Category Archives: Fire This Time

Gwynne Dyer: Dugina Assassination in Moscow

Gwynne Dyer —  Aug 22 2022

Was the killing of Darya Dugina an act of terrorism?

Darya Dugina, the daughter of Russan nationalist ideologist Alexander Dugin, the Russian nationalist ideologist often called "Putin's brain", was killed when her car exploded on the outskirts of Moscow, officials said Sunday. Russian authorities said the Saturday night blast was caused by a bomb planted in the vehicle driven by Dugina.
INVESTIGATIVE COMMITTEE OF RUSSIA/AP
Darya Dugina, the daughter of Russan nationalist ideologist Alexander Dugin, the Russian nationalist ideologist often called “Putin’s brain”, was killed when her car exploded on the outskirts of Moscow, officials said Sunday. Russian authorities said the Saturday night blast was caused by a bomb planted in the vehicle driven by Dugina.

Gwynne Dyer is a UK-based Canadian journalist and seasoned commentator on international affairs.

“I am a political observer of the International Eurasianist Movement and an expert in international relations… In this capacity, I appear on Russian, Pakistani, Turkish, Chinese and Indian television channels… The situation in Ukraine is really an example of a clash of civilisations; it can be seen as a clash between globalist and Eurasian civilisations.”

That’s how Darya Dugina, who was killed on Saturday evening outside Moscow by a car bomb, described herself last May in an interview with an obscure far-right Breton website, Breizh-info.com. (Globalist in far-right Russian circles means the United States, Nato or the West; Eurasian is just a more expansive way of saying Russian.)

The car-bomb that killed the 29-year-old philosopher and journalist was probably intended for her father Alexander Dugin, also a philosopher and sometimes called “Putin’s Brain” by the foreign media because of his alleged influence on the Russian president.

They had driven together to an event supporting the Russian invasion of Ukraine where Dugin spoke. He took another car home and so escaped the bomb, but they were very close.

“I have the honour of being in the same boat as my father (on the same existential ship), being the daughter of a great scholar and author of the 24-volume work Noomachia (‘wars of the mind’). The fact that we are under sanctions by the US, Canada, Australia and the UK is a symbol that we Dugins are on the path of truth in the fight against globalism.”

The ‘path of truth’ they were both on was Neo-Platonism, a style of early Christian mysticism so abstruse and absurd that I will not try to explain it here beyond saying it was big on ideal forms and not so keen on matter.

It remained fashionable in parts of the Orthodox church, and has recently found favour with Russian ultra-nationalists.

But Darya Neoplatonova (Dugina’s pseudonym as a writer) was not murdered for saying “The main line of thought in late Neo-Platonist political philosophy is the development of the idea of a homology of the soul and the state and the existence of a similar threefold order in both.”

Her father was not targeted for his dangerous ideas either.

I never met Darya Dugina, but I did once interview her father about a dozen years ago, when he was still believed to be close to Vladimir Putin. (He certainly isn’t now, and has even lost his job at Moscow State University.)

My Russian was pretty rusty by then, so I took an interpreter along to the interview in his modest flat.

Alexander Dugin proceeded to expand in great detail on the wrongs inflicted on the Russian soul by wicked foreigners and the need for an “existential politics” to counter them, but there were few concrete policy ideas amongst the shower of abstract nouns.

Neo-Eurasianist ideologue Alexander Dugin sits in his TV studio in central Moscow, Russia. Dugin is often called “Putin’s Brain” due to his influence on the Russian leader, but he had fallen out of favour with the Kremlin in recent months. The bomb that killed his daughter is believed to have been meant for him.
FRANCESCA EBEL/AP
Neo-Eurasianist ideologue Alexander Dugin sits in his TV studio in central Moscow, Russia. Dugin is often called “Putin’s Brain” due to his influence on the Russian leader, but he had fallen out of favour with the Kremlin in recent months. The bomb that killed his daughter is believed to have been meant for him.

I also noticed that the translator was leaving out quite a lot of what he was saying.

I thought he was just going too fast for her, but when I asked her afterwards she said she had been too embarrassed by some of what he said. He wasn’t ranting, exactly, but the nationalist paranoia was unrelenting and overwhelming.

The point is that neither father nor daughter was an important target in terms of their influence on Russian policy, which pretty much rules out any Russian motive for killing either of them.

Darya Dugina was an enthusiastic supporter of the attack on Ukraine – she even visited the conquered city of Mariupol – but she was just another cheerleader.

So who planted the bomb?

Almost certainly somebody Ukrainian who was part of that country’s extensive intelligence network in Russia, or some Russian underworld figure paid by the Ukrainians. (There are about two million Ukrainians living in Russia.)

Was either Alexander or Darya a legitimate target?

Neither of them was an entirely innocent bystander in the conflict, but they were certainly unarmed civilians so most people would say that the bombing was a crime.

Was it terrorism?

Yes, in the very specific sense that its motive must have been to show that Ukraine could strike anywhere in Russia with impunity, and thereby terrorise Russians into abandoning their invasion of Ukraine. (It probably won’t have that effect, but that’s the only plausible motive.)

Will it harm the Ukrainian cause in terms of public opinion elsewhere?

A little bit, maybe, because blowing young women up is never a good look, but probably only for a short time. It’s a war, and on the same day Russian shelling wounded twelve civilians, including four children, in the Ukrainian town of Vosnesensk.

What’s the difference, apart from the fact that the Russian gunners didn’t know the names of their victims, and the Ukrainian who planted the bomb that killed Darya Dugina didn’t wear a uniform?

New NBC Poll: Dems’ Midterm Odd Improve; Ex-CIA Boss: GOP BIGGEST DANGER TO U. S.

NBC News poll: 57% of voters say investigations into Trump should continue

Ahead of the midterm elections, the GOP leads in congressional preference, but Democrats catch up in enthusiasm.

August 21, 2022 — By Mark Murray

WASHINGTON — A clear majority of American voters believe that the various investigations into alleged wrongdoing by former President Donald Trump should continue, according to a national NBC News poll conducted after the FBI searched Trump’s Florida home and recovered documents marked as “top secret” earlier this month.

The poll also shows a dissatisfied public, with three-quarters of voters saying the county is headed in the wrong direction, a record 58% who say that America’s best years are behind it and 61% who say they’re willing to carry a protest sign for a day because they’re so upset.

And it paints a mixed picture of the 2022 midterm landscape, with President Joe Biden’s job rating mired in the low 40s, and with Republicans narrowly leading on congressional preference — but with Democrats nearly tying Republicans on voter enthusiasm — and with “threats to democracy” overtaking the cost of living as the top issue facing the country for voters.

“Politically, for Joe Biden and Democrats, the news is not all bad,” said Democratic pollster Jeff Horwitt of Hart Research Associates, who conducted this survey with Republican pollster Bill McInturff of Public Opinion Strategies.

“Heading into Labor Day, the political dynamics could be worse [for Democrats], but they also need to get a lot better and fast,” he said.

McInturff, the GOP pollster, agrees that the environment has improved for Democrats since earlier this year. But he argues that the main fundamentals — the president’s job rating, the nation’s direction — are breaking against the party.

“America is singing the blues, and that is bad news for the blue team in November,” McInturff said.

The NBC News poll was conducted Aug. 12-16, during and after a tumultuous period for Donald Trump — when the FBI searched the former president’s Florida home, when Trump attorney and ally Rudy Giuliani revealed he is a “target” in the probe of alleged election interference in Georgia, and as a former Trump business executive pleaded guilty for tax fraud.

According to the survey, 57% of registered voters say that the investigations into alleged wrongdoing by Trump should continue, while 40% say they should stop.

By party, 92% of Democratic voters, 61% of independents but only 21% of Republican voters think the investigations into Trump should continue.

While all voters who prefer the investigations continue rather than stop lead by 17 points, the margin holding Trump responsible for the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol is much smaller.

A combined 50% of voters say Trump is solely or mainly responsible for Jan. 6 — up 5 points since the May NBC News poll, before the House committee investigating the attack began holding multiple televised hearings.

That’s compared with a combined 49% saying Trump is only somewhat responsible or not responsible at all for Jan. 6, which is down 6 points from May.

Biden’s job rating remains in the low forties

The poll was also conducted after a strong stretch for President Biden, which included Congress passing climate and health care legislation and the Bureau of Labor Statistics reporting that 528,000 jobs had been created last month.

But the survey doesn’t show a significant improvement in the president’s standing, with 42% of registered voters approving of Biden’s job performance and 55% disapproving.

In May, Biden’s job approval stood at 42% among registered voters and 39% among all adults.

The president enjoys his highest approval rating among Democrats (79%), Black voters (68%), urban residents (50%) and women (47%), while he has some of his lowest ratings among Latinos (40%), men (36%), those 18-34 (36%), rural residents (21%) and Republicans (7%).

On the issues, 40% approve of Biden’s handling of the economy (up 7 points among adults in May), and 39% give him a thumbs-up on foreign policy (down 3 points among adults).

Looking ahead to November’s midterm elections, 47% of registered voters prefer Republicans winning control of Congress, while 45% want Democrats in charge.

In May’s poll, the parties were tied on this question: 46%-46%.

Democrats close the enthusiasm gap

Despite Biden’s approval rating and the GOP’s lead in congressional preference (albeit within the poll’s margin of error), the NBC News survey shows an improvement for Democrats since earlier this year.

For one thing, Democrats have closed the enthusiasm gap.

According to the survey, 68% of Republicans express a high level of interest in the upcoming election — registering either a “9” or “10” on a 10-point scale — versus 66% for Democrats.

That 2-point GOP advantage is down from 17 points in March and 8 points in May.

The pollsters who conducted the survey attribute the increased Democratic enthusiasm to the June Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade.

“The Supreme Court ruling has shaken up the electorate,” said Horwitt, the Democratic pollster.

Indeed, the poll finds that 58% of voters disapprove of the Supreme Court decision that overturned Roe v. Wade and ended the constitutional right to an abortion, compared with 38% who approve.

And the poll finds that “threats to democracy” has overtaken the “cost of living” as the most important issue facing the country, and that the climate and health care legislation Biden signed into law last week is more popular than unpopular (42% call it a good idea, while 31% say it is a bad idea).

Upset enough to carry a protest sign for an entire day

But hovering over the entire poll is a deep dissatisfaction from the American public.

Three-quarters of voters — 74% — say the country is headed in the wrong direction, representing the fifth-straight NBC News survey showing this number in the 70s.

Additionally, 58% believe America’s best days are behind it, which is the highest percentage on this question dating back to 1990.

Another 68% of voters think the United States is currently in an economic recession.

And six in 10 — 61% — say they’re so upset by something that they’re willing to carry a protest sign for an entire day.

Asked what their protest sign would say, the top responses among Democratic voters are “Women’s rights,” “Equal rights,” “Prosecute Trump” and “Abortion rights.”

And the top responses among Republican voters are “Impeach Biden,” “Protect our freedom,” “Protect 2nd Amendment,” and “Stop Democrats.”

The NBC News poll was conducted Aug. 12-16 of 1,000 registered voters — including 750 reached by cell phone — and it has an overall margin of error of plus-minus 3.1 percentage points.

© 2022 NBC UNIVERSAL

 

GOP Is Most ‘Dangerous’ Political Force in World, Michael Hayden Says

Retired Gen. Michael Hayden, a former director of both the Central Intelligence Agency and the National Security Agency, has called out the Republican Party as extremist and dangerous, on an unprecedented level.

Hayden was responding Wednesday to an Aug. 11 tweet by the British journalist and author Edward Luce, who had said: “I’ve covered extremism and violent ideologies around the world over my career. Have never come across a political force more nihilistic, dangerous & contemptible than today’s Republicans. Nothing close.”

Luce is the chief U.S. commentator for the Financial Times.

“I agree. And I was the CIA Director,” Hayden responded via quote-tweet.

The tweet sparked immediate debate online, and drew more than 35,000 “likes” in its first three hours.

Hayden, a retired Air Force general who was named director of the NSA during the Clinton administration and was then tapped as CIA director by President George W. Bush, was among five former top military officials who penned a USA Today op-ed last month warning that American democracy “is in real peril” following the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol insurrection and by the manner in which the Republican Party has embraced conspiracy theorists, 2020 election deniers and extremist elements.

Also see: Trump lost — 2020 election wasn’t stolen, group of ultraprominent conservatives says

“For those of us focused on domestic security, the forces of autocracy now trump traditional foreign threats, hands down,” the former military officials wrote, citing a study earlier this year that found one in three Americans believe violence against the government could be justified.

A number of prominent Republicans have also gone on record decrying the state of the Republican Party and Donald Trump’s ongoing influence over it. On Wednesday, Rep. Liz Cheney — who lost her Wyoming Republican primary Tuesday after vigorously opposing Trump — vowed to fight to prevent Trump from becoming president again.

“I am absolutely going to continue this battle,” she told NBC News. “It’s the most important thing I’ve ever been involved in, and I think it’s certainly the most important thing, challenge, that our nation has faced in recent history, and maybe since the Civil War. And it’s one that we must win.”

Separately, former Vice President Mike Pence on Wednesday pleaded with fellow Republicans to tone down their rhetoric against the FBI following last week’s search of Trump’s Mar-a-Lago private club in Palm Beach, Fla.

Law-enforcement officials have warned in recent days that angry words from Trump and his allies are putting agents, officers and federal employees at risk. Violent rhetoric may have contributed to at least two deadly encounters involving law enforcement over the past week.

Memo to Florida Gov. DeSantis: DON’T You DARE Read This!

NOTE: “Don’t Say ‘Gay’”? Smacking around Disney’s Mouse?? Bullying teachers??? Squashing Drag Storytime?? Hectoring trans folk???

William Prynne (1600-1669)

Guv, you must have a secret stash of the more colorful works of William Prynne (1600-1669).  Back in The Day, old Willie P. Knew how to put the Pew and the Pure back into Puritanism. Let’s hear a bit more about him . . .]

In 1633, the irascible [but indefatigable] Prynne published Histrio-Mastix, a thousand-page attack on stage plays, actresses, the magistrates who permitted them (plays and women in them ) and the spectators who viewed them.  Women had long been banned from the stage, which evoked much cross-dressing and falsetto flouncing by male actors. But don’t call them the first drag queens, particularly if you’re a teacher in Florida, Texas, or other neo-Puritan jurisdictions: the anonymous tiplines will soon be buzzing with your name and address.

Part of the title page, which goes on and on . . .

Prynne settled for calling females who acted onstage simply “notorious whores.” He also denounced long hair on men as “unseemly and unlawful unto Christians”, while it was “mannish, unnatural, impudent, and unchristian” for women to cut it short.

Charles I and Queen Henrietta Maria. They were not amused by William Prynne’s condemnation of such abominations as long hair on men, stage plays, women in stage plays, and women in stage plays who actually dared to speak. But while they lacked modern tools such as Twitter, they had other means to express their displeasure at bad reviews, as Prynne learned.

But this polemic about women on stage, among other horrors, earned the royal displeasure from the King (Charles I) who had enjoyed watching his queen (Henrietta Maria) perform at Court. In fact, just about the time Prynne’s doorstop tome appeared in print, the queen herself had starred in an elaborate dramatic masque, “The Shepherd’s Paradise,” along with several of her ladies, who even  <gasp!> broke new ground in public shamelessness by speaking actual lines.

“Paradise” was notorious, all right, and not only because of the women’s speaking. It was also one of many very expensive royal indulgences: it called for elaborate sets, enough for nine scene changes, and lasted for seven to eight hours.  The “plot” was something about a mythical

“pastoral community dedicated to Platonic love
[don’t ask], refuge for unrequited lovers of both genders [do ask: and all orientations?] — “a peaceful receptacle of distressed minds.” The Shepherd’s Paradise is ruled by Bellesa, “beauty,” who was certainly played by Henrietta Maria. . . .” [Wikipedia]

“Paradise” wasn’t a hit, except, it seems, with the royal couple. But the rule then was, “Don’t Say Nay”: and in those days, even without Twitter, the ones in power had ways to make critics rue their effrontery and ill manners, ways that today’s neo-Puritans can only envy and dream about (so far).

For his published insolence Prynne was sent to the Fleet prison [where William Penn was later confined], spent three days shackled in the public pillory, and while in it had both his ears partly cut off.

The pillory. Prynne spent 3 days in it.

Fleet prison also played “host” to “Freeborn John” Lilburne, a “Leveller” agitator for religious and political liberty. He was imprisoned there in 1638 for distributing “unlicensed” [aka censored] publications—not coincidentally, perhaps, one of Prynne’s own—and for which was whipped while being dragged behind an oxcart from the Fleet prison to the pillory at Westminster.

[Lilburne] later thanked God (in defiant verse) for sustaining him through his ordeal:

When from Fleet-bridge to Westminster,
       at Carts Arsse I was whipt,
Then thou with joy my soul upheldst,
       so that I never wept.

Likewise when I on Pillory,
       in Palace-yard did stand,
Then by thy help against my foes,
       I had the upper-hand.”

Prynne was similarly punished but not deterred. He published at least 200 pamphlets & books, upholding presbyterianism and culturally strict Calvinism, and calling for the monarch to rule over all religion in England. He also strongly opposed a plan to permit Jews to return to and settle in England (after being banned since 1290).

In 1654, he took time to issue a blast against a rising new movement, titled, The Quakers Unmasked, and clearly detected to be but the spawn of Romish frogs, Jesuites, and Franciscan fryers; sent from Rome to seduce the intoxicated giddy-headed English nation . . . [yada yada]

It was William Prynne’s fate (and  William Penn’s, ours; and that of Gov. DeSantis) to live in what are called “interesting times.” Prynne passed through years of religious conflict in England, which led to three civil wars, a revolution which overthrew the British monarchy and established church; and a failed attempt to build a “Commonwealth” in its place. The Commonwealth’s collapse was followed by the restoration of the monarchy and the official church. Quakers, among other surviving Dissenters, then faced and, at high cost, survived decades of persecution.

William III giving his Royal Assent to the Toleration Act, 1689.

By 1689, some of the “interesting” trends had begun to simmer down, enough that several generations of continuing religious turmoil finally produced an Act of Toleration. It wasn’t ideal, but opened the door to legal status for dissident groups like Quakers, and ushered in a long period of often “uninteresting” Quietism among them; which ultimately produced more interesting times. But by 1689, Prynne did not object, as he had been dead for twenty years. (William Penn, OTOH, saw the inside of several more prison cells in those last pre-Toleration decades.)

Prynne and Histrio-Mastix are pretty much forgotten today; but some of the penalties he faced, and even practices he supported, seem to be having a kind of revival. His attitudes are also recognizable; he wasn’t exactly a apostle of critical thinking and open inquiry. I see the impact of these echoes in, for instance, the numerous and credible reports of a nationwide teacher shortage. 

Clearly, low pay and respect from officials are big drivers here; but my sense is that the push from culture war zealots and extremists is making it worse. Beyond schools, libraries and other forums for public expression are feeling the pressures. Too many among us show symptoms of being part of what Prynne deemed an “intoxicated giddy-headed English [or American] nation,” drunk on the brew of revenge, race and reaction.

What are the rest of us gonna do?

Well, one thing: keep this article away from DeSantis, and his ilk. It will just give them some new bad ideas; and they’ve got plenty of those already. And otherwise, bring everyone out to vote pro-democracy; then get ready to tough it out, on every front.

 

Thanks to — Andrew Murphy for material adapted from his biography of William Penn, and help from Wikipedia.  

Arizona’s Unbroken Election Hero: Rusty Bowers Speaks

The Guardian — Sun 21 Aug 2022

Interview
Ousted Republican reflects on Trump, democracy and America: ‘The place has lost its mind’

Ed Pilkington in Mesa, Arizona

Rusty Bowers is headed for the exit. After 18 years as an Arizona lawmaker, the past four as speaker of the state’s house of representatives, he has been unceremoniously shown the door by his own Republican party.

Last month he lost his bid to stay in the Arizona legislature in a primary contest in which his opponent was endorsed by Donald Trump. The rival, David Farnsworth, made an unusual pitch to voters: the 2020 presidential election had not only been stolen from Trump, he said, it was satanically snatched by the “devil himself”.

Bowers was ousted as punishment. The Trump acolytes who over the past two years have gained control of the state’s Republican party wanted revenge for the powerful testimony he gave in June to the January 6 hearings in which he revealed the pressure he was put under to overturn Arizona’s election result.

This is a very Arizonan story. But it is also an American story that carries an ominous warning for the entire nation.

Six hours after the Guardian interviewed Bowers, Liz Cheney was similarly ousted in a primary for her congressional seat in Wyoming. The formerly third most powerful Republican leader in the US Congress had been punished too.

The thought that if you don’t do what we like, then we will just get rid of you and march on and do it ourselves – that to me is fascism
In Bowers’s case, his assailants in the Arizona Republican party wanted to punish him because he had steadfastly refused to do their, and Trump’s, bidding.

He had declined to use his power as leader of the house to invoke an “arcane Arizonan law” – whose text has never been found – that would allow the legislature to cast out the will of 3.4 million voters who had handed victory to Joe Biden and switch the outcome unilaterally to Trump.

Continue reading Arizona’s Unbroken Election Hero: Rusty Bowers Speaks

Afghanistan Plus A Year

[NOTE: The term “moral injury” is used in this article, and may be unfamiliar to many readers. There is explanation about it at the end of the essay.]

AFGHANISTAN — A Terrible Year

It’s been one year since the fall of Afghanistan. Our Afghan allies—the ones lucky enough to be alive—are still suffering.

by WILL SELBER

Will Selber, Lt. Colonel, USAF.

Last June, I flew home from Afghanistan. The dread of Afghanistan’s fate haunted my journey home. I worried that our Afghan allies would struggle without American support. I prayed they would last through the fighting season, giving them time to rearm, refit, and reorganize a long-term defense.

When I landed, I told myself it was time to focus on the next chapter of my life.

Like many military families, my wife and I had spent years apart. We met back in 2016, during my time at Fort Leavenworth. I proposed during my two-year unaccompanied tour to Korea. After our wedding, we spent a year apart while I trained for my year-long deployment to Afghanistan. Midway through my deployment, our daughter was born. I was lucky to be able to come home for her birth before returning to the ’Stan. After four years apart, we were finally going to be a family.

There were more reasons to savor the future. Last July, I assumed command of a 240-man squadron. Nothing truly prepares you for the burden of command. It is a crucible that determines the rest of your career. Flourish, and many doors open. Struggle, and the road narrows.

I savored the rewarding challenges that were in my future. Moving my family across the country for my new gig. Living with my wife for the first time. Commanding 240 Airmen. Figuring out fatherhood.

This year was supposed to be different.

Then the Taliban’s blitzkrieg happened and the fall of Kabul pulled me back into a war I thought was finally finished with me. Continue reading Afghanistan Plus A Year

India, Pakistan & the Risk of Regional Nuclear War

Gwynne Dyer: India, Pakistan & the Impacts of a Regional Nuclear War

OPINION: Last Tuesday, August 16, marking the 75th anniversary of Indian independence, Prime Minister Narendra Modi promised to turn India into a developed country within the next 25 years.

If all goes well, that could actually come to pass, but it would have to go very well indeed.

The demographic and economic signs are positive. The country’s population has grown fourfold since independence in 1947, but population growth has now dropped to ‘replacement level’: 2.1 children per completed family.

The current youngest generation is so large that the population will keep growing until 2060, when it will have reached 1.7 billion.

The upside of this is that India will continue to have a rapidly growing young workforce for another generation, while its only rival, China, will have a rapidly ageing and dwindling population (1.2 billion and still falling in 2060). Continue reading India, Pakistan & the Risk of Regional Nuclear War

Hello, Cowpeas — haven’t we met before — before the, you know, disaster?

The Guardian — August 20, 2022

Diet for a hotter climate: 5 plants that could help feed the world

As the planet warms, these five drought-tolerant and highly nutritious crops offer hope for greater resiliency

Cecilia Nowell
11th Hour ProjectAbout this content

Over the course of human history, scientists believe that humans have cultivated more than 6,000 different plant species. But over time, farmers gravitated toward planting those with the largest yields. Today, just three crops – rice, wheat and corn – provide nearly half of the world’s calories.

That reliance on a small number of crops has made agriculture vulnerable to pests, plant-borne diseases and soil erosion, which thrive on monoculture – the practice of growing only one crop at a time. It has also meant losing out on the resilience other crops show in surviving drought and other natural disasters.

As the impacts of the climate crisis become starker, farmers across the world are rediscovering ancient crops and developing new hybrids that might prove more hardy in the face of drought or epidemics, while also offering important nutrients.

“You hear all the statistics like, ‘We’ve lost 90% of our varieties’. It’s only recently that I realized the greatest sadness isn’t that we’ve lost that diversity. It’s that we don’t even know that we’ve lost that diversity,” says Chris Smith, founder of the Utopian Seed Project.

Here’s a look at five crops, beyond rice, wheat and corn, that farmers across the world are now growing in hopes of feeding the planet as it warms:

Amaranth: the plant that survived colonization

Twig with amaranth flowers and a heap of seeds on white background
Indigenous farmers have long grown this drought resistant crop, which is now experiencing a resurgence. Photograph: Picture Partners/Alamy

From leaf to seed, the entirety of the amaranth plant is edible. Standing up to eight feet tall, amaranth stalks are topped off with red, orange or green seed-filled plumes. Across Africa and Asia, amaranth has long been eaten as a vegetable – whereas Indigenous Americans also ate the plant’s seed: a pseudocereal like buckwheat or quinoa.

While amaranth leaves can be sautéed or cooked into a stir-fry, the seed is commonly toasted and then eaten with honey or milk. A complete protein with all nine essential amino acids, amaranth is a good source of vitamins and antioxidants.

In the Americas, Spanish colonizers banned the Aztecs and Maya from growing amaranth when they arrived on the continent. However, the plant continued to grow as a weed and many farmers saved amaranth seeds, passing them down for generations, until their descendants were allowed to grow it again.

Today, Indigenous farmers in Guatemala, Mexico and the US are collaborating to grow this drought-resistant crop. Like fonio, an African grain, amaranth is not a new crop, but one that is experiencing a resurgence as communities adapt to the climate crisis. “Everything that’s new was old once,” said Matthew Blair, a professor at Tennessee State University and co-president of the Amaranth Institute.

Amaranth has found its way into European kitchens, with Ukraine coming in as the crop’s largest producer on the continent.

Fonio: the drought-resistant traditional grain

A farmer with his back to the camera sprinkles fonio seeds on to brown earth
Farmer Jeane Pierre Kamara 49, sows fonio cereal seeds on freshly plowed land along with fellow farmers in the fields of Neneficha, south-eastern Senegal.Photograph: Andy Hall/The Guardian

For thousands of years, farmers across west Africa have cultivated fonio – a kind of millet that tastes like a slightly nuttier couscous or quinoa. Historically, fonio is considered to be Africa’s oldest cultivated cereal and was regarded by some as the food of chiefs and kings. In countries such as Senegal, Burkina Faso and Mali, fonio would be served on holy days, like at weddings and during the month of Ramadan.

Today, attention is increasingly focused on fonio for its resilience and health benefits. As the climate continues to change, fonio’s drought resistance and ability to grow in poor soil has made it a standout crop in water-scarce regions. It also has important nutritional value as a low glycemic, gluten-free grain – making it a good source of amino acids for people with diabetes or gluten intolerance.

A metal dish containing cooked fonio with shredded chicken. A hand is putting a spoon into the dish.
A Freshly cooked fonio dish with chicken, served in a restaurant in the Neneficha area, south-eastern Senegal. Photograph: Andy Hall/The Guardian

While Europeans once called fonio “hungry rice”, European companies are now manufacturing their own fonio. The Italian company Obà Food helped introduce fonio to the EU in December 2018. And in the US, the Senegalese chef Pierre Thiam sources fonio from the aid organization SOS Sahel for his brand Yolélé, also the name of his cookbook celebrating west African cuisine.

Cowpeas: the fully edible plant

A farmer stands on a plot of land with plants growing up to her knees, harvesting cowpeas
Farmer Amina Guyo harvesting cowpeas on her land in Moyale, Kenya.Photograph: Luis Tato/FAO/AFP/Getty Images

In the 1940s, more than 5m acres of cowpeas were grown in the US – the majority, as their name suggests, for hay to feed livestock. But long before cowpeas – also called southern peas or black-eyed peas – came to the Americas, they were grown for human consumption in west Africa. Although cowpea production has declined in the US in recent decades, the crop is hugely important in much of Africa. Nigeria is the world’s largest cowpea producer.

As scientists look for alternative crops, Blair said it was important to identify ones where the entire plant is edible. Although historically people have mostly eaten cowpeas’ seeds, the leaves and pods are also a good source of protein.

Because cowpeas are highly drought tolerant, they’re also a good candidate as the climate changes. At Tennessee State University, Blair is part of a team studying the introduction of cowpeas to Latin America, as an alternative to beans, like pinto and black beans, with similar flavor profiles that may soon become more difficult to grow.

Taro: adapting the tropical crop for colder climes

Three bunches of taro next to each other on a table. Taro is believed to have been one of the earliest cultivated plants.
Varieties of taro at the Utopian Seed Project. Photograph: Yanna Fishman/ The Utopian Seed Project.

In the tropics of south-east Asia and Polynesia, taro has long been grown as a root vegetable, not unlike the potato. But as rising temperatures threaten cultivation of the crop in its natural habitat, farmers in the continental US are trying to adapt the tropical perennial to grow as a temperate annual, because it cannot survive the cold of US winters.

At the Utopian Seed Project in North Carolina, founder Chris Smith and his team have been experimenting with tropical crops, looking for ways to help the plants survive the winter. Today, they’re growing eight varieties of taro, including ones sourced from Korea, the Philippines, Hawaii, China and Puerto Rico.

“We want to introduce taro because we truly believe that that will give us a more secure food system,” Smith says. “But the beautiful byproduct is that that also allows us to engage with foods that are traditionally from either Indigenous or peasant farming communities. And I think it really gives those traditionally underserved populations an opportunity to engage with the food system that they don’t usually get.”

Like fonio, amaranth and cowpeas, taro isn’t a new crop – it’s just new to the US food system. Which is why the Utopian Seed Project isn’t just learning how to grow taro, but also teaching people how to cook it. “These crops are just foods that are embedded in cultures around the world in a way that they’re not embedded here,” Smith said. “It takes work to build that community and desire for that crop.”

Kernza: the crop bred for the climate crisis

A field of kernza plants at sunset
Kernza ripens in a breeding plot at the Land Institute. Photograph: Scott Seirer/Scott Seirer for the Land Institute

While many alternative crops are just plants that were grown somewhere else in the world generations ago, others have been cultivated specifically to withstand climate change.

In the 1980s, researchers at the Pennsylvania-based Rodale Institute identified a wheat-like grass called intermediate wheatgrass as a perennial cereal crop that could be developed as a substitute for annual grains like wheat. The goal was to minimize the environmental impacts of grain production.

In 2019, the Kansas-based Land Institute, a non-profit research organization focused on sustainable agriculture, introduced Kernza, a cereal crop developed from intermediate wheatgrass and trademarked to ensure farmers know they’ve bought seeds from the official breeding program. Although researchers are still working to improve the grain’s yield, farmers in Minnesota, Kansas and Montana are today growing nearly 4,000 acres of Kernza.

“Growers immediately understand the benefits of perennials on their landscapes,” said Tessa Peters, director of crop stewardship at the Land Institute, “and for those working in grain-producing areas, Kernza is very appealing.”

Sri Lanka: What Goes Around Is Coming Around?

Sri Lanka Collapsed First, but It Won’t Be the Last

Mr. Samarajiva is a Sri Lankan writer who publishes at his blog Indi.ca.

As a Sri Lankan, watching international news coverage of my country’s economic and political implosion is like showing up at your own funeral, with everybody speculating on how you died.

The Western media accuse China of luring us into a debt trap. Tucker Carlson says environmental, social and corporate governance programs killed us. Everybody blames the Rajapaksas, the corrupt political dynasty that ruled us until massive protests by angry Sri Lankans chased them out last month.

But from where I’m standing, ultimate blame lies with the Western-dominated neoliberal system that keeps developing countries in a form of debt-fueled colonization. The system is in crisis, its shaky foundations exposed by the tumbling dominoes of the Ukraine war, resulting in food and fuel scarcity, the pandemic, and looming insolvency and hunger rippling across the world.

Sri Lanka is Exhibit A. We were once an economic hope, with an educated population and a median income among the highest in South Asia. But it was an illusion. After 450 years of colonialism, 40 years of neoliberalism, and four years of total failure by our politicians, Sri Lanka and its people have been beggared.

Continue reading Sri Lanka: What Goes Around Is Coming Around?

Gwynne Dyer: Who Blew Up the Russian Airplanes in Crimea?

Russia and Ukraine step up propaganda war

This obviously does not happen because of a thrown butt,” said British Defense Minister Ben Wallace.

But the Russian Ministry of Defence insisted that the explosions that destroyed at least eight warplanes at Saki Air Base in Russian-occupied Crimea on August 9 were due to “a violation of fire safety requirements.”

The implication is that some careless Russian smoker tossed away his cigarette butt and caused a fire that set off explosions.

That’s hardly a testimonial to the discipline of the Russian air force’s ground crews, but it’s better than admitting that Ukrainian missiles have reached 225km behind Russian lines to destroy a whole squadron of Russian fighters.

Moscow also claimed that no Russian aircraft had been damaged by the explosions in Crimea, although the wreckage of the destroyed fighters was clearly visible on the ‘overheads’ from satellite observations. Continue reading Gwynne Dyer: Who Blew Up the Russian Airplanes in Crimea?

Good Grief! Here Comes The Tomato Crisis!

Spaghetti Sauce Is Under Threat as Water Crisis Slams Tomatoes

Kim Chipman — August 13, 2022

(Bloomberg) — Tomatoes are getting squeezed.

California leads the world in production of processing tomatoes — the variety that gets canned and used in commercial kitchens to make some of the most popular foods. The problem is the worst drought in 1,200 years is forcing farmers to grapple with a water crisis that’s undermining the crop, threatening to further push up prices from salsa to spaghetti sauce.

The blogger, in wetter, redder times.

“We desperately need rain,” Mike Montna, head of the California Tomato Growers Association, said in an interview. “We are getting to a point where we don’t have inventory left to keep fulfilling the market demand.” Continue reading Good Grief! Here Comes The Tomato Crisis!