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Thought for the day
"Patriotism is supporting your country all the time, and your government when it deserves it" -- Mark Twain
The United States Air Force hosted a "kid-friendly" drag show at their Joint Base Langley-Eustis (JBLE) on Saturday as part of their "Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Summer Festival."
The drag show was hosted by Joshua Kelley, who performs under the name "Harpy Daniels – The Navy Drag Queen." Children were encouraged to attend the festival, as the website advertised "bouncy houses and face painting for the children."
The Commerce Department has done little to halt the export of technology-related products to China despite the White House and Congress pushing to restrict tech transfers that could benefit the Chinese Communist Party.
The Commerce Department has approved the vast majority of technology-based export requests being shipped to China, according to data examined by the Wall Street Journal. Of the $125 billion in exports sent from the United States to China, just half a percent needed a license or approval. And of that half-percent, most were approved. The approval rate was revealed as the U.S. efforts to add pressure on innovation to fight China's race further to exceed the U.S. in innovation.
A flurry of Turkish drone strikes in and around Kobane continued apace Tuesday, with at least 17 reported killed so far. This includes three Syrian soldiers and an unspecified number of Kurdish militia members.
That’s just the start of the Turkish action, as following the strikes, Turkish military forces crossed the border and started taking up positions inside northern Syria.
Turkey has been threatening a new round of offensives against the Kurds, saying it could begin “at any time.”
This would be just the latest in years of Turkish invasions of Iraq and Syria, almost always centered on going after Kurdish groups. Warnings from local mosques and social media warned residents not to leave their homes, and reiterated the view that the Kurds are in “terrorist organizations.”
Should a human rights organization apologize for publishing important evidence of war crimes and human rights abuses?
If it does apologize, what does that suggest about its commitment to dispassionately uncovering the truth about the actions of both parties to war? And equally, what message does it send to those who claim to be “distressed” by the publication of such evidence?
Those are questions Amnesty International should have pondered far more carefully than it obviously did before issuing an apology last week over its latest report on the war in Ukraine.
In that report, Amnesty accused Ukrainian forces of committing war crimes by stationing troops and artillery in or near schools, hospitals and residential buildings, thereby using civilians effectively as human shields. Such practices by Ukrainian soldiers were identified in 19 different towns and villages.
These incidents did not just theoretically endanger civilians. There is evidence, according to Amnesty, that return fire by Russian troops on these Ukrainian positions led to non-combatants being killed.
After an ugly overnight session turned uglier at the cash equity open, the US majors all spiked on the FOMC Minutes - for no good reason - then puked it all back into the close to end the day down relatively hard. Small Caps were the worst with the Dow the prettiest horse in the glue factory (but still lower on the day)...
Under a recent court order, Twitter is now required to provide Elon Musk with access to documents compiled by a former executive that Musk says is a key figure in calculating the number of fake accounts that permeate the platform.
The executive, former General Manager of Consumer Product Kayvon Beykpour, quickly disappeared from the halls of Twitter in April of this year when it was announced that Musk would be seeking to purchase the company. Beykpour was described in Musk's court filings as one of the executives "most intimately involved with" determining the amount of spam and bot accounts on Twitter. Though the court denied Musk access to 21 other people involved in the company, it would appear that the battle over the social media giant is just beginning.
Musk has accused Twitter of misrepresenting their user numbers, which they claimed only made up around 5% of their total traffic. Musk asserted that the amount of bots was much higher, and noted that Twitter seemed to be stalling access to vital data while trying to rush litigation in a bid to force a sale before the company had to relinquish all the required information.
A group of family members of 9/11 victims has sent a letter to President Biden urging him to return the $7 billion in frozen Afghan reserves held by the US Federal Reserve to the Afghan people.
Earlier this year, President Biden signed an executive order that would make $3.5 billion of the Afghan funds available to 9/11 families. But in the letter that was sent Tuesday, 77 family members of 9/11 victims said receiving that money would be “morally wrong.”
The letter reads: “Any use of the $7 billion to pay off 9/11 family member judgments is legally suspect and morally wrong. We call on you to modify your Executive Order and affirm that the Afghanistan central bank funds belong to the Afghan people and the Afghan people alone.”
US officials said this week that the Biden administration has decided not to return any of the $7 billion to Afghanistan and suspended talks with the Taliban on the issue. One year since the Taliban’s takeover of the country, Afghanistan is facing a dire humanitarian crisis, with millions of Afghans facing starvation.
Below is my column in USA Today on the diminishing role of Attorney General Merrick Garland at the Justice Department after a series of controversies.
As a well-known moderate, many of us had hoped that Garland could be a unifying presence at the Department; assuring a divided nation that justice would be pursued in an even-handed and apolitical fashion.
Yet, in controversy after controversy, Garland has failed to take modest steps to make such assurances.
After well documented cases of bias and false statements by FBI and DOJ officials in past investigations, there was a clear need for greater transparency and independence in investigations. Garland has consistently swatted away such options. This week, Garland stayed on that path and refused to release any part of the affidavit used as the basis for the search of Mar-a-Lago. This included the possible issuance of a redacted copy or even responses to specific concerns over the timing or basis for the search. While Trump has called for the release of the affidavit, Garland will not even release those sections dealing with the account of the prior discussions and agreements with the Team Trump. There is little proactive effort to anticipate or address such concerns as vividly shown in the last week.
Here is the column:
Iran on Wednesday said that it is prepared for an unconditional prisoner swap with the US and said they were ready to work on the issue regardless of the status of the nuclear deal, known as the JCPOA.
“The Islamic Republic has, through various channels, repeatedly announced its readiness to the American side to address the issue of the prisoners regardless of the JCPOA,” said Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Nasser Kanaani, according to Iran’s PressTV.
Iran’s offer came a day after Secretary of State Antony Blinken tweeted that 50-year-old Iranian-American Siamak Namazi has been in prison in Iran for 2,500 days. Several other US citizens are detained in Iran, and Tehran seeks the release of over a dozen Iranians that have been arrested in the US.
Many Iranians jailed in the US have been arrested over allegations that they violated sanctions. Kanaani said that Iran wants to help free Iranians who have “fallen victim to the injustice [practiced] by the US’s legal establishment based on the hollow accusation of [them] violating the oppressive and illegal American sanctions.”
The U.S. pharmaceutical giant Moderna has finalised arrangements with the Australian and Victorian governments to build the world’s first mRNA production facility located on a university campus.
The construction at Melbourne’s Monash University is expected to commence at the end of 2022, with production anticipated to begin by the end of 2024.
The company said that the facility is expected to produce up to 100 million mRNA respiratory vaccine doses annually, targeting respiratory viruses, including COVID-19, seasonal influenza, respiratory syncytial virus, “and other potential respiratory viruses, pending licensure.”
Last month FBI director Christopher Wray recalled at a speaking event in London that many Western companies were caught flat-footed at the moment of Russia's assault on Ukraine. "There were a lot of western companies that had their fingers still in that door when it slammed shut," Wray said of the Feb.24 massive military offensive.
But then he quickly transitioned to potential parallels over simmering Taiwan tensions: "If China does invade Taiwan, we could see the same thing again, at a much larger scale. Just as in Russia, western investments built over years could become hostages, capital stranded, supply chains and relationships disrupted," he said at the time.
And yet since that mid-July speech, the stakes and pressure have grown by leaps and bounds following House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's August 2nd-3rd visit to Taiwan, leading a Congressional delegation as the highest ranking American official to go there in 25 years, which triggered over a week of Chinese military and live-fire exercises which encircled the self-ruled island.
Already, according to a fresh Wednesday announcement Apple is in the process of moving production of its MacBook and Apple Watch to Vietnam in a major development, though Apple and China have been inextricably linked for close to two decades. As TechCrunch details, "According to Nikkei Asia, Luxshare Precision Industry, Apple's Chinese supplier, and Foxconn, a Taiwan-based supplier, have begun test production of the Apple Watch in northern Vietnam."
A top German official has trashed people who may be planning to protest against energy blackouts as “enemies of the state” and “extremists” who want to overthrow the government.
The interior minister of the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW), Herbert Reul (CDU), says that anti-mandatory vaxx and anti-lockdown demonstrators have found a new cause – the energy crisis.
In an interview with German news outlet NT, Reul revealed that German security services were keeping an eye on “extremists” who plan to infiltrate the protests and stage violence, with the unrest being planned via the Telegram messenger app, which German authorities have previously tried to ban.
“You can already tell from those who are out there,” said Reul. “The protesters no longer talk about coronavirus or vaccination. But they are now misusing people’s worries and fears in other fields. (…) It’s almost something like new enemies of the state that are establishing themselves.”
Despite the very real threat of potential blackouts, power grid failures and gas shortages, Reul claimed such issues were feeding “conspiracy theory narratives.”
Webmaster addition: We will see this in the US soon.
Candy maker Mars Canada Inc. has won a lawsuit against marijuana dealers who sold their cannabis-laced edibles online under the guise of Skittles.
In a federal court ruling on Aug. 12, three cannabis retailers were ordered to pay Mars a total of $144,600 after they were found infringing the candy maker’s trademarks by marketing and selling THC-infused edibles in Canada with logo and packaging “almost identical” to official Skittles products.
The defendants West Coast Supply, Shrooms Online, and Flash Buds must each pay Mars $15,000 for breach of the Trademarks Act, $30,000 in punitive damages, and $3,200 in costs, Justice Patrick Gleeson wrote in his ruling, as first reported by Blacklock’s Reporter.
The judge condemned the conduct of the dealers, while noting they have “organized their online activities in a manner that protects their anonymity.”
“I agree with the Plaintiff and find the Defendants’ efforts to remain anonymous support the conclusion that they had knowledge of the unlawful nature of their activity,” Gleeson said.
In the nearly 20 years since the supersonic Concorde was retired, a new aeronautics company has developed a "sustainable" new airplane, that will shuttle between 60 and 80 passengers up to nearly 5,000 miles at a time, flying at Mach 1.7.
Denver-based Boom Supersonic has developed the "Overture," which will run on "100% sustainable aviation fuel" (SAF), powering four smaller wing-mounted engines to keep weight and temperature balanced. It will also incorporate carbon composite materials for a lightweight, yet robust air frame.
The company has already scored contracts from the US Air Force and two airlines - with United Airlines committing to 15 aircraft once safety requirements are met, as well as an option to purchase 35 more. Japan Airlines has also pre-ordered 20 of them, while the company is creating custom applications for the government.
SAF uses different types of waste products, such as used cooking oil to animal fat, to deliver the same performance as conventional jet fuel - just with a (claimed) reduced carbon footprint.
As consumers are grappling with inflation, trying to cut down on non-essential spending, Disney served its fans another tough pill to swallow. The company announced that it’s raising the prices of Disney+ and Hulu later this year. The move comes as part of a broader restructuring of its streaming options, as Disney is simultaneously launching an ad-supported tier, which will keep the $7.99 price tag of the current ads-free subscription. The existing premium tier will be priced at $10.99 starting in December, up almost 40 percent from its current price.
As Statista's Felix Richter notes, Disney’s decision to raise its streaming prices comes just a few months after market leader Netflix took a similar step.
In January, Netflix had announced the second price increase in less than two years, bringing the price of its standard plan to $15.49 per month. The latest price increases come at an unpleasant time for consumers, who now face some tough choices when it comes to their entertainment budgets.
Webmaster addition: The biggest annoyance with the streaming providers is the many delays to get content, with HBO Max being the worst I have experienced.
Russia's Black Sea fleet based in annexed Crimea has installed a new commander, RIA news agency cited sources as saying on Wednesday, after Russian military bases on the peninsula were rocked by explosions in the past nine days.
If confirmed, the removal of the previous commander Igor Osipov would mark the most prominent sacking of a military official in the nearly six months since Russia's invasion of Ukraine, in which it has suffered heavy losses in men and equipment.
State-owned RIA cited the sources as saying the new chief, Viktor Sokolov, was introduced to members of the fleet's military council in the port of Sevastopol.
One source said it was "normal" that the appointment was not publicly announced at a time when Russia was conducting what it calls its special military operation in Ukraine.
Of the 123 million Americans alive in 1929 at least 3 million starved to death, some demographers say maybe 4 to 7 million.
A Depression is a period in time when Unpayable Debts are cancelled en masse. In 1923 Germany cancelled debts through hyperinflation. In 1933 America 31% of our money supply was cancelled in bankruptcy courts and in foreclosures.
We have a debt based system which means that we are not allowed to have money unless we first take out a loan. Bankers gave themselves the right to charge us interest on checking account money they made out of nothing. Americans starved to death due to debt cancellation and the lack of borrowing until WW II.
Alternatively, we could have a non-interest bearing currency like Lincoln’s Greenbacks. Dr Irving Fisher in the 1920s suggested that we not only issue Greenbacks but also ban fractional reserve banking, which would have ended all those bank runs in the 1930s.
He called his proposal 100% money. He could have ended the Depression in 90 days, saved us from starvation and also from a lot of unwanted wars. He also would have stopped the exploitation of interest which under the present system transfers all wealth from Main Street which does all the work to Wall Street parasites who collect interest on the money they created out of nothing.
Scientists believe there is a one in six chance of a major volcanic eruption this century which could dramatically change the world's climate and put millions of lives in danger.
When the Hunga Tonga–Hunga Ha'apai volcano erupted off the shore of Tonga in the South Pacific Ocean in January, the blast was so huge that tsunamis hit the shores of Japan, North America and South America and Tonga itself suffered damage equating to almost a fifth of its entire GDP.
But an analysis of ice cores in Greenland and Antarctica by a team at the Niels Bohr Institute in Copenhagen found that a magnitude 7 volcanic eruption - which could be 10 to 100 times bigger than the one recorded in January - is a distinct possibility for this century.
Webmaster addition: "We need a volcano tax!!" -- Official White Horse Souse
On June 10th, The Guardian’s Mark Townsend published an article headlined “Russia-backed network of Syria conspiracy theorists identified.” (“Russia-backed” has since been removed).
The article is based on what Townsend calls a “new analysis” that “reveals” a “network more than two dozen conspiracy theorists, frequently backed by a coordinated Russian campaign.” This network, Townsend claims, is “focused on the denial or distortion of facts about the Syrian regime’s use of chemical weapons and on attacking the findings of the world’s foremost chemical weapons watchdog,” the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW). According to Townsend, I am named “as the most prolific spreader of disinformation” among the nefarious bunch.
In hawking this purported exposé of “disinformation”, Townsend violated every basic standard of journalism. He did not contact me before publishing his allegations; fails to offer a shred of evidence for them; and does not cite a single example of my alleged “prolific” disinformation. Instead, Townsend bases his claims entirely on a think-tank report that also provides no evidence, nor even assert that I have said anything false. In the process, Townsend failed to disclose that the report’s authors — the Institute for Strategic Dialogue (ISD) and the Syria Campaign — are groups funded by the US government and other belligerents in the Syria proxy war. To top it off, Townsend fabricates additional allegations that his state-funded sources do not even make.
A former Yemeni foreign minister said that France is preparing to secure the Balhaf facility in Yemen's unstable Shabwa province for the export of gas.
The key Yemeni liquefied natural gas facility at Balhaf is being used as a base by UAE troops [MOHAMMED HUWAIS/AFP via Getty Images-archive]
Abubaker Alqirbi tweeted in Arabic on Tuesday that "information is coming in" about "preparations being made to export gas from the Balhaf facility" and that this "could be the reason for events in Shabwa" and moves made by France.
Yemeni government forces recently clashed with UAE-backed southern separatist forces in gas-rich Shabwa province, where Balhaf is located, last week, leading to dozens of civilian and combatant casualties.
The Met police has been asked to investigate Britons joining the Israeli army and potentially committing war crimes, but Richard Sudan explains that we shouldn't hold our breath given the UK’s history of double standards when it comes to Israel.
The International Centre of Justice for Palestinians (ICJP) highlighted reports of UK citizens being recruited by Israel to participate in military operations via the Mahal Volunteer programme. [GETTY]
Earlier this year, the Metropolitan Police’s War Crime Unit, part of the Counter Terrorism Command (CTC), confirmed that it received “incredibly harrowing material” and eye witness accounts from those on the front line in the Ukraine war.
Scotland Yard subsequently stated that it would work with the International Criminal Court (ICC) in its probe to identify potential war crimes which may have taken place.
Speaking to the media about the evidence they had received, one officer working on the investigation as part of CTC said that “[i]n not far off 17 years in counterterrorism, (it is) some of the worst possible footage you could imagine seeing.”
The Israeli occupation forces today and last night detained at least 40 Palestinians in large-scale raids across the occupied territories.
Most of the arrests took place in the town of Tuqu, in the south of the West Bank, and in Yabad, in the north, according to the Palestinian Prisoner Society (PPS) and other sources.
Israeli forces rounded up 22 Palestinians after forcibly entering and searching the houses of their families in Tuqu, east of Bethlehem.
It’s tempting to visualize the overwhelming collective West debacle as a rocket, faster than free fall, plunging into the black void maelstrom of complete socio-political breakdown.
It’s tempting to visualize the overwhelming collective West debacle as a rocket, faster than free fall, plunging into the black void maelstrom of complete socio-political breakdown.
The End of (Their) History turns out to be a fast-forward historical process bearing staggering ramifications: way more profound than mere self-appointed “elites” – via their messenger boys/girls – dictating a Dystopia engineered by austerity and financialization: what they chose to brand as a Great Reset and then, major fail intervening, The Great Narrative.
Financialization of everything means total marketization of Life itself. In his latest book, No-Cosas: Quiebras del Mundo de Hoy (in Spanish, no English translation yet), the foremost German contemporary philosopher (Byung-Chul Han, who happens to be Korean), analyzes how Information Capitalism, unlike industrial capitalism, converts also the immaterial into merchandise: “Life itself acquires the form of merchandise (…) the difference between culture and commerce disappears. Institutions of culture are presented as profitable brands.”
NATO will increase its peacekeeping force in Kosovo if there is an escalation of tensions with neighbouring Serbia, the alliance's chief said on Wednesday, on the eve of EU-facilitated talks between the estranged western Balkan neighbours.
"We have now a significant mission, a military presence in Kosovo close to 4,000 troops," Jens Stoltenberg told a news conference after talks with Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic in Brussels, who stood alongside him.
"If needed, we will move forces, deploy them where needed and increase our presence. We have already increased the presence in the north. We are ready to do more."
Tensions between Serbia and Kosovo flared this month when Pristina said it would oblige Serbs living in the north, who are backed by Belgrade and do not recognise Kosovo institutions, to start using car license plates issued in Pristina.
U.S. shale oil producers are in line to suffer more than $10 billion in derivative hedging losses this year if oil prices remain around $100 per barrel, Rystad Energy research shows. Many shale operators offset their risk exposure through derivative hedging, helping them to raise capital for operations more efficiently. Those who hedged at lower prices last year are in line to suffer significant associated losses as their contracts mean they cannot capitalize on sky-high prices.
Despite these hedging losses, record-high cash flow and net income have been widely reported by US onshore exploration and production (E&P) companies this earnings season. These operators are now adapting their strategies and negotiating contracts for the second half of 2022 and 2023 based on current high prices, so if oil prices fall next year, these agile E&Ps will be able to capitalize and will likely boast even stronger financials.
Anticipating the significant negative impact of these hedges, shale operators made a concerted effort in the first half of this year to lower their exposure and limit the impact on their balance sheets.
Many operators have successfully negotiated higher ceilings for 2023 contracts and based on current reported hedging activity for next year, even at a crude price of $100 per barrel, losses would total just $3 billion, a significant drop from this year. At $85 per barrel, hedged losses would total $1.5 billion; if it fell further to $65, hedging activity would be a net earner for operators.
Webmaster addition: Fracking is a disaster. Water poisoned, fish killed, land ruined, and no economic return!
A Paris-based intergovernmental organization has scandalously turned down a petition against a Swedish pharma company lodged on behalf of Iranians who suffer from a potentially fatal skin disease.
The petition was submitted earlier this year by the lawyer, who represents the patients afflicted with epidermolysis bullosa (EB), a type of disease that causes fragile, blistering skin.
The US sanctions against Iran have been choking up the financial channels that could be used towards providing the Islamic Republic with the cure for EB sufferers and other direly-needed medical supplies.
Washington reinstated the cruel economic sanctions after unilaterally abandoning the 2015 deal between the Islamic Republic and world powers.
The petition had protested the submission of Mölnlycke, a Sweden-headquartered internationally active supplier of medical devices, to the sanctions, which has caused the company to withhold the bandages that are needed by those suffering from the skin condition.