Mexico Deploys 1000s Of Troops As Popocatépetl Volcano Rumbles, Millions Warned Of Possible Evacuation

Mexico Deploys 1000s Of Troops As Popocatépetl Volcano Rumbles, Millions Warned Of Possible Evacuation Popocatepetl volcano has been blanketing towns with ash and disrupting flights at Mexico City's airport this week. Authorities are preparing for the possible evacuation of millions of people as thousands of troops were deployed to the region, according to NPR News.  On Tuesday, Mexico raised the alert level of Popocatepetl to "yellow phase three" from "yellow phase two," one notch below the top "red" level. About 25 million people are living within 60 miles of the 17,797-foot volcano. The country's Defense Department said nearly 7,000 troops had been deployed to the region, located 45 miles southwest of Mexico City. VIDEO: Local authorities deliver emergency kits to protect people from the ash spewing from Mexico's Popocatepetl volcano — AFP News Agency (@AFP) May 25, 2023 Troops are being positioned in case an evacuation is needed. popocatépetl volcano starting to blow its top in mexico ~7000 troops deployed to the region in case mass evacuation is needed > 25 million live within 60 miles of the peak — ian bremmer (@ianbremmer) May 24, 2023 "There is no risk to the population at this time," National Civil Defense Coordinator Laura Velazquez said earlier this week.  Velazquez noted, "We don't know what's going to happen. We are prepared for any scenario." Many are wondering if the next big eruption is imminent.  On 2023-05-24 #TROPOMI has detected a strong SO2 signal of 18.31DU at a distance of 57.6km to #Popocatepetl at an altitude of ~1km. Estimated mass within 300km: 5.5ktons.. @tropomi #S5p #Sentinel5p @DLR_en @BIRA_IASB @ESA_EO #SO2LH — TROPOMI SO2 (@DlrSo2) May 24, 2023 Servando de la Cruz Reyna, a senior geophysics researcher at the UNAM in Mexico, told AP News there are no signs that the current waves of rumblings, and minor eruptions could point to higher volcanic activity. He said: "The probability that this continues as it has previously is far higher than the probability that this grows to much higher levels."  However, Popocatepetl is a stratovolcano capable of a massive eruption. That is why Mexican authorities are preparing for any scenario by staging thousands of troops in the area because millions might need to be evacuated if a mega eruption is seen.      Tyler Durden Thu, 05/25/2023 - 18:00.....»»

Category: blogSource: zerohedgeMay 25th, 2023

Now We Are Being Told To Expect Food And Diesel Shortages For The Foreseeable Future

Now We Are Being Told To Expect Food And Diesel Shortages For The Foreseeable Future Authored by Michael Snyder via The Economic Collapse blog, If you think that the food and diesel shortages are bad now, then you will be absolutely horrified by what the globe is experiencing by the end of the year.  All over the planet, food production is being crippled by an unprecedented confluence of factors.  The war in Ukraine, extremely bizarre weather patterns, nightmarish plagues and a historic fertilizer crisis have combined to create a “perfect storm” that isn’t going away any time soon.  As a result, the food that won’t be grown in 2022 will become an extremely severe global problem by the end of this calendar year.  Global wheat prices have already risen by more than 40 percent since the start of 2022, but this is just the beginning.  Meanwhile, we are facing unthinkable diesel fuel shortages in the United States this summer, and as you will see below there are “no plans” to increase refining capacity in this country for the foreseeable future. If you had told me six months ago that we would be dealing with the worst baby formula shortage in U.S. history in the middle of 2022, I am not sure that I would have believed you. But that is precisely what we are now facing.  One young couple in Florida searched stores in their area for four hours and couldn’t find anything… When Erik and Kelly Schmidt, both 35, went into a Central Florida Target store this week to buy their usual baby formula, Up & Up Gentle, for their five-month-old twins, they found an empty shelf. The pair then embarked on a half-day journey in search of formula, any formula, and their quest didn’t end there. “We spent over four hours going to every Target, different Walmarts, different grocery stores, just finding absolutely nothing,” Erik Schmidt said. Of course the Biden administration has made sure that there is enough baby formula for migrants that are illegally crossing the border, but for millions of ordinary American families this crisis has become a complete and utter nightmare. One father actually broke down in tears right in the middle of the baby formula aisle in Walmart because things have become so desperate for his family… Sara Owens, of Florence County, said she was hunting for baby formula for his six-month-old daughter, Namoi, amid a nationwide shortage when she encountered a dad break into tears after driving from store to store looking for his daughter’s brand of formula. ‘As tears continued to stream down his face he said ‘I never thought I would be crying because I can’t find what my child has to have,” Owens wote in the Facebook post that’s been shared more than 180,000 times. ‘My heart broke to 100 pieces on the formula aisle in Walmart.’ Sadly, we shouldn’t expect any improvement any time soon. As I discussed last week, the Biden administration shut down one of the most important baby formula manufacturing facilities in this country a while ago, and the CEO of Abbott Nutrition says that it will take a few months to get products back on the shelves once the FDA finally allows them to reopen the plant… Meanwhile, the plant remains closed as the company works to make upgrades to the facility to meet the FDA’s recommendations. Abbott says it can have products from the facility back on store shelves after a few months once the FDA signs off on them doing so. Needless to say, baby formula is not the only thing in short supply right now.  As shortages grow and prices spiral out of control, grocery stores are increasingly becoming prime targets for thieves. In fact, things have already gotten so bad in the Midwest that one major supermarket chain has decided to post armed guards in their stores… The shoulder patches say, “A Helpful Smile in Every Aisle,” but the police-style uniforms, complete with belts with holstered taser and possibly handguns, may send a very different message as Hy-Vee deploys a new retail security team in its stores. The West Des Moines-based supermarket chain will begin introducing its own security force “as part of its ongoing efforts to ensure the health and safety of both its customers and employees,” the company announced in a news release on Dec. 29. The program will roll out throughout 2022, but security teams are already present in some stores. As I have warned for many years, eventually we will see armed guards in supermarkets and on food delivery trucks all over the nation. In the months ahead, food production is going to be way below expectations all over the globe.  The following summary of what farmers are currently facing comes from Zero Hedge… Across the world, top wheat-producing regions are experiencing adverse weather conditions that could threaten production. In places like Ukraine, a military invasion by Russia has slashed production significantly. All of this suggests the world is on the cusp of a food crisis. Droughts, floods, and heatwaves have plagued farmland in the U.S., Europe, India, and China. As for Ukraine, the world’s largest wheat producer, the war could slash production by upwards of a third. As I have previously detailed, some countries have already decided to ban certain types of agricultural exports as they brace for the coming global food crisis. And we just learned that India has now decided to ban the export of all wheat… India, the second-largest producer of wheat, has banned exports of the commodity, due to a risk to its food security. A Friday notice in the government gazette signed by Santosh Kumar Sarangi, the Director General of Foreign Trade, said that a “sudden spike” in the global prices of wheat was putting India, neighboring and other vulnerable countries at risk. This is huge. Supplies of food are getting tighter with each passing week, and this is already starting to spark food riots all over the world. For example, we witnessed some very emotional protests in Iran last week… Protests broke out in Iran Thursday after the government cut subsidies for food, sending prices through the roof as authorities brace for more unrest in the following weeks. In videos shared on social media, protesters can be seen marching through Dezful and Mahshahr in the southwestern province of Khezestan, chanting “Death to Khamenei! Death to Raisi!” referring to Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi has promised to create jobs, lift sanctions, and rescue the economy. And in Sri Lanka the citizens are so angry that they are actually burning down the homes of politicians… Protesters in Sri Lanka have burned down homes belonging to 38 politicians as the crisis-hit country plunged further into chaos, with the government ordering troops to “shoot on sight.” Police in the island nation said Tuesday that in addition to the destroyed homes, 75 others have been damaged as angry Sri Lankans continue to defy a nationwide curfew to protest against what they say is the government’s mishandling of the country’s worst economic crisis since 1948. This is just the tip of the iceberg. Things will get really crazy in the months ahead as global food supples get a whole lot tighter. Meanwhile, we are being warned that there is likely to be a “diesel fuel shortage on the East Coast” during the months ahead… The possibility of a diesel fuel shortage is being monitored as diesel fuel prices across the country and in Maryland continue to surpass all-time highs. According to fuel industry experts, all signs are pointing to a potential diesel fuel shortage on the East Coast that could cripple an already fragile supply chain. Last week, the price of diesel fuel in the U.S. rose to an all-time record high of $5.62 a gallon, and it is only going to go higher. The biggest reason why we are facing such a supply crunch right now is because there are “simply too few refineries turning oil into usable fuels”… From record gasoline prices to higher airfares to fears of diesel rationing ahead, America’s runaway energy market is disquieting both US travelers and the wider economy. But the chief driver isn’t high crude prices or even the rebound in demand: It’s simply too few refineries turning oil into usable fuels. Surely more refineries are being built to meet the growing demand, right? Wrong. Mountains of regulations that have been instituted by our politicians make it extremely difficult to build and operate a new refinery in this country. As a result, we are being told that “the supply squeeze is only going to get worse” for the foreseeable future… More than 1 million barrels a day of the country’s oil refining capacity — or about 5% overall — has shut since the beginning of the pandemic. Elsewhere in the world, capacity has shrunk by 2.13 million additional barrels a day, energy consultancy Turner, Mason & Co. estimates. And with no plans to bring new US plants online, even though refiners are reaping record profits, the supply squeeze is only going to get worse. To a very large degree, we have done this to ourselves. And as I keep telling my readers, decades of very foolish decisions are starting to catch up with us in a major way. Our trucks and our trains run on diesel, and so a shortage of diesel will only make our ongoing supply chain crisis even worse. This nightmare never seems to end, and there will be plenty of pain in the months ahead. *  *  * It is finally here! Michael’s new book entitled “7 Year Apocalypse” is now available in paperback and for the Kindle on Amazon. Tyler Durden Mon, 05/16/2022 - 14:05.....»»

Category: blogSource: zerohedgeMay 16th, 2022

You Can"t Fight The Culture War Without Making Movies

You Can't Fight The Culture War Without Making Movies Authored by Michael Pack via RealClear Wire, Conservatives complain that they are losing the culture wars. And they are right. That won’t change until conservatives actually produce culture, which would be good for everyone. American culture would be enriched by art made by artists with diverse viewpoints and experiences. Conservatives could start with independent and documentary films; they are increasingly influential but much less expensive than Hollywood movies. Yet, many, on both sides, don’t believe conservatives can make good films. I disagree, and I am in a position to know. Along with my wife and business partner, Gina Cappo Pack, I have been producing documentaries for many years. Over 15 of our films have been nationally broadcast on PBS. All have won awards and garnered many favorable reviews. (A full list of our films along with clips can be found here.) So, I am a practitioner, a maker of culture, rather than a critic or expert.  In addition, I have run some major cultural institutions, including serving as president of the Claremont Institute, senior vice president for television programming at the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and CEO of the United States Agency for Global Media, our government’s international broadcasters, including Voice of America. So, I also have the perspective of a media executive. Over the years, I have watched numerous conservative efforts to “take back the culture,” all pathetic failures. Capturing the Culture How did the left achieve cultural dominance? Not by accident or luck, but by hard work, a clear focus, and talent. In the late 1960s, the New Left called for a “long march through the institutions,” intending eventually to dominate all the elements of civil society. The phrase is attributed to German Marxist student leader Rudi Dutschke, who was echoing Mao’s famed actual “long march” leading to the Communists’ revolutionary takeover of China. The concept was picked up by the Frankfurt School and has roots in the influential Italian Marxist Antonio Gramsci, who believed that cultural struggle inevitably precedes revolutionary class struggle. Student radicals knew they had failed to foment Marxist revolution in the 60s, so they turned to capturing the West’s cultural institutions. Their first target was the university, where, as student radicals, they were already well-positioned. They soon expanded to Hollywood. For example, Bert Schneider, one of the producers of “Easy Rider,” helped finance and plan Black Panther leader Huey Newton’s flight to Cuba to evade charges of shooting a 17-year-old prostitute. To the Hollywood elite, Schneider was just earning his street cred.  Today, their success is undeniable – in the universities, in Hollywood, the tech sector, woke corporations, and the permanent government bureaucracy. Along the way, their hard-core Marxism has morphed into a softer wokeism, at least for now. The left owns the narrative. Their version of contemporary events and history dominates – we are told that the American Revolution was fought to preserve slavery, the Cold War ended thanks to Mikhail Gorbachev, transgender athletes have a civil right to compete in sports with biological women, and the rest of the woke litany.  In the past, conservatives have downplayed the importance of culture, seeing its airy fictions as less serious than economics or politics. After losing many of their children and grandchildren to the progressive left, they have come to see the error of their ways, at least in theory. Many quote Andrew Breitbart’s aphorism that “politics is downstream of culture,” as if this were a new idea. It isn’t: In 1820, Percy Bysshe Shelley wrote that poets are “the unacknowledged legislators of the world,” and by “poets” he meant all artists. Plato and Aristotle understood this same idea thousands of years earlier, and they were none too happy about it, or at least ambivalent. The Importance of Story Conservatives talk about culture and storytelling all the time. But few of them really get it.  I watch a lot of conservative films, especially documentaries. Few are very good, as I am often told by my friends on the left, and most don’t even coherently tell a story. Preaching at the audience isn’t telling a story. A series of anecdotes is not a story. A story is something that happens to a protagonist, or a group of protagonists, with a beginning, middle, and end. It has a story arc. Characters change and develop. Ideas emerge from the action.  Let me offer two examples of how a story works, drawn from my own films. Our documentary, “Created Equal: Clarence Thomas in His Own Words,” tells the story of Justice Clarence Thomas, from growing up in the segregated South to the Supreme Court. We let him tell his story himself. He is the only person interviewed, except his wife, Ginni. He looks directly at the camera as if speaking directly to the viewer.  The trailer can be found here. The film deals with race in America, originalism, the principles of the Founding, being a black conservative, and much more. Not through experts telling us what to think but through Clarence Thomas his own life story. Viewers can see for themselves how his worldview arose from the events of his life. To make a compelling story, we needed to structure the narrative to build to the right climactic moments, employing music, editing rhythms, visual imagery, and the rest of the cinematic toolkit.  Good documentary filmmakers reveal their biases not so much by distorting facts but by the stories they choose to tell. Several progressive filmmakers have chosen to tell the Ruth Bader Ginsburg story. Ginsburg was graced with two documentaries and a fictional feature film and became a pop culture heroine. All three films were widely acclaimed, and Robert Redford invited her to the Sundance Film Festival to celebrate her even more. We chose to tell Clarence Thomas’ story. America needs both.  Our film, “The Last 600 Meters,” tells a different kind of story, depicting the biggest battles of the Iraq war, Fallujah and Najaf, in 2004. A climax is a scene toward the end of the film, one of the most intense firefights of the war, called Hell House. The clip can be found here. I am gratified that many senior military leaders have praised the film. For example, Gen. James Mattis, who was in charge of the first battle of Fallujah, said:  “The Last 600 Meters reveals the infantry’s world as it has seldom been seen by those who have not experienced it. “This film, uncaptured by politics or ideology, reveals the most bruising ethical environment on Earth and the character of the young men that our nation sends in harm’s way – its infantry. It does so without veneer or apology, and in the tumult shown, understanding builds to respect for those who do our nation’s bidding in the highly unforgiving environment of ‘The Last 600 Meters.’ This film is a classic, unique in its approach and unique in what it reveals.” However, the film has not yet been released. The reasons reveal how differently the left and right respond to movies and understand stories.  Although the Corporation for Public Broadcasting was the principal funder, PBS rejected the finished film, which had never before happened in my entire career. They said it was too pro-military and too sympathetic to the young soldiers and Marines. They accused me of using selective casting to make them look more attractive and articulate, as if they needed my help. In other words, PBS didn’t like what they took to be its message.  Next, we tried to raise money to release the film in movie theaters hoping to generate audience buzz, and perhaps a good cable or streaming deal. I went around the country screening the film and meeting with wealthy donors. I was accompanied by one of our executive producers, Steve Bannon (yes, that Steve Bannon, then a movie guy, and clearly a great salesman). Consistently, these potential donors told us that, while the film was emotionally moving, they didn’t know at the end what they were supposed to think. Was it pro- or anti-war? Why was there no “call to action”? At that time, we failed to raise the necessary funds.  Clearly, the film deals with issues like patriotism, honor, the nature of counterinsurgency warfare, and how the military functions – but through the medium of story. For our potential donors, it was not explicit enough. They were uncomfortable with the ambiguities of the story. But that was part of the point of the film. War is messy, and certainties vanish. (PBS executives, on the other hand, thought they could see past the ambiguities to what they took to be our message.) We still hope to release the film. Perhaps its moment has come. With the war in Ukraine, the debacle in Afghanistan, and other ongoing worldwide threats, we need to decide how we want to wage war. It would be wise to look back at what happened last time, during the biggest battles since Vietnam, Fallujah and Najaf.  What is wanted is not merely storytelling. Story is the beginning, not the end. The viewer’s mind must be teased to see more than just a rollicking good tale, through ambiguity, metaphor, and the rest. The story must be in the service of ideas.  The Left’s Documentary Ecosystem Not only does the left have a better intuitive grasp of story, but they are also more serious about developing the institutions to support story-telling culture.  Over the last 50 years, the left has poured time, money, and creativity into this project. Looking only at documentaries and small independent features, I estimate that the left spends tens of billions of dollars annually. For example, the annual budget of public broadcasting, radio, and television is about $2.5 billion. Netflix, according to the Wall Street Journal, spent $17 billion last year on content. Not all of this money is going to left-leaning products, but much of it is. And these are only two out of many left-leaning media enterprises. On the other side, the right spends, maybe, tens of millions of dollars on films and television. So, over 50 years, this gap has grown to hundreds of billions of dollars, which has underwritten a progressive ecosystem of supportive and reinforcing institutions, in addition to many, many powerful films.  The left starts nurturing young filmmakers right from the beginning of their careers and then at every step along the way.  It starts with film schools. Virtually every college and university in America has a film school, and there are about 4,000 colleges. Almost every film school professor is a self-described progressive. I have never met one who is conservative. Every year, these film schools graduate hundreds of thousands of progressive aspiring filmmakers (along with camera operators, editors, film composers, etc.). Only a small percentage have the talent, ambition, and drive to succeed, and they become the basis for the next generation of progressive creative talent. On the right, we have no such winnowing process. We are left with the few filmmakers who fall off the left-wing apple cart.  After film school, there are many training programs for progressive young filmmakers to sharpen their skills and make industry contacts.  Then, when looking for their first job, they can apply to any of the vast networks of progressive film companies, which range from one-man shops to divisions of major studios.  When our budding young progressive filmmakers have acquired enough experience and are ready to make their first big film, they can turn to an extensive network of progressive funding sources. All the largest American foundations, including the Ford Foundation, the MacArthur Foundation, and the Rockefeller Foundation, have divisions devoted to supporting “social justice” documentaries. The federal government funds documentaries through the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the National Science Foundation, among others. The staff of these government entities is very focused, explicitly, on social justice and DEI, and their grants reflect that.  For-profit funding is also available. Several boutique distribution and production companies have been created by wealthy leftist billionaires, often from Silicon Valley, to support woke films, such as Participant, bankrolled by eBay founder Jeff Skoll. HBO, Showtime, Amazon, Netflix, and other cable and streaming companies commission woke documentaries and nonfiction series, in addition to acquiring them.  As these young progressives start to produce their films, they can rely on a talent pool of skilled artists and craftsmen, from cameramen and composers to editors and computer graphics artists, who proudly call themselves progressive, too.  When their woke film is finished, how do they make sure a large audience sees it? Our up-and-coming progressive filmmakers have a host of options, especially among cable and streaming services. Years ago, we all hoped that these new companies, like Netflix, Amazon, and Hulu, would provide a diversity of programming, different from the standard Hollywood fare. This has failed to materialize, in part because they are run by the same progressive Hollywood and New York elites that run the legacy media companies.  Finally, our progressive filmmakers can enter their films in prestigious film festivals, like Sundance or Telluride, or the many smaller ones, including ones dedicated to environmental, LGBT, or other niche markets. Then, they might be lucky enough to get an award, from the Oscars and Emmys to many others, all run by the same woke club.  Not surprisingly, with all this attention and need for content, there is a renaissance of documentary and nonfiction filmmaking. Both feature-length documentary films and short documentaries are being produced in large numbers. Many are of very high quality, but almost all are very progressive, especially in the choice of subject. For example, the proposed Emmy nominees for nonfiction in one year included documentaries and series celebrating Stacey Abrams, Greta Thunberg, progressive Philadelphia DA Larry Krasner, and the ’70s black militant group MOVE, a virtual litany of woke causes and progressive heroes and victims. None had voices questioning the saintly nature of their protagonists.  The Myth of the Left’s Artistic Superiority The left’s dominance of the culture may seem daunting. This should not deter us. To put our problem in perspective, look back at how radical leaders felt when they began their march through the institutions. They, too, were discouraged.  Frankfurt school writers decried the hopelessly bourgeois nature of mid-century America, narcotized, according to them, by TV shows like “Bonanza” and “Father Knows Best.” How would they ever radicalize these comfortable middle-class Americans? But they persisted and are now rewarded with success. We can succeed, too. A restoration is easier than a revolution.  Cowards who want to surrender in the culture wars often claim we can’t fight back because “the left is naturally more artistic and given to storytelling. Our side is more interested in politics and making money.” This may describe our society as it is now, but it is not a natural law.  I am not even sure what this assertion means. Great art and artists are hard to pigeonhole, and the politics of the past are very different from the politics of the present. Just to cite a few examples: Virgil’s Aeneid, the most influential poem in human history, glorified the Roman Emperor Augustus. Dante’s Divine Comedy longed for a reconstituted pan-European monarchy and a universal church. Shakespeare’s history plays celebrated and justified Elizabethan rule.  Whatever you call these works, they are not left-leaning or anti-authoritarian.  The trope of the radical artist defying convention and society is comparatively recent, a creation of the Romantic Movement, with its Byronic rebel artists and its critique of industrialization and the values of the rising bourgeoisie. But, over the last two centuries, there are plenty of exceptions to this Romantic myth, from Robert Frost to T. S. Eliot.  My part of the cultural battlefield is the movies. The movie industry itself is the best rejoinder to the myth of leftist artistic superiority. Hollywood, in its golden age, from the 1920s through the 1950s, consistently made movies with a patriotic subtext, selling the American Dream to audiences here and all over the world. These movies celebrated faith, family, and individual opportunity. Hollywood moguls, like Louis B. Mayer, Jack Warner, and Samuel Goldwyn, were Jewish immigrants who fled oppression and pogroms in Eastern Europe. They prized American liberty and freedom, having bitter memories of its opposite. And, of course, selling the American dream was good business, leading to immensely popular movies, since these movies mirrored the values of their countrymen.  The iconic American genre is the Western, whose greatest director was John Ford, and its greatest star was John Wayne. Ford’s movies, like “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence” or “The Searchers,” tell complex stories of the settling of the West, which are basically positive but with complicating features. John Wayne often portrays the rugged individualist hero, who is maybe too violent for civilization but necessary for its success. These movies, and icons like Wayne, made people all over the world want to come to America and be Americans.  When it comes to storytelling, in truth, the advantage is all on our side, not on the left’s. Our stories, especially about America, have heroes and villains, and great world-changing adventures. These are stories past generations of Americans have loved hearing. Moreover, they are actually true and reflect even deeper truths. The left has had to turn all this on its head, with anti-heroes, nihilistic postmodern Westerns, dystopian anti-free market fantasies, and the rest. With the help of deep pockets and the control of all cultural institutions, they have done surprisingly well with a weak hand.  Solutions America may be in a culture war, but only one side is fighting. The progressive left is making culture. We, on the conservative right, merely complain about it. Imagine a war where one side deploys troops and weapons, and the other side complains about the first group’s inhumane behavior. No wonder we are losing. We haven’t really begun to fight, to get our troops into the field.  We need to start producing culture. To give you an idea of what can be accomplished, let me describe what my team is doing. We have launched a new production company, Palladium Pictures, to help fill this need. We aim to tell stories the progressive left ignores, downplays, or covers in a one-sided fashion. Fortunately, we have a generous multi-year grant to help us get started. Naturally, we will need to fundraise aggressively to realize the grandest of our ambitions. Our plan has three parts: new long-form documentaries, short documentaries, and an incubator to train the next generation of right-of-center filmmakers. Long-Form Documentaries As is typical for a production company, we have many projects in development and the list is always growing. Let me briefly describe three from this list, without too much detail.  “Seattle 2020” (working title): The protests and riots following the death of George Floyd, whatever their political goals, also led to billions of dollars of property damage and many violent crimes. Yet, there are no major documentaries about those riots, while, according to the Washington Post, there are over a dozen films in production about the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the U.S. Capitol. The events in Seattle that summer are a good window into what was happening across the country and into some of the movements and issues that are still with us. Immediately after George Floyd’s killing, protests and riots began, first in downtown Seattle and then in the fashionable Capitol Hill area. Eventually, the police decided to abandon the Capitol Hill police station and permit the protestors to run the six blocks around it as they saw fit, with barriers to entry and their own security force. The protestors first called the area The Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone (CHAZ) but later changed the name to The Capitol Hill Organized Protest (the CHOP). Police, fire, and EMS were forbidden entry. During the day there was free food, music, and speeches, while nighttime was more violent: Many stores were looted, there were several shootings, and, finally, two murders forced the city to clear the CHOP, though protests continued throughout the year. We will examine the story from all sides, giving all points of view, from protestors to police to city officials, a chance to speak. “Fracking” (working title): Extracting natural gas through hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling, commonly called “fracking,” has revolutionized energy production in the U.S. We have gone from a net importer of petroleum products to a net exporter, not without controversy. Critics claim fracking is polluting drinking water and releasing large amounts of methane, a greenhouse gas, into the environment. Defenders of the method point to the huge new resources of natural gas that can be reached by horizontal drilling, fueling economic growth in America and around the world. They add that natural gas replacing coal has lowered America’s CO2 emissions. Rather than feature the argument or profile victims, as is often done, we will follow a few fracking entrepreneurs as they try to drill for natural gas, encountering opposition from regulators, environmentalists, and government at all levels. Although all these people will get a chance to make their case fully, our story will be driven by our entrepreneurs’ ongoing efforts to find the energy the world needs and to pursue the American dream of success through achievement. “Rediscovering Thomas Jefferson”: America’s Founding Fathers are under attack as never before, from tearing down their statues to the 1619 Project’s claim that the American Revolution was mainly about protecting slavery. So, this seems to us a good time to reexamine our founding. We have done two previous films on founders, “Rediscovering George Washington” and “Rediscovering Alexander Hamilton,” which placed their lives in the context of today’s world.  Next, we want to turn to Thomas Jefferson. These days he is under attack not only for being a slave owner who is believed to have fathered children with an enslaved woman, but also for his Enlightenment ideas, as realized in the Declaration of Independence, whose vision of “equality” differs from contemporary notions of “equity.” We will present him, warts and all, but not just the warts, the brilliance, too.  These are three very different documentaries. Together they can begin to change the debate about the recent past, the present, and our history – and point the way for others to do so, too. A small number of well-crafted, fair-minded films can make a difference. Short Documentaries We are working with a major media organization to put out a series of short documentaries, telling the full story behind news items and recent events. Topics under consideration include aspects of the response to COVID-19, cancel culture, and the parent movement to challenge public schools. These shorts will deal with issues by finding the human story that reveals the essence of what is at stake, rather than being issue-oriented essays, with a lot of explanation and narration. The format will be closer to the New York Times’ Op-Docs, rather than the video essays popular on conservative websites. Although topical, these films will not be advocacy. While relying on good reporting, presenting a fair consideration of the issues, and featuring all sides, these will be primarily emotional and thought-provoking films. The New York Times’ Op-Docs, and others on the left, do this well. We need to catch up. Since are partnered with a major media organization and will be producing several every year, these shorts will be able to gradually grow their audience and become a brand. We will use all the new ways of delivering video, from streaming services to X (formerly known as Twitter) to new social media outlets. These docs will enable us to deal with hot-button issues with a quicker turnaround time, before the conventional wisdom is settled. If the news is the first draft of history, these will be the second draft (and our longer docs, the third draft). In a world bogged down by the 24-hour news cycle, these docs will offer in-depth journalism that captivates as much as it investigates and informs.  Incubator In the future, who will make movies that will tell “the other side of the story,” neglected by Hollywood and today’s cultural establishment? How can we create the missing talent pool, cast aside by the progressive left’s ecosystem of institutions from film school to the Oscars? To solve that problem in the nonfiction realm, we are launching an incubator program to train and nurture a core group of the next generation of right-of-center documentary filmmakers. Through a competitive process, we will select several fellows, whose short film project we will fully fund and distribute. These films will be made under our direct supervision and tutelage, so the filmmakers will receive mentorship and guidance. In the course of making these short films, a new generation of non-woke filmmakers will learn producing skills, narrative techniques, and journalistic judgment.  Each year this network of young, talented filmmakers will grow. They will go on from our incubator to make bigger and better films. They will help and collaborate with each other. We are committed to helping them throughout their careers. Over time, as a group, they will change the documentary film landscape, challenging the notion that conservatives can’t make movies, not in theory, but by producing great films. The program is outlined here. Conclusion Contrary to conventional wisdom, I am much more optimistic about the changing the culture, especially through the story-telling media, than about reforming politics and the government. Sure, conservatives can win elections, but the permanent bureaucracy has spent decades burrowing in and is protected by civil service rules so even victories at the ballot box don’t mean what they once did. Yet, anyone can make a movie. Although all the supporting institutions are on the left, entertainment remains a free market. We can nurture our own filmmakers and make our own movies. Today, there are many more ways for a non-woke film to reach an audience. You can stream it from your own YouTube site. You can make a deal with one of the several new conservative streaming sites. It’s also possible that you can persuade one of the major streaming services to pick it up. After all, we have been successful for decades in getting our films nationally broadcast in primetime on PBS, hardly a right-wing outlet. The key is to have truly excellent content, whose value cannot be denied. Content is indeed king.  We can also build cultural institutions of our own – and create an alternative ecosystem, modeled on the successful one the left has built over the decades. By learning from their experience, we can do it all much faster, using newer technology. America, it is often said, is roughly divided into thirds: one-third on the left, one-third on the right, and one-third in the middle. I believe the latter two-thirds would support and welcome documentaries and feature films that present a positive, but accurate, portrait of America, reflecting traditional values without preaching and without distortion.  We need to summon the will to do it – and the funding. Michael Pack is a documentary filmmaker, who has produced over 15 award-winning documentaries which were nationally broadcast on public television, most recently “Created Equal: Clarence Thomas in His Own Words.” He has also served as a media, government, and non-profit executive. Tyler Durden Thu, 09/14/2023 - 23:40.....»»

Category: blogSource: zerohedgeSep 15th, 2023

Amid fierce, bloody fighting in Ukraine, the US and China are training for new ways to get wounded troops away from the frontline

The war in Ukraine has shown that providing life-saving care to wounded troops in future conflicts will require far more resources. US Army nurses and medics remove a bandaged soldier from a C-47 transport plane to an ambulance during a rehearsal for D-Day.PhotoQuest/Getty Images Intense fighting and high casualties in Ukraine have raised new challenges for military medicine. This summer, the US and Chinese militaries both trained on new ways to evacuate wounded troops. In a long-range war in the Pacific, medevac operations will be more difficult to conduct. For most of American military history, medical evacuation meant a long, painful ride in a horse-drawn wagon or a rudimentary vehicle. Since the Korean War, US soldiers have become accustomed to rapid "medevac" by purpose-built medical vehicles, ships, or aircraft.But recent US wars have been against opponents with vastly inferior firepower and technology. The hardware being used in Ukraine, and the estimated 500,000 casualties both sides have suffered there in just 18 months, raises a disturbing question: How well will medevac function on a battlefield with advanced jet fighters, air defenses, and long-range missiles?The US and China are grappling with this question in the context of a Pacific war, where vast distances will complicate evacuation and the "golden hour" — the important period after an injury when even basic treatment can make the difference between life and death.US Marines conduct medical evacuation drills during an exercise in Bulgaria in August 2018.US Marine Corps/Lance Cpl. Angel D. TravisUS and Chinese troops both recently completed exercises to test their capacity to treat casualties rapidly under those circumstances.In July, airlift and aerial-refueling units from the US Air Force and six other militaries experimented with new procedures during Mobility Guardian 23, which took place in the Pacific for the first time in the exercise's history.In a war with China, the US military medical units would have traverse thousands of miles of ocean while ensuring their supplies were properly stored, and do it all without access to as many full-service health facilities, US airmen told Air Force Times.For example, it may take too long for overtaxed aeromedical units to respond to a medevac request in a distant location. During the exercise, US airmen and their partners tried a more decentralized approach in which small but well-equipped medical teams were attached to airlift squadrons to provide on-the-spot care.The teams could initially evacuate and treat casualties aboard smaller C-130 transports capable of landing on short or underdeveloped runways, a useful attribute given that China will likely attack the US's main air bases with long-range missiles. The wounded would then be transferred to larger C-17s for transport to major medical facilities.US and Australian personnel during a drill with New Zealand Air Force medics on a C-17 during exercise Mobility Guardian in July 2023.US Air Force/Master Sgt. Amy PicardAs Mobility Guardian was underway, China's military completed its first exercise to address a similar challenge: how to use helicopters to evacuate casualties from distant islands — an especially pertinent issue for Beijing, given its outposts on islands in the South China Sea and its designs on other nearby islands."In military operations on remote islands, medical aid conditions are usually restricted, and medical evacuation through ocean-going vessels could be slow and cost lives," said Global Times, a tabloid run by the Chinese Communist Party.The exercise included a coastal defense brigade, an army aviation brigade, and a naval hospital to simulate medevac from a "frontier island" under attack. It took place on islands off Zhejiang Province, which happens to be relatively close to Taiwan."After locating the wounded through drone reconnaissance, the team approached the position and carried out triage and first aid, before calling in a transport helicopter to transfer two wounded personnel who were in critical condition," Global Times said. "Escorted by an attack helicopter, the transport helicopter soon arrived and secured the wounded."Using helicopters to evacuate wounded personnel from an island would be routine for a Western navy or coast guard, but Chinese officials hailed it as a major feat. "This is the first time mobile air forces were introduced in a medical exercise," said Su Xingliang, head of the coastal defense brigade's support department.Chinese naval hospital ship Peace Ark at a military port in Zhejiang Province in November 2022.Sun Fei/Xinhua via Getty ImagesWhatever medevac procedures are developed, the fighting in Ukraine suggests major battles with advanced weapons — or even large quantities of older weapons — will tax militaries' medical capacity."Air, ground, and sea-based medical evacuation will be practically impossible due to very long range and accurate fire capabilities" of near-peer adversaries, a group of authors warned a recent article on medical lessons from Ukraine, using a term for militaries with capabilities similar to that of the US."Future US service members who are injured in combat may consequently not reach definitive care until days later, and medical personnel providing care will definitely be in harm's way," the authors wrote in the Journal of the American College of Surgeons.Compared to wounds from improvised explosive devices in Iraq and Afghanistan, a war with a well-equipped enemy such as Russia and China would result in far more horrific injuries."Statistics shared by Ukrainian physicians demonstrate that more than 70 percent of all Ukrainian combat casualties are due to artillery and rocket barrages from Russian forces, which has resulted in significant polytrauma to multiple organ systems," the article noted.A wounded Ukrainian soldier at a military hospital in Zaporizhzhya in March 2022.Diego Herrera Carcedo/Anadolu Agency via Getty ImagesArtillery attacks affect a wider area than IEDs, generating more patients, and are more likely to inflict severe chest and brain injuries, meaning each patient will need more medical resources. At the same time, even tasks such as using power generators to cool blood — which could alert adversaries to the presence of a medical facility — becomes riskier.Interestingly, the study found that "current US military body armor will likely be insufficient against [near-peer adversary] arsenals with ballistic components that can hit laterally, above, or below standard issue armor plates from multiple angles due to the larger number of accurately impacting munitions."The ability of near-peer adversaries to strike with conventional weapons and electronic warfare will impair efforts to move wounded troops, meaning forward medical facilities will need to be able to provide longer-term and more complex care and to defend themselves from artillery or missile attacks.More distant medevac and medical facilities will still be challenged by enemy missiles able to strike with precision hundreds of miles in the rear."The resources needed to adequately provide life-saving care will be far greater than what the US has allocated for in the past," the report concludes.Michael Peck is a defense writer whose work has appeared in Forbes, Defense News, Foreign Policy magazine, and other publications. He holds a master's in political science. Follow him on Twitter and ;LinkedIn.Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsiderAug 27th, 2023

Taliban’s Massively Successful Opium Eradication Raises Questions About What US Was Doing All Along

Taliban’s Massively Successful Opium Eradication Raises Questions About What US Was Doing All Along Authored by Alan MacLeod via MintPress News, The Taliban government in Afghanistan – the nation that until recently produced 90% of the world’s heroin – has drastically reduced opium cultivation across the country. Western sources estimate an up to 99% reduction in some provinces. This raises serious questions about the seriousness of U.S. drug eradication efforts in the country over the past 20 years. And, as global heroin supplies dry up, experts tell MintPress News that they fear this could spark the growing use of fentanyl – a drug dozens of times stronger than heroin that already kills more than 100,000 Americans yearly. The Taliban Does What the US Did Not It has already been called “the most successful counter-narcotics effort in human history.” Armed with little more than sticks, teams of counter-narcotics brigades travel the country, cutting down Afghanistan’s poppy fields. In April of last year, the ruling Taliban government announced the prohibition of poppy farming, citing both their strong religious beliefs and the extremely harmful social costs that heroin and other opioids – derived from the sap of the poppy plant – have wrought across Afghanistan. It has not been all bluster. New research from geospatial data company Alcis suggests that poppy production has already plummeted by around 80% since last year. Indeed, satellite imagery shows that in Helmand Province, the area that produces more than half of the crop, poppy production has dropped by a staggering 99%. Just 12 months ago, poppy fields were dominant. But Alcis estimates that there are now less than 1,000 hectares of poppy growing in Helmand. Instead, farmers are planting wheat, helping stave off the worst of a famine that U.S. sanctions helped create. Afghanistan is still in a perilous state, however, with the United Nations warning that six million people are close to starvation. Data from Alcis shows that a majority of Afghan farmers switched from growing poppy to wheat in a single year The Taliban waited until 2022 to impose the long-awaited ban in order not to interfere with the growing season. Doing so would have provoked unrest among the rural population by eradicating a crop that farmers had spent months growing. Between 2020 and late 2022, the price of opium in local markets rose by as much as 700%. Yet given the Taliban’s insistence – and their efficiency at eradication – few have been tempted to plant poppies. The poppy ban has been matched by a similar campaign against the methamphetamine industry, with the government targeting the ephedra crop and shutting down ephedrine labs across the country. A Looming Catastrophe Afghanistan produces almost 90% of the world’s heroin. Therefore, the eradication of the opium crop will have profound worldwide consequences on drug use. Experts MintPress spoke to warned that a dearth of heroin would likely produce a huge spike in the use of synthetic opioids such as fentanyl, a drug the Center for Disease Control estimates is 50 times stronger and is responsible for taking the lives of more than 100,000 Americans each year. “It is important to consider past periods of heroin shortages and the impact these have had on the European drug market,” the European Monitoring Center for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) told MintPress, adding: Experience in the E.U. with previous periods of reduced heroin supply suggests that this can lead to changes in patterns of drug supply and use. This can include further an increase in rates of polysubstance use among heroin users. Additional risks to existing users may be posed by the substitution of heroin with more harmful synthetic opioids, including fentanyl and its derivatives and new potent benzimidazole opioids.” In other words, if heroin is no longer available, users will switch to far deadlier synthetic forms of the drug. A 2022 United Nations report came to a similar conclusion, noting that the crackdown on heroin production could lead to the “replacement of heroin or opium by other substances…such as fentanyl and its analogs.” “It does have that danger in the macro sense, that if you take all that heroin off the market, people are going to go to other products,” Matthew Hoh told MintPress. Hoh is a former State Department official who resigned from his post in Zabul Province, Afghanistan, in 2009. “But the response should not be reinvade Afghanistan, reoccupy it and put the drug lords back in power, which is basically what people are implying when they bemoan the consequence of the Taliban stopping the drug trade,” Hoh added; “Most of the people who are speaking this way and worrying out loud about it are people who want to find a reason for the U.S. to go and affect regime change in Afghanistan.” There certainly has been plenty of hand-wringing from American sources. “Foreign Policy,” wrote about “how the Taliban’s ‘war on drugs’ could backfire;” U.S. government-funded “Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty” claimed that the Taliban were turning a “blind eye to opium production,” despite the official ban. And the United States Institute of Peace, an institution created by Congress that is “dedicated to the proposition that a world without violent conflict is possible,” stated emphatically that “the Taliban’s successful opium ban is bad for Afghans and the world”. This looming catastrophe, however, will not hit immediately. Significant stockpiles of drugs along trafficking routes still exist. As the EMCDDA told MintPress: It can take over 12 months before the opium harvest appears on the European retail drug market as heroin – and so it is too early to predict, at this stage, the future impact of the cultivation ban on heroin availability in Europe. Nonetheless, if the ban on opium cultivation is enforced and sustained, it could have a significant impact on heroin availability in Europe during 2024 or 2025.” Yet there is little indication that the Taliban are anything but serious about eradicating the crop, indicating that a heroin crunch is indeed coming. A similar attempt by the Taliban to eliminate the drug occurred in 2000, the last full year that they were in power. It was extraordinarily successful, with opium reduction dropping from 4,600 tons to just 185 tons. At that time, it took around 18 months for the consequences to be felt in the West. In the United Kingdom, average heroin purity fell from 55% to 34%, while in the Baltic States of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, heroin was largely replaced by fentanyl. However, as soon as the United States invaded in 2001, poppy cultivation shot back up to previous levels and the supply chain recommenced. US Complicity in the Afghan Drug Trade The Taliban’s successful campaign to eradicate drug production has cast a shadow of doubt over the effectiveness of American-led endeavors to achieve the same outcome. “It prompts the question, ‘What were we actually accomplishing there?!'” remarked Hoh, underscoring: This undermines one of the fundamental premises behind the wars: the alleged association between the Taliban and the drug trade – a concept of a narco-terror nexus. However, this notion was fallacious. The reality was that Afghanistan was responsible for a staggering 80-90% of the world’s illicit opiate supply. The primary controllers of this trade were the Afghan government and military, entities we upheld in power.” Hoh clarified that he never personally witnessed or received any reports of direct involvement by U.S. troops or officials in narcotics trafficking. Instead, he contended that there existed a “conscious and deliberate turning away from the unfolding events” during his tenure in Afghanistan.’ Left, a US Marine picks a flower as he guards a poppy field in 2012 in Helmand Provine. Photo | DVIDS. Right, A man breaks poppy stalks as part of a 2023 campaign to target illegal drugs in Afghanistan. Oriane Zerah | AP Suzanna Reiss, an academic at the University of Hawaii at Manoa and the author of “We Sell Drugs: The Alchemy of U.S. Empire,” demonstrated an even more cynical perspective on American counter-narcotics endeavors as she conveyed to MintPress: The U.S. has never really been focused on reducing the drug trade in Afghanistan (or elsewhere for that matter). All the lofty rhetoric aside, the U.S. has been happy to work with drug traffickers if the move would advance certain geopolitical interests (and indeed, did so, or at least turned a knowingly blind eye, when groups like the Northern Alliance relied on drugs to fund their political movement against the regime.).” Afghanistan’s transformation into a preeminent narco-state owes a significant debt to Washington’s actions. Poppy cultivation in the 1970s was relatively limited. However, the tide changed in 1979 with the inception of Operation Cyclone, a massive infusion of funds to Afghan Mujahideen factions aimed at exhausting the Soviet military and terminating its presence in Afghanistan. The U.S. directed billions toward the insurgents, yet their financial needs persisted. Consequently, the Mujahideen delved into the illicit drug trade. By the culmination of Operation Cyclone, Afghanistan’s opium production had soared twentyfold. Professor Alfred McCoy, acclaimed author of “The Politics of Heroin: CIA Complicity in the Global Drug Trade,” shared with MintPress that approximately 75% of the planet’s illegal opium output was now sourced from Afghanistan, a substantial portion of the proceeds funneling to U.S.-backed rebel factions. Unraveling the Opioid Crisis: An Impending Disaster The opioid crisis is the worst addiction epidemic in U.S. history. Earlier this year, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas described the American fentanyl problem as “the single greatest challenge we face as a country.” Nearly 110,000 Americans died from drug overdoses in 2021, fentanyl being by far the leading cause. Between 2015 and 2021, the National Institute of Health recorded a nearly 7.5-fold increase in overdose deaths. Medical journal The Lancet predicts that 1.2 million Americans will die from opioid overdoses by 2029. U.S. officials blame Mexican cartels for smuggling the synthetic painkiller across the southern border and China for producing the chemicals necessary to make the drug. White Americans are more likely to misuse these types of drugs than other races. Adults aged 35-44 experience the highest rates of deaths, although deaths among younger people are surging. Rural America has been particularly hard hit; a 2017 study by the National Farmers Union and the American Farm Bureau Federation found that 74% of farmers have been directly impacted by the opioid epidemic. West Virginia and Tennessee are the states most badly hit. For writer Chris Hedges, who hails from rural Maine, the fentanyl crisis is an example of one of the many “diseases of despair” the U.S. is suffering from. It has, according to Hedges, “risen from a decayed world where opportunity, which confers status, self-esteem and dignity, has dried up for most Americans. They are expressions of acute desperation and morbidity.” In essence, when the American dream fizzled out, it was replaced by an American nightmare. That white men are the prime victims of these diseases of despair is an ironic outgrowth of our unfair system. As Hedges explained: White men, more easily seduced by the myth of the American dream than people of color who understand how the capitalist system is rigged against them, often suffer feelings of failure and betrayal, in many cases when they are in their middle years. They expect, because of notions of white supremacy and capitalist platitudes about hard work leading to advancement, to be ascendant. They believe in success.” In this sense, it is important to place the opioid addiction crisis in a wider context of American decline, where opportunities for success and happiness are fewer and farther between than ever, rather than attribute it to individuals. As the “Lancet” wrote: “Punitive and stigmatizing approaches must end. Addiction is not a moral failing. It is a medical condition and poses a constant threat to health.” A “Uniquely American Problem” Nearly 10 million Americans misuse prescription opioids every year and at a rate far higher than comparable developed countries. Deaths due to opioid overdose in the United States are ten times more common per capita than in Germany and more than 20 times as frequent in Italy, for instance. Much of this is down to the United States’ for-profit healthcare system. American private insurance companies are far more likely to favor prescribing drugs and pills than more expensive therapies that get to the root cause of the issue driving the addiction in the first place. As such, the opioid crisis is commonly referred to as a “uniquely American problem.” Part of the reason U.S. doctors are much more prone to doling out exceptionally strong pain medication relief than their European counterparts is that they were subject to a hyper-aggressive marketing campaign from Purdue Pharma, manufacturers of the powerful opioid OxyContin. Purdue launched OxyContin in 1996, and its agents swarmed doctors’ offices to push the new “wonder drug.” Approximately 1 million fake pills containing fentanyl seized on July 5, 2022, at a home in Inglewood, Calif. Photo | DEA via AP Yet, in lawsuit after lawsuit, the company has been accused of lying about both the effectiveness and the addictiveness of OxyContin, a drug that has hooked countless Americans onto opioids. And when legal but incredibly addictive prescription opioids dry up, Americans turned to illicit substances like heroin and fentanyl as substitutes. Purdue Pharma owners, the Sackler family, have regularly been described as the most evil family in America, with many laying the blame for the hundreds of thousands of overdose deaths squarely at their door. In 2019, under the weight of thousands of lawsuits against it, Purdue Pharma filed for bankruptcy. A year later, it plead guilty to criminal charges over its mismarketing of OxyContin. Nevertheless, the Sacklers made out like bandits from their actions. Even after being forced last year to pay nearly $6 billion in cash to victims of the opioid crisis, they remain one of the world’s richest families and have refused to apologize for their role in constructing an empire of pain that has caused hundreds of thousands of deaths. Instead, the family has attempted to launder their image through philanthropy, sponsoring many of the most prestigious arts and cultural institutions in the world. These include the Guggenheim Museum and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, Yale University, and the British Museum and Royal Academy in London. One group who are disproportionately affected by opioids like OxyContin, heroin and fentanyl are veterans. According to the National Institutes of Health, veterans are twice as likely to die from overdose than the general population. One reason for this is bureaucracy. “The Veterans Administration did a really poor job in the past decades with their pain management, particularly their reliance on opioids,” Hoh, a former marine, told MintPress, noting that the V.A. prescribed dangerous opioids at a higher rate than other healthcare agencies. Ex-soldiers often have to cope with chronic pain and brain injuries. Hoh noted that around a quarter-million veterans of Afghanistan and Iraq have traumatic brain injuries. But added to that are the deep moral injuries many suffered – injuries that typically cannot be seen. As Hoh noted: Veterans are turning to [opioids like fentanyl] to deal with the mental, emotional and spiritual consequences of the war, using them to quell the distress, try to find some relief, escape from the depression, and deal with the demons that come home with veterans who took part in those wars.” Thus, if the Taliban’s opium eradication program continues, it could spark a fentanyl crisis that might kill more Americans than the 20-year occupation ever did. Broken Society If diseases of despair are common throughout the United States, they are rampant in Afghanistan itself. A global report released in March revealed that Afghans are by far the most miserable people on Earth. Afghans evaluated their lives at 1.8 out of 10 – dead last and far behind the top of the pile Finland (7.8 out of 10). Opium addiction in Afghanistan is out of control, with around 9% of the adult population (and a significant number of children) addicted. Between 2005 and 2015, the number of adult drug users jumped from 900,000 to 2.4 million, according to the United Nations, which estimates that almost one in three households is directly affected by addiction. As opium is frequently injected, blood-transmitted conditions like HIV are common as well. The opioid problem has also spilled into neighboring countries such as Iran and Pakistan. A 2013 United Nations report estimated that almost 2.5 million Pakistanis were abusing opioids, including 11% of people in the northwestern province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Around 700 people die each day from overdoses. Empire of Drugs Given their history, It is perhaps understandable that Asian nations have generally taken far more authoritarian measures to counter drug addiction issues. For centuries, using the illegal drug trade to advance imperial objectives has been a common Western tactic. In the 1940s and 1950s, the French utilized opium crops in the “Golden Triangle” region of Southeast Asia in order to counter the growing Vietnamese independence movement. A century previously, the British used opium to crush and conquer much of China. Britain’s insatiable thirst for Chinese tea was beginning to bankrupt the country, seeing as China would only accept gold or silver in exchange. The British, therefore, used the power of its navy to force China to cede Hong Kong to it. From there, it flooded mainland China with opium grown in South Asia (including Afghanistan). The effect of the Opium War was astonishing. By 1880, the British were inundating China with more than 6,500 tons of opium per year – the equivalent of many billions of doses. Chinese society crumbled, unable to deal with the empire-wide social and economic dislocation that millions of opium addicts brought. Today, the Chinese continue to refer to the period as the “century of humiliation”. Meanwhile, in South Asia, the British forced farmers to plant poppy fields instead of edible crops, causing waves of giant famines, the likes of which had never been seen before or since. And during the 1980s in Central America, the United States sold weapons to Iran in order to fund far-right Contra death squads. The Contras were deeply implicated in the cocaine trade, fuelling their dirty war through crack cocaine sales in the U.S. – a practice that, according to journalist Gary Webb, the Central Intelligence Agency facilitated. Imperialism and illicit drugs, therefore, commonly go together. However, with the Taliban opium eradication effort in full effect, coupled with the uniquely American phenomenon of opioid addiction, it is possible that the United States will suffer significant blowback in the coming years. The deadly fentanyl epidemic will likely only get worse, needlessly taking hundreds of thousands more American lives. Thus, even as Afghanistan attempts to rid itself of its deadly drug addiction problem, its actions could precipitate an epidemic that promises to kill more Americans than any of Washington’s imperial endeavors to date. Feature photo | Illustration by MintPress News Alan MacLeod is Senior Staff Writer for MintPress News. After completing his PhD in 2017 he published two books: Bad News From Venezuela: Twenty Years of Fake News and Misreporting and Propaganda in the Information Age: Still Manufacturing Consent, as well as a number of academic articles. He has also contributed to, The Guardian, Salon, The Grayzone, Jacobin Magazine, and Common Dreams. Tyler Durden Sat, 08/12/2023 - 23:30.....»»

Category: smallbizSource: nytAug 13th, 2023

US Shutters Haiti Embassy Amid "Rapid Gunfire" As Armed Gangs Have Run Of The Capital

US Shutters Haiti Embassy Amid "Rapid Gunfire" As Armed Gangs Have Run Of The Capital Haiti's problems have gone from bad to worse after years of political instability, raging gang violence, rampant kidnapping, food and medicine shortages, and the outbreak of deadly diseases like cholera. Many thousands of Haitians have flooded the streets of Port-au-Prince this week, angry over the lack of security or any rule of law in crime-ridden neighborhoods across the impoverished Caribbean nation. But Tuesday saw further escalation in violence, as rapid gunfire rang out, coming from the crowd and in the vicinity, causing the US and other foreign embassyies to close operations. Image source: Miami Herald "The Embassy is closed today. All personnel are restricted to Embassy compounds until further notice due to gunfire in the vicinity of the Embassy. Travel between the compounds is prohibited," the embassy said in a new statement.  The US Embassy warned further that anyone seeking to get to or from the compound could have the security of routes "impacted due to continued rapid gunfire." CBS and other outlets have described an escalating situation in which "ceaseless violence at the hands of gangs" has resulted in angry crowds demanding some semblance of security from both national and international officials. Cries of "we want security!" were heard from the crowd, many with their faces masked, amid burning tires and vehicles, tear gas, and running street clashes. Some sources estimate that armed gangs control up to 80% of the capital city, and police are powerless to protect residents... Tear gas, burning barricades, and heavy clashes were seen on the streets of Haiti's capital Port-au-Prince during protests against political instability as well as crime in the island nation. Armed gangs control a staggering 80% of the capital. Armed street fighting between… — red. (@redstreamnet) August 8, 2023 Meanwhile, as for potential solutions, the United Nations has debated for the past year a proposal to send an international police-keeping force, but it remains that no particular nation - including the United States - wants to be seen as spearheading it given the controversy accompanying past such interventions. Not only would the ongoing chaos and violence pose a serious risk to international peacekeeping troops, but the West's legacy of colonialism would once again be under a microscope. Most recently, Kenya proposed that it could send its own troops, but again, few UN officials have the political will to see it through given there are so many "unknowns" and ways it could exacerbate an already spiraling situation: After Primer Minister Ariel Henry urged the world in October to deploy an armed force to fight the gangs, the United Nations has struggled to convince a nation to lead efforts to restore the order in the Caribbean country, in part due to past controversy over peacekeeping missions. There’s been little appetite for a U.S.- or U.N.-led force, and the United States unsuccessfullt tried to persuade Canada to lead a force. With this fresh violence and gunfire, it's very possible the American embassy could shutter permanently, given that late last month there was already an evacuation order given for all 'non-essential' embassy staff and their families. All Americans were also advised to leave Haiti immediately. Just over a week ago, two American citizens were reported kidnapped. "An American nurse and her daughter have been abducted in Haiti, in the latest kidnapping episode to draw international notice, as a resurgence of violence grips the capital, Port-au-Prince," wrote The Washington Post. An American nurse and her child are among the latest people to be abducted in Haiti, where kidnappings have become a daily part of life. Over 1,000 people have been kidnapped by criminal groups so far this year. — Human Rights Watch (@hrw) July 31, 2023 "In a brief statement on Saturday, El Roi Haiti, a faith-focused humanitarian organization, identified the woman as Alix Dorsainvil, the group’s community nurse and the wife of the group’s director. She and her child were taken from El Roi’s campus near the capital on Thursday, according to the statement," the report added. Human Rights Watch says that over 1,000 people have been kidnapped by criminal gangs so far this year alone - and these are just the "known" cases. Tyler Durden Tue, 08/08/2023 - 10:10.....»»

Category: blogSource: zerohedgeAug 8th, 2023

Ousted Niger President Urges US Intervention Amid Fears Wagner Could Move In

Ousted Niger President Urges US Intervention Amid Fears Wagner Could Move In Update(2050ET): On Thursday evening The Washington Post published an op-ed by the ousted president of Niger, Mohamed Bazoum, calling on the United States and the "entire international community" to intervene in order to restore him to power, and return the country to constitutional order. He also stated in the Washington Post that he was writing "as a hostage", at a moment unrest has persisted in the streets, following his overthrow by the military last Friday (and by his own presidential guard).  Earlier in the day the junta declared the formal withdrawal of Niger's ambassadors from France, the US, Nigeria and Togo. There are now growing fears of an alliance between Niger's military and Russia's Wagner Group, which has a significant presence across West Africa and elsewhere on the continent. The New York Times has speculated on this prospect, writing Wednesday: A week after a military overthrow of Niger’s elected president, a coup leader and other officers flew to neighboring Mali on Wednesday to meet with its rulers, raising concerns that a key Western ally could grow closer to military leaders in Mali who partner with the Kremlin-backed Wagner private military company. Gen. Salifou Modi, one of the putschists who removed President Mohamed Bazoum of Niger from power last week, was part of a delegation of military officials who visited Mali, according to a post on social media from the office of the president in Mali. The Wagner group has about 1,500 troops in Mali, allied with the military regime there. Its founder, Yevgeny V. Prigozhin, has praised the coup in Niger and offered Wagner’s services to the new rulers, though it is unclear what operational control he still has over the group after his failed mutiny in Russia in June. Already the rhetoric of 'Russia being behind the coup' is growing, as a top Ukrainian official has already alleged this week. Is a Cold War 2.0 in Africa in the works? Map of African countries that have signed military agreements with Russia — The Cradle (@TheCradleMedia) August 3, 2023 * * * As of late Wednesday (US time) the State Department ordered a partial evacuation of the American embassy in Niamey, the capital of Niger. This after European-led efforts to fly EU citizens from the capital were already well underway. The State Department said non-emergency personnel and eligible family members would leave the country "given ongoing developments" and "out of an abundance of caution" amid the unrest following last Friday's military coup, which saw President Mohamed Bazoum get overthrown by his own presidential guard.  AFP/Getty Images "The U.S. is committed to our relationship with the people of Niger. The embassy remains open, and our leaders are diplomatically engaged at the highest levels," Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced. Senior officials will still be working from the embassy, which has remained functioning.  "Commercial flight options are limited.  We updated our travel advisory to reflect this and informed U.S. citizens that we are only able to provide emergency assistance to U.S. citizens in Niger given our reduced personnel," the statement said, also as France is leading evac flights for EU citizens seeking exit from the country. Reportedly, hundreds of Americans have already been evacuated, and over 1,000 European Union citizens as well, as the flights out of the capital continue. France on Thursday announced the completion of its large-scale evacuations. Meanwhile, in fresh statements President Joe Biden has urged the junta leaders to restore the democratically-elected government. "I call for President Bazoum and his family to be immediately released, and for the preservation of Niger's hard-earned democracy," Biden said. "The Nigerien people have the right to choose their leaders," the US president said. "They have expressed their will through free and fair elections — and that must be respected." Ironically Biden's plea to release and restore Bazoum came on the 63rd anniversary of Niger’s independence. His words also came amid rumors of possible French military intervention. There are hundreds of Western troops in the country, especially from France and the US, who were ostensibly there for 'counterterror' operations. But the presence of Western bases in Niger might not last long under the junta, given 'anti-imperialist' nature of coup supporters in the streets has been amply demonstrated by their waving Russian flags. Also, the Russian mercenary group Wagner is just next door in Mali. From the West's perspective, looming large in the background is expanding Russian influence in Africa. Just in: @PentagonPresSec confirms there are no changes to the 1,100 US troops still stationed in Niger, and the U.S. military will not take part in the ordered evacuation of embassy personnel. — Lara Seligman (@laraseligman) August 3, 2023 Coup leader Gen Abdourahamane Tchiani is continuing to warned against "any interference in the internal affairs" of Niger, while alleging the now exiled government has been plotting with the French to allow some kind of intervention. This also as US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Wednesday spoke to ousted President Mohamed Bazoum on Wednesday, and other international leaders have been in contact. Tyler Durden Thu, 08/03/2023 - 20:50.....»»

Category: blogSource: zerohedgeAug 3rd, 2023

US Announces Partial Embassy Evacuation As Biden Urges Ousted Niger President"s Release

US Announces Partial Embassy Evacuation As Biden Urges Ousted Niger President's Release As of late Wednesday (US time) the State Department ordered a partial evacuation of the American embassy in Niamey, the capital of Niger. This after European-led efforts to fly EU citizens from the capital were already well underway. The State Department said non-emergency personnel and eligible family members would leave the country "given ongoing developments" and "out of an abundance of caution" amid the unrest following last Friday's military coup, which saw President Mohamed Bazoum get overthrown by his own presidential guard.  AFP/Getty Images "The U.S. is committed to our relationship with the people of Niger. The embassy remains open, and our leaders are diplomatically engaged at the highest levels," Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced. Senior officials will still be working from the embassy, which has remained functioning.  "Commercial flight options are limited.  We updated our travel advisory to reflect this and informed U.S. citizens that we are only able to provide emergency assistance to U.S. citizens in Niger given our reduced personnel," the statement said, also as France is leading evac flights for EU citizens seeking exit from the country. Reportedly, hundreds of Americans have already been evacuated, and over 1,000 European Union citizens as well, as the flights out of the capital continue. France on Thursday announced the completion of its large-scale evacuations. Meanwhile, in fresh statements President Joe Biden has urged the junta leaders to restore the democratically-elected government. "I call for President Bazoum and his family to be immediately released, and for the preservation of Niger's hard-earned democracy," Biden said. "The Nigerien people have the right to choose their leaders," the US president said. "They have expressed their will through free and fair elections — and that must be respected." Ironically Biden's plea to release and restore Bazoum came on the 63rd anniversary of Niger’s independence. His words also came amid rumors of possible French military intervention. There are hundreds of Western troops in the country, especially from France and the US, who were ostensibly there for 'counterterror' operations. But the presence of Western bases in Niger might not last long under the junta, given 'anti-imperialist' nature of coup supporters in the streets has been amply demonstrated by their waving Russian flags. Also, the Russian mercenary group Wagner is just next door in Mali. From the West's perspective, looming large in the background is expanding Russian influence in Africa. Just in: @PentagonPresSec confirms there are no changes to the 1,100 US troops still stationed in Niger, and the U.S. military will not take part in the ordered evacuation of embassy personnel. — Lara Seligman (@laraseligman) August 3, 2023 Coup leader Gen Abdourahamane Tchiani is continuing to warned against "any interference in the internal affairs" of Niger, while alleging the now exiled government has been plotting with the French to allow some kind of intervention. This also as US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Wednesday spoke to ousted President Mohamed Bazoum on Wednesday, and other international leaders have been in contact. Tyler Durden Thu, 08/03/2023 - 10:15.....»»

Category: blogSource: zerohedgeAug 3rd, 2023

US Releases Internal Review Of Botched, Disastrous Afghan Withdrawal 

US Releases Internal Review Of Botched, Disastrous Afghan Withdrawal  Via The Cradle, The US State Department did not adequately prepare for the possibility of a swift collapse of the Afghan government as part of its planning for the military withdrawal from Afghanistan, an internal review has found. The US government announced it would complete its withdrawal by September 2021, expecting the US-backed Afghan government and security forces to remain in power and continue peace negotiations with the Taliban. However, as the US withdrawal progressed, the government quickly collapsed, and then-president Ashraf Ghani fled the country in August 2021 as the Taliban took control of the capital, Kabul. This led to a chaotic final evacuation of US and Afghan personnel from Kabul airport. The two-week evacuation was marred by the deaths of at least 175 people when NATO troops indiscriminately opened fire on crowds of civilians gathered outside the airport after an ISIS suicide bomber blew himself up. Al-Jazeera notes that the State Department After Action Report (AAR) issued on June 30 said the decision by US President Joe Biden and his predecessor Donald Trump to withdraw US forces from Afghanistan after over 20 years of occupation had “serious consequences” for the viability of the US-backed Afghan government. “Those decisions are beyond the scope of this review, but the AAR team found that during both administrations, there was insufficient senior-level consideration of worst-case scenarios,” the review said. The report specifically criticized the State Department for failing to set up a crisis-management task force soon enough to cooperate with the Pentagon in the case of an evacuation. “Establishing such a task force earlier would have brought key players together to address issues related to a possible [evacuation],” the report stated. Further, “Naming a 7th-floor principal … would have improved coordination across different lines of effort,” that report said, referring to the State Department’s top floor where Secretary of State Antony Blinken and senior diplomats have offices. The review also blamed the Trump White House for failing to address a backlog of applications for the Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) program, which allows Afghans that might be in danger of retribution by the Taliban for working with foreign occupiers, to emigrate to the US. The review also repeated previous claims by the Biden White House that Trump did not adequately plan for the departure of US troops after it reached a deal with the Taliban to withdraw troops by May of 2021, a deadline Biden postponed. Biden and State Secretary Antony Blinken have faced harsh criticism due to the chaos that accompanied the withdrawal. Blinken was recently subpoenaed by the House Foreign Affairs Committee (HFAC) to release classified cables from July 2021, in which staffers from the US embassy in Kabul warned that the defeat of the US-trained Afghan army was “imminent.” Reporter asks Biden to react to today's report that his admin botched the Afghanistan withdrawal: "Remember what I said? I said al-Qaeda wouldn't be there. I said we'd get help from the Taliban. What's happening now? What's going on? Read your press. I was right." — Greg Price (@greg_price11) June 30, 2023 However, despite the broad condemnation of the troops’ withdrawal, less attention was paid to the collapse of the Afghan economy. The NATO-funded Atlantic Council think tank noted that “the Afghan economy began spiraling shortly after the Taliban takeover” due to US actions, including imposing “sanctions, the freezing of central bank assets, and removal of foreign aid.” The US and a coalition of its allies invaded Afghanistan in 2001 as part of the so-called War on Terror, in which the neoconservative-led Bush Administration sought to invade seven countries in West Asia within five years. Tyler Durden Sat, 07/01/2023 - 18:30.....»»

Category: blogSource: zerohedgeJul 1st, 2023

17 World Changing Events That Shaped the Earth as We Know It

Mauna Loa, an active volcano on Hawaii’s Big Island, began erupting in late November for the first time in nearly four decades. There are reports of lava fountains spewing as high as 164 feet into the air. Still, the eruption is not expected to cause any loss of life, nor any lasting impact to infrastructure, […] Mauna Loa, an active volcano on Hawaii’s Big Island, began erupting in late November for the first time in nearly four decades. There are reports of lava fountains spewing as high as 164 feet into the air. Still, the eruption is not expected to cause any loss of life, nor any lasting impact to infrastructure, besides coating some parts of the island in as much as a quarter inch of ash. Since the Earth was formed roughly 4.5 billion years ago, it has gone through dozens of major cataclysmic events, including the eruption of supervolcanoes, impacts by comets and asteroids, major tectonic shifts, exposure to cosmic radiation, and more. Most of these took place long before homo sapiens ever walked the Earth. Some of these events were so violent that they directly ushered in new geologic periods. These were often accompanied by ice ages, mass extinction events, or conversely warming and ecological flourishing. These periods left lasting, major changes to the planet’s species, continental structure, and atmospheric composition.  For those concerned about the looming threat of global climate change, these events, many of which are now millions of years old, bear grim relevance to today.  The major extinction events that occurred since life began on Earth, in the majority of cases, share a few attributes, including major changes in CO2 levels and other gases like methane and sulfur dioxide in the atmosphere and an increase in ocean acidification, which can result from higher CO2 levels.  Since the Industrial Revolution, both carbon concentration in the atmosphere and ocean acidification are increasing at far faster levels than can be explained by cyclical changes. Ocean acidity has increased by 30%, and CO2 levels have roughly doubled compared to preindustrial levels, and the result is the endangerment of tens of thousands of species. These are the animals humans are driving to extinction. Currently, the planet’s flora and fauna are dying at a much faster rate than is normal in nature. Scientists have warned we could be in the midst of a sixth major extinction event, which unlike previous extinction events is caused by human activity and could worsen if human-related greenhouse gas emissions continue unchecked. These are the 26 climate crisis disasters that will get worse if we do nothing.  To compile a list of the largest geological forces in Earth’s history, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed publications in scientific journals focusing on cataclysmic events in Earth’s history that resulted in sudden, abrupt, and massive environmental impacts. For each event where the date of occurrence can only be estimated, we list the rough number of years it is believed to have occurred before today, and for events where the exact year of the occurrence is known, the year is written out with A.D. notation.  Click here to see 17 cataclysmic events that changed the Earth forever. Sponsored: Tips for Investing A financial advisor can help you understand the advantages and disadvantages of investment properties. Finding a qualified financial advisor doesn’t have to be hard. SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with up to three financial advisors who serve your area, and you can interview your advisor matches at no cost to decide which one is right for you. If you’re ready to find an advisor who can help you achieve your financial goals, get started now. Investing in real estate can diversify your portfolio. But expanding your horizons may add additional costs. If you’re an investor looking to minimize expenses, consider checking out online brokerages. They often offer low investment fees, helping you maximize your profit......»»

Category: blogSource: 247wallstJun 24th, 2023

S&P Futures Hit Fresh 52 Week High With Fed Meeting On Deck

S&P Futures Hit Fresh 52 Week High With Fed Meeting On Deck US equity futures, Asian markets and European bourses are all higher as part of a global risk-on tone, ahead of a week packed with central bank decisions. S&P 500 futures and contracts on the Nasdaq are both well in the green this morning, up 0.3% and 0.6% respectively as at 7:30 a.m. ET. The S&P is poised to surpass its August 2022 closing high, rising to the highest level since April of last year. Paradoxically, treasury yields are also ticking higher across the curve, with the sharpest rises in two- and three-year notes. A measure of the dollar is weakening, helping drive gains in spot gold prices. Oil prices are continuing their decline following another price cut forecast from Goldman Sachs, while iron ore drops slightly as recession fears once again outweighing fundamentals in commodities but certainly not in equities. Tesla was poised to set a record winning streak, rising for a 12th consecutive day. Keep an eye on labor strikes across US ports and potential stall supply chain normalization. Tech led in pre-market trading; the underinvested sector may see additional position squaring ahead of what could be a large drop in CPI and Fed that pauses or skips. Tesla shares rose as much as 1.6% in premarket trading as its electric-car chargers become the industry standard. If gains hold, as noted above, it would be a 12-day winning streak for the electric-car maker, the longest on record. Here are some other notable premarket movers: Biogen shares jump 6.8% in premarket trading after Leqembi, the Alzheimer’s drug being developed with Japanese firm Eisai, gained support from advisers to the US Food and Drug Administration. Analysts expect the drug to receive full FDA approval. Coinbase Global Marathon Digital, and Riot Platforms lead cryptocurrency-exposed stocks lower in US premarket trading as Bitcoin falls. The largest cryptocurrency has remained rangebound under the closely watched $30,000 level since briefly breaching it in April. Joby Aviation and Archer Aviation (ACHR US) were rallying in premarket trading as the two electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft companies were on course to extend gains for a second session. On Friday, Canaccord Genuity said it views the firms as the closest to receiving regulatory certification. . SentinelOne rose as much as 5.2% in premarket trading, with Morgan Stanley upgrading the software company to overweight from equalweight, saying the stock is mis-priced and should benefit in the long term as it gains market share from peers. XPeng shares soar as much as 10% in US premarket trading, after the Chinese electric-vehicle maker said on social media that over 25,000 customers have pre-ordered its new G6 model in three days. A busy calendar for investors kicks off with the US consumer price data on Tuesday and the Fed’s latest policy decision the next day. With the pace of inflation still proving sticky, positioning in rates markets suggests one more hike in July. While the consensus is for the Fed to pause this week, unexpected hikes from the Bank of Canada and the Reserve Bank of Australia have added an extra element of uncertainty to markets. The European Central Bank is projected to lift its benchmark rate Thursday and the Bank of Japan is expected to stand pat on Friday. “It feels like markets have been underpricing the probability of a June hike,” said Pooja Kumra, senior European rates strategist at Toronto Dominion Bank. “Data is moving in the right direction, but still not where central banks would like inflation to be.” Meanwhile in stocks, Wall Street’s top strategists are giving divergent views on what the S&P 500 will likely do next. Goldman Sachs strategists expect the gains to continue as other sectors catch up with the searing rally for technology shares. Morgan Stanley’s Michael Wilson, meanwhile, remains bearish and points instead to the example of the bear market of the 1940s, when the S&P 500 rallied 24% before returning to a new low. In Europe, consumer-products shares led the advance in Europe, where Adidas AG rallied after analysts at Bernstein upgraded the German sportswear maker; autos and retailers were also among the strongest performing sectors, while energy stocks were the biggest laggards in European trading as oil extended losses amid persistent concerns around the demand outlook, with Goldman Sachs cutting its price forecast again. Shell Plc and BP Plc both slipped more than 1%. Miners were also weaker after iron ore slumped almost 5%, falling for the first time in nine sessions because of worries about weakness in China’s property industry. Here are some of the most notable European movers: Novartis shares rise as much as 1.4% after the company announced plans to buy Chinook Therapeutics for as much as $3.5 billion. The purchase will add two promising treatments for a rare kidney disease to the healthcare conglomerate’s business but there are also development risks, according to ZBK. Adidas shares gain as much as 4.9% after being upgraded to outperform from market perform at Bernstein, which says in a note that the German sportswear maker is seeing its brand heat revving up again after having “languished” in 2022. Ocado rises as much as 7.2% and is among the leading gainers on the Stoxx 600 on Monday after BNP Paribas Exane upgrades the online grocer to neutral and says it sees a lack of further negatives. Uponor shares jump as much as 8.6% after Swiss industrial company Georg Fischer made the strongest bid so far for the Finnish plumbing-equipment manufacturer, offering €28.85 per share. ProSieben shares gain as much as 4.7% after Oddo BHF raised the German broadcaster to outperform from neutral, saying consensus expectations on the firm’s advertising recovery and cost-cutting efforts have been “too cautious.” SES shares fall as much as 15% to the lowest level since April 2020, after the satellite operator said its CEO Steve Collar will step down at the end of June, without naming a permanent successor. Analysts say the management change added to uncertainties when the company is in talks to merge with rival Intelsat. Citycon senior unsecured bonds cut to Ba1 from Baa3 by Moody’s. Citycon Oyj, Samhallsbyggnadsbolaget i Norden AB and Fastighets AB Balder all trading lower. CompuGroup Medical shares drop as much as 7.4%, their worst day since the end of Oct., after Berenberg downgraded the e-health solutions provider to hold from buy, saying that short-term upside now appears more limited following a strong year-to-date rally. Earlier in the session, Asian stocks traded mixed with the region mostly cautious at the start of a risk-packed week as markets await the upcoming key events including major central bank meetings and data releases, while Australian markets were shut in observance of the King’s Birthday holiday. China's Shanghai Comp and HK's Hang Seng were subdued amid weakness in healthcare and the property sector, with the latter pressured by a warning from Goldman Sachs. However, losses were stemmed amid some expectations for potential PBoC rate cuts to support the economy as more banks reduced their deposit rates and following comments last week from PBoC Governor Yi that there is plenty of room for policy adjustment and that they will continue targeted and forceful monetary policy. Nikkei 225 initially outperformed and tested the 32,500 level amid expectations for the BoJ to maintain ultra-easy policy settings later this week and after PPI data was softer-than-expected and showed wholesale inflation eased for a 5th consecutive month which further supports the case for the BoJ to refrain from policy tweaks. India stocks ended higher after declines in the previous two sessions, with gains in information technology and real estate companies supporting the market.  The S&P BSE Sensex rose 0.2% to 62,724.71 in Mumbai, while the NSE Nifty 50 Index advanced by a similar measure. Infosys contributed the most to the Sensex’s gains, increasing 2%. Out of 30 shares in the index, 18 rose, while 12 fell In emerging markets, Turkish stocks surged to record highs, while the lira traded near all-time lows, despite the appointment of two former Wall Street bankers to the country’s new economy team which some erroneously said "offered hopes of a return to orthodox and conventional policies." Sorry: it won't happen. Nigerian international debt surged after the surprise weekend ouster of the central bank governor, with investors wagering that his removal will allow President Bola Tinubu to better pursue his pledge to shake up monetary policy settings blamed for holding back Africa’s biggest economy. In FX, the Bloomberg Dollar Index fell as much as 0.2%, led by losses against the higher-risk Swedish krona and Australian dollar; the index has fallen for the past two weeks as traders have decreased bets for a Fed rate rise this week. The Turkish lira led declines, weakening 1% past 23.6 against the dollar to a record low; Turkey’s current-account deficit widened to $5.4 billion, worse than analysts’ estimates. In rates, treasuries were mixed with the curve flatter as S&P 500 futures hold near Friday’s YTD high. Yields cheaper by ~2bp across front-end of the curve with long- end little changed, flattening 2s10s by ~0.5bp, 5s30s by ~1.5bp; 10-year near 3.75%, with bunds outperforming by 1.5bp in the sector and gilts lagging by 2bp. Two-year Treasury yields edged up 2 bps to 4.62%, just below a 2 1/2-month high of 4.64% touched late last month. A compressed auction cycle begins with $40b 3-year new issue at 11:30am followed by $32b 10-year reopening at 1pm. WI 3-year yield around 4.225% is ~53bp cheaper than last month’s, which stopped 2.8bp through the WI level. Gilts underperform Treasuries and bunds across the curve, led by the 10-year. In commodities, WTI drifts 2.1% lower to trade near $68.67. Spot gold rises roughly $3 to trade near $1,965/oz. Bitcoin is under modest pressure despite the constructive risk tone and as the USD pulls back, with specifics limited and the agenda ahead for today a particularly sparse one before a blockbuster week of key risk events. There is nothing on today's economic calendar but investors are closely waiting a US CPI report on Tuesday, which comes the day before the Fed decision and where traders see roughly a 30% possibility of a 25bps rise, while they see a nearly 90% chance of a hike in July. US session includes both 3- and 10-year note auctions, with May CPI report and FOMC decision ahead over next two days.    Market Wrap     Top Overnight News     A more detailed look at global markets courtesy of Newsquawk Asia-Pac stocks traded mixed with the region mostly cautious at the start of a risk-packed week as markets await the upcoming key events including major central bank meetings and data releases, while Australian  markets were shut in observance of the King’s Birthday holiday. Nikkei 225 initially outperformed and tested the 32,500 level amid expectations for the BoJ to maintain ultra-easy policy settings later this week and after PPI data was softer-than-expected and showed wholesale inflation eased for a 5th consecutive month which further supports the case for the BoJ to refrain from policy tweaks. Hang Seng and Shanghai Comp. were subdued amid weakness in healthcare and the property sector, with the latter pressured by a warning from Goldman Sachs. However, losses were stemmed amid some expectations for potential PBoC rate cuts to support the economy as more banks reduced their deposit rates and following comments last week from PBoC Governor Yi that there is plenty of room for policy adjustment and that they will continue targeted and forceful monetary policy. Top Asian News White House confirmed that China has had a spy base in Cuba since at least 2019, according to AP. China’s Foreign Ministry issued a complaint to South Korea over recent criticism of its envoy and hopes that South Korea deeply reflects on problems in Sino-South Korea relations, according to state media. Several Chinese lenders cut yuan deposit rates from Monday which follows similar action by China's largest banks on Friday due to recent calls from Beijing to support the economy. Goldman Sachs warned that property weakness will likely be a multi-year growth drag on China's economy and it expects an L-shaped recovery in China's property market, according to Bloomberg. New Zealand PM Hipkins said he will lead a trade delegation during a China visit at the end of June. European bourses are firmer across the board, Euro Stoxx 50 +1.0%, despite a lack of fresh drivers and newsflow light. Sectors are green across the board and feature outperformance in consumer-related names after updates for French Retail, European Gamers and favourable broker updates on Adidas, among others. On the flip side, Energy and Basic Resource names lag on benchmark pricing with the latter occurring despite the upside in Glencore after its latest Teck Resources proposal. Stateside, futures are firmer though with action slightly more contained while the NQ +0.5% outperforms incrementally amid/ahead of numerous AI-related updates, click here for details. GS on S&P 500 by end-2023: 4500 (prev. 4000), 25% chance of US recession within the next 12-months. EU antitrust regulators set to approve Broadcom's (AVGO) USD 61bln bid for VMware (VMW), via Reuters citing sources. Top European News BoE's Mann said Britain and other rich nations should consider a carbon tax to lower greenhouse gas emissions, while she refrained from commenting on the short-term economic outlook in her essay for Resolution Foundation think tank, according to Reuters. BoE's Mann also urged the UK government to move economic policy away from being an emergency response tool and onto a more sustainable footing. BoE's Haskel says it is important we continue to lean against the risks of inflation momentum, further increases in interest rates cannot be ruled out*; monitoring indicators of inflation momentum and persistence closely. EU's VP Sefcovic says he will not be putting the trade deal "in the shredder", scotching hopes in some quarters in the UK, of early renegotiation of the trade and cooperation agreement, according to Guardian's O'Carroll. Police in Scotland arrested former Scottish First Minister Sturgeon in an investigation into SNP finances but she was later released without charge pending further investigation, according to FT. Acea estimates that EU-based auto names could pay as much as EUR 4.3bln in tariffs and lose sales between 2024-27, meaning 500k less vehicles would be made, if the EU does not agree to postpone the imposition of EU-UK tariffs, via FT. FX DXY wanes ahead of key risk events as the index tests recent lows within 103.700-240 range. Aussie and Kiwi outperform as risk sentiment improves and the former extends post-RBA hike gains, AUD/USD approaches 0.6775 and NZD/USD probes 0.6150. Euro rebounds from sub-1.0750 low towards a double top just shy of option expiries between 1.0790-1.0800 vs Greenback and Pound pulls up just shy of 1.2600 after hawkish-sounding commentary from BoE's Haskel. PBoC set USD/CNY mid-point at 7.1212 vs exp. 7.1214 (prev. 7.1115) Indian Trade Minister says the RBI and the UAE central bank are in active dialogue for INR-AED trade. Nigeria’s new President suspended the country’s Central Bank Governor, according to Reuters Fixed Income BTPs and JGBs buck bearish trend in debt ahead of data, Central Bank policy meetings and supply on technical and fundamental factors. Gilts underperform between 95.76-96.26 parameters post-hawkish vibes from BoE's Haskel. Bunds and T-notes more restrained within 134.25-133.91 and 113-13+/06+ respective ranges. Commodities Crude and base metals continue to slip with the oil action a resumption of the post-OPEC+ downward trend and after GS cut their December forecasts. Currently, WTI and Brent are at the lower-end of USD 67.67-70.33/bbl and USD 72.41-74.87/bbl parameters for the session. Base metals remain under pressure on China-related growth concerns and exacerbated by the Goldman Sachs warning on the property market while spot gold has managed to glean some incremental upside from the softer USD. Saudi Energy Minister said Saudi Arabia and China have plenty of synergies and that demand for oil in China is still growing, while he wouldn’t be surprised if there will be more announcements soon on Saudi-Chinese investments and China will be more engaged with them on mid-stream business. Saudi’s Energy Minister also said that they went through a comprehensive reform to achieve the OPEC+ agreement and they are working against uncertainty and sentiment, as well as noted that Saudi and OPEC+ are more interested in doing a regulator job, according to Reuters. Saudi Aramco is to supply full contract volumes of crude oil to at least 5 North Asian refiners in July, according to sources cited by Reuters. Iraq's Parliament approved the 2023 Budget which set oil prices at USD 70/bbl and projects exports of 3.5mln bpd including 400k bps from the Kurdish region, according to Reuters. US is expected to begin unloading oil from a seized Iranian tanker which risks escalating a shadow tanker war with Tehran, according to FT. Venezuela’s PDVSA resumed operations in the El Palito refinery, according to Reuters. Goldman Sachs cuts its December Brent crude forecast to USD 86/bbl from 95/bbl and cut WTI crude price forecast to USD 81/bbl from 89/bbl, while it noted that Russian and Iranian oil supply are significantly above expectations despite Saudi's cut and it raised H2 2023-2024 global supply forecast excluding core OPEC by around 800k bpd. Geopolitics Ukraine said its troops recaptured three villages from Russian forces in the southeast of the country which were the first results of its counteroffensive. In relevant news, Russia said Ukraine made an unsuccessful attempt to attack a vessel which was protecting gas pipelines in the Black Sea, while it was also reported that 3 people were killed and 10 wounded by Russian shelling of an evacuation boat in the flooded Kherson region. Ukraine and Russia announced a return of prisoners following negotiations in which 94 Russian soldiers and 95 Ukrainian soldiers were freed and returned, according to Reuters and TASS. Russian Kremlin spokesperson Peskov said there were no arrangements and no preconditions for talks with the Kyiv regime and that Russia sees Kyiv’s unwillingness to engage in dialogue, according to RIA. Head of Russia’s Wagner Group Prigozhin said Wagner fighters will not sign any contract with Russia’s Defence Ministry amid an attempt by the Russian Defence Minister to take control of its ranks, according to Daily Mail. Canadian PM Trudeau announced CAD 500mln in new funding for military assistance for Ukraine and said Canada will be part of a multinational effort to train Ukrainian fighter pilots, while he added that Canada is seizing Russian-owned Antonov cargo aircraft and starting the process of forfeiting the aircraft to Ukraine, according to Reuters. German Chancellor Scholz said he plans to talk to Russian President Putin soon and urge him to withdraw troops from Ukraine, according to Reuters. North Korean Leader Kim vowed stronger strategic ties with Russia in a congratulatory message to Russian President Putin for National Day, according to Yonhap. Iranian Supreme Leader Khamenei said Tehran should continue working with the UN nuclear watchdog under the framework of safeguards and that reaching an agreement with the West is fine but the country’s nuclear industry should be respected. Iran’s Supreme Leader also commented that talks about Iran’s nuclear weapons are a lie and they do not want nuclear arms based on religious beliefs, while he added that the West could not stop Iran from building nuclear arms if it chose to, according to state media. French President Macron expressed concerns about the current trajectory of the Iranian nuclear programme to Iranian President Raisi during a phone call on Saturday and warned about the consequences of drone deliveries to Russia, according to Reuters. Taiwanese Ministry of Defense said they sent planes and warships and used ground-based missile systems to monitor the activity of the Chinese military, according to Al Arabiya US Event Calendar 14:00: May Monthly Budget Statement, est. -$236b, prior $176.2b DB's Jim Reid concludes the overnight wrap We'll need everyone to stay on the pitch this week as after a quiet newsflow one just gone, this week steps up a gear with the FOMC on Wednesday the obvious highlight. Elsewhere US CPI tomorrow is probably the event of the week in terms of potential vol as it could impact final pricing for the FOMC and impact terminal pricing as well. The ECB (Thursday) and the BoJ (Friday) are also making policy decisions. In Asia, investors will be hotly anticipating China's key monthly activity indicators (Friday) including industrial production and retail sales after recent disappointing data releases. In other US data, the key releases outside of CPI are PPI (Wednesday), retail sales and industrial production (Thursday) and the UoM Michigan survey (Friday) with the important inflation expectations series thrown in for good measure. Key European data releases include UK GDP and labour market indicators and the German ZEW survey (both tomorrow). Going through some of this in more detail, there is around a 30% probability priced into the FOMC this week. DB expect them to hold but raise rates in July (see our economists preview here). Our economists expect the meeting statement, Summary of Economic Projections (SEP), dot plots, and Chair Powell's press conference to skew hawkish, signalling the likely need for further policy tightening as soon as the July 26 meeting. In our latest World Outlook (link here) our US economists nudged the first rate cut back to March 2024, one meeting later than our previous estimate, and expect the Fed to slash rates by a cumulative 275bps next year. This would lower the Fed Funds rate modestly below their view of longer run neutral, which is currently around 3% in nominal terms. The last swing factor for the FOMC will clearly be CPI tomorrow. In our economists preview here they are expecting a wafer thin +0.01% month-over-month advance for headline CPI (vs. +0.37% previously) and a +0.37% increase for core (vs. +0.41%). This would lead the former to drop by about a full percentage point to 4.0% YoY, with the latter down -0.2% to 5.3%, with the 3, 6 and 12 month core readings all still struggling to gain much downward momentum below 5% at the moment. For PPI the day after, DB expect the headline series (-0.2% vs. +0.2) to underperform the core component (+0.2% vs. +0.2%) due to energy prices. Staying with prices, another insight into inflation pressures will come from the University of Michigan's consumer survey for June, with inflation expectations especially in focus after the gauge for the next 5-10 years climbed to an 11-month high of 3.1% last month, albeit revised down (as it often is) 0.1pp from the first print. For the sentiment index itself, our team sees a 62.0 reading, a jump from 59.2 in May but still below the 63.5 reading in April. On the other side of the Atlantic, our Economists’s preview of the ECB meeting is here. They expect another +25bps hike, followed by an additional one in July that would take the terminal rate to 3.75% but they do see the risk of moving towards 4.00-4.25% in the autumn and expect somewhat hawkish messaging. The BoJ will round out the busy week for central banks on Friday. Our Chief Japan economist previews the meeting here and doesn't expect changes to the current policy. Given there won't be an Outlook Report, he sees the central bank as likely continuing to focus on downside inflation risks but emphasises that inflation and currency are among key catalysts for a policy change. Our economist has also published a Japan outlook update this week here, significantly increasing our inflation forecast. For more highlights, the full day by day calendar of events can be found at the end as usual. Asian equity markets have begun the week on a slightly negative note with the KOSPI (-0.48%), the Hang Seng (-0.48%), the Shanghai Composite (-0.29%) and the CSI (-0.24%) lower but with the Nikkei (+0.68%) bucking the trend and continuing to trade around 33-year highs. Elsewhere, markets in Australia are closed for a holiday. In overnight trading, US stock futures are indicating a positive bias with contracts tied to the S&P 500 (+0.13%) and NASDAQ 100 (+0.22%) edging higher. Ealy morning data showed that producer prices in Japan rose +5.1% y/y in May (v/s +5.6% expected), increasing at the slowest pace since July 2021 after recording an upwardly revised gain of +5.9% previously. On a month-on-month basis, wholesale prices slumped -0.7% in May (v/s +0.3% in April) and sharply lower than Bloomberg’s estimate of a -0.2% drop. Looking back at last week, the main story was just how durable risk assets were in the face of several negative data surprises. For instance in the US, the ISM services index was only barely in expansionary territory at 50.3, and then the weekly initial jobless claims hit their highest level since October 2021. Bear in mind that both came in worse than every economist’s estimate on Bloomberg, so these were much weaker than anyone had been expecting. There looked like there were a few distortions on claims (holiday week and State level oddities) so this week’s will be closely watched. In the meantime, the Euro Area growth data was revised to confirm that the economy did in fact experience a winter recession after all, having contracted by -0.1% in Q4 2022 and Q1 2023. But even as the data led to growing fears of a near-term recession, the S&P 500 still managed to move into bull-market territory last week, having advanced by +0.39% over the week (+0.11% Friday). In part that was thanks to the continued resilience of large-cap tech stocks, as the NYFNG+ index posted a +1.15% gain last week (+0.90% Friday). While the Nasdaq actually underperformed a fraction (+0.14%) last week (+0.16% Friday) but still moved higher for a 7th consecutive week. Indeed, that’s the first time the NASDAQ has advanced for 7 weeks running since 2019. Europe was the main underperformer on a regional basis, with the STOXX 600 down -0.46% (-0.15% Friday). Meanwhile in Japan, the Nikkei advanced for a 9th consecutive week with a +2.35% gain (+1.97% Friday). Whilst equities were generally resilient, bonds had a much trickier time after both the Reserve Bank of Australia and the Bank of Canada delivered a surprise rate hike. In both cases, it went against market pricing and the consensus of economists, and delivered a shock for markets that led to questions as to whether the Fed might follow through with their own hike this week. Ultimately, pricing for a Fed hike this week remained at 31% by Friday, but the prospect of higher rates for longer led to a noticeable increase in government bond yields in several regions. Among others, yields on 10yr Treasuries were up +4.9bps on the week (+2.1bps Friday) to 3.74%, and those on 10yr bunds were up +6.5bps (-2.5bps Friday) to 2.38%. There was also a further bout of curve flattening, and the 2s10s Treasury curve ended the week at an inverted -85.8bps, which is the most inverted it’s been since SVB’s collapse. Finally, it was an interesting week for commodities, with European natural gas futures (+35.29%) seeing the largest weekly gain since last summer. Now admittedly, that only takes them up to €32.05/MWh, which is still more than ten-fold beneath their peak last year, but it reverses a trend of continuously falling prices over recent weeks. Elsewhere, oil prices fell sharply with most of the move coming on Friday as Brent Crude fell -1.76% (-1.54% Friday). Otherwise, metals had a decent week, with both copper (+1.65%) and gold (+0.68%) moving higher. Tyler Durden Mon, 06/12/2023 - 08:08.....»»

Category: dealsSource: nytJun 12th, 2023

Photos show the flooded destruction the Kakhovka dam break is causing for tens of thousands of people in Ukraine

Both Ukraine and Russia accused each other of blowing it up. Russian forces control the area around the dam. This image made from video provided by Ukraine's Presidential Office shows the damaged Kakhovka dam near Kherson, Ukraine, Tuesday, June 6, 2023.Ukraine's Presidential Office via AP The Kakhovka dam was destroyed Tuesday, releasing water from a reservoir into the Dnipro River. Photos show the destruction the floods are causing an estimated 38,000 people in southern Ukraine. Ukraine and Russia accused each other of blowing it up. Russia controls the area around the dam. The Kakhovka dam is located in southern Ukraine, east and upstream of Kherson.An infographic titled Major Kakhovka dam blown up in Kherson, flood risk in region'' created in Ankara, Turkiye on June 6, 2023. Evacuations begin due to flood risks after Kakhovka Hydroelectric Power Plant in southern Ukraine is breached.Yasin Demirci/Anadolu Agency via Getty ImagesThe dam was destroyed on Tuesday, and water from the Kakhovka Reservoir it was containing began pouring into the Dnipro River.This image made from video provided by Ukraine's Presidential Office shows the damaged Kakhovka dam near Kherson, Ukraine, Tuesday, June 6, 2023.Ukrainian Presidential Office via APSource: Insider — Video shows floods pouring into southern Ukraine's war zone after a major dam was destroyed, sparking a new flashpoint in the warThe floodwaters rushed over buildings.This image made from video provided by Ukraine's Presidential Office shows the damaged Kakhovka dam near Kherson, Ukraine, Tuesday, June 6, 2023.Ukrainian Presidential Office via APThe water engulfed houses.This image made from video provided by Ukraine's Presidential Office shows the damaged Kakhovka dam near Kherson, Ukraine, Tuesday, June 6, 2023.Ukrainian Presidential Office via APSource: InsiderUkraine and Russia both accused each other of destroying the dam and causing the flooding.In this image taken from video released by the Ukrainian Presidential Office, water runs through a breakthrough in the Kakhovka dam in Kakhovka, Ukraine, Tuesday, June 6, 2023.Ukrainian Presidential Office via APSource: InsiderBut Russian forces control the area around the dam. Ukraine's president accused Russia of mining the dam in October.This image made from video provided by Ukraine's Presidential Office shows the damaged Kakhovka dam near Kherson, Ukraine, Tuesday, June 6, 2023.Ukraine's Presidential Office via APSource: Insider — Mines are being swept away in the floodwaters and exploding after a key dam in Ukraine was destroyedAn estimated 22,000 people live in Russian-controlled areas that could be affected by the flooding, and about 16,000 live in areas Ukraine controls.In this image taken from video released by the Ukrainian Presidential Office, water runs through a breakthrough in the Kakhovka dam in Kakhovka, Ukraine, Tuesday, June 6, 2023.Ukrainian Presidential Office via APSource: APThe Kakhovka Reservoir holds about 4 trillion gallons of water.In this image taken from video released by the Ukrainian Presidential Office, water runs through a breakthrough in the Kakhovka dam in Kakhovka, Ukraine, Tuesday, June 6, 2023.Ukrainian Presidential Office via APSource: InsiderThe reservoir serves as a cooling source for the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant, and could pose a problem if it drains too much, though that risk is low.In this image taken from video released by the Ukrainian Presidential Office, water runs through a breakthrough in the Kakhovka dam in Kakhovka, Ukraine, Tuesday, June 6, 2023.Ukrainian Presidential Office via APSource: InsiderStephen Hall, a politics lecturer at the University of Bath, told Insider's Sophia Ankel the "humanitarian disaster" could affect people in the area for weeks to come.An explosion at the Kakhovka dam has sent a wall of water downstream, flooding Ukrainian towns.ReutersSource: Insider — Video from Ukraine shows an entire house washed away in floods after a crucial dam was destroyed"It will take a while for the Dnipro to go back into its channel," Hall told Insider. "People will be flooded out, homes will be ruined."Water runs through a gap in the Nova Kakhovka dam in the Russian-controlled part of Ukraine's Kherson region on June 6, 2023Zelenskyy Social Media Account / Handout/Anadolu Agency via Getty ImagesSource: InsiderHall also warned of the potential for waterborne diseases the floodwaters could spread.Drone footage shows water gushing from the reservoir after the dam was breached.Screenshot/Twitter/@ZelenskyyUaSource: InsiderResidents downstream from the dam were already wading through floodwaters on Tuesday.A local resident gestures near his house, which was flooded after the Russian troops blew the Kakhovka dam overnight, in Kherson, Ukraine, Tuesday, June 6, 2023.AP Photo/Nina LyashonokMany were forced to evacuate, bringing the belongings they could quickly pack and take with them.People wait for an evacuation train at a railway station in Kherson, Ukraine, Tuesday, June 6, 2023.AP Photo/Nina LyashonokIt wasn't just humans who had to evacuate — this man led a cow down a flooded street in Kherson.A man evacuates a cow, leading it through flooded a street on June 6, 2023, in Kherson, Ukraine, after the Kakhovka Hydroelectric Power Plant was destroyed.Valentyna Gurova/Suspilne Ukraine/JSC "UA:PBC"/Global Images Ukraine via Getty ImagesAnd this man brought a dog with him to the train station.People wait for an evacuation train at a railway station in Kherson, Ukraine, Tuesday, June 6, 2023.AP Photo/Nina LyashonokBoth Ukraine and Russia sent trains and buses to evacuate residents, and no injuries or deaths were reported.People board an evacuation train at a railway station in Kherson, Ukraine, Tuesday, June 6, 2023.AP Photo/Nina LyashonokSource: APBefore the dam break, the waters had risen so high in the reservoir that they appeared to be spilling over the side, an AP analysis found, with heavy snowmelt and spring rains contributing.This satellite image provided by Planet Labs PBC shows an overview of the damage on the Kakhovka dam in southern Ukraine on Tuesday, June 6, 2023.Planet Labs PBC via APSource: APBefore the break, you can see a curved chunk of the dam still intact in this satellite image taken on May 28.03_closer view of nova khakovka dam_ukraine_28may2023_wv2Satellite image ©2023 Maxar TechnologieYou can see the break in the dam in this satellite image.The Nova Kakhovka Dam in Kherson on June 5.Maxar Technologies/Handout via REUTERSThis satellite image shows the scale of the destruction from the floodwaters.This satellite image provided by Planet Labs PBC shows an overview of the damage on the Kakhovka dam in southern Ukraine on Tuesday, June 6, 2023.Planet Labs PBC via APThe floods also have the potential to destroy crops. Wheat prices jumped 3% after the dam break.This satellite image provided by Planet Labs PBC shows an overview of the damage on the Kakhovka dam in southern Ukraine on Tuesday, June 6, 2023.Planet Labs PBC via APSource: APFor people on the ground, it's another day of man-made devastation in the 16th month of war.A local resident walks along the street, which was flooded after the Russian troops blew the Kakhovka dam overnight, in Kherson, Ukraine, Tuesday, June 6, 2023.AP Photo/Nina LyashonokRead the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsiderJun 6th, 2023

Inside the scramble to evacuate a US embassy surrounded by the chaos of street fighting, gunfire, and explosions

Three Marines and a Diplomatic Security Service official described the rush to get out of Sudan, from destroying documents to lowering the flag. A flag-lowering ceremony takes place at the US embassy in Khartoum before it is evacuated.Gen. David H. Berger via Twitter US forces evacuated the American embassy in Sudan days after violence erupted in its capital. Insider spoke with three Marines and a Diplomatic Security Service official about closing the post. They described the rush to leave Sudan, which involved destroying documents and lowering the flag. The day the rescue aircraft came, Cpl. Christopher Wolfert watched plumes of smoke rising in the distance amid the booms of exploding mortars and cracks of machine-gun fire in Sudan's capital. It was Saturday, April 22. The US Marine Security Guard was protecting the American embassy in Khartoum, which had been engulfed by deadly violence for a week at that point. As the situation deteriorated, the Pentagon dispatched Special Operations Forces to evacuate US diplomatic staff in a dramatic helicopter operation. A little under 100 people were rescued from the US embassy compound in just under an hour on the ground.As Navy SEALs and Army Special Forces rushed in, Sudan's capital was spiraling toward civil war. Tensions between rival powers had finally boiled over, and street fights raged."It was audible and visual," Wolfert later said, referring to the fighting nearby. "The evacuation itself — fairly surreal."Wolfert is one of a dozen Marines whose detachment was assigned to guard the US embassy in Africa's third-largest country and one of three Marines that Insider spoke to, along with an official from the Diplomatic Security Service, an agency under the State Department, about the April 22 drawdown and evacuation of America's diplomatic outpost in Sudan.The men Insider spoke with described scenes of chaos outside the embassy walls and a rush inside to quickly close up shop and get out of Sudan, from destroying sensitive national security information to lowering the American flag. It wasn't what anyone had wanted to see happen. "Unfortunately, we really didn't have a choice," Staff Sgt. Derek Ferrari, the detachment commander, told Insider. "When it was time to leave, it was time to leave."Smoke is seen in Khartoum, Sudan, Wednesday, April 19, 2023.AP Photo/Marwan Ali, FileFighting in Sudan first broke out on April 15 when clashes erupted between forces loyal to Gen. Abdel Fattah al Burhan, commander of the Sudanese army, and Lt. Gen. Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, who leads the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF). The two have been competing for power ever since they orchestrated a 2021 military coup together. Within days, violence quickly gripped the country, killing hundreds of people and injuring thousands more. Foreign governments began efforts to pull out their diplomatic staff and, in some cases, also moved to evacuate their civilians. At one point, armed fighters even opened fire on a clearly marked US embassy convoy that had identification plates and an American flag. No one was hurt, but Secretary of State Antony Blinken slammed the incident as "reckless" and "irresponsible." By April 20, US forces had been deployed to positions near Sudan in case they had to quickly extract diplomatic staff. Though there were signs, the Marines didn't know for sure an evacuation was coming, but it's something that they were ready for. It is something they prepare and train for. "It's not likely to happen," Ferrari said. "But you need to be ready if it does."A 'symbolic' momentMarine Security Guards are a 24-hour presence at US embassies around the world, and their mission is to protect classified information, US government personnel, and the physical facility. At any given diplomatic post, the Marines work under regional security officers (RSOs) from the Diplomatic Security Service (DSS) — the ambassador's security and law enforcement advisors. The Marine Security Guard Detachment assigned to the US Embassy in Khartoum, Sudan, stand for a photo in front of McMaugh Hall at Marine Corps Embassy Security Group Headquarters, Quantico, Va., on April 24.US Marine Corps courtesy photo"We could not do what we do overseas without Marine Security Guards," DSS Deputy Assistant Director Thad Osterhout told Insider. Marine Sgt. Nicholas Bonasera said "they take care of us as we take care of them."Security officers train to handle a wide range of scenarios, such as intruders at the embassy, medical issues, and bomb threats, as well as emergency embassy evacuations and shutdowns."There are some things that are out of your control," Ferrari said, but this is why they train. When the Marines learned the embassy had to be evacuated, they sprang into action to start shutting it down.A flag-lowering ceremony takes place at the US embassy in Khartoum before it is evacuated.Gen. David H. Berger via TwitterOne order of business was lowering the American flag. All the Marines who weren't occupied with other security-related jobs at the moment took part in a ceremony that involved lowering the flag and presenting it to the ambassador, John Godfrey."The American flag represents our footprint in that country and everything that the American people are bringing to that country through our diplomatic channels," Ferrari said. "There's symbolism in lowering the flag."A flag-lowering ceremony at the US embassy in Khartoum.Gen. David H. Berger via TwitterGetting people as violence gripped the capitalBefore the evacuation could take place, all the diplomatic staff had to be consolidated at the embassy, which is one large compound protected by a wall. But US government personnel were scattered several miles away across Khartoum in a separate main housing compound and several auxiliary compounds.Osterhout said DSS special agents had to slip outside the embassy and rescue people as fighting raged throughout the city. Sometimes, they had to wait until a safe window opened up so they could move people back to the embassy. In other cases, agents had to make multiple attempts to retrieve people who were staying temporarily at hotels. People walk by a house hit in recent fighting in Khartoum, Sudan, Tuesday, April 25, 2023.AP Photo/Marwan AliConsolidating everyone in one location "was critically important for our Department of Defense partners," Osterhout said. "Had the DOD evacuation force had to go to more than one location in a city under the conditions Khartoum was in, [it] would've both complicated their planning and execution, but it also would've entailed significantly more risk."Outside the embassy walls, there was a lot of confusion on the ground, with poor command and control from the top down on behalf of both warring parties. Osterhout said that while the US was "confident" the embassy would not be specifically targeted by senior leadership on either side, there was no assurance that local fighters would avoid this.DSS Deputy Assistant Director Thad Osterhout (far right) and other DSS leadership, alongside interagency partners, closely monitored the departure from Khartoum from the DSS Command Center in Arlington, VA on April 22, 2023US Department of State photoMoving about Khartoum meant traveling in a contested environment, one in which an American could easily end up in the wrong place at the wrong time. At least two Americans have been killed since the fighting began.Osterhout said there were "significant concerns" that low-level forces may seize an opportunity to hold up an embassy convoy or try to gain access to a housing compound, rather than the embassy itself. Osterhout said the embassy is a "very hard target" because the Marines guarding the facility are a "very effective deterrent." During the evacuation preparations, the Marines had to protect the national security information at the embassy, which meant safeguarding and destroying sensitive equipment and classified information. Doing this meant balancing available manpower because the Marines had to continue guarding the building like they would normally on a round-the-clock basis and also staff various security posts.  Though fighting was happening in the immediate vicinity of the embassy, neither the Sudanese army nor the RSF were intentionally trying to attack the embassy, Ferrari said. Still, there was a lot of indirect fire and ordnance being thrown around in the surrounding areas. "You could see and smell and hear everything around you that could at any time ... have been a great threat to the embassy, whether it was intentional or unintentional," he added. Evacuating the embassyFighting like this can always threaten air operations, but when President Joe Biden gave the orders to evacuate the embassy in Khartoum, it signaled that Washington was willing to take that risk. At 9 a.m. EST on April 22, three MH-47 Chinook rotary aircraft took off from Djibouti and stopped to refuel in neighboring Ethiopia before flying another three hours to Khartoum. As is standard practice for diplomatic outposts, the embassy had a pre-designated landing zone in an open field around 500 feet outside the southern entrance to the compound. Even as the evacuation unfolded, the Marines were constantly busy conducting their standard operating procedures, as they had been since the moment the conflict broke out. They manned the security posts until the very last hour, at which point they had to be shut down. DSS Deputy Assistant Director Thad Osterhout (far left) and other DSS leadership, alongside interagency partners, closely monitored the departure from Khartoum from the DSS Command Center in Arlington, VA on April 22, 2023.US Department of State photoPhysically moving dozens of personnel from the embassy to the helicopters fell entirely on the responsibility of the more than 100 US troops — all Special Operations Forces — who had flown into Khartoum that day. Once the Marines and diplomatic staff were loaded up onto the helicopters, the mission was complete."The evacuation was conducted in one movement via rotary wing," Lt. Gen. D.A. Sims, director of operations for the Joint Staff, told reporters later that day. "The operation was fast and clean, with service members spending less than an hour on the ground in Khartoum."The Marines said that departing Sudan was a "bittersweet" moment. There was a sense of sadness to leave behind their Sudanese colleagues and the friends they had made in the country, yet there was also a feeling of satisfaction in knowing that they did their duties. "Even though it's seems like we're leaving our diplomatic footprint behind in Sudan, we were leaving with all the personnel that we were supposed to," Ferrari noted. "No one had been killed, no one had been seriously injured, everybody had been evacuated safely. So that is a successful mission as a whole — that is something that no one should be sad or upset about.""Our job is to protect the embassy," Wolfert said. "We had done our jobs well."US Mission personnel assigned to the US Embassy in Khartoum, Sudan, embrace each other upon their safe return to the United States at Dulles International Airport, Va., on April 24.US Marine Corps courtesy photoWith the embassy staff gone, questions remained over whether Washington would move to evacuate US citizens, as some other Western nations had been doing. At one point, the State Department and the Pentagon organized a land convoy — with drone support overhead — to bring Americans to a part city along the Red Sea, where they could then travel onward to Saudi Arabia. Naval support had also been moved into the region.Meanwhile, fighting in Sudan shows no signs of slowing down, and civilians continue to pay the ultimate price. According to United Nations estimates, over 600 people have been killed, and hundreds of thousands more have either become internally displaced or fled the country. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the director-general of the World Health Organization, warned last week that the violence is crippling the country at an economic and social level. "As well as facing shelling and insecurity, people are dealing with dwindling supplies of water, food, medicines, and electricity," he said. "Establishing safe routes for humanitarian aid is critical. But the ultimate solution is peace."Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: smallbizSource: nytMay 16th, 2023

Ukrainian mayor says Russian troops are disguising themselves as civilians to escape Zaporizhzhia, according to local report

Ukrainian mayor says local residents have reported that Russian troops are dressing as civilians to escape occupied territory, according to Pravda. A Russian serviceman stands guard in an area of the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Station in territory under Russian military control, southeastern Ukraine, on May 1, 2022.AP Photo, File Russian troops are trying to escape the occupied parts of Zaporizhzhia, a Ukrainian mayor reportedly said. Nearly 1,700 people have been evacuated from the area in recent days. The mayor said residents saw Russian troops dressing as civilians to join the evacuation, according to local news outlet Pravda. Russian troops are disguising themselves as civilians to try and escape the area near the contested Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, a Ukrainian mayor has said according to Ukrainian outlet Pravda.An evacuation of nearly 1,700 people was carried out this weekend as the head of the United Nations' nuclear watchdog warned of the risks of a "severe nuclear accident" at the occupied facility.Ukraine is expected to soon start its long-anticipated counteroffensive to retake territory occupied by Russia, including in the Zaporizhzhia region.Ivan Fedorov, the exiled Ukrainian mayor of Melitopol — a city in the Zaporizhzhia region — said in a televised interview that residents of the occupied part of Zaporizhzhia Oblast have reported cases of Russian military personnel trying to leave by disguising themselves as civilians, according to Pravda."There are some military personnel who are trying to escape from the temporarily occupied territories. So, our residents report frequent cases when the Russian military personnel change into civilian clothes," the outlet reported he said.Fedorov said that now extra checks are being carried out on civilians in cars to make sure Russian soldiers aren't disguised among them, Pravda reported.The Ukrainian mayor also reportedly said that Russians have begun to leave administrative buildings in occupied Melitopol and have shut down Russian-run stores, and that while residents were being evacuated, Russian troops were "moving more and more to the Zaporizhzhia frontline."Fedorov warned on Saturday that the Russian-led evacuation was happening too quickly, and that huge lines were forming at the Chongar checkpoint on the road from Melitopol to Crimea, Pravda reported.The city of Melitopol has been occupied by Russia since February 2022. In March 2022 Fedorov was abducted by Russian forces and freed later that month, Ukrainian officials said.Galina Danilchenko, a local politician with long-held pro-Russian views, was installed as acting mayor in Fedorov's place.Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: worldSource: nytMay 8th, 2023

US troops rushed to evacuate embassy staff from Sudan, but thousands of Americans remain with advice to "shelter in place"

SEAL Team Six and other special forces got diplomatic personnel out in a 'fast and clean' mission, but there are still around 16,000 Americans there. This image grab taken from AFPTV video footage on April 20, 2023, shows an aerial view of black smoke rising above the Khartoum International Airport amid ongoing battles between the forces of two rival generals.AFP via Getty Images US special operators evacuated American embassy personnel from Sudan, where intense fighting continues. Thousands of Americans, however, remain in country and have been warned to "shelter in place." The US is looking at options to assist those still in country, but conditions make support a challenge. US special operations forces rushed into a bloody fight in Sudan over the weekend to evacuate diplomatic personnel from a rapidly deteriorating situation, but while the mission was a success, there are still thousands of Americans in country.Around a hundred special operations forces — including members of SEAL Team Six and the Army's 3rd Special Forces Group, per The Washington Post — conducted the evacuation of the US Embassy in Khartoum using MH-47 Chinook helicopters that flew roughly 1,600 miles round-trip."The operation was fast and clean, with service members spending less than an hour on the ground in Khartoum," Lt. Gen. D.A. Sims, Director of Operations, Joint Staff J3, said during a special late Saturday night briefing. "As we speak, the evacuees are safe and secure." Sims told reporters that the helicopters didn't take any fire during the mission and were able to get in and out "without issue."Around 70 people were evacuated from the embassy compound, The Associated Press reported. Several other countries have also evacuated their embassies.—President Biden (@POTUS) April 23, 2023News of the evacuation came after reports last week that an American diplomatic convoy had come under fire in Sudan amid the ongoing fighting and that the US was moving troops to nearby Djibouti in preparation for a possible mission to get embassy staff out of Khartoum. The Washington Post reported Sunday that an estimated 16,000 Americans, many of whom hold dual citizenship, remain in Sudan, where they have been encouraged to "shelter in place." One American has been killed so far in the violence, according to the State Department.In security alerts sent out last week, the US Embassy in Khartoum said that "US citizens are strongly advised to remain indoors, shelter in place until further notice and avoid travel to the US embassy," adding that "due to the uncertain security situation in Khartoum and closure of the airport, it is not currently safe to undertake a US government-coordinated evacuation of private US citizens."Sudan erupted in violent conflict a little over a week ago as forces loyal to Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, commander of the Sudanese army, and Lt. Gen. Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, leader of the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces, clashed in the streets. The two generals have been locked in a power struggle since they orchestrated a coup together a few years ago, and that spat has now reached a boiling point.Smoke rises during clashes between the Sudanese Armed Forces and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) in Khartoum, Sudan on April 19, 2023.Photo by Ahmed Satti/Anadolu Agency via Getty ImagesThe fighting has left nearly 500 people dead and several thousand more injured.The US Embassy, which has suspended operations, said in its latest security alert that the US remains committed to helping American citizens still in Sudan but cautioned that "the security situation throughout Sudan continues to be violent and unpredictable due to ongoing armed conflict, with active fighting in country and uncertain safety conditions."It further recommended "carefully considering routes and the risks of travel, because roads may be crowded, exposed to combat operations, or have deteriorated infrastructure due to damage to bridges, roads, and facilities."In response to Insider's request for comment on Americans left behind in Sudan, a State Department press officer said that the department is "in communication with U.S. citizens requesting assistance departing Sudan, and their families in the United States."The officer noted though that 'tThis is an unfolding situation, and we cannot provide more details for security reasons."Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: worldSource: nytApr 24th, 2023

Accountability For Biden"s Botched Afghan Withdrawal?

Accountability For Biden's Botched Afghan Withdrawal? Authored by Rep. Mark Green via RealClear Wire, Nineteen months ago, the last U.S. soldier was lifted out of Afghanistan, but hundreds of Americans were left behind in a country overrun by the Taliban and abandoned by President Biden. Yet in a recent press conference, Pentagon Spokesperson John Kirby had the audacity to state that he was proud of the withdrawal from Afghanistan. This followed the release of a report from the Biden administration that lays the blame for this withdrawal at the feet of President Trump, taking little to no responsibility. This is a sign of failed leadership.  President Biden seems to forget that a year and a half ago millions of Americans, our allies, and our adversaries saw the botched Afghanistan withdrawal with their own eyes. Plastered across our television sets were tragic images of Afghans giving up their infants to complete strangers in hopes of saving them from the tyrannical rule of the Taliban. Others were so desperate for freedom that they tried climbing onto American aircraft during take-off, eventually plummeting to their deaths. One Afghan was even found crushed within the wheel well of an outbound aircraft.  Despite the desperation of Afghan citizens to escape Taliban rule, even to the point of death, this president saw fit to leave hundreds of his own countrymen behind. This botched withdrawal won’t just be a stain on this administration for all-time, but Kabul will be remembered with Saigon as one of the worst military evacuations in American history. In turn, our adversaries from China and Russia to Iran and North Korea are emboldened. This is extremely dangerous. There must be accountability. Unfortunately, President Biden has been seeking to avoid accountability for himself and for this administration. In fact, in his press conference on the report, Kirby stated, “For all this talk of chaos, I just didn’t see it, not from my perch.” I wonder if Mr. Kirby would be comfortable saying that to the families of the 13 servicemembers murdered by a suicide bomber during the evacuation.  How do we know this report is about the Biden administration making excuses instead of taking responsibility for its failures? The 12-page summary fails to mention the abandonment of Bagram Air Base. Instead of keeping this pivotal airbase, U.S. forces deserted it in the middle of the night. This decision emboldened the Taliban, demoralized the Afghan government and military, made it harder for U.S. allies to evacuate after the fall of Kabul, and allowed the Taliban to free thousands of prisoners being held there, including senior al Qaeda operatives.  It is far past time to hold this administration accountable ourselves, because clearly it isn’t going to take responsibility for its own decisions. Many may wonder why this accountability hasn’t happened yet. The answer is simple; when Democrats controlled the House of Representatives, they refused. This was a dereliction of duty. Keeping the executive branch in check is one of Congress’ most important responsibilities. It shouldn’t matter if the president in office is Republican or Democrat—we should always be willing to fulfill our oversight duty as the people’s representatives. Despite this Constitutional obligation, Democrats refused to call this administration to account, even after finding out that President Biden left behind at least $7 billion in military equipment that is now turning up in various conflict zones. This is why Republicans made a promise to the American people when we took control of the House: we will have “a government that’s accountable.” And that’s what the Foreign Affairs Committee sought to do in its hearing titled: “During and After the Fall of Kabul: Examining the Administration’s Emergency Evacuation from Afghanistan.” The American people deserve answers, and we are working overtime to get them. When the last helicopters left the rooftops of Kabul, President Biden told the American people that only one-hundred American citizens remained in the country. The reality was much worse. Thanks to volunteer veteran groups who risked their lives to save their fellow countrymen, we now know that the Biden administration left over 1,000 Americans behind in Afghanistan.  The thought of leaving Americans behind goes against every fiber of my being. The Ranger Creed states, “I will never leave a fallen comrade to fall into the hands of the enemy and under no circumstance will I ever embarrass my country.” Because of President Biden’s failed leadership, our country did not live up to this creed, and we are still red in the face because of it. It is unconscionable that President Biden would leave American citizens behind and abandon our Afghan allies that had helped us through the war. For two decades, these Afghans guided our troops through dangerous territories, gave us vital intel, and aided our soldiers. For the Taliban, they are primary targets. In total, this administration abandoned tens of thousands of Afghan military personnel and interpreters that we promised to give sanctuary. What does it say to our allies around the world that we abandoned our Afghan allies to the Taliban? With the rise of nations with larger and more powerful militaries, we need our allies to trust that we will keep our word. There are also 13 American families who will never see their loved ones again because of this president’s ineptitude. 13 U.S. servicemembers were killed and 45 were wounded after a member of ISIS, released by the Taliban from Bagram prison, detonated a suicide bomb at the Kabul airport. Among the servicemembers killed was U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Ryan C. Knauss, a native of Corryton, Tennessee. He was just 23 years old. Tennesseans now, and forever, will keep his memory with us and honor his service to our nation. And when we fight for accountability in Washington, his face will be in front of our eyes.  What’s more disturbing is that this tragedy could have been prevented. Marine Sgt. Tyler Vargas-Andrews testified before the House Foreign Affairs Committee that U.S. intelligence had a description of the two terrorists planning the suicide attack. While on duty, Sgt. Vargas-Andrews saw the couple matching the description of the suspected bombers from his sniper tower. With a clear opportunity for engagement, he requested permission to engage. The message he got back is chilling: “Do not engage.” Eventually the suspect disappeared, and later that day 13 of our servicemembers and 170 Afghans were killed in a suicide bombing. Forty-five more soldiers, including Sgt. Vargas-Andrews, were maimed. This was negligence of the highest order. But John Kirby had the arrogance to stand before the American people and claim the mission a success. Maybe he should stand before the families and loved ones of the 58 American casualties and tell them how proud he is of this botched withdrawal.  Someone must answer for the decisions that cost a nation its freedom and 13 American servicemembers their lives—and that person is our Commander-in-Chief.   Despite the failures of this administration during our withdrawal from Afghanistan, I want veterans of the War on Terror to know that your service to our country was not in vain. We kept America safe for 20 years, and Americans are alive today because of your sacrifices. Thank you for everything you did for our country and God bless you. Mark Green is a U.S. representative for Tennessee and a former physician, business owner, and combat veteran of Afghanistan and Iraq, where he served three tours of duty. He is chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee and serves on the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Tyler Durden Wed, 04/19/2023 - 00:05.....»»

Category: smallbizSource: nytApr 19th, 2023

Dictators Bent On Building Military Empires: The Cost Of The Nation"s Endless Wars

Dictators Bent On Building Military Empires: The Cost Of The Nation's Endless Wars Authored by John & Nisha Whitehead via The Rutherford Institute, “Autocrats only understand one word: no, no, no. No you will not take my country, no you will not take my freedom, no you will not take my future… A dictator bent on rebuilding an empire will never be able to ease the people’s love of liberty. Brutality will never grind down the will of the free.” - President Biden Oh, the hypocrisy. To hear President Biden talk about the Russia’s aggression against Ukraine, you might imagine that Putin is the only dictator bent on expanding his military empire through the use of occupation, aggression and oppression. Yet the United States is no better, having spent much of the past half-century policing the globe, occupying other countries, and waging endless wars. What most Americans fail to recognize is that these ongoing wars have little to do with keeping the country safe and everything to do with propping up a military industrial complex that has its sights set on world domination. War has become a huge money-making venture, and the U.S. government, with its vast military empire, is one of its best buyers and sellers. America’s part in the showdown between Russia and the Ukraine has already cost taxpayers more than $112 billion and shows no signs of abating. Clearly, it’s time for the U.S. government to stop policing the globe. The U.S. military reportedly has more than 1.3 million men and women on active duty, with more than 200,000 of them stationed overseas in nearly every country in the world. American troops are stationed in Somalia, Iraq and Syria. In Germany, South Korea and Japan. In Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Oman. In Niger, Chad and Mali. In Turkey, the Philippines, and northern Australia. Those numbers are likely significantly higher in keeping with the Pentagon’s policy of not fully disclosing where and how many troops are deployed for the sake of “operational security and denying the enemy any advantage.” As investigative journalist David Vine explains, “Although few Americans realize it, the United States likely has more bases in foreign lands than any other people, nation, or empire in history.” Incredibly, America’s military forces aren’t being deployed abroad to protect our freedoms here at home. Rather, they’re being used to guard oil fields, build foreign infrastructure and protect the financial interests of the corporate elite. In fact, the United States military spends about $81 billion a year just to protect oil supplies around the world. The reach of America’s military empire includes close to 800 bases in as many as 160 countries, operated at a cost of more than $156 billion annually. As Vine reports, “Even US military resorts and recreation areas in places like the Bavarian Alps and Seoul, South Korea, are bases of a kind. Worldwide, the military runs more than 170 golf courses.” This is how a military empire occupies the globe. After 20 years of propping up Afghanistan to the tune of trillions of dollars and thousands of lives lost, the U.S. military may have finally been forced out, but those troops represent just a fraction of our military presence worldwide. In an ongoing effort to police the globe, American military servicepeople continue to be deployed to far-flung places in the Middle East and elsewhere. This is how the military industrial complex, aided and abetted by the likes of Joe Biden, Donald Trump, Barack Obama, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton and others, continues to get rich at taxpayer expense. Yet while the rationale may keep changing for why American military forces are policing the globe, these wars abroad aren’t making America—or the rest of the world—any safer, are certainly not making America great again, and are undeniably digging the U.S. deeper into debt. War spending is bankrupting America. Although the U.S. constitutes only 5% of the world's population, America boasts almost 50% of the world's total military expenditure, spending more on the military than the next 19 biggest spending nations combined. In fact, the Pentagon spends more on war than all 50 states combined spend on health, education, welfare, and safety. The American military-industrial complex has erected an empire unsurpassed in history in its breadth and scope, one dedicated to conducting perpetual warfare throughout the earth. Since 2001, the U.S. government has spent more than $4.7 trillion waging its endless wars. Having been co-opted by greedy defense contractors, corrupt politicians and incompetent government officials, America’s expanding military empire is bleeding the country dry at a rate of more than $32 million per hour. In fact, the U.S. government has spent more money every five seconds in Iraq than the average American earns in a year. Future wars and military exercises waged around the globe are expected to push the total bill upwards of $12 trillion by 2053. Talk about fiscally irresponsible: the U.S. government is spending money it doesn’t have on a military empire it can’t afford. Unfortunately, even if we were to put an end to all of the government’s military meddling and bring all of the troops home today, it would take decades to pay down the price of these wars and get the government’s creditors off our backs. As investigative journalist Uri Friedman puts it, for more than 15 years now, the United States has been fighting terrorism with a credit card, “essentially bankrolling the wars with debt, in the form of purchases of U.S. Treasury bonds by U.S.-based entities like pension funds and state and local governments, and by countries like China and Japan.” War is not cheap, but it becomes outrageously costly when you factor in government incompetence, fraud, and greedy contractors. Indeed, a leading accounting firm concluded that one of the Pentagon’s largest agencies “can’t account for hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of spending.” Unfortunately, the outlook isn’t much better for the spending that can be tracked. A government audit found that defense contractor Boeing has been massively overcharging taxpayers for mundane parts, resulting in tens of millions of dollars in overspending. As the report noted, the American taxpayer paid: $71 for a metal pin that should cost just 4 cents; $644.75 for a small gear smaller than a dime that sells for $12.51: more than a 5,100 percent increase in price. $1,678.61 for another tiny part, also smaller than a dime, that could have been bought within DoD for $7.71: a 21,000 percent increase. $71.01 for a straight, thin metal pin that DoD had on hand, unused by the tens of thousands, for 4 cents: an increase of over 177,000 percent. That price gouging has become an accepted form of corruption within the American military empire is a sad statement on how little control “we the people” have over our runaway government. Mind you, this isn’t just corrupt behavior. It’s deadly, downright immoral behavior. Americans have thus far allowed themselves to be spoon-fed a steady diet of pro-war propaganda that keeps them content to wave flags with patriotic fervor and less inclined to look too closely at the mounting body counts, the ruined lives, the ravaged countries, the blowback arising from ill-advised targeted-drone killings and bombing campaigns in foreign lands, or the transformation of our own homeland into a warzone. That needs to change. The U.S. government is not making the world any safer. It’s making the world more dangerous. It is estimated that the U.S. military drops a bomb somewhere in the world every 12 minutes. Since 9/11, the United States government has directly contributed to the deaths of around 500,000 human beings. Every one of those deaths was paid for with taxpayer funds. The U.S. government is not making America any safer. It’s exposing American citizens to alarming levels of blowback, a CIA term referring to the unintended consequences of the U.S. government’s international activities. Chalmers Johnson, a former CIA consultant, repeatedly warned that America’s use of its military to gain power over the global economy would result in devastating blowback. The 9/11 attacks were blowback. The Boston Marathon Bombing was blowback. The attempted Times Square bomber was blowback. The Fort Hood shooter, a major in the U.S. Army, was blowback. The U.S. military’s ongoing drone strikes will, I fear, spur yet more blowback against the American people. The war hawks’ militarization of America—bringing home the spoils of war (the military tanks, grenade launchers, Kevlar helmets, assault rifles, gas masks, ammunition, battering rams, night vision binoculars, etc.) and handing them over to local police, thereby turning America into a battlefield—is also blowback. James Madison was right: “No nation could preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare.” As Madison explained, “Of all the enemies to public liberty war is, perhaps, the most to be dreaded because it comprises and develops the germ of every other. War is the parent of armies; from these proceed debts and taxes… known instruments for bringing the many under the domination of the few.” We are seeing this play out before our eyes. The government is destabilizing the economy, destroying the national infrastructure through neglect and a lack of resources, and turning taxpayer dollars into blood money with its endless wars, drone strikes and mounting death tolls. Clearly, our national priorities are in desperate need of an overhauling. At the height of its power, even the mighty Roman Empire could not stare down a collapsing economy and a burgeoning military. Prolonged periods of war and false economic prosperity largely led to its demise. As historian Chalmers Johnson predicts: The fate of previous democratic empires suggests that such a conflict is unsustainable and will be resolved in one of two ways. Rome attempted to keep its empire and lost its democracy. Britain chose to remain democratic and in the process let go its empire. Intentionally or not, the people of the United States already are well embarked upon the course of non-democratic empire. This is the “unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex” that President Dwight Eisenhower warned us more than 50 years ago not to let endanger our liberties or democratic processes. Eisenhower, who served as Supreme Commander of the Allied forces in Europe during World War II, was alarmed by the rise of the profit-driven war machine that emerged following the war—one that, in order to perpetuate itself, would have to keep waging war. We failed to heed his warning. As I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People and in its fictional counterpart The Erik Blair Diaries, war is the enemy of freedom. As long as America’s politicians continue to involve us in wars that bankrupt the nation, jeopardize our servicemen and women, increase the chances of terrorism and blowback domestically, and push the nation that much closer to eventual collapse, “we the people” will find ourselves in a perpetual state of tyranny. Tyler Durden Sat, 02/25/2023 - 22:30.....»»

Category: dealsSource: nytFeb 26th, 2023

How Ukraine"s "lifeline" railway runs even as Russia bombs it, according to a man fighting to keep the trains on time

"We never canceled any single train. We always keep running," Alexander Kamyshin, the CEO of the state-owned Ukrainian Railways, told Insider. Ukrainian soldier Vasyl Khomko, 42, carries flowers as he waits for his wife and daughter at the train station in Kyiv, Ukraine, Saturday, Dec. 31, 2022.AP Photo/Roman Hrytsyna Ukraine's rail network has kept people, humanitarian aid, and cargo moving through a year of war. But the trains run under the constant threat of Russian attacks on the rail infrastructure.  Alexander Kamyshin, CEO of Ukrainian Railways, explained to Insider how the operation keeps going. Alexander Kamyshin will never forget the day he arrived in liberated Kherson, a war-torn city on the Dnieper River.The CEO of Ukraine's national rail service was on the first train to arrive in the southern city just days after it was retaken by Kyiv's forces last fall, freeing it after months of Russian occupation.Getting there was no easy task. Tracks and bridges damaged by fierce fighting had to be repaired, and deadly land mines threatening the safety of anyone coming through had to be disarmed before the train could pass. But when the train finally pulled in, it was greeted by the whole city — its arrival signaled freedom of movement, an influx of humanitarian aid, and the return of business with cargo flowing in and out."Some people say that railways is the lifeline of Ukraine," Kamyshin said in a recent interview with Insider. "That's why it's really important to bring back the connection to retaken cities."Kamyshin oversees Ukrainian Railways, the state-owned company that has kept Ukraine's economy and people moving through a brutal year of war. Its network of tracks spans across the entire country and into neighboring eastern European countries, allowing Ukraine to operate a massive transportation system even as air traffic remains suspended.     Keeping the trains moving comes with significant danger for the company though as Russian forces attack the rail network around the clock, causing destruction to everything from the tracks to stations.'They rely on the railway'According to 2022 company data reviewed by Insider, Ukrainian Railways has helped evacuate millions of people from war-torn cities and transported thousands of civilians injured in Russia's assault. The company moved hundreds of thousands of tons of humanitarian aid through passenger trains and freight wagons and over 100 million tons of cargo — like grain, which was the country's biggest cargo export  — from March to December of last year.  Train conductors talk while standing near a train at the end of the shift on December 26, 2022 in Kyiv, Ukraine.Photo by Kateryna Mykhailova/Global Images Ukraine via Getty ImagesIn the early weeks of the war, the main focus was on evacuating civilians and providing humanitarian aid. Later, it became critical to get back to exporting key goods so that Ukraine could begin generating revenue. The more goods it can export, the less dependent it is on external financial aid.  "It's extremely challenging during the war to keep the economy running," Kamyshin said. "And we are the main transport to bring grain and metals out of the country."Ukrainian Railways facilitated the movement of over 17 million people across the country, mainly from eastern and southern regions — where fighting has been more intense — to the western regions that have seen less combat. Because Ukraine is such a large country and it takes a while to traverse by car, Kamyshin said people opt to take the train because it's affordable, comfortable, and safe. Ukrainian soldiers are seen in an evacuation train in the direction of Lviv, at the railway station, in Pokrovsk, Ukraine on November 28, 2022.Photo by Diego Herrera Carcedo/Anadolu Agency via Getty ImagesGiven the importance of the rail system to Ukraine, on-time performance is crucial for Kamyshin and his team, and even though the company is operating under war-time conditions, the results have been impressive. He said Ukrainian Railways averaged around an 85 percent on-time rate during 2022, though there were days when the figure jumped up to 95 percent or higher. Earlier in February, Kamyshin wrote on social media that he had a record day for on-time performance, with 98 percent of trains departing on time and 97 percent arriving on time.On Sunday, Kamyshin apologized because the on-time arrival rate was "only" 90 percent, and that was because some trains had to be delayed as President Joe Biden made a surprise trip to Kyiv, where he met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. Several people board an evacuation train on March 3, 2022, in Kyiv.Photo By Diego Herrera/Europa Press via Getty Images"This passion to be on time is a really important value for us. During the war, people should rely at least on something," Kamyshin said. "They rely on the president, they rely on the army, and they rely on the railway. They know that no matter what happens, we don't cancel trains. During the whole war, we never canceled any single train. We always keep running."'We decided we go up'Traveling by rail does not come without its risks. Russian forces bombard the network with artillery shells on a daily basis, Kamyshin said, inflicting widespread damage to the tracks, stations, bridges, and wagons. As soon as the shelling stops, repair teams go out and fix whatever is damaged. In one particularly deadly attack on the rail infrastructure, Russia troops fired rockets at a train station in the eastern Ukrainian city of Kramatorsk in early April 2022. Dozens of people, including children, trying to flee their homes were killed in the strike.  Trains stand at a railway station depot on December 26, 2022 in Kyiv, Ukraine.Photo by Kateryna Mykhailova/Global Images Ukraine via Getty ImagesRoughly 10 percent of the infrastructure controlled by Ukrainian Railways is occupied by Russian forces, Kamyshin said. But whenever Ukraine's military liberates territory, he gets tasked by the government in Kyiv to re-connect the train network to cities as soon as possible.Such was the case when Russian forces withdrew from around Kyiv last spring and when Ukraine launched a punishing counteroffensive in the northeast Kharkiv region at the end of the summer. The same happened in Kherson.   "The whole war changes with time, and the main skill we should keep in mind is flexibility," Kamyshin said. The company has been forced to adapt throughout the conflict and make tough calls. Early on, "it was about making decisions daily, and not making a decision was much worse than making a wrong decision."A railway worker stands next to heavily damaged train after a Russian attack on a train station yesterday during Ukraine's Independence Day in the village Chaplyne, Ukraine, Thursday, Aug. 25, 2022.AP Photo/Leo CorreaBut even with the burdens of war, Ukrainian Railways also managed to innovate and expand during 2022. The company has secured dozens of new passenger rail cars and renovated several more, according to the data reviewed by Insider. It added several new domestic and international routes — going to places like Poland and Moldova.   Existing lines connecting Ukraine with its neighboring countries were reconstructed and reopened, which is crucial for several reasons, Kamyshin explained. It keeps cargo moving so Ukraine can collect revenue from exports, and it helps transport Ukrainians to airports in other countries so they can leave the region. But it's also imperative for the country's national security: the more connections it has to Europe, the more secure Ukraine will be.It's these connections that play a major role in keeping Ukraine's economy afloat and fueling its war effort, and they have been used by foreign leaders visiting the country in a show of support and solidarity."From day one, I felt that I don't want just to survive. We want to keep developing. We want to keep growing, to keep constructing, and to keep doing new projects even during the war," Kamyshin said."Otherwise, we are out — it's up or out," he added. "We decided we go up."Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: worldSource: nytFeb 25th, 2023

War Certainly Is A Racket

War Certainly Is A Racket Authored by Iain Davis via, In 1935, Major General Smedley Butler’s seminal book “War Is A Racket” warned of the dangers of the US military-industrial complex, more than 25 years before the outgoing US President Eisenhower implored the world to “guard against” the same thing. One of the most decorated soldiers in US military history, Butler knew what he was talking about, famously writing that war is “…conducted for the benefit of the very few, at the expense of the very many.” While he lamented the loss of his fallen comrades and despite the gongs he received for defending his country, Butler came to understand that he was actually a “high class muscle man for big business, for Wall Street and the bankers.” Later, the historian Antony C. Sutton proved that Butler was right. When the US administration of George Bush passed its Foreign Operations Appropriation Law in 1991, it ended all US credit to the former, thriving socialist republic of Yugoslavia. At the time the perception on the Hill was that Yugoslavia was no longer required as a buffer zone between the NATO states and their former Warsaw Pact adversaries, so its independent socialism was no longer tolerated. The US military industrial complex, that Butler and Eisenhower told everyone to tackle, effectively destabilised the entire Balkan region, destroyed hitherto relatively peaceful countries and then fuelled the resultant wars with its pet Islamist terrorists. Ably assisted by the World Bank and the IMF. So-called “assistance,” via the Train and Equip Program, gave US taxpayers the opportunity to funnel $500M to private security contractors like DynCorp. DynCorp put taxpayer’s money to use, seemingly by training terrorists and child trafficking to paedophiles. The US and its Western allies’ military industrial complex pulled off more or less the same trick in Iraq, Libya and nearly in Syria. In hindsight this doesn’t appear to have been a very good idea. That is, if you think wars are fought for the reasons we are told. Having bombed Iraq into the stone age, to stop its regime producing the WMDs it didn’t have, the US then “rescued” the country, from the horrific violence and starvation sanctions the US government itself visited upon the Iraqi people, by establishing the US led coalition’s puppet Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) government. Once installed, the CPA did things like award US engineering firm Kellogg Brown & Root (KBR) a ‘sole source contract’ to fix and operate all of Iraq’s oil wells. That US Vice President Dick Cheney, who lied passionately about Iraqi WMD, was also in receipt of an annual $2M stipend from KBR was just a coincidence. As was the massive boost to the value of his Halliburton shareholdings as a direct result of the war he was instrumental in starting. When the former UK Prime Minister Teresa May OK’d missile trikes upon Syrian civilians, the fact that her husband made millions out of it, as his investments in missile manufactures went through the roof, was also just a coincidence. In no way did she personally profit from killing children and the fact that her family continues to make a fortune by killing more children in Yemen does not undermine Theresa’s very public profile as a champion of good causes. Although, it appears, not killing children isn’t one of them. So we shouldn’t be surprised when, once again, we discover that war, far from an impediment to business, actually improves operational margins, increases production, boosts markets and offers white collar criminal enterprises industrial scale profits. Sure, people, including children, die in huge numbers but so what? Where there’s muck there’s brass. War certainly is a racket. It turns out that Ukraine has been buying Russian fuel from the EU member state Bulgaria throughout the Ukraine War. An odd oversight for alleged combatants in a war. It is similar to the Ukrainian government’s decision to allow the continuing transit of Russian gas from Gazprom to EU markets through its resident pipelines. The Russian energy giant Lukoil, whose former CEO Ravil Maganov accidentally fell out of a window a few months ago—a common problem for the wrong Russian executives—has been shipping Russian oil to its refinery in the Bulgarian port city of Burgas. The Burgas refinery is the only one in Bulgaria and the largest in the Balkans. From there the refined gas-oil (red diesel) is exported to Russia’s supposed enemy, Ukraine. This was all being done in secret, says the Russian MSM, although this is just perception management, pro-war propaganda. There has also been a lot of nonsense written by the Western MSM, alleging that Bulgaria has been illicitly circumnavigating EU “sanctions.” Regardless of the fact that this too is monumental tripe. There isn’t anything “secret” about it. In truth, the door was left open for Russia and Bulgaria to continue this trade, at least until the end of 2024, because the EU inserted a loophole to ensure that they could. Presumably, the Russian government knew nothing about the massive oil shipments, which is why it remained a “secret,” according to Russian MSM. Given that the “secrecy” narrative is total claptrap, why would both the Western and the Russian MSM want to peddle essentially the same disinformation? Let’s spend a moment to reflect upon the EU’s non-sanction sanctions shall we? It means that third party non-EU trading nations, like Kazakhstan for instance, can ship Russian oil to the EU unhindered by the inconvenience of alleged sanctions. The sanctions are for reordering global energy flows, not ending them. While the switch-over has plunged European citizens into an energy crisis, that’s OK. It is essential for the future of the planet that Europeans are convinced to accept ever increasing energy prices. Otherwise they might not welcome the transition to the “sustainable energy” that will make their lives much worse. Red diesel in Ukraine is used for industrial and heavy machinery, in agriculture and manufacturing for example. It is also used for, oh I don’t know, fuelling tanks and armoured personnel carriers, mobile artillery units and stuff like that. Stories from European news outlets that Bulgaria provides nearly 40% of Ukrainian military fuel are all nonsense because 'reasons'. Officials have denied the evidence, such as confirmation from the former Bulgarian President, so it isn’t “officially approved” evidence. Consequently, it can safely be discounted by anyone gullible enough to do so. Don’t forget, according to Western and Russian MSM outlets, it’s all a secret. Which may come as a relief to some, because otherwise the Russian government would have been colluding with the EU to ensure that the Ukrainian military could stay in the fight wouldn’t it? Recently, despite apparently running out of weaponry, if you believe Western propaganda that is, Russia has launched a massive missile strike on Ukraine, targeting Ukraine’s energy infrastructure. According to Russian MSM this is part of the Russian governments efforts to undermine Ukraine’s “military capabilities.” The fact that it ensures that Ukraine will need to be rebuilt by borrowing enormous sums from international financiers, with the diligent assistance of Gazprom investors BlackRock, is not relevant. So ignore this too please. Gazprom sells gas to Moldova which is now going to provide gas to Ukraine via the Ukrainian transit gas pipelines that Russian bombing has accidentally missed entirely. The Moldovan government is keen to stress that this is not the gas it buys from Gazprom but is rather the gas it buys from somewhere else it hasn’t specified despite admitting that it is completely reliant upon Russian energy. If the energy and the fuel from countries like Moldova, Bulgaria and Kazakhstan is used by the Ukrainian government’s military, which it won’t under any official circumstances whatsoever, and Gazprom gas helps keep Ukrainian’s lights on, despite the missile strikes, it looks like the Russian government’s objective is to keep Ukraine at war while hobbling it just enough to ensure it can’t win. This can’t be true because NATO appears to be doing exactly the same thing and Russia and NATO are enemies. Although NATO’s not quite enough assistance differs from the Russian governments not quite enough aggression, it essentially amounts to the same thing. The piddly number of tanks offered to Ukraine by its NATO “partners,” the reluctance from NATO to give Ukraine military aircraft and the tepid reception for Ukraine’s more recent pleas to join NATO, appears to signal that NATO isn’t prepared to provide, or perhaps isn’t capable of providing, the military support Ukraine would need for victory. But it is seemingly willing to give it just enough old used scrap to keep it loosing. This means Ukrainians, the new Russian populations in the Donbas, and troops on both sides, though primarily the Ukrainians, will continue to die while the geopolitical landscape continues to shift around them. Meanwhile the military industrial complex and the billionaires it enriches, such as Elon Musk, are making a fortune. When the conflict is concluded, multinational corporations on both sides will be awarded the contracts to rebuild the stuff their government partners have just destroyed. Butler wrote: Let the officers and the directors and the high-powered executives of our armament factories and our munitions makers and our shipbuilders and our airplane builders and the manufacturers of all the other things that provide profit in war time as well as the bankers and the speculators, be conscripted. While some might think it wise to add politician’s to that list, for some unfathomable reason, far more people seem to think this is a good point but that it isn’t a serious proposal. Why not? Do they not get it, do they not understand what Butler, Eisenhower, Sutton and many more like them have been trying to tell them for nearly a century? What is it about the military industrial complex that they assume to be inevitable? Why on Earth do they think it is a “necessary evil?” It is only necessary because millions, perhaps billions, of us accept that war is the “failure” of foreign policy and diplomacy, instead of understanding the obvious fact that it is the extension of foreign policy. As we are seeing right now with the warmongering posturing of the West and China, war is the intended product of foreign policy and sledgehammer diplomacy. Wars don’t just “happen” by accident. They are planned, engineered and delivered as required. Our’s and our children’s deaths mean nothing to the people who we allow to lead us into war. They don’t have skin in the game but they should and we have the power to make sure that they do. All we have to do is refuse to fight. It really isn’t rocket science. Obedience is not a virtue. But we won’t because we continue to fall for the same old lies, time and time again. We continue to imagine, like amnesiac slaves, that we can only be led to a better future by following another bunch of parasitic criminals. Around and around we go: blowing up and starving children to death, condemning pensioners to freezing fuel poverty and accepting that we might just have to sacrifice ourselves and our loved ones along the way. When the warmongers next press gang our sons and daughters into dying for their ambitions, we will again say it is in a good cause: for the defence of our country, our culture or our way of life. It isn’t, it never was and it never will be as long as we continue to go along with it. Tyler Durden Sat, 02/18/2023 - 21:00.....»»

Category: blogSource: zerohedgeFeb 18th, 2023

NATO chief warns Ukraine is using an "enormous" amount of munitions and firing them faster than alliance partners can make them

Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said that the rate at which Ukraine is firing off munitions is straining firms and "depleting allied stockpiles." Ukrainian soldiers fire at Russian positions from a U.S.-supplied M777 howitzer in Kherson region, Ukraine, Jan. 9, 2023.AP Photo/Libkos NATO's chief said Ukraine is expending an "enormous" amount of munitions on the battlefield. Kyiv is firing these munitions faster than the US and its European partners can produce them, he said. NATO members and partner countries have sent tens of billions of dollars in military aid to Ukraine. Ukrainian forces are using a massive amount of munitions to fight Russian troops on the battlefield, and the intense rate of fire is putting a strain on Western stockpiles and defense firms amid efforts to back Kyiv's war effort, the NATO chief warned on Monday.  Speaking ahead of a series of meetings with NATO defense ministers this week, Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said the military alliance plans to strengthen its deterrence and defense capacity in the face of Russian threats.This involves long-term planning to increase NATO's defense-industrial capacity, he said, and replenishing various stockpiles of munitions that have been sent to Ukraine to help the country fend off the invasion."The war in Ukraine is consuming an enormous amount of munitions and depleting allied stockpiles. The current rate of Ukraine's ammunition expenditure is many times higher than our current rate of production," Stoltenberg said. "This puts our defense industries under strain." He noted that one example of this is how the waiting time for large-caliber ammunition has jumped from 12 to 28 months. The solution, he added, is to invest in the capacity to produce such weaponry and increase the production. Ukraine's allies have provided tens of billions of dollars in weaponry and ammunition since Russian forces launched a full-scale assault on Ukraine nearly a year ago. Last spring, Pentagon officials said security assistance provided by the US — which has sent more military aid to Ukraine than any other country since February 2022 — was being delivered at unprecedented speeds. But repeated arms shipments to Ukraine have put a strain on US stockpiles, sending the Pentagon searching for ways to beef up production of munitions and artillery. In doing so, Washington has even tried searching for solutions by looking into stockpiles from other non-European countries.Among the nearly $30 billion in security assistance that the Biden administration has sent Kyiv since February 2022, the US has provided a heaping pile of munitions — including millions of artillery rounds, mortar rounds, and anti-tank weapons. Aside from these efforts, other NATO members and partner countries in recent weeks have increasingly pledged to send advanced weaponry to Ukraine ahead of what officials have previously described as a looming Russian offensive. This includes commitments to send much-sought-after main battle tanks and other heavy armor. Meanwhile, Stoltenberg said on Monday that the ongoing war — which has become a grinding and bloody campaign in Ukraine's eastern Donbas region — has turned into a "race of logistics.""Key capabilities like ammunition, fuel, and spare parts must reach Ukraine before Russia can seize the initiative on the battlefield," he warned. "Speed will save lives."Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsiderFeb 13th, 2023

Ohio"s Apocalyptic Chemical Disaster Rages On

Ohio's Apocalyptic Chemical Disaster Rages On Submitted by 'BlueApples', While the US government is dispensing millions of dollars in resources to treat balloons as an existential crisis, a small town in Ohio finds itself engulfed in what actually looks like the apocalypse. Perhaps by design, all of the drama surrounding violations of US airspace by Chinese spy initiatives has done well to keep what is becoming one of the worst environmental disasters in recent memory from getting any headlines. The chaos began early last week when a train of more than 100 cars derailed in East Palestine, Ohio near the state’s border with Pennsylvania with roughly 5,000 residents. The accident launched fifty of those hundred freight cars from the tracks. Twenty of the freight cars on the train were carrying hazardous materials, ten of which were detailed. While the accident had no fatalities, of those ten cars, five contained pressurized vinyl chloride, a highly flammable carcinogenic gas. Scenes from East Palestine In order to address the volatile scenario around the crash site, the Ohio Emergency Management Agency executed its plan of venting the toxic gas with a controlled burn in order to evade an uncontrolled explosion which presented the risk of catastrophic damage. “Within the last two hours, a drastic temperature change has taken place in a rail car, and there is now the potential of a catastrophic tanker failure which could cause an explosion with the potential of deadly shrapnel traveling up to a mile,” Gov. Mike DeWine warned in statement explaining the decision to take action to avert widespread devastation. However, that operation sent large plumes of smoke containing vinyl chloride, phosgene, hydrogen chloride, and other gases into the air as the flames from the controlled burn raged on for days. Phosgene in particular is a highly toxic gas that can cause vomiting and respiratory trouble. The toxicity of phosgene gas is so potent that it was previously used as a chemical weapon during the First World War. The hazardous airborne chemicals prompted officials to issue mandatory evacuation and shelter-in-place orders within a one-mile radius of where the train derailed. Those orders forced nearly 2,000 residents of East Palestine out of there homes. Despite the public safety risk in proximity to the crash site, over 500 people within the parameters of the evacuation order refused to leave their homes. However, those orders were lifted on February 8th, allowing residents to return to the area adjacent to the disaster. Following the controlled burn, local authorities received multiple concerning reports from residents outside of the mile-long radius of the evacuation area conveying that the emergency posed by the disaster was far from over. One local farmer reported the sudden deaths of many of the animals on the premises of his farm, Park Dairy. The farmer, Taylor Holzer, also works with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources as a registered foxkeeper. Following the disbursement of chemical agents into the air from the controlled burn, many of the foxes on Holzer’s farm experienced fatal effects from the air quality surrounding the area. “Out of nowhere, he [a fox] just started coughing really hard, just shut down,” Holzer recalled to local media outlet WKBN 27 News. “This is not how a fox should act. He is very weak, limp. His eyes are very watery and weepy. Smoke and chemicals from the train, that’s the only thing that can cause it, because it doesn’t just happen out of nowhere,” he added. “The chemicals that we’re being told are safe in the air, that’s definitely not safe for the animals…or people.” Holzer’s concerns were echoed by reports from other residents who described similar conditions near their own properties. One of those residents was Katlyn Schwarzwaelder, the operator of a local dog kennel in nearby Darlington, Pennsylvania. The catastrophe caused her to leave her home despite the fact that it lies more than 10 miles away from the site of the controlled burn. After fleeing to Boardman, Ohio, 15 miles away from the derailment, Schwarzwaelder stated she received multiple reports of dead chickens, fish, and other animals from friends and acquaintances. One affected resident told Schwarzwaelder that they let their 2-year old dog out to use the bathroom only for it never to return. When they embarked upon a search for their missing pet, they found it dead in their yard. Testimony from Holzer, Schwarzwaelder, and others paints a drastically different picture than the official narrative tailored by officials who assured residents that the situation was under control. The poor air quality presents short and long term health risks to the public considering the carcinogenic effects of the chemicals. Carcinogens like vinyl chloride can cause cancer in organs including the liver, according to Kevin Crist, a professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering who also serves as the Director of Ohio University’s Air Quality Center. Although officials in charge of the emergency response utilized techniques like dispersion modeling in order to calculate and mitigate the risk of airborne chemicals, the chemicals disbursed following the derailment pose other significant risks of contamination. Chemicals also spilled into the Ohio River toward West Virginia, prompting officials from the neighboring state to shut down water production in the area and turn to alternative sources for water supply. Soil contamination is another significant risk that leaves officials weary of broader implications affecting public health than those associated with the air pollution alone. However, the magnitude of those risks hasn’t been apparently recognized by the leadership across various states affected by the disaster. According to Pennsylvania Governor Josh Shapiro, there were no concerns regarding the air and water quality in the area. Nevertheless, the governor reiterated that a shelter-in-place order remained in effect for Pennsylvanians within two miles of East Palestine. Officials from the Environmental Protection Agency took a similar tone, stating nothing unexpected was seen following the controlled burn. James Justice of the EPA summed up his agencies position by saying “So far, so good and we’re going to continue to monitor until the fire’s out,”. While the immediate risks presented by a possible explosion following the train’s derailment may have been averted, the emergency response may become an instance of a cure being worse than the disease it seeks to remedy. The accidents also brings the state of safety regulations surrounding rail transport of hazardous freight into a new light. Over the last five years alone, eight train derailments have occurred in the Pittsburgh metro area, leading to calls for increased oversight over the industry. Despite the inherent risk that comes with transporting chemicals like vinyl chloride, the US Department of Transportation approved a rule to expand the scope of what hazardous materials can be transmitted by rail. The rule made it permissible for liquefied natural gas to be shipped by train without additional safety regulations. This enables freight trains to transport 100 more tank cards with up to 30,000 gallons of the natural gas extracted from shale fields. “The risks of catastrophic liquefied natural gas releases in accidents is too great not to have operational controls in place before large blocks of tank cars and unit trains proliferate,” the National Transportation Safety Board wrote in a comment if support of the proposed rule. In response to that comment, critics of the rule highlighted how a potential explosion of just twenty-two tank cards filled with liquefied natural gas holds the same amount of explosive energy as the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima in the waning days of the Second World War. The ongoing crisis in East Palestine represents an environmental and humanitarian disaster that hasn’t been seen in the United States in recent memory. The scenes from East Palestine look as if they’re taken straight out of a horror film depicting nuclear winter. In spite of that, the magnitude of this story has been seemingly scrubbed from the public view as national media outlets continue to run sensationalist headlines about issues that look innocuous in comparison. It is an instance of history being rewritten in real time, setting a precedent that would allow victims of other widespread devastation to be swept under the rug. However, the scenes of the horror engulfing this small town in America’s heartland may prove to make this disaster impossible to ignore, rightfully putting the spotlight on the shortcomings of state and federal agencies tasked with emergency response management whose continued lack of accountability enables them to fail the American public time and time again. Tyler Durden Mon, 02/13/2023 - 09:26.....»»

Category: blogSource: zerohedgeFeb 13th, 2023