Russian Military Celebrates ‘Victory’ Over U.S. and West in Syria

Russian Military Celebrates ‘Victory’ Over U.S. and West in Syria (Source Newsweek)

Russian President Vladimir Putin and his top generals held an awards ceremony Thursday to honor military personnel returning from Syria, where Moscow claimed to have scored a decisive victory not only against militant groups, but against U.S. and Western interests.

Putin reportedly welcomed more than 600 soldiers and officers in the St. George Hall of the Grand Kremlin Palace, thanking them for their service in Syria, where Russia recently declared victory over the Islamic State militant group (ISIS). Russia’s 2015 entrance into the war came a year after the U.S. had already begun to scale down efforts to overthrow Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, an ally of Moscow facing a rebel and jihadi uprising, and had formed its own coalition to bomb ISIS. Russian officials and military leaders, however, have credited their aerial campaign with outpacing U.S.-led efforts to defeat the militants and thwarting Western plots to oust Assad.

“On seeing our Western coalition partners in the air, we always tailed them, as pilots say, which means a victory in real combat,” Major Maxim Makolkin said at the event, indicating that the Russian air force had outperformed and outmaneuvered the aircraft of the U.S.-led coalition.

China says U.S. not doing enough too cut demand for opioids

China says US not doing enough to cut demand for opioids (Source CNN)

China on Thursday turned the table on Washington in addressing the ongoing opioid crisis in the United States.

“The biggest challenge China faces in cracking down on the smuggling of opioids is the huge demand from the US,” said Yu Haibin, a senior official with the Narcotics Control Bureau of the Ministry of Public Security, the country’s top law enforcement agency. “The United States should strengthen its educational and publicity campaigns to reduce domestic demand, intensify its crackdown on internet-based drug crimes, and share more lab data with China to improve our

detection and verification capabilities.”

US President Donald Trump in October declared the opioid crisis a public health emergency. A report from the Congressional US-China Economic and Security Review Commission last February labeled China as the primary source of fentanyl — a cheap synthetic opioid at least 50 times stronger than heroin — in the US, citing law enforcement and drug investigators.

During his state visit to China last month, Trump brought up the topic with his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping in Beijing. The two leaders agreed to bolster mutual cooperation on fighting narcotic crimes — and the Chinese authorities on Thursday emphasized recent progress despite some choice words for Washington.

After announcing the listing of five new chemicals — used to make fentanyl or methamphetamine — as controlled substances, Chinese officials highlighted their latest success in destroying a fentanyl lab in northern China thanks to a tip from the US immigration and customs agency.

The joint China-US effort resulted in the arrests of 19 suspects in recent months across China as well as the seizure of 4.7 kilograms (10 pounds) of fentanyl and more than 150 kilograms of drug ingredients, according to Chinese officials.

South Korea seizes Hong Kong ship for oil transfer to North Korea

South Korea seizes Hong Kong ship for oil transfer to North Korea (Source AFP)

South Korea briefly seized and inspected a Hong Kong-registered ship in November for transferring oil products to a North Korean vessel and breaching UN sanctions, a foreign ministry official said on Friday. The Lighthouse Winmore, which was chartered by a Taiwanese company and carrying around 600 tonnes of oil products from South Korea’s Yeosu port, transferred part of its cargo to a North Korean vessel on October 19, the official said. South Korean customs authorities briefly seized and inspected the ship when it returned to Yeosu Port on November 24, he said.

The ship, chartered by Taiwanese company Billions Bunker Group Corp., previously visited Yeosu on October 11 to load up on Japanese refined oil before heading towards its purported destination in Taiwan. Instead of going to Taiwan, however, the vessel transferred the oil to the North’s Sam Jong 2 as well as to three other non-North Korean vessels in international waters, the official said. “This marks a typical case of North Korea shrewdly circumventing UN Security Council sanctions by using its illegal networks”, the official told journalists. “The actions taken will be reported to the UN Security Council sanctions committee on North Korea in the future,” he said. South Korea has shared intelligence with the US about the detection of the illegal transaction, he added. The Sam Jong 2 was one of four North Korean ships that was blocked from international ports by the UN Security Council on Thursday over suspicions of carrying or transporting goods banned by sanctions targeting Pyongyang’s weapons ambitions, diplomats told AFP. The Security Council has slapped three sets of sanctions on North Korea this year: one on August 5 targeting the iron, coal and fishing industries; another set on September 11 aimed at textiles and limiting oil supply; and the most recent on December 22 focused on refined petroleum products.

German Public Health Insurers Increasingly Pay for Cannabis Treatment

German Public Health Insurers Increasingly Pay for Cannabis Treatment (Source

Nearly 10,000 applications for medical marijuana therapy have been received by the country’s two largest health insurance companies, with over half of them being approved. German patients can receive cannabis on prescription since March 2017. The costs of cannabis therapies in Germany are being increasingly covered by the country’s public health insurance companies, which means patients who receive the non-conventional treatment don’t have to pay for it out of their own pockets, according to German Die Zeit newspaper.

For instance, one of the largest public health insurance firms in Germany, the AOK, received 6,600 applications for the reimbursement of medical cannabis treatments this year, the company’s spokesperson told the newspaper.

About 65 percent of these applications have been approved, and the figures may increase as some requests were rejected only for formal reasons and could be revised if re-submitted by a doctor and a patient.

According to the spokesperson, the most common reason for the rejection is the lack of medical justification. That means that seriously ill patients must try all standard therapies and apply for cannabis treatment only if those didn’t help. As reported by the Berliner Zeitung, Germany’s second-largest public health insurer, Barmer, has also approved most of the applications for cannabis therapies this year. Since the use of cannabis for medical purposes has been legalized by the government earlier this year, the company received about 2,900 applications for reimbursement, with about 1,700 of them being approved.

Retrenchment, Robotization and Crypto-Currencies:

Retrenchment, Robotization and Crypto-Currencies: The Runaway Train Towards Full Digitization of Money and Labor (Source The other day I was in a shopping mall looking for an ATM to get some cash. There was no ATM. A week ago, there was still a branch office of a local bank – no more, gone. A Starbucks will replace the space left empty by the bank. I asked around – there will be no more cash automats in this mall – and this pattern is repeated over and over throughout Switzerland and throughout western Europe. Cash machines gradually but ever so faster disappear, not only from shopping malls, also from street corners. Will Switzerland become the first country fully running on digital money? This new cashless money model is progressively but brutally introduced to the Swiss and Europeans at large – as they are not told what’s really happening behind the scene. If anything, the populace is being told that paying will become much easier. You just swipe your card – and bingo. No more signatures, no more looking for cash machines – your bank account is directly charged for whatever small or large amount you are spending. And naturally and gradually a ‘small fee’ will be introduced by the banks. And you are powerless, as a cash alternative will have been wiped out.

The upward limit of how much you may charge onto your bank account is mainly set by yourself, as long as it doesn’t exceed the banks tolerance. But the banks’ tolerance is generous. If you exceed your credit, the balance on your account quietly slides into the red and at the end of the month you pay a hefty interest; or interest on unpaid interest – and so on. And that even though interbank interest rates are at a historic low. The Swiss Central Bank’s interest to banks, for example, is even negative; one of the few central banks in the world with negative interest, others include Japan and Denmark. When I talked recently to the manager of a Geneva bank, he said, it’s getting much worse. ‘We are already closing all bank tellers, and so are most of the other banks’. Bank’s will call the shots in the future, on your personal economy and that of the state. They are globalized, following the same principles of deregulation worldwide. They are in collusion with globalized corporations. They will decide whether you eat or become enslaved. They are one of the tree major weapons of the 0.1 % to beat the 99.9% into submission.


China Shifts Course, Is a Global Financial Crisis Brewing?

 China Shifts Course, Is A Global Financial Crisis Brewing? (Source It is true the global economy has ‘enjoyed’ a brief and mild growth spurt in 2017. That growth has been driven by China’s stimulus and by business inventory investing in anticipations of Trump tax and other deregulation (also cost reduction) policy driven changes. But the growth of the summer of 2017 will soon slow significantly. Now China will purposely slow, as policy shifts to rein in its own financial bubbles and in part prepare for a global ‘Minsky Moment’ crisis that is coming.

Meanwhile, the Trump bump in US economic growth will also fade in 2018, driven up until now largely by inventory investing by business that won’t be realized in sales and revenue in 2018. Working-middle class household consumption has been based on debt and savings reduction instead of real wage income recovery this past year. That is not a basis for longer term growth. US autos and housing are already fading. Simultaneously, escalating costs of healthcare insurance premiums will cut deeply into consumer spending in 2018. And government spending will also slow, as Congress cuts social programs in order to offset deficits created by the massive tax cuts for corporations and investors. Consequently, odds are rising there will be a recession in the US, and globally, by late 2018 or early 2019. That will likely be accompanied soon, before or after, by a new ‘Minsky Moment’ of financial instability that will exacerbate the real economic downturn. A Minsky moment is a sudden major collapse of asset values which is part of the credit cycle or business cycle. Such moments occur because long periods of prosperity and increasing value of investments lead to increasing speculation using borrowed money.

In recent weeks, as host of my Alternative Visions radio show on the Progressive Radio Network, I have been focusing discussion on the growing financial bubbles and instability in the US and global economy that has been growing beneath the surface. The US real economy is no where as healthy as the 3% official GDP growth rates maintain. It can slow rapidly even in terms of official GDP numbers once it becomes clear that Trump tax cuts won’t create jobs or wage growth, and that tax cut driven deficits will mean no meaningful infrastructure fiscal spending by Congress.


Russia will retaliate after U.S. Supplies Lethal Weapons To Ukraine

Russia Will Retaliate After U.S. Supplies Lethal Weapons To Ukraine (Source

The Trump administration agreed to send lethal defensive weapons to Ukraine. The order, packaged by the State Department as an affirmation of Ukraine’s right to defend itself against Russian-backed aggression, was greeted on Capitol Hill as a logical step in confronting what many lawmakers view as Vladimir Putin’s expansionist foreign policy. Proponents of this recommendation argue that the bloodier Russia’s nose becomes and the higher the death toll for Russian soldiers on the battlefield, the more pressure Putin will be under to cut ties with the outgunned and outmanned separatists. The prevailing logic, however, is based on a hopeful theory of how they hope Putin will respond. Moscow’s conduct over the three-and-a-half years of combat in Eastern Ukraine, however, should lead to the exact opposite conclusion — when push comes to shove, the Russians have proven to be willing to withstand the financial, political, and military pain associated with preventing the total military defeat of anti-Kiev forces.

Russian officials have, predictably, denounced President Trump’s authorization of lethal equipment to the Ukrainians — including the likely delivery of Javelin anti-tank weapons, which could pulverize Russian armor— as an aggressive act meant to deliberately sabotage the Minsk peace process. While there is a possibility that Ukrainian forces could use U.S.-supplied heavy weapons in an offensive capacity as the Russians suggest, it is more likely that this assistance will be used by Moscow as an excuse to redouble its own support to Ukrainian proxies in Donetsk and Luhansk.



Trump will fail against Iran as did ‘smarter’ Reagan:

Trump will fail against Iran as did ‘smarter’ Reagan: Khamenei (Source Reuters)

“Reagan was more powerful and smarter than Trump, and he was a better actor in making threats, and he also moved against us and they shot down our plane,” Khamenei said in a speech carried on state television.

In 1988, a U.S. warship shot down an Iranian passenger plane over the Gulf, killing all 290 aboard, in an incident which Washington said was a mistake. Tehran said it was a deliberate attack on Iran, then at war with neighboring Iraq.

“But Reagan is gone and, according to out beliefs, he now faces God’s retribution … while Iran has made great advances in all areas since Reagan’s time,” Khamenei added.

“This trend will continue under the current American president and any hopes on their part that the Islamic Republic would back off or weaken is futile.”

Trump refused in October to certify that Tehran is complying with its 2015 nuclear deal with world powers and warned he might ultimately terminate the agreement. He announced the shift in U.S. policy in a speech in which he detailed a more aggressive approach to Iran over its nuclear and ballistic missile programs and its support for militant groups in the Middle East. Under the nuclear deal, sanctions on Iran were lifted in return for Tehran rolling back technologies with nuclear bomb-making potential.


There’s a war coming,’ Marine Corps general warns US troops

‘There’s a war coming,’ Marine Corps general warns US troops (Source Fox News)A Marine Corps commandant on Thursday warned U.S. troops stationed in Norway to be prepared for a coming war.

“I hope I’m wrong, but there’s a war coming,” Gen. Robert Neller told them. “You’re in a fight here, an informational fight, a political fight, by your presence.”

Neller pointed to the near future possibility of Russia and the Pacific theater being the next major areas of conflict.

Sgt. Maj. Ronald Green sounded a similar tone.

“Just remember why you’re here,” Green said. “They’re watching. Just like you watch them, they watch you. We’ve got 300 Marines up here; we could go from 300 to 3,000 overnight. We could raise the bar.” The warnings came a day before Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told troops at Fort Bragg, N.C., that “storm clouds are gathering” over the Korean Peninsula. Norway has insisted having U.S. troops stationed there is merely part of an effort to enhance ties with NATO allies and conduct cold-weather combat operations. At a Q&A session with the troops in the Norwegian Home Guard base near Trondheim, Neller said that the U.S. could shift its focus from the Middle East to Eastern Europe, citing Russia’s conflicts with Ukraine and Georgia as justification. He told the Marines that they should be prepared for a “big-ass fight” on the horizon.  Russia has reportedly been uneasy about the presence of American troops close to its borders. The 300 U.S. Marines deployed to Norway in June 2016 were the first foreign troops allowed to operate in the country since World War II. In September of this year, Russia conducted a joint-military exercise with neighboring Belarus that involved 12,700 troops. A new National Security Strategy unveiled by the Trump administration on Monday singled out Russia and China as two world powers challenging “American power, influence, and interests, attempting to erode American security and prosperity.”  


The great nutrient collapse

The great nutrient collapse (Source

Irakli Loladze is a mathematician by training, but he was in a biology lab when he encountered the puzzle that would change his life. It was in 1998, and Loladze was studying for his Ph.D. at Arizona State University. Against a backdrop of glass containers glowing with bright green algae, a biologist told Loladze and a half-dozen other graduate students that scientists had discovered something mysterious about zooplankton. Zooplankton are microscopic animals that float in the world’s oceans and lakes, and for food they rely on algae, which are essentially tiny plants. Scientists found that they could make algae grow faster by shining more light onto them—increasing the food supply for the zooplankton, which should have flourished. But it didn’t work out that way. When the researchers shined more light on the algae, the algae grew faster, and the tiny animals had lots and lots to eat—but at a certain point they started struggling to survive. This was a paradox. More food should lead to more growth. How could more algae be a problem?

Loladze was technically in the math department, but he loved biology and couldn’t stop thinking about this. The biologists had an idea of what was going on: The increased light was making the algae grow faster, but they ended up containing fewer of the nutrients the zooplankton needed to thrive. By speeding up their growth, the researchers had essentially turned the algae into junk food. The zooplankton had plenty to eat, but their food was less nutritious, and so they were starving.

Loladze used his math training to help measure and explain the algae-zooplankton dynamic. He and his colleagues devised a model that captured the relationship between a food source and a grazer that depends on the food. They published that first paper in 2000. But Loladze was also captivated by a much larger question raised by the experiment: Just how far this problem might extend.

“What struck me is that its application is wider,” Loladze recalled in an interview. Could the same problem affect grass and cows? What about rice and people? “It was kind of a watershed moment for me when I started thinking about human nutrition,” he said.

In the outside world, the problem isn’t that plants are suddenly getting more light: It’s that for years, they’ve been getting more carbon dioxide. Plants rely on both light and carbon dioxide to grow. If shining more light results in faster-growing, less nutritious algae—junk-food algae whose ratio of sugar to nutrients was out of whack—then it seemed logical to assume that ramping up carbon dioxide might do the same. And it could also be playing out in plants all over the planet. What might that mean for the plants that people eat?

What Loladze found is that scientists simply didn’t know. It was already well documented that CO2levels were rising in the atmosphere, but he was astonished at how little research had been done on how it affected the quality of the plants we eat. For the next 17 years, as he pursued his math career, Loladze scoured the scientific literature for any studies and data he could find. The results, as he collected them, all seemed to point in the same direction: The junk-food effect he had learned about in that Arizona lab also appeared to be occurring in fields and forests around the world. “Every leaf and every grass blade on earth makes more and more sugars as CO2 levels keep rising,” Loladze said. “We are witnessing the greatest injection of carbohydrates into the biosphere in human history―[an] injection that dilutes other nutrients in our food supply.”