Sunday, July 24, 2016

Pestilence

Forms of HIV can jump from chimps to humans, study says - UPI.com
UPI reports: "With the recent emergence of Zika virus as a threat to human health, and discovery of two new strains of HIV in 2009, researchers say the threat of animal viruses jumping to humans is not as a big a concern as it should be. Researchers at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln found simian immunodeficiency viruses, or SIV, often easily move to humans because of quick mutations once they encounter human cells, suggesting the threat animal viruses may pose to humans deserves more attention that it gets."

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Friday, July 22, 2016

Wars & Rumors of War

France sending artillery, aircraft carrier to Iraq to fight Islamic State - UPI.com
UPI reports: "France will loan artillery to Iraqi forces fighting the Islamic state and will station an aircraft carrier in the region, French President Francois Hollande said Friday. The nuclear-powered carrier Charles de Gaulle will return to the region to facilitate airstrikes, but Hollande said no French soldiers will be on the ground to fight IS. [...] The actions come after a terrorist, driving a truck, killed 84 people in Nice, France, on July 14, followed by complaints that the government is not doing enough to protect citizens from terrorism."

Manhunt underway after deadly Munich mall shooting - UPI.com
UPI reports: "German authorities said a lone gunman carried out an apparent terrorist attack Friday afternoon at a retail shopping center in downtown Munich. Gunfire began at the Olympia-Einkaufszentrum mall around 6 p.m. local time Friday. Police were unsure initially how many people were killed and how many were injured, but later said at least nine people had died in the armed assault. [...] Late Friday, police said they believe the attack was carried out by one individual, and that person had committed suicide about a half-mile away from the shooting scene. [...] The Olympia-Einkaufszentrum mall is less than 2 miles from the 1972 Munich Summer Olympic Village, where terrorists kidnapped and killed 11 Israeli athletes in a bloody 20-hour siege that made international headlines and threatened to derail the global sporting event."

Possible North Korean secret nuclear facility discovered, report says - UPI.com
UPI reports: "A U.S. research group said it found early evidence of a secret North Korean facility used for uranium enrichment for nuclear weapons, a discovery that may be critical in any future nuclear negotiations with North Korea. "

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Thursday, July 21, 2016

Nations in Distress - Gog Alliance

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan declares state of emergency - UPI.com
UPI reports: "Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Thursday declared a state of emergency after the country's failed military coup. Erdogan told the nation the state of emergency would last three months and that 'all the viruses within the armed forces will be cleansed.' The Turkish government under Erdogan has now arrested, fired or suspended a total of more than 50,000 people in its post-coup d'etat attempt crackdown."

Comment: Wow, that's just scary. This guy is a dictator and an ego-maniac for sure. Whether he staged the coup or not, the end result is the same, Turkey is now under an Islamic dictatorship and the trend lines suggest a path toward becoming anti-U.S. and anti-Israel. Forget about EU membership, the question now is, how quickly will the new Axis be officially formed?

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Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Nations in Distress - Gog Alliance

Turkey suspends 15,000 educators, forces resignation of 1,500 university deans - UPI.com
UPI reports: "Turkey's Ministry of Education has suspended more than 15,000 education staff on accusations of having links to a cleric living in the United States who the Turkish government alleges organized last week's coup d'etat attempt. [...] Turkey's high education board has also forced the resignation of more than 1,500 university deans. Since the coup attempt, Turkey's army, judiciary, security and civil services have been targeted by the administration of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. More than 6,000 military personnel have been arrested, including more than two dozen generals awaiting trial; 9,000 police officers have been fired; and 3,000 judges have been suspended."

Comment: The scope of this purge is really quite massive and far in excess of the number of actual soldiers who attempted the coup. It's sad to see that no one in Turkish civil society is standing up for all the people whose lives are being ruined. The people defended their democracy from a coup by taking to the streets but it seems they won't defend it from a dictator.  Do they not care or see what is happening or are they too afraid to act?

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Rumors of War - Kings of the East

North Korea missile practice aiming for South's ports, Pyongyang says - UPI.com
UPI reports: "The three ballistic missiles North Korea fired early Tuesday were target practice for potential strikes against South Korean ports and airfields. [...] The missiles were being tested for possible strikes against ports in the South Korean cities of Pohang, Busan and Gimhae, if preemptive U.S. military reinforcements were to arrive in those areas. Both the United States and South Korea military have clarified if war were to break out on the peninsula U.S. reinforcements would arrive from the U.S. mainland as well as from neighboring Japan."

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Monday, July 18, 2016

King of the North - Gog Alliance

Kremlin watching events on potential energy partner Turkey - UPI.com
UPI reports: "The Russian government views an attempt to undermine the government of its key energy trading partner Turkey as unacceptable, President Vladimir Putin said. [...] Putin said in a statement he was expecting to meet personally with the Turkish president to discuss bilateral affairs. [...] Turkey is a key energy hub given is geographic position between Europe, Central Asia and the Middle East. Political ties between Russia and Turkey have soured in recent years, though both sides had reviewed the potential for energy cooperation last year."

Comment: This news report that suggests that the attempted coup in Turkey has set the stage for a renewal in relations between Turkey and Russia. It also helps frame the emerging alliance as primarily economic. Could gas pipelines be the foundation of the future alliance between Russia, Turkey and Iran?

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Pestilence

Latest Zika puzzle: How U.S. patient infected caregiver - UPI.com
UPI reports: "The mysterious Zika virus continues to surprise health scientists. On Monday, U.S. health officials said they were trying to determine how a now-deceased elderly Utah man who had Zika managed to infect a family caregiver. Zika is normally spread by mosquitoes and can also be transmitted sexually. But health officials said neither appears to have played a role in this case."

Comment: Everyone loves a good mystery, I'm sure they will figure it out. Glad the infected caregiver recovered quickly. 

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Saturday, July 16, 2016

Nations in Distress

Nearly 3,000 arrested after failed Turkey coup - UPI.com
UPI reports: "Turkish government officials declared an attempted military coup in the country had been put down as nearly 3,000 soldiers were arrested and 265 people, including civilians and coup plotters, were killed. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan spoke publicly Saturday, less than 24 hours after the military coup was squashed, saying the government remained in control after rival factions of the Turkish military attempted to forcibly seize power of government buildings in Ankara and Istanbul. [...] Turkish television reported about 2,745 judges and five High Judiciary Court Board were removed from duty as a result of the failed coup."

Comment: So the coup failed and the purge has begun. Note that not only have soldiers been arrested  (as we might expect) but that also thousands of members of the judiciary have also been punished. That is most unexpected and can only mean that President Erdogan is moving fast not only to punish the coup plotters but to consolidate his own power by removing anyone he considers a threat to his rule. Turkey may be a democracy, but I'm betting Erdogan will find a way to become president-for-life. 

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Friday, July 15, 2016

Nations In Distress

Martial law declared in Turkey after coup attempt - UPI.com
UPI reports: "Civil unrest took hold in the streets of Turkey late Friday after members of the nation's military attempted to forcibly seize power in a coup against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's regime. The coup attempt occurred in the capital, Ankara, and in Istanbul around 10 p.m. local time Friday -- plunging the nation into a chaotic power grab for control of Turkey's government. Hours into the overthrow attempt, both sides claimed the upper hand in the struggle."

Comment: I'm not sure how the media will spin this, but from my perspective, a military coup in Turkey could be a GOOD thing. Let me explain.

As I've noted in past blog posts, the elected government in Turkey is led by a man who is taking Turkey down an Islamist path and he has become increasingly autocratic and authoritarian.  This is noteworthy because modern Turkey was founded as a secular republic even though Turkey is a majority Muslim country. To many observers, President Erdogan has done everything he could to undermine secular institutions (like the free press) and promote Islam.

The military in Turkey, on the other hand, has long considered itself to be the guardian of secular rule and has a history of stepping in from time to time. So, if this is a course correction, a return to the traditional secular character of modern Turkey, this is indeed a good thing.

Let's also consider that President Erdogan has not joined the war against the Islamic State with the enthusiasm that his NATO partners would like and has allowed Turkey's border with Syria to be a porous border for Islamist fighters going to fight for IS in Syria and Iraq and also returning and going into Europe to plot attacks. It's very likely that a military government, even an interim junta, would would be much more assertive in attacking the Islamic State than the Erdogan government.

This is a fluid situation and we should watch carefully as events unfold.

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Thursday, July 14, 2016

Pestilence

Zika outbreak should 'burn out' within 3 years, scientists say - UPI.com
UPI reports: "A team of British experts in disease outbreaks believes that the Zika epidemic afflicting Latin America will end within three years. They based their estimate on modeling using available data on the outbreak, which has so far involved thousands of cases of Zika-linked birth defects, mainly in Brazil."

Comment: Well, that's some good news for a change. 

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Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Rumors of War - Kings of the East

China considers air defense zone after losing South China Sea court ruling - UPI.com
UPI reports: "China says even if its claims to 90 percent of the South China Sea isn't recognized, it still reserves the right to establish an air defense zone. [...]  Tensions could escalate as China refuses to recognize the court decision. About $5 trillion of trade occurs in the South China Sea annually."

Comment: There is still a chance this can all blow over, but given the number of claimants to the various islands and the apparent resolve by China to not let it go, well, things don't look good.  With any luck, this will be the kind of slow burn that takes years, even decades or more before sparking a conflagration.

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