What Happens When the Plug Gets Pulled? (Source thetrumpet.com) America’s military is also hugely vulnerable. Perhaps nothing symbolizes this vulnerability better than the F-35. The U.S. Air Force has bet its future on the F-35. With a total projected cost of around $1.3 trillion, the fighter jet is the most expensive weapons system in history. The United States military plans to buy around 2,500 of these planes. In fact, it plans to own more F-35s than all other manned aircraft put together. This plane is high-tech. It is stealthy. Its pilots wear virtual reality helmets (costing $400,000 each) that allow them to see through walls of the aircraft. If the pilot looks down, for example, images of the ground below appear on his helmet’s visor from infrared cameras mounted on the outside of the airplane. These capabilities require a powerful computer in the plane. Its designers went all out on computer control—the software is far more complicated than any other fighter ever built. All the instructions the pilot gives to the plane—ascend, bank left, etc.—pass through this computer. The computer controls all the weapons systems. The computer detects when a part is failing or is due to be replaced, orders a replacement and tells the ground crew where to fit it. That’s the theory. In practice, all these IT systems have been a nightmare. The U.S. has already rolled out approximately 100 F-35s. But its main cannon cannot fire. The cannon is there, but the software to run it is not finished. But most disturbing is its huge vulnerability to cyberattack. The U.S. military has been incredibly complacent. It has barely tried to take effective measures at defense. Civilian planners have been even worse. This points to a deeper sickness. America’s leaders, military planners and citizens are acting on the assumption they will never have to fight a war with another major power. The whole defense doctrine is geared around fighting a terrorist network, or maybe an Iran or North Korea. If you only expect to be fighting Third or maybe Second World countries, cybersecurity is a nuisance, but not a life-threatening danger. Last year, top defense journalists P. W. Singer and August Cole decided to write a novel about what America’s next war could look like. With hundreds of footnotes, their book Ghost Fleet “can come across as a 400-page warning,” as the tech magazine Wired wrote. In the book, China launches a surprise attack on the U.S. The first shot of this war is against an American satellite (a subject we addressed in our February 2016 issue: “ The Final Military Frontier.” At the same time, the Chinese launch a massive cyberattack. With the U.S. now completely blind, China launches carrier-killer missiles and destroys America’s Pacific Fleet. As the combined Russian-Chinese attack rolls out—using troop carriers disguised as container ships, for example, something Russia is already working on—it comes up against the F-35. In the authors’ imagination, counterfeit chips inside the F-35 emit a signal that Chinese missiles can home in on. They are easily shot down. By the time the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff knows what is going on, the attack is already over. America has lost.
Radioactive Leak at Indian Point Nuclear Plant Shows ‘We Are Flirting With Catastrophe’ (Source ecowatch.com) New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has called for Indian Point nuclear power plant to be shut down after officials discovered that a radioactive material known as tritium was leaking into the groundwater. On Feb. 6, Cuomo ordered an investigation into the leak after Entergy, the company that operates the plant, reported “alarming levels of radioactivity at three monitoring wells, with one well’s radioactivity increasing nearly 65,000 percent,” according to a statement from the governor. Last week, Cuomo called for a more thorough investigation after officials found the leak had spread by 80 percent. Now the governor and lawmakers across the Hudson Valley have called for the plant to close.
START PREPARING FOR THE COLLAPSE OF THE SAUDI KINGDOM (Source Defense One)
For half a century the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has been the lynchpin of U.S. Mideast policy. A guaranteed supply of oil has bought a guaranteed supply of security. Ignoring autocratic practices and the export of Wahhabi extremism, Washington stubbornly dubs its ally “moderate.” So tight is the trust that U.S. special operators dip into Saudi petrodollars as a counterterrorism HYPERLINK “http://www.nytimes.com/2016/01/24/world/middleeast/us-relies-heavily-on-saudi-money-to-support-syrian-rebels.htmlhttp:/www.nytimes.com/2016/01/24/world/middleeast/us-relies-heavily-on-saudi-money-to-support-syrian-rebels.html” \t “_blank” slush fund without a second thought. There are two ways to describe it: as a political enterprise with a clever but ultimately unsustainable business model, or so corrupt as to resemble in its functioning a vertically and horizontally integrated criminal organization. Either way, it can’t last. It’s past time U.S. decision-makers began planning for the collapse of the Saudi kingdom. In recent conversations with military and other government personnel, we were startled at how startled they seemed at this prospect. Understood one way, the Saudi king is CEO of a family business that converts oil into payoffs that buy political loyalty. They take two forms: cash handouts or commercial concessions for the increasingly numerous scions of the royal clan, and a modicum of public goods and employment opportunities for commoners. The coercive “stick” is supplied by brutal internal security services lavishly equipped with American equipment.
Pope Francis Makes Proclamation For a One World Religion (Source trunews.com) Francis just released his first video message, calling for all faiths to come together. Subtitles on the bottom of the footage claim “most of the planet’s inhabitants declare themselves believers”, suggesting that based on that belief, there should be a dialogue between people of different religions. The pope is shown requesting collaboration with “those who think differently”, but meet God in “different ways”. The video, complete with patriotic sounding music, shows Christians, Muslims, Buddhists and Jews declaring “I believe in love” and then coming together as they proclaim their belief in God, or “confidence in Buddha” . It was put together by the Jesuit global prayer network, Apostleship of Prayer, to highlight the Pope’s prayer intentions for the month. In the Bible, the book of Revelation describes a ‘great harlot’, or a false, one-world religion will be prominent during the end times, led by a ‘false prophet’. This false religion will dominate all people of the earth, all nations and languages.
China leads global U.S. debt dump (Source CNN Money) China dumped billions of America’s debt in December. The largest owner of U.S. debt, China sold $18 billion of U.S. Treasury debt in December. And it’s not alone. Japan sold even more: $22 billion. In the past year, Mexico, Turkey and Belgium have also lowered their holdings of U.S. debt, all of which have led to a record annual dump by central banks. Many countries are suffering from the global economic slowdown, forcing central banks to pull out all the stops to help buttress their economies. Central banks in Japan and Sweden have resorted to negative interest rates to spur banks to lend more; the European Central Bank is buying bonds issued by its member countries; the People’s Bank of China .
The China bomb keeps getting bigger (Source businessinsider.com) China dropped a few bits of economic data over the weekend suggesting things will get much worse before they get better. The most important piece of data is HYPERLINK “http://www.businessinsider.com/china-total-social-financing-surges-2015-1″ total social financing, or TSF. It’s a figure the Chinese government made up back in 2011 to track all the money in the system. That includes credit out to borrowers and even parts of the country’s opaque shadow banking system. So you can imagine why tracking this is important. As Business Insider’s Julia La Roche reported, this is what hedge fund land considers ” HYPERLINK “http://www.businessinsider.com/kyle-bass-letter-on-trust-beneficiary-rights-in-china-2016-2″ a ticking time bomb.” And the bomb is just getting bigger, according to last month’s tally. New TSF in January came in at a whopping $522 billion. That’s up from $276 billion in December, and it beat expectations of $337 billion. Outstanding credit grew by 12.1% from the same time a year before. In other words, credit is still expanding at an eye popping rate in China. And that may not even be the whole load either, as Bloomberg economist Tom Orlik writes: That acceleration might even understate the pace of credit expansion. Taking account of local government bond issuance — which isn’t included in the official data — outstanding credit accelerated to 15.1%, according to Bloomberg Intelligence Economics’ calculations. China is going through the difficult transition of moving from an economy based on investment to one based on domestic consumption. The country’s corporate entities are loaded down with debt, they’re not productive, and the economy is slowing down. That slowdown is part of why you see the yuan depreciating — it’s what’s rocking global markets.
Syria: At the Gateway of A Greater War (Source New Eastern Outlook) Syrian forces backed by Russian airpower have made major advances across the battlefield along multiple fronts. Around Aleppo, Syrian forces have cut supply lines from Turkey that were for years, supplying terrorists operating inside the country. Just east of a growing encirclement of the city of Aleppo, a secondary encirclement of so-called “Islamic State” (ISIS) forces is forming as the offensive to relieve Kuweris Airbase has evolved into a northern advance toward Al Bab – a critical logistical hub used by US-NATO-GCC backed terrorists during the initial invasion of Aleppo in 2012 and onward. Deeper within the interior of Syria, Syrian forces have advanced eastward into the Al Raqqa Governorate, approaching the Tabaqa Airbase. The airbase is a crucial waypoint toward seizing back the city of Al Raqqa itself, which has become the defacto capital of ISIS. This second operation aimed at ISIS in Al Raqqah has only been made possible because of successes amid the first operation around Aleppo and along the Turkish-Syrian border. It is now demonstrably clear that the source of ISIS’ fighting capacity originated almost exclusively from NATO-member Turkey’s territory and more specifically, from between the Afrin-Jarabulus corridor. So far, NATO has been unable to account for this obvious fact, or explain why it has been unable to secure the Turkish border from the Turkish side, particularly when nations including the United States and United Kingdom have for years been conducting military and intelligence operations precisely in the same locations ISIS supplies have been crossing over into Syria from. As Syrian and Kurdish forces backed by Russian airpower close one logistical corridor after another along the border, the fighting capacity of ISIS has withered to the verge of collapsing. For several days now, Turkey has been firing across the border at the pivotal Syrian city of Azaz. The city is on the verge of being overrun by Kurdish fighters who will for all intents and purposes shut down one of ISIS’ last remaining logistical hubs supplying their fighters in Syria from Turkey. Turkey has vowed not to allow the city to fall and has implied that it is willing to go as far as invade Syria to ensure that it doesn’t.
West Coast US Cities Sue Monsanto over Toxic Chemicals (Source wsws.org) Seattle, Washington became the latest addition to the list of cities filing lawsuits against multinational corporation Monsanto, joining San Diego, San Jose, Oakland and Berkeley in California, along with Spokane, Washington. These efforts, led by San Diego-based law firm Gomez Trial Attorneys, aim to extract tens of millions of dollars from the agrochemical company for knowingly promoting the severely hazardous line of polychlorinated biphenyls, more commonly known as PCBs. The Seattle lawsuit holds the corporation responsible for PCB contamination that finds its way into the city’s storm water that flows into the Lower Duwamish River, designated a federal Superfund site because of its high levels of pollution and the high cost of cleanup. These lawsuits are based on a precedent set last year in a California case against lead paint manufacturers in which the prosecution won a $1.15 billion judgment using a new application of California’s “public nuisance” law. Under the ruling, liability was imposed against the defendant companies because they had actively sold and promoted lead paint with actual or constructive knowledge about its health hazards.
Khamenei’s top aide says Tehran, Moscow ink $40 billion in projects: agencies (Source Reuters)
Iran and Russia have initialed contracts worth around $40 billion, including for power-engineering and railway projects, Russian news agencies quoted Ali Akbar Velayati, top adviser to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Velayati, who is wrapping up a visit to Moscow, said he had discussed some of the projects with Russian President Vladimir Putin. He said Tehran was interested in obtaining a loan from Russia for Iran’s railways and nuclear power engineering. He said the package of projects had been signed in the past few months. “They have been initialed and are ready for implementation,” Interfax news agency quoted him as saying.
Zika ‘spreading explosively’, up to four million cases expected: WHO (Source France 24) HYPERLINK “http://www.france24.com/en/tag/who/” \t “_blank” WHO Director-General Margaret Chan said the HYPERLINK “http://www.france24.com/en/tag/zika-virus/” \t “_blank” spread of the mosquito-borne disease spreading through the Americas had gone from a mild threat to one of alarming proportions. Chan said the virus – which has been linked to birth defects and neurological problems – was “spreading explosively.” Chan told HYPERLINK “http://www.who.int/en/” \t “_blank” WHO executive board members at a special meeting in Geneva. “As of today, cases have been reported in 23 countries and territories in the (Americas) region.” The organisation’s will HYPERLINK “http://www.who.int/mediacentre/news/statements/2016/emergency-committee-zika/en/” \t “_blank” convene an emergency committee on Monday to help determine the level of the international response to the virus spreading from HYPERLINK “http://www.france24.com/en/tag/brazil/” \t “_blank” Brazil and to decide whether it should be declared an international health emergency. Declaring a global emergency is akin to an international SOS signal and usually brings more money and action to address an outbreak. The last such emergency was announced over the 2014 devastating Ebola outbreak in West Africa; polio was declared a similar emergency the year before. Marcos Espinal, an infectious disease expert at the WHO’s Americas regional office, said on Thursday, “We can expect 3 to 4 million cases of Zika virus disease”. However, he did not give a time frame. There is no vaccine or treatment for Zika, which is a close cousin of dengue and chikungunya and causes mild fever, rash and red eyes. An estimated 80 percent of people infected have no symptoms, making it difficult for pregnant women to know whether they have been infected.