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New July 2013

Hostage reporters ‘chained’ in Syria


Four French journalists who spent 10 months in captivity in Syria were chained to each other and kept in basements without light, one recounts.

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Syria-held French journalists freed


Four French journalists held captive in Syria for months have been freed and are in “good health”, says President Francois Hollande.

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Is climate change the new slavery?


The latest report from the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is out, with its layers of deadening bureaucratic prose. Climate watchers have had their latest chance to make out, as best they can, what biblical futures await us on a hotter, drier, stormier planet. Two sentences from the report’s second installment struck me with the force of a storm surge: “Climate change is projected to progressively increase inter-annual variability of crop yields in many regions. These projected impacts will occur in the context of rapidly rising crop demand.” Translation: We’ll have smaller harvests in the future, less food, and 3 billion more mouths to feed. The IPCC has done an heroic job of digesting thousands of scientific papers into a bullet-point description of how global warming is shrinking food and water supplies, most drastically for the poorest of Earth’s 7 billion human inhabitants. Being scientists, though, they fail miserably to communicate the gravity of the situation. The IPPC language, at its most vivid, talks of chronic “poverty traps” and “hunger hotspots” as the 21st century unfolds. The report offers not a single graspable image of what our future might actually look like when entire populations of people — not only marginalized sub-groups — face perennial food insecurity and act to save themselves. What decisions do human communities make en masse in the face of total environmental collapse? There are no scientific papers to tell us this, so we must look to history instead for clues to our dystopian future. The last global climate crisis for which we have substantial historical records began 199 years ago this month, in April 1815, when the eruption of Mt. Tambora in Indonesia cooled the Earth and triggered drastic disruptions of major weather systems worldwide. Extreme volcanic weather — droughts, floods, storms — gripped the globe for three full years after the eruption. In the Tambora period from 1815 to 1818, the global human community consisted mostly of subsistence farmers, who were critically vulnerable to sustained climate deterioration. The occasional crop failure was part of life, but when relentless bad weather ruined harvests for two and then three years running, extraordinary, world-changing things started to happen. The magnitude and variety of human suffering in the years 1815 to 1818 are in one sense incalculable, but three continental-scale consequences stand out amid the misery: slavery, refugeeism, and the failure of states. Across what was then the Dutch East Indies, the rice crop failed for multiple years following Tambora’s eruption. In response, the common people did what they always did when faced with starvation: They sold themselves into slavery, by the tens of thousands. In faraway China, desperate parents likewise sold their children in pop-up slave markets. Across the globe, starving peasants abandoned their homes, roaming the countryside in search of food, or begging in the market towns. Irish famine refugees, numbering in the tens of thousands, were met by armed militias at the gates of towns whose inhabitants feared a kind of zombie invasion by human skeletons carrying disease. In France, tourists mistook beggars on the road for armies on the march. Meanwhile, governments everywhere feared rebellion, so they closed borders and shut down the press. Europe witnessed an upsurge of end-of-the-world cults. In southwest China, Yunnan province suffered total civic breakdown post-Tambora, only to remake itself as a rogue narco-state, new hub of the booming international opium trade. These are the sorts of world-altering disaster scenarios the IPCC’s board of scientist-bureaucrats fail to mention in their latest report. But then, climate change has never had its own proper language, a language commensurate with the threat it represents, a language that would forcefully express what it is: the great humanitarian crisis of the 21st century. To invent a language for climate change, we might start with the historical analogy of slavery, which flourished during the Tambora climate emergency two centuries ago. Like our future under climate change, slavery was a human-designed global tragedy that lasted centuries, displaced tens of millions of people, and reorganized the wealth and demographics of the planet. Like climate change, slavery institutionalized the suffering of millions of people from the global south so that folks in Europe and North America (and China) might lead more comfortable, fulfilling lives. And like climate change, few people at the time saw slavery as a serious problem. Even those who did believed nothing could be done without bringing about global economic ruin. That exact argument is used today to defend the continuation of our fossil-fuelled societies. Related Articles:Please, scientists: Tell us how you really feel about climate changeHenry David Thoreau would have given “12 Years a Slave” the Oscar for best picture, tooBlood on the leaves: The hidden environmental story in “12 Years a Slave”Some historians have argued that it was the harnessing of carbon energy — not the abolitionists — that truly made an end to slavery possible in the 19th century. But in a dark historical irony, that same carbon energy, as a pollutant altering the chemistry of the atmosphere and oceans, is now ushering in a new era of global slavery. Millions this century, living and yet unborn, face displaced lives without hope or freedom of choice, only desperate hardship, due to haywire changes in weather patterns. Does that make climate change the new slavery? One thing we can say with “high confidence,” to use the lingo of the IPCC, is that even now — as the U.N. panel marks its quarter-century anniversary with its fifth and most dire report — there is no international climate change movement comparable to abolitionism. For one thing, we don’t even have a name for the millions of people across the world who are passionately committed to the cause of averting climate disaster. Even Bill McKibben, probably the most effective climate activist in the United States, when branding his organization, could do no better than a number — 350, the parts per million of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere we need to return to for climate safety. Given that climate activism is faring so badly in the public-relations stakes, perhaps it’s time to brush off the old slogan that worked so famously well for the abolitionists, the rallying cry of the greatest humanitarian victory of all time: “Am I not a Man and a Brother?” And instead of an African in chains above the caption, let’s show a crowd of faces from Africa, Asia, the Pacific, the Caribbean, the Middle East, and the Arctic north — the faces you won’t find in the IPCC’s report, but who are stubbornly real nevertheless, living precariously in their millions on the shifting global frontlines of climate change.Filed under: Article, Climate & Energy

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UN climate panel warns that global warming will complicate security issues

<!– google_ad_section_start –> A United Nations climate panel for the first time is connecting hotter global temperatures to hotter global tempers. Top scientists are saying climate change will complicate and worsen global security problems, such as civil wars, strife between nations and refugees. <!– google_ad_section_end –>

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Warmer temperatures can lead to warmer tempers, UN report to say

Top scientists are saying that climate change will complicate and worsen existing global security problems

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Kidnapped Spanish journalists’ emotional reunion


Ricardo García Vilanova and Javier Espinosa greeted with hugs and kisses from family members on arrival at Madrid airportIt was late afternoon yesterday when the families of Ricardo García Vilanova and Javier Espinosa got the reunion they had waited 194 days for. As the pair, tired and visibly skinnier, stepped off the plane at the Torrejón air base in Madrid, they were greeted with hugs and kisses from family members.It was Espinosa, the award-winning El Mundo journalist based in the Middle East since 2002, who broke the news that the ordeal was over. Just after 9pm on Saturday night, he called the newsroom after their captors had delivered them to Turkish authorities. “Hi, it’s Javier Espinosa,” he calmly told the receptionist.

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Spanish Journalists Freed After Six-Month Syrian Captivity


Spanish newspaper El Mundo’s Middle East correspondent Javier Espinosa (above, right) and photographer Ricardo Garcia Vilanova (above, left), kidnapped six months ago by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS), a radical Islamist group, have been freed.Read more…

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Spanish journalists freed in Syria after six-month ordeal


Javier Espinosa and Ricardo Villanova Garcia released but Islamist extremists still hold over 40 other western hostagesTwo Spanish journalists kidnapped in northern Syria last September were freed by their captors on Saturday night, ending a six-month ordeal in the hands of an extremist Islamic group that continues to hold more than 40 other western hostages.Javier Espinosa, a veteran correspondent for the Spanish daily El-Mundo, and Ricardo Villanova Garcia, a freelance photographer working with him, were handed over to Turkish authorities near the Syrian town of Tal Abiyad, not far from where they were seized 194 days ago.

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Climate change ‘complicates’ global security

Top scientists say climate change will complicate and worsen global security problems such as wars and refugees.

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Car bomb hits Lebanese army checkpoint

At least three soldiers killed in suicide car bomb attack on army checkpoint in border town of Arsal, officials say.

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Hamid Karzai’s tangled legacy: inept failure or anti-Taliban hero?


A look at the extraordinary career of the Afghan president, the leader first hailed by the west who is now widely attacked for his perceived weaknesses, as he prepares to give up powerAmid the dust and traffic of today’s Kabul, three things remain almost as they were a decade or so ago. In winter, and when the wind clears the smog that is a side-effect of years of economic boom, the blue sky above the snowcapped peaks that ring the city is as impressive as ever. Then there is the Arg, the sprawling palace at the city’s centre and the apparently calm eye of a turbulent storm of a country. The complex is home to the third element that has remained constant since the end of the Taliban’s grim regime in 2001: Hamid Karzai, now in his 13th year of power.However, Karzai, 56, will soon be gone. He is constitutionally barred from contesting next weekend’s elections and soon this theatrical, mercurial, complex man will have to find a new occupation. Many, particularly in Washington, will be relieved.

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Car bomb kills three soldiers in attack on Lebanese army checkpoint

Border town attack hit just hours after a speech by Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah

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Syrian crisis: where the US stands on Assad, the rebels and the refugees


As the fourth year of conflict begins, the US prepares to reassess its policy with a Senate foreign relations committee this weekVladimir Putin’s actions in Ukraine and the Crimean peninsula have dominated US foreign policy in the last few weeks, and President Barack Obama, at a European summit, lambasted the Russian leader for being a menace to the international system built over decades. But this Middle East returns to the agenda as the Senate foreign relations committee held a hearing Wednesday on “what’s next” for US policy in Syria after the latest round of failed peace talks in Geneva.Syria entered its fourth year of conflict in mid-March, with no signs it will abate soon. The regional nature of the conflict has alarmed many countries and international groups, as desperate refugees have fled abroad and armed clashes erupted along borders with neighboring countries.The situation and our options may have grown more complicated, but we believe there is still strong, bipartisan support in the Senate for developing and implementing a comprehensive Syria strategy, one that will break the stalemate on the ground and enable a political solution that paves the way for Assads exit.The Syrian government’s massive and indiscriminate use of violence is the single most important factor driving the humanitarian crisis The report is very clear on this and in pointing to the government’s failure to implement the resolution’s provisions.

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