Tuesday, August 12, 2014

ISIS And The Global Oil Supply, Hamas Says Israeli Navy Ships Firing, 'Gaps Very Wide' In Cairo Talks

ISIS And Global Oil: Looking For The Spark For WWIII?

The arc of this story points to at least one likely conclusion: the dreadful day that ISIS (shorthand for whatever they call themselves) overruns the US Green Zone in Baghdad. Won’t that be a nauseating spectacle? Perhaps just in time for the 2014 US elections. And what do you suppose the policy meeting will be like in the White House war room the day after?

In any case, what we’re witnessing in the Middle East — apparently unbeknownst to the newspapers and the cable news orgs — is what happens in extreme population overshoot: chaos, murder, economic collapse. The human population in this desolate corner of the world has expanded on the artificial nutriment of oil profits, which have allowed governments to keep feeding their people, and maintaining an artificial middle class to work in meaningless bureaucratic offices where, at best, they do nothing and, at worst, hassle their fellow citizens for bribes and payoffs.

There is not a nation on earth that is preparing intelligently for the end of oil — and by that I mean 1) the end of cheap, affordable oil, and 2) the permanent destabilization of existing oil supply lines. Both of these conditions should be visible now in the evolving geopolitical dynamic, but nobody is paying attention, for instance, in the hubbub over Ukraine. That feckless, unfortunate, and tragic would-be nation, prompted by EU and US puppeteers, just replied to the latest trade sanction salvo from Russia by declaring it would block the delivery of Russian gas to Europe through pipelines on its territory.I hope everybody west of Dnepropetrovsk is getting ready to burn the furniture come November. But that just shows how completely irrational the situation has become… and I stray from my point.

Which is that in the worst case that ISIS succeeds in establishing a sprawling caliphate, they will never be able to govern it successfully, only preside over an awesome episode of bloodletting and social collapse.This is especially true in what is now called Saudi Arabia, with its sclerotic ruling elite clinging to power. If and when the ISIS maniacs come rolling in on a cavalcade of You-Tube beheading videos, what are the chances that the technicians running the oil infrastructure there will stick around on the job? And could ISIS run all that machinery themselves? I wouldn’t count on it. And I wouldn’t count on global oil supply lines continuing to function in the way the world requires them to. If you’re looking for the near-future spark of World War Three, start there.

By the way, the US is no less idiotic than Ukraine. We’ve sold ourselves the story that shale oil will insulate us from all the woes and conflicts breaking out elsewhere in the world over the dissolving oil economy paradigm. The shale oil story is false. By my reckoning we have about a year left of the drive-to-Walmart-economy before the public broadly gets what trouble we’re in. The amazing thing is that the public might get to that realization even before its political leadership does. That dynamic leads straight to the previously unthinkable (not for 150 years, anyway) breakup of the United States.

Hamas radio says Israeli ships firing on Gaza

Al-Aqsa Radio in Gaza, a station associated with Hamas, tweets in English that Israeli navy ships are firing on the southern city of Rafah, in violation of the ceasefire.
The report could not be independently confirmed. The IDF Spokesperson’s Unit says it’s investigating the report.

Hamas spokesperson says current truce is final one

Hamas spokesperson Moussa Abu Marzouk says that the current truce with Israel in the Gaza Strip is the second and final one, suggesting that the current Israeli effort to extend the truce by three more days may be unsuccessful — whether it’s because a breakthrough in the ceasefire talks is imminent or not remains unclear.
“We’re standing before a difficult negotiation,” he says. “The first truce passed without an acceptable achievement to note. This is the second and final truce. The seriousness right now is clear. What’s necessary is for the delegation to achieve what the Palestinian people wishes of it.”

Indirect talks between Israel and Hamas in Cairo to broker an end to the Gaza conflict have so far made no progress, a senior Israeli official said Tuesday.

“The gaps are still very wide, there has not been progress in the negotiations,” he told AFP.

His remarks came as the Egyptian-mediated talks entered their second day and a 72-hour truce held on the ground, bringing relief to millions on both sides of the Gaza border.

The negotiations are aimed at brokering a long-term ceasefire agreement to end a confrontation which erupted on July 8. According to Hamas-run Health Ministry figures, 1,939 Palestinians have been killed in the conflict. The UN says just under three-quarters of those killed in Gaza were civilians and around a third of the civilian victims were children. Israel says 750-1,000 of the dead are Hamas members and other gunmen. It also blames Hamas for all civilian fatalities, saying Hamas sets up rocket launchers and tunnel openings in Gaza neighborhoods and uses Gazans as “human shields.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had been due to discuss the Cairo talks with his security cabinet later on Tuesday afternoon but the meeting was cancelled, media reports said.
Late on Monday, a Palestinian official in Cairo told AFP that the first day of talks had lasted nearly 10 hours.
“The negotiations were serious,” he said, adding that the Israelis were insisting on the demilitarization of Hamas, the defacto power in Gaza, but that the Palestinians had refused it.
Few details have emerged from the negotiations where a Palestinian delegation, comprising senior officials from the Palestine Liberation Organisation, Hamas and Islamic Jihad, is pushing for a removal of the blockade.
For its part, Israel is demanding a full demilitarization of Gaza, with Egyptian negotiators facing an uphill battle to reconcile the two opposing positions.
Netanyahu has said it was “important” that the Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority headed by president Mahmoud Abbas play a role in Gaza’s future, particularly in its reconstruction.

Contradictory reports from Cairo about the progress of the indirect talks between Israel and Hamas are creating no little confusion, as well as suspicion, among residents of Gaza. The humanitarian situation is getting worse and there’s no sign of a solution. More than 400,000 Palestinians are homeless or refugees and even if a permanent ceasefire agreement were reached today or tomorrow (which is unlikely), no remedy to their problems is at hand.

They are likely to remain without homes for weeks and months after any agreement, simply because building homes takes time and materials. And even if Israel were to allow such supplies into Gaza, under some kind of supervision to prevent their misuse by Hamas, the quantities required are immense. Israel demands that a special oversight process ensure that building materials are not used instead to build tunnels and bunkers, but it is hard to imagine a viable mechanism that could ensure each kilo of cement brought into Gaza is used solely to rebuild or reconstruct the tens of thousands of houses smashed or damaged in the course of the war.

If there is no deal by Wednesday night and the conflict resumes, the ramifications will be immense. One might think that many Gazans want the war over right away, but for the large sector of the Gaza populace that has already lost everything — with relatives killed or homes destroyed — a partial agreement now is worse than continued fighting. These Gazans, who will be living in tents or schools for the foreseeable future, are pressing Hamas not to capitulate and to continue insisting upon the lifting of the blockade. Hence Hamas’s determination to attain an immediate, genuine achievement — not to make do with a vague easing of access at the crossings, but to hold out for Israeli agreement to the establishment of a seaport, the release of prisoners and/or the immediate re-opening of the Rafah border crossing to Egypt.

One Israeli diplomatic source said on Tuesday morning that, in fact, there had been no progress at the talks. Senior Hamas officials stress that they have not withdrawn their demands for a seaport or for prisoner releases. And time is ticking away.

And so once again, Hamas is in a difficult situation. It knows that part of the Gaza public wants quiet, while another part, no less important, is urging it not to surrender. The organization has set out exaggerated demands, maybe even impossible ones, which are unlikely to be met in the short or the long term, in which case it knows it will be portrayed as the big loser of this war.
An assessment of whether Hamas has won or lost will only really be possible if and when an agreement is reached, depending on the final terms. But last week the spokesman of the Hamas military wing, Abu Obeida, declared that there would be no ceasefire without a port. To agree to anything less, therefore, from Hamas’s own point of view, would be a defeat.

A Turkish aid group said on Monday it would send ships again to challenge the Israeli blockade of Gaza, four years after Israeli commandos stormed its flotilla bound for the Palestinian territory and killed 10 people.

The incident wrecked diplomatic ties between Turkey and Israel, once close Middle East allies but whose relationship has been tense since late 2008 over a previous Israeli military operation against Islamist militants dominating Gaza.

The Humanitarian Relief Foundation (IHH) said in an e-mailed statement that members of a "coalition" of pro-Palestinian activists from 12 countries had met in Istanbul at the weekend and decided to launch a convoy "in the shadow of the latest Israeli aggression on Gaza," referring to the latest, month-long war. Fighting has abated under a 72-hour ceasefire deal.

"The Freedom Flotilla Coalition affirmed that, as most governments are complicit, the responsibility falls on civil society to challenge the Israeli blockade on Gaza," it said.

 Islamic militants have crushed a tribal uprising against their rule in eastern Syria after three days of clashes in a string of villages near the border with Iraq, beheading and crucifying opponents along the way, activists said Monday.
The fighters from the Al-Qaeda breakaway Islamic State group control huge swaths of territory in eastern and northern Syria and are fighting rival rebels, Kurdish militias and the Syrian army for more territory.
Meanwhile, at least 10 people including four children and two women were killed Monday when Syrian forces dropped explosives-filled barrels from a helicopter over the Bab Nayrab district of Aleppo in northern Syria, activists said. Many others were buried under the rubble of buildings, they said.
The Syrian army regularly dropped the so-called barrel bombs over populated areas in rebel-held territory. Aleppo, once Syria’s commercial capital, has seen heavy fighting since rebels seized part of the city in 2012.

President Vladimir Putin said on Monday Russia is sending an aid convoy to eastern Ukraine despite urgent Western warnings against using humanitarian help as a pretext for an invasion.

With Ukraine reporting Russia has massed 45,000 troops on its border, NATO said there was a “high probability” that Moscow could intervene militarily in the country’s east, where Kyiv’s forces are closing in on pro-Russian separatists.

Western countries believe that Putin – who has whipped up the passions of Russians with a nationalist campaign in state-controlled media since annexing Crimea from Ukraine in March – could now send his forces into the east to head off a humiliating rebel defeat.
Thousands of people are believed to be short of water, electricity and medical aid due to the fighting, but U.S. President Barack Obama told his Ukrainian counterpart that any Russian intervention without Kyiv’s consent would be unacceptable and violate international law.

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso delivered a blunter message directly to Putin in a telephone call on Monday. “President Barroso warned against any unilateral military actions in Ukraine, under any pretext, including humanitarian,” the Commission said in a statement.

The Kremlin, in its own account of the conversation, made clear that Moscow would indeed send help to largely Russian-speaking eastern Ukraine.
“It was noted that the Russian side, in collaboration with representatives of the International Committee of the Red Cross, is sending an aid convoy to Ukraine,” the Kremlin statement said, without revealing when the convoy was going.
In a cautious response, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said it had submitted a document to Russian and Ukrainian officials on delivering aid. However, the independent agency stressed in a statement that it needed agreement from all parties as well as security guarantees to carry out the operation, as it does not use armed escorts.
An industrial metropolis with a pre-war population of nearly 1 million, Donetsk rocked to the crash of shells and gunfire over the weekend, and heavy guns boomed through the night into Monday from the outskirts of the city.
NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said there was no sign Russia had withdrawn the troops it had massed at the Ukrainian frontier. Asked in a Reuters interview how he rated the chances of Russian military intervention, Rasmussen said: “There is a high probability.”

EU diplomats on Monday (28 July) are to pour over the legal texts drafted by the EU commission for imposing sectoral economic sanctions on Russia for its role in the Ukrainian conflict. The sanctions are expected to be approved on Tuesday.

According to an EU source familiar with the legal texts, the economic effect of the sanctions will hurt the Russian economy by €23 billion this year (1.5% of its GDP) and €75 billion in 2015 (4.8% of its GDP).

The Economist meanwhile has calculated that the pain Russian firms will suffer from these sanctions could go up to one trillion US dollars (€744bn).

But the EU will also be hurt by the capital markets restrictions and trade bans for defence, high technology and goods that can be used both for military and defence purposes.

The EU commission expects the EU to lose €40 billion (0.3% of GDP) this year and €50bn in 2015 - the equivalent of 0.4 percent of the EU GDP - as Russia is expected to retaliate with trade bans of its own against EU countries, the source said.
This has already caused concern in southern member states - notably Russia-friendly Italy - where economic growth is meagre and recession may kick in again due to the Russian sanctions regime.
At a meeting of EU ambassadors last week, the southern countries called on the EU commission to take into account the sanctions fallout when it evaluates how they stick to deficit and debt rules.
Germany, who so far was reluctant to endorse wide-ranging economic sanctions, is bracing itself for the fallout, too.

The Liberian army has put a third province under quarantine to check the spread of the deadly Ebola virus, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf announced Monday.

"Lofa county in the north has been quarantined by the army," Sirleaf said after similar measures were taken in the provinces of Boma and Grand Cape Mount.

"So from now on, no one will be allowed to go to Lofa, no one will come out of there," Sirleaf said in a message to the nation broadcast over the radio.
"We want to protect areas that have not been yet affected," according to the president.
"We have given instructions to the army and we will try our best so that food will be provided to the county constantly, especially when we know that Lofa is one of (the) biggest counties."
In an effort to contain an epidemic that has cost nearly 1,000 lives throughout west Africa, the Liberian government earlier quarantined Boma and Grand Cape Mount, the most affected northern provinces.
It cut off access with military roadblocks and restrictions on travel.
The quarantine has meant that traders have been unable to travel to buy food and farmers cannot harvest their crop, which has in turn caused shortages and sent prices soaring, raising fears people could go hungry.

How in the world is it possible that more than 170 health workers have been infected by the Ebola virus?  That is the one question about Ebola that nobody can seem to answer.  The World Health Organization is reporting this as a fact, but no explanation is given as to why this is happening. 

These workers are dressed head to toe in suits that are specifically designed to prevent the spread of the virus.  So how is this happening?  I could understand a handful of “mistakes” by health workers, but this is unlike anything that we have ever seen in the history of infectious diseases.  These health workers take extraordinary precautions to keep from getting the virus.  If it is spreading so easily to them, what chance is the general population going to have?

Overall, more than 1,700 people have been officially infected and more than 900 people have officially died so far.  But an official from Samaritan’s Purse says that the real numbers are probably far, far higher

In an official statement released on Monday, the World Health Organization even admitted that some potential Ebola patients “are being turned away”…
The recent surge in the number of cases has stretched all capacities to the breaking point. Supplies of personal protective equipment and disinfectants are inadequate. The outbreak continues to outstrip diagnostic capacity, delaying the confirmation or exclusion of cases and impeding contact tracing.
Some treatment facilities are overflowing; all beds are occupied and patients are being turned away.

We are quickly getting to the point where it will become impossible to contain this virus.
And if it spreads to the United States, we are going to be in a massive amount of trouble.  The truth is that we are not prepared for an Ebola pandemic, and such a crisis would create a massive wave of panic and fear all over this country.
Unfortunately, despite the risks, we continue to bring people back to this country before we know that it is safe to do so

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