goes hand-in-hand with a military build-up in the Indo-Pacific, escalating naval provocations in the South China Sea, under the guise of “freedom of navigation operations, and more open preparations for a war between the two nuclear-armed powers.

    The CCP leadership has no answer to the mounting danger of war, other than desperately seeking an accommodation with imperialism, while engaging in a frenetic arms race that can only end in catastrophe for the working class in China and internationally. Capitalist restoration, far from strengthening China’s capacity to counter the US, has greatly weakened it. The regime is organically incapable of making any appeal to the international working class, as that would inevitably lead to social struggles by the working class at home.

    Having abandoned even its previous nominal commitment to socialism and internationalism, the CCP has increasing relied on whipping up Chinese nationalism to try to create a social base in layers of the middle class. There is nothing progressive about Chinese chauvinism and patriotism, which divides Chinese workers from their class brothers and sisters internationally, and within China from non-Han Chinese minorities. Its repressive measures against Uighurs, Tibetans and other ethnic groups have provided an opening that the US is seeking to exploit. Under the bogus banner of “human rights,” Washington is promoting separatist groups as part of its ambition to fracture and subordinate China to its interests.

    Thirty years after the Tiananmen Square massacre, the CCP leadership is terrified of a renewal of working-class opposition, the first stirrings of which have been seen in the more numerous reports of workers’ strikes and protests, and, significantly over the past year, in a turn by a layer of university students to assist workers in their struggles. Since 1989, the working class in China has vastly expanded to an estimated 400 million and as a proportion of the population. One indicator is the growth of the country’s urban population from just 26.4 percent of the total in 1990, to 58.5 percent in 2017.

    The CCP leadership boasts of having lifted hundreds of millions out of poverty, using the UN’s very austere measures of poverty. Such benchmarks ignore the many factors that are fueling discontent among workers, including the common practice of late or unpaid wages, unhealthy and dangerous factory conditions, harsh corporate disciplinary practices, and the lack of basic social rights for tens of millions of internal migrants in the cities. All of these oppressive conditions are monitored and policed by the All-China Federation of Trade Unions, which functions as an arm of the CCP bureaucracy in workplaces.

    Capitalist restoration has produced a dramatic rise in social inequality: from one of the most equal societies in the world, China has become one of the most unequal countries. It is home to more dollar billionaires than any other country except the United States. While Chinese workers struggle to survive on the minimum wage of $370 a month, the wealthiest individual, Tencent chairman Pony Ma, has a personal fortune of almost $40 billion. These super-rich oligarchs, who in many cases have built their fortunes through naked corruption and the looting of state-owned property, are represented in the Chinese Communist Party and sit on powerful advisory bodies.

    The gulf between the super-rich and the vast majority of the workers and the poor is generating huge social tensions that, sooner rather than later, will explode on a scale that will eclipse the rebellion by workers and students 30 years ago. The lesson drawn by the Stalinist leadership from the 1989 events was that it had to suppress, through all available means, any expression of opposition that could become the focus of a broader movement against the regime. Incapable of meeting the pressing social needs of the majority of the population, the CCP has vastly expanded its police-state apparatus, now spending more each year on its internal security forces than it does on external defence.

    The working class must also draw the necessary political lessons from the defeat of that movement in 1989, which was rapidly assuming revolutionary dimensions. What was lacking was not determination, audacity and courage, nor numbers, which were rapidly swelling across China, but the essential problem facing the international working class in the 20th century—the absence of revolutionary leadership.

    James Cogan summed up the issue in his analysis “Ten years since the Tiananmen Square massacre,” stating:

    Inexperienced politically and lacking a political perspective outside of opposition to the existing regime, the workers’ leaders advanced no alternative to, and deferred to, the student bodies. The workers of China knew in their life experience what they were against—Stalinism and capitalism—but they were not able to articulate any perspective for an alternative social order.

    Decades of domination by Stalinism and the active suppression of genuine Marxism in China meant there was no revolutionary socialist, that is, Trotskyist, tendency in the working class. No organisation within the country could spontaneously advance the program that was implicit in the actions and sentiments of the Chinese working class—a political revolution to overthrow the Stalinist regime and introduce major reforms into the economy for the benefit of the working class. [8]

    The essential political task of building a Trotskyist leadership in the Chinese working class as a section of the International Committee of the Fourth International remains. None of the oppositional tendencies that emerged out of the 1989 protests offer a viable political perspective for the working class. Advocates of independent trade unions such as Han Dongfang, who was prominent in the Beijing Workers Autonomous Federation in 1989, have underscored the political bankruptcy of syndicalism by lurching to the right and into the arms of US trade union apparatus, in other words of US imperialism.

    A layer of youth, intellectuals and workers have turned to Maoism, and its banal “revolutionary” slogans, for answers. Capitalist restoration in China, however, was not a break from Maoism. It flowed organically out of the dead-end of “socialism in one country.” Maoism could aptly be termed Stalinism with Chinese characteristics, with its hostility to the working class, its emphasis on subjective will, and above all its putrid nationalism. It is diametrically opposed to genuine Marxism, that is the perspective of socialist internationalism, which alone was upheld by the Trotskyist movement, including the Chinese Trotskyists.

    The establishment of a genuinely revolutionary party in China, as part of the ICFI, requires the assimilation of the essential strategic experiences of the international working class, of which the Chinese revolutions of the 20th century are a critical component. The CCP leaders are petrified that workers and youth will begin to work over the lessons of history. They attempt to censor and black out any knowledge and discussion of the events of 1989, and continue to perpetrate the lies of Stalinism about the course of the 20th century.

    The crucial political lessons of the protracted struggle of Trotskyism against Stalinism are embedded in the program, perspective and documents of the International Committee of the Fourth International. Workers and youth should make a serious study of the political issues involved, beginning with the documents of the ICFI on the Tiananmen Square massacre, republished this week on the World Socialist Web Site. We urge you to contact the International Committee of the Fourth International, which is the first step toward forging a Trotskyist leadership in the Chinese working class.

    Footnotes:

    [1] Cited in “Workers in the Tiananmen protests: The politics of the Beijing Workers Autonomous Federation,” by Andrew G. Walder and Gong Xiaoxia, first published in the Australian Journal of Chinese Affairs, No 29, January 1993.

    [2] The World Capitalist Crisis and the Tasks of the Fourth International: Perspectives Resolution of the International Committee of the Fourth International, August 1988, Labor Publications, pp.30–31.

    [3] Maurice Meisner, Mao’s China and After: A History of the People’s Republic, The Free Press, Third edition, 1999, p.508.

    [4] ibid, p.389.

    [5] Michael Marti, China and the Legacy of Deng Xiaoping: From Communist Revolution to Capitalist Evolution, Brassey’s Inc, 2002, pp.47–48.

    [6] Cited in John Chan, “Twenty years since Deng Xiaoping’s ‘Southern tour’—Part 1”, 26 November 2012.

    [7] Cited in John Chan, “Twenty years since Deng Xiaoping’s ‘Southern tour’—Part 2”, 27 November 2012.

    [8] James Cogan, “Ten years since the Tiananmen Square massacre: Political lessons for the working class,” 4 June 1999.

    #Chine #4689

  • Beyond the Hype of Lab-Grown Diamonds
    https://earther.gizmodo.com/beyond-the-hype-of-lab-grown-diamonds-1834890351

    Billions of years ago when the world was still young, treasure began forming deep underground. As the edges of Earth’s tectonic plates plunged down into the upper mantle, bits of carbon, some likely hailing from long-dead life forms were melted and compressed into rigid lattices. Over millions of years, those lattices grew into the most durable, dazzling gems the planet had ever cooked up. And every so often, for reasons scientists still don’t fully understand, an eruption would send a stash of these stones rocketing to the surface inside a bubbly magma known as kimberlite.

    There, the diamonds would remain, nestled in the kimberlite volcanoes that delivered them from their fiery home, until humans evolved, learned of their existence, and began to dig them up.

    The epic origin of Earth’s diamonds has helped fuel a powerful marketing mythology around them: that they are objects of otherworldly strength and beauty; fitting symbols of eternal love. But while “diamonds are forever” may be the catchiest advertising slogan ever to bear some geologic truth, the supply of these stones in the Earth’s crust, in places we can readily reach them, is far from everlasting. And the scars we’ve inflicted on the land and ourselves in order to mine diamonds has cast a shadow that still lingers over the industry.

    Some diamond seekers, however, say we don’t need to scour the Earth any longer, because science now offers an alternative: diamonds grown in labs. These gems aren’t simulants or synthetic substitutes; they are optically, chemically, and physically identical to their Earth-mined counterparts. They’re also cheaper, and in theory, limitless. The arrival of lab-grown diamonds has rocked the jewelry world to its core and prompted fierce pushback from diamond miners. Claims abound on both sides.

    Growers often say that their diamonds are sustainable and ethical; miners and their industry allies counter that only gems plucked from the Earth can be considered “real” or “precious.” Some of these assertions are subjective, others are supported only by sparse, self-reported, or industry-backed data. But that’s not stopping everyone from making them.

    This is a fight over image, and when it comes to diamonds, image is everything.
    A variety of cut, polished Ada Diamonds created in a lab, including smaller melee stones and large center stones. 22.94 carats total. (2.60 ct. pear, 2.01 ct. asscher, 2.23 ct. cushion, 3.01 ct. radiant, 1.74 ct. princess, 2.11 ct. emerald, 3.11 ct. heart, 3.00 ct. oval, 3.13 ct. round.)
    Image: Sam Cannon (Earther)
    Same, but different

    The dream of lab-grown diamond dates back over a century. In 1911, science fiction author H.G. Wells described what would essentially become one of the key methods for making diamond—recreating the conditions inside Earth’s mantle on its surface—in his short story The Diamond Maker. As the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) notes, there were a handful of dubious attempts to create diamonds in labs in the late 19th and early 20th century, but the first commercial diamond production wouldn’t emerge until the mid-1950s, when scientists with General Electric worked out a method for creating small, brown stones. Others, including De Beers, soon developed their own methods for synthesizing the gems, and use of the lab-created diamond in industrial applications, from cutting tools to high power electronics, took off.

    According to the GIA’s James Shigley, the first experimental production of gem-quality diamond occurred in 1970. Yet by the early 2000s, gem-quality stones were still small, and often tinted yellow with impurities. It was only in the last five or so years that methods for growing diamonds advanced to the point that producers began churning out large, colorless stones consistently. That’s when the jewelry sector began to take a real interest.

    Today, that sector is taking off. The International Grown Diamond Association (IGDA), a trade group formed in 2016 by a dozen lab diamond growers and sellers, now has about 50 members, according to IGDA secretary general Dick Garard. When the IGDA first formed, lab-grown diamonds were estimated to represent about 1 percent of a $14 billion rough diamond market. This year, industry analyst Paul Zimnisky estimates they account for 2-3 percent of the market.

    He expects that share will only continue to grow as factories in China that already produce millions of carats a year for industrial purposes start to see an opportunity in jewelry.
    “I have a real problem with people claiming one is ethical and another is not.”

    “This year some [factories] will come up from 100,000 gem-quality diamonds to one to two million,” Zimnisky said. “They already have the infrastructure and equipment in place” and are in the process of upgrading it. (About 150 million carats of diamonds were mined last year, according to a global analysis of the industry conducted by Bain & Company.)

    Production ramp-up aside, 2018 saw some other major developments across the industry. In the summer, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) reversed decades of guidance when it expanded the definition of a diamond to include those created in labs and dropped ‘synthetic’ as a recommended descriptor for lab-grown stones. The decision came on the heels of the world’s top diamond producer, De Beers, announcing the launch of its own lab-grown diamond line, Lightbox, after having once vowed never to sell man-made stones as jewelry.

    “I would say shock,” Lightbox Chief Marketing Officer Sally Morrison told Earther when asked how the jewelry world responded to the company’s launch.

    While the majority of lab-grown diamonds on the market today are what’s known as melee (less than 0.18 carats), the tech for producing the biggest, most dazzling diamonds continues to improve. In 2016, lab-grown diamond company MiaDonna announced its partners had grown a 6.28 carat gem-quality diamond, claimed to be the largest created in the U.S. to that point. In 2017, a lab in Augsburg University, Germany that grows diamonds for industrial and scientific research applications produced what is thought to be the largest lab-grown diamond ever—a 155 carat behemoth that stretches nearly 4 inches across. Not gem quality, perhaps, but still impressive.

    “If you compare it with the Queen’s diamond, hers is four times heavier, it’s clearer” physicist Matthias Schreck, who leads the group that grew that beast of a jewel, told me. “But in area, our diamond is bigger. We were very proud of this.”

    Diamonds can be created in one of two ways: Similar to how they form inside the Earth, or similar to how scientists speculate they might form in outer space.

    The older, Earth-inspired method is known as “high temperature high pressure” (HPHT), and that’s exactly what it sounds like. A carbon source, like graphite, is placed in a giant, mechanical press where, in the presence of a catalyst, it’s subjected to temperatures of around 1,600 degrees Celsius and pressures of 5-6 Gigapascals in order to form diamond. (If you’re curious what that sort of pressure feels like, the GIA describes it as similar to the force exerted if you tried to balance a commercial jet on your fingertip.)

    The newer method, called chemical vapor deposition (CVD), is more akin to how diamonds might form in interstellar gas clouds (for which we have indirect, spectroscopic evidence, according to Shigley). A hydrocarbon gas, like methane, is pumped into a low-pressure reactor vessel alongside hydrogen. While maintaining near-vacuum conditions, the gases are heated very hot—typically 3,000 to 4,000 degrees Celsius, according to Lightbox CEO Steve Coe—causing carbon atoms to break free of their molecular bonds. Under the right conditions, those liberated bits of carbon will settle out onto a substrate—typically a flat, square plate of a synthetic diamond produced with the HPHT method—forming layer upon layer of diamond.

    “It’s like snow falling on a table on your back porch,” Jason Payne, the founder and CEO of lab-grown diamond jewelry company Ada Diamonds, told me.

    Scientists have been forging gem-quality diamonds with HPHT for longer, but today, CVD has become the method of choice for those selling larger bridal stones. That’s in part because it’s easier to control impurities and make diamonds with very high clarity, according to Coe. Still, each method has its advantages—Payne said that HPHT is faster and the diamonds typically have better color (which is to say, less of it)—and some companies, like Ada, purchase stones grown in both ways.

    However they’re made, lab-grown diamonds have the same exceptional hardness, stiffness, and thermal conductivity as their Earth-mined counterparts. Cut, they can dazzle with the same brilliance and fire—a technical term to describe how well the diamond scatters light like a prism. The GIA even grades them according to the same 4Cs—cut, clarity, color, and carat—that gemologists use to assess diamonds formed in the Earth, although it uses a slightly different terminology to report the color and clarity grades for lab-grown stones.

    They’re so similar, in fact, that lab-grown diamond entering the larger diamond supply without any disclosures has become a major concern across the jewelry industry, particularly when it comes to melee stones from Asia. It’s something major retailers are now investing thousands of dollars in sophisticated detection equipment to suss out by searching for minute differences in, say, their crystal shape or for impurities like nitrogen (much less common in lab-grown diamond, according to Shigley).

    Those differences may be a lifeline for retailers hoping to weed out lab-grown diamonds, but for companies focused on them, they can become another selling point. The lack of nitrogen in diamonds produced with the CVD method, for instance, gives them an exceptional chemical purity that allows them to be classified as type IIa; a rare and coveted breed that accounts for just 2 percent of those found in nature. Meanwhile, the ability to control everything about the growth process allows companies like Lightbox to adjust the formula and produce incredibly rare blue and pink diamonds as part of their standard product line. (In fact, these colored gemstones have made up over half of the company’s sales since launch, according to Coe.)

    And while lab-grown diamonds boast the same sparkle as their Earthly counterparts, they do so at a significant discount. Zimnisky said that today, your typical one carat, medium quality diamond grown in a lab will sell for about $3,600, compared with $6,100 for its Earth-mined counterpart—a discount of about 40 percent. Two years ago, that discount was only 18 percent. And while the price drop has “slightly tapered off” as Zimnisky put it, he expects it will fall further thanks in part to the aforementioned ramp up in Chinese production, as well as technological improvements. (The market is also shifting in response to Lightbox, which De Beers is using to position lab-grown diamonds as mass produced items for fashion jewelry, and which is selling its stones, ungraded, at the controversial low price of $800 per carat—a discount of nearly 90 percent.)

    Zimnisky said that if the price falls too fast, it could devalue lab-grown diamonds in the eyes of consumers. But for now, at least, paying less seems to be a selling point. A 2018 consumer research survey by MVI Marketing found that most of those polled would choose a larger lab-grown diamond over a smaller mined diamond of the same price.

    “The thing [consumers] seem most compelled by is the ability to trade up in size and quality at the same price,” Garard of IGDA said.

    Still, for buyers and sellers alike, price is only part of the story. Many in the lab-grown diamond world market their product as an ethical or eco-friendly alternative to mined diamonds.

    But those sales pitches aren’t without controversy.
    A variety of lab-grown diamond products arrayed on a desk at Ada Diamonds showroom in Manhattan. The stone in the upper left gets its blue color from boron. Diamonds tinted yellow (top center) usually get their color from small amounts of nitrogen.
    Photo: Sam Cannon (Earther)
    Dazzling promises

    As Anna-Mieke Anderson tells it, she didn’t enter the diamond world to become a corporate tycoon. She did it to try and fix a mistake.

    In 1999, Anderson purchased herself a diamond. Some years later, in 2005, her father asked her where it came from. Nonplussed, she told him it came from the jewelry store. But that wasn’t what he was asking: He wanted to know where it really came from.

    “I actually had no idea,” Anderson told Earther. “That led me to do a mountain of research.”

    That research eventually led Anderson to conclude that she had likely bought a diamond mined under horrific conditions. She couldn’t be sure, because the certificate of purchase included no place of origin. But around the time of her purchase, civil wars funded by diamond mining were raging across Angola, Sierra Leone, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Liberia, fueling “widespread devastation” as Global Witness put it in 2006. At the height of the diamond wars in the late ‘90s, the watchdog group estimates that as many as 15 percent of diamonds entering the market were conflict diamonds. Even those that weren’t actively fueling a war were often being mined in dirty, hazardous conditions; sometimes by children.

    “I couldn’t believe I’d bought into this,” Anderson said.

    To try and set things right, Anderson began sponsoring a boy living in a Liberian community impacted by the blood diamond trade. The experience was so eye-opening, she says, that she eventually felt compelled to sponsor more children. Selling conflict-free jewelry seemed like a fitting way to raise money to do so, but after a great deal more research, Anderson decided she couldn’t in good faith consider any diamond pulled from the Earth to be truly conflict-free in either the humanitarian or environmental sense. While diamond miners were, by the early 2000s, getting their gems certified “conflict free” according to the UN-backed Kimberley Process, the certification scheme’s definition of a conflict diamond—one sold by rebel groups to finance armed conflicts against governments—felt far too narrow.

    “That [conflict definition] eliminates anything to do with the environment, or eliminates a child mining it, or someone who was a slave, or beaten, or raped,” Anderson said.

    And so she started looking into science, and in 2007, launching MiaDonna as one of the world’s first lab-grown diamond jewelry companies. The business has been activism-oriented from the get-go, with at least five percent of its annual earnings—and more than 20 percent for the last three years—going into The Greener Diamond, Anderson’s charity foundation which has funded a wide range of projects, from training former child soldiers in Sierra Leone to grow food to sponsoring kids orphaned by the West African Ebola outbreak.

    MiaDonna isn’t the only company that positions itself as an ethical alternative to the traditional diamond industry. Brilliant Earth, which sells what it says are carefully-sourced mined and lab-created diamonds, also donates a small portion of its profits to supporting mining communities. Other lab-grown diamond companies market themselves as “ethical,” “conflict-free,” or “world positive.” Payne of Ada Diamonds sees, in lab-grown diamonds, not just shiny baubles, but a potential to improve medicine, clean up pollution, and advance society in countless other ways—and he thinks the growing interest in lab-grown diamond jewelry will help propel us toward that future.

    Others, however, say black-and-white characterizations when it comes to social impact of mined diamonds versus lab-grown stones are unfair. “I have a real problem with people claiming one is ethical and another is not,” Estelle Levin-Nally, founder and CEO of Levin Sources, which advocates for better governance in the mining sector, told Earther. “I think it’s always about your politics. And ethics are subjective.”

    Saleem Ali, an environmental researcher at the University of Delaware who serves on the board of the Diamonds and Development Initiative, agrees. He says the mining industry has, on the whole, worked hard to turn itself around since the height of the diamond wars and that governance is “much better today” than it used to be. Human rights watchdog Global Witness also says that “significant progress” has been made to curb the conflict diamond trade, although as Alice Harle, Senior Campaigner with Global Witness told Earther via email, diamonds do still fuel conflict, particularly in the Central African Republic and Zimbabwe.

    Most industry observers seems to agree that the Kimberley Process is outdated and inadequate, and that more work is needed to stamp out other abuses, including child labor and forced labor, in the artisanal and small-scale diamond mining sector. Today, large-scale mining operations don’t tend to see these kinds of problems, according to Julianne Kippenberg, associate director for children’s rights at Human Rights Watch, but she notes that there may be other community impacts surrounding land rights and forced resettlement.

    The flip side, Ali and Levin-Nally say, is that well-regulated mining operations can be an important source of economic development and livelihood. Ali cites Botswana and Russia as prime examples of places where large-scale mining operations have become “major contributors to the economy.” Dmitry Amelkin, head of strategic projects and analytics for Russian diamond mining giant Alrosa, echoed that sentiment in an email to Earther, noting that diamonds transformed Botswana “from one of the poorest [countries] in the world to a middle-income country” with revenues from mining representing almost a third of its GDP.

    In May, a report commissioned by the Diamond Producers Association (DPA), a trade organization representing the world’s largest diamond mining companies, estimated that worldwide, its members generate nearly $4 billion in direct revenue for employees and contractors, along with another $6.8 billion in benefits via “local procurement of goods and services.” DPA CEO Jean-Marc Lieberherr said this was a story diamond miners need to do a better job telling.

    “The industry has undergone such changes since the Blood Diamond movie,” he said, referring to the blockbuster 2006 film starring Leonardo DiCaprio that drew global attention to the problem of conflict diamonds. “And yet people’s’ perceptions haven’t evolved. I think the main reason is we have not had a voice, we haven’t communicated.”

    But conflict and human rights abuses aren’t the only issues that have plagued the diamond industry. There’s also the lasting environmental impact of the mining itself. In the case of large-scale commercial mines, this typically entails using heavy machinery and explosives to bore deep into those kimberlite tubes in search of precious stones.

    Some, like Maya Koplyova, a geologist at the University of British Columbia who studies diamonds and the rocks they’re found in, see this as far better than many other forms of mining. “The environmental footprint is the fThere’s also the question of just how representative the report’s energy consumption estimates for lab-grown diamonds are. While he wouldn’t offer a specific number, Coe said that De Beers’ Group diamond manufacturer Element Six—arguably the most advanced laboratory-grown diamond company in the world—has “substantially lower” per carat energy requirements than the headline figures found inside the new report. When asked why this was not included, Rick Lord, ESG analyst at Trucost, the S&P global group that conducted the analysis, said it chose to focus on energy estimates in the public record, but that after private consultation with Element Six it did not believe their data would “materially alter” the emissions estimates in the study.

    Finally, it’s important to consider the source of the carbon emissions. While the new report states that about 40 percent of the emissions associated with mining a diamond come from fossil fuel-powered vehicles and equipment, emissions associated with growing a diamond come mainly from electric power. Today, about 68 percent of lab-grown diamonds hail from China, Singapore, and India combined according to Zimnisky, where the power is drawn from largely fossil fuel-powered grids. But there is, at least, an opportunity to switch to renewables and drive that carbon footprint way down.
    “The reality is both mining and manufacturing consume energy and probably the best thing we could do is focus on reducing energy consumption.”

    And some companies do seem to be trying to do that. Anderson of MiaDonna says the company only sources its diamonds from facilities in the U.S., and that it’s increasingly trying to work with producers that use renewable energy. Lab-grown diamond company Diamond Foundry grows its stones inside plasma reactors running “as hot as the outer layer of the sun,” per its website, and while it wouldn’t offer any specific numbers, that presumably uses more energy than your typical operation running at lower temperatures. However, company spokesperson Ye-Hui Goldenson said its Washington State ‘megacarat factory’ was cited near a well-maintained hydropower source so that the diamonds could be produced with renewable energy. The company offsets other fossil fuel-driven parts of its operation by purchasing carbon credits.

    Lightbox’s diamonds currently come from Element Six’s UK-based facilities. The company is, however, building a $94-million facility near Portland, Oregon, that’s expected to come online by 2020. Coe said he estimates about 45 percent of its power will come from renewable sources.

    “The reality is both mining and manufacturing consume energy and probably the best thing we could do is focus on reducing energy consumption,” Coe said. “That’s something we’re focused on in Lightbox.”

    In spite of that, Lightbox is somewhat notable among lab-grown diamond jewelry brands in that, in the words of Morrison, it is “not claiming this to be an eco-friendly product.”

    “While it is true that we don’t dig holes in the ground, the energy consumption is not insignificant,” Morrison told Earther. “And I think we felt very uncomfortable promoting on that.”
    Various diamonds created in a lab, as seen at the Ada Diamonds showroom in Manhattan.
    Photo: Sam Cannon (Earther)
    The real real

    The fight over how lab-grown diamonds can and should market themselves is still heating up.

    On March 26, the FTC sent letters to eight lab-grown and diamond simulant companies warning them against making unsubstantiated assertions about the environmental benefits of their products—its first real enforcement action after updating its jewelry guides last year. The letters, first obtained by JCK news director Rob Bates under a Freedom of Information Act request, also warned companies that their advertising could falsely imply the products are mined diamonds, illustrating that, even though the agency now says a lab-grown diamond is a diamond, the specific origin remains critically important. A letter to Diamond Foundry, for instance, notes that the company has at times advertised its stones as “above-ground real” without the qualification of “laboratory-made.” It’s easy to see how a consumer might miss the implication.

    But in a sense, that’s what all of this is: A fight over what’s real.
    “It’s a nuanced reality that we’re in. They are a type of diamond.”

    Another letter, sent to FTC attorney Reenah Kim by the nonprofit trade organization Jewelers Vigilance Committee on April 2, makes it clear that many in the industry still believe that’s a term that should be reserved exclusively for gems formed inside the Earth. The letter, obtained by Earther under FOIA, urges the agency to continue restricting the use of the terms “real,” “genuine,” “natural,” “precious,” and “semi-precious” to Earth-mined diamonds and gemstones. Even the use of such terms in conjunction with “laboratory grown,” the letter argues, “will create even more confusion in an already confused and evolving marketplace.”

    JVC President Tiffany Stevens told Earther that the letter was a response to a footnote in an explanatory document about the FTC’s recent jewelry guide changes, which suggested the agency was considering removing a clause about real, precious, natural and genuine only being acceptable modifiers for gems mined from the Earth.

    “We felt that given the current commercial environment, that we didn’t think it was a good time to take that next step,” Stevens told Earther. As Stevens put it, the changes the FTC recently made, including expanding the definition of diamond and tweaking the descriptors companies can use to label laboratory-grown diamonds as such, have already been “wildly misinterpreted” by some lab-grown diamond sellers that are no longer making the “necessary disclosures.”

    Asked whether the JVC thinks lab-grown diamonds are, in fact, real diamonds, Stevens demurred.

    “It’s a nuanced reality that we’re in,” she said. “They are a type of diamond.”

    Change is afoot in the diamond world. Mined diamond production may have already peaked, according to the 2018 Bain & Company report. Lab diamonds are here to stay, although where they’re going isn’t entirely clear. Zimnisky expects that in a few years—as Lightbox’s new facility comes online and mass production of lab diamonds continues to ramp up overseas—the price industry-wide will fall to about 80 percent less than a mined diamond. At that point, he wonders whether lab-grown diamonds will start to lose their sparkle.

    Payne isn’t too worried about a price slide, which he says is happening across the diamond industry and which he expects will be “linear, not exponential” on the lab-grown side. He points out that lab-grown diamond market is still limited by supply, and that the largest lab-grown gems remain quite rare. Payne and Zimnisky both see the lab-grown diamond market bifurcating into cheaper, mass-produced gems and premium-quality stones sold by those that can maintain a strong brand. A sense that they’re selling something authentic and, well, real.

    “So much has to do with consumer psychology,” Zimnisky said.

    Some will only ever see diamonds as authentic if they formed inside the Earth. They’re drawn, as Kathryn Money, vice president of strategy and merchandising at Brilliant Earth put it, to “the history and romanticism” of diamonds; to a feeling that’s sparked by holding a piece of our ancient world. To an essence more than a function.

    Others, like Anderson, see lab-grown diamonds as the natural (to use a loaded word) evolution of diamond. “We’re actually running out of [mined] diamonds,” she said. “There is an end in sight.” Payne agreed, describing what he sees as a “looming death spiral” for diamond mining.

    Mined diamonds will never go away. We’ve been digging them up since antiquity, and they never seem to lose their sparkle. But most major mines are being exhausted. And with technology making it easier to grow diamonds just as they are getting more difficult to extract from the Earth, the lab-grown diamond industry’s grandstanding about its future doesn’t feel entirely unreasonable.

    There’s a reason why, as Payne said, “the mining industry as a whole is still quite scared of this product.” ootprint of digging the hole in the ground and crushing [the rock],” Koplyova said, noting that there’s no need to add strong acids or heavy metals like arsenic (used in gold mining) to liberate the gems.

    Still, those holes can be enormous. The Mir Mine, a now-abandoned open pit mine in Eastern Siberia, is so large—reportedly stretching 3,900 feet across and 1,700 feet deep—that the Russian government has declared it a no-fly zone owing to the pit’s ability to create dangerous air currents. It’s visible from space.

    While companies will often rehabilitate other land to offset the impact of mines, kimberlite mining itself typically leaves “a permanent dent in the earth’s surface,” as a 2014 report by market research company Frost & Sullivan put it.

    “It’s a huge impact as far as I’m concerned,” said Kevin Krajick, senior editor for science news at Columbia University’s Earth Institute who wrote a book on the discovery of diamonds in far northern Canada. Krajick noted that in remote mines, like those of the far north, it’s not just the physical hole to consider, but all the development required to reach a previously-untouched area, including roads and airstrips, roaring jets and diesel-powered trucks.

    Diamonds grown in factories clearly have a smaller physical footprint. According to the Frost & Sullivan report, they also use less water and create less waste. It’s for these reasons that Ali thinks diamond mining “will never be able to compete” with lab-grown diamonds from an environmental perspective.

    “The mining industry should not even by trying to do that,” he said.

    Of course, this is capitalism, so try to compete is exactly what the DPA is now doing. That same recent report that touted the mining industry’s economic benefits also asserts that mined diamonds have a carbon footprint three times lower than that of lab-grown diamonds, on average. The numbers behind that conclusion, however, don’t tell the full story.

    Growing diamonds does take considerable energy. The exact amount can vary greatly, however, depending on the specific nature of the growth process. These are details manufacturers are typically loathe to disclose, but Payne of Ada Diamonds says he estimates the most efficient players in the game today use about 250 kilowatt hour (kWh) of electricity per cut, polished carat of diamond; roughly what a U.S. household consumes in 9 days. Other estimates run higher. Citing unnamed sources, industry publication JCK Online reported that a modern HPHT run can use up to 700 kWh per carat, while CVD production can clock in north of 1,000 kWh per carat.

    Pulling these and several other public-record estimates, along with information on where in the world today’s lab diamonds are being grown and the energy mix powering the producer nations’ electric grids, the DPA-commissioned study estimated that your typical lab-grown diamond results in some 511 kg of carbon emissions per cut, polished carat. Using information provided by mining companies on fuel and electricity consumption, along with other greenhouse gas sources on the mine site, it found that the average mined carat was responsible for just 160 kg of carbon emissions.

    One limitation here is that the carbon footprint estimate for mining focused only on diamond production, not the years of work entailed in developing a mine. As Ali noted, developing a mine can take a lot of energy, particularly for those sited in remote locales where equipment needs to be hauled long distances by trucks or aircraft.

    There’s also the question of just how representative the report’s energy consumption estimates for lab-grown diamonds are. While he wouldn’t offer a specific number, Coe said that De Beers’ Group diamond manufacturer Element Six—arguably the most advanced laboratory-grown diamond company in the world—has “substantially lower” per carat energy requirements than the headline figures found inside the new report. When asked why this was not included, Rick Lord, ESG analyst at Trucost, the S&P global group that conducted the analysis, said it chose to focus on energy estimates in the public record, but that after private consultation with Element Six it did not believe their data would “materially alter” the emissions estimates in the study.

    Finally, it’s important to consider the source of the carbon emissions. While the new report states that about 40 percent of the emissions associated with mining a diamond come from fossil fuel-powered vehicles and equipment, emissions associated with growing a diamond come mainly from electric power. Today, about 68 percent of lab-grown diamonds hail from China, Singapore, and India combined according to Zimnisky, where the power is drawn from largely fossil fuel-powered grids. But there is, at least, an opportunity to switch to renewables and drive that carbon footprint way down.
    “The reality is both mining and manufacturing consume energy and probably the best thing we could do is focus on reducing energy consumption.”

    And some companies do seem to be trying to do that. Anderson of MiaDonna says the company only sources its diamonds from facilities in the U.S., and that it’s increasingly trying to work with producers that use renewable energy. Lab-grown diamond company Diamond Foundry grows its stones inside plasma reactors running “as hot as the outer layer of the sun,” per its website, and while it wouldn’t offer any specific numbers, that presumably uses more energy than your typical operation running at lower temperatures. However, company spokesperson Ye-Hui Goldenson said its Washington State ‘megacarat factory’ was cited near a well-maintained hydropower source so that the diamonds could be produced with renewable energy. The company offsets other fossil fuel-driven parts of its operation by purchasing carbon credits.

    Lightbox’s diamonds currently come from Element Six’s UK-based facilities. The company is, however, building a $94-million facility near Portland, Oregon, that’s expected to come online by 2020. Coe said he estimates about 45 percent of its power will come from renewable sources.

    “The reality is both mining and manufacturing consume energy and probably the best thing we could do is focus on reducing energy consumption,” Coe said. “That’s something we’re focused on in Lightbox.”

    In spite of that, Lightbox is somewhat notable among lab-grown diamond jewelry brands in that, in the words of Morrison, it is “not claiming this to be an eco-friendly product.”

    “While it is true that we don’t dig holes in the ground, the energy consumption is not insignificant,” Morrison told Earther. “And I think we felt very uncomfortable promoting on that.”
    Various diamonds created in a lab, as seen at the Ada Diamonds showroom in Manhattan.
    Photo: Sam Cannon (Earther)
    The real real

    The fight over how lab-grown diamonds can and should market themselves is still heating up.

    On March 26, the FTC sent letters to eight lab-grown and diamond simulant companies warning them against making unsubstantiated assertions about the environmental benefits of their products—its first real enforcement action after updating its jewelry guides last year. The letters, first obtained by JCK news director Rob Bates under a Freedom of Information Act request, also warned companies that their advertising could falsely imply the products are mined diamonds, illustrating that, even though the agency now says a lab-grown diamond is a diamond, the specific origin remains critically important. A letter to Diamond Foundry, for instance, notes that the company has at times advertised its stones as “above-ground real” without the qualification of “laboratory-made.” It’s easy to see how a consumer might miss the implication.

    But in a sense, that’s what all of this is: A fight over what’s real.
    “It’s a nuanced reality that we’re in. They are a type of diamond.”

    Another letter, sent to FTC attorney Reenah Kim by the nonprofit trade organization Jewelers Vigilance Committee on April 2, makes it clear that many in the industry still believe that’s a term that should be reserved exclusively for gems formed inside the Earth. The letter, obtained by Earther under FOIA, urges the agency to continue restricting the use of the terms “real,” “genuine,” “natural,” “precious,” and “semi-precious” to Earth-mined diamonds and gemstones. Even the use of such terms in conjunction with “laboratory grown,” the letter argues, “will create even more confusion in an already confused and evolving marketplace.”

    JVC President Tiffany Stevens told Earther that the letter was a response to a footnote in an explanatory document about the FTC’s recent jewelry guide changes, which suggested the agency was considering removing a clause about real, precious, natural and genuine only being acceptable modifiers for gems mined from the Earth.

    “We felt that given the current commercial environment, that we didn’t think it was a good time to take that next step,” Stevens told Earther. As Stevens put it, the changes the FTC recently made, including expanding the definition of diamond and tweaking the descriptors companies can use to label laboratory-grown diamonds as such, have already been “wildly misinterpreted” by some lab-grown diamond sellers that are no longer making the “necessary disclosures.”

    Asked whether the JVC thinks lab-grown diamonds are, in fact, real diamonds, Stevens demurred.

    “It’s a nuanced reality that we’re in,” she said. “They are a type of diamond.”

    Change is afoot in the diamond world. Mined diamond production may have already peaked, according to the 2018 Bain & Company report. Lab diamonds are here to stay, although where they’re going isn’t entirely clear. Zimnisky expects that in a few years—as Lightbox’s new facility comes online and mass production of lab diamonds continues to ramp up overseas—the price industry-wide will fall to about 80 percent less than a mined diamond. At that point, he wonders whether lab-grown diamonds will start to lose their sparkle.

    Payne isn’t too worried about a price slide, which he says is happening across the diamond industry and which he expects will be “linear, not exponential” on the lab-grown side. He points out that lab-grown diamond market is still limited by supply, and that the largest lab-grown gems remain quite rare. Payne and Zimnisky both see the lab-grown diamond market bifurcating into cheaper, mass-produced gems and premium-quality stones sold by those that can maintain a strong brand. A sense that they’re selling something authentic and, well, real.

    “So much has to do with consumer psychology,” Zimnisky said.

    Some will only ever see diamonds as authentic if they formed inside the Earth. They’re drawn, as Kathryn Money, vice president of strategy and merchandising at Brilliant Earth put it, to “the history and romanticism” of diamonds; to a feeling that’s sparked by holding a piece of our ancient world. To an essence more than a function.

    Others, like Anderson, see lab-grown diamonds as the natural (to use a loaded word) evolution of diamond. “We’re actually running out of [mined] diamonds,” she said. “There is an end in sight.” Payne agreed, describing what he sees as a “looming death spiral” for diamond mining.

    Mined diamonds will never go away. We’ve been digging them up since antiquity, and they never seem to lose their sparkle. But most major mines are being exhausted. And with technology making it easier to grow diamonds just as they are getting more difficult to extract from the Earth, the lab-grown diamond industry’s grandstanding about its future doesn’t feel entirely unreasonable.

    There’s a reason why, as Payne said, “the mining industry as a whole is still quite scared of this product.”

    #dimants #Afrique #technologie #capitalisme

  • Report: Russia behind disruptions in Ben Gurion GPS systems - Israel National News
    http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/265174

    The Airports Authority announced yesterday that for three weeks pilots trying to land at Ben-Gurion Airport have been encountering mysterious disruptions in the aircraft’s navigation system.

    Galei Tzahal revealed that senior officials involved in the affair estimate that the reason for these disruptions is a hostile attack by Russia. It was also revealed that as part of the attempts to resolve the issue, a senior Israeli defense official is currently in Europe, where he met with American officials to discuss, among other things, the issue of the disruptions.

    The Airports Authority stated in connection with the disruptions: “As a result of the disturbances, some of the entry procedures for landing have been modified, via the safest and most professional medium at airports around the world (the ILS system) and in Israel, in particular. Ben Gurion Airport supervisors constantly carry out full escort of the aircraft taking off and landing, and at no stage was there a safety incident related to GPS interference in connection with the accuracy of navigation and flight routes.”

    It also noted that “From the first day that the disturbance appeared, officials in Israel have been working to solve the problem and find the source of the problem.”

    The IDF said: “This is an incident in the civilian arena, which the IDF is assisting with technological means, in order to allow freedom of action in the airspace of the State of Israel. At this point in time, this incident does not affect the IDF’s activity. The IDF is constantly working to preserve freedom of action and optimal operations across the spectrum.”

    #israël #russie #pirates_de_l'air

  • Next online battle will play on fear of bots, says Facebook official
    https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2019/jun/25/next-online-battle-will-play-on-fear-of-bots-says-facebook-official

    New ‘influence operations’ will openly advertise participation in debate instead of hiding it The next wave of “influence operations” like those that Russia used to target the 2016 US election will aim to destabilise debate by making voters think bots are everywhere, Facebook’s head of cybersecurity policy has said. Nathaniel Gleicher, who runs the company’s response to politically motivated malfeasance on its platform, said groups such as Russia’s Internet Research Agency (IRA) were (...)

    #IRA #bot #manipulation #élections #publicité

    ##publicité
    https://i.guim.co.uk/img/media/ebecdef2c418ada51be59c66b4601a1d54a90c76/6_0_3433_2060/master/3433.jpg

  • Scary Fast
    https://publicintegrity.org/national-security/future-of-warfare/hypersonic-weapons-race

    Griffin was referring to a revolutionary new type of weapon, one that would have the unprecedented ability to maneuver and then to strike almost any target in the world within a matter of minutes. Capable of traveling at more than 15 times the speed of sound, hypersonic missiles arrive at their targets in a blinding, destructive flash, before any sonic booms or other meaningful warning. So far, there are no surefire defenses. Fast, effective, precise and unstoppable — these are rare but highly desired characteristics on the modern battlefield. And the missiles are being developed not only by the United States but also by China, Russia and other countries.

    [...] In 2018, Congress expressed its consensus in a law requiring that an American hypersonic weapon be operational by October 2022. This year, the Trump administration’s proposed defense budget included $2.6 billion for hypersonics, and national security industry experts project that the annual budget will reach $5 billion by the middle of the next decade. The immediate aim is to create two deployable systems within three years. Key funding is likely to be approved this summer. Griffin has spoken about America eventually having an arsenal of “a couple of thousand prompt strike missiles.”

    [...] Development of #hypersonics is moving so quickly, however, that it threatens to outpace any real discussion about the potential perils of such weapons, including how they may disrupt efforts to avoid accidental conflict, especially during crises. There are currently no international agreements on how or when hypersonic missiles can be used, nor are there any plans between any countries to start those discussions. Instead, the rush to possess weapons of incredible speed and maneuverability has pushed the United States into a new arms race with Russia and China — one that could, some experts worry, upend existing norms of deterrence and renew Cold War-era tensions.

  • Russia Squeezing Embattled Venezuela for Tax-Free Gas Expansion - Bloomberg
    https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-06-20/russia-squeezing-embattled-venezuela-for-tax-free-gas-expansion


    Photographer: Wil Riera/Bloomberg

    • Venezuela offers Rosneft path to amplify natural gas dominance
    • Expropriation clause gives Moscow-based company a hedge

    Russia’s state-controlled oil giant, Rosneft PJSC, is extracting concessions from crisis-ridden Venezuela to enter the offshore natural gas market on the cheap, a potential headache for the U.S. and Europe.

    An accord signed by both Russia and Venezuela earlier this month will give Rosneft tax breaks to produce and export gas from the Patao and Mejillones fields off Venezuela’s east coast. The document, which also includes a “fair market price” in the event of an expropriation, makes changes to a bilateral agreement reached in 2009, according to a filing by the Russian government.

    The deal underscores how Russia is both propping up and gaining from the Nicolas Maduro regime at a time when the U.S. is sanctioning Maduro and China has cut its support. Venezuelan gas could eventually offer Russia new entry points into both Asia and Europe.

    China is backing away in terms of its financial exposure,” Andrew Stanley, an associate fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said in a telephone interview. “Whereas the Russians, over the past few years, they’ve gone in the opposite direction, they’ve kind of doubled down and seen this as an opportunistic plan.

    Since 2014, Rosneft has loaned about $6.5 billion to Venezuela in exchange for oil, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Petroleos de Venezuela SA, or PDVSA, has been repaying the loans by delivering barrels to Rosneft, and had an outstanding debt of about $1.8 billion in the first quarter, according to a company presentation.

    As a result of the changes signed by Russian President Vladimir Putin, Rosneft and its suppliers will be exempt from value added and import taxes to develop the two gas fields, which are near to where Exxon Mobil Corp. is rushing to extract oil in neighboring Guyana. The agreement was filed online by the Russian legal information website, which publishes orders by the president and applied international treaties.

  • No Palestinians, no Israelis, maybe even no journalists: What’s left of Kushner’s Bahrain summit - Israel News - Haaretz.com

    The White House’s initial sense of euphoria about Arab participation at its economic workshop on June 25 has eroded, much to the (unspoken) relief of Jerusalem
    Amir Tibon and Noa Landau (Washington) Jun 18, 2019

    https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/.premium-no-palestinians-no-israelis-no-journalists-what-s-left-of-kushner-

    WASHINGTON - With just a week to go before the Bahrain conference convenes to discuss the economic chapter of the Trump administration’s Middle East peace plan, things are looking increasingly gloomy for the U.S. team led by Jared Kushner.

    The White House had surprised journalists in Washington and Israel on an otherwise boring Sunday last month when it announced that the workshop would take place in the Gulf state on June 25-26. That announcement created a temporary sense of momentum behind the so-called deal of the century, and the small team working on the plan viewed Bahrain’s sponsorship of the event as a major achievement.

    But there have been a series of setbacks since then. The Palestinian Authority is boycotting the conference and has succeeded in convincing Palestinian business leaders not to attend as well. Russia and China — two of the most important economic players in the new Middle East — aren’t expected to attend, while Arab countries such as Iraq and Lebanon have also announced they won’t be participating.

  • Oman attack: Iran is the immediate, but unlikely, suspect - Iran - Haaretz.com

    Oman attack: Iran is the immediate, but unlikely, suspect
    U.S. officials rushed to point to Tehran, but somehow the world’s leading intelligence services failed to discover who is actually behind the strike. And even if they knew, what could be done without risking all-out war?
    Zvi Bar’el | Jun. 14, 2019 | 8:36 AM | 3
    https://www.haaretz.com/middle-east-news/iran/.premium-oman-attack-iran-is-the-immediate-but-unlikely-suspect-1.7368134


    A unnamed senior U.S. Defense Department official was quick to tell CBS that Iran was “apparently” behind the Thursday attack on two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman, followed by State Secretary Mike Pompeo who later told reported that it was his government’s assessment. There’s nothing new about that, but neither is it a decisive proof.

    Who, then, struck the tankers? Whom does this strike serve and what can be done against such attacks?

    In all previous attacks in the Gulf in recent weeks Iran was naturally taken to be the immediate suspect. After all, Iran had threatened that if it could now sell its oil in the Gulf, other countries would not be able to ship oil through it; Tehran threatened to block the Strait of Hormuz, and in any case it’s in the sights of the United States, Saudi Arabia and Israel. But this explanation is too easy.

    The Iranian regime is in the thrones of a major diplomatic struggle to persuade Europe and its allies, Russia and China, not to take the path of pulling out of the 2015 nuclear agreement. At the same time, Iran is sure that the United States is only looking for an excuse to attack it. Any violent initiative on Tehran’s part could only make things worse and bring it close to a military conflict, which it must avoid.

    Iran has announced it would scale back its commitments under the nuclear deal by expanding its low-level uranium enrichment and not transferring the remainder of its enriched uranium and heavy water to another country, as the agreement requires. The International Atomic Energy Agency’s reports reveal that it has indeed stepped up enrichment, but not in a way that could support a military nuclear program.

    It seems that alongside its diplomatic efforts, Iran prefers to threaten to harm the nuclear deal itself, responding to Washington with the same token, rather than escalate the situation to a military clash.

    Other possible suspects are the Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen, who continue to pound Saudi targets with medium-range missiles, as was the case last week with strikes on the Abha and Jizan airports, near the Yemeni border, which wounded 26 people. The Houthis have also fired missiles at Riyadh and hit targets in the Gulf. In response, Saudi Arabia launched a massive missile strike on Houthi-controlled areas in northern Yemen.

    The strike on the oil tankers may have been a response to the response, but if this is the case, it goes against Iran’s policy, which seeks to neutralize any pretexts for a military clash in the Gulf. The question, therefore, is whether Iran has full control over all the actions the Houthis take, and whether the aid it gives them commits them fully to its policies, or whether they see assaults on Saudi targets as a separate, local battle, cut off from Iran’s considerations.

    The Houthis have claimed responsibility for some of their actions in Saudi territory in the past, and at times even took the trouble of explaining the reasons behind this assault or the other. But not this time.

    Yemen also hosts large Al-Qaida cells and Islamic State outposts, with both groups having a running account with Saudi Arabia and apparently the capabilities to carry out strikes on vessels moving through the Gulf.

    In the absence of confirmed and reliable information on the source of the fire, we may meanwhile discount the possibility of a Saudi or American provocation at which Iran has hinted, but such things have happened before. However, we may also wonder why some of the most sophisticated intelligence services in the world are having so much trouble discovering who actually carried out these attacks.

    Thwarting such attacks with no precise intelligence is an almost impossible task, but even if the identity of those responsible for it is known, the question of how to respond to the threat would still arise.

    If it turns out that Iran initiated or even carried out these attacks, American and Saudi military forces could attack its Revolutionary Guards’ marine bases along the Gulf coast, block Iranian shipping in the Gulf and persuade European countries to withdraw from the nuclear deal, claiming that continuing relations with Iran would mean supporting terrorism in general, and maritime terrorism in particular.

    The concern is that such a military response would lead Iran to escalate its own and openly strike American and Saudi targets in the name of self-defense and protecting its sovereignty. In that case, a large-scale war would be inevitable. But there’s no certainty that U.S. President Donald Trump, who wants to extricate his forces from military involvement in the Middle East, truly seeks such a conflict, which could suck more and more American forces into this sensitive arena.

    An escape route from this scenario would require intensive mediation efforts between Iran and the United States, but therein lies one major difficulty – finding an authoritative mediator that could pressure both parties. Russia or China are not suitable candidates, and ties between Washington and the European Union are acrimonious.

    It seems that all sides would be satisfied if they could place responsibility for the attacks on the Houthis or other terror groups. That is not to say that the United States or Saudi Arabia have any magic solutions when it comes to the Houthis; far from it. The war in Yemen has been going on for five years now with no military resolution, and increased bombardment of concentrations of Houthi forces could only expand their efforts to show their strength. But the United States would pay none of the diplomatic or military price for assaults on the Houthis it would for a forceful violent response against Iran itself.

    If sporadic, small-scale attacks raise such complex dilemmas, one can perhaps dream of an all-out war with Iran, but it is enough to look at the chaos in Iraq and Afghanistan to grow extremely cautious of the trajectory in which such dreams become a nightmare that lasts for decades.❞
    #Oman #Iran
    https://seenthis.net/messages/786937

    • UPDATE 1-"Flying objects" damaged Japanese tanker during attack in Gulf of Oman
      Junko Fujita – June 14, 2019
      (Adds comments from company president)
      By Junko Fujita
      https://www.reuters.com/article/mideast-tanker-japan-damage/update-1-flying-objects-damaged-japanese-tanker-during-attack-in-gulf-of-om

      TOKYO, June 14 (Reuters) - Two “flying objects” damaged a Japanese tanker owned by Kokuka Sangyo Co in an attack on Thursday in the Gulf of Oman, but there was no damage to the cargo of methanol, the company president said on Friday.

      The Kokuka Courageous is now sailing toward the port of Khor Fakkan in the United Arab Emirates, with the crew having returned to the ship after evacuating because of the incident, Kokuka President Yutaka Katada told a press conference. It was being escorted by the U.S. Navy, he said.

      “The crew told us something came flying at the ship, and they found a hole,” Katada said. “Then some crew witnessed the second shot.”

      Katada said there was no possibility that the ship, carrying 25,000 tons of methanol, was hit by a torpedo.

      The United States has blamed Iran for attacking the Kokuka Courageous and another tanker, the Norwegian-owned Front Altair, on Thursday, but Tehran has denied the allegations.

      The ship’s crew saw an Iranian military ship in the vicinity on Thursday night Japan time, Katada said.

      Katada said he did not believe Kokuka Courageous was targetted because it was owned by a Japanese firm. The tanker is registered in Panama and was flying a Panamanian flag, he said.

      “Unless very carefully examined, it would be hard to tell the tanker was operated or owned by Japanese,” he said. (...)

  • Russian biologist plans more CRISPR-edited babies
    https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-019-01770-x

    Je n’ai pas réussi à extraire une simple partie de ce texte, tant l’ensemble me semble complètement hors-jeu. Je partage l’avis de l’auteur de l’article : la folie et l’hubris scientifiques se serrent la main dans le dos de l’humanité. Choisir de surcroit des femmes en difficulté (HIV positive) est bien dans la lignée machiste d’une science qui impose plus qu’elle ne propose.

    La guerre internationale à la réputation, la course à « être le premier » (ici le masculin s’impose), la science sans conscience ne peuvent que provoquer ce genre de dérives. Il faudra réfléchir à une « slow science » et à un réel partage des découvertes, qui permettrait de prendre le temps du recul, et qui pourrait associer la société civile (ici au sens de celle qui n’est pas engagée dans la guerre des sciences).

    The proposal follows a Chinese scientist who claimed to have created twins from edited embryos last year.
    David Cyranoski

    Denis Rebrikov

    Molecular biologist Denis Rebrikov is planning controversial gene-editing experiments in HIV-positive women.

    A Russian scientist says he is planning to produce gene-edited babies, an act that would make him only the second person known to have done this. It would also fly in the face of the scientific consensus that such experiments should be banned until an international ethical framework has agreed on the circumstances and safety measures that would justify them.

    Molecular biologist Denis Rebrikov has told Nature he is considering implanting gene-edited embryos into women, possibly before the end of the year if he can get approval by then. Chinese scientist He Jiankui prompted an international outcry when he announced last November that he had made the world’s first gene-edited babies — twin girls.

    The experiment will target the same gene, called CCR5, that He did, but Rebrikov claims his technique will offer greater benefits, pose fewer risks and be more ethically justifiable and acceptable to the public. Rebrikov plans to disable the gene, which encodes a protein that allows HIV to enter cells, in embryos that will be implanted into HIV-positive mothers, reducing the risk of them passing on the virus to the baby in utero. By contrast, He modified the gene in embryos created from fathers with HIV, which many geneticists said provided little clinical benefit because the risk of a father passing on HIV to his children is minimal.

    Rebrikov heads a genome-editing laboratory at Russia’s largest fertility clinic, the Kulakov National Medical Research Center for Obstetrics, Gynecology and Perinatology in Moscow and is a researcher at the Pirogov Russian National Research Medical University, also in Moscow.

    According to Rebrikov he already has an agreement with an HIV centre in the city to recruit women infected with HIV who want to take part in the experiment.

    But scientists and bioethicists contacted by Nature are troubled by Rebrikov’s plans.

    “The technology is not ready,” says Jennifer Doudna, a University of California Berkeley molecular biologist who pioneered the CRISPR-Cas9 genome-editing system that Rebrikov plans to use. “It is not surprising, but it is very disappointing and unsettling.”

    Alta Charo, a researcher in bioethics and law at the University of Wisconsin-Madison says Rebrikov’s plans are not an ethical use of the technology. “It is irresponsible to proceed with this protocol at this time,” adds Charo, who sits on a World Health Organization committee that is formulating ethical governance policies for human genome editing.
    Rules and regulations

    Implanting gene-edited embryos is banned in many countries. Russia has a law that prohibits genetic engineering in most circumstances, but it is unclear whether or how the rules would be enforced in relation to gene editing in an embryo. And Russia’s regulations on assisted reproduction do not explicitly refer to gene editing, according to a 2017 analysis of such regulations in a range of countries. (The law in China is also ambiguous: in 2003, the health ministry banned genetically modifying human embryos for reproduction but the ban carried no penalties and He’s legal status was and still is not clear).

    Rebrikov expects the health ministry to clarify the rules on the clinical use of gene-editing of embryos in the next nine months. Rebrikov says he feels a sense of urgency to help women with HIV, and is tempted to proceed with his experiments even before Russia hashes out regulations.

    To reduce the chance he would be punished for the experiments, Rebrikov plans to first seek approval from three government agencies, including the health ministry. That could take anywhere from one month to two years, he says.

    Konstantin Severinov, a molecular geneticist who recently helped the government design a funding program for gene-editing research, says such approvals might be difficult. Russia’s powerful Orthodox church opposes gene editing, says Severinov, who splits his time between Rutgers University in Piscataway, New Jersey, and the Skolkovo Institute of Science and Technology near Moscow.

    Before any scientist attempts to implant gene-edited embryos into women there needs to be a transparent, open debate about the scientific feasibility and ethical permissibility, says geneticist George Daley at Harvard Medical School in Boston, Massachusetts, who also heard about Rebrikov’s plans from Nature.

    One reason that gene-edited embryos have created a huge global debate is that, if allowed to grow into babies, the edits can be passed on to future generations — a far-reaching intervention known as altering the germ line. Researchers agree that the technology might, one day, help to eliminate genetic diseases such as sickle-cell anaemia and cystic fibrosis, but much more testing is needed before it is used in the alteration of human beings.

    In the wake of He’s announcement, many scientists renewed calls for an international moratorium on germline editing. Although that has yet to happen, the World Health Organization, the US National Academy of Sciences, the UK’s Royal Society and other prominent organizations have all discussed how to stop unethical and dangerous uses — often defined as ones that pose unnecessary or excessive risk — of genome editing in humans.
    HIV-positive mothers

    Although He was widely criticized for conducting his experiments using sperm from HIV-positive fathers, his argument was that he just wanted to protect people against ever getting the infection. But scientists and ethicists countered that there are other ways to decrease the risk of infection, such as contraceptives. There are also reasonable alternatives, such as drugs, for preventing maternal transmission of HIV, says Charo.

    Rebrikov agrees, and so plans to implant embryos only into a subset of HIV-positive mothers who do not respond to standard anti-HIV drugs. Their risk of transmitting the infection to the child is higher. If editing successfully disables the CCR5 gene, that risk would be greatly reduced, Rebrikov says. “This is a clinical situation which calls for this type of therapy,” he says.

    Most scientists say there is no justification for editing the CCR5 gene in embryos, even so, because the risks don’t outweigh the benefits. Even if the therapy goes as planned, and both copies of the CCR5 gene in cells are disabled, there is still a chance that such babies could become infected with HIV. The cell-surface protein encoded by CCR5 is thought to be the gateway for some 90% of HIV infections, but getting rid of it won’t affect other routes of HIV infection. There are still many unknowns about the safety of gene editing in embryos, says Gaetan Burgio at the Australian National University in Canberra. And what are the benefits of editing this gene, he asks. “I don’t see them.”
    Hitting the target

    There are also concerns about the safety of gene editing in embryos more generally. Rebrikov claims that his experiment — which, like He’s, will use the CRISPR-Cas9 genome-editing tool — will be safe.

    One big concern with He’s experiment — and with gene-editing in embryos more generally — is that CRISPR-Cas9 can cause unintended ‘off-target’ mutations away from the target gene, and that these could be dangerous if they, for instance, switched off a tumour-suppressor gene. But Rebrikov says that he is developing a technique that can ensure that there are no ‘off-target’ mutations; he plans to post preliminary findings online within a month, possibly on bioRxiv or in a peer-reviewed journal.

    Scientists contacted by Nature were sceptical that such assurances could be made about off-target mutations, or about another known challenge of using CRISPR-Cas 9 — so-called ‘on-target mutations’, in which the correct gene is edited, but not in the way intended.

    Rebrikov writes, in a paper published last year in the Bulletin of the RSMU, of which he is the editor in chief, that his technique disables both copies of the CCR5 gene (by deleting a section of 32 bases) more than 50% of the time. He says publishing in this journal was not a conflict of interest because reviewers and editors are blinded to a paper’s authors.

    But Doudna is sceptical of those results. “The data I have seen say it’s not that easy to control the way the DNA repair works.” Burgio, too, thinks that the edits probably led to other deletions or insertions that are difficult to detect, as is often the case with gene editing.

    Misplaced edits could mean that the gene isn’t properly disabled, and so the cell is still accessible to HIV, or that the mutated gene could function in a completely different and unpredictable way. “It can be a real mess,” says Burgio.

    What’s more, the unmutated CCR5 has many functions that are not yet well understood, but which offer some benefits, say scientists critical of Rebrikov’s plans. For instance, it seems to offer some protection against major complications following infection by the West Nile virus or influenza. “We know a lot about its [CCR5’s] role in HIV entry [to cells], but we don’t know much about its other effects,” says Burgio. A study published last week also suggested that people without a working copy of CCR5 might have a shortened lifespan.

    Rebrikov understands that if he proceeds with his experiment before Russia’s updated regulations are in place, he might be considered a second He Jiankui. But he says he would only do so if he’s sure of the safety of the procedure. “I think I’m crazy enough to do it,” he says.

    Nature 570, 145-146 (2019)
    doi: 10.1038/d41586-019-01770-x

  • U.S. and Russia trade blame over near collision in East Asian waters - Reuters
    https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-russia-navy-incident-idUSKCN1T80LR
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5QeNcKRkvDY

    Russia and the United States blamed each other for a near collision between their warships in East Asian waters on Friday with both countries accusing one another of dangerous and unprofessional behavior.

    Acting U.S. Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan said Washington would lodge a formal diplomatic protest to Russia, while a senior Russian parliamentarian said such episodes could easily escalate tensions, which he said were already balanced “on a razor’s edge”.

    Russia’s Pacific Fleet said that the USS Chancellorsville, a guided-missile cruiser, had come within just 50 meters (165 feet) of the Russian destroyer Admiral Vinogradov which was forced to take emergency action to avoid a collision, Russian news agencies reported.

    They cited a Russian Pacific Fleet statement as saying the incident took place in the early hours of Friday morning in the eastern part of the East China Sea at a time when a group of Russian warships was on a parallel course with a U.S. naval strike group.

    The U.S guided-missile cruiser Chancellorsville suddenly changed course and cut across the path of the destroyer Admiral Vinogradov coming within 50 meters of the ship,” the statement said.

    A protest over the international radio frequency was made to the commanders of the American ship who were warned about the unacceptable nature of such actions,” it said.

    The U.S. Navy rejected that version of events, saying the behavior of the Russian ship had been “unsafe and unprofessional”.

    While operating in the Philippine Sea, a Russian Destroyer ... made an unsafe maneuver against USS Chancellorsville,” U.S. Seventh Fleet spokesman Commander Clayton Doss said.

    This unsafe action forced Chancellorsville to execute all engines back full and to maneuver to avoid collision.

    He described a Russian assertion that the U.S. ship had acted dangerously as “propaganda”. The Russian destroyer came within 50 to 100 feet of the Chancellorsville, he said, putting the safety of its crew and the ship at risk.

    Acting U.S. Defense Secretary Shanahan said Washington would formally protest.

    We’ll have military-to-military conversations with the Russians, and of course we’ll demarche them, but to me safety at the end of the day is the most important (part),” he told reporters outside the Pentagon.

    It will not deter us from conducting our operations.

    The incident comes days after Washington and Moscow sparred over an allegedly unsafe spy plane intercept by a Russian fighter jet near Syria.

    Alexei Pushkov, a senior Russian parliamentarian, said the near naval miss and other incidents like it were dangerous.

    We’re balancing on a razor’s edge,” he wrote on social media.

    Pour les Russes, ça s’est passé à l’est de la #Mer_de_Chine_orientale, pour les États-Uniens en #mer_des_Philippines


    WP


    WP

    • Vues de l’hélicoptère de l’USS Chancellorsville :


      et

      sur le site de la Marine états-unienne, ainsi que le communiqué.
      7th Fleet Statement on Unsafe Maneuver by Russian Destroyer
      /submit/display.asp ?story_id=109833

      PHILIPPINE SEA (NNS) — At approximately 11:45 am on June 7, 2019 while operating in the Philippine Sea, a Russian Destroyer (UDALOY I DD 572) made an unsafe maneuver against guided-missile cruiser USS Chancellorsville (CG-62), closing to approximately 50-100 feet putting the safety of her crew and ship at risk. 

      While USS Chancellorsville was recovering its helicopter on a steady course and speed when the Russian ship DD572 maneuvered from behind and to the right of Chancellorsville accelerated and closed to an unsafe distance of approximately 50-100 feet. This unsafe action forced USS Chancellorsville to execute all engines back full and to maneuver to avoid collision. 
      We consider Russia’s actions during this interaction as unsafe and unprofessional and not in accordance with the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea (COLREGS), “Rules of the Road,” and internationally recognized maritime customs.

    • Les images aériennes sont impressionnantes et montrent bien qu’on est passé tout près d’une collision. Ce dont ne rendent absolument pas compte les vidéos tournées de la passerelle du Chancellorsville où l’on ne voit que les deux navires en route parallèle. On jurerait presque qu’ils sont en manœuvre de ravitaillement à la mer…

      Les sillages montrent sans ambiguïté que c’est le navire russe qui a manœuvré in extremis. Tout le reste est difficile à interpréter.

      • d’après les É.-U., le Chancellorsville récupère son hélicoptère. Or d’après les images celui-ci est déjà à une distance certaine sur l’avant du navire. On pourrait imaginer qu’il a interrompu son approche (forcément par l’arrière) au vu de l’incertitude de la situation tactique, en ce cas je ne connais pas la procédure de dégagement, certainement une reprise d’altitude, mais dans quelle direction relative au navire ? Ça me paraît étonnant que l’hélico puisse se retrouver aussi loin sur l’avant aussi rapidement.

      Quant à l’application des règles de route du #RIPAM, elle ne me paraît pas aussi évidente que certains commentateurs l’affirment.
      • certes le russe est sur le tribord de l’états-unien, ce qui normalement oblige ce dernier à laisser le passage, mais,…
      • s’il est en route aviation pour l’appontement de son hélico (cf. premier point, douteux) il est alors en manœuvrabilité restreinte et il doit en arborer à son mat la marque (1 boule, 1 icône, 1 boule superposées .
      • on peut aussi se poser la question de l’angle entre les deux sillages. S’il fait moins de 67,5° (de nuit, le russe ne verrait que le feu de poupe, pas le feu de tribord), alors le navire russe est en situation de dépassement et c’est à lui de manœuvrer. Dans le cas contraire, c’est à l’américain. _A priori
      , on est autour des 45°, mais la projection de l’angle due à la perspective vue de l’hélico rend l’évaluation malaisée.
      • enfin, il est aussi difficile de juger si le Chancellorsville bat effectivement en arrière toute. L’absence de sillage sur la deuxième image, alors que sur la première on en perçoit un léger, ainsi que l’écume sur l’arrière du bateau vont dans ce sens, mais des nuages commencent à s’interposer. Par ailleurs, sur les vidéos on ne perçoit pas vraiment de changement de la vitesse relative entre les deux bateaux.

      Au vu de tout ça, il me semble bien que l’Admiral Vinogradov est effectivement navire rattrapant et que la manœuvre qu’il effectue est extrêmement tardive…

  • DP World wants to operate ports along Russia’s northern sea route - Reuters
    https://www.reuters.com/article/russia-forum-dp-wrld-idUSL8N23E3SZ

    DP World, one of the world’s largest port operators, wants to run ports that Russia plans to build along the northern sea route in the Arctic to shorten shipping times between the east and west, its chief executive told Reuters.

    Russian President Vladimir Putin has made developing the northern sea route (NSR) - which requires new ports and heavy icebreakers to move goods - one of his priorities, with supporters dubbing the route the northern Suez Canal.

    Dubai government-controlled DP World operates 78 marine and inland terminals, supported by more than 50 related businesses in over 40 countries.

    The firm agreed this week with the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF), Russian state nuclear firm Rosatom and Nornickel, one of the world’s top nickel and palladium producers, a joint project to pursue the integrated development of the NSR.

    The deal is not legally binding and the parties will first study options for developing the route and may set up a joint venture later to develop freight transit via the NSR.
    […]
    Bin Sulayem said it was to early to talk of possible stakes in potential future joint ventures. “The (Russian) government will decide which land to give us and we will prepare the projects, we will attract the customers, we will work with industries how to attract, to produce something that we know.

    We are at early stages (to talk about any stakes), we will need to sit with the partners and see, but we will always abide by rules which are laid (by Russia).

    #Arctique #Route_maritime_du_Nord
    #Passage_du_Nord-Est

  • Statistiques de la conférence de presse des organisations syriennes et de la défense civile aujourd’hui sur les résultats de la récente campagne sur les zones libérées, #Idlib :
    - 600 victimes
    - 5 marchés populaires ciblés
    - 22 installations médicales ont été détruites
    - La fermeture de 55 établissements médicaux
    - Utilisation de chlore à Canibiet
    - 80 enfants tués
    - 50 écoles ciblées
    - 45 000 enfants sont sortis de l’éducation
    Déplacés 307 000 plus de 50 000 familles
    - 27 mosquées détruits
    - Destruction de 9 fours de production du pain
    - Brûler des cultures avec du Phosphore

    #guerre #conflit #victimes #statistiques #chiffres #phosphore #armes_chimiques Canibiet #destruction #écoles #enfants #déscolarisation #morts #décès

    Reçu d’un ami réfugié syrien qui vit à Grenoble, via whatsapp, le 01.06.2019

    • Stop the carnage: doctors call for an end to Syria hospital airstrikes

      Dozens of prominent doctors have called for urgent action to halt the bombing campaign by Syrian and Russian planes that has targeted more than 20 hospitals in Syria’s north-west, putting many out of action and leaving millions of people without proper healthcare.

      Coordinates for many of those hit had been shared with the regime and its Russian backers by the United Nations in an effort to protect civilians. The Syrian opposition were promised war planes would avoid identified sites on bombing raids; instead they have endured more than a month of fierce attacks.

      Since late April, in defiance of a truce brokered by Moscow and Ankara last year, regular airstrikes on opposition-held territory in northern Idlib province have killed hundreds of civilians and displaced hundreds of thousands more, rights groups say.

      They have also destroyed key parts of the healthcare system, says a letter from doctors around the world published in the Observer. “We are appalled by the deliberate and systematic targeting of healthcare facilities and medical staff,” they warned. “Their [the medical staff’s] job is to save lives, they must not lose their own in the process.”

      Signatories include Denis Mukwege, a gynaecologist who won the Nobel peace prize last year, Peter Agre, a physician who won the Nobel prize in chemistry in 2003, MP and doctor Sarah Wollaston, and Terence English, former president of the Royal College of Surgeons, as well as David Nott, a surgeon who works in war zones, and Zaher Sahloul, a Syrian exile, doctor and founder of a medical charity. They urged the UN to investigate the targeting of listed hospitals and asked the international community to put pressure on Russia and Syria to stop targeting medical centres and reverse funding cuts to surviving hospitals and clinics that are now overwhelmed by refugees.

      One paediatrician, Abdulkader Razouk, described to the Observer how he and his colleagues evacuated an entire hospital including dialysis patients, mothers in labour and premature babies in incubators, as airstrikes began in their town, at least 12 miles from the frontline. “After the airstrikes, but before the direct attack, we knew the hospital would be targeted,” he said in a phone interview about the Tarmala hospital, which was eventually hit on 10 May. “Only a few medical staff stayed to provide emergency response.”
      Letters: The BBC’s wish for a finger in every pie
      Read more

      The airstrike destroyed more than half the hospital and much of its equipment from beds and generators to the operating theatres, emergency services and pharmacy. Staff went back briefly to hunt through the rubble for any supplies that survived the onslaught but the building is now abandoned. “It would be impossible to rebuild and reopen now,” Razouk said. “The airstrikes are continuing and still targeting the hospital until this moment, even though it’s empty.”

      The May bombing was not the first attack on the hospital. That came in 2015, first with the Syrian military’s wildly inaccurate barrel bombs, and later by Russian missiles, that destroyed a residential building next door but spared the clinic itself. In 2018 there was a direct hit on the clinic but then it was able to reopen after repairs.

      However the damage after the latest attack was so severe that it is beyond repair, and anyway most of the civilians it served have fled, Razouk said.

      “This was the worst attack, it has been very tough, there is no possibility whatsoever to continue work there,” he said. “Life can’t return to this area, especially under these brutal attacks. There are no people, not even animals, there’s nothing left in there, it’s like a doomed land. There is no hope to go back.”

      He and other staff are opening a new temporary hospital near the Turkish border, where most of the residents of Tarmala have fled and are now living in refugee camps. It will have some of the neonatal incubators and dialysis machines evacuated before the strike, but there is a desperate need for more supplies.

      Around 80 medical facilities – including clinics and hospitals – have been shut because of damage in attacks or because of fear they will be targeted, said Mohamad Katoub from the Syrian American Medical Society. The huge number of refugees displaced by attacks has left those that are still operating overwhelmed.

      “The tactic of attacking health and other civilian infrastructure in Syria is not new, displacement is not new, these are all chronic issues. But this is the biggest displacement ever, and it is much further beyond our capacity as NGOs to respond,” he said.

      Turkey, which backs Idlib’s rebel groups, is already home to 3.6 million Syrians and faces the dilemma of whether or not to absorb any of the newly displaced. A group were reportedly planning a protest march to the border at the weekend.

      The de-escalation deal brokered last autumn saved Idlib and the surrounding countryside from an impending government assault. At the time, aid agencies warned that a military campaign would put the lives of 3 million civilians at risk, and trigger the worst humanitarian crisis of an already protracted and bloody war.

      But the agreement has unravelled since January, when the hardline Islamist group Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) wrested control of the area from more moderate rebels.

      Damascus and Moscow have said the HTS takeover legitimises the current campaign against Idlib as they are targeting terrorists not covered by the ceasefire deal.

      Many civilians in Idlib now feel they have been caught between the harsh rule of HTS and the intensified regime assault, and say that life has all but ground to a halt.

      “I was studying at Idlib university but I’ve had to stop going. So has my sister,” said 22-year-old Raja al-Assaad, from Ma’arat al-Nu’maan, which has been under heavy attack.

      “Some people have left to try to go to Turkey but the truth is that there is nowhere to go. Nowhere in Idlib is safe. And in my town we already have lots of people who have been displaced from lots of other areas of Syria.”

      “All normal life has shut down and there is nothing for us to do except wait for death.”

      https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/jun/02/doctors-global-appeal-stop-syria-bombing-hospitals-idlib

    • Russie/Syrie : Nouveau recours à des #armes interdites

      Ces attaques qui aggravent les souffrances des civils violent les normes du #droit_international.

      Les forces armées russes et syriennes ont utilisé de manière indiscriminée des armes interdites en vertu du droit international contre des zones civiles dans le nord-ouest de la Syrie au cours des dernières semaines, a déclaré Human Rights Watch aujourd’hui. Selon les Nations Unies, cette région est actuellement habitée par environ trois millions de civils, dont au moins la moitié sont des personnes déplacées ayant fui d’autres régions du pays.

      Depuis le 26 avril 2019, l’alliance militaire russo-syrienne a mené quotidiennement des centaines d’attaques contre des groupes antigouvernementaux dans les gouvernorats d’Idlib, de #Hama et d’#Alep,, tuant environ 200 civils, dont 20 enfants. L’alliance a utilisé contre des zones civiles densement peuplées des armes à sous-munitions et des armes incendiaires, pourtant interdites selon le droit international, ainsi que des barils d’explosifs (« #barrel_bombs ») largués sur ces zones, d’après des secouristes, des témoins et des informations disponibles via des sources en accès libre. Le 17 mai, le Conseil de sécurité des Nations Unies a tenu une deuxième réunion d’urgence au sujet de la situation dans le nord-ouest de la Syrie, sans pour autant élaborer une stratégie précise pour protéger les civils qui y résident.

      « L’alliance militaire russo-syrienne utilise de manière indiscriminée contre des civils piégés une panoplie d’armes pourtant interdites par le droit international », a déclaré Lama Fakih, directrice par intérim de la division Moyen-Orient à Human Rights Watch. « Entretemps, la Russie exploite sa présence au Conseil de sécurité des Nations Unies pour se protéger et pour protéger son allié à Damas, et pour poursuivre ces exactions contre des civils. »

      Les armes à sous-munitions peuvent être lancées depuis le sol par des systèmes d’artillerie, des roquettes et des projectiles, ou bien larguées depuis le ciel. Elles explosent généralement dans l’air, dispersant plusieurs petites bombes, ou sous-munitions, au-dessus d’une vaste zone. De nombreuses sous-munitions n’explosent toutefois pas lors de l’impact initial, ce qui laisse au sol de dangereux fragments explosifs qui, à l’instar des mines terrestres, peuvent mutiler et tuer, des années après.

      Les armes incendiaires, qui produisent de la chaleur et du feu par le bais de la réaction chimique d’une substance inflammable, provoquent des brûlures atroces et sont capables de détruire des maisons et d’autres structures civiles.

      La Convention de 2008 sur les armes à sous-munitions interdit l’utilisation d’armes à sous-munitions, tandis que le Protocole III de la Convention sur les armes classiques interdit certaines utilisations des armes incendiaires. La Russie et la Syrie ne font pas partie des 120 pays ayant adhéré à la Convention sur les armes à sous-munitions, mais la Russie est un État partie au Protocole sur les armes incendiaires.

      https://www.hrw.org/fr/news/2019/06/03/russie/syrie-nouveau-recours-des-armes-interdites

    • La battaglia per Idlib

      Dal 26 aprile le forze del governo siriano, sostenute dall’assistenza militare russa, hanno intensificato un’offensiva a Idlib, nella provincia nord-occidentale della Siria, l’ultima roccaforte dell’opposizione armata al presidente Assad. A Idlib vivono quasi tre milioni di persone, metà delle quali sfollate internamente. Per questo gli accordi di Astana firmati proprio dalla Russia, insieme a Turchia e Iran, indicavano Idlib come una zona di de-escalation delle violenze. Un accordo però che non sembra più aver valore. Ieri la Russia ha bloccato una dichiarazione del Consiglio di sicurezza dell’ONU, con la quale il consiglio voleva lanciare un allarme per l’intensificarsi del intorno alla provincia di Idlib, con l’intento di scongiurare un disastro umanitario.

      Anche nel conflitto libico i civili sono quelli a pagare il prezzo più alto. Attualmente in Libia ci sono oltre 1 milione di persone bisognose di assistenza umanitaria e protezione. Non solo migranti e rifugiati, ma anche sfollati libici che vivono in condizioni di estrema marginalità sociale, senza accesso a cure e servizi essenziali e martoriati dal conflitto in corso. La campagna #Oltrelefrontiere ” promossa da CIR vuole migliorare il livello di protezione di migranti, rifugiati e sfollati interni, fornendo assistenza umanitaria e promuovendo la ricerca di soluzioni durature, per contribuire alla progressiva normalizzazione delle loro condizioni di vita.

      https://www.raiplayradio.it/articoli/2019/06/Rai-Radio-3-Idlib-Siria-4e42d346-f7d0-4d71-9da3-7b293f2e7c89.html

    • lien propre :

      https://www.zdnet.com/article/russian-military-moves-closer-to-replacing-windows-with-astra-linux

      [...]

      RusBITech initially developed the OS for use in the Russian private market, but the company also expanded into the local government sector, where it became very popular with military contractors.

      A few years back, the OS received certifications to handle Russian government information labeled as “secret” and “top secret” —two data secrecy levels situated underneath “special importance” according to Russian law.

      Since then, Astra Linux has slowly made its way into government agencies and is currently in use at the Russian National Center for Defence Control, among various other government and military agencies.
      Already used by the Russian military

      In January 2018, the Russian Ministry of Defence announced plans to transfer military systems from the Windows OS to Astra Linux, citing fears that Microsoft’s closed-source approach might hide Windows backdoors that can be abused by US intelligence to spy on Russian government operations.

      Since then, RusBITech has been going through the Russian government’s certification process to get a “special importance” classification for Astra Linux — which it did, on April 17, according to two local media reports.

      In addition to the FSTEC certification, Astra Linux also received certificates of conformity from the FSB, Russia’s top intelligence agency, and the Ministry of Defense, opening the door for full adoption by Russia’s top military and intelligence agencies.

      The certification was granted for Astra Linux Special Edition version 1.6, also known as the Smolensk release, per local reports. This is a commercial (paid) release.

      The news comes after earlier this week it was reported that the Chinese military was taking similar steps to replace the Windows OS on military systems amid fears of US hacking. The Chinese military didn’t go for a Linux distro but instead alluded to plans of developing a custom OS instead.

      [finis]

      #Russie #sécurité #militaire #défense #Debian #Linux #Windows

      #Chine #États-unis

  • In Baltimore and Beyond, a Stolen N.S.A. Tool Wreaks Havoc
    https://www.nytimes.com/2019/05/25/us/nsa-hacking-tool-baltimore.html

    For nearly three weeks, Baltimore has struggled with a cyberattack by digital extortionists that has frozen thousands of computers, shut down email and disrupted real estate sales, water bills, health alerts and many other services.

    But here is what frustrated city employees and residents do not know: A key component of the malware that cybercriminals used in the attack was developed at taxpayer expense a short drive down the Baltimore-Washington Parkway at the National Security Agency, according to security experts briefed on the case.

    Since 2017, when the N.S.A. lost control of the tool, EternalBlue, it has been picked up by state hackers in North Korea, Russia and, more recently, China, to cut a path of destruction around the world, leaving billions of dollars in damage. But over the past year, the cyberweapon has boomeranged back and is now showing up in the N.S.A.’s own backyard.

    #boomerang

  • Victoria Nuland, US midwife to Maidan-2014, denied visa to Russia — RT World News
    https://www.rt.com/news/460124-victoria-nuland-denied-visa-russia

    Former US diplomat Victoria Nuland, best known for distributing cookies to protesters during the US-backed 2014 Maidan coup in Ukraine, has found out she was on a visa blacklist as she sought to enter Russia.

    The former US ambassador to NATO and assistant secretary of state for Eurasia is best known for supporting the coup that ousted the government in Kiev, and dismissing the concerns of Washington’s European allies about meddling in Ukraine (“F*** the EU”) in the same conversation she mentioned bringing then-VP Joe Biden to “midwife this thing.”

  • Suffering unseen: The dark truth behind wildlife tourism
    https://www.nationalgeographic.com/magazine/2019/06/global-wildlife-tourism-social-media-causes-animal-suffering

    I’ve come back to check on a baby. Just after dusk I’m in a car lumbering down a muddy road in the rain, past rows of shackled elephants, their trunks swaying. I was here five hours before, when the sun was high and hot and tourists were on elephants’ backs.

    Walking now, I can barely see the path in the glow of my phone’s flashlight. When the wooden fence post of the stall stops me short, I point my light down and follow a current of rainwater across the concrete floor until it washes up against three large, gray feet. A fourth foot hovers above the surface, tethered tightly by a short chain and choked by a ring of metal spikes. When the elephant tires and puts her foot down, the spikes press deeper into her ankle.

    Meena is four years and two months old, still a toddler as elephants go. Khammon Kongkhaw, her mahout, or caretaker, told me earlier that Meena wears the spiked chain because she tends to kick. Kongkhaw has been responsible for Meena here at Maetaman Elephant Adventure, near Chiang Mai, in northern Thailand, since she was 11 months old. He said he keeps her on the spiked shackle only during the day and takes it off at night. But it’s night now.

    I ask Jin Laoshen, the Maetaman staffer accompanying me on this nighttime visit, why her chain is still on. He says he doesn’t know.

    Maetaman is one of many animal attractions in and around tourist-swarmed Chiang Mai. People spill out of tour buses and clamber onto the trunks of elephants that, at the prodding of their mahouts’ bullhooks (long poles with a sharp metal hook), hoist them in the air while cameras snap. Visitors thrust bananas toward elephants’ trunks. They watch as mahouts goad their elephants—some of the most intelligent animals on the planet—to throw darts or kick oversize soccer balls while music blares.

    Meena is one of Maetaman’s 10 show elephants. To be precise, she’s a painter. Twice a day, in front of throngs of chattering tourists, Kongkhaw puts a paintbrush in the tip of her trunk and presses a steel nail to her face to direct her brushstrokes as she drags primary colors across paper. Often he guides her to paint a wild elephant in the savanna. Her paintings are then sold to tourists.

    Meena’s life is set to follow the same trajectory as many of the roughly 3,800 captive elephants in Thailand and thousands more throughout Southeast Asia. She’ll perform in shows until she’s about 10. After that, she’ll become a riding elephant. Tourists will sit on a bench strapped to her back, and she’ll give several rides a day. When Meena is too old or sick to give rides—maybe at 55, maybe at 75—she’ll die. If she’s lucky, she’ll get a few years of retirement. She’ll spend most of her life on a chain in a stall.

    Wildlife attractions such as Maetaman lure people from around the world to be with animals like Meena, and they make up a lucrative segment of the booming global travel industry. Twice as many trips are being taken abroad as 15 years ago, a jump driven partly by Chinese tourists, who spend far more on international travel than any other nationality.

    Wildlife tourism isn’t new, but social media is setting the industry ablaze, turning encounters with exotic animals into photo-driven bucket-list toppers. Activities once publicized mostly in guidebooks now are shared instantly with multitudes of people by selfie-taking backpackers, tour-bus travelers, and social media “influencers” through a tap on their phone screens. Nearly all millennials (23- to 38-year-olds) use social media while traveling. Their selfies—of swims with dolphins, encounters with tigers, rides on elephants, and more—are viral advertising for attractions that tout up-close experiences with animals.

    For all the visibility social media provides, it doesn’t show what happens beyond the view of the camera lens. People who feel joy and exhilaration from getting close to wild animals usually are unaware that many of the animals at such attractions live a lot like Meena, or worse.

    Photographer Kirsten Luce and I set out to look behind the curtain of the thriving wildlife tourism industry, to see how animals at various attractions—including some that emphasize their humane care of animals—are treated once the selfie-taking crowds have gone.

    After leaving Maetaman, we take a five-minute car ride up a winding hill to a property announced by a wooden plaque as “Elephant EcoValley: where elephants are in good hands.” There are no elephant rides here. No paint shows or other performances. Visitors can stroll through an open-air museum and learn about Thailand’s national animal. They can make herbal treats for the elephants and paper from elephant dung. They can watch elephants in a grassy, tree-ringed field.

    EcoValley’s guest book is filled with praise from Australians, Danes, Americans—tourists who often shun elephant camps such as Maetaman because the rides and shows make them uneasy. Here, they can see unchained elephants and leave feeling good about supporting what they believe is an ethical establishment. What many don’t know is that EcoValley’s seemingly carefree elephants are brought here for the day from nearby Maetaman—and that the two attractions are actually a single business.

    Meena was brought here once, but she tried to run into the forest. Another young elephant, Mei, comes sometimes, but today she’s at Maetaman, playing the harmonica in the shows. When she’s not doing that, or spending the day at EcoValley, she’s chained near Meena in one of Maetaman’s elephant stalls.

    Meena Kalamapijit owns Maetaman as well as EcoValley, which she opened in November 2017 to cater to Westerners. She says her 56 elephants are well cared for and that giving rides and performing allow them to have necessary exercise. And, she says, Meena the elephant’s behavior has gotten better since her mahout started using the spiked chain.
    Read MoreWildlife Watch
    Why we’re shining a light on wildlife tourism
    Poaching is sending the shy, elusive pangolin to its doom
    How to do wildlife tourism right

    We sit with Kalamapijit on a balcony outside her office, and she explains that when Westerners, especially Americans, stopped coming to Maetaman, she eliminated one of the daily shows to allot time for visitors to watch elephants bathe in the river that runs through the camp.

    “Westerners enjoy bathing because it looks happy and natural,” she says. “But a Chinese tour agency called me and said, ‘Why are you cutting the show? Our customers love to see it, and they don’t care about bathing at all.’ ” Providing separate options is good for business, Kalamapijit says.

    Around the world Kirsten and I watched tourists watching captive animals. In Thailand we also saw American men bear-hug tigers in Chiang Mai and Chinese brides in wedding gowns ride young elephants in the aqua surf on the island of Phuket. We watched polar bears in wire muzzles ballroom dancing across the ice under a big top in Russia and teenage boys on the Amazon River snapping selfies with baby sloths.

    Most tourists who enjoy these encounters don’t know that the adult tigers may be declawed, drugged, or both. Or that there are always cubs for tourists to snuggle with because the cats are speed bred and the cubs are taken from their mothers just days after birth. Or that the elephants give rides and perform tricks without harming people only because they’ve been “broken” as babies and taught to fear the bullhook. Or that the Amazonian sloths taken illegally from the jungle often die within weeks of being put in captivity.

    As we traveled to performance pits and holding pens on three continents and in the Hawaiian Islands, asking questions about how animals are treated and getting answers that didn’t always add up, it became clear how methodically and systematically animal suffering is concealed.

    The wildlife tourism industry caters to people’s love of animals but often seeks to maximize profits by exploiting animals from birth to death. The industry’s economy depends largely on people believing that the animals they’re paying to watch or ride or feed are having fun too.

    It succeeds partly because tourists—in unfamiliar settings and eager to have a positive experience—typically don’t consider the possibility that they’re helping to hurt animals. Social media adds to the confusion: Oblivious endorsements from friends and trendsetters legitimize attractions before a traveler ever gets near an animal.

    There has been some recognition of social media’s role in the problem. In December 2017, after a National Geographic investigative report on harmful wildlife tourism in Amazonian Brazil and Peru, Instagram introduced a feature: Users who click or search one of dozens of hashtags, such as #slothselfie and #tigercubselfie, now get a pop-up warning that the content they’re viewing may be harmful to animals.

    Everyone finds Olga Barantseva on Instagram. “Photographer from Russia. Photographing dreams,” her bio reads. She meets clients for woodland photo shoots with captive wild animals just outside Moscow.

    For her 18th birthday, Sasha Belova treated herself to a session with Barantseva—and a pack of wolves. “It was my dream,” she says as she fidgets with her hair, which had been styled that morning. “Wolves are wild and dangerous.” The wolves are kept in small cages at a petting zoo when not participating in photo shoots.

    The Kravtsov family hired Barantseva to take their first professional family photos—all five family members, shivering and smiling in the birch forest, joined by a bear named Stepan.

    Barantseva has been photographing people and wild animals together for six years. She “woke up as a star,” she says, in 2015, when a couple of international media outlets found her online. Her audience has exploded to more than 80,000 followers worldwide. “I want to show harmony between people and animals,” she says.

    On a raw fall day, under a crown of golden birch leaves on a hill that overlooks a frigid lake, two-and-a-half-year-old Alexander Levin, dressed in a hooded bumblebee sweater, timidly holds Stepan’s paw.

    The bear’s owners, Yury and Svetlana Panteleenko, ply their star with food—tuna fish mixed with oatmeal—to get him to approach the boy. Snap: It looks like a tender friendship. The owners toss grapes to Stepan to get him to open his mouth wide. Snap: The bear looks as if he’s smiling.

    The Panteleenkos constantly move Stepan, adjusting his paws, feeding him, and positioning Alexander as Barantseva, pink-haired, bundled in jeans and a parka, captures each moment. Snap: A photo goes to her Instagram feed. A boy and a bear in golden Russian woods—a picture straight out of a fairy tale. It’s a contemporary twist on a long-standing Russian tradition of exploiting bears for entertainment.

    Another day in the same forest, Kirsten and I join 12 young women who have nearly identical Instagram accounts replete with dreamy photos of models caressing owls and wolves and foxes. Armed with fancy cameras but as yet modest numbers of followers, they all want the audience Barantseva has. Each has paid the Panteleenkos $760 to take identical shots of models with the ultimate prize: a bear in the woods.

    Stepan is 26 years old, elderly for a brown bear, and can hardly walk. The Panteleenkos say they bought him from a small zoo when he was three months old. They say the bear’s work—a constant stream of photo shoots and movies—provides money to keep him fed.

    A video on Svetlana Panteleenko’s Instagram account proclaims: “Love along with some great food can make anyone a teddy :-)”

    And just like that, social media takes a single instance of local animal tourism and broadcasts it to the world.

    When the documentary film Blackfish was released in 2013, it drew a swift and decisive reaction from the American public. Through the story of Tilikum, a distressed killer whale at SeaWorld in Orlando, Florida, the film detailed the miserable life orcas can face in captivity. Hundreds of thousands of outraged viewers signed petitions. Companies with partnership deals, such as Southwest Airlines, severed ties with SeaWorld. Attendance at SeaWorld’s water parks slipped; its stock nose-dived.

    James Regan says what he saw in Blackfish upset him. Regan, honeymooning in Hawaii with his wife, Katie, is from England, where the country’s last marine mammal park closed permanently in 1993. I meet him at Dolphin Quest Oahu, an upscale swim-with-dolphins business on the grounds of the beachfront Kahala Hotel & Resort, just east of Honolulu. The Regans paid $225 each to swim for 30 minutes in a small group with a bottlenose dolphin. One of two Dolphin Quest locations in Hawaii, the facility houses six dolphins.

    Bottlenose dolphins are the backbone of an industry that spans the globe. Swim-with-dolphins operations rely on captive-bred and wild-caught dolphins that live—and interact with tourists—in pools. The popularity of these photo-friendly attractions reflects the disconnect around dolphin experiences: People in the West increasingly shun shows that feature animals performing tricks, but many see swimming with captive dolphins as a vacation rite of passage.

    Katie Regan has wanted to swim with dolphins since she was a child. Her husband laughs and says of Dolphin Quest, “They paint a lovely picture. When you’re in America, everyone is smiling.” But he appreciates that the facility is at their hotel, so they can watch the dolphins being fed and cared for. He brings up Blackfish again.

    Katie protests: “Stop making my dream a horrible thing!”

    Rae Stone, president of Dolphin Quest and a marine mammal veterinarian, says the company donates money to conservation projects and educates visitors about perils that marine mammals face in the wild. By paying for this entertainment, she says, visitors are helping captive dolphins’ wild cousins.

    Stone notes that Dolphin Quest is certified “humane” by American Humane, an animal welfare nonprofit. (The Walt Disney Company, National Geographic’s majority owner, offers dolphin encounters on some vacation excursions and at an attraction in Epcot, one of its Orlando parks. Disney says it follows the animal welfare standards of the Association of Zoos & Aquariums, a nonprofit that accredits more than 230 facilities worldwide.)

    It’s a vigorous debate: whether even places with high standards, veterinarians on staff, and features such as pools filled with filtered ocean water can be truly humane for marine mammals.

    Dolphin Quest’s Stone says yes.

    Critics, including the Humane Society of the United States, which does not endorse keeping dolphins in captivity, say no. They argue that these animals have evolved to swim great distances and live in complex social groups—conditions that can’t be replicated in the confines of a pool. This helps explain why the National Aquarium, in Baltimore, announced in 2016 that its dolphins will be retired to a seaside sanctuary by 2020.

    Some U.S. attractions breed their own dolphins because the nation has restricted dolphin catching in the wild since 1972. But elsewhere, dolphins are still being taken from the wild and turned into performers.

    In China, which has no national laws on captive-animal welfare, dolphinariums with wild-caught animals are a booming business: There are now 78 marine mammal parks, and 26 more are under construction.

    To have the once-in-a-lifetime chance to see rare Black Sea dolphins, people in the landlocked town of Kaluga, a hundred miles from Moscow, don’t have to leave their city. In the parking lot of the Torgoviy Kvartal shopping mall, next to a hardware store, is a white inflatable pop-up aquarium: the Moscow Traveling Dolphinarium. It looks like a children’s bouncy castle that’s been drained of its color.

    Inside the puffy dome, parents buy their kids dolphin-shaped trinkets: fuzzy dolls and Mylar balloons, paper dolphin hats, and drinks in plastic dolphin tumblers. Families take their seats around a small pool. The venue is so intimate that even the cheapest seats, at nine dollars apiece, are within splashing distance.

    “My kids are jumping for joy,” says a woman named Anya, motioning toward her two giddy boys, bouncing in their seats.

    In the middle of the jubilant atmosphere, in water that seems much too shallow and much too murky, two dolphins swim listlessly in circles.

    Russia is one of only a few countries (Indonesia is another) where traveling oceanariums exist. Dolphins and beluga whales, which need to be immersed in water to stay alive, are put in tubs on trucks and carted from city to city in a loop that usually ends when they die. These traveling shows are aboveboard: Russia has no laws that regulate how marine mammals should be treated in captivity.

    The shows are the domestic arm of a brisk Russian global trade in dolphins and small whales. Black Sea bottlenose dolphins can’t be caught legally without a permit, but Russian fishermen can catch belugas and orcas under legal quotas in the name of science and education. Some belugas are sold legally to aquariums around the country. Russia now allows only a dozen or so orcas to be caught each year for scientific and educational purposes, and since April 2018, the government has cracked down on exporting them. But government investigators believe that Russian orcas—which can sell for millions—are being caught illegally for export to China.

    Captive orcas, which can grow to 20 feet long and more than 10,000 pounds, are too big for the traveling shows that typically feature dolphins and belugas. When I contacted the owners of the Moscow Traveling Dolphinarium and another operation, the White Whale Show, in separate telephone calls to ask where their dolphins and belugas come from, both men, Sergey Kuznetsov and Oleg Belesikov, hung up on me.

    Russia’s dozen or so traveling oceanariums are touted as a way to bring native wild animals to people who might never see the ocean.

    “Who else if not us?” says Mikhail Olyoshin, a staffer at one traveling oceanarium. And on this day in Kaluga, as the dolphins perform tricks to American pop songs and lie on platforms for several minutes for photo ops, parents and children express the same sentiment: Imagine, dolphins, up close, in my hometown. The ocean on delivery.

    Owners and operators of wildlife tourism attractions, from high-end facilities such as Dolphin Quest in Hawaii to low-end monkey shows in Thailand, say their animals live longer in captivity than wild counterparts because they’re safe from predators and environmental hazards. Show operators proudly emphasize that the animals under their care are with them for life. They’re family.

    Alla Azovtseva, a longtime dolphin trainer in Russia, shakes her head.

    “I don’t see any sense in this work. My conscience bites me. I look at my animals and want to cry,” says Azovtseva, who drives a red van with dolphins airbrushed on the side. At the moment, she’s training pilot whales to perform tricks at Moscow’s Moskvarium, one of Europe’s largest aquariums (not connected to the traveling dolphin shows). On her day off, we meet at a café near Red Square.

    She says she fell in love with dolphins in the late 1980s when she read a book by John Lilly, the American neuroscientist who broke open our understanding of the animals’ intelligence. She has spent 30 years training marine mammals to do tricks. But along the way she’s grown heartsick from forcing highly intelligent, social creatures to live isolated, barren lives in small tanks.

    “I would compare the dolphin situation with making a physicist sweep the street,” she says. “When they’re not engaged in performance or training, they just hang in the water facing down. It’s the deepest depression.”

    What people don’t know about many aquarium shows in Russia, Azovtseva says, is that the animals often die soon after being put in captivity, especially those in traveling shows. And Azovtseva—making clear she’s referring to the industry at large in Russia and not the Moskvarium—says she knows many aquariums quietly and illegally replace their animals with new ones.

    It’s been illegal to catch Black Sea dolphins in the wild for entertainment purposes since 2003, but according to Azovtseva, aquarium owners who want to increase their dolphin numbers quickly and cheaply buy dolphins poached there. Because these dolphins are acquired illegally, they’re missing the microchips that captive cetaceans in Russia are usually tagged with as a form of required identification.

    Some aquariums get around that, she says, by cutting out dead dolphins’ microchips and implanting them into replacement dolphins.

    “People are people,” Azovtseva says. “Once they see an opportunity, they exploit.” She says she can’t go on doing her work in the industry and that she’s decided to speak out because she wants people to know the truth about the origins and treatment of many of the marine mammals they love watching. We exchange a look—we both know what her words likely mean for her livelihood.

    “I don’t care if I’m fired,” she says defiantly. “When a person has nothing to lose, she becomes really brave.”

    I’m sitting on the edge of an infinity pool on the hilly Thai side of Thailand’s border with Myanmar, at a resort where rooms average more than a thousand dollars a night.

    Out past the pool, elephants roam in a lush valley. Sitting next to me is 20-year-old Stephanie van Houten. She’s Dutch and French, Tokyo born and raised, and a student at the University of Michigan. Her cosmopolitan background and pretty face make for a perfect cocktail of aspiration—she’s exactly the kind of Instagrammer who makes it as an influencer. That is, someone who has a large enough following to attract sponsors to underwrite posts and, in turn, travel, wardrobes, and bank accounts. In 2018, brands—fashion, travel, tech, and more—spent an estimated $1.6 billion on social media advertising by influencers.

    Van Houten has been here, at the Anantara Golden Triangle Elephant Camp & Resort, before. This time, in a fairly standard influencer-brand arrangement, she’ll have a picnic with elephants and post about it to her growing legion of more than 25,000 Instagram followers. In exchange, she gets hundreds of dollars off the nightly rate.

    At Anantara the fields are green, and during the day at least, many of the resort’s 22 elephants are tethered on ropes more than a hundred feet long so they can move around and socialize. Nevertheless, they’re expected to let guests touch them and do yoga beside them.

    After van Houten’s elephant picnic, I watch her edit the day’s hundreds of photos. She selects an image with her favorite elephant, Bo. She likes it, she says, because she felt a connection with Bo and thinks that will come across. She posts it at 9:30 p.m.—the time she estimates the largest number of her followers will be online. She includes a long caption, summing it up as “my love story with this incredible creature,” and the hashtag #stopelephantriding. Immediately, likes from followers stream in—more than a thousand, as well as comments with heart-eyed emoji.

    Anantara is out of reach for anyone but the wealthy—or prominent influencers. Anyone else seeking a similar experience might do a Google search for, say, “Thailand elephant sanctuary.”

    As tourist demand for ethical experiences with animals has grown, affordable establishments, often calling themselves “sanctuaries,” have cropped up purporting to offer humane, up-close elephant encounters. Bathing with elephants—tourists give them a mud bath, splash them in a river, or both—has become very popular. Many facilities portray baths as a benign alternative to elephant riding and performances. But elephants getting baths, like those that give rides and do tricks, will have been broken to some extent to make them obedient. And as long as bathing remains popular, places that offer it will need obedient elephants to keep their businesses going. 


    In Ban Ta Klang, a tiny town in eastern Thailand, modest homes dot the crimson earth. In front of each is a wide, bamboo platform for sitting, sleeping, and watching television.

    But the first thing I notice is the elephants. Some homes have one, others as many as five. Elephants stand under tarps or sheet metal roofs or trees. Some are together, mothers and babies, but most are alone. Nearly all the elephants wear ankle chains or hobbles—cuffs binding their front legs together. Dogs and chickens weave among the elephants’ legs, sending up puffs of red dust.

    Ban Ta Klang—known as Elephant Village—is ground zero in Thailand for training and trading captive elephants.

    “House elephants,” Sri Somboon says, gesturing as he turns down his TV. Next to his outdoor platform, a two-month-old baby elephant runs around his mother. Somboon points across the road to the third elephant in his charge, a three-year-old male tethered to a tree. He’s wrenching his head back and forth and thrashing his trunk around. It looks as if he’s going out of his mind.

    He’s in the middle of his training, Somboon says, and is getting good at painting. He’s already been sold, and when his training is finished, he’ll start working at a tourist camp down south.

    Ban Ta Klang and the surrounding area, part of Surin Province, claim to be the source of more than half of Thailand’s 3,800 captive elephants. Long before the flood of tourists, it was the center of the elephant trade; the animals were caught in the wild and tamed for use transporting logs. Now, every November, hundreds of elephants from here are displayed, bought, and sold in the province’s main town, Surin.

    One evening I sit with Jakkrawan Homhual and Wanchai Sala-ngam. Both 33, they’ve been best friends since childhood. About half the people in Ban Ta Klang who care for elephants, including Homhual, don’t own them. They’re paid a modest salary by a rich owner to breed and train baby elephants for entertainment. As night falls, thousands of termites swarm us, attracted to the single bulb hanging above the bamboo platform. Our conversation turns to elephant training.

    Phajaan is the traditional—and brutal—days- or weeks-long process of breaking a young elephant’s spirit. It has long been used in Thailand and throughout Southeast Asia to tame wild elephants, which still account for many of the country’s captives. Under phajaan, elephants are bound with ropes, confined in tight wooden structures, starved, and beaten repeatedly with bullhooks, nails, and hammers until their will is crushed. The extent to which phajaan persists in its harshest form is unclear. Since 2012, the government has been cracking down on the illegal import of elephants taken from the forests of neighboring Myanmar, Thailand’s main source of wild-caught animals.

    I ask the men how baby elephants born in captivity are broken and trained.

    When a baby is about two years old, they say, mahouts tie its mother to a tree and slowly drag the baby away. Once separated, the baby is confined. Using a bullhook on its ear, they teach the baby to move: left, right, turn, stop. To teach an elephant to sit, Sala-ngam says, “we tie up the front legs. One mahout will use a bullhook at the back. The other will pull a rope on the front legs.” He adds: “To train the elephant, you need to use the bullhook so the elephant will know.”

    Humans identify suffering in other humans by universal signs: People sob, wince, cry out, put voice to their hurt. Animals have no universal language for pain. Many animals don’t have tear ducts. More creatures still—prey animals, for example—instinctively mask symptoms of pain, lest they appear weak to predators. Recognizing that a nonhuman animal is in pain is difficult, often impossible.

    But we know that animals feel pain. All mammals have a similar neuroanatomy. Birds, reptiles, and amphibians all have pain receptors. As recently as a decade ago, scientists had collected more evidence that fish feel pain than they had for neonatal infants. A four-year-old human child with spikes pressing into his flesh would express pain by screaming. A four-year-old elephant just stands there in the rain, her leg jerking in the air.

    Of all the silently suffering animals I saw in pools and pens around the world, two in particular haunt me: an elephant and a tiger.

    They lived in the same facility, Samut Prakan Crocodile Farm and Zoo, about 15 miles south of Bangkok. The elephant, Gluay Hom, four years old, was kept under a stadium. The aging tiger, Khai Khem, 22, spent his days on a short chain in a photo studio. Both had irrefutable signs of suffering: The emaciated elephant had a bent, swollen leg hanging in the air and a large, bleeding sore at his temple. His eyes were rolled back in his head. The tiger had a dental abscess so severe that the infection was eating through the bottom of his jaw.

    When I contacted the owner of the facility, Uthen Youngprapakorn, to ask about these animals, he said the fact that they hadn’t died proved that the facility was caring for them properly. He then threatened a lawsuit.

    Six months after Kirsten and I returned from Thailand, we asked Ryn Jirenuwat, our Bangkok-based Thai interpreter, to check on Gluay Hom and Khai Khem. She went to Samut Prakan and watched them for hours, sending photos and video. Gluay Hom was still alive, still standing in the same stall, leg still bent at an unnatural angle. The elephants next to him were skin and bones. Khai Khem was still chained by his neck to a hook in the floor. He just stays in his dark corner, Jirenuwat texted, and when he hears people coming, he twists on his chain and turns his back to them.

    “Like he just wants to be swallowed by the wall.”

    #tourisme #nos_ennemis_les_bêtes

  • Comment Israël arme les dictatures à travers le monde

    Arming dictators, equipping pariahs: Alarming picture of Israel’s arms sales - Israel News - Haaretz.com

    Extensive Amnesty report cites Israeli sales to eight countries who violate human rights, including South Sudan, Myanmar, Mexico and the UAE ■ Amnesty calls on Israel to adopt oversight model adopted by many Western countries ■ Senior Israeli defense official: Export license is only granted after lengthy process
    Amos Harel
    May 17, 2019 5:59 AM

    https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/.premium-arming-dictators-equipping-pariahs-an-alarming-picture-of-israel-s

    A thorough report by Amnesty International is harshly critical of Israel’s policies on arms exports. According to the report written in Hebrew by the organization’s Israeli branch, Israeli companies continue to export weapons to countries that systematically violate human rights. Israeli-made weapons are also found in the hands of armies and organizations committing war crimes. The report points to eight such countries that have received arms from Israel in recent years.

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    Often these weapons reach their destination after a series of transactions, thereby skirting international monitoring and the rules of Israel itself. Amnesty calls on the government, the Knesset and the Defense Ministry to more tightly monitor arms exports and enforce transparency guidelines adopted by other Western countries that engage in large-scale weapons exports.

    In the report, Amnesty notes that the supervision of the arms trade is “a global, not a local issue. The desire and need for better monitoring of global arms sales derives from tragic historical events such as genocide, bloody civil wars and the violent repression of citizens by their governments …. There is a new realization that selling arms to governments and armies that employ violence only fuels violent conflicts and leads to their escalation. Hence, international agreements have been reached with the aim of preventing leaks of military equipment to dictatorial or repressive regimes.”

    >> Read more: Revealed: Israel’s cyber-spy industry helps world dictators hunt dissidents and gays

    The 2014 Arms Trade Treaty established standards for trade in conventional weapons. Israel signed the treaty but the cabinet never ratified it. According to Amnesty, Israel has never acted in the spirit of this treaty, neither by legislation nor its policies.

    “There are functioning models of correct and moral-based monitoring of weapons exports, including the management of public and transparent reporting mechanisms that do not endanger a state’s security or foreign relations,” Amnesty says. “Such models were established by large arms exporters such as members of the European Union and the United States. There is no justification for the fact that Israel continues to belong to a dishonorable club of exporters such as China and Russia.”

    In 2007, the Knesset passed a law regulating the monitoring of weapons exports. The law authorizes the Defense Ministry to oversee such exports, manage their registration and decide on the granting of export licenses. The law defines defense-related exports very broadly, including equipment for information-gathering, and forbids trade in such items without a license.
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    The law does not include a clause limiting exports when there is a high probability that these items will be used in violation of international or humanitarian laws. But the law does prohibit “commerce with foreign agencies that are not in compliance with UN Security Council resolutions that prohibit or limit a transfer of such weapons or missiles to such recipients.”

    According to Amnesty, “the absence of monitoring and transparency have for decades let Israel supply equipment and defense-related knowledge to questionable states and dictatorial or unstable regimes that have been shunned by the international community.”

    The report quotes a 2007 article by Brig. Gen. (res.) Uzi Eilam. “A thick layer of fog has always shrouded the export of military equipment. Destinations considered pariah states by the international community, such as Chile in the days of Pinochet or South Africa during the apartheid years, were on Israel’s list of trade partners,” Eilam wrote.

    “The shroud of secrecy helped avoid pressure by the international community, but also prevented any transparency regarding decisions to sell arms to problematic countries, leaving the judgment and decision in the hands of a small number of people, mainly in the defense establishment.”

    The report presents concrete evidence on Israel’s exports over the last two decades, with arms going to eight countries accused by international institutions of serious human rights violations: South Sudan, Myanmar, the Philippines, Cameroon, Azerbaijan, Sri Lanka, Mexico and the United Arab Emirates. In some of these cases, Israel denied that it exported arms to these countries at specifically mentioned times. In other case it refused to give details.
    Israeli security-related exports

    In its report, Amnesty relies on the research of other human rights groups, on documentation published in the media in those eight countries, and on information gathered by attorney Eitay Mack, who in recent years has battled to expose Israel’s arms deals with shady regimes. Amnesty cross-checks descriptions of exported weapons with human rights violations and war crimes by those countries. In its report, Amnesty says that some of these countries were under sanctions and a weapons-sales embargo, but Israel continued selling them arms.

    According to the organization, “the law on monitoring in its current format is insufficient and has not managed to halt the export of weapons to Sri Lanka, which massacred many of its own citizens; to South Sudan, where the regime and army committed ethnic cleansing and aggravated crimes against humanity such as the mass rape of hundreds of women, men and girls; to Myanmar, where the army committed genocide and the chief of staff, who carried out the arms deal with Israel, is accused of these massacres and other crimes against humanity; and to the Philippines, where the regime and police executed 15,000 civilians without any charges or trials.”

    Amnesty says that this part of the report “is not based on any report by the Defense Ministry relating to military equipment exports, for the simple reason that the ministry refuses to release any information. The total lack of transparency by Israel regarding weapons exports prevents any public discussion of the topic and limits any research or public action intended to improve oversight.”

    One example is the presence of Israeli-made Galil Ace rifles in the South Sudanese army. “With no documentation of sales, one cannot know when they were sold, by which company, how many, and so on,” the report says.

    “All we can say with certainty is that the South Sudanese army currently has Israeli Galil rifles, at a time when there is an international arms embargo on South Sudan, imposed by the UN Security Council, due to ethnic cleansing, as well as crimes against humanity, using rape as a method of war, and due to war crimes the army is perpetrating against the country’s citizens.”

    According to Amnesty, the defense export control agency at the Defense Ministry approved the licenses awarded Israeli companies for selling weapons to these countries, even though it knew about the bad human rights situation there. It did this despite the risk that Israeli exports would be used to violate human rights and despite the embargo on arms sales imposed on some of these countries by the United States and the European Union, as well as other sanctions that were imposed by these countries or the United Nations.

    In response to letters written to the export control agency, its head, Rachel Chen, said: “We can’t divulge whether we’re exporting to one of these countries, but we carefully examine the state of human rights in each country before approving export licenses for selling them weapons.” According to Amnesty, this claim is false, as shown by the example of the eight countries mentioned in the report.

    Amnesty recommends steps for improving the monitoring of defense exports. It says Israel lags American legislation by 20 years, and European legislation by 10 years. “The lack of transparency has further negative implications, such as hiding information from the public,” Amnesty says.
    File photo: Personnel of the South Sudan People’s Defence Forces (SSPDF), assigned as South Sundan’s presidential guard, take part in a drill at their barracks in Rejaf, South Sudan, April 26, 2019.
    File photo: Personnel of the South Sudan People’s Defence Forces (SSPDF), assigned as South Sundan’s presidential guard, take part in a drill at their barracks in Rejaf, South Sudan, April 26, 2019.Alex McBride/AFP

    “The concept by which the Defense Ministry operates is that it is not in the public interest to know which countries buy weapons here, how much and under what conditions. This is an erroneous conception that stems from the wish to conceal, using the well-worn cloak of ‘issues of state security and foreign relations’ as an excuse,” it adds.

    “The veil of secrecy makes it hard to obtain data. In our humble opinion, the information we have gathered and presented in this report is the tip of the iceberg. Most of the evidence is based on official reports issued by the recipient states, such as the Facebook page of the chief of staff in Myanmar, or the site of the Philippine government’s spokesman.”

    The authors say attempts to maintain secrecy in an era of social media and global media coverage are absurd and doomed to fail.

    “Let the reasonable reader ask himself if the powers that sell weapons are concerned about harm to state security resulting from making the information accessible, or whether this is just an excuse, with the veil of secrecy protecting the interests of certain agencies in Israel.”

    Amnesty says Israel ranks eighth among the exporters of heavy weapons around the world. Between 2014 and 2018, Israel’s defense exports comprised 3.1 percent of global sales. Compared with the previous four years, this was a 60 percent increase. The three largest customers of heavy weapons sold by Israel are India, Azerbaijan and Vietnam.

    But the report says defense industries are not the largest or most lucrative contributors to Israeli exports. According to the Defense Ministry, defense exports comprise 10 percent of Israel’s industrial exports. “Defense-related companies in Israel export to 130 countries around the world,” the report says. “Of these, only a minority are countries designated by the UN and the international community as violators of human rights.”

    These are mostly poor countries and the scope of defense exports to them is small compared to the rest of Israel’s exports. According to Amnesty, banning exports to the eight countries would not sting Israel’s defense contractors or their profits, and would certainly not have a public impact. “There is no justification – economic, diplomatic, security-related or strategic – to export weapons to these countries,” the report says.

    Amnesty believes that “the situation is correctable. Israel’s government and the Defense Ministry must increase their monitoring and transparency, similar to what the vast majority of large weapons exporters around the world do except for Russia and China.”

    According to Amnesty, this should be done by amending the law regulating these exports, adding two main clauses. The first would prohibit the awarding of licenses to export to a country with a risk of serious human rights violations, based on international humanitarian law.

    The second would set up a committee to examine the human rights situation in any target state. The committee would include people from outside the defense establishment and the Foreign Ministry such as academics and human rights activists, as is customary in other countries.

    “Monitoring must not only be done, it must be seen, and the Israeli public has every right to know what is done in its name and with its resources, which belong to everyone,” the report says.

    A policy of obscurity

    A senior defense official who read the Amnesty report told Haaretz that many of its claims have been discussed in recent years in petitions to the High Court of Justice. The justices have heard petitions relating to South Sudan, Cameroon and Mexico. However, in all cases, the court accepted the state’s position that deliberations would be held with only one side present – the state, and that its rulings would remain classified.
    File photo: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks to a military commander along the Gaza border, southern Israel, March 28, 2019.
    File photo: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks to a military commander along the Gaza border, southern Israel, March 28, 2019.Itay Beit On/GPO

    Monitoring of exports has substantially increased since the law was passed, the official said. The authority endowed to the Defense Ministry by this law, including imposing economic sanctions, prohibition of exports and taking legal action against companies, are more far-reaching than in other countries.

    “The process of obtaining an export license in Israel is lengthy, difficult and imposes onerous regulations on exporters," he added. “When there is evidence of human rights violations in a country buying arms from Israel, we treat this with utmost seriousness in our considerations. The fact is that enlightened states respect the laws we have and are interested in the ways we conduct our monitoring.”

    He admitted that Israel does adopt a policy of obscurity with regard to its arms deals. “We don’t share information on whether or to which country we’ve sold arms,” he said. “We’ve provided all the information to the High Court. The plaintiffs do receive fixed laconic responses, but there are diplomatic and security-related circumstances that justify this.”

    “Other countries can be more transparent but we’re in a different place,” he argued. "We don’t dismiss out of hand discussion of these issues. The questions are legitimate but the decisions and polices are made after all the relevant considerations are taken into account.”

    The intense pace of events in recent months – rounds of violence along the Gaza border, Israel’s election, renewed tension between the U.S. and Iran – have left little time to deal with other issues that make the headlines less frequently.

    Israel is currently in the throes of an unprecedented constitutional and political crisis, the outcome of which will seriously impact its standing as a law-abiding state. If Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu succeeds in his plan to halt all legal proceedings against him, legislating an immunity law and restricting the jurisdiction of the High Court, all other issues would pale in comparison.

    There is some logic to the claim that Israel cannot be holier than thou when it comes to arms sales in the global market, and yet, the Amnesty report depicts a horrific image, backed by reliable data, but also makes suggestions for improvement that seem reasonable.

    Numerous reports over the last year show that the problem is not restricted to the sale of light weapons, but might be exacerbated by the spread of cyberwarfare tools developed by Israel and what dark regimes can do with these. Even if it happens through a twisted chain of sub-contractors, the state can’t play innocent. Therefore, it’s worthwhile listening to Amnesty’s criticism and suggestions for improvement.
    Amos Harel

  • Le problème de la contamination des pétroles de l’Oural exportés via l’oléoduc Droujba (Druzhba) n’est toujours pas réglé.

    Russia Dirty Oil Crisis Drags On as Port Loads Tainted Cargo – gCaptain
    https://gcaptain.com/russia-dirty-oil-crisis-drags-on-as-port-loads-tainted-cargo

    Russia’s efforts to resolve an unprecedented oil-contamination crisis suffered a setback as the nation loaded another tainted cargo from a port in the Baltic Sea, days after the government had said the port was clear.

    Traders receiving Urals crude at the Ust-Luga terminal said some oil continues to exceed acceptable levels of organic chloride, the contaminant blamed for major disruption to the nation’s exports since last month. At least one tainted cargo has been loaded onto a tanker since Monday, when Russia’s Energy Ministry said all shipments there were clean, according to the traders, who asked not to be identified because the information is confidential.

    A spokesman for Transneft, which operates the country’s pipeline network, declined to comment. Russia’s Energy Ministry didn’t immediately reply to a request for comment.

  • Libya’s Coming Forever War:Why Backing One Militia Against Another Is Not the Solution

    https://warontherocks.com/2019/05/libyas-coming-forever-war-why-backing-one-militia-against-another-is-

    Haftar’s Militias: Neither National nor an Army

    Trump’s call appears to rest on a mistaken but well-trodden narrative, advanced by Haftar’s forces, his Arab backers, and his western sympathizers, that the general’s “army” could deal a decisive military blow to Tripoli’s “Islamist and jihadist militias.” But this dichotomy is not anchored to current realities.

    After the 2011 revolution, as Benghazi fell into chaos and neglect, there was indeed a very real radical Islamist militia presence, which Haftar’s so-called Operation Dignity coalition started fighting in 2014. And some of these Islamists were later backed by hardline revolutionary factions in the western Libyan cities of Tripoli and Misrata. But since Haftar’s military victory in Benghazi and his consolidation of control over eastern Libya, the threat of Islamist militias has diminished significantly. So has Qatari and Turkish interference in Libya, especially compared to the still-robust role of the United Arab Emirates and Egypt. In tandem, moderate and pragmatic Libyan factions sidelined the radical presence in Tripoli and Misrata, with many militant figures exiled, imprisoned, or killed. Thus, it is a mistake to portray Tripoli as awash with radical Islam and Haftar as a savior figure coming to eradicate it.

    Aside from this inflated “radical” narrative, Haftar’s forces are hardly the professional army they appear to be. They contain a significant irregular, localized militia component, which includes foreign fighters from Chad and Sudan. Our interviews with Libyan National Army personnel, U.N. officials, and observers indicate this militia component to be somewhere between 40 to 60 percent of the army’s total. To be sure, there is a nucleus of regular infantry, armor, air force, and military police units — and it is this professional face that accounts for the public support, based on a recent poll, that Libyans accord the Libyan National Army as a welcome alternative to the country’s unruly and rapacious militias. But even this narrative is shaky. One of Haftar premier regular units, the Sa’iqa (or Thunderbolt Battalion), often described in the press as an “elite” organization, has been implicated in a string of abuses, and one of its senior officers has been indicted for war crimes by the International Criminal Court.

    Moreover, ever since Haftar started his military campaign in Benghazi in 2014, he has relied heavily on locally constituted militias. Denoted by the euphemism “support forces” or “neighborhood youths,” these militias were tied to specific Benghazi suburbs, and many hailed from an influential local tribe, the Awaqir. These support forces acted, in effect, as rear area guards, but also assisted regular units in frontline assaults. As the conflict dragged on, they also engaged in violent vigilantism, attacking the homes and businesses of Benghazi families suspected to be loyal to Haftar’s Islamist opponents.

    The presence of conservative Salafists in the Libyan National Army also belies the notion that Haftar’s forces are an institutionalized, professional force. Backed by Muammar Qadhafi in the waning years of his rule, these Salafists had a presence in the former regime’s security forces and are doctrinally hostile to the political Islamists Haftar was fighting. Salafist fighters have been crucial frontline combatants for the Libyan National Army. In areas of the east that Haftar has taken over, they’ve enjoyed some latitude to try and enforce their version of Islamic social mores. All of this suggests that any Trump administration support for Haftar on ideological grounds is misplaced. He is certainly a foe of the Muslim Brotherhood, which the White House is unwisely trying to designate as a foreign terrorist organization. But he is no secularist.

    More recently, Salafists have joined Libyan National Army military units commanded by Haftar’s sons. This familial dimension of Haftar’s forces is yet more evidence that the Libyan National Army is not all that it seems. Our interviews with members of the group and its supporters suggest that with minimal military training, Haftar’s sons Khalid and Saddam were elevated to command positions, part of a broader trend of Haftar ruling through a tight clique of family members and confidantes from his tribe, the Firjan. In particular, Khaled’s unit, the 106th Brigade, has received high-end foreign equipment and weapons, leading to frequent comparisons to Libya’s most elite formation during the Qadhafi era, the 32d Reinforced Brigade, commanded by Qadhafi’s youngest son Khamis.

    Finally, the acquiescence and, in some cases, active support that Haftar’s Libyan National Army enjoyed from foreign powers have also been crucial to the army’s expansion. The United Arab Emirates, Egypt, France, and Russia each backed the Libyan National Army for their own reasons (whether anti-Islamism, border control, or counter-terrorism). Haftar, like many Middle Eastern proxies, has proved adroit at exploiting this patronage . And the United States also shoulders some blame: Though Washington reportedly halted military engagement with Haftar’s side in 2015, American diplomats, based on our interviews, evinced an increasingly accommodative stance toward the general, hoping to bring him into the political process and taking at face value his professed support for elections. They also adopted a muted position toward his military move across Libya’s vast southern region earlier this year, which Haftar’s camp likely perceived as a tacit green light.

    During this southern advance, a security and governance vacuum allowed the Libyan National Army to effectively flip locally constituted militias — including those guarding oil installations — with offers of cash and equipment. In turning to attack Tripoli, Haftar adopted a similar strategy, hoping local militias in Tripoli and its environs would come to his side, persuaded by a mix of cash, force, and self-interested political calculations. But that plan has backfired spectacularly. Disparate militias in Tripoli that had long been at loggerheads have unified against him. Even ordinary citizens who might have welcomed Haftar into the capital as relief from the militias are turning against him.

    Understanding the fractured political and security backdrop against which the Libyan National Army has encountered these obstacles is important for understanding why Trump’s faith in Haftar is misplaced.

  • Tout ça, c’est la faute aux Cubains,… et de leur entrisme sournois de longue date.
    (j’ai pas tout lu,…)

    Venezuelan Democracy Was Strangled by Cuba – Foreign Policy
    https://foreignpolicy.com/2019/05/14/venezuelan-democracy-was-strangled-by-cuba

    Decades of infiltration helped ruin a once-prosperous nation.
    […]
    During the following years, especially after Chávez’s death in 2013, Havana would continue to exert its influence over the South American nation. Cuba has become critical to keeping Maduro’s regime in place in an “oil for repression” scheme in which Havana helped the socialist leader in his power struggle with the opposition in exchange for fuel, contributing to the country’s political, social, and economic crisis today. Last year, Reuters reported that Venezuela had bought nearly $440 million worth of foreign oil and shipped it to Cuba to fulfill its commitments to Havana. The Caribbean country, along with Russia, is one of the few backers holding off the abrupt collapse of the current Venezuelan regime. The destiny of Venezuela’s democracy could lie in Cuba’s hands. A far economically and militarily stronger country has ended up ideologically conquered—and politically devastated—by a far smaller and poorer one.

  • Global Report on Internal Displacement #2019

    KEY FINDINGS

    Internal displacement is a global challenge, but it is also heavily concentrated in a few countries and triggered by few events. 28 million new internal displacements associated with conflict and disasters across 148 countries and territories were recorded in 2018, with nine countries each accounting for more than a million.

    41.3 million people were estimated to be living in internal displacement as a result of conflict and violence in 55 countries as of the end of the year, the highest figure ever recorded. Three-quarters, or 30.9 million people, were located in only ten countries.

    Protracted crises, communal violence and unresolved governance challenges were the main factors behind 10.8 million new displacements associated with conflict and violence. Ethiopia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and Syria accounted for more than half of the global figure.

    Newly emerging crises forced millions to flee, from Cameroon’s anglophone conflict to waves of violence in Nigeria’s Middle Belt region and unprecedented conflict in Ethiopia. Displacement also continued despite peace efforts in the Central African Republic, South Sudan and Colombia.

    Many IDPs remain unaccounted for. Figures for DRC, Myanmar, Pakistan, Sudan and Yemen are considered underestimates, and data is scarce for Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Russia, Turkey and Venezuela. This prevents an accurate assessment of the true scale of internal displacement in these countries. ||Estimating returns continues to be a major challenge.

    Large numbers of people reportedly returned to their areas of origin in Ethiopia, Iraq and Nigeria, to conditions which were not conducive to long-lasting reintegration. ||Urban conflict triggered large waves of displacement and has created obstacles to durable solutions. Airstrikes and shelling forced many thousands to flee in Hodeida in Yemen, Tripoli in Libya and Dara’a in Syria. In Mosul in Iraq and Marawi in the Philippines, widespread destruction and unexploded ordnance continued to prevent people from returning home.

    Heightened vulnerability and exposure to sudden-onset hazards, particularly storms, resulted in 17.2 million disaster displacements in 144 countries and territories. The number of people displaced by slow-onset disasters worldwide remains unknown as only drought-related displacement is captured in some countries, and only partially.

    The devastating power of extreme events highlighted again the impacts of climate change across the globe. Wildfires were a particularly visible expression of this in 2018, from the US and Australia to Greece and elsewhere in southern Europe, displacing hundreds of thousands of people, causing severe damage and preventing swift returns.

    Global risk of being displaced by floods is staggeringly high and concentrated in towns and cities: more than 17 million people are at risk of being displaced by floods each year. Of these, more than 80 per cent live in urban and peri-urban areas.

    An overlap of conflict and disasters repeatedly displaced people in a number of countries. Drought and conflict triggered similar numbers of displacements in Afghanistan, and extended rainy seasons displaced millions of people in areas of Nigeria and Somalia already affected by conflict. Most of the people displaced by disasters in Iraq and Syria were IDPs living in camps that were flooded.

    Promising policy developments in several regions show increased attention to displacement risk. Niger became the first country to domesticate the Kampala Convention by adopting a law on internal displacement, and Kosovo recognised the importance of supporting returning refugees and IDPs, updating its policy to that end. Vanuatu produced a policy on disaster and climate-related displacement, and Fiji showed foresight in adopting new guidelines on resettlement in the context of climate change impacts.

    https://reliefweb.int/report/world/global-report-internal-displacement-2019-grid-2019-0
    #IDPs #déplacés_internes #migrations #asile #statistiques #chiffres

    ping @reka @karine4

  • Explainer: Why the war in Syria’s Idlib escalated again - Reuters
    https://www.reuters.com/article/us-syria-security-northwest-explainer-idUSKCN1SF0P7

    WHY HAS THE CONFLICT ESCALATED AGAIN?

    The Russian-Turkish deal created a demilitarized zone from which jihadists were required to withdraw, effectively putting the onus on Turkey to tackle the problem while leaving the northwest within a sphere of Turkish influence.

    But Russia’s patience has been wearing thin over what it views as Turkey’s failure to curb Tahrir al-Sham. Damascus, determined to recover “every inch” of Syria, has also publicly expressed dissatisfaction with the status quo.

    #Idleb #Syrie #Turquie #Russie