Back live Wednesday!
The federal government and U.S. taxpayers are effectively underwriting massive returns for Lockheed Martin shareholders, returns so impressive that the weapons firm’s CEO, James Taiclet, boasted about how the company handed $11 billion over to shareholders in 2022 via share repurchases and dividend payments, creating “significant value for our shareholders.”
Taiclet, speaking on a January 24 earnings call, said that Lockheed, the world’s largest weapons firm, was “ending the year with a total shareholder return of 40 percent.”
Lockheed may be a for-profit, publicly traded, company but those stock buybacks, dividends and appreciated stock value are largely underwritten by U.S. taxpayers. The company’s 2021 annual report acknowledged that, “…71% of our $67.0 billion in net sales were from the U.S. Government.”
Political media critics often accuse journalists of being “stenographers” for those in power when they are seen as regurgitating what a government official says in an article without offering any critical assessment of that official’s claim or providing a counter claim from someone of similar expertise.
But sometimes, media outlets take this practice to a whole other level and effectively serve as government public relations firms, as illustrated when CNN, NBC News, and Reuters published stories this week on a joint U.S.-Israel military drill in the Middle East.
All three articles made exactly the same four points. First, that this was a “massive” drill that came together quickly:
In comments made to EU lawmakers this week, International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) chief Rafael Grossi tried to raise the alarm about Iran’s civilian nuclear program, claiming that Iran could, if it so chose, fuel “several” nuclear weapons from its existing stockpile.
This accusation is a continuation of Grossi’s past suggestions, fueling immediate media frenzy about a proliferation threat, and showing a flagrant lack of understanding for the facts of a nuclear program, let alone the status of Iran’s stockpile.
Under the suspended JCPOA nuclear deal, Iran was to send excess uranium from its stockpile abroad to keep it from growing too large. With the US not in the deal, no one is taking that excess uranium, and the stockpile just keeps growing steadily, with some 70 kg of 60% purity uranium amassed at this point.
The important facts of the case, however, are more practical, and generally ignored in the press. The term “weapons-grade uranium” refers to uranium which could be used in an atomic weapon, and is of a minimum of 90% purity.
Iran’s highest level of enrichment, even years after JCPOA fell apart, is still only 60%, well short of weapons-grade. Iran has never even attempted to produce uranium more highly enriched than this, and its much-vaunted stockpile subsequently includes no weapons-grade uranium to fuel any weapons at all.
The IAEA is no doubt aware of all of this, but consistently presents the “highly enriched uranium” (HEU) of 60% as a problem. This both parrots US efforts to spin anything Iran does as a threat, and ignores the US role in the stockpile being so large in size in the first place. At the end of the day, 60% uranium is still no direct proliferation risk without substantial further processing, which Iran has neither attempted nor itself proven capable of.
Kosovo and Serbia should state by March whether they accept an international plan to normalise relations or face repercussions from the European Union and United States, the EU's envoy on the matter said on Wednesday.
Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008, a decade after a guerrilla uprising against Belgrade's repressive rule. Over the past decade, the two have been holding normalisation talks under EU mediation, with a successful outcome key to realising the aspirations of both to join the wealthy bloc.
Last week EU, U.S., German, French and Italian envoys have met leaders of both countries to try to convince them to sign an 11-point deal meant to defuse tensions lingering since the 1998-99 conflict.
Western powers have become impatient with the intransigence of both sides, fearing that frequent strife between minority Serbs in north Kosovo and the majority ethnic-Albanian government of Pristina could degenerate into a wider conflict.
The Palestinian Authority (PA) decided to immediately end the so-called security coordination with Israel, following a meeting with PA President Mahmoud Abbas to discuss today’s Israeli army’s massacre in Jenin, the official news agency WAFA reported.
Nine Palestinians were killed and 20 others were wounded by Israeli army gunfire on Thursday morning, during a brutal military raid into the city and neighboring refugee camp, the official news agency WAFA reported.
In a brutal assault on the Jenin refugee camp Thursday morning, Israeli forces killed nine Palestinians and injured over a dozen others, making it the deadliest day for Palestinians in 2023 and one of the single deadliest raids in the West Bank in years. A tenth Palestinian was killed later in the day in al-Ram during clashes with the Israeli army.
According to the Palestinian Ministry of Health (MOH), among those killed was an “elderly” woman identified as Magda Obaid, 61. Eight others were killed in the brutal assault on the camp.
According to Defense for Children International Palestine, two of the Palestinians killed during the raid were children. DCIP identified them as Abdallah Marwan Juma’a Mousa, 17, and Waseem Amjad Aref al-Ja’s, 16. DCIP’s reports conflict with initial reports from the MOH, which reported Mousa to be 18, and al-Ja’s to be 22.
Israeli occupation forces killed nine Palestinians and injured at least twenty on Thursday during violent raids in the occupied city of Jenin and its refugee camp.
The raids began on the evening of January 25 and persisted into January 26, in what is being described as "one of the deadliest days" in the West Bank since last year.
According to the Palestinian Prisoners Club (PPC), several have been detained throughout the raids and transferred for interrogation by Israel’s security service. As a result of the incursions, intense clashes broke out between Israeli troops and resistance fighters, several of whom sustained bullet wounds.
An elderly woman has also been reported among the dead, according to security officials. Eyewitnesses have referred to the situation as a "massacre."
The Israeli army cut off the power supply to the Jenin camp, while also blocking journalists and ambulance teams from entering. Health officials have said that injuries are continuing to accumulate.
"There is an invasion that is unprecedented in the past period, in terms of how large it is and the number of injuries … The ambulance driver tried to get to one of the martyrs who was on the floor, but the Israeli forces shot directly at the ambulance and prevented them from approaching him," Wissam Baker, head of Jenin’s public hospital, told media.
The installation of wind and solar power projects is slowing down in the United States, with some projects being canceled over persistent cost issues and community animosity.
New utility-scale solar installations are estimated to have fallen by 40 percent in 2022 compared to the previous year, according to a report from research firm Wood Mackenzie. Utility-scale solar deployments in the third quarter of 2022 were 36 percent lower when compared to Q3, 2021, and 9 percent lower compared to Q2, 2022.
“The low installation figures are the result of previous project delays and continued supply chain constraints,” the report said.
During the third quarter, new wind installations are calculated to have crashed by 77.5 percent compared to the same period a year ago based on another report by S&P Global Market Intelligence. Between July and September, U.S. developers only added 501 MW of new wind power capacity, down 22 percent from Q3, 2021.
“No other third quarter saw lower wind capacity additions since at least 2015. The 4,500 MW of new wind capacity added in the first three quarters of 2022 is less than half of that added by the end of 2021’s third quarter, 9,223 MW,” the report states.
NASA and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) announced a plan on Tuesday to test out a nuclear-powered thermal rocket engine which will enable NASA-crewed missions to Mars, according to NASA.
Artist concept of Demonstration for Rocket to Agile Cislunar Operations (DRACO) spacecraft, which will demonstrate a nuclear thermal rocket engine. Nuclear thermal propulsion technology could be used for future NASA crewed missions to Mars.
The program, called Demonstration Rocket for Agile Cislunar Operations, or DRACO, could allow for faster transit time, an increased payload capacity, and higher power for instrumentation and communication.
In a nuclear thermal rocket engine, a fission reactor is used to generate extremely high temperatures. The engine transfers the heat produced by the reactor to a liquid propellant, which is expanded and exhausted through a nozzle to propel the spacecraft. Nuclear thermal rockets can be three or more times more efficient than conventional chemical propulsion. -NASA
Timing is everything, and it may determine the fate of Georgia’s former president, Mikheil Saakashvili. Saakashvili was president of Georgia from 2004 to 2013, and governor of Ukraine’s Odesa Oblast in 2015 and 2016. He returned to Georgia on October 1, 2021 and promptly started a hunger strike to protest previous convictions and new charges against him, including battery, misappropriation, abuse of power, and embezzlement.
Recently, there has been a groundswell of protest to force the Georgian government, led by the Georgian Dream party, to free Saakashvili so he can seek medical attention in the U.S. or Europe for his deteriorating health. His dire condition may be caused by neglect and heavy metal poisoning, and a council of physicians convened by Georgia’s state ombudsperson Nino Lomjaria declared the prison clinic (Vivamedi Clinic) “fails to meet his medical needs.” His condition is likely worsened by petty harassment by the government, including turning off the electricity to the clinic.
Saakashvili demonstrated bad judgement in the past, by starting a war with Russia in 2008, and returning to Georgia despite earlier convictions and with new charges pending against him, despite an earlier pledge to not return. And he made it easy for the Georgian authorities by entering the country illegally, inside a cargo container. (Saakashvili was stripped of his Georgian citizenship in 2015 after he accepted Ukrainian citizenship.)
Lockheed Martin has said that it’s ready to meet demands for F-16 fighter jets if the US and its allies choose to ship them to Ukraine.
So far, the US and its allies have been hesitant to send fighter jets to Ukraine due to concerns that they could be used to target Russian territory. But the Western powers seem less and less concerned about escalation as the US and Germany have now pledged to send their main battle tanks.
Frank St. John, chief operating officer of Lockheed, told Financial Times that there has been a "lot of conversation about third-party transfer of F-16s," which would involve European nations armed with the F-16 shipping them to Ukraine.
St. John said Lockheed wasn’t involved in the conversations but was preparing for the eventuality. He said the arms maker was "going to be ramping production on F-16s in Greenville [South Carolina] to get to the place where we will be able to backfill pretty capably any countries that choose to do third-party transfers to help with the current conflict."
The Netherlands expressed openness to sending its F-16s to Ukraine last week, with the Dutch foreign minister saying it would look at any requests for the aircraft with an "open mind." Another option could be for former Warsaw pact countries that are now NATO members to send their older Soviet-made MiG fighter jets to Ukraine and replace them with F-16s or other modern Western-made aircraft.
The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) issued an alert to taxpayers on Tuesday, reminding them that they must report all digital asset-related income and answer a new digital asset question on their 2022 federal income tax return or face consequences such as delayed refunds or even penalties.
The IRS said in a Jan. 24 release that a key change on 1040 forms this year is that the agency has replaced the term “virtual currency” with “digital assets,” in addition to some other modifications to the wording.
The “Yes” or “No” question, which was expanded and revised this year to update terminology, reads as follows:
“At any time during 2022, did you: (a) receive (as a reward, award or payment for property or services); or (b) sell, exchange, gift or otherwise dispose of a digital asset (or a financial interest in a digital asset)?”
“All taxpayers must answer the question regardless of whether they engaged in any transactions involving digital assets,” the agency cautioned.
It is a legal requirement to accurately report all income, including income from digital assets, on federal income tax returns. Failure to do so could result in non-compliance with tax laws and possible penalties.
The IRS has provided a detailed explanation of what constitutes a digital asset, which includes such things as stablecoins, non-fungible tokens (NFTs), and cryptocurrencies.