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October 21, 2020

Nagorno-Karabakh Talks Again Fail - No End Of War In Sight

As we had expected the ceasefire in the war on Nagarno-Karabakh did not hold. Azerbaijani units, supported by Turkish mercenaries from Syria, have gained new ground (yellow, blue) on the lower grounds of the southern front.

via ISW news - bigger

The topographic map shows that Armenian troops have left the hard to defend lower grounds and retreated towards the mountains. For Azerbaijahn to proceed onto higher ground will be much harder than the previous fighting.

via Imago Pyrenaei - bigger

The low ground also offered little protection for the Armenians from the massive aerial attacks by the Turkish and Israeli drones that Azerbaijahn is using. Armenian units had big losses of tanks and other equipment to aerial attacks.

However, during the last 36 hours, Armenia has shot down 8 drones. It seems to have finally found a way to detect and hit them. Canada has stopped the export of gimbal targeting turrets to Turkey. Without these the drones are blind. One recently destroyed Turkish Bayraktar drone had a very recent manufacturing date of September 2020. It is thus not a stock item. That together means that Erdogan's son in law, who produces these drones, will soon have problems to supply more of them.

Another round of talks with Armenian and Azerbaijahni representatives has been held in Moscow today.

After today's talks had ended the Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan offered a rather dark outlook for the conflict:

Cont. reading: Nagorno-Karabakh Talks Again Fail - No End Of War In Sight

Posted by b at 15:15 UTC | Comments (60)

October 20, 2020

U.S. Again Moves Goalposts For Nuclear Treaty Extension

The Trump administration wants to abandon all nuclear arms treaties with Russia. It has already left the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty that restricted some classes of shorter range nuclear weapons. It left the Open Sky treaty which allowed for verification flights. It is now letting the New-START treaty with Russia run out.

New-START limits the number of deployed strategic weapons and nuclear warheads that can be used for intercontinental attacks. These include long range bombers, silo based nuclear missiles and the number of submarine launched nuclear missiles. The treaty does not limit the number of short range nuclear weapons or the number of nuclear warheads which are not deployed but held in reserve.

The current treaty will end on February 5 2021 unless Russia and the U.S. agree to extend it for up to 5 year as that the treaty foresees. The Trump administration has said that it wants a new agreement before the upcoming election. There are now only two weeks left to negotiate an extension.

While the Trump administration wants to abandon New-Start it does not want take the blame for doing so. It first tried to include China, which has far fewer weapons than the U.S, and Russia, into the treaty. China did not want to part of the treaty even as the U.S. practiced childish diplomacy theatre to 'shame' China into negotiations.

The talks were going nowhere as the U.S. rejected the five year extension Russia wanted and demanded that other Russian arms, not covered by the current treaty, should also be included. On October 16 Russia's President Putin held a meeting with his national security cabinet. They discussed the treaty negotiations:

President of Russia Vladimir Putin:

Before we get to the main item on today’s agenda, I would like to ask Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov whether there has been any progress in the dialogue with the United States to extend one of the central documents in terms of international security and arms control. I am referring to the New START, the Treaty on Measures for the Further Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms.

Where are we in the talks with the Americans?

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov: Mr President,

In keeping with your instructions, we remain quite proactive in our contacts with our American colleagues on strategic stability matters in all their aspects, including by emphasising our initiative to take a decision without delay to extend the New START, set to expire in February 2021, for a new five-year term without any preconditions. This initiative remains on the table.

Vladimir Putin: It would be extremely sad, if this Treaty ceased to exist and was not replaced by another fundamental document of this kind. During all the previous years, the New START worked and worked properly, performing its fundamental role as a constraint curtailing the arms race and a tool of arms control. It is clear that we have new weapons systems that the American side lacks, at least for the time being. But we are not refusing to discuss this aspect of the matter as well.

In this regard, I have a proposal, namely, to extend the Treaty now in effect unconditionally for at least a year in order to have a chance to hold substantive talks on all the parameters of problems that are regulated by treaties of this kind, lest we leave our countries and all nations of the world with a vested interest in maintaining strategic stability without such a fundamental document as the Strategic Offensive Arms Limitation Treaty.

Please, formulate our position to the US partners and try to obtain at least some comprehensible reply from them as soon as possible.

Sergei Lavrov: We will do it as soon as we can, Mr President.

Vladimir Putin: Thank you.

The U.S. rejected the offer:

Cont. reading: U.S. Again Moves Goalposts For Nuclear Treaty Extension

Posted by b at 17:00 UTC | Comments (127)

October 19, 2020

Bolivia Has Won. Will Trump Win Too?

It seems that Elon Musk has lost the election in Bolivia:

Even Morales’ nemesis, the rightwing interim president, Jeanine Áñez, conceded the left had come out on top. “We do not yet have the official count, but the data we do have shows that Mr Arce [has] … won the election. I congratulate the winners and ask them to govern thinking of Bolivia and of democracy,” Áñez tweeted.

Congratulation to the Movimiento al Socialismo, its candidate Luis Arce and the people of Bolivia who withstood the onslaught of intimidation and violence from the right and the military. Even as democracy is now restored in Bolivia it would be wrong to let the right and the military get away with what they have done. They will otherwise try to do it again. The coup leaders should be hauled in front of a court. Bolivia should ask Venezuela for advice on how to coup proof its military forces.

As the U.S. regime change operation in Caracas has failed, Washington will now revert to other measures to dispose of the leaders of that country. Sanctions for this or that bullshit reason are just around the corner. Bolivia must integrate itself with other socialist and 'resistance' nations and seek autonomy from imperialist imports.

Now onto the other election that is on peoples' mind.

While most polls show that Joe Biden will win the U.S. election my gut is telling me that Donald Trump will have a second term. The election might well become a repeat of  2016 when Trump won even though most media had predicted that Hillary Clinton would win.

There are two main reasons for this. The local ground game and enthusiasm for the candidates.

The Democrats have neglected the ground game. Their get out the vote efforts seem minimal. Meanwhile the Republicans are going from door to door and have registered large number of voters:

Republican registration has ticked up in key states at the same time Democratic field operations were in hibernation. Democratic turnout is surging in the early vote. But it’s unclear whether it will be enough to overcome an expected rush of ballots that Republicans, leerier of mail voting, will cast in person on Election Day.

There is uncertainty about the accuracy of polling in certain swing states, the efficacy of GOP voter suppression efforts and even the number of mail-in ballots that for one reason or another will be disqualified.

Biden has collected more donations than Trump but money can only buy him advertisement. Trump gets media attention for free due to the constant outrage the Democrats project on him.

The second reason for predicting a Trump win is the enthusiasm of his supporters. Video shows thousands of people standing at the streets to wave at a passing Trump convoy in California. Meanwhile Biden goes out to read from giant teleprompters to empty parking lots.

While Trump will be campaigning all week Biden decided to stay at home to prepare for the next debate. How can he defend himself against the serious corruption accusations that his son's emails seem to support?

The Democrats under Biden have shunned the progressive policies who brought the most enthusiasm to the primaries. Everyone presumes that the center-right Biden is just a stand in who will be removed soon to be replaced by the center-right Kamala Harris. Harris has been Hillary Clinton's choice since at least mid 2017. During the primaries she never polled higher than 2%. Politically she is not an attractive candidate.

The other people behind the Biden/Harris campaigns are just the same warmongers who wreaked havoc all over the world during the Obama administration.

Max Abrahms @MaxAbrahms - 22:14 UTC · Oct 18, 2020

I’m expecting America to get needlessly involved in more conflicts in the name of democracy, freedom, credibility, resolve & leadership. Just listen to folks like Michèle Flournoy, Mayor Pete, Susan Rice. Non-intervention has been branded as a Putin gift. We live in stupid times.

Patrick Porter @PatPorter76 · 5h

I'm skeptical of whether a Biden presidency will significantly draw down US military presence in ME. As well as the general forces that favour inertia, there will always be more pressing things for a new Democrat president to do.

Trump has botched the response to the pandemic. But would a Democratic president have done better against the resistance of many states against harsher control measures? The reasons the U.S. was hit so hard are in my view ingrained in its society. A different president would have prepared somewhat better but the outcome would likely not have been much different.

On most domestic issues Trump is only slightly to the right of a Biden/Harris administration. His foreign policy is less warmongering but more chaotic than a Democratic administration would likely be. That makes him in total more preferable to me.

That does not mean that I would vote for Trump. If I had a vote in the upcoming election it would likely go to where it does the least harm - to some third party candidate who argues for more peaceful and more socialist policies.

Posted by b at 16:03 UTC | Comments (267)

October 18, 2020

The MoA Week In Review - Open Thread 2020-83

Last week's posts at Moon of Alabama:

  • October 13 - Professor Chossudovsky Is Wrong - Here Is How PCR Tests Work
    Last week there was an outbreak of Covid-19 in Qingdao, a harbor city of 11 million in south China. Two dock workers had fallen ill. A CT scan room used for the Covid-19 patients was not properly disinfected and another 14 people got the virus. Alarmed about the outbreak the authorities tested all people in Qingdao. Within 5 days 10.8 million RT-PCR tests were taken and processed. Chossudovsky and others claim that these tests often produce 'false positive' results. So how many 'false positives' did they find in Qingdao?
    Qingdao finishes city-wide testing, finds no new COVID-19 cases - Global Times
    None. Zero. Nada. RT-PCR tests DO NOT produce false positive results.

Other issues:

Cont. reading: The MoA Week In Review - Open Thread 2020-83

Posted by b at 14:09 UTC | Comments (226)

October 17, 2020

More Pressure On Russia Will Have No Effect

Over the last years the U.S. and its EU puppies have ratcheted up their pressure on Russia. They seem to believe that they can compel Russia to follow their diktat. They can't. But the illusion that Russia will finally snap, if only a few more sanctions ar applied or a few more houses in Russia's neighborhood are set on fire, never goes away.

As Gilbert Doctorow describes the situation:

The fires burning at Russia’s borders in the Caucasus are an add-on to the disorder and conflict on its Western border in neighboring Belarus, where fuel is poured on daily by pyromaniacs at the head of the European Union acting surely in concert with Washington.

Yesterday we learned of the decision of the European Council to impose sanctions on President Lukashenko, a nearly unprecedented action when directed against the head of state of a sovereign nation.
It is easy enough to see that the real intent of the sanctions is to put pressure on the Kremlin, which is Lukashenko’s guarantor in power, to compound the several other measures being implemented simultaneously in the hope that Putin and his entourage will finally crack and submit to American global hegemony as Europe did long ago.
The anti-Russia full tilt ahead policy outlined above is going on against a background of the U.S. presidential electoral campaigns. The Democrats continue to try to depict Donald Trump as “Putin’s puppy,” as if the President has been kindly to his fellow autocrat while in office. Of course, under the dictates of the Democrat-controlled House and with the complicity of the anti-Russian staff in the State Department, in the Pentagon, American policy towards Russia over the entire period of Trump’s presidency has been one of never ending ratcheting up of military, informational, economic and other pressures in the hope that Vladimir Putin or his entourage would crack. Were it not for the nerves of steel of Mr. Putin and his close advisers, the irresponsible pressure policies outlined above could result in aggressive behavior and risk taking by Russia that would make the Cuban missile crisis look like child’s play.

The U.S. arms industry lobby, in form of the Atlantic Council, confirms the 'western' strategy Doctorow describes. It calls for 'ramping up on Russia' with even more sanctions:

Cont. reading: More Pressure On Russia Will Have No Effect

Posted by b at 16:31 UTC | Comments (177)

October 16, 2020

"It's a hard Brexit's a-gonna fall"

Today the British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that Great Britain is now preparing for a no-deal divorce from the European Union:

The UK has to "get ready" for no trade deal with the EU, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said.

Unless there was a "fundamental" change of direction from the EU, he said the two sides would not be able to agree a post-Brexit economic partnership,

The UK set a deadline of Thursday to decide whether it was worth continuing talks amid continuing disagreements.

Both sides have indicated they want to carry on but the EU has said it is up to the UK to make the next move.

The BBC's political editor Laura Kuenssberg said a no-deal outcome seemed to be moving closer after Thursday's meeting of EU leaders - which the UK was not present at - failed to "move the dial".

There will be no 'fundamental' change in the EU position. Yesterday's EU leader meeting had put the ball into the British part of the field:

At a summit in Brussels, the EU proposed a further “two to three weeks” of negotiations but Europe’s heads of state and government offered Johnson little succour, demanding that he alone needed to “make the necessary moves to make an agreement possible”.

The intervention was evidently regarded as incendiary in No 10 as Johnson had said he would make a decision on Friday on whether there were grounds to continue the talks. In September, he had said that without agreement by the time of this summit the government would “move on” to focus on no-deal preparations.

The summit communique issued on Thursday afternoon noted the lack of progress but asked the EU’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, to “continue negotiations in the coming weeks”. To the frustration of Downing Street, a call for an “intensification” of talks, included in an earlier draft of the statement, was deleted by the time leaders signed it off.

The EU says Britain still has to move on several points:

Cont. reading: "It's a hard Brexit's a-gonna fall"

Posted by b at 14:51 UTC | Comments (105)

October 15, 2020

Open Thread 2020-82

News & views ...

Posted by b at 18:09 UTC | Comments (234)

Media Again Falsely Claim That Joe Biden's Intervention In Ukraine Was Innocent

Yesterday the New York Post posted a bombshell report related to Joe Biden's corrupt interventions in the Ukraine:

Smoking-gun email reveals how Hunter Biden introduced Ukrainian businessman to VP dad

Hunter Biden, Joe's son, was hired as lobbyist by the Ukranian gas company Burisma while his father, then Vice President of the United States, directed U.S. foreign policy with regards to the Ukraine.

Joe Biden famously ordered (vid) the Ukrainian President Poroshenko to fire his General Prosecutor Viktor Shokin. He threatened to otherwise withhold a $1 billion loan to the Ukraine. Biden's pressure to fire Shokin came ten days after Shokin had confiscated several house of Burisma owner Mykola Zlochevsky. Shokin was eventually fired, the loan to the Ukraine was released and the corruption case against Zlochevsky was buried.

Joe Biden has denied:

  • That he had talks with his son about Hunter's lobbying job for Burisma.
  • That he had ever any talk with Burisma related people.
  • That his insistence on firing Shokin was related to an investigation by Shokin into the owner of Burisma.

The emails the NY Post posted show that one of Burisma's managers thanked Hunter Biden for arranging a meeting with Joe Biden. The source of the emails is allegedly a laptop owned by Hunter Biden which was left at a repair shop.

Some Biden acolytes claim that the emails must have come from an alleged Russian hack of Burisma. But the NY Post also published private photos of Hunter Biden showing him smoking and passed out next to a crack pipe. The photos may well have been, as the Post claims, on a laptop Hunter Biden owned. It is extremely unlikely that they were hacked from Burisma severs.

The Biden campaign offered only a weak refutation of the NY Post claim that he met with the Burisma manager:

Biden’s campaign would not rule out the possibility that the former VP had some kind of informal interaction with Pozharskyi, which wouldn’t appear on Biden’s official schedule. But they said any encounter would have been cursory.

In an unprecedented manipulative act Facebook as well as Twitter censored links to the NY Post story:

Cont. reading: Media Again Falsely Claim That Joe Biden's Intervention In Ukraine Was Innocent

Posted by b at 15:46 UTC | Comments (146)

October 14, 2020

U.S. Fails To Find Allies For Waging War On China

The U.S. wants to counter China's growing economic and political standing in the world.

The Obama administration had attempted a 'pivot to Asia' by building a low tariff economic zone via the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP). It would have excluded China. The Trump administration rejected the TPP and withdrew from it. It launched an economic war against China by increasing tariffs on Chinese products, prohibiting high tech supplies to Chinese manufacturers, and by denying Chinese companies access to its market. 

It has also tried to build a military coalition that would help it to threaten China. It revived the 2007-2008 Quadrilateral Security Dialogue and rebranded it as the U.S.-Australia-India-Japan Consultations Quad. The aim was to turn it into an Asian NATO under U.S. command:

The U.S. State Department’s No. 2 diplomat said Monday that Washington was aiming to “formalize” growing strategic ties with India, Japan and Australia in a forum known as “the Quad” — a move experts say is implicitly designed to counter China in the Indo-Pacific region.

“It is a reality that the Indo-Pacific region is actually lacking in strong multilateral structures. They don’t have anything of the fortitude of NATO, or the European Union,” U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Stephen Biegun said in an online seminar on the sidelines of the annual U.S.-India Strategic Partnership Forum.

“There is certainly an invitation there at some point to formalize a structure like this,” he added.

But it turns out that neither Australia nor Japan nor India have any interest in a hard stand towards China. All look to China as an important trade partner. They know that any conflict with it would cost them dearly.

On October 6 Secretary of State Mike Pompeo flew to Tokyo for a meeting with the other foreign ministers of the Quad. He soon found that no one would join him in his militant talk:

Cont. reading: U.S. Fails To Find Allies For Waging War On China

Posted by b at 17:07 UTC | Comments (127)

October 13, 2020

Professor Chossudovsky Is Wrong - Here Is How PCR Tests Work

The website Global Research provides at times interesting reading. It is edited by Michael Chossudovsky, an emeritus professor for economics. Unfortunately he at times writes about issues that are beyond his horizon.

In a recent piece, The Covid-19 Numbers Game: The “Second Wave” is Based on Fake Statistics, he falsely claims that the tests which are globally used to detect SARS-CoV-2 infections also react to other viruses and thereby deliver false results.

The method of the currently used SARS-CoV-2 test is based on the reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR). The polymerase chain reaction can create millions of copies of RNA or DNA snippets fed into it:

Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) is a method widely used to rapidly make millions to billions of copies of a specific DNA sample, allowing scientists to take a very small sample of DNA and amplify it to a large enough amount to study in detail.
Thermal cycling exposes reactants to repeated cycles of heating and cooling to permit different temperature-dependent reactions – specifically, DNA melting and enzyme-driven DNA replication. PCR employs two main reagents – primers (which are short single strand DNA fragments known as oligonucleotides that are a complementary sequence to the target DNA region) and a DNA polymerase.

A clinical probe is taken from a human who may have the virus. In a preparation phase the probe is chemically cleaned and the outer hulls of viruses in it get destroyed. What is left includes the genetic material of the virus.

The genes of the SARS-CpV-2 are an RNA sequence with roughly 30,000 nucleotides. It is like a book with 30,000 characters on how to build the virus. It is unique for this  virus. The researchers who developed the SARS-CoV-2 RT-PCR test have selected several unique snippets of about 100 nucleotides long out of the much longer string. Complementary oligonucleotides of the same length will then get synthesized. These are the primers for all following PCR tests.

The cleaned sample (10 to 200 µL), the primers and the polymerase are fed into a machine. Repeated cycles of heating and cooling will each multiply the number of RNA snippets in the sample. Luminescent markers are added to get an automatically readable result. Typically some 20-25 cycles are needed to detect the virus RNA snippets of an acute infection. When more cycles (typically up to 40) are used even a minimal amount of a specific virus RNA snippet can be detected. The process is highly automated.

Chossudovsky has not understood how the above process works. Specifically he has not understood that the selection of the oligonucleotides for the primer is very specific to the type of virus the test is supposed to detect.

Thus he is wrong when he writes:

Cont. reading: Professor Chossudovsky Is Wrong - Here Is How PCR Tests Work

Posted by b at 19:34 UTC | Comments (189)