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Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}


Vladimir Putin

First came the phony referendums; then came the phony annexation; then came the very real re-taking by Ukraine of the strategic hub Lyman, lying within the “annexed” territories; then came a prominent Russian leader threatening the use of tactical nuclear weapons; then came another Ukrainian victory in an area held by Russian military forces near Kherson in the South; and then came a new Ukrainian push, taking the village of Torske on the main road leading east out of Lyman.

It's been a busy few days in Ukraine, and reports from the front indicate it’s going to get even busier. The Ukrainian offensive in Kherson has taken more land in the area “annexed” by Russia last week, ignoring Vladimir Putin’s threat that he won’t stand for what he calls “New Russia” being attacked by Ukraine.

Putin’s threats are pure bullshit and contrast with the facts on the ground in Ukraine, where his army is in retreat, and his own political standing in Russia, where his back is against the wall from both left and right.

Ramzan Kadyrov, the leader of Russia's southern Chechnya region and a close ally of Putin’s, hasn’t been happy with the performance of the Russian army in Ukraine for quite a while. Just before Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky addressed his country by video announcing the gains in the east and south, Kadyrov went on Telegram to proclaim, "In my personal opinion, more drastic measures should be taken, right up to the declaration of martial law in the border areas and the use of low-yield nuclear weapons.”

Putin is facing increased opposition from arch-conservative supporters of his war as well as continued, if quieter, opposition from the left. Right-wing so-called “war bloggers,” some of whom are embedded with Russian units in Ukraine, have complained steadily of late about their troops on the front lines, shortage of ammunition, food, medical supplies, and their lack of discipline and morale. Their complaints were shown to be accurate in Ukraine’s rout of Lyman. Russian forces abandoned tanks, armored personnel carriers, mobile howitzers, and ammunition stores as they fled from the Ukrainian advance to the east of Kharkiv.

Reuters reported that Kadyrov called the commander of Russian forces in Lyman a “mediocrity who should be stripped of his medals and sent to the front.” He claimed to have warned the Russian army chief Valery Gerasimov of “a looming disaster” in Lyman, according to Reuters. Russia had used Lyman, a major rail hub in the region, as the central location of its resupply efforts in the Luhansk province of the north Donbas region.

Map by George Barros, Kateryna Stepanenko, Noel Mikkelsen, Daniel Mealie, and Will Kielm2022 by Institute for the Study of War and AEI's Critical Threats Project

Re-taking Lyman is an important psychological boost for Ukraine and a strategic victory in its campaign to re-take the Luhansk and Donetsk provinces of the Donbas, which Russia has held since early in the war.

In the south, Ukrainian media have shown troops raising Ukrainian flags over the village of Khreshchenivka, west and a little north of Kherson itself, according to the Associated Press. Ukraine’s army has been using American-supplied HIMARS rocket systems to hit a bridge over the Dnipro River in Kherson and has been attacking pontoon bridges used by Russian forces to resupply their troops on the west bank of the Dnipro, the AP reported.

Russia used a suicide drone to strike Zelensky’s hometown of Krivyi Rih, destroying two floors of a school on Sunday. The Ukrainian Air Force said that it had shot down five Iranian-made drones. Two others made it through Ukrainian air defenses, according to the AP, which reported that not all accounts of Ukrainian military activity could be verified.

The Ukrainian victory in Lyman came just one day after Putin held a rally in Moscow to celebrate his fake annexation of four regions of eastern Ukraine. In an unhinged speech on Friday, Putin had described Lyman as part of “Novorossiya.” He was talking about a sliver of Ukraine he claimed as part of Russia’s “historic heartland.” Russia is the world’s largest country, spanning 11 time zones, not including Ukraine, although Putin has asserted control of eastern Ukraine’s time of day as well, including it within the westernmost time zone of Russia.

The New York Times reported that “Yevgeny Primakov, the head of a government agency managing ties with Russians abroad, wrote on Telegram that ‘we have given a Russian city to the enemy’ for the first time since World War II.”

Boo-fucking-hoo, Yevgeny.

Lucian K. Truscott IV, a graduate of West Point, has had a 50-year career as a journalist, novelist, and screenwriter. He has covered Watergate, the Stonewall riots, and wars in Lebanon, Iraq, and Afghanistan. He is also the author of five bestselling novels. You can subscribe to his daily columns at and follow him on Twitter @LucianKTruscott and on Facebook at Lucian K. Truscott IV.

Reprinted with permission from Lucian Truscott Newsletter

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If we were to lose the bees, as now seems increasingly likely, humanity would collapse after four years. They pollinate about a third of our food. But if the insects were to disappear altogether, then even more than our food supply and quality of life would be affected. Entire ecosystems and inevitably civilization itself would collapse. Even now an enormous proportion of world insect species are endangered. Without them half of all birds would disappear and our world would become unrecognizable, a world we would not want to inhabit.

We have visited the Monarch butterfly sanctuary in Michoacan, Mexico, where the butterflies arrive after a 3000-mile journey from Canada through the United States in the longest insect migration on earth. To see the butterflies engaged in their aerial acrobatic flights is one of the world’s great spectacles. Everyone in North America should be concerned that the population of this unique iconic species has dropped by 80 percent in the last generation due to habitat destruction – and to genetically engineered crops which have been modified to resist Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide which destroys the Monarch species’ main food supply.

Spellbound by the numbers and huddled masses of the Monarchs we beheld in the oyamel forests over 16 years ago, we left the refuge very slowly. Local rangers made sure no-one drove more than five miles an hour so that not a single monarch would be hurt or hit by our vehicle. Yet all the while, in the United States our agricultural policies are committing mass murder of one of nature’s most exquisite species .

But it is not just the Monarch Butterfly that is threatened. Many bee species and nearly half of all insects have seen their numbers drop worldwide. As climate change exacerbates the destruction of their habitat, insects and fauna of all kinds face a very uncertain future. The United States still permits the use of 72 pesticides that are outright banned or will soon be in Europe, Brazil, and even China. More than 300 million pounds of pesticides banned in other countries are used in this country annually, in a military-type assault on agricultural lands. The banning of these pesticides will be largely up to the very industries that use them, but the people need to make their voices known. Until these chemicals are outlawed, we are committing ecocide on our own lands.

These chemical can also kill human beings, of course. The glyphosate-based weedkiller in Roundup has finally been brought to justice in the first cancer trial exposing that pesticide’s effect. After using the Monsanto insecticide, a farmer named DeWayne Johnson got non-Hodgkins lymphoma, a deadly form of cancer. Now Monsanto will have to pay $289 million in damages to Johnson. The only hitch is that he will probably not survive much longer.

Monsanto has allegedly concealed the facts about Roundup ever since its introduction on the market in 1974. Since then over 1.6 billion kilograms of glyphosate have been distributed over the American food supply – and over the past 20 years, the average amount of glyphosate assimilated into humans has increased by 1000 percent. The Johnson lawsuit only begins to reflect the damage done to the environment and people, with 8000 additional plaintiffs awaiting trial.

Anyone who believes they can escape the ill effects of pesticides should realize that breakfast cereals also contain glyphosate – and the average American consumes 10 pounds of cereal every year. The Lucky Charms leprechaun and that jolly Quaker fellow on the oatmeal box should be replaced with a death’s head. Too little and too late, the Environmental Protection Agency is reconsidering the impact of glyphosate and Roundup on human health and the environment, including the Monarch butterfly habitats. But the World Health Organization has determined already that glyphosphate is a deadly carcinogen.

Farmers have been using glyphosphate on crops at the time of harvest, incuding peas, carrots, soy products, sweet potatoes, corn, almonds, quinoa, and others. The impact on the body’s biochemistry, especially as it pertains to inflammation and the gut is substantial. We are all being affected.

Critically endangered species are being harmed by pesticides and herbicides daily, as is our vulnerable topsoil. Retailers such as Home Depot need to be persuaded to stop supplying Roundup before our food system crashes. In this time of extreme climate change, the last thing we need is to lose the insects, those very beings we have taken granted for millennia.

In Europe, regulators have taken a far tougher position on pesticides. France has been careful to ban five neonicotinoid chemicals from agricultural use because they are known to wreak havoc on pollinating bees. Europe’s top court ruled that the chemicals posed a “serious risk to human or animal health or to the environment.”

The United Nations has issued an alert that half of pollinators, bees and butterflies included, are at immediate risk of disappearing forever. Worsening floods, drought, and serious climate disruption are occurring already. If we don’t reverse course, we will have poisoned the very foundation of this country, its soil. Without the soil there can be no civilization. In the corn belt, America has already lost half of its topsoil. By 2050, as much as 75 percent of the world will be suffering from drought.

Global famine is just around the corner if we don’t save the insects by adopting sustainable farming methods. The industrial use of pesticides is eliminating the insects we depend on and will eventually undermine the viability of our species. The insects, those tiny creatures that uphold the world, have warned us.