Friday, September 22, 2017

Pestilence

'Super malaria' spreads in South East Asia - UPI.com
UPI reports: "Scientists are sounding the alarm warning of a 'super malaria' that is resistant to anti-malaria drugs and is spreading rapidly in Southeast Asia. Researchers first identified the anti-malaria drug resistant strain in 2007 in Cambodia, and found it has since spread through Thailand, Laos and southern Vietnam."

Comment: Well, that's not good.  I think this is going to be slightly bigger than Zika. Time to invest in more bug spray.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

War

U.S.-led forces open fight to reclaim Islamic State stronghold in Iraq - UPI.com
UPI reports: "Iraqi forces launched an offensive Thursday to reclaim the Islamic State-held town of Hawija, military officials said. Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said the operation began at dawn Thursday in Sharqat, west of Hawija, and promised to expel IS militants from every bit of Iraqi land. [...] A U.S.-led coalition backed Iraqi forces with airstrikes Thursday, and U.S. Army Col. Ryan Dillon said American forces stand "shoulder to shoulder with our Iraqi brothers" in the operation."

Comment: How's the war in Iraq going? It's going. 

Pestilence

Sound the mosquito alarm, across the USA - UPI.com
UPI reports: "Two species of disease-transmitting mosquitoes could likely flourish in most of the United States, government researchers report. Specifically, Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus could survive and reproduce for at least part of the year in three-quarters of the counties in the lower 48 states if introduced there, according to researchers from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. These two species can transmit viruses that cause Zika, dengue, chikungunya and yellow fever. [...] Temperature is the strongest factor in determining whether the two species can survive and reproduce, the researchers said."

Comment: Are mosquitoes going from being a nuisance to being a health threat in areas that did not normally have to worry about it? It's hard to tell from this report. I don't think so, as this report appears to be about a study mapping areas of potential mosquito activity with an emphasis on potential. I would not say the article is click-bait but certainly intentionally sensational and alarmist. So rare for the news media to do that, right?

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Pestilence

WHO warns of lack of new antibiotics under development - UPI.com
UPI reports: "Antibiotic-resistant superbugs are on the rise, and the World Health Organization issued a warning Wednesday of the lack of new antibiotics under development while the threat of antimicrobial resistance grows. [...] The new WHO report found most of the antibiotics currently being developed are modifications of existing classes of antibiotics, calling them short-term solutions with few potential treatment options for antibiotic-resistant infections seen as posing the greatest threat."

Comment: I'm glad they are calling attention to this. The medical community recognizes the need for new antibiotics but the pharmaceutical industry has little profit incentive to create new antibiotics until the need (ie. the market) arises. The world may need a new class of cheap antibiotics but Big Pharma would rather make expensive pills that desperate people must have, so I'm sure the research dollars will flow only after an outbreak demonstrates antibiotic-resistance. In other words, people are going to have to die before it becomes a real priority.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Covenant with Many - Peace of Jerusalem

Hamas invites Palestinian Authority to control Gaza 'unimpeded' - UPI.com
UPI reports: "The chief of Hamas' Political Bureau said Tuesday that the group is ready to receive the Palestinian Unity Government in Gaza. [...] The announcement is a reiteration of Hamas' decision on Sunday to dissolve its governing body in the Gaza Strip to give the Palestinian Authority full governmental control in Gaza. Hamas has controlled the Gaza Strip for more than a decade, but recently agreed to demands set by Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestinian Authority, to hold elections, which haven't occurred since 2007."

Comment: Looks like the siege worked.  Or did it? As you know, one of the fictions embraced by the international community is that there is a united "Palestinian people" with which Israel can make peace. In reality, the Palestinians have been having a low-level civil war for many years between a "moderate" wing and an Islamist wing, both governing territory from different capitals and having very different views of the future. Thanks to a blockade facilitated by Egypt and Israel, the Hamas faction ruling Gaza appears to have capitulated to Fatah, the "moderate" faction that the international community likes to believe represents all Palestinians. I would suggest to the leaders of Fatah that they exercise great caution. The fortunes of Hamas may have suffered under the blockade but their primary source of support is Iran, and Iranian forces are now just one international border away in Syria and they don't appear to be going anywhere soon.

Earthquakes

AP - Powerful earthquake hits central Mexico, collapses buildings
AP reports: "A magnitude 7.1 earthquake jolted central Mexico on Tuesday, collapsing some buildings, cracking the facades of others and scattering rubble on streets on the anniversary of a devastating 1985 quake. The quake caused buildings to sway sickeningly in Mexico City and sent panicked office workers streaming into the streets, but the full extent of the damage was not yet clear. Mexican media broadcast images of several collapsed buildings in heavily populated parts of the city. The U.S. Geological Survey calculated its magnitude at 7.1 and said it was centered near the Puebla state town of Raboso, about 76 miles (123 kilometers) southeast of Mexico City."

Comment: A magnitude 7.1 quake is a powerful earthquake, it's a good thing it did not directly strike Mexico City, the loss of life would have been great.  

Monday, September 18, 2017

Wars & Rumors of War

U.S., South Korea conduct bombing drills to warn North - UPI.com:
UPI reports: "The United States and South Korea conducted joint drills over South Korean airspace on Monday afternoon, weeks after North Korea conducted its sixth nuclear test and the United Nations Security Council adopted sanctions curtailing oil exports to the country. The United States deployed four F-35B jets and two supersonic B-1B bombers, and jointly trained with four F-15K bombers of the South Korean air force, South Korean news service Newsis reported. The aircraft conducted mock-bombing training exercises over a training ground in Yeongwol, Gangwon Province in central South Korea."

Comment: Nothing like a practice bombing raid to send a strong signal.  Anyone listening?

Friday, September 15, 2017

War

Manhunt on after London subway terror attack; threat level at 'critical' - UPI.com
UPI reports: "Police began a manhunt Friday after an explosion rocked a crowded London subway car in what officials say was a terror attack during the morning rush hour. The blast occurred as a train left Parsons Green station and caused a fire that swept through the subway car. Authorities are investigating the event as a terrorist-related attack, London Metropolitan Police said. Government officials raised the terror threat level in England from 'severe' to 'critical,' which means an attack is 'expected imminently.'"

Comment: I was going to post this under the "Wars" and "Rumors of War" tags but really, there's no rumor here, is there?  The Islamic State has already claimed credit for the subway attack. There may be some who doubt that IS had a hand in planning or carrying out the attack and certainly the ongoing investigation will look into that, but even if they just inspired this, even if it was a lone wolf activated by IS propaganda, isn't that still an act of war?

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Rumors of War - King of the North

Russia war games ignite concern among nearby NATO nations - UPI.com
UPI reports: "Russia launched its week-long military exercises in Belarus on Thursday, with nearly 13,000 troops massing near the borders of several NATO countries. The Atlantic alliance is concerned the triennial exercises could be a rehearsal for real military action, or a ruse of war. Last conducted in 2014, the "Zapad," or "western" exercises, were followed months later by a war in Ukraine's eastern provinces. [...] NATO has also stepped up its security, deploying 4,300 troops to Poland, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, and has increased flyover policing in those countries."

Comment: It's all fun and war games until Ukraine loses an eye. I have to admit to a certain admiration for what Putin has accomplished. Most of the world moved on from the Cold War and we are all pretty much into a 21st Century mindset but not Putin, he is still a Cold Warrior at heart. I can't deny a ruler wanting to make their country great again and restore the glory of faded empire. That's a story as old as time, well, as old as recorded history. Putin does have something going for him, a good argument and a basis for resentment. After the Cold War ended, the West did not follow Churchill's famous dictum and failed to offer magnanimity after our victory. We promised a "Europe whole and free" while extending the NATO alliance to Russia's borders and interfering in domestic affairs to a degree that most Americans would find objectionable if another country did the same. I'm convinced that's why Putin interfered with our presidential election. Goose and gander as they say. Still, there is no denying the cold reality that a war over territory has once again returned to the heart of Europe. Ukraine will never be the same. I'm not sure what it will take for Europe or the U.S. to fully update mental images of Russia and make the appropriate adjustments. A mental adjustment is needed. Just look at our U.S. domestic politics where the usually national security focused party - the Republicans - seem entirely unconcerned that Russia interfered in our presidential election. In another time, Russia's actions would have been seen as a grave threat to national security if not an act of war. Now, not so much. Psychology and PR are very strange things. It's clear Putin is a master strategist and is playing on multiple levels. I can only hope those making strategic choices in Europe and the U.S. are up for the challenge. The Great Game can be fun for those playing at the top, but for those below, it remains a very deadly game.

Rumors of War

North Korea fires ballistic missile, South Korea, Japan say - UPI.com
UPI reports: "North Korea fired an ballistic missile from its capital city of Pyongyang, South Korean and Japanese officials said Friday. Reports of the fired missile prompted Japan to warn residents to take shelter, BBC News reported. 'North Korea fired an unidentified missile from near Sunan, Pyongyang, around 6:57 a.m. which flew over Japan to the North Pacific,' the South Korea Joint Chiefs of Staff said."

Comment: Do you think Kim felt neglected? After all, we've been focused on hurricanes and domestic politics and he kind of fell off the radar. Maybe another missile launch will help get him back into the headlines? I wonder if has a PR firm helping him out? Seriously though, what makes this provocative is not that he is firing missiles into the open ocean but that they are going over Japan. One slight miscalculation and many people could be killed in Japan. It's becoming increasingly difficult to imagine that all of this ends with anything other than a military conflict.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Wickedness Increases

Student killed in shooting at Spokane-area high school - UPI.com
UPI reports: "A student was killed Wednesday in a shooting at a high school south of Spokane, Wash., as five others were injured. A suspect has been detained. Police responded to the shooting around 10:30 a.m. at Freeman High School in Rockford, 20 miles south of Spokane, the Spokesman-Review reported. Spokane Fire Chief Brian Schaeffer said the suspect was in custody after 'the threat from the shooter has been eliminated,' according to a KREM-TV report."

Comment: I suppose that the most recent generation who have grown up with school shootings can be excused for accepting them as normal but I don't think I'll ever really accept them as "just one of those things." That kids are killed by other kids in schools seems so far outside the bounds of what reality should be that I just have no words for it. And yet, it's part of the "new normal" and this story will be unlikely to stay in the headlines beyond one or two days before being overtaken by some new sensational headline. Perilous times indeed!

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Gog Alliance - King of the North

Turkey to purchase S-400 surface-to-air missiles from Russia - UPI.com
UPI reports: "Turkey has signed an agreement with Russia for the purchase of S-400 long-range surface-to-air missiles, Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan has announced. Erdogan has complained that Western weapons were too expensive and has been seeking alternatives. [...] The purchase is part of increased military and political ties between Turkey and Russia and gradual estrangement between the key NATO member and Western powers. Turkey has the second largest army in NATO, and members of the alliance are encouraged to buy compatible weapons systems to help coordination and logistics during wartime."

Comment: This is a shock! Who saw this coming? Oh wait, every student of Bible prophecy saw this coming...for decades. It's time to admit that Turkey's drift away from the West and into Russia's alliance of the Unhappy and Disgruntled is less a drift and more like a beeline.  It's time for Togarmah to join the Gog Alliance. Perhaps NATO could give Turkey a nudge?