Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
April 26, 2015

NSA Failure - THIS Hacking Of The White House Was Not Really Severe

While spending billions for spying on citizens the NSA obviously lacks the capacity to protect the White House and the State Department:

Some of President Obama’s email correspondence was swept up by Russian hackers last year in a breach of the White House’s unclassified computer system that was far more intrusive and worrisome than has been publicly acknowledged, according to senior American officials briefed on the investigation.

The hackers, who also got deeply into the State Department’s unclassified system, do not appear to have penetrated closely guarded servers that control the message traffic from Mr. Obama’s BlackBerry, which he or an aide carries constantly.

Much of that "unclassified" email still contains restricted information like official schedules and briefings. The hack certainly did some damage. The blaming of "Russian" hackers though is dubious. How did the investigators attribute this? And if they are sure why not make a public case of it? There are some hints in the reporting that the "Russian" angle is not that clear at all:

One of the curiosities of the White House and State Department attacks is that the administration, which recently has been looking to name and punish state and nonstate hackers in an effort to deter attacks, has refused to reveal its conclusions about who was responsible for this complex and artful intrusion into the government.
...
This month, after CNN reported that hackers had gained access to sensitive areas of the White House computer network, including sections that contained the president’s schedule, the White House spokesman, Josh Earnest, said the administration had not publicly named who was behind the hack because federal investigators had concluded that “it’s not in our best interests.”

Usually Russia and its president Putin get officially blamed in Washington for every evil in this world. Why not now? May there have been someone else involved? We probably can guess who from this part:

The hackers appear to have been evicted from the White House systems by the end of October. But they continued to plague the State Department, whose system is much more far-flung. The disruptions were so severe that during the Iranian nuclear negotiations in Vienna in November, officials needed to distribute personal email accounts, to one another and to some reporters, to maintain contact.

Official traffic was pushed off the official servers to completely unprotected and easy to surveil private accounts. This during the negotiations with Iran. Who could have had an interest in that? Were those "Russian" hackers speaking Hebrew? That would explain the spokesperson's claim that it was "not in our best interests" to reveal the source.

But again why isn't the NSA able to protect the unclassified email servers? Why would it take months to clean them up? Why is spying on others deemed more important than protecting ones own communication?

Think of network attacker as a needle lost on a dirty living room floor. What does the NSA do to find that needle? It goes off and searches the barn because "that's were the hay is."

There are of course also protected networks and systems but those may not be easy enough to use. Or they have also been hacked. There is a hint of that as the article ends with an ominously specific denial:

The White House, the State Department, the Pentagon and intelligence agencies put their most classified material into a system called Jwics, for Joint Worldwide Intelligence Communications System. That is where top-secret and “secret compartmentalized information” traverses within the government, to officials cleared for it — and it includes imagery, data and graphics. There is no evidence, senior officials said, that this hacking pierced it.

Hmm. "THIS hacking probably did not pierce that secret network. Why, if it has never been hacked, would the officials be so very specific in THIS claim? If THIS hack was not that severe which one was? What other cases of hacked government communication, by you know who, are covered up behind this claim?

Posted by b at 05:27 AM | Comments (7)

April 25, 2015

Open Thread 2015-19

News & views ...

Posted by b at 02:04 PM | Comments (43)

April 24, 2015

"Targeted" Drone Strikes Are Rather Random Murder

May 23 2013: No drone strikes without 'near certainty' of no civilian casualties: Obama

The president, in his most expansive public discussion on drones, defended their targeted killings as both effective and legal.

He acknowledged the civilian deaths that sometimes result, a consequence that has angered many of the countries where the US seeks to combat extremism, and said he grapples with that trade-off.

"For me, and those in my chain of command, these deaths will haunt us as long as we live," he said. Before any strike, he said, "there must be near-certainty that no civilians will be killed or injured, the highest standard we can set."

April 23 2015: U.S. raid in Pakistan killed two hostages, Obama acknowledges

A U.S. drone strike targeting a compound frequented by al Qaida leaders accidentally killed two hostages, including one American, near the Afghanistan-Pakistan border in January, the White House announced Thursday.
...
White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest announced that two other Americans, both members of al Qaida, also had been killed in Pakistan in January.
...
Neither man had been targeted in the raids that killed them, U.S. officials said.

That "highest standard" for murder by drone is obviously less high that the CIA operators who killed and kill thousands of non-combatants through drone strikes on "suspect compounds," weddings and funerals.

Obama now apologizes because a somewhat "special" American got unintentionally killed in one strike. But out of eight U.S. citizens killed in drone strikes only one was ever the intended target. That's the "highest standard"? And why doesn't Obama apologize for the 4,000+ other civilians killed? Oh, those weren't Jews spying on Pakistan like the "aid worker" hostage killed in that strike? Why can't Obama admit that neither he nor his psychopathic CIA-director Brennan have any real idea who or what they are targeting when they order to press the kill-buttons?

In March Brennan fired the head of the CIA’s Counter­terrorism Center. We now know why. But the man was just a subaltern. The drone-killing policy is made by Brennan and signed off by Obama. They must be held responsible.

Unfortunately that is unlikely to happen. The appalling reason:

Despite the bad reviews overseas, drone strikes remain persistently popular with the American public, with about two-thirds expressing approval in polls. And despite the protests of a few liberal Democrats or libertarian Republicans, they have enjoyed unusual bipartisan support in Congress, where they are viewed as reducing the threat of terrorist attack and keeping American operators out of harm’s way.

Someone should probably start to drone-murder random people in the U.S. That might change the perspective.

Posted by b at 03:52 AM | Comments (53)

April 23, 2015

Yemen: Saudis To Arm "Popular Committees" (aka Al Qaeda)

On the 17th Al Qaeda in the Arab Peninsula took a city, a military base, an oil terminal and an airport in south Yemen.

Military officials and residents said al-Qaida fighters clashed briefly with members of one of Yemen's largest brigades outside Mukalla, the capital of Hadramawt province, which the militants overran earlier this month. The militants then seized control of Riyan airport and moved to secure their hold on the city's main seaport, which is also an oil terminal.

The security officials, speaking from Sanaa on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief the press, said the leaders of the brigade in charge of protecting the entire area fled.

Nasser Baqazouz, an activist in the city, said the troops guarding the airport put up little resistance to al-Qaida fighters.

Reading that I commented:

Now Saudis can fly in ammo and men

That was meant more as a joke but now turns out to be likely spot on.

The overrun brigade who's commander fled and who's soldiers did not fight AQ was the 27th Infantry brigade in Mukalla. Its supreme  commander and "sponsor" is Mohammed Ali Mohsen:

The commander of the Eastern Area is BG Mohammed Ali Mohsen. The Eastern Area includes the governorates of Hadramawt and al-Mahra.

Ali Mohsen earlier fled to Saudi Arabia. He is near to the Yemeni branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, Islah, which unlike other MB branches traditionally receives support from Saudi Arabia.

Calling from Saudi Arabi Ali Mohsen ordered his troops to put up no resistance to the takeover of the city and the airport by Al Qaeda.

To hide their traces a bit the Al Qaeda folks immediately renamed themselves:

Qaeda fighters have seized the airport, government buildings and a refinery around Al Mukalla, establishing themselves as the most powerful local force. In an effort to win popular support, they have begun calling themselves the Sons of Hadhramaut and have promised to quickly return control of the city to local civilian leaders. When they seized a major army base outside of the city on Friday, they allowed the soldiers inside to leave unharmed, according to a local tribal leader.

The Al Qaeda folks who captured the airport renamed themselves to get "popular support". My hunch is that the "Sons of Hadhramaut" are now a "popular committee."

[Saudi Ambassador to the U.S.] Adel Al-Jubeir said that Saudi Arabia is providing support and weapons to so-called “Popular Committees,” militia groups who have in recent years emerged in Yemen as a counterweight to extremist groups in the country. Jubeir said that if the Houthis do not join the political process, these groups will step up activity against them.

To the Saudis the Zeyda Shia and especially the Houthis are "extremist groups". Al Qaeda, especially in the form of "popular committees" like the "Sons of Hadhramaut", are friends and tools to be armed and used to Saudi advantage. As the Houthies will certainly not give up under Saudi pressure the Riyan Mukalla Airport seized by the "popular" "Sons of Hadhramaut" will soon be indeed very busy.

But the Saudis are again miscalculating if they believe that the Jihadist are a match for the war experienced Houthies and the Republican Guard troops under former president Saleh who are allied with them. Al Qaeda is not a capable ground force. It can be beaten in open fighting. Whether the Houthies could thereafter hold on to southern parts of country against the will of the local population is a different question.

Posted by b at 01:10 PM | Comments (23)

April 21, 2015

What Is The Purpose Of This U.S. Fleet Concentration Next To Iran?

The Obama regime claims that it wants to hold the Saudis back from further killing in Yemen:

Top Obama administration officials have failed for several days to persuade Saudi Arabia’s government to limit the scope of its airstrikes on cities and towns in Yemen, a campaign that authorities said killed nearly 50 people Monday in Sana, the capital.
...
The White House would like Saudi Arabia and its Sunni Arab allies to curtail the airstrikes and narrow the objective to focus on protecting the Saudi border, according to a senior administration official, who spoke on condition of anonymity in discussing internal deliberations.

The problem with this story is the acknowledged fact that the U.S. is still heavily supporting the Saudi attacks:

U.S. officials in Riyadh and Qatar are sharing intelligence from surveillance drones and spy satellites with officers from the Saudi-led coalition but are not approving individual targets, according to Pentagon officials.

“The air component is providing the Saudis intel on potential targets that include … civilian casualty mitigation procedures,” Lt. Col. Kristi Beckman, Air Force spokeswoman for U.S. Central Command, said Monday.

If the White House would really want to stop the Saudis it could simply stop supporting them. Without U.S. intelligence the Saudis would be blind. It could stop providing more bombs and the Saudis would eventually run out of ammunition.

The Obama regime is simply not serious about this. It does not care one bit about Yemenis or about the expansion of AlQaeda in the Arab Peninsula (which renamed itself into "Sons of Hadramout" to get more official Saudi support).

Meanwhile the U.S. is building up a fleet concentration in the Arab sea next to Yemen. Some 10 to 12 capital ships will soon be there. Several destroyers. Three helicopter carriers/landing ships with a battalion of Marines each, one air craft carrier and an unknown number of nuclear submarines. All this to prevent a non existing threat to international shipping lanes and to stop non-existing supply convoys from Iran to the Houthies. Claims by the White House that Iran supplies the Houthies are ludicrous propaganda. There is not much love between Houthis and Iran, Yemen is full of weapons anyway and there is no evidence that any supplies have ever been provided. Why then this propaganda and fleet concentration?

The administration has a problem. Sanction against Iran are coming to an end no matter how the nuclear talks with Iran will end. Iran has shown its willingness to resolve the issue. The U.S. is the party blocking it. If there is a pact signed in June sanctions will end. If there is no pact signed in June the U.S. will be blamed and the sanction regime will fall apart. The Russian decision to finally provide S-300 air defense to Iran was an explicit sign for that. The Chinese are currently heavily bribing Pakistan to get a land route to Iranian gas. The U.S. will soon no longer able to constrain Iran through an internationally supported "crippling sanctions" regime.

Before the U.S. attacked Iraq the sanction regime there was also falling apart. Without sanctions increased Iraqi oil production would have lowered the price of oil. The oil men, and the Bush administration had many of them, would have made much less money. The attack on Iraq prevented that oil dump.

Similar conditions apply to the Iran sanction regime. As soon as Iran can sell as much as it wants oil prices will go down even more. The major oil companies would suffer. The Saudis would lose market share. Is the Obama administration willing to go to war, or to at least create some "incident", to prevent that?

Why else is that fleet in the Arab sea? Pat Lang fears that some new Gulf of Tokin incident might unfold. Why would he think that?

Posted by b at 02:38 PM | Comments (50)

April 18, 2015

Open Thread 2015-18

News & views ...

Posted by b at 12:18 PM | Comments (218)

April 17, 2015

Ukraine: "Both Sides Touched" By NATO Related Murder Of The Other Side

The Washington Post's Michael Birnbaum invented a new funny way to equalized victims and perpetrators of serious crimes:

MOSCOW — A pro-Russian Ukrainian journalist was gunned down in Kiev on Thursday, authorities said, a day after a Ukrainian politician supporting Moscow was found dead.

The killing of Oles Buzyna, 45, raised fears of a new wave of back-and-forth violence in the streets of Ukraine after a string of unsolved deaths that has touched both sides of the conflict between Ukraine’s Western-allied government and pro-Moscow separatists.

Indeed the "unsolved deaths" "touched both sides" with eleven people on one side getting murdered while the other side covered up these murders as "suicides" and very likely also provided the killers.

Eight politicians of the Party of Region of former president Yanukovich, ousted in a U.S. inspired coup, were killed as were three journalists un-sympathetic to the now ruling coup government.

There is some curious connection between some of the recent killings and NATO. As RB at NiqNaq provides (recommended):

On Apr 14, a profile of Oles’ Buzina was added to https://psb4ukr.org/ site (where Ukrainian government encourages people to fink the authorities on the people suspected of separatism); on Apr 15, Oles’ Buzina was killed near his home with 4 shots. I (my correspondent – RB) looked up the Web address where they posted Buzina’s address, and found that it’s hosted on a NATO server.

The Niqnaq post provides details and screenshots demonstrating the connection to NATO. (A short take is also here.) I was myself researching the issue for MoA when I found that Niqnaq post and I can confirm the findings and add a bit.

Two names and personal data of persons recently assassinated in Ukraine were posted on a "nationalist" website shortly before those persons were killed. That website, psb4ukr.org (screenshot) auto-translated from Russian to English (screenshot), is headlined:

"Peacemaker"

RESEARCH CENTRE FEATURES OF CRIMES AGAINST UKRAINE'S NATIONAL SECURITY, PEACE, SECURITY AND HUMANITY international law
Information for law enforcement authorities and special services about pro-Russian terrorists, separatists, mercenaries, war criminals, and murderers.

Next to some news pieces the site carries a list for download with some 7,700 names of "saboteurs" and "terrorists".

On a first view the name "psb4ukr.org" is anonymously registered through the U.S. company Wild West Domains.

A "traceroute" command shows that Internet Protocol requests to the server "psb4ukr.org" end in a datacenter in Dallas, Texas at dallas-ipc.com and the IP number 208.115.243.222.

A "nslookup" command with the input "psb4ukr.org" confirms in its output the registered IP Number to be "208.115.243.222" (screenshot).

A reverse "nslookup" command with the input "208.115.243.222" provides the output "psb4ukr.nato.int". (screenshot).

 

"nato.int" is the Internet domain namespace registered and reserved for NATO. Why is a server for a website which is hunting for dissidents in Ukraine - some of whom have been killed - registered within the NATO Internet namespace?

After some additional research we find that the non-anonymous registration to "psb4ukr.org" is to one Vladimir Kolesnikov, 98 Lenin St, Velyka Oleksandrivka, Kyiv Oblast, Ukraine.

Further searching for Vladimir Kolesnikov we find that Mr. Kolesnikov has registered several other websites through Limestone Networks, Inc in Dallas, Texas.

Some of these website seem to be concerned with crypto payment, teletraining and unrelated stuff. Some others are related to the nasty "nationalist" side of the Ukraine conflict. Operativ.info asks for tip offs about "saboteurs" and "terrorists" and their operations while informnapalm.org is a general "nationalist" news collection.

There is no hint of any NATO-relation in these other sides. A reverse nslookup like the one that shows a relation like between "psb4ukr.org" and "psb4ukr.nato.int" does not deliver such results for the other website registered to Mr. Kolesnikov.

One possible explanation for the "psb4ukr.nato.int" lookup result might be that the website was originally build or tested within the NATO namespace and later transferred outside without cleaning up some of the original name references.

Posted by b at 03:06 PM | Comments (79)

April 16, 2015

The Richard Engel Kidnapping Fake - MoA Scooped MSM By 28 Month

The veil is lifting a bit over the slew of the "bad Assad" propaganda stories that built the case for the war on Syria. The New York Times reports today: NBC News Alters Account of Correspondent’s Kidnapping in Syria

NBC News on Wednesday revised its account of the 2012 kidnapping of its chief foreign correspondent, Richard Engel, saying it was likely that Mr. Engel and his reporting team had been abducted by a Sunni militant group, not forces affiliated with the government of President Bashar al-Assad of Syria.

Moon of Alabama questioned the original Richard Engel story at that time and found that the whole "kidnapping" and "rescue" was likely a completely staged event:

Professor As'ad AbuKhalil, the Angry Arab, has reason to not believe that story and has indications that these were not Assad loyalists but FSA insurgents playing the role of Assad loyalists for a fake media stunt.

There is now new evidence that this was indeed a fake event and that, whatever Richard Engel may believe, he and the people with him (which included one ever unnamed "British engineer" who is more likely some special operations guy) were not in the hands of Shabiha but in the hand of well known experienced video fakers.

We had earlier looked at the fake citizen journalist Khaled Abu Salah who created and distributed fake videos about "Assad atrocities" sponsored by the shady U.S. para-government organization Avaaz. He was, as we documented, involved in the Richard Engels stunt. This led us to ask:

Cont. reading: The Richard Engel Kidnapping Fake - MoA Scooped MSM By 28 Month

Posted by b at 07:24 AM | Comments (31)

Why Does The World Wage War Against The People Of Yemen?

Nearly the whole world, seemingly paid off by Saudi money, is waging war against Yemen.

How else can one explain the silence that surrounds the Saudi bombing campaign that will lead to devastating starvation in Yemen and will turn that country into a second, bigger Gaza?

The sycophantic UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon kicked out the UN envoy to Yemen, Jamal Benomar, because Benomar did not endorse the Saudi bombing campaign. He will be replaced with the Saudi choice Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmad from Mauritania:

Previously, in Yemen, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmad was “an embarrassment,” as multiple UN sources put it to Inner City Press. But, hey, whatever the Saudis want.

A UN Security Council resolution against the Yemeni people practically endorsed the Saudi blockade, bombing and starvation campaign by 14 to 0. Russia was criticized for only abstaining but not vetoing the resolution. I can see two reasons for the Russian vote. For one Russia may believe that the Saudi campaign will, in the end, severely hurt Saudi Arabia which would be to Russia's advantage. It may also have not vetoed because China, for whatever reason, endorsed the resolution. China and Russia prefer to veto together to avert to be singled out and blamed.

The Saudis have bombed not only refugee camps and food depots in Yemen but also the telecommunication networks, news stations and electricity networks. Sanaa has been without electricity for over 60 hours now. On Monday the soccer stadiums in Ibb, Aden, and Sanaa were bombed. Yesterday 16 gas stations, with long lines of cars waiting for fuel, were bombed in one case leaving at least 17 people dead and 50 wounded.

Between March 26 and April 11 the Saudis bombed Yemen over 1,200 times. According to an earlier account by a Yemeni army spokesperson 2,571 were killed of which 381 were children and 455 women. 1,200 official institution and 72 schools were destroyed. In the last 24 hours another 56 civilians were killed.

Fuel prices have increased by 600%, bread by at least 300%. Cooking gas is running out and without fuel or electricity water pumps can not run. People will starve but for lack of reporting abilities in the country no one will notice.

While the Saudis claim to bomb the Houthis but destroy Yemeni infrastructure Al Qaeda took full control over the harbor city al-Mukalla and slaughtered 15 Yemeni soldiers in Shabwa province in south Yemen. The Yemeni 2nd brigade, run by a Saudi stooge, gave up its weapons to AlQaeda. The Pakistanis were smart enough to reject the Saudi request for Pakistani foot soldiers to die in Yemen. The Saudi plan B is now to hire "local forces" to do their dirty bidding which means that the Saudis will, like in Syria, finance and support Al Qaeda's takeover of that country. Pakistan should send the Taliban to teach the Saudi how religious lunatics fight.

The U.S. is helping the Saudis not only with weapons and ammunition. At least 20 U.S. officers were send to a joint headquarter in Riyadh and are vetting the Saudi targeting lists.

Nobody in Washington or elsewhere believes that the Saudi campaign will solve anything in Yemen. But why then endorse and support it and the all the suffering it creates?

Posted by b at 03:44 AM | Comments (49)

April 15, 2015

Rumor: Saudis Finance Israeli Anti-Iran Campaign

A report by Robert Parry at Consortium News asserts that Saudi Arabia has paid several billion dollars to Israel to lobby in Washington for anti-Iranian positions:

Over the past several years, as both Saudi Arabia and Israel have identified Iran and the so-called “Shiite crescent” as their principal enemies, this once-unthinkable alliance has become possible – and the Saudis, as they are wont to do, may have thrown lots of money into the deal.

According to a source briefed by U.S. intelligence analysts, the Saudis have given Israel at least $16 billion over the past 2 ½ years, funneling the money through a third-country Arab state and into an Israeli “development” account in Europe to help finance infrastructure inside Israel.

The claim is thinly sourced but I regard it as possible. Parry was the first to report the Iran-Contra scandal and has good journalistic credentials. There are many common interests Saudi Arabia and Israel have in Lebanon and Syria as well as in their common position against Iran. Just think about Israel's support for the Saudi financed Jabhat al-Nusra in the Golan heights.

But the common interests between Saudi Arabia and Israel, documented in Parry's piece, are also entirely plausible without any money paid by Saudi Arabia.

A slush fund of that size, if it exists at all, can hardly be hidden for long. If there is some truth to the claim I expect more confirming leaks.

Until then let us file this under "rumor".

Posted by b at 12:06 PM | Comments (23)

April 13, 2015

Repost: Günter Grass - What Has To Be Said

The German poet and writer Günter Grass died today. In his honer a repost from April 4 2012.

---

Today the German Süddeutsche Zeitung published a poem by Günter Grass about the conflict between Israel and Iran. The usual subjects immediately condemned the writer.

The following is my unauthorized (amateur) translation of the complete poem into English. I tried to stay as near as possible to the, sometimes seemingly awkward but certainly intended, original line breaks and punctuation.

What has to be said

Why am I silent, conceal too long,
what is obvious and in war games
has been trained, at whose end we as survivors
will at the most be footnotes.

It is the alleged right of first strike,
with which the Iranian people,
subjugated by a loudmouth
and steered towards organized elation,
could be snuffed out with,
because the building of a nuclear bomb
within its fiefdom is assumed.

But why do I prohibit myself,
to name that other country,
in which for years - though kept secret -
a growing capability exists
though out of control as
not open for audit?

Cont. reading: Repost: Günter Grass - What Has To Be Said

Posted by b at 02:17 PM | Comments (77)

Ukraine: Right Sector Breaks Ceasefire, Newsweek Smears Akhmetov

Serious fighting has again started in east Ukraine. The AP reports:

On Sunday alone, the OSCE recorded at least 1,166 explosions, caused mainly by artillery and mortar shell strikes in northern Donetsk as well as on its outskirts including the airport, now obliterated by fighting.

The OSCE also reported intense mortar fire outside the village of Shyrokyne, by the Azov Sea, but said its representatives were repeatedly barred from accessing the village on Sunday.

The AP report does not say who or what started these battles. It is dancing around the really important issue of who broke the ceasefire with this:

Col. Andriy Lishchynskyi, a Ukrainian representative for monitoring the cease-fire in the east, blamed the clashes on "a highly emotional state and personal animosity" between the fighters on both sides, according to the Interfax news agency.

Yeah, that is what a "Ukrainian representative" would probably say. What are the readers to assume from that?

The AP writers certainly read the relevant OSCE spot report. So why did they leave out this part?

Both the Ukrainian Armed Forces representative and the Russian Federation representative to the Joint Centre for Control and Co-ordination (JCCC) told the SMM that the Ukrainian side (assessed to be the Right Sector volunteer battalion) earlier had made an offensive push through the line of contact towards Zhabunki (“DPR”-controlled, 14km west-north-west of Donetsk), ...

The Nazis from the Right Sector Azov battalion attacked, broke the ceasefire and started the fighting.

But readers of just AP reports will not learn that.

There is a comparable issue with this smear piece by Newsweek. It is somewhat laudable in that it is the first one I see in the "western" media which reports on the issue of the eight political functionaries who were "suicided" in Ukraine by unknown perpetrators:

Cont. reading: Ukraine: Right Sector Breaks Ceasefire, Newsweek Smears Akhmetov

Posted by b at 01:26 PM | Comments (59)

April 12, 2015

US AID And The Ebola Scare Scam - $1.4 Billion For Unused Treatment Centers

Last years Ebola scare was ineffectively answered by the U.S. government by showering $1.4 billion, without any significant results, on some military contractors.

Empty Ebola Clinics in Liberia Are Seen as Misstep in U.S. Relief Effort

[A]fter spending hundreds of millions of dollars and deploying nearly 3,000 troops to build Ebola treatment centers, the United States ended up creating facilities that have largely sat empty: Only 28 Ebola patients have been treated at the 11 treatment units built by the United States military, American officials now say.

Nine centers have never had a single Ebola patient.

This was predictable and predicted:

“I warned them, ‘The only thing you’ll show is an empty E.T.U.,’ ” [Dr. Hans Rosling, a Swedish public health expert who advised Liberia’s health ministry,] added. “ ‘Don’t do it.’ ”

US AID and the U.S. military did it anyway. They played dumb if only to spend all the allocated money:

“Our initial expectation, based on some of the models and some of the experiences and precedents from past Ebola outbreaks, was that the way you would beat this would be to get enough E.T.U. beds,” [Jeremy Konyndyk, who headed the Ebola response for the United States Agency for International Development, which was in charge of the American campaign] said.

Bullshit. Epidemics are not fought and beaten by treatment but by reducing infection rates. That is well known and what we wrote about the Ebola scare turned therefore out to be true:

The means of infection are well known, in general body fluids of all kinds from an infected person will carry the virus. That knowledge alone will help enough to decrease the number of newly infected people as more are warned and protect themselves when caring for an infected person. The epidemic will thereby die out within a few weeks.

That is exactly what happened:

The emphasis on constructing treatment centers — so widely championed last year — ended up having much less impact than the inexpensive, nimble measures taken by residents to halt the outbreak, many officials say.
...
“Communities taking responsibility for their own future — not waiting for us, not waiting for the government, not waiting for the international partners, but starting to organize themselves,” said Peter Graaff, the leader of the United Nations intervention in Liberia.

In the neighborhood where the outbreak in Monrovia started in June, a 200-volunteer task force formed in July, with residents buying chlorine and buckets to put in public places and donating two vehicles so volunteers could monitor the sick.

Lowering the infection rates by teaching precaution and isolating infected cases is the only reasonable way to stop any epidemic. No overdose of Vitamin C or other crazy measures some commentators here suggested would help.

If and how those who are already infected get treated is solely a question of human dignity. One can, as was done in old times, completely isolate infected persons and just let them die. Or one can build expensive treatment units and give them full care. Neither alternative will make any real difference in the number of newly infected patients and only that number decides about the total epidemic trend.

All this is well known and practiced and thereby enabled this blogger to predict the way this scare was going to go.

That the US AID people thought differently will have one of two reasons:

  • They are completely ignorant about epidemics
  • They were in on the scam to shuffle some $1.4 billion to some contractors

They should be fired in either case.

As the Ebola scare is now over no money will be allocated to keep those empty treatment centers up and going. The will get looted, turned to scrap or go down by other means. There will be no constant if small flow of money to the health systems of the affected countries which would help them to prepare for the next epidemic crisis. Only when that comes and a new scare can be raised will again money flow and again be scammed away from those who really need it.

Posted by b at 10:07 AM | Comments (24)

April 11, 2015

Open Thread 2015-17

News & views ...

Posted by b at 02:09 PM | Comments (107)

April 10, 2015

Reward NYT's David D. Kirkpatrick By No Longer Hitting Him

This editorializing is part of a news-piece in today's New York Times:

Mr. Kerry said he was seeking to reassure allies, including Saudi Arabia, that the United States could “do two things at the same time.” The United States could help push back against Iranian attempts to project its influence around the region, he argued, while at the same time negotiating a deal that would reward Tehran for providing guarantees that it was not building nuclear weapons.

Someone should ask the NYT writer, David D. Kirkpatrick, if no longer hitting him in the face would be a "reward" for him.

How can lifting "punishing sanction" for something Tehran has long provided be a "reward"?

Iran has a long time ago given guarantees to not build nuclear weapons. It signed and ratified the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons in 1968. The "reward" for that was the unkept promise by the nuclear weapon states to get rid of their weapons.

One wonders why such editorializing structure like the use of "reward" here is allowed in a news piece. Then again: It is the New York Times and most "news" therein is now expected to be editorializing propaganda. If only the "journalist" writing that stuff would stop to pretend otherwise. We could then "reward" them by no longer hitting them.

Posted by b at 02:05 PM | Comments (28)

April 09, 2015

In Lack Of Self Awareness Kerry Accuses Iran Over War On Yemen

Is lack of self awareness a requirement for becoming U.S. Secretary of State?

To recap: The former Yemeni president was installed by Saudi Arabia and the United States. Depending on the narrative one chooses (all of these are somewhat true) his mandate expired, he resigned or was ousted in a coup by a locals tribal/religious group, the Houthi, in collusion with the former president Saleh. The president fled from the country to Saudi Arabia. No one in Yemen wants him back.

Next Saudi Arabia starts a war on Yemen and bombs military, government and economic targets killing soldiers as well as civilians and creating a massive hunger crisis. Yet another food distribution center was destroyed today. A ground attack is in planning and may commence soon.

Yemen is depend on food imports and also on imported hydrocarbon products like fuel, gasoline and for electricity. The ports are blocked and expected import transports with food and petrol get turned away. For lack of raw materials the last running refinery in Yemen just shut down. Lack of food and gasoline for water pumps and transport will predictably create mass starvation within the already destitute population.

The new ruling group in Yemen has no interest in creating trouble abroad. It is successfully fighting AlQaeda which tries to nab up parts of the country. Is that the reason for the Saudi attacks? The Houthis claim that Saudi air attacks on prisons are designed to free AlQaeda members.

The U.S. supports the illegal Saudi War on Yemen and the Saudi demand to return Hadi to power. When the president of Ukraine was driven out in a coup would that have justified bombing attacks by the Russian air-force against Kiev? Why shouldn't Russia act interfere in neighboring Ukraine when the U.S. is literally fueling the far-away war on Yemen?

There is little international support for the Houthi and while Iran has verbally supported them and called for a peaceful solution of the situation no evidence has been shown that that there is any material support coming from Tehran.

But all the facts above seem to be unavailable to the brain of Secretary of State Kerry. In an interview with PBS he, who is supporting the war on Yemen, is accusing Iran of what the Saudis do:

We’re well aware of the support that Iran has been giving to Yemen, and Iran needs to recognize that the United States is not going to stand by while the region is destabilized or while people engage in overt warfare across lines, international boundaries, in other countries.

So we’re very concerned about it. And we will – what we’ve made clear to our friends and allies is we can do two things at the same time. We have an ability to understand that an Iran with a nuclear weapon is a greater threat than an Iran without one; and at the same time, we have an ability to be able to stand up to interference that is inappropriate or against international law, or contrary to the region’s stability. and interests and those of our friends.

The U.S is the one that has for decades, including through several wars, destabilized the Middle East. It is the U.S. and the U.S. "ally" Saudi Arabia Who are engaging "in overt warfare across lines, international boundaries, in other countries". They are waging a  war on Yemen that is "inappropriate" and "against international law", and "contrary to the region’s stability".

It seems like Kerry looked into a mirror, lacked the self awareness to recognize himself and accused Iran of being all he saw.

Does he expect to be taken seriously?

Posted by b at 10:59 AM | Comments (47)

April 08, 2015

Wars Are Always Short ... Until They Are Fought

November 15, 2002 - Rumsfeld: It Would Be A Short War

There will be no World War III starting with Iraq, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld declared Thursday, and rejected concerns that a war would be a quagmire.

"The idea that it's going to be a long, long, long battle of some kind I think is belied by the fact of what happened in 1990," he said on an Infinity Radio call-in program.

He said the U.S. military is stronger than it was during the Persian Gulf War, while Iraq's armed forces are weaker.

"Five days or five weeks or five months, but it certainly isn't going to last any longer than that," he said. "It won't be a World War III."

April 8, 2015 - Tom Cotton: Bombing Iran Would Take “Several Days,” Be Nothing Like Iraq War

Sen. Tom Cotton says bombing Iran’s nuclear facilities would take several days and be nothing like Iraq War.
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Cotton said any military action against Iran would not be like the Iraq War and would instead be similar to 1999’s Operation Desert Fox, a four-day bombing campaign against Iraq ordered by President Bill Clinton.
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“It would be something more along the lines of what President Clinton did in December 1998 during Operation Desert Fox. Several days air and naval bombing against Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction facilities for exactly the same kind of behavior. ..."

Posted by b at 11:10 AM | Comments (39)

April 07, 2015

In Yemen Like Elsewhere The Saudi Sectarianism Creates Iran's Role

The Saudis continue their senseless war on Yemen. Next to bombing army troops and installation and thereby hindering it to go after AlQaeda they are systematically bombing electricity plants, water supplies and food centers:

Yemen Economic Corporation, one of Yemen’s largest food storage centres, was destroyed by three coalition missile strikes in Hodeidah last Tuesday, according to the Houthi-controlled defence ministry. The corporation had enough food for the entire country.

The government’s military food storage centre in Hodeidah was also targeted and destroyed on Tuesday, according to the defence ministry.

Also in Hodeidah, country’s second largest dairy plant was hit by five Saudi missiles on Wednesday, killing at least 29 people, mostly employees, and injuring dozens of others.

Unsurprisingly even those Yemenis who do not support the Zaydi Houthi rebellion are against the Saudi attacks. They will take revenge.

The Saudis continue to get favorable press coverage in the "western" media. No one seems to speak out against their war of aggression. Obama, who ordered the U.S. military to support the Saudi campaign, is only concerned with selling more weapons to them.

The Saudis want to invade Yemen but they need foot soldiers to do the bleeding. As their own people will no appreciate Saudi casualties they asked the Pakistani government to send them three divisions of cannon fodder. They specified that those division are to be purely Sunni. The Pakistani army, in a fight with Saudi supported radical Sunnis in its own country, was not amused. Some 30% of the army personal is not Sunni and the Pakistanis certainly want to keep sectarianism out of its rows. The conflict is Yemen is not about sects or religion but the Saudis, and most "western" media, do their best to turn it into one.

The Saudis have given Pakistan several "gifts" of billions of dollars and the current prime minister Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is a Saudi protege. But all parties in the parliament are against sending their troops to Yemen and Nawaz Sharif is therefore struggling to do his sponsor's bidding:

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said Pakistan is “not in a hurry” to decide whether to join the Saudi-led coalition against rebels in Yemen as Parliament resumed discussion on the issue.

The premier addressed a joint session of the Parliament a day after Defence Minister Khawaja Asif revealed Saudi Arabia wanted Pakistani warplanes, warships and soldiers. Not a single lawmaker has spoken in favour of sending troops.
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The premier has repeatedly said he will defend any threat to Saudi Arabia's “territorial integrity” without defining what threat that could be, or what action he would take.

Pakistan, as well as Turkey and Iran, wants to stop the war before it gets out of hands. On Friday the Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu met his Pakistani counterpart, Nawaz Sharif, in Ankara.

That meeting is being followed by a flurry of diplomatic get-togethers: a visit to Ankara Monday for consultations by the Saudi deputy crown prince and interior minister, Mohammed bin Nayef; a visit by Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, to Tehran on Tuesday, where he’ll meeting with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei; and a visit Wednesday by Iran’s foreign minister, Javad Zarif, to Islamabad. Later in the week, the Turkish foreign minister is expected in Islamabad.

The Saudis, Turks and Pakistanis want Iran involved because they believe that Tehran has control over the Houthis. I very much doubt that. Besides some minor money donations no serious material help has come from the Iranian site. The religious connections between the 12er Shia Persians and the 5er Shia Zaydis are less than those between the Zayhdis and mainstream Sunnis.

Iran did not instigate the Houthi revolt which originally started over lower fuel subsidies. It did not instigate the Saudis to bomb Yemen. But now everyone seems to want an Iranian role in a political process to end the war. While the Saudis criticize a greater role of Iran in the Middle East they themselves create the chaos that enlarges Tehran's influence.

The Saudi position reflects in the anti-Shia position of "western" media. Over the last days there were many "concerns" and hearsay reports about Shia paramilitaries looting Tikrit after liberating it from the Islamic State. It now turns out that Sunni tribes opposed to the Islamic State did the looting and that those effected were from Sunni tribes supporting the Islamic State.

U.S. media obviously believe in the immaculate conception of the current sectarian Middle East strife. It can have nothing to do with decades of U.S. wars in the Middle East or the instigation of fervent radical Saudi/Wahhabi believes. No. When in doubt, just blame Iran and who ever seems to have Iranian support. Will that ever change?

Posted by b at 01:33 PM | Comments (32)

 
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