Wednesday, March 14, 2012
All over America, there are millions of Americans that are quietly preparing for doomsday. They are turning spare rooms into long-term food storage pantries, they are planting survival gardens, they are converting their homes over to alternative sources of energy, they are taking self-defense courses and they are stocking up on just about anything you can imagine. They are called "preppers", and their numbers have absolutely exploded in recent years. In fact, you might be living next door to one and never even realize it. According to a recent Daily Mail article, there are approximately 3 million preppers in the United States today. Others believe that the true number is significantly higher than that. This movement has become so popular that there are now even television shows being done about preppers. The most popular is probably "Doomsday Preppers" on the National Geographic Channel. This movement is still growing and is not going to go away any time soon. In fact, as the world continues to become even more unstable it is likely that a lot more Americans will find themselves becoming preppers in the years ahead.
So what exactly are all these people so concerned about? Exactly why are there millions of Americans that are feverishly preparing for doomsday?
Well, the truth is that you will never find two preppers that are exactly alike. Some are deeply concerned about the potential for natural disasters and believe that we are now entering into a time when there will be catastrophic earth changes. Other preppers believe that terrorism is the most significant threat to our way of life. Killer pandemics, an EMP attack, World War III, martial law, solar megastorms, asteroid strikes and societal chaos are some of the other things that some preppers are worried about.
Of course an economic collapse is one of the biggest concerns for preppers, and without a doubt the U.S. economy is deeply troubled. A collapse of the financial system would change all of our lives permanently.
But it isn't just preppers that are concerned about these things.
A recent survey conducted by National Geographic asked Americans the following question....
"Which of the following, if any, do you think might happen in the United States in the next 25 years? Please choose all that apply."
These were the results....
Significant Earthquake 64%
Significant Hurricane 63%
Terrorist Attack 55%
Financial Collapse 51%
Significant Blackout 37%
Pandemic, Such as From a Super-Virus 29%
Nuclear Fallout 14%
None of These 13%
Significant Hurricane 63%
Terrorist Attack 55%
Financial Collapse 51%
Significant Blackout 37%
Pandemic, Such as From a Super-Virus 29%
Nuclear Fallout 14%
None of These 13%
Obviously there are a whole lot of people out there that feel as though we are heading for some really bad stuff.
So if hard times are coming, why not prepare for them?
After all, none of us want to end up like the poor people of New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Large numbers of people were herded into the Superdome and food and water ran out really fast. There was rampant looting of stores and people were shooting each other in the streets. It was mass chaos.
The following is what one Australian blogger experienced while staying in the Superdome during Hurricane Katrina....
Last night was horrendous. I heard shouting, and drinks machines being smashed. There’s no sanitation and it’s so smelly. My hair is greasy and I feel a wreck. There are crack alleys among the maze of corridors. The lights are broken in the loos which, as well as being disgusting, have become dangerous, so we now only go as a big group.More people are arriving, and the dome is like a refugee camp. I see two soldiers carrying a corpse and we hear there are more dead in the basement.
As an article in the New York Times from that time period detailed, food and water were in very short supply and those cramped into the Superdome were rapidly becoming impatient....
Desperation was in the air. Danielle Shelby tugged at a reporter's arm. "I have a handicapped daughter," she said. "She's over there with her wheelchair. She's hot. We don't have any water. I'm afraid she's going to have a seizure."Others crowded around. "I've been in the food line twice, and every time I get to the front they tell me they don't have any left," said Juanita McFerrin, 80.
Later on in that same article, we are told that there were fights, rapes and at least one suicide in the Superdome during that time....
It got worse. Ms. Rousell recalled hearing a loud bang Tuesday afternoon as the body of a man slapped the concrete at the edge of the football field in a fatal suicidal plunge, after he apparently learned that his home had been destroyed. Others told of fights that broke out in food lines, and of a husband and wife who slugged each other in a wild argument.Several residents said they had heard of children being raped, though it was not clear whether anyone reported such incidents to the authorities, and no officials could be found who could confirm the accounts.
To get an even better idea of what life in New Orleans was like in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, just check out this video.
Within just a few days food, water and supplies started pouring into New Orleans and things started slowly getting back to normal, but imagine what things would look like in this country if we had to deal with a national disaster that stretched on for months or even years?
Many preppers are not taking any chances. Many are absolutely determined to be able to take care of their families and friends no matter what the years ahead may bring.
ABC News recently profiled one prepper named Tim Ralston....
Tim Ralston, a married father of two from Arizona, is one such "prepper.""There's a lot of different things that could happen," Ralston said. "For me, I look at prepping as kind of like insurance. You have car insurance, health insurance, life insurance."Call it Apocalypse insurance. Ralston turned his family's two-car garage into a staging area. Inside is a trailer, which he keeps packed and ready to go at all times, stockpiles of freeze-dried food, including cartons of canned chicken with a shelf life of 15 years, survival gear, such as a system for purifying polluted water, first aid kits and lots of weapons and ammunition. His son has his own AK-47.
Some preppers are going to the extreme and are spending huge amounts of money on their prepping.
CNN recently profiled one Australian prepper that has spent about $350,000preparing for doomsday....
Bast has spent about $5,000 on stockpiles of food and water, and $11,000 on equipment including gas cookers, generators, batteries, water purifiers and solar power. He also purchased roughly an acre of land that's a 75-minute drive from Melbourne and 1,500 feet above sea level (in order to stay high and dry in case of a flood or tsunami). He has built a house there, as well as a bunker to serve as his "safe spot" in the event of an emergency. Together, the land, buildings and bunker have cost him a total of about $330,000.He's also spent $10,000 on an 8-year old Toyota HiLux pickup truck to drive to his safe spot.
But the truth is that prepping does not have to be expensive.
The key is to start by focusing on the five basics....
There are some practical things that just about anyone can do even if you don't have a lot of money.
For example, when you go to the store try to pick up a few extra items that are on sale and add them to your supplies. If you rotate your food supplies, they won't go bad.
In addition, just about anyone can plant a garden. Often fruits and vegetables are some of the most expensive items at the grocery store, and so growing a garden can end up saving you a lot of money.
Get educated. There are dozens of prepper websites out there where you can get an education in prepping for free. The following are a few examples of some of the excellent prepper websites that are out there today....
The truth is that our world is becoming increasingly unstable in a whole bunch of different ways and we all need to learn how to prepare for the difficult years ahead.
As the economy continues to fall apart, America is going to become a veryheartless place. You don't want to be caught in the middle of societal chaos without a plan.
None of us should be relying on the government to save us when things hit the fan. We all saw what happened after Hurricane Katrina. Those that were depending on the government were deeply disappointed.
We should all try to become as independent of the system as we can, because the system is failing. In the years ahead there might not be anybody to help you and your family, so you need to be working hard right now to ensure that you and your family will be taken care of.
Yes, as you may have guessed by now, I am a prepper too. My wife and I moved to an entirely different state and totally changed our lifestyle to prepare for what is coming.
Hopefully this article will inspire many more Americans to prepare for what is coming. A great economic collapse is on the horizon and time is rapidly running out.
Stop us when this confession from Greg Smith, a now former executive director and head of the Goldman's United States equity derivatives business in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, sounds exactly like everything we have said about the firm over the past 3+ years (and why we just can't wait for the next trading "recommendation" from Tom Stolper).
Excerpts from the NYT. Highlights ours.
Why I Am Leaving Goldman Sachs
Today is my last day at Goldman Sachs. After almost 12 years at the firm — first as a summer intern while at Stanford, then in New York for 10 years, and now in London — I believe I have worked here long enough to understand the trajectory of its culture, its people and its identity. And I can honestly say that the environment now is as toxic and destructive as I have ever seen it.
To put the problem in the simplest terms, the interests of the client continue to be sidelined in the way the firm operates and thinks about making money. Goldman Sachs is one of the world’s largest and most important investment banks and it is too integral to global finance to continue to act this way. The firm has veered so far from the place I joined right out of college that I can no longer in good conscience say that I identify with what it stands for.
It might sound surprising to a skeptical public, but culture was always a vital part of Goldman Sachs’s success. It revolved around teamwork, integrity, a spirit of humility, and always doing right by our clients. The culture was the secret sauce that made this place great and allowed us to earn our clients’ trust for 143 years. It wasn’t just about making money;this alone will not sustain a firm for so long. It had something to do with pride and belief in the organization. I am sad to say that I look around today and see virtually no trace of the culture that made me love working for this firm for many years. I no longer have the pride, or the belief.
I knew it was time to leave when I realized I could no longer look students in the eye and tell them what a great place this was to work.
When the history books are written about Goldman Sachs, they may reflect that the current chief executive officer, Lloyd C. Blankfein, and the president, Gary D. Cohn, lost hold of the firm’s culture on their watch. I truly believe that this decline in the firm’s moral fiber represents the single most serious threat to its long-run survival.
How did we get here? The firm changed the way it thought about leadership. Leadership used to be about ideas, setting an example and doing the right thing. Today, if you make enough money for the firm (and are not currently an ax murderer) you will be promoted into a position of influence.
What are three quick ways to become a leader? a) Execute on the firm’s “axes,” which is Goldman-speak for persuading your clients to invest in the stocks or other products that we are trying to get rid of because they are not seen as having a lot of potential profit. b) “Hunt Elephants.” In English: get your clients — some of whom are sophisticated, and some of whom aren’t — to trade whatever will bring the biggest profit to Goldman. Call me old-fashioned, but I don’t like selling my clients a product that is wrong for them. c) Find yourself sitting in a seat where your job is to trade any illiquid, opaque product with a three-letter acronym.
Today, many of these leaders display a Goldman Sachs culture quotient of exactly zero percent. I attend derivatives sales meetings where not one single minute is spent asking questions about how we can help clients. It’s purely about how we can make the most possible money off of them. If you were an alien from Mars and sat in on one of these meetings, you would believe that a client’s success or progress was not part of the thought process at all.
It makes me ill how callously people talk about ripping their clients off. Over the last 12 months I have seen five different managing directors refer to their own clients as “muppets,” sometimes over internal e-mail. Even after the S.E.C., Fabulous Fab, Abacus, God’s work, Carl Levin, Vampire Squids? No humility? I mean, come on. Integrity? It is eroding. I don’t know of any illegal behavior, but will people push the envelope and pitch lucrative and complicated products to clients even if they are not the simplest investments or the ones most directly aligned with the client’s goals? Absolutely. Every day, in fact.
And so on - the picture is more or less clear to anyone who has read our endless rants against the tentacular financial monopolist of scale. Also, maybe it is time for all those media "critics" to offer an apology to Matt Taibbi?
While this comes nowehere close to redeeming the massive ills the firms and its peers have inflicted upon society, this kind of self-reflection is critical, not only at Goldman, but everywhere else, if the world has some chance of stopping before it slides right over the edge.
We leave readers with some appropriate sketches on this now closed matter courtesy of the inhouse artistic genius, William Banzai.
A couple of weeks ago, I sat on the speakers' podium during the opening panel of the Euromoney Bond Investors' Congress in London. Together with leading industry experts, including senior ratings agencies' officials, we engaged in a detailed discussion of the contentious aspects of the Greek debt debacle and the fate of the eurozone.
The audience was "top drawer; the room packed with 500 of the world's biggest bond market participants; the combined assets under management measured in the trillions of dollars.
"Who thinks the upcoming Greek bail-out will be the last, drawing a line under the eurozone's sovereign debt crisis?" asked the senior Euromoney staffer chairing the panel. "Put your hands up".
Delivered with a serious demeanour, this was exactly the right question. So deadly was the inquiry, and so germane, that the mood in the room grew uneasy, barely camouflaged by an outbreak of coughing. Scanning this ultra-influential audience, I saw rows of delegates cowed, keeping their eyes locked forwards but staring down slightly, not daring to look elsewhere.
Not a single hand was raised. Not a single hand among hundreds of the world's leading bond market practitioners was stirred to support a debt swap now presented as the key to the world economy shaking off the post sub-prime torpor and taking us into the sun-lit uplands of sustainable global growth.
On Friday, Greece pressed ahead with the largest sovereign debt restructuring in history. By "securing adequate participation" from the private sector, Athens avoided a big, disorderly default in late March. Holders of €172bn (£143bn) of the €206bn of eligible bonds agreed to take part in the write-down, or 83.5pc. Participation has since risen to 95.7pc after the Greek government triggered retrospective "collective action clauses", forcing objecting investors to play ball.
This deal was "voluntary", in the words of one market wag, "in the same way confessions were voluntary during the Spanish Inquisition". In other words, unless this deal was agreed, bond-holders faced ending-up with nothing at all. Under the current terms, investors swap their bonds for new ones worth 53.5pc less and with easier repayment terms for Greece.
In the aftermath of Friday's deal, French President Nicolas Sarkozy remarked "how happy I am that a solution to the Greek crisis, which has weighed on the economic and financial situation in Europe and the world for months, has been found. Today the problem is solved".
Christine Lagarde, International Monetary Fund supremo and Sarkozy's former Finance Minister observed that "economic spring is in the air".
While this debt swap was obviously important, there is still a very real danger of Greece needing yet another bail-out quite soon and eventually leaving the euro – probably of its own volition or, if not, under pressure from Germany, Finland and the other eurozone "nominally solvents".
In May 2010, a €110bn EU/IMF package proved inadequate to contain the spiralling Greek debt problem. This new bail-out, of around €170bn, is also unlikely to be the end of this saga.
For now, Friday's "deal" paves the way for further payments of official aid to Greece, to be formally agreed on Monday. That will allow Athens to meet its obligations under a bond redemption later this month. But there are still two serious and wide-ranging sets of problems not captured in the Sarkozy-Lagarde analysis.
The first concerns economics. This debt write-down, together with continued adherence to a brutal austerity program, is supposed to slash €100bn from Athens' €350bn outstanding sovereign debt pile, moving the Greek government away from its current 160pc debt-to-GDP ratio and reaching its EU-mandated ratio of 120pc by 2020.
That's all very well on paper yet, under the cover of Friday's announcement, the Greek national statistical authority said that the recession during the last quarter of 2011 was deeper than initially forecast, amounting to a staggering 7.5pc GDP drop. The Greek economy will likely shrink for a fifth straight year in 2012, stagnate in 2013, modestly expand only the year after. Even this grim trajectory assumes a relatively steady and robust global economic recovery.
If Greece meets all the economic conditions demanded of it over the coming years then, under the terms of this latest deal, it is guaranteed aid, ensuring its debt financing needs until the end of 2014.
Yet Greek adherence is a heroic assumption. The country's business and consumer sentiment are on the floor. Private sector credit is extremely scarce, which can only add to the economic malaise. Unemployment is meanwhile soaring, pushing 20pc, with around half of young Greeks out of work.
In a bid to make their numbers add up, the "troika" of the IMF, the European Central Bank and the European Commission has allowed itself to inhabit a parallel universe where Greece is "almost" out of recession. When that is proved to be wrong, as it will, the Greek debt predicament will turn out to be much worse than anticipated.
These economic realities suggest the political backdrop to this debt-swap is also likely to deteriorate.
Please don't shoot the messenger – I am simply conveying what strikes me as basic common sense. Greek elections are due in April or May. No agreement has been secured from opposition politicians that they won't attempt to renegotiate the terms of the "austerity program". That could obviously lead to the funding package being withdrawn. As the screw turns, and the Greek economy remains locked in stagnation, the potential for ever more serious social unrest will obviously escalate. Very real questions could be asked, surely, about the future of Greek democracy.
Then we must consider the political realities across the rest of the eurozone, too. Last week's debt swap, for all the rhetoric about "hammering" the private sector, effectively shifts the bulk of Greece's remaining sovereign debt into public hands - namely taxpayers in the eurozone and IMF members contributing to the bail-out. Try as it might, the "troika" has been unable to generate quite enough economic fog to prevent that fundamental truth becoming widely known among the broader European electorate. That's why, leading backers of this desperate effort to maintain the euro in its current form could find their support politically impossible to sustain.
Sarkozy, for instance, is in line to win 27pc of the vote in the first round of the French election on 22nd April, according to the latest polls, just 2 percentage points behind Francois Hollande. In a straight second-round battle between these two front-runners, though, Sarkozy is seriously lagging, polling just 45pc, compared with Hollande's 55pc. Hollande, of course, is far from committed to further support for Greece. That, in fact, is one of his major pitches to the French electorate. So the possibility of a Hollande victory, and an unravelling of this package, simply cannot be ignored.
The on-going support of Germany too, funding the lion's share of the deal, cannot be taken for granted. Last week saw the outbreak of open diplomatic warfare between Bundesbank President Jens Weidmann and ECB boss Mario Draghi over the multi-trillion euro expansion of the central bank's balance sheet – in other words, "eurozone QE".
Within a few years, if we get that far, Draghi and Weidmann will need to agree how to roll-over the ECB's so-called long-term refinancing operations. And continued high yields on Portuguese sovereign debt suggest bondholders don't trust bigger eurozone economies not to follow the Greeks towards default.
Far from being the end of this eurozone debt crisis, or even the beginning of the end, Friday's debt-swap was probably just the end of the beginning.
Just over one year ago, a magnitude-9 earthquake hit the Tohoku region of northeastern Japan, triggering one of the most destructive tsunamis in a thousand years. The Japanese—the most earthquake-prepared, seismically savvy people on the planet—were caught off-guard by the Tohoku quake’s savage power. Over 15,000 people died.
Now scientists are calling attention to a dangerous area on the opposite side of the Ring of Fire, the Cascadia Subduction Zone, a fault that runs parallel to the Pacific coast of North America, from northern California to Vancouver Island. This tectonic time bomb is alarmingly similar to Tohoku, capable of generating a megathrust earthquake at or above magnitude 9, and about as close to Portland, Seattle, and Vancouver as the Tohoku fault is to Japan’s coast. Decades of geological sleuthing recently established that although it appears quiet, this fault has ripped open again and again, sending vast earthquakes throughout the Pacific Northwest and tsunamis that reach across the Pacific.
What happened in Japan will probably happen in North America. The big question is when.
On a foggy spring morning just before sunrise, 27 miles northwest of Cape Mendocino, California, a pimple of rock roughly a dozen miles below the ocean floor finally reaches its breaking point. Two slabs of the Earth’s crust begin to slip and shudder and snap apart.
The first jolt of stress coming out of the rocks sends a shock wave hurtling into Northern California and southern Oregon like a thunderbolt. For a few stunned drivers on the back roads in the predawn gloom, the pulse of energy that tears through the ground looks dimly like a 20-mile wrinkle moving through a carpet of pastures and into thick stands of redwoods.
Telephone poles whip back and forth as if caught in a hurricane. Power lines rip loose in a shower of blue and yellow sparks, falling to the ground where they writhe like snakes, snapping and biting. Lights go out and the telephone system goes down.
Cornices fall, brick walls crack, plate glass shatters. Pavement buckles, cars and trucks veer into ditches and into each other. A bridge across the Eel River is jerked off its foundations, taking a busload of farm workers with it. With computers crashing and cell towers dropping offline, all of Humboldt and Del Norte Counties in California are instantly cut off from the outside world, so nobody beyond the immediate area knows how bad it is here or how widespread the damage.
At the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) lab in Menlo Park, seismometers peg the quake at magnitude 8.1, and the tsunami detection centers in Alaska and Hawaii begin waking up the alarm system with standby alerts all around the Pacific Rim. Early morning commuters emerging from a BART station in San Francisco feel the ground sway beneath their feet and immediately hit the sidewalk in a variety of awkward crouches, a familiar fear chilling their guts.
Then another little rough spot on the bottom of the continent snaps off.
The fault unzips some more.
The outer edge of California snaps free like a steel spring in a juddering lurch—nine feet to the west. The continental shelf heaves upward, lifting a mountain of seawater.
The fault continues to rip all the way to Newport, Oregon, halfway up the state. The magnitude suddenly jumps to 8.6. A power surge blows a breaker somewhere east of town and feeds back through the system, throwing other breakers in a cascade that quickly crashes the entire grid in Oregon, Washington, and parts of California, Idaho, and Nevada. A brownout begins in six more western states. The wire line phone systems crash in lockstep.
Then another fragment of rock deep underneath Newport shears away. The fault unzips the rest of the way to Vancouver Island. The quake now pins seismic needles at magnitude 9.2. High-rise towers in Portland, Seattle, Vancouver, and Victoria begin to undulate. The shock wave hammers through sandy soil, soft rock, and landfill like the deepest notes on a big string bass. The mushy ground sings harmony and tall buildings hum like so many tuning forks.
On I-5, the main north-south interstate highway, 37 bridges between Sacramento and Bellingham, Washington, collapse or are knocked off their pins. Five more go down between the Canada–United States border and downtown Vancouver. Nineteen railway bridges along the north-south coastal mainline of the Burlington Northern Santa Fe railway are wrecked as well. The runways of every major coastal airport from Northern California to Vancouver are buckled, cracked, and no longer flyable.
After 50 cycles of harmonic vibration—skyscrapers swaying rhythmically from side to side in giddy wobbles—dozens of tall buildings have shed most of their glass. In some downtown intersections the cascade of broken shards has piled up three feet deep.
Shock waves have been pummeling the Pacific Northwest for four minutes and thirty-five seconds now, and it still isn’t over. After 64 cycles, enough welds have cracked, enough concrete has spalled, enough shear walls have come unstuck that some towers begin to pancake. The same death spiral everyone saw in New York on 9/11 happens all over again. Smaller buildings, but more of them. Dozens of towers go down in the four northernmost of the affected cities.
In the five major urban areas along the fault, tens of thousands of people have been seriously injured. Hundreds, perhaps thousands, are dead. More than a third of the oncoming shift of police, firefighters, paramedics, nurses, and doctors do not show up for work. They are either stranded by collapsed buildings, bridges, and roadways, injured or dead themselves, or have decided to stick close to home to make sure their own families are OK before going to work. People who survive the collapses must do their own search and rescue for family members, friends, and neighbors still trapped in the rubble. Help will come eventually, but who knows when?
People in the United States and Canada, if they think at all about earthquake disasters, probably conjure up the San Andreas fault in the worst-case scenario. In California, as they wait for “the Big One,” people wonder which city the San Andreas will wreck next—San Francisco or Los Angeles? But if by the Big One they mean the earthquake that will wreak havoc over the widest geographic area, that could destroy the most critical infrastructure, that could send a train of tsunamis across the Pacific causing economic mayhem that would probably last a decade or more—then the seismic demon to blame could not possibly be the San Andreas. It would have to be Cascadia’s fault.
One year after Japan’s devastating Tohoku earthquake and tsunami, scientists are still trying to figure out how the world’s most organized and earthquake-ready nation could have been taken so much by surprise. They were hit by an earthquake roughly 25 times more powerful than experts thought possible in that part of the country. How could the forecast have been so wrong? The short answer is they didn’t look far enough back in geologic time to see that quakes and tsunamis just this big had indeed occurred there before. If they had prepared themselves for a much larger quake and wave, the outcome might have been entirely different.
Russia insisted yesterday that it would not halt arms shipments to Syria even as evidence mounts that the regime is committing crimes against humanity, with a rights group today releasing a sickening dossier of the torture inflicted on those who oppose President Bashar al-Assad.
The comments by Russia's Deputy Defence Minister, Anatoly Antonov, that existing contracts will be adhered to despite reports of up to 8,000 dead, come as activists prepare to mark a grim year since their call for reform descended into bloodshed. Mr Assad's tanks continued to roll into dissident areas, with the army reported to have recaptured the rebel stronghold of Idlib near the Turkish border, until now held by army defectors fighting for the Free Syrian Army. Activists said dozens of people had been killed in the assault, their bodies dumped in local mosques.
The tens of thousands trying to flee the country face the added danger of landmines that Human Rights Watch says have been laid along Syria's borders with Turkey and Lebanon.
Carroll Bogert, a deputy executive director of the New York-based watchdog, told The Independent that these mines were Russian-made.
Despite this growing evidence that the arms it sells the regime are being used against civilians, Russia remains defiant. "Russia enjoys good and strong military technical co-operation with Syria, and we see no reason today to reconsider it," Mr Antonov said yesterday. "Russian-Syrian military co-operation is perfectly legitimate," he added. Mr Antonov admitted that Russia has military instructors on the ground in Syria training the Syrian army.
"It's part of our contractual obligations," said the minister. "When we supply weapons, we have to provide training." He denied that Russia had sent special forces to assist in military planning.
Russia has vetoed a United Nations Security Council resolution calling on Mr Assad to withdraw tanks from cities and cede power to a deputy.
Russian's Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov, reiterated the Kremlin's position that any call to end violence needs to encompass the armed opposition as well as the Syrian government, and said that regime troops will not withdraw from their positions until the rebel forces first lay down their arms.
Moscow insists that its arms trade with Damascus does not contradict international law. The European Union, United States and some Arab countries have enforced economic sanctions against Syria, but Russia is not party to any of them. The links between the two countries go back decades. Russia maintains its only naval base outside the former Soviet Union at Tartus in Syria.
A Western diplomat said Russia's business interests in Syria were a huge factor in its foreign policy, and said the Kremlin's determination to continue arms sales went against recent comments that it was dedicated to finding a political solution.
"If Russia genuinely wants a solution to the crisis in Syria, why is it providing arms and refusing to put pressure on the Assad regime?" the diplomat asked.
An Amnesty International report released today details 31 separate methods of torture used on people during the uprising.