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June 15, 2021

Please Support Moon of Alabama

This post is pinned to the top. Please scroll down for fresh content.
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Dear reader, your support is essential to keep this site going.

Moon of Alabama provides news and analysis which other media cover late or not at all. It offers original thought and no-nonsense writing on a nearly daily basis. It is free of charge and free of distracting advertisements. The comments are open and lively. It is the effort of a single person.

While that person lives in slightly better circumstances than Spitzweg's Poor Poet, he is neither rich nor does he indulge in luxuries.

bigger

Your continued interest and your feed back keep me going. But I also need to eat and pay rent. There is currently no other income I can rely on. Thus every donation to this Poor Poet - be it $5, $50, $500 or more - is welcome and needed. A recurring contribution or sponsorship would be great.

Transaction costs are smallest when you send cash, a check or make a bank-wire transfer. Send email to MoonofA @ aol.com (remove the blanks) for the necessary details. (They are the same as before.) You can use a credit card or other means when you donate through the PayPal button below (The account is in Euro €1 = $1.21; $1 = €0.83).

Thanks you very much!

Bernhard aka b.

Posted by b at 15:38 UTC | Comments (20)

Putin Teaching A Journalist And Other New Bits Around Ryanair Flight 4978

There are some new bits about the Ryanair flight 4978 which on May 23 landed in Belarus after having received a bomb threat. To recap:

On May 23 a bomb threat against a Ryanair flight from Greece to Lithuania was emailed to airports and authorities in Lithuania, Belarus and Greece. It is not known who has sent the email. ...

Belarus Air Traffic Control, through whose airspace the plane was flying at that time, contacted the pilot, informed him of the threat and recommended landing the plane in Minsk. The pilot contacted Ryanair management and then decided to follow the advice. The plane landed at 10:15 utc (13:15 Belorussian time), the passengers disembarked and a lengthy bomb search was carried out. No bomb was found.
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The passengers had to pass through passport controls. Two passengers were found to have outstanding arrest warrants against them and were detained. The other passengers flew to their original destination.
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[J]ust an hour after the plane had landed [regime change agent] Frank Viacorka, who is followed by many 'blueticks' on Twitter, presented a narrative of the incident which strongly diverted from reality but allowed for a new push of the stalled regime change agenda.
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The widely shared tweet and the ones following it implied that the Belorussian government ordered the plane down to arrest the regime change agent Protasevich.

When one looks into the details of the case it soon becomes obvious that the narrative is false.

The false narrative continues to be told by 'western' media. It has led, as its originators hoped, to the introduction of new sanctions against Belarus.

The case came up again during a recent interview by NBC with the Russian President Vladimir. The transcript and video are available here:

Cont. reading: Putin Teaching A Journalist And Other New Bits Around Ryanair Flight 4978

Posted by b at 15:36 UTC | Comments (0)

June 14, 2021

Corruption Is Profitable. But Does It Have To Be This Profitable?

Aduhlem, a drug that is supposed to slow Alzheimer's effects, had failed to show efficacy in two trials. It showed some reduction of plaques in the brain which may or may not be significant.

Ten of the eleven advisors of the Federal Drug Administration voted "no" when asked if there was enough evidence that the drug is useful. One voted "uncertain". Last week the FDA approved the drug and claimed that the plaques reduction effect is somewhat meaningful.

Three of the advisors resigned.

The cost per patient per year for the drug will be some $56,000. There are some 6 million people in the U.S. with Alzheimer's. Medicare and Medicaid, which will have to pay for the drug because it is FDA approved, will have to bear the costs. The company which makes the drug, Biogen, will gain ginormous profits from it. As will physicians who prescribe the drug, administer the infusions and bill 6% of the drug's price for it.

The above is a portrait of a deeply corrupt system in which all incentives are set in the wrong direction.

Now, corruption in national medical systems is not unusual and can be found all over the world. But what I find astonishing with the U.S. system is how little money companies like Biogen actually have to pay to get deals done that will make them billions.

The man who pushed for the FDA approval was no other than President Joe Biden. As the American Conservative, linked below, writes:

Less than two weeks prior to the approval, President Joe Biden said that “if we don’t do something about Alzheimer’s in America… every single [hospital bed] will be occupied in the next 15 years with an Alzheimer’s patient.” Guess which 2020 candidate was the largest recipient of campaign funds by a large margin from Biogen and affiliated parties? Joe Biden, with $76,241.

How cheap is that?

Within the next few years Biogen will make a million times more money than it paid to Joe Biden's campaign. Couldn't he have asked for 10%, 1% or an already cheap 0.01%? It would still have been a great deal for the company. But Biden is so downright cheap that he sold out for 0.000001% of Biogen's gain.

What a lowlife.

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Sources:

Posted by b at 15:12 UTC | Comments (89)

June 13, 2021

The MoA Week In Review - OT 2021-045

Last week's posts at Moon of Alabama:

> A mystery bidder paid $28 million at auction Saturday for a seat alongside Jeff Bezos on board the first crewed spaceflight of the billionaire's company Blue Origin next month. <

Elon Musk?

Jack Parrock @jackeparrock - 9:29 utc · Jun 11, 2021
The lateral flow COVID tests we have to do every day at the #G7 summit are “Made in China”. 🇨🇳
Western powers still need a bit of help from the East.

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Other issues:

Cont. reading: The MoA Week In Review - OT 2021-045

Posted by b at 12:44 UTC | Comments (140)

June 12, 2021

Why Is There A Biden-Putin Summit And What Is It Supposed To Achieve?

On June 16 the Presidents of Russia and the United States will hold talks:

Biden ends the trip Wednesday with summit in Geneva with Russia’s Vladimir Putin. The White House announced Saturday that the leaders will not hold a joint news conference after meeting, removing the opportunity for comparisons to the availability that followed Trump and Putin’s 2018 Helsinki summit in which Trump sided with Moscow over his own intelligence agencies.

Aides have suggested that the U.S. did not want to elevate Putin further by having the two men appear together in such a format. Others have expressed concern that Putin could try to score points on Biden, 78, who will be in the final hours of a grueling eight-day European trip.

The real reason for not holding a joint press conference is of course that a senile Biden is likely to brabble some nonsense and ruin the summit spin his minders want to put out there.

The U.S. initiated the summit which comes early in Biden's presidency. The not yet answered question is why, and what the U.S. wants to achieve with it?

The short answer, discussed in length below, is that:

  1. The U.S. wants to take on China. The U.S. recognized that it can not take on China and Russia simultaneously. Russia must thus be split from its China alliance and brought back into Europe.
  2. Russia's new strategic weapon systems may enable a first strike on the U.S. A new strategic arms agreement is the only way to avert that existential threat. (It would also save a lot of money.)

Both of these strategic aims are unlikely to get achieved because the U.S. foreign policy community is still misjudging the global situation as well as Russia's strength and position. It wants the summit to fail.

Now the long version.

In an essay published on his email list Prof. Michael Brenner, a regular reader of Moon of Alabama, gives his answer to our questions:

Cont. reading: Why Is There A Biden-Putin Summit And What Is It Supposed To Achieve?

Posted by b at 17:03 UTC | Comments (152)

June 11, 2021

Another 'Nuclear Iran' Claim By David Albright Gets Debunked

Two days ago FOX News ran another sensational story about Iran's nuclear program.

Satellite images of Iran nuclear site raise alarms as IAEA meets in Vienna

However the claims in that story are based on a report by David Albright's Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS). Albright is known for his false or misleading conclusions about mostly random 'evidence'.

The story:

Fox News has obtained new satellite images that show unusual activity at Iran’s Sanjarian site, which has been exposed in the past as a suspected manufacturing site for "shock wave generators" – devices which would allow Iran to miniaturize a nuclear weapon.

The new images obtained from Maxar show 18 vehicles at the site on October 15, 2020, more vehicles and excavation in January along with a new access road that was later covered up in March of this year. All that is visible by satellite now are excavation swirls and new trenches, according to analysis from Itay Bar Lev of The Intel Lab who worked in conjunction with the Institute for Science and International Security.

The site, which is 25 miles outside Tehran and has a population of 361, was first revealed when Israel's Mossad obtained Iran's secret nuclear archive in 2018: 50,000 computer files and 50,000 documents outlining Iran's Amad project, the scientific program to build a nuclear weapon which the IAEA says was halted in 2003.

The pictures FOX News presents are supposed to show the site on October 15 2020 and on January 18 2021. There are only slight differences.

Cont. reading: Another 'Nuclear Iran' Claim By David Albright Gets Debunked

Posted by b at 17:50 UTC | Comments (50)

June 10, 2021

Biden Seeks Allies For War On China

U.S. President Joe Biden is currently in Europe.

President Biden @POTUS - 14:26 UTC · Jun 10, 2021

I believe we are at an inflection point in history. A moment where it falls to us to prove that democracies will not just endure — they will excel as we rise to seize the enormous opportunities of this new age.

Democracies excel against whom?

According to the Democracy Perception Index 2020 73% of the people in China say that their country is democratic. Only 48% in the United States see their country as such.

China is indeed rising to the "enormous opportunities of this new age". The U.S., well, not so much. And that is the crux of the whole situation.

Biden's tweet is gibberish. A good translation of what he really meant is probably this:

chinahand @chinahand - 14:55 UTC · Jun 10, 2021

It's how the more homely and honest "we have to f*ck up china before it eats America's lunch" gets translated into faux Churchill hero speak. Suspect Jake Sullivan lobbied for the existential crisis for democracy angle coz why wud Europe line up to just to save America's ass?

Biden is in Europe to ask its leaders to support the U.S. in its efforts against China (and Russia). But that is not in Europe's interest:

The President and his advisors would do well to remember that while former Belgian foreign minister Mark Eyskens famously said that Europe is a political dwarf, he also called it an economic giant. As several U.S. presidents have discovered, the subservience of European countries to the United States stops as soon as European wallets are involved. This was demonstrated most recently in Germany’s adamant refusal to bow to U.S.pressure to abandon the North Stream gas pipeline from Russia.

A degree of common Western economic pushback against China is legitimate and necessary in two areas: Chinese behavior that clearly breaks universally accepted rules, as in the area of intellectual property theft; and control of vital national infrastructure. After all, the Chinese defend their own technological expertise, and they will never allow foreign control of essential sectors of the Chinese economy.

The Biden administration however seems to want to go much further than this, to effectively shut China out from any important say in shaping the rules of the international economy, and greatly restrict Chinese investment and infrastructural development outside China. This strategy is doomed to failure, and will cause deep divisions between the United States, Europe and Japan.

Europe won't line up behind the U.S. for its great war on China. And a war it is gonna be:

Cont. reading: Biden Seeks Allies For War On China

Posted by b at 17:52 UTC | Comments (142)

Open Thread 2021-044

News & views ...

Posted by b at 14:18 UTC | Comments (111)

June 09, 2021

The End Of Crypto Currencies

The hype about crypto currencies is coming to an end.

I have always been distrustful of crypto currencies like Bitcoin and Ether. They made no sense to me. The person who invented the scheme stayed anonymous. The concept foresaw a limited number of total coins with new ones becoming exponentially harder to generate or 'mine'. This would continuously require exponentially more energy. At the core of crypto currencies is the blockchain, a public ledger which holds a record of every transaction. The 'mining' is needed to verify the blockchain ledger. This concept thus had always limits in its design which at some point would make a further expansion impossible.

While people who use Bitcoins can hide behind anonymous wallets which hold their coins any transfer from and to real money would need de-anonymization at some point of exchange. These entry and exits points from and to normal currencies were another major weakness of the whole scheme. Another one was the obvious usefulness of Bitcoins for spies, criminals and tax evaders. Sooner or later authorities would clamp down on them. That is why Yves Smith of Naked Capitalism had christened crypto currencies "prosecution futures".

Crypto currencies are not money. One can not pay ones taxes with them.

In the first years most Bitcoins were acquired to buy drugs or child porn on the darknet. There was then little police activity against those markets. But over time the officials got smarter. When they caught a child porn dealer they could use his wallet address and the public ledger to find everyone who had ever paid for the 'service'. Some of the exchanges, which also have bank-like functions, turned out to be run by criminals. They went bust and the people who had parked their bitcoins at that 'bank' lost their money.

Other exchanges, like Coinbase, went 'official' and even became listed at stock exchanges. But they soon had to agree to turn customer records over to the Justice Department for possible tax evasion and other investigations.

Some claim that crypto currencies are a good investment or inflation hedge. But their value can be manipulated which makes them extremely volatile.


via Heisenberg Report - bigger>

There have been offers to donate to Moon or Alabama in crypto currencies. I never accepted any. It was not worth the potential risk of getting caught up in this or that criminal investigation.

2021 will probably be the year in which Bitcoin finally dies.

Cont. reading: The End Of Crypto Currencies

Posted by b at 18:00 UTC | Comments (190)

June 07, 2021

Space Oddities

Jeff Bezos is going to space, says a CNN report:

Jeff Bezos will be flying to space on the first crewed flight of the New Shepard, the rocket ship made by his space company, Blue Origin. The flight is scheduled for July 20th, just 15 days after he is set to resign as CEO of Amazon.

Blue Origin said Bezos' younger brother, Mark Bezos, will also join the flight.
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If all goes according to plan, Bezos — the world's richest person with a net worth of $187 billion — will be the first of the billionaire space tycoons to experience a ride aboard the rocket technology that he's poured millions into developing. Not even Elon Musk, whose SpaceX builds rockets powerful enough to enter orbit around Earth, has announced plans to travel to space aboard one of his companies human-worthy crew capsules.

The world richest person will of course not pay for the trip.

Blue Origin as well as its competitor SpaceX are part of NASA's commercial crew and human landing system (HLS) programs which subsidize and support the development of various space flight and moon landing systems.

This was supposed to lead to the development of several commercial space services from which NASA can then select one for each of its missions. But when Blue Origin lost out in a recent bid to actually build the human landing system the company immediately launched a protest:

Blue Origin says in the GAO protest that its “National Team,” which included Draper, Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman, bid $5.99 billion for the HLS award, slightly more than double SpaceX’s bid. However, it argues that it was not given the opportunity to revise that bid when NASA concluded that the funding available would not allow it to select two bidders, as originally anticipated. NASA requested $3.3 billion for HLS in its fiscal year 2021 budget proposal but received only $850 million in an omnibus appropriations bill passed in December 2020.

Having failed to bilk the government out of several more billions Bezos called on his lobbyists:

In recent years, Blue Origin also has given its operation in the nation’s capital more muscle. It spent nearly $2 million in lobbying last year, up from a little more than $400,000 in 2015, according to OpenSecrets.org, which tracks spending. The company’s political action committee has amped up its donations as well, spending $320,000 in 2020, up from $22,000 in 2016.

A few envelopes changed hands and achieved the desired result:

Democratic Senator Maria Cantwell—from Amazon’s home state of Washington—tacked on $10 billion for NASA into the Endless Frontier Act, a bill that allocates funding to conduct research in technological innovation and space exploration. Presumably, Blue Origin will get a chunk of this, since Cantwell’s amendment specifically states that NASA will subsidize “design, development, testing, and evaluation for not fewer than 2 entities” for the Human Landing System Program. (Both Blue Origin and Dynetics had competed for the contract.)

That led to to a pissing contest with Elon Musk's SpaceX:

In a flier, SpaceX said the Cantwell amendment “undermines the federal government procurement process, rewards Jeff Bezos with a $10 billion sole-source hand-out, and will throw NASA’s Artemis program into years of litigation.” It adds that Blue Origin “has not produced a single rocket or spacecraft capable of reaching orbit.”
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Blue Origin came back with its own flier subtitled “What is Elon Musk afraid of...a little competition?” with itemized “lies” in SpaceX’s flier. Its bottom line: “Elon Musk repeatedly talks about the value of competition, but when it comes to NASA’s Human Landing System (HLS) program, he wants it all to himself.”

That Bezos is suddenly lauding the merit of competition, after having lost a bid with a way too high price, is more than a bit hypocritical:

Washington, D.C., Attorney General Karl Racine announced Tuesday he's suing Amazon on antitrust grounds, alleging the company's practices have unfairly raised prices for consumers and suppressed innovation.

Racine is seeking to end what he alleges is Amazon's illegal use of price agreements to edge out competition; the lawsuit also asks for damages and penalties to deter similar conduct.

Amazon, Bezos' main company, also gets billions in subsidies and does not pay taxes.

Bezos, Musk and other billionaires are errors in our economic-political systems. They should be eliminated.

I am fine with subsidizing Bezos' or Musk's flights to space.

But don't make it round-trip tickets.

Posted by b at 17:15 UTC | Comments (149)