Top 5 big cat moments, BBC video


This 3 September 2019 video says about itself:

Heart Stopping Big Cat Moments | Top 5 | BBC Earth

Here are our Top 5 Big Cat moments! Big Cats are some of the most majestic – and adorable – creatures to grace the natural world. From Jaguars and Panthers to Lions and Tigers, watch as these beautiful animals navigate life both in the wild and in captivity.

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Warmongering liar Trump’s one truth, on Iraq


This 14 April 2015 video from the USA says about itself:

1 Million Iraqis Killed in Bush’s War!

Thom Hartmann shares a report that says 1 million Iraqis are dead as a result of former President George W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq.

A broken clock shows the correct time for two moments every 24 hours.

Likewise, some politicians who are awfully wrong most of the time, can be right for just one moment.

United States President Donald Trump, in his many Twitter tweets, often lies. However, now it seems that for once, he does not.

By Bill Van Auken in the USA:

Trump admits US killed millions in war based on lies

10 October 2019

Amid the storm of denunciations—extending from right-wing Republicans to the Democratic Party, the New York Times … —of his decision to pull US troops out of Syria, President Donald Trump issued an extraordinary tweet on Wednesday in defense of his policy:

The United States has spent EIGHT TRILLION DOLLARS fighting and policing in the Middle East. Thousands of our Great Soldiers have died or been badly wounded. Millions of people have died on the other side. GOING INTO THE MIDDLE EAST IS THE WORST DECISION EVER MADE … IN THE HISTORY OF OUR COUNTRY! We went to war under a false & now disproven premise, WEAPONS OF MASS DESTRUCTION.”

Trump’s Twitter account has dominated the US news cycle ever since he took office. Tweets have introduced fascistic new policies on immigration, announced the frequent firings of White House personnel and cabinet members and signaled shifts in US foreign policy.

Last month, amid the mounting of an impeachment inquiry, which the Democratic leadership in Congress has focused exclusively on “national security” concerns stemming from Trump’s July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, the US president set a new personal record, tweeting 800 times.

Yet the corporate media has chosen to ignore Trump’s tweet on the protracted US military intervention in the Middle East.

From the standpoint of the bitter internecine struggle unfolding within the US capitalist state, the tweet expresses the sharp divisions over US global strategy. While those around Trump want to focus entirely on preparation for confrontation with China, layers within the political establishment and the military and intelligence apparatus see the continuation of the US intervention to assert its hegemony over the Middle East and countering Russia as critical for American imperialism’s drive to impose its dominance over the Eurasian landmass.

But aside from these disputes over geo-strategic policy, the admission by a sitting US president that Washington launched a war under a “false” and “disproven” premise that ended up killing “millions” has direct political implications, whatever Trump’s intentions.

It amounts to an official admission from the US government that successive US administrations are responsible for war crimes resulting in mass murder.

Trump acknowledges that Washington launched the 2003 invasion of Iraq on the “false premise” of “weapons of mass destruction”. In other words, the administration of George W. Bush lied to the people of the United States and the entire planet in order to facilitate a war of aggression.

Under international law, this war was a criminal action and a patently unjustified violation of Iraq’s sovereignty. The Nuremberg Tribunal, convened in the aftermath of the Second World War, declared the planning and launching of a war of aggression the supreme crime of the Nazis, from which all of their horrific atrocities flowed, including the Holocaust. On the basis of this legal principle, Bush, Vice President Cheney and other top US officials, as well as their successors in the Obama and Trump administrations who continued the US intervention in the Middle East—expanding it into Syria and Libya, while threatening a new war against Iran—should all face prosecution as war criminals.

The real basis for the war was the long-held predatory conception that by militarily conquering Iraq Washington could seize control of the vast energy resources of the Middle East—giving it a stranglehold over the oil lifeline to its principal rivals in Asia and Europe—and thereby offset the decline of US imperialism’s global hegemony.

The World Socialist Web Site described the consequences of the US assault on Iraq and its people as “sociocide”, the deliberate destruction of what had been among the most advanced societies, in terms of education, health care and infrastructure, in the Middle East (see: “The US war and occupation of Iraq—the murder of a society”).

The casualties inflicted by this war were staggering. According to a comprehensive 2006 study done by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and published in the prestigious medical journal The Lancet, the death toll resulting from the US invasion rose to over 655,000 in the first 40 months of the US war alone.

The continued slaughter resulting from the US occupation and the bloody sectarian civil war provoked by Washington’s divide-and-rule tactics claimed many more direct victims, while the destruction of basic water, power, health care and sanitation infrastructure killed even more. The mass slaughter continued under the Obama administration with the launching in 2014 of what was billed as a US war against ISIS. This war, which saw the most intense bombing campaign since Vietnam and reduced Mosul, Ramadi, Fallujah and other Iraqi cities to rubble, claimed tens if not hundreds of thousands more lives.

Recent estimates of the death toll resulting from 16 years of US military intervention in Iraq range as high as 2.4 million people.

The Iraq war has had its own disastrous consequences for US society as well. In addition to claiming the lives of more than 4,500 US troops and nearly 4,000 US contractors, the war left tens of thousands of US troops wounded and hundreds of thousands suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injuries.

What of all the families in the United States who lost children, siblings or parents in a war that Trump now admits was based upon lies? Together with the veterans suffering from the wounds of this war, they should have the right to sue the US government for the results of its criminal conduct.

The cost of the US wars launched since 2001 has risen to nearly $6 trillion, the bulk of it stemming from Iraq, while interest cost on the money borrowed to pay for these wars will eventually amount to $8 trillion.

These grievous costs to US society are compounded by the social and political impact of waging an illegal war, resulting in the shredding of democratic rights and the wholesale corruption of a political system that is ever more dominated by the military and intelligence apparatus.

The media’s silence on Trump’s admission of war crimes carried out by US imperialism in Iraq, Syria and elsewhere in the Middle East is self-incriminating. It reflects the complicity of the corporate media in these crimes, with its selling of the lies used to promote the aggression against Iraq and its attempt to suppress antiwar sentiment.

Nowhere was this war propaganda developed more deliberately than at the New York Times which inundated the American public with lying reports about “weapons of mass destruction” by Judith Miller and the noxious opinion pieces by chief foreign affairs commentator Thomas “I have no problem with a war for oil” Friedman.

By all rights, the media editors and pundits responsible for promoting a criminal war of aggression deserve to sit in the dock alongside the war criminals who launched it.

The corporate media has also ignored Trump’s indictment of the US wars in the Middle East because it speaks for those sections of the US ruling establishment that want them to continue.

Trump’s cynical nationalist and populist rhetoric about ending US wars in the Middle East is aimed at currying support with a US population that is overwhelmingly hostile to these wars, even as his administration—backed by the Democrats—has secured a record $738 billion military budget in preparation for far more catastrophic wars, including against nuclear-armed China and Russia.

If the fascistic occupant of the White House is able to adopt the farcical posture of an opponent of imperialist war, it is entirely thanks to the Democrats, whose opposition to Trump is bound up with the concerns of the US intelligence agencies and the Pentagon over his conduct of foreign policy.

Trump’s admission about the criminality of the Iraq war only confirms what the World Socialist Web Site stated from its very outset. The struggle that it has waged for the building of a mass antiwar movement based upon the working class and armed with a socialist and internationalist program to unite the workers of the United States, the Middle East and the entire planet against the capitalist system provides the only way forward in the struggle against war.

New big dinosaur species discovered in Thailand


Siamraptor suwati reconstruction

From PLOS:

Meet Siamraptor suwati, a new species of giant predatory dinosaur from Thailand

Siamraptor provides a new glimpse at the early evolution of carcharodontosaurian dinosaurs

October 9, 2019

Fossils discovered in Thailand represent a new genus and species of predatory dinosaur, according to a study released October 9, 2019 in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by Duangsuda Chokchaloemwong of Nakhon Ratchasima Rajabhat University, Thailand and colleagues.

Carcharodontosaurs were a widespread and successful group of large predatory dinosaurs during the Jurassic and Cretaceous Periods and were important members of ecosystems on multiple continents. However, the fossil record of these animals is notably lacking from the Early Cretaceous of Asia, with no definite carcharodontosaurs known from Southeast Asia.

In this study, Chokchaloemwong and colleagues describe fossil material from the Khok Kruat geologic formation in Khorat, Thailand, dating to the Early Cretaceous. These fossils include remains of the skull, backbone, limbs, and hips of at least four individual dinosaurs, and morphological comparison with known species led the authors to identify these remains as belonging to a previously unknown genus and species of carcharodontosaur which they named Siamraptor suwati.

Phylogenetic analysis indicates that Siamraptor is a basal member of the carcharodontosaurs, meaning it represents a very early evolutionary split from the rest of the group. It is also the first definitive carcharodontosaur known from Southeast Asia, and combined with similarly-aged finds from Europe and Africa, it reveals that this group of dinosaurs had already spread to three continents by the Early Cretaceous.

Illegal FBI mass surveillance in the USA


This 8 June 2016 video from the USA says about itself:

‘State of Surveillance’ with Edward Snowden and Shane Smith (VICE on HBO: Season 4, Episode 13)

When NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden leaked details of massive government surveillance programs in 2013, he ignited a raging debate over digital privacy and security. That debate came to a head this year, when Apple refused an FBI court order to access the iPhone of alleged San Bernardino Terrorist Syed Farook. Meanwhile, journalists and activists are under increasing attack from foreign agents. To find out the government’s real capabilities, and whether any of us can truly protect our sensitive information, VICE founder Shane Smith heads to Moscow to meet the man who started the conversation, Edward Snowden.

By Kevin Reed in the USA:

FISA court documents expose illegal FBI mass surveillance

10 October 2019

In an unprecedented development, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) released redacted Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) documents on Tuesday that disclose details of the illegal FBI electronic surveillance of US citizens.

The disclosures—contained in 20 documents published on the website of the ODNI—show that since 2017 the FBI has been violating provisions of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) as well as the Fourth Amendment rights of Americans by searching through their e-mail, text messages and phone calls.

The ODNI document release stems from a FISC order on April 5, 2018, which found that the FBI’s procedures concerning the “querying of United States persons” were insufficient, resulting in violations of federal law. The Trump administration appealed the decision to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court of Review (FISC-R), which then affirmed on July 12, 2019, the original 2018 ruling.

The portion of the FISA law that was found to be violated by the FBI is known as Section 702, which grants authority to US intelligence and law enforcement to search the online communications of non-Americans located outside the US under very specific conditions. Section 702 was adopted in 2008 as part of the FISA Amendments Act that modified the original FISA law adopted in 1976 and it specifically bars the targeting of US citizens for warrantless electronic surveillance.

In one episode reported in the FISC documents, in March 2017 the FBI queried the database of e-mail, texts and phone calls of more than 70,000 FBI employees or contractors. According to the Wall Street Journal, “The bureau appeared to be looking for data to conduct a security review of people with access to its buildings and computers—meaning the FBI was searching for data linked to its own employees.” The documents say that the agency did so against the advice of its general counsel.

In another example from April 2018, the FBI queried the e-mail addresses and phone numbers of 57,000 US individuals. In both instances, the FBI claimed the searches were necessary as part of an effort to uncover foreign intelligence information.

Several other incidents involved querying the data of specific individuals instead of the batch queries. In these cases, the FISC court of Judge James E. Boesberg determined that the FBI had not provided sufficient justification for its belief that the queries would yield foreign intelligence information.

It should be pointed out that the FISC rulings and documents released by ODNI take as a given the existence of the NSA database of e-mail, text messages and phone calls of everyone. The reprimand of the FBI is that the agency did not properly utilize the database, document its reasons for querying it and dispose of the information obtained after it was collected.

This discrepancy was noted by former NSA contractor and whistleblower Edward Snowden in a tweet on Tuesday: “The worst part? The government argues the existence of a warrantless, internet-scale mass surveillance program isn’t the problem, merely the lawless way the FBI uses it against Americans, [because] ‘of course’ the other 93-97% of the human population have no rights.”

Secret US government data collection of e-mail and phone call data has been going on at least since the days following the events of September 11, 2001. The exposures made by Snowden showed that this data collection takes two forms: upstream and downstream (also known as PRISM).

Upstream collection is the interception and storage of communications as they pass through the fiber-optic backbone and infrastructure of the global telecommunications system. This involves the collection of a large mass of data that is filtered based on IP addresses, phone numbers and e-mail addresses and made available to indexing and analysis based on the queries of targeted individuals.

Downstream collection involves government access to the servers of the telecommunications service providers and tech companies such as Verizon, Microsoft, Google, Yahoo, Facebook and Apple and copying the data that resides there. These companies are prohibited from telling their customers that their data has been retrieved by the government.

In describing the 2018 FISC order and its 2019 FISC-R affirmation, the ODNI says, “The Government subsequently submitted amended FBI querying procedures to address the issues, and the FISC found that the amended procedures were sufficient.”

However, this is not the first time that the American people have been told—after secret surveillance of the public was exposed—that the government has stopped violating constitutional rights against unreasonable searches and seizures.

In March 2013, the Director of National Intelligence James Clapper lied during congressional testimony when he said that the NSA did not collect any data on American citizens. Three months later, a massive NSA program that was gathering the electronic communications of everyone was exposed by Snowden.

In March 2014, President Barack Obama promised to end the NSA data collection and surveillance programs only to seek subsequently to reauthorize them multiple times. The Trump administration reauthorized the mass surveillance program in January 2018 and has called for the program to be permanently activated when it expires at the end of this year.

The publication of the FISC documents by the ODNI exhibit some features of the intensifying warfare between the Trump administration and the Democratic Party and US intelligence community in Washington, D.C.

Like the impeachment drive that is narrowly focused on Trump’s political skullduggery during one phone call, when the Republican President has violated the constitution multiple times on other issues such as the treatment of immigrants, the claim that the FBI’s misuse of the procedures for “querying United States persons” is a violation of the Fourth Amendment pales in comparison to the NSA’s mass system of surveillance.

Meanwhile, differences of opinion over the meaning of the ODNI revelations have been expressed in the Congress. An anonymous congressional aide told the Washington Post that the FBI’s violations were not “not particularly alarming,” while Senator Ron Wyden (Democrat-Oregon) said, “Today’s release demonstrates how baseless the FBI’s position was.”

Given its record of lying about spying on the public, nothing published by the ODNI should be accepted at face value and without a very high degree of skepticism. Under the FISA law, the FISC court—which has undergone a significant transformation since its establishment following the exposure of criminal activities by then-President Richard Nixon in the 1970s—operates in complete secrecy as an arm of US military-intelligence.

Many questions remain as to why, when the secret court approves 99.967% of the surveillance requests that come before it, the FISC has chosen to rebuke the FBI for violating procedures.