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Wednesday, July 23, 2014

On Malaysian Crash, Obama’s Case Against Russia Disintegrates

Tuesday the US government admitted it had been bluffing about its certainty that Russia was behind the downing of Malaysian Air Flight MH-17 over Ukraine.

This dramatic turn of events started with State Department Spokeswoman Marie Harf claiming Monday that the State Department’s certainty of Russian involvement in the apparent downing of the plane was primarily based on “social media” evidence.

That means with a likely budget of more than $100 billion, the US Intelligence Community is making decisions that may involve global nuclear war based on people’s Tweets and YouTubes!

Asked in Monday’s State Department briefing about US government evidence for its claims of Russian government involvement and separatist direct blame for the shooting down of the plane, Harf said:

You saw the Secretary yesterday speak very clearly about our assessment that this was an SA-11 fired from Russian-backed, separatist-controlled territory; that we know – we saw in social media afterwards, we saw videos, we saw photos of the pro-Russian separatists bragging about shooting down an aircraft.

She added:

Based on open information which is basically common sense, right – we know where it was fired from, we know who has this weapon

Who needs evidence — it’s “common sense”! Right?

But then the Russian military command did an interesting thing. They held a press conference laying out the evidence they had, including information from air traffic controllers and satellites, and simply asked the US to do the same to prove its assertions of Russian complicity. They did not claim that the US-backed government in Kiev shot down the plane, they asked that government to explain why a jet fighter showed up on radar ascending rapidly toward the Malaysian plane shortly before it disappeared.

The Russians asked the US to share the intelligence upon which it based its claim that the Russians were directly or indirectly behind the attack on the passenger plane.

The State Department responded with its spokeswoman citing social media and secret information that could not be shared.

It was a near exact replay of similar US government claims about Syria’s Assad using chemical weapons last year. That time, Secretary of State Kerry claimed dozens of times on television that “we know” Assad fired the chemicals into the village. Yet the US Intelligence Community refused to sign off on his claims and the Obama Administration was forced to release what it called a “Government Assessment” rather than the standard Intelligence Community consensus assessment.

And now once again — for the time being — the US was forced to back down. In an off-the-record briefing with “senior intelligence officials” Tuesday, this was what was left of Kerry’s assuredness just days ago of Russia’s blame in the matter:

[W]e don’t know a name, we don’t know a rank and we’re not even 100 percent sure of a nationality. …There is not going to be a Perry Mason moment here.

Was this another US Intelligence Community revolt against the warmongers and ideologues in the State Department?

From certainty that Russia and the “pro-Russian” rebels in east Ukraine were deliberately behind the attack, which as Obama stated Monday internationalized the conflict (hinting at a more aggressive response, perhaps NATO?), Tuesday’s press briefing by senior intelligence officials sang a different tune:

“Five days into it (following the crash) it does appear to be a mistake.”

After four days of threats from Obama and Kerry (and their Twittering minions) that Russia would be punished for its role in downing the plane, it is now the US Intelligence Community’s assessment that the shoot-down was a “mistake” and they are “not even 100 percent sure” who shot it down.

About the claim that Russia was providing the rebels in eastern Ukraine with weapons, the US intelligence officials said, “[w]e think they’re continuing to do it.”

From Kerry’s certainty to US Intelligence Community’s “we think” is an enormous chasm, and as the excellent Robert Parry points out, it represents a certain amount of courage among US government intelligence analysts who come to conclusions very different from the pre-determined conclusions of their superiors.

Writes Parry:

If you were, say, a U.S. intelligence analyst sifting through the evidence and finding that some leads went off in a different direction, toward the Ukrainian army, for instance, you might hold back on your conclusions knowing that crossing senior officials who had already pronounced the verdict could be devastating to your career. It would make a lot more sense to just deep-six any contrary evidence.

So here we are, with no US smoking gun (thus far). Only social media and highly suspect voice intercepts and satellite photos of BUK launchers.

Russia “shares responsibility” for the shoot-down because, according to the US, it provided training and weapons to the separatists in eastern Ukraine. Only according to a CNN reportbased on a classified intelligence assessment, “there is no intelligence suggesting Russia ever transferred [a BUK missile system] across the border.”

Of course all of this might change. But in the meantime, despite the arrogance of the mainstreamers, those of us skeptical of another US cry for war appear to be justified.

Credit to Lewrockwell.com

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Bubonic plague death in Yumen, China sparks quarantine

Beijing: China has sealed off parts of its northwestern city of Yumen after a resident died of bubonic plague last week, state media reported on Tuesday.

A 38-year-old victim was infected by a marmot, a wild rodent, and died on July 16. Several districts of the city of about 100,000 people in Gansu province were subsequently turned into special quarantine zones, Xinhua said.

It said 151 people who came into direct contact with the victim were also placed in quarantine. None have so far shown any signs of infection, the news agency said.

A medical worker, wearing full protective suit, examines a man in an earlier outbreak scare in China in 2003. Photo: Reuters

The city had set aside 1 million yuan ($171,000) for emergency vaccinations, the Jiuquan Daily, a local newspaper, said on Tuesday.

The plague is a bacterial disease spread by the fleas of wild rodents such as marmots. While the disease can be effectively treated, patients can die 24 hours after the initial infection, the World Health Organisation says.

Outbreaks in China have been rare in recent years, and most have happened in remote rural areas of the west. China's state broadcaster said there were 12 diagnosed cases and three deaths in the province of Qinghai in 2009, and one in Sichuan in 2012.

Beijing's disease control centre sought to dispel worries about a wider outbreak of the disease in China, saying on its website (www.bjcdc.org) that the risk of the disease spreading to the capital was minimal.

Gansu is one of China's poorest and most remote provinces. According to World Health Organization statistics, about 1000 to 3000 people get the plague every year, including in the United States. The worst-affected regions these days are in sub-Saharan Africa.

In the 14th century, the disease spread from China along Silk Road trade routes and entered Europe, wiping out roughly half the continent's population (and exacting a similar toll in China, according to some accounts).

This dark chapter in human history is remembered as the Black Death.

In the late 19th century, a newer pandemic, dubbed the Modern Plague, spread from China to the British colonial entrepot of Hong Kong and then to port cities elsewhere.

According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 10 million people died as a result.

Credit to SMH.co.au

Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/world/bubonic-plague-death-in-yumen-china-sparks-quarantine-xinhua-20140723-zvx4w.html#ixzz38Ilip9Js

Rebels Shoot Down Two Ukraine Fighter Jets

At this point it is beyond any one (or countless number of) human beings to distinguish truth from lies from epic propaganda, so we won't even try. Here is the latest relevant news that just crossed the stream from Ukraine's defense ministry. From Bloomberg:

More from Reuters: Pro-Russian rebels have shot down two Ukrainian fighter jets, a spokesman for Ukraine's military operations said on Wednesday. The spokesman said the two were downed near Savur Mogila in eastern Ukraine. No details were known about the pilots.

And from the WSJ:

Pro-Russian separatists shot down two Ukrainian fighter jets Wednesday over a town close to where Malaysia Airlines 3786.KU -2.17% Flight 17 crashed last week, a Ukrainian defense ministry spokesman said.

Two SU-25 planes were brought down near the town of Saur-Mogila, which sits close to the Russian border and is 20 kilometers (12 miles) from Torez, where the civilian jet was brought down last Thursday, the spokesman said.

The alleged shoot-down of the jets would mark the first time a plane has been brought down over Ukraine since the crash.

The spokesman said the army dispatched a team to the scene to establish the exact circumstances of the downing of the jets. Rebels didn't immediately comment

As a reminder, it was the same Ukraine which hours before the MH17 crash insisted that a Russian fighter jet had downed a Ukraine warplane, a story which promptly disappeared once Russia rejected it as idiotic and once the much more severe fallout from the MH17 disaster hit.

Somehow we have a feeling this is merely yet another attempt by Ukraine to keep the pressure on the rebels now that the international response to MH17 has been muted by nearly 100% following Europe's complete inability to agree on what if any sanctions should be imposed on Putin, and the US state department presenting evidence of Russian involvement that can best be described as laughable.

An alleged clip of the Su-25 downing:

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Iraq's Waterless Christians

A checkpoint in Qaraqosh, Iraq

Qaraqosh is one of the last refuges in northern Iraq for Christians fleeing persecution by the militants of Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, who swept into the region in June. A historic Christian city of 50,000 about 19 miles southeast of Mosul, Qaraqosh is under the formidable protection of the well-armed Peshmerga—the Kurdish fighters whose autonomous region disputes the area with both ISIL and the Iraqi central government based in Baghdad. Now, in a further effort to oust Christians from land they have inhabited for two millennia, the Islamic militants have begun turning off a precious utility: water.

Since taking Mosul on June 10, ISIL militants have squeezed Qaraqosh and nearby Christian villages by blocking the pipes that connect the communities with the Tigris river. Without a sufficient number of deep wells to fill the gap, the city must have water trucked in, at huge cost, from Kurdish-controlled areas just 15 miles away. Since ISIL took over key refineries in northern Iraq, the price of fuel has spiked across the region. The parched residents of Qaraqosh must pay about $10 every other day to fill up emergency water tanks, no small sum in this economically depressed part of Iraq.

Outside one of the town’s 12 churches, people queue from 6 a.m. until midnight to get their daily rations from a well. Flatbed trucks are joined by children with pushcarts and riders on bicycles bearing empty jugs. “Our lives revolve around water,” says Laith, 28, a school teacher who returned with his family a day earlier from a suburb of Erbil, the Kurdish regional capital, 45 miles away, to which thousands of threatened Christians have migrated. Though aid agencies have erected several water depots around town, supplies are limited, barely enough to sustain large families in the 100-degree-plus heat. Plans to dig new wells will take at least several months to fulfill.

Christians have been fleeing ISIL-controlled territory since the militants and their allies overwhelmed the garrisons of the Baghdad government in Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city and its most Christian. The Islamic State, which sees itself as the restoration of the caliphate to rule all Muslims, immediately imposed anti-Christian rules, ordering Muslim employers to fire Christian workers. The homes of Christian religious leaders were ransacked and occupied by militants. A Christian population as old as the faith shrank from 3,000 families to several hundred in weeks.

On July 18, ISIL ordered non-Muslims to convert or pay a tax last imposed during the Ottoman empire. If not, they would face “death by the sword,” according to a decree that was read out in city mosques and broadcast from loudspeakers around town. Many families then fled to Qaraqosh. Keen to absorb the disputed territory, the Kurds dug in around Qaraqosh and three smaller Christian villages, to the relief of refugees and locals who have faced the mortar attacks accompanying ISIL’s offensive.

“The [militants] want to erase our history and break our faith,” says Father Amanoel Adel Kalloo, a Syrian Catholic priest from Mosul who has taken shelter in Qaraqosh with more than 470 families. “We must struggle to preserve this, but so much has already been lost.” Father Yosef, a second displaced clergyman, said that the hard deadline set by the militants to depart or convert has forced people to abandon homes and businesses, often with little more than a car and some clothing.

Apart from the enforced drought conditions, electrical blackouts last most of the day. Merchants say business has been hamstrung further by a trade “embargo” that ISIL has placed on surrounding Muslim towns that used to trade with Qaraqosh. Shops are mostly shuttered, and work is scare. Firaz Petros, 27, says the situation has compelled him to car-pool an hour each way to Erbil, where he works in waste disposal. “We’re barely earning enough to live,” he says, adding that he and fellow local commuters share the cost of a $45 daily gas bill.

Credit to Businessweek

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The Ten Plagues That Are Hitting America Right Now

10 Plagues
Why are so many plagues hitting the United States all of a sudden?  Yes, one can always point out bad stuff that is happening somewhere in the country, but right now we are facing a nightmarish combination of crippling drought, devastating wildfires, disastrous viruses, dying crops and superbugs that scientists don’t know how to kill.  And as you will see, we even have a plague of flies down in Mississippi.  So what in the world is going on?  Is this just a case of bad luck, or is something else happening?  At the conclusion of this article, please feel free to tell me what you think.  The following are ten plagues that are hitting America right now…
#1 The Plague Of Flies In The Upper Mississippi River Valley
This is perhaps the least dangerous plague, but it is also one of the most interesting.  Just recently, a plague of flies was so thick in the upper Mississippi River valley that it showed up on radar
The mayflies were detectable on radar around 845 pm and reports in the towns and cities began rolling in of the swarming and piles of mayflies. Numerous videos and pictures were circulating on social media, some of which are posted below as well.
The radar detected the flies about 845 pm, emanating from the river (the source) with echo values similar to that of light-moderate rain (35-40 dBZ). With a general south-to-north wind flow above the surface, the mayflies quickly moved north once in the air. As the flies dispersed moving north-northeast, they also gained altitude with some of the echo being detected as far north as Black River Falls and as high as 2500 feet above ground.
By late evening, mayflies were swarming in La Crosse, La Crescent, Stoddard and points up and down the river. While the emergence of mayflies from their river bottom mud dwelling can occur at various times through the warm season depending on the species, this particular emergence was that of the larger black/brown Bilineata species.
Here is one photo of the flies that was posted by the federal government…
Plague Of Flies In Mississippi - Government Photo Public Domain
#2 The Chikungunya Virus
As I wrote about the other day, down in Florida health officials have discovered the very first confirmed cases of the chikungunya virus to be transmitted locally.  In other words, it is now being passed to people that have not even traveled out of the country.
An epidemic of the virus has already been declared down in Puerto Rico, and authorities are deeply concerned about the possibility of one up here as well.
Already, cases of the virus have been reported in 30 different states and the total number of cases in the U.S. is more than five times higher than in any other recent year.
If you live in an area that has a lot of mosquitos, you might want to be very, very careful right about now because this is a virus that is exceedingly painful
With illness onset, the person develops high fever, chills, and joint pain, followed in some by a rash on the trunk, limbs and face lasting 3-4 days. Muscle and joint pain last about one week. Joint pain is often severe and in some people lasts longer, up to several months.
#3 The Wildfires Out West
The massive wildfires in Washington, Oregon and western Canada have spread clouds of smoke over vast areas of the northwest United States in recent days.  The following excerpt comes from a recent CNN report
Wildfires spanning almost 170,000 acres are driving hundreds of people from their homes in Washington state and across the border in Canada, officials said.
Washington authorities say the fires surged overnight to 168,713 acres in the state. The flames have encroached on towns.
Janet Pearce of the Washington state Department of Natural Resources said the four fires had not been contained as of Friday morning. An estimated 80 homes were destroyed and cell phone service was knocked out.
#4 The Drought In California
The nightmarish multi-year drought in the state of California just continues to get even worse.
This week it was reported that 81 percent of California is now experiencing “extreme drought” or worse.
Three months ago, that number was just 68 percent.
And we are being told that downtown Los Angeles is now the driest that it has been since rain records began in 1877.
For much, much more on this, please see my recent article entitled “20 Signs The Epic Drought In The Western United States Is Starting To Become Apocalyptic“.
#5 The Virus That Has Killed Millions Of Our Pigs
A horrific pig virus known as porcine epidemic diarrhea came over from China a little over a year ago.
Since then, it has killed about 7 million pigs, and approximately 100,000 more are dying each week.
#6 Citrus Greening
Have you ever heard of citrus greening disease?
Perhaps not, but it has gotten so bad down in Florida that experts are now saying that the entire citrus industry in the state “could be destroyed”
“It’s horrible — it’s a disaster,” says Fred Gmitter, a professor of horticulture science at the University of Florida Citrus Research and Education Center.
It might be time to kiss your OJ goodbye, unless science steps in to save the day.
At least 70% of Florida’s citrus trees are already infected by the disease, known as citrus greening, huanglongbing, or occasionally just with an ominous “it,” as in “It’s here.”
Florida’s citrus crop this year is the lowest it’s been in 30 years, and agricultural authorities have continued to lowertheir production estimates. Orange-juice prices are up nearly 20% this year alone and will continue to rise. The disease was a major factor in the lime shortage that made the price of a box of Persian limes jump from $18 to $85 last December. Prices could jump higher for oranges. Researchers and growers say that if a cure isn’t found, the entire $9 billion Florida citrus industry could be destroyed.
#7 Bananas Going Extinct?
You bananas are not safe either.
According to CNBC, the TR4 fungus is spreading so rapidly that it could eventually totally wipe out the variety of bananas that we find in our grocery stores today…
Banana lovers take note: The world’s supply of the fruit is under attack from a fungus strain that could wipe out the popular variety that Americans eat.
“It’s a very serious situation,” said Randy Ploetz, a professor of plant pathology at the University of Florida who in 1989 originally discovered a strain of Panama disease, called TR4, that may be growing into a serious threat to U.S. supplies of the fruit and Latin American producers.
“There’s nothing at this point that really keeps the fungus from spreading,” he said in an interview with CNBC.
While there are nearly 1,000 varieties of bananas, the most popular is the Cavendish, which accounts for 45 percent of the fruit’s global crop—and the one Americans mostly find in their supermarkets.
#8 The Number Of Earthquakes Is Increasing
For a long time, scientists tried to deny that the number of earthquakes is increasing.
But now, the USGS is finally admitting that the number of big earthquakes has doubled
If you think there have been more earthquakes than usual this year, you’re right. A new study finds there were more than twice as many big earthquakes in the first quarter of 2014 as compared with the average since 1979.
“We have recently experienced a period that has had one of the highest rates of great earthquakes ever recorded,” said lead study author Tom Parsons, a research geophysicist with the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) in Menlo Park, California.
Fortunately, most of the earthquakes in the U.S. so far this year have been relatively small or have been in isolated areas.
But they have been popping up in very unusual areas (such as Oklahoma), and as seismic activity along the Ring of Fire continues to increase, it is probably only a matter of time before one of our major cities gets hit with a major tragedy.
#9 Superbugs
Thanks at least in part to the massive overuse of antibiotics, a new generation of superbugs is arising.  Scientists have no way to kill these superbugs, and according to experts they are finding their way “into healthcare facilities nationwide”
Drug-resistant superbug infections have reached near-epidemic levels across U.S. hospitals, with an alarming 500% increase now documented in a study just published in the August issue of Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology(the journal of the Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America).
Lead author of the study, Dr. Joshua Thaden, warned “This dangerous bacteria is finding its way into healthcare facilities nationwide… A CRE epidemic is fast approaching… Even this marked increase likely underestimates the true scope of the problem given variations in hospital surveillance practices.”
The study also found that an astonishing 94 percent of CRE infections were caused by healthcare activities or hospital procedures.
#10 Fukushima
The Fukushima nuclear disaster is the gift that just keeps on giving.
Hundreds of tons of radioactive water are being released into the Pacific on a continual basis, and this could potentially affect our oceans and our food chain for generations to come.
But it is a “slow motion disaster” that is already “old news”, so most Americans don’t think about it anymore.  But the truth is that there is a lot of evidence that it should be taken very seriously in this country.  For much more on this, please see this article.
In Japan, of course, things are even worse.
In fact, one Japanese doctor that was working in Tokyo says that radiation sickness is rampant in that city
Since December 2011, I have conducted thyroid ultrasound examinations, thyroid function tests, general blood tests and biochemical tests on about 2000 people, mostly families in the Tokyo metropolitan area expressing concerns on the effects of radiation. I have observed that white blood cells, especially neutrophils, are decreasing among children under the age of 10. There are cases of significant decline in the number of neutrophils in 0-1 year-olds born after the earthquake (<1000 both="" cases="" conditions="" improve="" in="" nbsp="" strong="" tend="" to="">by moving to Western Japan
 (Neutrophils 0–>4500). Patients report nosebleed, hair loss, lack of energy, subcutaneous bleeding, visible urinary hemorrhage, skin inflammations, coughs and various other non-specific symptoms.
And this Japanese doctor believes that things are so dire that he says that the entire city of Tokyo should be evacuated…
Residents of Tokyo are unfortunately not in the position to pity the affected regions of Tohoku because they are victims themselves. Time is running short. I took an earlier step forward and evacuated to the west. My fellow doctors of medicine, I am waiting for you here. And to the people in Eastern Japan still hesitating, all my support goes to facilitating and enabling your evacuation, relocation, or a temporary relief in Western Japan.
Just like with Chernobyl, this radioactive material is going to silently make people sick and kill people all over globe for years to come, and most of them will never have any idea what is really happening to them.
Credit to The American Dream

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Turkish PM Cuts Ties With US, Mulls De-Dollarization With Russia

As Turkey's graft probe continues (which the Prime Minister believes is a conspiracy - fact or not - created by The West), AP reports that Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said he 
no longer holds "direct" telephone conversations with U.S. President Barack Obama, suggesting a rift between the leaders who were once close. What is perhaps even more concerning is Turkey's recent de-dollarization discussions with Russia to move to settlement in local currencies. It appears 'allies' are falling by the way-side quicker than many thought...

Turkey shuns Obama... (via AP)
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said he no longer holds "direct" telephone conversations with U.S. President Barack Obama, suggesting a rift between the leaders who were once close.

In an interview with Turkey's ATV television late Monday, Erdogan said that "in the past, I used to call him directly. Because I was not able to get direct results on Syria, now our foreign ministers talk to each other."

Erdogan did not elaborate. But the Turkish leader is known to have been frustrated by U.S. reluctance for a military involvement in Syria to end the violence there.

Erdogan told ATV he speaks with Vice President Joe Biden to discuss Iraq.

In the past, Obama cast Turkey as a model democracy and the two would frequently talk by telephone.
Turkey prepares to De-Dollarize with local currency settlement with Russia... (via Google Translate)
In Sydney, the Minister of Economic Development of the Russian Federation Alexei Ulyukayev "on the margins" of the meeting of trade ministers of the "Group of Twenty" met with the Minister of Economy of the Republic of Turkey Nihat Zeybekchi.

In 2013, the volume of trade between the countries amounted to 32.7 billion dollars. Russia is the second (after the EU) among foreign trade partners of Turkey, and Turkey - the eighth largest trade partner of Russia.

As one of the measures to stimulate the development of trade and economic relations between Russia and Turkey, the Turkish side proposes to proceed in mutual national currencies. The question now being discussed at the site of the bilateral Working Group on banking and financial cooperation.

Minister of Economy of the Republic of Turkey Nihat Zeybekchi noted that the Turkish side is interested in building on the territory of Russian transport and logistics center for the provision of warehousing, customs clearance, loading and unloading, packing of goods, etc., which is connected with the sea ports, airports and railways and highways.

Discussion of all issues Ministers agreed to continue an ad hoc working group in late September in Istanbul.
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Credit to Zero Hedge