This documentary is about German research into the 75% drop in global insect numbers over 25 years. After demonstrating the research methods used to measure this decline, the filmmakers focus on the plight of specific insect species. Some entomologists predict total ecosystem collapse if insect populations decline any further.
The film also explores specific threats insects face: overuse of insecticides (particularly neonicotinoids), the spread of agricultural “deserts” (large cultivated areas devoid of flowers) and the herbicide Roundup.*
Scientists are most concerned about the plight of butterflies, moths and other pollinators – without them humanity can’t mass produce fruits and vegetables. Other insects play an important role in feeding fish, birds, frogs and small mammals. Their populations are also collapsing.
The segment I found most interesting features the mayor of Miami protesting the nightly spraying of his city with pesticides (theoretically to destroy mosquitoes carrying the Zika virus). Owing to the short mosquito life cycle (egg to egg in 11 days), pesticide overuse paradoxically increases mosquito numbers. Following pesticide spraying, mosquito recovery takes two days. Meanwhile it takes weeks for the insect predators that feed on them to recover.
*Although Roundup (which is meant to target weed) doesn’t kill bees, it reduces their heartbeat and brain oxygenation. This, in turn, impairs orientation and can prevent them from returning to the hive. In wild bees, this can result in brood death.
America’s Guns: Secret Pipeline to Syria
Al Jazeera (2018)
This documentary concerns a recent investigation into a gun smuggling operation in which the Pentagon contracts with Miami arms dealers to procure Soviet-style weapons from Bulgaria, Croatia and Serbia and secretly ship them to “moderate” rebels in Syria. Once they arrive in Syria, the “moderate” rebels frequently hand the weapons on to Al-Nusra (al-Qaeda) and ISIS militants who fight alongside them.
The investigation reveals that the US Department of Defense has a preference for old Soviet-style weapons because a) they are cheaper and easier to operate and b) they are harder to trace back to the US government. Thus it would appear the US government is fully aware their weapons are ending up in the hands of ISIS terrorists. The US government even has a technical term – “operational necessity” – for this type of subterfuge.
The Pentagon also uses private companies to train the Syrian rebels in the use of these weapons.
This secret arms smuggling network first came to public attention after one the private special operations contractors (involved in training Syrian rebels) sued the US government for injuries he received in a freak explosion.
Al Jazeera (2014)
Informants is an Al Jazeera documentary about the FBI use of informants to entrap vulnerable African and immigrant men and convict them on phony terrorism charges.
Their investigation focuses on three specific informants in Miami, Los Angeles and Toledo. In one Miami sting operation, an informant paid poor African American men and Muslim immigrants to take photos of federal buildings and got them to recite a pledge swearing allegiance to Osama bin Laden. This, in turn, would be the principal evidence against them at trial. There was no evidence whatsoever that any of them planned or engaged in acts of violence – nor had contact with any terrorist groups other than the FBI.
One African American convicted in this operation received a seven year sentence and spent two years in solitary confinement.
In Toledo, the FBI paid a mentally unstable victim’s rent as well as funding a trip to Jordan to visit his relatives. The informant also paid him to procure some secondhand laptops to smuggle into Iraq from Jordan. The victim received a 20 year sentence for his role in smuggling laptops to Al Qaeda and making the statement “I wish I could kill some American soldiers” in an on-line chat room.