TBR News August 3, 2014

Aug 03 2014

The Voice of the White House

          Washington, D.C. August 1, 2014: “Posturing and fist-shaking by President Obama aside, the reality now becoming manifest in the world is the anger and impotent fury on the part of the leadership of the United States aimed at Russia. Why at Russia? Not because of the situation in the Ukraine (started by the American CIA in Kiev) but because of the world oil situation.

The reserve and production figures in the oil world are most interesting.

  • Of known oil reserves, Russia ranks eighth in the world with reserves (of 109 bbl ) of 80 while the United States ranks fourteenth in the world with reserves (of  109 bbl) of 26.8.
  • Of current production, Russian ranks first in the world producing 10,900,000 barrels per day while the United States ranks third producing 8,453,000 barrels per day.
  • And it is to be noted that the Unites States, by itself, consumes 19,150,000 barrels per day.

If complex-appearing issues are reduced to their common denominator, it is easy to recognize that the United States consumes far more than it produces and although there is much propaganda about stunning results of shale-oil “fracking,” in truth, oil from this process not only is of inferior quality but its extraction from the ground is pntentially very dangerous, both by the infusion of contaminated material into the water table and by the disruption of seismic plates which result in small to medium earthquakes. Saudi Arabia is running out of oil and has to resort to pumping live steam into its wells to free up more oil and this country is a major supplier of oil to the United States. Venezuelan oil, another source of American imports, is of low quality and needs expensive refining before it can be commercialized so it is easy to understand the current Russia-bashing prevalent in the American media. 

Israel always the victim especially when its the executioner

July 31, 2014

by Nile Bowie



A global outpouring of sympathy for the Palestinian cause has again arisen since Israel launched Operation Protective Edge in Gaza earlier this month. And the only people who seem unmoved by scenes of indiscriminate bloodletting are Israelis themselves.

As the operation enters its fourth week, the death toll has reached almost 1,400, while over 7,000 have been injured. Cases of entire families being killed in airstrikes have become routine. Images depicting mangled and dismembered men, women and children showcase the appalling violence that the people of Gaza are forced to endure.

Gaza’s only power plant, which supplies the territory with two-thirds of its energy needs, has recently been destroyed, which further impedes the work of overcrowded and under supplied medical facilities tasked with treating the thousands of injured civilians who have fallen victim to Israel’s strikes from air, land and sea.

Hospitals, schools, refugee camps, and mosques have been targeted by Israel, whose leadership has defied international calls for an unconditional ceasefire. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has signaled that the operation will continue in the long-term, appeasing hawkish ministers and media figures that have called for an expanded assault on Gaza.

Israel claims the ongoing operation is necessary to impede the military capabilities of Hamas, which it accuses of launching unprovoked rocket fire into Israel’s territory. Another precursor was the kidnapping and murder of three teenage Jewish settlers who were hitchhiking in the West Bank, whose bodies were discovered in late June.

It is crucial to understand the context that led to the launching of Israel’s ongoing campaign in Gaza. Despite any evidence to implicate Hamas in the killing of the three boys, Israel credited the Palestinian resistance organization with the crime and promised a tough response, launching an extensive search-and-destroy campaign against Hamas in the West Bank.

Before any rockets were fired from Gaza, Israeli forces rounded up and arrested over 500 activists and killed more than half a dozen, in addition to a 16-year-old teenager who was abducted and burned alive by Jewish settlers in a reprisal attack.

Although Israel failed to produce any evidence demonstrating Hamas’s involvement in the kidnapping of the three settlers, it launched attacks in the Gaza strip that targeted and killed Hamas members.

Contrary to the Israeli narrative that it is reluctantly responding to Hamas’ unjustified rocket fire, it is clear that Israeli provocations precipitated a forceful response from Hamas, to which Israel responded with a punishingly disproportionate military operation, which can acceptably be defined as an act of collective punishment, a violation of the laws of war and the Geneva Conventions.

The military campaign in Gaza has also laid bare the mendacity of Israeli slogans and talking points, which are used to legitimize and make permissible any degree of punishment deemed necessary. The narrative spun by Israel depicts Gazans as an inherently hostile and belligerent people, and centers obsessively on a focus on Israeli suffering, creating a false sense of equivalence in the military actions taken by Israel and that of Hamas.

An accusation that has become frequently alleged by Israel throughout the ongoing operation is that Hamas uses civilians as human shields and deliberately puts Palestinian civilian lives in danger by denying them the opportunity to evacuate targeted areas. Hamas and activists in Gaza vigorously deny this charge.

The claim that Hamas intentionally prevents civilians from evacuating targeted areas has not been corroborated by independent reports from journalists covering the conflict. There is no evidence that Hamas coerces civilians. Even in the event that Hamas did indeed use civilians as human shields, which would be illegal under international law, it would not justify Israel’s bombardment of populated residential areas and housing structures.

The purpose of this accusation is to absolve Israel of wrongdoing by shifting the blame to Hamas, and also to deny agency to the Palestinian resistance. In a shameful display of intellectual dishonesty, the Israeli narrative affirms a thought process that deprives the Palestinian dead of their victimhood. Even as Israeli forces bombard the dispossessed and humiliated people of Gaza in their F-16 fighter jets and drones, they paradoxically blame Palestinian deaths on Palestinians themselves.

Israeli society has been utterly propagandized by emotionally manipulative and militaristic sloganeering, and while there are certainly dissenters and people who adamantly oppose the status quo, the majority of Israelis widely support the ongoing campaign against Gaza, primarily because they have been conditioned by the state to believe they are victims of both history and the present.

Israel’s leadership has shamefully preyed upon the historical trauma and persecution of the Jewish people to legitimize its occupation; it equates legitimate criticism with anti-Semitism, and any resistance to the state’s dehumanizing colonialism as an existential threat to the Jewish people. These tendencies have given rise to a rabid brand of ultra-nationalism that has clouded the Israeli conscience.

A powerful example of Israel’s moral corruption comes from the southern city of Sderot, located less than one mile from the Gaza strip, where residents reportedly assembled on a hilltop at night to watch the Israeli bombardment of Gaza, which they joyfully celebrated while eating popcorn and smoking water pipes. The act of celebrating another people’s subjugation and killing can only be a demonstration of one’s lack of humanity.

When the Israeli leadership claims that no other country would tolerate rockets falling on its cities, it exposes a glaring contradiction: that the Israeli understanding of self-defense implies that they are the only people entitled to it. Israel, as an occupying power, has an obligation and a duty under international law to protect the civilians under its occupation.

The notion that Israel takes measures to avoid civilian causalities is a self-evident fantasy. In Gaza, Tel Aviv is effectively employing the ‘Dahiya Doctrine,’ coined during Israel’s indiscriminate aggression on Lebanon in 2006, which refers to the deliberate targeting of civilians and the use of disproportionate force to undermine popular support for armed resistance. This strategy has emboldened Hezbollah and the same will be true for Hamas.

In practice, Israel denies Palestinians the right to govern themselves and simultaneously declares war on them. When the international community allows Israel to use weapons of industrial warfare against a helpless civilian population with impunity, it cannot also deny the right of the Palestinians to use force to defend themselves.

As a dispossessed people living under the brunt of an occupying power, the Palestinians have a legitimate right to respond with force, provided that civilians are not intentionally targeted. Hamas’ rockets are indeed indiscriminant and pose a danger to Israeli civilians, however they are almost entirely ineffective. The asymmetric death toll is indeed a testament to Hamas’ rocket fire being a symbolic gesture of resistance more than anything else.

The bottom line is that average Israelis want security and their fear of Hamas’ rockets shouldn’t be derided. However, the actions taken by Israel only ensure that another generation of brutalized and traumatized Palestinians will seek revenge through force because the occupation has destroyed their lives. Israel’s use of force is entirely self-defeating; it makes no one safer.

There is much to criticize in the conduct of Hamas, but it must be acknowledged that they speak for the majority of Gazans in rejecting a ceasefire with Israel unless the blockade is lifted and border crossings opened as a minimum requirement. Israel appears unwilling to yield.

Israelis who support their government’s offensive should ask themselves a simple question: Why are the Palestinians firing rockets? The people living in the West Bank and Gaza are the families of refugees that were forcibly expelled from what is referred to as Israel more than five decades ago by Jewish settlers who wanted an exclusive state of their own.

The answer is that a people can only be humiliated, dehumanized, and cornered into violence for only so long before they fight back: for their dignity and their right to exist. Israel’s main objective in this operation is to maintain the occupation and prevent the emergence of a unified Palestinian resistance.

Until the Israelis overcome the delusion that they can suppress the Palestinian right to self-determination, there will be tunnels, there will be rockets, and there will be stones. In trying to legitimize the occupation, Israel is delegitimizing itself.

The Children of War: A Humanitarian Catastrophe Unfolds in Gaza

July 29, 2014

by Julia Amalia Heyer in Gaza City



Israel’s incursion into the Gaza Strip triggered a bloody war. Brutal images of dead and injured Palestinians have circulated widely, but a cease-fire still appears to be a long way off.

Ahmed is hungry. Eyes closed, he clutches his mother’s breast and drinks, oblivious to everything around him. He ignores the rattling of the ceiling fan, dangling precariously. And he doesn’t notice the dull thuds that cause the walls to shake and his mother, Marwat al-Asasma, to cringe. Sometimes his body trembles, and he balls his tiny hands into fists.

Her son now weighs a little over three kilograms (6.6 lbs.), says al-Asasma, 18, and he is healthy and gaining weight. She sounds as if she can hardly believe what she is saying. Ahmed is just over two weeks old — born in the night when the Israelis sent their first tanks to the Gaza Strip border.

Ahmed is both a child of the war and one of its victims. Ten days after he was born, he lost his father, his grandparents and his home. His mother doesn’t know how much is left of the family house. She remembers only dust and smoke, but is trying to forget even that.

She and her siblings used to live in Shejaiya, a suburb east of Gaza City. Now, though, no one lives there anymore. Shejaiya, where entire city blocks were demolished, now lies in ruins. The Israeli army, after identifying Shejaiya as a Hamas stronghold and a center of resistance, sent in tanks and combat units. At least 100 Palestinians were killed there on the Sunday before last. The exact casualty figures are unknown, but the Red Cross expects that there are significantly more dead, people who were burned to death, crushed or buried under the rubble of collapsed buildings, some of which were still smoldering days later. The ongoing fighting has made it difficult to recover the bodies.

Shejaiya has become a symbol for the people in Gaza, for the brutality and relentlessness of this latest war, one that they cannot escape. There is no longer anywhere in the narrow, sealed-off Gaza Strip that can be considered safe; no place where the lunacy of death and suffering is not palpable.

Before Shejaiya came under Israeli fire, thousands of people living even closer to the border had fled there seeking shelter from the advancing tanks. Now, the displaced have moved even farther from the border, into Gaza City, that dense tangle of tall buildings and narrow streets. According to the United Nations, the number of people now in the city has almost doubled, from 600,000 to more than a million. An estimated 100,000 people have lost their homes, some temporarily and some for good. They now live in building entrances, on parking lots and in schools. And they are not even safe here, as evidenced by the death of the German-Palestinian Kilani family. Having heeded Israeli warnings, the family moved from the north into an apartment in Gaza City. A rocket fired by the Israeli army destroyed the building a short time later.

On the Sunday when shells struck the neighboring building and then her own, Marwat al-Asasma was still so weak from giving birth that she could hardly walk. Her sister Noura put baby Ahmed carefully into a backpack and placed Marwat and her own daughter in a handcart before pulling them two kilometers through the rubble to a church.

That is where the two sisters are now sitting, on the stone floor of a whitewashed, windowless room, a space of 30 square meters (323 square feet) that they share with 20 women and children. There are not enough mattresses to go around, so the youngest sleep in cardboard boxes. When a bomb struck the neighboring cemetery, the sisters considered going somewhere else. “But where?” asks al-Asasma. “No place is safe.”

A little boy is sucking on his toes, making noises to imitate the impact of artillery fire. He presses his lips together and then pops them open. Noura al-Asama is even afraid to take her five-year-old daughter out into the courtyard to use the toilet, worried that they will be killed along the way.

The women from Shejaiya who have fled to this church with their children yearn for a ceasefire. Both sides must stop the killing, says Noura al-Asasma. “We’re not a buffer zone, we’re people.” She has nothing but contempt for Hamas. “If Ismail Haniyeh and Khaled Mashal lived like us, they would think twice about continuing this war.” Instead, she says, the former prime minister of the Palestinian Authority and Hamas leader Mashal live safely in exile in wealthy Qatar.


‘Prepared for a Lengthy Campaign’


Only a few weeks ago, the two sisters still felt optimistic about the future. They hoped that the unity government formed recently by Fatah and Hamas would improve the situation in the Gaza Strip. But it didn’t happen. The sisters believe that Israel began this war to prevent a more tolerable life for the Palestinians.

The death toll is mounting on both sides. According to Tuesday media reports, 53 Israeli soldiers have died along with three civilians. More than 1,100 Palestinians have reportedly been killed in the fighting, most of them civilians. Dozens of children have been among them, and there is no sign the violence is going to stop anytime soon. Despite international efforts to at least establish a temporary ceasefire, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a televised address on Monday evening that the offensive will continue until the tunnels used by the Palestinians to hide and launch rockets into Israeli territory are neutralized. “We need to be prepared for a lengthy campaign,” he said.

During the three weeks the war has lasted thus far, the women have learned that there are different kinds of threats. They recognize the thundering noise of F-16 fighter jets, and they can distinguish between the reverberating detonation of bombs dropped from the air and the dull thud of tank artillery. Shells from ships off the coast are always fired three at a time and produce a ghostly echo. When it is quiet in Gaza City, the drones buzz in the hot air like nervous insects. But it is rarely quiet, and whenever a ceasefire is agreed upon, it is almost immediately violated.

For days, US Secretary of State John Kerry and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon have tried unsuccessfully to put an end to the fighting. Their goal is a humanitarian ceasefire that would last several days, so that an agreement could be negotiated to guarantee a long-term cessation of violence. The plan calls for Hamas to stop launching attacks on Israel, while Israel would pull back its army. Egypt would also open the Rafah border crossing to allow both people and goods to pass through once again.

But on Friday evening the Israeli government rejected the proposal for a prolonged truce. The majority of the Israeli cabinet called for a continuation and even intensification of the attacks on the Gaza Strip. A high-level Middle East conference in Paris, which Kerry attended over the weekend, made little headway.


Strong Support


Both parties to the conflict appear to have an interest in continuing the war. Hamas is placing its bets on resistance, losses be damned — and each dead child drives the price of negotiations even higher. Every day on which flights to Ben Gurion Airport remain cancelled or life in Tel Aviv comes to a standstill is a small victory for the militant organization. Israel, for its part, has taken the ground offensive so far that even moderate members of the government like Justice Minister Tzipi Livni now want to see its continuation until Hamas is incapacitated. Even though the country hasn’t suffered this many casualties since the 2006 Lebanon war, recent opinion polls likewise show that popular support for the Gaza Strip offensive remains strong.

This stands in contrast to the rest of the Western world, where social networks are full of expressions of outrage over the deaths of so many innocents, of so many children. The war has become a duel of images, and in contrast to the battlefield, this is where the Palestinian side has the tragic upper hand. No matter how often government officials from around the world insist on their support for Israel’s right to defend itself, public opinion would seem to be firmly on the side of the Palestinians. Twitter and Facebook are filled with disturbing photos of dead children, and the hashtag #GazaUnderAttack offers eyewitness reports from the combat zone. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is right when he speaks of “telegenically dead Palestinians.” He knows that Israel cannot win this war of images.

Many in the US and Europe are seeing such unfiltered reality in Gaza for the first time. Reports in newspapers tend not to include the most brutal of images. But pictures and videos posted directly by Gaza Strip residents are unfiltered and often originate from the victims themselves.

One mobile-phone video in particular has been viewed almost 2 million times on YouTube. It shows a young man in a turquoise T-shirt searching for his family members in the wreckage of Shejaiya, only to be shot dead by Israeli snipers.

The pain of losing a child is no different for a parent in Tel Aviv or Beit Hanun. But the two sides are not suffering equally in this war — and it doesn’t take a comparison of the casualty numbers to reach this conclusion. In contrast to Israel, where people still go to work and the beach despite rocket warnings, normal life no longer exists in Gaza. The people of Gaza, unprotected and at the mercy of the violence, are suffering most of all. Streets are empty and life is concentrated into small spaces, all of them illusions of safety, such as hospitals, schools and international facilities. Last Thursday, when an Israeli missile struck a UN school where many families had taken refuge, 16 people died and more than 200 were wounded. On Tuesday, Israeli air strikes heavily damaged the Gaza Strip’s only power plant.


‘Totally Unacceptable’


“What’s happening here is totally unacceptable,” says Canadian national Pernille Ironside, 40, who runs the UNICEF office in Gaza. She says the Israeli army is destroying the civilian infrastructure, and not just Hamas’s tunnels and arsenals. She runs her hand through her hair as she sits in front of a clothes rack full of bulletproof vests in UN blue. She used to work in Eastern Congo and Yemen, she says, but “Gaza is worse.” She estimates that the war directly affects about 120,000 children and many of them are seriously traumatized. She supports the UN Human Rights Council in its effort to create a commission to investigate possible Israeli war crimes in the Gaza Strip.

Last week, the army even issued a warning that an airstrike on Al-Shifa Hospital was planned. Israel justifies attacks on hospitals and schools by claiming that Hamas uses them to store weapons. Furthermore, there have been unsubstantiated rumors for years that Hamas maintains a secret command center beneath Al-Shifa Hospital, though no proof has been forthcoming. What is certainly true, however, is that Gaza extremists fire rockets from residential areas, and that many of the tunnels it has built for attacks on Israel start in private homes. This has prompted Netanyahu to accuse Hamas of using civilians as human shields, and he asserts that the Islamists are committing a war crime because international law forbids such tactics. It also, however, also forbids the targeting of civilian facilities, even if there is reason to believe that the enemy is hiding there.

“Bombing hospitals is not allowed,” says Mads Gilbert, 67, a professor of emergency medicine, as he stands in his turquoise scrubs in the driveway of Al-Shifa Hospital. His voice cuts through the noise of sirens, announcements and the screams of the wounded. The smell of disinfectant is almost completely overwhelmed by the effluvium of hundreds of people. It is hot and it stinks, but there is hardly any water for bathing. Gilbert has been working in the emergency room at Al-Shifa Hospital, sometimes 36-hours at a stretch, since he arrived in the Gaza Strip from Tromsø, Norway about three weeks ago.

Everyone in Gaza becomes a human shield almost perforce, says Gilbert. Hamas doesn’t even have to plan. There are simply too many people in too little space, he explains. But this, he adds, is precisely the reason hospitals and schools should be off-limits, since the Israeli army knows full well that civilians seek shelter in such buildings.

Gilbert also worked in Gaza during the last two wars — in 2012 and in the winter of 2008/2009 — but he believes that the situation has never been as dire as it is now. This time, he says, many of the severely injured are children. After the attack on Shejaiya, ambulances brought entire loads of dead and wounded to the hospital. “We just pulled them out and placed them on the ground, anywhere, wherever there was room.”


Slow Dying


There is no space left in Al-Shifa Hospital, not in the wards and not in the yard or the parking lots, where newly-homeless families have laid out pieces of cardboard and rugs. “Where else should we go?” asks a woman who calls herself Um Abulata, or the mother of Abulata. She too fled from Shejaiya, first to her grandfather’s house and, when it was bombed, to her aunt’s. After moving three times in the last four days, she now lives on a piece of foam mattress under the stairs in a wing of the hospital. She hopes that she will at least be safe there.

Aside from her hope for a rapid end to the violence, Um Abulata has only one wish: that one day she will once again live in a building with running water and won’t have to wash herself in the sea every morning. That could take some time: Seventy percent of Gaza residents lost their drinking water after bombs destroyed the main water pipes.

It is Mahir Salim’s job to repair them, but the engineer, wearing a white shirt under an orange fluorescent vest, says the damage is too extensive. A 48-year-old who went to university in the German city of Hanover, Salim is in charge of the water supply for Gaza City. He is now sitting in his office, in front of shelves stuffed with yellow binders, but he has to head out again soon. “To be honest, we don’t know what to do anymore,” he says. Four of the six wells that supply the Gaza Strip with drinking water are no longer accessible because they lie in the contested border zone. Three of Salim’s men have died while on duty, killed in Israeli attacks.

The army apparently mistook the pipes the men were trying to replace for rockets, says Salim. He is a polite man and cloaks his criticism in a question: “Why do they destroy everything so that we can no longer live here?” Gaza was already anything but a paradise before, he says, but now it’s become hell on Earth. “We’re not their adversaries, and we’re trapped here.”

Even before Tuesday’s attack on the Gaza power plant, there were no more than three hours of electricity a day. But sewage treatment plants cannot operate without power. “The Israelis say they are hunting terrorists. If that’s true, why are they striking civilians most of all” Salim asks? Each new war is more vicious than the one before, he says. Last year, the UN warned that Gaza was well on its way to becoming uninhabitable.

Salim fears that people in Gaza could soon be fighting over water. “Just imagine that a baby survives the war and then dies of diarrhea, because there is no longer any clean water.” Once the fighting is over, he says, the slow dying will begin.


 Translated from the German by Christopher Sultan


Anti-Semitism Rises in Europe Amid Israel-Gaza Conflict

August 1, 2014

by Melissa Eddyaug

New York Times


             BERLIN — Across Europe, the conflict in Gaza is generating a broader backlash against Jews, as threats, hate speech and even violent attacks proliferate in several countries.

Most surprising perhaps, a wave of incidents has washed over Germany, where atonement for the Holocaust and other Nazi crimes is a bedrock of the modern society. A commitment to the right of Israel to exist is ironclad. Plaques and memorials across the country exhort, “Never Again.” Children are taught starting in elementary school that their country’s Nazi history must never be repeated. Even so, academics say the recent episodes may reflect a rising climate of anti-Semitism that they had observed before the strife over Gaza.

Lila Faria, 19, at her home in Maplewood, N.J. Ms. Faria, a student at New York University, recently returned from a trip to the Middle East with the Taglit-Birthright Israel organization.Birthright Trips to Israel Continue Despite Mideast ConflictAUG. 1, 2014

Pro-Palestinian demonstrators at the Place de la République in Paris on Saturday. Letter From Europe: Gaza Conflict Seen as Providing Cover for Anti-Semitic Attacks in FranceJULY 28, 2014

Tiffany Taieb Nizard, right, with her mother, Martine Gabay. Ms. Taieb Nizard is leaving France for Israel partly because of concerns about anti-Semitism.

This week, the police in the western city of Wuppertal detained two young men on suspicion of throwing firebombs at the city’s new synagogue; the attack early Tuesday caused no injuries. In Frankfurt on Thursday, the police said, a beer bottle was thrown through a window at the home of a prominent critic of anti-Semitism. She heard an anti-Jewish slur after going to the balcony to confront her assailant, The Frankfurter Rundschau reported. An anonymous caller to a rabbi threatened last week to kill 30 Frankfurt Jews if the caller’s family in Gaza was harmed, the police said.

The string of incidents comes after Chancellor Angela Merkel condemned anti-Semitic chants from pro-Palestinian demonstrators and President Joachim Gauck called on Germans to “raise their voices if there is a new anti-Semitism being strutted on the street.”

But even as the police have clamped down on demonstrators, banning slogans that target Jews instead of Israeli policies, a spike in violence has spread fear among Jews, not only in Germany but also in other European countries.

More Jews have begun leaving France in recent months, following anti-Semitism that has spilled onto the streets since the start of the Gaza conflict almost a month ago. While most of the pro-Palestinian demonstrations have been peaceful, a small number of violent protesters, many of them young Arab men, has targeted Jewish businesses and synagogues.

French authorities have strongly condemned the violence and, citing public-safety concerns, have refused to authorize a small number of pro-Palestinian demonstrations. Others have spoken of a need to counter anti-Semitism among certain segments of the country’s Muslim youth.

Prime Minister Manuel Valls spoke last week of a “new,” “normalized” anti-Semitism. “It blends the Palestinian cause, jihadism, the detestation of Israel and the hatred of France and its values,” he told the National Assembly.

Even in historically tolerant Italy, anti-Semitic smears have appeared on the streets of Rome. Jewish shop windows in several neighborhoods were defaced this week with swastikas and tags reading “Torch the synagogues” and “Jews your end is near.” Police suspect that right-wing extremists, possibly along with pro-Palestinian activists, carried out the acts.

Riccardo Di Segni, the chief rabbi of Rome, said he believed that the threats were linked to tensions in the Middle East. “There is cyclically a common thread running between the dramatic tensions in the Middle East and the increase of anti-Semitic episodes,” he said.

In Austria, a preseason soccer match between the Israeli team Maccabi Haifa and Germany’s Paderborn was moved to a more secure location last weekend after a group of youths bearing Palestinian and Turkish flags stormed the field and attacked players during a previous match.

Prominent newspapers, politicians and popular stars in Austria and Germany have responded to the anti-Jewish outburst with a campaign called “Raise Your Voice,” in support of their countries’ Jewish communities. But Samuel Salzborn, a professor of political science at Göttingen University, does not believe that the effort has shifted public opinion.

“The official line of the German government is happily, clearly against anti-Semitism, but that is resulting in far too little,” Mr. Salzborn said. “There is a startling indifference in the German public to the current display of anti-Semitism.”

To many of the more than 100,000 Jews in Germany, the outburst of anti-Semitism since the conflict flared in Gaza has a troubling undertone and has stirred especially painful memories. The Central Council of Jews in Germany has received hundreds of calls from members asking whether they should pack their suitcases and leave the country.

“I have not heard that for many years,” said Dieter Graumann, the council president. “When calls for Jews to be gassed, burned and murdered are bawled on the streets of Germany, that no longer has anything to do with Israel’s politics and Gaza. It is the most abhorrent form of anti-Semitism.”

Academics who study anti-Semitism say the acceptance of disparaging remarks about Jews has become increasingly common in the educated middle class over the past two decades. Especially on social media, where hashtags such as #HitlerWasRight have appeared, there has been a significant jump in slurs against Jews.

Monika Schwarz-Friesel, a cognitive scientist at Technical University, has spent 10 years tracking anti-Semitic comments from educated Germans in letters to editors, in Internet chat rooms and on social media. She said such comments in public forums had served as kindling for the most recent outbreak.

“Violence always starts in the mind,” Ms. Schwarz-Friesel said. “Attacks like that on the synagogue in Wuppertal are not just pulled out of thin air.”

Carola Melchert-Arlt, an elementary school principal in Berlin and mother of three, said she felt afraid for the first time in her decades of living in Germany. She said her mother had asked her to stop wearing a Star of David, a family heirloom from her grandmother’s bat mitzvah, around her neck.

Friends have taken down their mezuzas, Ms. Melchert-Arlt said, and she no longer stifles a smile when a fellow Jew wonders if they are really welcome in Germany.

“We have all always felt the latent anti-Semitism here,” Ms. Melchert-Arlt said. “But what we have experienced in recent weeks and days, not only in Germany but across Europe, is a prevailing mood of outward anti-Jewish sentiment in the streets.”





Why Obama’s Russia sanctions are doomed


July 30, 2014

by M K Bhadrakumar –


The new Cold War was the last thing on the US President Barack Obama’s mind as recently as when dusk fell on October 22, 2012 at the Lynn University campus in Florida. That was the night of the long knives when the famous foreign policy debate in the presidential campaign took place during which Obama rubbed his Republican opponent Mitt Romney’s nose in the dirt by ridiculing his contention that Russia constituted the biggest geopolitical threat for the US in the 21st century.

 This is how Obama administered that famous snub to Romney: “Governor, I’m glad that you recognize that al-Qaida’s a threat because a few months ago when you were asked, what’s the biggest geopolitical threat facing America, you said Russia – not al-Qaida — you said Russia. And the 1980s are no calling to ask for their foreign policy back because, you know, the Cold War’s been over for 20 years. But, Governor, when it comes to our foreign policy, you seem to want to import the foreign policies of the 1980s.” (here).

Throughout his re-election bid, Obama flagged the US’s ‘reset’ of relations with Russia as the most shiny foreign-policy achievement of his first term in the Oval Office. He proudly trotted out the START agreement on disarmament with Russia; Russia’s valuable help in creating the web of transit routes known as the Northern Distribution Network and in other areas relating to the Afghan war; and Russia’s curtailment of military sales to Iran and its willingness to move in tandem with the US’ sanctions against Iran, et al, as some of the substantive gains of his foreign policies.

We don’t know exactly when Obama changed his mind and decided to become a camp follower of Romney. Obama attributes his metamorphosis entirely to Ukraine developments, which makes it a 4-month old affair following Russia’s annexation of Crimea. But in this short period Obama has swung to the other extreme, and as his remarks, here, on the latest sanctions on Tuesday against Russia testify, he is taking a vicarious pleasure that he is “setting back decades of genuine progress” in Russia and has “made a weak Russian economy even weaker.”

Obama exults that “projections for Russian economic growth are down to near zero.” It betrays a rancor and mean spirit that blots America’s image in the world community. Make no mistake, there is a whole world out there beyond North America and West Europe and it is viewing Obama’s trademark flip-flop with disbelief and a sense of exasperation.

That hefty slice of the international community, the silent majority, also would have a few things to know from Obama. To begin with, how can he arrogate to himself the prerogative to interpret international law whichever way it suits him at any given point? How does he explain the US’ aggression against Iraq and Libya resulting in the destruction of these countries — or, its blatant interference in Syria? Who is really responsible for triggering the turmoil in Ukraine late last year?

Alas, Obama doesn’t realise he is scoring a self-goal and undercutting the credibility of US policies and that it is having a strange effect.

Take, for instance, the alluring rhetoric by Secretary of State John Kerry on Monday, here, hoping to set the right tone for his impending visit to Delhi two days later. But it fell flat on the Indian ears.

In fact, the foreign ministry spokesman in Delhi made it a point on Wednesday to confirm that the Indian minister is expected to take up with Kerry the stunning disclosures by the ex-CIA employee Edward Snowden regarding the DSA’s snooping activities in India. He said, “You are also aware that there is considerable disquiet in India about the authorizations provided to the American agencies in terms of contravening the privacy of individuals, entities and the Government of India. So, obviously if there is considerable disquiet, these issues are likely to figure without me getting into a detailed elaboration of what.”

The Indian newspapers have generally portrayed Kerry’s mission as one of crass Philistine instincts — aimed at selling more weapons to India and at seeing how to remove the impediments for export of American nuclear reactors to the Indian market. Kerry has been made to look like a sweaty salesman in an Arthur Miller play.

Why do such things happen? India was a country that fell over heels in love with Obama’s predecessor George W. Bush. But somehow, somewhere, an impression has formed in the Indian consciousness which is now difficult to erase — that Obama is a cynic and a self-centred opportunist who is singularly devoid of any rooted convictions, and therefore he’s highly susceptible to flip-flops.

This is where the latest twist to his Russia policies will hurt US interests. Suffice to say, India won’t even touch with a barge pole the US’ rebalance strategy in Asia.

Obama doesn’t get the point that the world is not interested in isolating Russia or in wrecking the Russian economy at a juncture when the world economy is in dire need of growth centres, especially outside the Western world.

So, if Europe wants only Russian gas and will ban Russian oil, that’s fine with the fast-growing economies such as India or China or Vietnam. If Europe doesn’t want to purchase Russian weapons anymore, that’s also fine with India, Iraq, Egypt, Venezuela, Brazil, etc which will still have arms deals with Russia. Most certainly, BRICS and Shanghai Cooperation Organization are not going to wither away.

What Obama overlooks is that the instruments of the Cold War era have outlived their utility. It’s plain arrogance on his part to delude himself that he’s something of a magical Pied Piper and the rest of the world simply follows him. Why should the world fight America’s war to salvage the pristine status of the US dollar so as to preserve America’s global hegemony — despite being a power inexorably in decline?

The BRICS bank, which is destined to rival the World Bank and the IMF — signifying “the end of western dominance of the global financial and economic order,” to quote, here, a prominent Indian strategic pundit who heads the National Security Council Advisory Board — is an immutable fact of life already. India, Brazil and China are not going to be frightened by the West’s restrictions on Russian banks.


Coordinated Sanctions Aim at Russia’s Ability to Tap Its Oil Reserves

July 29, 2014

by Peter Bakaer, Alan Cowell and James Kanter 

New York Times


             WASHINGTON — The United States and Europe kicked off a joint effort on Tuesday intended to curb Russia’s long-term ability to develop new oil resources, taking aim at the Kremlin’s premier source of wealth and power in retaliation for its intervention in Ukraine.

In announcing coordinated sanctions, American and European leaders went beyond previous moves against banking and defense industries in an effort to curtail Russia’s access to Western technology as it seeks to tap new Arctic, deep sea and shale oil reserves. The goal was not to inhibit current oil production but to cloud Russia’s energy future.

The new strategy took direct aim at the economic foundation of Russia, which holds the largest combined oil and gas reserves in the world.

The growth of the oil industry in the last two decades has powered Russia’s economic and geopolitical resurgence since the collapse of the Soviet Union and enriched allies of President Vladimir V. Putin. Russia pumps about 10.5 million barrels of oil a day, making it among the largest producers.

“The biggest edge that Western energy companies still have is their technological edge — that’s why these sanctions have the potential to have significant impact,” said Michael A. Levi, an energy expert at the Council on Foreign Relations. “Chinese companies can’t step in and provide shale technology where U.S. companies are blocked. They can provide capital; they can provide people. They can’t fill in on the technology front.”

The technology cutoff could be important because Russia is only now at the early stages of developing new Arctic, deep sea and shale resources. Most of its current production comes from depleted Siberian deposits that will eventually run out. And several Western oil companies have been working with Russia to expand their resources.

ExxonMobil has a joint venture with Rosneft, the state-owned oil giant, to develop Arctic oil, and is scheduled to start drilling in the Kara Sea within weeks. BP, which owns 19.75 percent of Rosneft, just signed a joint venture with the Russian firm in May to search for shale oil in the Volga-Urals region.

 Even though BP announced higher quarterly profits on Tuesday, its stock was hammered by the sanctions news, falling 3 percent. BP warned investors bluntly that further sanctions “could adversely impact our business and strategic objectives in Russia.”

Dan Yergin, chairman of Cambridge Energy Research Associates, said the new energy measures underscored how much ties had deteriorated. “A year ago, Western collaboration with Russia’s energy sector was one of the bright spots in what had become a dour relationship,” he said. “No longer.”

The carefully orchestrated actions on both sides of the Atlantic were intended to demonstrate solidarity in the face of what American and European officials say has been a stark escalation by Russia in the insurgency in eastern Ukraine. Until now, European leaders had resisted the broader sorts of actions they agreed to on Tuesday, and their decision to pursue them reflected increasing alarm that Russia was not only helping separatists in Ukraine but directly involving itself in the fighting.

 They are “meant as a strong warning,” Herman Van Rompuy, the president of the European Council, said in a statement on Tuesday that was joined by José Manuel Barroso, the president of the European Commission. “Destabilizing Ukraine, or any other Eastern European neighboring state, will bring heavy costs,” the statement said.

President Obama said Russia’s economy would continue to suffer until it reversed course. “Today is a reminder that the United States means what it says, and we will rally the international community in standing up for the rights and freedom of people around the world,” he told reporters on the South Lawn of the White House.

Mr. Obama said the fact that Europe was now joining the United States in broader measures meant the moves would “have an even bigger bite,” but in response to reporters’ questions, he said it was “not a new Cold War” between the two countries. He also made clear he was not considering providing arms to Ukraine’s government, as some Republicans have suggested, as it tries to put down the pro-Russian insurgency.

             European governments moved ahead despite concerns that Europe would pay an economic price for confronting the Kremlin more aggressively. While their actions went far beyond any previously taken against Russia over the Ukraine crisis, they were tailored to minimize their own costs. The arms embargo, for instance, applies only to future sales, not to the much-debated delivery by France of Mistral-class helicopter carriers that resemble bigger aircraft carriers. And the energy technology restrictions do not apply to Russian natural gas, on which Europe relies heavily.

The new sanctions could take effect as soon as Friday, though the necessary legal formalities would most likely to take longer to complete, officials said.

On Twitter, the president of Lithuania, Dalia Grybauskaite, praised the decision “on a wide range of sanctions on Russia.” But she expressed unease that France would be able to maintain its naval deal with Moscow. “Unfortunately, nothing to stop the deal of Mistral yet,” she wrote. Lithuania is one of five European Union states that are close to or border Russia.

            Mr. Van Rompuy departed from the usual cautious language of Europe’s declarations by condemning Russia for actions that “cannot be accepted in 21st-century Europe,” including “illegal annexation of territory” — a reference to Crimea — “and deliberate destabilization of a neighboring sovereign country.” He also cited the “anger and frustration” over the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 over rebel-held territory on July 17 and “the delays in providing international access to the site of the air crash, the tampering with the remains of the plane, and the disrespectful handling of the deceased.”

Although European commerce with Russia will probably decline because of the sanctions, where the measures are expected to more severely affect Russia are the restrictions on the ability of Russian banks to raise money in Europe and the United States. “These sanctions can have quite a substantial chilling effect on the Russian economy,” said Adam Slater, a senior economist at Oxford Economics in London. “That is probably a quite effective way to put pressure on Russia.”

Still, it could take time for the effects to be felt by ordinary Russians, and some analysts expected the Kremlin to shrug them off, at least publicly.

Peter Baker reported from Washington, Alan Cowell from London and James Kanter from Brussels. Jack Ewing contributed reporting from Frankfurt.

In Taking Crimea, Putin Gains a Sea of Fuel Reserves

May 17, 2014

by William J. Broad  

New York Times


            When Russia seized Crimea in March, it acquired not just the Crimean landmass but also a maritime zone more than three times its size with the rights to underwater resources potentially worth trillions of dollars.

Russia portrayed the takeover as reclamation of its rightful territory, drawing no attention to the oil and gas rush that had recently been heating up in the Black Sea. But the move also extended Russia’s maritime boundaries, quietly giving Russia dominion over vast oil and gas reserves while dealing a crippling blow to Ukraine’s hopes for energy independence.

Russia did so under an international accord that gives nations sovereignty over areas up to 230 miles from their shorelines. It had tried, unsuccessfully, to gain access to energy resources in the same territory in a pact with Ukraine less than two years earlier.

“It’s a big deal,” said Carol R. Saivetz, a Eurasian expert in the Security Studies Program of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. “It deprives Ukraine of the possibility of developing these resources and gives them to Russia. It makes Ukraine more vulnerable to Russian pressure.”

Gilles Lericolais, the director of European and international affairs at France’s state oceanographic group, called Russia’s annexation of Crimea “so obvious” as a play for offshore riches.

In Moscow, a spokesman for President Vladimir V. Putin said there was “no connection” between the annexation and energy resources, adding that Russia did not even care about the oil and gas. “Compared to all the potential Russia has got, there was no interest there,” the spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said Saturday.

Exxon Mobil, Royal Dutch Shell and other major oil companies have already explored the Black Sea, and some petroleum analysts say its potential may rival that of the North Sea. That rush, which began in the 1970s, lifted the economies of Britain, Norway and other European countries.

William B. F. Ryan, a marine geologist at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University, said Russia’s Black Sea acquisition gave it what are potentially “the best” of that body’s deep oil reserves.

Oil analysts said that mounting economic sanctions could slow Russia’s exploitation of its Black and Azov Sea annexations by reducing access to Western financing and technology. But they noted that Russia had already taken over the Crimean arm of Ukraine’s national gas company, instantly giving Russia exploratory gear on the Black Sea.

“Russia’s in a mood to behave aggressively,” said Vladimir Socor, a senior fellow at the Jamestown Foundation, a research group in Washington that follows Eurasian affairs. “It’s already seized two drilling rigs.”

The global hunt for fossil fuels has increasingly gone offshore, to places like the Atlantic Ocean off Brazil, the Gulf of Mexico and the South China Sea. Hundreds of oil rigs dot the Caspian, a few hundred miles east of the Black Sea.

Nations divide up the world’s potentially lucrative waters according to guidelines set forth by the 1982 Law of the Sea Treaty. The agreement lets coastal nations claim what are known as exclusive economic zones that can extend up to 200 nautical miles (or 230 statute miles) from their shores. Inside these zones, countries can explore, exploit, conserve and manage deep natural resources, living and nonliving.

The countries with shores along the Black Sea have long seen its floor as a potential energy source, mainly because of modest oil successes in shallow waters.

 Just over two years ago, the prospects for huge payoffs soared when a giant ship drilling through deep bedrock off Romania found a large gas field in waters more than half a mile deep.

Russia moved fast.

In April 2012, Mr. Putin, then Russia’s prime minister, presided over the signing of an accord with Eni, the Italian energy giant, to explore Russia’s economic zone in the northeastern Black Sea. Dr. Ryan of Columbia estimated that the size of the zone before the Crimean annexation was roughly 26,000 square miles, about the size of Lithuania.

“I want to assure you that the Russian government will do everything to support projects of this kind,” Mr. Putin said at the signing, according to Russia’s Interfax news agency.

A month later, oil exploration specialists at a European petroleum conference made a lengthy presentation, the title of which asked: “Is the Black Sea the Next North Sea?” The paper cited geological studies that judged the waters off Ukraine as having “tremendous exploration potential” but saw the Russian zone as less attractive.

In August 2012, Ukraine announced an accord with an Exxon-led group to extract oil and gas from the depths of Ukraine’s Black Sea waters. The Exxon team had outbid Lukoil, a Russian company. Ukraine’s state geology bureau said development of the field would cost up to $12 billion.

“The Black Sea Hots Up,” read a 2013 headline in GEO ExPro, an industry magazine published in Britain. “Elevated levels of activity have become apparent throughout the Black Sea region,” the article said, “particularly in deepwater.”

When Russia seized the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine on March 18, it issued a treaty of annexation between the newly declared Republic of Crimea and the Russian Federation. Buried in the document — in Article 4, Section 3 — a single bland sentence said international law would govern the drawing of boundaries through the adjacent Black and Azov Seas.

Dr. Ryan estimates that the newly claimed maritime zone around Crimea added about 36,000 square miles to Russia’s existing holdings. The addition is more than three times the size of the Crimean landmass, and about the size of Maine.

At the time, few observers noted Russia’s annexation of Crimea in those terms. An exception was Romania, whose Black Sea zone had been adjacent to Ukraine’s before Russia stepped in.

“Romania and Russia will be neighbors,” Romania Libera, a newspaper in Bucharest, observed on March 24. The article’s headline said the new maritime border could become a “potential source of conflict.”

Many nations have challenged Russia’s seizing of Crimea and thus the legality of its Black and Azov Sea claims. But the Romanian newspaper quoted analysts as judging that the other countries bordering the Black Sea — Georgia, Turkey, Bulgaria and Romania — would tacitly recognize the annexation “in order to avoid an open conflict.”

Most immediately, analysts say, Russia’s seizing may alter the route along which the South Stream pipeline would be built, saving Russia money, time and engineering challenges. The planned pipeline, meant to run through the deepest parts of the Black Sea, is to pump Russian gas to Europe.

Originally, to avoid Ukraine’s maritime zone, Russia drew the route for the costly pipeline in a circuitous jog southward through Turkey’s waters. But now it can take a far more direct path through its newly acquired Black Sea territory, if the project moves forward. The Ukraine crisis has thrown its future into doubt.

As for oil extraction in the newly claimed maritime zones, companies say their old deals with Ukraine are in limbo, and analysts say new contracts are unlikely to be signed anytime soon, given the continuing turmoil in the region and the United States’ efforts to ratchet up pressure on Russia.

             “There are huge issues at stake,” noted Dr. Saivetz of M.I.T. “I can’t see them jumping into new deals right now.”

The United States is using its wherewithal to block Russian moves in the maritime zones. Last month, it imposed trade restrictions on Chernomorneftegaz, the breakaway Crimean arm of Ukraine’s national gas company.

Eric L. Hirschhorn, the United States under secretary of commerce for industry and security, said sanctions against the Crimean business would send “a strong message” of condemnation for Russia’s “incursion into Ukraine and expropriation of Ukrainian assets.”


Alexandra Odynova contributed reporting from Moscow.

The Birth of a Eurasian Century: Russia and China Do Pipelineistan

by Pepe Escobar


HONG KONG — A specter is haunting Washington, an unnerving vision of a Sino-Russian alliance wedded to an expansive symbiosis of trade and commerce across much of the Eurasian land mass — at the expense of the United States.

And no wonder Washington is anxious. That alliance is already a done deal in a variety of ways: through the BRICS group of emerging powers (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa); at the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, the Asian counterweight to NATO; inside the G20; and via the 120-member-nation Non-Aligned Movement (NAM). Trade and commerce are just part of the future bargain. Synergies in the development of new military technologies beckon as well. After Russia’s Star Wars-style, ultra-sophisticated S-500 air defense anti-missile system comes online in 2018, Beijing is sure to want a version of it. Meanwhile, Russia is about to sell dozens of state-of-the-art Sukhoi Su-35 jet fighters to the Chinese as Beijing and Moscow move to seal an aviation-industrial partnership.

This week should provide the first real fireworks in the celebration of a new Eurasian century-in-the-making when Russian President Vladimir Putin drops in on Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing. You remember “Pipelineistan,” all those crucial oil and gas pipelines crisscrossing Eurasia that make up the true circulatory system for the life of the region. Now, it looks like the ultimate Pipelineistan deal, worth $1 trillion and 10 years in the making, will be inked as well. In it, the giant, state-controlled Russian energy giant Gazprom will agree to supply the giant state-controlled China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) with 3.75 billion cubic feet of liquefied natural gas a day for no less than 30 years, starting in 2018. That’s the equivalent of a quarter of Russia’s massive gas exports to all of Europe. China’s current daily gas demand is around 16 billion cubic feet a day, and imports account for 31.6% of total consumption.

Gazprom may still collect the bulk of its profits from Europe, but Asia could turn out to be its Everest. The company will use this mega-deal to boost investment in Eastern Siberia and the whole region will be reconfigured as a privileged gas hub for Japan and South Korea as well. If you want to know why no key country in Asia has been willing to “isolate” Russia in the midst of the Ukrainian crisis — and in defiance of the Obama administration — look no further than Pipelineistan.


Exit the Petrodollar, Enter the Gas-o-Yuan


And then, talking about anxiety in Washington, there’s the fate of the petrodollar to consider, or rather the “thermonuclear” possibility that Moscow and Beijing will agree on payment for the Gazprom-CNPC deal not in petrodollars but in Chinese yuan. One can hardly imagine a more tectonic shift, with Pipelineistan intersecting with a growing Sino-Russian political-economic-energy partnership. Along with it goes the future possibility of a push, led again by China and Russia, toward a new international reserve currency — actually a basket of currencies — that would supersede the dollar (at least in the optimistic dreams of BRICS members).

Right after the potentially game-changing Sino-Russian summit comes a BRICS summit in Brazil in July. That’s when a $100 billion BRICS development bank, announced in 2012, will officially be born as a potential alternative to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank as a source of project financing for the developing world.

More BRICS cooperation meant to bypass the dollar is reflected in the “Gas-o-yuan,” as in natural gas bought and paid for in Chinese currency. Gazprom is even considering marketing bonds in yuan as part of the financial planning for its expansion. Yuan-backed bonds are already trading in Hong Kong, Singapore, London, and most recently Frankfurt.

Nothing could be more sensible for the new Pipelineistan deal than to have it settled in yuan. Beijing would pay Gazprom in that currency (convertible into rubles); Gazprom would accumulate the yuan; and Russia would then buy myriad made-in-China goods and services in yuan convertible into rubles.

It’s common knowledge that banks in Hong Kong, from Standard Chartered to HSBC — as well as others closely linked to China via trade deals — have been diversifying into the yuan, which implies that it could become one of the de facto global reserve currencies even before it’s fully convertible. (Beijing is unofficially working for a fully convertible yuan by 2018.)

The Russia-China gas deal is inextricably tied up with the energy relationship between the European Union (EU) and Russia. After all, the bulk of Russia’s gross domestic product comes from oil and gas sales, as does much of its leverage in the Ukraine crisis. In turn, Germany depends on Russia for a hefty 30% of its natural gas supplies. Yet Washington’s geopolitical imperatives — spiced up with Polish hysteria — have meant pushing Brussels to find ways to “punish” Moscow in the future energy sphere (while not imperiling present day energy relationships).

There’s a consistent rumble in Brussels these days about the possible cancellation of the projected 16 billion euro South Stream pipeline, whose construction is to start in June. On completion, it would pump yet more Russian natural gas to Europe — in this case, underneath the Black Sea (bypassing Ukraine) to Bulgaria, Hungary, Slovenia, Serbia, Croatia, Greece, Italy, and Austria.

Bulgaria, Hungary, and the Czech Republic have already made it clear that they are firmly opposed to any cancellation. And cancellation is probably not in the cards. After all, the only obvious alternative is Caspian Sea gas from Azerbaijan, and that isn’t likely to happen unless the EU can suddenly muster the will and funds for a crash schedule to construct the fabled Baku-Tblisi-Ceyhan (BTC) oil pipeline, conceived during the Clinton years expressly to bypass Russia and Iran.

In any case, Azerbaijan doesn’t have enough capacity to supply the levels of natural gas needed, and other actors like Kazakhstan, plagued with infrastructure problems, or unreliable Turkmenistan, which prefers to sell its gas to China, are already largely out of the picture. And don’t forget that South Stream, coupled with subsidiary energy projects, will create a lot of jobs and investment in many of the most economically devastated EU nations.

Nonetheless, such EU threats, however unrealistic, only serve to accelerate Russia’s increasing symbiosis with Asian markets. For Beijing especially, it’s a win-win situation. After all, between energy supplied across seas policed and controlled by the U.S. Navy and steady, stable land routes out of Siberia, it’s no contest.


Pick Your Own Silk Road


Of course, the U.S. dollar remains the top global reserve currency, involving 33% of global foreign exchange holdings at the end of 2013, according to the IMF. It was, however, at 55% in 2000. Nobody knows the percentage in yuan (and Beijing isn’t talking), but the IMF notes that reserves in “other currencies” in emerging markets have been up 400% since 2003.

The Fed is arguably monetizing 70% of the U.S. government debt in an attempt to keep interest rates from heading skywards. Pentagon adviser Jim Rickards, as well as every Hong Kong-based banker, tends to believe that the Fed is bust (though they won’t say it on the record). No one can even imagine the extent of the possible future deluge the U.S. dollar might experience amid a $1.4 quadrillion Mount Ararat of financial derivatives. Don’t think that this is the death knell of Western capitalism, however, just the faltering of that reigning economic faith, neoliberalism, still the official ideology of the United States, the overwhelming majority of the European Union, and parts of Asia and South America.

As far as what might be called the “authoritarian neoliberalism” of the Middle Kingdom, what’s not to like at the moment? China has proven that there is a result-oriented alternative to the Western “democratic” capitalist model for nations aiming to be successful. It’s building not one, but myriad new Silk Roads, massive webs of high-speed railways, highways, pipelines, ports, and fiber optic networks across huge parts of Eurasia. These include a Southeast Asian road, a Central Asian road, an Indian Ocean “maritime highway” and even a high-speed rail line through Iran and Turkey reaching all the way to Germany.

In April, when President Xi Jinping visited the city of Duisburg on the Rhine River, with the largest inland harbor in the world and right in the heartland of Germany’s Ruhr steel industry, he made an audacious proposal: a new “economic Silk Road” should be built between China and Europe, on the basis of the Chongqing-Xinjiang-Europe railway, which already runs from China to Kazakhstan, then through Russia, Belarus, Poland, and finally Germany. That’s 15 days by train, 20 less than for cargo ships sailing from China’s eastern seaboard. Now that would represent the ultimate geopolitical earthquake in terms of integrating economic growth across Eurasia.

Keep in mind that, if no bubbles burst, China is about to become — and remain — the number one global economic power, a position it enjoyed for 18 of the past 20 centuries. But don’t tell London hagiographers; they still believe that U.S. hegemony will last, well, forever.


Take Me to Cold War 2.0


Despite recent serious financial struggles, the BRICS countries have been consciously working to become a counterforce to the original and — having tossed Russia out in March — once again Group of 7, or G7. They are eager to create a new global architecture to replace the one first imposed in the wake of World War II, and they see themselves as a potential challenge to the exceptionalist and unipolar world that Washington imagines for our future (with itself as the global robocop and NATO as its robo-police force). Historian and imperialist cheerleader Ian Morris, in his book War! What is it Good For?, defines the U.S. as the ultimate “globocop” and “the last best hope of Earth.” If that globocop “wearies of its role,” he writes, “there is no plan B.”

 Well, there is a plan BRICS — or so the BRICS nations would like to think, at least. And when the BRICS do act in this spirit on the global stage, they quickly conjure up a curious mix of fear, hysteria, and pugnaciousness in the Washington establishment. Take Christopher Hill as an example. The former assistant secretary of state for East Asia and U.S. ambassador to Iraq is now an advisor with the Albright Stonebridge Group, a consulting firm deeply connected to the White House and the State Department. When Russia was down and out, Hill used to dream of a hegemonic American “new world order.” Now that the ungrateful Russians have spurned what “the West has been offering” — that is, “special status with NATO, a privileged relationship with the European Union, and partnership in international diplomatic endeavors” — they are, in his view, busy trying to revive the Soviet empire. Translation: if you’re not our vassals, you’re against us. Welcome to Cold War 2.0.

The Pentagon has its own version of this directed not so much at Russia as at China, which, its think tank on future warfare claims, is already at war with Washington in a number of ways. So if it’s not apocalypse now, it’s Armageddon tomorrow. And it goes without saying that whatever’s going wrong, as the Obama administration very publicly “pivots” to Asia and the American media fills with talk about a revival of Cold War-era “containment policy” in the Pacific, it’s all China’s fault.

Embedded in the mad dash toward Cold War 2.0 are some ludicrous facts-on-the-ground: the U.S. government, with $17.5 trillion in national debt and counting, is contemplating a financial showdown with Russia, the largest global energy producer and a major nuclear power, just as it’s also promoting an economically unsustainable military encirclement of its largest creditor, China.

Russia runs a sizeable trade surplus. Humongous Chinese banks will have no trouble helping Russian banks out if Western funds dry up. In terms of inter-BRICS cooperation, few projects beat a $30 billion oil pipeline in the planning stages that will stretch from Russia to India via Northwest China. Chinese companies are already eagerly discussing the possibility of taking part in the creation of a transport corridor from Russia into Crimea, as well as an airport, shipyard, and liquid natural gas terminal there. And there’s another “thermonuclear” gambit in the making: the birth of a natural gas equivalent to the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries that would include Russia, Iran, and reportedly disgruntled U.S. ally Qatar.

The (unstated) BRICS long-term plan involves the creation of an alternative economic system featuring a basket of gold-backed currencies that would bypass the present America-centric global financial system. (No wonder Russia and China are amassing as much gold as they can.) The euro — a sound currency backed by large liquid bond markets and huge gold reserves — would be welcomed in as well.

It’s no secret in Hong Kong that the Bank of China has been using a parallel SWIFT network to conduct every kind of trade with Tehran, which is under a heavy U.S. sanctions regime. With Washington wielding Visa and Mastercard as weapons in a growing Cold War-style economic campaign against Russia, Moscow is about to implement an alternative payment and credit card system not controlled by Western finance. An even easier route would be to adopt the Chinese Union Pay system, whose operations have already overtaken American Express in global volume.


I’m Just Pivoting With Myself


No amount of Obama administration “pivoting” to Asia to contain China (and threaten it with U.S. Navy control of the energy sea lanes to that country) is likely to push Beijing far from its Deng Xiaoping-inspired, self-described “peaceful development” strategy meant to turn it into a global powerhouse of trade. Nor are the forward deployment of U.S. or NATO troops in Eastern Europe or other such Cold-War-ish acts likely to deter Moscow from a careful balancing act: ensuring that Russia’s sphere of influence in Ukraine remains strong without compromising trade and commercial, as well as political, ties with the European Union — above all, with strategic partner Germany. This is Moscow’s Holy Grail; a free-trade zone from Lisbon to Vladivostok, which (not by accident) is mirrored in China’s dream of a new Silk Road to Germany.

Increasingly wary of Washington, Berlin for its part abhors the notion of Europe being caught in the grips of a Cold War 2.0. German leaders have more important fish to fry, including trying to stabilize a wobbly EU while warding off an economic collapse in southern and central Europe and the advance of ever more extreme rightwing parties.

On the other side of the Atlantic, President Obama and his top officials show every sign of becoming entangled in their own pivoting — to Iran, to China, to Russia’s eastern borderlands, and (under the radar) to Africa. The irony of all these military-first maneuvers is that they are actually helping Moscow, Tehran, and Beijing build up their own strategic depth in Eurasia and elsewhere, as reflected in Syria, or crucially in ever more energy deals. They are also helping cement the growing strategic partnership between China and Iran. The unrelenting Ministry of Truth narrative out of Washington about all these developments now carefully ignores the fact that, without Moscow, the “West” would never have sat down to discuss a final nuclear deal with Iran or gotten a chemical disarmament agreement out of Damascus.

When the disputes between China and its neighbors in the South China Sea and between that country and Japan over the Senkaku/Diaoyou islands meet the Ukraine crisis, the inevitable conclusion will be that both Russia and China consider their borderlands and sea lanes private property and aren’t going to take challenges quietly — be it via NATO expansion, U.S. military encirclement, or missile shields. Neither Beijing nor Moscow is bent on the usual form of imperialist expansion, despite the version of events now being fed to Western publics. Their “red lines” remain essentially defensive in nature, no matter the bluster sometimes involved in securing them.

Whatever Washington may want or fear or try to prevent, the facts on the ground suggest that, in the years ahead, Beijing, Moscow, and Tehran will only grow closer, slowly but surely creating a new geopolitical axis in Eurasia. Meanwhile, a discombobulated America seems to be aiding and abetting the deconstruction of its own unipolar world order, while offering the BRICS a genuine window of opportunity to try to change the rules of the game.


Russia and China in Pivot Mode


In Washington’s think-tank land, the conviction that the Obama administration should be focused on replaying the Cold War via a new version of containment policy to “limit the development of Russia as a hegemonic power” has taken hold. The recipe: weaponize the neighbors from the Baltic states to Azerbaijan to “contain” Russia. Cold War 2.0 is on because, from the point of view of Washington’s elites, the first one never really left town.

Yet as much as the U.S. may fight the emergence of a multipolar, multi-powered world, economic facts on the ground regularly point to such developments. The question remains: Will the decline of the hegemon be slow and reasonably dignified, or will the whole world be dragged down with it in what has been called “the Samson option”?

While we watch the spectacle unfold, with no end game in sight, keep in mind that a new force is growing in Eurasia, with the Sino-Russian strategic alliance threatening to dominate its heartland along with great stretches of its inner rim. Now, that’s a nightmare of Mackinderesque proportions from Washington’s point of view. Think, for instance, of how Zbigniew Brzezinski, the former national security adviser who became a mentor on global politics to President Obama, would see it.

In his 1997 book The Grand Chessboard, Brzezinski argued that “the struggle for global primacy would continue to be played” on the Eurasian “chessboard,” of which “Ukraine was a geopolitical pivot.” “If Moscow regains control over Ukraine,” he wrote at the time, Russia would “automatically regain the wherewithal to become a powerful imperial state, spanning Europe and Asia.”

That remains most of the rationale behind the American imperial containment policy — from Russia’s European “near abroad” to the South China Sea. Still, with no endgame in sight, keep your eye on Russia pivoting to Asia, China pivoting across the world, and the BRICS hard at work trying to bring about the new Eurasian Century.


Pepe Escobar is the roving correspondent for Asia Times/Hong Kong, an analyst for RT, and a TomDispatch regular. With a chapter on Iran, he is a contributing editor to The Global Obama: Crossroads of Leadership in the 21st Century. Follow him on Facebook.



Putin edges toward a personal Waterloo
by Ehsan M Ahrari

Asia Times


The final verdict is already in: Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin is the new bad man and the face of a new “villain” of the West. There are no tongue-in-cheek descriptions of him along the lines of eloquence of Winston Churchill when he depicted Russia as ” … a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma”. Today, Putin may be described as the reincarnation of Stalin and Peter the Great, in terms of his obsession for seizing superpowerdom for his native Russia.
            In that context, addressing Putin in the voice of Niccolo Machiavelli, German strategic thinker Josef Joffe labeled him a “true Machiavellian” who knows the art of exercising “economy of violence”, meaning the use of “just enough violence”.

            Joffe went on to state:

With the Second Crimean War, you also outdid Joseph Stalin and Nikita Khrushchev. Stalin was actually a timid man, who didn’t go beyond what his World War II armies had occupied. Khrushchev was a wild-eyed adventurist who almost unleashed World War III over Cuba. Yet you, Mr President, have been both ruthless and prudent – just what I prescribed in The Prince. You Russians have distilled my wisdom into a pithy phrase: Kto kovo – who dominates whom? And you have beautifully executed my central idea. I never preached violence to the max, but the “economy of force” – how to get more with less. The Crimean caper was a masterpiece of smart power politics.” You did everything right. You grabbed an opportunity when you saw it.
            Putin’s chief weapons are his revanchist ideology and billions of dollars that he hopes to earn from trading Russia’s precious gas to China and Europe (until the European Union decides to stop using it). Regarding how to develop various tactics for materializing his revanchist fervor, he initially appeared somewhat uncertain. However, he is fully cognizant that economic bankruptcy brought about the collapse of the former Soviet Union. He is determined to avoid that, but is going about seeking Russia’s reentry into superpowerdom in a wrong-headed way.
            Putin’s strategy – if one cares to label it as such – is not aimed at developing a powerful economy, building strong institutions, evolving a democratically vibrant legislature, and creating a highly productive civil and military research and development sectors, but by basing his developmental strategy on the sheer buying/spending power of revenues generated through signing long-term gas deals with China and other energy-starved industrial nations.
             However, a strategy that is based on manufacturing Russia’s dream of becoming a hollow great power appears to be headed for certain chaos. Now, more than ever, Western minds are busy plotting new schemes to entangle the rowdy Russian bear in the enduring webs of stringent and coordinated economic sanctions. Thus, Putin’s greatest challenge is how to evade his personal waterloo.

Outsmarting Obama

Things were going great for the old Vladimir Putin as he appeared to outmaneuver President Barack Obama in the case of the ongoing Syrian conflict. It was the highly unsettling political environment of the post-Arab Awakening Middle East that created the impression that Obama was dealing with Russia from a position of weakness regarding Syria and elsewhere. A general understanding was that Vladimir Putin dealt a coup de grace to President Obama’s declared intention to take military action against the regime of Bashar al-Assad for using chemical weapons against his civilian population during the ongoing civil war.
            The fact of the matter was that, even though Obama had declared his intention for taking limited military action against Syria, his heart was not in it. He was trying desperately to get out of Afghanistan as a victor, while President Hamid Karzai appeared intent (wittingly or unwittingly) to make a loser out of the United States in a country that is famously known as “the graveyard of empires”.
            Public opinion polls inside the United States had clearly indicated that Americans were fed up with the option of starting another war, no matter how limited or short it is originally promised to be. So, Putin’s “intervention” – if it can be called that – was both timely and very much supported US interests.
             Regarding the Syrian conflict, what made Obama looked “weak” was that he gave Russia and its support for any major resolution undeserved visibility and importance. If that statement is accepted as substantially correct, then it is also because President Obama did not have any other choice. The US had learned its recent bitter lesson in the aftermath of the 2011 ouster of the Gaddafi regime in Libya that was carried out under the auspices of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).
            Consequently, today’s Libya has emerged as a highly unstable place, with al-Qaeda-related groups very much alive and growing, and a country where a US ambassador and three other embassy personnel were murdered by the terrorists.
            Obama knows that, militarily speaking, it would be easy to destroy Assad’s civilian-killing machine and even to create an environment that would enable him to experience the fate of Muammar Gaddafi. However, he is also worried about the implications of that action on the security of Israel.
            Syria has already emerged as the new “Jihadistan”, where even al-Qaeda’s perpetration of violence appears mild compared to what the new ranks of Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (or its latest name, Islamic State) jihadists were doing there. That is why the US was not eager to jump into the foray, but was prepared to allow the Saudi and Qatari financial and military support of the Islamists without even disparaging it. No one in the West has the courage to say that there are not likely to be any victors in Syria or in Iraq.
            While the US weighs the modalities of an era after the fall of the Syrian president and and continues to hesitate about arming the anti-regime forces, Russia and Iran do not manifest even a modicum of hesitancy or timidity in supporting the Assad regime. For them, the alternative to Assad is equally grave. For the foreseeable future, both of them may lose any chances of retaining their strategic presence or its attendant sway in the Levant for the following two reasons.
            First, the post-Assad regime in Syria, in all likelihood, would be a Sunni Islamist-dominated one. In that capacity, it would be staunchly opposed to any presence of Russia and Iran. That potential appears perfectly appropriate to Washington, but the potential for the establishment of a stridently anti-US and anti-Israeli regime in Syria carries a greater sense of apprehension.
            Second, if Assad is ousted, largely as a result of the endeavors of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar, then the nature of the internal distribution of power in Lebanon also would be drastically transformed. It would turn against Hezbollah, which has remained a major actor inside that polity, and against Iran, which has exercised considerable influence inside that country largely by nurturing Hezbollah as a major paramilitary organization as well as an influential political party. No wonder Moscow and Tehran are of one mind regarding the implications of a post-Assad Lebanon for their respective security interests.
            Where Putin had a visible advantage over Obama was the fact that the military rulers of Egypt were not terribly happy with the fact that Washington had become tepidly friendly with the military junta and had been urging the return of democracy. The highly amateurish but power hungry new Pharaoh of Egypt encountered no such tentative response from Moscow. In fact, Putin, quite cleverly, endorsed so-called “Field Marshal” Abdullah Fattah al-Sisi’s presidential ambitions during his visit to Moscow in February this year.
            But here is where Obama might gain the upper hand. The post-Arab Awakening environment of the Middle East and North Africa is so unsettling and unpredictable that no one knows when the next political storm will develop and what or who will become its next victim.
            By remaining hesitant about ousting Assad and by tepidly urging the new dictators of Egypt to relinquish political power, the United States may be in a safer position than Russia, which has adopted an unadulterated Machiavellian approach by supporting the currently longest surviving murderous regime in Syria and by giving a public nod to the future dictator of Egypt.
             However, if (or most precisely, when) things go sour in Syria and Egypt, Obama may be rewarded for hedging his bets, but not Putin. Russia is most likely to be ousted from Syria, and the next rulers of Egypt (that is, successors to the military dictators) are most likely to be eagerly seeking support and assistance from the United States.

A personal Waterloo

Putin has not only been unhappy about the loss of the Soviet Union as one of the superpowers – which he called the greatest geopolitical disaster of the 20th century – but also thought that only by adopting revanchist policies would he be able to restore Russia’s lost territories. He put that belief to the test by militarily taking over Crimea, which was “gifted” to Ukraine by then dictator Nikita Khrushchev in 1954.
            But Putin’s revanchist proclivities have sown the seeds for the potential collapse of his leadership, his personal Waterloo. His style of interstate conflict resolution through land grab has long become a thing of the past. He not only acquired Crimea by invading Ukraine, but also manifested all designs to create a so-called autonomous region in the Eastern part of that country. His use of Russian security forces to destabilize Ukraine and his assertion to take whatever actions necessary to guarantee the security of Russian speaking citizens in the neighboring states sounded loud alarm bells in the West, and especially within the polities of former members of the now-defunct Warsaw Pact.
            Putin acted like a man who has no sense of history (it has been alleged that he has never read any history books and is known for his palpable intolerance for detail) or even minimal understanding of how much fear a resurgent and especially a revanchist Russia could create inside the former members of the Soviet Union and Eastern/Central Europe.
            America has been slow to adopt a confrontational policy toward feisty Putin, but it finally got around to steadily and resolutely unsheathing one of its most potent weapons: the ratcheting up of economic sanctions and demanding similar sanctions from the EU.
            Until recently, Putin had been lucky, because the EU not only has turned against militarism since the end of World War II – which means it has introduced drastic reductions in its military preparedness – but it also has developed a complex web of business/economic ties with Russia. Germany and Italy top that list. Even France, which appeared critical of the Russian militancy, was adamant about delivering to Russia two French-made Mistral-class helicopter attack carriers (the total cost of the deal: 1.2 billion euros, or US$1.6 billion).
            Only recently, Germany – the EU’s largest economy, Russia’s leading trading partner, and a country that relies heavily on Russian gas – showed its willingness to impose tough economic sanctions on Russia. The suspected Russian role in the downing of the Malaysian airliner MH-17 and the Kremlin’s palpable delay tactics surrounding the inquiry into that event were factors that sped up the agreement by the EU, which is notorious for its snail-paced decision-making process, especially those involving contentious issues. Even then, the EU agreed to let France go through with the sale of its Mistral-class ship to Russia.
            As the EU stiffens its resolve to impose economic sanctions on Russia – especially in the areas of energy trade, targeting that country’s major banks, and disallowing the export of dual-use technology to Russia – Putin’s dream of his country’s emergence as a superpower is likely to turn into a pipedream. It should be pointed out, however, that, even in the absence of those economic sanctions, the likelihood of Russia’s transformation into a superpower is slim, at best.
            The question becomes whether Putin will be able to survive a potential backlash to his power and leadership from the Russian populace. However, given the past stamina of the Russians to live through economic hardship, Putin and the Russian people are likely to live through this Putin-made phase of hardship that they are likely to encounter. In that case, Putin’s personal Waterloo will still materialize in the form of a denial of Great Power status to Russia, as Western economic sanctions continue to strengthen, possibly on a prolonged basis.

Dr Ehsan M Ahrari (ahrari@earthlink.net) is CEO of Strategic Paradigms, Defense and Foreign Affairs Consultancy


Pentagon Official: The Facts Are In, And Obama’s Policy Is A Direct Danger To The United States

August 2, 2014

The Daily Caller



Joseph Miller is the pen name for a ranking Department of Defense official with a background in U.S. special operations and combat experience in Iraq and Afghanistan. He has worked in strategic planning.

The report is in, and the review of the president’s foreign policy is clear: If there is not an immediate course-reversal, the United States is in serious danger.

In 2013, the United States Institute for Peace, “a congressionally-created, independent, nonpartisan institution whose mission is to prevent, mitigate, and resolve violent conflicts around the world,” was asked to assist the National Defense Panel with reviewing the Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR). The National Defense Panel is a congressional-mandated bipartisan commission that’s co-chairs were appointed by Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel.

On July 31, the National Defense Panel released its long-awaited report on the effects of the QDR and delivered its findings to Congress. The panel pulled no punches — its findings were a scathing indictment of Obama’s foreign policy, national security policy, and defense policy. The panel found that president Barack Obama’s QDR, military force reductions, and trillion-dollar defense budget cuts are dangerous — and will leave the country in a position where it is unable to respond to threats to our nation’s security. This, the panel concluded, must be reversed as soon as possible.

In particular, the report addresses the need for the administration to return to the flexible response doctrine — a policy where the military was tasked with being capable of fighting two wars at the same time. Given the current state of affairs and the threats posed to our nation, the panel felt that the two-war doctrine was still required to meet our nation’s national security challenges. The man-power reductions and budget cuts are both reflections of this change in policy, so it must be altered before that is possible.

So what is the flexible response doctrine, and why is it so important?

In 1961, the Kennedy administration sought to remake U.S. defense doctrine after concluding that former President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s “New Look” doctrine, which focused on mutually-assured destruction, was inappropriate for the Cold War. Kennedy decided that the United States would adopt a “Flexible Response Doctrine,” in which we would hold adversaries at bay through strategic deterrence and the ability to fight two wars — plus a smaller conflict — at the same time. That doctrine carried the United States through the Cold War and all of the other so-called shooting wars that followed, despite numerous challenges from nation states and non-state actors alike.

In 2012, the Obama administration decided to change the two-and-a-half war policy of the Flexible Response doctrine, in part due to the nation’s war fatigue, after having been at war for over a decade, and also in response to budgetary constraints exacerbated by a sluggish economy. The administration announced its intentions to significantly reduce the defense budget and re-examine the acquisition of major defense systems and hardware, shaping the future size and scope of the U.S. military. Given that Obama was first elected on an antiwar platform, this decision seems reasonable.

Here’s the problem: At the time the Obama administration announced the change in our defense doctrine, the president was also in front of the cameras threatening to use military force in Iran and Syria, announcing a “strategic pivot” toward Asia to counter a rising China, and swearing to uphold our defense treaties with Israel, Taiwan, South Korea, NATO, etc, all while we were still at war in Afghanistan. How can you threaten to take military action that could start a war when you are already fighting one in Afghanistan if you have changed your military doctrine to only fight one war at a time?

Some detractors may argue that this is a good thing, because it will prevent the president from starting another war. It’s worth pointing out that not all wars are of our choosing. The U.S. went to war twice in the last 50 years because our homeland was attacked by enemy forces. And unlike World War II, the enemy has not been defeated — even though the president plans to withdraw our forces from Afghanistan and has chosen to not take decisive action against these enemies in Iraq, Syria, Africa, etc. — an enemy that still seeks to do us harm. The next war may not be of our choosing. And the enemy has pledged to do just that.

What is even more distressing is that this doctrine will trickle down into military acquisition strategy. The U.S. Navy purchases ships that will be in service for 50 years. That means that the ships we buy today will make up the Navy’s fleet in 2065. The change in military doctrine that Obama directed will have a negative effect on the size and shape of our armed forces for decades to come. With a rising China, a re-emerging Russia, and a continued threat of global terrorism, who knows if at that time, the U.S. will be able to meet the challenges that lie ahead.

Former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld said, “You go to war with the army you have, not the army you want.” He was criticized for that remark, but it reflected the reality that he had to go to war with — an Army that had been hollowed out after the Gulf War by the Clinton administration. War is not a video game. You cannot hit the pause button on a crisis and ask the defense industrial base and the armed services to give you what you need to fight a war. That only comes from long-term acquisition strategy driven by doctrine that accurately reflects future threats.

If the administration does not reverse course on its defense strategy and ask congressional Democrats to reverse defense spending cuts, then our nation will find itself in a position where it is unable to defend itself and could become the victim of terrorism on U.S. soil once again.



Severe drought in California spreading at unprecedented rate

August 1, 2014



The drought in California is getting worse as more than half the state now suffers from the most severe drought conditions possible, according to a new report.

The recent study published by the US Drought Monitor noted that 58 percent of California is experiencing “exceptional drought,” which is the most serious category on the agency’s five-level scale.

It’s also the highest percentage to be recorded since the federal government started monitoring drought levels in the 1990s.

What’s more alarming, however, is the fact that before 2014, no parts of California ever suffered from such severe conditions. As the Los Angeles Times notes, the rate at which this level of drought has spread throughout the state is unprecedented. In fact, about 22 percent of the state was moved into the “exceptional” category during the last week.

“You keep beating the record, which are still all from this year,” National Drought Mitigation Center climatologist Mark Svoboda told the Times.

Additionally, California’s reservoirs are significantly short of where they need to be. Their current state isn’t as bad as it was in the low point of 1977, but Brad Rippey of the US Department of Agriculture stated that “California is short more than one year’s worth of reservoir water, or 11.6 million acre-feet, for this time of year” as a result of the drought.

That fact alone is important to Svoboda, who said conditions are likely to get worse.

“It’s hard because the drought is not over and you’re in the dry season. Our eyes are already on next winter,” he said to the Times. “Outside of some freakish atmospheric conditions, reservoir levels are going to continue to go down. You’re a good one to two years behind the eight ball.”

Now in its third year, the drought has left local officials and lawmakers scrambling to address the problem. As RT reported previously, the state’s water regulators have established new regulations that allow them to levy fines of up to $500 against those using water wastefully, while Gov. Jerry Brown has tried to drastically lower the state’s overall consumption of water.

California has also shut down 11 oil and gas exploration sites – and is reviewing more than 100 others – in areas hit hard by the drought, which has already cost the state more than $2 billion this year alone. The order came over fears that companies may be injecting toxic wastewater into underwater aquifers that are being tapped for drinking water.

In addition to concerns over drinking water, the dry conditions statewide have increased the threat of wildfires, which have raged through parts of California, damaging homes and forcing evacuations.

‘Nightmare bacteria’ spreading rapidly in Southeastern US

August 2, 2014



            Deadly, nearly untreatable superbugs known as CRE, dubbed “nightmare bacteria,” have spread at an alarming rate throughout the southeastern region of the US in recent years, new research indicates.

Researchers at Duke University Medical Center have found cases of antibiotic-resistant CRE – or carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae – increased by at least a factor of five in community hospitals across the region from 2008 to 2012.

“We’re trying to sound the alarm. This is a problem for all of us in health care,” said Deverick J. Anderson, lead author of the study and an associate professor of medicine at Duke, according to USA Today. “These (bacteria) are just about as bad as it gets.”

CRE are a family of bacteria that live in one’s guts, often without causing illness. Yet when the bacteria escape – during ICU treatment, for example – they often cause major hospital-induced infections. One in 25 hospitalized patients contract at least one health-care-related infection on any given day, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The bacteria prey mostly on vulnerable, hospitalized patients, killing nearly half of those who catch bloodstream infections.

“Carbapenems,” according to Wired, are a group of potent antibiotics that target infections that have proven resistant to other antibiotics. They are considered drugs to be used as a last resort. And since only a few antibiotics – riddled with side effects and other problems for a patient – have been proven successful against CREs, the bacteria family’s strong emergence indicates the dawn of a post-antibiotic era.

That is, unless overuse of antibiotics is curbed and infection control at hospitals and long-term care facilities is improved, experts say. Many in the health community see the rise of superbugs as fueled by the impulse to use antibiotics, both with and without a patient’s urging, for common ailments like a sore throat.

“That needs to stop,” said Kevin Kavanagh, an infection-control activist who heads the watchdog group Health Watch USA. “It’s creating a huge problem.”

Last year, the CDC said CREs have spread from one medical facility in 2001 to many facilities in 46 states by 2013.

“Our strongest antibiotics don’t work, and patients are left with potentially untreatable infections,” said CDC Director Tom Frieden, who called CREs “nightmare bacteria.”

The Duke study, released in the journal Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology, found that CRE detection went up fivefold within the Duke Infection Control Outreach Network, a group of 25 community hospitals in North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, and Georgia.

Anderson said rates have probably gone up just as much nationally at such small community hospitals, “the main type of hospitals in the US.”

Wired’s Maryn McKenna described the implications of the study’s findings and what it would mean if CRE spread beyond hospital settings:

“[H]ospitals where this resistance factor was identified were what is called ‘community’ hospitals, that is, not academic referral centers. That’s an important distinction, because academic medical centers tend to be where the most cutting-edge care is performed, and where the sickest people are. As a result, they are where last-resort antibiotics are used the most, and therefore where resistance is most likely to emerge. That CRE was found so widely not in academic centers, but rather in community hospitals, is a signal that it is probably moving through what medicine calls ‘the community,’ which is to say, anywhere outside healthcare. Or, you know, everyday life.”

And if CRE are not controlled, activist Kavanagh told USA Today, medicines currently relied on to combat bacterial infections will become increasingly impotent against them.

Meanwhile, last month, researchers found one of the deadliest antibiotic-resistant bacteria for the first time in a food product, raw squid, as reported by the CDC.

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