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      Pipeline Company Spent Big on Police Gear to Use Against Standing Rock Protesters / TheIntercept · Monday, 22 May - 10:45 · 18 minutes

    Their protest encampment razed, the Indigenous-led environmental movement at North Dakota’s Standing Rock reservation was searching for a new tactic. By March 2017, the fight over the construction of the Dakota Access pipeline had been underway for months. Leaders of the movement to defend Indigenous rights on the land — and its waterways — had a new aim: to march on Washington.

    Native leaders and activists, calling themselves water protectors, wanted to show the newly elected President Donald Trump that they would continue to fight for their treaty rights to lands including the pipeline route. The march would be called “Native Nations Rise.”

    Law enforcement was getting ready too — and discussing plans with Energy Transfer, the parent company of the Dakota Access pipeline. Throughout much of the uprising against the pipeline, the National Sheriffs’ Association talked routinely with TigerSwan, Energy Transfer’s lead security firm on the project, working hand in hand to craft pro-pipeline messaging. A top official with the sheriffs’ PR contractor, Off the Record Strategies, floated a plan to TigerSwan’s lead propagandist, a man named Robert Rice.

    An email from Off the Record Strategies, working for the National Sheriffs’ Association to plan information operations to influence the narrative around the Dakota Access Pipeline.

    An email from Off the Record Strategies, working for the National Sheriffs’ Association to plan information operations to influence the narrative around the Dakota Access pipeline.

    Public record via the North Dakota Private Investigation and Security Board

    “Thoughts on a crew or a news reporter — or someone pretending to be — with a camera and microphone to report from the main rally on the Friday, ask questions about pipeline and slice together [sic]?” Off the Record CEO Mark Pfeifle suggested over email .

    A security firm led by a former member of the U.S. military’s shadowy Special Forces, TigerSwan was no stranger to such deception. The company had, in fact, used fake reporters before — including Rice himself — to spread its message and to spy on pipeline opponents . The National Sheriffs’ Association’s involvement in advocating for a similar disinformation campaign against the anti-pipeline movement has not been previously reported.


    After Spying on Standing Rock, TigerSwan Shopped Anti-Protest “Counterinsurgency” to Other Oil Companies

    The email from the National Sheriffs’ Association PR shop was among the more than 55,000 internal TigerSwan documents obtained by The Intercept and Grist through a public records request. The documents, released by the North Dakota Private Investigation and Security Board, reveal how TigerSwan and the sheriffs’ group worked together to twist the story in the media so that it aligned with the oil company’s interests, seeking to pollute the public’s perception of the water protectors.

    The documents also outline details of previously unreported collaborations on the ground between TigerSwan and police forces. During the uprising at Standing Rock, TigerSwan provided law enforcement support with helicopter flights, medics, and security guards. The private security firm pushed for the purchase, by Energy Transfer, of hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of radios for the cops. TigerSwan also placed an order for a catalog of so-called less-lethal weapons for police use, including tear gas. The security contractor even planned to facilitate an exchange where Energy Transfer and police could share purported evidence of illegal activity .

    Meanwhile, communications firms working for Energy Transfer and the National Sheriffs’ Association worked together to write newsletters , plant pro-pipeline articles in the media, and circulate “wanted”-style posters of particular protesters, the documents show. And the heads of both the National Sheriffs’ Association and TigerSwan engaged in discussions on strategy to counter the anti-pipeline movement, with propaganda becoming a priority for both the police and private security.

    “It is extremely dangerous to have private interests dictating and coloring the flow of administrative justice,” said Chase Iron Eyes, director of the media organization Last Real Indians and a member of the Oceti Sakowin people. Iron Eyes was active at Standing Rock and mentioned in TigerSwan’s files. “We learned at Standing Rock, law and order serves capital and property.”

    Sheriff Kyle Kirchmeier, whose jurisdiction in Morton County, North Dakota, abuts the Standing Rock reservation, said collaboration with pipeline security was limited. “We had a cooperation with them in reference to the pipeline workers’ safety while conducting their business,” he said in an email. “TigerSwan was not to be involved in any law enforcement detail.” (TigerSwan, Energy Transfer, and the National Sheriffs’ Association did not respond to requests for comment.)

    Rice, the TigerSwan propagandist, had posed as a news anchor for anti-protester segments posted on a Facebook page he created to sway the local community against the Standing Rock protests. But when Pfeifle, the sheriff group’s PR man, suggested pretending to be a reporter at the Native Nations Rise protest, Rice was unavailable. (Off the Record did not respond to a request for comment.) Pfeifle found another way to tell the pipeline and police’s story: a far-right news website founded by former Fox News host Tucker Carlson. Pfeifle wrote to Rice : “We did get Daily Caller to cover event yesterday.”

    FILE--In this Oct. 27, 2016, file photo, protesters in the left foreground shield their faces as a line of law enforcement officers holding large canisters with pepper spray shout orders to move back during a standoff in Morton County, N.D. On the same day seven defendants celebrated acquittal in Portland, Ore., for their armed takeover of a federal wildlife refuge in Oregon, nearly 150 protesters camped out in North Dakota to protest an oil pipeline were arrested. (Mike McCleary/The Bismarck Tribune via AP, file)

    Protesters shield their faces as a line of law enforcement officers holding large canisters with pepper spray shout orders to move back, in Morton County, N.D., on Oct. 27, 2016.

    Photo: Mike McCleary/The Bismarck Tribune via AP

    Law Enforcement Collaboration

    The idea of working with police was baked into Energy Transfer’s arrangement with TigerSwan. The firm’s contract for the Dakota Access pipeline specifically assigned TigerSwan to “take the lead with various law enforcement agencies per state, county, state National Guard and the federal interagency if required.”

    Cooperation between Energy Transfer’s security operation and law enforcement agencies, however, began even before TigerSwan arrived on the scene. A PowerPoint presentation from Silverton, another contractor hired by Energy Transfer, described its relationship with law enforcement as a “public private partnership.” The September 2016 presentation said that a private intelligence cell was “coordinating with LE” — law enforcement — “and helping develop Person of Interest packets specifically designed to aid in LE prosecution.”

    Multiple documents make clear that part of the purpose of Energy Transfer’s intelligence collection was to support law enforcement prosecutions. A September 2016 document describing TigerSwan’s early priorities said, “Continue to collect information of an evidentiary level in order to further the DAPL Security effort and assist Law Enforcement with information to aid in prosecution.”

    The collaboration extended to materiel. TigerSwan operatives realized soon after they arrived that local law enforcement officials lacked encrypted radios and could not communicate with state or municipal law enforcement agencies — or with Dakota Access pipeline security, according to emails. Energy Transfer purchased 100 radios, for $391,347, with plans to lease a number of them to law enforcement officers.

    ”We want them to go to LEO as a gift which represents DAPL’s concern for public safety,” wrote Tom Siguaw, a senior director at Energy Transfer, in an email.

    During large protest events, TigerSwan and police worked together to keep water protectors from interfering with construction. On one day in late October 2016, the day of the protests’ largest mass arrest, Energy Transfer’s security personnel “held law enforcement’s east flank” and supported sheriffs’ deputies and National Guard members with seven medical personnel and two helicopters, named Valkyrie and Saber.

    After the incident, TigerSwan planned to set up a shared drive , where law enforcement officials could upload crime reports and charging documents, and TigerSwan could share photographs and pipeline opponents’ social media. Documents show other instances in which TigerSwan set up online exchanges with law enforcement. In a February 2017 PowerPoint presentation , TigerSwan described plans to use another shared drive to post security personnel’s videos and photographs, taken both aerially and on the ground during a different mass arrest.

    A diagram from TigerSwan showing the uses of a drive for law enforcement and Energy Transfer’s security operations to share purported evidence of illegal activity.

    A diagram from TigerSwan showing the uses of a drive for law enforcement and Energy Transfer’s security operations to share purported evidence of illegal activity.

    Public record via the North Dakota Private Investigation and Security Board

    A Dakota Access Pipeline helicopter also supported law enforcement officials during one of the most notorious nights of the crackdown, in November 2016, when police unleashed water hoses on water protectors in below-freezing temperatures. By morning, police were in danger of running out of less-lethal weapons — which can still be deadly but are designed to incapacitate their targets. TigerSwan and Energy Transfer again stepped in.

    TigerSwan founder James Reese, a former commander in the elite Army Special Operations unit Delta Force, reached out to a contact at the North Carolina State Highway Patrol. North Carolina had recently used TigerSwan’s GuardianAngel mapping tool to respond to uprisings in Charlotte, in the aftermath of the 2016 police killing of Keith Scott . (A spokesperson from the North Carolina Department of Public Safety said the agency does not currently have a relationship with TigerSwan.)

    Reese sent a list of weaponry sought by North Dakota law enforcement to an officer from the Highway Patrol. The list included tear gas, pepper spray, bean bag rounds, and foam rounds. The official referred Reese to a contact at Safariland, which manufactures the gear.

    “We will purchase the items, and gift them to LE,” Reese told the Safariland representative. “We need a nation wide push if you can help?”

    Meanwhile, another TigerSwan team member sent the Minnesota-based police supply store Streicher’s an even longer list of less-lethal weapons and ammunition. “Please confirm availability of the following price and ship immediately with overnight delivery,” TigerSwan’s Phil Rehak wrote .

    “I would be given an order by either somebody from TigerSwan or maybe even law enforcement, being like, ‘Hey, can you find these supplies?’”

    Rehak told The Intercept and Grist that his job was to procure equipment — including for law enforcement. “I would be given an order by either somebody from TigerSwan or maybe even law enforcement, being like, ‘Hey, can you find these supplies?’” He said he doesn’t know if the less-lethal weaponry was ultimately delivered to the sheriffs.

    “I am not aware of any radios for Morton County or any less lethal weapons from Tiger Swan,” Kirchmeier, the Morton County sheriff, told The Intercept and Grist in an email. “I dealt with ND DES for resources.” (Two other sheriffs involved with the multiagency law enforcement response did not answer requests for comment. Eric Jensen, a spokesperson for the North Dakota Department of Emergency Services, said the agency had no arrangement with TigerSwan or Energy Transfer to provide less-lethal weapons, and that they wouldn’t have knowledge of any arrangements between law enforcement and the companies.)

    The “partnership” went both ways, with TigerSwan sometimes viewing law enforcement weapons as potential assets. In mid-October 2016, as senior Energy Transfer personnel prepared to join state officials for a government archeological survey to examine the pipeline route, three law enforcement “snipers” agreed to be on standby with an air team, according to a memo by another security company, RGT, that was working under TigerSwan’s management. A Predator drone was listed among “friendly assets” in the memo.

    TigerSwan routinely shared what it learned about the protest movement with local police, but most of what the documents describe in the way of reciprocal sharing — from law enforcement to TigerSwan — came from the National Sheriffs’ Association.

    In March 2017, the sheriffs’ group helped the South Dakota Legislature pass a law to prevent future Standing Rock-style pipeline uprisings, the documents say. To support the effort, the Morton County Sheriff’s Office sent along a “law enforcement sensitive” state operational update from the North Dakota State and Local Intelligence Center. National Sheriffs’ Association head Jonathan Thompson forwarded the document to TigerSwan executive Shawn Sweeney. Thompson recommended Sweeney look at the last page, which included a list of anti-pipeline camps across the U.S.

    TigerSwan also recruited at least one law enforcement officer with whom it worked on the ground. In November 2016, Reese requested a phone call with Maj. Chad McGinty of the Ohio State Highway Patrol, who had acted as commander of a team from Ohio sent to assist police in North Dakota. By February 1, McGinty, who declined to comment for this story, was working for TigerSwan as a law enforcement liaison, earning more than $440 a day.

    A protestor is treated after being pepper sprayed by private security contractors on land being graded for the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) oil pipeline, near Cannon Ball, North Dakota, September 3, 2016. - Hundreds of Native American protestors and their supporters, who fear the Dakota Access Pipeline will polluted their water, forced construction workers and security forces to retreat and work to stop. (Photo by Robyn BECK / AFP) (Photo by ROBYN BECK/AFP via Getty Images)

    A protester is treated after being pepper sprayed by private security contractors on land being graded for the Dakota Access pipeline, near Cannon Ball, N.D., on Sept. 3, 2016.

    Photo: Robyn Beck/AFP via Getty Images

    Spreading Stories

    TigerSwan’s contract also mandated that the firm help Energy Transfer with telling its story. The firm was expected “to help turn the page on the story that we are being overwhelmed with over the past few weeks,” according to a document from mid-September 2016.

    Energy Transfer’s image was in trouble early on. Critical media coverage of Standing Rock grew dramatically in early September after private security guards hired by the company unleashed guard dogs on protesters. A flood of reporters arrived on the ground to cover the protests. Social media posts routinely went viral. The narrative that took hold portrayed the pipeline company as instigating violence against peaceful protesters.

    Energy Transfer recruited third parties to spread its messaging and counter the unfavorable storyline. At least two additional contractors — DCI and MarketLeverage — joined TigerSwan in trying to burnish Energy Transfer’s image. TigerSwan recruited retired Maj. Gen. James “Spider” Marks, who led intelligence efforts for the Army during the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003 and served on TigerSwan’s advisory board, to write favorable op-eds and deliver commentary. (Marks did not respond to a request for comment.) With its veneer of law enforcement authority, the National Sheriffs’ Association would become Energy Transfer’s most powerful third-party voice.

    Together, TigerSwan, the National Sheriffs’ Association, and the public relations contractors formed a powerful public relations machine, monitoring social media closely, convincing outside groups to promote pro-pipeline messaging, and planting stories.

    Off the Record Strategies, the public relations firm working for the National Sheriffs’ Association, coordinated with the opposition research firm Delve to track activists’ social media pages, arrest records, and funding sources. The companies sought to paint the protesters as violent, professional, billionaire-funded , out-of-state agitators whose camps represented the true ecological disaster , as well as to identify movement infighting that might be exploited. Both companies were led by Bush administration alumni. (Delve did not respond to a request for comment.)

    Framing water protectors as criminals was a key National Sheriffs’ Association strategy. ”Let’s start drumbeat of the worst of the worst this week?” Pfeifle, Off the Record’s CEO, suggested to the head of the sheriffs’ group in one email. “One or two a day? Move them out through social media…The out of state wife beaters, child abusers and thieves first… Mugshot, ND arrest date, rap sheet and other data wrapped in and easy to share?”

    The result was “wanted”-style posters — called “Professional Protestors with Dangerous Criminal Histories” — featuring pipeline opponents’ photos and criminal records, which Pfeifle’s team circulated online and routinely shared with TigerSwan. The National Sheriffs’ Association repeatedly asked TigerSwan to help “move” its criminal record research on social media, and TigerSwan repurposed the sheriffs’ group arrest research for its own propaganda products.

    Pfeifle also made summary statistics of protesters’ arrest records and a map of where they were from. The color-coded map came with a running tally of the number of protesters. The details collected by Pfeifle then began showing up in blogs and remarks by police to reporters. One piece by KXMB-TV , a television station in Bismarck, North Dakota, repeated almost verbatim statistics summarizing the number of protesters arrested and their criminal histories, noting that “just 8 percent are from North Dakota.”

    “They make it harder for people to engage in peaceful protest. People are arrested and they say, ‘See, those people are criminals.’”

    Naomi Oreskes, a science historian who has researched the fossil fuel industry’s communications strategies , said the attempt to frame environmental defenders as criminals was consistent with the long trend of attempts to discredit activists. However, it was also “particularly noxious,” she said, because the energy industry has pushed for stronger penalties against trespass and other anti-protest laws. “They make it harder for people to engage in peaceful protest,” said Oreskes. “People are arrested and they say, ‘See, those people are criminals.’”

    DCI, which got its start “ doing the dirty work of the tobacco industry ” and helped found the tea party movement, was also a key player influencing media coverage, placing and distributing op-eds. In one exchange between DCI partner Megan Bloomgren, who would later become a top Trump administration official, and Reese, Bloomgren sent a list of 14 articles “we’ve placed that we’ve been pushing over social media.” The articles ranged from opinion pieces in support of the pipeline in local newspapers to posts on right-wing blogs.

    Oreskes said using opinion articles in this way is a common strategy pioneered by the tobacco industry, among others. “You push that out into social media to make it seem as if there’s broad grassroots support for the pipeline,” said Oreskes. ”The reader doesn’t know that this is part of a coordinated strategy by the industry.”

    MarketLeverage, another Energy Transfer contractor, also spent a considerable amount of its resources tracking social media and boosting pro-pipeline messages. In the weeks following the dog attacks, for instance, Shane Hackett, a top official with MarketLeverage, suggested highlighting a Facebook post by Archie Fool Bear, a Standing Rock tribal member who was critical of the NoDAPL movement. “We need to exploit that shit immediately while we have a chance,” a TigerSwan operative wrote in response to an email from their colleague Rice, the chief propagandist. (Neither DCI nor Market Leverage responded to requests for comment.)

    Hackett suggested creating a graphic out of the tribal member’s post and having “other accounts share his post with the same hashtags.” Rice provided the social media text and hashtags, including, “Respected Tribe Members Call Attention to Standing Rock Leadership Lies and Failures #TribeLiesMatter #NoDAPL #SiouxTruth.” Obscure social media accounts then repeated the exact language.

    “These people who are trained to use whatever publicity they can for their advantage, they’re going to do what they want anyway,” Fool Bear told The Intercept and Grist. “They don’t live in my shoes, and they don’t believe in what my beliefs are. If they’re going to take what I say and manipulate it, I can’t stop them.”

    CANNON BALL, ND - NOVEMBER 30:  Military veterans, most of whom are native American, confront police guarding a bridge near Oceti Sakowin Camp on the edge of the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation on November 30, 2016 outside Cannon Ball, North Dakota. Native Americans and activists from around the country have been gathering at the camp for several months trying to halt the construction of the  Dakota Access Pipeline. The proposed 1,172 mile long pipeline would transport oil from the North Dakota Bakken region through South Dakota, Iowa and into Illinois.  (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

    Protesters confront police guarding a bridge near Oceti Sakowin Camp on the edge of the Standing Rock Sioux reservation on Nov. 30, 2016, outside Cannon Ball, N.D.

    Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images

    Sheriffs vs. Indigenous and Environmental Justice

    Off the Record Strategies and the National Sheriffs’ Association didn’t just focus on issues of law-breaking. The association parroted some of the same messages that TigerSwan — as well as climate change deniers in Congress — were trafficking. Notable among them was a right-wing conspiracy theory that the environmental movement was “ directed and controlled ” by a club of billionaires.

    The National Sheriffs’ Association also tried to undermine the credibility of well-known advocates Bill McKibben and Jane Kleeb, who founded the environmental organizations and Bold Alliance, respectively. Pfeifle circulated memos on the two movement leaders. “McKibben is a radical liberal determined to ‘bankrupt’ energy producers,” said one , adding, “McKibben will join any protest because he enjoys the fanfare.” Another memo said, “Kleeb admitted her pipeline opposition was about political organization and opportunity, not the environment.”


    Indigenous Water Protectors Face Off With an Oil Company and Police Over a Minnesota Pipeline

    Kleeb and McKibben expressed bemusement at TigerSwan and the sheriffs’ association’s fixation on their work. “It’s all pretty creepy,” McKibben, a former Grist board member, said in an email. “I live in a county with a sheriff, and it seems okay if he tracks the speed of my car down Rte 116, but tracking every word I write seems like… not his job.”

    The sheriffs’ group also listed the nonprofit organizations Center for Biological Diversity, Rainforest Action Network, and Food & Water Watch as “ Extremist Environmental Groups ” — a pejorative used by some authoritarian government officials, including from the Trump administration.

    “Campaigning against corporations driving our climate crisis and human rights violations is not extremist,” said Rainforest Action Network Executive Director Ginger Cassady. Brett Hartl, government affairs director at the Center for Biological Diversity, said the association’s flyer contained “categorically false” information about the organization — a sentiment repeated by others mentioned throughout TigerSwan’s other records.

    “We would urge the Sheriffs’ Association to focus on its own responsibilities instead of attempting to undermine well-meaning organizations like ours,” added Wenonah Hauter, Food & Water Watch’s executive director.

    Both the National Sheriffs’ Association and TigerSwan took pride in meddling in tribal affairs. Reese enthusiastically encouraged his personnel to spread a story that the Prairie Knights Casino, run by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, was discharging sewage into the Missouri River watershed. Meanwhile, the sheriffs’ association worked with TigerSwan to push a story about a drop in revenue at the casino. In an email to TigerSwan’s Rice, Pfeifle noted that the issue had been raised at a recent Standing Rock tribal council meeting.

    “We moved this story on front page of Sunday Bismarck Tribune and in SAB blog Friday, playing perfectly into the ‘get-out’ narrative going into next week,” Pfeifle wrote to Rice a few days later, referring to the conservative Say Anything Blog. “Please help echo and amplify, if possible.”

    Using newsletters and news-like web sites to discredit pipeline opponents’ concerns as “ fake news ” was a top tactic for both TigerSwan and the National Sheriffs’ Association. The irony of the strategy was not lost on its protagonists.

    Over WhatsApp , in June 2017, Rice, the propagandist, chatted with Wesley Fricks, TigerSwan’s director of external affairs, about a possible response to a Facebook video in which an unnamed reporter described recently published news reports on TigerSwan’s tactics. They would post it on one of the astroturf sites Rice created and describe it as “fake news.”

    “That will cause a few people’s brains to explode,” Rice wrote in a WhatsApp message. “fake news calling fake news fake which is calling other news fake?”

    Frick replied, “One big circle.”

    The post Pipeline Company Spent Big on Police Gear to Use Against Standing Rock Protesters appeared first on The Intercept .

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      The coastline is at risk from rising seas, and we’re making more of it / ArsTechnica · Friday, 17 February, 2023 - 18:51 · 1 minute

    Image of an artificial island shaped like a palm tree.

    Enlarge / Aerial view of the exclusive island of luxury hotels and residences of The Palm Jumeirah in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. (credit: Vicki Jauron, Babylon and Beyond Photography )

    Each year, humans add a little more land to their coastlines, slowly but surely encroaching on the sea and filling up smaller coastal bodies of water with new developments. This encroachment typically comes as we add luxury waterfronts and extend ports farther out to sea. In all, since 2000, coastlines around the world—specifically in urban areas—grew a whopping 2,530 square kilometers, according to a new paper .

    A press release about the research notes that this is around 40 Manhattans, while the paper itself points out that this is roughly the size of Luxemburg. Neither source said this, but it’s also more than 4,000 Dollywoods .

    The paper—which claims to be the “first global assessment of coastal land reclamation"—looked at how human development built land in, or filled parts of, coastal zones. This includes wetlands, which play various important roles like slowing erosion (but humans can just keep building out anyway, right?), protecting areas further inland from flooding and sea level rise, and acting as habitats for myriad species.

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      Nobel Laureates Press Egypt to Free Alaa Abd El Fattah, Writer on Hunger Strike, Before COP27 / TheIntercept · Wednesday, 2 November, 2022 - 13:08 · 6 minutes

    Fifteen Nobel Prize winners called on world leaders visiting Egypt next week for the COP27 climate talks in Sharm el-Sheikh to demand freedom for political prisoners, “most urgently, the Egyptian-British writer and philosopher, Alaa Abd El Fattah, now six months into a hunger strike and at risk of death.”

    In a letter sent on Wednesday to heads of state and climate envoys due to speak at the climate conference, the Nobel laureates urged them “to bring the voices of the unjustly imprisoned into the room,” by speaking their names and reading from Abd El Fattah’s writing.

    Abd El Fattah, a jailed writer and activist whose calls for democratic change in Egypt have frightened four successive authoritarian governments into prosecuting him for just attending protests or posting critical comments online, has been on a “Gandhi-style” hunger strike since April , consuming only 100 calories a day. His activist sisters, Sanaa Seif and Mona Seif, revealed this week that he plans to stop drinking water on Sunday, when COP27 begins.

    Abd El Fattah, known to his hundreds of thousands of Twitter followers as @alaa , rose to international prominence as one of the most compelling voices to emerge from Cairo’s Tahrir Square during the 2011 revolution that toppled dictator Hosni Mubarak.

    Although he has spent much of the past decade in jail, a collection of his writing, “ You Have Not Yet Been Defeated ,” which includes reflections smuggled out of prison, was published last year.

    “Alaa Abd El Fattah’s powerful voice for democracy is close to being extinguished, we ask you to breathe life into it by reading his words,” the Nobel laureates wrote to leaders, including President Joe Biden, who plan to attend the conference.

    In response to a request from Abd El Fattah’s publishers, the letter was signed by: Svetlana Alexievich, J. M. Coetzee, Annie Ernaux, Louise Gluck, Abdulrazak Gurnah, Kazuo Ishiguro, Elfriede Jelinek, Mario Vargas Llosa, Patrick Modiano, Herta Muller, Orhan Pamuk, Roger Penrose, George Smith, Wole Soyinka and Olga Tokarczuk.

    When Abd El Fattah, who comes from a family of Cairene rights activists, was first jailed in 2006, a campaign to demand the release of the activist blogger was launched online , including on a blog called, simply, “Free Alaa!”

    That slogan, and an image of the young writer’s curly hair, was revived as a social media hashtag in 2011, when the military council that took power after Hosni Mubarak was toppled by the Tahrir Square uprising detained him for reporting on a subsequent massacre of Coptic Christian protesters by the army.

    In the years since, Abd El Fattah’s family and supporters have been forced to defend him again and again from unjust prosecution and imprisonment by the authorities — first during the brief rule of the freely elected Islamist leader Mohamed Morsi, and then after Gen. Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, Morsi’s defense minister, seized power in a coup in 2013.

    Abd El Fattah has been held in harsh conditions in Egyptian prisons for most of the past decade, after Sisi banned street protests and criminalized online dissent. Since he revealed plans to begin a full hunger strike, his family has intensified efforts to save his life by calling for supporters to press the British government to intervene. Because Abd El Fattah’s mother was born in London, he was able to obtain British citizenship last year.

    In the build up to COP27 in Egypt, climate activists have pointed out that their counterparts in the host country are still not free to even protest for change.

    “The reality most of those participating in #Cop27 are choosing to ignore,” Abd El Fattah’s sister Mona Seif observed on Twitter last month, “is not just that Human Rights and Climate justice are interlinked, but in countries like #Egypt your true allies, the ones who actually give a damn about the planet’s future are those languishing in prisons.”

    The Swedish climate activists Greta Thunberg and Andreas Magnusson joined Abd El Fattah’s sisters at a protest outside the Foreign Office in London this week.

    LONDON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 30: (L-R) Mona Seif, sister of Alaa Abd El Fattah, climate activists Greta Thunberg and Andreas Magnusson, and Sanaa Seif, sister of Abd El Fattah, pose for a photograph during at sit-in for jailed British-Egyptian activist Alaa Abd El Fattah on October 30, 2022 in London, England. Alaa Abd El Fattah, a British-Egyptian blogger and activist, has been on hunger strike in an Egyptian prison for six months. His sister, Sanaa Seif, has been staging a sit-in outside the Foreign and Commonwealth Development Office in an effort to force the British government to intervene. (Photo by Hollie Adams/Getty Images)

    Alaa Abd El Fattah’s sisters, Mona Seif, left, and Sanaa Seif, right, with climate activists Greta Thunberg and Andreas Magnusson at sit-in outside the U.K. Foreign Office this week.

    Photo: Hollie Adams/Getty Images

    During the 2020 campaign, then-candidate Joe Biden pledged that he would condition $1.3 billion in U.S. security aid to Egypt on respect for human rights from el-Sisi, who had been coddled by President Donald Trump. “Arresting, torturing, and exiling activists … or threatening their families is unacceptable,” Biden tweeted that year. “No more blank checks for Trump’s ‘favorite dictator.'”

    But last year, Biden administration officials reportedly told Sisi’s government that just $130 million of aid would be withheld until Egypt ended the prosecutions of a few nongovernmental organizations and dropped charges against or released just 16 of the estimated 60,000 political prisoners in Egyptian jails. (A report released this year showed that nearly 6,000 Egyptians were jailed for political activities during Biden’s first year in office.)

    In the days before the climate conference, Egypt’s government has made it quite clear that protesters are not welcome anywhere outside the strictly controlled “ Climate Demonstrations Designated Zone ,” in the conference’s “Green Zone.” According to Hossam Bahgat, the director of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, permission to access that zone appears to be impossible for activists to obtain.

    At least 67 people were reportedly arrested this week in Egypt for speaking out about the inadequate response to climate change, including an Indian activist who set off on a protest march from Cairo and some who were detained on charges of “spreading false news” for sharing calls on Facebook for demonstrations.

    “This type of awareness raising used to be celebrated in Egypt, Bahgat noted. “Not in today’s carceral Egypt.”

    The post Nobel Laureates Press Egypt to Free Alaa Abd El Fattah, Writer on Hunger Strike, Before COP27 appeared first on The Intercept .

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      A glaring error in methane flaring / ArsTechnica · Thursday, 29 September, 2022 - 18:00

    Gas flaring at an oil refinery

    Enlarge (credit: HHakim)

    A common practice in the oil industry called flaring is believed to cut down on methane emissions by burning waste or excess gas in the process of extracting or processing oil. But flaring may not be as effective as once thought, according to new research published in the journal Science.

    It’s a widely held belief that flaring is 98 percent effective at destroying methane emissions caused by oil and gas operations. However, according to Eric Kort, associate professor in the University of Michigan’s department of climate and space and one of the paper’s authors, this assumption has only rarely been tested.

    Why burn a potentially useful fuel? “You might have a volume of natural gas, which is primarily methane, that you don’t have anything to do with. You don’t have the capacity to capture it and put it into a pipeline—it’s not economic, the pressure would exceed safety tolerances,” Kort told Ars.

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      Hunga Tonga eruption put over 50B kilograms of water into the stratosphere / ArsTechnica · Thursday, 22 September, 2022 - 20:37 · 1 minute

    Image of a circular blast zone surrounded by clouds.

    Enlarge / The Hunga Tonga eruption started under water, yet still blasted straight through much of the atmosphere. (credit: NASA )

    In January this year, an undersea volcano in Tonga produced a massive eruption, the largest so far this century. The mixing of hot volcanic material and cool ocean water created an explosion that sent an atmospheric shockwave across the planet and triggered a tsunami that devastated local communities and reached as far as Japan. The only part of the crater's rim that extended above water was reduced in size and separated into two islands. A plume of material was blasted straight through the stratosphere and into the mesosphere, over 50 km above the Earth's surface.

    We've taken a good look at a number of past volcanic eruptions and studied how they influence the climate. But those eruptions (most notably that of Mount Pinatubo) all came from volcanoes on land. Hunga Tonga may be the largest eruption we've ever documented that took place under water, and the eruption plume contained unusual amounts of water vapor—so much of it that it actually got in the way of satellite observations at some wavelengths. Now, researchers have used weather balloon data to reconstruct the plume and follow its progress during two circuits around the globe.

    Boom meets balloon

    Your vocabulary word of the day is radiosonde , which is a small instrument package and transmitter that can be carried into the atmosphere by a weather balloon. There are networks of sites where radiosondes are launched as part of weather forecasting services; the most relevant ones for Hunga Tonga are in Fiji and Eastern Australia. A balloon from Fiji was the first to take instruments into the eruption plume, doing so less than 24 hours after Hunga Tonga exploded.

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      There’s no healthy economy (or planet) without healthy forests / ArsTechnica · Tuesday, 7 June, 2022 - 17:52 · 1 minute

    Morning view of shady country road with some ray of light penetrating through trees

    Enlarge (credit: Alfian Widiantono )

    Forests are among the world’s best bets for carbon capture. But according to this year’s State of the World’s Forests report from the United Nations, forests are also the foundation of green and equitable economies, sustainable resource management, and biodiversity preservation and are generally key to a brighter future.

    This latest report highlights how much forests are undervalued in economic analyses and re-emphasizes a three-pronged approach: preserve existing forests, restore degraded lands and expand agroforestry (the integration of trees and shrubs into agriculture), and sustainably use forest products. These actions need upfront financing, but the amount needed is modest compared to other government spending. And the return on investment—in terms of avoiding climate calamity and building a more equitable and sustainable economy—would be significant.

    “Governments are estimated to spend $1.8 trillion a year in military expenditures and more than $5 trillion in fossil fuel subsidies, but only about $50 billion on landscape restoration,” said Robert Nasi, the managing director of The Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) and World Agroforestry (ICRAF) in CIFOR-ICRAF’s media release about the report. “It’s time for society to rethink our priorities to enable a better future.”

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    Revealed: the ‘carbon bombs’ set to trigger catastrophic climate breakdown

    #Oil and #gas #majors are planning scores of vast #projects that threaten to shatter the 1.5C climate #goal. If governments do not act, these firms will continue to #cash in as the world burns.

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      Discs vs. data: Are we helping the environment by streaming? / ArsTechnica · Wednesday, 4 May, 2022 - 17:41

    Image of a pile of DVDs

    Enlarge (credit: Getty Images )

    Earth Day was April 22nd, and its usual message—take care of our planet—has been given added urgency by the challenges highlighted in the latest IPCC report. This year, Ars is taking a look at the technologies we normally cover, from cars to chipmaking, and finding out how we can boost their sustainability and minimize their climate impact.

    Gone are the days of going to Blockbuster to pick out a film for a night in. Physical media like CDs, DVDs, Blu-ray discs, Sony’s weird PlayStation Portable UMDs, and countless other formats have been thoroughly dethroned thanks to a barrage of streaming services like Netflix— itself ailing at the moment—Amazon Prime, and Spotify.

    For the first time in the past 17 years, CDs saw an increase in sales—of 1.1 percent , or 40.59 million units in 2021, compared to 40.16 million units the year prior. In 2021, people purchased 1.2 billion pieces of physical video media, compared to 6.1 billion a decade prior. Meanwhile, according to the Recording Industry Association of America, revenue from music streaming grew 13.4 percent to $10.1 billion in 2020.

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      As long as the People are not leading the change for an ecological paradigm-shift, the nightmare of flooding will prevail

      David Sauvage · Tuesday, 19 April, 2022 - 07:19 edit

    Why don't capitalists give Nature a break ? After a hotel project in the Blue Bay Ramsar site, an hotel in a dune system at La Cambuse, a planned hotel in a wetland at Les Salines Black-River, proposed villas in Pointe d’Esny and Belle Ombre wetland systems, and the Pomponette coastline to name a few, we need to end these ecocides.

    The Ecological Crisis is such a tremendous challenge to address that all the People of the Republic of Mauritius should be deeply part of it. We believe that Rezistans ek Alternativ has paved the way forward as we succeeded to federate an unprecedented horizontal mobilisation to face the Wakashio oil spill, and such an eco-socialist open-approach is a must-have to face the Ecological Crisis.

    The worst is that big corporations and oligarchs have access to such information, as it is the case for the ESA 2009 Study, for them to craft their EIA applications, or the Digital Elevation Model (DEM) to be able to carefully select the lands they speculate on, leaving the flood-prone lands to the working-class. Climate injustice also starts here.

    #mauritius #esabillnow #ramsar #wetlands #climate