This City Really Exists Where People Live Without Politics, No Religion, And No Money!


What do you think the biggest issues the world faces today are? Most people would say matters of bias and privilege, right? Well what if you could go somewhere where those weren’t problems?

The truth is, you can. This utopia has existed for 50 years, even; it’s called Auroville, and is located in Southern India.

The brainchild of Mirra Alfansa, Auroville is a universally welcoming place, regardless of nationality, culture, religion, or language.

Instead, it celebrates what we all are: Citizens of earth.

Alfansa created a charter by which the city runs, and no nation can claim property of the place. Instead, it belongs to the world.
There is no authority, legal or political, nor a person of power, that the inhabitants need to respect. There are no written laws either.
Instead, there is only one supreme universal truth by which the city runs; citizens work toward harmony, love, and acceptance, and prioritize education and research.
As a result, the functioning of the town is organized in a very modern and environmental friendly way. They have implemented systems of wastewater treatment, as well as systems of ground water depletion.
Auroville uses eco-friendly methods for production of organic food, as well as technologically advanced methods for making the poor soil fertile. With the time, the town has become self-sufficient when it comes to food production and drinking water.
Starting from the seventies, they have started a process of forestation, and today the city is settled within a belt of forests and fields, making it one of the cleanest places on earth.
Even crazier, Aurovillians use no money – they have a whole economy functioning on principles of sharing, giving, and exchanging.
There is a distribution center in the city where both citizens and strangers can get a meal, but mainly, people produce what they need and exchange items with neighbors, without any aspirations of earning from the barter economy.
As a result of the cosmopolitan spirit embedded in the city, today it is inhabited with representatives from more than 50 nations.
It is protected under the authority of UNESCO, which in a way secures its future existence.  The town has no restrictions – everyone is welcomes to come and to find his own peace.
We just might have to consider moving!
Souce:organicandhealthy.org

Fukushima Radiation: Hundreds Of Millions Of Salmon Completely Die Off On U.S. West Coast.


Following the catastrophic effects of Fukushima, now millions of Salmon are missing from the pacific ocean and are presumed dead. Fears that ocean food chain has been damaged to the point that sea life could die off as a result. New data from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife have now found that Salmon numbers have dropped dramatically from the Sacramento River.

Fukushima Radiation: Hundreds Of Millions Of Salmon Completely Die Off On U.S. West Coast

New data from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife have now found that Salmon numbers have dropped dramatically from the Sacramento River. Enenews.com reports The Oregonian: Worst Klamath chinook run on record forecast — The worst run forecast on record for the Klamath River’s chinook salmon could close all salmon fishing along most of the Oregon Coast this summer… Mendocino Beacon: Returns of spawning Klamath River fall Chinook are projected to be the lowest on record in 2017.“The salmon runs this year will present a challenge for ocean fishermen and managers throughout the West Coast,” said Executive Director Chuck Tracy… “the low forecast for Klamath River fall Chinook is unprecedented”… “This year will be an exceptionally difficult year for ocean salmon fisheries, especially in Oregon and California”… said Council Chair Herb Pollard. Juneau Empire: Spring king fishing canceled by emergency order… the Juneau area will be closed for king salmon fishing… biologists expect a second-straight year of record-low king salmon returns on the Taku River. “We’ve been in a period of low productivity, not just on the Taku, but on several rivers up and down the coast,” Juneau Area Management Biologist Daniel Teske said… Nobody knows exactly why Southeast king salmon are struggling, but biologists do know where the fish are being affected: in the ocean. The increased die-off must be happening in a marine environment, Teske said, otherwise numbers on the four rivers wouldn’t fall at the same time… Undercurrent News: Japanese salmon fisheries in historic collapse — Landings in Hokkaido, Japan are the lowest in nearly three decades, reports the blog RussGeorge.net. The volume of salmon caught at main fishing ports, including Hokkaido, plunged 30-40% in 2016 from the previous year. The figure represented the lowest level in 28 years. The collapse has been confidently attributed to the starvation of four-year-old Chum salmon… Russ George: Japanese Salmon Fisheries in Historic Collapse… News from Japan is terrible for NW Pacific fish… Local fishermen have been increasingly concerned over the fact that the trend of meager catch that continued in recent years has not been held in check and indeed is worsening every year… Given the shortfall of fish and the scrawny condition of the fish that were caught all evidence points to a cataclysmic collapse of ocean pasture primary productivity and fish starving at sea… Across the Pacific ocean

“The salmon runs this year will present a challenge for ocean fishermen and managers throughout the West Coast,” said Executive Director Chuck Tracy… “the low forecast for Klamath River fall Chinook is unprecedented”… “This year will be an exceptionally difficult year for ocean salmon fisheries, especially in Oregon and California”… said Council Chair Herb Pollard. Juneau Empire: Spring king fishing canceled by emergency order… the Juneau area will be closed for king salmon fishing… biologists expect a second-straight year of record-low king salmon returns on the Taku River. “We’ve been in a period of low productivity, not just on the Taku, but on several rivers up and down the coast,” Juneau Area Management Biologist Daniel Teske said… Nobody knows exactly why Southeast king salmon are struggling, but biologists do know where the fish are being affected: in the ocean. The increased die-off must be happening in a marine environment, Teske said, otherwise numbers on the four rivers wouldn’t fall at the same time… Undercurrent News: Japanese salmon fisheries in historic collapse — Landings in Hokkaido, Japan are the lowest in nearly three decades, reports the blog RussGeorge.net. The volume of salmon caught at main fishing ports, including Hokkaido, plunged 30-40% in 2016 from the previous year. The figure represented the lowest level in 28 years. The collapse has been confidently attributed to the starvation of four-year-old Chum salmon… Russ George: Japanese Salmon Fisheries in Historic Collapse… News from Japan is terrible for NW Pacific fish… Local fishermen have been increasingly concerned over the fact that the trend of meager catch that continued in recent years has not been held in check and indeed is worsening every year… Given the shortfall of fish and the scrawny condition of the fish that were caught all evidence points to a cataclysmic collapse of ocean pasture primary productivity and fish starving at sea… Across the Pacific ocean

The increased die-off must be happening in a marine environment, Teske said, otherwise numbers on the four rivers wouldn’t fall at the same time… Undercurrent News: Japanese salmon fisheries in historic collapse — Landings in Hokkaido, Japan are the lowest in nearly three decades, reports the blog RussGeorge.net. The volume of salmon caught at main fishing ports, including Hokkaido, plunged 30-40% in 2016 from the previous year. The figure represented the lowest level in 28 years. The collapse has been confidently attributed to the starvation of four-year-old Chum salmon.. Russ George: Japanese Salmon Fisheries in Historic Collapse… News from Japan is terrible for NW Pacific fish… Local fishermen have been increasingly concerned over the fact that the trend of meager catch that continued in recent years has not been held in check and indeed is worsening every year… Given the shortfall of fish and the scrawny condition of the fish that were caught all evidence points to a cataclysmic collapse of ocean pasture primary productivity and fish starving at sea… Across the Pacific ocean

Russ George: Japanese Salmon Fisheries in Historic Collapse… News from Japan is terrible for NW Pacific fish… Local fishermen have been increasingly concerned over the fact that the trend of meager catch that continued in recent years has not been held in check and indeed is worsening every year… Given the shortfall of fish and the scrawny condition of the fish that were caught all evidence points to a cataclysmic collapse of ocean pasture primary productivity and fish starving at sea… Across the Pacific ocean salmon pastures have failed… Minato-Tsukiji: Japan chum salmon landings the worst in 24 years — This year’s chum catch in Japan is very poor, with declines in landings not only in the Hokkaido region but also in Honshu… Also, chum sizes are also getting smaller… Russ George: Hundreds of Millions of Pacific Salmon Missing and Presumed Dead — Across 10,000 miles of North Pacific ocean pasture declarations from Japan and the USA are reporting a cataclysmic collapse of Pacific Salmon. The fish are tragically starving at sea as the plankton pastures have turned into clear blue lifeless deserts… Collapse of North Pacific ocean fish pastures has resulted in near total collapse of Pacific Salmon… It’s not just Pacific salmon that are dying in the North Pacific all forms of ocean life are being reported dead and dying [in] stunning numbers… Hokkaido Shimbun: Salmon landings in Hokkaido in 2016 are the lowest in three decades — The number of salmon caught in Hokkaido in 2016 plunged 29.4% from the previous year… The figure represented the lowest level in 28 years… Local fishermen have been increasingly concerned over the fact that the trend of meager catch that continued in recent years has not been held in check… Minato-Tsukiji: The harvest in Hokkaido was the worst in 24 years… Beginning with the Sanriku area, landings all over Honshu were below those of the previous year… The number of returning four-year-olds, which are regarded as the main shoal, was a record low…… Read More:

“We’ve been in a period of low productivity, not just on the Taku, but on several rivers up and down the coast,” Juneau Area Management Biologist Daniel Teske said… Nobody knows exactly why Southeast king salmon are struggling, but biologists do know where the fish are being affected: in the ocean… The increased die-off must be happening in a marine environment, Teske said, otherwise numbers on the four rivers wouldn’t fall at the same time… Undercurrent News: Japanese salmon fisheries in historic collapse — Landings in Hokkaido, Japan are the lowest in nearly three decades, reports the blog RussGeorge.net. The volume of salmon caught at main fishing ports, including Hokkaido, plunged 30-40% in 2016 from the previous year. The figure represented the lowest level in 28 years. The collapse has been confidently attributed to the starvation of four-year-old Chum salmon… Russ George: Japanese Salmon Fisheries in Historic Collapse… News from Japan is terrible for NW Pacific fish… Local fishermen have been increasingly concerned over the fact that the trend of meager catch that continued in recent years has not been held in check and indeed is worsening every year… Given the shortfall of fish and the scrawny condition of the fish that were caught all evidence points to a cataclysmic collapse of ocean pasture primary productivity and fish starving at sea… Across the Pacific ocean salmon pastures have failed… Minato-Tsukiji: Japan chum salmon landings the worst in 24 years — This year’s chum catch in Japan is very poor, with declines in landings not only in the Hokkaido region but also in Honshu… Also, chum sizes are also getting smaller… Russ George: Hundreds of Millions of Pacific Salmon Missing and Presumed Dead — Across 10,000 miles of North Pacific ocean pasture declarations from Japan and the USA are reporting a cataclysmic collapse of Pacific Salmon. T

he fish are tragically starving at sea as the plankton pastures have turned into clear blue lifeless deserts… Collapse of North Pacific ocean fish pastures has resulted in near total collapse of Pacific Salmon… It’s not just Pacific salmon that are dying in the North Pacific all forms of ocean life are being reported dead and dying [in] stunning numbers… Hokkaido Shimbun: Salmon landings in Hokkaido in 2016 are the lowest in three decades — The number of salmon caught in Hokkaido in 2016 plunged 29.4% from the previous year… The figure represented the lowest level in 28 years… Local fishermen have been increasingly concerned over the fact that the trend of meager catch that continued in recent years has not been held in check… Minato-Tsukiji: The harvest in Hokkaido was the worst in 24 years… Beginning with the Sanriku area, landings all over Honshu were below those of the previous year… The number of returning four-year-olds, which are regarded as the main shoal, was a record low..

US withdraws funding for United Nations Population Fund.


A mother nurses her newborn at the maternity ward of the Kailahun Government hospital on April 26, 2016, eastern Sierra Leone.

The US says it is withdrawing funding for the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), an agency that promotes family planning in more than 150 countries.

The state department says the agency supports or participates in a programme of coercive abortion or involuntary sterilisation in China.

But the UNFPA says this is an “erroneous claim”, and that its work does not break any US laws.

In total $32.5m (£26m) in funds will be withdrawn for the 2017 financial year.

This is the first of the promised cuts to US financial contributions to the UN by the Trump administration.

The UNFPA, like other UN agencies, is funded by governments voluntarily.

In 2015, it received $979m in donations, with the US being its fourth-largest donor.

‘Erroneous claim’

Earlier this year, President Donald Trump reinstated a ban on US funding of any international organisation that provided any kind of abortion service or advice.

The state department referred to the presidential directive from January and a provision called the Kemp-Kasten Amendment in its statement on Monday.

US Ambassador to the United Nation Nikki Haley answers questions during a press briefing at the United Nations headquartersThe US Ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, is overseeing potential funding cuts to the body

“This determination was made based on the fact that China’s family planning policies still involve the use of coercive abortion and involuntary sterilisation, and UNFPA partners on family planning activities with the Chinese government agency responsible for these coercive policies,” the state department said.

The UNFPA calls those claims “erroneous” and says that “all of its work promotes the rights of individuals and couples to make their own decisions, free of coercion or discrimination”.

It says its programmes have saved the lives of tens of thousands of women. Its works include:

  • Helping women and young people to access sexual and reproductive services, including family planning
  • Preventing unintended pregnancies and unsafe abortions
  • Supporting maternal health
  • Programmes in the world’s “most fragile” countries, including Iraq, South Sudan, Syria, Yemen and Somalia

The UN Population Fund has often been the target of conservative Republican administrations, the BBC’s Nada Tawfik in New York reports. Presidents Ronald Reagan, George HW Bush and George W Bush withheld funding for the same reason.

The money that had been allocated to the UNFPA for the fiscal year 2017 will be “transferred and reprogrammed to the Global Health Programs account,” the state department said.

The account will be used by the US Agency for International Development (USAID) to support family planning, maternal and reproductive health activities in developing countries, it added.

Source:BBC

7 Famous Brands That Use Child Slaves To Make Your Chocolate – Stop Supporting Them NOW! 


It’s very shocking to report that there is child slave labor going on in Africa, and the ages range from 5-15 years old.

 
They work from six in the morning until evening in West African cocoa farms. What’s even more controversial, is these farms are directly tied with popular chocolate makers like Hershey, Nestlé, Kraft, ADM Cocoa, Mars, Fowler’s Chocolate, and Godiva. These child slave labor-enabling chocolate manufacturers are the ones who make your Kit Kat, Reese’s, Milky Way, Butterfinger and M&M’s. 

There were three class action lawsuits, in California that accused Nestlé, Mars and Hershey of ignoring the fact that there is human rights violations happening in their cocoa suppliers, while knowing it is going on. While this ensues, they are projecting themselves as human rights-friendly.
Then, Cargill, ADM and Nestlé are in separate lawsuits with three former child slaves from Mali in 2005. They accused the companies of helping and enabling the slavery of children in the cocoa market within Côte d’Ivoire.

In 2000, the documentary “Slavery: A Global Investigation” exploits how deep and expanded, the chocolate industry’s ties are with cocoa farms that utilize child slaves for labor. The guardian of 19 children who were former slaves, told the makers how the children worked from dawn until dusk each day, locked within a shed at night like dogs. In order to go to the bathroom, they were given a tin cup. They had been stripped naked, tied up and routinely beaten.

They also spoke about how thousands of children were being purchased from their parents. Most of the kids are from countries like Mali, Togo, and Burkina Faso, for money, or kidnapped. Then they are shipped to Ivory Coast like cattle, where they are enslaved on cocoa farms for mass profit.

Here are 7 brands that allow child slavery and enjoy the benefits of the hardwork children put into making your beloved chocolate:
Nestlé 

Even though it says in their code of conduct that child labor is not used in it suppliers, researchers from the Fair Labor Association found evidence that contradicts their policy. In the evidence, it was found that forced labor occurred, and for 14 hours they worked in dangerous conditions.

They would perform tasks that were hazardous to their health such as utilizing machetes and carrying/transporting heavy loads. A spokesperson for the Nestlé corporation spoke with The guardian: “To date we have identified 3,933 children working on their family farms (around 10% of the children surveyed) who were involved in hazardous tasks classified as child labor.

We have included half of them in our Child Labour Monitoring and Remediation System, which includes providing school kits, obtaining birth certificates and developing income generating activities for the families of 312 identified children. Unfortunately, the scale and complexity of the issue is such that no company sourcing cocoa from Ivory Coast can guarantee that it has completely removed the risk of child labor from its supply chain.”

Nestlé made $91.6 billion in chocolate sales in 2014.
Hershey
Hershey is the largest maker of chocolate in the United States, and gets their supply from the Ivory Coast, where child labor, child slavery, and forced slavery. A pension fund from Louisiana had brought up questions on whether the executives of Hershey’s knowledge of how much of their cocoa supply comes from West Africa, and if it could have been produced by child slaves. Jeff Beckman, head of corporate communications, said to confectionerynews.com:
The allegations in the lawsuit are not new and reflect long-term challenges in cocoa-growing countries that many stakeholders, including NGOs, companies in the cocoa supply chain and the US Government have been working diligently together to address for many years.”
Hershey brought in $847 million in total income for the 2014 fiscal year.
Mars
Mars has openly stated that it would pledge to sourcing only certified cocoa by 2020. When questioned on their commitment to taking until 2020 to accomplish making their chocolate child labor-free, the company stated that “a very small number of children is trafficked or forced to work on cocoa farms”, that “reaching every one of the millions of cocoa farmers in West Africa is a difficult task”, and that pursuing non-child slave chocolate is “complex.” they believe “ten years is a realistic time frame” to maintain sustainability.

In 2001, the cocoa industry signed an agreement to stop and self-regulate child slavery by 2005. Then the deadline was delayed until 2008, then to 2010. It’s 2017, and we STILL have these giant cocoa manufacturers profiting off of child labor.

In a report done in 2015, it was reported that the number of children enslaved had increased 51 percent from 2009 to 2014. 1.4 million children are currently enslaved, and that’s the result of a 10 percent rise, from 1.1 million children since 2009, that are living in slave-like conditions.

ADM, Kraft, Godiva, And Fowler’s Chocolate

In 2005, three Malian citizens who had been forced into working on cocoa plantations in the Ivory Coast, filed a class-action lawsuit in a federal court in California, claiming ADM, Cargill (in 2015 Cargill acquired ADM’s global chocolate business for an enterprise value of $440 million) and Nestlé — through buying massive amounts of cocoa harvested by child slaves — “aided and abetted” child labor, slavery and torture.

As the lawsuit against ADM continues, one of the world’s largest producers of cocoa liquor, powder and butter, sold away its cocoa business for $1.3 billion in August 2015. Olam International Ltd, a Singapore-based agribusiness company bought the company.

 In 2012, Cadbury and Kraft Foods owner Mondelez International pledged $400 million to improve the lives of cocoa farmers and create a balanced and fair, cocoa economy. All the efforts from the company have been a constant failure, as it has been struggling for so many years to phase out forced labor from its top supplier chain.

West Africa is the main source for about 60% of the world’s cocoa, and Godiva. Godiva is the only chocolate maker that has abstained from making commitments to phasing out child labor from its supply chain. Even though it has been announced that Godiva would move to purchasing cocoa from child labor-free plantations by 2020, they have been very ambiguous in what motives and steps they are pursuing to roll out safe working environments, equal pay, and no forced labor of children.

Fowler’s chocolate has consistently spoke out about the slavery of children, yet, they still purchase their cocoa from suppliers in the Ivory Coast that have no guarantee of openly admitting they enforce child labor.

The BBC opened an investigation in 2010 to investigate the suppliers that sell chocolate to the UK. They found evidence of human trafficking, child slavery and labor. It was found that even with safeguards, there is no certainty that any chocolate has been made from child slaves. Chocolate thats sold as a Fairtrade product, are misleading as it isn’t sure if child slavery is enforced within their chain of supply.

Source:organicandhealthy.org
              anonews.co

You Can’t Understand ISIS If You Don’t Know the History of Wahhabism in Saudi Arabia.


It appears — even now — that Saudi Arabia’s ruling elite is divided. Some applaud that ISIS is fighting Iranian Shiite “fire” with Sunni “fire”; that a new Sunni state is taking shape at the very heart of what they regard as a historical Sunni patrimony; and they are drawn by Da’ish’s strict Salafist ideology.

Other Saudis are more fearful, and recall the history of the revolt against Abd-al Aziz by the Wahhabist Ikhwan (Disclaimer: this Ikhwan has nothing to do with the Muslim Brotherhood Ikhwan — please note, all further references hereafter are to the Wahhabist Ikhwan, and not to the Muslim Brotherhood Ikhwan), but which nearly imploded Wahhabism and the al-Saud in the late 1920s.

Many Saudis are deeply disturbed by the radical doctrines of Da’ish (ISIS) — and are beginning to question some aspects of Saudi Arabia’s direction and discourse.

THE SAUDI DUALITY

Saudi Arabia’s internal discord and tensions over ISIS can only be understood by grasping the inherent (and persisting) duality that lies at the core of the Kingdom’s doctrinal makeup and its historical origins.

One dominant strand to the Saudi identity pertains directly to Muhammad ibn ʿAbd al-Wahhab (the founder of Wahhabism), and the use to which his radical, exclusionist puritanism was put by Ibn Saud. (The latter was then no more than a minor leader — amongst many — of continually sparring and raiding Bedouin tribes in the baking and desperately poor deserts of the Nejd.)

The second strand to this perplexing duality, relates precisely to King Abd-al Aziz’s subsequent shift towards statehood in the 1920s: his curbing of Ikhwani violence (in order to have diplomatic standing as a nation-state with Britain and America); his institutionalization of the original Wahhabist impulse — and the subsequent seizing of the opportunely surging petrodollar spigot in the 1970s, to channel the volatile Ikhwani current away from home towards export — by diffusing a cultural revolution, rather than violent revolution throughout the Muslim world.

But this “cultural revolution” was no docile reformism. It was a revolution based on Abd al-Wahhab’s Jacobin-like hatred for the putrescence and deviationism that he perceived all about him — hence his call to purge Islam of all its heresies and idolatries.

MUSLIM IMPOSTORS

The American author and journalist, Steven Coll, has written how this austere and censorious disciple of the 14th century scholar Ibn Taymiyyah, Abd al-Wahhab, despised “the decorous, arty, tobacco smoking, hashish imbibing, drum pounding Egyptian and Ottoman nobility who travelled across Arabia to pray at Mecca.”

In Abd al-Wahhab’s view, these were not Muslims; they were imposters masquerading as Muslims. Nor, indeed, did he find the behavior of local Bedouin Arabs much better. They aggravated Abd al-Wahhab by their honoring of saints, by their erecting of tombstones, and their “superstition” (e.g. revering graves or places that were deemed particularly imbued with the divine).

All this behavior, Abd al-Wahhab denounced as bida — forbidden by God.

Like Taymiyyah before him, Abd al-Wahhab believed that the period of the Prophet Muhammad’s stay in Medina was the ideal of Muslim society (the “best of times”), to which all Muslims should aspire to emulate (this, essentially, is Salafism).

Taymiyyah had declared war on Shi’ism, Sufism and Greek philosophy. He spoke out, too against visiting the grave of the prophet and the celebration of his birthday, declaring that all such behavior represented mere imitation of the Christian worship of Jesus as God (i.e. idolatry). Abd al-Wahhab assimilated all this earlier teaching, stating that “any doubt or hesitation” on the part of a believer in respect to his or her acknowledging this particular interpretation of Islam should “deprive a man of immunity of his property and his life.”

One of the main tenets of Abd al-Wahhab’s doctrine has become the key idea of takfir.Under the takfiri doctrine, Abd al-Wahhab and his followers could deem fellow Muslims infidels should they engage in activities that in any way could be said to encroach on the sovereignty of the absolute Authority (that is, the King). Abd al-Wahhab denounced all Muslims who honored the dead, saints, or angels. He held that such sentiments detracted from the complete subservience one must feel towards God, and only God. Wahhabi Islam thus bans any prayer to saints and dead loved ones, pilgrimages to tombs and special mosques, religious festivals celebrating saints, the honoring of the Muslim Prophet Muhammad’s birthday, and even prohibits the use of gravestones when burying the dead.

Those who would not conform to this view should be killed, their wives and daughters violated, and their possessions confiscated, he wrote.

Abd al-Wahhab demanded conformity — a conformity that was to be demonstrated in physical and tangible ways. He argued that all Muslims must individually pledge their allegiance to a single Muslim leader (a Caliph, if there were one). Those who would not conform to this view should be killed, their wives and daughters violated, and their possessions confiscated, he wrote. The list of apostates meriting death included the Shiite, Sufis and other Muslim denominations, whom Abd al-Wahhab did not consider to be Muslim at all.

There is nothing here that separates Wahhabism from ISIS. The rift would emerge only later: from the subsequent institutionalization of Muhammad ibn ʿAbd al-Wahhab’s doctrine of “One Ruler, One Authority, One Mosque” — these three pillars being taken respectively to refer to the Saudi king, the absolute authority of official Wahhabism, and its control of “the word” (i.e. the mosque).

It is this rift — the ISIS denial of these three pillars on which the whole of Sunni authority presently rests — makes ISIS, which in all other respects conforms to Wahhabism, a deep threat to Saudi Arabia.

BRIEF HISTORY 1741- 1818

Abd al-Wahhab’s advocacy of these ultra radical views inevitably led to his expulsion from his own town — and in 1741, after some wanderings, he found refuge under the protection of Ibn Saud and his tribe. What Ibn Saud perceived in Abd al-Wahhab’s novel teaching was the means to overturn Arab tradition and convention. It was a path to seizing power.

Their strategy — like that of ISIS today — was to bring the peoples whom they conquered into submission. They aimed to instill fear.

Ibn Saud’s clan, seizing on Abd al-Wahhab’s doctrine, now could do what they always did, which was raiding neighboring villages and robbing them of their possessions. Only now they were doing it not within the ambit of Arab tradition, but rather under the banner ofjihad. Ibn Saud and Abd al-Wahhab also reintroduced the idea of martyrdom in the name of jihad, as it granted those martyred immediate entry into paradise.

In the beginning, they conquered a few local communities and imposed their rule over them. (The conquered inhabitants were given a limited choice: conversion to Wahhabism or death.) By 1790, the Alliance controlled most of the Arabian Peninsula and repeatedly raided Medina, Syria and Iraq.

Their strategy — like that of ISIS today — was to bring the peoples whom they conquered into submission. They aimed to instill fear. In 1801, the Allies attacked the Holy City of Karbala in Iraq. They massacred thousands of Shiites, including women and children. Many Shiite shrines were destroyed, including the shrine of Imam Hussein, the murdered grandson of Prophet Muhammad.

A British official, Lieutenant Francis Warden, observing the situation at the time, wrote: “They pillaged the whole of it [Karbala], and plundered the Tomb of Hussein… slaying in the course of the day, with circumstances of peculiar cruelty, above five thousand of the inhabitants …”

Osman Ibn Bishr Najdi, the historian of the first Saudi state, wrote that Ibn Saud committed a massacre in Karbala in 1801. He proudly documented that massacre saying, “we took Karbala and slaughtered and took its people (as slaves), then praise be to Allah, Lord of the Worlds, and we do not apologize for that and say: ‘And to the unbelievers: the same treatment.’”

In 1803, Abdul Aziz then entered the Holy City of Mecca, which surrendered under the impact of terror and panic (the same fate was to befall Medina, too). Abd al-Wahhab’s followers demolished historical monuments and all the tombs and shrines in their midst. By the end, they had destroyed centuries of Islamic architecture near the Grand Mosque.

But in November of 1803, a Shiite assassin killed King Abdul Aziz (taking revenge for the massacre at Karbala). His son, Saud bin Abd al Aziz, succeeded him and continued the conquest of Arabia. Ottoman rulers, however, could no longer just sit back and watch as their empire was devoured piece by piece. In 1812, the Ottoman army, composed of Egyptians, pushed the Alliance out from Medina, Jeddah and Mecca. In 1814, Saud bin Abd al Aziz died of fever. His unfortunate son Abdullah bin Saud, however, was taken by the Ottomans to Istanbul, where he was gruesomely executed (a visitor to Istanbul reported seeing him having been humiliated in the streets of Istanbul for three days, then hanged and beheaded, his severed head fired from a canon, and his heart cut out and impaled on his body).

In 1815, Wahhabi forces were crushed by the Egyptians (acting on the Ottoman’s behalf) in a decisive battle. In 1818, the Ottomans captured and destroyed the Wahhabi capital of Dariyah. The first Saudi state was no more. The few remaining Wahhabis withdrew into the desert to regroup, and there they remained, quiescent for most of the 19th century.

HISTORY RETURNS WITH ISIS

It is not hard to understand how the founding of the Islamic State by ISIS in contemporary Iraq might resonate amongst those who recall this history. Indeed, the ethos of 18th century Wahhabism did not just wither in Nejd, but it roared back into life when the Ottoman Empire collapsed amongst the chaos of World War I.

The Al Saud — in this 20th century renaissance — were led by the laconic and politically astute Abd-al Aziz, who, on uniting the fractious Bedouin tribes, launched the Saudi “Ikhwan” in the spirit of Abd-al Wahhab’s and Ibn Saud’s earlier fighting proselytisers.

The Ikhwan was a reincarnation of the early, fierce, semi-independent vanguard movement of committed armed Wahhabist “moralists” who almost had succeeded in seizing Arabia by the early 1800s. In the same manner as earlier, the Ikhwan again succeeded in capturing Mecca, Medina and Jeddah between 1914 and 1926. Abd-al Aziz, however, began to feel his wider interests to be threatened by the revolutionary “Jacobinism” exhibited by the Ikhwan. The Ikhwan revolted — leading to a civil war that lasted until the 1930s, when the King had them put down: he machine-gunned them.

For this king, (Abd-al Aziz), the simple verities of previous decades were eroding. Oil was being discovered in the peninsular. Britain and America were courting Abd-al Aziz, but still were inclined to support Sharif Husain as the only legitimate ruler of Arabia. The Saudis needed to develop a more sophisticated diplomatic posture.

So Wahhabism was forcefully changed from a movement of revolutionary jihad and theological takfiri purification, to a movement of conservative social, political, theological, and religious da’wa (Islamic call) and to justifying the institution that upholds loyalty to the royal Saudi family and the King’s absolute power.

OIL WEALTH SPREAD WAHHABISM

With the advent of the oil bonanza — as the French scholar, Giles Kepel writes, Saudi goals were to “reach out and spread Wahhabism across the Muslim world … to “Wahhabise” Islam, thereby reducing the “multitude of voices within the religion” to a “single creed” — a movement which would transcend national divisions. Billions of dollars were — and continue to be — invested in this manifestation of soft power.

It was this heady mix of billion dollar soft power projection — and the Saudi willingness to manage Sunni Islam both to further America’s interests, as it concomitantly embedded Wahhabism educationally, socially and culturally throughout the lands of Islam — that brought into being a western policy dependency on Saudi Arabia, a dependency that has endured since Abd-al Aziz’s meeting with Roosevelt on a U.S. warship (returning the president from the Yalta Conference) until today.

Westerners looked at the Kingdom and their gaze was taken by the wealth; by the apparent modernization; by the professed leadership of the Islamic world. They chose to presume that the Kingdom was bending to the imperatives of modern life — and that the management of Sunni Islam would bend the Kingdom, too, to modern life.

On the one hand, ISIS is deeply Wahhabist. On the other hand, it is ultra radical in a different way. It could be seen essentially as a corrective movement to contemporary Wahhabism.

But the Saudi Ikhwan approach to Islam did not die in the 1930s. It retreated, but it maintained its hold over parts of the system — hence the duality that we observe today in the Saudi attitude towards ISIS.

On the one hand, ISIS is deeply Wahhabist. On the other hand, it is ultra radical in a different way. It could be seen essentially as a corrective movement to contemporary Wahhabism.

ISIS is a “post-Medina” movement: it looks to the actions of the first two Caliphs, rather than the Prophet Muhammad himself, as a source of emulation, and it forcefully denies the Saudis’ claim of authority to rule.

As the Saudi monarchy blossomed in the oil age into an ever more inflated institution, the appeal of the Ikhwan message gained ground (despite King Faisal’s modernization campaign). The “Ikhwan approach” enjoyed — and still enjoys — the support of many prominent men and women and sheikhs. In a sense, Osama bin Laden was precisely the representative of a late flowering of this Ikhwani approach.

Today, ISIS’ undermining of the legitimacy of the King’s legitimacy is not seen to be problematic, but rather a return to the true origins of the Saudi-Wahhab project.

In the collaborative management of the region by the Saudis and the West in pursuit of the many western projects (countering socialism, Ba’athism, Nasserism, Soviet and Iranian influence), western politicians have highlighted their chosen reading of Saudi Arabia (wealth, modernization and influence), but they chose to ignore the Wahhabist impulse.

After all, the more radical Islamist movements were perceived by Western intelligence services as being more effective in toppling the USSR in Afghanistan — and in combatting out-of-favor Middle Eastern leaders and states.

Why should we be surprised then, that from Prince Bandar’s Saudi-Western mandate to manage the insurgency in Syria against President Assad should have emerged a neo-Ikhwan type of violent, fear-inducing vanguard movement: ISIS? And why should we be surprised — knowing a little about Wahhabism — that “moderate” insurgents in Syria would become rarer than a mythical unicorn? Why should we have imagined that radical Wahhabism would create moderates? Or why could we imagine that a doctrine of “One leader, One authority, One mosque: submit to it, or be killed” could ever ultimately lead to moderation or tolerance?

Or, perhaps, we never imagined.

ISIS is indeed a veritable time bomb inserted into the heart of the Middle East. But its destructive power is not as commonly understood. It is not with the “March of the Beheaders”; it is not with the killings; the seizure of towns and villages; the harshest of “justice” — terrible though they are — that its true explosive power lies. It is yet more potent than its exponential pull on young Muslims, its huge arsenal of weapons and its hundreds of millions of dollars.

“We should understand that there is really almost nothing that the West can now do about it but sit and watch.”

Its real potential for destruction lies elsewhere — in the implosion of Saudi Arabia as a foundation stone of the modern Middle East. We should understand that there is really almost nothing that the West can now do about it but sit and watch.

The clue to its truly explosive potential, as Saudi scholar Fouad Ibrahim has pointed out (but which has passed, almost wholly overlooked, or its significance has gone unnoticed), is ISIS’ deliberate and intentional use in its doctrine — of the language of Abd-al Wahhab, the 18th century founder, together with Ibn Saud, of Wahhabism and the Saudi project:

Abu Omar al-Baghdadi, the first “prince of the faithful” in the Islamic State of Iraq, in 2006 formulated, for instance, the principles of his prospective state … Among its goals is disseminating monotheism “which is the purpose [for which humans were created] and [for which purpose they must be called] to Islam…” This language replicates exactly Abd-al Wahhab’s formulation. And, not surprisingly, the latter’s writings and Wahhabi commentaries on his works are widely distributed in the areas under ISIS’ control and are made the subject of study sessions. Baghdadi subsequently was to note approvingly, “a generation of young men [have been] trained based on the forgotten doctrine of loyalty and disavowal.”

And what is this “forgotten” tradition of “loyalty and disavowal?” It is Abd al-Wahhab’s doctrine that belief in a sole (for him an anthropomorphic) God — who was alone worthy of worship — was in itself insufficient to render man or woman a Muslim?

He or she could be no true believer, unless additionally, he or she actively denied (and destroyed) any other subject of worship. The list of such potential subjects of idolatrous worship, which al-Wahhab condemned as idolatry, was so extensive that almost all Muslims were at risk of falling under his definition of “unbelievers.” They therefore faced a choice: Either they convert to al-Wahhab’s vision of Islam — or be killed, and their wives, their children and physical property taken as the spoils of jihad. Even to express doubts about this doctrine, al-Wahhab said, should occasion execution.

“Through its intentional adoption of this Wahhabist language, ISIS is knowingly lighting the fuse to a bigger regional explosion — one that has a very real possibility of being ignited, and if it should succeed, will change the Middle East decisively.”

The point Fuad Ibrahim is making, I believe, is not merely to reemphasize the extreme reductionism of al-Wahhab’s vision, but to hint at something entirely different: That through its intentional adoption of this Wahhabist language, ISIS is knowingly lighting the fuse to a bigger regional explosion — one that has a very real possibility of being ignited, and if it should succeed, will change the Middle East decisively.

For it was precisely this idealistic, puritan, proselytizing formulation by al-Wahhab that was “father” to the entire Saudi “project” (one that was violently suppressed by the Ottomans in 1818, but spectacularly resurrected in the 1920s, to become the Saudi Kingdom that we know today). But since its renaissance in the 1920s, the Saudi project has always carried within it, the “gene” of its own self-destruction.

THE SAUDI TAIL HAS WAGGED BRITAIN AND U.S. IN THE MIDDLE EAST

Paradoxically, it was a maverick British official, who helped embed the gene into the new state. The British official attached to Aziz, was one Harry St. John Philby (the father of the MI6 officer who spied for the Soviet KGB, Kim Philby). He was to become King Abd al-Aziz’s close adviser, having resigned as a British official, and was until his death, a key member of the Ruler’s Court. He, like Lawrence of Arabia, was an Arabist. He was also a convert to Wahhabi Islam and known as Sheikh Abdullah.

St. John Philby was a man on the make: he had determined to make his friend, Abd al-Aziz, the ruler of Arabia. Indeed, it is clear that in furthering this ambition he was not acting on official instructions. When, for example, he encouraged King Aziz to expand in northern Nejd, he was ordered to desist. But (as American author, Stephen Schwartz notes), Aziz was well aware that Britain had pledged repeatedly that the defeat of the Ottomans would produce an Arab state, and this no doubt, encouraged Philby and Aziz to aspire to the latter becoming its new ruler.

It is not clear exactly what passed between Philby and the Ruler (the details seem somehow to have been suppressed), but it would appear that Philby’s vision was not confined to state-building in the conventional way, but rather was one of transforming the wider Islamic ummah (or community of believers) into a Wahhabist instrument that would entrench the al-Saud as Arabia’s leaders. And for this to happen, Aziz needed to win British acquiescence (and much later, American endorsement). “This was the gambit that Abd al-Aziz made his own, with advice from Philby,” notes Schwartz.

BRITISH GODFATHER OF SAUDI ARABIA

In a sense, Philby may be said to be “godfather” to this momentous pact by which the Saudi leadership would use its clout to “manage” Sunni Islam on behalf of western objectives (containing socialism, Ba’athism, Nasserism, Soviet influence, Iran, etc.) — and in return, the West would acquiesce to Saudi Arabia’s soft-power Wahhabisation of the Islamic ummah (with its concomitant destruction of Islam’s intellectual traditions and diversity and its sowing of deep divisions within the Muslim world).

“In political and financial terms, the Saud-Philby strategy has been an astonishing success. But it was always rooted in British and American intellectual obtuseness: the refusal to see the dangerous ‘gene’ within the Wahhabist project, its latent potential to mutate, at any time, back into its original a bloody, puritan strain. In any event, this has just happened: ISIS is it.”

As a result — from then until now — British and American policy has been bound to Saudi aims (as tightly as to their own ones), and has been heavily dependent on Saudi Arabia for direction in pursuing its course in the Middle East.

In political and financial terms, the Saud-Philby strategy has been an astonishing success (if taken on its own, cynical, self-serving terms). But it was always rooted in British and American intellectual obtuseness: the refusal to see the dangerous “gene” within the Wahhabist project, its latent potential to mutate, at any time, back into its original a bloody, puritan strain. In any event, this has just happened: ISIS is it.

Winning western endorsement (and continued western endorsement), however, required a change of mode: the “project” had to change from being an armed, proselytizing Islamic vanguard movement into something resembling statecraft. This was never going to be easy because of the inherent contradictions involved (puritan morality versus realpolitikand money) — and as time has progressed, the problems of accommodating the “modernity” that statehood requires, has caused “the gene” to become more active, rather than become more inert.

Even Abd al-Aziz himself faced an allergic reaction: in the form of a serious rebellion from his own Wahhabi militia, the Saudi Ikhwan. When the expansion of control by the Ikhwanreached the border of territories controlled by Britain, Abd al-Aziz tried to restrain his militia (Philby was urging him to seek British patronage), but the Ikwhan, already critical of his use of modern technology (the telephone, telegraph and the machine gun), “were outraged by the abandonment of jihad for reasons of worldly realpolitik … They refused to lay down their weapons; and instead rebelled against their king … After a series of bloody clashes, they were crushed in 1929. Ikhwan members who had remained loyal, were later absorbed into the [Saudi] National Guard.”

King Aziz’s son and heir, Saud, faced a different form of reaction (less bloody, but more effective). Aziz’s son was deposed from the throne by the religious establishment — in favor of his brother Faisal — because of his ostentatious and extravagant conduct. His lavish, ostentatious style, offended the religious establishment who expected the “Imam of Muslims,” to pursue a pious, proselytizing lifestyle.

King Faisal, Saud’s successor, in his turn, was shot by his nephew in 1975, who had appeared at Court ostensibly to make his oath of allegiance, but who instead, pulled out a pistol and shot the king in his head. The nephew had been perturbed by the encroachment of western beliefs and innovation into Wahhabi society, to the detriment of the original ideals of the Wahhabist project.

SEIZING THE GRAND MOSQUE IN 1979

Far more serious, however, was the revived Ikhwan of Juhayman al-Otaybi, which culminated in the seizure of the Grand Mosque by some 400-500 armed men and women in 1979. Juhayman was from the influential Otaybi tribe from the Nejd, which had led and been a principal element in the original Ikhwan of the 1920s.

Juhayman and his followers, many of whom came from the Medina seminary, had the tacit support, amongst other clerics, of Sheikh Abdel-Aziz Bin Baz, the former Mufti of Saudi Arabia. Juhayman stated that Sheikh Bin Baz never objected to his Ikhwan teachings (which were also critical of ulema laxity towards “disbelief”), but that bin Baz had blamed him mostly for harking on that “the ruling al-Saud dynasty had lost its legitimacy because it was corrupt, ostentatious and had destroyed Saudi culture by an aggressive policy of westernisation.”

Significantly, Juhayman’s followers preached their Ikhwani message in a number of mosques in Saudi Arabia initially without being arrested, but when Juhayman and a number of the Ikhwan finally were held for questioning in 1978. Members of the ulema (including bin Baz) cross-examined them for heresy, but then ordered their release because they saw them as being no more than traditionalists harkening back to the Ikhwan— like Juhayman grandfather — and therefore not a threat.

Even when the mosque seizure was defeated and over, a certain level of forbearance by the ulema for the rebels remained. When the government asked for a fatwa allowing for armed force to be used in the mosque, the language of bin Baz and other senior ulema was curiously restrained. The scholars did not declare Juhayman and his followers non-Muslims, despite their violation of the sanctity of the Grand Mosque, but only termed them al-jamaah al-musallahah (the armed group).

The group that Juhayman led was far from marginalized from important sources of power and wealth. In a sense, it swam in friendly, receptive waters. Juhayman’s grandfather had been one of the leaders of the the original Ikhwan, and after the rebellion against Abdel Aziz, many of his grandfather’s comrades in arms were absorbed into the National Guard — indeed Juhayman himself had served within the Guard — thus Juhayman was able to obtain weapons and military expertise from sympathizers in the National Guard, and the necessary arms and food to sustain the siege were pre-positioned, and hidden, within the Grand Mosque. Juhayman was also able to call on wealthy individuals to fund the enterprise.

ISIS VS. WESTERNIZED SAUDIS

The point of rehearsing this history is to underline how uneasy the Saudi leadership must be at the rise of ISIS in Iraq and Syria. Previous Ikhwani manifestations were suppressed — but these all occurred inside the kingdom.

ISIS however, is a neo-Ikhwani rejectionist protest that is taking place outside the kingdom — and which, moreover, follows the Juhayman dissidence in its trenchant criticism of the al-Saud ruling family.

This is the deep schism we see today in Saudi Arabia, between the modernizing current of which King Abdullah is a part, and the “Juhayman” orientation of which bin Laden, and the Saudi supporters of ISIS and the Saudi religious establishment are a part. It is also a schism that exists within the Saudi royal family itself.

According to the Saudi-owned Al-Hayat newspaper, in July 2014 “an opinion poll of Saudis [was] released on social networking sites, claiming that 92 percent of the target group believes that ‘IS conforms to the values of Islam and Islamic law.’” The leading Saudi commentator, Jamal Khashoggi, recently warned of ISIS’ Saudi supporters who “watch from the shadows.”

There are angry youths with a skewed mentality and understanding of life and sharia, and they are canceling a heritage of centuries and the supposed gains of a modernization that hasn’t been completed. They turned into rebels, emirs and a caliph invading a vast area of our land. They are hijacking our children’s minds and canceling borders. They reject all rules and legislations, throwing it [a]way … for their vision of politics, governance, life, society and economy. [For] the citizens of the self-declared “commander of the faithful,” or Caliph, you have no other choice … They don’t care if you stand out among your people and if you are an educated man, or a lecturer, or a tribe leader, or a religious leader, or an active politician or even a judge … You must obey the commander of the faithful and pledge the oath of allegiance to him. When their policies are questioned, Abu Obedia al-Jazrawi yells, saying: “Shut up. Our reference is the book and the Sunnah and that’s it.”

“What did we do wrong?” Khashoggi asks. With 3,000-4,000 Saudi fighters in the Islamic State today, he advises of the need to “look inward to explain ISIS’ rise”. Maybe it is time, he says, to admit “our political mistakes,” to “correct the mistakes of our predecessors.”

MODERNIZING KING THE MOST VULNERABLE

The present Saudi king, Abdullah, paradoxically is all the more vulnerable precisely because he has been a modernizer. The King has curbed the influence of the religious institutions and the religious police — and importantly has permitted the four Sunni schools of jurisprudence to be used, by those who adhere to them (al-Wahhab, by contrast, objected to all other schools of jurisprudence other than his own).

“The key political question is whether the simple fact of ISIS’ successes, and the full manifestation (flowering) of all the original pieties and vanguardism of the archetypal impulse, will stimulate and activate the dissenter ‘gene’ — within the Saudi kingdom. If it does, and Saudi Arabia is engulfed by the ISIS fervor, the Gulf will never be the same again. Saudi Arabia will deconstruct and the Middle East will be unrecognizable.”

It is even possible too for Shiite residents of eastern Saudi Arabia to invoke Ja’afri jurisprudence and to turn to Ja’afari Shiite clerics for rulings. (In clear contrast, al-Wahhab held a particular animosity towards the Shiite and held them to be apostates. As recentlyas the 1990s, clerics such as bin Baz — the former Mufti — and Abdullah Jibrin reiterated the customary view that the Shiite were infidels).

Some contemporary Saudi ulema would regard such reforms as constituting almost a provocation against Wahhabist doctrines, or at the very least, another example of westernization. ISIS, for example, regards any who seek jurisdiction other than that offered by the Islamic State itself to be guilty of disbelief — since all such “other” jurisdictions embody innovation or “borrowings” from other cultures in its view.

The key political question is whether the simple fact of ISIS’ successes, and the full manifestation (flowering) of all the original pieties and vanguardism of the archetypal impulse, will stimulate and activate the dissenter ‘gene’ — within the Saudi kingdom.

If it does, and Saudi Arabia is engulfed by the ISIS fervor, the Gulf will never be the same again. Saudi Arabia will deconstruct and the Middle East will be unrecognizable.

“They hold up a mirror to Saudi society that seems to reflect back to them an image of ‘purity’ lost”

In short, this is the nature of the time bomb tossed into the Middle East. The ISIS allusions to Abd al-Wahhab and Juhayman (whose dissident writings are circulated within ISIS) present a powerful provocation: they hold up a mirror to Saudi society that seems to reflect back to them an image of “purity” lost and early beliefs and certainties displaced by shows of wealth and indulgence.

This is the ISIS “bomb” hurled into Saudi society. King Abdullah — and his reforms — are popular, and perhaps he can contain a new outbreak of Ikwhani dissidence. But will that option remain a possibility after his death?

And here is the difficulty with evolving U.S. policy, which seems to be one of “leading from behind” again — and looking to Sunni states and communities to coalesce in the fight against ISIS (as in Iraq with the Awakening Councils).

It is a strategy that seems highly implausible. Who would want to insert themselves into this sensitive intra-Saudi rift? And would concerted Sunni attacks on ISIS make King Abdullah’s situation better, or might it inflame and anger domestic Saudi dissidence even further? So whom precisely does ISIS threaten? It could not be clearer. It does not directly threaten the West (though westerners should remain wary, and not tread on this particular scorpion).

The Saudi Ikhwani history is plain: As Ibn Saud and Abd al-Wahhab made it such in the 18th century; and as the Saudi Ikhwan made it such in the 20th century. ISIS’ real target must be the Hijaz — the seizure of Mecca and Medina — and the legitimacy that this will confer on ISIS as the new Emirs of Arabia.

Written by Alastair Crooke Fmr. MI-6 agent; Author, ‘Resistance: The Essence of Islamic Revolution’

How Many Americans Live In poverty?


The Census Bureau's new supplemental poverty measure now considers food stamps, health care costs, and cost-of-living in its calculations of who is and is not poor.

 As we reported earlier this year, there are some big problems with the way poverty is measured in this country. So we were interested to see a Census report out today based on the “supplemental poverty measure” — a newer, unofficial method that figures in the value of many government benefits, the cost of living in different cities, and health-care costs.

A few of the report’s key findings:

  • Almost 50 million people in the U.S. are poor using the supplemental measure, compared to the 47 million using the official measure.
  • Food stamps (formally known as SNAP) keep about five million people out of poverty, according to the supplemental measure.
  • Without Social Security more than half of all Americans 65 and over would be in poverty. (Both supplemental and traditional poverty measures include Social Security benefits.)
  • Under the supplemental measure, which includes cost-of-living differences, poverty is much higher in expensive states like California and New York, and lower in places like Alabama and Kentucky.
  • The poverty rate for children goes down under the supplemental measure and it goes up for those 65 and older. That’s because the supplemental measure includes the impact of out-of-pocket medical expenses (which are high for senior citizens) and of certain government benefits that go disproportionately to children.

Sara Kimberlin, author of the Berkeley study, used the supplemental poverty measure to look at poverty over an 11-year period. She found that chronic poverty — those who were poor for more than half that time — was lower than previously thought. Only about two percent of people were chronically poor under the supplemental measure, compared with 3.3 percent under the official rate.

This is important, because research shows that chronic poverty does the most long-term harm to people, especially children.

Kimberlin says most people in poverty are poor for a short period of time, because government benefits help lift them back above the poverty line. And it’s only a big setback — like a job loss or unexpected medical bill — that pulls them back down.

The supplemental measure “makes it easier to think about solutions,” Kimberlin says, because you can get an idea which programs are doing the most good.

Source:http://www.npr.org

Billionaire Tom Steyer’s Mission to Save the Planet From Trump.


Tom Steyer was the biggest campaign donor in 2016, spending $86 million on progressive causes. So what does he do after losing? Fight harder.

TOM STEYER ISN’T your average California tree hugger. The former hedge fund manager—number 1,121 on Forbes’wealthiest people list, with $1.61 billion—was once best known for turning $15 million into $30 billion in about two decades.

But then he went hiking. Steyer and environmental activist and author Bill McKibben spent a day trudging through the Adirondacks. Not long after, Steyer parted ways with the leadership of his company and his oil and gas investments, began to fight the Keystone XL pipeline, and then reinvented himself as a one-man superfund for climate causes. His organization, NextGen Climate, has spent $170 million over the past four years advocating for policies and politicians that help the environment and advance renewable energy.

It’s an uphill battle. Steyer was the largest single donor on either side of the 2016 election—$86 million of his own money. Yet climate change skeptics rule the federal government and many statehouses. Somehow, though, Steyer isn’t acting like a loser. Since November he’s become an even more vocal representative of the nearly two-thirds of Americans who do think human-caused climate change is a real problem. He talked to WIRED about California’s role in science, his own po­litical ambitions (“governor” has a better ring to it than “former hedge fund manager,” right?), and whether Donald Trump could ever possibly, conceivably help save the planet.

WIRED: So Keystone XL has been revived, the Clean Power Plan is in peril, and the former CEO of Exxon is our secretary of state. How are you?

STEYER: I know there are five stages of grief, but my parents raised me to pull up my socks when times get tough. So I really never had the luxury of feeling bad, because right after the election I felt like we needed to figure this thing out.

What is NextGen going to do?

We have been cosponsoring marches with immigrants’ and women’s rights groups. We’ve been running ads against Trump’s nominees and policy positions. And we’ve been organizing resistance activities on the college campuses where we established ourselves during the campaign. We will continue to go on the offensive each time the administration attempts to derail global actions to stop climate change.

During the confirmation hearings for Rex Tillerson, Scott Pruitt, and others, you guys took out attack ads. What’s your goal?

Those guys disagree with us on almost every point. One of the things we strongly believe—and Tillerson was a perfect example—is that the people Trump nominated consistently put corporate interests ahead of American interests. We feel it’s important to get citizens to be reminded of this common thread: that the new administration doesn’t hate working against climate change, they don’t hate science—they just love oil and gas profits.

There’s a wide swath of rural Americans who are happy and hopeful for Trump. Are you reaching out to them?

After the election, the first thing I wanted to know was how our voter registration work on 370 campuses across the country affected turnout. We monitored 12 precincts where there were a lot of millennials and saw that voter turnout was up overall. And turns out, we did do well at rural schools. What we are still trying to figure out is whether that turnout voted Republican or Democrat. That is, if those new voters brought our messaging about politicians who supported climate action to the voting booth.

steyer2.jpg

THE EVOLUTION OF A MAN

From Wall Street to the Adirondacks, billionaire Tom Steyer took an unusual path to becoming the nation’s leading climate change activist. —Lexi Pandell

1986

An alumnus of Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs, Steyer moves to San Francisco and starts the investment firm Farallon Capital with $15 million.

2003

Steyer becomes more involved in California politics and briefly considers running for governor in the wake of the Gray Davis recall.

2004

Students at Yale and Stanford (Steyer’s alma maters) criticize the universities for investing in Farallon, which they say funds antilabor and antienvironment companies. Steyer takes note.

2006

Twenty years after its founding, Farallon Capital is worth $30 billion.

2011

A year after he and his wife, Kat Taylor (pictured, above, in the mid-’90s), sign the Giving Pledge, Steyer joins the board of Next Generation, an organization for children’s issues and climate change.

2012

After reading an article by author Bill McKibben, Steyer invites the writer on a hike in the Adirondacks. Steyer comes out of the wilderness ready to advocate for alternative energy.

2013

Steyer founds NextGen Climate, an environmental advocacy nonprofit and political action committee.

2016

NextGen Climate puts up $95 million for candidates, voter engagement, and more. Steyer spends nearly $86 million himself.

Given what you know about how policy moves markets, what will we give up when Trump pulls the US out of the Paris agreement?

I was in business for 30 years, and my experience is that the best way to operate is to work fairly and closely with partners over a long period of time. The most expensive way to do business is to do it deal by deal, each of which is highly contentious. If deal by deal is the model, where instead of partners or allies we have counterparts and competitors, that is very expensive, difficult, and dangerous. OK, so look at the Paris agreement: It’s going to force the developed world to change its energy sources. That means the US could be the leader in developing renewable technology for more than a billion people—a huge incoming market—who don’t have electricity at all.

The Paris agreement was a great achievement of American leadership. So the idea that we’re going to walk away and give up leadership of 194 countries, and walk away from our position as a leader in the world for the past 100 years, will be an incredibly expensive and dumb thing to do.

Are there any Republican climate leaders?

You know, we all act like it is an incredible triumph if a Republican shows the remotest respect for climate science. When Kelly Ayotte—who has a dismal 35 percent rating from the League of Conservation Voters—voted for the Clean Power Plan, a lot of people said, “Oh, she’s really an environmentalist.” But that’s ignoring her record and the reason why it’s so hard for her and other Republicans to stand up for the environment in this political climate, because they have to stand up to the fossil fuel industry. I think there are a lot of Republicans who know the truth and would like to do the right thing but don’t understand how.

Solar and wind energy costs have been coming down for decades. Why aren’t they replacing fossil fuels faster?

There are a lot of subsidies for oil and gas, things like tax breaks and access to markets. That’s partly because there’s a lot of volatility in the oil and gas markets. Fossil fuels are raw materials that have to be extracted and processed. Wind and solar energy are different. The only costs associated with them are technological. WIRED readers should be familiar with the idea that technology gets better and cheaper every year. That’s not true about fossil fuels. The techniques we use to withdraw them might get better every year, but the price has actually risen over time. If you take away subsidies from fossil fuels, wind and solar are actually cheaper.

You believe businesses can provide solutions to climate change but only with the right government policies. Is that era over?

Well, most of the energy regulation in the US comes from the state level, which lets states like California pursue more ambitious emissions regulations. It also lets states with lots of renewable energy coordinate to share it when needed, but federal regulations would help more.

The issue is going to be, to an extent, what the new administration will do to subsidize fossil fuels—how they can make dirtier fuel, which is more expensive, more attractive. Maybe that means leasing public lands at low prices. But the only thing they can really do to ensure long-term drilling is put in infrastructure, like pipelines.

Do you think there is any chance for Trump to not be awful for climate?

[Long pause.] I don’t think there’s any chance that Trump is going to step up and do the right thing out of the conviction that it’s the right thing to do. But, you know, you can’t really say what’s going to happen, because the world does tend to surprise us. If you didn’t learn that in 2016, then you weren’t paying attention.

Can California’s politicians really create a bulwark against Trump?

The administration has said they’re going to go after their political opponents. California embodies that opponent. Taking money away from health care, in the form of the Medicaid expansion—that would be more than $15 billion from California’s budget. Consider that the state’s general fund budget is about $120 billion. They are also going after cities that resist their deportation efforts. They’re talking about withholding money from schools. This is gigantic and very, very threatening. If you talk about trying to stand up as best we can for the people of California, and by doing so put forward a different image of what the true values of Americans are, just be aware, it ain’t cheap. My point is, this is not a theoretical problem for us.

How potent is the state’s ability to resist?

Financing that opposition will be tricky. First, the California budget is leveraged really highly to the personal income and capital gains of the richest Californians. That means it is super volatile, because incomes go up and down much more often than property values, which is how most states finance themselves. What’s worse is that the budget is also highly leveraged to the stock market. So when tech companies are going public and things are happening, then that income for the employees who benefit gets taxed in California like regular income. If there are no tech IPOs, the tech sector isn’t doing well, so there aren’t a lot of stock profits—equity profits—from those companies, and that hits the revenue line of the California state budget [claps loudly] super hard. You may have also noticed that we have had a bull market for the past six years.

In January, in an op-ed for The Sacramento Bee, you wrote about creating “the broadest coalition possible, one that embraces our shared values and delivers on the promise of a better future for all Americans.” You even echo Obama’s “Let’s get to work.”

Maybe he stole that from me!

Well, it reads like you are a guy getting ready to run for office.

[Slaps table.] Well, our mission statement is: “Act politically to prevent climate disaster and promote prosperity for every American.” So are we broadening our message? That’s always been our message. Whatever I do, and I honestly don’t know what it is, will be consistent with that effort.

Source:www.wired.com

 

3,000 of the World’s Smartest Minds Have Come Together to Ban Nuclear Weapons


IN BRIEF

This week, over 3,400 scientists came together in support the United Nations’ nuclear ban negotiations, signing a document by the Future of Life that calls for a total disarmament. Notable signees include Freeman Dyson, Stephen Hawking, and Daniel Dennett.

Vital Partners

Science and politics are irrevocably intertwined. From whether or not we should conduct research using embryonic stem cells to whether or not the nation should take action against climate change, science and politics are in an eternal dance.

Given that so many scientific conversations are becoming increasingly debated topics, such as climate change, the role of scientists in these debates cannot be overstated. Ultimately, while politicians can discuss how research should or should not be used, experts are the only individuals who truly have the qualifications to speak about what the research itself says. To put it simply, politicians need the expertise of scientists in order to do their jobs properly.

Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but not their own facts. We need scientists. Knowing the facts is the minimum we need for a sensible approach to negotiations. -David Donoghue

Monday, more than 3,480 scientists came together to meet this need and to support the United Nations’ nuclear ban negotiations. The individuals – who came from more than 80 countries and included 28 Nobel Laureates and a former US Secretary of Defense – signed a letter that was delivered to Her Excellency Ms. Elayne Whyte Gómez from Costa Rica, who is presiding over the negotiations.

The goal was to urge the UN to stigmatize nuclear weapons like biological and chemical weapons, with the ultimate mission being to create a “world free of these weapons of mass destruction.” The United States and a number of other nations that actually have nuclear weapons boycotted the talks, saying that “the time was not right and that a ban would be ineffective.

That said, the talks are supported by 120 nations.

At an event held yesterday at the U.N., Permanent Representative of Ireland to the United Nations, David Donoghue, noted that these exchanges between scientists and diplomats are incredibly important:

Reading the [letter] left no one in doubt about the unimaginable damage that would be done to human health, to animal health, and to the health of the planet if nuclear weapons were to explode. We see the scientific community as vital partners in what we are doing.

Future of Life

Beyond ‘Rock-Solid’ Deterrence

Despite the Pentagon’s assertion that a few hundred nuclear weapons would suffice for “rock-solid deterrence,” the United States and Russia are in possession of a combined 14,000. As the Future of Life Institute notes, many of these are on “hair-trigger alert and ready to be launched on a minute’s notice.”

In 2011, global annual expenditures on nuclear weapons were estimated to be $105 billion – or $12 million an hour.  Many scientists believe these funds should be redirected toward meeting human needs. For example, official development assistance – the money given by developed nations to developing nations – totaled $128.7 billion in 2010. Current nuclear weapons spending is equal to 80% of this sum.

Physicist Freeman Dyson, who is credited with conceiving of what is known as the “Dyson Sphere,” is one of the many notable scientists who signed the Future of Life’s letter supporting the stigmatization of nuclear weapons.

He explains, “scientists are supposed to be interested in bombs because we learned how to make bombs. I don’t think that that’s the main qualification for scientists to be concerned now.” He continued by noting that scientists’ familiarity with collaboration puts them in a unique position to negotiate and support talks, “We are running an operation that works, and we are accustomed to working as friends with people all over the world in all kinds of countries with all kinds of religions and political systems. That’s why we are useful in dealing with problems of weapons.”

Freeman Dyson On Nuclear Weapons: “We Don’t Need Those Damn Things”
Freeman Dyson. 

Although he doesn’t believe the UN will decide anything during these specific talks, he notes that the important thing is starting conversations and taking a stand, “somebody’s going to take a big step then the rest of the world will follow.”

The first step, of course, is bringing people together who have the opportunity to influence people or governments on a larger scale. Dyson believes that eradicating nuclear weapons will be easy—or at least, much easier—once those in power come together and stand their ground: “I think that it will be, of course, an easy thing to do once you’ve made up your mind. It turned out the important step is to say ‘we don’t need those damn things,’ and actually, you don’t.”

We don’t need those damn things.But what about once we do ban nuclear weapons? How do we verify that they really are gone? Experts, says Dyson, work out elaborate systems to verify that there aren’t nukes “lying around” (through the detection of radioactive particles, for example), but he doesn’t believe those verification systems are necessary. In fact, in the case of biological weapons, a good verification system doesn’t exist. To Dyson, the verification isn’t important or necessary.

“You won’t get rid of them all together right away,” he notes, “but it’s important countries announce publicly to get rid of them. That’s already a big step….you want big steps, and not small steps.”

Source:futurism.com

Women, Menstruation And Impurity: Why Men Need To Give Up This Obsession


Women, Menstruation And Impurity: Why Men Need To Give Up This Obsession

Whether women want to enter temples or preside over religious functions during menstruation is a matter only they can decide.

It is not for men to place these arbitrary restrictions, especially in the modern age when feminine hygiene products are so widely available.

For any man who obsesses about the “impurity” of menstruating women and why they must be restricted from entering sacred spaces of worship, here is a one-line quiz: Would you stop a man carrying a bottle of urine or stool samples from entering your sanctum sanctorum?

Most hands will probably go up, including possibly that of the Kerala Congress chief who came up with this idea two days ago. Many men will probably be aghast at the suggestion that “dirty stuff” like urine can enter temples or other places of worship.

But here’s the kicker. If you have answered yes to the question, you should be barred from temples. All living beings, including men and priests, have urine accumulating in their bladders almost all the time, and fecal matter is not something that turns up in the intestine just before you head for the morning potty. If the logic of keeping women out is that their bodies are accumulating or ejecting waste material through menstruation, men are not excluded from this logic. Maybe we need clinics to certify that only those whose bodies are clean from the inside should be allowed into temples.

The human body is a huge filtration and waste disposal system for both men and women. Our noses and ears accumulate external dirt to prevent them from entering areas where they can do damage. Our skin is generating sweat to cool the body, emitting sodium and other minerals in the process. Our hearts clean the blood before they circulate all over the body. The liver cleans blood coming from the digestive tract and generates bile. And, of course, women clean up their wombs once it is clear there is no pregnancy during any month.

And so on.

The body is constantly working on cleaning and purging waste material and impurities, and to presume that only one function involving one gender – menstruating women – equals impurity and lack of cleanliness displays huge ignorance.

Patriarchy has such a strong hold on men and women primarily because of two reasons: the physical handicap women face while bearing and nurturing infants; and the regressive idea that menstruation somehow makes women unclean, and therefore inferior, to men when performing godly duties.

India, which has avoided the patriarchal Abrahamic mindset of having only male gods, has, despite having female gods, chosen this route to subjugate and mentally debase and colonise women. If we presume that our goddesses will have the same physiology of women born to humans, we are essentially abusing Saraswati, Durga, Laxmi and Parvati, among others.

The point that needs underscoring is this: whether women want to enter temples or preside over religious functions during menstruation is a matter only they can decide. It is not for men to place these arbitrary restrictions, especially in the modern age when feminine hygiene products are so widely available.

The gods and goddesses would not be amused to hear that one of their kind is somehow unclean. For a society that thought up elevating ideas like Aham Brahmasmi (I am brahman, the creator and me are the same), one wonders how laws on purity can be so different for men and women. We also have the concept of the Ardhanareeswar (the human being as being both male and female in parts). To hold one half of humankind as somehow inferior when we are both man and woman rolled into one body is nonsensical.

Source:swarajyamag.com

Russia Covered Up a Nuclear Fallout Worse Than Chernobyl, Confidential Report Reveals


“For many years, this has been a secret.”

 

The director of Russia’s Institute of Biophysics has uncovered a top secret report on the aftermath of a Soviet nuclear weapons test in Kazakhstan during the 1950s, and has handed it over to US journalists.

While the test itself was no secret, the report reveals that Soviet scientists discovered widespread radioactive contamination and radiation sickness surrounding the Semipalatinsk test site, and kept it secret from both the locals and the outside world for decades.

 “For many years, this has been a secret,” Kazbek Apsalikov, director of the Institute of Biophysics in Moscow, told Fred Pearce New Scientist. 

Apsalikov says he recently uncovered the top secret report in the archive of the Russian Institute of Radiation Medicine and Ecology (IRME) in Semey, Kazakhstan, and passed it on to New Scientist last week.

According to Pearce, the report is marked as “top secret”, and outlines “the results of a radiological study of Semipalatinsk region”, where in 1956, a nuclear disaster four times worse than Chernobyl in terms of the number of cases of acute radiation sickness had occurred.

As one of the few reports that happened to evade Soviet censors during the 1950s, the report shows for the first time just how much government scientists knew about the risks of the aftermath, and the extent to which they kept their research from being disseminated to the public.

The report has yet to be made public, but you can see the title page below:

2nd scan 20170316Institute of Radiation Medicine and Ecology (IRME)

For a bit of background on the Semipalatinsk Nuclear Test Site (SNTS) – also known as the Polygon – it’s now notorious as the world’s worst radiation hotspot, where Soviet officials carried out 456 nuclear detonations between 1949 and 1991.

According to a more recent 2014 report by the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs, and co-authored by Apsalikov, 1 million people have been recognised by the government of Kazakhstan as having suffered, “in a broad sense”, from the SNTS.

 The first nuclear test to be carried out in the 18,300-square-km (7,065-square-mile) territory was the detonation of a plutonium bomb on 29 August 1949, that was “almost an exact copy” of the US bomb dropped on Nagasaki four years earlier.

The first atomic bomb dropped from a plane by the Soviet occurred at the SNTS on 18 October 1951, and in 1953, they tested their first thermonuclear weapon.

Experts have estimated that 111 of the tests carried out at the site were conducted on the surface or in the air, between 1949 and 1962.

The Partial Test Ban Treaty of 1963 banned such “atmospheric” tests on a global scale in 1963 because they caused the most contamination of the environment and radiation exposure to the public.

According to the 2014 report, after 1962, all tests at the SNTS were conducted underground in tunnels and shafts.

“One reason – not at least for secrecy purposes – for the initial choice of Semipalatinsk as nuclear test site was the vastness and relative remoteness of the Kazakh steppes,” Apsalikov and his colleagues report.

“But atomic bombs do not restrict their impact to the location of their detonation, and a large population could potentially be affected.”

Case in point: one test in 1956 at Semipalatinsk blanketed the city of Ust-Kamenogorsk, some 400 km (248 miles) away, in nuclear fallout, and put 638 people in hospital with radiation sickness.

That’s more than four times the 134 radiation sickness cases diagnosed after the Chernobyl disaster.

And as recently as 2014, researchers still didn’t have access to information about what ended up happening to those people.

As Apsalikov and his team explain:

“During Soviet times, nuclear tests and their consequences for human health were surrounded by total secrecy. In fact, until 1956, the government did not even conduct studies about the nuclear testing’s effect on the population living close to the test site.

There are no clear statistics available about the acute effects of the testing.

The immediate impetus for health studies came later, in connection with an emergency situation caused by a surface nuclear detonation on 16 March 1956, the radioactive cloud of which reached the city of Ust-Kamenogorsk, 400 km from the explosion epicentre.

The city’s population was exposed to nuclear fallout with radiation doses so high as to cause acute radiation poisoning. In response, the Soviet leadership established a special medical institution and hospitalised 638 persons suffering from radiation poisoning. No information about the fate of these people is available, however.”

But now, according to the newly uncovered report, Soviet researchers investigated conditions at Ust-Kamenogorsk on three separate occasions, the results of which are only just coming to light.

As Pearce explains, the researchers found that a month after another disastrous 1956 test, radiation rates were still up to 100 times what the report classifies as the “permissible rate”.

The report also revealed that scientists who had conducted expeditions to eastern Kazakhstan had recommended the immediate halt of eating local grain, based on “considerable radioactive contamination of soils, vegetable cover, and food”, but this does not appear to have been acted on.

And perhaps the most damning part of the report was the way in which it deliberately misappropriated blame for alterations in the local people’s nervous system and blood composition at the time of the nuclear tests.

The changes “could not be considered as the changes which arose only due to impact of ionising radiation”, the report concludes, and instead should be put down to put sanitation, a “dreary diet”, and diseases such as tuberculosis.

Hopefully, with the release of this report, and the work of Apsalikov and his colleagues, we’ll get some more clarity about what actually happened to the locals during this time.

Source: sciencealert.com