Thought for the day

"When I was a boy I was told that anybody could become President; I'm beginning to believe it." -- Quoted in 'Clarence Darrow for the Defence' by Irving Stone

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North Korea has conducted a record number of missile launches this week, including an apparent intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), bringing the total number of missiles fired to more than 60 so far this year.

The nuclear-armed state launched 23 missiles of various types on Wednesday alone, the most in a single day.

Posted on: Nov 04 09:09

The Group of Seven rich nations and Australia have agreed to set a fixed price when they finalize a price cap on Russian oil later this month, rather than adopting a floating rate, sources said on Thursday.

U.S. officials and G7 countries have been in intense negotiations in recent weeks over the unprecedented plan to put a price cap on sea-borne oil shipments, which is scheduled to take effect on Dec. 5 - to ensure EU and U.S. sanctions aimed at limiting Moscow's ability to fund its invasion of Ukraine do not throttle the global oil market.

“The Coalition has agreed the price cap will be a fixed price that will be reviewed regularly rather than a discount to an index," said a coalition source, who was not authorized to speak publicly. "This will increase market stability and simplify compliance to minimize the burden on market participants.”

Posted on: Nov 04 09:08

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg urged Turkey on Thursday to set aside its reservations over Finland and Sweden’s efforts to join the military alliance, insisting the Nordic neighbors have done enough to satisfy Ankara’s concerns about their membership.

Finland and Sweden applied for membership of the world’s biggest security alliance in the months after Russian forces invaded Ukraine in February. In doing so, they abandoned longstanding policies of military nonalignment out of concern that Russian President Vladimir Putin might target them next.

But Turkey, which joined NATO in 1952, is still not ready to endorse them after months of trilateral talks. The Turkish government wants them to crack down on individuals it considers terrorists, such as supporters of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party and people suspected of orchestrating a failed 2016 coup in Turkey.

Posted on: Nov 04 09:07

 He has called for expelling “disloyal” citizens of Israel, idolised a mass shooter responsible for a deadly assault on a Hebron mosque in 1994, and called for loosening rules of engagement to make it easier for Israeli forces to shoot Palestinians.

Itamar Ben-Gvir is poised to take up a prominent post in the next Israeli government after this week’s elections saw his far-right Otzma Yehudit (Jewish Power) Party emerge with record support.

Posted on: Nov 04 09:00

Left-wing politicians were reacting with horror and dismay on Wednesday to the decisive electoral victory of the right-wing, religious bloc in the general election, expressing extreme concern in particular over the strong influence the far-right Religious Zionism party will likely wield in the next government.

And recriminations among left-wing parties for their poor showing in the election had also begun, with Regional Cooperation Minister Esawi Frej of the Meretz party blaming the leader of the Labor party, Transportation Minister Merav Michaeli, for the loss, citing her refusal to unite the two parties.

Michaeli staunchly refused to unite her party with Meretz on a joint electoral slate ahead of the election, insisting that both parties would be able to pass the electoral threshold by themselves.

With some 86 percent of the votes counted, Labor looked set to win just four seats, compared to the seven seats it won in the last election, while it appeared Meretz would fail to cross the electoral threshold, thereby losing all representation in the Knesset altogether.

Posted on: Nov 04 09:00

Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Muhammad Shtayyeh downplayed the significance of the election loss of Israel’s big-tent government and ascension of former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his far-right allies.

“The difference between the Israeli parties is the same as the difference between Pepsi and Coke,” Shtayyeh said in remarks reported Wednesday by Palestinian media. “We were under no illusions that the Israeli election would produce a partner for peace.”

He added that gains by far-right religious parties in Tuesday’s national election were “a natural result of the growing manifestations of extremism and racism in Israeli society.”

Posted on: Nov 04 08:59

Itamar Ben-Gvir, the leader of Israel's Jewish Power faction, spent election day on Tuesday in a good mood, greeting voters at a polling station and posing for pictures.

Alongside ally Bezalel Smotrich, the far-right politician had scored an unprecedented win. Their political alliance, Religious Zionism, had won 14 seats in the Israeli parliament, a remarkable improvement on the four they won in 2021.

Ben-Gvir, 46, who never served in the Israeli army, has demanded to be appointed as a public security minister - effectively taking charge of the police - in the government to be formed by Benjamin Netanyahu, whose Likud party has won 32 seats.

In the past year, the controversial MP has spearheaded settler stormings of the Al-Aqsa compound, moved his parliamentary office to a yard next to a Palestinian house - whose residents are threatened with settler expulsion - and called Haaretz "the newspaper of Hamas".

Ben-Gvir, who lives in the illegal settlement of Kiryat Arba in the Palestinian city of Hebron, tweeted on Wednesday, "Good morning, people of Israel."

"The time has come for a full-fledged rightwing government. It's time to be the landlords in our country!" he added.

Posted on: Nov 04 08:58

 A new nuclear-powered submarine that is soon set to enter service with the Russian navy has successfully fired a ballistic missile as part of final testing, the defence ministry said on Thursday.

In a statement, the ministry said the Generalissimus Suvorov had launched a Bulava intercontinental missile in the northern White Sea with a dummy payload that reached a test site in the Far East Russian region of Kamchatka.

The Bulava is designed to carry a nuclear warhead.

The Generalissimus Suvorov is the second Borei-A class submarine to be built. Moscow says it is equipped with cutting-edge navigation, radio engineering, sonar, and missile and torpedo weaponry systems.

Russian President Vladimir Putin made two speeches in September in which he indicated that he would, if needed, use nuclear weapons to defend Russia in its war in Ukraine, which his forces invaded eight months ago.

Posted on: Nov 04 08:56

Ukraine's Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia nuclear power station was operating on back-up diesel generators on Thursday after being disconnected from the Ukrainian power grid by Russian shelling, the Ukrainian nuclear energy company said.

Energoatom said the last remaining high voltage lines connecting the plant to the Ukrainian grid had been damaged in Wednesday's shelling, and that Moscow wanted to connect the plant to the Russian grid.

The facility in southern Ukraine, Europe's largest, has 15 days' worth of fuel to run the generators, Energoatom said.

Although the six reactors are shut down, they still need a constant supply of electricity to keep the nuclear fuel inside cool and prevent disaster.

Posted on: Nov 04 08:55

It’s been more than three years since the Islamic State appeared to be defeated after the terror group lost all the territory it had once controlled, and yet ISIS continues to wage an insurgency in both Iraq and Syria, according to the most recent quarterly report from the Lead Inspector General for Operation Inherent Resolve.

“Overall, compared with the same period in 2021, the frequency and severity of ISIS-claimed attacks decreased dramatically in Iraq, while attacks in Syria increased significantly, marking a rebound from historically low levels the previous year,” the report says.

Between July and September, ISIS carried out 74 attacks in Syria and 73 attacks in Iraq, the report says. Small cells based in rural areas mostly conducted hit-and-run attacks against local security forces along with occasional high-profile attacks in cities.

While roughly 2,500 U.S. troops are still in Iraq and another 900 service members are in Syria to help prevent ISIS from mounting a comeback, the report cites several factors beyond the U.S. military’s control that have made their mission more difficult, including third-party actors, such as Iran; political instability, especially Iraq’s problems forming a government; and social-economic instability.

Posted on: Nov 04 08:54

When Napoleon Bonaparte began his 1812 campaign to conquer Russia, he led the largest “coalition of the willing” in history. In addition to its French core, Bonaparte’s army of more than 400,000 consisted of Italian, Dutch, German, and Polish soldiers. They were at best unenthusiastic. Frankly, other than the French, only Napoleon’s Polish allies were truly eager to march on Moscow.

By the time Bonaparte’s multinational force reached Moscow, paralyzing cold, ruinous battles, exhaustion, disease, and poor logistical planning reduced the original invasion force to less than half of its original strength. It was not long before Prussia and its North German allies defected to the Russians while the remainder (minus the Poles) deserted or died on the march home. 

Today, the Biden White House appears to be considering the use of a multinational force aimed at Russia. The NATO alliance is unable to reach a unanimous decision to intervene militarily in support of Ukraine in its war with Russia. But as signaled recently by David Petraeus, the president and his generals are evaluating their own “coalition of the willing.” The coalition would allegedly consist of primarily, but not exclusively, Polish and Romanian forces, with the U.S. Army at its core, for employment in Ukraine.

Posted on: Nov 04 08:52

 The United States lacks concrete policies to properly document and address alleged misuse of its military equipment donations in Central America, a new government report has found, fuelling concerns that potential abuses will continue to go unchecked.

Between the US Departments of Defense and State, the US provided more than $66m in security assistance to Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras from 2017 through 2021.

Posted on: Nov 04 08:52

Apparently reading from the script, Malley insistence that "we are not going to focus" on the negotiations echoes earlier statements from the State Department. On October 12, State Department spokesman Ned Price used the same formulation, saying that the negotiations are "not our focus right now."

The Biden administration has walked so far away from the negotiations that another senior US official recently said that because of Iran’s response to protests and because of its support for Russia in the war in Ukraine, "even if Iran came back to the table today and said it wanted a nuclear deal, the U.S. was unlikely to move forward."

That senior Biden official went on to say that the US is virtually considering the deal dead and is "taking steps to ensure the US has a ready military option." Malley, while denying that diplomacy is totally dead, echoed those words too, declaring that Biden "is ready to use military means as a last resort to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon."

Posted on: Nov 04 08:51

China’s ambassador to the U.S. just became one of the more powerful people in the Chinese government.

But the Biden administration has given him the cold shoulder for much of his tenure — a posture that could further complicate the touchy relations between the superpowers.

Posted on: Nov 04 08:50

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi has called on other claimants to the South China Sea to “jointly resist” US pressure in the region, The South China Morning Post reported on Thursday.

China, Taiwan, the Philippines, Vietnam, Brunei, and Malaysia all have overlapping claims to the South China Sea. The US has inserted itself into the maritime dispute and formally rejected most of Beijing’s claims in 2020, which has been reaffirmed by the Biden administration.

The US rejected China’s claims under the framework of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), an international treaty that defines the rights of nations to territorial waters. While using UNCLOS to reject Beijing’s claims, the US is not a party to the treaty as it has never been ratified by the Senate.

Posted on: Nov 04 08:49

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has found no traces of undeclared nuclear activity at sites in Ukraine where Russia alleged work was being done to create a dirty bomb, a conventional explosive mixed with nuclear material.

The IAEA issued a statement Thursday that said its inspectors examined three sites in Ukraine at the request of the Ukrainian government and “did not find any indications of undeclared nuclear activities and materials at the locations.”

Russia began warning that Ukraine was preparing to use a dirty bomb toward the end of October, and Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu even spoke with his Western counterparts about the allegation. Russia also brought the issue to the UN and said its forces were preparing to work under “radioactive contamination.” 

Webmaster addition: How about the non-nuclear sites? Did you check there? After the stunts the IAEA pulled in Iraq, I would not accept this claim at face value.

Posted on: Nov 04 08:48

Senators Rob Portman (R-OH) and Chris Coons (D-DE) visited Kyiv on Thursday and pledged that there will still be bipartisan support for providing massive amounts of aid after the upcoming midterm elections.

“I am confident that bipartisan robust American support for the fight of the Ukrainian people will continue in Congress,” Coons said.

Supporters of Ukraine in Washington have been concerned after House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) said a Republican-controlled House won’t be willing to write a “blank check” for Ukraine. But other Republicans, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnel (R-KY), have been insisting the aid flow will continue unimpeded.

Coons and Portman met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky during their trip to Kyiv. Portman said that he vowed the US will be backing Ukraine until it achieves victory, which for Zelensky and his government means driving Russia out of all of the territory it controls, including Crimea.

Posted on: Nov 04 08:47

The US and South Korea are extending massive aerial war games after North Korea put on a massive show of force in response to the drills.

Washington and Seoul started their Vigilant Storm exercises on Monday, which were initially scheduled to run 24 hours a day for five days. This year’s Vigilant Storm is the largest-ever iteration of the drills, involving nearly 100 American warplanes and 140 South Korean aircraft, and about 1,600 planned sorties.

Pyongyang made it clear it would respond to the Vigilant Storm drills, and it launched 23 missiles on Wednesday, which is said to be the most North Korea has fired in a single day. North Korea also fired over 100 artillery rounds on the same day and launched six more missiles on Thursday.

Posted on: Nov 04 08:46

American special operators who are issued new short-barrel Sig Sauer Rattler personal defense weapons, or PDWs, may eventually be able to fire Soviet-designed 7.62x39mm ammunition from those guns. U.S. Special Operations Command says has an interest in buying 7.62x39mm caliber conversion kits for the weapons, which are already set to be able to be configured to fire .300 Blackout cartridges or 5.56x45mm rounds.

“Currently, the RSAR/PDW system is chambered in both the 5.56 NATO and .300 Black Out calibers,” the contracting notice says. “Due to developing requirements, USSOCOM is seeking 7.62x39mm upper receiver caliber conversion kits that are compatible with the SIG SAUER Rattler Lower Receiver.”

Posted on: Nov 04 08:44

Ukraine’s parliament on Thursday overwhelmingly passed a draft “victory” budget for 2023 that includes a record $38 billion deficit that Kyiv is expecting its Western backers to cover.

“Do everything to bring victory closer. It was with this philosophy that we drafted this budget,” Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal said after the vote, according to Reuters. The budget passed with 295 lawmakers voting in favor, none opposing, and 35 abstaining.

Shmyhal said that the budget includes about $27 billion for military and security spending. To put the figure in perspective, the Pentagon says the US has pledged $17.9 billion in arms for Ukraine since the February 24 invasion. According to the German-based Kiel Institute, total US military aid for Ukraine since January 24 stands at about $27 billion.

Shmyhal has previously said that the US, the EU, and the IMF to pay for the $38 billion budget deficit. He expects the US to hand over $18 billion for the deficit and for the EU and IMF to contribute the rest.

Webmaster addition: I wonder who Ukraine expects to come up with that extra $38 billion! :)

Posted on: Nov 04 08:42

EvG explains, “Credit has increased dramatically through derivatives. All instruments being issued now by banks, pension funds, stock funds, it’s all synthetic. There is no real underlying payments in anything almost..."

" Therefore, my estimate for derivatives would be at least $2 quadrillion, and I think that is probably conservative. Then, we have debt on top of that of $300 trillion, and we also have a couple hundred trillion dollars of unfunded liabilities. So, we are talking about $2.5 quadrillion, and that’s with a global GDP of $80 trillion. So, there is a disaster waiting to happen, and especially because all this created money has created no value whatsoever...

I always knew this would collapse, and it’s taken longer than I expected, but I think we are at the end of a major era...

These derivatives, at some point in the coming few years, will actually turn into debt. Central banks will have to cover all the outstanding liabilities of the commercial banks as we are seeing now with Credit Suisse, Bank of England and etc. This is going to happen across the board. Whether it’s called derivatives or called debt, as far as I am concerned, it’s the same thing. It will have the same effect on the world financial system, which will be disastrous, of course.

EvG says the derivative markets were simply a way for financial institutions to carry debt and not show it on their balance sheets. In the end, everything will balance out. EvG goes on to say,

Nobody can repay the debt, and they can’t even pay interest...So, therefore, when the debt implodes, so will the assets that were financed by this debt.

Posted on: Nov 04 08:42

The largest city in Crimea and the home of Russia's Black Sea Fleet woke up to heavy explosions and anti-aircraft fire during an attack Russian officials say included aerial drones and especially unmanned surface vessels (USV), both of which were 'suicide' or 'kamikaze' types mean to explode when they arrive at their targets.

The Ukrainian Armed Forces have since released incredible footage purportedly from aboard several unmanned surface vessels used in the attack. The video shows the purported attack run on a guided missile frigate and Russian forces engaging the USVs with machine-gun fire.

The USVs appear to be of the same design as the mystery drone boat found near Sevastopol in September.

Russian officials claimed that only one vessel was slightly damaged while all Ukrainian aerial drones were destroyed and that "British specialists" were involved, without offering any proof. Russian-installed officials in occupied Crimea call it "the most massive since the beginning of the special operation."

The low-light footage clearly shows a Project 11356R Admiral Grigorovich-class frigate — one of Russia's most modern and powerful warships — underway, as well as Sevastopol harbor. There are reports that the Admiral Makarov, reportedly the Black Sea Fleet's new flagship after the Project 1164 Slava-class cruiser Moskva sank in April, was damaged in the attack. At this time, The War Zone cannot independently confirm reports about damage to the Admiral Makarov, though the low-light footage from the USV appears to show it getting very close to the missile frigate before cutting to other video of the harbor and an explosion on CCTV.

Posted on: Nov 04 08:42

Berlin must change the way it deals with China as the country lurches back toward a more openly "Marxist-Leninist" political trajectory, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz wrote in an op-ed on Thursday.

In his article for POLITICO and the German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Scholz defended his trip to China on Thursday but stressed that German companies would need to take steps to reduce "risky dependencies" in industrial supply chains, particularly in terms of "cutting-edge technologies." Scholz noted that President Xi Jinping was deliberately pursuing a political strategy of making international companies reliant on China.

"The outcome of the Communist Party Congress that has just ended is unambiguous: Avowals of Marxism-Leninism take up a much broader space than in the conclusions of previous congresses ... As China changes, the way that we deal with China must change, too," Scholz wrote.

Posted on: Nov 04 08:39

On 3 November, Jordanian King Abdullah II met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov to stress the importance of stabilizing Syria through the unification of the land and people, as well as guaranteeing the safe return of refugees.

During the meeting, the Jordanian king highlighted several burdens that Jordan continues to face due to the war in Syria, including multiple drug smuggling attempts. The two also discussed regional developments and reviewed bilateral ties between Amman and Moscow and discussed the potential strategies to resolve the Russia-Ukraine war.

The two sides also discussed the topic of Palestine, to determine an effective negotiation strategy to achieve peace and reach a two-state solution.

Posted on: Nov 04 08:38

Twitter employees are bracing for a mass cull of jobs as part of Elon Musk’s attempt to cost cut by sacking 3,700 staff around the world following his $44billion takeover - around half the workforce.

Staff at the social media giant are set to discover their fates at 9am PST – with workers in the UK discovering the news in the middle of the night.

Those in New York offices are anxiously waiting for an email with the subject ‘Your Role at Twitter’ to drop into their inboxes by 12pm today, while those in London will find out their fates at 4pm.

Webmaster addition: If workers are being laid off, they must be given notice. How much varies from state to state. But if a worker is fired  for cause, there is no advance notice.

Posted on: Nov 04 08:34

Iran is seeking Russia’s help to bolster its nuclear weapons program, US intelligence officials believe, as Tehran looks for a backup plan should a lasting nuclear deal with world powers fail to materialize.

The intelligence suggests that Iran has been asking Russia for help acquiring additional nuclear materials and with nuclear fuel fabrication, sources briefed on the matter said. The fuel could help Iran power its nuclear reactors and could potentially further shorten Iran’s so-called “breakout time” to create a nuclear weapon.

Experts emphasized to CNN, however, that the nuclear proliferation risk varies depending on which reactor the fuel is used for. And it is also not clear whether Russia has agreed to help – the Kremlin has long been outwardly opposed to Iran obtaining a nuclear weapon.

Posted on: Nov 04 08:27

South Korea scrambled about 80 fighter jets after detecting a large number of North Korean warplanes during a four-hour period Friday, the country’s military said, in a further escalation of regional tensions.

In a statement, the South Korean military said it spotted about 180 North Korean military aircraft between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. local time, a day after Pyongyang is believed to have conducted the failed test of an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM).

Tensions in the Korean Peninsula began rising Monday, when the “Vigilant Storm” joint military drills began between the United States and South Korea, involving hundreds of aircraft and thousands of service members from both countries, according to the US.

North Korea accused the allies of provocative action and on Wednesday launched 23 missiles from its east and west coasts – the most missiles it’s fired in a single day – into waters either side of the peninsula, prompting Seoul to respond with three surface-to-air missiles.

Posted on: Nov 04 08:27

As the results of the election in Israel are being finalized – an election wherein millions of Palestinians living under Israeli dominance have no say—consternation outside of Israel among its supporters is ballooning. The reactions from Israel’s boosters are telling.

U.S. Ambassador to Israel Tom Nides, a man almost as slavishly devoted to Israel as his predecessor, David Friedman, said, “It’s too early to predict the precise makeup of the coalition until all votes are counted.” But he “intends to keep working with Israel’s government on the two countries’ shared interests and values.”

Those interests and values, as reflected in what is certain to be the second largest party in Benjamin Netanyahu’s new governing coalition, include the most blatant racism, clear fascism, extreme hostility to LGBTQ+ people, and a leader, Itamar Ben-Gvir so radical that, in 2007, he was convicted by an Israeli court, of incitement to racism and support for a terrorist group. 

Posted on: Nov 04 08:27