Disease that killed millions of China’s pigs poses global threa

Disease that killed millions of China’s pigs poses global threat (Source Reuters)

Bettie the beagle, a detector dog for U.S. Customs and Border Protection, picked up the scent of pork on a woman arriving from China at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport. Soon the dog’s handler discovered and confiscated a ham sandwich in the purse of a passenger who had flown on a China Eastern Airlines flight from Shanghai. The danger? That the food might be contaminated with African swine fever and spread the disease to the United States. China has lost millions of pigs in outbreaks of the disease, pushing its pork prices to record highs, forcing purchases of costly imports and roiling global meat markets. “It’s very likely it may come here if we aren’t more vigilant,” said Jessica Anderson, the handler for the pork-sniffing dog and an agricultural specialist for the border protection agency.

Bettie is among an expanded team of specially trained beagles at U.S. airports, part of a larger effort to protect the nation’s $23 billion pork industry from a disease that has decimated China’s hog herd, the world’s largest. Governments worldwide are scrambling to shore up their defenses as the disease spills over China’s borders, according to Reuters reporting from nine countries. The efforts underscore the grave threat to global agriculture.

African swine fever has spread to Southeast Asia and eastern Europe, with cases found in Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Korea, Myanmar, the Philippines, Poland, Belgium and Bulgaria. Around the globe, those countries and others that have so far sidestepped the epidemic are cracking down on travelers, increasing cargo screenings and banning meat imports.

China-US Phase One Trade Deal: Deep Seated Crisis Unresolved

The China-US Phase One Trade Deal: Deep Seated Crisis Unresolved (Source globalresearch.ca)

Under terms of the deal, “China will increase imports of US agricultural products, and the US will gradually eliminate its tariffs on Chinese goods,” the People’s Daily explained, adding: “The deal covers intellectual property rights, technology transfers, food and agricultural products, financial services, exchange rates and transparency.” According to China Center for International Economic Exchanges vice president Wei Jianguo, both countries will likely “step on each other’s feet” ahead, but further dialogue will follow the agreement reached. The official Xinhua news agency said the phase one deal is only “a good start” in a dispute that’s “longterm, complicated and arduous.” According to academic Wang Heng, phase two negotiations “may involve more difficult domestic regulatory issues such as subsidies, state-owned enterprises, and internet supervision,” adding: “Due to the complexity of the negotiations, it remains to be seen whether the two parties can reach a second-stage agreement.”

“If market competition rules such as subsidies are not agreed upon, economic and trade frictions may continue and affect the two countries and the international economy.” The US and China recognized the importance of establishing a legal system to protect intellectual property. Both countries agreed not to engage in competitive currency devaluation. US-based Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch is skeptical about how Sino/US trade will play out ahead, tweeting: “Trump believes his phase one #China deal will yield great benefits for US farmers, producers and other exporters. But his deal may not amount to more than a hill of soybeans.” What’s officially called “fully enforceable” may not turn out as expected. The US and China are rivals, not partners. Growing prominence of other nations on the world stage conflicts with US geopolitical aims. Its rage to dominate other nations, fueling distrust in Beijing and elsewhere, may be the greatest obstacle in the way of resolving major differences ahead. Despite agreement on a phase one deal, major irreconcilable differences between both countries may remain unresolvable no matter how many more rounds of talks are held.



(Source blacklistednews.com) By the series of actions in recent months in Iraq and across the Middle East, Washington has forced a strategic shift towards China and to an extent Russia and away from the United States. If events continue on the present trajectory it can well be that a main reason that Washington backed the destabilization of Assad in Syria, to block a planned Iran-Iraq-Syria gas pipeline, will now happen, short of Washington initiating a full scorched earth politics in the region. This is what we can call unintended consequences. If nature abhors a vacuum, so too does geopolitics. When President Trump months ago announced plans to pull US troops out of Syria and the Middle East generally, Russia and especially China began quietly to intensify contacts with key states in the region. Chinese involvement with Iraqi oil development and other infrastructure projects, though large, was significantly disrupted by the ISIS occupation of some one third of Iraqi territory. In September, 2019 Washington demanded that Iraq pay for completion of key infrastructure projects destroyed by the ISIS war– a war where Washington as well as Ankara, Israel and Saudi Arabia played the key hidden role—by giving the US government 50% of Iraqi oil revenues, an outrageous demand to put it politely. Iraq refused. Instead Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi went to Beijing as head of a 55-member delegation to discuss Chinese involvement in the rebuilding of Iraq. This visit did not go unnoticed in Washington. Even before that, Iraqi-China ties were significant. China was Iraq’s number one trading partner and Iraq was China’s third-leading source of oil after Saudi Arabia and Russia. In April 2019 in Baghdad, China’s Deputy Minister of Foreign Relations Lee Joon said China was ready to contribute to Iraq’s reconstruction.

Putin fast-tracks effort to extend his rule in Russia

Putin fast-tracks effort to extend his rule in Russia(Source Associated Press)

President Vladimir Putin on Thursday fast-tracked work on constitutional changes that could keep him in power well past the end of his term in 2024 while lawmakers quickly sealed his choice for new prime minister. Speaking to a working group created to draft constitutional changes, Putin cast his proposals as a way to strengthen parliament and to bolster democracy. Kremlin critics described the proposed changes as an attempt by Putin to secure his rule for life. The Russian leader proposed the sweeping amendments to the country’s constitution in Wednesday’s state of the nation address. Hours later, he fired Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, who had the job for eight years, and named tax chief Mikhail Mishustin to succeed him. The Kremlin-controlled lower house, the State Duma, quickly approved Mishustin in a unanimous vote Thursday. The reshuffle has shaken Russia’s political elites, who were left wildly speculating about Putin’s intentions and future Cabinet appointments.

A constitutional reform announced by Putin indicated he was working to carve out a new governing position for himself after his current six-year term ends in 2024, although it remains unclear what specific path he will take to stay in charge.

The former KGB operative has been in power for more than 20 years, longer than any other Russian or Soviet leader since Josef Stalin, who led from 1924 until his death in 1953. Under the law now in force, Putin must step down when his current term ends.

Alexei Navalny, Russia’s most prominent opposition leader, tweeted that Putin’s proposals reflected the 67-year-old president’s intention to “rule until he dies.”

Bonsai trees shaped like rats are popular in Vietnam

Bonsai trees shaped like rats are popular in Vietnam ahead of Lunar New Year (Source cnn.com) Farmers in Vietnam have come up with a unique way to herald the Year of the Rat. These bonsai trees are shaped to look like rats, and were made to order in small quantities. They take about a year to grow, and a meticulous hand is required to shape them so that all the fruits are exposed.   Kumquats — a citrus fruit with a sour tang — are growing on the ornamental trees. And the more ripe fruit a tree has, the higher its price, with the bonsais costing up to $215. It’s believed that the more kumquat fruits on the tree, the luckier your family will be in the new year. The kumquat tree has deep orange-colored fruits, and is a popular ornamental plant in Vietnam and parts of Asia during Lunar New Year because its many fruits symbolize fertility, abundance and luck. It’s believed that the more fruit on the tree, the luckier your family will be in the new year. The first day of the Lunar New Year, known as Tet in Vietnam, falls on January 25 and marks the start of the Year of the Rat in the Chinese zodiac. Many people who celebrate the festival prepare by spring cleaning and decorating their homes.                               

Australia’s ‘Apocalyptic fires

Australia’s ‘Apocalyptic’ Bushfire Crisis (Source thetrumpet.com) Fires continue to ravage Australia as it suffers through an unprecedented fire season. Over 100 fires are burning across 13 million acres of land, an area much larger than Denmark. The fires have destroyed more than 1,300 homes and killed 18 people. With dozens of fires still out of control and weather conditions worsening, the death toll is expected to rise. On Monday, 28-year-old Samuel McPaul became the 10th firefighter to die when his 12-ton fire truck was lifted into the air and slammed down onto its roof by a fire tornado in New South Wales. The two colleagues with him escaped with severe burns and injuries. Another fire truck suffered the same fate, but its firefighters survived. The New South Wales fire commissioner described Monday’s condition as “truly horrific.” On Tuesday, to the south of New South Wales in Mallacoota, Victoria, fires trapped citizens before they had time to evacuate. Four thousand holiday-makers and locals took refuge on the beach, trapped by blazes that encircled them. Boat owners took to the water for safety; many others entered the water for protection from the ember showers and heat. Images from Mallacoota are eerie. Thick smoke has turned day into night, and the area is blanketed by a thick red haze. Mallacoota resident Francesca Winterson described the situation: “We are surrounded by red sky, choking dust and choking smoke, and embers falling on the town.” Authorities warn that the fires are causing extreme thunderstorms and “ember attacks.”

Russian warship ‘aggressively approached’ US destroyer in Arabian

Russian warship ‘aggressively approached’ US destroyer in Arabian Sea(Source CNN)

“On Thursday, Jan. 9, while conducting routine operations in the North Arabian Sea, USS Farragut was aggressively approached by a Russian Navy ship,” the US Navy’s Fifth Fleet, which oversees naval operations in the Middle East, said in a statement. “Farragut sounded five short blasts, the international maritime signal for danger of a collision, and requested the Russian ship alter course in accordance with international rules of the road. The Russian ship initially refused but ultimately altered course,” the statement said, adding “While the Russian ship took action, the initial delay in complying with international rules while it was making an aggressive approach increased the risk of collision.” The Russian vessel ultimately turned away after bridge-to-bridge radio communication was established with the US destroyer.

A US Navy official says that the Farragut is part of the USS Harry S. Truman aircraft carrier group and the Farragut is tasked with intercepting potential enemy ships to prevent them from approaching the aircraft carrier. The Russian Defense Ministry responded Friday by accusing the USS Farragut of conducting dangerous maneuvers. The Defense Ministry said in a statement that the US Navy’s claim “doesn’t correspond with reality,” and accused the crew of the USS Farragut of acting “unprofessionally.” “It was the US Navy destroyer, being on the left of the Russian warship that was moving forward, grossly violated international rules for preventing collisions of ships at sea on January 9, 2020, having made a maneuver to cross the Russian ship’s course,” the statement said.

“The crew of the Russian warship acted professionally, taking a maneuver that prevented a collision with the intruder vessel,” the Russian Defense Ministry added. Russia responded similarly after the encounter in June, claiming it was the US ship that instigated the incident, according to comments carried by the state-run RIA-Novosti news agency. “When moving (on) parallel courses of a detachment of ships of the Pacific Fleet and a carrier group of the US Navy, the cruiser Chancellorsville suddenly changed its direction and crossed within 50 meters of the Admiral Vinogradov,” forcing the Russian destroyer to take emergency evasive action, the RIA-Novosti report said.

U.S allies see Mideast strategy vacuum that Putin can fill.

US allies see Mideast strategy vacuum that Putin can fill (Source Associated Press)

Russian President Vladimir Putin has had a busy week, stepping into the aftermath of the American drone strike that killed Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani. Putin’s visit Tuesday to Syria was emblematic of a reality that has been playing out in recent months: The U.S. strategic position in the Middle East is a mystery to many of its allies, and Russia is more than ready to fill any vacuum.

The shift has, in many ways, left U.S. allies in a bind — or turning to Russia themselves in search of a partner. Putin was the first world leader French President Emmanuel Macron spoke with just after learning about the drone strike on Friday. German Chancellor Angela Merkel, meanwhile, is traveling to the Kremlin to discuss the crisis in the Mideast.

Canada, Denmark and Germany moved their troops in Iraq to safety, as did NATO, which has forces stationed there as part of the international coalition against the Islamic State group. There was no sign that any had been warned by the Trump administration of the drone strike. Coalition activities froze, and NATO’s secretary-general described the killing as “a U.S. decision. It is not a decision taken by either the global coalition nor NATO. But all allies are concerned about Iran’s destabilizing activities in the region.”

The base targeted in northern Iraq was filled with coalition troops. Putin offered an alternative to perceived chaos. “Unfortunately, the situation in the region we are in tends to escalate. But Turkey and Russia are demonstrating different examples – examples of cooperation for the sake of our nations and all of Europe,” he said in Turkey.

U.S. Officials Say It’s ‘Highly Likely’ Iranian Missile Downed Ukrainian Plane

U.S. Officials Say It’s ‘Highly Likely’ Iranian Missile Downed Ukrainian Plane (Source Time) U.S. and Canadian officials have said it is “highly likely” that an antiaircraft missile strike caused the crash of a Ukraine International Airlines operated Boeing 737 in Iran on Wednesday, killing all 176 people on board. Two U.S. officials, anonymously citing U.S. intelligence, told the Associated Press that it’s possible the aircraft was mistaken as a threat and then struck by Iran. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told reporters Thursday that intelligence from multiple sources shows the plane was shot down. At least 63 Canadians were on the aircraft. “The evidence indicates that the plane was shot down by an Iranian surface-to-air missile,” Trudeau said.  President Donald Trump dismissed Iran’s initial explanation that a mechanical error caused the crash while speaking at the White House earlier on Thursday, though he did not directly blame Iran for the crash. “It was flying in a pretty rough neighborhood, and somebody could have made a mistake,” Trump said. “Some people say it was mechanical. I personally don’t think that’s even a question.” The comments from intelligence officials, Trudeau and Trump come after Ukrainian officials said Thursday that they are considering a missile strike as one of many possible reasons for the crash. Oleksiy Danilov, secretary of Ukraine’s Security Council, told Ukranian media that officials had not ruled out a strike, the AP reported.



We need to understand the U.S. is now at war with Iran. It’s an undeclared, insane and unconstitutional war, but it is war nonetheless. There is no world in which one government intentionally assassinates the top general of another government and that not be warfare. You can argue the U.S. and Iran were already engaged in low-level proxy wars, and that’s a fair assessment, but you can’t say we aren’t currently in far more serious a state of war. We are.

Soleimani was not only a powerful general, he was a popular figure within Iran. Unlike other blows the U.S. and Iran have inflicted upon one another, this cannot be walked back. There’s no deescalation from here, only escalation. Even if you want to pretend this didn’t happen and turn back the clock, it’s impossible. This is a major event of historical proportions and should be seen as such. Everything has been turned up a notch. Before discussing what happens next and the big picture implications, it’s worth pointing out the incredible number of blatant lies and overall clownishness that emerged from U.S. officials in the assassination’s aftermath. It started with claims from Trump that Soleimani was plotting imminent attacks on Americans and was caught in the act. Mass media did its job and uncritically parroted this line, which was quickly exposed as a complete falsehood. The assassination of Soleimani kicks off the beginning of the final chapter in the decline of U.S. imperial dominance. It will likely play out over the course of the first part of this decade (2020-2025), and by the time it’s over it’ll be undeniable that the U.S. is no longer the global hegemon it once was.