The Extinction Chronicles

An impartial record of articles and events leading up to the end…

The Extinction Chronicles

Seattle Police disperse protesters in occupied CHOP area after emergency order

(CNN)Police dispersed protesters in Seattle’s Capitol Hill Occupation Protest (CHOP) area and arrested at least 31 people on Wednesday after an emergency order by Mayor Jenny Durkan.

Durkan issued an executive order Tuesday in response to “reported life safety, public health and property issues” in and around the East Precinct and Cal Anderson Park area, which protesters have occupied for the past few weeks and which has been marred by a series of shootings.
“Due to ongoing violence and public safety issues in the East Precinct/Cal Anderson Park area, Mayor Jenny Durkan has issued an executive order to vacate the area. Seattle police will be in the area this morning enforcing the Mayor’s order,” the Seattle Police Department tweeted.
Seattle Police look on as DOT workers remove barricades Tuesday at the CHOP zone in Seattle.

Police tweeted anyone who remains in the area or returns to it will be subject to arrest.
“Commanders have issued a dispersal order in accordance with the Mayor’s emergency order. All protestors are being asked to leave the immediate area within eight minutes. Safe exit is to the South and West,” police said.
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The 31 arrests were for failure to disperse, obstruction, assault, and unlawful weapon possession, according to police.
Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best said in a statement the move comes after violence in the zone.
“As I have said, and I will say again, I support peaceful demonstrations. Black Lives Matter, and I too want to help propel this movement toward meaningful change in our community.  But enough is enough,” she said.
Thousands of protesters have occupied the four-to-six block area — known as CHOP or CHAZ — since early June in an effort to demand police reform following the police killing of George Floyd. But there have been five shootings in the area in the past two weeks, including two fatal ones, undermining its original motivation.
“It is over because of the violence,” Seattle community leader Andre Taylor told CNN last week. “I’ve told people here don’t be focused on the location. CHOP is not a location, it is an idea.”
Dustin Akers, who lives in an apartment complex in the heart of the CHOP area, took several videos of police clearing the zone around 5 a.m. Wednesday.
Living in the area has been “incredibly unstable and violent around the clock for the past two weeks,” Akers told CNN.
“It started out well intentioned and then quickly took a turn for the worse. The occupied area is now empty with tents and supplies thrown everywhere.”
He also shared an excerpt that his apartment complex, Packard Building Apartments, owned by Equity Residential, shared with residents on June 30.
“Since the occupation of the streets surrounding our building, tenants have been subjected to violence, threats, vandalism, noise, lewd conduct, public defecation, daily fights and limited access to the building,” the complex wrote.

Seattle police union chief calls for ‘leadership’ after fatal shooting in CHOP zone

The head of Seattle’s police union lamented the lack of “leadership” in the city Saturday after reports emerged that an early morning shooting in the so-called ‘CHOP’ left one person dead and another in critical condition.

According to The Seattle Times, police homicide and assault detectives are investigating the shooting, citing a post on the Seattle Police Department’s blotter.

“On June 20th, at approximately 2:30 AM, East Precinct officers responded to a report of shots fired in Cal Anderson Park,” a statement on the blotter said.

“This is inside the area referred to as the Capitol Hill Organized Protest (CHOP). Officers attempted to locate a shooting victim but were met by a violent crowd that prevented officers safe access to the victims. Officers were later informed that the victims, both males, had been transported to Harborview Medical Center by CHOP medics.

“Officers responded to Harborview and were informed that one of the victims, a 19-year-old male, had died from injuries. The other victim, also a male, unknown age, remains in the hospital with life-threatening injuries.”

In an interview on “Fox & Friends Weekend” with host Pete Hegseth Saturday, Seattle Police Officers Guild President Michael Solan remarked that it is “no longer the summer of love” like Democratic Mayor Jenny Durkan claimed, but the “summer of chaos.”


“Early this morning, that violence was raw and real where one of our community members lost their life and police are still not allowed into that area and were prevented to providing that police service to the area to locate victors and/or render aid. [It’s] very troubling what’s going on,” Solan said.

New cement and wood barricades bear the name CHOP, Tuesday, June 16, 2020, inside what has been named the Capitol Hill Occupied Protest zone in Seattle. The city put the barriers in place Tuesday in hopes of defining an area where emergency, delivery, and other vehicles can travel through the area while still preserving space for protesters, who have been there since police pulled back from near the department's East Precinct after recent clashes with people protesting the death of George Floyd. 

New cement and wood barricades bear the name CHOP, Tuesday, June 16, 2020, inside what has been named the Capitol Hill Occupied Protest zone in Seattle. The city put the barriers in place Tuesday in hopes of defining an area where emergency, delivery, and other vehicles can travel through the area while still preserving space for protesters, who have been there since police pulled back from near the department’s East Precinct after recent clashes with people protesting the death of George Floyd.  (AP)

“It can’t stand in America, and this is a direct result of city leadership, elected officials failing the reasonable community of Seattle to enforce the rule of law,” Solan told Hegseth. “And, this just isn’t the area occupied in a six-block zone where police are still forbidden and still don’t have their East precinct. This is now impacting our entire city.”

According to Solan, the department’s West precinct was also defaced with anti-police graffiti overnight.

“And again, we’re left wondering what’s next?” he asked. “And, now our elected officials have removed our ability to have less lethal chemical munitions that are effective for us to disburse unruly violent crowds to protect those police facilities — let alone ourselves.”

“So, we’re in a very, very troubling time in Seattle and it’s deeply concerning that…Everybody across this country needs to be aware of what’s going on in Seattle,” he urged.

But, as protests have now continued for a month in the liberal Pacific Northwest metropolis, Solan does not yet see a solution or compromise on the horizon.

“Well, you’re going to have to have the political backbone to finally enforce the rule of law, because if this continues to spiral down — which we saw earlier this morning with a homicide — I don’t see what the remedy is,” he admitted.

“So, we need leadership now more than ever,” asserted Solan. “And, I find it ironic that the same public officials [who] are creating these decisions that put everybody’s public safety at risk are now calling out for defunding the police. And, those two aren’t compatible.”

“You can’t have ‘defunding the police’ and better police services because the first thing to go — as you and I both know, Pete — is training. And, if you remove the training budget, you remove quality police service,” he concluded. “And, we know that separating good cops from bad is all about training.”


Dire Warning

The global ecosystem is in far greater danger than scientists previously thought, according to a new study — and that’s really saying something.

The research predicts that without dire action to reverse global climate change, entire ocean ecosystems could suddenly collapse this decade, The Guardian reports. It’s a dire warning: as various organisms face temperatures higher than anything they have before, the study predicts sudden, massive die-offs.

Free Fall

The study, published Tuesday in the prestigious journal Nature, examines the temperatures that 30,000 land and sea organisms can withstand, and plots those ranges against the expected temperature increases through the year 2100.

“It’s not a slippery slope, but a series of cliff edges, hitting different places at different times,” research leader Alex Pigot of University College London told The Guardian.

Flattening Curves

Unless world leaders act to stop the direst effects of climate change, the study predicts a similar terrestrial die-off during the 2040s.

READ MORE: Wildlife destruction ‘not a slippery slope but a series of cliff edges’ [The Guardian]

More on the environment: Doomsday Report Author: Earth’s Leaders Have Failed

Tear gas fired as hours of peaceful demonstrations turns raucous again in Seattle

A protest happening in Capitol Hill Monday night has turned into a riot, according to the Seattle Police Department. (Photo: KOMO News)

What began as hours of peaceful demonstration at Capitol Hill’s Cal Anderson Park Monday turned into a riot later in the night, according to an incident commander with Seattle Police, as a third night of civil unrest protesting the death of George Floyd rocked the city.

Police said the crowd at Capitol Hill began to throw rocks, bottles and fireworks at officers as some attempted to breach barricades one block from SPD’s East Precinct station, prompting officers to deploy pepper spray and tear gas to quell the unrest.

Seattle Police said they were protecting the East Precinct at “all costs” while protests at Capitol Hill remained tense.

Video from a viewer shows the moments when the Seattle Police Department deployed tear gas on protesters Monday night.{ }

KOMO News reporter Tammy Mutasa reported seeing a man carrying what appeared to be a rifle late Monday night. The crowd scattered when the young man showed up to the intersection.

Crowds eventually dispersed, while some protesters were spotted cleaning up some of the debris.

Protesters initially gathered in Downtown around mid-afternoon and marched around the city through the evening, eventually making their way up to Capitol Hill.

Rally organizers had pushed to keep the march peaceful, though some in the crowd were upset, hoping to do more.

“That’s a very reasonable response to 400 years of being killed and killed and beaten and raped,” said one of the organizers, local hip hop artist Raz Simone. “Very reasonable that after 400 years you see people rise up and start burning things down.”

Several Puget Sound cities, including Seattle, Renton and Mercer Island, imposed renewed curfews Monday night following three consecutive days of protests and in some cities, looting that left a widespread trail of destruction and theft.

Organizers say they hope their message against injustice and institutional racism wasn’t once again overshadowed by violence.

KOMO News reporters did witnesses plenty of moments where marchers had open dialogue with officers, some even taking a knee as they spoke and even planned a safe route for the march.

SPD meets with protesters
Seattle Police officers meet with protesters on Capitol Hill. (KOMO Video)

And most protesters were marching with their hands up.

Marches were also taking part in other cities around the Puget Sound region. Organizer of a march in Kirkland say they feel as though their message got through as they went through downtown, filled parks and knelt along the waterfront.

“We’re not out to just protest cops, we’re not out here to protest bad apples, we’re here to protest a system,” one said to the demonstrators. “A system that has been in place for too long.”

“It’s about making your message heard without pain or violence,” said Andrew Rocha, who attended the demonstration. “That’s what’s important.”

Kirkland officers then took a knee with the protesters in solidarity; marchers offering elbow bumps in this time of working to prevent the spread of coronavirus, and officers accepting those bumps.

Police in Kirkland meet with demonstrators (KOMO Video)
Police in Kirkland meet with demonstrators (KOMO Video){p}{/p}{p}{/p}{p}{/p}

Earlier in the day, the Kirkland Police Department said they have a long history of strongly supporting the rights of free speech and peaceful protests to help overcome institutional racism and police brutality.

Looting fears spread across region

There were also widespread worries of looting across the region in the wake of Sunday’s coordinated mass burglaries across Bellevue and the Renton/Tukwila areas.

Social media lit up with warnings of additional looting Monday, prompting heavy police presences several shopping centers.

In Lynnwood, officers shut down several blocks around Alderwood Mall and had a SWAT team on site after getting tips of planned looting activity there. Officers did have to disperse a crowds lingering in nearby parking lots and made one arrest for trespassing, according to Lynnwood police officials. The roads around the mall reopened Tuesday.

The city of Kirkland, also citing intelligence of potential looting, asked its stores to close at 1 p.m. Monday and later that night asked those stores to remain closed through Tuesday.

There were some scattered reports of looting Monday evening and night, but nothing to the levels seen Sunday.

Meanwhile, clean up efforts were under way around Seattle Tuesday morning, but it was not to the level of aftermath and damage the city suffered over the weekend.

Police officers shot, hit by car in multiple incidents amid George Floyd protests

Police officers shot, hit by car in multiple incidents amid George Floyd protests
© Getty Images

Law enforcement officials in several cities were injured Monday night as protests over the death of George Floyd in police custody continued across the country.

Four St. Louis police officers were hospitalized after a shooting Monday evening in which a suspect is alleged to have opened fire at a line of officers, the police chief said at an early morning press conference according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. A suspect has yet to be apprehended or identified.

“I believe some coward randomly shot at the police line,” chief John Hayden told reporters.

Elsewhere in Las Vegas a fifth officer is on life support after being shot in the head. Another man was killed in that shooting, which reportedly occurred as officers attempted to move in on a crowd and detain several people according to local news affiliate Fox 5. The suspect in that shooting was taken into custody.

“My Office has been notified that the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department is currently working two separate incidents in Las Vegas. The State is in contact with local law enforcement and continues to monitor the situation,” Gov. Steve Sisolak (D) tweeted early Tuesday morning.

In Buffalo, N.Y., two officers were injured when a vehicle struck them, while two people not affiliated with law enforcement were struck by gunfire. The officers are thought to have suffered serious injuries, according to local news affiliate WTHR 13.

“Two people that were struck by gunfire in the vicinity of Langmire and Bailey were two of the individuals that were in the vehicle that mowed into the police line, but again, this is still under investigation,” Mayor Byron Brown (D) told the news outlet.

Monday evening’s protests came hours after President Trump urged governors to step up their efforts to contain and shut down protests over the death of Floyd, who was seen on video asking for help as a Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck during an arrest for several minutes. The officer was later fired and charged with third-degree murder, though officials resisted calls to make an arrest for several days and three other officers fired for their involvement in the arrest have yet to be charged.

Protests have continued to rock dozens of cities across the U.S., and the police response to the demonstrations in many areas has been further criticized in the days following Floyd’s death.

Damning Report Finds White House Ignored Skeletal Horsemen Galloping Through Sky As Early As January

Illustration for article titled Damning Report Finds White House Ignored Skeletal Horsemen Galloping Through Sky As Early As January

WASHINGTON—In a very serious and damning new report published Wednesday, a government watchdog group has found that, as early as January, White House officials failed to heed repeated warnings of impending doom that arrived via four skeletal horsemen galloping through the sky. “On Jan. 3, the Trump administration received its first notification that a quartet of ghostly riders had barreled out of the endless night—auguring death, despair, and a great cataclysm upon the earth—but the president did not begin to take the threat seriously until mid-March,” said Douglas Reisenthaler of the nonpartisan Institute for Federal Policy, a co-author of the report compiled from interviews with sources who asked to remain anonymous because they were not authorized to discuss torrents of blood raining from the Oval Office ceiling and flooding the West Wing. “For 10 full weeks, during which the White House could have been using the vast resources at its disposal to prepare for the final battle between good and evil, officials instead chose to downplay the coming apocalypse, minimizing omens such as the sudden rupture of the moon, which unleashed the black, inky trail of crows that continues to circle the Washington Monument. How many countless souls could have been saved from the dark ravages of hell simply by alerting the public that a beast with seven heads and 10 horns had emerged from the sea?” Asked about the report, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany replied that the ominous sound of seven trumpets was being heard all the time, and no one could have known these were the seven trumpets that would herald the 1,000-year reign of Satan on earth.

The Bee Is Declared The Most Important Living Being On The Planet

Its sting hurts a lot, but if they were to disappear, it would hurt much more.
The Earthwatch Institute concluded in the last debate of the Royal Geographical Society of London, that bees are the most important living being on the planet, however, scientists have also made an announcement: Bees have already entered into extinction risk.
Bees around the world have disappeared up to 90% according to recent studies, the reasons are different depending on the region, but among the main reasons are massive deforestation, lack of safe places for nests, lack of flowers, use uncontrolled pesticides, changes in soil, among others.


The Apiculture Entrepreneurship Center of the Universidad Mayor (CeapiMayor) and the Apiculture Corporation of Chile (Cach) with the support of the Foundation for Agrarian Innovation (FIA), conducted a study where it was determined that bees are the only living being that it is not a carrier of any type of pathogen, regardless of whether it is a fungus, a virus or a bacterium.

The agriculture of the world depends on 70% of these insects, to put it more clearly and directly, we could say that 70 of 100 foods are intervened in favor by bees.
Also the pollination that the bees make allows the plants to reproduce, of which millions of animals feed, without them, the fauna would soon begin to disappear.
The honey produced by bees, not only serve as food, but also provide many benefits to our health and our skin.
According to a quote attributed to Albert Einstein, If the bees disappear, humans would have 4 years to live.


The Federal Institute of Technology of Switzerland, proposes a theory that blames the waves produced thanks to mobile telephony. They explain that these waves emitted during calls are capable of disorienting bees, causing them to lose their sense of direction and therefore their life is put in danger.
The researcher and biologist Daniel Favre, along with other researchers, made 83 experiments that show that bees in the presence of these waves, produce a noise ten times higher than usual, behavior that has been observed to make it known to other bees They are in danger and it is important to leave the hive.

Where Do Black Holes Lead?

Artist's impression of a black hole.

Where does a black hole go?
(Image: © All About Space magazine)

So there you are, about to leap into a black hole. What could possibly await should — against all odds — you somehow survive? Where would you end up and what tantalizing tales would you be able to regale if you managed to clamor your way back?

The simple answer to all of these questions is, as Professor Richard Massey explains, “Who knows?” As a Royal Society research fellow at the Institute for Computational Cosmology at Durham University, Massey is fully aware that the mysteries of black holes run deep. “Falling through an event horizon is literally passing beyond the veil — once someone falls past it, nobody could ever send a message back,” he said. “They’d be ripped to pieces by the enormous gravity, so I doubt anyone falling through would get anywhere.”

If that sounds like a disappointing — and painful — answer, then it is to be expected. Ever since Albert Einstein’s general theory of relativity was considered to have predicted black holes by linking space-time with the action of gravity, it has been known that black holes result from the death of a massive star leaving behind a small, dense remnant core. Assuming this core has more than roughly three-times the mass of the sun, gravity would overwhelm to such a degree that it would fall in on itself into a single point, or singularity, understood to be the black hole’s infinitely dense core.

Related: 9 Ideas About Black Holes That Will Blow Your Mind

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The resulting uninhabitable black hole would have such a powerful gravitational pull that not even light could avoid it. So, should you then find yourself at the event horizon — the point at which light and matter can only pass inward, as proposed by the German astronomer Karl Schwarzschild — there is no escape. According to Massey, tidal forces would reduce your body into strands of atoms (or ‘spaghettification’, as it is also known) and the object would eventually end up crushed at the singularity. The idea that you could pop out somewhere — perhaps at the other side — seems utterly fantastical.

What about a wormhole?

Or is it? Over the years scientists have looked into the possibility that black holes could be wormholes to other galaxies. They may even be, as some have suggested, a path to another universe.

Such an idea has been floating around for some time: Einstein teamed up with Nathan Rosen to theorise bridges that connect two different points in space-time in 1935. But it gained some fresh ground in the 1980s when physicist Kip Thorne — one of the world’s leading experts on the astrophysical implications of Einstein’s general theory of relativity — raised a discussion about whether objects could physically travel through them.

“Reading Kip Thorne’s popular book about wormholes is what first got me excited about physics as a child,” Massey said. But it doesn’t seem likely that wormholes exist.

Indeed, Thorne, who lent his expert advice to the production team for the Hollywood movie Interstellar, wrote: “We see no objects in our universe that could become wormholes as they age,” in his book “The Science of Interstellar” (W.W. Norton and Company, 2014). Thorne told that journeys through these theoretical tunnels would most likely remain science fiction, and there is certainly no firm evidence that a black hole could allow for such a passage.

Artist’s concept of a wormhole. If wormholes exist, they might lead to another universe. But, there’s no evidence that wormholes are real or that a black hole would act like one.

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

But, the problem is that we can’t get up close to see for ourselves. Why, we can’t even take photographs of anything that takes place inside a black hole — if light cannot escape their immense gravity, then nothing can be snapped by a camera. As it stands, theory suggests that anything which goes beyond the event horizon is simply added to the black hole and, what’s more, because time distorts close to this boundary, this will appear to take place incredibly slowly, so answers won’t be quickly forthcoming.

“I think the standard story is that they lead to the end of time,” said Douglas Finkbeiner, professor of astronomy and physics at Harvard University. “An observer far away will not see their astronaut friend fall into the black hole. They’ll just get redder and fainter as they approach the event horizon [as a result of gravitational red shift]. But the friend falls right in, to a place beyond ‘forever.’ Whatever that means.”

Maybe a black hole leads to a white hole

Certainly, if black holes do lead to another part of a galaxy or another universe, there would need to be something opposite to them on the other side. Could this be a white hole — a theory put forward by Russian cosmologist Igor Novikov in 1964? Novikov proposed that a black hole links to a white hole that exists in the past. Unlike a black hole, a white hole will allow light and matter to leave, but light and matter will not be able to enter.

Scientists have continued to explore the potential connection between black and white holes. In their 2014 study published in the journal Physical Review D, physicists Carlo Rovelli and Hal M. Haggard claimed that “there is a classic metric satisfying the Einstein equations outside a finite space-time region where matter collapses into a black hole and then emerges from a while hole.” In other words, all of the material black holes have swallowed could be spewed out, and black holes may become white holes when they die.

Far from destroying the information that it absorbs, the collapse of a black hole would be halted. It would instead experience a quantum bounce, allowing information to escape. Should this be the case, it would shed some light on a proposal by former Cambridge University cosmologist and theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking who, in the 1970s, explored the possibility that black holes emit particles and radiation — thermal heat — as a result of quantum fluctuations.

Redshifting Star Orbiting Supermassive Black Hole Demonstrates Einstein Prediction
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“Hawking said a black hole doesn’t last forever,” Finkbeiner said. Hawking calculated that the radiation would cause a black hole to lose energy, shrink and disappear, as described in his 1976 paper published in Physical Review D. Given his claims that the radiation emitted would be random and contain no information about what had fallen in, the black hole, upon its explosion, would erase loads of information.

This meant Hawking’s idea was at odds with quantum theory, which says information can’t be destroyed. Physics states information just becomes more difficult to find because, should it become lost, it becomes impossible to know the past or the future. Hawking’s idea led to the ‘black hole information paradox’ and it has long puzzled scientists. Some have said Hawking was simply wrong, and the man himself even declared he had made an error during a scientific conference in Dublin in 2004.

So, do we go back to the concept of black holes emitting preserved information and throwing it back out via a white hole? Maybe. In their 2013 study published in Physical Review Letters, Jorge Pullin at Louisiana State University and Rodolfo Gambini at the University of the Republic in Montevideo, Uruguay, applied loop quantum gravity to a black hole and found that gravity increased towards the core but reduced and plonked whatever was entering into another region of the universe. The results gave extra credence to the idea of black holes serving as a portal. In this study, singularity does not exist, and so it doesn’t form an impenetrable barrier that ends up crushing whatever it encounters. It also means that information doesn’t disappear.

Maybe black holes go nowhere

Yet physicists Ahmed Almheiri, Donald Marolf, Joseph Polchinski and James Sully still believed Hawking could have been on to something. They worked on a theory that became known as the AMPS firewall, or the black hole firewall hypothesis. By their calculations, quantum mechanics could feasibly turn the event horizon into a giant wall of fire and anything coming into contact would burn in an instant. In that sense, black holes lead nowhere because nothing could ever get inside.

This, however, violates Einstein’s general theory of relativity. Someone crossing the event horizon shouldn’t actually feel any great hardship because an object would be in free fall and, based on the equivalence principle, that object — or person — would not feel the extreme effects of gravity. It could follow the laws of physics present elsewhere in the universe, but even if it didn’t go against Einstein’s principle it would undermine quantum field theory or suggest information can be lost.

Related: 11 Fascinating Facts About Our Milky Way Galaxy

Artist’s impression of a tidal disruption event which occurs when a star passes too close to a supermassive black hole.

(Image credit: All About Space magazine)

A black hole of uncertainty

Step forward Hawking once more. In 2014, he published a study in which he eschewed the existence of an event horizon — meaning there is nothing there to burn — saying gravitational collapse would produce an ‘apparent horizon’ instead.

This horizon would suspend light rays trying to move away from the core of the black hole, and would persist for a “period of time.” In his rethinking, apparent horizons temporarily retain matter and energy before dissolving and releasing them later down the line. This explanation best fits with quantum theory — which says information can’t be destroyed — and, if it was ever proven, it suggests that anything could escape from a black hole.

Hawking went as far as saying black holes may not even exist. “Black holes should be redefined as metastable bound states of the gravitational field,” he wrote. There would be no singularity, and while the apparent field would move inwards due to gravity, it would never reach the center and be consolidated within a dense mass.

And yet anything which is emitted will not be in the form of the information swallowed. It would be impossible to figure out what went in by looking at what is coming out, which causes problems of its own — not least for, say, a human who found themselves in such an alarming position. They’d never feel the same again!

One thing’s for sure, this particular mystery is going to swallow up many more scientific hours for a long time to come. Rovelli and Francesca Vidotto recently suggested that a component of dark matter could be formed by remnants of evaporated black holes, and Hawking’s paper on black holes and ‘soft hair’ was released in 2018, and describes how zero-energy particles are left around the point of no return, the event horizon — an idea that suggests information is not lost but captured.

This flew in the face of the no-hair theorem which was expressed by physicist John Archibald Wheeler and worked on the basis that two black holes would be indistinguishable to an observer because none of the special particle physics pseudo-charges would be conserved. It’s an idea that has got scientists talking, but there is some way to go before it’s seen as the answer for where black holes lead. If only we could find a way to leap into one.

Noam Chomsky: Life Expectancy in the US Is Declining for a Reason

Life in the United States — the richest country in world history — doesn’t need to be like this. This country’s endless wars, deaths of despair, rising mortality rates and out-of-control gun violence did not come out of nowhere. In this second installment from an exclusive transcript of a conversation aired on Alternative Radio, public intellectual Noam Chomsky discusses the roots of gun culture, militarism, economic stagnation and growing inequality in the U.S. Read the first installment of this interview here: “Noam Chomsky: Trump Is Trying to Exploit Tension With Iran for 2020.

David Barsamian: Do you ever make the connection between the external violence of the U.S. state and what is happening internally with all the shootings and mass murders?

Noam Chomsky: The U.S. is a very strange country. From the point of view of its infrastructure, the U.S. often looks like a “Third World” country…. Not for everybody, of course. There are people who can say, “OK, fine, I’ll go in my private jet or helicopter.” Drive around any American city. They’re falling apart. The American Society of Civil Engineers gives the U.S. regularly a D, the lowest ranking, in infrastructure.

This is the richest country in world history. It has enormous resources. It has advantages that are just incomparable in agricultural resources, mineral resources, huge territory, homogeneous. You can fly 3,000 miles and think you’re in the same place where you started. There is nothing like that anywhere in the world. In fact, there are successes, like a good deal of the high-tech economy, substantially government-based but real.

On the other hand, it’s the only country in the developed world in which mortality is actually increasing. That’s just unknown in developed societies. In the last several years, life expectancy has declined in the U.S. There is work by two major economists, Anne Case and Angus Deaton, who have carefully studied the mortality figures. It turns out that in the cohort roughly 25 to 50, the working-age cohort of whites, the white working class, there is an increase in deaths, what they call “deaths of despair”: suicide, opioid overdoses, and so on. This is estimated at about 150,000 deaths a year. It’s not trivial. The reason, it’s generally assumed, is the economic stagnation since Reagan. In fact, this is the group that entered the workforce right around the early 1980s, when the neoliberal programs began to be instituted.

That has led to a small slowdown in growth. Growth is not what it was before. There is growth, but very highly concentrated. Wealth has become extremely highly concentrated. Right now, according to the latest figures, 0.1 percent of the population holds 20 percent of the country’s wealth; the top 1 percent holds roughly 40 percent. Half the population has negative net worth, meaning debts outweigh assets. There has been stagnation pretty much for the workforce over the whole neoliberal period. That’s the group that we’re talking about. Naturally, this leads to anger, resentment, desperation. Similar things are happening in Europe under the austerity programs. That’s the background for what’s misleadingly called “populism.” But in the U.S., it’s quite striking. The “deaths of despair” phenomenon seems to be a specific U.S. characteristic, not matched in other countries.

Remember, there is no country in the world that has anything like the advantages of the U.S. in wealth, power and resources. It’s a shocking commentary. You read constantly that the unemployment rate has reached a wonderful level, barely 3 percent unemployed. But that’s pretty misleading. When you use Labor Department statistics, it turns out that the actual unemployment rate is over 7 percent. When you take into account the large number of people who have just dropped out of the workforce, labor force participation is considerably below what it was about 20-30 years ago. There are good studies of this by economists. You have roughly a 7.5 percent unemployment rate and stagnation of real wages, which have barely moved. Since the year 2000, there has been a steady decline in just median family wealth. As I said, for about half the population, it’s now negative.

In terms of guns, the U.S. is an outlier. We have 4 percent of the world’s population with 40 percent of the globe’s guns.

There is an interesting history to that, very well studied. There’s a recent book by Pamela Haag called The Gunning of America: Business and the Making of American Gun Culture. It’s a very interesting analysis. What she shows is that after the Civil War, the gun manufacturers didn’t really have much of a market. The U.S. government market had declined, of course, and foreign governments weren’t much of a market. It was then an agricultural society, the late 19th century. Farmers had guns, but they were like tools, nothing special. You had a nice old-fashioned gun. It was enough to chase away wolves. They didn’t want the fancy guns that the gun manufacturers were producing.

So, what happened was, the first major, huge advertising campaign that was a kind of a model for others later. An enormous campaign was carried out to try to create a gun culture. They invented a Wild West, which never existed, with the bold sheriff drawing the pistol faster than anyone else and all this nonsense that you get in the cowboy movies. It was all concocted. None of it ever happened. Cowboys were sort of the dregs of society, people who couldn’t get a job anywhere else. You hired them to push some cows around. But this image of the Wild West and the great heroes was developed. Along with it came the ads, saying something like, ‘If your son doesn’t have a Winchester rifle, he’s not a real man, If your daughter doesn’t have a little pink pistol, she’ll never be happy.’

It was a tremendous success. I suppose it was a model for later on, when the tobacco companies developed the “Marlboro man” and all this kind of business. This was the late 19th, early 20th century, the period in which the huge public relations industry was beginning to develop. It was brilliantly discussed by Thorstein Veblen, the great political economist, who pointed out that in that stage of the capitalist economy, it was necessary to fabricate wants, otherwise you couldn’t maintain the economy that would generate great profit levels. The gun propaganda was probably the beginning of it.

It goes on, pushing up to the recent period since 2008, the Supreme Court Heller decision. What they called Second Amendment rights have just become holy writ. They’re [considered by some] the most important rights that exist, our sacred right to have guns, established by the Supreme Court, overturning a century of precedent.

Take a look at the Second Amendment. It says, “A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms shall not be infringed.” Up until 2008, that was interpreted pretty much the way it reads, that the point of having guns was to keep a militia. Scalia, in his decision in 2008, reversed that. He was a very good scholar. He’s supposed to be an originalist. He would pay attention to the intentions of the founders. If you read the decision, it’s interesting. There are all kinds of references to obscure 17th century documents. Strikingly, he never mentions once the reasons the founders wanted the people to have guns, which are not obscure.

One reason was that the British were coming. The British were the big enemy then. They were the most powerful state in the world. The U.S. barely had a standing army. If the British were going to come again, which in fact they did, you’ve got to have militias to fight them off, so we have to have well-regulated militias.

The second reason was, it was a slave society. This was a period where there were slave rebellions taking place all through the Caribbean. Slavery was growing massively after the revolution. There was deep concern. Black slaves often outnumbered whites. You had to have well-armed militias to keep them under control.

There was yet another reason. The U.S. is maybe one of the rare countries in history which has been at war virtually every year since its founding. You can hardly find a single year when the U.S. wasn’t at war.

When you look back at the American Revolution, the textbook story is “taxation without representation,” which is not false, but far from the whole story. Two major factors in the revolution were that the British were imposing a restriction on expansion of settlement beyond the Appalachian Mountains into what was called “Indian country.” The British were blocking that. The settlers wanted to expand to the West. Not just people who wanted land, but also great land speculators, like George Washington, wanted to move into the Western areas. “Western” meant right over the mountains. The British were blocking that. At the end of the war, the settlers could expand.

The other factor was slavery. In 1772, there was a very important and famous ruling by a leading British jurist, Lord Mansfield, that slavery is so “odious,” his word, that it cannot be tolerated within Britain. It could be tolerated in the colonies, like Jamaica, but not within Britain. The U.S. colonies were essentially part of Britain. It was a slave society. They could see the handwriting on the wall. If the U.S. stays within the British system, it’s going to be a real threat to slavery. That was ended by the revolution.

But that meant, going back to the guns, you needed them to keep off the British, you needed them to control the slaves, you needed them to kill Indians. If you’re going to attack the Indian nations — they were nations, of course — you’re going to attack the many nations to the West of the country, you’re going to have to have guns and militias. Ultimately, it was replaced later by a standing army.

But take a look at the reasons you had to have guns for the founders. Not a single one of them applies in the 21st century. This is completely missing not only from Scalia’s decision, but even from the legal debate over this. There is a legal literature debating the Heller decision, but almost all of it is about the technical question of whether the Second Amendment is a militia right or an individual right. The wording of the amendment is a little bit ambiguous, so you can argue about it, but it’s completely beside the point. The Second Amendment is totally irrelevant to the modern world; it has nothing to do with it. But it’s become holy writ.

So, you have this huge propaganda campaign. As a kid, I was affected by it. Wyatt Earp, guns, “kill Indians,” all that. It’s spread all over the world. In France, they love cowboy movies. A totally fabricated picture of the West, but it was very successful in creating a gun culture. It’s now become sanctified by the reactionary Supreme Court. So, yes, everybody has got to have a gun….

Talk about the First Amendment and press freedom and journalism, a trade which has come under attack from the self-styled “extremely stable genius” in the White House as “the enemy of the people.” Talk about that and also about the Assange case.

The First Amendment is a major contribution of American democracy. The First Amendment actually doesn’t guarantee the right of free speech. What it says is that the state cannot take preemptive action to prevent speech. It doesn’t say it can’t punish it. So under the First Amendment, literally, you can be punished for things you say. It doesn’t block that. It was nevertheless a step forward in the environment of the time that the U.S. in many ways did break through. With all of its flaws, the American Revolution was progressive in many respects by the standards of the time, even the phrase “We the people.” Putting aside the flaws in implementation, the very idea was a breakthrough. The First Amendment was a step forward.

However, it wasn’t really until the 20th century that First Amendment issues really came on the agenda, at first with the dissenting opinions of Oliver Wendell Holmes, and Louis Brandeis in cases around the First World War, a little bit later. It’s worth looking at how narrow these dissents were. The first major one, in the Schenck case in 1917, was a case of somebody who published a pamphlet describing the war as an imperialist war and saying you don’t have to serve in it. Support for free speech under the First Amendment was very narrow, as Holmes’s dissent and then support for punishment showed. The case was a complete scandal, but even Holmes went along.

In fact, the real steps toward establishing a strong protection of freedom of speech were actually in the 1960s. A major case was Times v. Sullivan. The State of Alabama had claimed what’s called sovereign immunity, that you can’t attack the state with words. That’s a principle that holds in most countries — Britain, Canada, others. There was an ad published by the civil rights movement, which denounced the police in Montgomery, Alabama, for racist activities, and they had sued to block it. It went to the Supreme Court. The ad was in [The New York Times]. That’s why it’s called Times v. Sullivan. The Supreme Court for the first time, basically, struck down the doctrine of sovereign immunity. It said you can attack the state with words. Of course, it had been done, but now it became legal.

There was a stronger decision a couple years later, Brandenburg v. Ohio, in 1969, where the Court ruled that speech should be free up to participation in an imminent criminal action. So, for example, if you and I go into a store with the intent to rob it, and you have a gun and I say, “Shoot,” that’s not privileged. But that’s basically the doctrine. That’s a very strong protection of freedom of speech. There’s nothing like it anywhere, as far as I know.

In practice, the U.S. has not a stellar record, but one of the better (maybe even the best record) in protection of freedom of speech and freedom of the press. That is indeed under attack when the press is denounced as the “enemy of the people” and you organize your rabid support base to attack the press. That’s a serious threat.

And Julian Assange?

The real threat to Assange from the very beginning, the reason he took refuge in the Ecuadorian embassy, was the threat of extradition to the U.S., now implemented. He has already been charged with violations of the Espionage Act; theoretically he can even get a death sentence from it. Assange’s crime has been to expose secret documents that are very embarrassing for state power. One of the main ones was the exposure of the video of American helicopter pilots about how much fun they were having killing people.

In Baghdad.

Yes. But then there were a lot of others, some of them quite interesting. The press has reported them. So, he’s performing the journalistic responsibility of informing the public about things that state power would rather keep secret.

It seems to be the essence of what a good journalist should be doing.

And what good journalists do. Like when [Seymour] Hersh exposed the story of the My Lai massacre, and when Woodward and Bernstein exposed Nixon’s crimes, that was considered very praiseworthy. The Timespublished excerpts from the Pentagon Papers. So, he is essentially doing that. You can question his judgment — should he have done this at this time, should he have done something else; lots of criticisms you can make — but the basic story is that WikiLeaks was producing materials that state power wanted suppressed but that the public should know.

This is a lightly edited transcript of an interview that was aired on Alternative Radio.