America Is Suffering From A Very Real Water Crisis That Few Are Acknowledging (Source desmogblog.com)
On January 16, 2016, President Obama declared a federal emergency for the city of Flint, Michigan, over the contamination of the city’s drinking water. One year later, not only is the city still struggling to provide clean sources of water to the Michigan city’s population, but the plight of residents in Flint has opened up the conversation about a water crisis in the United States that very few people even knew existed. Republican Michigan Governor Rick Snyder was looking for ways to cut costs, so he hired an outside manager to come up with ideas on how to do that. Unfortunately, one of the ideas that was put into action was to change the source of Flint’s drinking water from the Detroit water system to the Flint River, which was known to be heavily polluted. When that contaminated water hit the city’s aging water delivery infrastructure, the chemicals interacted with the lead pipes, causing dangerous levels of lead contamination for residents who did not have water filters. The problem with Flint, and the problem with many water delivery systems throughout the United States, is that lead pipes are time bombs. Like most metals, lead will break down over time, especially when it is exposed to corrosive water throughout its existence. When you have close to 1.2 million miles of lead pipes for water delivery in America — pipes that only have a lifespan of about 75 years and many are reaching that age — you have a recipe for disaster that experts warn will cost close to $1 trillion to fix.
The only reason that the crisis in Flint, Michigan, was brought to the public’s attention was because of one woman, a pediatrician named Mona Hanna-Attisha, who began noticing the symptoms of lead poisoning in an extremely large number of children from Flint. At the time of Dr. Hanna-Attisha’s discovery, the contaminated water had been flowing through taps in Flint for two years. Sadly, Flint is just a tiny piece in a much larger story. On December 19, 2016, Reuters released a startling report about America’s drinking water. Reuters’ investigation concluded that there were nearly 3,000 other locales in the United States where the lead contamination in drinking water was at least double the rates found in Flint’s drinking water.
China Extends Economic Influence in Balkans and Southeast Europe, Bank of China Regional Headquarters in Belgrade (Source globalresearch.ca) On January 21st, 2017, the Bank of China has officially opened its regional branch headquarters in Serbian capital Belgrade, to provide banking services for cooperation in investments, trade, tourism and other fields, for countries in the region – Serbia, Rumania, Bulgaria, Greece, Albania, Macedonia, Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina and others. The ceremony was held in the Government`s Palace and attended by President of the Republic Tomislav Nikolic and members of the Government. This important development follows last June`s state visit of the President of the Republic of China Xi Jinping to Serbia and also, his talks last week with Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic at Davos Economic Summit in Switzerland. Establishment of the Bank of China`s regional headquarters in Belgrade, is today the main news in all major medias in Serbia and beyond. This morning I commented this event at the private regional network “TV Pink”. Among other, I noted that cooperation under OBOR (One Belt One Road, The Silk Road Economic Belt), as the global initiative, is not important only for development of CEE (Central and Eastern Europe) countries, but for the whole of Europe. Through win win OBOR cooperation Europe and China are getting closer, what is equally positive form economic, cultural and political point of view, particularly now when EU is passing through serious difficulties. Serbia`s role in the implementation of the China – CEE cooperation under OBOR is growing. Two countries are strategic partners cooperating in various fields. In the past five years only, partners from the two countries have been constructing or modernizing roads, highways, railways, ports, bridges, tunnels, thermo-electric plant, steelwork factory, strengthening people to people exchange. As of 1st January this year, no-visa system for citizens of the two countries came into force. A number of infrastructure projects, already implemented, or under implementation in Serbia, are highly important for modernization of connectivity in the CEE region, or in Europe.
Cooperation under CEE-OBOR has proved to be very important for Serbia`s overall economic development, modernization of industry and infrastructure and improvement of international standing.
Trump Threats on South China Sea Heighten Risk of Nuclear War (Source globalresearch.ca) Just days after taking office, the Trump administration has set course for a conflict with China over the South China Sea that threatens military clashes and war. President Donald Trump’s press secretary, Sean Spicer, on Tuesday backed up an earlier assertion by the administration’s nominee for secretary of state, former Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson, that Washington would bar Chinese access to islets being built up by Beijing in the South China Sea. In his first full press briefing, Spicer bluntly declared,
“The US is going to make sure that we protect our interests there.” Referring to Chinese-controlled islands in the disputed waters, he continued: “It’s a question if those islands are in fact in international waters and not part of China proper, then yeah, we are going to make sure we defend international territories from being taken over by one country.” The reckless character of the Trump administration’s threats was underscored by the Washington Post’s headline: “Is Trump ready for war in the South China Sea, or is his team just not being clear?” While the Post suggested the problem was unclear or misspoken remarks, Spicer’s statements were fully in line with what was said less than two weeks ago by Tillerson. At his congressional confirmation hearing, Tillerson lashed out at China, declaring that its land reclamation activities in the South China Sea were “akin to Russia’s taking Crimea.” He warned that China’s island-building would have to stop, adding that its “access to those islands also is not going to be allowed.” These comments mark a decisive shift from Washington’s previous stance, which, nominally at least, took no position on the territorial disputes, but declared that it had a “national interest” in ensuring “freedom of navigation” in the South China Sea. Under the Obama administration, the US Navy provocatively sent guided missile destroyers on three occasions within the 12-nautical-mile territorial limit around Chinese islets. The Trump administration is directly challenging China’s control over the islets. Asked how the US would carry out its threat to bar Chinese access, Spicer said that “we’ll have more information on that” as the situation develops. As various analysts have pointed out, the only means of barring China would be a naval and air blockade in the South China Sea. Such action, a clear breach of international law, would constitute an act of war.
The islets in the South China Sea are not “international territories,” but are occupied by various countries and subject to longstanding disputes. Washington’s cynicism and hypocrisy are staggering. It is not proposing to take action against islets occupied by rival claimants—the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Taiwan.
The Chinese foreign ministry yesterday reaffirmed that China had “indisputable sovereignty” over the islets and warned that “we are firm in safeguarding our rights and interests.” After pointing out that US had no direct claim in the South China Sea, spokeswoman Hua Chunying urged Washington to “speak and act cautiously to avoid damaging peace and stability in the area.”
Trump and the nuclear codes (Source bbc.com)
On 20 January, inauguration day in the United States, a nameless, unknown military aide will be seen accompanying President Barack Obama to the handover ceremony at the US Capitol in Washington.
That military aide will be carrying a satchel over his or her shoulder containing a briefcase known as “the nuclear football”. Inside will be a piece of digital hardware measuring 3in (7.3cm) by 5in, known as “the biscuit”. This contains the launch codes for a strategic nuclear strike. The briefing for the incoming president on how to activate them will have already taken place out of public sight, but the moment President-elect Donald Trump takes the oath of office that aide, and the satchel, will move quietly over to his side. Donald Trump will then have sole authority to order an action that could result in the deaths of millions of people in under an hour. The question on a lot of people’s minds right now is, given his thin skin and impulsive temperament, what are the safeguards, if any, to prevent an impetuous decision by one man with catastrophic consequences?
Inside that briefcase, the “nuclear football” that never leaves the president’s side, is a “black book” of strike options for him to choose from once he has authenticated his identity as commander-in-chief, using a plastic card. Once the president has selected his strike options from a long-prepared “menu”, the order is passed via the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to the Pentagon’s war room and then, using sealed authentication codes, on to US Strategic Command HQ in Offutt Airbase in Nebraska. The order to fire is transmitted to the actual launch crews using encrypted codes that have to match the codes locked inside their safes. ICBMs travel at a speed of over 17,000mph (Mach 23), flying high above the Earth’s atmosphere before descending towards their pre-programmed targets at four miles a second. The flight-time for land-based missiles flying between Russia and the US is between 25 and 30 minutes. For submarine-based missiles, where the boats may be able to approach a coast covertly, the flight time could be considerably shorter, even as little as 12 minutes. This does not leave a president much time to decide whether it is a false alarm or imminent Armageddon. Once ICBMs have been launched they cannot be recalled, but if they remain in their silos they will probably be destroyed by the inbound attack. A former senior White House official told me recently that much would depend on the circumstances in which a nuclear strike was being considered. If this was a long-term, measured policy decision to say, carry out a pre-emptive strike on country X, then a lot of people would be involved. The vice-president, National Security Adviser, and much of the cabinet would all be likely to be included in the decision-making process. But if there was an imminent strategic threat to the United States, ie if an inbound launch of ICBMs from a hostile state had been detected and were minutes from reaching the US then, he said, “the president has extraordinary latitude to take the sole decision to launch.”
Europe Proposes “Restrictions On Payments In Cash” (Source Zero Hedge)Having discontinued its production of EUR500 banknotes, it appears Europe is charging towards the utopian dream of a cashless society. Just days after Davos’ elites discussed why the world needs to “get rid of currency,” the European Commission has introduced a proposal enforcing “restrictions on payments in cash.” With Rogoff, Stiglitz, Summers et al. all calling for the end of cash – because only terrorists and drug-dealers need cash (nothing at all to do with totalitarian control over a nation’s wealth) – we are not surprised that this proposal from the European Commission (sanctuary of statism) would appear… The Commission published on 2 February 2016 a Communication to the Council and the Parliament on an Action Plan to further step up the fight against the financing of terrorism (COM (2016) 50). The Action Plan builds on existing EU rules to adapt to new threats and aims at updating EU policies in line with international standards. In the context of the Commission’s action to extent the scope of the Regulation on the controls of cash entering or leaving the Community, reference is made to the appropriateness to explore the relevance of potential upper limits to cash payments. The Action Plan states that “Payments in cash are widely used in the financing of terrorist activities… In this context, the relevance of potential upper limits to cash payments could also be explored. Several Member States have in place prohibitions for cash payments above a specific threshold.”
US SENDS $221 MILLION TO PALESTINIANS BEFORE OBAMA EXIT (Source Jerusalem Post) In the final hours of his term, president Barack Obama directed his administration to release $221 million to the financially-burdened Palestinian Authority, a US official confirmed on Tuesday. Officials in the Obama administration sent a written notification to the Republican-majority Congress that it would spend the funds only hours before President Donald Trump took his oath of office on Friday, according to the Associated Press. Congress had approved the allocation of the funds in budget years 2015 and 2016, but a handful of members from the House of Representatives placed holds on them to protest Palestinian moves to join international organizations, the AP reported. The executive branch of the US government traditionally respects congressional holds, but is not legally bound by them, according to the Congressional Research Service. The funds, which are to be used for humanitarian purposes, will support “political and security reform as well as help prepare for good governance and the rule of law in a future Palestinian state,” the AP reported. The Palestinian Authority has been squeezed financially in recent years, with international aid dropping at increasing rates.
The PA received $614m. in international aid in 2016, compared to $1.7 billion in 2008, according Wattan TV, a Palestinian news outlet.
Gorbachev: Trump, Putin Need to Align as ‘World Preparing for War’ (Source newsmax.com)
Aggressive talk from politicians and military leaders worldwide — amped up by media and the “bellicose chorus” of TV commentary — has former Soviet Union President Mikhail Gorbachev saying: “It all looks as if the world is preparing for war.” “The nuclear threat once again seems real,” Gorbachev wrote Thursday in a Time magazine op-ed. “Relations between the great powers have been going from bad to worse for several years now. The advocates for arms build-up and the military-industrial complex are rubbing their hands. “We must break out of this situation. We need to resume political dialogue aiming at joint decisions and joint action.” Gorbachev harkened back to the 1980s and his work with the United States to decommission and destroy 80 percent of nuclear weapons amassed during the Cold War. “In November 1985, at the first summit in Geneva, the leaders of the Soviet Union and the United States declared: Nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought,” Gorbachev wrote. “Our two nations will not seek military superiority. This statement was met with a sigh of relief worldwide.” President Donald Trump had tweeted some of the tough talk Gorbachev was referring to. “The United States must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes,” his December tweet read. Trump, after his inauguration in mid-January, then said he might offer to end sanctions against Russia in lieu of a nuclear arms reduction.
How World War III could begin in Latvia (Source Business Insider)
Putin’s next step is more dangerous than the previous ones, because he is likely to move into the Baltics, which are NATO members. He will not send large formations of uniformed Russian soldiers over the international border — even the most cautious NATO members will not ignore an overt conventional invasion. Instead, Putin will instigate an ambiguous militarized crisis using deniable proxies, probably in the next two years. Perhaps Russian-speaking Latvians or Estonians (a quarter of Latvians and Estonians are ethnically Russian) will begin rioting, protesting for their rights, claiming to be persecuted, asking for “international protection.” A suspiciously well armed and well trained “Popular Front for the Liberation of the Russian Baltics” will appear. A few high-profile assassinations and bombings bring the Baltics to the edge of civil war. A low-grade insurgency may emerge.
Russia will block all United Nations Security Council resolutions, but will offer its unilateral services as a peacekeeper. The North Atlantic Council will meet. Poland will lead the effort to invoke Article V, declare the Baltics under Russian attack, and rally collective defense against Russian aggression. The Germans and French will fiercely resist. Everyone will look to the United States to see which way the alliance leader tilts. If the Alliance does not invoke Article V, NATO’s mutual security guarantee becomes functionally meaningless. No alliance member will put any faith in the treaty to guarantee it’s own defense against Russia in the future. The geopolitical clock will rewind to 1939. Some Eastern European states may choose to bandwagon with Russia. Others, starting with Poland, will begin arming to the teeth. Putin’s dream of a fractured West and an open field in Europe will be realized. But if the Alliance does invoke Article V, it will be tantamount to a declaration of war by the West against Russia. And that’s when Trump will have to decide if the defense of Latvia is worth risking World War III.
Russia’s Scary S-400 Air Defense System Is Now Protecting the Skies Above Crimea (Source nationalinterest.org)
Russia is bolstering its anti-access/area-denial (A2/AD) capabilities in Crimea with the addition of the potent S-400 Triumf air and missile defense system. The addition of the S-400—which can be armed with the 250-mile range 40N6—would afford Moscow the ability not only to keep the peninsula safe from attack, but also threaten airspace deep inside Ukraine should the Kremlin choose to do so. “A ceremony will be held in the antiaircraft missile regiment of the 4th Air Force and Air Defense Army of the Southern Military District on January 14 for the command post and the S-400 Triumf battalion to assume combat duty,” reads Russian Defense Ministry statement according to the Moscow-based TASS News Agency. According to manufacturer Almaz-Antey, the S-400 “baseline” system can engage targets at ranges of more than 155 miles at altitudes up to 90,000 feet. Also of note, the S-400 can support at least three types of missiles with differing capabilities. According to Western sources, some versions of those missiles are capable of engaging targets as far away as 250 miles. The S-400 can track 300 targets simultaneously and engage 36 of those at any one time. As one senior U.S. Marine Corps aviator told me earlier, the S-300 and S-400 series are a deadly threat to everything except the most advanced stealth fighters and bombers. “A complete game changer for all fourth-gen aircraft [like the F-15, F-16 and F/A-18]. That thing is a beast and you don’t want to get near it,” he said. Only the Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor, F-35 and Northrop Grumman B-2 Spirit stealth bomber would be able to operate inside areas protected by those weapons. But even those aircraft could be challenged if there were enough S-300 or S-400 batteries operating as part of an integrated air defense network. The exact number and location of the surface-to-air missile batteries would make a huge difference. The problem is further compounded by the fact that both systems are mobile — and can move at a moment’s notice. “If they’re all over every square inch of the country, then it doesn’t matter what you put out there — it’s going to be a challenge,” a senior Air Force official with extensive stealth experience told me.
World diplomats in Paris to urge renewed Mideast peace talks (Source Associated Press) Fearing a new eruption of violence in the Middle East, more than 70 world diplomats gathered in Paris on Sunday to push for renewed peace talks that would lead to a Palestinian state.
The conference is meant to be a forceful message to U.S. President-elect Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that much of the world wants peace and sees a two-state solution as the best way to achieve it in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
“A two-state solution is the only possible one,” French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said in opening the conference, calling it “more indispensable than ever” to solve the protracted conflict.
Netanyahu has snubbed Sunday’s conference as “rigged” against Israel, and Trump’s incoming administration isn’t taking part.
The gathering is an “empty summit” that was cooked up behind Israel’s back and is designed to force conditions on the country that are against its national interests, Netanyahu said. French diplomats fear Trump will unleash new tensions in the region by condoning settlements on land claimed by the Palestinians and potentially moving the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to contested Jerusalem. “Both parties are very far apart and their relationship is one of distrust — a particularly dangerous situation,” Ayrault said at the conference. “Our collective responsibility is to bring Israelis and Palestinians back to the negotiating table. We know it is difficult, but is there an alternative? No, there isn’t.” U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is in Paris defending American interests at the conference, in his last major diplomatic foray before he leaves office. It marks the end of eight years of failed U.S. efforts at Israeli-Palestinian diplomacy.
Netanyahu declined an invitation to a special meeting after the conference, and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas was initially expected, but his visit to Paris was postponed. The Israeli prime minister said the gathering would do little to promote peace and marks the “last flutters of yesterday’s world.” “Tomorrow will look different and tomorrow is very close,” he said in apparent reference to Trump’s incoming administration.