Wednesday, 21 August 2019

News headlines - 20 August, 2019

I am taking a bit of a rest today. These are the main headlines.

## Global Ponzi meltdown/House of Cards/global cooling/deflationary collapse ##
Germany's Scholz: Don't expect higher interest rates for years
There are some things I can't agree with, and some statements, such as the attribution of ship attack to Iran, are speculation stated as fact. There's the usual reference to the "failing state of Venezuela," while Western states are also failing right before our eyes. But the article affords a window on the crumbling Western alliance and the loss of trust among its members. -- RF

• War on Iran

## Global unrest/mob rule/angry people/torches and pitchforks ##
Chiding Macron, Putin says 'I don't want yellow vests in Russia'
I suppose this is meant to make Putin look bad, but in truth no government wants yellow vests. -- RF
Energy Star's thermostat recommendations surprise the internet
A federal program is taking some serious heat for recommending that homes be kept at 78 degrees during the day.
Read the comments. Many people are going to go into shock when power grids go down. -- RF
Trump White House seeks to assuage farmer unrest over biofuel policy: sources
President Donald Trump’s administration has been scrambling to stem the tide of rising anger in Farm Belt states after its decision this month to allow numerous oil refiners to mix less ethanol into their gasoline, sources told Reuters on Tuesday.
Eat, drink, and be sick? Plastic, plastic everywhere
Why would anyone believe the NSA in the first place? The job of intelligence agencies the world over is to lie, cheat, and steal. -- RF

## Propaganda/censorship/fake news/alternative facts ##
Twitter shuts Chinese accounts targeting Hong Kong protests

What's happening in most other countries? -- RF

• War on Huawei
I wouldn't read too much into this. -- RF
Around the world, America is involved in quarrels, clashes and confrontations with almost too many nations to count. In how many of these are U.S. vital interests imperiled? And in how many are we facing potential wars on behalf of other nations, while they hold our coat and egg us on?
Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) said Monday that U.S. aid to Israel should be tied to its treatment of Palestinians.
Don't hold your breath. -- RF
GDP Ain’t What it Used to Be!
Let me help remove the rose-colored glasses for anyone who still thinks GDP this year is good. 


Balad Air Base Is Home To American Contractors And Military Personnel Serving Alongside The Iraqi Air Force.

20 August, 2019

Reports from the Balad Air Base near Baghdad indicate a nearby arms depot has exploded under unknown airstrikes.

The facility is believed to be run by an Iranian-backed Hezbollah militia. However, Balad Air Base is also home to American contractors and service members who work alongside the Iraqi Air Force, which has its own F-16 fighters based there.

Israel, which typically does not comment on its military activities, is being blamed for the airstrikes, which have caused casualties … although it’s not clear who was hurt or how badly. Monday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hinted that his country was behind other recent airstrikes on alleged Iranian-backed militia facilities in Iraq. He said then Israel would “continue to act militarily whenever and wherever there is a need to do so.” This would be a serious escalation to the tone currently in the Middle East.

Meanwhile, a top Iranian security official says that Tehran should have never agreed to the 2015 nuclear deal with world powers. Ali Shamkhani is a security adviser to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. He also told NBC news that the risk of war with the US is low, but he warned:

In the case of war, the U.S. will be in a very terrible situation … We have multiple instruments at hand, including the proxy war.

Just walk the streets of Tehran and see how energetic our people are and you will realize that [what the U.S. has] been trying to achieve has not materialized. The sanctions campaign is not for negotiation, it’s for making us surrender. As long as this approach is taken by the United States, Iran will never ever seek negotiations.”

Iran’s top military commander, Maj. Gen. Mohammad Baqeri says the recent release of the oil tanker Adrian Darya 1 is proof of “the power” of the Islamic Republic. He equated it with the downing of a U.S. drone and the seizure of the British oil tanker Stena Impero as a sign Iran is on the “path to achieve its lofty goals.”

The U.S. is warning Greece that any action deemed to be helpful to the Adrian Darya 1 could be considered “material support to terrorism.” The ship is currently scheduled to arrive at Kalamata, Greece, on Aug. 25.

The tanker is expected to remain outside EU waters as it transits the Mediterranean Sea and is likely to conduct the ship-to-ship transfer of oil outside of Greek waters. The U.S. says it still plans to execute its seizure warrant against the vessel.

The Times of Israel also reports U.S. special forces are now practicing ship seizures in the Mediterranean. The IDF says the drills, called Noble Rose 2019, were planned many months ago and are not related to any current events, but added the exercise is “larger than what we’ve done before.”

The IDF press statement also reads:

In the exercise, advanced and varied capabilities of the Israeli Navy’s Commando Unit were displayed, including taking over a vessel by parachuting from a plane, climbing, rappelling, sniping, and medical evacuation.”

An IDF spokesman also said the exercise included a simulation of “boarding and taking over a merchant ship carrying weapons and contraband.” He also emphasized the American and Israeli personnel were working “shoulder to shoulder.”

(Photo Credit: Staff Sgt. Luke Kitterman/U.S. Air Force)


But The Two Sides Are A Long Way From The Reconciliation Anthony Neoh Says Is Necessary.

20 August, 2019

With the peace holding in Hong Kong, the head of the city’s police watchdog says the protests there need a “political solution.”

Anthony Neoh… chairman of the Independent Police Complaints Council says that should start with the formal withdrawal of the hated extradition bill. In an interview with the South China Morning Post, the lawyer said:

I don’t think the police by themselves can deal with the situation. If they think laws are being broken, they have to deal with it, but then, the more they deal with it, the antipathy they create at the moment. And it becomes a vicious circle as we can all see. Let’s call a spade a spade on this one.

Every time I see the chief executive, I mention to her, ‘You need a political solution.’ She agrees and says she’s working on it … It is only dead in the mind of the government because the government has undertaken not to revive it. That is not the way to withdraw legislation.”

Neoh also said the government should not rule out convening a commission of inquiry, led by a judge, adding that it must be done very carefully. He said rather than focus on specific officers’ actions, it should instead focus on how to improve the overall police force. Internal mechanisms can deal instead with the culpability of individual officers.

That’s probably not coming anytime soon, based on the rhetoric coming out of Beijing. State-controlled media, such as the government’s English-language Global Times mouthpiece, have taken to branding the protest movement’s leaders as the “Gang of Four”—a reference to leaders of the Maoist “Cultural Revolution” who were later convicted of betraying the communist revolution.

And now Twitter and Facebook find themselves in the middle of the fray after they suspended and banned hundreds of accounts originating from China that participated in a “campaign to disrupt the Hong Kong protests.” Twitter’s statement about the matter reads:

We are disclosing a significant state-backed information operation focused on the situation in Hong Kong, specifically the protest movement and their calls for political change.

This disclosure consists of 936 accounts originating from within the People’s Republic of China (PRC). Overall, these accounts were deliberately and specifically attempting to sow political discord in Hong Kong, including undermining the legitimacy and political positions of the protest movement on the ground. Based on our intensive investigations, we have reliable evidence to support that this is a coordinated state-backed operation. Specifically, we identified large clusters of accounts behaving in a coordinated manner to amplify messages related to the Hong Kong protests.

As Twitter is blocked in PRC, many of these accounts accessed Twitter using VPNs. However, some accounts accessed Twitter from specific unblocked IP addresses originating in mainland China. The accounts we are sharing today represent the most active portions of this campaign; a larger, spammy network of approximately 200,000 accounts—many created following our initial suspensions—were proactively suspended before they were substantially active on the service.

All the accounts have been suspended for a range of violations of our platform manipulation policies, which we define as:

  • Spam
  • Coordinated activity
  • Fake accounts
  • Attributed activity
  • Ban evasion

Covert, manipulative behaviors have no place on our service — they violate the fundamental principles on which our company is built. As we have said before, it is clear that information operations and coordinated inauthentic behavior will not cease. These deceptive strategies have been around for far longer than Twitter has existed. They adapt and change as the geopolitical terrain evolves worldwide and as new technologies emerge. For our part, we are committed to understanding and combating how bad-faith actors use our services.

Today we are adding archives containing complete Tweet and user information for the 936 accounts we’ve disclosed to our archive of information operations — the largest of its kind in the industry.

We will continue to be vigilant, learning from this network and proactively enforcing our policies to serve the public conversation. We hope that by being transparent and open we will empower further learning and public understanding of these nefarious tactics.”

Facebook announced a short time later that it had identified five accounts that it had permanently banned, effectively citing the same reasons as Twitter.

(Photo Credit: IPCC)

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