ZeroHedge News
Netanyahu Threatens All-Out War After 90 Rockets Fired From Gaza
Tue, 25 Feb 2020 06:00:00 +0000
Netanyahu Threatens All-Out War After 90 Rockets Fired From Gaza

Monday witnessed significant escalation over Gaza as Palestinian Islamic Jihad sought to avenge the deaths of three commanders killed in Israeli air strikes on Gaza and Damascus the day before. 

Israeli media counted some 90 total rockets fired at Israel from the Gaza Strip throughout the day since the attacks began Sunday night, with the IDF claiming its Iron Dome defense system had intercepted the vast majority which came near populated areas.

Israeli airstrike on Gaza City on Monday, February 24, via AFP/The Times of Israel.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had earlier threatened to initiate broader war if the rocket fire didn't cease. Despite an Islamic Jihad spokesman announcing a unilateral cease-fire by the early evening, the rocket fire was reported as continuing later into the night Monday. 

“We are now hitting with planes, tanks, and helicopters,” Netanyahu said while inspecting an Iron Dome unit in the south. “I’m talking about a war,” Netanyahu, who is entering a final week of campaigning before Israeli national elections, had further told Israel’s Army Radio station. “I only go to war as a last option, but we have prepared something you can’t even imagine.”

He also appeared to threaten to kill the heads of Hamas and Islamic Jihad if the rockets continued, saying:

“We will continue to strike until the calm returns. If there isn’t quiet, you’ll be next.

Some 30 rockets were initially fired out of the Gaza Strip on Sunday night, and it continued to escalate through Monday.

In a developing stand-off, Islamic Jihad appeared to threaten its own continuation and step up of attacks, blaming Israel for not stopping its aggression. 

“The enemy did not commit itself into stopping its aggression we we resumed based on the fire-for-fire principle,” Islamic Jihad spokesman Abu Hamza, said. 

Pundits were quick to point the finger at Iran for allegedly supplying increasingly sophisticated rockets to militant groups in the strip, which are reaching deeper into Israel.

Meanwhile, Israel is reportedly sending tanks, armored vehicles and troops to its southern border in what could become the next round of major fighting at a politically sensitive moment ahead of next week's election.

Tyler Durden Tue, 02/25/2020 - 01:00
American Gun Ownership: The Positive Impacts Of Law-Abiding Citizens Owning Firearms
Tue, 25 Feb 2020 05:10:00 +0000
American Gun Ownership: The Positive Impacts Of Law-Abiding Citizens Owning Firearms

Authored by Molly Carter via Ammo.com,

It’s no secret that mainstream press coverage of gun ownership in the United States tends to be in favor of gun control – especially when those reporting on the topic are not firearm owners themselves. Journalists focus on how many people are killed by guns, how many children get their hands on improperly stored firearms, and how many deranged individuals go on shooting sprees.

This anti-gun news bias is widespread among the “urban elite” who have very little personal experience with guns and yet write for influential newspapers like The New York TimesWashington Post, etc. Despite this bias, law-abiding private citizens owning guns does have positive impacts on American society that often go unreported – many of which are significant.

Criminals and the Armed Citizen

Perhaps the most notable impact of gun ownership on American society is how it influences the behavior of criminals.

The fact is, criminals fear armed citizens more than they do the police. There’s many reasons for this, but here are the most prominent:

  • Police are rarely onsite during a crime.

  • Police are bound by policy and procedures, and are trained to only use their firearms if it’s absolutely necessary.

  • Civilians are also less trained.

In a research study sponsored by the United States Department of Justice, James Wright and Peter Rossi interviewed over 1,800 incarcerated felons, asking how they felt about civilians and gun ownership. Thirty-three percent of these criminals admitted to being scared off, shot at, wounded, or captured by a gun-owning victim. Sixty-nine percent of them knew at least one other criminal who had similar experiences. Nearly 80 percent of felons also claimed that they intentionally avoid victims and homes that they believe may be armed.

This shows that at least one in three criminals has been deterred because of an armed citizen, and that four out five avoid victimizing people that have guns.

Law-Abiding Gun Owners & Defensive Gun Use

Advocates of civilian disarmament tend to scoff at the capabilities of everyday gun owners. Many believe that guns in the hands of normal people are crimes waiting to happen. However, thanks to the research of individuals such as John Lott, we now have evidence showing that gun owners are some of the most law-abiding segments of the American population.

Lott drew the example of concealed license holders when compared to law enforcement:

“Concealed-handgun permit holders are also much more law-abiding than the rest of the population. In fact, they are convicted at an even lower rate than police officers. According to a study in Police Quarterly, from 2005 to 2007, police committed 703 crimes annually on average. Of those, there were 113 firearms violations on average.

With 683,396 full-time law enforcement employees nationwide in 2006, we can infer that there were about 102 crimes by police per 100,000 officers. Among the U.S. population as a whole, the crime rate was 37 times higher than the police crime rate over those years – 3,813 per 100,000 people.”

Not only are gun owners very law-abiding, they are also quite capable of defending themselves against criminals. Criminologists Dr. Gary Kleck and Dr. Marc Gertz carried out a study that found 2.2 to 2.5 million cases of defensive gun use (DGU). Around 1.5 to 1.9 million of these cases involved handguns. There is reason to believe that DGU numbers completely overshadow the criminal use cases of guns.

However, in today’s era of outrage politics, many incidents of DGU go under the radar because of their lack of shock appeal that does not make for good headlines.

A Sense of Security

Most people realize that law enforcement cannot be everywhere, yet so many rely on nothing but a 911 call to protect both their home and those inside it. For those who live in remote areas, it can take an hour or more for first responders to arrive after an emergency call, but in most cases, even five minutes is too long. But when a homeowner is armed and trained, the sense of security increases.

Thanks to modern psychology, we know that people need this sense of security in order to grow and develop into healthy adults. Not surprisingly, privately owned guns provide that. Sixty-three percent of Americans now believe that having a gun in the house increases safety. While some may dismiss the importance of feeling secure and safe, or claim that another person’s desire for safety makes them feel unsafe, it is by far the most basic of human needs. And without it, people are left feeling frightened, angry, and defensive – often unable to reach, or even focus on, higher goals.

Gun Ownership and Public Safety

Concerning public safety, the media often portrays guns as the primary problem – stating things like, “Guns kill people” or “Guns are not the answer.” But gun control and restrictions are also not the answer. Whenever a community, city, state, or country has imposed a ban on guns, regardless if it was all guns or simply handguns, it has experienced an increase in murder rates. In 1997, Wales and England saw a nearly 50 percent increase in homicides immediately after implementing a ban on handguns.

Gun control advocates promote the idea that more gun policies and regulations make Americans safer, but it’s naive to believe that any type of law will stop someone set on murder or other criminal activity. The individuals that engage in these types of criminal behaviors do not obey laws, and are therefore rarely impacted by policies and procedures. But these implemented gun control laws do impact the law-abiding citizens who are only trying to protect themselves and those they care about.

The fact is, widespread gun ownership does reduce crime. Here are some of the ways:

Home and Business Protection

Every year, one million American home and business owners utilize a privately owned firearm to protect their property and lives. And when it comes to protection, resisting a crime with a gun is the safest route for victims. It’s associated with lower rates of both victim injury and crime completion than any other victim action.

American criminals are also less likely to burglarize an occupied home due to fear of the homeowner being armed. In England, where only around four percent of the general population legally own a handgun due to heavy restrictions, 59 percent of homes are occupied when the burglar breaks in, compared to approximately 28 percent in the U.S. Even if the homeowner did own a gun, he or she would have to unlock it from its safe, then unlock another safe where the ammunition is kept, then load the weapon before self defense would be possible. In 2009, 13 years after the country’s handgun ban began, its handgun crime levels had nearly doubled.

Public Shootings

After personal and home protection, the biggest impact of gun ownership on American society is mass shootings. Since 1950, all but just over one percent of mass public shootings occurred in gun-free zones. That means perpetrators are likely to know they’re safe and could intentionally be choosing these places to act out their massacres.

Also, immediately after right to carry concealed laws are put in place, the amount of mass public shootings fall dramatically. Not only does their frequency fall, but because people have the ability to carry firearms, they therefore can stop the perpetrator – limiting the impact of violence and destruction. Within the last two decades, this has happened numerous times across the country, including at a middle school dance in Edinboro, Pennsylvania and the Trolley Square Mall in Salt Lake City, Utah.

What’s more, when police were interviewed regarding their position on gun control legislation, around 90 percent stated they believed that during an active shooter incident, having well-trained, armed citizens present would decrease the casualties. More than 28 percent agreed that more permissive carry concealed policies would be beneficial to the public, especially when it comes to large-scale public shootings.

For the counter-argument that states an armed civilian is likely to increase the causalities of a mass shooter incident, there is a risk of this – just as there is an increased risk any time police are involved in a shoot-out. But remember, if there’s an armed shooter, things are already bad. And without interference, things are going to get worse. While the philosophy for protection during one of these situations is always run, hide, fight, if you’re fighting for your life, having a gun on your side is more beneficial than anything else.

The Exponential Impact

Because criminals fear citizens with firearms, gun ownership does have a dampening effect on crime. Not only is it a deterrent, but every time an intruder is shot, injured, or captured by a civilian, he or she is less likely to commit another crime.

Consider this: In 1966, 2,500 women in Orlando, Florida, went through a specific, highly publicized handgun training. Without anything else happening, the prevalence of rapes fell substantially from almost 36 rapes per 100,000 women to four. Other crimes, such as home burglaries, also fell – demonstrating that the private ownership of guns does deter crimes.

Protecting Constitutional Rights

In 2014, America saw a switch in how people thought about gun control. For the first time since gun control became an issue, more Americans believed that protecting gun rights was more important than controlling gun ownership, 52 to 46 percent.

That’s important because according to the U.S. Constitution, the right to bear arms is an inalienable right and an inherent part of the right to life. Once this right is violated by either another individual or the state, the ability to protect oneself from danger and even tyranny is impeded on. And when that happens, the ability of private citizens to protect the Constitution and the rights it enshrines for all Americans is threatened.

Having the ability to forcefully fight back against a tyrannical leader with guns – not just words – is what gave the colonists the ability to overthrow British control of the American colonies. Without guns, we would not have become the United States of America. The Founding Fathers understood this, and wanted to ensure that future generations of Americans could defend themselves against all threats both foreign and domestic.

Restraining the Power of Government

It may seem ridiculous to think that in today’s world, citizens could rise up against the government simply because of privately owned guns. Yet the argument stands that citizens having guns does restrain the power of government. History has shown that when gun restrictions and bans are implemented, it leads to tyranny.

Here are a few examples:

  • 1911: In Turkey, the Ottoman Empire killed 1.5 million Armenians.

  • 1929: Soviet Union implemented gun control, and after 20 years, killed over 20 million dissidents.

  • 1935: After 17 years of gun control laws, 20 million dissidents were killed in China.

  • 1938: Nazi Germany enacted gun control laws for Jews and by 1945, had murdered 13 million Jewish people.

  • 1956: In just two years after gun control laws were enacted, one million people were killed in Cambodia.

  • 1964: In a nine-year span after gun control, Guatemala killed over 100,000 Mayan Indians.

  • 1970: In Uganda, 300,000 Christians were killed after gun control was implemented.

  • 1994: The government of Rwanda disarmed the Tutsi people, and executed almost one million of them.

What has the 20th Century shown us about gun control? That an unarmed country is not a safe country. That when citizens don’t have the right to bear arms, governments can and do grow too large and become a threat to their people. That in the 20th Century, governments murdered four times as many people as those that were killed in all the world’s wars during that same time period. That millions more people were killed by their own governments than by criminals.

Truth Behind the Anti-Gun Rhetoric

Arguments in support of the anti-gun campaign can seem strong. After all, they talk about gun control saving the lives of children, stopping school shootings, and putting an end to terrorist attacks. But the fact is, this is just rhetoric and much of it is exaggerated and skewed.

Here’s the truth behind the most common anti-gun arguments, especially when it comes to individual and public safety.

Suicide

Yes, civilian-owned guns often play a role in suicides. And yes, gun control policies do seem to lower the prevalence of gun suicides. But gun control does not impact the number of people who commit suicide nor the total number that occur. Research shows that when guns are not available, those intent on hurting themselves find other, just as fatal ways to do it. More gun regulation does not lessen these numbers.

43 to One

A favorite statistic used by those in favor of gun control is that when a person has a gun in the home, he or she is 43 times more likely to shoot and kill a family member than an intruder. This statistic is based off of one study done in Seattle in 1986. Shooting of a family member included firearm murders, suicides, and fatal accidents and was compared to court-ruled justifiable homicides.

Of these 43 deaths, most were suicides. As already discussed, gun restrictions do not impact the number of suicides. Eliminate these deaths from the numbers, and it drops to 2.39 deaths to one.

Now, of those 2.39 family deaths, some are accidents and some are murders. Just like the absence of guns doesn’t reduce the risk of suicide, when someone is bent on murder, chances are he or she is going to follow through regardless if it’s with a firearm, a knife, poison, or other means.

Lastly, these are deaths compared to deaths, and when discussing self defense and protecting both yourself and home, it often doesn’t lead to death. Wielding a firearm alone is enough to turn many criminals away. And many who use a firearm in self defense shoot to injure, not kill. The study also didn’t account for those cases when a homeowner was acquitted on grounds of self-defense. Therefore, this number represents the number of dead criminals, not those that were captured or deterred.

So what does this mean for America? It means that guns and the law-abiding citizens who carry them make and keep it a safer country. It means when a criminal knows you’re carrying a firearm, you’re less likely to become a victim. It means that there are positive benefits of gun ownership for Americans and that gun legislation is not the best way to safer streets.

*  *  *

*If you know that someone in your home is severely depressed or having suicidal idealizations, access to firearms should be completely restricted. This is also true for knives, ropes, and all medications – including those that can be purchased over the counter. Seek medical assistance as soon as possible.

Tyler Durden Tue, 02/25/2020 - 00:10
Meet Naomi Seibt - The 19-Year-Old, Blond Antidote To Greta Thunberg
Tue, 25 Feb 2020 04:50:00 +0000
Meet Naomi Seibt - The 19-Year-Old, Blond Antidote To Greta Thunberg

In what is a somewhat shocking lead article, the Washington Post has written a feature on Naomi Seibt, a German climate skeptic and YouTuber that WaPo describes as “...19-year-old German who, like Greta, is blond, eloquent and European.”

WaPo introduces the teen:

Naomi denounces “climate alarmism,” calls climate consciousness “a despicably anti-human ideology,” and has even deployed Greta’s now famous “How dare you?” line to take on the mainstream German media.

Of course, there is a reason why WaPo decided to show Naomi to the world... to set the narrative - that she is a climate-denying, right-wing racist...

In addition to climate change, Naomi echoes far-right skepticism about feminism and immigration.

The German media have described her as sympathetic to the nationalist Alternative for Germany (AfD), the biggest opposition party in parliament, whose leaders have spoken of fighting “an invasion of foreigners.”

Naomi says she is not a member of AfD - she describes herself as libertarian - but acknowledges speaking at a recent AfD event.

Seibt was interviewed by Sky News Australia last week to discuss her story.

“What the climate skeptics, or climate realists say, makes a lot of sense to me, scientifically,” Seibt said in the interview.

“And that's how I became really passionate about the topic.”

I think this entire climate mainstream narrative is not about science at all. Because I would say that more than 90% of the people, especially the young people, who go to those Fridays for Future protests, they have no clue what they're actually talking about. They don't know anything about the science behind it. All they know is, this is the mainstream, and they are actually scared many of them I think that the planet is going to end like 12 years from now. And so, this is not about science. This is about politics. This is about controlling us.

As WaPo reports, Naomi said her political activism was sparked a few years ago when she began asking questions in school about Germany’s liberal immigration policies. She said the backlash from teachers and other students hardened her skepticism about mainstream German thinking. More recently, she said that watching young people joining weekly “Fridays For Future” protests inspired by Greta helped spur her opposition to climate change activism.

“I get chills when I see those young people, especially at Fridays for Future. They are screaming and shouting and they’re generally terrified,” she said in an interview.

“They don’t want the world to end.”

Later this week, Naomi is set to make her American debut at the Conservative Political Action Conference, or CPAC, a high-profile annual gathering just outside Washington of right-leaning activists.

“She’s a fantastic voice for free markets and for climate realism,” James Taylor, director of the Arthur B Robinson Centre for Climate and Environmental Policy at The Heartland Institute, told The Washington Post

Tyler Durden Mon, 02/24/2020 - 23:50
How To Know If America Is Your Enemy
Tue, 25 Feb 2020 04:30:00 +0000
How To Know If America Is Your Enemy

Authored by Eric Zuesse via The Strategic Culture Foundation,

If your country is friendly toward Russia, China, or Iran, then today’s American Government is probably applying subversion, economic sanctions, or maybe even planning a coup, or (if none of those will succeed) probably is war-gaming now for a possible military invasion and permanent military occupation, of your country.

These things have been done to Russia, Iran, China, Yugoslavia, Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador, Cuba, Ukraine, Georgia, Indonesia, Vietnam, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Lebanon, Yemen, and some other countries.

However, after the 9/11 attacks in America, the U.S. Government has added another system for selecting countries to immiserate, and those are mainly the countries that already suffer the most misery - some of them are countries that were listed above, but others (many others) are not, and are selected instead largely because they are already in misery, and also because America - that is, the Deep State which controls it, America’s hundreds of billionaires, who control international corporations and the press in America, and not just control the politicians who win public offices - wants to control the given target country in order to extract its natural resources or simply in order to place some of U.S. military bases there so as to be better able to invade other countries.

This relatively new category of America’s targeted enemies was invented, mainly, in 2003 and 2004, by Thomas P. M. Barnett, a Professor at the U.S. Naval College and columnist and writer for various popular magazines, as well as of best-selling books. His 2004 book The Pentagon’s New Map, presents that map, to show the areas, mainly around the Equator and including all of Central America; plus all of South America except Chile, Argentina, and Brazil; plus all of Africa except South Africa, all countries of which are supposedly not connected to globalization — i.e., they are Third World instead of First World — and he says that they are unstable and therefore need to be policed by the world’s policeman, which is the U.S. Government, to serve there as the judge, jury, and executioner, of anyone who lives there and who resists that judge, jury, and executioner. His key statement is on page 227,

“A country’s potential to warrant a U.S. military response is inversely related to its globalization connectivity.”

Here is the map, which shows which countries are supposedly high globalization connectivity and therefore inappropriate for America to sanction, coup, or invade and occupy; and which countries are supposedly low globalization connectivity and therefore appropriate for America to sanction, coup, or invade and occupy:

http://archive.is/2Pjqp

As can be seen there, the following countries are not to be policed by the U.S. Government: Canada, U.S., Mexico, Chile, Argentina, Brazil, UK, Greenland, Iceland, EU, Switzerland, Ukraine, Georgia, South Africa, Russia, Mongolia, China, India, Japan, South Korea, Australia, N.Z.

He calls those the “Globalized Functioning Core.”

All others are “the Non-Integrated Gap” countries, America’s virtual free-fire zones, to control so as to ‘prevent terrorism’.

Instead of international law being what the United Nations says it is, this “new map” theory says that international law in the “Non-Integrated Gap” countries should be what the U.S. Government says it is.

According to Barnett’s theory, as he expressed it in its original version in an Esquire magazine article titled “Why the Pentagon Changes Its Maps: And why we’ll keep going to war,” he listed these countries as “THE GAP” or third-world countries, “My list of real trouble for the world in the 1990s, today, and tomorrow, starting in our own backyard” (and these are listed here by the names that he gave to them): Haiti, Colombia, Brazil and Argentina, Former Yugoslavia, Congo and Rwanda/Burundi, Angola, South Africa, Israel-Palestine, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Somalia, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, North Korea, Indonesia. Then he listed “CORE MEMBERS I WORRY WE MAY LOSE:” China, Russia, India.

So, if you live in any of those countries, then Barnett, and the many U.S. generals who respect his theory, and the U.S. billionaires, who want the resources in those countries or else just want military bases there, view you as an enemy, not as a citizen of a sovereign foreign country. His Esquire article says, “it is always possible to fall off this bandwagon called globalization. And when you do, bloodshed will follow. If you are lucky, so will American troops.” He assumes that you need a “policeman” from America because what your own country provides is too primitive. And, “Conversely, if a country is largely functioning within globalization, we tend not to have to send our forces there to restore order or eradicate threats.”

On 22 August 2017, Thierry Meyssan at Voltairenet headlined “The US military project for the world” and gave his progressive critical interpretation of Barnett’s theory by placing it into the long-term evolution of U.S. geostrategy. On 26 September 2004, Razib Khan gave his admiring racist-fascist or ideologically nazi interpretation of it, under the headline “IQ And The Non-Integrating Gap”. He assumed there that lower-income countries are “lower IQ” and therefore need to be directed according to the master’s whip, not as sovereign countries.

The book’s publisher places online an informative excerpt from the work. under the headline “An Operating Theory of the World” and Barnett says there:

As the “vision guy,” my job was to generate and deliver a compelling brief that would mobilize the Defense Department toward generating the future fighting force demanded by the post-9/11 strategic environment. Over the next two years I gave that brief well over a hundred times to several thousand Defense Department officials. Through this intense give-and-take, my material grew far beyond my original inputs to include the insider logic driving all of the major policy decisions promulgated by the department’s senior leadership. Over time, senior military officials began citing the brief as a Rosetta stone for the Bush Administration’s new national security strategy.

The strategy remains in force, though there now is a return to focusing on the main enemies being Russia, China, and Iran. The “gap” countries are currently viewed not only according to the “gap” but also according to their relationships to Russia, China, and Iran.

Tyler Durden Mon, 02/24/2020 - 23:30
Uncertainty Surrounds Fate Of 2020 Tokyo Games As Covid-19 Outbreak Broadens
Tue, 25 Feb 2020 04:10:00 +0000
Uncertainty Surrounds Fate Of 2020 Tokyo Games As Covid-19 Outbreak Broadens

The 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics are scheduled to begin on July 24, and with about five months to go before the games start, the Covid-19 outbreak continues to worsen, with rising risks the Olympics could be delayed or canceled, reported The Times.

As of February 24, the deadly virus has infected more than 79,524, killed 2,626 and prompted more than 50 countries and territories to close their borders with China. The virus has spread uncontrollably in South Korea, Japan, and now in Europe, with cases, ex-China increasing.

Japan has the second-highest confirmed cases, with a total of 838 cases including four deaths, most of them are from a cruise ship docked in Yokohama, Japan.

Japanese public broadcaster NHK reported that Tokyo Olympic organizing committee CEO Toshiro Muto recently said he was "extremely worried that the spread of the infectious disease could throw cold water on the momentum toward the Games."

Tokyo 2020 President Yoshiro Mori said last week, "we are not considering a cancelation or postponement of the Games—let me make that clear."

However, Dr. Hitoshi Oshitani, a professor of virology at Tohoku University Graduate School of Medicine in Sendai, warned that the Olympics couldn't take place tomorrow, considering the outbreak situation continues to worsen. 

"I'm not sure of the situation at the end of July," Oshitani said. He said it would be "difficult to have the Olympics (now)." 

With an expanding list of Tokyo events being postponed ahead of the Olympics, it suggests some form of disruption could be seen in the months ahead.

Unpaid volunteer training for the event has been delayed until May or even weeks before the event. Organizers acknowledge the games cannot operate without these volunteers.

The Tokyo Marathon on March 1 will exclude hundreds of elite runners for fear they may contract the deadly airborne virus.

Some Olympic qualifying events outside of Tokyo have been shifted to different regions or postponed until further notice.

On Monday, the first board meeting for the Milan-Cortina 2026 Olympics committee opted for a video conference call after an outbreak of the virus prompted several towns in northern Italy to close.

Some sporting events in Italy are being held behind closed doors: "Playing all sports behind closed doors for the next week could be possible, because then fans can more easily stay at home," said Maurizio Casasco, the president of the Italian federation for sports physicians

This could suggest as the crisis spreads across the world, the 2020 Olympic games might not be canceled, delayed, or relocated this summer, but rather a closed event that will be televised.

Since 1896, the Olympics have only been canceled during wartime. And in 1976, 1980 and 1984 faced boycotts.

The longer the outbreak continues, the more uncertainty it could create for Olympic organizers.

But there’s good news for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, if whatever reason the event is canceled or at least closed off to the public, his administration can blame the collapsing economy on the virus.

Tyler Durden Mon, 02/24/2020 - 23:10
Sabotaging Kabul's Multipolar Revolution With China And Russia
Tue, 25 Feb 2020 03:50:00 +0000
Sabotaging Kabul's Multipolar Revolution With China And Russia

Authored by Federico Pieraccini via The Strategic Culture Foundation,

Nineteen years after September 11, 2001 and 17 years after launching its war against the Taliban in Afghanistan, the U.S. seems ready to cut a deal with the Taliban in order to freeze out its Eurasian rivals.

The central government in Kabul has in recent years granted a leading role to Moscow and Beijing in efforts to pacify the country by bringing all parties to the negotiating table. A successful outcome would allow Afghanistan to reap the benefits of its geographical position vis-a-vis Sino-Russian infrastructure projects.

The entry into Afghanistan’s dynamics of China’s economic power and Russia’s military weight promises to spark a multipolar revolution in the country and beyond that would spread to neighbors like India, Pakistan and Iran.

Moscow had even initiated historical negotiations with Taliban representatives, culminating in a visit to Moscow. U.S. sources at the time voiced doubts about the success of any peace plan and tensions between the U.S. and Iran were high, with sanctions imposed on Iran and pressure placed on U.S. allies in the region like India to boycott Iranian oil.

Moscow and Beijing must have seen it as opportune to renew extended talks on Afghanistan that included regional countries but excluded the U.S.

Washington’s countermove took place shortly thereafter, calling into service the Taliban, an old geopolitical tool of theirs. This faction of Afghan politics served as a handy expedient to justify Washington’s initial invasion of Afghanistan and will now be employed to obviate Washington’s exclusion from any peace accords.

The CIA wielded the Taliban as a weapon against the USSR, arming and supporting it since the 1980s. The blowback from this strategy came 20 years later with the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 that was carried out by al Qaeda with the Taliban regime in Afghanistan giving them aid and comfort, or so the State Department has officially been telling us.

As geopolitics never gets boring, Washington will now, 20 years after entering the country, try and use an agreement with the Taliban to scupper the regional plans of Kabul, Moscow and Beijing as well as to justify its continued existence in the country.

The Taliban (influenced by the Muslim Brotherhood, whose military strength lies in Turkey and economic strength in Qatar) entering into negotiations with the U.S. means betraying its initial determination to remove any foreign presence in Afghanistan. But this has not stopped it from unofficially negotiating with Washington in Qatar for more than a year.

Washington’s primary goal is to remain in the country militarily in order to position itself in what is a geopolitically strategic location, the intention always being to slow down the integration and economic union of Eurasia, in the knowledge that Afghanistan is a central pivot both for China’s Belt and Road Initiative and Russia’s North-South corridor to connect Moscow and New Delhi. Afghanistan is also the gateway and intersection between North Africa, the Middle East, the Persian Gulf and South Asia.

It is therefore not surprising that Afghanistan is a country that attracts great-power competition involving the likes of the U.S., Russia, India and China.

Washington’s deal with the Taliban may be based on the avowed need to fight against the terrorist threat posed by ISIS. We must pause for a moment to point out that the presence of ISIS in Afghanistan is quite recent, leading to all sorts of questions as to how they came to be there in the first place and of what assistance they may have received from foreign intelligence agencies in getting there. ISIS in Iraq and Syria has been used by foreign powers opposed to the central government in Damascus as a bludgeon with which to devastate the country.

It seems the same modus operandi will be applied to Afghanistan, with the putative struggle between ISIS and the Taliban serving as the perfect blessing for this strange marriage of convenience between the U.S. and the Taliban and a justification for a continued presence by the U.S. in Afghanistan.

Washington’s continued presence will not only destabilize Afghanistan but also neighboring countries like Pakistan and India that have suffered from the consequences of U.S. military occupation in the region for 17 years.

Washington’s agreement with the Taliban will only further cement the role of the U.S. in the valiant fight against international terrorism, reflecting similar roles played by Saudi Arabia and Turkey in Yemen and Syria respectively, the former a U.S. ally and the latter a prominent NATO member.

The aim of China, Russia and Iran is to drive the U.S. out of the Middle East and Eurasia and thereby bring about peace, stability and prosperity to the region. Afghanistan and Iran are two countries critical in the expansion of the Belt and Road Initiative and all that it entails for Western Asia. The possibility of expelling Washington from the heart of Eurasia is an opportunity that Russia and China cannot afford to waste.

Tyler Durden Mon, 02/24/2020 - 22:50
Turmoil In Malaysia After Prime Minister Mahathir's Shock Resignation
Tue, 25 Feb 2020 03:30:00 +0000
Turmoil In Malaysia After Prime Minister Mahathir's Shock Resignation

It's being described a shock resignation by the world's oldest elected leader. The 94-year old Prime Minister of Malaysia, Mahathir Mohamad, who returned to power in 2018, announced his resignation on Monday in a mere two-line statement offering no details.

He was asked to stay on as interim leader by the country's king upon his resignation at 1pm local time. It follows a weekend of political turmoil, which will now continue this week as the question of a new government remains hanging in the balance. As Al Jazeera reports

Mahathir's decision follows a weekend of political wrangling, after it was reported on Sunday night that his party was planning to form a new government that would exclude his anointed successor, Anwar Ibrahim.

...Anwar also said that Mahathir has no plans to join with anyone from the previous ruling coalition he defeated to try to form a new government.

When asked if Mahathir was responsible for the current political turmoil, Anwar blamed "those within my party and outside using his name."

Malaysia's Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad has submitted his resignation to the king, via Bangkok Post.

The crisis was sparked reportedly upon Mahathir’s supporters within his own "Pact of Hope" coalition attempting to form a new coalition allegedly aimed to prevent the appointment of his agreed successor, Anwar Ibrahim.

Anwar and Mahathir had in 2018 joined forces despite their rocky political relations to defeat a notoriously corruption-plagued government in the polls.

For the time being it's expected that Malaysia's constitutional monarch will play a key role, with options to invite a leader to form a new administration, or alternately call for a fresh general election.

There's rumors that Mahathir himself may be behind the drive to form a new coalition in order to later more firmly solidify his power. 

Anwar and Mahathir, via CNN

The immediate effect of the surprise resignation was felt by the country's stock markets, which plunged on the news

Meanwhile, director of the Asia Institute Tasmania at the University of Tasmania Prof James Chin, told The Guardian of future prospects for the country's politics: “The possible outcome is that you have a much stronger Malay-centric government with a much more Islamic outlook. This is very bad news for non-Malays – the Chinese and Indian communities in Malaysia make up more than 30% of the population.”

Tyler Durden Mon, 02/24/2020 - 22:30
Shocking State Media Report Exposes Widespread Undercounting Of Coronavirus Deaths In Wuhan's Nursing Homes
Tue, 25 Feb 2020 03:10:00 +0000
Shocking State Media Report Exposes Widespread Undercounting Of Coronavirus Deaths In Wuhan's Nursing Homes

Despite the WHO's refusal to even consider the question during its press conference on Monday, evidence continues to mount that officials in Beijing and Hubei are seriously massaging the stats to conform to Beijing's narrative that the outbreak is under control, and is finally starting to recede.

Yesterday, we shared the story of a doctor in Hunan who said out of 50 deaths at his hospital that day, authorities only counted one in the official stats.

Then in the early hours of Tuesday morning, state-controlled business publication Caixin published a shocking scoop that exposed officials' undercounting, and also suggested that the exaggerations are about as bad as critics feared.

It's hard to image that this wasn't a deliberate act of defiance by a journalist who was finally fed up with official lies. The death of Dr. Li Wenliang earlier this month inspired a nascent free-speech movement that just might outlast the outbreak, unless authorities move to brutally crush it.

The reporters claim that a pattern of discrepancies that has emerged in the official statistics surrounding cases tied to nursing homes and other facilities specializing in elder care. The elderly are, of course, one of several vulnerable populations singled out by the WHO and the governor of Hubei for special care.

But after it came to light late last week that Chinese authorities missed 500 cases in several prisons in and outside of Hubei, journalists and local officials got curious to see what else was being overlooked.

One nursing home situated just blocks from the seafood market where the outbreak allegedly began reported 19 deaths recently all of which are believed to have been caused by the virus. However, a doctor told the paper that only one death was counted in the official statistics.

Unexplained deaths from lung ailments among the elderly at the Wuhan Social Welfare Institute and similar facilities suggest that nursing homes may be another blind spot as the government’s epidemic-fighting efforts have focused on hospitals and other communities. Last week it came to light that Chinese prisons reported more than 500 previously uncounted Covid-19 cases among guards and inmates.

The situation was complicated by the quarantine, which cut off many family members from their loved ones. Once elderly patients were moved into quarantines, it only became more difficult to track them.

After Wuhan tightened quarantine measures to restrict people from leaving their homes and to send the sick into makeshift quarantine quarters, many people lost contact with elderly family members in nursing homes. Family members of people in nursing homes say they have been trying to find out how many residents may be infected, where the elderly are quarantined, whether there are caregivers, what test results show and whether the government can send more medical and care staff to institutions.

Given all the staff shortages, and the staggering number of health-care professionals who caught the virus, family members accused the state of failing to provide sufficient protections for elderly family members who died of the virus.

Some family members of deceased seniors told Caixin that the nursing home didn’t take sufficient protective measures and residents were not even asked to wear masks.

The doctor at the infirmary said the nursing home wasn’t sealed off until Jan. 21, when the outbreak was already spreading quickly in the city. Because it was close to the Lunar New Year, there were many visitors at the nursing home every day. It hasn’t been ruled out that visiting family members might have brought the virus into the nursing home, the doctor said.

A medical worker at the nursing home said it’s also difficult to implement quarantine measures because of staff shortages and residents with dementia.

Apparently, Caixin managed to obtain official documents proving the discrepancy: A register of the deceased from the nursing home where they lived showed 15 deaths between Dec. 23 and Feb. 15, and four more on Feb. 18 for a total of 19.

But only one death, that of an 83-year-old male who had lived at the facility, was recorded in the official stats. The others were assigned ambiguous causes of death, like "pneumonia", a strategy that we've reported on previously.

A list of the dead at the social welfare facility obtained by Caixin showed 15 fatalities between Dec. 23 and Feb. 11 and four more Feb. 18. Of the total of 19 fatalities, only the death of an 83-year-old male Feb. 15 was clearly linked to Covid-19. Eight others were attributed to infections, including six to lung infections and two deaths from shock caused by infection. The remaining 10 fatalities were reportedly from other causes, and five of them took place before Feb. 11 when the nursing home started testing for Covid-19.

The nursing home never before had so many deaths in such a short time, according to a staff member who has worked there many years. Except for one 27-year-old female with cholecystitis, all of the 18 others on the fatalities list were in their 80s and 90s and most had diabetes, high blood pressure, stroke or disabilities, according to the list.

It's also notable that the facility is just a few hundred yards from the seamarket alleged to be 'ground zero' for the outbreak.

The facility, just a few hundred yards from the seafood market that may have been the starting point of the outbreak, is a combination senior hospital and nursing home. It is home to 458 senior residents with 190 staff, 21 property management personnel and eight care workers. The facility has been sealed off since Jan. 21 as local authorities stepped up efforts to contain the outbreak. All staff have been asked to stay in the facility.

One doctor who purportedly worked at the facility said he treated a man with a high fever who eventually died of "septic shock" back in December. But given the time that has passed, there would be no way to prove the virus was the cause.

A doctor in the welfare facility’s infirmary said he participated in the treatment of a patient in late December who had a fever as high as 107.6 degrees Fahrenheit (42 degrees Celsius). The patient died from septic shock possibly caused by infection, but the cause of infection was unknown because no virus check was done, according to the doctor, who was later confirmed infected with Covid-19 himself.

But even without the tests, the symptoms combined with the sharp increase in deaths suggests that dozens are going undercounted in Wuhan's nursing homes.

The doctor said he treated three seniors who died since late December. Several doctors, nurses and attendants have also shown symptoms of lung infection, the doctor said.

A care worker said more than 10 seniors died during the Lunar New Year holiday. At first, they had fever and lost appetite. Those with recurrent fevers were transferred to quarantine rooms but died after a couple of days, the worker said.

"Since they were never confirmed with tests, we don’t know whether they died from the virus," the worker said. "But before the outbreak, even though many of the seniors at the nursing home have chronic diseases, we have never seen so many deaths in such a short time."

And if they're being undercounted in Wuhan, which reportedly had relatively lax controls on who could visit these 'vulnerable' facilities, that means they're likely undercounting deaths in hot-spot nursing homes across the country.

Tyler Durden Mon, 02/24/2020 - 22:10
Did ISS Live-Feed Accidentally Capture "Top Secret" Hypersonic Vehicle Test?
Tue, 25 Feb 2020 02:50:00 +0000
Did ISS Live-Feed Accidentally Capture "Top Secret" Hypersonic Vehicle Test?

Scott C. Waring, the founder of UFO Sightings Daily, claims he has come across a strange video recorded from the International Space Station's (ISS) NASA Space Cam that shows the moment an unidentified flying object rockets into orbit.  

 "I was watching the NASA live space station cam when I noticed the camera zooming in on a strange object coming from below the space station. At first I thought it was a capsule or satellite, but its speed increased and after 22 minutes it shot up and into deep space. I believed if it was a capsule it would have gone into low earth orbit then lower to land. But when this object shot upward into deep space, it literally blew my mind. This could be USAF top-secret alien tech fused craft, but I don't think so, the person on the camera seemed dismayed and unprepared for its sudden appearance," Waring said in a blog post

Waring operates the YouTube channel ET Data Base and judging by his past videos and commentaries - he's a tinfoil hat conspiracy theorist. 

He told tabloid newspaper Daily Express, that at one point, the NASA live camera suddenly "notices something down there and begins to zoom in on it."

Waring said NASA was the one zooming in on the object in the video, "not me." 

He said the ISS crew is as "baffled by it as I am. They don't know what it is or why it is there." 

"It doesn't like any kind of object I have seen before. If it is military, then it is a top-secret US air force technology," he said. 

One video commenter said, "Reminds me of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency's (DARPA) Falcon Hypersonic Technology Vehicle 2 (HTV-2). Capable of Mach 20 (13,000 miles/hr). What fascinates me in this video, though, is that it travels upwards away from Earth's orbit! Amazing video."

While the authenticity of the video remains of a question, the probabilities of an alien spaceship are slim to none, but instead could be a top-secret DARPA hypersonic vehicle.

As we've explained on several occasions, DARPA is actively testing these vehicles that can fly between Mach 5 (3,836 mph) and Mach 10 (7,672 mph).

Tyler Durden Mon, 02/24/2020 - 21:50
Manhattan DA Who Declined To Prosecute Weinstein Years Ago Celebrates Demise Of "Vicious Sexual Predator"
Tue, 25 Feb 2020 02:30:00 +0000
Manhattan DA Who Declined To Prosecute Weinstein Years Ago Celebrates Demise Of "Vicious Sexual Predator"

Authored by Matt Nathan via LawAndCrime.com,

Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance, a Democrat who has been in office for more than a decade now, briefly addressed the media after prosecutors secured a conviction against prominent Democratic Party donor and Hollywood bigwig Harvey Weinstein on counts of rape and criminal sexual act.

Vance credited eight women–victims and prosecutors–for “pull[ing] our justice system into the 21st Century by declaring that rape is rape, and sexual assault is sexual assault no matter what,” and no matter who committed the crimes.

“This is the new landscape for survivors of sexual assault in America, I believe, and this is a new day,” he said. “It’s a new day because Harvey Weinstein has finally been held accountable for crimes he committed.” Vance said their bravery proved that rape is rape “even if there is no physical evidence.”

You know who had an opportunity to hold “vicious sexual predator” Weinstein–and others–accountable years ago but didn’t? 

Cy Vance.

Remember this from 2017 about something that didn’t happen in 2015?

Just months after the Manhattan District Attorney’s office declined to prosecute Weinstein over sexual assault allegations, the Hollywood producer’s lawyer, Daid Boiesdonated $10,000 to Vance’s re-election campaign.

First broken by journalists David Sirota and Jay Cassano, here’s a condensed version of that story: In April, 2015, Italian model Ambra Battilana Gutierrez accused Weinstein of groping her breasts and shoving his hands up her skirt. She contacted the NYPD and wanted to press charges. There was no lack of evidence in this case either. An audio recording made at the NYPD’s request–and available to Vance’s office–reveals that Weinstein admitted the initial unwanted contact and that he had a sordid history of making such contact.

Many people clearly did remember this.

Numerous articles were written after news about this got out, and other high-profile sexual assault cases Vance oversaw (and dismissed) started receiving additional scrutiny. As memorialized by the New Yorker:

Vance’s stomach for high-profile prosecution was tested early on, in the 2011 sexual-assault case against the French politician Dominique Strauss-Kahn, who, before his arrest, was the head of the International Monetary Fund. A maid who was cleaning the Sofitel New York hotel suite where Strauss-Kahn was staying reported to police that he had emerged naked from the bathroom and forced her to perform oral sex. The D.A.’s office indicted Strauss-Kahn and trumpeted the strength of the case. But the office later disclosed credibility problems with the complaining witness. Vance reversed course and decided to dismiss all criminal charges, announcing that his office was “unable to credit her version of events beyond a reasonable doubt, what ever the truth may be about the encounter.”

The last line of the blockquote above illustrates what Vance was referring to when he mentioned a “new landscape” in light of #MeToo.

But the questions about Vance and his office’s decision-making when it comes to rich and powerful men accused of sex crimes do not end here. As recently as January, several survivors demanded his resignation when highlighting a sweetheart deal gifted to Columbia University gynecologist Dr. Robert Hadden.

The disgraced OB/GYN was accused of sexually assaulting no less than 19 of his former patients—including Evelyn Yang, wife of 2020 Democratic Party presidential candidate and entrepreneur Andrew Yang.

“Most women don’t know what you’re supposed to get when you’re pregnant,” Yang recently said in an interview—adding that she was initially unsure about what happened and that she only decided to open up about Hadden after other survivors came forward.

“I feel like I put up with some inappropriate behavior that I didn’t know at the time was straight-up sexual abuse slash sexual assault until much later,” Yang continued, saying those doubts eventually dissipated. “I knew it was wrong. I knew I was being assaulted.”

One of those additional survivors is Marissa Hoechstetter, who led the protest against Vance. Hoechstetter was the first woman to come forward about Hadden’s abuse. She claims he conducted unwarranted breast exams, made lewd comments about her looks and licked her vagina during a postpartum examination several years ago. Several additional woman have since come forward to register similar accusations.

Hadden eventually pleaded out on various charges. There was no jail time, but Hadden was forced to give up his medical license. Vance also argued against placing Hadden on a sex offender registry.

“For 10 years, Vance has repeatedly favored the wealthy and connected over justice for victims of sexual assault,” Hoechstetter said, noting that Hadden was actually first arrested in 2012 for licking another woman.

But Vance’s office cut him loose. Hadden went on to abuse more women after that brief encounter with Manhattan justice.

“Vance allowed that to happen,” Hoechstetter said. “It’s on him, and he must resign immediately.”

The very same Manhattan District Attorney office run by Vance, it cannot be forgotten, once shocked a judge by requesting that the infamous dead pedophile Jeffrey Epstein’s sex offender status be lowered to the lowest possible ranking.

Back in 2011, Assistant Manhattan DA Jennifer Gaffney argued in court that Esptein’s sex offender status should be lowered from level 3 to level 1. If this was granted, Esptein would have been kept off the online sex offender database. This was after Epstein pleaded guilty to state charges of soliciting prostitution from a minor as part of a secretive, sweetheart plea deal that continues to garner intense scrutiny to this day. In reality, Esptein was accused of sexually abusing dozens of underage girls and ended up dodging federal charges. That changed in July 2019 Esptein was arrested for sex trafficking and conspiracy to commit sex trafficking. Epstein died the following month before he could stand trial.

Per the New York Post on the judge’s response to an argument in favor of Epstein:

“I have never seen the prosecutor’s office do anything like this,” Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Ruth Pickholz told Gaffney. “I have done many [cases] much less troubling than this one where [prosecutors] would never make a downward argument like this.”

Pressed by the judge, Gaffney admitted that she never spoke to the Florida U.S. Attorney who handled a sprawling sex-crime investigation into the financier.

“I don’t think you did much of an investigation here,” Pickholz said. “I am shocked.”

Vance later admitted a mistake was made. Victims have said otherwise.

It was also alleged that the Manhattan DA’s office was aware that Epstein was allowed to skip mandatory check-ins for sex offenders of his status–meaning Epstein was allowed to do something that others would be imprisoned for.

“Our office vigorously prosecutes all failure-to-verify cases,” a Vance spokesman said at the time. “Our prosecutors did not and would not discourage the NYPD from making an arrest.”

Tyler Durden Mon, 02/24/2020 - 21:30
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