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Young Man Charged With Attempted Murder in London Subway Attack

World News (NY Times) - Fri, 22 Sep 2017 - 9:49am
The suspect, identified as Ahmed Hassan, 18, was also accused of using a banned explosive, the British police said.

The Saturday Profile: Expecting a Hero’s Welcome, Lebanese Director Was Accused of Treason

World News (NY Times) - Fri, 22 Sep 2017 - 9:16am
When Ziad Doueiri was detained at the airport in Beirut over having filmed in Israel, it provoked debates over law, politics and artistic freedom.

Kurdish independence vote: A historical perspective

Al Jazeera - Fri, 22 Sep 2017 - 9:12am
The upcoming vote has little to do with Kurds' real grievances and much to share with conflicting geopolitical agendas.

Bumbling police tweet '80-year ban' for dangerous driver

BBC News - Fri, 22 Sep 2017 - 9:11am
Police backtrack after tweeting a sentencing for a dangerous driving conviction that was 78 years out.

'Indian shooting' kills six Pakistanis across border

Al Jazeera - Fri, 22 Sep 2017 - 8:44am
Pakistani military says at least six civilians dead and dozens wounded in exchange of fire across the de-facto border.

Vows: A Chorus of Mazel Tovs in Uganda

World News (NY Times) - Fri, 22 Sep 2017 - 8:22am
About 1,500 people, including politicians, family and friends, traveled from throughout Uganda to attend the celebration of five Jewish couples.

Taking a step against US impunity in Guantanamo

Al Jazeera - Fri, 22 Sep 2017 - 7:48am
The fight against impunity in Guantanamo Bay has reached the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.

SIGAR report puts Afghan security deficiencies in focus

Al Jazeera - Fri, 22 Sep 2017 - 7:25am
Trump and Ghani hold talks in New York as report says US approach to Afghanistan lacked 'whole of government approach'.

Separatist supporters mass outside Barcelona top court

Al Jazeera - Fri, 22 Sep 2017 - 7:22am
Protesters gather outside Supreme Court in a show of support for next month's planned independence referendum.

Bangladesh PM wants Rohingya safe zones in Myanmar

Al Jazeera - Fri, 22 Sep 2017 - 7:18am
In speech to UN, Sheikh Hasina presses Myanmar to allow the return of 'hungry, distressed and hopeless' refugees.

Uber to lose its licence to operate in London

Al Jazeera - Fri, 22 Sep 2017 - 6:57am
Transport authority declares US ride-booking company not 'fit and proper to hold a private hire operator licence'.

Who are the world's richest women?

BBC News - Fri, 22 Sep 2017 - 6:32am
We look at who has taken the top global spot and which British women are the wealthiest.

Kim Jong-un Called Trump a ‘Dotard.’ What Does That Even Mean?

World News (NY Times) - Fri, 22 Sep 2017 - 5:42am
An obscure insult from North Korea’s leader inspires dictionary searches and online jokes.

Syrian Refugee Held in London Tube Bombing Is Released

World News (NY Times) - Fri, 22 Sep 2017 - 4:17am
Five other men remain in custody over the Parsons Green subway explosion, which injured 30 people.

Iranian Leader: Trump is “Disturbed,” speaks like a Cowboy or Mobster

Informed Comment - Fri, 22 Sep 2017 - 2:37am

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

Iranian hardliners are still responding to Trump’s speech at the UN Monday, in which he accused Iran of backing terrorism and called the nuclear deal the worst deal the US had ever made.

Iranian leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said Thursday that Donald Trump’s address to the UN had been the performance of a “cowboy” or a “mobster.” The US president’s words, he said, were “disturbed” and “detached from reality.”

Major-General Hassan Firouzabadi, a major military adviser to Iran’s Leader, lambasted Trump, saying, “That was the emptiest, most shameful speech delivered at the UN” according to Mehr news. He said he was praying for the liberation from the world of Trump-brand ‘world arrogance’ and said that Trump was “disregarding UN norms and talking against peace.” He added, “My condolences to the United States for their president…” [h/t BBC Monitoring for trans.]

Major-General Rahim Safavi, the chief military adviser to Khamenei, said that Trump’s UN address to the UN had been “stupid.” He said that the American public realizes that Trump is unqualified, and that they widely despise him. “I don’t expect him . . . to serve out his full term.” [h/t BBC Monitoring for trans.]

Safavi said “Trump showed he does not abide by any international agreement including the nuclear deal, which is a multilateral accord signed among big powers.”

Safavi objected to Trump’s characterization of Iran as a supporter of terrorism, saying that the US supported the extremist state of Saudi Arabia, supported Israeli terrorism against the Palestinians, supported the Nusra Front (an al-Qaeda affiliate in Syria), and he (incorrectly) accused the US of being behind the rise of ISIL.

Centrist president Hassan Rouhani, who had hoped for better relations with the US, opined that:

Hassan Rouhani: ‘No One Will Trust America’ If Donald Trump Leaves Iran Deal | NBC Nightly News

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Full Text of Kim Jong-un’s Response to President Trump

World News (NY Times) - Fri, 22 Sep 2017 - 1:00am
The statement by Mr. Kim was the first time that a North Korean leader has issued a statement to the world under his name, South Korea said.

How Colonialism, Inequality turbocharge Caribbean Hurricanes

Informed Comment - Fri, 22 Sep 2017 - 12:35am

By Levi Gahman and Gabrielle Thongs | (The Conversation) | – –

Hurricane Maria, the 15th tropical depression this season, is now battering the Caribbean, just two weeks after Hurricane Irma wreaked havoc in the region.

The devastation in Dominica is “mind-boggling,” wrote the country’s prime minister, Roosevelt Skerrit, on Facebook just after midnight on September 19. The next day, in Puerto Rico, NPR reported via member station WRTU in San Juan that “Most of the island is without power…or water.”

Among the Caribbean islands impacted by both deadly storms are Puerto Rico, St Kitts, Tortola and Barbuda.

In this region, disaster damages are frequently amplified by needlessly protracted and incomplete recoveries. In 2004, Hurricane Ivan rolled roughshod through the Caribbean with wind speeds of 160 mph. The region’s economy took more than three years to recover. Grenada’s surplus of US$17 million became a deficit of $54 million, thanks to decreased revenue and the outlays for rehabilitation and reconstruction.

Nor were the effects of a 7 magnitude earthquake that rocked Haiti in 2010 limited to killing some 150,000 people. United Nations peacekeepers sent in to help left the country grappling, to this day, with a fatal cholera outbreak.

A tent city in post-earthquake Haiti.
Fred W. Baker III/Wikimedia Commons

These are not isolated instances of random bad luck. As University of the West Indies geographers who study risk perception and political ecology, we recognize the deep, human-induced roots of climate change, inequality and the underdevelopment of former colonies – all of which increase the Caribbean’s vulnerability to disaster.

Risk, vulnerability and poverty

Disaster risk is a function of both a place’s physical hazard exposure – that is, how directly it is threatened by disaster – and its social vulnerability, specifically, how resilient it is.

Across most Caribbean islands, hazard exposure is about the same, but research shows that poverty and social inequality drastically magnify the severity of disasters.

The Haitian Revolution’s Battle for Palm Tree Hill.
January Suchodolski/Wikimedia Commons

Haiti, where eight out of every 10 people live on less than $4 a day, offers an example of how capitalism, gender and history converge to compound storm damage.

The country is among the Western Hemisphere’s poorest in large part because of imperialism. After Haitians successfully overthrew their European enslavers in 1804, global powers economically stifled the island. From 1915 to 1934, the U.S. first militarily occupied Haiti, and then followed a policy of intervention that continues to have lasting effects on its governance.

International interference and the resulting weak institutions, in turn, impeded development, poverty reduction and empowerment efforts.

In such a context, disasters aggravate a country’s numerous existing social vulnerabilities. Take gender, for example. Mental health professionals offering support to victims after Haiti’s 2010 earthquake found that an extraordinarily high number of displaced women – up to 75 percent – had experienced sexual violence. This prior trauma exacerbated the women’s post-disaster stress responses.

Geography and gender

Inequality and underdevelopment are perhaps less marked in the rest of the Caribbean, but from Antigua and Barbuda to St. Kitts and Nevis, socioeconomic problems are now complicating both disaster preparedness and response.

Across the region, people spend most of their income on daily essentials like food, clean water, shelter and medicine, with little left over for greeting Irma and Maria with lifesaving hurricane-resilient roofs, storm shutters, solar generators and first aid kits.

For the poor, emergency radios and satellite telephones that could warn of impending disasters are largely unaffordable, as is homeowners’ insurance to hasten recovery.

Poorer Caribbean residents also tend to live in the most disaster-prone areas because housing is cheaper on unstable deforested hillsides and eroding riverbanks. This exponentially increases the danger they face. The low construction quality of these dwellings offers less protection during storms while, post-disaster, emergency vehicles may not be able to access these areas.

Caribbean women will also continue to be at particular risk well after Maria passes. In a region where gender roles remain quite rigid, women are typically tasked with childcare, harvesting, cooking, cleaning, washing and the like.

Even in post-disaster settings, women are expected to perform household labor. So when water supplies are contaminated (with sewage, E. coli, salmonella, cholera, yellow fever, and hepatitis A, among others), women are disproportionately exposed to illness.

The work of nourishing the spirits and bodies of others when food and water shortages occur is also thrust onto women, even though they generally have less access to income and credit than men.

No place for politics

Politics, too, play a role in how the Caribbean is faring during this tumultuous hurricane season. Longtime colonial rule isn’t the only reason Caribbean societies and ecosystems are now so vulnerable.

Many contemporary governments in the region are, arguably, also doing their part to make life generally worse for marginalized communities. In Trinidad and Tobago, divestment in public education has hurt working-class university students, youth from low-income communities and older adults who were previously eligible for financial aid.

In oil-rich Guyana, dependency upon fossil fuels has invited an eager ExxonMobil in for a round of drilling, despite its track record for extracting, polluting and taking profits largely elsewhere. And, from Jamaica to Belize, widespread corruption and land rights violations have severed relationships of trust between people and the states that are, in theory, supposed to protect them.

When storms threaten, such policies and practices intensify the Caribbean’s societal and ecological risks.

Irma and Maria are surely not the last extreme disasters that will strike the region. To survive and flourish in this dangerous new normal, Caribbean countries would do well to look to the heart of these issues, rethinking the concept of risk and mindfully engaging with factors like poverty, gender and climate change.

In practice, this means identifying their most vulnerable communities and working to improve their day-to-day well-being – not just their survival in a storm.

The Caribbean’s own Frantz Fanon (1925-1961), from the island of Martinique, recognized these complexities in his book, “The Wretched of the Earth.”

Fanon asserted that democracy and the political education of the masses, across all post-colonial geographies, is a “historical necessity.” Presciently, he also noted that “the soil needs researching, as well as the subsoil, the rivers, and why not the sun.”

As the Caribbean looks for solutions to the damage and suffering brought on by both nature’s revolt and social inequality, Fanon’s words seem like a good place to start.

Levi Gahman, Lecturer: Radical Geography and Critical Development Studies, The University of the West Indies: St. Augustine Campus and Gabrielle Thongs, Assistant Lecturer, Geography Department, The University of the West Indies: St. Augustine Campus

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

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Related video added by Juan Cole:

NBC News: “Maria: Authorities Say Much Of Puerto Rico Remains Unreachable | NBC Nightly News”

Europe Edition: North Korea, Angela Merkel, Laver Cup: Your Friday Briefing

World News (NY Times) - Fri, 22 Sep 2017 - 12:30am
Here’s what you need to know to start your day.

Tony Abbott Claims Head-Butt by Australian Gay-Marriage Supporter

World News (NY Times) - Fri, 22 Sep 2017 - 12:25am
The former prime minister, a same-sex marriage opponent, said a man in Tasmania wearing a “Vote Yes” badge had left him with a swollen lip.

Tweeting while the Planet Burns: Dystopia 2025

Informed Comment - Fri, 22 Sep 2017 - 12:19am

By Tom Engelhardt | ( Tomdispatch.com ) | – –

It’s January 2025, and within days of entering the Oval Office, a new president already faces his first full-scale crisis abroad. Twenty-four years after it began, the war on terror, from the Philippines to Nigeria, rages on. In 2024 alone, the U.S. launched repeated air strikes on 15 nations (or, in a number of cases, former nations), including the Philippines, Burma, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen, the former Iraq, the former Syria, Kurdistan, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, Mali, and Nigeria.

In the weeks before his inauguration, a series of events roiled the Greater Middle East and Africa. Drone strikes and raids by U.S. Special Operations forces in Saudi Arabia against both Shiite rebels and militants from the Global Islamic State killed scores of civilians, including children. They left that increasingly destabilized kingdom in an uproar, intensified the unpopularity of its young king, and led to the withdrawal of the Saudi ambassador from Washington.  In Mali, dressed in police uniforms and riding on motorcycles, three Islamic militants from the Front Azawad, which now controls the upper third of the country, gained entry to a recently established joint U.S.-French military base and blew themselves up, killing two American Green Berets, three American contractors, and two French soldiers, while wounding several members of Mali’s presidential guard.  In Iraq, as 2024 ended, the city of Tal Afar — already “liberated” twice since the 2003 invasion of that country, first by American troops in 2005 and then by American-backed Iraqi troops in 2017 — fell to the Sunni militants of the Global Islamic State. Though now besieged by the forces of the Republic of Southern Iraq backed by the U.S. Air Force, it remains in their hands.

The crisis of the moment, however, is in Afghanistan where the war on terror first began. There, the Taliban, the Global Islamic State (or GIS, which emerged from the Islamic State, or ISIS, in 2019), and al-Qaeda in Afghanistan (or AQIA, which split from the original al-Qaeda in 2021) now control an increasing number of provincial capitals.  These range from Lashgar Gah in Helmand Province in the southern poppy-growing heartlands of the country to Kunduz in the north, which first briefly fell to the Taliban in 2015 and now is in the hands of GIS militants.  In the meantime, the American-backed government in the Afghan capital, Kabul, is — as in 2022 when a “surge” of almost 25,000 American troops and private contractors saved it from falling to the Taliban — again besieged and again in danger.  The conflict that Lieutenant General Harold S. Forrester, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, had only recently termed a “stalemate” seems to be devolving.  What’s left of the Afghan military with its ghost soldiers, soaring desertion rates, and stunning casualty figures is reportedly at the edge of dissolution. Forrester is returning to the United States this week to testify before Congress and urge the new president to surge into the country up to 15,000 more American troops, including Special Operations forces, and another 15,000 private contractors, as well as significantly more air power before the situation goes from worse to truly catastrophic.

Like many in the Pentagon, Forrester now regularly speaks of the Afghan War as an “eonic struggle,” that is, one not expected to end for generations

You think not?  When it comes to America’s endless wars and conflicts across the Greater Middle East and Africa, you can’t imagine a more-of-the-same scenario eight years into the future?  If, in 2009, eight years after the war on terror was launched, as President Obama was preparing to send a “surge” of more than 30,000 U.S. troops into Afghanistan (while swearing to end the war in Iraq), I had written such a futuristic account of America’s wars in 2017, you might have been no less unconvinced.

Who would have believed then that political Washington and the U.S. military’s high command could possibly continue on the same brainless path (or perhaps it would be more accurate to say superhighway) for another eight years?  Who would have believed then that, in the fall of 2017, they would be intensifying their air campaigns across the Greater Middle East, still fighting in Iraq (and Syria), supporting a disastrous Saudi war in Yemen, launching the first of yet another set of mini-surges in Afghanistan, and so on?  And who would have believed then that, in return for prosecuting unsuccessful wars for 16 years while aiding and abetting in the spread of terror movements across a vast region, three of America’s generals would be the most powerful figures in Washington aside from our bizarre president (whose election no one could have predicted eight years ago)?  Or here’s another mind-bender: Would you really have predicted that, in return for 16 years of unsuccessful war-making, the U.S. military (and the rest of the national security state) would be getting yet more money from the political elite in our nation’s capital or would be thought better of than any other American institution by the public?

Now, I’m the first to admit that we humans are pathetic seers. Peering into the future with any kind of accuracy has never been part of our skill set.  And so my version of 2025 could be way off base.  Given our present world, it might prove to be far too optimistic about our wars. 

After all — just to mention one grim possibility of our moment — for the first time since 1945, we’re on a planet where nuclear weapons might be used by either side in the course of a local war, potentially leaving Asia aflame and possibly the world economy in ruins.  And don’t even bring up Iran, which I carefully and perhaps too cautiously didn’t include in my list of the 15 countries the U.S. was bombing in 2025 (as opposed to the seven at present).  And yet, in the same world where they are decrying North Korea’s nuclear weapons, the Trump administration and its U.N. ambassador, Nikki Haley, seem to be hard at work creating a situation in which the Iranians could once again be developing ones of their own.  The president has reportedly been desperate to ditch the nuclear agreement Barack Obama and the leaders of five other major powers signed with Iran in 2015 (though he has yet to actually do so) and he’s stocked his administration with a remarkable crew of Iranophobes, including CIA Director Mike Pompeo, Secretary of Defense James Mattis, and National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster, all of whom have been itching over the years for some kind of confrontation with Iran. (And given the last decade and a half of American war fighting in the region, how do you think that conflict would be likely to turn out?)

Donald Trump’s Washington, as John Feffer has recently pointed out, is now embarked on a Pyongyang-style “military-first” policy in which resources, money, and power are heading for the Pentagon and the U.S. nuclear arsenal, while much of the rest of the government is downsized.  Obviously, if that’s where your resources are going, then that’s where your efforts and energies will go, too.  So don’t expect less war in the years to come, no matter how inept Washington has proven when it comes to making war work.

Now, let’s leave those wars aside for a moment and return to the future:

It’s mid-September 2025.  Hurricane Wally has just deluged Houston with another thousand-year rainfall, the fourth since Hurricane Harvey hit the region in 2017.  It’s the third Category 6 hurricane — winds of 190 or more miles an hour — to hit the U.S. so far this year, the previous two being Tallulah and Valerie, tying a record first set in 2023.  (Category 6 was only added to the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale in 2022 after Hurricane Donald devastated Washington D.C.)  The new president did not visit Houston.  His press secretary simply said, “If the president visited every area hit by extreme weather, he would be incapable of spending enough time in Washington to oversee the rebuilding of the city and govern the country.”  She refused to take further questions and Congress has no plans to pass emergency legislation for a relief package for the Houston region.

Much of what’s left of that city’s population is either fled ahead of the storm or is packed into relief shelters.  And as with Miami Beach, it is now believed that some of the more flood-prone parts of the Houston area will never be rebuilt.  (Certain ocean-front areas of Miami were largely abandoned after Donald hit in 2022 on its way to Washington, thanks in part to a new reality: sea levels were rising faster than expected because of the stunning pace of the Greenland ice shield’s meltdown.)   

Meanwhile, the temperature just hit 112 degrees, a new September record, in San Francisco.  That came after a summer in which a record 115 was experienced, making Mark Twain’s apocryphal line, “The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco,” an artifact of the past. In another year without an El Niño phenomenon, the West Coast has again been ablaze and the wheat-growing regions of the Midwest have been further devastated by a tenacious drought, now four years old.

Around the planet, heat events are on the rise, as are storms and floods, while the wildfire season continues to expand globally.  To mention just two events elsewhere on Earth: in 2024, according to the U.N. Refugee Agency (UNHCR), thanks to both spreading conflicts and an increase in extreme weather events, more people were displaced — 127.2 million — than at any time on record, almost doubling the 2016 count. UNHCR director Angelica Harbani expects that figure to be surpassed yet again when this year’s numbers are tallied.  In addition, a speedier than expected meltdown of the Himalayan glaciers has created a permanent water crisis in parts of South Asia also struck by repeated disastrous monsoons and floods.

In the United States, the week after Hurricane Wally destroyed Houston, the president flew to North Dakota to proudly mark the beginning of the construction of the Transcontinental Pipeline slated to bring Canadian tar sands oil from Alberta, Canada, to the East Coast.  “It will help ensure,” he said, “that the United States remains the oil capital of the planet.”

Think of it this way: a new weather paradigm is visibly on the rise.  It just walloped the United States from the burning West Coast to the battered Florida Keys.  And another crucial phenomenon has accompanied it: the rise to power in Washington — and not just there — of Republican climate-change denialism. Think of the two phenomena together as the alliance from hell.  So far there’s no evidence that a Washington whose key agencies are well stocked with climate-change deniers is likely to be transformed any time soon.

Now, meld those two future scenarios of mine: the fruitless pursuit of never-ending wars and the increasing extremity of the weather on a planet seemingly growing hotter by the year.  (Sixteen of the 17 warmest years on record occurred in the twenty-first century and the 17th was 1998.)  Try to conjure up such a world for a moment and you’ll realize that the potential damage could be enormous, even if the planet’s “lone superpower” continues to encourage the greatest threat facing us for only a brief period, even if Donald Trump doesn’t win reelection in 2020 or worse than him isn’t heading down the pike.

The Frying of Our World

There have been many imperial powers on Planet Earth.  Any number of them committed massive acts of horror — from the Mongol empire (whose warriors typically sacked Baghdad in 1258, putting its public libraries to the torch, reputedly turning the Tigris River black with ink and that city’s streets red with blood) to the Spanish empire (known for its grim treatment of the inhabitants of its “new world” possessions, not to speak of the Muslims, Jews, and other heretics in Spain itself) to the Nazis (no elaboration needed). In other words, there’s already competition enough for the imperial worst of the worst.  And yet don’t imagine that the United States doesn’t have a shot at taking the number one spot for all eternity. (USA! USA!)

Depending on how the politics of this country and this century play out, the phrase “fiddling while Rome burns” might have to be seriously readjusted.  In the American version, you would substitute “fighting never-ending wars across the Greater Middle East, Africa, and possibly Asia” for “fiddling” and for “Rome,” you would insert “the planet.” Only “burns” would remain the same.  For now, at least, you would also have to replace the Roman emperor Nero (who was probably playing a lyre, since no fiddles existed in his world) with Donald Trump, the Tweeter-in-Chief, as well as “his” generals and the whole crew of climate deniers now swarming Washington, one more eager than the next to release the full power of fossil fuels into an overburdened atmosphere.

Sometimes it’s hard to believe that my own country, so eternally overpraised by its leaders in these years as the planet’s “indispensable” and “exceptional” nation with “the finest fighting force the world has ever known” might usher in the collapse of the very environment that nurtured humanity all these millennia.  As the “lone superpower,” the last in a line-up of rival great powers extending back to the fifteenth century, what a mockery it threatens to make of the long-gone vision of history as a march of progress through time.  What a mockery it threatens to make of the America of my own childhood, the one that so proudly put a man on the moon and imagined that there was no problem on Earth it couldn’t solve.

Imagine the government of that same country, distracted by its hopeless wars and the terrorist groups they continue to generate, facing the possible frying of our world — and not lifting a finger to deal with the situation.  In a Washington where less is more for everything except the U.S. military (for which more is invariably less), the world has been turned upside down.  It’s the definition of an empire of madness.

Hold on a second!  Somewhere, faintly, I think I hear a fiddle playing and maybe it’s my imagination, but do I smell smoke?

Tom Engelhardt is a co-founder of the American Empire Project and the author of The United States of Fear as well as a history of the Cold War, The End of Victory Culture. He is a fellow of the Nation Institute and runs TomDispatch.com. His latest book is Shadow Government: Surveillance, Secret Wars, and a Global Security State in a Single-Superpower World.

[Note: Credit must be given for the citation in this piece of “Hurricane Donald,” the storm that devastated Washington in 2022. I stole it from John Feffer’s superb dystopian novel Splinterlands. Tom]

Follow TomDispatch on Twitter and join us on Facebook. Check out the newest Dispatch Book, Alfred McCoy’s In the Shadows of the American Century: The Rise and Decline of U.S. Global Power, as well as John Dower’s The Violent American Century: War and Terror Since World War II, John Feffer’s dystopian novel Splinterlands, Nick Turse’s Next Time They’ll Come to Count the Dead, and Tom Engelhardt’s Shadow Government: Surveillance, Secret Wars, and a Global Security State in a Single-Superpower World.

Copyright 2017 Tom Engelhardt

Via Tomdispatch.com

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Related video added by Juan Cole:

Nova PBS: “Why Did Houston Flood?”

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