Wednesday, May 7, 2014

In The News: Pestilence, War Preparations

War Preparations:

With the situation in the Ukraine escalating and the US continuing to call for sanctions against Russia’s financial and political elite, Vladimir Putin is now not only mobilizing tens of thousands of troops on his Western front, but sending intercontinental strategic bombers across the Pacific Ocean. According to the US military, it’s the first time since the cold war that Russia’s incursions have come this close to America.

What’s even more alarming is that Russia is making it clear that any attack on the Motherland would likely lead to widespread bombardment of western interests. Nuclear capable Russian bombers have been spotted all over the world as of late including in Guam, Japan, South Korea and Europe.

Gen. Herbert Carlisle, Commander of United States Air Forces in the Pacific, acknowledged a significant increase in the activities by Russian long-range strategic aircraft flying along the California coast.
There was no comment about whether the aircraft were nuclear capable, but it has not been since the Cold War ended in the early 1990s that Russian patrols have skirted the West Coast and California.

But last week something weird happened in Los Angeles and it likely involved a high altitude fly over.
Air traffic controllers at Los Angeles LAX airport reported that their computer systems were overwhelmed and crashed, leading to hundreds of flight delays and cancellations across the country. According to an NBC News investigation the outage was caused by the flyover of a U-2 spy plane. Apparently the 1950′s class spy plane entered LAX airspace at about 60,000 feet and its jamming systems crashed not only the primary air traffic control systems used to monitor and direct commercial airlines, but the back up systems as well.

A U-2 spy plane is being blamed for a software glitch at a Californian air traffic control center which led to delays earlier this week.

But an Edwards rep said no such planes are assigned to Edwards, and a NASA rep said that none of their U-2 planes were flying on Wednesday.
The U.S. Air Force, on the other hand, confirmed that it had sent out a U-2 plane that day — but denied to that the spy plane caused the airport confusion. 

With the revelation this week that Russia has deployed strategic bomber fleets for fly-by’s along our West Coast to gather intelligence and test their capabilities, is it possible that someone flipped a switch to see what would happen?
The Air Force likely knows what caused the outage but refuses to share details, which suggests that either the United States was engaged in a military exercise and they want to keep it under wraps, or, it was the Russians and going public could further inflame the already heated geo-political climate.

With bombers flying right along our coast, did Russia take the opportunity to utilize a new advanced technology to target specific components of the air traffic control system, sending it into a frenzy?

The Russian Defense Ministry is planning to deploy additional forces in Crimea as part of beefing up the Black Sea fleet under a $2.5 billion program. The need for new deployment emerged after the formerly Ukrainian peninsula joined Russia.
“Before year’s end we will form new units of air defense and marine troops at the sites of our fleet’s deployment,” Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu said Tuesday. “The fleet will receive new submarines and surface ships of new generation this year. This requires our attention.”
The minister stressed that the Navy beef-up program for the Black Sea fleet was extended due to Crimea, the fleet’s base, becoming part of Russia in March. The ministry plans to spend more than $2.4 billion for the purpose by 2020.
The announcement of deployment plans comes after Russia voiced concerns of the build-up of NATO forces in Eastern Europe and the Black Sea. The alliance deployed aircraft and warships as well as ground troops, saying it was needed to instill confidence in its members like Poland, Romania and the Baltic states.
NATO’s moves come in response to the ongoing political crisis in Ukraine and the allegations that Russia is preparing to invade its eastern neighbor. Moscow sees the military build-up close to its borders as provocative.

Today, The Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) Energy department has placed a solicitation for jet fuel for four of the former Soviet Bloc countries of Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia.
The estimated quantity is requirement is 35,000 US Gallons per week to each of the four delivery location, without an ending date.  According to theDLA website, the going rate in 2014 for a gallon of JP-8 is $3.62 a gallon, which means over a half million US dollars in fuel per week will be sent to for former Soviet Bloc countries.
The origin of DLA Energy dates back to World War II. Originally, the organization was an entity of the Department of Interior as the Army-Navy Petroleum Board whose mission was to administer the critical petroleum requirements during World War II. In 1945, the organization was transferred to the War Department and became the Joint Army-Navy Purchasing Agency.
DLA Energy, despite changes in organization structure and an expanded mission, continues its basic mission to support the warfighter and manage the energy sources of the future.
According to a DLA-E Fact book, only Poland has exchange agreement, the other countries are not listed in the latest fact book.
A review of solicitations for the past 10 years fails to show any other purposes for sending fuel to the Eastern European counties.
All previous solicitations for aviation fuel showed that the fuel was needed for a variety of NATO exercises, such as Sabre Strike 2013 in Estonia,Seabreeze 2013 in the Ukraine.
Why the Soviet Bloc Countries are threatened
As the four countries listed were part of the Soviet Bloc before the fall of the Soviet Union, it is possible that the US Government is sending aviation fuel to these countries to stave off a potential Russian invasion. Russia currently is a major petroleum producer in the region and by applying a fuel choke-hold, can prevent their former subjects from protecting themselves.
It is speculated that US troops may soon find themselves fighting the Russians in the Ukrainian conflict, into the heart of old Soviet Bloc countries.
That makes this solicitation a forward placement of resources, in preparation for war.

NATO will have to consider permanently stationing troops in parts of Eastern Europe as a result of the increased tension between Russia and Ukraine, the alliance's top military commander said Tuesday.

NATO has arranged a number of short-term army, air force and naval rotations in Eastern Europe, including the Baltic republics, Poland and Romania, but these are due to finish at the end of this year.
Asked whether NATO might have to look at permanently stationing troops in the alliance's member states in Eastern Europe, U.S. Air Force Gen. Philip Breedlove said: "I think this is something we have to consider and we will tee this up for discussion through the leaderships of our nations to see where that leads."

 Both sides have been burying their dead as Ukraine slides further towards war, with supporters of Russia and of a united Ukraine accusing each other of tearing the country apart.

Tuesday was generally quieter than past days in most of eastern and southern Ukraine, but violence flared at dusk in the eastern port of Mariupol, where a spokesman for pro-Moscow militants told Russia's Itar-Tass news agency that one person was killed and three wounded in an attack on a checkpoint.
In Kramatorsk, a separatist-held town in the east that saw an advance by Ukrainian troops at the weekend, the coffin of 21-year-old nurse Yulia Izotova was carried through streets stilled by barricades of tires and tree trunks on Monday. Scattered red carnations traced the route.
In Odessa, a previously peaceful, multi-ethnic Black Sea port where more than 40 people were killed on Friday in the worst day of violence since a February revolt toppled Ukraine's pro-Russian president, pall-bearers carried Andrey Biryukov's open casket from a van to the street corner where he was shot.

The surge in violence has changed the tone of international diplomacy, with even cautious European states speaking increasingly of the likelihood of war in a country of around 45 million people the size of France.
"The bloody pictures from Odessa have shown us that we are just a few steps away from a military confrontation," German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said in interviews published in four European newspapers.

The next few days could prove decisive: separatists in the eastern Donbass region say they will hold a referendum on secession on Sunday May 11, similar to the one that preceded Russia's annexation of Crimea.
The U.S. State Department denounced any attempt at a vote as "bogus" and promised more sanctions if Russia used it, as in Crimea, to send in forces or annex more territory: "This is the Crimea playbook all over again," a spokeswoman said.
Two days before the vote, Friday May 9, is the annual Victory Day holiday celebrating the Soviet Union's victory over Nazi Germany. Moscow has been openly comparing the government in Kiev to the Nazis, and Ukrainian officials say they are worried that the day could provoke violence. In Moscow, there will be a massive parade of military hardware through Red Square, a Soviet-era tradition revived by President Vladimir Putin.

Iran will target American aircraft carriers in the Persian Gulf should a war between the two countries ever break out, the naval chief of Iran’s powerful Revolutionary Guard warned Tuesday as the country completes work on a large-scale mock-up of a U.S. carrier.
The remarks by Adm. Ali Fadavi, who heads the hard-line Guard’s naval forces, were a marked contrast to moderate President Hassan Rouhani’s recent outreach policies toward the West — a reminder of the competing viewpoints that exist at the highest levels within the Islamic Republic.
Iran is building a simple replica of the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz in a shipyard in the southern port of Bandar Abbas in order to be used in future military exercises, an Iranian newspaper confirmed last month.
Fadavi was quoted Tuesday by the semi-official Fars news agency as saying the immense size of the U.S. carriers makes them an “easy target.” He said contingency plans to target American carriers are a priority for the Guard’s naval forces.
“Aircraft carriers are the symbol of America’s military might,” he said. “The carriers are responsible for supplying America’s air power. So, it’s natural that we want to sink the carriers.”
The Revolutionary Guard’s naval forces are separate from the main Iranian navy. They are primarily based in and around the Gulf and include a number of missile boats and fast-attack vessels.
The commander said the Guard navy has already carried out exercises targeting mock-ups of American warships. In one case, he said, it took 50 seconds to destroy one of the simulated warships.
Tasnim, another semi-official news agency close to the Guard, reported that “an investigation” has found that the Nimitz-class carriers used by the U.S. could be seriously damaged or destroyed if 24 missiles were fired simultaneously.

Polio, one of the world’s most serious, and vaccine preventable, diseases, is on the verge of making a major comeback, the World Health Organization announced Monday, officially declaring the disease’s spread a global health emergency. Once nearly eradicated, the disease is being spread by international travelers, WHO said, while conflict is preventing health workers from reaching and vaccinating children. The New York Times reports:
An emergency committee convened by the organization announced in Geneva that three countries — Pakistan, Syria and Cameroon — had allowed the spread of the virus and should take extraordinary measures to stop it.
…The emergency committee said it was alarmed that polio had spread recently from Pakistan to Afghanistan, Syria to Iraq, and Cameroon to Equatorial Guinea. It said there was “increasing evidence that adult travelers contributed to this spread.”
…The committee’s decision partly reflected the inability to battle polio’s spread in conflict zones where inoculation efforts have been severely impaired. In Syria, where the virus reappeared last year for the first time in more than a decade, health workers have not been able to reach children in areas isolated by the fighting in that country’s civil war.
In Pakistan’s tribal areas, where the government has been battling a Taliban insurgency, health workers seeking to inoculate children have been attacked, and some have been killed.

This is a village where the people melt away.
Tucked into the sunbaked rolling hills of Brazil's midwest, Araras is home to what is thought to be the largest single group of people suffering from a rare inherited skin disease known as xeroderma pigmentosum, or "XP."
Those with the disease are extremely sensitive to ultraviolet rays from sunlight and highly susceptible to skin cancers. It robs victims of the ability to repair the damage caused by the sun.

In an effort to camouflage how the disease has eaten away the skin on his lips, nose, cheeks and eyes, Jardim wears a rudimentary orange-tinted mask, its stenciled-in right eyebrow not matching his bushy real one that remains.
Beyond skin damage and cancers, about one in five XP patients may also suffer from deafness, spastic muscles, poor coordination or developmental delays, according to the U.S.-based National Cancer Institute.
More than 20 people in this community of about 800 have XP. That's an incidence rate of about one in 40 people - far higher than the one in 1 million people in the United States who have it.

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