The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists has just issued its 2023 Doomsday Clock statement, calling this “a time of unprecedented danger.” It has advanced the hands of the clock to 90 seconds to midnight, meaning that the world is closer to global catastrophe than ever before, mainly because the conflict in Ukraine has gravely increased the risk of nuclear war. This scientific assessment should wake up the world’s leaders to the urgent necessity of bringing the parties involved in the Ukraine war to the peace table.
So far, the debate about peace talks to resolve the conflict has revolved mostly around what Ukraine and Russia should be prepared to bring to the table in order to end the war and restore peace. However, given that this war is not just between Russia and Ukraine but is part of a “New Cold War” between Russia and the United States, it is not just Russia and Ukraine that must consider what they can bring to the table to end it. The United States must also consider what steps it can take to resolve its underlying conflict with Russia that led to this war in the first place.
The geopolitical crisis that set the stage for the war in Ukraine began with NATO’s broken promises not to expand into Eastern Europe, and was exacerbated by its declaration in 2008 that Ukraine would eventually join this primarily anti-Russian military alliance.
Then, in 2014, a U.S.-backed coup against Ukraine’s elected government caused the disintegration of Ukraine. Only 51% of Ukrainians surveyed told a Gallup poll that they recognized the legitimacy of the post-coup government, and large majorities in Crimea and in Donetsk and Luhansk provinces voted to secede from Ukraine. Crimea rejoined Russia, and the new Ukrainian government launched a civil war against the self-declared “People’s Republics” of Donetsk and Luhansk.
Israel’s defense minister signaled Friday that the military would stop its airstrikes if Palestinian militant groups halted rocket attacks, a day after the deadliest Israeli raid in decades raised the prospect of a major flare-up in fighting.
The limited exchange of fire between Gaza militants and the Israeli armed forces has so far followed a familiar pattern that allows both sides to respond without leading to a major escalation. Defense Minister Yoav Gallant’s instruction to the military to prepare for new strikes in the Gaza Strip “if necessary” also appeared to leave open the possibility that the violence would subside.
Midday prayers at Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, often a catalyst for clashes between Palestinians and Israeli police, passed in relative calm, despite a heavy police presence. Still, residents of the holy city and the occupied West Bank remained on edge.
The bombardments followed an Israeli raid in the flashpoint Jenin refugee camp that turned into a gun battle, which killed at least nine people, including seven militants and a 61-year-old woman.
The West is in a race against time to get newly available tanks to Ukraine - or face Europe being engulfed in war against Russia, experts have warned.
As Moscow prepares to launch a spring offensive against Kyiv’s troops, Germany has finally agreed to its Leopard 2 tanks being sent.
Berlin’s decision to send 14 of the world’s most deadly tanks to Ukraine means other western countries can follow suit with their own Leopard 2s.
Germany, the tanks’ licence holder, held back its offer for months.
Leading Russia expert Bruce Jones said: “This is absolutely a pivotal strategic moment in the war as the West now faces a severe time compression. Germany has delayed the process for some time... when it most matters.”
The third-generation German-made tanks are used by countries such as Poland, which is now sending some of its stock. Spain also said it will provide Leopard 2s, as well as Finland and the Netherlands.
First lady Jill Biden coaxed President Joe Biden onstage Thursday evening at the White House during a Lunar New Year celebration to mark the conclusion of a dragon dance performance.
'Are you going to dance?' the president asked the first lady as the troupe ended their performance and there was an awkward pause.
'No, you're going to come up. ... Come on up Joe! No, you're not going to dance,' Dr. Biden replied, as the president teased he might do so. 'Believe me, you don't want to ruin the evening,' the first lady added.
Dr. Biden then invited the audience to a reception and expertly walked between her husband and reporters as they shouted questions about the documents debacle and whether he'd allow the FBI to search their Rehoboth Beach home.
The president touted that the White House was hosting the 'first Lunar New Year reception of this scale' during the Thursday evening affair and added that he had received California Rep. Judy Chu's blessing to hold the joyous event - in the aftermath of two mass shootings that took place in Asian-American communities.
'I spoke with Judy several days ago. I said, "Judy what should I do? Should I continue - should I be in California or should I still have this celebration?" And she felt very strongly,' the president said. 'She said we have to move forward. Her message was don't give into fear and sorrow. Don't do that. Stand in solidarity and the spirit of toughness, that's what this holiday is all about.'
Given the gargantuan level of gaslighting going on globally, it is difficult for us to judge whether the following is the most serious reframing of the entire COVID crisis yet or the most satisfyingly satirical take on the farcical narrative-managers op-eds we've ever read.
Project Veritas' James O'Keefe was physically assaulted after approaching Jordon Trishton Walker, Pfizer's Director of R&D, Strategic Operations, who had been caught on tape admitting to the fact that the company is exploring a way to "mutate" COVID via "Directed Evolution" in order to anticipate new strains for their Covid-19 vaccine.
When O'Keefe first approached him about his admission, Walker erupted in denial, exclaiming that "I was just lying to a person to impress them on a date." He then lunged for O'Keefe and his staff in what appeared to be an effort to take away the iPad that O'Keefe was holding.
The situation escalated when Walker urged the restaurant owner to call the police, but the restaurant owner asked O'Keefe to leave... which left Walker pressuring him to stay until the police arrived.
As Walker raged around the empty restaurant, he once again claimed: "I was on a third date with a man and like normal people you lie to impress a date..."
US dollar hegemony has long been a standard feature of the global financial and economic system. But developments in recent years and months (weeks, even) suggests there are more than a handful of countries who are looking to rely less on the US dollar. Instead countries who have long been at the mercy of the US dollar are looking to take their finances into their own hands…and gold is set to play a key role.
The U.S. and China are reportedly ‘taking steps to renew their engagement and cooperation … however, it is one step forward and 10 steps backwards.
The U.S. political dysfunction over raising the debt ceiling is the latest crack in rapidly disintegrating international cooperation.
China, one of the largest foreign holders of U.S. debt (China holds about US$870 billion in U.S. government debt), is weighing in on the issue by telling the U.S. to solve its own debt problems.
The comments came After U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen called China a “barrier” to debt reform in Africa this week, Chinese officials in Zambia had a pointed response – get your own house in order. The Chinese Embassy in Zambia said on its website Tuesday “the biggest contribution that the U.S. can make to the debt issues outside the country is to act on responsible monetary policies, cope with its own debt problem, and stop sabotaging other sovereign countries’ active efforts to solve their debt issues” (Reuters, 01/23).
The U.S. and International Monetary Fund have put pressure on China to restructure debt owed by the world’s poorest countries.
The long-awaited winter energy crisis has finally hit…but it wasn’t in Europe after all. On Monday, almost the entirety of Pakistan was left without power when a misguided energy saving strategy by the government backfired. Runaway inflation, a severely weakened currency, and rapidly emptying foreign exchange reserves have left Pakistan on the brink of economic collapse. The country of 230 million people is plagued by overdue energy payments, and was seeking to cut costs by lowering energy use when the plan went off the rails, leaving people across the country without power or water for more than 12 hours.
First, while expressed in abstruse technical language, it shares a perspective with the most radical left-wing critiques of capitalism. Yellen goes 90 percent of the way to proclaiming, “The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles.”
Second, Yellen is not, of course, calling for a proletarian revolution. Rather, as Noam Chomsky has pointed out, “vulgar Marxist rhetoric is not untypical of internal documents in the government,” just “with values reversed.” In Yellen’s case, she is making the case for, as she writes, the positive “impact of heightened job insecurity.” A rise in worker insecurity in the mid-1990s meant everyone was too scared to ask for raises, which meant businesses wouldn’t need to hike prices, which meant even with the falling unemployment at the time, the Fed didn’t need to raise interest rates to slow the economy and throw people out of work.
Third, Yellen is not a monster. Indeed, from the perspective of regular Americans, she’s about as good as it gets at the summit of power. The problem, for those of us down here on the ground, is her overall worldview. She might personally want things to be nicer but is certain the science of economics places incredibly sharp limits on the possible, and all we can do is try to make small improvements within those limits.
The memo is titled “Job Insecurity, the Natural Rate of Unemployment, and the Phillips Curve.” Barker learned of it from references in the books “Maestro” by Bob Woodward and “Empathy Economics” by Owen Ullmann. Greenspan distributed the memo to the entire Federal Open Market Committee, or FOMC — the group that decides interest rates — and it worked. As Ullmann puts it, “Yellen rescued Greenspan from his tight spot.”
The U.N.'s nuclear watchdog on Thursday reported powerful explosions near Ukraine's Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia nuclear power station and renewed calls for a security zone around the plant.
A Russian official dismissed the comments by Rafael Grossi, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), saying they suggested Moscow could not uphold nuclear safety.
Russian forces seized the plant in early March, soon after invading neighbouring Ukraine. Russia and Ukraine have accused each other of firing around it near the front lines, prompting the IAEA to place experts at all of Ukraine's five nuclear stations.
Grossi, who visited Ukraine last week, said IAEA monitors routinely reported explosions near the plant.
"Yesterday, eight strong detonations were heard at around 10 a.m. local time, causing office windows at the plant to vibrate, and more were audible today," he said in a statement.
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) on Wednesday pushed Republicans against taking military spending off the table as the party looks for ways to tackle government funding in talks on how to address the debt limit this year.
The federal government and U.S. taxpayers are effectively underwriting massive returns for Lockheed Martin shareholders, returns so impressive that the weapons firm’s CEO, James Taiclet, boasted about how the company handed $11 billion over to shareholders in 2022 via share repurchases and dividend payments, creating “significant value for our shareholders.”
Taiclet, speaking on a January 24 earnings call, said that Lockheed, the world’s largest weapons firm, was “ending the year with a total shareholder return of 40 percent.”
Lockheed may be a for-profit, publicly traded, company but those stock buybacks, dividends and appreciated stock value are largely underwritten by U.S. taxpayers. The company’s 2021 annual report acknowledged that, “…71% of our $67.0 billion in net sales were from the U.S. Government.”
Political media critics often accuse journalists of being “stenographers” for those in power when they are seen as regurgitating what a government official says in an article without offering any critical assessment of that official’s claim or providing a counter claim from someone of similar expertise.
But sometimes, media outlets take this practice to a whole other level and effectively serve as government public relations firms, as illustrated when CNN,NBC News, and Reuters published stories this week on a joint U.S.-Israel military drill in the Middle East.
All three articles made exactly the same four points. First, that this was a “massive” drill that came together quickly:
The base is still under construction but will eventually house 5,000 US Marines, likely by the end of 2024. According to The Wall Street Journal, the purpose of the base is to prepare for a potential war with China in the islands of the western Pacific Ocean.
David Berger, the commandant of the Marine Corps, said that US Marines would be the first to be deployed in the event of a war with China. “We don’t want to fight to get to the fight. We want to already be inside, so if there’s a conflict, the stand-in forces are already forward,” he said.
In comments made to EU lawmakers this week, International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) chief Rafael Grossi tried to raise the alarm about Iran’s civilian nuclear program, claiming that Iran could, if it so chose, fuel “several” nuclear weapons from its existing stockpile.
This accusation is a continuation of Grossi’s past suggestions, fueling immediate media frenzy about a proliferation threat, and showing a flagrant lack of understanding for the facts of a nuclear program, let alone the status of Iran’s stockpile.
Under the suspended JCPOA nuclear deal, Iran was to send excess uranium from its stockpile abroad to keep it from growing too large. With the US not in the deal, no one is taking that excess uranium, and the stockpile just keeps growing steadily, with some 70 kg of 60% purity uranium amassed at this point.
The important facts of the case, however, are more practical, and generally ignored in the press. The term “weapons-grade uranium” refers to uranium which could be used in an atomic weapon, and is of a minimum of 90% purity.
Iran’s highest level of enrichment, even years after JCPOA fell apart, is still only 60%, well short of weapons-grade. Iran has never even attempted to produce uranium more highly enriched than this, and its much-vaunted stockpile subsequently includes no weapons-grade uranium to fuel any weapons at all.
The IAEA is no doubt aware of all of this, but consistently presents the “highly enriched uranium” (HEU) of 60% as a problem. This both parrots US efforts to spin anything Iran does as a threat, and ignores the US role in the stockpile being so large in size in the first place. At the end of the day, 60% uranium is still no direct proliferation risk without substantial further processing, which Iran has neither attempted nor itself proven capable of.
Kosovo and Serbia should state by March whether they accept an international plan to normalise relations or face repercussions from the European Union and United States, the EU's envoy on the matter said on Wednesday.
Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008, a decade after a guerrilla uprising against Belgrade's repressive rule. Over the past decade, the two have been holding normalisation talks under EU mediation, with a successful outcome key to realising the aspirations of both to join the wealthy bloc.
Last week EU, U.S., German, French and Italian envoys have met leaders of both countries to try to convince them to sign an 11-point deal meant to defuse tensions lingering since the 1998-99 conflict.
Western powers have become impatient with the intransigence of both sides, fearing that frequent strife between minority Serbs in north Kosovo and the majority ethnic-Albanian government of Pristina could degenerate into a wider conflict.
The Palestinian Authority (PA) decided to immediately end the so-called security coordination with Israel, following a meeting with PA President Mahmoud Abbas to discuss today’s Israeli army’s massacre in Jenin, the official news agency WAFA reported.
Nine Palestinians were killed and 20 others were wounded by Israeli army gunfire on Thursday morning, during a brutal military raid into the city and neighboring refugee camp, the official news agency WAFA reported.
In a brutal assault on the Jenin refugee camp Thursday morning, Israeli forces killed nine Palestinians and injured over a dozen others, making it the deadliest day for Palestinians in 2023 and one of the single deadliest raids in the West Bank in years. A tenth Palestinian was killed later in the day in al-Ram during clashes with the Israeli army.
According to the Palestinian Ministry of Health (MOH), among those killed was an “elderly” woman identified as Magda Obaid, 61. Eight others were killed in the brutal assault on the camp.
According to Defense for Children International Palestine, two of the Palestinians killed during the raid were children. DCIP identified them as Abdallah Marwan Juma’a Mousa, 17, and Waseem Amjad Aref al-Ja’s, 16. DCIP’s reports conflict with initial reports from the MOH, which reported Mousa to be 18, and al-Ja’s to be 22.
Israeli occupation forces killed nine Palestinians and injured at least twenty on Thursday during violent raids in the occupied city of Jenin and its refugee camp.
The raids began on the evening of January 25 and persisted into January 26, in what is being described as "one of the deadliest days" in the West Bank since last year.
According to the Palestinian Prisoners Club (PPC), several have been detained throughout the raids and transferred for interrogation by Israel’s security service. As a result of the incursions, intense clashes broke out between Israeli troops and resistance fighters, several of whom sustained bullet wounds.
An elderly woman has also been reported among the dead, according to security officials. Eyewitnesses have referred to the situation as a "massacre."
The Israeli army cut off the power supply to the Jenin camp, while also blocking journalists and ambulance teams from entering. Health officials have said that injuries are continuing to accumulate.
"There is an invasion that is unprecedented in the past period, in terms of how large it is and the number of injuries … The ambulance driver tried to get to one of the martyrs who was on the floor, but the Israeli forces shot directly at the ambulance and prevented them from approaching him," Wissam Baker, head of Jenin’s public hospital, told media.
The installation of wind and solar power projects is slowing down in the United States, with some projects being canceled over persistent cost issues and community animosity.
New utility-scale solar installations are estimated to have fallen by 40 percent in 2022 compared to the previous year, according to a report from research firm Wood Mackenzie. Utility-scale solar deployments in the third quarter of 2022 were 36 percent lower when compared to Q3, 2021, and 9 percent lower compared to Q2, 2022.
“The low installation figures are the result of previous project delays and continued supply chain constraints,” the report said.
During the third quarter, new wind installations are calculated to have crashed by 77.5 percent compared to the same period a year ago based on another report by S&P Global Market Intelligence. Between July and September, U.S. developers only added 501 MW of new wind power capacity, down 22 percent from Q3, 2021.
“No other third quarter saw lower wind capacity additions since at least 2015. The 4,500 MW of new wind capacity added in the first three quarters of 2022 is less than half of that added by the end of 2021’s third quarter, 9,223 MW,” the report states.
NASA and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) announced a plan on Tuesday to test out a nuclear-powered thermal rocket engine which will enable NASA-crewed missions to Mars, according to NASA.
The program, called Demonstration Rocket for Agile Cislunar Operations, or DRACO, could allow for faster transit time, an increased payload capacity, and higher power for instrumentation and communication.
In a nuclear thermal rocket engine, a fission reactor is used to generate extremely high temperatures. The engine transfers the heat produced by the reactor to a liquid propellant, which is expanded and exhausted through a nozzle to propel the spacecraft. Nuclear thermal rockets can be three or more times more efficient than conventional chemical propulsion. -NASA
First, a stranger would face a far greater challenge entering a post-presidential Mar-a-Lago than a pre-presidential Biden home, office, or garage -- or who knows where?
Secret service agents and private security were stationed at Mar-a-Lago. Prior to the 2020 presidential election they were not at citizen Biden's various troves for most of 2017-2020, much less prior to 2009.
Second, we seem to forget that for much of the developing controversy, Biden's own team was investigating Biden.
On the other hand, the Biden Administration's Justice Department and the FBI were not just investigating Trump as an outside party, but as a former president -- and possible 2024 presidential candidate and opponent of Biden himself.
Remember, the narrative of the first Democratic impeachment of Trump was the allegation that Trump had used his powers of the presidency to investigate Biden and his family, a likely 2020 challenger to Trump's reelection bid.
Third, no one in a position of government authority had passed judgment on Biden's alleged security violations.
That was not the case of the still alleged violations of Trump.
Timing is everything, and it may determine the fate of Georgia’s former president, Mikheil Saakashvili. Saakashvili was president of Georgia from 2004 to 2013, and governor of Ukraine’s Odesa Oblast in 2015 and 2016. He returned to Georgia on October 1, 2021 and promptly started a hunger strike to protest previous convictions and new charges against him, including battery, misappropriation, abuse of power, and embezzlement.
Recently, there has been a groundswell of protest to force the Georgian government, led by the Georgian Dream party, to free Saakashvili so he can seek medical attention in the U.S. or Europe for his deteriorating health. His dire condition may be caused by neglect and heavy metal poisoning, and a council of physicians convened by Georgia’s state ombudsperson Nino Lomjaria declared the prison clinic (Vivamedi Clinic) “fails to meet his medical needs.” His condition is likely worsened by petty harassment by the government, including turning off the electricity to the clinic.
Saakashvili demonstrated bad judgement in the past, by starting a war with Russia in 2008, and returning to Georgia despite earlier convictions and with new charges pending against him, despite an earlier pledge to not return. And he made it easy for the Georgian authorities by entering the country illegally, inside a cargo container. (Saakashvili was stripped of his Georgian citizenship in 2015 after he accepted Ukrainian citizenship.)
Lockheed Martin has said that it’sready to meet demands for F-16 fighter jets if the US and its allies choose to ship them to Ukraine.
So far, the US and its allies have been hesitant to send fighter jets to Ukraine due to concerns that they could be used to target Russian territory. But the Western powers seem less and less concerned about escalation as the US and Germany have now pledged to send their main battle tanks.
Frank St. John, chief operating officer of Lockheed, told Financial Times that there has been a "lot of conversation about third-party transfer of F-16s," which would involve European nations armed with the F-16 shipping them to Ukraine.
St. John said Lockheed wasn’t involved in the conversations but was preparing for the eventuality. He said the arms maker was "going to be ramping production on F-16s in Greenville [South Carolina] to get to the place where we will be able to backfill pretty capably any countries that choose to do third-party transfers to help with the current conflict."
The Netherlands expressed openness to sending its F-16s to Ukrainelast week, with the Dutch foreign minister saying it would look at any requests for the aircraft with an "open mind." Another option could be for former Warsaw pact countries that are now NATO members to send their older Soviet-made MiG fighter jets to Ukraine and replace them with F-16s or other modern Western-made aircraft.
Ukrainian officials have been lobbying for months to receive F-15 or F-16 fighter jets from the US and Army Tactical Missile Systems (ATACAMS), munitions with a range of up to 190 miles.
The US has held off on providing such arms due to concerns they could be used to target Russian territory. But the US has previously ruled out other equipment that it eventually sent to Ukraine, including the M1 Abrams tanks that Biden just announced the US would be supplying.
The White House refused to say if it will provide Ukraine with Bradley Fighting Vehicles equipped with radioactive depleted uranium rounds, ammunition that is linked to cancer and birth defects.
Depleted uranium is typically created as a byproduct of producing enriched uranium and is extremely dense, making it an effective material to pierce the armor of tanks. Bradleys can be equipped with depleted uranium ammunition, which is why they are known as “tank killers.”
When asked on Wednesday if the Bradleys the US is sending to Ukraine will be equipped with depleted uranium, a senior Biden administration official said, “I’m not going to get into the technical specifics.” The official also declined to answer if the M1 Abrams tanks the US is providing Kyiv will be equipped with a depleted uranium cage.
The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) issued an alert to taxpayers on Tuesday,reminding them that they must report all digital asset-related income and answer a new digital asset question on their 2022 federal income tax return or face consequences such as delayed refunds or even penalties.
The IRS said in a Jan. 24 release that a key change on 1040 forms this year is that the agency has replaced the term “virtual currency” with “digital assets,” in addition to some other modifications to the wording.
The “Yes” or “No” question, which was expanded and revised this year to update terminology, reads as follows:
“At any time during 2022, did you: (a) receive (as a reward, award or payment for property or services); or (b) sell, exchange, gift or otherwise dispose of a digital asset (or a financial interest in a digital asset)?”
“All taxpayers must answer the question regardless of whether they engaged in any transactions involving digital assets,” the agency cautioned.
It is a legal requirement to accurately report all income, including income from digital assets, on federal income tax returns. Failure to do so could result in non-compliance with tax laws and possible penalties.
The IRS has provided a detailed explanation of what constitutes a digital asset, which includes such things as stablecoins, non-fungible tokens (NFTs), and cryptocurrencies.
Joe Biden has made it a hallmark of his presidency to nominate more women and “people of color” to the the federal judiciary than any other president. Sometimes that means not nominating the most informed people for the bench, or those who struggle to answer the most basic questions of constitutional scholarship–or even humanity–as long as the nominee checks certain boxes on the Biden qualification list even if their ignorance leaves senators scratching their heads.