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Russia Warns: Increased US Marine Corps Presence In Norway Could Be Viewed As An Attack

Russia is hinting that a new wave of U.S. Marines in Norway, near the Russian border in the Troms region, could be viewed as an attack, the MarineTimes reported.

Last week, the Russian Embassy in Norway warned of consequences for the latest U.S. troop buildup, and on Friday, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova criticized Norway for its expanded military cooperation with Washington.

A Marine with Marine Rotational Force-Europe 18.1 sends live rounds down range while conducting a squad attack during winter warfare training at Haltdalen Training Center, Norway, April 18, 2018. (Gunnery Sgt. Clinton Firstbrook/Marine Corps/MarineTimes)

According to Zakharova, the policy of the Norwegian government to support a doubling of Marines “in the country and deploy them near the border with Russia undermines mutual confidence.” Furthermore, she argues, the Marines’ presence in the Arctic country — a few hundred miles from the Russian border, in fact, could be an attack.

The statements come as the Norwegian government intends to add another 400 U.S. Marines to Norway before the most significant military exercise since the Cold War this fall.

However, the Marines are not permanently stationed in the country, only on a “rotational deployment,” the Norwegian defense ministry recently stressed.

“We paid attention to the reports of the Norwegian Ministry of Defense released on June 13, which contain Oslo’s agreement to double the US Marine Corps stationed on the Norwegian territory from 330 to 700 people, prolong their rotation presence there for five years, expand its footprint to the north, closer to the border with our country, and create infrastructure for warplanes at the expense of the US under the implementation of the so-called European initiative to deter Russia,” Zakharova said.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Mattis Warns Of “Consequences” If Beijing Continues Weaponizing The South China Sea

The United States and China appear to be headed for a military collision in the Southeast Asia region, as Washington warns of a more powerful military response to the increased weaponization of the heavily disputed islands in the South China Sea.

Speaking at the IISS Shangri-La Dialogue, a civilian and military defense summit in Singapore, U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis blasted Beijing Saturday morning for the militarization of artificial islands in the South China Sea and warned there could be “much larger consequences” in the near term.

IISS Shangri-La Dialogue 2018 – James N. Mattis delivers opening plenary speech. (Source: IISS) 

“There are consequences that will continue to come home to roost if China does not find a way to work more collaboratively with nations that have interests in the disputed region,” Mattis said, while he addressed ministers and high-ranking delegates from over 50 countries. During the entirety of the speech, Mattis did not define what exactly those consequences would be.

The Wall Street Journal said Mattis’ warning to Beijing, was in direct response to a question from an audience member, which he responded by saying, “despite China’s claims to the contrary, the placement of these weapons systems is tied directly to military use for the purposes of intimidation and coercion,” adding that “China’s militarization of the Spratlys is also in direct contradiction to President Xi Jinping’s 2015 public assurances in the White House Rose Garden that they would not do this.”

IISS Shangri-La Dialogue 2018 – James N. Mattis delivers opening plenary speech. (Source: IISS) 

Beijing’s deployment of anti-ship cruise missiles, radar-jamming equipment, and strategic bombers to the disputed islands have dramatically increased geopolitical tensions around the region. Mattis said such action forced Washington to rethink its “cooperative stance” and disinvite China from the biennial Rim of the Pacific military exercise, expected to start in June.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

May You Live in Stupid, Corrupt and yet Fascinating Times

May You Live in Stupid, Corrupt and yet Fascinating Times

In the old days, America’s top spies would complete their tenures at the CIA or one of the other Washington puzzle palaces and segue to more ordinary pursuits. Some wrote their memoirs. One ran for president. Another died a few months after surrendering his post. But today’s national-security establishment retiree has a different game plan. After so many years of brawling in the shadows, he yearns for a second, lucrative career in the public eye. He takes a crash course in speaking in soundbites, refreshes his wardrobe and signs a TV news contract. Then, several times a week, waits for a network limousine to shuttle him to the broadcast news studios where, after a light dusting of foundation and a spritz of hairspray, he takes a supporting role in the anchors’ nighttime shows.

PoliticoThe Spies Who Came in to the TV Studio

May you live in stupid, corrupt and yet fascinating times.

– Me, paraphrasing a Chinese curse

I’ve been away the past couple of weeks taking a break with my family. I paid attention to the news, but from a distance. As usual, there’s plenty to talk about.

In the last 24 hours alone, we’ve seen political chaos erupt in Italy and hordes of pundits simultaneously lose their minds over the murder of a prominent Russian journalist that never happened. Such is the world we live in. Stupid, corrupt, yet fascinating.

Of all the things I could’ve written about, you may be surprised by today’s selection. It’s a clip many of you probably saw where Richard Stengel (who was Time Magazine’s managing editor from 2006-2013) admits he approves of government propagandizing its own citizens during a Council on Foreign Relations forum. Here’s the clip.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

America’s Incredible Shrinking Influence

America’s Incredible Shrinking Influence

Just two weeks after President Trump pulled the US from the Iran nuclear agreement, his Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, issued 12 demands to Iran that could never be satisfied. Pompeo knew his demands would be impossible to meet. They were designed that way. Just like Austria-Hungary’s ultimatum to Serbia in July, 1914, that led to the beginning of World War I. And just like the impossible demands made of Milosevic in 1999 and of Saddam Hussein in 1991 and 2003, and so many other times when Washington wanted war. These impossible demands are tools of war rather than steps toward peace.

Secretary Pompeo raged at Iran. The mainstream news media raged at Iran. Trump raged at Iran. But then a strange thing happened: nothing. The Iranians announced that they remained committed to diplomacy and would continue to uphold their end of the nuclear agreement if the Europeans and other partners were willing to do the same. Iranian and European officials then sought out contacts in defiance of Washington in hopes of preserving mutually-beneficial emerging commercial relations.

Washington responded to the European snub by threatening secondary sanctions on European companies that continued doing business with an Iran that had repeatedly been found in compliance with its end of the bargain. Any independent European relationship with Iran would be punished, Washington threatened. But then, again, very little happened.

Rather than jump on Washington’s bandwagon, German Chancellor Angela Merkel made two trips to Russia in May seeking closer ties and a way forward on Iran.

Russia and China were named as our prime enemies in the latest National Security Strategy for the United States, but both countries stand to benefit from the unilateral US withdrawal from the Iran deal. When the French oil company Total got spooked by Washington threats and pulled out of Iran, a Chinese firm eagerly took its place.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Washington Threatens Sanctions For Nord Stream 2

Washington Threatens Sanctions For Nord Stream 2

Natural Gas

While Germany tries to make sure Ukraine will not suffer too badly from the addition of Nord Stream 2 to the European natural gas pipeline network, a senior State Department official has threatened sanctions for the controversial project.

Speaking to media in Berlin, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Energy Diplomacy Sandra Oudkirk said Washington deemed the pipe as a security threat because it would give Russia the chance to install “undersea surveillance equipment” such as “listening devices” in the Baltic. Oudkirk did not go into detail about the surveillance equipment that she suspected Russia might put on the seabed.

What she did make a point of noting was that the threat of sanctions was motivated by Washington’s strong desire to curb Russia’s influence in Europe and had nothing to do with the fact that U.S. LNG is one alternative to Russian gas. Oudkirk also said Washington did not believe there was a way to enforce guarantees for Ukraine’s transit fee revenues from current Russian pipeline exports to Russia.

These revenues have turned into a sticking point between Russia and Germany, with the latter showing genuine concern for Ukraine’s revenues, although it was clear from the beginning that an expanded Nord Stream would mean diverting part of current gas transit from Ukraine.

Europe has been very active in showing its support for gas transit revenue dependent Ukraine, although little of this support has been constructive, such as finding ways to generate other revenues besides those from transit fees. Besides, concern for Ukraine may be genuine, but it is not the single concern of all European countries when it comes to Nord Stream 2.

For Germany, Nord Stream 2 means more gas amid nuclear and coal power plant phasing out.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Is Putin’s Strategy Finally Beginning To Work?

Is Putin’s Strategy Finally Beginning To Work?

I have explained Russian President Vladimir Putin’s Christian practice of turning the other cheek to Western provocations as a strategy to convey to Europe that Russia is reasonable but Washington is not and that Russia is not a threat to European interests and sovereignty but Washington is. By accommodating Israel and withdrawing from the multi-nation Iran nuclear-nonproliferation agreement, US President Donald Trump might have brought success to Putin’s strategy.

Washington’s three main European vassal states, Britain, France, and Germany have objected to Trump’s unilateral action. Trump is of the opinion that the multi-nation agreement depends only on Washington. If Washington renounces the agreement, that is the end of the agreement. It doesn’t matter what the other parties to the agreement want. Consequently, Trump intends to reimpose the previous sanctions against doing business with Iran and to impose additional new sanctions. If Britain, France, and Germany continue with the business contracts that have been made with Iran, Washington will sanction its vassal states as well and prohibit activities of British, French, and German companies in the US. Clearly, Washington thinks that Europe’s profits in the US exceed what can be made in Iran and will fall in line with Washington’s decision, as the vassal states have done in the past.

And they might. But this time there is a backlash. Whether it will go beyond strong words to a break with Washington remains to be seen. Trump’s neoconservative pro-Israel National Security Advisor John Bolton has ordered European companies to cancel their business deals in Iran. Trump’s ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell has ordered German companies to immediately wind down their business operations in Iran. The bullying of Europe and blatant US disregard of European interests and sovereignty has made Europe’s long vassalage suddenly all too apparent and uncomfortable.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

As US Military Effectiveness and Diplomatic Efforts Fade into Irrelevance Many Countries Start Ignoring Washington

As US Military Effectiveness and Diplomatic Efforts Fade into Irrelevance Many Countries Start Ignoring Washington

As US Military Effectiveness and Diplomatic Efforts Fade into Irrelevance Many Countries Start Ignoring Washington

Diplomatic work continues in some of the areas with the highest geopolitical tensions in the world. In recent days there have been high-level meetings and contacts between Turkey, Iran and Russia over the situation in Syria; meetings between Modi and Xi Jinping to ease tensions between India and China; and finally, the historic meeting between Moon Jae-in and Kim Jong-un. The common component in all these meetings is the absence of the United States, which may explain the excellent progress that has been seen.

The last seven days have brought a note of optimism to international relations. The meeting between Modi and Xi Jinping in China offered a regional example, confirmed by the words of Wang Yi, member of the State Counsel of the People’s Republic of China:

“Our [India and China] common interests outweigh our differences. The summit will go a long way towards deepening the mutual trust between the two great neighbors. We will make sure that the informal summit will be a complete success and a new milestone in the history of China-India relations”.

Given the tensions in August 2017 in the Himalayan border area between the two countries, the progress achieved in the last nine months bodes well for a further increase in cooperation between the two nations. Bilateral trade stands at around $85 billion a year, with China as India’s largest trading partner. The meeting between Modi and Xi also serves to deepen the already existing framework between the two countries in international organizations like BRICS, the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), in which they are integral participants. It is imaginable that negotiations on the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) will be in full swing, with Beijing keen to involve New Delhi more in the project.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

The Oil Curse Comes to Washington

The Oil Curse Comes to Washington

Prices rise and prices fall.  So, too, they fall and rise.  This is how the supply and demand sweet spot is continually discovered – and rediscovered.

When supply exceeds demand for a good or service, prices fall.  Conversely, when demand exceeds supply, prices rise.  Producers use the information communicated by changing prices to make business decisions.  High demand and rising prices inform them to increase output.  Excess supply and falling prices inform them to taper back production.

This, in basic terms, is how markets work to efficiently bring products and services to market.  Five year plans, command and control pricing systems, and government price edicts cannot hold a candle to open market pricing.  But not all markets are created equal.  The market for gumballs or garbage bags, for instance, is much simpler than the market for solar panels or jet engines.

What we mean is some markets are subject to more government intervention than others; especially, if there’s a large money stream that can be extracted by government coercion.  Sometimes governments nationalize an entire market – for the good of the people, of course.

Strange and peculiar price movements can indicate there’s something else besides natural supply and demand mechanics going on.  On April 6, a barrel of West Texas Intermediate (WTI) grade crude oil cost about $62.  Ten months ago, that same barrel of WTI oil cost about $43.  About 24 months ago, it was only about $30 a barrel.

Yesterday, April 26, WTI oil was about $68 a barrel.  What’s going on?

Price Fixing Accidents

Indeed, the oil market is subject to mass government interventions the world over.  The push and pull of these hindrances to regular market determined price discovery can prompt wild price distortions.  We don’t pretend to understand the many variables at play that influence the price of oil.  Still, today, we scratch for clarity and edification, nonetheless.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

The Road to 2025 (Part 4) – A Very Bright Future If We Demand It

The Road to 2025 (Part 4) – A Very Bright Future If We Demand It

Whenever all government, domestic and foreign, in little as in great things, shall be drawn to Washington as the center of all power, it will render powerless the checks provided of one government on another, and will become as venal and oppressive as the government from which we separated.

– Thomas Jefferson letter to C.Hammond, 1821

The first three parts of this series focused on the obvious reality that imperial America is not just increasingly being seen as a rogue state around the world, but that it’s also become harmful and parasitic to its own people. It’s become abundantly clear that empire is not compatible with Constitutional government.

As power and resources have become increasingly centralized in Washington D.C., the American people have suffered. We’ve suffered from an increasingly rigged economic and financial system, continued security-state encroachment in the form of mass surveillance and a militarization of police, and a war industry which relentlessly funnels more and more wealth toward protecting imperial dominance overseas.

As anyone who’s read the U.S. Constitution knows, this is not the way the union was supposed to function. Indeed, the founders were obsessed with avoiding the pitfalls of European empires since they knew how that story ends. At the federal level, a separation of powers between the three branches of government: the legislative, the executive and the judicial was a key component of the Constitution. The specific purpose here was to prevent an accumulation of excessive centralized power within a specific area of government.

While this separation of powers still exists on paper, it’s been eroded to a very dangerous degree. When it comes to war, which the legislative branch is supposed to declare, Congress has chosen to abdicate its responsibility and simply allows the executive to do whatever it wants.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Donald Trump and the Next Crash: Making the Fed an Instrument for Disaster

Donald Trump and the Next Crash: Making the Fed an Instrument for Disaster

Photo by futureatlas.com | CC BY 2.0

Warning: What you are about to read is not about Russia, the 2016 election, or the latest person to depart from the White House in a storm of tweets. It’s the Beltway story hiding in plain sight with trillions of dollars in play and an economy to commandeer.

While we’ve been bombarded with a litany of scandals from the Oval Office and the Trump family, there’s a crucial institution in Washington that few in the media seem to be paying attention to, even as President Trump quietly makes it his own. More obscure than the chambers of the Supreme Court, it’s a place where he has already made substantial changes. I’m talking about the Federal Reserve.

As the central bank of the United States, the “Fed” sets the financial tone for the global economy by manipulating interest rate levels. This impacts everyone, yet very few grasp the scope of its influence.

During times of relative economic calm, the Fed is regularly forgotten. But what history shows us is that having leaders who are primed to neglect Wall Street’s misdoings often sets the scene for economic dangers to come. That’s why nominees to the Fed are so crucial.

We have entered a landmark moment: no president since Woodrow Wilson (during whose administration the Federal Reserve was established) will have appointed as many board members to the Fed as Donald Trump. His fingerprints will, in other words, not just be on Supreme Court decisions, but no less significantly Fed policy-making for years to come — even though, like that court, it occupies a mandated position of political independence.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

The Road to 2025 (Part 4) – A Very Bright Future If We Demand It

The Road to 2025 (Part 4) – A Very Bright Future If We Demand It

Whenever all government, domestic and foreign, in little as in great things, shall be drawn to Washington as the center of all power, it will render powerless the checks provided of one government on another, and will become as venal and oppressive as the government from which we separated.

– Thomas Jefferson letter to C.Hammond, 1821

The first three parts of this series focused on the obvious reality that imperial America is not just increasingly being seen as a rogue state around the world, but that it’s also become harmful and parasitic to its own people. It’s become abundantly clear that empire is not compatible with Constitutional government.

As power and resources have become increasingly centralized in Washington D.C., the American people have suffered. We’ve suffered from an increasingly rigged economic and financial system, continued security-state encroachment in the form of mass surveillance and a militarization of police, and a war industry which relentlessly funnels more and more wealth toward protecting imperial dominance overseas.

As anyone who’s read the U.S. Constitution knows, this is not the way the union was supposed to function. Indeed, the founders were obsessed with avoiding the pitfalls of European empires since they knew how that story ends. At the federal level, a separation of powers between the three branches of government: the legislative, the executive and the judicial was a key component of the Constitution. The specific purpose here was to prevent an accumulation of excessive centralized power within a specific area of government.

While this separation of powers still exists on paper, it’s been eroded to a very dangerous degree. When it comes to war, which the legislative branch is supposed to declare, Congress has chosen to abdicate its responsibility and simply allows the executive to do whatever it wants.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

War Fever

War Fever

There is a fever that seizes this land from time to time and it is the fever of war, a condition that this time seems immune to all known cures, starting with reason, as Daniel Lazare explores. 


What happens when an unthinkable war meets an unbeatable case of war fever?  Thanks to Russia-gate, unsubstantiated reports about the use of poison gas in Syria, and a slew of similar factoids and pseudo-scandals, the world may soon find out.

In saner times, including during the Cold War at even its most heated, political leaders knew not to push a conflict with a rival nuclear power too far.  After all, what was the point of getting into a fight in which everyone would lose?

Cooler heads thus prevailed in Washington while more excitable sorts were shipped off to where they could do no harm.  This is what kept the peace during the U-2 affair, the Berlin Wall, and the Cuban missile crisis and what promised to continue doing so even after the advent of American “unipolarity” in 1989-92.

But that was then.  Today, the question is no longer how to avoid a fight that can only lead to catastrophe, but how to avoid a showdown with a country that “in the past four years has annexed Crimea, intervened in eastern Ukraine, sought to influence the American election in 2016, allegedly poisoned a former Russian spy living in Britain and propped up the murderous government of President Bashar al-Assad in Syria,” to quote the bill of indictment in a recent front-page article in The New York Times.

Given that the list of alleged atrocities expands with virtually each passing week, the answer, increasingly, is: no way, no how.  Since Russia is bent on spreading “conflict and discord” throughout the west – if only in the eyes of the U.S., that is – confrontation grows more and more likely.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

China Prepares “Emergency Response Plan” Amid Escalating US Trade War

While in recent days the growing trade war between China and the US has moved off the front page of market concerns despite now daily skirmishes such as today’s anti-dumping probe launch by the US into US steel wheels which followed a Chinese 179% tariff on US sorghum imports which in turn was in response to the US banning exports to Chinese telecom giant ZTE, in recent days China has drawn up comprehensive list of urgent measures as the war of words over US-China trade relations has threatened to escalate into open economic conflict with each side threatening to levy heavy tariffs and taxes on each other’s imports.

Commenting on the recent trade hostilities, National Development and Reform Commission spokesman Zeng Peiyan said on Wednesday that Beijing has all the political instruments it needs to respond to this trade conflict with the United States and minimize its economic effect.

“We have an emergency response plan at various levels and political means to retaliate to the trade challenges, initiated by the United States,” Zeng added.

He stressed that the trade conflict would affect the country’s economy only partially and that China “has the confidence, potential and ability to ensure the stable functioning of the country’s economy.”

Meanwhile, according to Reuters, Beijing’s international trade representatives have held multiple meetings with their counterparts in leading European economies as China, too, seek support in its trade brawl with the US. Recall the US was supposed to do the same with Trump canvassing support for the growing world trade war in Latin America last week, however he was held back by the diversionary Syrian airstikes.

China however, was not detained and Beijing officials met ambassadors from France, Germany, the United Kingdom, Spain and Italy last Thursday and Friday to propose a firewall against Trump’s protectionism, Reuters reported.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

A Tale of American Hubris: Or Five Lessons in the History of American Defeat

A Tale of American HubrisOr Five Lessons in the History of American Defeat

The lessons of history? Who needs them? Certainly not Washington’s present cast of characters, a crew in flight from history, the past, or knowledge of more or less any sort. Still, just for the hell of it, let’s take a few moments to think about what some of the lessons of the last years of the previous century and the first years of this one might be for the world’s most exceptional and indispensable nation, the planet’s sole superpower, the globe’s only sheriff. Those were, of course, commonplace descriptions from the pre-Trump era and yet, in the age of MAGA, already as moldy and cold as the dust in some pharaonic tomb.

Let’s start this way: you could think of the post-Cold War era, the years after the implosion of the Soviet Union in 1991, as the moment of America’s first opioid crisis. The country’s politicians and would-be politicians were, then, taking street drugs (K-Street and military-industrial-complex ones, to be exact) and having remarkable visions of a planet available for the taking, as well as the keeping, forever and ever, amen.

On a globe without another superpower — pre-Putin Russia was a shattered, impoverished shell of the former Soviet Union, while China was still entering the capitalist world, Communist party in tow — history’s ultimate opportunity had obviously presented itself. And about to ascend to the holodeck of the USS America (beam me up, Dick Cheney!) were history’s ultimate opportunists, the men (and woman) who would, in January 2001, occupy the top posts in the administration of President George W. Bush.  That, of course, included Cheney who, after overseeing a wide-ranging search for the best candidate for vice president, had appointed himself to the job. As a group, they couldn’t have been more ready for America’s ultimate moment in the sun.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Do U.S. Oligarchs Exist? Not in Mainstream Media

Do U.S. Oligarchs Exist? Not in Mainstream Media

We hear incessantly about Russian oligarchs. But do they also exist in the United States? You wouldn’t know it by watching cable news, says Jeff Cohen.

TV news shows are good at getting viewers riled up. Day and night, I hear the anchors on CNN and MSNBC getting us in a frenzy about the schemes of this or that “Russian oligarch with links to the Kremlin.” I’ve heard that phrase incessantly in recent weeks

Plenty of others have heard the “Russian oligarch” phrase. Merriam-Webster.com reported that “oligarch” was one of its most searched-for words on April 5 “following reports that Robert Mueller had questioned Russian businessmen to whom this descriptor applies.”

Webster’s defines oligarchy as a “government in which a small group exercises control especially for corrupt and selfish purposes.” Dictionary.com calls it “a form of government in which all power is vested in a few persons or in a dominant class or clique; government by the few.” So an oligarch is not just a rich person but one who has influence or control over government, rather than directly ruling, as in a plutocracy.

One phrase I haven’t heard from any of the purportedly progressive hosts on MSNBC is: “A U.S. oligarch with links to Washington.”

That avoidance is revealing when one considers an indisputable fact: U.S. oligarchs have done far more to undermine U.S. democracy than any Russian.

When Vladimir Putin first became Russian president in the early 2000s he made a deal with the oligarchs: he would leave them alone if they kept their noses out of politics. Hence they would revert to just being filthy rich. The oligarchs who remained are presumably loyal to Putin, or at least don’t try to dominate him, the way some powerfully rich Americans seek to influence the U.S. government away from what it might otherwise do.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Olduvai II: Exodus
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Olduvai
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Olduvai II: Exodus
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Olduvai III: Cataclysm
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