World Bank to issue world’s first blockchain bond

World Bank to issue world’s first blockchain bond (Source The World Bank is taking a step into the brave new world of digital finance to sell the first-ever bond to be issued entirely using blockchain technology, the bank announced Friday. More than just funds, the World Bank aims to gain experience using blockchain — a digital public registry of transactions — that could lead to “a golden future” for financial services for developing nations, a bank official told AFP. The technology is most often associated with cryptocurrencies — like bitcoin — which often raise suspicion about their reliability and volatility, as well as their use for criminal purposes. But because there as yet is no central bank-backed digital currency in existence, the two-year blockchain bond will rely on real-world money: Australian dollars. The Washington-based development lender aims to raise about Aus$50 million (about $36 million), although it could be double that if more investors get involved before the bond is finalized the week of August 20.

“Since our first bond transaction in 1947, innovation and investor satisfaction have been important hallmarks of our success with leveraging capital markets for development,” World Bank Treasurer Arunma Oteh said.

“Today, we believe that emerging technologies, equally offer transformative, yet prudent possibilities for us to continue to innovate, respond to investor needs and strengthen markets.”


Iran test-fired anti-ship missile during drills last week: U.S. source

Iran test-fired anti-ship missile during drills last week: U.S. source (Source Reuters) Iran test-fired a short-range anti-ship missile in the Strait of Hormuz during naval drills last week that Washington believes were aimed at sending a message as the United States reimposes sanctions on Tehran, a U.S. official said on Friday. The official, however, did not suggest that such a missile test was unusual during naval exercises or that it was carried out unsafely, noting it occurred in what could be described as Iranian territorial waters in the Strait. Iran’s Revolutionary Guards confirmed on Sunday it had held war games in the Gulf over the past several days, saying they were aimed at “confronting possible threats” by enemies.

U.S. Army General Joseph Votel, head of the U.S. military’s Central Command, said earlier this week the scope and scale of the exercises were similar to ones Iran had carried out in the past. But the timing of this particular set of exercises was designed to get Washington’s attention.

“It’s pretty clear to us that they were trying to use that exercise to send a message to us that as we approach this period of the sanctions here, that they had some capabilities,” Votel told reporters at the Pentagon.

Iran has been furious over U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to pull out of an international agreement on Iran’s nuclear program and re-impose sanctions on Tehran. Senior Iranian officials have warned the country would not easily yield to a renewed U.S. campaign to strangle Iran’s vital oil exports. Last month, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei backed President Hassan Rouhani’s suggestion that Iran may block Gulf oil exports if its own exports are stopped. Votel said the U.S. military was keenly aware of Iran’s military activities. “We are aware of what’s going on, and we remain ready to protect ourselves as we pursue our objectives of freedom of navigation and the freedom of commerce in international waters,” Votel said.


US sanctions on Russian banks would be ‘economic war’, threatens Medvedev

US sanctions on Russian banks would be ‘economic war’, threatens Medvedev (Source Reuters)

Russia would consider any US move to curb the operations of Russian banks or their foreign currency dealings to be a declaration of economic war, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said on Friday. The United States announced a new round of sanctions on Wednesday targeting Russia that pushed the rouble to two-year lows and sparked a wider sell-off over fears Russia was locked in a spiral of never-ending sanctions. Separate legislation introduced last week in draft form by Republican and Democratic senators proposes curbs on the operations of several state-owned Russian banks in the United States and restrictions on their use of the dollar.

Mr Medvedev said Moscow would take economic, political or other retaliatory measures against the United States if Washington targeted Russian banks.

“I would not like to comment on talks about future sanctions, but I can say one thing: If some ban on banks’ operations or on their use of one or another currency follows, it would be possible to clearly call it a declaration of economic war,” said the Russian prime minister. “And it would be necessary, it would be needed to react to this war economically, politically, or, if needed, by other means. And our American friends need to understand this,” he said, speaking on a trip to the Russian Far East.


US used Hiroshima atomic bomb victims as ‘guinea pigs’, survivor tells RT

US used Hiroshima atomic bomb victims as ‘guinea pigs’, survivor tells RT (Source RT)

Survivors of the Hiroshima atomic bomb were used as lab rats for US research, and the post-war occupation forces censored media reports attempting to shed light on the atrocity, a survivor of the nuclear attack told RT.

Setsuko Thurlow, a nuclear weapons disarmament activist and survivor of the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima, told RT’s Sophie Shevardnadze that US forces occupying Japan after the end of World War Two were more interested studying the effects of nuclear warfare than they were in helping victims of the attack. “The United States established an institution called ABCC (Atomic Bomb Casualty Commission) and people were very happy that finally we got some medication, medical experts who knew what this was all about, who would help Japanese doctors who were at a loss,”Thurlow said while speaking on Shevardnadze’s SophieCo program.

“But the sole purpose of the ABCC was to study the effects of radiation on human bodies, not to help the people sick because of the radiation. The survivors felt they were used as guinea pigs twice: first time as a target, second as a subject for research.” To make matters worse, the US occupation forces did all they could to suppress media coverage about the deadly attack and its horrific aftermath, Thurlow said. “Occupational forces didn’t want the media, newspapers to write anything that could be seen as disadvantageous to occupational forces. And if a newspaper writes something about the destruction and especially human suffering in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, this would be considered disadvantageous, this would have stop. So they censored and forced some media companies to close the shop. This is not exactly a democratic thing to do.”

According to Thurlow, tens of thousands of personal items such as diaries, photographs and even haiku – Japanese poetry – were confiscated by the US authorities in order to prevent the world from understanding the full consequences of nuclear war.






Red Tide Is Devastating Florida’s Sea Life. Are Humans to Blame?

Red Tide Is Devastating Florida’s Sea Life. Are Humans to Blame? (Source National Geographic)

THE FIRST THING you notice is the smell. It’s not a scent, exactly, but a tingling in the nose that quickly spreads to the throat and burns the lungs. But then you see the carcasses.

Thousands of sea creatures now litter many of southern Florida’s typically picturesque beaches. Most are fish—mullet fish, catfish, pufferfish, snook, trout, grunt, and even the massive goliath grouper. But other creatures are also washing ashore—crabs, eels, manatees, dolphins, turtles, and more. It’s a wildlife massacre of massive proportions. And the cause of both the deaths and toxic, stinging fumes is a bloom of harmful algae that scientists say is the region’s worst in over a decade. “It’s just like a ghost town,” says Heather Barron, head veterinarian at Florida’s Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife (CROW). “Anything that can leave has, and anything that couldn’t leave has died.”

Many organisms around the world can cause these harmful algal booms, which are also known as red tides for their common rust-red color. In Florida, the culprit is usually the tiny, plant-like alga known as Karenia brevis, which produces toxins, dubbed brevetoxins, that cause both gastrointestinal and neurological problems when eaten. The latest bloom now stretches around 100 miles along the coast and miles offshore, often pushed into concentrated patches by winds and currents. The algae began coloring southwest Florida’s waters in October 2017, picking up intensity in recent months. Now residents are entering the tenth month of the bloom with no end in sight.


United States Imposes Sanctions on Iran, and Europe’s Dismaying Response

United States Imposes Sanctions on Iran, and Europe’s Dismaying Response (Source

At 12:01 a.m. on Tuesday, August 7, the United States, following its exit from the nuclear deal in May, officially began its first batch of sanctions on Iran.

These sanctions will target financial transactions involving U.S. dollars, Iran’s car-manufacturing sector, the purchase of commercial aircraft, and metals including gold. A second tranche targeting Iran’s oil sector and its central bank is to be reimposed in early November. The goal is that with financial pressure, the Iranian regime will be coerced into changing its stripes. Or even better (although the U.S. has said this isn’t the goal) that the people of Iran will be affected so much that regime change is demanded by the population. Such an outcome would be good for Iran and the rest of the world but is highly unlikely

That fact is where it gets complicated, especially for many European nations who would still like to do business with Iran and keep the nuclear deal. As an expression of its disagreement with the U.S., the European Union has enacted an obscure 1996 law to demand that EU companies reject the U.S.’s demands. According to the “blocking law,” EU companies will be barred from pulling out of Iran due to pressure from the U.S. without the express approval of the European Commission. If they do so, they will be penalized by their respective governments. It also enables the EU to sue for damages against the entity that imposed the sanctions, which, in this case, is the United States. While this law sounds pretty impressive, many commentators agree that, in all likelihood, the European diktat will be almost impossible to enforce.

It’s more likely that EU companies will choose to do business with the U.S. over Iran any day of the week, even with such penalties. However, by even enacting this law, something far more damaging is taking place: It is further exacerbating the rift between the United States and its European allies.


Russia vows to retaliate against new US sanctions

Russia vows to retaliate against new US sanctions (Source AFP) The Kremlin on Thursday vowed to retaliate against “unacceptable” new US sanctions against Russia over its alleged role in a nerve agent attack on a former spy in Britain, which prompted the ruble and Russian stocks to tumble. The action by the US State Department is the latest salvo in a series of disputes between the rival powers and comes less than a month after US President Donald Trump met his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin in Helsinki.

The State Department said Wednesday the new sanctions were in response to “the use of a ‘Novichok’ nerve agent in an attempt to assassinate UK citizen Sergei Skripal” — who was a Russian double agent — and his daughter Yulia on English soil in March. They were aimed at punishing Putin’s government for having “used chemical or biological weapons in violation of international law,” spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in a statement. But the punitive measures triggered a furious reaction from Moscow.

Russia will “work on developing retaliatory measures,” foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told journalists. “Whatever the sanctions against Russia are, the retaliatory measures will be the same,” she said.

“If they dream up some (measures), we will answer — it’s not our choice.” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov was equally emphatic.

“We consider categorically unacceptable the linking of new restrictions, which we as before consider illegal, to the case in Salisbury,” he told journalists. He said Moscow felt it could now “expect anything at all from Washington” but nevertheless retained “hopes of building constructive relations.” The announcement of sanctions caused Russian stock markets to drop dramatically on opening and the ruble reached its lowest point since November 2016. The markets and the currency rebounded slightly over the day while remaining sharply down. Finance minister Anton Siluanov assured Russians that the government and the central bank have “all the necessary tools to ensure financial stability,” saying the economy has become more resistant to external shocks in recent years.


China tests hypersonic aircraft that can carry nukes, evade missile defense systems,

China tests hypersonic aircraft that can carry nukes, evade missile defense systems, officials say (Source

As trade tensions between the U.S. and China continue to escalate, Chinese officials announced Friday the country tested its first hypersonic flight vehicle capable of carrying nuclear weapons — and allegedly able to penetrate any missile defense system. The China Academy of Aerospace Aerodynamics, run by state-owned space contractor China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp, said it conducted a successful first flight test of the Xingkong-2, otherwise known as Starry Sky-2, state-tabloid Global Times reported.

The flight vehicle was launched at a target range in Northwest China with a multi-stage rocket before being released in the air, making “large-angle turning maneuvers,” and achieving a top speed of Mach 6, or 4,563 mph, the academy said. The aircraft then landed in a designated landing zone, where it provided researchers with “effective” test data. “The test…has laid a solid technological foundation for engineering applications of the waverider design,” officials said in a statement to the South China Morning Post. The Starry Sky 2, a waverider, is a hypersonic flight vehicle that uses shockwaves generated by its own flight in the air to glide at a high speed, and features a wedge-shaped fuselage. Song Zhongping, a Chinese military expert, told The Global Times the test was a “breakthrough,” and added the waverider can carry both conventional and nuclear weapons. “The test showed that China is advancing shoulder-to-shoulder with the US and Russia,” Song told the news outlet. Song added that since the waverider flies so fast, it challenges current anti-missile defense systems designed to protect against slower cruise and ballistic missiles.



The U.S. is the most dangerous country in the developed world to give birth in according to a report.

About 50,000 women are “severely injured” during childbirth, and about 700 women die every year. Half of these deaths could have been prevented, as could the injuries, if correct safety procedures had been followed, according to an investigation by USA Today. While most women give birth with no issue, “The Global Burden of Disease 2015 Maternal Mortality” study published in The Lancet journal and cited in the USA Today’s “Deadly Deliveries” report, lays bare the startling disparity between the U.S. and other developed nations. Maternal mortality was defined as a death occurring because of obstetric complications or when pregnancy exacerbates a pre-existing medical condition.  Between 1990 to 2015, the number of maternal deaths per 100,000 births in most developed nations—including Germany, France, Japan, England and Canada—fell or plateaued to below 10. But in the U.S. the figure spiked to 26.4.




 MEET CHINA’S “SECRET” SPACE CONTROL LISTENING BASE IN ARGENTINA NOW ALARMING US OFFICIALS (Source A recent New York Times piece has sounded the alarm over what Washington perceives as China’s “expanding reach into Latin America,” related to a space mission control center located in the heart of the Patagonia region of Argentina.   It begins with an eerily beautiful description of an imposing structure, guarded by Chinese military personnel, unexpectedly rising out of Patagonian desert: The giant antenna rises from the desert floor like an apparition, a gleaming metal tower jutting 16 stories above an endless wind-whipped stretch of Patagonia. The 450-ton device, with its hulking dish embracing the open skies, is the centerpiece of a $50 million satellite and space mission control station built by the Chinese military. The station began operating in March, playing a pivotal role in China’s audacious expedition to the far side of the moon — an endeavor that Argentine officials say they are elated to support. For Washington strategists the Chinese military-constructed “deep space research” communications base, defined visually by the massive antenna that juts out of the otherwise small facility in an isolated country area of Neuquen province, represents China’s growing ability to sow deep economic inroads and expanding political influence in Latin America via secretive negotiations. The NYT notes “concerns” over Chinese tech infrastructure being established as part of an extension to China’s global Belt and Road initiative: But the way the base was negotiated — in secret, at a time when Argentina desperately needed investment — and concerns that it could enhance China’s intelligence-gathering capabilities in the Western Hemisphere have set off a debate in Argentina about the risks and benefits of being pulled into China’s orbit.