Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Today's links

1--$1.3 Trillion Wipeout


2---The Devastation in Global Commodity Currencies Is Far From Over
Canada, Australia, New Zealand currencies set to plunge, OppenheimerFunds says


4--No improvement here!Below is a chart showing that the share of young people (18-34) living with parents has held steady over the last half year, and close to the highest since the financial crisis.


This is how Goldman frames its confusion:
"The share of young people living with their parents--which rose sharply during the recession and its aftermath--finally began to decline in 2014. But over the last six months, this decline seems to have stalled."

5--Americans have forgotten what we did to North Korea
That act was this: In the early 1950s, during the Korean War, the US dropped more bombs on North Korea than it had dropped in the entire Pacific theater during World War II. This carpet bombing, which included 32,000 tons of napalm, often deliberately targeted civilian as well as military targets, devastating the country far beyond what was necessary to fight the war. Whole cities were destroyed, with many thousands of innocent civilians killed and many more left homeless and hungry.
For Americans, the journalist Blaine Harden has written, this bombing was "perhaps the most forgotten part of a forgotten war," even though it was almost certainly "a major war crime." Yet it shows that North Korea's hatred of America "is not all manufactured," he wrote. "It is rooted in a fact-based narrative, one that North Korea obsessively remembers and the United States blithely forgets."
And the US, as Harden recounted in a column earlier this year, knew exactly what it was doing:
"Over a period of three years or so, we killed off — what — 20 percent of the population," Air Force Gen. Curtis LeMay, head of the Strategic Air Command during the Korean War, told the Office of Air Force History in 1984. Dean Rusk, a supporter of the war and later secretary of state, said the United States bombed "everything that moved in North Korea, every brick standing on top of another." After running low on urban targets, U.S. bombers destroyed hydroelectric and irrigation dams in the later stages of the war, flooding farmland and destroying crops.
America has largely forgotten. Here are some excerpts from the cable, haunting to read today:
ON JANUARY 3 AT 10:30 AM, AN ARMADE OF 82 FLYING FORTRESSES LOOSED THEIR DEATH-DEALING LOAD ON THE CITY OF PYONGYANG. ...
HUNDREDS OF TONS OF BOMBS AND INCENDIARY COMPOUND WERE SIMULTANEOUSLY DROPPED THROUGHOUT THE CITY, CAUSING ANNIHILATING FIRES. IN ORDER TO PREVENT THE EXTINCTION OF THESE FIRES, THE TRANS-ATLANTIC BARBARIANS BOMBED THE CITY WITH DELAYED-ACTION HIGH-EXPLOSIVE BOMBS WHICH EXPLODED AT INTERVALS THROUGHOUT FOR A WHOLE DAY, MAKING IT IMPOSSIBLE FOR THE PEOPLE TO COME OUT ONTO THE STREETS. THE ENTIRE CITY HAS NOW BEEN BURNING, ENVELOPED IN FLAMES, FOR TWO DAYS. BY THE SECOND DAY 7,812 CIVILIANS' HOUSES HAD BEEN BURNT DOWN. THE AMERICANS WERE WELL AWARE THAT THERE WERE NO MILITARY OBJECTIVES LEFT IN PYONGYANG. ...
THE NUMBER OF INHABITANTS OF PYONGYANG KILLED BY BOMB SPLINTERS, BURNT ALIVE AND SUFFOCATED BY SMOKE IS INCALCULABLE, SINCE NO COMPUTATION IS POSSIBLE. SOME FIFTY THOUSAND INHABITANTS REMAIN IN THE CITY, WHICH BEFORE THE WAR HAD A POPULATION OF FIVE HUNDRED THOUSAND.
6---The Destruction and Reconstruction of North Korea, 1950 - 1960 archive


The American Air War and the Destruction of North Korea
The Korean War, a “limited war” for the US and UN forces, was for Koreans a total war. The human and material resources of North and South Korea were used to their utmost. The physical destruction and loss of life on both sides was almost beyond comprehension, but the North suffered the greater damage, due to American saturation bombing and the scorched-earth policy of the retreating UN forces.1 The US Air Force estimated that North Korea’s destruction was proportionately greater than that of Japan in the Second World War, where the US had turned 64 major cities to rubble and used the atomic bomb to destroy two others.  American planes dropped 635,000 tons of bombs on Korea --  that is, essentially on North Korea --including 32,557 tons of napalm, compared to 503,000 tons of bombs dropped in the entire Pacific theatre of World War II.2 The number of Korean dead, injured or missing by war’s end approached three million, ten percent of the overall population. The majority of those killed were in the North, which had half of the population of the South; although the DPRK does not have official figures, possibly twelve to fifteen percent of the population was killed in the war, a figure close to or surpassing the proportion of Soviet citizens killed in World War II.3


The act which inflicted the greatest loss of civilian life in the Korean War by far, one which the North Koreans have claimed ever since was America’s greatest war crime, was the aerial bombardment of North Korean population centers. ... By the end of the war, North Korea claimed that only two modern buildings remained standing in Pyongyang...


According to DPRK figures, the war destroyed some 8,700 factories, 5,000 schools, 1,000 hospitals and 600,000 homes.8 Most of the destruction occurred in 1950 and 1951.  To escape the bombing, entire factories were moved underground, along with schools, hospitals, government offices, and much of the population. Agriculture was devastated, and famine loomed. Peasants hid underground during the day and came out to farm at night. Destruction of livestock, shortages of seed, farm tools, and fertilizer, and loss of manpower reduced agricultural production to the level of bare subsistence at best. The Nodong Sinmun newspaper referred to 1951 as “the year of unbearable trials,” a phrase revived in the famine years of the 1990s.9 Worse was yet to come. By the fall of 1952, there were no effective targets left for US planes to hit. Every significant town, city and industrial area in North Korea had already been bombed. In the spring of 1953, the Air Force targeted irrigation dams on the Yalu River, both to destroy the North Korean rice crop and to pressure the Chinese, who would have to supply more food aid to the North. Five reservoirs were hit, flooding thousands of acres of farmland, inundating whole towns and laying waste to the essential food source for millions of North Koreans.10 Only emergency assistance from China, the USSR, and other socialist countries prevented widespread famine. 


7---Fast food fail: 2 arrested after meth lab found in Iowa Taco Bell


8---One year of Obama’s Iraq-Syria war
5 August 2015
This week marks the first anniversary of the initiation of air strikes in Iraq and launching of yet another US war in the Middle East.
The Obama administration is marking this grim milestone with a qualitative new escalation of the war, rubber-stamping a Pentagon proposal to authorize US warplanes to provide blanket air cover for a small band of mercenaries sent into Syria after being trained, armed and paid by the US military.
These new rules of engagement specify that air strikes on behalf of this force—which numbered less than 60 before its commanders and several of its members were captured and others were killed last week—will be carried out against any purported threat from Syrian government forces.
These orders are a transparent ploy for sending the US military directly into the bloody four-year war for regime change in Syria that has been backed by Washington and its regional allies, using Islamist sectarian militias as their proxies. The only conceivable function of the so-called “New Syrian Force,” which has a roster barely the size of an American football team, is to serve as a decoy to draw fire from the Syrian military and provide the pretext for an all-out US intervention to overthrow the government of President Bashar al-Assad....


Washington’s erstwhile Kurdish allies have been thrown to the Turkish wolves. In exchange for the use of Turkish bases to bomb Syria, Washington has endorsed Ankara’s bombardment of Kurdish positions as a struggle against “terrorism.” Obama has also embraced the Turkish proposal for carving a buffer zone out of Syrian territory on Turkey’s border in order to further the war for regime change against Assad.
Meanwhile, as made clear by the surprise and dismay in Washington over the latest debacle—the capture of America’s Syrian mercenaries by the al-Nusra Front—the Obama administration’s strategy has been based on fighting as part of a “united front” with this Syrian affiliate of Al Qaeda. So much for the “war against terrorism”!


9---Al-Qaeda Whittles Down US-Trained Rebels in Syria
           Group Urges Rebels to Abandon Training, Cooperation With US
                                
Late last month, the first US-trained rebels from a group called “Division 30,” also called the New Syrian Forces (NSF) by US officials, arrived in northern Syria. The faction is the result of hundreds of millions of dollars in US spending to create a new force, but amounted to only 54 people. It’s getting progressively smaller.


Almost immediately after arriving, the rebels ran afoul of Syrian al-Qaeda faction Jabhat al-Nusra, who captured between eight and 18 of them. Not long thereafter, more fighting left one of the NSF dead, and today al-Qaeda is confirmed to have captured another 5 fighters.
Losing a few fighters here or there would normally be seen as “acceptable losses,” but with only 54 rebels to start with, there could be as few as 30 of the NSF fighters even left in the field, depending on just how many have actually been taken by al-Qaeda.
Al-Qaeda issued a statement on Friday confirming the first round of detentions, warning that rebels should abandon any training and cooperation with the US. Despite confirmation of captures from multiple sources, the Pentagon so far denies anyone was captured


10--The dumbest plan of all time  Raimondo


The New York Times reports:
“While American military trainers had gone to great lengths to protect the initial group of trainees from attacks by Islamic State or Syrian Army forces, they did not anticipate an assault from the Nusra Front. In fact, officials said on Friday, they expected the Nusra Front to welcome Division 30 as an ally in its fight against the Islamic State.”


“This wasn’t supposed to happen like this,” said one “former official.”
What a joke these people are.
Yet the humor here is dark. Because what does it say about our Syria “strategy” that we expected the Nusra Front – the same folks who brought down the World Trade Center and attacked the Pentagon on 9/11 – to “welcome” American agents with open arms?
Division 30 had a response to the Al Nusra attack: it issued a statement calling on the anti-Assad forces to “‘stand firm and proactively’ against what they called an unprovoked attack, and asked ‘the brothers in the Nusra Front’ to ‘stop the bloodshed and preserve the unity.'”
This is where our tax dollars and military aid is going: to an alliance with Al Qaeda in Syria – one that is contemptuously rejected by Al Qaeda. This is where the “war on terrorism” has ended up: we are now cuddling up to the very same people who struck the first blow in that war on September 11, 2001.
Could our policy be any crazier
....
In a little-noticed move, the President has now authorized air strikes over Syria in support of Syrian rebels, as Bloomberg News reports:


“President Barack Obama has authorized the use of air power to defend U.S.-trained Syrian rebels if they come under attack from terrorist groups or the Assad regime, deepening the U.S. role against Islamic State forces in Syria.
“The broader US rules of engagement, approved July 31, came after rebels fighting Islamic State were attacked by the al-Nusrah Front, an al-Qaeda offshoot, in northern Syria, a US defense official said. The US provided close air support to protect the rebels and quash the attack, he said.
“While air strikes remain limited to Islamic State targets for offensive operations, they can now be used to defend US allies on the ground in Syria, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss private deliberations.”


Bit by bit the US sneaks into Syria, first under the pretext of fighting ISIS and then the parameters are widened to include air support to the 64 rebels we’ve “vetted” and trained. Oh wait – they’re not quite so numerous anymore, since Al Nusra took 10 or so of them captive in the Friday attack – and then repeated the same stunt last [Monday] night: so they must be down to around 40.


11--Reports: Russian Foreign Ministry invites main Syrian opposition group for talks in Moscow


Russia has invited the main Syrian opposition group to visit Moscow, a move that comes amid a new Kremlin diplomatic push to mediate in the Syrian conflict.
The Interfax news agency quoted the Russian Foreign Ministry as saying Wednesday that a delegation of the Syrian National Coalition opposition group has been invited to visit Moscow next week.
Coalition leader Badr Jamus told the Russian state news agency Sputnik that it welcomed the invitation and will work out specifics of the visit shortly.


The coalition has previously refused to visit Russia, a key backer of Syrian President Bashar Assad. Moscow has shielded Assad's regime from U.N. sanctions and continued to provide it with weapons during a civil war that has dragged on for more than four years, leaving at least 250,000 killed and turning more than 4 million people into refugees.
Since the year's start, Russia has hosted two rounds of talks between Syrian government and various opposition groups which have failed to score any visible progress.


Moscow's move follows Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov's meeting in Qatar with the coalition's ex-leader, Moaz Al-Khatib. Lavrov also met in Doha with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir for talks focusing on the situation in Syria and efforts to combat the Islamic State group.
Speaking after the talks, Lavrov dismissed the allegations that Russia could be preparing to shift its support for Assad as he called for dialogue between opposition groups and Assad's government...


He also warned the U.S. against launching air raids on Syrian government forces to support U.S.-trained opposition groups, saying it could make it more difficult to fight terrorism.
Lavrov again met with Kerry on Wednesday in Kuala Lumpur, where both attended a meeting of members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.
He told reporters after the talks that while Russia and the U.S. agree on the need to pool efforts to fight IS, they so far have failed to reach a common approach, given "contradictions between various players on the ground, including armed groups of the Syrian opposition."


Lavrov added that Russian and U.S. experts will keep working to try to iron out differences.
Lavrov has said earlier this week that Russian diplomatic efforts to help end the Syrian conflict stem from President Vladimir Putin's diplomatic initiative he put forward during a meeting with Saudi Deputy Crown Prince and Defense Minister Mohammed bin Salman in St .Petersburg in June. The prince is King Salman's youngest son, who has quickly risen to become one of the most powerful men in the kingdom.
Lavrov said Putin's initiative offers to "form a joint anti-terror front that would unite efforts of all forces fighting terrorism on the ground, as well as countries that could help that struggle."
"All recognize that airstrikes aren't enough, and it's necessary to form a coalition that would include those confronting the terror threat with arms in hands, meaning the Syrian army, the Iraqi army and the Kurds," he said.


12--Russia Seen Reassessing Support for Assad
Syrian opposition says it detects more openness in Moscow to discussing alternative leadership


13--Erdogan claims Putin might 'give up' on Assad


Russian President Vladimir Putin is having a change of heart on the Kremlin's wholehearted support for Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad and may "give up on him" in the future, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was quoted as saying Monday.
When asked if Putin could be persuaded not to support Assad, Erdogan said he saw his counterpart as "more positive" during a face-to-face meeting in the Azerbaijani capital of Baku in June and in subsequent telephone talks.


"Putin's current attitude toward Syria is more encouraging than before," Erdogan told a group of journalists on his presidential jet as he returned from a trip to Asia.
"He is no longer of the opinion that Russia will support Assad to the end. I believe he can give up Assad," he was quoted as saying by the Daily Sabah and Sabah dailies.
Turkey and Russia stand on opposing sides over the crisis in Syria, with Ankara one of the fiercest critics of Assad and Moscow one of his few remaining allies.
Putin and Erdogan last met in Baku on June 13 during talks on the sidelines of the European Games that were held in the Azerbaijani capital.


Relations between Turkey and Russia have become increasingly robust in recent months, with Russia's relations with the West at a post-Cold War era low and Turkey's bid to join the European Union at a standstill.
Analysts say that Moscow and Ankara have managed to compartmentalise disputes over the Syria conflict and Russia's annexation of Ukraine to work for wider ties.


Notably, Russia and Turkey have agreed to begin work on a new pipeline underneath the Black Sea. But reports in recent days have suggested the Turk Stream project has hit trouble due to a dispute over the price Turkey should pay for Russian gas.
Erdogan's comments come as Ankara wages a two-pronged "anti-terror" offensive against jihadists in Syria and Kurdish militants based in northern Iraq after a wave of attacks inside Turkey.

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