Friday, June 24, 2016

Nations in Distress - Final Kingdom

AFP - Brexit pitches world into uncharted terrain
AFP reports: "Slowing growth, a return to protectionism, questioning of free trade agreements and doubts over the stability of the EU: the world economy is entering a period of deep uncertainty following Brexit. [...] Britain on Thursday voted by 52 percent to 48 percent for their country to leave the EU despite dire warnings from world leaders and economic experts. Institutions such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) had warned in the months and weeks leading up to the ballot of the dangers for the world economy, especially elsewhere in Europe, should Brexit come to pass. [...] European leaders and markets fear a domino effect as people across Europe lose faith in the supranational project."

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Thursday, June 23, 2016

Pestilence

Dallas confirms 10 Zika cases in pregnant women - UPI.com
UPI reports: "At least 10 pregnant women in the Dallas area have been infected with Zika, Texas officials confirmed Wednesday. All of the women contracted the mosquito-borne virus while traveling abroad, Dallas Health and Human Services officials told CBS News."

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Nations in Distress - Final Kingdom

BBC: Britain votes to leave EU - UPI.com
UPI reports: "The decision to leave is the biggest jolt to the European political establishment in decades. Reaction to the vote was negative in currency markets, with the British Pound plummeting to a 31-year low. It also puts the future of both prime minister David Cameron and Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn in jeopardy. Jeremy Cook, chief economist and head of currency strategy at WorldFirst was pessimistic, saying 'Sterling has collapsed ... It can go a lot further as well.'"

Comment: I wonder if this is the beginning of the end of the EU or will they bounce back by possible adding a new member. Time to talk Turkey? 

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Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Rumors of War - Kings of the East

North Korea touts ability to attack 'American bastards' - UPI.com
UPI reports: "North Korea stated it has secured the capability to attack U.S. military bases in the Pacific a day after South Korea confirmed Pyongyang had test launched two mid-range ballistic missiles. [...] According to state media, Kim said North Korea now has the 'clear ability' to 'totally and realistically attack American bastards' in the 'operational zone of the Pacific Ocean.'

North Korea Musudan missile capable of reaching Japan - UPI.com
UPI reports: "Tokyo warned North Korea's ballistic missile Musudan might be capable of reaching Japan. Japanese Defense Minister Gen Nakatani told reporters Wednesday the types of missiles that could fly in Japan's direction have multiplied, the Asahi Shimbun reported. The development is a "great concern" to Japan's national security, Nakatani said."

North Korea claims missile test success - CNN.com
CNN reports: "North Korea claimed on Thursday to have conducted a successful test-firing of a intermediate-range missile -- an apparent reference to a missile that the South Korean military said was fired into the sea one day earlier. The military state's government-run news agency reported that the country fired a Hwasong-10 -- also known as a Musudan -- and that it landed accurately in waters about 400 kilometers (249 miles) down range."

Comment: This is a good roundup of the missile launch news out of North Korea. I'm including the CNN link because it has some nice graphics illustrating their missile arsenal. While they have multiple types of missiles, I don't think they've ever demonstrated the capability of launching a missile with a nuclear payload. It's one thing to have a bomb, it's quite another to miniaturize a bomb to fit on a missile. Advanced nuclear powers like the U.S., Russia and China have missiles that contain multiple warheads, a capability that should be many years in the future for North Korea...we hope. 

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Pestilence

Abortion rates rising in Zika-affected countries - UPI.com
UPI reports: "Fears over birth defects from mosquito-borne Zika may be driving up abortion rates in Latin American countries affected by the virus, a new study finds. In Brazil and Ecuador -- where governments have issued health warnings on the danger to the fetus from maternal Zika infection -- requests for abortion in 2016 have doubled from 2010 rates, researchers say."

Comment: While the Zika virus is terrible and causes very tragic birth defects, it's also causing an unexpected rise in the number of abortions in affected countries.

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Mark of the Beast

People are using chip implants to open doors, control phones - CNET
CNET reports: "Minnesota software engineer Tim Shank uses a chip implanted in his finger to unlock the smart lock to his home. He also has an NFC chip with contact information stored in it, which lets him easily tap and send the info to an Android phone. [...] Shank is just one of a growing movement of biohackers who are implanting devices and chips in their bodies to perform different technological tasks."

Comment: It's been a while since we had a good MOTB update and this is an interesting if unsurprising story about how the biohacking community is taking to chip implants.  I mean, you would kind of expect that, right? At any rate, I no longer envision implanted chips to be the MOTB (our technology has moved so far beyond mere hardware) it's fun to check in once in a while and see if there have been any new developments. I should also note that this news site will attempt to start playing a video, so very annoying when you don't even have you earbuds in.  

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Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Rumors of War - Kings of the East

Seoul: North Korea’s two Musudan missile launches end in failure - UPI.com
UPI reports: "North Korea fired two mid-range Musudan ballistic missiles early Wednesday, local time, but both tests ended in failure. Pyongyang has now fired the Musudan a total of six times in 2016. The last four launches, all failures, cost Pyongyang $80 million, according to one South Korean estimate. The missiles were launched from an area near the North Korean city of Wonsan on the country's eastern coast, South Korean news service Newsis reported. The Musudan has a range of between 1,800 and 2,500 miles, and is capable of targeting Japan."

Comment: One would think that the international community would act while they are still testing rather than when they achieve a demonstrated nuclear missile launch capability?

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Monday, June 20, 2016

Rumors of War - King of the North

Canada considers European troop commitment as CSIS warns Russia is 'mobilizing for war' - CBC News
CBC News reports: "The Trudeau government is considering a request to commit hundreds of troops to eastern Europe and take part command of a new NATO force being assembled to deter Russian aggression. [...] This comes just days after the Canadian Security Intelligence Service quietly released an open-sourced global security analysis warning, among other things, that the hard-line policies of Russian President Vladimir Putin are becoming more deeply entrenched and that Moscow is retooling its military for a fight."

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Rumors of War - Kings of the East

U.S. sends aircraft carriers to South China Sea - UPI.com
UPI reports: "The U.S. Navy deployed two aircraft carriers near the South China Sea on Saturday in an exercise designed to calm Asian allies in the region and to make a show of military force to the Chinese. The aircraft carriers USS John C. Stennis and USS Ronald Reagan arrived in the Philippine Sea for exercises on Saturday ahead of a key international court ruling on China's claims in the disputed South China Sea. The exercise will feature more than 12,000 sailors, 140 aircraft and six other ships, the U.S. Pacific Command said in a statement."

Comment: Let's hope and pray everyone keeps a cool head. Even a small incident at sea could quickly spiral out of control.

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Saturday, June 18, 2016

War

Iraqi forces targeting Mosul after reclaiming Fallujah from Islamic State - UPI.com
UPI reports: "Iraqi forces expressed their plans for continuing the offensive against the Islamic State after reclaiming the city of Fallujah on Friday. Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi declared that Fallujah was 'back home' after the successful combined efforts of elite Iraqi forces and U.S.-led coalition airstrikes and promised they would now turn their sights to Mosul. 'Fallujah has returned to the nation and Mosul is the next battle, Daesh will be defeated,' he said of the Islamic State on his Twitter account. The Iraqi flag flew above the Fallujah mayor's office on Friday after the Islamic State held control of the city for nearly two years, as it was the first major city to fall when they began seeking control of Iraqi territory in 2014."

Comment: This is a big victory for Iraq in the war against the Islamic State and it demonstrates the capabilities of the U.S. trained elite forces. Iraqi military forces are no longer running away from battle as they did when Fallujah fell.

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Friday, June 17, 2016

Wars & Rumors of War

U.S. State Department employees urge strikes against Syrian President - UPI.com
UPI reports: "More than 50 U.S. State Department diplomats signed an internal memo urging the United States to use military force against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his government. The 51 career diplomats who signed the 'dissent channel cable' repeatedly called for 'targeted military strikes' against the Syrian government as it continues to violate cease-fire agreements in the country's five-year civil war. The memo calls for 'a judicious use of stand-off and air weapons, which would undergird and drive a more focused and hard-nosed U.S.-led diplomatic process.'[...] The memo amounts to a scathing critique of President Barack Obama's longstanding policy of not taking sides in the Syrian War. Obama has continually refused direct U.S. military involvement, saying it would only add to the violence and not improve the situation in the country."

Kremlin says deposing Bashar al-Assad would create 'total chaos' - UPI.com
UPI reports: "Russia warned the United States that overthrowing the Syrian government of President Bashar al-Assad would create 'total chaos,' but said it would support incorporating members of Syria's opposition into the government. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Friday that overthrowing Assad could make 'the region plunge in total chaos.' At the same time, Russian President Vladimir Putin said incorporating Syrian opposition into the government may be an effective move, if approached carefully."

Comment: It amazes me how some very bright people can be so misguided. The State Department dissenters seem intent on not learning the lessons of the past. We need a return to the status quo ante of Western supported dictators ruthlessly suppressing Islamic fanaticism and promoting regional stability. This has been achieved, to some extent, in Egypt, where the post-dictatorship government of the new dictatorship has banned the Muslim Brotherhood.  Good for them. Let's get over the absurd notion that democratic governments that respect pluralism could be imposed in one generation. If that ever happens it will take place over many generations and will be an indigenous movement and not imposed by the West. Right now, stability is far more important than a mirage that runs contrary to all local traditions and customs. So let Assad keep whatever small portion of his country he still controls and then join together in a broad coalition of countries (including the U.S. and Russia) to defeat the Islamic State. That is the way forward.

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War

Iraqi forces take government compound in Fallujah - UPI.com
UPI reports: "Iraqi forces recaptured the government compound in Fallujah from Islamic State occupiers Friday and said they were close to taking back the entire city. [...]  The success of Iraqi forces in Fallujah's central neighborhoods comes after an assault by the Iraqi army, federal police, counter-terrorism units, Shiite militiamen and local tribal forces, backed by airstrikes by a U.S.-led coalition. The assault began on May 23."

Comment: How's the war against the Islamic State going in Iraq? Pretty good according to this report. 

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Pestilence

Zika spreading rapidly through Puerto Rico: CDC - UPI.com
UPI reports: "The Zika virus is spreading fast through Puerto Rico, placing hundreds of pregnant women at risk for delivering babies with the devastating birth defect known as microcephaly, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Friday. [...] Only one in every five people infected with Zika develops any symptoms, making the virus very difficult to track."

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Thursday, June 16, 2016

Pestilence

CDC reports six cases of birth defects caused by Zika - UPI.com
UPI reports: "In the first reporting of Zika-related birth defects in the United States, federal health officials said Thursday that three babies have been born with these birth defects while three pregnancies have been lost because of brain damage caused by the virus. Those six cases will likely not be the last, as 234 pregnant women in the United States have already been diagnosed with Zika infection, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention."

Comment: In these cases the exposure happened abroad, so at least we are not yet at the point where infection is happening in the U.S., but experts say it's only a matter of time. 

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Wednesday, June 15, 2016

War

NATO to stay in Afghanistan for four more years - UPI.com
UPI reports: "NATO will stay in Afghanistan for four more years, a senior NATO official said this week. Despite plans by the United States to reduce its troop strength by the end of 2016, the 28 countries that are members of NATO will pledge $5 billion each at a July meeting in Warsaw to train, equip and pay Afghan troops and security forces [...] The proposed plan will offer President Barack Obama some flexibility when deciding U.S. troop strength in what has become the United States' longest war. The war began in October of 2001 with the U.S. invasion. NATO became involved in 2003."

Comment: There's such an incredible disconnect between a culture awash in trivial pursuits and distracted by endless entertainment and a military that's been at war since 2001. To the friends and family members of those who serve in Afghanistan (and other war zones) the war is all too real.

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