Are humans alone in the Universe?

We are, according to this report, Dissolving the Fermi Paradox, published earlier this month.

It’s not surprising that we haven’t found anyone who is like us. Life on the surface of a planet is precarious – the constantly changing atmosphere has to stay within certain boundaries for us to survive. The magnetism that deflects most of the solar wind,which would otherwise strip away the ozone layer that protects Earth from harmful ultraviolet radiation is always fluctuating. Then there’s the ever-constant threat of asteroids.

Anything that survives on the surface has to be adaptable and somewhat vicious. This suited humanity in the short run (the past 200,000 years, an eye-blink in universal time), but when our adaptability gives us the power to destroy the planet, it puts us at a tipping point; expand to other planets or die here.

Other surface dwellers may have reached this point, and may not have survived. Or, they could have evolved into something that’s so advanced, we can’t even comprehend their existence.

Like these guys –

Qatar sponsoring Extremist Preachers

According to the State Department, Qatar’s government provides preachers with guidance for Friday sermons, reviews content, and reserves the right to take judicial action against clerics who fail to adhere to such guidelines. Yet far from punishing or at least disavowing Muraikhi’s anti-Semitic rhetoric, Qatar’s government promoted his sermon both before and afterward, and broadcast it on official media.

Qatar’s government did the same when a preacher named Abdullah al-Naama delivered an extremist sermon at the Grand Mosque on July 21st, 2017.  In fact, Naama and Muraikhi have been the only preachers selected to deliver weekly Friday sermons at the Grand Mosque since that date. And Qatar should already have known such incitement was a distinct possibility, since both men have engaged in it before.

In Naama’s July 21st sermon, he warned Muslims that their “most dangerous enemies” are Muslim hypocrites, who he says are even “more dangerous to Islam than the Jews and the Christians.” Naama declared that Muslim hypocrites resort “to the Jews and the polytheists as a refuge” and that they “are among the ranks of the adversary, for where are they during [literally “from”] the defiling of the Holy Sanctuary?”, accusing Israel of desecrating the Temple Mount. 

Naama went on about such Muslim hypocrites, imploring “where are they during the siege of Gaza?  Where are they during the Holocausts of Muslims in several places?” He argues that “the great betrayal” by Muslim hypocrites is over Palestine, apparently suggesting that treating Israel with anything but overt hostility is a betrayal of Islam.  Naama, who has previously praised what he called Gaza’s “mujahideen,” concluded his sermon by beseeching all Muslims to accept it as their “great duty… to aid our brothers there, with one’s self, and money, and prayer, and extending the hand of support and aid with all of one’s strength and means.”

Qatar has also continued to host extremist preachers at the mosque that services the learning institutions on Qatar’s Education City campus, including satellite campuses for Cornell, Texas A&M, Virginia Commonwealth, Carnegie Mellon, Northwestern, and Georgetown Universities. In 2015 and 2016, several guest preachers propagated egregious incitement against non-Muslims during their sermons at the Education City Mosque.  And in June 2017, the Education City Mosque hosted a series of lectures by Mohammed Rateb al-Nabulsi, a preacher who has previously labeled all Jews as combatants and who advocates executing gay men.

via Qatari Backing for Extremist Preachers and Anti-Semitic Incitement | Anti-Defamation League

Qatar and ISIS

Newly resurfaced tweets have revealed that a Qatari government official publicly congratulated ISIS in 2014, days after Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared an “Islamic Caliphate” from Iraq’s Mosul.

Hamad Lahhan Al-Mohannadi, Deputy Chairman of the Central Municipal Council in Qatar, and the former director of the supply management department of the Qatar Olympic Committee, wrote a Twitter post in which he described the militants as “revolutionaries.”

His 2014 tweet was a picture accompanied by the caption: “An image of the city of Mosul in Iraq before Iftar (a sunset meal in which Muslims break their fast in Ramadan) the rule of the revolutionaries of Iraq brought back to Mosul its luster and pulled it from the grips of Iran.”

via EXCLUSIVE: Qatari official congratulated ISIS for Mosul capture, tweets reveal – Al Arabiya English

Saudi Arabia is not an ally

… what kind of thinking and future does this young prince telegraph? Some observers speaking under condition of anonymity accuse MBS of extreme narcissism, which clouds his judgment. Coupled with the conviction that he is the savior of the Gulf Arabs and Islam, MBS is a prime candidate to cast himself as a millennial figure in time to come.

Actors with such mindsets believe they must destroy the world in order to save it. And the Trump White House will unfortunately only reinforce his mindset as a strongman who has America’s backing. Saddam Hussein of Iraq and other failed figures sold such fantasy self-images to their unwitting nations.

MBS also lacks moral insight. When asked in a recent interview with “60 Minutes” about his excessive lifestyle of expensive yachts, art and French mansion purchases, he retorted saying he was no Nelson Mandela or Mahatma Gandhi. He strives for no moral greatness which hollows out his claims as a reformer. In the same interview, MBS said his father inculcated in him a deep value of history.

If so, he might heed the wisdom of the fourteenth-century North African historian and statesman Ibn Khaldun. Treating people as “instruments” in order to subdue them through war, Ibn Khaldun wrote, is to degrade them. His hawkishness will make Saudis and Yemenis feel humiliated. He is sure to be met with resistance from a seething youth sector and a marginalized religious establishment in his country that are far from being defeated. And regional players will hatch plans to resist him, or worse: attempt to dethrone him.

One hopes U.S. policy-makers will ask MBS to visit the site of the World Trade Center while he is in New York City. The unprecedented terrorist attacks of 9/11 were not just perpetrated by Saudis; they occurred because the US was seen as enabling the reckless agenda of the royal family with total disregard for the political well-being of Saudis, and that of Muslim peoples in the region and around the world.

This perception has not vanished but has in fact metastasized. Given the strategic relationship between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia, all of MBS’s wrongdoings are heaped on the U.S. since he receives the tacit approval of the Trump White House. This means the U.S. still remains in danger emanating from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and its homegrown political monsters.

With no foreign-policy adults in the White House—and an inexperienced and unconfirmed secretary of state in Mike Pompeo—one can expect little substantive foreign policy exchange during MBS’s visit. The only winners will be those who conclude back-room business deals with the extended Trump clan and their cronies and with the US arms industry.

MBS has come to stockpile his country against his self-created regional monsters and to invest the monies he recently confiscated from his country’s business elite—even as oil fortunes and futures dwindle. It is time for a sober assessment of whether Saudi Arabia is a strategic ally or a millstone around the U.S.’s neck.

via Mohammed bin Salman’s US visit is a shopping trip for war

The Mavi Marmara and the usual anti-Semites

Exclusive: Jeremy Corbyn with antisemites, what about the Mavi Marmara?

What [Greta Berlin] seems to be saying here is that Ken O’Keefe attacked the soldiers BEFORE any shots had been fired. This statement entirely negates their original version of events. The exchange supports Israel’s version, that the Israelis were not expecting resistance, they did not know ex-Marine O’Keefe had planned to attack them. O’Keefe was waving a gun around after disarming and capturing the Israelis soldiers, and only then, did the Israelis start to fire. Well worth a read (report part 1).

Enough of the shameful kowtowing to the Saudis | Simon Tisdall | Opinion | The Guardian

Enough of the shameful kowtowing to the Saudis | Simon Tisdall | Opinion | The Guardian

Salman is coming to Britain, which means British values are the least of May’s concerns

May has three priority agenda items and of them, Brexit is foremost. Her focus is on persuading the Saudis that Britain can still be an important trading, investment and business partner after it leaves the EU. A bilateral trade pact must be near the top of Liam Fox’s things-to-do list after March next year. Before then, a key test of this post-Brexit ambition will be whether the Saudis choose the City of London over New York, Tokyo and Hong Kong for the flotation of Aramco, the state-owned oil company – potentially the most valuable IPO in history. A decision is said to be imminent. “British values” have nothing to do with it.

Second, May and her ministers are keen to maintain and expand the UK security, defence and counter-terrorism relationship. David Cameron once claimed Saudi intelligence averted terrorist attacks in Britain, and the Saudi alliance is highly valued in the fight against Islamic State, al-Qaida and other jihadist groups. Ignoring evidence that Saudi Sunni Wahhabism has played a key role in encouraging anti-western extremism, Saudi Arabia is officially viewed as Islam’s leading light.

This unhealthily irrational bias is deepening. In a policy shift led by Boris Johnson, who reportedly fancies himself as one of Salman’s best buddies, Britain is increasingly aligning itself with the hard US-Saudi line on Iran, Riyadh’s regional foe. The Foreign Office currently backs the west’s 2015 nuclear accord with Tehran, which the Saudis and Donald Trump deplore, and has worked hard in recent years to normalise relations.

Saudi and Qatari support of ISIS part IV

Drugs in War: What is Captagon, the ‘Jihad Pill’ Used by Islamic State Militants?

Though Islamic law forbids the consumption of alcohol and other drugs, many users there see Captagon as a medicinal substance. In October 2015, Lebanese authorities arrested a Saudi prince at the Beirut airport after two tons of cocaine and Captagon pills, which sell for roughly $20 per pill in Saudi Arabia, were found on a private plane.Once manufactured in Eastern Europe, Turkey and Lebanon, according to Columbia University’s Journal of International Affairs, Captagon is now predominantly made in Syria. The Syrian conflict has allowed for illicit activities to flourish, and many fighters there know the benefits of using the drug.The use of drugs in war has a long history. The ancient Greeks, the Vikings, U.S. Civil War soldiers and the Nazis all relied on drugs—wine, mushrooms, morphine and methamphetamines, respectively—to get them through the horror of battle. “The holy grail that armies around the world have been looking for is a drug that gives people courage,” says Persaud, and Captagon comes close. “It doesn’t give you distilled courage, but it gives you a tendency to want to keep going and impaired judgment, so you don’t consider whether you’re scared or not,” he says. “You feel euphoria. You don’t feel pain. You could say it’s courage without the judgment.” For a fighter in a war so brutally waged, the benefits of that are clear.

Saudi and Qatari support for ISIS : Part III

Iraq crisis: How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over the north of the country | The Independent

How far is Saudi Arabia complicit in the Isis takeover of much of northern Iraq, and is it stoking an escalating Sunni-Shia conflict across the Islamic world? Some time before 9/11, Prince Bandar bin Sultan, once the powerful Saudi ambassador in Washington and head of Saudi intelligence until a few months ago, had a revealing and ominous conversation with the head of the British Secret Intelligence Service, MI6, Sir Richard Dearlove. Prince Bandar told him: “The time is not far off in the Middle East, Richard, when it will be literally ‘God help the Shia’. More than a billion Sunnis have simply had enough of them.”

The fatal moment predicted by Prince Bandar may now have come for many Shia, with Saudi Arabia playing an important role in bringing it about by supporting the anti-Shia jihad in Iraq and Syria. Since the capture of Mosul by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isis) on 10 June, Shia women and children have been killed in villages south of Kirkuk, and Shia air force cadets machine-gunned and buried in mass graves near Tikrit.

In Mosul, Shia shrines and mosques have been blown up, and in the nearby Shia Turkoman city of Tal Afar 4,000 houses have been taken over by Isis fighters as “spoils of war”. Simply to be identified as Shia or a related sect, such as the Alawites, in Sunni rebel-held parts of Iraq and Syria today, has become as dangerous as being a Jew was in Nazi-controlled parts of Europe in 1940…

…He does not doubt that substantial and sustained funding from private donors in Saudi Arabia and Qatar, to which the authorities may have turned a blind eye, has played a central role in the Isis surge into Sunni areas of Iraq. He said: “Such things simply do not happen spontaneously.” This sounds realistic since the tribal and communal leadership in Sunni majority provinces is much beholden to Saudi and Gulf paymasters, and would be unlikely to cooperate with Isis without their consent.

Qatar and Saudi support ISIS: Part II

Julian Assange: Isis and Clinton Foundation are both funded by Saudi Arabia and Qatar | The Independent

“We need to use our diplomatic and more traditional intelligence assets to bring pressure on the governments of Qatar and Saudi Arabia, which are providing clandestine financial and logistic support to Isil and other radical Sunni groups in the region,” Ms Clinton wrote.

Mr Assange noted the US government had never acknowledged governments of Middle East nations had financially supported Isis, instead arguing such support was isolated to “some rogue princes using their cut of the oil money to do whatever they like, although the government disapproves”, according to the WikiLeaks founder.

Saudi and Qatari support for ISIS

The Independent | We finally know what Hillary Clinton knew all along – US allies Saudi Arabia and Qatar are funding Isis

For an extraordinarily long period after 9/11, the US refused to confront these traditional Sunni allies and thereby ensured that the “War on Terror” would fail decisively; 15 years later, al-Qaeda in its different guises is much stronger than it used to be because shadowy state sponsors, without whom it could not have survived, were given a free pass.

It is not as if Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State and the US foreign policy establishment in general did not know what was happening. An earlier WikiLeaks release of a State Department cable sent under her name in December 2009 states that “Saudi Arabia remains a critical financial support base for al-Qaeda, the Taliban, LeT [Lashkar-e-Taiba in Pakistan].” But Saudi complicity with these movements never became a central political issue in the US. Why not?