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 91 
 on: Aug 22, 2016, 05:31 AM 
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CS Monitor

New York gets serious about curbing food waste

Starting July 19, 2016, the city will mandate that many hotels, wholesalers, and other large vendors separate their organic waste to recycle.

By Madison Margolin 8/22/12016

New York City is taking a giant bite out of food waste. In an attempt to be more ecologically friendly, starting July 19, 2016, the city will mandate that many hotels, wholesalers, and other large vendors separate their organic waste to recycle.

"Organic waste, such as food waste, food soiled paper and yard waste makes up approximately one-third of the waste generated by businesses in New York City," according to the NYC Department of Sanitation. "This material can be processed to create soil-enhancing compost or used as an energy source in aerobic and anaerobic digesters." 

Businesses will have the option of disposing of the waste by themselves, having a third party pick it up for them, or processing the waste on-site, which essentially means that they would be recycling it on their own. In the case of this third option, businesses would be able to use an ORCA, a steel machine that "digests" over a ton of food waste per day and, through an aerobic process that requires electricity and oxygen, transforms it into environmentally safe water that flows into the municipal sewage system.

Similar machines like the Harvester process organic food waste as well, but produce fertilizer instead of sewage water. Often city programs transport waste to be processed off site, such as at a landfill. In such cases, the waste is processed anaerobically, without oxygen, and hence emits methane gas as a bi-product.

Food waste is a huge problem not only in New York, but all over the United States and the globe. Almost one third of all the fruit, vegetables, meat, grains, and packaged food produced around the world get thrown out each year. American consumers and businesses throw away 40 percent of their food, which hikes up to $165 billion wasted. The average American throws away on average 20 pounds of food each month, which costs between $28 and $43.

The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) recommends that governments should remove inefficiencies in the system by conducting a comprehensive study of food losses. A similar study by the European Commission was a useful preliminary step to establish reduction goals: The European Parliament adopted a resolution in 2012 cutting food waste by 50 percent by 2020. "The most important problem in the future will be to tackle increased demand for food, as it will outstrip supply. We can no longer afford to stand idly by while perfectly edible food is being wasted," the European Parliament said in a statement. "This is an ethical but also an economic and social problem, with huge implications for the environment."

While the American federal government has done little to reduce food waste throughout the country, the NRDC recommends that state governments set targets for reduction of food waste, and create tax and other incentives to encourage donating edible food. Some city governments have also been stepping up to plate in recent months. In addition to the new regulations in New York, Seattle recently established a new law allowing garbage collectors to check people's trash to see whether they are disposing of recycling items and food waste incorrectly.

Organizations like the Food Waste Reduction Alliance (FWRA) work with different national food providers to reduce waste, as well. Food companies like Cheesecake Factory, Safeway, and Nestle are all members of the FWRA. Aimed at reducing food waste, increasing the amount of safe, nutritious food donated to the needy, and recycling unavoidable food waste by diverting it from landfills, the FWRA conducts original research to understand the root causes of food waste, identifies useful technological solutions, advocates for policies that incentivize food donation, and engages the community.

 92 
 on: Aug 22, 2016, 05:28 AM 
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CS Monitor

Blue Cut ‘extreme’ wildfires: California's new normal?

Veteran firefighters say they have never seen fires as hot and strong as those ravaging California this year.

By Christina Beck, Staff August 22, 2016

As firefighters battle the Blue Cut that devoured 38,000 acres of brush and homes just 48 hours, many are wondering if the extreme expansion of the blaze represents a new normal.

Southern California’s hot temperatures and dry weather has always meant that the area is prone to forest and brush fires, but veteran firefighters say recent fires have been hotter and stronger than anything they’ve ever seen before.

"In my 40 years of fighting fire, I've never seen fire behavior so extreme," Incident Commander Mike Wakoski told the Associated Press.

The Blue Cut fire began as a small brush fire, but has now forced more than 82,000 people out of their homes after it spread to cover more than 37,000 acres of land in the Cajon Pass between the San Bernardino mountains and the San Gabriel mountains.

Although firefighters were surprised by just how quickly the flames blazed out of control, this year’s blistering fire season was no great surprise to experts.

"It's to the point where explosive fire growth is the new normal this year," California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection’s Glenn Barley told the Associated Press.

In June, the US Forest Service drew attention to fertile conditions for wildfires in the state. A buildup of dead trees in the state because of long-term drought conditions, high temperatures, and beetle infestations, prompted the Forest Service to issue a plea to Congress in June, requesting that the federal government allocate more funds to firefighting.

The Forest Service spent more than half of its operating budget on firefighting and suppression last year, the most expensive fire season in history. And the Forest Service only expects matters to get worse, with twin dangers of drought and bark-eating beetles continuing to ravage California’s forests.

Between 2010 and 2015, the Forest Service estimates that about 66 million trees have died in California. The combination, as seen again this week in San Bernardino County, is explosive, leading to massive forest fires that the Forest Service can ill afford.

"Forcing the Forest Service to pay for massive wildfire disasters out of its pre-existing fixed budget instead of from an emergency fund like all other natural disasters means there is not enough money left to do the very work that would help restore these high mortality areas," Tom Vilsack, secretary of the Department of Agriculture, said in June. "We must fund wildfire suppression like other natural disasters in the country."

Officials are now calling for an integrated approach to wildfire management, one that includes acknowledging the ways in which humans impact the landscape and contribute to fire damage, as well as better fire safety procedures.

The Cajon Pass, where this week’s fire is taking place, is a historic part of California. The mountains there have seen horse rustling outlaws, Mormon pioneers, and the westward expansion of both the railroad in the 1880s, and highway I-15.

This report includes material from the Associated Press.

 93 
 on: Aug 22, 2016, 05:23 AM 
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CS Monitor

Where to see the coming 'Great American Eclipse'

A year from Sunday, those in the continental United States will be treated to a solar eclipse, whose path of totality stretches from Oregon to South Carolina.

By Joseph Dussault, Staff August 21, 2016

Exactly one year from Sunday, a rare solar event will unfold.

On August 21, 2017, a total solar eclipse will be visible to spectators across the continental US. The event, which has been dubbed the Great American Eclipse, will parade along its narrow “path of totality” from Oregon to South Carolina, astronomers say.

On average, there are about two solar eclipses (and two lunar eclipses) every year. So what makes this one so special?

Eclipses are caused by close alignment of the Earth, sun and moon. When our planet passes between the two celestial bodies, its shadow blocks out the full moon and produces a lunar eclipse. A solar eclipse occurs when a new moon blocks out the sun from Earth’s vantage point.

If the Earth and moon orbited in the same plane, there would be two eclipses every month – a lunar eclipse during every full moon, and a solar eclipse for every new moon. But in reality, the moon orbits just 5 degrees off-kilter from our ecliptic orbit. The two intersect about twice per month at points called nodes. Eclipses occur only when the nodes line up with the new moon or full moon. As a result, there are only about four partial eclipses annually.

Total eclipses are even less frequent. They only occur once every 18 months, and the complete effect can only be seen along a 70-mile wide “path of totality,” which may not even pass through populated areas.

The last time such an eclipse was visible in the US, Rod Stewart was topping the charts with “Do Ya Think I’m Sexy?” and the Pontiac Trans Am ruled the road. On February 26, 1979, astronomers and hobbyists flocked to the Pacific Northwest by the busload to see darkened skies and a dramatic ring of exposed light around the moon. Solar storms made for an even more brilliant show, but the event was visible only in a handful of states.

When astronomers announced 2017’s event, a wave of “eclipse tourism” swept over small-town America. The upcoming total eclipse is slated to be a US-exclusive – the first since 1776. Only those within the path of totality, which spans from Oregon to South Carolina, will be able to witness the full effect.

"If you are in that path of totality, you are seeing the main event, but if you are off to the side – even where the sun is 99 percent covered by the moon – it is like going up to the ticket booth of a baseball or football stadium but not going inside," Jay Pasachoff, an astronomer at Williams College, told Space.com.

The next Great American Eclipse won’t come around until April 2024. Luckily, the 2017 eclipse will be partially visible throughout the entire continental US. Just make sure you put on protective eyewear, or build a shoebox eclipse viewer before trying to catch a glimpse.

 94 
 on: Aug 22, 2016, 05:21 AM 
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NASA to launch asteroid-sampling mission in three weeks

NASA's OSIRIS-REx spacecraft is set to launch from Cape Canaveral September 8,  aimed at a rendezvous with the asteroid Bennu in 2018.

By Mike Wall, SPACE.com Senior Writer August 22, 2016

Liftoff for NASA's first-ever asteroid-sampling mission is just three weeks away.

The agency's OSIRIS-REx spacecraft is scheduled to launch atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket on Sept. 8 from Florida's Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. If all goes according to plan, the probe will return a pristine sample of the potentially hazardous space rock Bennu to Earth in September 2023.

"We seek samples that date back to the very dawn of our solar system," OSIRIS-REx principal investigator Dante Lauretta, a professor of planetary science and cosmochemistry at the University of Arizona's Lunar and Planetary Laboratory, said during a news conference today (Aug. 17).

"We want to get those back into our laboratories to understand the processes that may have led to the origin of life, and to the habitability of our planet," Lauretta added.

'The gift that keeps on giving'

OSIRIS-REx will take a circuitous path toward Bennu, finally meeting up with the 1,600-foot-wide (500 meters) space rock in August 2018.

The spacecraft will study Bennu from orbit for about two years. Then, in July 2020 or so, it will head down and grab at least 2 ounces (60 grams) of asteroid material.

"We don't technically land on Bennu, but we make contact with it for about 5 seconds," Jeff Grossman, OSIRIS-REx program scientist at NASA headquarters in Washington, D.C., said during today's news conference.

During these 5 seconds, the probe will blast the asteroid's surface with gas and collect the material that's blown out, Grossman explained.

Current plans call for OSIRIS-REx to leave Bennu for Earth in March 2021. In September 2023, the spacecraft will eject the sample capsule, which will land with the aid of parachutes in the Utah desert. (OSIRIS-REx, meanwhile, will be put in a stable "parking orbit" around the sun.)

The asteroid material will be studied for years to come by scientists around the world, much as the moon rocks returned by NASA's Apollo astronauts have been analyzed, Lauretta said.

"Sample return is the gift that keeps on giving," he said.

Though OSIRIS-REx is NASA's first asteroid-sampling mission, it isn't the first one in history: Japan's Hayabusa probe sent home tiny pieces of the space rock Itokawa in 2010. (And Hayabusa 2 launched in December 2014 to collect material from another asteroid, known as Ryugu.)

An ambitious mission

The OSIRIS-REx team is keen to hunt for organic molecules — the carbon-containing building blocks of life as we know it — in the material the spacecraft sends home.

But learning more about the solar system's early days and how life on Earth may have gotten its start isn't the only goal of the $800 million mission. Its full name — Origins-Spectral Interpretation-Resource Identification-Security-Regolith Explorer — makes that clear.

For example, OSIRIS-REx — which carries five scientific instruments — aims to learn more about the valuable resources that Bennu-like asteroids may possess, team members said.

The probe will also provide a detailed characterization of the Yarkovsky effect, which describes how small objects' paths through space are altered by the solar energy they radiate away as heat.

"When that happens, it acts like a thruster and changes the trajectory of the asteroid," Lauretta said. "If you want to be able to predict where an object like Bennu is going to be in the future, you have to account for this phenomenon, and we're going to provide the best-ever scientific investigation of this fascinating concept."

Such information is particularly relevant for potentially hazardous asteroids such as Bennu. There's a 0.037 percent chance that Bennu will hit Earth in the late 22nd century, NASA scientists say.

Follow Mike Wall on Twitter @michaeldwall and Google+. Follow us @Spacedotcom, Facebook or Google+. Originally published on Space.com.

 95 
 on: Aug 22, 2016, 05:18 AM 
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CS Monitor

What makes rare 'Tufts-Love' T. rex a 'must-see' dinosaur?

A massive T. rex head discovered in the famous Hell Creek Formation in Montana could soon start drawing visitors to Washington State's Burke Museum.

By Christina Beck, Staff August 22, 2016

Paleontologists have discovered a massive example of one of ancient history’s scariest dinosaurs in the famed Hell Creek formation in Montana: a humongous 2,500 pound Tyrannosaurus rex head that could be just the beginning of a massive find for Washington State’s Burke Museum.

A research team led by scientists from the museum and the University of Washington worked to unearth the 66.3 million year old T. rex head over the course of a month this summer. Most of the skeleton could still be in the ground, meaning that paleontologists involved in the excavation will have an exciting summer break next year.

"We think the Tufts-Love Rex is going to be an iconic specimen for the Burke Museum and the state of Washington, and will be a must-see for dinosaur researchers as well," paleontologist Gregory Wilson, a University of Washington professor who worked on the project, said in a press release.

Although T. rex fossil findings are rare, the Hell Creek Formation has proven to be a treasure trove of the giant dinosaurs' remains. Over the past several decades, 11 T. rex specimens have been found at Hell Creek, more than at any other site in the world. The first T. rex bones discovered in the Hell Creek Formation were found by fossil hunter Barnum Brown in 1902. One nearly complete T. rex skeleton, discovered in 1988, was sent to the Smithsonian in 2014.

The first hint of this most recent discovery was found by two Burke Museum volunteers, Jason Love and Luke Tufts, who found pieces of bone sticking out of a cliffside in the famous Hell Creek Formation in northern Montana. The specimen has been named in their honor.

"The combination of the skull features, the size of the bones, and the honeycomb-like appearance of the bones tell us this is a T. rex," said Dr. Wilson. "This was a very exciting moment for us."

While the first thing that researchers found were bone fragments and some fossilized vertebrae. After some excavation, team members also discovered the dinosaur’s pelvis, part of its jaw, and the skull. Paleontologists estimate that they have uncovered just 20 percent of the skeleton.

It took 45 people working for several weeks to completely excavate the dinosaur’s head, which was buried in 20 tons of rock. It was the characteristic shape of the skull and the "honeycomb-like" bones that confirmed team members' suspicions: They’d found a T. rex.

The now-excavated head, which weighs 2,500 pounds while wrapped in its protective plaster jacket and measures four feet long, is one of just over a dozen in existence, and only about two dozen T. rex fossils "at this level of completeness" have been found anywhere in the world.

While paleontologists have not yet unearthed the entire Tufts-Love T. rex, they can tell by the size of the skull that the dinosaur was 15 when it died, about middle-aged for a creature with a 25- to 30-year life span.

Researchers also know what caused the dino’s demise: Given its location at the bottom of a hill, below a rock layer that dates to the Cretaceous-Paleogene mass extinction, when T. rex went extinct, scientists can tell that the dinosaur lived right at the end of the Cretaceous period.

About 40 feet long, the Tufts-Love dino was the size of a city bus. While not the largest specimen ever unearthed, this dinosaur is about 85 percent of the size of the biggest T. rex ever found, making it very large indeed.

Burke Museum experts say that it could take more than a year to fully clean the skull and prepare it for viewing.

 96 
 on: Aug 22, 2016, 05:16 AM 
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CS Monitor

This tree in Greece is Europe's oldest known living tree

An ancient Bosnian pine, nicknamed Adonis by researchers, has been dated to about 1,075 years old, making it the oldest known tree living in Europe.

By Christina Beck, Staff August 22, 2016

European history has had one continuous observer for more than a thousand years: a pine tree in Greece.

Dendrochronologists have calculated the tree’s age to be at least 1,075 years old, making it the oldest tree in Europe. This little pine, nicknamed “Adonis,” has seen world wars, a century of revolutions, the Protestant Reformation, the Crusades, and a good chunk of the Dark Ages.

"The tree we have stumbled across is a unique individual," said Stockholm University graduate student Paul J. Krusic, according to the Washington Post. "It cannot rely on a mother plant, or the ability to split or clone itself, to survive."

He's referring to trees that repeatedly clone themselves, so a tree living now is genetically identical to one living more than 10,000 years ago. Tree systems like those have been called the oldest trees in the world, but the individual trees live only a few hundred years before asexually spawning a replacement clone.

This tree has, itself, lived through more than a thousand years of history.

"Cloning is a very effective evolutionary survival strategy," said Mr. Krusic. "It's cool, but it's not the same. It's not the same as you or I being left alone to our own devices and living for 1,000 years, like this tree."

Some other trees have been estimated to be a lot older than Adonis, but therein lies the rub. Estimation does not make an ancient tree, at least in the eyes of scientists. This tiny tree creates one new trunk ring each year, making it comparatively easy for scientists to determine its age.

According to Mr. Krusic, who was part of the team that counted tree rings for the study, Adonis is actually more than 1,075 years old. The scientists who took the pencil-sized core samples from Adonis’ tree trunk didn't reach the center of the tree, so it has more rings that they couldn't count.
Recommended: 14 animals declared extinct in the 21st century

"I am impressed, in the context of western civilization, all the human history that has surrounded this tree; all the empires, the Byzantine, the Ottoman, all the people living in this region,” Krusic said, according to Phys.org. “So many things could have led to its demise. Fortunately, this forest has been basically untouched for over a thousand years."

Elderly trees are rare in Europe, although they are relatively common in other parts of the world, including the United States. The reason has a lot to do with humans – the more human traffic there is in a region, the more likely a tree is to be chopped down for a human purpose, whether firewood or construction or to make room for development.

In Greece, Adonis and its neighbors are just a few miles from civilization, making their survival all the more unusual. Their proximity is very interesting to researchers, who plan to study fallen trees nearby to determine the what fingerprints humans have left on the region.

"That has a story in it. A story about climate change, about human influences," said Krusic, according to the Washington Post. "That's the real story we're working on. This is just something we stumbled upon."

Scientists say that many of the trees in the ancient Greek forest where Adonis was discovered are remniscent of elderly trees they have seen in the United States. And, as it happens, Adonis lives in nature’s version of a retirement home - several of Adonis’ neighbors are also around 1,000 years old.

Elsewhere, scientists are using trees to push back against human influence. In 2009, The Christian Science Monitor’s Andy Nelson reported on dendrochronologists in Vietnam, who use wood dating in ancient Vietnamese forests to monitor how forests have responded to monsoon seasons and precipitation.

“It’s not simply that we want to understand the rules of the climate system.... We want to understand how those rules interact,” said tree researcher Kevin Anchukaitis in 2009. “In chess, each move that a player makes in the game is going to influence the subsequent move, so there are long-term consequences of each individual move.”

More recently, in California, researchers seeking to understand how trees can combat drought and climate change have looked to the state’s famed sequoia trees, which have withstood extreme conditions while performing essential services to the environment, providing homes for countless animals and converting carbon dioxide into oxygen

 97 
 on: Aug 22, 2016, 05:13 AM 
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August 22, 2016

New algorithm can detect poverty– from space

by Chuck Bednar
Red Orbit

Attempting to locate and assist people living in impoverished parts of the world could be made easier by using satellite imagery and machine learning algorithms, according to a new study led by researchers at Stanford University and published in the journal Science.

Traditionally, international aid group perform door-to-door surveys to record data on local incomes in developing nations, but as study author Marshall Burke of the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research explained, these methods can be expensive and time consuming. They believe they've found a more efficient alternative.

What they did, according to BBC News and the Christian Science Monitor, is develop a machine learning algorithm using a computer system to search through millions of satellite images, pinpointing signs of poverty such as poor nighttime lighting and poorly-maintained roads in five African countries (Tanzania, Uganda, Malawi, Nigeria, and Rwanda).

“If you give a computer enough data it can figure out what to look for. We trained a computer model to find things in imagery that are predictive of poverty,” Burke told BBC News. “It finds things like roads, like urban areas, like farmland... [and] it finds patterns in imagery that to you or I don't really look like anything... but it's something the computer has figured out is predictive of where poor people are.”
Algorithm used to find impoverished areas

As the Stanford team explained in a statement, when they began their research, they wanted to see if readily-available high-resolution satellite imagery could be used to identify regions where impoverished people lived. The problem was coming up with a deep-learning algorithm capable of performing such an analysis, given the lack of available data to work with.

“There are few places in the world where we can tell the computer with certainty whether the people living there are rich or poor,” said lead author Neal Jean, a doctoral student in computer science at the Stanford School of Engineering. “This makes it hard to extract useful information from the huge amount of daytime satellite imagery that’s available.”

Since more developed regions tend to be more well-lit at night, they used a combination of both daytime and nighttime images of the Earth’s surface. The nighttime data was used to identify and evaluate different features in the daytime images, including roads, farmland and locations where urban develop was more prevalent, and used this data to predict village-level wealth.

Comparing the algorithm’s findings to available survey data, they found that the computers were effective at predicting the distribution of poverty, and the researchers are confident that their new technique could help aid providers and governments better distribute their funds more efficiently while also eliminating the need for more costly door-to-door survey identification programs.

“Our paper demonstrates the power of machine learning in this context,” said study co-author Stefano Ermon, an assistant professor of computer science and as well as a fellow by courtesy at the Stanford Woods Institute. “And since it’s cheap and scalable – requiring only satellite images – it could be used to map poverty around the world in a very low-cost way.”

 98 
 on: Aug 22, 2016, 05:10 AM 
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August 22, 2016

Imaging technique finds hidden content of 500-year-old manuscript

by Chuck Bednar
Red Orbit

Thanks to a new cutting-edge scanning technology, researchers at the University of Oxford's Bodleian Libraries have been able to read hidden writing on the pages of a 500-year-old deer-hide manuscript from Mexico.

According to Live Science and Popular Archaeology, the text is called the Codex Seldes and it's one of only 20 surviving volumes created in the Americas prior to the arrival of the first Europeans, but its deerskin pages appeared to be blank as they were covered by layers of chalk and plaster.
For nearly five centuries, the contents of the codex remained a mystery, but now the manuscript can be revealed at last thanks to a technique known as hyperspectral imaging, which the research team used to collect data across all frequencies and wavelengths in the electromagnetic spectrum. The result let them see the pages without damaging them.

“We are now for the first time able to reveal, at least in part, the images of the [manuscript] without damaging the object,” Leiden University archaeologist Ludo Snijders, who worked on the analysis, told the Daily Mail. “The genealogy we see appears to be unique, which means it may prove invaluable for the interpretation of archaeological remains from southern Mexico.”

Thus Snijders’ team has analyzed seven pages of the codex, finding a wealth of pictographs on each of those pages, including images of 27 people on one page alone. The results of their work thus far have been published online in the October 2016 edition of the Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports.
Pictographs may depict a prominent figure included in other codices

The Codex Selden dates back to approximately 1560 and was created by a civilization known as the Mixtec, a group that lived in several city-states and which was known primarily for their skill as goldsmiths, according to Live Science and the Daily Mail. Their descendants continue to live in the US and Mexico today, with as many as 150,000 residing in California alone.

While other manuscripts of the era contained colorful pictographs, or images which represented a series of different words or phrases, the Codex Selden appeared to be blank, as its hide pages had been covered over with a white paint mixture known as gesso. Then, in the 1950s, experts started to suspect that the gesso might be covering up pictographs on the pages, probably so that the hide could be reused.

Early attempts to remove the gesso enjoyed only modest success, though, enabling researchers to see general shapes of the obscured pictographs but providing no detail. Likewise, X-ray scanning was unable to reveal the images, as they had been created with organic paints that do not absorb X-rays. It wasn’t until the recent advent of hyperspectral imaging that experts finally managed to get a good look at portions of the codex and the images its pages contained.

Among the content they found were figures of men and women standing and sitting, as well as two figures connected by a red umbilical cord that were identified as siblings. Some of the men were shown walking with spears or sticks, Live Science said, while many of the women had red hair or were wearing headdresses.

Other glyphs showed the combination of a flint knife and a twisted cord, which the researchers believe represented a person’s name. That individual, they explained, could belong to a person who also appears in other codices – an ancestor of two lineages connected to the archaeological sites of Zaachila and Teozacualco in Mexico, according to the Daily Mail – but further research is needed to prove whether or not this is indeed the case.

 99 
 on: Aug 20, 2016, 08:38 AM 
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Pig Putin’s savage war against Russia’s ‘New Muslims’

Newsweek
20 Aug 2016 at 08:28 ET  

Today there are more than 2,000 fighters from Russia on the battlefields of Syria and Iraq fighting on behalf of the Islamic State.

A large number of these fighters are Muslims originating from the Northern Caucasus, a fact that feeds a narrative back in Russia that has been growing since the 1990s.

Many Russians now link the Muslim populations of the North Caucasus with extremism and terrorism. That perception is not entirely without basis: the North Caucasus region has been rent by war, terror and brutal state crackdowns for over two decades.

But the story of the territory is as much about rapid social change as it is about conflict. Russian state policies over the past two decades have done much to build today’s pipeline of radicalized extremists originating from the North Caucasus to spread across Russia and beyond to the battle zones of the Middle East.

When the Soviet Union collapsed 25 years ago, the population of almost the entire Islamic south of the post-Soviet space still lived in traditional rural communities. Chechnya, Dagestan, Ingushetia and other territories of the North Caucasus were among the last regions of Russia to urbanize. The urbanization processes that often take generations were compressed here into two short and violent decades.

This disruption has forced thousands of young men and women from rural mountain villages straight into a 21st century that conflicted with their traditional way of life in which little had changed since the Middle Ages.

Driven by need from the mountain villages of the Caucasus, many left for the big urban and industrial centers of Russia and elsewhere to become truckers, peddlers, marketers, builders, oilfield workers, gangsters, entrepreneurs, dentists, preachers and devout jihadists.

They formed largely unseen transnational networks of migrants who had abandoned their ancient homelands and ways of life, joining the modern age—and in some cases international centers or movements of jihad—in one fell swoop.

The events that drove—and continue to drive—these movements are poorly understood. Yet understand them we must if we are to comprehend the larger developments in that part of the world—including the growing number of fighters from this region prepared to strike within Russia and outside its borders.

I have spent seven years in the field, living among these populations—both those that left and those that stayed—while researching transformation and migration in the highly complex and ethnically diverse North Caucasus, as well as in some large Russian cities, the north of West Siberia (the principal oil-producing area of the country) and Turkey. This article is a summary of some of my findings.
Dislocation, Migration and Religion

The first driver for migration from the North Caucasus was economic in nature. Migrants left their rural communities to work in Khanty-Mansiysk and Yamal-Nenets Autonomous Districts, two oil-producing Russian districts in the north of Tyumen Region. They also went to large cities where they could earn a living and where, until recently, they did not face any particular persecution for their religious beliefs.

Almost 200,000 Dagestanis, Chechens and Ingush live and work in the oil-producing parts of West Siberia, where half of Russia’s hydrocarbons are extracted. Migrants from post-Soviet Central Asia—Uzbeks, Tajiks, and Kyrgyz—are likewise numerous there.

In all, up to one million Chechens and Ingush, one million Dagestanis, half a million Kabardinians, Circassians, Karachays and Balkarians (an estimated 2.5 million in all) have moved from their homelands to seek work.

Economics was not the only driver of population movements. Interethnic conflict in 1992 in North Ossetia forced thousands of Ingush people out of their homes. The 1994 and 1999 wars in Chechnya displaced hundreds of thousands more people.

Once you factor in similar rural to urban migration from the Volga Region, Transcaucasia and Central Asia, which are still part of a common economic space with Russia, it all adds up to millions of “new urbanites” who have left the rural areas of the former Soviet Union to cities big and small, primarily to Russia.

These dislocated populations, severed from their homes and traditions, would often turn to their religion of Islam as a way to connect with their past, rebuild their identity and forge community. This growing Islamic renaissance gathered strength, both in the villages and among the communities that scattered in search of work.

Law enforcement agencies in regions with Islamic populations (whether in Russia proper or in the newly independent post-Soviet states) began to persecute Salafites, or Muslims with fundamentalist religious beliefs.

These were sometimes referred to as the “new Muslims,” who did not follow the so-called “official clergy” or the old “Soviet imams” that had been loyal to Moscow and were traditionally heavily penetrated by state security services. The new Salafi imams constituted serious competition to the latter.

More importantly, the central government, as well as regional authorities, viewed this growing community of believers as a threat to state power. Some of the new Islamic leaders had received religious training abroad. Some Islamic centers in Russia were funded from abroad.

The authorities feared that adherence to what they considered radical Islam would result in allegiance to separatist causes or radical terror movements. That fear only grew with the experience of the two Chechen Wars and other conflicts across the Caucasus.
The State Attacks on Two Fronts

When the state, both central and regional, began to confront the threat, they perceived from Islam to state power, they used two main tools.

First, they relied on the use, and abuse, of law enforcement and security agencies to kill, arrest and intimidate local leaders and believers alike. Second, they instituted laws and propaganda to label certain branches of Islam, and their believers, as extremist.

The combination of the two strategies had the desired effect of reducing or eliminating the power and influence of some leaders, but it had some unintended consequences as well.

For example, since 2003 social activists who speak out against corruption and land rights abuses and advocate the right to practice Islam according to one’s beliefs have frequently found themselves on lists of “untrustworthy” citizens. Some have found themselves on criminal “wanted” lists and under investigation for alleged violations of the same criminal code articles as radical Islamist fighters.

Being on one of these lists means detentions, interrogations involving torture and abductions by law enforcement officers, including abductions for ransom.

A typical tactic of law-enforcement agencies in Russia and Central Asia is to plant drugs and ammunition while searching the homes and cars of “new Muslims.” Victims are then arrested and given the choice between a long prison sentence or buying their freedom [ii]…and with it, the chance to leave the country.

Often, if a known Islamic activist is out of the country, law enforcement will orchestrate a surprise search at this person’s home where a hand grenade or ammunition is planted. The message is simple: “Do not come back or we will put you behind bars.”

As a consequence of the crackdown on devout Islamic communities, Russia is creating new flows of political and religious emigrants, if not refugees.

The state’s second front directed at devout Muslims is in the realm of rhetoric and law. The Russian state has increasingly identified domestic opponents, especially Islamic activists or clergy, as agents of international terrorism or of foreign secret services.

This tactic emerged, particularly against Islamic dissidents, in the days leading up to the Second Chechen War in 1999. Recent laws on extremism make it very easy for the authorities to brand any belief, individual, writing, or group as extremist.

The labeling of persons and organizations as terrorist or extremist has in some cases reached absurd proportions. One lawsuit suggested recognizing a suburban summer home (dacha) association in Dagestan as an extremist organization because someone in authority wanted to take over the property.

In recent years, the Kremlin has taken its terrorism rhetoric against Islamic opponents even further. They cite the many natives of the North Caucasus on the battlefield fighting for ISIS. They point to the military leaders of the Caucasus Emirate (a militant jihadist organization whose stated goal is to establish an independent emirate in the region based on Islamic religious principles) who have sworn public oaths of loyalty to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the head of ISIS.

These developments make it easy for Kremlin propagandists to construct a believable narrative of war with the heroic Russian armed forces and special services in a battle against the forces of radical Islam.

Yet Russian special services and the army do not restrict the rhetoric of terror to foreign fighters abroad or genuine extremists at home. They employ the same rhetoric against Islamic activists or groups that the state deems as constituting a threat to its political or economic interests.

Russian Muslims, economic migrants and traditional communities alike, have witnessed the Russian state response toward their Islamic awakening evolve into what amounts to a political terror campaign.

The Russian state’s (and society’s) own fears of and responses to an awakening of Islam, one of the four traditional religions in the Russian empire, has created the very radicals they feared.

It created an armed underground at home and a pipeline of mujahedeen (religious fighters) to Turkey, Syria, and lands controlled by ISIS. In turn, ISIS has built and now maintains a recruiting network in the Caucasus and Central Asia.
The Myths of Islamic Extremism in Russia

The Russian state employs three myths to suggest that it is fighting international terrorism when in reality it is engaging in something entirely different.

Myth 1: Russian security agencies in the North Caucasus exclusively combat terrorists.

Moscow has aimed its domestic antiterrorist efforts at a very diverse group of Russian citizens in the North Caucasus. The list of purported extremists and terrorists includes the Chechen nationalists of the First Chechen War (1994–1996), the jihadists of the Second Chechen War (1999–2009) and now claims to combat radical Islamic terrorists across the entire region.

As described above, the indiscriminate tactics of the Russian army and security forces led many Muslims and public activists in these regions to fear persecution and torture at the hands of either the army or law enforcement agencies.

They went underground, and many perished in the course of counterterrorist operations carried out by local law enforcement officers, internal troops, and special ops units, many of which used army-style armored vehicles and large-caliber arms.

The Russian state’s war on the region’s Islamic awakening demonstrates that the issue is mainly about maintaining political control. One need not be a confirmed jihadist to be targeted by the state: it is often sufficient to go to the “wrong mosques” or to fail to demonstrate sufficient loyalty to the “official” muftiates of the North Caucasian republics.

Failure to adhere to the state’s approved version of Islam and Islamic leaders can and does lead to the charge of extremism, providing justification for law enforcement and security agencies to respond accordingly.

Myth 2 : Fundamentalist Islamists from abroad are the principal factor behind the radicalization of Muslims in the North Caucasus and elsewhere in Russia.

One of the most common justifications the Russian state and local authorities use in cracking down on non-traditional Islam is to claim that foreign forces are introducing radical strains of Islam into Russia.

It is true that foreign Islamic nations, including Saudi Arabia, supported students from the region to study Islam abroad and have sent teachers to the region. The rebirth of Islam that accompanied the new freedoms and economic travails of the 1990s spurred growing rivalries with state-approved Imams.

Over time, as political power within Russia re-centralized, authorities from Moscow on down to the regions adopted the tactic of pushing opponents out of the game rather than competing with them.

This could be done in a variety of ways. For example, an individual actor with obvious leadership potential could be arrested and see his organization criminalized.

This is what happened with Mikhail Khodorkovsky. With social, ethnic and religious groups, however, the easier option was to accuse them of extremism.

Moscow proved ever ready to overlook constitutional violations in exchange for a regional authority’s demonstrated loyalty. The most vivid example is the adoption of a law in Dagestan of September 22, 1999, “On the Prohibition of Wahhabi and Other Extremist Activities in the Territory of Dagestan,” which opened the way to the persecution of groups of citizens on ideological and religious grounds.

Legal experts assert that the law is contrary to the Russian constitution. Nonetheless, it effectively gave free rein to local and federal military and security services to conduct politically motivated investigations and effectively instituted a regime of political terror.

By the early 2000s, the post-Soviet elites in the North Caucasus eliminated much of their competition for authority through charges of extremism and terrorism against their political and religious rivals.

As a result, a power triangle formed consisting of (1) regional authorities, (2) the administration of the Russian president, and (3) the FSB (inheritor to KGB) and other special services. Under this system, insiders get access to money, power, immunity from prosecution and patronage power. Everyone else faces political and economic discrimination.

Those who resist, politically or in the mosque, are forced out “into the forest”—a euphemism for joining the armed underground that exists in forested areas near villages in the North Caucasus and in safe houses in the cities.

Abuse of security powers has proven most profitable to those connected to the state: one hour of counterterrorism operations can cost around $1 million. [iii] Arrests and detentions not only deter undesirable politics or religion, they are also a profit center as relatives are sometimes forced to pay ransoms to get the bodies of their loved ones who were killed during counterterrorism operations for proper burial.

When those who are radicalized do go into the forest to take up arms and employ the tactics of terror, such as suicide bombings or hostage crises at schools, theaters, or hospitals, then the broader society grows only more suspicious of individuals from the region and the Islamic faith. In this way, the state secures popular legitimacy for cracking down on the very radicals they helped to create.

Myth 3. All Muslims who have left Russia and other post-Soviet countries are extremists and terrorists who support ISIS ideology and are ready to fight for it.

Russian official sources promote this myth, and many Muslims are surprised to find their names on the lists of wanted ISIS fighters while spending a vacation in Turkey or studying at Al-Azhar University in Egypt.

Over the past 25 years, many Muslims left Russia to study in Turkey, Syria, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt. Some chose to stay in those Muslim countries, others would like to return home, but fear persecution. Some Islamic activists are warned not to come back and are threatened with arrest.

The last two or three years have seen a sharp rise in the number of Islamic activists leaving for Turkey, Egypt and Ukraine. This comes as a result of increased pressure from law enforcement agencies—not only in Russia, but also in other post-Soviet countries with large Muslim populations.

A large number of such political emigrants (from several hundred to several thousand) find themselves in Turkey. Many, if not most, of these are people who have always been opposed to violence.

Another group of Muslims, numbering several hundreds of people, left to fight in Syria for the opposition forces, such as Jabhat al-Nusra and other Islamic fronts. They are members of the North Caucasus armed underground, affiliated with Caucasus Emirate declared by Dokka Umarov in 2007 as a regional branch of al-Qaeda.

Most of them withdrew from fighting in 2014, when ISIS declared the establishment of a caliphate and demanded an oath from all the combatants, but some stayed to fight on the side of Jabhat al-Nusra. They actively assist widows of fighters who try to find their way out of areas that are under ISIS control or when they need financial aid after successfully leaving those areas.

There are more individual stories. Some Muslim fighters who went to fight in Syria failed to reach ISIS and decided to move to a different state in the region. Some grew disillusioned with ISIS and managed to flee to Turkey, Egypt or other countries. These disillusioned fighters, though not numerous, could prove to be very efficient sources of counter-propaganda against ISIS.

And finally, there are 2,000 Russians who left with the sole intention of fighting for ISIS. More often than not, they represent the second generation. Some of their parents were the ones to leave impoverished villages in the North Caucasus or Central Asia to find work in large Russian cities and the north of West Siberia.

Some of their parents had the means to send them to study at universities in Moscow, St. Petersburg and Makhachkala (in Dagestan), among others. This second generation of Muslims from the North Caucasus and beyond, having for years borne the brunt of Russian state pressure and myths, is proving a rich source for ISIS’s recruiters and message.

ISIS recruits from Russia often have nothing to do with Al-Qaeda’s Caucasus Emirate project. And it is not uncommon for them to be Slavs who have converted to Islam.
Conclusion

Further research is needed to understand exactly how Russian state policy and security actions helped create the very Islamic radicals that they feared. But such a study would be incomplete without an examination of the larger social contributions to the issue, particularly the economic dislocation and forced migration of vast numbers of people away from their home villages.

What we can understand now is that Russian state propaganda paints a picture of a foreign invasion of radical Islam that has brought terror to Russia and is now drawing the most dangerous radicals to fight abroad.

Yet in truth, radical Islam in Russia, to the extent it exists, is the result of years of repressive Russian policies at the local and federal levels that at first pushed desperate people “into the woods” and are now pushing diverse people (veteran radicalized Russian Muslims, second-generation urban Muslims and newly converted ethnic Russians) through a pipeline of Russia’s own construction onto the battlefields of the Middle East.

Denis Sokolov is senior research fellow, Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration and research director, Center for Social and Economic Research of Regions at the Kennan Institute of the Wilson Center.

The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author.

Endnotes

A. Kirk, “Iraq and Syria: How many foreign fighters are fighting for ISIL?” 2016. Available at:   http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/03/29/iraq-and-syria-how-many-foreign-fighters-are-fighting-for-isil/.

Although ISIS fighters come from a variety of countries, it is reported that Russian is the second most common language spoken by all foreign ISIS fighters. Available at: http://temporalflight.tumblr.com/post/110887599637/what-languages-do-isis-fighters-speak

[ii] The results of a survey carried out by the author indicate that the price can range from $20,000 to $30,000.

[iii] The results of a survey carried out by the author indicate that the cost of an operation can be estimated at 60,000 rubles per security operative. A large-scale operation may involve as many as 1,000 security operatives.  

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More critics of Kremlin find speaking out can be deadly

Originally published August 20, 2016 at 5:23 pm

Mysterious deaths and close calls have some opposition figures worried that political killings are resurgent in Russian foreign policy.

By ANDREW E. KRAMER
The New York Times

MOSCOW — From a certain perspective, certainly the Kremlin’s, Vladimir Kara-Murza’s behavior in Washington could be seen as treasonous, a brazen betrayal of his homeland.

In a series of public meetings on Capitol Hill, Kara-Murza, a leader in the Russian opposition, urged U.S. lawmakers to expand economic sanctions against the Russian government under a law known as the Magnitsky Act. That would hasten political change in Russia, he argued.

Back in Moscow a month later, in May 2015, the changes Kara-Murza detected were going on in his own body.

Midway through a meeting with fellow dissidents, beads of sweat inexplicably dotted his forehead. His stomach churned.

“It all went so fast,” he recalled. “In the space of about 20 minutes, I went from feeling completely normal to having a rapid heart rate, really high blood pressure, to sweating and vomiting all over the place, and then I lost consciousness.”

He had ingested a poison, doctors told him after he emerged from a weeklong coma, though they could find no identifiable trace of it.

While Kara-Murza survived, few others in his position have proved as lucky. He said he was certain he had been the target of a security-service poisoning.

Used extensively in the Soviet era, political slayings are again playing a prominent role in the Kremlin’s foreign policy, the most brutal instrument in an expanding repertoire of intimidation tactics intended to silence or otherwise intimidate critics at home and abroad.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has made no secret of his ambition to restore his country to what he sees as its rightful place among the world’s leading nations.

He has invested considerable money and energy into building an image of a strong and morally superior Russia, in sharp contrast with what he portrays as weak, decadent and disorderly Western democracies.

Muckraking journalists, rights advocates, opposition politicians, government whistle-blowers and other Russians who threaten that image are treated harshly: imprisoned on trumped-up charges, smeared in the media and, with increasing frequency, killed.

Suspected killings by Russia

Political slayings, particularly those accomplished with poisons, are not new in Russia, going back five centuries. Nor are they subtle. While typically not traceable to any individuals and plausibly denied by government officials, poisonings leave little doubt of the state’s involvement, which may be precisely the point.

“Outside of popular culture, there are no highly skilled hit men for hire,” Mark Galeotti, a professor at New York University and an authority on the Russian security services, said in an interview. “If it’s a skilled job, that means it’s a state asset.”

Other countries, notably Israel and the United States, pursue targeted killings, but in a strict counterterrorism context. No other major power employs homicide as systematically and ruthlessly as Russia does against those seen as betraying its interests abroad. Killings outside Russia were given legal sanction by the nation’s Parliament in 2006.

Applied most notoriously in the case of Alexander Litvinenko, a Putin foe who died of polonium-210 poisoning in London in 2006, slayings and deaths under mysterious circumstances are seen as such a menace that Kremlin critics now often flee the country and keep their location secret.

Russia has never acknowledged using the authority under the 2006 law and has specifically denied any government ties to high-profile cases, including the Litvinenko slaying.

Among those fleeing recently is Grigory Rodchenkov, a whistle-blower in Russia’s sports-doping scandal.

This is not without reason. In the case over state-sponsored doping, two other officials with knowledge of the scheme died unexpectedly as the outlines of the scandal began to emerge. This month, another whistle-blower, Yulia Stepanova, a runner in hiding with her husband in the United States, was forced to move amid fears that hackers had found her location. “If something happens to us,” she said, “then you should know that it is not an accident.”

Gennadi Gudkov, a former member of Parliament and onetime KGB lieutenant colonel, said: “The government is using the special services to liquidate its enemies. It was not just Litvinenko, but many others we don’t know about, classified as accidents or maybe semi-accidents.”

Most recently, a coroner ruled that blunt-force trauma caused the death of Kremlin insider Mikhail Lesin, 57, in a Washington hotel room last year, not the heart attack his colleagues first said. In July, the Russian Interfax news agency reported that Alexander Poteyev, 64, an intelligence officer accused of defecting and betraying a ring of Russian spies living undercover in U.S. suburbs, had died in the United States.

U.S. blocks financial access

The Magnitsky Act, the law Kara-Murza was in Washington urging lawmakers to expand, has proved to be perhaps the most lethal topic over the years.

Sergei Magnitsky, a lawyer and auditor, was jailed on tax-evasion charges while investigating a $230 million government tax “refund” that corrupt Russian officials had granted to themselves. He died in 2009 after having been denied essential medical care in prison, earning the Kremlin widespread condemnation.

In response, William Browder, a U.S. financier who was the target of the tax fraud during time he spent working in Russia and had employed Magnitsky, campaigned in Congress for a law punishing the officials involved in the misdeeds and subsequent mistreatment of the auditor.

The proposed measure, which eventually passed in 2012 as the Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law and Accountability Act, denied visas and blocked access to the U.S. financial system for Russians deemed to have committed rights abuses and avoided punishment at home, including those involved in the Magnitsky tax-fraud case.

Putin, perceiving an intrusion into his country’s affairs, campaigned hard against the measure. When it passed, he retaliated by ending American adoptions of Russian children.

The law became a prototype for the blacklisting of prominent Russians accused of slayings, human-rights abuses and financial theft, among other violations.

The question of who was involved in the tax fraud became vitally important first to the investigation, and eventually to the scope of the legislation. Access to inside information became pivotal and, it turned out, lethal.

To date, five people who either handed over such information or were potential witnesses have died under mysterious circumstances that, in their sophistication, suggest state-sponsored killings.

One of the victims was Magnitsky, whose death was not stuff of cloak-and-dagger security operations. Two others died before Magnitsky. As the case gained greater prominence, others began dying under mysterious circumstances.

One victim whose death preceded Magnitsky’s, Valery Kurochkin, a potential witness whose name appeared on documents related to the fraud, fled Russia for Ukraine but died there of liver failure at the age of 43.

The other, Oktai Gasanov, a low-level figure in the fraud case but one who might have shed light on the group’s modus operandi, died of heart failure at 53.

After Magnitsky’s death in prison, a fourth insider met an untimely end in a plunge from a balcony. A fifth, a banker linked to the scheme, Alexander Perepilichny, made it to London in 2009 and passed wire-transfer records to Swiss investigators. In 2012, however, at age 44 and in apparently excellent health, he had a heart attack while jogging.

Police were left scratching their heads over the body found crumpled on a road in a well-guarded housing development, home to actress Kate Winslet and musician Elton John. An autopsy initially did nothing to clear up the questions.

It was not until 2015 that a botanist was able to identify the presumptive cause of Perepilichny’s death: His stomach held traces of gelsemium, a rare, poisonous plant grown in the Himalayas and known to have been used in Chinese assassinations. A coroner’s inquest is scheduled for September.

“All of this sounds like paranoid conspiracy theories,” Browder said. “But there are too many of these happening to important people. Captains of industry and lawyers are not dying left, right and center like this in the West.”

History of poisonings

Poison has been a favorite tool of Russian intelligence for more than a century. A biochemist, Grigory Mairanovski, labored in secret from 1928 on the task of developing tasteless, colorless and odorless poisons.

Intelligence agencies developed an arsenal of lethal, hard-to-trace poisons that, analysts of Russian security affairs say, is still in use. The Arab-born terrorist known as Khattab died in 2002 in his mountain hideout in Chechnya after opening a letter laced with a form of sarin, a nerve agent.

In 1995, a Russian banker, Ivan Kivelidi, died after coming in contact with cadmium, which is deadly to the touch. His secretary died of the same symptoms, apparently because the poison had been spread on an office telephone handset. In 2008, Karinna Moskalenko, a Russian lawyer specializing in taking cases to the European Court of Human Rights, fell ill in Strasbourg, France, from mercury in her car.

And Bulgarian dissident Georgi Markov was killed on Waterloo Bridge in London in 1978 with an umbrella tipped with a pellet of ricin.

Mistakes abound. In 1971, a year after he won the Nobel Prize for literature, Alexander Solzhenitsyn survived a poisoning attempt. Ricin, made from castor beans, was probably involved, according to media accounts and a biography of the dissident writer. Ukraine’s former pro-Western president, Viktor Yushchenko, was left with his face disfigured after a dioxin poisoning — likely concealed in a meal of boiled crayfish — that Yushchenko attributed to Russian would-be assassins.

The attempt on Kara-Murza’s life turned out to be one of those mistakes, though that was not immediately certain. As his colleagues looked on surprised, Kara-Murza’s sweat-covered head flopped down onto a table.

The poison threw him into a weeklong coma with a puzzling range of symptoms, from swelling in his brain to kidney failure, giving his legs and arms a blue hue, his wife, Yevgenia, recalled.

He endured nerve damage that left him limping, but has otherwise made a full recovery. A French laboratory was unable to identify a specific poison or explain how he might have ingested them accidentally.

Kara-Murza, 34, has insisted police open an investigation. He is convinced he ingested the poison during a flight on Aeroflot.

If so, it would not have been the first time such an episode occurred. In 2004, opposition journalist Anna Politkovskaya drank poisoned tea on an Aeroflot flight but survived. She was shot and killed in her apartment elevator two years later.

“How can you protect yourself?” Kara-Murza’s wife asked. “What can you do? Not eat? Bring your own lunch everywhere? How can you predict a poisoning?”

Some do take precautions. Garry Kasparov, the former chess champion and now an opposition figure, has long had bodyguards carry bottled water and prepared meals for him.

In a chilling epilogue to Vladimir Kara-Murza’s ordeal, a warning appeared in February on the Instagram account of Ramzan Kadyrov, the leader of Chechnya.

It showed Kara-Murza outside the European Parliament in Strasbourg, where he was speaking in favor of sanctions against Russia. He was in cross hairs, with the caption: “Those who haven’t understood will understand.”

 100 
 on: Aug 20, 2016, 08:36 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
Under Armour drops sponsorship of wife of hunter bro who speared bear

Reuters
19 Aug 2016 at 12:54 ET                   

Under Armour Inc, the athletic clothing company, has ended its sponsorship of the wife and hunting companion of a U.S. hunter who sparked outrage over a video showing him killing a bear with a spear in the woods of Alberta in western Canada.

The video, which shows Josh Bowmar impaling the animal with a spear with a camera attached to it, prompted the Alberta government to say it will outlaw spear hunting as of this fall. Officials are also considering filing charges against Bowmar.

A spokeswoman for Under Armour, the No. 2 U.S. sportswear maker, said while the company is “dedicated to the hunting community,” spearing the bear may have been a step too far.

“The method used to harvest this animal was reckless and we do not condone it,” said Danielle Daly in an email on Thursday evening.

Social media users have called for a boycott of Under Armour products because of its association with the Bowmars, who run a fitness business in Ohio.

Josh Bowmar and his wife, Sarah, did not respond to requests for comment. The terms of their sponsorship of Sarah Bowmar are unknown.

Daly said the company has never sponsored Josh Bowmar, 26, though his name appears alongside his wife’s on several sites online in connection with the “Ridge Reaper” truck tour to display “concealment technology,” designed to keep prey from becoming aware of nearby hunters.

“Under armour and the Bowmars broke up today. I’ll do a blog post in a few days when I am no longer crying,” Sarah Bowmar wrote on Twitter. “At least I can wear my lulu leggings again.”

Spear hunting is banned in parts of Canada, including in Ontario and Saskatchewan, but allowed in British Columbia and the northern territory of Nunavut.

Impaling a bear with a spear struck many people as a particularly inhumane form of hunting and they reacted in online forums.

“Sadistic piece of human trash Josh Bowmar stabs a bear with a spear – then smiles and laughs about it dying in pain,” tweeted Bill Madden, @activist360.

Bowmar, a javelin thrower and hunter, uploaded the video in June, local media reported. “I drilled him perfect,” Bowmar jubilantly tells the camera in the video, which was taken down but has since been uploaded to other YouTube accounts.

In a statement earlier this week, he defended spear hunting as a humane way to hunt because the spear penetrates more deeply, causes more damage and kills more quickly than a bullet or arrow.

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