At least 21 dead as resurgent winds fan California wildfires

At least 21 dead as resurgent winds fan California wildfires (Source Reuters) Firefighters, facing resurgent winds and bone-dry conditions on Wednesday, battled to halt the advance of wildfires that have killed at least 21 people, destroyed 3,500 homes and businesses and blanketed Northern California’s famed wine country in smoke. A rash of 22 blazes spanning nine counties have scorched nearly 170,000 acres (68,797 hectares) since the first flames erupted on Sunday night in what state fire officials say is one of the deadliest wildfire outbreaks in California history. More than 550 people were still reported missing in Sonoma County on Wednesday morning, said Jennifer Laroque, a spokeswoman for the county’s emergency operations center. It was unclear how many might be actual fire victims rather than evacuees who merely failed to check in with authorities after fleeing their homes. Officials urged displaced residents to let their family members know they were safe. The Sonoma County town of Santa Rosa, the largest city in the wine country region, was particularly hard hit by one of the fiercest blazes, the so-called Tubbs fire. Block after block of some neighborhoods were virtually obliterated with nothing left but charred debris, broken walls, chimneys and the steel frames of burned-out cars.”It’s like driving through a war zone,” J.J. Murphy, 22, one of thousands of evacuees, said of the area around his home in the Sonoma Valley community of Glen Ellen. Murphy, five relatives, a bird, a dog and two cats piled into their camper van to flee on Monday, he said. “It’s crazy how in just a few hours a place I’ve recognized all my life I can’t recognize,” he said at a roadside food stop in the town of Sonoma. Gusts of up to 50 miles per hour (80 kph) and 10 percent humidity were forecast for Wednesday and Thursday for parts of the Northern California fire zone. Firefighters worked on Wednesday to strengthen fire containment lines as winds picked up again.

“We’re not out of the woods and we’re not going to be out of the woods for a great number of days to come,” Ken Pimlott, director of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire), said at a news conference.



Yellowstone’s supervolcano could erupt much faster than anyone

Yellowstone’s supervolcano could erupt much faster than anyone thought (Source BGR News) There’s a dangerous giant sitting dormant in the United States, and when it finally wakes up it has the potential to cause utter devastation. I’m talking of course about the supervolcano hiding beneath Yellowstone National Park, and while it’s long been thought that any hint of a possible eruption would be seen thousands and thousands of years in advance, new research throws that safety buffer right out the window, suggesting that the Yellowstone Supervolcano could go from calm to critical in as little as decades. The research, which was presented at the IAVCEI 2017 volcanology conference in Portland, focuses on the most recent eruption of the volcano, which is thought to have occurred some 631,000 years ago. But rather than taking several thousands of years to build up, as previously thought, the newest data suggests that the most recent eruption was prompted by new magma pushing into the Yellowstone system just decades ahead of the big event. This much more rapid timeframe between dormancy and eruption is obviously very troubling, especially when you consider the global impact that the event could have. The most recent eruption of the Yellowstone system spewed an estimated 240 cubic miles of material into the air. 2.1 million years ago an even larger eruption occurred, sending 585 cubic miles of rock and dust skyward. For comparison, that’s approximately 6,000 times the amount of material launched from Mount St. Helens during its 1980 eruption. “It’s shocking how little time is required to take a volcanic system from being quiet and sitting there to the edge of an eruption,” Hannah Shamloo, graduate student at Arizona State University and lead author of the study, said of the discovery. Still, at the moment there’s little reason to be concerned, as the Yellowstone Supervolcano seems to be perfectly content to continue its unusually long quiet spell. When the mighty beast decides to wake back up is anyone’s guess, but now at least we know that we might not have nearly as much warning as we once thought.


US-North Korean War Could Trigger a Russian-American Nuclear Exchange

US-North Korean War Could Trigger a Russian-American Nuclear Exchange (Source Russia Insider)

In the event that North Korea tests another Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) or potentially launches an attack on the United States, the Pentagon could try to intercept those missiles with the Ground-Based Midcourse Defense (GMD) system. However, as many analysts have pointed out, the interceptors that miss their target could reenter the Earth’s atmosphere inside Russian airspace. Such an eventuality could prove to be a serious problem unless steps are taken to address the issue now. “You should also be aware of the concern that those interceptors fired from Alaska that miss or don’t engage an incoming North Korean ICBM(s) will continue on and reenter the Earth’s atmosphere over Russia,” Kingston Reif, director for disarmament and threat reduction policy at the Arms Control Association told The National Interest. “This carries a nontrivial risk of unintended escalation.” Jeffrey Lewis, director of the East Asia Nonproliferation Program at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey, told The National Interest that the United States should open a dialogue with Russia on the issue immediately. “Good god, yes,” Lewis said emphatically. Olya Oliker, director of the Russia and Eurasia program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies agreed.

“We have time now to consult with Moscow, talk about plans, discuss how notification would work,” Oliker told The National Interest.

“This isn’t the rocket science part of all this.”

Indeed, in a recent op-ed, Lewis argues that an American interceptor launch could accidentally trigger a nuclear exchange if the Russians mistook such a weapon for an incoming ICBM.

“We can’t assume that Russia would realize the launch from Alaska was a missile defense interceptor rather than an ICBM. From Russia, the trajectories might appear quite similar, especially if the radar operator was under a great deal of stress or pressure,” Lewis wrote for The Daily Beast. “It doesn’t matter how Russia’s early warning system ought to work on paper, the reality of the Russian system in practice has been a lot less impressive.”

Joshua H. Pollack, editor of the The Nonproliferation Review and a senior research associate at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies, said that the danger is real.

“Whether they actually would enter Russian airspace is probably less important than whether they break the line of sight of Russia’s early-warning radars,” Pollack said. “They do appear to plan in terms of launch-on-warning. That’s why I call this scenario ‘Russian Roulette.’”


Iran and North Korea: Why Donald Trump Has Made Nuclear War More Likely

Iran and North Korea: Why Donald Trump Has Made Nuclear War More Likely, According to a Former Defense Secretary (Source Newsweek)

William Perry has spent much of his career professionally worried about the possibility of nuclear war. Before a stint as the 19th U.S. secretary of defense under President Bill Clinton, Perry frequently advised the government on national security during the Cold War. He was on the team that analyzed surveillance photos exposing the Soviet Union’s installation of nuclear armed missiles in Cuba in October 1962, during the Cuban missile crisis. When the Cold War ended, says Perry, now 90, he thought the threat of imminent nuclear catastrophe would recede. But he was wrong. It’s now worse than ever, he says, citing the return of tensions between Russia and the U.S., alongside new threats of regional nuclear conflict, such as one between India and Pakistan. He set up his organization, the Perry Project, “to educate and engage the public on nuclear danger.” And now there’s Donald Trump. “I think the probability of war has increased since January, partly because of actions that President Trump has taken or not taken,” Perry tells Newsweek. Perry’s comments, made in an interview on the sidelines of the International Luxembourg Forum on Preventing Nuclear Catastrophe, come as Trump is facing two escalating international situations with a nuclear dimension—the future of America’s nuclear agreement with Iran and the escalating rhetoric between the U.S. and North Korea. On Iran, Perry is clear. “If the deal were abandoned, I think it’s quite clear that Iran will resume the nuclear program that they had before the deal was signed,” he says. “There will be no better deal, there will be no other deal. We will have either that deal or no deal at all.”

North Korea says Trump is ‘Insane’ and Has ‘Lit the Wick of War

NORTH KOREA SAYS TRUMP IS ‘INSANE’ AND HAS ‘LIT THE WICK OF WAR’(Source Newsweek) North Korea threatened the U.S. with “a hail of fire” on Wednesday over President Donald Trump’s recent statements toward the reclusive nation at the United Nations, Reuters reports. Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un have been engaged in an ongoing war of words in recent weeks, particularly after the president threatened to “totally destroy” North Korea during his first address in front of the U.N. Kim referred to Trump as a “mentally deranged dotard” in the wake of his speech and the two have continued to exchange insults since. North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho responded to these recent developments Wednesday by stating the advancement of his country’s nuclear program would facilitate a “balance of power with the U.S.,” and suggested the animosity between the U.S. and North Korea would soon escalate beyond insults. “With his bellicose and insane statement at the United Nations, Trump, you can say, has lit the wick of a war against us. We need to settle the final score, only with a hail of fire, not words,” Ri said. “We have almost reached the last point on the journey toward our final goal — to achieve a real balance of power with the United States,” Ri added. “Our principal position is that we will never agree to any talks in which our nuclear weapons will be the subject of negotiations.” Trump has reacted to previous provocations from North Korea and its leaders with inflammatory tweets, in which he’s referred to Kim as “Rocket Man.” It’s likely that the president will feel inclined to publicly respond to the latest threat from his adversaries in Pyongyang. The U.S. has attempted to pressure North Korea into ceasing its nuclear program and missile tests via economic sanctions and other diplomatic measures, but has so far been unsuccessful. This has prompted Trump to indicate he believes diplomacy is useless in terms of dealing with the North Korean threat. The president’s apparent preference for the military option has created tension between him and members of his administration, including Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Defense Secretary James Mattis. 

Europe, China, Japan and The New World Order

Europe, China, Japan and The New World Order (Source

The alliance between the United States and Western Europe was the stabilizing bond of the post-World War II world order. The breakup of this alliance has been the subject of many articles. It is perhaps this development that most concerns world leaders. This is not just a passing phase due to the presidency of Donald Trump. Tensions within the nato alliance have been increasing for years. Even during the Cold War, France tried to steer between the two superpowers, and Germany tried to keep its options open. In spite of these tensions, the alliance held together for seven decades. Now, however, relations have plunged to an all-time low. China sees these transatlantic ties weakening, and it senses an opportunity. If President Trump makes an unpopular trip to Europe, Chinese leaders follow with a visit of their own. If America makes a move that Europeans don’t like, China does the opposite. President Trump denounces free trade? Chinese President Xi Jinping comes to Davos to personally denounce protectionism. Mr. Trump pulls out of the Paris climate-change accords? The EU and China publish a document calling the accords a “historic achievement” and sign their first-ever bilateral agreement on climate change.The European Union is already China’s largest trading partner. Many European leaders, including German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel and Eurogroup President Jeroen Dijsselbloem, have already aggressively called for the EU to turn to China in order to counter President Trump. A Pew survey published in July found that majorities in Sweden, Germany, the Netherlands, France and Spain all believe that China is the world’s leading economic power. The two also already have a massive trade relationship. China is the EU’s biggest source of imports and number two destination for exports. Trade between the two averages over €1 billion a day. No wonder Andrei Lungu, president of the Romanian Institute for the Study of the Asia-Pacific, concluded that “the stars are perfectly aligned for the EU-China partnership to reach its full potential and become the world’s G-2”. As an economic giant without a geopolitical or military footprint in the Asia-Pacific, the EU is in a perfect position to engage with China,” he noted. “If the world’s foremost power has decided to go on vacation, somebody needs to take over its responsibilities,” he wrote. “The EU and China, the other two world economic powers, are the only ones that can.”

CONFIRMED: Vegas shooting suspect prescribed dangerous drugs

CONFIRMED: Vegas shooting suspect prescribed dangerous drugs – just like many previous mass shooters (Source

The Las Vegas Review-Journal has obtained information that Stephen Paddock, the suspect in the largest mass shooting in modern US history was prescribed a powerful psychotropic drug called diazepam in June of this year, just under four months prior to the shooting.

This fits a decades long trend among mass shooters and others who engage in cruel and unusual criminal acts being on powerful, yet legal psychotropic drugs. The Duran accurately predicted two crucial realities in respect of the suspect’s profile, first of all that there was a connection to Philippines  where an almost identical shooting took place 4 months prior to the Vegas massacre and secondly, that suspect Stephen Paddock was likely taking powerful psychotropic drugs. Both of these claims have now been confirmed.

“Records from the Nevada Prescription Monitoring Program show Paddock was prescribed 50 10-milligram diazepam tablets by Henderson physician Dr. Steven Winkler on June 21. Paddock purchased the drug — its brand name is Valium — without insurance at a Walgreens store in Reno on the same day it was prescribed. He was supposed to take one pill a day.

Diazepam is a sedative-hypnotic drug in the class of drugs known as benzodizepines, which studies have shown can trigger aggressive behaviour. Chronic use or abuse of sedatives such as diazepam can also trigger psychotic experiences, according to”. According to the Nevada state monitoring report, the suspect Stephen Paddock was first prescribed the drugs in 2016.

This validates an earlier report in The Duran which questioned whether the suspect the Las Vegas mass shooting was taking powerful psychotropic drugs as were most previous mass shooters.

The United States has the highest rate per capita use of anti-depressant drugs and boasts the highest consumption of opiates in the world. However, according to the World Health Organisation, the United States is not the country with the highest rates of clinical depression, in spite of US doctors tending to over-diagnose mental disorders in comparison with the global average. Moreover, there is a clear linkage between criminals who engage in mass shooting attacks and their use of psychotropic anti-depressant drugs.


Rothschild Just Dumped Massive Amounts of US Assets

Rothschild Just Dumped Massive Amounts of US Assets, Sending an Ominous Signal (Source

In what is a sure signal to oligarchs across the globe, Lord Jacob Rothschild, founder and chairman of RIT Capital Partners, has substantially minimized his exposure to what he views as a risky and unstable U.S. capital market. In the half-yearly financial report for RIT Capital Partners, Rothschild explained the company’s aggressive moves to significantly reduce exposure to U.S. assets.

“We do not believe this is an appropriate time to add to risk. Share prices have in many cases risen to unprecedented levels at a time when economic growth is by no means assured,” Rothschild said in his semi-annual report.

Additionally, Rothschild stated that he believes quantitative easing (QE) programs employed by central banks, such as the Federal Reserve Bank in the U.S. will “come to an end.”

Rothschild was quoted in the report as saying, “The period of monetary accommodation may well be coming to an end.”

Signaling a potential disaster in the making in the United States financial markets, Rothschild reduced the investments RIT Capital Partners has in the U.S. dollar by nearly fifty percent. On December 31, 2016, RIT Capital Partners reported a 62 percent net value asset investment in U.S. dollars. In the latest report released by RIT Capital Partners on June 30, 2017, the company has a 37 percent net value asset investment in U.S. dollars.


Putin strikes again: Russian Hackers reportedly stole NSA Data on Cyber Defense


The Wall Street Journal reported that hackers working for the Russian government have stolen data describing how US intelligence agencies infiltrate foreign computer networks and how they defend against cyberattacks. The data were stolen after a National Security Agency contractor removed the highly classified material and put it on his home computer, according to WSJ’s anonymous sources.

News of the hack, which hasn’t been exposed previously, explains the federal government’s abrupt crackdown on Moscow-based security firms Kaspersky Labs. As WSJ explains, the contractor may have been targeted after hackers identified the files thanks to the contractor’s use of a popular antivirus software created by Kaspersky. According to WSJ, the hack is considered by experts to be one of the most significant security breaches in recent years. It offers a rare glimpse into how the intelligence community thinks Russian intelligence exploits the widely available software products. It appears to be one of the most harmful infiltrations of government servers since hackers purportedly sponsored by the Chinese military stole records about US intelligence assets from the Office of Personnel Management’s servers.  The incident occurred in 2015 but wasn’t discovered until spring of last year, said the people familiar with the matter. If the report is accurate, the breach would be the first known incident of Kaspersky software being exploited by Russian hackers for the purposes of espionage. The company, which sells its antivirus products in the US, had revenue of more than half a billion dollars in Western Europe and the Americas in 2016, according to International Data Corp. By Kaspersky’s own account it has more than 400 million users world-wide, though it’s about to lose all of its customers from the US government.

Russia, Saudi Arabia sign billions in Energy Deals


Diplomatic history was made when Putin met with the King of Saudi Arabia Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud – the first state visit to Russia by a reigning Saudi monarch – and the launch of a new level of relations between the countries. The Saudi monarch’s visit comes after decades of strained relations. More recently, tensions were high over the war in Syria. Russia and Iran have staunchly backed Syrian President Assad while Saudi Arabia has supported the Sunni rebels fighting to oust him. However, relations began to improve in recent years and Salman’s heir, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, has held several meetings with Putin. There are also common points: the Saudi kingdom, much like Russia, has been hit by the fall in oil prices since mid-2014. Despite regional disagreements, the world’s two largest oil-producers found common ground on energy policy in November, when they led a deal between OPEC and non-OPEC states to cut production in a bid to shore up crude prices. So far that deal is holding and prices have recovered slightly to above $50 a barrel. In an apparent reference to the output deal, Salman told Putin that Saudi Arabia is “eager to continue the positive cooperation between our nations in the world oil market, which fosters global economic growth.” After the meeting the two countries launched a joint energy investment fund worth $1 billion, which could include investments in natural gas projects and petrochemical plants. Among the deal signed, Saudi state oil firm Aramco, the world’s biggest energy company,  signed a deal with Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) and gas processing and petrochemicals company Sibur on joint projects in the area of oil refining. Amin Al-Nasser, Aramco chief executive said: “This marks a new milestone in business relations and partnerships with our counterparts in Russia. The visit by The Custodian of The Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud to Russia will further enhance ties and will foster collaboration among Saudi and Russian companies on various fronts.”