Commentary on the economic , geopolitical and simply fascinating things going on. Served occasionally with a side of snark.
Sunday, April 13, 2014
Blood Moon Thread for April 15 , 2014 ----Breaking news: Jordanian Ambassador kidnapped in Tripoli ...... Handy hints on surviving a nuclear attack if one was to go off -- in D.C ? Curious offering on April 14 , 2014 ..... Blood offering in Nigeria - April 14 , 2014 ...... Protesters gather outside Rada, demand Avakov's resignation, government intervention in eastern Ukraine ...... DHS alert: Heartbleed may have been used against industrial control systems Specifically, there are unconfirmed reports that the Heartbleed cybervulnerability has been used to attack encrypted communications systems of these control systems. DHS is investigating....... Libyan PM to step down after attack on his family ( Might some other leader not be as lucky as to quit while still ahead ? ) .............. Might we see a tragic mistake with Ukraine situation as one side or the other misplays their hand --- Ukraine Mobilizes Military, Gives Separatists Ultimatum; Russia Slams Escalation As "Criminal", Yanukovich Warns Of Civil War ........ Goldman Summarizes The Rout: "Derisking Is The Name Of The Game" - in other words , the selling could continue if not accelerate ........ Last year we had the Boston Marathon bombing come out of nowhere , might we have some unexpected shock for the Blood Moon - some type of distraction seems overdue , right ?
Looks like the Libya Interim Prime Minister who quit after his family home was attacked made the right move.....
Breaking news: Jordanian
Ambassador kidnapped in Tripoli
Tripoli, 15 April 2014:
The Jordanian Ambassador to Libya, Fawaz Al-Aytan, was kidnapped and his driver wounded in Tripoli this morning.
The Libyan Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that two cars without number plates driven by masked men snatched Aytan in a central area of the capital, according to Libyan news agency LANA. The ambassador’s driver was shot twice and is being treated in a local hospital.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that the government was holding urgent meetings about the incident.
Handy hints on surviving a nuclear attack if one was to go off -- in D.C ? Curious offering on April 14 , 2014 .....
No — very few people in Washington, D.C., who work for the government have any idea what they would do if a 10-kiloton nuclear device exploded at the intersection of 16th and K streets.
You can always look to movies to figure this stuff out, right? And in movies, since nuclear radiation is BAD, the thing to do is to get away from it as quickly as possible. In the movies, electronics are fried, too, the response is chaotic, and hundreds of thousands of people die.
Interestingly enough, though, the government has done quite a bit of work to figure out what exactly would happen if a suitcase nuke — which, I know, doesn't really exist, but, for the sake of this example, bear with me — actually did explode a few blocks from the White House.
And curiously, and perhaps hearteningly, it turns out that there is quite a lot that you or I can do if we get stuck in Washington when something like that happens. Choices we make could very well make the difference between our imminent death and a relatively full and happy life, assuming the bomb is a one-off.
The Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory released a report in 2011 that spells all this out. It hasn't gotten nearly the attention it deserves.
1. The WORST thing for someone to try to do, in the aftermath of a nuclear explosion that they survive, is to get in a car and drive away.
2. Unless you're within about a third to a half a mile radius of ground zero and the shelter options are poor, the BEST thing for someone to do is to find a stable location inside a well-built apartment or office building — the majority of which will remain standing outside that half mile radius — and stay there for 24 hours.
And if you were very close to ground zero and you did survive — and a lot of folks will — the best thing for you to do is to:
A. Take immediate shelter somewhere, because fallout will rain down on you if you don't.
B. Wait an hour.
C. Then, walk about a half-dozen blocks laterally until you find intact large buildings to shelter you.
3. The electromagnetic pulse from a ground burst will NOT, in fact, knock out all types of communication. Some? Maybe.
4. If you live in a single-family house with thin walls, your chances of surviving in the immediate aftermath of a blast and not getting cancer later are exponentially higher than if you seek shelter in a bigger building, even one that might literally be next door.
5. Rescuers should NOT put on radiation protection gear if it will slow them down. So long as the fallout has stopped falling, they're best advised to turn out in their normal gear.
6. Though thousands of people will die from the blast effects, almost all — about 96 percent — of the other potential casualties could be avoided if people understood the basics of what to do in the event of mass radiation exposure.
7. Did I mention that the worst place to be in the immediate aftermath of a nuclear blast is in a car trying to get away? The so-called DFZ — the Dangerous Fallout Zone — will extend out as much as 20 miles, but it is likely to be extremely narrow. (If it's not, that means the concentration of radioactive particles will be lower.) The vector and location of this zone depends on the wind. And its size will shrink with every passing hour.
8. Penetrating trauma from broken glass is probably the largest treatable cadre of blast injuries.
I admit that I don't know what forum the president or anyone else could use to educate people in major cities about this stuff. Government never wants to alarm people. But maybe a little bit of alarmism is worth it, if it turns out that a terrorist's nuclear blast is a lot more survivable than we might think, if only we do certain things.
Blood in Nigeria - April 14 , 2014 ......
71 Dead After Bus Explosion In Nigerian Capital Rips Through Rush Hour Traffic
Burnt and damaged vehicles are seen at the scene of the bomb blast explosion at Nyanyan, Abuja April 14, 2014. A bomb at a crowded bus station on the outskirts of Abuja killed at least 35 people during rush hour on Monday morning, witnesses said, the first such attack near the Nigerian capital for two years.
ABUJA, Nigeria (AP) — An explosion blasted through a busy commuter bus station on the outskirts of Nigeria's capital, Abuja, before 7 a.m. (0600 GMT) Monday as hundreds of people were traveling to work.
Seventy-one people are feared dead. Reporters saw rescue workers and police gathering body parts.
The blast ripped a hole 4 feet deep (1.2 meters) in the ground of Nyanya Motor Park about 16 kilometers (10 miles) from the city center and destroyed more than 30 vehicles, causing secondary explosions as their fuel tanks ignited and burned.
There was no official comment or an immediate claim for Monday's explosion though bus stations are a favored target of Nigeria's Islamic extremists.
The Islamic extremists have been threatening to attack the capital, in the middle of the country and hundreds of miles from its traditional base in the northeast, where it has killed nearly 1,500 people this year.
The Boko Haram terrorist network last attacked the capital in 2011 when it claimed a suicide bombing by two explosives-laden cars that drove into the lobby of the United Nations office building in Abuja. It killed at least 21 people and wounded 60.
The militants are blamed for attacks in northeast Nigeria that have killed more than 50 people in the past five days, including eight teachers living at a boarding school that had been closed because of frequent attacks on schools in which hundreds of students have died.
Boko Haram — the nickname means "Western education is forbidden" — has been attacking schools, villages, market places and military barracks and checkpoints this year in increasingly frequent and deadly attacks. Its mission is to force an Islamic state on Nigeria, Africa's most populous nation of some 170 million people divided almost equally between Muslims living mainly in the north and Christians in the south.
The military has claimed that it has the extremists on the run with near-daily air bombardments and ground assaults on hideouts in forests and mountain caves along the border with Cameroon.
Angry Mob in Kiev demands actions and wants Kiev Government Heads to roll ?
Protesters gather outside Rada, demand Avakov's resignation, government intervention in eastern Ukraine (LIVE UPDATE)
A masked pro-Russia activist looks on during a pro-Russia rally outside the regional police building in the eastern Ukrainian city of Horlivka (Gorlovka), near Donetsk, on April 14, 2014. About 100 pro-Russia protesters armed with bats and rocks stormed a police station in the east Ukrainian town of Horlivka on April 14, smashing its windows and grabbing metal shields from police. Ukraine's interim president on April 14 made a dramatic about-face aimed at defusing tensions in the separatist east by backing a national referendum on turning the ex-Soviet republic into a federation with broader regional rights.
Interim President Oleksandr Turchynov 's 9 a.m. deadline for pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine to lay down their arms has passed without Ukrainian launching any military action. Turchynov had threatened to launch “a full-scale anti-terrorist operation” against separatists, but not only has that not happened, he called for a national referendum on greater regional autonomy.
Armed Russian-backed militants, meanwhile, continued to stay on the offensive and took over government buildings in Donetsk Oblast, the latest one being the Horlivka police station.
11:30 p.m. -- Protesters gather outside Rada, demand Avakov's resignation, government intervention in eastern Ukraine
Activists have marched on the Verkhovna Rada, demanding that the central government take action to quell the uprisings that have spread throughout much of eastern Ukraine since April 6. The protesters are calling for the resignation of Interior Minister Arsen Avakov.
Protesters in Kyiv and elsewhere have expressed frustration at the government's reluctance to send troops to eastern Ukraine to combat the separatist movements that are devouring large swaths of the country.
Praviy Sektor, the far-right political group that was integral in ousting former President Victor Yanukovych, wrote on its Facebook page that "people have refrained from storming the building, but have lit a small fire outside the entrance to Parliament."
However, Pravyi Sector spokesman Artem Skoropadsky said "it's not Pravyi Sector who's storming the parliament building now," Skoropadsky wrote on his Facebook page.
"Maidan activists and those who gathered near Verkhovna Rada now are just those ordinary Ukrainians who can't stand the new government's policy anymore. Those are people who want to see Praviy Sektor in a new government, because we are ready to combat the coup in eastern Ukraine," Skoropadsky said.
According to Interfax, about 150 people are currently outside the Rada. -- Isaac Webb
Turchynov signs decree on terror threat
6 p.m. -- Interim President Oleksandr Turchynov signed into law a decree from the National Security and Defense Council entitled " On urgent measures to deal with the terrorist threat and the territorial integrity of Ukraine."
The details of the decree, which was passed in accordance with articles 107 and 112 of the Ukrainian constitution, are secret. -- Isaac Webb
Masked pro-Russia activists looks on during a pro-Russia rally outside the regional police building in the eastern Ukrainian city of Horlivka (Gorlovka), near Donetsk, on April 14. About 100 pro-Russia protesters armed with bats and rocks stormed a police station in the east Ukrainian town of Horlivka on April 14, smashing its windows and grabbing metal shields from police. Ukraine's interim president on April 14 made a dramatic about-face aimed at defusing tensions in the separatist east by backing a national referendum on turning the ex-Soviet republic into a federation with broader regional rights. (AFP)
Turchynov calls for deployment of United Nations peacekeepers to eastern Ukraine
5 p.m. -- Interim President Oleksandr Turchynov has called on the United Nations to deploy peacekeepers to help diffuse the increasingly chaotic situation in eastern Ukraine.
In a phone conversation with UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, Turchynov suggested that UN peacekeeping forces might be able to conduct a joint "anti-terrorist operation" with Ukrainian security forces.
Deployment seems unlikely however, as it would have to be approved by the Security Council. Russia is one of five permanent members on the Security Council and has the power to veto any resolution.
Turchynov's request comes as pro-Russian separatists in the eastern city of Horlivka stormed the city's police station and called on the city to join newly formed Donetsk People's Republic. -- Isaac Webb
Conflicting reports about death of Horlivka police chief.
4:50 p.m. -- News website URA-Inform is reporting that the Horlivka police chief Andrei Kryshchenko has died as a result of injuries suffered at the hands of pro-Russian separatists who stormed the police station this afternoon.
The URA-Inform report alleges that the chief died in an ambulance on the way to the hospital.
InfoResist, meanwhile has refuted URA-Inform's reports. InfoResist called the hospital where Kryshchenko was admitted, which reported that "he is alive, he is healthy, everything is okay." -- Isaac Webb
An Ukrainian police officer exits the police station in Horlovka after it was stormed by pro-Russian separatists. The raid appears to have been coordinated by Moscow: one of the men who organized the raid identified himself as a Russian lieutenant colonel. (@Segozavr)
Russian lieutenant colonel led storming of Horlivka police station
3:20 p.m. -- A video has surfaced of a man who identifies himself as a Russian lieutenant colonel organizing police officers shortly after pro-Russian separatists stormed and took control of the police station in Horlivka.
According to Ukrainska Pravda, the man is from Simferopol and carries a Russian passport.
This information complements reports from journalists on the ground in Horlivka, who say that the seizure of the police office was coordinated by the Russian government.
BuzzFeed's Max Seddon tweeted that “A local cameraman in Horlivka says he got a call from Russian TV three hours ago asking if he could film the raid that was forthcoming.”
One officer was wounded in the raid. He was taken to a nearby hospital in an ambulance. -- Isaac Webb
Tymoshenko calls for armed resistance
2:15 p.m. -- Former Prime Minister and Batkivshchyna Party leader Yulia Tymoshenko called Ukrainians for general mobilization. She also backed the government's decision to use military force against separatists in the east.
"I ask leaders of the world to provide direct military help to Ukrainian people who have been fighting for their freedom and dies for it. I ask the leaders to act," reads Tymoshenko's statement. -- Olga Rudenko
Party of Regions to meet in Donetsk
2:05 p.m. -- Donetsk's branch of the Party of Regions will have an urgent convention in Donetsk on April 16.
"The convention will aggregate demands (of people of Donetsk Oblast) and bring them to the government," the party's statement says. -- Olga Rudenko
Protesters stand along barricades in Sloviansk. Since April 6, separatist movements have flared up across Donetsk oblast and other parts of eastern Ukraine. Thus far, four people have died. (@HromadskeTV)
Pro-Russian rioters storm police headquarters in Horlivka; Turchynov considers a national referendum
12:34 p.m. -- Pro-Russian rioters have stormed the police station in the city of Horlivka, a city of 290,000 people in Donetsk oblast.
Before seizing the building, protesters threw rocks at windows and set small fires on the ground floor, which police officers promptly extinguished. Police initially lobbed stun grenades to repel the attacking protesters.
Riot police briefly met protesters outside the building, before being pushed back and cordoned off. The separatists chanted "police with the people" during the brief engagement.
Protesters flew a Russian flag from a portable flagpole.
Meanwhile in Kyiv, President Turchynov said that he was not opposed to holding a nation-wide referendum on greater regional autonomy alongside the May 25 presidential elections.
“Any changes to the constitution demand wide discussion in all the regions of Ukraine,” said Turchynov
The interim president said that he was "certain that a large majority of Ukrainians at this referendum, which, when the parliament decides so, could be held alongside the presidential election, will favor an indivisible, independent, democratic and unified Ukraine." -- Isaac Webb
Russian military in combat readiness, says expert
11:20 a.m. -- "Russian military units that stand near Ukraine's border were were brought to the condition of full combat readiness," Dmytro Tymchuk, head of Kyiv-based Center for Military and Political Studies, said on April 14.
"At the same time, we didn't see an increasing of the numbers of Russian military based near the border," he added.
Tymchuk also said that during the last 24 hours big groups of "people of sporty appearance" were seen arriving to Moldova's capital Chisinau from Russia. From Chisinau they depart to Transnistria in organized groups.
Earlier on April 14 Tymchuk said, referring to his own sources, that the network of agents working for Russian intelligence services was formed in the eastern Ukraine in 2010-2013, during the rule of former president Viktor Yanukovych. -- Olga Rudenko
Four dead in Sloviansk violence
11:03 a.m. -- Sergei Taruta, governor of the Donetsk Oblast administration, said that an “anti-terrorist operation” has begun in the region, according to Interfax-Ukraine news service.
Journalists on the ground in Sloviansk, however, said that there were no signs of a large-scale anti-terrorist operation thus far.
TSN television channel reported that two SBU (Security Service of Ukraine) officers and two civilians were killed in gunfire in the city of Sloviansk on April 13. The press service of the Donetsk Oblast State Administration said that nine people were wounded in clashes in Sloviansk.
Andriy Parubiy, secretary of the National Security and Defense Council, said that Ukrainian special forces have arrested Russian intelligence officers in eastern Ukraine. He told Hromadske TV that “those who we are seeing in eastern Ukraine are terrorists, coming from abroad.”
In an interview on April 13, presidential candidate Yulia Tymoshenko said she was against the use of force in the the east: "The first option is the immediate use of force, which would almost certainly lead to large-scale bloodshed, and, likely, to an aggressive response from the Russian Federation. This is an option that the responsible leaders of the country, in my opinion, cannot accept."
Tymoshenko said that the second and best option is to "conduct negotiations at the highest international level. And that is what everyone is hoping for today." -- Isaac Webb
Might we see industrial sabotage ?
DHS alert: Heartbleed may have been used against industrial control systems
Specifically, there are unconfirmed reports that the Heartbleed cybervulnerability has been used to attack encrypted communications systems of these control systems. DHS is investigating.
Security experts warn there is little Internet users can do to protect themselves from the recently uncovered 'Heartbleed' bug that exposes data to hackers, at least not until vulnerable Web sites upgrade their software.
The threat from the cybervulnerability dubbed Heartbleed reaches well beyond Web businesses and social networks into the industrial systems that power the US economy, apparently including those used to operate the US power grid.
Unconfirmed reports that Heartbleed has already been used to attack encrypted communications systems of US industrial control systems are being investigated, the US Department of Homeland Security’s Industrial Control Systems Cyber Emergency Response Team (ICS-CERT) announced in an alert Friday.
“ICS-CERT is aware of reports of attempted exploitation and is in the process of confirming these reports,” read the alert. “ICS-CERT continues to monitor the situation closely and encourages entities to report any and all incidents regarding this vulnerability to DHS.”
At the same time, industrial firewall-maker Innominate Security Technologies AG of Berlin on Friday informed its customers in an e-mail that some of its firmware products used in industrial firewall systems were vulnerable to Heartbleed attacks. Innominate’s industrial firmware is used by several US industrial cybersecurity companies, but it may not be too widespread, some cybersecurity experts said.
Still, users of the vulnerable versions of the Innominate firmware were “strongly recommended to update the device” with a new, patched version and change the encryption key of the device, the company said in its release.
Among electric utilities, chemical plants, and other critical infrastructure companies using certain encrypted communications to communicate with their most sensitive industrial processes, Heartbleed holds potential to lay bare encrypted communications between the company’s central controllers and vital but often far-flung processes – ranging from substations to refineries to chemical plants.
But at this point, the extent to which vulnerable versions of OpenSSL encryption software have been deployed in industrial settings isn’t clear. The trend in recent years, experts say, has been to replace telephone connections with Internet connections protected by such encryption.
“The impact of the Heartbleed vulnerability on the cyber security of critical infrastructure (where it involves industrial control systems) is minimal,” writes Ralph Langner, an industrial control systems expert who first identified Stuxnet as a cyberweapon, in an e-mail. “The majority of this infrastructure still uses non-encrypted and non-authenticated protocols” – a far worse vulnerability that may nevertheless lower the Heartbleed problem in the pecking order of industrial cybervulnerabilities.
There’s also the question of how widespread the Heartbleed vulnerability is across the industrial control systems landscape. A snapshot of potentially affected Innominate-related equipment using the SHODAN search engine, which indexes industrial control systems, revealed that 1,500 or so systems worldwide are affected, with just over 200 US systems.
That’s not many. Yet it’s too soon to breathe easy, says Robert Radvanovsky, a cybersecurity researcher and co-founder of Infracritical, a think tank focused on shoring up cyberweaknesses in critical infrastructure.
“It’s still very unclear just what type of systems are vulnerable to Heartbleed, and there will be many other systems not listed by SHODAN,” he says. “Right now the numbers look small, but it would be a mistake to take it easy.”
Other cybersecurity researchers in the industrial control system community remain concerned. Compared with the recent worries about the widespread use of the now-vulnerable Windows XP operating system in industrial settings, “this is a bigger deal,” says Adam Crain, a partner in Automatak, a security-focused industrial control system developer in Raleigh, N.C.
He cautions against assuming that the Heartbleed vulnerability is confined, noting that a key protocol used widely in the electric utility industry employs various versions of the OpenSSL protocol.
“I have already found an implementation that uses the affected OpenSSL” software, he says in an e-mail interview. “I suspect many of the implementations will need to be patched.”
Also emerging Friday were reports indicating that nation-states’ intelligence agencies – with their extensive cyberresources – might have known about the vulnerability for some time. This suggested to some that it was used to invade vital systems.
Bloomberg reported Friday that the National Security Agency has been actively exploiting the vulnerability for two years. That report was flatly denied by the Obama Administration in a subsequent New York Times account. Separately, other reports suggested that botnet-based Heartbleed-based attacks may have been ongoing for some time. Such an activity “makes a little more sense for intelligence agencies than for commercial or lifestyle malware developers,” the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a San Francisco-based Internet watchdog group, noted on its website.
If indeed intelligence agencies have been exploiting Heartbleed in industrial systems, it’s a serious issue, even if more obvious vulnerabilities are slathered across the industrial control system space, says Jake Brodsky, a cybersecurity expert who chairs an industrial communications protocol users group.
“I’m not sure of the full extent of this, and, yes, there are lots of people who will say there are bigger problems,” he says. “It’s really unlikely that you’ll see anyone doing this, exploiting OpenSSL in the industrial control systems, except, perhaps, a nation-state. That’s what should worry us.”
If Russia's intention was to give Ukraine enough "escalation" rope with which to hang itself once again, it may have succeeded when a little over an hour ago acting president Oleksander Turchinov said in a televized address that Ukrainehas mobilized its armed forces to launch a "full-scale anti-terrorist operation" against pro-Russian separatists. Furthermore, knowing the only real escalation Kiev can engage in is in the war of words department, Ukraine set an 0600 GMT Monday deadline for pro-Russian separatists to give up their weapons and leave buildings they have occupied in the east of the country, a presidential decree said. It is unclear if this would be the catalyst to launch the military operation, but should Kiev indeed bring in the army it is certainly clear that Russia will respond in kind.
Angered by the death of a state security officer and the wounding of two of his comrades near the flashpoint eastern city of Slaviansk, Turchinov gave rebels occupying state buildings until Monday morning to lay down their weapons.
He blamed Russia, which opposed a pro-Europe uprising that forced Moscow-backed former president Viktor Yanukovich to flee, for being behind the rash of rebellions across Russian-speaking towns in eastern Ukraine.
"The blood of Ukrainian heroes has been shed in a war which the Russian Federation is waging against Ukraine," he said in an address to the nation. "The aggressor has not stopped and is continuing to sow disorder in the east of the country."
Russia promptly responded, alleging Ukraine's planned operation is criminal:
Russia's Foreign Ministry said on Sunday that an announcement by the authorities in Kiev that they will mobilise the army to put down a rebellion by pro-Russian militants in eastern Ukraine was a "criminal order".
The ministry said the West should bring its allies in Ukraine's government under control. "It is now the West's responsibility to prevent civil war in Ukraine," it said in a statement posted on Facebook.
It also said that Russia would put an urgent discussion of the situation in eastern Ukraine on the agenda of the United Nations Security Council.
"The situation in southeastern Ukraine is taking on an extremely dangerous character. The authorities in Kiev, who put themselves in power as a result of a coup d'etat, have set a course to use force to put down popular protests," the statement said.
"We decisively condemn attempts to use brute force against protesters and activists ... We are particularly indignant about the criminal order of (Ukrainian Acting President Oleksander Turchinov) to use the army to put down protest."
The statement said the West had sponsored the rulers in Kiev and should now "rein in its out-of-control proteges, force them to distance themselves from neo-Nazis and other extremists, stop using armed force against the Ukrainian people, and immediately start a genuine dialogue".
Goldman Summarizes The Rout: "Derisking Is The Name Of The Game"
The equity rout continued. Growth tech names felt the heat once again as Nasdaq led the way down, but the weakness was truly wide spread as all sectors ended in the red – both in domestic and overseas developed markets. Earnings season continued, but derisking is the name of the game in these markets. Financial feel the most pain (-1.1%) on a headline earnings miss, while Oil&Gas and Utilities finished at the top of the pack with only minor weakness. Closing levels SPX -1.0% to 1815.69 (-2.9% for the week); DJIA -0.9% to 16026.75 (-2.4% week); Nasdaq -1.3% to 3999.73 (-4.3% week).
The VIX marches higher +1.23 to 17.12.
Negative sentiment in equities gave way to a quieter day in FX. The majority of G10 near flat on the day, with light flows. USDJPY drops to a low of 101.38 but recovers to trade above 101.50 for most of the day with little trading post ‘BOJ GOVERNOR KURODA: JAPAN ONLY HALFWAY THROUGH MEETING BOJ'S PRICE TARGET’. EURUSD also unchanged despite dovish central bank commentary, with no reaction from headlines ‘ECB'S COEURE SAYS THE STRONGER THE EURO THE GREATER THE NEED FOR MONETARY ACCOMMODATION’. Elsewhere in EM, BRL is the outlier down -0.60% as any gains reversed intraday as the currency played catchup to its peers.
10y treasuries traded in a 2bp range during NY hours on a fairly quiet day.Flows in cash were a combination of real money selling in the long end and fast money selling in the belly, while in swaps we saw some risk-off hedges in the form of back end receiving.
Gold chopped around within a $10 range in the London session and then within a $4 range once NY got it. The only interesting element to the precious complex today was a steep 1.53% rally in palladium which occurred after headlines flashed stating “NATO SEES PUTIN SEEKING FULL UKRAINE OCCUPATION, BILD SAYS”, Brent rallied along with palladium on the headline but ended up down on the day following a very weak close. Nickel maintained its recent momentum trading up another 2.31%, nickel has advanced almost $1000 in the last 3 trading sessions.
THURSDAY, APR 10, 2014 07:01 PM EDT
Barack Obama pulls a George W. Bush: Lies, misinformation and chemical weapons
Remember the almost-war in Syria last year? An amazing new report -- which our media won't touch -- is a must read
A U.N. chemical weapons expert holds a plastic bag containing samples from one of the sites of an alleged chemical weapons attack in Damascus, August 29, 2013. (Credit: Reuters/Mohamed Abdullah)
Am I misjudging our time, or have we entered some accelerated cycle of American subversions, and then another cycle of coverups and disinformation that do not quite come off? In less than a year, the Obama administration has mounted four covert coup operations, all variants of the classic Cold War model, all costly of human life, all assuring us the contempt and animosity of many people for years to come.
In chronological order:
* The American-authorized coup in Egypt last July. In the disinformation universe, Washington watched at a distance. Since the coup, dead silence in the face of a blood bath, except for Secretary of State Kerry’s applause for the Egyptian army’s “restoration of democracy.”
• In the war to depose Syria’s Bashar al-Assad, the linchpin event is the chemical-weapons attack last Aug. 21. We are invited — required, actually — to believe Assad allowed U.N. inspectors in to determine responsibility for previous gas attacks and then launched another attack near Damascus while the inspectors were settled in their hotel rooms.
* The role of the U.S. and its European allies in financing, fomenting and steering the direction of the Ukraine coup requires little discussion at this point. Rather bizarrely in the face of all we have on record, the Obama people continue to insist Ukraine is nothing more than a case of Russian overreach. As order unravels in the eastern sections of the country, it is important to bear in mind the chronology of events — and from the beginning, not somewhere in the middle.
* In Venezuela, the foreign minister recently read aloud portions of intercepted cable traffic documenting American subterfuge. No, no, no: Nicolás Maduro, successor to the late Hugo Chávez, is just as paranoid as his mentor, and both were merely trying to distract Venezuelans from their economic problems. (Vigilance is always essential when Washington and the hacks marshal the “distraction” thesis.)
Cuba could go on this list, given news of Washington’s operation of a social-media network on Cuban soil via the customary collection of front companies, except that intruding covertly in Cuba is so routine as to be (appallingly) unremarkable.
I find this an exceptionally busy schedule for the spooks and the nation-building set. We can explore the reasons on another occasion; for now, it seems also unusual that so much of what in an earlier time would remain hidden from view is not.
Seymour Hersh, the noted investigative journalist with a record of extraordinarily deep digging on behalf of obscured truths, has just made a significant contribution in this line.Here is the piece, just published in the London Review of Books. In it, Hersh detonates the Rube Goldberg of “evidence” concocted — not too strong a term now — to support the Assad-did-it case after the gas atrocity in Syria.
It is the usual Hersh job: granular, multi-sourced, supported with document citations, a shedding of light, all from several layers beneath surface reality. This is especially important in the Syria case because the demonization of Assad has been so complete as to cause almost everyone to set logic aside. Lonely were they willing to say after the attack: We do not know the perpetrators here, but there is a compelling case that it was Assad’s adversaries, not the unsavory man himself.
Hersh has just stitched this case, an important piece of work.
The trail into what happened begins with a sample of the gas used near Damascus given to Porton Down, the British military’s laboratory not far from London. The sample came via a Russian military intelligence operative, and the British found it did not match the Syrian army’s known stocks.
British intel quickly advised Washington that the case against Assad would not bear scrutiny. Revelation No. 1: Now we know why Obama abruptly asked for congressional support for his plan to shell Assad’s military. He wanted to pull a George W.: offloading some of the blame if it came out Assad was not the perp on Aug. 21. Bush had done the same when the WMD case against Saddam Hussein came undone a decade earlier.
Hersh tell us that it had long been known in American defense and intelligence circles that Syrian rebels, notably the jihadist al–Nusra Front, had been developing chemical-weapons capabilities. There had been attacks in the spring of 2013 that the U.N. subsequently investigated. American media never reported the conclusion.
Here is an example of why you have to be grateful Sy Hersh is walking around. He quotes “a person with close knowledge of the UN’s activity in Syria” as saying: “‘Investigators interviewed the people who were there, including the doctors who treated the victims. It was clear that the rebels used the gas. It did not come out in public because no one wanted to know. ’”
After the attacks in the spring of last year, the White House began suppressing intelligence that concerned chemical-weapons use in Syria. Too many indications were accumulating that the insurgents, which the Obama administration painted as democratic liberators with a view to arming them, had used chemical weapons and were training to get better at it.
Once again following the Aug. 21 atrocity, no one wanted to contaminate the White House line with the truth about what was known — too political, which is a common story. U.S. intelligence had discovered that al-Nusra had executed the attack with the support of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Erdoğan.
This gets especially interesting, as nitty-gritty with Hersh’s name on it often does, but you have to follow the bouncing ball into unexpected places.
Obama had signed a secret agreement with Erdoğan in early 2012 to acquire and transfer weapons from what had been Gadhafi’s arsenal in Libya to the Syrian insurgents. Turkey, the Saudis and the Qataris — all supporting the jihadists on religious grounds — would pay. The CIA and MI6 would set up what they called the “rat line” — the supply route from Libya to the rebels inside Syria. It was the usual thing: front companies, American veterans on contract; the operation was overseen by none other than David Petraeus.
That is revelation No. 2. No. 3 is a follow-on: That consulate in Benghazi that was attacked in September 2012 was not actually a consulate. Hersh’s source: “‘The consulate’s only mission was to provide cover for the moving of arms. It had no real political role.’”
After the assault in Benghazi, the CIA bailed on the rat line. And we come to the central connection. Erdoğan figured he was left to twist in the wind, given the war was turning against the insurgents by this time. So developed his fateful strategy: Train and equip al-Nusra to wage serious chemical warfare, then stage a gas attack to be pinned on Assad. Obama would be drawn across his “red line,” like it or not.
It is all there in the Hersh piece, not to be missed: the politics, the training, the sarin supplies, the dramatis personae, who knew what when. And the salad of denials all around, a feature of Hersh’s stuff that never fails to delight. He can even describe (using multiple sources, that antique practice of yesteryear’s journos) a secret dinner Obama gave for Erdoğan, at which the former told the latter, “We know what you’re up to in Syria.”
The Turks wanted “to do something spectacular,” as one of Hersh’s sources explained — something to shove the Americans into the war. And now we know why there was a gas attack in Damascus last Aug. 21, three days after the U.N. inspectors got there. It was spectacular; you have to give the Turks and the insurgents this much. (And spectacularly stupid — too stupid for Assad to have done it, as I argued in this space at the time.)
Hersh’s sources speculate that the Turks will continue supporting the Syrian insurgents, however poorly the war goes for them. It is anyone’s guess what the Obama people will do, other than deny Hersh’s report and pretend once again the revealed remains secret. “‘If we went public with what we know about Erdoğan’s role with the gas, it’d be disastrous,’” one of Hersh’s sources tells him. “‘The Turks would say: “‘We hate you for telling us what we can and can’t do.’”
I have not paid attention in the past, but Hersh is the kind of journalist who can engender a pack of lightweights who nip at his ankles in attempts to discredit the reporting. Beware of these people, clerks of the political cliques. I mention this because a Washington friend already sends a piece from Bloomberg View, the opinion section of the Bloomberg News operation. “Hersh has shed no light,” is the conclusion of columnist Marc Champion.
Champion is a man of innuendo, false feints, faulty logic and the odd lie when nothing else will do the job. He has nothing of importance to say in his attempt to discredit a reporter whose printer cartridge he could not change, to update the old phrase, but the piece is too flimsy to be worth a lot of lineage, honestly. Just one point to put readers on their guard.
Champion’s main critique concerns the source of the sarin gas that arrived at Porton Down. This was the Russian military operative. You cannot trust a Russian, Champion advises in fluent Cold War-ese. There is a provenance question with regard to the sarin sample. This is the cotter pin of Hersh’s case, Champion says. Remove it and the thing comes apart.
Not so fast. Answers, please: Why did the Porton Down lab work on the sarin sample if there was any possibility of taint? There would be no point and they would not have done so, or they would have looked at the sample but warned of possible taint. Why did Hersh’s source on this, an American well inside the intel scene, describe the Russian as trustworthy? Not too common, this. He did so out of loyalty only to the truth.
Why did Porton Down urgently advise defense counterparts in Washington that the case against Assad was not holding up? Why did the Defense Intelligence Agency then ask a source in the Syrian government for a typology of Assad’s chemical weapons and confirm on this basis that Porton Down was right: Assad was not the culprit?
Why did American military officers look at Porton Down’s material and then send Obama a last-minute warning not to strike? And why, finally, did Obama heed the officers, seek cover in Congress, and ultimately step back from the threatened missile attack?
Champion’s ruse is to pretend Hersh describes his own beliefs. He does not. He reports the conclusions of senior officials not exposed to political pressure. There is a big difference. Champion, to finish the thought, writes out of a need to believe.
Read the piece. Bush league commentary, in both senses of the term. There is a lot of it around these days, if you could conceivably not have noticed.