Wednesday, 22 November 2017

Stephen Cohen on the new Cold War

Tales of the New Cold War: Five things more perilous to the US than Russia. Stephen F. Cohen @nyu @princeton.

Part one

Part two

Tales of the New Cold War: Five things more perilous to the US than Russia. Stephen F. Cohen @nyu @princeton PART 2 of 2.

1. Russiagate

2. Demonizing Putin.

3. Terrorists with radioactive material

4. Nuclear arms club.

5. Climate change and income inequality.

The end of the Islamic State

Iranian president declares end of Islamic State

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has declared the end of the self-proclaimed Islamic State on state television. Later, Major General Qassem Soleimani thanked what he called the "thousands of martyrs" killed in operations organized by Iran to defeat the militant group in Syria and Iraq. Reported on the elite Revolutionary Guards, he said they sent the message of defeat to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Khamenei claimed the defeat was a blow against Israel, the US and its allies, an allusion to Saudi Arabia. 

Junk article on financial crisis under Labour shared by National Party

Based on the junk commentary of some drone who used to work for Lehman Bros., ground zero for the GFC). Next week, a Robert Mugabe staffer on why democarcy will suffer under the coalition agreement)"

----Findlay McDonald

Before the election it was the “rockstar economy” Now an expert has been pulled out to call for collapse.

All on Labour coalition government (sic).

NZ 'recession likely', says Forbes contributor

22 November, 2017

The National Party has seized on an opinion piece published on the Forbes website that warns of a likely recession under Jacinda Ardern's leadership.

Forbes contributor Jared Dillian, a US-based former Lehman Brothers trader, is critical of the new Government's plans to reform the Reserve Bank, reduce immigration and ban foreign buyers of existing homes.

"Banning foreign ownership of property sets the country up for a possible real estate crash," Dillian writes.

"It seems likely that New Zealand will experience a recession during Ardern's term. Nobody is predicting a return to the bad old days of the 70s, but New Zealand will probably lose its status as one of the most open, free economies of the world.

"It takes decades to weaken an economy, just like it takes decades to strengthen it. But investors will probably want to avoid New Zealand for the time being."

The article has been shared by the National Party on social media.

It is the second recent comment piece published by an overseas media organisation to be critical of the new Labour-led Government.

Earlier this month, Washington Post contributor Ben Mack had a piece published headlined, "How the far right is poisoning New Zealand", claiming NZ First's influence was a "shadow poisoning Middle-earth".

Westpac economists, meanwhile, say the Government will face economic headwinds next year.
Liam Dann reported yesterday the Westpac economists joined a growing list of analysts downgrading the short-term outlook for GDP growth.

Attacked for speaking the truth - Clive Hamilton on climate change

Are We F--ked? Decoding the resistance to climate change

From Aug. 25, 2013, file photo, firefighters continue to battle the Rim Fire near Yosemite National Park, California.
From Aug. 25, 2013, file photo, firefighters continue to battle the Rim Fire near Yosemite National Park, California. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong, File)

7 September, 2017

Listen to entire podcast  HERE

The evidence is everywhere: forests retreating, glaciers melting, sea levels rising. Droughts, floods, wildfires and storms have increased five-fold over the past 50 years. And we're only just beginning to feel the strain of climate change. It's estimated that rising sea levels will threaten 30 million people in Bangladesh alone. Miami could disappear within a generation. Despite all of these dire events and projections, the attacks continue — on climate scientists. Part 1 of 2-part series. Part 2 airs Thursday, September 14.

Australian public intellectual Clive Hamilton describes how he’s been attacked for telling the truth about climate change.

Clive Hamilton is an Australian public intellectual who's written books about global warming, among them: Requiem for a Species and Defiant Earth. His books were intended to enlighten the public. But as he says: "anyone who engages publicly in the climate change debate has been subject to threats and abuse from a global army of climate science deniers. There are a lot of disturbed, angry people out there, which is, of course, socially worrying."

The denial about climate change is widespread and profound. In fact, a term has been coined for it: "climate change denial disorder". So how did we get here? That's where Naomi Oreskes enters the picture. She's a Harvard professor and historian of science. In her book, Merchants of Doubt, she traces the people behind what has become a global industry of climate change denial. There are the American billionaire Koch brothers, who continue to finance "doubt" campaigns. Some observers put their contribution to climate change denial at $120 million, with the result that many now believe that stories about climate change are "fake news" or a "Chinese hoax". According to the Pew Research Center, almost half of Americans surveyed do not believe climate change is caused by humans. And 20% of Australians don't believe in climate change at all. Canadians are divided on the issue, too; however, public opinion research in 2016 shows that two-thirds of Canadians want federal leadership to tackle the crisis.

The journal, Global Environmental Change, refers to a study that lists the factors which connect climate change deniers to each other, no matter their country of origin: overwhelmingly, they're politically conservative, male and hold the environment in low regard. Some far-right groups do agree humans cause climate change but they maintain it's immigrants who are to blame.

Why does climate science face such an intractable problem? Naomi Oreskes concludes that, "it's not about the facts, not about the science. Underneath all of this is a fear that capitalism has failed. That new rules and regulations and carbon taxes to fight climate change are somehow an assault on our freedom and liberty — that we'll become Communists. That's why environmentalists are called "watermelons", green on the outside, red on the inside. Hard to believe, but that's the core of the resistance."

In parts one and two of this IDEAS series, Are We F--ked? we decode the resistance to climate change and learn what's at stake in the process. Part 2 airs Thursday, September 14.

This episode features Clive Hamilton, an Australian public intellectual who has written books about climate change: Requiem for a Species and Defiant Earth. He is also author of the widely-acclaimed, Affluenza. He is a Professor of Public Ethics at Charles Sturt University in Canberra, Australia.

Further reading:

Merchants of Doubt: How a Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth on Issues from Tobacco Smoke to Global Warming by Naomi Oreskes and Erik M. Conway, published by Bloomsbury Press, 2011, New York.

Black Earth: The Holocaust as History and Warning by Timothy Snyder, published by Tim Duggan Books, 2015, New York.

Affluenza: How Overconsumption Is Killing Us--and How to Fight Back by Clive Hamilton, Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc., San Francisco, 2014.

Defiant Earth: The Fate of Humans in the Anthropocene by Clive Hamilton, published by Polity Press, Cambridge, 2017.

Requiem for a Species: Why We Resist the Truth about Climate Change by Clive Hamilton, published by Earthscan, Oxfordshire, 2010.

Storms of my Grandchildren: The Truth About the Coming Climate Catastrophe and Our Last Chance to Save Humanity, by James Hansen, published by Bloomsbury, 2010, New York.

Six Degrees: Our Future on a Hotter Planet by Mark Lynas, published by National Geographic, 2008, U.S.

Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet by Bill McKibben, published by St. Martin's Griffin, 2011.

The Defeat pf ISIS in the Middle East

Putin-Assad Meeting Cements the End of US Dominance in the Middle East
Whatever happens after this the U.S. has lost all credibility in the region outside of Riyadh and Tel Aviv

Tom Luongo

Russia Insider
21 November, 2017

I’m not a terribly religious man.  But, I’d like to believe there is a special corner in Hell reserved for those that fomented the Syrian Civil War.

From its beginnings in Libya with gun-funneling through the U.S. embassy in Benghazi to yesterday’s meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, this entire affair will be remembered as one of the most cynical and abusive periods of history.
The Syrian ‘Civil War’ was meant to be the crowning achievement of U.S./Israeli/Saudi policy in the Middle East, the apotheosis of neoconservatism.
Had it succeeded it would have transformed the world into a living hell governed by the likes of Hillary Clinton, George Soros, Angela Merkel and the U.S./U.K. banking cartel.

Syria was to be the wedge that blew open not only the Middle East but Central Asia as well.  It would stop the resurgence of Russia as a world power, subjugate Europe to an endless nightmare of forced cultural assimilation and completed bankrupting the United States to bring it in line with the a failing European integration project.

Supranational treaties like the TPP, TTIP and the Paris Accord were designed to create a superstructure that would supplant national sovereignty without any input from the people who were most affected by it.
Putin’s Turning Point
With Vladimir Putin’s pivotal speech at the United Nations on September 28th, 2015, opposition to this vision was expressed in the most forceful, and frankly, humanist terms one could imagine.  I’m going to remind you of the most important passage as it relates to Syria.
In these circumstances, it is hypocritical and irresponsible to make loud declarations about the threat of international terrorism while turning a blind eye to the channels of financing and supporting terrorists, including the process of trafficking and illicit trade in oil and arms. It would be equally irresponsible to try to manipulate extremist groups and place them at one’s service in order to achieve one’s own political goals in the hope of later dealing with them or, in other words, liquidating them.
To those who do so, I would like to say — dear sirs, no doubt you are dealing with rough and cruel people, but they’re in no way primitive or silly. They are just as clever as you are, and you never know who is manipulating whom. And the recent data on arms transferred to this most moderate opposition is the best proof of it.
We believe that any attempts to play games with terrorists, let alone to arm them, are not just short-sighted, but fire hazardous (ph). This may result in the global terrorist threat increasing dramatically and engulfing new regions, especially given that Islamic State camps train militants from many countries, including the European countries.

In truth, the whole speech is worth revisiting.  It is a stark reminder that Putin, normally very reserved in his words, laid all of his cards on the table and directly accused the United States of declaring war on the world.
And within 48 hours Sukhois were flying over Syria, bombing targets opposed to Syria’s government, allowing one military victory after another for the beleaguered Syrian Arab Army.  Shortly thereafter a coalition formed around Assad’s government including Iran’s Republican Guard, Hezbollah’s military wing and China’s tacit financial and moral support.
Putin told everyone, “Enough is enough” at the U.N. Then he backed up his words with actions.  War is always regrettable.  It is almost never justified.  But, when faced with an implacable enemy, there was little else to be done.
And I submit that the neoconservative forces driving the anti-Assad policy decisions are that implacable enemy.
The End of ‘Assad Must Go’

That action began the process of unraveling the carefully constructed narrative that was the Syrian Civil War.

But, enough history.
Yesterday Putin introduced Assad to the military commanders who are most responsible for the stabilization of his country.  Syria as a political unit has survived.
Saudi Arabia’s old guard are imprisoned, impoverished and losing influence around the world by the minute.  Israel’s neoconservative government, led by madman Benjamin Netanyahu, is fulminating impotently at the turn of events, and, of course, ISIS has all but been wiped out in both Syria and Iraq.
The U.S. continues to talk out of both sides of its mouth, allowing some ISIS members cover to escape to be used again another day, presumably against Iran and/or Lebanon, while taking credit for ISIS’s collapse and the capture of Raqqa.

This reflects the deep-seated issues within the vast U.S. diplomatic, military and intelligence communities and the difficulties President Trump is having bringing these disparate groups to heel while not appearing weak and ineffectual.
You need only look at the odd event over the weekend of military helicopters landing at the CIA’s headquarters at Quantico to know that, at a minimum, there is an internal war occurring within the U.S. government.
The best explanation I’ve heard (and this is by no means a corroborated fact) is that the U.S. military put on a show of force against Obama administration hold-overs in the CIA still operating its terrorist proxies in Syria.  And that these operations are in direct conflict with U.S. military goals there.
If that is the case then Putin is right to simply ignore the Americans and move policy talks forward at an accelerated rate, ignoring the talks in Geneva and giving Assad all the support he needs to continue on as Syria’s leader, if that is what the Syrian people want.
Given Assad’s open support of his military and the way the war against ISIS and other separatist groups was led by Syrian forces on the ground, there is little doubt that Assad will win that support in any upcoming elections.

Putin Won’t Goat

The big question is, however, what price will be extracted from the U.S. for their part in all of this.  Putin will not put Trump in a bad position.  The loss of face for the U.S. has already occurred internationally.
The Obama administration’s complicity in this sorry chapter of Middle East history has been mostly laid base for anyone with eyes open enough to see.
Putin will offer Trump a way to save face for the U.S. while laying all the blame on Obama, Clinton, McCain and the rest of them.  If you don’t think this ties into Robert Mueller’s ‘Russia-Gate’ investigation run amok, you aren’t paying attention.
Mueller is trying to desperately save everyone implicated here from treason charges.  But, I expect, everything about the U.S. political scene is about to change radically.  Once Judge Roy Moore enters the Senate (the odds of that not happening are close to zero), Trump has an impeachment-proof majority in the House and the Senate and can shut down Mueller or get him to play ball.
Trump has the opportunity to play peace-maker here.  He can solidify his position as the handler of Saudi Arabia’s and Israel’s worst actors and keep them on a short leash.
In fact, one could make a credible argument that is what the purge in Saudi Arabia was all about.  Mohammed bin Salman’s counter-coup was done with Trump’s blessing.
Putin can act similarly to allay suspicions of Iran’s and Hezbollah’s intentions.  He can also restrain Assad from retaliating against his enemies, though rightly deserved, in order to build a lasting peace.  And once the talks are over and the threat of Kurdish independence is over, Turkey will withdraw its troops from Syria.
Putin is set to call Trump later today to update him on what comes next.  It’s obvious that the two have been in contact about how things are progressing in Syria.  And, Trump, for his part has smartly left the clean-up work to Putin while he deals with his domestic neoconservative problems.
Whatever happens after this — framework for long-term peace or an uneasy ceasefire with Russia playing the go-between for the time being — the U.S. has lost all credibility in the region outside of Riyadh and Tel Aviv.
And we have no one to blame except ourselves.

Putin has destroyed 10 years old U.S. plan for Syria!Whole Syrian conflict in 11 minutes!

Record-breaking weather for Melbourne despite la-NIna watch

It’s la-Nina-watch

ENSO UPDATED TODAY 21st November & the BOM have upgraded their "La Nina watch" to a "La Nina alert" 

Despite that looks like record-breaking weather.

Scorching Melbourne Weather Could Break 155 Year Record
It's hot out there.

Scorching Melbourne Weather Could Break 155 Year Record
21 November, 2017

Melbourne is pretty close to smashing a record for warm weather as the city swelters under its hottest stretch in 155 years.

BOM senior climatologist Blair Trewin said we were well on track to break records.

"We haven’t previously have more than six days in a row over 28 degrees in November – today’s number four and we’re forecasting to get at least seven.”

In a statement on Twitter, the Bureau Of Meterology (BOM) confirmed the city's marathon eight nights of temperatures above 15 degrees - with the CBD currently sitting at a toasty 30 degrees.

"Forecast is for the warm conditions to continue for at least another 6 nights," wrote the BOM on Twitter.

Trewin said averages of 22 by day and 13 by night were usual for Melbourne in November.

  1. Beach weather continues in : mostly sunny, max 32°C. Very high UV until 5pm so don't forget to ! 📷

Russia confirms radioactive cloud

Russia Confirms Toxic Cloud Of "Extremely High" Radiation; Source Remains A Mystery

21 November, 2017

One month after a mysterious radiation cloud was observed over Europe, whose source remained unknown last week speculation emerged that it may have been the result of a "nuclear accident" in Russia or Kazakhstan, on Tuesday Russian authorities on Tuesday confirmed the previous reports of a spike in radioactivity in the air over the Ural Mountains. In a statement, the Russian Meteorological Service said that it recorded the release of Ruthenium-106 in the southern Urals in late September and classified it as "extremely high contamination."

Earlier this month, France's nuclear safety agency earlier this month said that it recorded a spike in radioactivity, and said that "the most plausible zone of release" of this radioactive material "lies between the Volga and the Urals" from a suspected accident involving nuclear fuel or the production of radioactive material. The agency noted, however, that it is impossible to determine the exact point of release given the available data. Luckily, it said the release of the isotope Ruthenium-106 posed no health or environmental risks to European countries.
France’s Institute for Radioprotection and Nuclear Safety published this graphic 
to show radiation levels.

At the time, Russia's state-controlled Rosatom corporation - the same company implicated in the Uranium One scandal - said in a statement that there had been no radiation leak from its facilities. That changed when the Russian meteorological service (Rosgidromet) reported that it had detected record levels of radiation in the villages located in Russia's Ural region adjacent to Rosatom's Mayak plant for spent nuclear fuel. Some calculated that the radiation exposure levels were up to 1,000x higher than the normal rate.  

Mayak, located in the Chelyabinsk region, issued a statement on Tuesday denying it was the source of contamination. The plant said it has not conducted any work on extracting Ruthenium-106 from spent nuclear fuel "for several years." 
Full statement below:

The contamination of the atmosphere with ruthenium-106 isotope registered by Rosgidromet is not linked to the activity of Mayak. The measurements which Rosgidromet has released suggest that the dose people might have received is 20,000 times less than the allowed annual dose and presents no threat at all to health.”

Quoted by Sputnik, the Rosatom represtative stated that there were "no incidents or accidents at nuclear facilities in Russia". 

The Mayak nuclear processing plant, located in the Urals, has also come out with a statement saying that "atmospheric pollution with ruthenium-106 that was found by Rosgidromet is not connected to the work of Mayak," since the work on the separation of ruthenium-106 from spent nuclear fuel (and the production of ionizing radiation sources on its basis) has not been carried out for many years at the facility.
Earlier, Rosgidromet confirmed that the the monitoring systems have detected an increase in the concentration of ruthenium over several parts of Russia. However, according to the press release, the concetration does not exceed the maximum permissible concetrations. The head of Rosgidromet, however, said that the automatic monitoring system detected an increase in the concentration of Ru-106 not only in Russia, but also in neighboring countries such as Poland, Romania, Bulgaria and Ukraine. According to him, the concentration in Romania was 1.5-2 times higher than the concentration in Russia.
The exact source of the spike, however, remains a mystery, though IRSN suggested that the cause might be an accident.
Mayak has been responsible for at least two of Russia's biggest radioactive accidents. In 2004 it was confirmed that waste was being dumped in the local river. Nuclear regulators say that no longer happens, but anti-nuclear activists say it's impossible to tell given the level of state secrecy. Also on Tuesday, Greenpeace said that it would petition the Russian Prosecutor General's office to investigate "a possible concealment of a radiation accident" and check whether public health was sufficiently protected.