Lewis Hine 10-year-old oyster shucker, does 5 pots a day; been working 3 years Feb 1912
As the propaganda war over 298 innocent dead people plunges into ever deeper absurdity, I think we may have found the answer to a question that intrigued me over the past few days: why did Ukraine PM Yatsenyuk and his government resign all of a sudden last week? A banker, installed by the west, who produced some of the most over the top language against Russia and his own Russian speaking fellow citizens, who leaves mere days after the battle he’s involved in gained a whole new dimension with MH17. Puzzling.
But there are now clues as to why he may have done it (note: I don’t rule out his possible personal involvement in the MH17 crash either). The clues don’t come from western media, but that’s probably not surprising. I therefore have to turn to Russian media, and though many will say they may be part of the propaganda war as well, I don’t think these particular things are made up, simply because it makes no sense to invent a TV talk show and a parliamentary vote out of thin air; these things are easy to trace.
First, Ria Novosti reports on a Yatsenyuk talk show appearance after his resignation:
“My decision to resign has one motive: I want the whole country to see that the parliament refuses to support the Ukrainian Armed Forces, the parliament refuses to fight for the east and impose taxes on those who need to pay taxes,” Yatsenyuk said in a Shuster LIVE Ukrainian talk show. Yatsenyuk said the country’s parliament needs a “reset” and also called to carry out reforms even if this demands taking unpopular steps among the Ukrainian population. He urged the parliament to allocate additional 9 billion hryvnia ($0.7 billion) to support the troops and also approve the bills on levying taxes on the most profitable sectors and attracting European and US companies to the management of the country’s gas transmission network.
In my view, that last bit is the clincher. RT expands on the story.
Ukraine Votes To Keep Western Companies Out Of Gas Industry
Ukraine’s parliament has rejected allowing EU and US companies to buy up to 49% of oil and gas company Naftogaz, and also said they were against liquidating the national energy monopoly . Kiev rejected splitting the company in two, a measure encouraged by the West in order for Naftogaz to comply with Europe’s third energy package, which doesn’t allow one single company to both produce and transport oil and gas. The bill proposed creating two new joint stock companies in order to conform to the package, “Ukraine’s Main Gas Transmission” and “Ukraine’s Underground Storages.” The proposal sought to meet the requirements of EU legislation and strengthen Ukraine’s energy independence.
Earlier in July, the Ukrainian parliament passed a first reading of the bill that would have allowed Western companies up to a 49% of Ukraine’s Gas Transportation System (GTS). There had been rumors the state would sell off at least 15% of Naftogaz in a public offering, however, the conditions in Ukraine’s capital and equity market aren’t strong enough to get a high enough price. The changes was rejected because of the large monopoly and influence Naftogaz has over the Ukrainian market, the country’s political scientist Alexander Ohrimenko, told Russian business daily RBC.
Ukraine’s Rada needed a minimum of 226 votes to support the reform, but only 94 deputies were “for” the change. In the first reading, it received 229 of the 226 votes required to restructure the company. Voting bloc dynamics changed on Thursday after the ruling coalition dissolved itself triggering an early parliamentary election after the government resigned. Following the rejection of privatizing Naftogaz, Prime Minister Yatsenyuk announced his resignation as head of the government. The vote took place among other proposed budget reforms, defense spending, as well as a discussion on how to tackle Ukraine’s gas debt. Naftogaz’s debt to Russia now exceeds $5 billion.
While I don’t rule out that URDA, Kiev mayor Klitschko’s party, may have left the coalition in part as a protest against the army’s continued and intensified assault on east Ukraine, I’d put my money on Yatsenyuk’s failure to deliver control over Ukraine’s energy industry to western interests as the reason he left. And I’m equally sure there is a plan B in place to use the ensuing political – and military – chaos to let the west take over large parts of Naftogaz anyway.
That’s why we’re there. It’s an energy war. IMF loans, IMF-style reforms – in an EU sauce -, the whole package is in place. And Yats failed to make it happen. It’s very possible that “we” have found an alternative option to get what we want in President Poroshenko, who can rule like an emperor until the end of this year.
Meanwhile, Poroshenko’s army launched another major offensive against east Ukraine, which makes it impossible for international forensic experts to work on the crash scene. This has basically been going on since the plane came down, and all the blame has been put with the rebels.
Who, when asked why they removed – some of – the bodies from the scene, said no-one turned up for three days to claim them, and the sweltering heat made it seem respectless to leave them out in the sun any longer. And, despite what the Kiev government and western media said to the contrary, this was done in a dignified way. A fact that was corroborated by the experts who took possession of the remains.
The overall western storyline remains Putin’s desire for empire building, but from where I’m sitting it looks a whole lot more like it’s not Putin but Washington and Brussels who dream of empires. And that, as I said earlier, is directly linked to to the demise of the age of fossil fuels. That age is not over yet, and shale provides some – futile – hope for more oil, but empires need to look forward lest they crumble and fall.
While many may not yet be fully aware of how valid it already is, the energy=power principle will become much more pronounced as less energy becomes available – we’ve entered that phase – . If energy equals power, less energy equals less power, and if you don’t want to lose your power, you will have to take someone else’s resources, and that will in almost all cases involve some act of war, be it economic, physical or otherwise (e.g. propaganda).
Putin, and Russia, were fine with Ukraine the way it functioned before the Maidan protests, and especially before the western involvement in these protests. They had a good oil and gas deal going, they had steady customers and steady income. There was one weak link in that chain: the pipelines that delivered the gas destined for Europe ran largely under Ukraine soil (dating back to Ukraine being part of the Soviet Union). This is the weak link US and EU are now seeking to explore. That’s why they seek to take over Naftogaz.
And now it’s sanctions time. Time for Brussels to self-righteously squeeze Moscow, or something like that. I got to tell you, I can only see this go horribly wrong. I have a picture in my head of a boomerang hitting the various EU politburos straight back in the jaw. But they certainly don’t see it coming, they’re far too smug about what they think is their new found power:
“The shooting down of the airliner was a tipping point that’s changed the EU constellation,” Joerg Forbrig, senior program officer for central and eastern Europe at the Berlin bureau of the German Marshall Fund of the U.S., said in a phone interview. “Putin has crossed a line and misread the mood in European capitals to close ranks on new sanctions.”
Europe rides the train of public anger that their own spin doctors have created. And that is a hazardous thing to do. The EU can agree amongst itself to define – new – sanctions on Russia, or perhaps it can’t even do that, we’ll have to wait and see. And the US can unilaterally announce all sorts of additional sanctions of its own. And some of these sanctions may hurt Russia quite a bit, simply because it’s part of the global financial system.
Still, if either US or EU wants a UN resolution to be accepted (they’ll need it at some point), they will, despite all the applied propaganda, have to produce hard evidence. Something both have so far categorically refused to do. They’ve managed to change the mood in many places without even one piece of evidence. Maybe we should congratulate them on that.
To illustrate: RT has another video on its YouTube channel of a conversation between State Dept. spokesperson Marie Harf and AP journalist Matt Lee (see below), and it’s as painful to watch as the first one a few days ago. Perhaps it’s simply the arrogance of the aggressor, edged on by countless polls being done among the public that show huge support for unsubstantiated claims. Still, one would think having Ms Harf do the talking doesn’t help, but that’s what we all once thought about W. too.
And it’s not just the UN either. The Telegraph reports on a whole new potential threat to the propaganda induced storyline:
Putin To Face Multi-Million Class-Action Suit Over MH17 Crash
Vladimir Putin is facing a multi-million-pound legal action for his alleged role in the shooting down of a Malaysia Airlines passenger jet over eastern Ukraine, The Sunday Telegraph can disclose. British lawyers are preparing a class action against the Russian president through the American courts. Senior Russian military commanders and politicians close to Mr Putin are also likely to become embroiled in the legal claim.
The case would further damage relations between Mr Putin and the West, but politicians would be powerless to prevent it. Last week, lawyers from McCue & Partners, the London law firm, flew to Ukraine for discussions about how to bring the case and where it should be filed. Victims’ families will be invited to join the action. The case will inevitably highlight the role allegedly played by Russia in stoking conflict in eastern Ukraine.
Though the neutrality of US courts can be questioned, and justifiably at times, one would still have to assume that mere propaganda wouldn’t cut it, if only because no court wants to make itself a laughing spectacle in the eyes of the entire world. Will the US, the EU and the British government persist in their refusal to provide evidence for their version of the truth even when a US court asks them for it? If they do, how can any case be brought forward? And if they do provide the evidence, the question will be why they didn’t do that sooner, like today.
As for the sanctions themselves, the EU attempts to maximize the pain for Russia (or maybe I should say they try to make the impression that they’re doing that), while minimizing the pain for its member nations. To achieve that double goal, however, it must bend itself into a convoluted pretzel shape. Because Italy wants exemptions to sanctions, and Britain too, but different ones, and there are 28 separate nations in the EU. Who in the end will all have to sign off on everything.
What we see now is compromises, like the sanctions on shared technology are supposed to impact oil but not gas, and military but not civil applications. As if these things are so easy to tear apart. The reason is obvious: many EU nations are very vulnerable to disruptions in Russian gas deliveries – and other business interests. Reuters has a reasonable take:
EU Edges To Economic Sanctions On Russia But Narrows Scope
The European Union reached outline agreement on Friday to impose the first economic sanctions on Russia over its behaviour in Ukraine but scaled back their scope to exclude technology for the crucial gas sector. The sanctions on access to capital markets, arms and hi-tech goods are also likely to apply only to future contracts ..
Brussels seeks a short cut, to profit from the still fresh public anger, and before people start asking questions about evidence.
Van Rompuy said the proposed sanctions package “strikes the right balance” in terms of costs and benefits to the EU and in its flexibility to ramp up sanctions or reverse them over time. “It should have a strong impact on Russia’s economy while keeping a moderate effect on EU economies,” he wrote in the letter, seen by Reuters. But the narrowing of the proposed measures highlighted the difficulty of agreeing to tough sanctions among countries which have widely different economic interests and rely to varying degrees on Russian gas.
European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said the Commission had adopted a draft legal text for the Russia sanctions package. “The final decision now lies with the EU’s member states, but I believe that this is an effective, well-targeted and balanced package … I call on Russia to take decisive steps to stop the violence and genuinely engage in peace plan discussions,” he said.
Russia has been calling for peace plan discussions for half a year. What have Europe and America done? They bring demands to such a discussion that they know will fail: for Russia to withdraw altogether, and let its people in Ukraine perish. That is not an honest discussion. It’s Europe that has never been willing to “genuinely engage in peace plan discussions”.
Key measures include closing EU capital markets to state-owned Russian banks, an embargo on arms sales to Moscow and restrictions on the supply of dual-use and energy technologies. They would not affect current supplies of oil, gas and other commodities from Russia. Van Rompuy said there was an “emerging consensus” among EU governments that “the measures in the field of sensitive technologies will only affect the oil sector in view of the need to preserve EU energy security.”
If the sanctions had applied to gas technology, they could have affected Gazprom’s huge South Stream pipeline project to Europe and Novatek’s Arctic Yamal LNG facility. That in turn would have hit large EU energy suppliers and manufacturers with an interest in the project, including in Germany, Austria and Italy.
See, when I read these things, my first reaction is Russia has the longer scope: it still has time left to further develop non-conventional resources. Europe – and Big Oil – need energy now, and immediate supplies are under threat for both. Killing off the South Stream line will hurt the EU at least as much as Russia. And when van Rompuy talks about measures that will “only affect the oil sector in view of the need to preserve EU energy security”, he puts his foot so far up his mouth Putin can only be slapping his thighs. Cherry picking sanctions is a game as silly as it is dangerous. Not that van Rompuy would know.
Separately, the EU was due to publish on Saturday the names of 15 individuals and 18 entities, including companies, subject to asset freezes for their role in supporting Russia’s annexation of Crimea and destabilisation of eastern Ukraine. That will bring the number of people under EU sanctions to 87 and the number of companies and other organisations to 20.
Yes, rich Russians that have their assets spread around the world can be hurt.
Spreading the burden evenly among EU member states is a delicate balancing act. Britain is strong in financial services, Germany in technology and machinery, France in arms sales, while Italy is heavily dependent on Russia for energy. “To a degree everyone is reverting to trying to protect their own national interests from harm,” a senior European diplomat said. As things stood, Britain would probably face more pain than any other state from the proposed measures because of London’s key position as a financial centre.
Finally, to put it all into perspective, especially my contention that the underlying “logic” beneath the propaganda, the sanctions and all the dead bodies are dwindling global energy supplies, look at how the once mighty oil giants are falling:
Are We On The Cusp Of The Oil Mega Mergers?
[..] … some senior City sources think falling fortunes could force the giants into each other’s arms in the next year or two. Their central argument for a fresh flurry of deal-making is a problem affecting the whole industry: a slump in profits. In January, Shell issued a shock quarterly profit warning and weeks later posted a 23% fall in annual earnings from $25.3bn the year before to £19.5bn in 2013. In April, BP followed suit, reporting a similar drop in profits for 2013 and the first quarter of 2014.
Their US rivals are similarly struggling. In May, Exxon Mobil, the titan of the world’s oil majors, reported falling profits for the fourth quarter in a row. ConocoPhilips also posted a dip. The industry is being hit by a perfect storm of headwinds: lower oil and gas prices which mean falling margins in their downstream businesses, which make petrol, diesel, and other finished products; as well as higher exploration expenses and dwindling reserves. Oil executives say their profits are pinched because, as many fields around the world age and produce less oil, they are forced to drill in deeper oceans and more remote places such as the Arctic to keep up with production.
The days of easy discoveries seem to be over and widening the search costs more money. There is certainly plenty of rationale for a further round of mega deals such as that led by Browne in the late Nineties. And there may be appetite from investors too. Some of Shell’s big shareholders are said to be frustrated by the company’s continued spending on expensive far-flung projects that fail to yield healthy returns.
Big Oil is done, toast. But its political clout will make that a very hard thing to absolve. So much so that it’s not at all hard to imagine Shell and BP and Exxon playing a role in the battle over Ukraine, which is part of a larger battle against Russia, and against its control over what today must look to the oil majors like very abundant resources, compared to what they themselves have left. I have no doubt they were among the major bidders for Naftogaz.
One thing’s for sure: we have entered a whole new chapter in global energy and power policy, and we’ve entered it for good.
UPDATE 10 am EDT: The Ukraine army, as per Dutch press just now, is fighting to ‘conquer’ the plane crash scene. What a great way to get rid of evidence. Needless to say, forensic experts still can’t do their work.
As promised, here’s State Dept.’s Marie Harf in another embarrassing conversation with AP’s Matt Lee:
I give you: The Recovery!
• Median US Household Net Worth Down 36% Since 2003 (NY Times)
Economic inequality in the United States has been receiving a lot of attention. But it’s not merely an issue of the rich getting richer. The typical American household has been getting poorer, too. The inflation-adjusted net worth for the typical household was $87,992 in 2003. Ten years later, it was only $56,335, or a 36% decline, according to a study financed by the Russell Sage Foundation. Those are the figures for a household at the median point in the wealth distribution — the level at which there are an equal number of households whose worth is higher and lower. But during the same period, the net worth of wealthy households increased substantially. The Russell Sage study also examined net worth at the 95th percentile. (For households at that level, 94% of the population had less wealth and 4% had more.)
It found that for this well-do-do slice of the population, household net worth increased 14% over the same 10 years. Other research, by economists like Edward Wolff at New York University, has shown even greater gains in wealth for the richest 1% of households. For households at the median level of net worth, much of the damage has occurred since the start of the last recession in 2007. Until then, net worth had been rising for the typical household, although at a slower pace than for households in higher wealth brackets. But much of the gain for many typical households came from the rising value of their homes. Exclude that housing wealth and the picture is worse: Median net worth began to decline even earlier. “The housing bubble basically hid a trend of declining financial wealth at the median that began in 2001,” said Fabian T. Pfeffer, the University of Michigan professor who is lead author of the Russell Sage Foundation study.
Read more …
• Ukraine Votes To Keep Western Companies Out Of Gas Industry (RT)
Ukraine’s parliament has rejected allowing EU and US companies to buy up to 49% of oil and gas company Naftogaz, and also said they were against liquidating the national energy monopoly. Kiev rejected splitting the company in two, a measure encouraged by the West in order for Naftogaz to comply with Europe’s third energy package, which doesn’t allow one single company to both produce and transport oil and gas. The bill proposed creating two new joint stock companies in order to conform to the package, “Ukraine’s Main Gas Transmission” and “Ukraine’s Underground Storages.” The proposal sought to meet the requirements of EU legislation and strengthen Ukraine’s energy independence.
Earlier in July, the Ukrainian parliament passed a first reading of the bill that would have allowed Western companies up to a 49% of Ukraine’s Gas Transportation System (GTS). There had been rumors the state would sell off at least 15% of Naftogaz in a public offering, however, the conditions in Ukraine’s capital and equity market aren’t strong enough to get a high enough price. The changes was rejected because of the large monopoly and influence Naftogaz has over the Ukrainian market, the country’s political scientist Alexander Ohrimenko, told Russian business daily RBC. Ukraine’s Rada needed a minimum of 226 votes to support the reform, but only 94 deputies were “for” the change. In the first reading, it received 229 of the 226 votes required to restructure the company. Voting bloc dynamics changed on Thursday after the ruling coalition dissolved itself triggering an early parliamentary election after the government resigned.
Following the rejection of privatizing Naftogaz, Prime Minister Yatsenyuk announced his resignation as head of the government. The vote took place among other proposed budget reforms, defense spending, as well as a discussion on how to tackle Ukraine’s gas debt. Naftogaz’s debt to Russia now exceeds $5 billion. Crippled finances prevent the company from paying for Russian gas supplies, much of which have already been delivered. Gazprom halted supplies to Naftogaz in June following Kiev’s unwillingness to start paying off the amassed debt. Ukraine has recently increased its effort to find alternative sources of gas to substitute Russian supplies. One of its main goals is to soon start reverse gas flows from neighboring Slovakia, an undertaking that may not be legal.
Read more …
• Boeing To Banking: How Russian Sanctions Will Hit Western Business (Guardian)
The downing of flight MH17 could become a turning point in the west’s economic relations with Russia. Since the Ukraine crisis flared up last year, sanctions have mostly been targeted at individuals and companies associated with Russia’s annexation of Crimea or those stirring up unrest in eastern Ukraine. The European Union extended these sanctions on Friday, adding 15 names and 18 organisations (mostly companies) to the list. As it stands, the list includes Kremlin officials, separatists and state companies. But the game could change this week, when the EU is expected to unveil more sweeping “tier three” economic sanctions aimed at entire sections of the economy.
This weekend, diplomats have been examining proposals to restrict Russian state-owned companies from accessing capital markets, impose an arms embargo, and issue an export ban on specialist energy technology and “dual use” equipment, such as computers and machinery, that can be put to both civilian and military uses. The draft proposal notes pointedly that European leaders should decide whether the arms embargo should be retrospective, thus annulling France’s €1.2bn contract to deliver Mistral assault ships to Russia. Tightening the economic screws will hurt Russia’s economy, but the consequences will also be felt by western companies – and not just the usual suspects of energy and arms companies that have made high-profile deals with the Kremlin. Germany, for example, has 6,000 companies doing business in Russia, mostly small and medium-sized enterprises. But large conglomerates will be the bellwethers, showing how serious the consequences will be.
Read more …
• Russia Criticizes EU Sanctions, Raps US Over Ukraine Role (Reuters)
Russia reacted angrily on Saturday to additional sanctions imposed by the European Union over Moscow’s role in the Ukraine crisis, saying they would hamper cooperation on security issues and undermine the fight against terrorism and organized crime. Russia’s Foreign Ministry also accused the United States, which has already imposed its own sanctions against Moscow, of contributing to the conflict in Ukraine through its support for the pro-Western government in Kiev. The 28-nation EU reached an outline agreement on Friday to impose the first economic sanctions on Russia over its behavior in Ukraine but scaled back their scope to exclude technology for the crucial gas sector.
The EU also imposed travel bans and asset freezes on the chiefs of Russia’s FSB security service and foreign intelligence service and a number of other top Russian officials, saying they had helped shape Russian government policy that threatened Ukraine’s sovereignty and national integrity. “The additional sanction list is direct evidence that the EU countries have set a course for fully scaling down cooperation with Russia over the issues of international and regional security,” Russia’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement. “(This) includes the fight against the proliferation of weapon of mass destruction, terrorism, organized crime and other new challenges and dangers.” The EU had already imposed asset freezes and travel bans on dozens of senior Russian officials over Russia’s annexation in March of Ukraine’s Black Sea peninsula of Crimea and its support for separatists battling Kiev’s forces in eastern Ukraine.
Read more …
Mergers, acquisitions and bankruptcies.
• Are We On The Cusp Of The Oil Mega Mergers? (Telegraph)
Ten years ago, Lord Browne, the then chief executive of BP, flew to Williamsburg, Virginia, for a board meeting, where he planned to outline detailed proposals for a mega-merger with Royal Dutch Shell. The radical tie-up had been discussed in secret weeks earlier with Jeroen van Der Veer, his counterpart at Shell, during a stroll around Lake Como in Italy. With an estimated $9bn (£5.3bn) of synergies from the deal and Browne’s conviction that he had the backing of his own executive team, including his eventual successor Tony Hayward, the BP chief was ready to deliver the grand plan. But on the flight out of the UK, he suddenly got cold feet. “I knew the answer even before the meeting started. The sentiment was ‘why rock the boat?’ The Shell merger was not discussed. It was not going to be done and that was that… In the end we did not rock the boat; we missed it,” he recounted in his memoirs four years ago.
Browne, who stepped down in 2007, was among a generation of buccaneering oil major executives who had overseen a wave of mega-mergers at the end of the nineties that totally reshaped the industry. BP moved first, merging with Amoco and kicking off a flurry of tie-ups including Exxon and Mobil, Texaco and Chevron, and TotalFina and Elf, that created the so-called supermajors. More than a decade and a half on from those unions, could we be on the cusp of another round of mega-mergers? Not immediately, but some senior City sources think falling fortunes could force the giants into each other’s arms in the next year or two. Their central argument for a fresh flurry of deal-making is a problem affecting the whole industry: a slump in profits. In January, Shell issued a shock quarterly profit warning and weeks later posted a 23pc fall in annual earnings from $25.3bn the year before to £19.5bn in 2013. In April, BP followed suit, reporting a similar drop in profits for 2013 and the first quarter of 2014.
Read more …
Why only half? Pussies!
• Half Of Britain To Be Opened Up To Fracking (Telegraph)
Ministers are this week expected to offer up vast swathes of Britain for fracking in an attempt to lure energy companies to explore shale oil and gas reserves. The Department for Energy and Climate Change is expected to launch the so-called “14th onshore licensing round”, which will invite companies to bid for the rights to explore in as-yet untouched parts of the country. The move is expected to be hugely controversial because it could potentially result in fracking taking place across more than half of Britain. Industry sources said the plans could be announced at a press conference tomorrow.
The Government is a big proponent of fracking and last year revealed that it would “step up the search” for shale gas and oil. Ministers said they would offer energy companies the chance for rights to drill across more than 37,000 square miles, stretching from central Scotland to the south coast. Michael Fallon, the former energy minister, has previously described shale as “an exciting prospect, which could bring growth, jobs and energy security”.
Read more …
• Putin To Face Multi-Million Class-Action Suit Over MH17 Crash (Telegraph)
Vladimir Putin is facing a multi-million-pound legal action for his alleged role in the shooting down of a Malaysia Airlines passenger jet over eastern Ukraine, The Sunday Telegraph can disclose.
British lawyers are preparing a class action against the Russian president through the American courts. Senior Russian military commanders and politicians close to Mr Putin are also likely to become embroiled in the legal claim. The case would further damage relations between Mr Putin and the West, but politicians would be powerless to prevent it.
Last week, lawyers from McCue & Partners, the London law firm, flew to Ukraine for discussions about how to bring the case and where it should be filed. Victims’ families will be invited to join the action. The case will inevitably highlight the role allegedly played by Russia in stoking conflict in eastern Ukraine. [..]
A legal source close to the planned class action said the burden of proof in a civil case was lower than in a criminal investigation, meaning that senior Kremlin politicians, including Mr Putin, could be held to account through the civil courts, even if they escape criticism in the official inquiry. The case against Mr Putin could be worth hundreds of millions of pounds, possibly more, in potential damages. The action is likely to be brought through the US courts and could – if held liable – eventually see assets of Mr Putin and those closest to him frozen if any resulting compensation is not paid.
Read more …
There are reports Ukraine is using white phosphorus bombs. Israel too.
• Ukraine Army Advances as EU Plans Tougher Putin Sanctions (Bloomberg)
Ukraine’s army advanced on a last main separatist stronghold as the U.S. said Russian President Vladimir Putin is poised to give the rebels heavy weapons and European Union leaders considered their toughest sanctions yet on Russia. Ukrainian troops are battling insurgents in the town of Horlivka, about 20 kilometers (12 miles) northeast of the regional capital Donetsk, a city of 1 million people where rebels retreated after abandoning other positions earlier this month. Taking Horlivka would open the way to attack one of their last redoubts, Ukrainian Defense Ministry spokesman Andriy Lysenko said yesterday in Kiev.
“Fighting to take over Horlivka is going on,” he told journalists. “Donetsk will be next.” CNN reported that long lines of cars jammed roads leading south from the city yesterday as residents tried to flee. The military gains come as German Chancellor Angela Merkel is pushing EU leaders to sign off on new sanctions aimed at Russia after the shooting down of Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17. The jet’s downing over eastern Ukraine on July 17 is isolating Putin in the international community. While he denies arming pro-Russian rebels, the U.S. says its intelligence shows that the missile that destroyed the plane and killed all 298 passengers and crew was supplied by Russia.
Read more …
Why isn’t anyone is the west asking about the aIr traffic control conversation logs? Don’t we want to find out what happened?
• MH17 Black Box Reveals “Massive Explosive Decompression” (Zero Hedge)
While it was already reported that the black boxes of flight MH 17 were supposedly not tempered with, despite early propaganda attempts via planted YouTube clips to claim otherwise (clips which have since disappeared replaced by other propaganda), the question of what the data recovery team operating in London would find was unanswered, until earlier today when CBS reported that “unreleased data” from a black box retrieved from the wreckage of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 in Ukraine show findings consistent with the plane’s fuselage being hit multiple times by shrapnel from a missile explosion.
“It did what it was designed to do,” a European air safety official told CBS News, “bring down airplanes.” [..] The official described the finding as “massive explosive decompression.”
Of course none of this is surprising, and has been widely known from the beginning: it was also widely known that the black box would provide no additional information on the $64K question: whose missile was it, and was it a missile launched from the ground or an air-to-air missile fired by a fighter jet. Perhaps a better question is who is leaking the “unreleased data” and what propaganda is it meant to achieve in what is, as we said a week ago, nothing but a propaganda war on both sides. As for the real questions the “released” black box data should reveal, they remain as follows:
• why was the plane diverted from its traditional flight path; and
• what was said between the pilots and air traffic control in the minutes before the crash.
Recall that the Ukraine secret service confiscated the ATC conversation logs a week ago, and the fate of said conversations has been unknown ever since, something that Malaysian Airlines revealed to the public promptly after its other, just as infamous plane anomaly, flight MH 370 disappeared forever from radar.
Read more …
Yeah, imagine having to agree with Pat Buchanan.
• In Praise of Pat Buchanan’s Take On America’s Ukraine Fiasco (Stockman)
In just 800 words Pat Buchanan exposes the sheer juvenile delinquency embodied in Washington’s current Ukrainian fiasco. He accomplishes this by reminding us of the sober restraint that governed the actions of American Presidents from FDR to Eisenhower, Reagan and Bush I with respect to Eastern Europe during far more perilous times. In a word, as much as they abhorred the brutal Soviet repression of the Hungarian uprising in 1956, the Prague Spring in 1968 and the solidarity movement in Poland in the early 1980s, among many other such incidents, they did not threaten war for one simple reason: These unfortunate episodes did not further endanger America’s national security. Instead, in different ways each of these Presidents searched for avenues of engagement with the often disagreeable and belligerent leaders of the Soviet Empire because they “felt that America could not remain isolated from the rulers of the world’s largest nation”.
Accordingly, during the entire span from 1933, when FDR recognized the Soviet Union, until 1991, when it ended, the US never once claimed Ukraine’s independence was part of its foreign policy agenda or a vital national security interest. Why in the world, therefore, should we be meddling in the backyard of a far less threatening Russia today? More importantly, if Ike could invite Khrushchev to tour America and pow-wow with him at Camp David after the suppression of the Hungarian freedom fighters and his bluster over Berlin, what in the world is Obama doing attempting to demonize Putin and make him an international pariah?
The fact is, Crimea had been part of Russia for 200 years, and the Donbas had been its Russian-speaking coal, steel and industrial heartland since the time of Stalin. Putin’s disagreements with the Ukrainian nationalists who took over Kiev during the Washington inspired overthrow of its constitutionally-elected government in February are his legitimate geo-political business, but have nothing to do with our national security. And whatever his considerable faults, Putin is no totalitarian menace even remotely in the same league as his Soviet predecessors. In that regard, Hillary Clinton’s sophomoric comparison of him to Hitler is downright preposterous.
Read more …
Ebola gets scarier. Someday soon someone will label it out of control.
• U.S. Doctor in Africa Tests Positive for Ebola (WSJ)
An American doctor working with Ebola patients in Liberia has tested positive for the deadly virus, an aid organization said Saturday. North Carolina-based Samaritan’s Purse issued a news release saying that Dr. Kent Brantly tested positive for the disease and was being treated at a hospital in Monrovia, Liberia. Dr. Brantly is the medical director for the aid organization’s case management center in the city. Dr. Brantly, 33, has been working with Samaritan’s Purse in Liberia since October 2013 as part of the charity’s post-residency program for doctors, said the group’s spokeswoman Melissa Strickland. The organization’s website says he had worked as a family practice physician in Fort Worth, Texas.
The highly contagious virus is one of the most deadly diseases in the world. Photos of Dr. Brantly working in Liberia show him in white coveralls made of a synthetic material that he wore for hours a day while treating Ebola patients. Dr. Brantly was quoted in a posting on the organization’s website earlier this year about efforts to maintain an isolation ward for patients. “The hospital is taking great effort to be prepared,” Dr. Brantly said. “In past Ebola outbreaks, many of the casualties have been health-care workers who contracted the disease through their work caring for infected individuals.” Ms. Strickland says that Dr. Brantly’s wife and children had been living with him in Africa, but they are currently in the U.S.
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Get out of the desert.
• Pumping Groundwater in a Drought Is Great, Until You Run Out (Bloomberg)
Water is becoming so precious in the drought-stricken U.S. West that – why not – states are even taking steps to figure out how much of it they have. California governor Jerry Brown in January challenged towns and state agencies to cut their water use by 20%. Now they’re trying to measure what 20% means. It’s hard. Cities and the state in some cases are coming up with estimates that differ by up to 10 times. “Despite our longstanding water problems, we don’t accurately report and measure water in any sector — urban or agricultural,” Peter Gleick, president of the Pacific Institute, a water think tank in Oakland, told James Nash of Bloomberg News. “That makes it difficult to implement programs to conserve water and deal with this crisis.”
All of California is in severe drought, according the U.S. Drought Monitor. Nearly 82% is in extreme drought and more than 36% is in exceptional drought, which is marked by crop and pasture loss and water shortage that fall within the top two%iles of drought indicators. In the Southwest, the Colorado River Basin remains “the most over-allocated river system in the world,” according to a study that will be published in Geophysical Research Letters. The basin lost 64.8 cubic kilometers (15.5 cubic miles) of freshwater — two-thirds of that disappearing from underground reservoirs — over the time period in the study. That’s an amount of water almost twice the size of Lake Mead, the biggest U.S. reservoir, gone from the basin.
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