Jan 13

Today’s News 13th January 2018

  • U.S. Policies Continue To Fail In 2018

    Authored by Jeremiah Johnson (nom de plume of a retired Green Beret of the United States Army Special Forces) via SHTFplan.com,

    As of this writing, the Russian military has had three of their bases attacked by drones. They destroyed six of them and captured another seven. The significance: the drones are of a quality that could not have been made by the ISIS “rebels,” and had to come from a technologically-advanced nation. The drones were multidirectional and able to be controlled by satellite through GPS coordinates.

    [Schwarzenegger, in “Predator”]: “Heat seeker, Dillon. Pretty sophisticated for a bunch of half-assed mountain boys.”

    Exactly. The U.S. (via Tillerson) released a statement that the U.S. was not involved in the drone strike and was unaware of who supplied the drones.

    Not only does that not hold any water, but as it turns out, a U.S. intelligence aircraft was monitored in the theatre while these drone attacks were taking place.

    Syria is still being hotly contested between Assad and the “rebels” who are none other than Al Qaeda that “morphed” several times to become the ISIS we all know and uphold in the manner of Emmanuel Goldstein, the bogeyman of Orwell’s “1984.”

     

    https://i0.wp.com/www.zerohedge.com/sites/default/files/inline-images/20180112_war.png?w=750&ssl=1

    On the front with Eastern Ukraine, the Russian-backed separatists are about to receive a present… bequeathed by Obama, and allowed to be delivered by President Trump, certified by the Senate and all on the taxpayer’s dime. This being antitank weapons in the form of Javelins and other antitank missiles to the tune of about $47 million. Now the President is thinking of tripling that amount. So much for “détente,” and the reset that was supposed to happen with Russia.

    Domestically, as disturbing as our foreign policy (and in some ways more so) is the project to create a domestic “spy” service to complement the alphabet agencies. One of the individuals considered to head it is none other than Eric Prince, the former Navy SEAL and CEO of the same Blackwater that the U.S. government gave “carte blanche” in Iraq with limited ROE (Rules of Engagement) and almost no accountability.

    Internally, the same draconian measures that were emplaced by Obama to circumvent the Constitution are still in place. The police forces are growing throughout the U.S., and via the Fusion Centers and CCTV networks steadily germinating across the nation the local, state, and federal police forces are coming beneath one umbrella. The sled is still traveling downhill. A slower rate than before; nevertheless, it’s still moving in the direction it did prior to the election.

    The belligerent and imperialistic foreign policy of before is still in place, with relations souring instead of improving. In the meantime, we are watching a form of “creeping Statism” that is domestically moving almost too slowly to be noticed, but making headway. We have an Attorney General who selectively enforces the law, and has a “hands-off” policy for prominents such as Mueller, Comey, and Hillary Clinton.

    The North Korean threat has not dissipated: it persists. They will soon launch Kwangmyongsang-5, a satellite that will be able to map positions with advanced technology to be utilized for a nuclear strike.

    From this and other problems we are constantly distracted by the MSM (Mainstream Media) with Harvey Weinstein’s escapades and the “witch hunt” in progress against every male in the U.S. We are distracted by NFL players taking a knee, by Oprah Winfrey considering being a candidate for president in 2020 (would her campaign be managed by Harpo productions?), and other items that are nonsensical and nonproductive.

    Other nations are making their move, such as China with a gold-backed Yuan attempting to supplant the Petrodollar. If our country doesn’t take some drastic steps with foreign policy and domestic agendas, it may realize a few lighter moments, but that is not enough.

    This period is the calm before the storm. Those midterm elections will be along in no time, and the next presidential election is right around the corner. Hope that we last long enough as a nation to make it that far.

  • New Survey Reveals Staggering Number Of People Are Buying BitCoin On Their Credit Cards

    A few weeks ago we presented anecdotal evidence from Joseph Borg, director of the Alabama Securities Commission, suggesting that people are taking out home equity loans and cash advances on credit cards just to purchase BitCoin in the hopes of getting rich quick (see: “It’s In The Mania Phase”: Securities Regulator Warns That “Mortgages Are Being Taken Out To Buy Bitcoin”)

    “We’ve seen mortgages being taken out to buy bitcoin. … People do credit cards, equity lines,” said Borg, president of the North American Securities Administrators Association, a voluntary organization devoted to investor protection. Borg is also director of the Alabama Securities Commission.

    “This is not something a guy who’s making $100,000 a year, who’s got a mortgage and two kids in college ought to be invested in.”

    “You’re on this mania curve. At some point in time there’s got to be a leveling off. Cryptocurrency is here to stay. Blockchain is here to stay. Whether it is bitcoin or not, I don’t know,” Borg said in an interview with “Power Lunch.”

    Now it seems that the speculation by Borg has been confirmed by a new survey conducted by LendEDU which found that, among other things, nearly 20% of people who have purchased BitCoin have done so using their credit cards.

    First, more than half (51.78%) of respondents stated that they either used a credit or debit card to ​fund their account to purchase Bitcoin. Specifically, 33.63 percent of investors were using debit cards, while 18.15 percent were using credit cards.

    Why is this concerning? The virtual currency exchanges where Bitcoin is bought and sold will charge conversion fees when either a credit or debit card is used to find an investor’s account. Coinbase, the largest of the cryptocurrency exchanges, charges a conversion fee of 3.99 percent when a user uses his or her credit or debit card to bankroll their account.

    Obviously, this is not the most financially-savvy move on the part of of a sizable percentage of Bitcoin investors; no one ever wants to pay extra than what is necessary, especially when dealing with something as volatile as Bitcoin. The wisest and most frugal way to fund a virtual currency exchange account would be through an ACH transfer, which is completely free of charge. Only 18.60 percent of our 672 Bitcoin-invested respondents were paying for the cryptocurrency in this fashion.

    BitCoin

    Meanwhile, nearly a quarter of the folks who bought BitCoin using their attractive 25% loans admitted that they’re now stuck rolling their new debt month-to-month…

    However, this was not even the most pressing concern coming from the LendEDU poll. That recognition belongs to this data-point: 22.13 percent of Bitcoin investors did not pay off their credit card balance after purchasing Bitcoin.

    Going into debt to buy Bitcoin is not a wise decision no matter which way it is spun. There is no guarantee that Bitcoin investment returns will be profitable in the long run, but one can guarantee that the credit card company will need to be paid back. Considering the average annual percentage rate (APR) on a credit card is 15.07 percent, a Bitcoin investor that finances their investment at the wrong time will find themselves in serious debt.

    Bitcoin

    And while that fact should be deeply troubling to anyone with even a modest understanding of basic financial concepts, apparently the average American BitCoin buyer is more than eager to continue buying up the digital currency using 25% loans.

    Bitcoin

    Of course, there is no risk in these transactions because BitCoin will just always go up in perpetuity, right?  After all, making massively-levered, speculative bets on bubbly assets pretty much always works out well…just ask home flippers from 2007.

     

  • The Real News We Ignore At Our Peril

    Authored by Andrew Bacevich via The Gatestone Institute,

    This is the threat to our democracy, not Fake News. And Exhibit A is our failed war in Afghanistan…

     

    https://i0.wp.com/www.zerohedge.com/sites/default/files/inline-images/20180111_afgh.jpg?w=750&ssl=1

    As defense secretary, Donald Rumsfeld used to entertain (and befuddle) reporters with his song-and-dance about Known Knowns, Known Unknowns, and Unknown Unknowns. This last category – “things we don’t know we don’t know,” as the inimitable Rummy put it – was the one that could really get you in trouble.

    Allow me to posit a similar taxonomy for news.

    There’s Real News, based on fact and responsibly reported. Then there’s Fake News, made up of stuff propagated by disreputable outlets ranging from the National Enquirer and Breitbart to cable news networks and a bazillion websites. And finally there’s Real News That Gets Ignored. Once again, it’s that last category that will eventually land us in trouble.

    A distinctive characteristic of the Trump era finds Fake News displacing Real News as the basis of what passes for our national conversation. This stems in part from the fact that Donald Trump himself obsessively denounces as fake any reporting he doesn’t like, with those in the news business repeating and thereby amplifying the president’s complaints no matter how bizarre or preposterous. But it’s also because Trump and his administration on a daily basis generate their own counter-narrative of news that they insist is genuine even though it’s manifestly bogus. The media landscape is thus awash in reports that one side or the other loudly condemns as fraudulent.

    With all this emphasis on Fake News, the third category of our taxonomy has mushroomed. That is, the quantity of Real News that is underreported, shrugged off, or treated as an afterthought is increasing by leaps and bounds.

    I was reminded of this the other day when the Office of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) released its latest update on how U.S. nation-building efforts in that country are faring.

    This particular report focuses on a Defense Department-created entity called the Task Force for Business and Stability Operations (TFBSO), charged with overseeing U.S. taxpayer-funded economic development projects in Afghanistan. From 2010 to 2014, Congress appropriated approximately $823 million to fund TFBSO operations in Afghanistan. SIGAR now provides what is, in effect, a report card.

    Among its key findings regarding TFBSO’s performance are these:

    • More than 50 percent of funds obligated for TFBSO—$359.5 million of $675 million—were spent on indirect and support costs—that is, on overhead—rather than on actual projects in Afghanistan.
    • Only $70 million of the $316.3 million obligated on contracts directly supporting TFBSO programs (22 percent) fully achieved their objectives. The remaining $246.3 million (78 percent) fell partially short or failed altogether.
    • Nearly half of the TFBSO contracts that SIGAR reviewed, worth $201 million, were let on a limited competition or sole-source basis, thereby increasing the risk of waste. Seven contracts worth $35.1 million went to firms employing former TFBSO staff as senior executives.
    • Further hampering the prospects of success was the fact that TFBSO projects routinely overlooked local conditions such as politics, culture, weather, and security, i.e., all the things that distinguish Afghanistan from Wisconsin or Vermont.
    • Ill-defined contract requirements prevented TFBSO from holding contractors accountable for poor performance, resulting in further waste.
    • Overall, the Pentagon is today unable to say whether TFBSO projects actually created jobs, facilitated foreign direct investments, increased exports, or hiked Afghan government revenues. In other words, no basis exists for determining whether TFBSO actually contributed anything useful.

    Now, SIGAR has been releasing reports about waste, fraud, and abuse in the Afghanistan War for years. TFBSO’s abysmal performance, now irrefutable, is just the tip of the iceberg.

    Notably, all SIGAR reports, including this latest one, are readily available online. There is no need for reporters to cajole some unnamed source into spilling the beans or for editors to worry about courting trouble by publishing leaked classified material. It’s all there for the New York Times, Washington Post, PBS, NPR, etc., etc., to bring to the attention of the public. Yet these prestigious outlets never seem able to spare much attention for TFBSO’s troubles.

    We should not be surprised. As it stumbles from one year to the next, the wayward U.S. project in Afghanistan receives sporadic media coverage at best. Even when some tidbit of awfulness attracts an occasional nod—when we learn, for example, that Afghan opium production has today reached yet another all-time high—the story ends up being a one-day affair, with no serious follow-up. Afghanistan, the longest war in American history, is a prime example of Real News That Gets Ignored.

    There are many other examples. Staying in the arena of national security policy, other neglected stories include foreign arms sales (here the U.S. is truly the world’s number one), the global disposition of U.S. forces (now present in two-thirds of the world’s countries), cost overruns of major weapons programs, and the ongoing trillion-dollar modernization of the U.S. nuclear arsenal.

    Let me emphasize: It’s not that you can’t find the odd reference to such matters, whether in your local newspaper or on TV. But compare the coverage such stories receive to the extravagant attention conferred on women graduating from the U.S. Army’s Ranger School or the service eligibility of transgendered persons. No doubt those are worthy topics. Yet at the end of the day they are unlikely to have anything more than marginal relevance to the safety and security of the United States.

    The Real News That Gets Ignored poses a greater threat to the nation’s well-being than any of the Fake News in which we are presently drowning. And the fault is not Trump’s alone.

  • Staggering Animated Map Of Every Nuclear Bomb Detonation In History

    In the early 1940’s some of the greatest scientific minds of all time gathered in Los Alamos, NM for an “R&D” project, infamously dubbed the ‘Manhattan Project’, that ultimately changed the course of human history forever. 

    Just a few years later, on July 16th, 1945, that team of scientists detonated the world’s first nuclear weapon, code-named “Trinity”, in the desert just north of Alamogordo, NM.  Less than one month later, the only two nuclear weapons to ever be used in combat were detonated over Hiroshima and Nagasaki resulting in over 100,000 immediate civilian and military deaths.

    And while no nuclear weapons have been used in a combat situation since August 9, 1945, as revealed by the following animation, a staggering number of tests have been conducted all over the world and most of them in the deserts of the Southwestern United States.

    https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

    * * *

    And while nuclear tests are somewhat more rare now than they were during the height of the Cold War, there remains a devastating number of nuclear warheads deployed and ready for launch today…a fact we recently detailed in the post below entitled “15,000 Nuclear Weapons In The World – Mapping Who Has What”:

    So, how many nuclear weapons are there, and what exactly is happening right now? Let’s launch into it.

    WHO HAS ACCESS TO NUCLEAR WEAPONS?

    Courtesy of: Visual Capitalist

    As VisualCapitalist’s map above demonstrates, the United States and Russia still maintain the world’s largest stockpiles of nuclear weapons, holding 92% of the world’s estimated 15,000 nuclear warheads.

    While today’s arsenals seem quite excessive, they are actually quite modest compared to historical totals such as those during the Cold War. In 1986, for example, there were actually 70,300 nuclear weapons globally – but luckily for us, the number of warheads has eased down over time as countries disarm more weapons.

    Will this number of warheads continue to slide down as a result of increased international cooperation? The Brookings Institution has grouped the nine countries with nuclear arsenals into categories that identify prospective entrants to the global arms control regime:

    Any advancement of multilateral arms control, such as a treaty limiting limiting nuclear weapons, would likely take place between these countries.

    MAPPING NUCLEAR SITES WITHIN THE UNITED STATES

    Thanks to various arms reduction agreements, thousands of nuclear warheads have been retired. That said, warheads are still stored in a number of sites around the continental United States. The map below also highlights laboratories and interstate shipping routes. (Yes, nuclear weapons are apparently shipped in big rigs.)

    THE WILD CARD: NORTH KOREA

    The Hermit Kingdom is a relatively minor player in the nuclear weapon ecosystem, but they have been capturing the world’s attention. Under Kim Jong Un, North Korea has dramatically ramped up the frequency of missile tests, with 17 confirmed launches so far in 2017.

    Here’s a look at the country’s arsenal of nuclear weapons, along with ranges of specific weapons.

    More than a decade has passed since North Korea detonated its first nuclear weapon, and the country is now believed to be capable of intercontinental ballistic missile delivery. This, combined with aggressive rhetoric from North Korean leader, Kim Jong Un, has forced the Trump administration to take their threats more seriously.

    That said, experts suggest that recent provocations aren’t much different from previous periods of tension between the two countries, and that the risk of an actual conflict is overblown.

    North Korea’s comments are clearly deterrent in nature, and the Guam ‘threat’ was exactly along those lines.

     

    – David Kang, director, Korean Studies Institute, USC

    Either way, while the prospect of an all-out war is unlikely – the war of words between North Korea and the United States is likely destined to continue.

  • Records Show Psych Prof Who 'Diagnosed' Trump "Unfit" Lacks License

    Authored by Anthony Gockowski via Campus Reform,

    Yale University psychology professor Bandy Lee has deleted her Twitter account amid mounting allegations that she is not licensed in her home state of Connecticut.

     

    https://i2.wp.com/www.zerohedge.com/sites/default/files/inline-images/20180112_BANDY.png?w=750&ssl=1

    Accusations have been circulating on Twitter that the prominent Yale professor, known for her public diagnosis of President Donald Trump as having a “mental impairment” and who recently met with lawmakers on Capitol Hill to discuss the issue, isn’t actually a licensed psychiatrist.

    In fact, Campus Reform discovered that according to the State of Connecticut, Lee’s “physician/surgeon” license expired in 2015, and her application for reinstatement has been “pending” ever since.

     

    https://i2.wp.com/www.zerohedge.com/sites/default/files/inline-images/20180112_lee.jpg?w=750&ssl=1

    Additionally, her “controlled substance registration for practitioner” license has apparently “lapsed,” expiring in February 2017.

     

    https://i1.wp.com/www.zerohedge.com/sites/default/files/inline-images/20180112_lee1.jpg?w=750&ssl=1

    In response to Campus Reform’s inquiry on the matter, Lee simply stated that “I need only one license,” though she has yet to elaborate on precisely which license that is, and, according to the state in which she resides, she allegedly has none.

    Without mentioning Lee specifically, the American Psychiatric Association (APA) put out a recent statement in which it condemned the diagnoses of public officials whom psychiatrists have not personally examined, invoking what is commonly referred to as the Goldwater Rule.

    “We at the APA call for an end to psychiatrists providing professional opinions in the media about public figures whom they have not examined, whether it be on cable news appearances, books, or in social media,” the statement read, according to The Washington Examiner.

    “Arm-chair psychiatry or the use of psychiatry as a political tool is the misuse of psychiatry and is unacceptable and unethical,” the APA concluded.

    Lee and a colleague, however, responded to criticisms in a Wednesday POLITICO piece, in which they claim that “it’s perfectly OK to question the president’s mental state,” since they are “psychiatrists.”

  • Anti-Radiation Drug Sales Skyrocket After Trump Compares "Nuclear Button” Size

    According to NBC Health’s Troy Jones, who operates the website Nukepills, the demand for potassium iodide  jumped last week after President Trump tweeted that he had a “much bigger & more powerful” nuclear button than North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un.

    https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

    “On Jan. 2, I basically got in a month’s supply of potassium iodide and I sold out in 48 hours,” said Jones, 53, who is a domestic and international distributor of emergency radiation products.

    In the 48-hour period from Trump’s “nuclear button” tweet, Jones shipped about 140,000 doses of potassium iodide, which blocks the thyroid from absorbing radiation and ultimately help thwart cancer in a nuclear event. Jones further said a typical week of shipments without President Trump stoking atomic war runs about 8,400 doses to private individuals. In other words, Trump increased Jones’ sales by over 16x last week. Jones notes the sales figures do not include government agencies, hospitals, and universities.

    To confirm this trend, Alan Morris, president of the Virginia-based pharmaceutical firm Anbex Inc, which specializes in radiation protection, said he’d seen an increase in demand, too.

    We are a wonderful barometer of the level of anxiety in the country,” said Morris.

    Morris appears to be right: the search term “nuclear war” and “trump nuclear war” have surged since Trump entered office.

    asd

     

    asd

    Jones warns that the escalating war of words between the U.S. and North Korea has contributed to widespread fear across the country. Although Jones says some of his buyers are “preppers,” many new buyers today are regular families seeking protection from nuclear war.

    Such concerns were on displayed last week, when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced that it would conduct an unprecedented briefing on January 16 concerning the “public health response to a nuclear detonation” over the skies of the United States.

    While a nuclear detonation is unlikely, it would have devastating results and there would be limited time to take critical protection steps. Despite the fear surrounding such an event, planning and preparation can lessen deaths and illness. For instance, most people don’t realize that sheltering in place for at least 24 hours is crucial to saving lives and reducing exposure to radiation. While federal, state, and local agencies will lead the immediate response efforts, public health will play a key role in responding. Join us for this session of Grand Rounds to learn what public health programs have done on a federal, state, and local level to prepare for a nuclear detonation. Learn how planning and preparation efforts for a nuclear detonation are similar and different from other emergency response planning efforts.

    Back in 2011, Jones saw a massive surge in demand for potassium iodide following the meltdown of the Fukushima nuclear reactor. With minimal known radiation threats today, sales are once more exploding on the back of mass hysteria of nuclear war from President Trump’s Twitter account.

    “I now follow his Twitter feed just to gauge the day’s sales and determine how much to stock and how many radiation emergency kits to prep for the coming week,” Jones said, adding: “I don’t think he intended to have this kind of effect.”

    Nevertheless, President Trump has managed to make the potassium iodide industry and the world of preppers great again.

  • Pat Buchanan Warns "The Whole World Is Watching How This Plays Out!"

    Authored by Patrick Buchanan via Buchanan.org,

    After a year in which he tested a hydrogen bomb and an ICBM, threatened to destroy the United States, and called President Trump “a dotard,” Kim Jong Un, at the gracious invitation of the president of South Korea, will be sending a skating team to the “Peace Olympics.”

    An impressive year for Little Rocket Man.

    https://i0.wp.com/www.zerohedge.com/sites/default/files/inline-images/20180112_watch.png?w=750&ssl=1

    Thus the most serious nuclear crisis since Nikita Khrushchev put missiles in Cuba appears to have abated. Welcome news, even if the confrontation with Pyongyang has probably only been postponed.

    Still, we have been given an opportunity to reassess the 65-year-old Cold War treaty that obligates us to go to war if the North attacks Seoul, and drove us to the brink of war today.

    2017 demonstrated that we need a reassessment. For the potential cost of carrying out our commitment is rising exponentially.

    Two decades ago, a war on the Korean Peninsula, given the massed Northern artillery on the DMZ, meant thousands of U.S. dead.

    Today, with Pyongyang’s growing arsenal of nuclear weapons, American cities could face Hiroshima-sized strikes, if war breaks out.

    What vital U.S. interest is there on the Korean Peninsula that justifies accepting in perpetuity such a risk to our homeland?

    We are told that Kim’s diplomacy is designed to split South Korea off from the Americans. And this is undeniably true.

    For South Korean President Moon Jae-in is first and foremost responsible for his own people, half of whom are in artillery range of the DMZ. In any new Korean war, his country would suffer most.

    And while he surely welcomes the U.S. commitment to fight the North on his country’s behalf as an insurance policy, Moon does not want a second Korean war, and he does not want President Trump making the decision as to whether there shall be one.

    Understandably so. He is looking out for South Korea first.

    Yet Moon rightly credits Trump with bringing the North Koreans to the table: “I give President Trump huge credit for bringing about the inter-Korean talks, and I’d like to thank him for that.”

    But again, what are the U.S. interests there that we should be willing to put at risk of nuclear attack tens of thousands of U.S. troops in Korea and our bases in Asia, and even our great cities, in a war that would otherwise be confined to the Korean Peninsula?

    China shares a border with the North, but is not treaty-bound to fight on the North’s behalf. Russia, too, has a border with North Korea, and, with China, was indispensable to saving the North in the 1950-53 war. But Russia is not committed by any treaty to fight for the North.

    Why, then, are Americans obligated to be among the first to die in a second Korean War? Why is the defense of the South, with 40 times the economy and twice the population of the North, our eternal duty?

    Kim’s drive for a nuclear deterrent is propelled by both fear and calculation.

    The fear is that the Americans who detest him will do to him and his regime and country what they did to Saddam Hussein.

    The calculation is that what Americans fear most, and the one thing that deters them, is nuclear weapons. Once Soviet Russia and Communist China acquired nukes, the Americans never attacked them.

    If he can put nuclear weapons on U.S. troops in Korea, U.S. bases in Japan, and U.S. cities, Kim reasons, the Americans will not launch a war on him. Have not recent events proven him right?

    Iran has no nuclear weapons and some Americans clamor daily for “regime change” in Tehran. But because Kim has nukes, the Americans appear more anxious to talk. His policy is succeeding.

    What he is saying with his nuclear arsenal is: As you Americans have put my regime and country at risk of annihilation, I am going to put your cities at risk. If we go down in your nuclear “fire and fury,” so, too, will millions of Americans.

    The whole world is watching how this plays out.

    For the American Imperium, our system of alliances, is held together by a credible commitment: If you attack any of our scores of allies, you are at war with the United States.

    From the Baltic to the Black Sea to the Persian Gulf, from the South China Sea to Korea and Japan today, the costs and the risks of maintaining the imperium are growing.

    With all these promissory notes out there — guarantees to go to war for other nations — one is inevitably going to be called.

    And this generation of Americans, unaware of what their grandfathers obligated them to do, will demand to know, as they did in Iraq and Afghanistan: What are we over doing there, on the other side of the world?

    America First is more than a slogan.

  • Shocking Footage Shows Crowd Of Hungry Venezuelans Slaughtering A Cow In The Open

    Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s plan to order markets to slash prices of food – an attempt to combat speculation and rampant inflation of the bolivar – has apparently backfired as mobs of hungry Venezuelans have started looting supermarkets and slaughtering cattle in the open to survive, Reuters  reports.

    Last week, we reported on near-riots that broke out in Caracas after the mandatory price cuts for food stoked widespread shortages as what little inventory that remained on market shelves quickly disappeared.

    Venezuelans are suffering from a plethora of economic and social maladies.Four years of recession and an inflation rate approaching 4,000% by some measures have made the country’s currency practically worthless. Widespread shortages of food and medicine led to violent riots during the spring and early summer of 2017 that resulted in more than 100 deaths, including the burning alive of one suspected Maduro supporter by a crowd of citizens. Law enforcement in the capital and many of the country’s smaller cities has effectively disbanded, leading to a rise in lynchings and streets justice. Indeed, suspected thieves are sometimes killed.

    Venezuela’s regime probably would’ve collapsed by now if it weren’t for the aide of Russia and China, which have lent the Maduro regime money in exchange for a discount on future oil deliveries. But now that the price of oil is finally climbing again, Maduro could find himself rescued by commodity markets. In apparent anticipation of higher oil prices, the administration announced late last year that it would finally introduce “the Petro” – a state-designed cryptocurrency that will help Venezuela’s customers pay for their goods while circumventing the petrodollar system.

    In a shocking example of just how severe Venezuela’s food shortages have become, a video on social media showed roughly a dozen men running into a lush pasture, chasing a cow, and then apparently beating it to death for the meat.

     

    https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

     

    “They’re hunting. The people are hungry!” says the narrator of the video, who filmed the incident from his car. Lawmaker Paparoni said some 300 animals were believed to have been killed, though this hasn’t been independently confirmed.

     

    Venezuela

    Violent lootings and hijackings – long a staple of life for Venezuela’s remaining merchants – are also growing increasingly common.

    Zuley Urdaneta, a 50 year-old vet in Merida, witnessed the looting of a truck along the highway around 2 pm Thursday afternoon, she told Reuters. About two hours later, he said some 800 people converged on a food collection center and proceeded to plunder it.

    “They knocked down the gates and looted flour, rice, cooking oil, cooking gas,” said Urdaneta. “The police and the National Guard tried to control the situation by giving out what was left.”

    Despite the grinding poverty and widespread social unrest that has challenged the last vestiges of Chavismo, Maduro has effectively sidelined his opposition while brutally suppressing popular uprisings.

    “What we’re living is barbaric,” said opposition lawmaker Juan Guaido in a tweet referencing the slaughter the cattle. “The dehumanizing regime of Nicolas Maduro is turning a blind eye to the tragedy that we Venezuelans are living.”

    In a rare interview with western media published earlier this week, Maduro repeated his claim that the country’s economic collapse is the result of a conspiracy between his domestic political opponents and foreign powers like the CIA trying to foment an uprising and overturn what they perceive to be a hostile leftist regime.

    The irony here, of course, is that the US and Venezuela had for years maintained a relatively peaceful and lucrative commercial relationship, evidenced by the success of Venezuela’s US subsidiary, Citgo. Even when former leader Hugo Chavez spewed anti-US rhetoric, he was behind the scenes cooperating with his purported imperialist foe.

    Still, with supermarket shelves perennially empty and Treasury Department sanctions choking the regime off from the dollar-based global financial system, one can’t help but wonder how much longer Maduro can hang on before an outright rebellion erupts.

     

  • "We Know Who They Are": Putin Claims "State Provocateur" Behind "Terrorist Drones" In Syria

    Russian President Vladimir Putin slammed those behind the massive drone attack on Russia’s two Syrian bases which took place on January 6, saying in front of a large Russian media conference Thursday, “There were some provocateurs, but they were not Turks. We know who they are, who paid who for this provocation and what the actual sum was.” Meanwhile the Turkish newspaper Daily Sabah reports that Putin has privately informed Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of which “provocateur” was behind a drone attack.

    Earlier this week we reported that the Russian military in Syria thwarted the highly coordinated attack on Khmeimim air base and the Russian Naval facility in the city of Tartus, intercepting 13 heavily armed UAVs launched by terrorists. And underreported in international media was also a prior New Year’s Eve attack carried out by a small squad of insurgents armed with mortars who were able to kill two Russian servicemen while damaging up to seven aircraft at Khmeimim Airbase, which constituted the single largest loss of Russian military hardware throughout the Syria campaign.

    asd

    Though both attacks would appear to be merely the work of Islamist rebel factions occupying nearby Idlib, multiple extraordinary factors led the Russian Ministry of Defense to immediately state that the perpetrators must have had outside state sponsorship. First there was – as the Russian Ministry of Defense mentioned in an early media statement – “strange coincidences” surrounding the terrorist attack: these included a US spy plane spotted in the area, namely a US Navy’s Boeing P-8 Poseidon reconnaissance aircraft on patrol between the Khmeimim airbase and Tartus naval base in Syria during the time of the attack. 

    Secondly, the airbase lies deep within Syrian regime territory in what is among the most secure areas in all of Syria, which also underscores the need for advanced satellite and navigational coordination from a state actors. The Russian military claims the drones came from the village of Muwazarra in Idlib, around 50 miles away, which makes Ahrar Al Sham or Hay’at Tahrir Al Sham the immediate culprit. Both groups, though blacklisted as terror organizations by the Pentagon, have received direct and indirect assistance by the CIA and allied intelligence services at various points over the course of the war, especially during the 2015 campaign to wrest Idlib city from the control of the Syrian government.

    asd

    Origination points of recent wave of drone attacks on Russian and Syrian forces locations. Map via Syria Live Update

    Third, the Russian military in its examination of the recovered drones found high tech components well beyond what initially appeared to be rebel-made improvised devices manufactured locally. Putin went so far as to say the drones and explosives were purposefully made to appear primitive and homemade in order to conceal the advanced technology they were outfitted with. On Thursday he said, “As for these attacks, they were undoubtedly prepared well. We know when and where these unmanned vehicles were handed over [to the attackers], and how many of them there were. These aerial vehicles were disguised – I would like to stress that – as homemade. But it is obvious that some high-tech equipment was used.”

    Russia has yet to reveal the identity of those responsible, but has strongly hinted at the United States or a regional US ally, which elicited a Pentagon response this week with a spokesperson saying the suggestion is “without any basis in fact and is utterly irresponsible.”

    The UK Daily Mail featured detailed Russian defense photographs of the recovered drones, which were noted to be “immune to jamming technology” and summarized the advanced capabilities as follows:

    • “Jam-resistant terrorist drones” could not have been made without foreign help, Russia says 
    • They carried sophisticated software and precision-guided weaponry
    • The explosives they carried were ‘stuffed with ball bearings’

    asd

    Recovered drones used in the attack featured in a photograph published by RT.

    asd

    Image source: TASS

    Though as the Daily Beast notes anti-government insurgents in Syria have long had access to black market drones sold through social media, Russia has consistently pointed to the high tech navigational and weapons components added. An earlier Russian Defense Ministry statement said the attack needed a “high-level engineer” and that “not every country is able to get sharp coordinates using space intelligence data” while also citing the presence of “foreign detonating fuses”. The statement further indicated that, “Russian specialists are determining supply channels, through which terrorists had received the technologies and devices, as well as examining type and origin of explosive compounds used in the IEDs.”

    And given Putin’s words on Thursday, it sounds like Russia believes it has proof of the outside sponsor of the operation – though it’s unclear why it is not forthcoming with the evidence as it has been in some past incidents. It could be that Russian defense doesn’t actually have the level of proof needed to convince an international audience, or the more likely scenario perhaps involves the delicacy of Russia’s current attempts to negotiate a settlement to the war and continued military withdrawal of its forces.

    Regarding these negotiations, Putin said on Thursday of the recent attacks on its Syrian bases, “Those were provocations aimed at disrupting the earlier agreements, in the first place. Secondly, it was about our relations with our partners – Turkey and Iran. It was also an attempt to destroy those relations.” Last November a trilateral Syria deal was reached between Russia, Turkey, and Iran in Sochi, Russia over the future of Syria which emphasized winding down the war while keeping the country intact and creating a humanitarian and diplomatic solution, and also included planned Moscow-sponsored talks between the Syrian government and recognized opposition.

    The US and other Western powers were notably excluded from the talks, which many analysts now see as signifying that Putin is in the driver’s seat when it comes to setting the final terms for winding down the war. Russia suspects that the latest attacks on Khmeimim are provocations designed to introduce suspicion among signatories to the deal, especially those elements of the Syrian opposition set to meet for continued Russian sponsored negotiations at the end of January.

    Interestingly, the Russian Foreign Ministry actually previously warned of “staged provocations” aimed at doing just this in the days prior to the first January mortar attack on Khmeimim. As we reported at the time of a prior missile attack on the base, FM spokesperson Maria Zakharova warned at a December 28 press conference that ongoing attacks were “another link in the chain of ongoing and, perhaps, staged provocations involving terrorists and extremists from the Syrian opposition aimed at disrupting the positive trends in the development of the situation in Syria and, in particular, at creating obstacles to convening and holding the Syrian National Dialogue Congress in Sochi on January 29-30.”

    Also notable in terms of the potential for US involvement, which also affirms that Russian suspicions are not mere “paranoia,” is that one of the high level planners behind CIA operations in Syria, former CIA Acting Director Michael Morell, declared publicly that “we need to make the Russians pay the price” in Syria by “covertly” killing them via proxies.

    The CIA’s Morell said the following in a televised Charlie Rose interview at that time:

    Morell: We need to make the Iranians pay the price in Syria; we need to make the Russians pay the price.

    Rose: We make them pay the price by killing Russians and killing Iranians?

    MorellYes. Covertly. You don’t tell the world about it. You don’t stand at the Pentagon and say we did this. But you make sure they know it in Moscow and Tehran. I want to go after those things that Assad sees as his personal power base. I want to scare Assad. I want to go after his presidential car. I want to bomb his offices in the middle of the night. I want to destroy his presidential aircraft. I want to destroy his presidential helicopters. I want to make him think we are coming after him.

    With such brazen and public past admissions by US intelligence officials it is clear that no scenario should be taken off the table regarding what happened with these recent technologically advanced attacks on Russian assets in Syria. This could indeed very likely be the United States or a regional state actor making Russians “pay the price” for being there

     

Digest powered by RSS Digest

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: