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Thursday, February 14, 2019

Stamping Out Insects

Anti-Valentines,

Rep. Ilhan Omar clashed with newly minted Venezuela Envoy Elliott Abrams during a Wednesday hearing in front of the House Foreign Relations Committee discussing the role of the US military in Central America.
"Mr. Abrams, in 1991 you pleaded guilty to two counts of withholding information from Congress regarding your involvement in the Iran-Contra affair, for which you were later pardoned by president George H.W. Bush," began Omar. "I fail to understand why members of this committee or the American people should find any testimony that you give today to be truthful."
"If I could respond to that..." interjected Abrams.
"It was not a question," shot back Omar.
After a brief exchange in which Abrams protested "It was not right!" Omar cut Abrams off, saying "Thank you for your participation."
Omar: "On February 8, 1982, you testified before the Senate foreign relations committee about US policy in El Salvador. In that hearing you dismissed as communist propaganda, a report about the massacre of El Mozote in which more than 800 civilians - including children as young as two-years old - were brutally murdered by US-trained troops. During that massacre, some of those troops bragged about raping 12-year-old girls before they killed them. You later said that the US policy in El Salvador was a "fabulous achievement." 
"Yes or no - do you still think so?" asked Omar.
Abrams replied: "From, the day that Duarte was elected in a free election, to this day, El Salvador has been a democracy. That's a fabulous achievement."
Omar shot back: "Yes or no, do you think that massacre was a fabulous achievement that happened under our watch?" 
Abrams protested: "That is a ridiculous question---
to which Omar shot back, "Yes or no," cutting him off.
"No!" exclaimed Abrams, who added "I am not going to respond to that kind of personal attack - which is not a question."
Omar pushed back: "Yes or no, would you support an armed faction within Venezuela that engages in war crimes, crimes against humanity or genocide, if you believe they were serving US interests as you did in Guatemala, El Salvador and Nicaragua?" 
"I am not going to respond to that question, I'm sorry. I don't think this entire line of questioning is meant to be real questions, and so I will not reply." said Abrams.  

While the de jure role of state sponsored propaganda is to convince a population to adopt a certain line of thinking on the issues of the day, the de fato function of state sponsored propaganda is rather different. In a society in which even a sizeable minority of the public are capable of critical thinking, few will immediately believe everything they are told, even if they can’t quite put their figure on a specific point of contention.
Because of that, in educated societies as the Soviet Union’s was, state propaganda serves a purpose of alerting people as to what they are forbidden to disagree with in public. In other words, if the official state line as delivered through state sanctioned newspapers, radio and television is that the economy is booming, people are being paid well and on time and that the new housing stock is superior to any other in the world – the authors of such propaganda do not expect those who are under-paid, living in mediocre housing and unable to elevate themselves into a higher living standard, to believe the self-evident nonsense that forms the core of the propaganda...
But while the USSR’s old adversary, the United States is having its own problems with a less and less free market that is overly taxed, overly regulated, back in love with tariffs and all at the mercy of an inflation happy yet unaccountable Federal Reserve, there is alas a giant free speech problem, one that is all the worse in America’s European allied states who don’t even bother to pretend to have something akin to America’s constitutional first amendment...
But while Soviet propaganda worked on a linear business model, today’s American and European propaganda machine works on a triangular model. At the top of the triangle is big business. At the bottom two points of the triangle are government and media – both of which want the help of big businesses in order to enrich themselves...
Thus, the American and European media constantly send messages that it is impermissible to have an opinion contrary to the standard line on the following issues:  invading other people’s nations in the name of “human rights”, climate change being the fault of anyone with a car, the wonders of narcotics and pornography, why strict education is somehow evil and why fiat currencies are just swell.
Thus, just as Soviet propaganda had slogans that insulted the intelligence of the ordinary person like “brotherhood of nations” in order to keep people from questioning why certain investments were going to far off hinterlands while Russia’s heartlands were being economically destroyed, so too do western propagandists use terms like “fact checking” to imply that anyone who disagrees with a corporate (and hence government) sanctioned “fact” is a deceitful liar that should be shunned, shamed and insulted as such. While terms like “fact checking” are mostly used by social elites who author the propaganda, ordinary people tend to use the phrase “politically incorrect” to signal to their fellow man what cannot be said under fear of social and economic punishment.

Pipelines are a critical battlefield-lifeline-chokehold going forward. Ranks have broken at the periphery of the empire.
In the end, Macron and Washington – albeit working for different objectives – were defeated in their attempts to sabotage the emerging energy trade between Germany, Europe and Russia. Nord Stream 2, as with Russia’s Turk Stream to the south of Europe, seems inevitable by sheer force of natural partnership...
   Iraq is crippled by electricity and power shortages because of the criminal war that the US waged on that country from 2003-2011 which destroyed much of the country’s infrastructure. Iraq critically needs Iranian gas supplies to keep the lights and fans running. Yet, here we have the US now dictating to Iraq to end its lifeline import of Iranian fuel in order to comply with the Trump administration’s sanctions against Tehran. Iraq is furious at the latest bullying interference by Washington in its sovereign affairs.

U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton has warned countries and companies against buying crude oil from Venezuela, after the Latin American country’s Oil Minister Manuel Quevedo said during a surprise visit to India that Venezuela wants to sell more oil to the fast-growing Indian market.
In a tweet with a Bloomberg article on Venezuelan-Indian oil relations attached, Bolton wrote: “Nations and firms that support Maduro’s theft of Venezuelan resources will not be forgotten. The United States will continue to use all of its powers to preserve the Venezuelan people’s a​s​sets and we encourage all nations to work together to do the same.”

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said on Tuesday that Venezuelan gold would be processed in the Central Anatolian province of Çorum...
 On Monday Reuters reported that Venezuela uses some of the proceeds to buy consumer goods such as pasta and powdered milk, citing people with direct knowledge of the trade.
Trade between the two nations grew eightfold last year... 
A Nov. 1 executive order signed by US President Donald Trump bars US persons and entities from buying gold from Venezuela. It does not apply to foreigners. Ankara has assured the US Treasury that all of Turkey’s trade with Venezuela is in accordance with international law.
https://www.turkishminute.com/2019/02/12/erdogan-says-venezuelan-gold-will-be-processed-in-turkey/

Venezuela's Envoy to Russia says Guaido was recruited by the US 10 years ago. (Sour Grapes! Who would believe such a thing?)

President by Proclamation, Guaido wants to restore Venezuela's ties with Israel, which has recognized him as the rightful leader of Venezuela.

Salvage whatever can be salvaged for the Empire, I guess...
Netanyah​u​ Asks Arabs to "Advance The Common Interest Of War With Iran"
The U.S. had called for a high level anti-Iran meeting in Poland. The purpose of the meeting was to bring with its allies and poodles into line with the U.S. agenda on Iran, to press them at least into issuing harsher sanctions. But the European rejected that...
The State Department went to some length to obfuscate the real purpose of the conference.​..
That State Department effort to somewhat hide the real agenda was sabotaged when the Prime Minister of Israel arrived and made it clear what the meeting is all about:
I am going to a meeting with 60 foreign ministers and envoys of countries from around the world against Iran. What is important about this meeting – and this meeting is not in secret, because there are many of those – is that this is an open meeting with representatives of leading Arab countries, that are sitting down together with Israel in order to advance the common interest of war with Iran."

The Empire needs to enforce more discipline internally!
The House voted Wednesday to withdraw U.S. support for the Saudi-led military campaign in Yemen, delivering a rebuke of President Trump’s policy and bringing closer the prospect of the first veto of his tenure.  

This is probably just Russian propaganda...
Trillion-dollar-company Amazon skated through 2018's tax filings without paying a cent for the second year in a row. The e-commerce behemoth, which made $11 billion last year, will pay no taxes at all, thanks to 2017's tax reform.
Rather than pay the standard 21 percent corporate income tax rate, Amazon is actually claiming a tax rebate of $129 million, which works out to a logic-defying rate of -1 percent.

The president said Tuesday that he was open to letting the March 1 deadline for more than doubling tariffs on $200 billion of Chinese goods slide, if the two countries are close to a deal that addresses deep structural changes to China’s economic policies -- though he added he was not “inclined” to do so. The people said that Trump is weighing whether to add 60 days to the current deadline to give negotiations more time to continue...
Trump has indicated he will need to meet Xi to agree on a final deal. While no date has been set, a White House aide this week said the U.S. president still wants to meet his Chinese counterpart soon in a bid to end the trade war.  

Just reset the algorithms, right?
The Dutch government is working with Germany and Belgium on establishing “truck platooning” – where one human-driven vehicle leads a convoy of autonomous ones — on major roads.
Under the plans, about 100 driverless trucks would drive the “Tulip corridors” at night – from Amsterdam to Antwerp, and from Rotterdam to the Ruhr valley – fully maximising the routes through which the Netherlands distributes its goods using 5G technology and 1,200 smart traffic lights...
But a report by the professional service company KPMG highlights a major problem for Dutch ministers in introducing the technology to urban centres, where the bicycle is increasingly king.
Driverless cars detect other road users using a variety of cameras or laser-sensing systems to ensure that they stop if an object is detected in their path.​ ​But the varying sizes and agility of cyclists, with their sudden changes in speed and loose adherence to the rules of the road, present a major challenge to the existing technology.​..​ 
More than a quarter of all trips made by Dutch residents are by bike. Of all trips of a distance of up to five miles, a third are made by bicycle, with the rate only dropping to 15% for trips up to 10 miles in length.
Stijn de Groen, an automotive expert at KPMG, said in the report that for this reason the government would be best to focus on motorways. “We have a lot of bicycles,” he said. “In urban, crowded areas it will be very difficult to start autonomous driving.”

The world’s insects are hurtling down the path to extinction, threatening a “catastrophic collapse of nature’s ecosystems”, according to the first global scientific review.
More than 40% of insect species are declining and a third are endangered, the analysis found. The rate of extinction is eight times faster than that of mammals, birds and reptiles. The total mass of insects is falling by a precipitous 2.5% a year, according to the best data available, suggesting they could vanish within a century.

Politicians and policymakers have failed to grasp the gravity of the environmental crisis facing the Earth, a report claims.
The think-tank IPPR says human impacts have reached a critical stage and threaten to destabilise society and the global economy.
Scientists warn of a potentially deadly combination of factors.
These include climate change, mass loss of species, topsoil erosion, forest felling and acidifying oceans.
The report from the centre-left Institute for Public Policy Research says these factors are "driving a complex, dynamic process of environmental destabilisation that has reached critical levels.

​RoundUp/glyphosate exposure increases risk of the worse type of lymphoma by over 40%. What else will eventually be found?​
https://www.theguardian.com/business/2019/feb/14/weed-killing-products-increase-cancer-risk-of-cancer

Doing everything we are used to with renewables is different from doing some things with renewables. 
It's impossible.
Even renewable energy relies on certain decidedly non-renewable resources. Even the eco-friendliest solutions such as solar panels can’t be made without the use of finite rare earth elements. Batteries, too, are completely dependent on finite earth-sourced materials for their fabrication. What’s more, China currently has an overwhelming monopoly on a great number of these rare earth elements (although not all are as rare as this label implies). This means that in a renewable energy-based world, energy security could become a major issue. In addition to rare earth elements, there are myriad other non-renewable materials used in the production of renewable energy. Currently, the one that has everyone talking is lithium.
https://oilprice.com/Alternative-Energy/Renewable-Energy/The-Renewable-Revolution-Has-A-Lithium-Problem.html

​Bike-to-work Day

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