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Tuesday, October 31

"If this man is not lying it is now clear that Obama and his various CIA directors were involved in supplying both IS and AQ from the beginning."

The next phase in Syria
By (Ret.) Col Pat Lang
October 31, 2017
Sic Semper Tyrannis 

[Emphasis mine]

This is the situation in NW Syria and the east on 31 October.
  1. The situation in Eastern Syria has become relatively stable.  The US government's proxy forces (SDF) have advanced to the east bank of the 
    Euphrates and as a result sovereign Syria will be limited to the country west of the river for some unforeseeable period.
  2. The SDF and R+6 are engaged along with Iraqi forces in a race along both banks of the river to determine who will control the Albukamel border crossing on the Deir al-Zor to Baghdad highway. The US coalition apparently wants to keep that highway communication out of SAG hands so as to continue to weaken the government. The Iraqi government wants the crossing open and in Syria's hands, so this is bound to be a cause of friction between the US and Iraq.
  3. The large IS pockets in central Syria have been eliminated with some jihadis being allowed to evacuate into the Albukamel area and others seeking to flee into Idlib Province where they are being given a hostile reception by HTS (Al-Qa'ida).
  4. This has freed up a large number of Syrian troops who are being re-deployed either to the Euphrates or to the coming offensive in Idlib Province.
  5. The Syrian general command has appointed new commanders to the north overall and to the offensive that will drive into Idlib Province from the south.
  6. Action on the axis astride Route 5 from the south has begun.  Secondary attacks should be expected from Aleppo City and from Latakia Province going east.
  7. Such action is facilitated by the fact that both HTS and IS are excluded from the terms of the de-escalation agreement in Idlib Province.
  8. The situation will become really interesting when R-6 forces reach the outposts now manned by the Turks in northern Idlib Province.  pl
****
Here are two initial comments from the SST Comment Section in discussion of the above post; the second, by Col. Lang, contains the quote in the title of this post:

b [Moon of Alabama author] said...

There is something new coming to the conflict that is not reflected in the above.
This has been rumored for a while but the Saudis now made it official:
/quote/
Firebrand Saudi State Minister for Gulf Affairs Thamer al-Sabhan on Monday called for “toppling Hizbullah” and promised “astonishing” developments in “the coming days.”
“Those who believe that my tweets are a personal stance are delusional and they will see what will happen in the coming days,” al-Sabhan said in an interview with MTV.
Referring to his Sunday tweet about the Lebanese government, the minister said: “I addressed my tweet to the government because the Party of Satan (Hizbullah) is represented in it and it is a terrorist party. The issue is not about toppling the government but rather that Hizbullah should be toppled.”
“The coming developments will definitely be astonishing,” al-Sabhan added.
/endquote/
http://www.naharnet.com/stories/en/237517-al-sabhan-calls-for-toppling-hizbullah-promises-astonishing-developments
Thamer al-Sabhan had recently been invited to Raqqa by Brett McGurk. He met "tribal leaders" and the Kurdish U.S. proxies. He then went to Lebanon.
The U.S. continues to provide an unnecessary huge amount of vehicles and weapons to the SDF. There is also way more U.S. personal in Syria than the 500 officially admitted.
Something is up - a renewed offensive with Hizbullah being one of the dedicated targets and extended over Lebanon and Syria. It could involve Israel.
***
turcopolier [Col. Lang] said...

b et al
"As is now well-known, the CIA was directly involved in leading regime change efforts in Syria with allied gulf partners, as leaked and declassified US intelligence memos confirm. The US government understood in real time that Gulf and West-supplied advanced weaponry was going to al-Qaeda and ISIS, despite official claims of arming so-called "moderate" rebels. For example, a leaked 2014 intelligence memo sent to Hillary Clinton acknowledged Qatari and Saudi support for ISIS."
If this man is not lying it is now clear that Obama and his various CIA directors were involved in supplying both IS and AQ from the beginning. The CIA as an institution would merely have been executing orders as they are now. Like Mr. Jefferson "I fear for my country when I think that God is just." pl

********

Muslim ghoul uses truck to mow down cyclists in Manhattan; 8 dead, 12+ injured UPDATED 9:00, 11:35pm EDT

From witness accounts the terrorist appeared to deliberately ram the school bus full of children. The bus:


(JAMES KEIVOM/NEW YORK DAILY NEWS)

UPDATE
From NBC News update
The crash into the school bus appeared to be deliberate; witnesses told police they saw the driver swerve the truck to target the bus, which was carrying children. They said the driver then screamed "Allahu Akbar" in the truck, then emerged carrying what turned out to be a pellet gun and a paint gun and started running around before he was confronted by a nearby uniformed officer on patrol, who shot him in the abdomen.
[...]
***
An ABC News report (10:20 pm EDT)  adds
There are no street intersections between the point where the suspect terrorist entered and where the vehicle stopped.
This makes it even more likely that the bus-ramming was deliberate.

The ABC report also mentions that two students were injured in the attack, one critically, although it's not clear from the report whether the students were on the bus. 

It also mentions that the attack took place in an area where five schools are situated (which ABC lists) and underscores the time of the attack, 3:05 pm, just when classes end for the day. In other words, the attacker would be fairly certain that he could target several children at that time.     

Also:

> the published toll of injured ranges from 11 to 15 with 'more than a dozen' most cited.

> from a radio news report, the terrorist had a large hunting knife, which was left in the truck when he exited. 

>  The terrorist entered the U.S. in 2010 from Uzbekistan under the controversial "Diversity Visa Lottery" before obtaining a Green Card. President Trump has been trying to eliminate the lottery program. See Breitbart report.

> Washington Examiner report, 10:20 pm EDT: Trump says he ordered DHS to 'step up' its 'already Extreme Vetting Program' after NYC attack

END UPDATE

UPDATE
From NBC News update [NO TIME STAMP]

Suspect Claimed He Committed NYC Truck Attack for ISIS: Sources

The 29-year-old man detained after a flatbed ["pickup"] truck drove down a popular lower Manhattan bike path, killing at least 8 people and injuring more than a dozen more, left a note in the truck claiming he committed the attack for ISIS, according to law enforcement sources.

[.. .]
Sources said Saipov lives in Paterson, New Jersey, but he had a Florida license with a Tampa address on him when he was arrested. Police and federal agents were seen swarming the neighborhood street where he was thought to live on Tuesday evening.

Residents in the area said that Saipov had a wife and two young children.

Kobiljon Matkarov, a Facebook friend of Saipov's, told NBC News that the two met while they were both living in Florida. He said his friend was working as a truck and Uber driver.

"He was very happy guy," said Matkarov, who is also from Uzbekistan. "he liked the US. he is no terrorist. He's all the time happy, smiling all the time."
[...]
END UPDATE
From CBS News report updated 6:34pm EDT
Police and witnesses say a man deliberately drove a rented truck onto a busy bicycle path near the World Trade Center in lower Manhattan, killing eight people and seriously injuring 11 others, then emerged from the vehicle screaming and brandishing imitation firearms before he was shot by police. The suspect terrorist was wounded and taken into custody.
[...]
The incident occurred at West Street and Chambers Street at 3:05 p.m.
The vehicle entered the pedestrian/bike path a few blocks north of Chambers Street on Manhattan's west side. The truck drove down the bike path for about four blocks, striking cyclists and pedestrians before veering back into traffic lanes and striking a school bus and another vehicle.  
Four people on board the school bus were injured, CBS New York reports. Officials said Tuesday they were two adults and two children.
The suspect terrorist then emerged brandishing what police called "imitation firearms." A pellet gun and a paintball gun were recovered at the scene, O'Neill said. 
An officer shot him in the abdomen and he was transported to the hospital. 
Six people were pronounced dead at the scene and two others died at the hospital, officials said. Eleven others suffered injuries that were described as serious but not life-threatening.
[...]

Sources identify suspect as Sayfullo Habibullaevic Saipov 

Law enforcement sources identified the suspect terrorist to CBS News as Sayfullo Habibullaevic Saipov, a 29-year-old man from Tampa, Florida.  
Sources tell CBS News' senior investigative producer Pat Milton the suspect yelled  "Allahu Akbar," Arabic for "God is great," when he exited the truck.
[...]

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said the attack appeared to be a "lone wolf" incident with no apparent link to a wider terrorist plot. 

[Pundita note: Of course Cuomo has had no way of knowing at this early stage whether the terrorist is a lone wolf, but many attacks of similar nature show the attacker was part of a plot, usually involving help from Islamic State operatives.]

[...]

From NBC News published about 6:30 PM EDT:

The 29-year-old man detained after [he drove] a flatbed truck down a popular lower Manhattan bike path, killing at least 8 people and injuring more than a dozen more, has been identified as a 29-year-old Uzbek national who came to the United States in 2010.

Authorities said that the man, identified by sources as Sayfullo Habibullaevic Saipov, is thought to be a "lone actor" in the attack in the Hudson River Greenway between Houston and Chambers streets on Tuesday afternoon.

Sources said Saipov had a Florida license on him when he was arrested and had recently lived in Tampa. He entered the country through John F. Kennedy International Airport in 2010 and also spent time in New York and New Jersey over the last seven years.

The suspect also allegedly shouted "allahu ackbar" [sic] at some point during the suspected terror attack. U.S. intelligence officials said they had no knowledge of any terror groups claiming responsibility for the violence.

The man, who was also apparently [filmed] running through traffic on West Street with what appeared to be a BB gun and paintball gun after his rented Home Depot truck crashed into a school bus and pole.

At some point after that video was captured, police shot and wounded Saipov. He is being treated at Bellevue Hospital and remains in custody, according to sources.

Authorities said at a news conference Tuesday afternoon that he is thought to be the only suspect in the violence. 


[Pundita note: that's a more accurate way of putting it than saying his act didn't seem to be part of a wider terrorist plot.]

*********

So you don't like Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin, eh? An object lesson from Afghanistan

Yesterday after watching the Afghan Taliban propaganda video that Long War Journal posted John Batchelor asked LWJ's Bill Roggio how the Taliban obtained all those new vehicles they showed off. Bill replied that they captured the HUMVEES and Ford Ranger pickup trucks from Afghan military and police bases; as to the Toyota Hilux pickups and minivans he said it was anyone's guess but they probably acquired them in Pakistan or Iran.   

Heck, the Taliban are rolling in drug money profits; they could plunk down cash at any new car dealership anywhere in the world for every Toyota on the lot.

For details see the jaw-dropping New York Times report (Afghan Taliban awash in heroin cash, a troubling turn for war; October 29) and Business Insider's October 30 report, based in part on the NYT one (Heroin is driving a sinister trend in Afghanistan), which includes maps of poppy cultivation in Afghanistan by province as of 2016 and a world map of the major heroin trafficking routes. 

Bill also mentioned to John that Taliban control in Afghanistan has gone from 4 districts to 40 in 4 years, and that they hold about another 150 districts under contest. Many of those districts are where the Taliban have taken over opium poppy cultivation and the processing of opium into heroin -- the latter now wildly lucrative for the Taliban, as the NYT report explains.  

What this means is that the Afghan Taliban no longer need support from Pakistan's military or any other state-controlled regime. If they continue to expand their opium processing operations they won't have to fight in order to take over Afghanistan. They'll be able to buy up the entire country and as many mercenaries as they need to do their fighting for them. 

And their drug wealth means they have no incentive to negotiate for peace with what's left of the central government in Kabul.  

So, given that it's now virtually impossible to defeat the Taliban in Afghanistan, is there any way to stop their drug venture?  Not as things stand now. Foreign governments fighting the Taliban are playing ostrich about the entire poppy situation and drug trade in the country.

This said, the Trump Administration could still have a fighting chance if they accepted Vladimir Putin's advice that governments wanting to fight the terrorists should form "one fist." Oh but that's right I forgot; Trump did want to follow the advice. But for daring to suggest that the U.S. cooperate with Russia he came under fire from virtually the entire U.S. Congress and, it seems, the entire U.S. military and Intelligence Establishment, and of course the mainstream U.S. news media.

[shrugging]  In 2005 I warned on this blog that the ball was now in humanity's court; if we didn't want to see the appearance of another Genghis Khan, we would do well to get our collective act together.

Nobody listened. Instead, much of humanity, at least in the democratic countries, began to demonstrate with the advent of Internet 2.0 all the symptoms of what might be called a case of mass ADHD.

Today we see large numbers of those attention-deficit people shaking their forefingers at Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin. Believe you me, what will arise to keep order in a world under fire from Taliban types will make those two authoritarians look like Justin Trudeau.

********

Saturday, October 28

At least he was frank in calling Syria "prey."

During the interview [former Qatar Prime Minister Haid bin Jassim bin Juber Al Thani] also said that “we [Arabian Gulf countries] fought over the prey [Syria], until the prey run away, and we are still fighting”. Syrian pro-government and opposition activists condemned Bin Jassim’s statement and blamed him for calling Syria a “prey”.
Yes but prey is exactly how the GCC governments -- and their allies -- viewed Syria and its government. 

SouthFront has transcribed some quotes from the interview in addition to providing video of the interview (1 minute 34 seconds), which was posted today at YouTube by Syriana. However, the transcript omits what I consider a key statement by bin Jassim:
I addressed the situation in Syria [during a discussion with then-Saudi king Abdullah].  The Saudi king said, "We are with you." The Saudi king said, "You lead the Syrian file and we will coordinate with you."
(I assume this conversation took place in 2010-2011.) Eventually cooperation between Qatar and Saudi Arabia about Syria fell apart, but the point of  bin Jassim's remark is that he's saying Qatar, by "leading the file" on the Saudi-Qatari operations in Syria, is in possession of detailed evidence that backs up his claim that "we" supported al Qaeda in Syria. This despite his rather muddled explanation of the situation, which may have more to do with the English translation of his remarks than his exposition in Arabic. 

In any case he also explicitly states that his government "took the responsibility" for coordinating GCC actions against Syria's government and that "we have all the evidences."     

Now who is the "we" he referenced?

FORMER QATARI PRIME MINISTER ADMITS QATAR, SAUDI ARABIA, TURKEY, AND UNITED STATES COORDINATED EFFORTS TO SUPPORT TERRORISTS IN SYRIA
October 27, 2017
SouthFront


On October 26, former Qatar Prime Minister Hamad Bin Jassim said during an interview to the Qatari national TV that Doha supported the Syrian opposition armed groups and even terrorists like the al-Nusra Front (the local al-Qaeda branch) in Syria in coordination with Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the US.
“Anything [weapons] that was sent [to Syria] would go through Turkey and was coordinated with the US, and the distribution of anything was via US forces. Turkey, we and our Saudi brothers… There could be a mistake and support was given to a fiction [al-Nusra Front], but not ISIS. They are exaggerating… Maybe there was a relation with the al-Nusra Front. Maybe I don’t know about this. But I can say that even if this was the case, it was decided that the al-Nusra Front was not acceptable. The support for it stopped,” Bin Jassim said.
Bin Jassim went on and revealed that Saudi Arabia changed its position on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad recently. According to Bin Jassim, Saudi Arabia now wants Assad to stay in power.
The former Qatari prime minister stressed that even Qatar does not has any problems with Assad now. He even described the Syrian president as a “former friend”.
“You [Saudi Arabia] are now saying keep Bashar, ok let him stay we don’t have any problem, We have no quarrel with him. He was a friend of us … But you [Saudi Arabia] were in the same trench with us, if you changed your mind [About Bashar] tell us so. We will change our attitude too… I’m not against anyone changing his mind when he finds out that he was mistaken. But he should tell his partner that he is changing his mind because the current situation doesn’t work anymore. Now Bashar works or this or that” Bin Jassim added.
Bin Jassim’s statement confirms that the Syrian issue was one the main causes of the Saudi–Qatari crisis that broke out on June 5. Due to this, the crisis will not likely end before all the Arabian Gulf countries agree on a wide range of issues, including the Syrian issue.
During the interview, Bin Jassim also said that “we [Arabian Gulf countries] fought over the prey [Syria], until the prey run away, and we are still fighting”. Syrian pro-government and opposition activists condemned Bin Jassim’s statement and blamed him for calling Syria a “prey”.
[END SOUTHFRONT REPORT]

As to what bin Jassim was referring to when he said "They are exaggerating" -- I'd guess he's answering a claim made recently in public by someone or some persons who may have been cited by a Saudi official or former official.  

At any rate, bin Jassim's remarks reflect the self-incrimination that can occur when monsters in governments have a falling out. He may not have sung like a bird in the interview, but he sang. Now we need a look at those records in his government's possession.

As to whether there is any hard evidence that Al Saud now wants Assad to stay in power: I have seen nothing to indicate to me that the Saudis have stopped their machinations to have Assad removed, even if they've withdrawn financial support for some al-Qaeda linked groups in Syria. As to bin Jassim's claims about the matter -- he is a former PM, not a government spokesman.     

********

Friday, October 27

Smog season returns to China but by gum there's a new Chinese billionaire every 5 days

[sigh]


From RT, October 27:
‘Pollution season on’: Smog shrouds Beijing & suburbs, causes roads closures (PHOTOS, VIDEO)

From Business Insider, October 24:
China is churning out a new billionaire every 5 days

You have to read to the end of the report for the catch:
Still, billionaire wealth in Asia, Matthews noted, is very volatile because it is so closely linked to the public markets.

"So they can be a billionaire one day, but not the next," he said. "Only 40% of billionaires [in the US] have their wealth tied to public markets, compared to 70% in Asia."
********* 

Why Russia vetoed a UNSC resolution on renewing Syrian chemical weapons probe

"The previous investigation report, released by the OPCW in June, stated that traces of sarin had been found in soil samples. ... The JIM mission never actually visited the site of the alleged attack, Russia pointed out, saying that the experts relied on evidence collected by the militant groups controlling the area. ... At the time of the April attack, the area of Khan Sheikhoun was under the control of Tahrir al-Sham, better known as the Al-Nusra Front [al Qaeda cutout] terrorist group. Last week, the US State Department admitted that militants linked to Al-Nusra Front are carrying out terrorist attacks using chemical weapons in Syria.
-- From RT's October 24 report, Russia vetoes UNSC resolution on renewing Syria chemical weapons probe

As to why the State Department should suddenly utter a truth about Syria --  one theory is that by admitting Nusra carries out chemical weapons attacks, the U.S. administration could claim ahead of the latest OPCW-UN report publication (see below) that it never denied Nusra used such weapons. 

My theory is that it's useless to attempt to plumb the motive of people who have consistently displayed the characteristics  of a sidewinder snake when it comes to Syria.

'Flawed Methodology' used by OPCW-UN Report on Chemical Attacks in Syria - Moscow
11:08 - 27.10.2017 (updated 11:54)
Sputnik

The recently issued report put the blame for a chemical weapons incident in Syria's Khan Sheikhun on President Bashar Assad. Russia's deputy foreign minister has stated that Moscow may propose measures to improve methods of probing chemical attacks after examining the results of the findings.
Moscow, after its first reading of the OPCW-UN Syria report, believes that there are flaws in the methodology and that biased evidence was used, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov told RIA Novosti.
According to Ryabkov, conclusions were derived from "all the same evidence and testimony, which cause us great doubts due to the bias of sources and due to non-compliance with the requirements of the Convention on the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, according to the sequence of collection and storage of material evidence."
"All these logical inconsistencies, internal contradictions are visible even after the first cursory reading," the deputy head of the Russian Foreign Ministry added.
The OPCW-UN Joint Investigative Mechanism on the use of chemical weapons in Syria on Thursday presented a report to the UN Security Council on the incidents involving the nerve gas sarin in Khan Sheikhoun on April 4, 2017 and mustard gas in Umm Hosh on September 15-16, 2016.
The US fired several dozen cruise missiles at the Syrian airbase in response to an alleged government chemical attack in the province of Idlib.
[END REPORT]
********

Brazil falls back into poverty. But how much did it really escape poverty?

"Non-labor income, including social programs like Bolsa Familia, accounted for nearly 60 percent of the reduction in the number of people living in extreme poverty [in Brazil] during the boom decade."

The quote is from the following AP report, which tactfully avoids stating the obvious. Brazil is a poster child for Boom and Bust Socialism. Now that the bust is here, Brazilians are talking about bringing back Lula, whose bread-and-circus solutions were made possible by high prices that Brazil could charge for export of raw materials. But the demand fueling the high prices has evaporated.  

That leaves only one option if Brazil's political class wants to keep clinging to socialism: soak the country's well-off, who don't strike me as noblesse oblige types. 

And yet the Brazilians living just above the poverty line during the boom times are now in a truly awful plight -- made even worse, I suspect, by the large numbers who relocated to the country's biggest cities in order to take advantage of social programs.  See my March 2015 post, Socialism's terrible dilemma: First you raise us out of poverty then you cut off our water
      
Millions return to poverty in Brazil, eroding ‘boom’ decade
By PETER PRENGAMAN reporting from Rio de Janeiro, SARAH DiLORENZO, reporting from Sao Paolo, and DANIEL TRIELLI, reporting from Washington, DC
October 23, 2017
The Associated Press via Houston Chronicle

(RIO DE JANEIRO)

[...]

Between 2004 and 2014, tens of millions of Brazilians emerged from poverty and the country was often cited as an example for the world. High prices for the country’s raw materials and newly developed oil resources helped finance social welfare programs that put money into the pockets of the poorest.

But that trend has been reversed over the last two years due to the deepest recession in Brazil’s history and cuts to the subsidy programs, raising the specter that this continent-sized nation has lost its way in addressing wide inequalities that go back to colonial times.

“Many people who had risen out of poverty, and even those who had risen into the middle class, have fallen back,” said Monica de Bolle, a senior fellow at the Washington-based Peterson Institute for International Economics.

The World Bank estimates about 28.6 million Brazilians moved out of poverty between 2004 and 2014. But the bank estimates that from the start of 2016 to the end of this year, 2.5 million to 3.6 million will have fallen back below the poverty line of 140 Brazilian reais per month, about $44 at current exchange rates.

Those figures are likely underestimates, de Bolle said, and they don’t capture the fact that many lower-middle class Brazilians who gained ground during the boom years have since slid back closer to poverty.

Economists say high unemployment and cuts to key social welfare programs could exacerbate the problems. In July, the last month for which data is available, unemployment was close to 13 percent, a huge increase from 4 percent at the end of 2004.

Lines of job-seekers stretching several blocks have become commonplace whenever any business announces openings. When a university in Rio this month offered low-skilled jobs paying $400 a month, thousands showed up, including many who stood outside in the rain a day before the process began.

Meanwhile, budgetary pressures and the conservative policies of President Michel Temer are translating into cuts in social services. Among those hit is the Bolsa Familia — Family Allowance — program that gives small subsidies each month to qualifying low-income people. It’s credited with much of the poverty reduction during Brazil’s boom decade.

Non-labor income, including social programs like Bolsa Familia, accounted for nearly 60 percent of the reduction in the number of people living in extreme poverty during the boom decade, said Emmanuel Skoufias, a World Bank economist and one of the authors of the report on Brazil’s “new poor.”

Now, even as job losses have been pushing more people toward the program, fewer are being covered.

“Every day is a struggle to survive,” 40-year-old Simone Batista said, tears streaming down her face as she recounted being cut from Bolsa Familia after her now 1-year-old was born. She wants to appeal, but doesn’t have enough money to take buses to the administrative office downtown. Batista lives in Jardim Gramacho, a slum in northern Rio where she and hundreds of other destitute residents find food by rummaging through garbage illegally dumped in the area.

An Associated Press review of Bolsa Familia data found coverage declined 4 percentage points between May 2016, when Temer became acting president, and May of this year. Part of that may be due to a crackdown on alleged fraud that started late last year. Temer’s administration announced it had found “irregularities” in the records of 1.1 million recipients — about 8 percent of the 14 million people who receive the benefit. The infractions ranged from fraud to families that were earning above $150 a month, the cutoff to receive the benefit.

“The government shouldn’t lose focus on the priority” of keeping people out of poverty, said Skoufias, adding that Bolsa Familia represented only about 0.5 percent of Brazil’s gross domestic product and the government should be looking to allocate more, not fewer, resources to it.

Still, any discussion of increased spending is likely doomed in Congress, where a spending cap was passed earlier this year and Temer is pushing to make large cuts to the pension system. The fiscal situation is even worse for many states, including Rio.

A year after hosting the 2016 Summer Olympics, Rio is so broke that thousands of public workers are not being paid, or are being paid late in installments. Many budget items, from garbage collection to a community policing program, have been sharply reduced.

For many who live in Rio’s hundreds of favelas, or slums, an already hardscrabble existence feels increasingly precarious.

Maria de Pena Souza, 59, lives with her 24-year-old son in a small house with a zinc roof in the Lins favela in western Rio. They want to move because the home sits on a steep hill that is prone to deadly mudslides. But her son hasn’t been able to find work since finishing his military service a few years ago.

“I would leave if there was a way, but there isn’t,” said de Pena Souza, who added: “When it rains, I can’t sleep.”

The economic doldrums are clearly fueling the political comeback of former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who from 2003 to 2010 presided over much of the boom. After leaving office with approval ratings over 80 percent, da Silva’s popularity plunged as he and his party were ensnared in corruption investigations. Da Silva is appealing a conviction and nearly 10-year sentence for corruption. But he still consistently leads preference polls for next year’s presidential election.

On the campaign trail, da Silva promises both a return to better economic times and refocusing on the poor.

“Lula is not just Lula,” da Silva said at a recent rally in Rio, using the name most Brazilians call him. “It’s an idea represented by millions of men and women. Prepare yourselves because the working class will return to govern this country.”

------
AP photojournalist Diarlei Rodrigues in Rio de Janeiro contributed to this report.

[END REPORT]

********

Will Al Saud support yuan hegemony? Maybe the question is whether Russia would.

From RT's interview with Max Keiser, published October 26:
[...]
“The imminent introduction of oil trading in yuan is a very bold move by the Chinese, because the US will not give up the basis of its hegemony – the dollar as the world’s reserve currency – without a fight, Max Keiser, host of RT’s financial program ‘Keiser Report' has said.
[...]
China ... is rumored to be a big buyer in the Aramco  offering of [five percent of] their state oil facilities coming down the pike,” Keiser said, referring to the anticipated sales of shares in the Saudi Aramco state oil company.
“This makes sense, geopolitical sense, in terms you’ve got China and Russia and the Saudis looking to escape the US dollar, US dollar hegemony.”
Saudi Arabia was pushed to the de-dollarization crowd only recently by the US itself, which, last year, allowed survivors and relatives of the victims of the 9/11 attack to sue the kingdom over its alleged role in the terrorist acts, Keiser stated.
“There’s decently motivation for the Saudis. They want to float Aramco, they are deeply in debt and they are running out of cash. And they wanted to do an APO [alternative public offering] of Aramco either on London or American exchange, but were prevented from doing so from the legal actions of the 9/11 survivors, who rightly pointed at Saudis as the cause of 9/11,” Keiser noted.
[...]
***

I'm not so sure the Saudis want de-dollarization, which would wreak havoc on the global financial system, especially if it happened suddenly, and therefore on Saudi investments. But once again they are between a rock and a hard place since the price of oil tanked. They need the Aramco offering to be a success, and this might not be accomplished without China buying the lion's share of the Aramco offering.

As to whether Beijing is serious about challenging the U.S. dollar order -- certainly they've wanted to do this for years, but the move coming at this time could be suicidal for China's economy, which is pretty shaky. Surely the Saudis know this. 

From what's been published so far about the issue, I'm also not sure it's a done deal that the Saudis will accept payment in yuan for an oil futures contract. From Oil Price, October 24:

[...]

In its bid to establish the petro-yuan, China is now trying to persuade OPEC’s kingpin and biggest exporter, Saudi Arabia, to start accepting yuan for its crude oil. If the Chinese succeed, other oil exporters could follow suit and abandon the U.S. dollar as the world’s reserve currency. Pulling oil trade out of U.S. dollars would lead to decreased demand for U.S. securities across the board, Carl Weinberg, chief economist and managing director at High Frequency Economics, tells CNBC.
Weinberg believes that the Chinese will “compel” the Saudis to accept to trade oil in yuan.
Perhaps the question to ask is how the Kremlin is viewing China's push to substitute dollars with yuan in its oil dealings with Saudi Arabia. Russia would also like to see the end of U.S. dollar hegemony, but Chinese yuan hegemony might be considered by the Russian oil trading giant to be jumping from the frying pan into the fire. That's how I'd be looking at it, if I sat in the Kremlin. 

So did the recent visit by the Saudi ruler to Moscow have anything to do with a somewhat mutual caution about yuan hegemony? That's a purely speculative question.  

We'll just have to see how things play out.

See also Saudi Exchange Aims to Be Sole Listing Venue for Aramco Shares; October 26, Bloomberg

********

"Iraq Seizes Saudi Share In U.S. Oil Market"

From Oil Price, October 26:
... thirty-two years on since Iraqi flows to the U.S. surpassed those from Saudi [for a five-month period], we are about to take a trip back to the future. Again, the issue is twofold: Saudi crude flows to the U.S. have been dropping considerably in recent months (discussed on CNBC this week here), as Saudi has made a conscious effort to reduce flows to the largest and most transparent global market - as it aims to get the most bang for its buck from cutting exports.
At the same time, crude flows from the southern Iraqi port of Basra have shown little (well, no) impact from the OPEC production cut deal, with export volumes continuing to flow as usual. 
As Saudi deliveries drop, and as the U.S. leans increasingly on Iraqi barrels -- ironically, to likely replace lower Saudi flows -- Iraqi barrels are gaining the ascendancy once again.
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See the Oil Price report at their website for graphs on U.S. imports of Saudi and Iraqi crude. 

So what does it all mean? It means that Al Saud remains stuck between a rock and a hard place since it began to deploy tactics to prop up the price of oil and drive U.S. shale oil producers out of business. Every move the Saudis make to prop up the benchmark oil price is met by circumstances that work against this.  

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Thursday, October 26

95 percent of plastics in oceans are from just 10 Indian rivers used as dumps: Unsourced report

I was going to include the following report in my last post (We are paying an increasingly high price for modern life) but decided it merited its own post. The author doesn't cite sources so at this point I can't be sure all the claims are correct; however, the claims are stunning. 

Ocean pollution largely caused by Indian rivers
By Akansha Ojha
October 19, 2017

Newsient

The oceans are hugely getting polluted these days. The reason for the oceans being polluted at large is because of a large number of plastics being dumped at the landfills that are empty. The problem with the dumping is because one can never foresee the consequences of the dumping of the wastes. The studies reveal that 95% of the plastics clogging in the oceans is from 10 major Indian rivers with Ganga being the largest contributor.

These rivers are majorly located in Asia, and partly others are located in Africa. The rivers that are larger in size carry more plastic debris when compared to the rivers that are smaller in size. People don’t exactly know the consequences of these dumping, and this is the reason why the dumping only keeps increasing day by day and never seems to fall. 

The path that is taken by the plastics that dump the ocean must be tracked in order to know the source of the wastes and the steps that can be taken as solutions can be found. The minute particles that are found in the sea and rivers pose a huge threat to the marine life.

The marine life’s deterioration will only lead to the deterioration of human’s health. There is already a large number of wastes in the ocean that are already enough to consume over millions of years to decay. The ecological consequences are manifold, and the scientists say that unless people see with their own eyes, they will never know the aftermath. 

Some simple methods like the input of plastic debris into the rivers can be controlled, and that would lead to the control in the ocean. The catchment areas are the major areas of plastic wastes disposal. The countries with long coastline have easier access to the seas, and thus the seas provide much easier access to the ocean.

The Ganga is stated as the Indian River that is largely contributing to the marine pollution. In spite of setting up a special task of National Green Tribunal that would produce a report on the level of wastes in the river and the agencies that are responsible for the generation of wastes into the river, the River Ganga still maintains a very sad plight that it is unable to get rid of the plastics. 

Several Clean up Ganga projects have totally gone in vain. Thus, the controlling of wastes into the rivers being one of the biggest steps towards maintaining a clean ocean; the government must make sure that the cleaning is completed at the nearest time possible.

[END REPORT]

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We are paying an increasingly high price for modern life. Part 1

CCO/Pixabay

Nobody I know wants to return to the back-breaking labor of life in earlier centuries and everyone I know appreciates the benefits of technology and knowledge available in the modern era. Yet the era is producing horror stories about all kinds of pollution and about the poisons that have crept into the food chain and water sources. 

Then there are horrors about modern life that can't be lumped in a neat category and which aren't even necessarily unique to this age, but which are made worse by the size of the present human population.    

And yet we should be able to enjoy modern life because the horrors it produces aren't inevitable. Many arise from a kind of mass blindness about the cumulative impacts of millions of actions that finally result in serious injury to human mental and physical health on the personal levels, and can be destructive to entire societies.

So what can we do beyond taking personal actions? But these can be like trying to empty the ocean with a sieve when dealing with issues such as water pollution that are created by large numbers of people and the convergence of often very complex factors.

Do we need some kind of new mass social movement to bring concerted actions to bear on the horrors?   

Yet to spend but a little time at YouTube is to realize that a great many people are hard at work on solutions covering a huge range of problems associated with modern life and are eager to share their 'Do it Yourself' approaches with the public.

Meanwhile, however, the horrors continue to appear.  

Governments scramble to keep up with the research studies that detail fresh horrors but just as soon as a government goes to war on one pollutant, another class of threats is discovered.

Three examples of newly-discovered horrors:

New Global Water Contaminant Found: Organ-Penetrating Plastic Nanoparticles

Cancer-causing pollutants detected in most tap water across US - study

Pesticides that pose threat to humans and bees found in honey

The second two headlines are fairly explanatory but the first is not easily described in a few words. Sputnik makes a yeoman attempt in its accompanying report to summarize the newly discovered horror, which turned up from the first-ever global tap water survey [emphasis mine]:
A new environmental study, performed by State University of New York and the University of Minnesota, says there are microscopic fibers of plastic in our water systems and we ingest them with every sip. Yuck.
According to a report by the Sacramento Bee, the researchers examined 159 water samples from many nations across five continents, and found that 83 percent of the samples contained plastic fibers. In the US, 94 percent of samples were found to contain the nasty fibers.
The US samples were reportedly taken from several important locations, including the US Congressional buildings in Washington, DC; Trump Tower in New York; and ironically, the Environmental Protection Agency's headquarters, also in Washington.
Scientists claim that these plastic fibers may also contain toxic chemicals that are released into your system as they are digested.
The smallest particles, deemed "nanoparticles," would also be able to penetrate your body's cells and cause internal damage, the scientists claim.
"If the fibers are there, it is possible that the nanoparticles are there too that we can't measure," Anne Marie Mahon, from the Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology, told the Guardian. "Once they are in the nanometer range they can really penetrate a cell and that means they can penetrate organs, and that would be worrying."
As to where these particles are coming from, scientists can't really tell. One possible explanation says the fibers come from synthetic materials in our clothes, as washing machines reportedly flush about 700,000 fibers into the environment, according to one study by Plymouth University in the United Kingdom.
This is the first global water tap survey ever performed, so the scientists emphasize there is still a lot of research to be done on the topic.
"The results of this study serve as an initial glimpse at the consequences of human plastic use [and] disposal rather than a comprehensive assessment of global plastic contamination," says Mary Kosuth, one of the University of Minnesota researchers.
"These results call for further testing within and between regions."
Is that 700,000 figure from each load of washing, I wonder?  And is it the water itself that washes out the fibers in such large numbers, or the detergents used -- or the type of washing machine action; e.g., agitator?  Or all three? 

Anyway, who knew? Who thinks about these things?  Well, now some scientists have.

A few more examples:

Two-thirds of US baby foods test positive for arsenic, many contain lead & cadmium – study

Rice-Based Infant Cereals Contain More Mercury Than Other Types, New Study Finds: "Rice harbors a growing list of heavy metals, prompting experts to question its safety for infants and young children"

There is a connection between the above two reports in that many baby foods are rice based, and rice contains arsenic -- although as the following report shows, there is a way to prepare rice that greatly reduces its arsenic content:   

Eating poorly cooked rice as dangerous as smoking: study

Then there is this zinger from Sputnik:

Lightning Strikes Triggered by Human Shipping Activity, Research Finds:
Increased lightning strikes along busy maritime routes are being caused by ships releasing soot into the air, according to researcher Joel Thornton at the University of Seattle and his team, who analyzed lightning strike records between 2005 and 2016 collected by the World Wide Lightning Location Network. [...]
There is also bad news from the city of Hyderabad, India that mirrors situations in cities all around the fast-developing world:

City of gardens rapidly losing lung spaces, fighting for its last breath and 
Fishkill poses health risk as pollutants enter food chain

In the harder to quantify bad news about modern life there is USA Today's recent report, Why we're exhausted: Stress and social media are taking their toll

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