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Web Log - "Watching the pot come to a boil"

6-Mar-15 World View -- Khamenei's illness may signal generational policy change in Iran

Palestinians vote to end security agreement with Israel

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Khamenei's illness may signal generational policy change in Iran


Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei (Reuters)
Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei (Reuters)

Several Arab media reports indicate that Iran's 76 year old Supreme Leader Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei has been hospitalized, and is in critical condition after undergoing surgery for an advanced form of prostate cancer.

If the reports are true, and if Khamenei does not recover, then his death could trigger very significant changes in Iran's policies.

As I've been writing for almost ten years, Iran is a schizophrenic country. The old geezers, the survivors of the 1979 Great Islamic Revolution, are extreme hard-liners, trying to revive the widespread revolutionary fervor that followed the Revolution. A generational crisis war always unifies the entire population behind the leader, with the intention of making sure that nothing so horrible should ever happen again to their children or grandchildren. So they fall back on the old out-of-date formulas that won them the revolution -- particularly blaming everything on the United States.

The younger generations, who grew up after the war, think that the old geezers are completely full of crap. This has been obvious since the early 2000s, when Tehran college students started pro-Western demonstrations. The young people like the West, like America, and don't have anything against Israel. Furthermore, Khamenei has seemed increasingly out of touch with reality in recent years. The result is a chaotic political conflict between the generations that survived the war versus the generations that grew up after the war. This is what always happens during a generational Awakening era, like America in the 1960s.

The death of Khamenei would trigger a major political conflict between two groups of politicians representing, respectively, the two generational positions. If Khamenei's successor is another hardliner, then policies won't change. But it's quite possible that his successor would be another Revolution survivor, but still a reformist. For example, see "2-Nov-13 World View -- Growing power struggle in Iran may make Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani the Supreme Leader". In that case, significant policy changes would be a real possibility.

As long-time readers are aware, Generational Dynamics predicts that in the coming Clash of Civilizations world war, the "allies" would be the West, along with India, Russia and Iran, while the "axis" would be China, Pakistan, and the Sunni Muslim countries. The death of Khamenei, when it occurs, would be a step in that direction. Jerusalem Post and Israel National News

Palestinians vote to end security agreement with Israel

The Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), which governs the West Bank, has voted on Thursday evening to end a security co-operation agreement with Israel which dates back to the Oslo Accords of 1993. The announcement calls for

"[The suspension of] all forms of security coordination given Israel’s systematic and ongoing non-compliance with its obligations under signed agreements, including its daily military raids throughout the State of Palestine, attacks against our civilians and properties. ...

Israel, the occupying power in Palestine, must assume all its responsibilities in accordance with its obligations under international law."

The final decision will be made by Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas.

As bad as the relationship has been between the Israelis and the Palestinians in the West Bank, the security agreement has kept it from becoming even worse. The security agreement required the Palestinians for policing the West bank, so that Israeli police would not have to do so. It's possible that the Palestinian security forces have prevented some terrorist attacks on Israeli targets.

An end to the security agreement would be a major new crisis in the West Bank. There would be daily confrontations between the Palestinians and the Israeli security forces, with a good chance that the confrontations would spiral into a war, just as they have in Gaza.

The announcement is the latest in a string of tit-for-tat actions by each side against the other. When the State of Palestine joined the International Criminal Court (ICC) in December, Israel was infuriated and promised revenge.

In January, Israel retaliated by cutting payments to Palestinians of fees and tax monies that Israel collects on behalf of the Palestinians on a daily basis, something like $100 million per month. Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat called the move an act of "piracy" and a "collective punishment" against the Palestinian people:

The PLO has been unable to pay the salaries of government employees, including the security forces, and so the new announcement is in retaliation for the non-payment of these fees.

Every move by either side has to be interpreted as an attempt to influence the Israeli elections that are coming on March 17. Israel's prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu is withholding the funds in order to increase his popularity with his right wing. The PLO announced the end of the security agreement in the hope of get Netanyahu defeated. Things should become clearer after March 17. Guardian (London) and Jerusalem Post and Al Bawaba (Palestine) and BBC

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 6-Mar-15 World View -- Khamenei's illness may signal generational policy change in Iran thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (6-Mar-2015) Permanent Link
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5-Mar-15 World View -- Turkey and Armenia schedule conflicting WW I centennial commemorations

China continues its double-digit military spending increases

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Turkey and Armenia schedule conflicting WW I centennial commemorations


British soldiers just before landing at Gallipoli in 1915
British soldiers just before landing at Gallipoli in 1915

A major battle of World War I was the Battle of Gallipoli, which ran from April 25, 1915, to January 9, 1916. Turkey has commemorated the battle in the past on April 25.

According to Armenia, Turkey (the Ottoman Empire) committed a genocide against Armenians, and the genocide began on April 24, 1915, when the Young Turks government began deporting Armenians. Turkey denies that there was a genocide. Armenia had scheduled a centennial commemoration of the start of the deportations for next month on April 24.

Turkey responded last month by rescheduling its commemoration of the Gallipoli campaign to April 24. Both countries have invited dozens of international country leaders to their respective commemorations, forcing every government to make a choice.

So far, Azerbaijan's President Ilham Aliyev and Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron have already accepted Turkey's invitation; meanwhile France's President François Hollande plans to attend the events in Armenia.

In this context, Armenia is canceling an American-mediated 2009 agreement, the "Zurich Protocols," which would re-establish diplomatic relations between the two countries, and re-open their mutual borders. The agreement was signed in 2009, but neither country has ratified, and now Armenia is canceling it once and for all.

A major reason why the Zurich Protocols were never ratified was opposition by Azerbaijan. From 1988 to 1994, Armenia and Azerbaijan fought a war over the Nagorno-Karabakh enclave of Azerbaijan, which has a large Armenian population. Armenia won the war, and gained control of about 15% of Azerbaijani territory, creating hundreds of thousands of Azerbaijani refugees. That was the time when Azerbaijan and Turkey closed their borders with Armenia and imposed a blockade, closing off Armenia's trade routes to Europe and Asia. Today's Zaman and Daily Sabah (Turkey) and Jamestown and News (Azerbaijan)

China continues its double-digit military spending increases

China announced on Wednesday that military spending will grow by 10.1% in 2015. With the country's slowing economic growth, this was lower than last year's growth rate of 12.2%, but it still comes after years of very rapid military growth through double-digit increases. The increases are thought likely to go towards increasing naval power with anti-submarine ships and aircraft carriers, to further China's strategy of using military power to annex territories in the East and South China Seas that have historically belonged to other countries.

According to China's premier Li Keqiang:

"We will comprehensively strengthen modern logistics, step up national defense research and development of new- and high-technology weapons and equipment, and develop defense-related science and technology industries."

Although America's military budget has been declining, China's aggressive military growth has spurred military budget increases in many countries in the region, with significant increases in India, Vietnam and Japan.

But China has been rapidly building its military for years with a variety of weapons and missile systems that have no other purpose than to preemptively strike American aircraft carriers, American military bases, and American cities. Generational Dynamics predicts that China is preparing to launch a pre-emptive full-scale nuclear missile attack on the United States. AP and Reuters

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 5-Mar-15 World View -- Turkey and Armenia schedule conflicting WW I centennial commemorations thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (5-Mar-2015) Permanent Link
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4-Mar-15 World View -- Failure of Austrian bank portends major new round of euro crisis

Iran Revolutionary Guards commander leads Iraq's attack on Tikrit

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Londoner takes amazing picture of weasel on flying woodpecker's back


Green woodpecker flying with brown weasel hitchhiking (Martin Le-May)
Green woodpecker flying with brown weasel hitchhiking (Martin Le-May)

An amateur photographer, Martin Le-May, out for a stroll with his wife on Sunday, had an amazing stroke of luck when he photographed a tiny brown weasel on the back of a flying green woodpecker. Apparently, the weasel had pounced on the woodpecker hoping for a meal, but the woodpecker took flight.

Unlike many stories that I tell, this one had a happy ending. The bird landed 20 meters in front of the photographer, and after a tumble in the grass, the weasel ran off. Daily Mail (London)

Failure of Austrian bank portends major new round of euro crisis

Europeans are aware, though Americans are not, that when Austria's Credit-Anstalt bank of Austria collapsed on May 11, 1931, the collapse triggered mass panic and bank failures throughout central Europe, and a worldwide banking crisis.

This isn't nearly as bad as the 1931 incident, but it's raising a lot of concerns. The government of Austria announced over the weekend that it was shutting down the Hypo Alpe-Adria-Bank, rather than spending an additional 7.6 billion euros of taxpayer money to bail it out. 5.5 billion euros of taxpayer money has already been paid to the bank up to this point, and a decision was made to stop the bleeding.

Hypo is not an ordinary bank. It's a so-called "bad bank" that was set up to unwind bad debts that came out of the financial crisis in 2008. It has no depositors, so depositors will not lose any money. However, many bondholders will lose a great deal, possibly leading to a chain reaction of further bankruptcies.

One billion euros of the bank's debt is guaranteed by Austria's federal government, and that will supposedly be honored. The province of Carinthia, whose borrowing before 2008 was a large part of the cause of the original failure, has guaranteed 10.2 billion euros of debt, and it's doubtful how much of that will be honored. Finally, there's 9.8 billion euros of unsecured debt that's essentially junk. Of that 9.8 billion, almost one billion is due in March, so this crisis will spiral fairly quickly.

The phrase that's being used is "bail-in." That is, the Austrian government will no longer bail out the bank, and so all the investors will be "bailed in" to cover the losses. Most of the losses will be in funds managed by Pacific Investment Management Co., Deutsche Bank AG and UBS AG. It is not known who the end investors are, but it's thought that there will be repercussions, and possible further bankruptcies.

Depositors were not "bailed in" by this event, because the bank has no depositors. However, the action that the Austrian government took was under a regulation called the Bank Recovery and Resolution Directive (BRRD), which allows a government to force both investors AND depositors to lose their money.

Readers may recall that in March 2013, Cyprus was saved from bankruptcy by an EU bailout, on condition that 60% of the savings accounts of large depositors (mostly Russian oligarchs) be confiscated. One of the outcomes of the Cyprus crisis was implementation of the BRRD directive, which could permit ANY depositor's money to be confiscated, under the right circumstances.

I've repeatedly said that there is no solution to Greece's financial crisis -- not that no solution has been found, but that no solution even exists. No solution existed for Austria's financial crisis either, and so investors are going to lose billions of euros of their money, risking chain reaction bankruptcies. Sooner or later, something like that will have to happen with Greece as well, and it's good to remember that the current "compromise agreement" between Europe and Greece expires in July, with no hope of a suitable resolution at that time. Telegraph (London) and Forbes and Bloomberg

Iran Revolutionary Guards commander leads Iraq's attack on Tikrit

Ghasem Soleimani, a top general in Iran's Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC), along with dozens of Iranian military advisers, is overseeing the Iraqi army's attack on Tikrit, with the goal of recapturing it from the Islamic State / of Iraq and Syria (IS or ISIS or ISIL or Daesh).

The situation is potentially explosive, because you have Shia militias fighting with Sunni tribes and militias over Tikrit, which was the hometown of Sunni leader Saddam Hussein.

Glaringly absent from the operation is participation by US forces, particularly US war planes, which have been striking ISIS targets since last summer. According to the Pentagon, the Iraqis never made any request for US air support.

News reports indicate that Iraqi forces are bogged down on the outskirts of Tikrit, unable to make much headway. ISIS is striking back with sniper gunfire and suicide bombings on Iraqi checkpoints to slow down any advance on the city. If the Iraq army does enter the city, then it will be street by street fighting by the Iranian-led Shia militias against the Sunni tribes and militias. Indeed, many Sunni citizens of Iraq have welcomed the invading ISIS militias as a better alternative to the Shia-led government in Baghdad. AP and Reuters

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 4-Mar-15 World View -- Failure of Austrian bank portends major new round of euro crisis thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (4-Mar-2015) Permanent Link
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3-Mar-15 World View -- Why did ISIS release 19 Assyrian Christian hostages?

Iran aids Iraq's army in attack to recapture Tikrit from ISIS

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Why did ISIS release 19 Assyrian Christian hostages?


An Assyrian woman in church prays for Christians abducted by ISIS (Reuters)
An Assyrian woman in church prays for Christians abducted by ISIS (Reuters)

The Islamic State / of Iraq and Syria (IS or ISIS or ISIL or Daesh) on Sunday released 19 Assyrian Christians, 17 men and two women, among over 200 that were abducted last month. in the recent raid, ISIS overran more than a dozen villages inhabited by the ancient Christian minority.

Everyone is wondering why? Some suggested reasons being reported are:

My personal view is generally quite different from any of these explanations.

First off, I don't view ISIS leader Abu Omar al-Baghdadi as any sort of religious person. In the Christian world, serial killers like Jeffrey Dahmer, Charles Manson, John Wayne Gacy, and many others, all claimed to be deeply religious Christians, and could even quote the Bible on cue. But nobody considered these men to any sort of Christian. Like Dahmer, Manson and Gacy, al-Baghdadi is simply a cheap thug, with charismatic skills in using religion to lead people to their deaths.

ISIS has killed a few hundred Christians, but has killed tens of thousands of Muslims. Al-Baghdadi and other ISIS leaders use a two-step process to kill other Muslims. First, they practice "takfir" -- they declare the people to be apostates for some trivial reason, then they kill them.

There is no way that Islam permits one Muslim to simply declare a village of people to be apostates for some trivial reason, and to kill them. That would give every Muslim a free pass to kill anyone else. A woman could declare that her husband's hair is uneven, and kill him.

Here's something I found on a Muslim web site:

According to a conversation recorded by a contemporary, Mohammed was once talking to an Ansar man:

Suddenly the Holy Prophet said loudly [about someone]: “Does he not bear witness that there is no god but Allah?”

The Ansari said: “Yes indeed, O Messenger of Allah, but his testimony cannot be trusted.”

The Holy Prophet said: “Does he not accept that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah?”

He again replied: “Yes, he professes it but his profession cannot be trusted.”

The Holy Prophet said: “Does he not pray?”

He again said: “Yes he does, but his prayer cannot be trusted.”

The Holy Prophet said: “God has forbidden me to kill such people.”

So al-Baghdadi is no religious scholar, or any kind of religious person. He's a cheap murdering thug who killed tens of thousands of Muslims and who, according to Islam, will burn in hell.

So why did ISIS release the 19 Assyrians? Here's my theory:

ISIS leaders are cheap, murdering thugs who murder people for power and money. They've had spectacular successes in publicity stunts posting a few videos of killing a few Christians, because those videos being in recruits and money. But as beheading Christians becomes more commonplace, the publicity stunts become less effective. We've already seen a lot less international outrage of the Assyrian abductions than some previous abductions. One news story writes: "Igniting a live man in a cage; severing the heads of dozens; kidnapping, raping and selling women and children -- ISIS' shocking maltreatment of its captives has become regrettably predictable."

So, in my view, releasing the 19 Assyrians was just a new publicity stunt to get more attention. Like Jonathan Gruber bragging about the stupidity of the American people, I can imagine Abu Omar al-Baghdadi saying the following: "These Western reporters are idiots. Let's release 19 Assyrians to give them a 'glimmer of hope,' and then when we slit the throats of the other 200 Assyrians, we'll get a lot more publicity." Reuters and Christian Times and CNN and Muslim.org

Iran aids Iraq's army in attack to recapture Tikrit from ISIS

American officials were caught by surprise on Monday when Iraq announced that an invasion of the city of Tikrit had begun, with the objective of retaking it from the Islamic State / of Iraq and Syria (IS or ISIS or ISIL or Daesh). In particular, no U.S. air support will be provided, since none was requested. Instead, some Iranian forces are on the ground helping the Iraqis, though it's not known how many. Iraqi fighter jets will conduct air strikes.

The Iraqi security forces leading the invasion of Tikrit number around 30,000, including a mix of Shia militias, Sunni tribes, Kurdish Peshmerga fighters, and Iranian advisors. There are already sectarian tensions between Sunnis and Shias throughout the Mideast, and Iraq's last generational crisis war was the Iran/Iraq war of the 1980s, which will still be firmly in everyone's memory. It's feared that this highly combustible mix of fighters will reignite a wider conflict. Employing Shia militias to attack Sunnis in ISIS is almost certain to inflame the conflict.

The city of Tikrit is symbolic for being the birthplace of Saddam Hussein. US forces found the former president hiding in southern Tikrit eight months after the US-led invasion in 2003. Foreign Policy and BBC

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 3-Mar-15 World View -- Why did ISIS release 19 Assyrian Christian hostages? thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (3-Mar-2015) Permanent Link
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2-Mar-15 World View -- After almost $1 billion development costs, Healthcare.gov is still a disaster

Al-Sisi and Erdogan miss in Riyadh, signaling stormy times ahead

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

After almost $1 billion development costs, Healthcare.gov is still a disaster


According to Obamacare architect Jonathan Gruber, Obamacare passed because of the stupidity of the American people who supported it
According to Obamacare architect Jonathan Gruber, Obamacare passed because of the stupidity of the American people who supported it

On October 1, 2013, the Healthcare.gov web site was launched as the greatest IT disaster in world history. ( "1-Dec-13 World View -- Obamacare: 500M lines of code, $500M, only 60% completed")

Now, almost 1-1/2 years later, the web site still doesn't work. Developers hired by the Administration have focused on making the user interface pretty, able to collect data, and display basic information screens. Once the web site gathers the data, it simply sends the data along as a kind of e-mail message to the appropriate insurance company.

At that point, the insurance company has to go through expensive manual procedures to register the patient. There are constant news reports of patients who never got registered, or who were incorrectly registered, or whose insurance was dropped when there was a change, such as a marriage or a baby. There are reports of massive errors in applying subsidies. These are typical of the kinds of errors routinely made in manual systems in pre-computer days.

So it's been about 5 years, almost $1 billion in development costs, and all we have is a simple shell program running as a web site, designed to look pretty to avoid embarrassment to the Obama administration, but with nothing underneath.

This is a very simple web application. I could have implemented it as a one-man project in about a year. With a small team of programmers and testers, this could have been implemented in 4-6 months for a cost of a few million dollars.

So start with a few million dollars, factor in huge amounts of government bloating, factor in extortion by labor unions, factor in sheer government stupidity and inefficiency, and you only come to about $50 million dollars or so.

So where the hell did that $1 billion go? Until I get an explanation of how a $50 million project cost $1 billion, then I have to assume that Administration is conducting massive government fraud here, padding the bank accounts of its cronies with tens of millions of dollars each. Why aren't the Republicans in Congress investigating? Most likely answer: The Republicans and their cronies are in on the gravy train. Everyone makes astronomical amounts of money, and the taxpayers get screwed.

After last year's disaster, a computer contracting firm, Accenture Federal Services, was issued a $91.1 million no-bid contract to fix the web site. So now, after spending another $91.1, we still have nothing more than this shell web site that I could have written by myself in a year, and all it does is collect information and e-mail it to insurance companies.

The administration is bragging that 11 million people have signed up to Obamacare. That's because the administration is paying them huge sums of money to sign up. In 2014, 87% of federal Obamacare enrollees got subsidies. For the silver plan, out of an annual $4,140 premium, the subsidy amounts to $3,132, leaving the patient only $828 to pay out of the $4,140. So the reason that a lot of people have signed up is that they're getting huge amounts of money from the administration to sign up.

And even with that, a typical deductible is $5,000-15,000, which means that most of these insured are effectively uninsured, since they'll have to pay all their own medical expenses anyway. And of the 11 million that signed up, 89% of the new enrollees last year were for Medicaid, which provides almost no effective coverage at all. So there may be more "effectively uninsured" people today than there were uninsured people in the past.

So this is what Obamacare amounts to. Pay astronomical amounts of money to developers to create Healthcare.gov, which is a piece of crap. And then pay astronomical amounts to individual people to sign up. And if millions more are effectively uninsured because of huge deductibles and Medicaid, then who cares? Certainly no the administration.

None of this would have happened before Generation-X came into power in the late 1990s. Today, with Generation-X in charge, criminal fraud is so entrenched in Washington, on Wall Street, and in our culture that no one has any shame, and no one cares about billions and billions of dollars being thrown away on Obamacare, which has accomplished nothing except to boost Barack Obama's ego. Politico and Free Beacon

Anthem health insurance data breach puts even non-customers at risk

The news just keeps getting worse about the massive data breach at Anthem Inc., where 80 million current and former customers had their personal information compromised, including birthdates, addresses, and social security numbers. Any current or former customer of the following health plans is potentially compromised: Anthem Blue Cross, Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Georgia, Empire Blue Cross and Blue Shield, Amerigroup, Caremore, Unicare, Healthlink, and DeCare.

As we wrote last month, this includes millions of children of all ages. Birthdates and social security numbers never change, and hackers can dip into this treasure trove of data for years to create an unending flow of identity theft victims.

It now turns out that even 8.8 million non-customer of Anthem could be victims of the data hack, and future victims of identity theft. The reason is that Anthem is part of a national network of independently run Blue Cross Blue Shield plans through which BCBS customers can receive medical services when they are in an area where BCBS is operated by a different company, and so any customer of any BCBS insurance plan is potentially a victim. Reuters

Al-Sisi and Erdogan miss in Riyadh, signaling stormy times ahead

As we reported yesterday, Egypt's president Abdel al-Fattah al-Sisi and Turkey's president Recep Tayyip Erdogan are both visiting Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, this week, to visit with the new King Salman bin Abdulaziz al Saud.

Speculation was buzzing that bitter enemies al-Sisi and Erdogan might meet one another, and Salman would mediate some kind of rapprochement between the two. Well, al-Sisi completed his visit on Sunday, and Erdogan is going to meet with Salman on Monday.

So instead of leading to a new Sunni Muslim world of harmony, the entire incident is very publicly exposing just how bitter the split is between Egypt and Turkey. Turkey and Egypt were friends when Mohamed Morsi was president of Egypt, and his Muslim Brotherhood was in charge, but now the presidents of Egypt and Turkey cannot stand to be in the same room with each other.

Egypt will be watching the meeting between Salman and Erdogan very nervously. Salman's predecessor, King Abdullah, had very strong policies against the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas, causing a bitter realignment of Egypt and Saudi Arabia on the anti-MB side, versus Qatar and Turkey on the pro-MB side. So Egypt is concerned that Salman will reverse Abdullah's policy on MB, which would almost completely isolate Egypt -- though Israel would still be an ally.

Things may have gotten a lot worse over the weekend. As we reported yesterday, Egypt has now declared Hamas to be a terrorist organization. This is turning out to be more than just a simple act of adding Hamas to a list. It strikes at the very heart of giving lip service to Arab unity in the resistance against Israel, since now Israel's view of Hamas has been confirmed by Egypt.

The BBC has been running stories about a new building up of rockets, missiles and tunnels in Gaza, following last summer's Gaza war with Israel. Hamas was completely humiliated by that war since they were so thoroughly defeated by Israel, but now they're applying "lessons learned" to create a network of tunnels and rockets that they hope will draw a lot more Israeli blood.

It was last summer's Gaza war that exploded the fracture in the Arab world over the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas. If, as the BBC reports suggest, Hamas is planning another war in the fairly near future, then the situation may be explosive. Middle East Eye and Saudi Gazette

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 2-Mar-15 World View -- After almost $1 billion development costs, Healthcare.gov is still a disaster thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (2-Mar-2015) Permanent Link
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1-Mar-15 World View -- Reports indicate Egypt, Italy, Russia planning military action in Libya

Egypt court declares Hamas to be a terrorist organization

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Reports indicate Egypt, Italy, Russia planning military action in Libya


Russian warships in the Mediterranean (Russia Today)
Russian warships in the Mediterranean (Russia Today)

Various unconfirmed reports are emerging indicating that there may be joint international action planned in Libya as early as next week.

Egypt is already conduction air strikes against ISIS-linked targets in Derna, close to where Egyptian Coptics were massacred recently, as displayed in a gruesome video. Debka reports that Egypt's president Abdel al-Fattah al-Sisi is planning further action in Libya, including more air strikes and possible ground troops, within a few days. According to the report, Egyptian commando and marine forces are preparing for sea landings to seize Derna and destroy the terrorist elements there. If this attack is actually launched, it will be the first time in modern times that an Arab country has sent ground forces into another Arab country.

Al-Jazeera television reports that the Italian navy is getting ready to carry off sophisticated military drills off the coast of Libya, as early as Monday. Although Italy claims that it's a regular exercise, there are many more vessels taking part in this year's exercise than have in the past, which Italy explains by saying that they're testing out sophisticated new technologies.

There are several reasons why Italy is pursuing this show of force:

Some reports indicate that Russia has indicated a willingness to participate in a naval blockade of Libya to prevent arm supplies from leaving Libya for other countries. Russia could play a role in this because it already has a naval fleet in the Mediterranean.

These are all unconfirmed reports of possible military action in Libya by Egypt, Italy and Russia. There are no reports of possible participation by Nato or the United States. Debka and Cairo Post

Egypt court declares Hamas to be a terrorist organization

Egypt on Saturday became the first Arab country to name Hamas as a terrorist organization. The U.S. and the European Union have named Hamas as a terror group. An EU court took Hamas off the list in December 2014, ruling that the designation was not based on solid legal evidence, but the EU is appealing the court's decision.

According to a decision on Saturday from the Cairo Court for Urgent Matters:

"It has been proven without any doubt that the movement has committed acts of sabotage, assassinations and the killing of innocent civilians and members of the armed forces and police in Egypt.

It has been also ascertained with documents that [Hamas] has carried out bombings that have taken lives and destroyed institutions and targeted civilians and the armed forces personnel. It has also been ascertained that this movement works for the interests of the terrorist Brotherhood organization [which Egypt has already declared to be a terrorist organization]."

About a month ago, the same court declared Hamas's military wing, Al-Qassam Brigades, to be a terrorist organization. Saturday's ruling makes the political wing a terrorist organization as well.

A Hamas spokesman denied all the charges and said that the ruling was "dangerous":

"History has recorded Egypt’s support to national liberty movements in the Arab world and Africa, particularly in Palestine. ... This ruling serves the Israeli occupation. It's a politicized decision that constitutes the beginning of Egypt evading its role toward the Palestinian cause. This is a coup against history and an Egyptian abuse of the Palestinian cause and resistance, which fights on behalf of the Arab nation. We call on Egypt to reconsider this dangerous decision."

Al Jazeera and Al Ahram (Cairo) and CS Monitor and Al Resalah (Palestine)

Egypt and Turkey may try to create a 'Sunni front' with Saudi Arabia

By coincidence or by planning, the presidents of both Egypt and Turkey will be in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, this week. Egypt's Abdel al-Fattah al-Sisi and Turkey's Recep Tayyip Erdogan will both be visiting King Salman bin Abdulaziz al Saud, the new king of Saudi Arabia, who has replaced King Abdullah II, who died last month.

It's not known whether Erdogan will ever be in the same room as al-Sisi. The two have been bitter enemies ever since a coup by al-Sisi ousted Egypt's elected president Mohamed Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood government in 2013, and later declared MB to be a terrorist organization. Erdogan's own political party, the AKP, is an Islamist party like the Muslim Brotherhood, and they had good relations while Morsi was in power.

There has been some speculation that King Salman is going to completely reverse King Abdullah's policy on the Muslim Brotherhood. Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates (UAE) had branded MB as a terrorist organization, but some are wondering if Salman is going to shift from that policy. The Saudi foreign minister recently said that his government has "no problem with the Muslim Brotherhood; our problem is with a small group affiliated to the organization," suggesting that shift is in the works.

Other problems make an Egypt-Turkey rapprochement unlikely: Erdogan vitriolicly hates Israel and supports Hamas. Al-Sisi vitriolicly hates Hamas and works closely with Israel on military matters, especially in North Sinai. So really, it doesn't seem likely that any meeting, if one even occurs, will be pleasant.

If King Salman is able to pull off a miracle and mediate a new relationship between Egypt and Turkey, then it would appear to be the establishment of a new "Sunni front" in the Mideast, to oppose Iran, Hezbollah and the regime of Bashar al-Assad in Syria. Al Arabiya and Kurdistan and Arab Times

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 1-Mar-15 World View -- Reports indicate Egypt, Italy, Russia planning military action in Libya thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (1-Mar-2015) Permanent Link
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28-Feb-15 World View -- US Navy says that China now has more attack submarines than US

China's South China Sea building spree threatens neighbors

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

China's South China Sea building spree threatens neighbors


A Chinese Coast Guard vessel passes near a Chinese oil rig within Vietnam's Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) in 2012 (Reuters)
A Chinese Coast Guard vessel passes near a Chinese oil rig within Vietnam's Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) in 2012 (Reuters)

China is on a building spree, conducting "large scale" land reclamation and construction in the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea. Since last year, China has already built a new artificial island, more than 18 acres in size, whose main building appears to have an anti-aircraft tower.

Satellite photographs have shown that Chinese reclamation work is advanced on six reefs in the Spratly archipelago. Workers are building ports and fuel storage depots as well as possibly two airstrips as China works to project its military power into Southeast Asia. China’s creation of artificial islands in the South China Sea is happening so fast that Beijing will be able to extend the range of its navy, air force, coastguard and fishing fleets before long, according to analysts.

China continues to occupy regions in the South China Sea that have historically belonged to other countries, and continues a massive military to enforce its seizures. China has claimed the entire South China Sea, including regions historically belonging to Vietnam, Brunei, Malaysia, Indonesia, Taiwan and the Philippines. China's claims are rejected by almost everyone outside of China, and China refuses to submit them to the United Nations court deciding such matters, apparently knowing that they would lose. Instead, China is becoming increasingly belligerent militarily, annexing other nations' territories, and militarizing the entire sea.

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said on Thursday at a Senate hearing that China is making an "aggressive" military effort to exert sovereignty in the South China Sea. However, he said that China was still in a construction phase so it was unclear what weaponry or forces it might deploy on these man-made islands. Guardian (London) and Reuters and Foreign Policy and Reuters (2/20)

US Navy says that China now has more attack submarines than US

China is building some "fairly amazing submarines" and now has more diesel- and nuclear-powered vessels than the United States, according to Vice Admiral Joseph Mulloy at a Senate hearing on Wednesday. "We know they are out experimenting and looking at operating and clearly want to be in this world of advanced submarines," he said. Mulloy said the quality of China's submarines was lower than those built by the United States, but the size of its undersea fleet had now surpassed that of the U.S. fleet.

China has been building numerous missile systems and other weaponry with no other purpose than to attack American cities, military bases, and aircraft carriers. Generational Dynamics predicts that China is preparing to launch a pre-emptive full-scale nuclear missile attack on the United States. In the generational crisis war to follow, there is no guarantee that the United States will survive. Reuters and Washington Times

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 28-Feb-15 World View -- US Navy says that China now has more attack submarines than US thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (28-Feb-2015) Permanent Link
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27-Feb-15 World View -- Arab countries moving Yemen ambassadors from Sanaa to Aden

US CPI continues in deflation, as Europe offers negative interest bonds

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Arab countries moving Yemen ambassadors from Sanaa to Aden


Hadi (in suit) meets Saudi ambassador and entourage (Reuters)
Hadi (in suit) meets Saudi ambassador and entourage (Reuters)

Saudi Arabia's ambassador to Yemen is leaving the capital city Sanaa and moving to the southern city of Aden. Other Arab countries in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) are expected to follow suit.

Shia Iran-backed ethnic Houthis from northern Yemen last October invaded and occupied Sanaa. The constitutional president Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi last month first resigned then escaped the Houthis and fled to Aden, where he has a power base among Sunni tribes.

Now Hadi is essentially setting up Aden as a second capital, splitting the country into North and South Yemen. North and South Yemen were separate countries that were united in 1990, but it now appears that they're close to splitting into two countries again.

For the West, the biggest fear is that all this chaos will give rise to a stronger Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), which is headquartered in Yemen. With regard to this point, there are some analysts saying that AQAP will not gain strength, because both Hadi and the Houthis oppose AQAP. However, there are now three major centers of power in Yemen -- the Houthis, Hadi in Aden, and AQAP -- and the possibility of a new civil war cannot be discounted.

As UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon recently said, the country "is collapsing before our eyes." National Yemen and Washington Post

Yemen's banks deteriorate as the economy collapses

Fears of economic collapse are causing Yemen citizens to withdraw their US dollar savings from banks and keep the dollars at home. Yemen is facing economic collapse for several reasons:

It's possible that the Sanaa government will soon be unable to pay salaries within a few weeks. The economic collapse represents a recruiting opportunity for Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). Widespread protests and riots, as well as terrorist acts by AQAP, are expected to increase. Bloomberg

US CPI continues in deflation, as Europe offers negative interest bonds


S&P 500 Price/Earnings ratio at astronomically high 20.53 on February 20 (WSJ)
S&P 500 Price/Earnings ratio at astronomically high 20.53 on February 20 (WSJ)

The US Labor Department said on Thursday that its consumer price index (CPI) fell 0.7% in January, after falling the previous two months as well. In the 12 months through January, the CPI fell 0.1% over the year. The economy continues its deflationary spiral that is predicted by Generational Dynamics.

Europe has clearly been in a deflationary spiral for a couple of years, with January's inflation rate at -0.6%. On Thursday, Germany announced that it will sell five-year bonds at negative yields (interest rates) for the first time ever. That means that if you have a lot of money and you want to put it into the bank for safety, then you have to pay the bank money to keep it.

Five-year bonds from four other eurozone countries -- Netherlands, Austria, Sweden and Finland -- also have negative yields.

The negative interest rates are forcing investors to look for other places to invest, and one of those places is Wall Street, which is part of the reason for the surge in stock prices.

The result is that the Wall Street stock market bubble is exploding to new highs. According to Friday's Wall Street Journal, the S&P 500 Price/Earnings index (stock valuations index) on Friday morning (February 20) is still at an astronomically high 19.79. This is far above the historical average of 14. It's a large jump from last month, and it's a fresh high in recent years. This indicates that the stock market is in a huge bubble that could burst at any time. Generational Dynamics predicts that the P/E ratio will fall to the 5-6 range or lower, which is where it was as recently as 1982, resulting in a Dow Jones Industrial Average of 3000 or lower. It's best to keep money in cash, even in the face of mild deflation, because you stand to lose a great deal of money if/when the stock market crashes. Reuters and Investment Week and Reuters

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 27-Feb-15 World View -- Arab countries moving Yemen ambassadors from Sanaa to Aden thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (27-Feb-2015) Permanent Link
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26-Feb-15 World View -- Cyprus gives Russia access to Cypriot ports on the Mediterranean

Greece's PM Tsipras faces opposition from EU bailout deal

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Greece's PM Tsipras faces opposition from EU bailout deal


Alexis Tsipras
Alexis Tsipras

During the January election campaign in Greece, radical far-left candidate Alexis Tsipras promised that he would stand up to the Europeans: He would get half the Greek debt written off, and "We will not govern with anybody who follows the policies of Mrs Merkel," referring to Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel. Voters enthusiastically elected him, and Prime Minister Tsipras has had almost 80% public support in the polls.

The jury is out whether his public support will wane once it sinks in with the public that none of the Greek debt was written off, and that, except for a few minor adjustments, the austerity programs will continue as before -- almost a complete cave-in to the demands of Angela Merkel.

Tsipras really had no choice. Money was pouring out of Greece's banks at the rate of billions of dollars per week, and deposited in foreign banks in case Greece's banks collapsed. Greece desperately needed the European Central Bank (ECB) to continue supplying liquidity to the Greek Banks, and that meant that Tsipras had to agree to Merkel's terms before the coming weekend, when the old bailout program officially ends.

News reports indicate that Tsipras spend 10 hours on Wednesday meeting with officials in his own left-wing Syriza party, to sell them on the agreement and convince them not to pull his support. Presumably the pragmatists will support him, and the left-wing hardliners will not.

As I've said repeatedly, no solution exists for the Greek financial crisis, and the longer it's prolonged, the worse it gets. The new bailout agreement makes the problem worse because Greece's financial deficit will increase a bit, because of the adjustments that were made to the original plan.

However, last week's agreement apparently kicked the can down the road four months, until July, when the crisis will be worse than it was last week. Kathimerini and BBC and Kathimerini

Cyprus gives Russia access to Cypriot ports on the Mediterranean

Cyprus on Wednesday signed a military deal with Russia giving Russian military ships access to Cyprus's ports on in the Mediterranean Sea.

Russia has been a silent third partner in the financial crisis negotiations between Europe and Greece, and also in last year's financial crisis negotiations between Europe and Cyprus, because Russia sees them as an opportunity to go around Brussels and gain a foothold in Europe. Russia has offered financial aid to both Cyprus and Greece. Russia has now signed this military agreement with Cyprus, and has also offered to expand military-technical collaboration with Greece, if the latter requests it.

Some analysts doubt that anything meaningful will come from Russia's military agreement with Cyprus. According to one Russian analyst, "To speak of a Russian military presence in Cyprus, on the territory of an EU state, is beyond strange. It just makes no sense. I am certain the president of Cyprus will retract his statement, which is being used as a tool to put pressure on the EU, in my opinion." Reuters and Kathimerini and Moscow Times and Jamestown

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 26-Feb-15 World View -- Cyprus gives Russia access to Cypriot ports on the Mediterranean thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (26-Feb-2015) Permanent Link
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25-Feb-15 World View -- ISIS kidnaps around 90 Assyrian Christians in Syria

John Kerry says that Russia has repeatedly lied to his face

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

ISIS kidnaps around 90 Assyrian Christians in Syria


Photo released by ISIS on Tuesday showing a terrorist firing anti-aircraft weapons
Photo released by ISIS on Tuesday showing a terrorist firing anti-aircraft weapons

The Islamic State / of Iraq and Syria (IS or ISIS or ISIL or Daesh) abducted around 90 Assyrian Christians in Syria, in a pre-dawn raid as part of a larger offensive on Assyrian villages in the area. ISIS took over several villages in the offensive. The Assyrian villages were supposed to be under the protection of the Kurdish People’s Protection Unit (YPG), but the pre-dawn attack apparently took everyone by surprise.

It's not known what ISIS's intentions are with the Assyrians. One possibility is that ISIS will post a gruesome video showing them being beheaded, as happened with the Egyptian Coptic Christians who were abducted from Sirte, Libya. Another possibility is that they'll be used as leverage to obtain the release of jailed ISIS terrorists.

Either way, the abduction of scores of Christians is certain to inflame passions in the West, and may soon lead to increased anti-ISIS military action from the US or Nato. Drawing the West into the conflict in Syria and Iraq is thought to be part of the strategy of ISIS. ARA News (Syria) and Long War Journal and CNN

John Kerry says that Russia has repeatedly lied to his face

Secretary of State John Kerry said Tuesday that Russian officials have repeatedly lied to him. He was referencing Russia's president Vladimir Putin and foreign minister Sergei Lavrov. Kerry said:

"Russia is engaged in a rather remarkable period of the most overt and extensive propaganda exercise that I've seen since the very height of the Cold War. And they have been persisting in their misrepresentations - lies - whatever you want to call them about their activities there to my face, to the face of others on many different occasions."

Long-time readers of Generational Dynamics will not be the least bit surprised that Putin and Lavrov have lied constantly, but they, like me, might be excused for wondering what took Kerry so long to point it out.

In particular, readers may recall what I wrote in 2011 in "22-Apr-11 News -- Russia seeks to cripple Nato through Libya United Nations politics". Russia had previously abstained on the Security Council vote authorizing the Libya military action, and was now changing policy to use its veto to exercise almost total control over American and Nato foreign policy. Here's what I wrote at the time:

"Russia plans to demand that Nato restrict its activities to only the humanitarian acts allowed by the UN resolution, and then veto any attempt to expand the resolution in the Security Council, in order to guarantee a continued stalemate in Libya.

This will set a precedent that allows Russia to effectively control future activities of Nato, since only activities approved by the Security Council, and hence by Russia, could ever be permitted.

Moscow has a broader interest in seeing the US and NATO tied down in wars of choice and other protracted confrontations. These wars increase Russia’s leeway for action in ex-Soviet territories, which is Russia's top priority, according to the article. Furthermore, if Libya's oil exports are stopped, then Russia's own oil exports become more valuable."

It's now four years later, and it's almost unbelievable how successful this policy has been. Russia has become an international criminal organization, invading Ukraine, annexing Ukrainian territory, supplying weapons to Syria's genocidal monster president Bashar al-Assad. Putin had been unhappy how the Libya military action, but his policies have had even worse outcomes, provoking war in Ukraine, and pursuing a Syria policy that is the direct cause of the creation of the Islamic State / of Iraq and Syria (IS or ISIS or ISIL or Daesh).

The latest wrinkle is that Putin is now saying that the recent Minsk agreement on Ukraine has been approved by the Security Council, and so has the force of international law. This is laughable because Russia violated the Minsk agreement before the ink was dry, continuing the invasion of Ukraine with Russian troops and weapons. Nonetheless, Putin and Lavrov will continue to demand that the West abide by the Minsk agreement, while Russia continues as a criminal organization, with impunity. CBS News and Global Research and Deutsche Welle

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 25-Feb-15 World View -- ISIS kidnaps around 90 Assyrian Christians in Syria thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (25-Feb-2015) Permanent Link
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24-Feb-15 World View -- Sectarian violence surging all across Pakistan

Greece misses deadline for submitting reforms list

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Sectarian violence surging all across Pakistan


Pakistani Shia women condemning anti-Shia terrorist attack last month (AP)
Pakistani Shia women condemning anti-Shia terrorist attack last month (AP)

Although terrorist violence by Sunni groups linked to the Pakistani Taliban (Tehrik-e-Taliban - TTP) target both Sunnis and Shias, the amount of sectarian violence targeting Shias in Pakistan has been trending upward for years and is now increasing substantially. TTP-linked groups that I've reported on frequently that attack Shia targets are Lashkar-e Jhangvi (LeJ) and Jundullah.

There have been four major attacks on Shia targets in 2015 alone, including the 30-Jan attack on a Shia mosque in a city just north of Karachi, killing 56 people, as we reported.

There are several factors that make the current round of sectarian attacks much more lethal and more difficult to combat. They used to be restricted to just a few small regions of the country, but now they're spread across the entire country, and using larger bombs that result in more deaths.

The port city of Karachi used to be used by TTP linked groups only for financing and logistics. But as the use of violence increased, TTP terrorists attacked Shiite neighborhoods and processions with mass casualty attacks.

But the primary difference is the relationship between the terrorist groups and Pakistan's government. It was no secret that in the 1980s-90s, the sectarian groups were supported by the government, depended on the government for funding, and were therefore controlled by the government. They were largely coordinated with Saudi Arabia in opposition to Iran and India.

But now, terrorist groups are well endowed, with unregulated funding and weapons pouring in primarily from the Gulf region, including the Islamic State / of Iraq and Syria (IS or ISIS or ISIL or Daesh). Thus, the Pakistan government no longer has any control over these groups, even when these groups attack the government itself.

According to a Pakistan analyst Arif Rafiq, the sectarian conflict in Pakistan is not purely Sunni versus Shia. This is not surprising, given that the country's president from 2008-13 was a prominent Shia leader, Asif Ali Zardari. According to Rafiq, the deadliest sectarian attacks come from a Sunni sub-sect known as the Deobandis, comprising about 20% of the population. The other two major Sunni sub-sects, the Salafis and Barelvis, do not target Shias, and the Barelvis cooperate with the Shias on political issues.

On January 1, 2015, Mian Iftikhar Hussain, the head of Pakistan's Awami National Party (ANP) said that Punjab was a "training center for terrorists and their masterminds. ... Terrorism could not be eliminated from the country until an operation began against terrorist organizations in Punjab." He added, "there should be no distinction between good Taliban and bad Taliban and state institutions should take across-the-board action against terrorists."

As Pakistan hurtles into chaos, it's unlikely that any of these steps are going to be taken. As I've been describing for months, there is a large and growing Muslim versus Muslim war in the Mideast, North Africa and South Asia, of which the sectarian war in Pakistan plays a major part. And with respect to Pakistan and India, it's worth pointing out, as I have in the past, that for centuries, Shia Muslims and Hindus have been allied in wars against Sunni Muslims. The Hindu and Deutsche Welle and South Asia Terrorism Portal

Greece misses deadline for submitting reforms list

Monday evening was the deadline that Greece committed to last week to submit its list of reforms to the Eurogroup of eurozone finance ministers to explain how it's going to meet the existing terms of its bailout agreement. Greece has pretty much caved in on every negotiating point, and must now prove explain how it will proceed.

However, Greece missed the Monday evening deadline for providing the list, and says now that it will provide the list on Tuesday morning.

The list of reforms will have to address a number of economic issues, including the bloated public sector, curbing tax evasion and corruption, privatizing public businesses, and adjusting generous pension and minimum wage policies.

Once they receive the list, the Eurogroup will have three possible responses: Total acceptance, total rejection, or a call for further negotiations. Kathimerini

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 24-Feb-15 World View -- Sectarian violence surging all across Pakistan thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (24-Feb-2015) Permanent Link
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23-Feb-15 World View -- Egypt's al-Sisi calls for a joint Arab military force

Deadly MERS virus surging early in Saudi Arabia

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Deadly MERS virus surging early in Saudi Arabia


Pictogram: MERS health advisory (CDC)
Pictogram: MERS health advisory (CDC)

World health officials are concerned about a new outbreak of MERS-CoV (the Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus) in Saudi Arabia that's killed 17 people in the last 11 days, including 6 on one day on Thursday of last week. Although the outbreak is still small, officials are concerned because it's surging much earlier this year than last year. An international team of United Nations human and animal health experts has flown to Saudi Arabia to investigate the recent surge.

Since June 2012, the deadly virus has claimed 382 lives out of 899 infections. There are currently 29 people being treated at various health facilities across the Kingdom.

Last year, there was a great deal of concern that MERS would be spread around the world by millions of people who came to Mecca on October 2-7, 2014, for the Hajj, their once in a lifetime pilgrimage. Saudi officials took numerous precautions, with the result that apparently no new MERS cases occurred from the Hajj.

This year the Hajj is a little earlier, September 20-25, so all those precautions will have to be repeated and increased. Arab News and Reuters

India has worst H1N1 swine flu outbreak in years

This season's outbreak of H1N1 swine flu in India has so far sickened more than 11,000 people, and killed 703, the worst outbreak since 2009. As of February 11, there were 5,157 reported cases, so the number of reported cases more than doubled in 8 days. Times of India and Bloomberg

Egypt's al-Sisi calls for a joint Arab military force

Egypt's president Abdel al-Fattah al-Sisi on Sunday have a nationwide television address in which he called on all Arab nations to join together to create a joint military force to fight terrorism.

This call comes a week after ISIS-linked terrorists posted a video of the massacre of 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians in the town of Sirte in neighboring Libya. "16-Feb-15 World View -- Egypt in mourning as ISIS-linked terrorists kill Coptic Christians in Libya" The attack itself was a shock to all of Egypt, and triggered an immediate response ordered by al-Sisi for air strikes on the assets of the terrorist group, Ansar al-Sharia, that perpetrated the massacre.

Another shock occurred when Egypt received almost none of the international sympathy that Jordan received after its pilot was killed by the Islamic State / of Iraq and Syria (IS or ISIS or ISIL or Daesh), with even the U.S. and European administrations cool to Egypt's plight. Then Qatar criticized the Egyptian air strikes, reopening the bitter rift between Egypt and Qatar, and causing the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) to side with Qatar in order to prevent the rift from worsening. It may be that the only major power that sympathized with Egypt was Israel.

The chaos in Libya has the potential of further worsening the Arab rift. There are two competing governments in Libya, one in Tripoli considered to be Islamist, and one internationally recognized government in Tobruk in the west. There have been reports, denied by Qatar, that Qatar is siding with the Islamist government, and has been supplying weapons to Ansar al-Sharia. Whether that's true or not, the continuing deterioration in Libya is threatening to worsen an already overwhelming situation with refugees crossing the Mediterranean for Italy.

There have been unconfirmed reports in the past of discussions of a military pact between Egypt, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Kuwait. These discussions now appear to be on tract, with Jordan and Algeria joining, and with France and Italy also joining, because of the refugee danger to Europe. The National (UAE) and Al Ahram (Cairo) and Jerusalem Post

Armenia's president sends condolence letter to Egypt's al-Sisi

The President of the Republic of Armenia Serzh Sargsyan has sent a letter of condolence to Egypt's president Abdel al-Fattah al-Sisi. The letter said, "During this difficult time of grief and sorrow, I express my full support for you, the friendly people of Egypt and for the relatives of the victims, wishing them steadfastness and strong spirit."

Looking at the Mideast checkerboard, Egypt and Armenia have Turkey as a common enemy. Turkey's president Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been bitterly critical of Egypt's 2013 coup that overthrew Mohamed Morsi, and Turkey and Armenia have been embroiled in a century-long disagreement over whether Turkey committed a genocide of Armenians in 1915. Turkey is also a close ally of Qatar, and an enemy of Israel. Armen Press (Armenia)

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 23-Feb-15 World View -- Egypt's al-Sisi calls for a joint Arab military force thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (23-Feb-2015) Permanent Link
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22-Feb-15 World View -- Yemen's president flees to Aden, calls Houthis 'illegitimate'

Nigeria's army recaptures Baga, site of 2,000 deaths in Boko Haram massacres

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Yemen's president flees to Aden, calls Houthis 'illegitimate'


Anti-Houthi demonstrations in Sanaa on Saturday.  The posters have pictures of Hadi (AFP)
Anti-Houthi demonstrations in Sanaa on Saturday. The posters have pictures of Hadi (AFP)

Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi, Yemen's constitutional president, achieved a colorful escape on Saturday from his Houthi captors in Sanaa, and fled to his political stronghold in Aden, in south Yemen. From there, he issued a statement declaring that all Houthi decisions made since the September 21 coup were "null and illegitimate."

The 9/21 coup by the Iran-backed Shia al-Houthi militias took control of the ministerial government functions in Sanaa, and forced the Sunni president Hadi to resign on January 21. It had been thought that the Houthis wanted Hadi to stay in office, where he could be controlled by the Houthis, who would then have the power but the not responsibilities of governing. Hadi's resignation caused a power vacuum that has never been filled. The Houthis arrested Hadi and kept him prisoner in his home in Sanaa.

How did Hadi escape? It's already becoming an urban legend. One story is that he covered himself in a head-to-toe Muslim woman's burka that exposed only the eyes, and pretended to be a woman. Another story is that he hid in the food truck when it came to deliver his food for the day. Another was that the Houthis let him go as part of a deal with the United Nations, which the U.N. denies.

From Aden, he issued a "presidential statement," implying that he's retracting his resignation. He said that every Houthi decision and appointment must be reversed, and that all people abducted or under house arrest should be freed.

There are many questions about what Hadi is going to do next. Aden is a Sunni stronghold, and one possibility is that he may declare Aden to be the new capital of Yemen, and characterize Sanaa as a secessionist capital, which would amount to a declaration of war between the Shia Houthis and the Sunni militias supporting him.

Yemen is the home of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). Last year, President Obama referred to Yemen as an administration success story, since the military was successfully using drone missiles to attack AQAP officials in cooperation with Yemen's government, but without requiring US troops. Both the Houthis and Hadi are opposed to AQAP, and two AQAP members were killed in a drone strike on Friday. So apparently the drone strikes are continuing, which is kind of an ironic twist. Still, Yemen began deteriorating last year soon after President Obama's statement last year, and the deterioration is continuing, with the possibility of war in sight, as part of the general deterioration of the entire Mideast that we've been reporting on. Yemen Online and Military Times

Nigeria's army recaptures Baga, site of 2,000 deaths in Boko Haram massacres

Nigerian says that its army has recaptured the town of Baga from Boko Haram terrorists after several days of fighting that resulted in "heavy casualties." Baga was the site of a massive Boko Haram massacre last month. ( "10-Jan-15 World View -- Up to 2000 Nigeria civilians killed in three-day Boko Haram massacre")

According to the army, many Boko Haram militants had been killed, with some of them drowning in Lake Chad as they tried to flee from the approaching army.

Last month's massacre at Baga was almost completely ignored by the international media when it occurred, while the murder in the same time frame of a few white reporters in the Charlie Hebdo attack in Paris received intense coverage around the world. Some political analysts suggested that the NY Times, NBC News and Al Sharpton consider a dead black person to be of no worth or interest whatsoever unless killed by a white cop.

Early this month, Nigeria announced that the February 14 presidential elections would be postponed until March 28 because of threats by Boko Haram to disrupt the election to terrorist attacks. The political opposition of the current president, Goodluck Jonathan, wondered why the security threats would be any better on March 28, and accused the government of postponing the election to give Jonathan time to fix the election.

The recapture of Baga has a symbolic value, and the army will now claim that it's a success that will make the March 28 election safer.

International assistance is increasingly flowing to Nigeria, Cameroon and Chad to fight Boko Haram. On Saturday, a consignment of military equipment from the United States military arrived in Cameroon. BBC and Osun Defender (Nigeria) and VOA

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 22-Feb-15 World View -- Yemen's president flees to Aden, calls Houthis 'illegitimate' thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (22-Feb-2015) Permanent Link
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21-Feb-15 World View -- U.N. may release list of Syrian war criminals

Greece apparently caves in on bailout crisis

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

U.N. may release list of Syrian war criminals


Bashar al-Assad is thought to be on the United Nations list of Syrian war criminals
Bashar al-Assad is thought to be on the United Nations list of Syrian war criminals

The investigators at the U.N. Commission for Inquiry on Syria announced on Friday that there has been an 'exponential rise" in atrocities killed in Syria, and that, because Russia's veto prevents the Security Council from taking any action, they may go around the Security Council and reveal a list of alleged war criminals in Syria. The list is thought likely to contain the name of Syria's president Bashar al-Assad.

The Commission would have liked to refer the case to the International Criminal Court (ICC), but that requires a vote of the Security Council, which Russia always blocks with a veto. The Commission is therefore recommending a special court without Security Council approval.

United Nations investigators found a way to go around the Security Council once before. After Bashar al-Assad used Sarin gas to kill hundreds of people in 2013, a U.N. chemical weapons team was authorized to investigate the incident. However, thanks to a threatened Russian veto, the U.N. team was forbidden from assigning blame for the Sarin attack. But the team found a clever way of assigning blame without having to say it. In their scientific analysis of the evidence, they included calculations of the trajectories of the rockets that delivered the Sarin gas. They drew no conclusions about where the rockets were launched, but they provided enough scientific information within the report so that experts studying the report could analyze the trajectories to prove that the rockets must have been launched from a Syrian Republican Guard unit.

Bashar al-Assad has been a modern day Hitler. He's flattened entire Sunni villages with Russia's heavy weapons, he's killed children by sending missiles into exam rooms and bedrooms, he's killed dozens with sarin gas, and he's killed countless more with barrel bombs loaded with explosives, metals, and chlorine gas. In addition, he's used electrocution, eye-gouging, strangulation, starvation, and beating on tens of thousands of prisoners on a massive "industrial strength" scale, and does with complete impunity, and in fact with encouragement and support from Russia and Iran. Russia in particular has been providing weapons to al-Assad to support his genocide, making Vladimir Putin a war criminal as well.

If the war criminal list is made public, then it will be done at the meeting of the UN Human Rights Council on March 17th. United Nations and BBC and VOA

Greece apparently caves in on bailout crisis

The Eurogroup of eurozone financial ministers meeting in Brussels on Friday announced a new deal with Greece that extends the bailout loan agreement for four months. The agreement was an almost total cave-in by the Greeks; however, there was one important concession: The Greeks will not be required to have a higher government surplus in 2015 than in 2014, which means that there will be no further austerity measures imposed this year. Other than that, the terms of the agreement were similar to those of Greece's previous government, and an abandonment of the promises that the new prime minister, Alexis Tsipras, made during his recent election campaign.

The terms of the agreement are as follows:

Remember when we used to talk about "kicking the can down the road"? Amazingly enough, the Europeans have done it again.

If anything goes wrong with all of these steps, then the plan will collapse, and Greece will go bankrupt, and probably be forced to leave the eurozone, to return to its old drachma currency.

But if all goes well, then by April the crisis will be resolved. Until June, when a new 3.5 billion euro debt payment comes due, and the whole crisis starts all over again.

It's worth repeating what I've been saying for several years: There is NO solution to this crisis. And by that I don't mean that no one has been clever enough to figure out a solution. I mean that no solution exists. So the only thing the Europeans can do is to keep postponing the problem -- kicking the can down the road, allowing the crisis to worsen each time. Greek Reporter and Kathimerini

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 21-Feb-15 World View -- U.N. may release list of Syrian war criminals thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (21-Feb-2015) Permanent Link
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20-Feb-15 World View -- Ethnic Chinese Kokang burst into violence in northern Burma (Myanmar)

Libya chaos threatens to reopen bitter rift between Qatar and Egypt

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Greece and Germany are eyeball to eyeball on bailout crisis


Grumpy German finance minister Wolfgang Schäuble on left, next to merry Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis
Grumpy German finance minister Wolfgang Schäuble on left, next to merry Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis

Here's a brief summary of Thursday's action in Greece's financial crisis:

The Eurogroup summit of eurozone finance ministers will meet in emergency session on Friday to see if negotiations can yield a compromise. Germany, Finland and Slovakia appear to be taking a hard line towards Greece, while France and Italy appear to be more open to compromise. If there is no compromise, then Greece will completely run out of money sometime in March. Greek Reporter and Deutsche Welle and Kathimerini

Libya chaos threatens to reopen bitter rift between Qatar and Egypt

Last week's slaughter of 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians in Libya by ISIS-linked Ansar al-Sharia has resulted in a chain of events that led Qatar to recall its ambassador to Egypt on Thursday, threatening to reopen a very bitter rift in the Arab world that followed last summer's Gaza war with Israel. The major Mideast realignment following the Gaza war, brought Israel plus Egypt plus Saudi Arabia plus the Palestinian Authority into alliance versus Hamas plus Qatar plus Turkey plus the Muslim Brotherhood. The split between Qatar and Egypt had been particularly vitriolic prior to the war, ever since the ouster of Mohamed Morsi, but after the Gaza war the split between the Saudis and Qataris was equally vitriolic. Saudi King Abdullah acted as a mediator and was able to paper over the differences and obtain a reconciliation in time for an Arab summit meeting in December, but now King Abdullah has passed away.

The split between Qatar and Egypt was too vitriolic never to resurface, and now it's in danger to be doing so. The slaughter of the Egyptian Coptics has caused nationalism to surge in Egypt, resulting in an immediate decision by Egypt's president Abdel al-Fattah al-Sisi to launch airstrikes on Ansar al-Sharia camps and weapons depots in Libya. Egypt says that its airstrikes were carried out in coordination with Libya's air force.

Because Egypt is fighting a two-front war, against Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis (ABM - Ansar Jerusalem - Champions of Jerusalem) in north Sinai and Ansar al-Sharia in Libya, both ISIS-linked, Egypt is requesting international help in Libya.

The Arab League initially offered Egypt its full backing on the airstrikes in Libya, saying that Egypt had the right to defend itself and its citizens. But Qatar refused, and said it was concerned the strikes could harm civilians and criticized Egypt for not consulting with other Arab states before launching the airstrikes.

The furious Arab League delegate Tareq Adel from Egypt accused Qatar of "supporting terrorism and deviating from the Arab consensus." Qatar responded by withdrawing its ambassador from Cairo.

In an attempt to keep the rift from worsening, the head of Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) of Gulf Arab nations condemned Egypt's comments as "baseless accusations that defy the truth and ignore the sincere efforts made by the State of Qatar with GCC member states and the Arab countries to combat terrorism and extremism at all levels." AFP and Al-Ahram (Cairo) and Cairo Post

Ethnic Chinese Kokang burst into violence in northern Burma (Myanmar)

Myanmar's president Thein Sein on Tuesday declared a state of emergency and imposed martial law in the Kokang Special Region of Burma, on the border with China. The Kokang people are ethnic Chinese who even use a Chinese phone network and spend Chinese money in this region. The Kokang Special Region was created in 1989 after the collapse of Burma's Communist Party. In 2009, Burma's army intervened to end the arms and drug-trafficking networks, forcing the corrupt Kokang leader Pheung Kya-shin, born 1931, to flee across the border into China with 30,000 refugees.

In late December, octogenarian Pheung made a surprise return from China to the Kokang region, and triggered a major ethnic rebellion that's resulted in the deaths of both Kokang people and Burmese soldiers. That violence has continued, and is increasing, resulting in this week's imposition of martial law throughout the region.

In 2007, at the height of the nationwide riots, I provided a generational history of Burma back to the 1700s. (See "Burma: Growing demonstrations by the '88 Generation' raise fears of new slaughter") Since then, Burma's army has loosened its grip on the country, allowing more political freedom. But Burma's last crisis war was a bloody civil war among ethnic groups, with intervention by the Chinese. That war climaxed in 1958, meaning that Burma is now entering a new generational Crisis era, so it's no surprise that there's a new explosion of ethnic violence.

President Thein Sein is asking China's government to take steps to keep the Kokang army from launching attacks on Burma from China's soil, but China is not responding.

The major concern is that China's army will intervene on Burma's soil, as it did during the 1950s civil war, using as an excuse the protection of ethnic Chinese, the same excuse that Russia is using to invade Ukraine. BBC and AFP and Reuters

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 20-Feb-15 World View -- Ethnic Chinese Kokang burst into violence in northern Burma (Myanmar) thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (20-Feb-2015) Permanent Link
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19-Feb-15 World View -- China, Russia, Syria: The 'Salami Slicing Strategy'

Anthem health insurance data breach puts millions of children at risk

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Anthem health insurance data breach puts millions of children at risk


Millions of children are at risk of identity theft because of the Anthem data breach
Millions of children are at risk of identity theft because of the Anthem data breach

The consequences of the massive Anthem Inc data breach that we described two weeks ago are increasingly being seen as catastrophic. 80 million current and former customers had their personal information compromised, including birthdates, addresses, and social security numbers.

This is bad enough for adults, but there are millions of children included in that theft. A child's identity can be stolen as much as an adult's can, and the child's family not even be aware for several months.

Even worse, the stolen data will be valid for decades. Some hacker group can use it to steal your child's identity next year, or five or ten years from now.

Anthem is providing free identity theft protection, but only for two years.

Any current or former customer of the following health plans is potentially compromised: Anthem Blue Cross, Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Georgia, Empire Blue Cross and Blue Shield, Amerigroup, Caremore, Unicare, Healthlink, and DeCare. Credit.com and CNBC and Anthem Inc.

Putin gloats over humiliating Russian victory over Ukraine

The battle over the city Debaltseve in Ukraine, which we described yesterday, has ended in victory for Ukraine's rebels, backed by Russian army soldiers and weapons, and a humiliating defeat for Ukraine's soldiers. The Russian attack and subsequent victory was a violation of the the ceasefire agreement that was signed last week by Russia's president Vladimir Putin.

Putin gloated about the victory, saying:

"Of course, it’s always bad to lose. Of course it’s always a hardship when you lose to yesterday’s miners or yesterday’s tractor drivers. But life is life. It’ll surely go on."

He perhaps unintentionally implied that Russian army soldiers are former miners and tractor drivers. At any rate, it now appears clear that he never intended to honor the ceasefire which, after all, is no surprise.

The capture of Debaltseve is an important strategic victory for the Russians, in that it lies at several crossroads in east Ukraine, with a rail line that links Debaltseve to Russia, and consolidates the Russian invasion and capture of the entire region. According to analysts, the fall of Debaltseve is both a military disaster and political disaster Ukraine's president Petro Poroshenko. He faced massive domestic criticism for agreeing to the Minsk "peace agreement" in the first place, for making painful compromises that ceded gains on the ground to the Russians, and now the agreement turns out to be a sham after all, with the Russians gaining consolidated control of a large part of eastern Ukraine.

Few people believe that the Russian invasion is finished. BBC and Deutsche Welle and Fox News

China, Russia, Syria: The 'Salami Slicing Strategy'

As I've been describing for a couple of years, China has been using a "salami-slicing" technique of using military force to annex one portion after another of regions of the South China Sea historically belonging to Vietnam, Brunei, Malaysia, Indonesia, Taiwan and the Philippines. China supports its military force by making unsupported historical claims, and then refusing to defend them in the appropriate United Nations tribunal, since they know they'll lose.

The salami-slicing technique is designed to take advantage of the inherent weakness of democracies during generational Crisis eras. The technique would not have worked as well, or at all, prior to 2000, since the Silent generation survivors of World War II were still in charge, and would not have been fooled or tolerated specious claims like those that China is making about the South China Sea. Indeed, all presidents since WW II have been guided by the Truman Doctrine of 1947, which made America policeman of the world. The doctrine is highly controversial today, but its justification is that it's better to have a small military action to stop an ongoing crime than to let it slide and end up having an enormous conflict like World War II. In other words, the Truman Doctrine could be said to be the antidote to the salami-slicing strategy.

Every president since WW II has followed the Truman Doctrine, up to and including George Bush. Barack Obama is the first president to completely repudiate the Truman Doctrine, even in the face of blatant salami-slicing. And he's not alone, of course, as the entire West is succumbing.

So we have China annexing one region after another in the South China Sea, using as an excuse specious historical claims that the West is unwilling to challenge. Russia invaded and annexed first Crimea and now east Ukraine, using the specious excuse that there are ethnic Russians living there. There are over a million Americans living in Mexico, so under the Russian reasoning, America could invade and annex the entire state of Nuevo León.

Probably the most visible and consequential repudiation of the Truman Doctrine was President Obama's flip-flop on the question of Sarin gas and other chemical weapons used by the regime of Syria's genocidal president Bashar al-Assad against his own people. To this day, he's killed countless innocent women and children with barrel bombs loaded with explosives, metals, and chlorine gas.

Now we have news on Thursday from Staffan de Mistura, the U.N. envoy to Syria, that al-Assad has agreed to a "freeze" in dropping barrel bombs on the city of Aleppo. The "freeze" will take place some time in the future, to be announced. Like China's specious historical claims, like Russia's ethnic Russian excuse, al-Assad waves a sham peace plan in front of the United Nations and everyone starts tittering about a "ray of hope." This is another version of the salami-slicing strategy, and it's possible in a generational Crisis era.

There is a flaw in the salami-slicing strategy. Once a government starts using it, they think they can use it over and over to get away with anything. It's pretty clear that Russia, China and Syria all believe that they can commit crimes with impunity.

But the flaw is that at some point it stops working. That's what happened in 1939 when Hitler invaded Poland. Hitler was certain that he could take one more salami slice with impunity. But the British population by that time had changed, and become sufficiently nationalistic to refuse to be made fools of again.

I've been describing for years how one nation after another is becoming increasingly nationalistic and xenophobic in a generational Crisis era. So you have two conflicting trends: the criminal nation becomes increasingly brazen in using the salami-slicing strategy, and the other nations become increasingly nationalistic and less tolerant. At some point, these two trends collide, and there's a new world war -- a war that might have been avoided if a policy like the Truman Doctrine had been continued -- or was even still possible. International Living and AP

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 19-Feb-15 World View -- China, Russia, Syria: The 'Salami Slicing Strategy' thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (19-Feb-2015) Permanent Link
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18-Feb-15 World View -- Russians ignore Ukraine 'ceasefire' as 5,000 Ukrainian troops are trapped

New Zealand debating military help for Iraq against ISIS

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Taliban claims responsibility for bombing in Lahore, Pakistan


Police rush an injured man to hospital after suicide bombing in Lahore on Tuesday (AP)
Police rush an injured man to hospital after suicide bombing in Lahore on Tuesday (AP)

A suicide bomber detonated his bomb on Tuesday early afternoon in the large east Pakistan city of Lahore, in Punjab province, killing as many as 11 people, and injuring dozens more. The target was a police station. The carnage could have been much worse, but the suicide bomber was stopped by heavy security before entering the building.

Jamaatul Ahrar, a breakaway faction of the Pakistani Taliban (Tehrik-e-Taliban - TTP), has claimed responsibility. According to the Jamaatul Ahrar spokesman, the attack was revenge for the anti-Taliban military operations being conducted in Pakistan's tribal areas, and for hangings of several convicted terrorists. The military action was triggered by a massive terrorist attack on the Jinnah International Airport in Karachi last year in June. The hangings began after the horrific Taliban attack on a Peshawar army school, killing over 130 schoolchildren in December of last year.

Last Friday, Taliban militants stormed a Shia commemoration service, killing as many as 21 Shia worshippers. Before that was a service in Shikarpur, killing more than 60 people.

As we dwell on atrocities committed in the Mideast by terror groups linked to the Islamic State / of Iraq and Syria (IS or ISIS or ISIL or Daesh), it would be worthwhile to give an occasional thought to Pakistan, where Taliban atrocities are almost a daily way of life. Dawn (Pakistan) and Daily Times (Pakistan)

Russians ignore Ukraine 'ceasefire' as 5,000 Ukrainian troops are trapped

A ceasefire agreement was signed in Minsk, Belarus, last week, but it's being openly ignored by anti-government Russians who are advancing on the central city of Debaltseve, where 5,000 Ukrainian troops are trapped. The Russians are simply saying that the ceasefire doesn't apply to them, and they're continuing warfare.

A good summary of the situation was provided on Tuesday by William Taylor, former American ambassador to Ukraine, interview on the BBC. He was asked whether the new Minsk ceasefire agreement is going to hold (my transcription):

"It doesn't look good at the moment. All is not lost, it's still possible for the Minsk II agreement to be put into effect, but it has to be put into effect by both sides.

The weapons were supposed to have been pulled back by now, well out of range of each other's. This is a tragedy for the people in the cities, tragedy for people who are living there, but it can be resolved by adhering to this agreement.

[[Question: Would you point the finger of blame equally at the rebels and the Ukrainian troops]]

I wouldn't. I would point the blame at the Russian troops who are in eastern Ukraine. There may be rebels there, maybe Ukrainian rebels are there, but there are Russian troops, and Russian soldiers, and Russian units who are there, who are the principal cause of this overall problem.

[[Question: When you look at what's happening, it looks as if those troops have not even paid lip service to what was agreed in Minsk. Did that take the West by surprise do you think?]]

I think it has. The rebels and the Russians who are there in the Debaltseve have said that the Minsk agreement doesn't apply to Debaltseve. Now, what does that mean? They're clearly in the zone that both sides are supposed to pull back from. Of course the Minsk agreement applies to Debaltseve, and of course they should be pulling back, and the ceasefire should have gone into effect."

It's worth repeating again that anything that's said by Russian officials or Russian media is pretty much worthless. Last year, Russia claimed they weren't invading Crimea, just as Russian troops were invading Crimea. Russia claimed that they wouldn't annex Crimea, just before they annexed Crimea, a clear violation of international law. Russia claimed that there were no Russian troops in east Ukraine at a time when Russian troops were entering east Ukraine. On September 5, Russia signed an international peace agreement (the "Minsk protocols") in which they committed to a political compromise in east Ukraine, and then repeatedly violated their own agreement. Now they've signed a new Minsk agreement on February 11, and are simply ignoring it. Basically, anything that comes from Russian state media or Russia's government should be considered to be a lie, and should be discarded as worthless.

The concern now is that the ceasefire will unravel completely and lead to increased violence, including a full-scale invasion by Russia. Washington Post and Russia Today (12-Feb)

New Zealand debating military help for Iraq against ISIS

After an in-person invitation by Iraq's foreign minister Dr Ibrahim al-Jaafari in a visit to Auckland, New Zealand foreign minister Murray McCully said that plans were being discussed to send about 150 New Zealand troops to Iraq to help train Iraq's army. The suggestion is controversial, with some politicians questioning whether the Iraq army can protect the NZ troops, while others wonder if NZ is getting into "another Vietnam." TV New Zealand and Stuff (New Zealand)

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 18-Feb-15 World View -- Russians ignore Ukraine 'ceasefire' as 5,000 Ukrainian troops are trapped thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (18-Feb-2015) Permanent Link
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17-Feb-15 World View -- Egypt faces two-front war with airstrikes in Libya

Greece bailout talks collapse in acrimony

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Greece bailout talks collapse in acrimony


Greece's angry finance minister Yanis Varoufakis on Monday
Greece's angry finance minister Yanis Varoufakis on Monday

A meeting on Monday in Brussels by the Eurogroup, the eurozone finance ministers, which was intended to reach agreement on Greece's financial crisis, ended hours earlier than usual in better acrimony.

Greece has been asking for a "bridge loan" -- enough money to survive for six months, but without having to continue the harsh austerity requirements that accompanied the 240 billion euros already loaned to Greece in the bailout program. Europe has rejected this proposal, and given Greece a "take it or leave it" ultimatum to extend the existing bailout program. The European statement said the Greeks must continue with austerity on "tax policy, privatization, labor market reforms, financial sector and pensions." Indeed, any substantial change in Europe's position would require a vote in the German, Dutch, Finnish and Slovak parliaments.

Greece's new finance minister, Yanis Varoufakis, from the radical far-left Syriza party, made a bitter statement to the press referred to the European proposal, "an extension of the current program," and calling it "absurd and unreasonable." Indeed, any back-down by Greece's newly elected government would cause a backlash in Greece's public, and a sharp plunge in the new government's poll ratings.

Greece has only two weeks left to come to some agreement, before a huge bond payment comes due. The Greek government is not allowed to borrow money -- issue government bonds. The bailout funding has been suspended, because the Greek government has said it no longer wants to cooperating with the bailout program. The Greek government only has tax revenues to live off of, which won't be enough to pay public sector salaries, pay off pensions which the new government wants to increase, and make debt payments. And Greece's banks are bleeding deposits by two billion euros per week.

According to reports, Greece accepts 70% of the committed austerity requirements, and rejects 30%, but hasn't revealed which requirements are in each category. Some hope that this can form the basis for a compromise.

The Eurogroup has given Greece a Friday deadline to agree to the bailout requirements. The sides are headed for a collision, unless they can quickly figure out a way to kick the can down the road. Kathimerini (Athens) and Telegraph (London)

Egypt faces two-front war with airstrikes in Libya

Egypt's army announced on Monday morning that it has conducted air strikes against militant targets in Libya, including training camps in arms depots. The airstrikes were revenge attacks after a terror group linked to the Islamic State / of Iraq and Syria (IS or ISIS or ISIL or Daesh) released a video portraying the beheading of 21 Egyptian Coptic Christian fishermen who had gone to Libya to earn money to send back home. Egypt's president Abdel al-Fattah al-Sisi had on Sunday given a nationally televised address wherein he vowed to choose the "necessary means and timing to avenge the criminal killings."

Egypt is now facing a two-front war against terrorist groups linked to ISIS. The terror group Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis (ABM - Ansar Jerusalem - Champions of Jerusalem) has conducted numerous attacks in Egypt's Sinai, along the border with Israel and Gaza, and has recently changed its name to "Sinai Province," meaning "Sinai Province of Islamic State" when it repudiated its allegiance to al-Qaeda and declared its allegiance to ISIS.

Libya's terror group Ansar al-Sharia has likewise renamed itself Khilafah in Wilayat Tarabulus (Caliphate State Tripolitania) when it repudiated its allegiance to al-Qaeda and declared its allegiance to ISIS.

Egypt is fighting ABM with ground troops is Sinai, and for that reason it's believed that Egypt does not have the military resources to send ground troops into Libya. For that reason, Egypt, France and Italy are calling on the United States and the international community to resume military action in Libya. Al Ahram (Cairo) and CNN

Muslim versus Muslim wars in the Mideast continue to grow

As I've been writing for weeks, there is a large and growing Muslim versus Muslim war in the Mideast, North Africa and South Asia. The Muslims are not at war with the West, as many claim, but they're almost entirely at war with each other. This Muslim versus Muslim war is going to continue to grow until the West is pulled into it, and then the West WILL be at war with some Muslims, allied with others.

There is a tendency to view this situation as similar to the rise of Hitler and the Nazis, with ISIS leader Abu Omar al-Baghdadi taking on the role of Hitler, commanding armies all over the Mideast. But from the point of view of Generational Dynamics, that's not what's going on.

Much (though not all) of the Muslim world is deep into a generational Crisis era, with the last crisis being the collapse of the Ottoman empire, followed by wars of consolidation in the 1920s-30s. Based on historical research that I've been doing for years, countries and societies suffer increasing societal breakdowns as the decades pass since the end of the previous generational crisis war. The "Arab Spring" that started in Tunisia in 2011 was the first major societal breakdown in the Muslim world, and what we're seeing is an increasing societal breakdown.

So, in my opinion, what we're seeing is not the formation of a unified ISIS army waging war against other Muslims, at least not yet, but a general societal breakdown where local, individual terror groups like Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis and Ansar al-Sharia find it convenient to declare allegiance to ISIS for public relations purposes.

Ironically, instead of a unified ISIS army, what we may be seeing is the mirror image. The "moderate" Arab nations have been notably reluctant to take part in the U.S. anti-ISIS coalition. However, what ISIS's public relations stunts have accomplished is an increased realization of many Arab countries, including Jordan, United Arab Emirates (UAE), and now Egypt, to understand that their national security depends on fighting ISIS and terror groups linked to it. Al Ahram (Cairo) and Independent (London)

Iraq army preparing to recapture Mosul from ISIS

Last June, when IS militias attacked Mosul, the Iraq army just dropped its weapons and ran away. Now, according to prime minister Haider al-Abadi, the Iraq army has been scoring successes, pushing back ISIS from areas across Iraq, although ISIS still controls about a quarter of Iraqi territory. According to Abadi, Iraq is planning an offensive this year to recapture Mosul from ISIS. Although US ground troops will not be needed, Abadi said the operation's success would also hinge upon close co-ordination between Iraqi security forces, the US military, and the Peshmerga. BBC

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 17-Feb-15 World View -- Egypt faces two-front war with airstrikes in Libya thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (17-Feb-2015) Permanent Link
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16-Feb-15 World View -- Egypt in mourning as ISIS-linked terrorists kill Coptic Christians in Libya

Yemen may form second government in Aden

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Egypt in mourning as ISIS-linked terrorists kill Coptic Christians in Libya


Screen grab from terrorist recruiting and public relations video showing Egyptian Coptic Christian fishermen just prior to beheading
Screen grab from terrorist recruiting and public relations video showing Egyptian Coptic Christian fishermen just prior to beheading

Egypt's president Abdel al-Fattah al-Sisi has called a national security emergency and declared seven days of national mourning, after a terrorist group released a video showing the beheading in Libya of Egyptian Coptic Christians. The video was released on a web site belonging to the Islamic State / of Iraq and Syria (IS or ISIS or ISIL or Daesh). The people shown were among 27 Egyptian Coptic Christian workers who were kidnapped in the Libyan city of Sirte in December and January.

The beheading video comes two days after an ISIS online magazine display pictures of 21 hostages, accompanied by the text:

"This month, the soldiers of the Khilafah in Wilayat Tarabulus [Caliphate State Tripolitania] captured 21 Coptic crusaders, almost five years after the blessed operation against the Baghdad church executed in revenge for Kamilia Shehata, Wafa Constantine, and other sisters who were tortured and murdered by the Coptic Church of Egypt."

Apparently, Khilafah in Wilayat Tarabulus is the renamed version of the terror group Ansar al-Sharia, presumably renamed when it repudiated its allegiance to al-Qaeda and swore its allegiance to ISIS.

The "blessed operation" apparently refers to the October 2010 bombing of a Catholic Church in Baghdad. The "other sisters" apparently refers to unsubstantiated claims that Egyptian Christian women who converted to Islam were tortured and killed by the Coptic Orthodox Church.

Last year, there were an estimated one million Egyptian guest workers in Libya, but the numbers have shrunk considerably since civil war broke out last summer between the Libya Dawn government in Tripoli and the internationally recognized Libyan government which has fled to Tobruk. The 21 hostages have been identified as fishermen from an impoverished village in northern Egypt. Al Ahram (Cairo) and BBC and Guardian (London)

Egypt purchases fighter jets over fears of militias in Libya

Egypt's president Abdel al-Fattah al-Sisi on Sunday vowed to choose the "necessary means and timing to avenge the criminal killings," for the murder of 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians by an ISIS-linked militia in Libya, but military action in Libya has been considered for some time. The murder is increasing public pressure on al-Sisi to take some action to counter the increasing security threats from jihadist militias in Libya. Egypt has in the past denied that it had taken part in airstrikes in Libya, and said that no airstrikes are planned. It now appears that airstrikes are on the table, though ground troops are apparently not being considered at this time. The border between Egypt and Libya has become almost lawless, and cross-border attacks into Egypt have become common.

On Thursday, Egypt announced that it will sign on Monday a $5.7 billion deal to purchase 24 Dassault Aviation Rafale fighter jets, a naval frigate and related military equipment from France. The purchase will be partially funded by France and by an Arab country, either United Arab Emirates (UAE) or Saudi Arabia. Egypt is no longer receiving military aid from the United States, as the Obama administration cut it off after the 2013 coup that deposed president Mohamed Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood government.

Libya itself is almost in total chaos, with two different governments. The government in the west is Libya Dawn, with Islamists and militia from the Misrata region, in control of the capital city Tripoli. The second government is the internationally recognized government, which was forced to flee to Tobruk in the east. The al-Qaeda linked terrorist group, Ansar al-Sharia, has been operating in Libya with headquarters in Benghazi, where it was responsible for the attack that killed American ambassador J. Christopher Stevens in 2012. However, based on Sunday's news reports, it appears that Ansar al-Sharia is no longer allied with al-Qaeda, and has now pledged itself to ISIS and renamed itself Khilafah in Wilayat Tarabulus [Caliphate State Tripolitania].

Egypt is facing increasing threats from ISIS-linked militants. There have been other abductions of Egyptian workers by Libyan militias. In the Sinai, along the border with Gaza and Israel, there have been a series of terrorist attacks. There have been recent reports that Israel and Egypt and planning joint military operations to target terrorists in Sinai. Al Ahram (Cairo) and Reuters and France 24 and Debka

Yemen may form second government in Aden

The governments of three Yemen provinces, Aden, Lahij, and Mahra, met in Aden on Sunday to discuss the situation following the government takeover last month by the Iran-backed Shia Houthis of Yemen's government in Sanaa. The leaders of the three provinces announced that they support the country becoming a federation as discussed at meetings last year. They called for the reinstatement of the president and for the militia to step down.

Yemen seems to be going down the same road as Libya, with the possibility of two governments -- a rebel government in the capital city Sanaa, and an internationally recognized government in Aden. There's the additional complication that Yemen is the headquarters of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), which may either fight with or try to control a second government in Aden.

Also on Sunday, the UN Security Council prepared to adopt a resolution calling on the Houthis to step aside or "face consequences." The Security Council resolution is being supported by the Arab League and by the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). According to a GCC statement, "In the case of failure to reach an agreement ... the GCC member states will take measures which enable them to maintain their vital interests in the security and stability of Yemen."

However, a Houthi spokesman responded to the GCC's comments, calling them "provocative blackmail": "The Yemeni people won’t cede power in the face of threats." Arab News and The National (UAE)

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 16-Feb-15 World View -- Egypt in mourning as ISIS-linked terrorists kill Coptic Christians in Libya thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (16-Feb-2015) Permanent Link
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15-Feb-15 World View -- Obama seeks Iran's help as anti-ISIS coalition shrinks

Nigeria requests US troops to fight Boko Haram

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Nigeria requests US troops to fight Boko Haram


Goodluck Jonathan on Friday (WSJ)
Goodluck Jonathan on Friday (WSJ)

Nigeria's president Goodluck Jonathan on Friday said in an interview that he wants the U.S. to help Nigeria fight Boko Haram. In the past, Jonathan has rejected the idea of foreign troops on Nigeria's soil, but now he noted that U.S. troops are fighting the Islamic State / of Iraq and Syria (IS or ISIS or ISIL) and has apparently has changed his mind:

"Are they not fighting ISIS? Why can't they come to Nigeria? They are our friends. If Nigeria has a problem, then I expect the US to come and assist us."

However, Pentagon spokesman Rear-Admiral John Kirby said, "I can tell you that there are no plans as I speak here to send unilaterally, to send or to add US troops into Nigeria. There are no US troops operating in Nigeria."

This reminds me of the situation involving the Darfur war during the George Bush administration. In 2004, "peace activist" Jesse Jackson condemned President Bush for sending troops to the Iraq war, but called on Bush to lead a worldwide effort to send troops to Darfur. He said, "If we can have troops in Korea, in Nato, there should be nothing shameful about defending life in Africa."

In 2007, then-Senator Joe Biden criticized President Bush continuing to be involved in Iraq, but for not getting involved Darfur:

"The conduct of this [Iraq] war has so badly damaged our readiness; the conduct of this war and the blood and resources we've had to expend has limited our credibility around the world, and limited our flexibility in terms of the use of force. Here we are - we could end the carnage in Darfur tomorrow."

This statement came shortly after he demanded that American troops be sent to Darfur:

"I would use American force now. I think it's not only time not to take force off the table. I think it's time to put force on the table and use it. ... Let's stop the bleeding. I think it's a moral imperative."

Other "peace activists" at the time were more explicit in saying that President Bush was willing to send troops to help white people, but not to send black people in Africa. Susan Rice, the current National Security Advisor, was particularly vocal in demands to send troops to Darfur.

So let's see if anyone asks this administration why they're willing to fight terrorists in Iraq and Syria killing white people, but not willing to fight terrorists in Nigeria killing black people. Naij.com (Nigeria) and AFP

Debka: Obama seeks Iran's help as anti-ISIS coalition shrinks

Following the capture and murder of the Jordanian pilot by the Islamic State / of Iraq and Syria (IS or ISIS or ISIL), the Arab nations that were announced to be part of the US administration's anti-ISIS coalition have been dropping out. Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Kuwait have dropped out of the coalition completely. There is absolutely no chance that Egypt will join the coalition, as had originally been hoped. United Arab Emirates (UAE) has partially remained in the coalition.

The latest edition of Debka's subscriber-only newsletter (sent to me by a subscriber), contains a detailed analysis of the US anti-ISIS strategy, based on its own intelligence sources. I like to reference Debka's newsletter because it contains valuable insights into what's going on, but it's written from Israel's point of view, and sometimes gets things wrong.

According to the analysis, Obama is taking every step possible to avoid being drawn into another Iraq war. While he's criticized for having no strategy, he actually does have a strategy: to "dump that war in Iran's lap" by using the nuclear weapons talks to draw Iran into fighting ISIS instead of us.

Here's an outline of the analysis:

Long-time readers are aware that ten years ago I wrote, based on a Generational Dynamics analysis, that Iran would become America's ally as the generation of survivors of Iran's 1979 Great Islamic Revolution died off, and that Pakistan and Saudi Arabia would be allied with China against us. Ten years ago, that prediction seemed insane. So it's been fascinating and astonishing, in the last two years, to see that prediction come closer to reality every week.

This is a good time to repeat something I've written about several times. There is no doubt in my mind that Iran will develop nuclear weapons. Iran was attacked with weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) in 1988 by Iraq, and Iran would already have developed nuclear weapons if Saddam Hussein hadn't been expelled by the Iraq war in 2003. Iran sees itself surrounded by potential enemies, Pakistan and Israel, both having nuclear weapons. For Iran, developing nuclear weapons is an existential issue.

However, as I've described before, Iran takes an enormous amount of pride in not having invaded other countries, even though other countries have invaded Iran. If you look back at Iran's major wars of the last century -- the Constitutional Revolution of 1908-09, the Great Islamic Revolution of 1979, and the Iran/Iraq war of the 1980s, Iran never attacked anyone else. This is now part of Iran's DNA, and even the top leadership would be repulsed by the idea of a preemptive attack on Israel.

So my conclusion is that Iran will develop nuclear weapons as a defensive measure, but has no plans at all to use them on Israel, which is what is widely believed. Guardian (London) and Debka

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 15-Feb-15 World View -- Obama seeks Iran's help as anti-ISIS coalition shrinks thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (15-Feb-2015) Permanent Link
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14-Feb-15 World View -- Germany commemorates the firebombing of Dresden

Generational Dynamics and prolactin

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Germany commemorates the firebombing of Dresden


Aftermath of the bombing of Dresden, February 1945
Aftermath of the bombing of Dresden, February 1945

On Thursday, 10,000 people joined hands along the Elbe river commemorating the tens of thousands of people who were burned alive on February 13, 1945, when the Allies firebombed Dresden. In the space of 23 minutes, hundreds of bombers dropped some 3,000 high-explosive bombs and 400,000 incendiary bombs. The city center was vaporized. The fires sucked up all the oxygen, so that those who weren't burned to death dies of suffocation. The fires could be seen 200 miles away, and the temperatures reached so high that glass melted in cellars.

From the point of view of Generational Dynamics, the firebombing of Dresden is looked at as part of the "explosive climax" of a generational crisis war. Non-crisis wars almost always end indecisively, as in the case of America's Korean and Iraq wars. (The Vietnam war ended decisively as a victory for Vietnam because, although it was a non-crisis war for America, it a crisis war for Vietnam.)

There are many events that contributed to the explosive climax of World War II, but the following three are perhaps the best-known:

What these three events have in common is that they illustrate something that happens in a crisis war that doesn't happen in a non-crisis war: As the war approaches an end, the value of an individual human live drops to zero, and the only thing of value is the survival of the entire society and its way of life.

This happens to every society, every nation, without exception at the climax of a generational crisis war. When a society becomes desperate enough, they will take steps so horrible that the traumatized survivors will spend the rest of their lives feeling guilty about them and perhaps even regretting them, while the younger generation growing up later will have no such regrets. Reuters and Deutsche Welle and BBC

What's the value of a human life?

I wrote about this a lot when the Sri Lanka civil war was approaching a climax in 2009. The civil war had been going on over two decades, and as far as I know, every analyst and journalist in the world was predicting that the war would continue for many more years. However, in January 2008 something changed that made it clear from the point of view of Generational Dynamics that this war had transitioned into a generational crisis war that would soon reach a climax. As I wrote at that time (see "Sri Lanka government declares all out war against Tamil Tiger rebels"), the army suddenly committed itself to defeating the LTTE (Tamil rebels) by the end of 2008.

"We can bring the war against the LTTE to a turning point once we are able to destroy the LTTE capabilities to operate in bunkers and forward defense lines."

What followed during the next year was very dramatic. The LTTE purposely embedded itself in the civilian population, so that the army could not attack them without killing civilians. The army ferociously attacked the LTTE, even when civilian lives were at stake. What happened was that the value of a civilian life had dropped to zero for both the army and the LTTE, and the only thing of value was victory.

Today, there are calls for the Sri Lankan army to be charged with war crimes, to which my response is that if Sri Lanka war is a war crime, then the firebombing of Dresden is also a war crime -- something that some German activists would agree with.

Regular readers of this daily Generational Dynamics World View article may wonder how I select topics and what things I look for. In my mind, I'm constantly trying to measure how much the value of an individual human life has become, and I tend to choose stories that indicate either that the value remains high or that the value is going lower. So, for example, yesterday's story on Europe's search and rescue program for migrants crossing from Libya to reach Italy is really a story about how important it still is to Europeans whether desperate refugees drown in the Mediterranean Sea.

Obviously the most recent examples where the value of a human life is zero is terror attacks by the likes of Boko Haram, ISIS, al-Qaeda and the Taliban. Even within that domain, there are differences. The Charlie Hebdo bombing in Paris was bad, but not as bad as the slaughter of 2000 people by Boko Haram that was occurring in the same time frame. ( "10-Jan-15 World View -- Up to 2000 Nigeria civilians killed in three-day Boko Haram massacre")

And it's not always Muslims who are the perpetrators. In "5-Apr-13 World View -- Meiktila, Burma, violence has echoes of Kristallnacht", I wrote about the wild, frenzied attack by Buddhists on Muslims that killed dozens and reduced an entire established community of 12,000 Muslims, including homes, shops and mosques, to ashes and rubble. In that article, I compared the slaughter to 1938's Kristallnacht, which was a prelude to the Nazi Holocaust.

I've written several times about the Central African Republic and its generational crisis war currently in progress between the Muslim tribes and the Christian tribes. Both sides are committing atrocities, and this war will not end until there's been an explosive climax that all survivors will regret for the rest of their lives.

A reader recently wrote and asked me:

"John: Which country will be the first to use a nuclear weapon?"

That's an interesting question whose answer cannot be predicted. The countries with nuclear weapons are: US, Russia, UK, France, China, Israel, India, Pakistan, North Korea. Once the world war starts, any one of these countries might be the first, if the people in that country panic and decide that nothing is more important than victory. By the climax of the war, every one of those countries will have reached that conclusion, and every nuclear weapon will have been used. My estimate is that by the time the war ends, some 3 billion people will have been killed, leaving about 4 billion people to rebuild the world. At that time, the survivors will vow never to let anything like that ever happen again, and will take all the steps they can think of to keep that vow.

Generational Dynamics and prolactin

The discussion above of nuclear weapons is the kind of article that divides people. I've often been puzzled by other people's reactions to my web site. Some want to read it every day, others absolutely can't stand it, and can't stand me as a result. Ten years ago, friends I've known for years treated me as a harmless kook, but now, as the world worsens and one generational theory prediction after another has come true, those friends now shun me. This is similar to the mythical Cassandra, whom I've written about many times. I've also been puzzled why, after 12 years, there's no other web site in the world like mine.

A couple of weeks ago, I heard something that provided some insight. There was a BBC World Service show called "Why Factor," with the subject "Sad/Gloomy Music." It turns out that some people can listen to sad music and really enjoy it, while other people listen to sad music and absolutely can't stand it.

This observation seemed stunningly similar to the reactions to my World View articles and my web site.

The only "happy" music sample they played during the show was "The Beatles - I Want to Hold your Hand." They played samples of a number of "sad" music songs:

Billie Holiday - Gloomy Sunday
James Taylor - Riding on a Railroad
Joni Mitchell - River
Kylie Minogue - Can't Get You Out of My Head
Johann Sebastian Bach - Prelude in B minor, number 24
Mikhail Ivanovich Glinka - La Separation
Felix Mikhailovich Blumenfeld - Etude Sur Mer
Arvo Pärt - Spiegel Im Spiegel
Djivan Gasparyan - I Am Outcast By You
The Rankin Family - Chi Mi Na Morbheanna
Oliver Mtukudzi - Neria
Víctor Jara - Te Recuerdo Amanda
M.R Shajarian - Rain
Chris Isaak - Wicked Games
Samuel Barber - Adagio for Strings

According to the show, the last in this list is the most popular sad song among the show's listeners.

The show described the differences in chord structure between happy and sad music, but unfortunately I know nothing about music and didn't understand, which is too bad.

However, according to the BBC show, the differences in music are also generational: In the 1960s (the generational Awakening era), most popular music had the "happy" chord structure, while in the 2000s (the generational Crisis era), most popular music has the "sad" chord structure.

This opened my eyes to a whole new slant on the generational changes in music. In my 2008 article, "The nihilism and self-destructiveness of Generation X", I wrote about the generational changes in the lyrics of music since World War II, and I quoted some Gen-X lyrics, such as the song "Mr. Self Destruct" by Nine Inch Nails.

However, the concept that there are "happy chords" and "sad chords" and that they differ by generations goes beyond lyrics and was quite new to me.

One personal note: For my whole life, I've always loved Great Band Era music, 1935-45, and I still have a large record collection of Great Band Era songs. I'm going to guess that most Great Band Era music had the "sad" chord structure, and I'm going to guess that that's the reason I like it a lot more than most popular music, and I'm going to guess that my enjoyment of Great Band Era music is related to my being able to do this World View article every day. I also love original cast recordings from the 1930s-50s, and the reason may be the same.

Returning to the BBC program, there's a theory having to do with the hormone prolactin. Prolactin has to do with milk production in pregnant women, and has no known normal function in men. However, according to the show, there's some research that men and women who like sad music have an excess of prolactin, and those who hate sad music don't have enough prolactin. So maybe what makes me unique is that my blood is overflowing with prolactin. And also, maybe the people who read my World View articles have more prolactin than average, and those who can't stand them have less.

According to Prof David Huron of Ohio State University, quoted in the program:

"The research shows that for ordinary sadness, when we're in that state, we are our most deadly realistic in our self-appraisal. It has beneficial effects on judgment, on memory, all sorts of cognitive benefits that happen from being in a saddened state."

Since the World View articles are most "deadly realistic" analyses around, then this is the theory how I can write these articles every day: I have a good analytical ability, I have just the right education, and, most important, I have too much prolactin in my blood. If this theory is true then, Dear Reader, that's why I'm able to write these articles every day. And for similar reasons, that's why you read them every day.

Here's a comment from a reader:

"I have a sister who sees the world through rose colored glasses. I have ceased to attempt to give her insight, or guidance into where we are headed. She prefers, in spite of overwhelming evidence to the contrary, to see the world as a "nice" place, where someone will always arrive in time to save her, and those she cares about, from evil."

My suggestion: Both of you should be tested for prolactin levels.

BBC World Service - Why Factor - Sad Music and Podcast (mp3)

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 14-Feb-15 World View -- Germany commemorates the firebombing of Dresden thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (14-Feb-2015) Permanent Link
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13-Feb-15 World View -- Europe faces 'enormous tragedy' over Europe's Mediterranean rescue program

Confusion reigns over Ukraine ceasefire deal

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Europe faces 'enormous tragedy' over Europe's Mediterranean rescue program


Rescue of migrants in  rubber dinghy
Rescue of migrants in rubber dinghy

At least 300 migrants have drowned in the Mediterranean sea after their boats sank earlier this week. They had departed from Libya on Saturday in four rubber dinghies that sank after four days at sea. Only nine people were rescued out of hundreds of migrants trying to reach Italy's Lampedusa Island.

Vincent Cochetel, UNHCR Europe bureau director, said:

"This is a tragedy on an enormous scale and a stark reminder that more lives could be lost if those seeking safety are left at the mercy of the sea. Saving lives should be our top priority. Europe cannot afford to do too little too late."

This "tragedy" is going to force the European Union, once again, to go through a painful review of its search and rescue policy in the Mediterranean, to prevent it from turning into what Pope Francis called "a vast cemetery."

Europe was forced into such a review after two tragic shipwrecks October 2013 in which more than 400 Eritrean, Somali and Syrian migrants drowned. ( "16-Oct-13 World View -- Sicily declares state of emergency as African migrants flood in") After that, Italy began spending 9 million euros per month on a program called "Mare Nostrum" (Latin for "Our Sea") to rescue drowning migrants trying to reach Italy.

Italy has been complaining since then that it shouldn't entirely be Italy's responsibility to rescue migrants in the Mediterranean, and that it should be a shared responsibility among all the EU nations. Naturally, other EU nations were perfectly happy letting Italy foot the entire search and rescue bill.

But after much haggling, the Mare Nostrum program expired in October, after which the search and rescue function was taken over by an EU operation called "Triton." However, Triton's budget is much smaller, just 2.9 million euros per months. And it restricts its operations to only within 30 miles off the Italian coast.

In the year from October 2013 to October 2014, Italy rescued about 100,000 refugees. Estimates are that 3,000 refugees have died in the Mediterranean 2014, critics are complaining that "multiples of the 3,000" will drown because Mare Nostrum was replaced by Triton. Adding to the concerns is that the number of refugees attempting the trip doubled in 2014 to 218,000 from the 2013 figure. The number is expected to increase further in 2015.

It's politically almost impossible for the EU or any democratic government to ignore and allow thousands of people to simply drown, no matter who's at fault. Pro-refugee activists claim that the EU has no choice but to increase its search and rescue budget again.

People smugglers charge desperate people from Syria and North Africa thousands of dollars each, stuff them all on a boat and send it out to sea, knowing that someone will rescue them (or not caring whether someone will rescue them). In a well-publicized case in December, people smugglers packed almost 1,000 people into a boat, after typically collecting thousands of dollars from each migrant, and sent the ship out into the open sea with no crew, running on autopilot. ( "2-Jan-15 World View -- European migrant crisis escalates with crewless cargo ships") The Italian navy was able to board the ship and take control of it.

Skeptics point out that having a robust search and rescue operation only encourages migrants to risk the trip. They argue that if there had been no search and rescue effort, then migrants would not attempt to reach Europe. Others point out that desperate people in Syria and Eritrea will take the risk no matter what Triton's budget is. Irish Independent and UNHCR and Guardian (London, 31-Oct-2014)

Confusion reigns over Ukraine ceasefire deal

Ukraine ceasefire negotiations continued through the night in Minsk, the capital city of Belarus. The negotiators were Russia's President Vladimir Putin, Ukraine's leader Petro Poroshenko, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and France's President François Hollande.

On Thursday morning, Putin came out and announced a ceasefire deal. According to the deal:

It's hard to find anything meaningful in this. Do we believe that the anti-government Russians in east Ukraine are going to stop shooting? Do we believe that Russia is going to stop sending soldiers and weapons into east Ukraine? Do we believe that Putin will keep any commitment at all, if he doesn't feel like it? A lot of people would answer "no" to all of these.

If the West lifts the sanctions on Monday, then Putin will have won a total victory, and completely humiliated the West. More likely, the sanctions will be kept in place, and nothing will have changed. We may have some answers by mid-week. AP and Globe and Mail (Toronto) and Russia Today

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 13-Feb-15 World View -- Europe faces 'enormous tragedy' over Europe's Mediterranean rescue program thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (13-Feb-2015) Permanent Link
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12-Feb-15 World View -- US closes Yemen embassy, following Somalia, Syria and Libya

Greece's negotiations with eurozone fail to reach deal

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Failing Ukraine ceasefire negotiations to go through the night


Grim faces in 'family photo' during a break in the negotiations (EPA)
Grim faces in 'family photo' during a break in the negotiations (EPA)

As of this writing on Wednesday evening ET, the negotiations to achieve a ceasefire in Ukraine have failed to reach agreement. However, negotiations will continue through the night.

Violence has been increasing in eastern Ukraine, as Russia has poured heavy weapons and possibly thousands of soldiers from Russia to support the anti-government Russians in east Ukraine.

The meeting is taking place in Minsk, the capital city of Belarus. The participants are Russia's President Vladimir Putin, Ukraine's leader Petro Poroshenko, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and France's President François Hollande. Earlier in the day, a tense Vladimir Putin broke a pencil he was holding. At a scheduled "family photo" during a break in the meeting, all four faces were extremely grim.

Ukraine's government would like Russia to stop supplying weapons and soldiers to the insurgents. Russia would like Europe to end the sanctions. Right now, it looks like neither side will get what they want. BBC and Twitter

Greece's negotiations with eurozone fail to reach deal

Wednesday's meeting of the Eurogroup meeting of eurozone financial ministers ended in failure, with no agreement. Under its new government, Greece is demanding a "bridge loan" that will permit it to pay its bills and increase government spending over the next six months. Several eurozone countries, led by Germany oppose this proposal. Since no joint statement was issued on Wednesday, it's thought that the two sides are very far apart. There will be another Eurogroup meeting on Monday. Kathimerini

US closes Yemen embassy, following Somalia, Syria and Libya

Violence in Sanaa, the capital city in Yemen, has been increasing after the al-Houthi ethnic group completed its coup last week, and took complete control of Yemen's government. Anti-Houthi demonstrations have been growing, and Houthi militias have been using force to disperse crowds. The al-Houthis are an Iran-backed Shia militia, and their slogan is: "God is the Greatest. Death to America. Death to Israel. Damn the Jew and Victory to Islam."

Fearing an assault, the U.S. on Tuesday closed its embassy in Sanaa and evacuated all personnel. As soon as U.S. officials left the capital, the Houthis seized more than 20 vehicles from the evacuated embassy.

Yemen is the home of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), which the U.S. has been fighting with the cooperation of the preceding government. It's not clear whether the new al-Houthi government will agree to continued attacks on AQAP, particularly the drone strikes, but the al-Houthis themselves also would like to see AQAP defeated.

Yemen becomes the third Arab country to lose its American embassy since December 2010, when the "Arab spring" began, creating turmoil in one country after another throughout the Mideast. The Syrian war forced the closure of the US embassy in Damascus in February 2012, and the dissolution of Libya's government forced the closure of the embassy in Tripoli in July 2014.

On January 8, 1991, looters in the army of the government of Somalia fired rocket grenades in the capital city Mogadishu, leading to the famous "Blackhawk down" incident. The U.S. embassy was closed, and all diplomats and employees were evacuated. In July of last year, President Obama appointed Omar Abdirashid Ali Shamarke to be the first U.S. ambassador to Somalia since 1991. However, Sharmarke will work out of the American embassy in Nairobi, Kenya. AP and U.S. State Dept. and ABC News (14-Jul-2014) and LA Times (8-Jan-1991)

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 12-Feb-15 World View -- US closes Yemen embassy, following Somalia, Syria and Libya thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (12-Feb-2015) Permanent Link
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11-Feb-15 World View -- Iran/Saudi relations worsen over Yemen and falling oil prices

Citigroup: Oil could plunge to $20 per barrel

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Citigroup: Oil could plunge to $20 per barrel


Iran's Supreme Leader tweets a threat to Saudi Arabia over falling oil prices (Memri)
Iran's Supreme Leader tweets a threat to Saudi Arabia over falling oil prices (Memri)

After falling during the last year from over $100 per barrel down to below $45 per barrel, the price of West Texas Intermediate (WTI) oil has record to around $52 per barrel. However, Citigroup analysts say that the current price is unsustainable, and that we'll soon see oil fall well below $40 per barrel, and perhaps as low as in the $20's range for a while, possibly triggering the collapse of OPEC.

The reasons for the continuing plunge in oil prices are:

The result is that oil storage is "heading toward the tank-tops," meaning that storage space is running out, and the oversupply will push prices down substantially. Bloomberg

Iran's threatens oil transports, blaming Saudis for falling oil prices

On February 24, 1990, after a drastic fall in oil prices, Iran accused Saudi Arabia of being party to a Western plot against Iran. At that time, Iran and Iraq were still at a state of war, and Iran threatened to confiscate oil shipments to Iraq that pass through the Strait of Hormuz. Iran demanded that the Saudis conform to the demands of the oil cartel OPEC (Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries).

Two weeks ago, the current Supreme Leader Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei, renewed that threat, by repeating part of it in a tweet, saying that "crashing oil prices ... is a blow against Islamic and independent nations," and promising to "answer a blow with a blow."

According to a state-sponsored editorial:

"Iran, as the center of Islamic awakening, shows tremendous patience in [its] foreign policy... But the anger of this patient element has irreversible consequences for the Aal Saud family and their allies in the region, from Aal Nahyan [the UAE royal family] to Aal Khalifa [the Bahraini royal family]. Beware of the patient ones. Saudi Arabia must not depend on sunny days – on the contrary, it must prepare for a stormy day... The nations of the region will not forget the Arab leaders' betrayal by means of reducing oil prices, and revenge will be a minimal punishment for this strategic mistake by Saudi Arabia.

Today, all the arteries of oil transport – from Bab-el-Mandeb strait to the Suez Canal and the Strait of Hormuz – are under Iranian control, by means of Syria, Yemen, and Bahrain, and within range of Iranian missiles. If the need arises, the nations of the region will be informed of Saudi Arabia's and its allies' despicable collaboration with the Zionist regime..."

Iran has recently been bragging that they now have control of the capital cities in four other countries -- Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, and most recently Yemen. The Supreme Leader now wants to leverage that control by threatening oil transport throughout the region, in order to raise oil prices.

With the death of Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah II, and his replacement by King Salman, the Saudis have been indecisive in reacting to the takeover of Yemen by the Iran-backed Shia Houthis. Saudi Arabia has contributed some $4 billion in aid to Yemen since 2011. That aid was largely suspended in December after Houthis took control. Now the Saudis have to decide whether to go further and intervene militarily, which would raise the conflict with Iran to an even higher level.

Iran's attacks on Saudi Arabia are extremely vitriolic. When the news of King Abdullah's death broke, an Iranian state-sponsored news agency published a cartoon welcoming him to hell:


Iran cartoon on King Abdullah's death: Left devil: 'Welcome'; right devil: 'The Master in the furnace of hell' (Memri)
Iran cartoon on King Abdullah's death: Left devil: 'Welcome'; right devil: 'The Master in the furnace of hell' (Memri)

After Abdullah's death, a top Iranian advisor called on the new King Salman to change policies: "As for King Salman's desire for an Israeli-Palestinian peace – this is impossible, because the Zionists need to leave the occupied lands..." Memri and Al-Jazeera

More on the growing Muslim versus Muslim wars

I received a number of reader responses to yesterday's article on Bill O'Reilly's statistics on Islamic terrorism, and the point that Islam is at war with itself, not with the West. There are no Muslim countries or Muslim armies attacking the West, but there are a number of Muslim armies and militias attacking and killing thousands of other Muslims, including Muslim women and children.

Most of the questions were of the following sort: "Why can't Muslims be at war with other Muslims AND with the West?"

The answer really is "No".

It's certainly true that Osama bin Laden was at war with the West, as were a number of Saudi jihadists. Other jihadists groups would like to be at war with the West, but they're too bogged down killing other Muslims to attack the West. That's the point. For example, I'm sure the Islamic State / of Iraq and Syria (IS or ISIS or ISIL) would like to wage war against the West, but they'll never get the opportunity because they'll never defeat all the Muslim armies around them, without a world war. No Muslim army could possibly have the resources to fight other Muslim armies and the West at the same time.

As I've been saying for years, we're headed for a world war where the Saudis will be our enemy, aligned with Pakistan and China, and Iran will be our ally, aligned with Russia and India. It will never be the case that "Islam is at war with the West," but it will be like World Wars I and II, where we were at war with some Muslim armies and allied with other Muslim armies, and that will be bad enough.

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 11-Feb-15 World View -- Iran/Saudi relations worsen over Yemen and falling oil prices thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (11-Feb-2015) Permanent Link
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10-Feb-15 World View -- Bill O'Reilly's statistics on Islamic terrorism are nonsense

Nigeria and Boko Haram declare war after election postponement

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Bill O'Reilly's statistics on Islamic terrorism are nonsense


Bill O'Reilly's facts that prove that Islam is at war with the West
Bill O'Reilly's facts that prove that Islam is at war with the West

Islam is not at war with the West. Islam is at war with itself, as I've written several times. There is a massive, historic war of Muslims versus Muslims that is growing every week. Things like the Charlie Hebdo attack are only for recruiting and fund raising. Countries include: Yemen, Libya, Syria, Iraq, Somalia, Mali, Nigeria-Niger-Cameroon-Chad, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bangladesh. ISIS armies are not attacking the West; they're slaughtering tens of thousands of Muslims. It's the most important development going on today.

On Friday, I watched Bill O'Reilly's show on the Fox News Channel, where the subject under discussion was Islam's war on the West, and that Islamic extremism is an existential threat to America. O'Reilly said that it was, and he promised that he "had the facts." I was quite curious to know what "facts" he had, so I stayed tuned.

The "facts" are summarized in the graphic shown above, based on a Pew Research poll. He said that this graphic showed that "a significant minority of Muslims do support violent terrorism." He read off the stats, and ended with: "and in Bangladesh a whopping 47% of Muslims support suicide bombing against CIVILIANs."

Are you kidding me? Does O'Reilly or anyone else believe that Bangladeshis care about a suicide bombing in the West, or that they'd even pay attention if one occurred? These people struggle every day just to feed their kids, and couldn't care less what happens in the West.

Now, I doubt that anyone on O'Reilly's staff knows even a single fact about Bangladesh, including how to find it on a map, and that would explain their silly conclusion. To illustrate, here's a two-day-old news story:

"Nine killed in Bangladesh fire bomb attacks on bus, truck

DHAKA Sat Feb 7, 2015 1:36am EST

(Reuters) - At least nine people, including two children, were burned alive in Bangladesh when opposition activists hurled petrol bombs at a packed bus and a truck in the latest spasm of worsening political violence, police said on Saturday. ...

At least 70 people have been killed and hundreds injured in violence over the past month, including the latest deaths in arson attacks overnight."

This is day to day life in Dhaka. In 2009, I wrote a lengthy article about violence in Bangladesh, that began:

"76 Bangladesh army officers were mutilated and killed last week by men under their command. The massacre, which occurred over a 33 hour period on February 25-26, has shocked the country for its brutality. Bodies of officers and their wives were mutilated and piled into mass graves. Security forces have arrested hundreds of guards, including many who fled to towns and cities across the country."

In 1971, Bangladesh (then East Pakistan) fought an extremely bloody and genocidal civil war between two Muslim ethnic groups -- the Urdu-speaking Biharis from the upper castes of Indian society, versus the indigenous Bengali-speaking Bengalis, from the "untouchable" castes of India.

Although the war ended, the hatred continues between these two ethnic groups, and today there are still calls for violence by one side against the other. That ALWAYS happens after a civil war.

In fact, it sometimes happens in countries where there's been no civil war. I remember America in the 1960s, I remember the "long hot summers" of violent riots, and I remember the bombings and calls for violence from groups like the Weather Underground. During "the Troubles" in Ireland, both Catholics and Protestants were calling for violence. Today in Mexico, you have drug cartels slaughtering civilians and calling for violence, and we needn't be reminded that these people are Christians, not Muslims.

The point is that if you take a bunch of poll results, as O'Reilly did, and claim to have the "facts" about something, then you're talking nonsense. When a person's wife and children are slaughtered by someone else, that person will want revenge. That's a human emotion, whether the person is a Muslim, a Buddhist, a Hindu, a Jew or a Christian.

I'll discuss one more item on O'Reilly's list: "Muslims in Palestinian territories -- 46%." Here we have to be reminded about some facts that a lot of people don't want to hear. The Gaza Palestinians believe themselves to be Israeli's prisoners, and in last summer's Gaza war, thousands of Palestinian women and children were killed by Israeli airstrikes. These airstrikes may have been completely justified by the tunnels and weapons stores, but that doesn't matter to the people whose family members were killed, and who now seek revenge. But it doesn't mean that Islam is at war with the West. It means that the Palestinians are at war with the Israelis, and there's little doubt that that's true, and that explains the Pew poll statistic.

Islam is NOT at war with the West. ISIS armies are fighting Muslims, not Westerners. In country after country, Muslims are at war, almost always with other Muslims. That's a completely different thing, and it's extremely dangerous because sooner or later we'll be pulled into it, whether we like it or not. We should try to understand that, instead of referencing irrelevant poll statistics. Reuters and Pew Report (PDF)

Nigeria and Boko Haram declare war after election postponement

Nigeria's government has caused an international uproar by Saturday's announcement to postpone the February 14 presidential elections for six weeks, until March 28. The reason given was threats by Boko Haram to disrupt the election with terror attacks. However, the Muslim opposition candidate, Muhammadu Buhari, is accusing the government of using the Boko Haram threat as an excuse to gain time in order to keep the Christian president, Goodluck Jonathan, in office for another term.

Nigeria had an extremely bloody civil war between 1967 and 1970, that pitted Christians versus Muslims and ethnic groups against each other. In order to avoid further violence, officials in 1979 adopted an informal rule that the office of president would alternate between a Christian and a Muslim, with two 4-year terms each. This rule was followed until 2010, when Jonathan took over as head of state after the death of the Muslim president Umaru Yar'Adua, who was part way through his first term. Jonathan then won the next election in 2011, and so a Christian has been president almost continually since 1999.

So the Muslim opposition now suspects that the purpose of the election postponement is to give Jonathan a way to gain time to win the election, possibly through fraudulent means.

Indeed, many people are wondering what good the six-week extension will be at all. Nigeria's army has totally failed to bring Boko Haram under control for six years, so what good will another six weeks do?

The army responds that things have changed recently, and that they're now getting plenty of international help from Cameroon, Niger, Benin and Chad, and that the combined effort of 7,000 troops could bring violence "to a level that will allow for a free and fair election."

However, Boko Haram's leader, Abubakar Shekau, issued a video on Monday, effectively declaring war on the international coalition.

"Your alliance will not achieve anything. Amass all your weapons and face us. We welcome you. ... You send 7,000 troops? Why don't you send 70 million? This is small. Only 7,000? By Allah, it is small. We can seize them one-by-one. We can seize them one-by-one."

The fear is that the next six weeks will see increased violence in Nigeria's northeast, forcing another election delay and, in the worst scenario, bringing about a new military coup. BBC and Deutsche Welle and AFP

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 10-Feb-15 World View -- Bill O'Reilly's statistics on Islamic terrorism are nonsense thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (10-Feb-2015) Permanent Link
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9-Feb-15 World View -- 30 dead in Cairo Egypt as soccer fans clash with police

Greece's Alexis Tsipras approaches Wednesday confrontation with Europe

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

30 dead in Cairo Egypt as soccer fans clash with police


Pickup truck in flames during Sunday's clashes between football fans and police (AP)
Pickup truck in flames during Sunday's clashes between football fans and police (AP)

Authorities are concerned about widespread riots and demonstrations after 30 people died and dozens were injured in clashes with police at a football (soccer) game in Cairo on Sunday, when hundreds of football fans tried to enter the stadium without buying tickets. Police fired teargas and birdshot to disperse the crowd. Most of the deaths were due to suffocation, while other were killed in a stampede after the police fired teargas.

Young football fans in Cairo, known as Ultras, have become highly politicized. Football fan clubs joined together in Tahrir Square in 2011 to bring about the ouster of long-time dictator Hosni Mubarak. When the army took over, the Ultras demonstrated against the army. Then they demonstrated against the Muslim Brotherhood, during the days of president Mohamed Morsi. Now the fear is of major demonstrations and riots against the former general and current president Abdel al-Fattah al-Sisi.

Sunday's incident is certainly going to renew the widespread criticism of the police in an incident that occurred on February 2, 2012, at a football match in Port Said, when fans of two opposing football clubs were killed in clashes with each other.

The attackers were mostly fans of the home team, the al-Masry football club, while the victims were Cairo Ultras, fans of the visiting team, Cairo's Al-Ahly football club, a group that had actively taken part in the Tahrir Square protests during 2011, and the suspicion is widespread that police were responsible for the violence, in order to get revenge against the Ultras. There were plenty of riot police present at the game, but video shows that they allowed the violence to continue without interference, and they may even have aided the violence by blocking the escape route of the victims.

However, fans were furious a year later when an Egyptian court sentenced 21 football fans to death for participating in the riot, while the police were completely exonerated. This particularly infuriated the ultras, who believed that the police were responsible. ( "27-Jan-13 World View -- Egypt in crisis after two days of violent clashes")

After the 2012 incident, Egyptian football matches were closed to spectators, a ban which was only just recently lifted. Egypt's cabinet has now decided to suspend all football game indefinitely.

There are hundreds of thousands of politically active Ultras, and it's now thought that it's almost certain that they'll be returning to Tahrir Square for anti-government and anti-police demonstrations. How far these demonstrations will probably depends mostly on how skillfully and transparently they handle the investigation of Sunday's incident. Al-Ahram (Cairo) and Al-Jazeera

Greece's Alexis Tsipras approaches Wednesday confrontation with Europe

Greece's new radical left-wing prime minister Alexis Tsipras appears to be approaching a head-on clash with the Eurogroup, the eurozone finance ministers, when they all meet on Wednesday.

On Sunday, Tsipras gave his maiden speech to Greece's parliament. He repeated his plan to increase government spending, and he repeated his demand that Europe continue to fund Greece's increased spending by billions of dollars. In particular, he's asking Europe to provide a "bridge loan" to support the increased spending through June, to give Greece and the Europeans time to negotiate revised bailout terms that will allow the increased spending to continue into the future.

He's also demanding World War II reparations from Germany for the damages brought by the Nazis. He called it, "A moral obligation to our people, to history, to all Europeans who fought and gave their blood against Nazism." Germany has already firmly refused to consider reparations.

In his speech, Tsipras announced the following new and revived spending programs:

Offsetting these spending increases, Tsipras promised to reduce corruption and tax evasion, and also to sell off half of all government limousines. Greek Reporter and Kathimerini

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 9-Feb-15 World View -- 30 dead in Cairo Egypt as soccer fans clash with police thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (9-Feb-2015) Permanent Link
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8-Feb-15 World View -- Iannis Xenakis's work 'Kottos' echoes Greece's Nazi vs Communist struggle

Greek Tragedy and Generational Dynamics

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Iannis Xenakis's work 'Kottos' echoes Greece's Nazi vs Communist struggle


Iannis Xenakis -- 1966 picture
Iannis Xenakis -- 1966 picture

Iannis Xenakis's 1977 work "Kottos" for cello will be performed on Thursday at Harvard University. Like other works by Iannis, it's not exactly melodic. The composer himself describes it as follows: "In general: the sounds, except for the harmonics, should not be beautiful or nice in the usual sense, but rough, harsh and full of noise." (Iannis Xenakis (1922-2001) is my first cousin - father's brother's son.)

It's roughness comes because it echoes the conflict between Communists and Nazis in Greece during World War II. In the 1940s, Iannis was a member of ELAS, the Communist-led Greek resistance, helping to drive the Nazis from Greece. The subsequent British occupation and the conservative Greek monarchy turned against ELAS; Iannis, having survived a British shell that destroyed his eye and shattered his face, fled. The Greek government sentenced him to death in absentia. He settled in Paris, working as an architect and, then, a composer.

In Greek mythology, Kottos was giant with a hundred arms and 50 heads. Kottos fought in the massive war between Zeus and the Titans. Like Iannis, Kottos was imprisoned and exiled. Iannis' cello composition echoes both of those stories.

If we look at the trends in Greece over the past five years or so, we can see the same trend lines emerging as in World War II. The radical far left party Syriza is governing Greece today, aligning with Russia and mocking the Germans. At the same time, the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party has been gaining strength in the last two years, despite the fact that several of its leaders are in jail for corruption and murder. Greece's relationship with its European lenders, especially Germany, is currently in crisis, and with a new bond payment due at the end of February, the crisis may be about the worsen substantially.

As I've been writing for years since the Greek fiscal crisis began, there is no solution. By that I don't mean that we haven't been clever enough to find a solution. I mean that, as with many of today's world problems, no solution exists. Greece, Germany and Europe are headed for an inevitable tragedy which they've inflicted on themselves, and even though we can see it coming, we can't stop it. Extrapolating these trends, we can see that the war between Zeus and the Titans will be fought once more. Boston Globe and Xenakis Project of the Americas

Greek Tragedy and Generational Dynamics

I've found that few non-Greeks really understand what tragedy is about. As a Greek I know that a sense of tragedy is in my bones. Tragedy as an art form was invented in ancient Greece, and three of four great tragic artists of all time were Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides of ancient Greece, with the fourth being Shakespeare.

What tragedy does is to bring order out of seeming random events. Many people misunderstand the deepest meanings of tragedy. If a child is killed in a random traffic accident, then it's a terrible event but it's not a tragedy in the classical sense, because of that randomness.

The essence of classical tragedy is that the tragic event is not random. The tragic event is inevitable: it MUST occur, and the reason it must occur is because of the nature, the personality, the character of the protagonists. A true tragedy cannot be prevented, even by those who foresee it, because the forces bringing about the tragedy are too powerful for anyone to stop.

Like the child killed in a random traffic accident, the protagonists of a true tragedy have a great future before them, and in the Greek view, perhaps even a heroic future. But the heroic future turns into disaster because the players in the true tragedy move step by step towards that disaster; and all of us on the outside can see it coming, because these particular players are uniquely capable of inflicting this disaster on one another.

The war between Zeus and the Titans could not be prevented. The war between the Nazis and the Communists in Greece in WW II could be foreseen, but could not be prevented. Today, the growing conflict between Greece and Germany once again is completely foreseeable, but can't be prevented, because no solution exists. In each case, it's the nature, the character of the participants that leads them inexorably to inflict a horrible tragic disaster on each other.

It would not be wrong to describe the Generational Dynamics web site as displaying the greatest tragic play in human history. The countries of the world -- the US, China, Greece, Israel, Iran, Pakistan, India, Russia, etc. -- are all moving towards a tragic disaster that only they are uniquely capable of inflicting on one another. The script for this play is being written in the daily World View articles. Nothing can be done to prevent this tragic disaster, but through Generational Dynamics we have a way of standing on the outside, and watching it arrive, step by step by step.

Nigeria postpones national elections because of Boko Haram

Nigeria's electoral commission has postponed the February 14 presidential elections by six weeks, in view of threats of further terrorist attacks by Boko Haram. The US State Dept. says that Boko Haram has become extremely wealthy and has large storehouses of weapons, and it's hard to see how the security situation will improve in six weeks. It's feared that Nigeria is on a path that will inevitably cause it to join other countries, including Somalia, Libya, Central African Republic, and Yemen, that are disintegrating before our eyes. Nigeria Tribune and BBC

Gulf Arabs condemn Houthi takeover of Yemen

The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) of Gulf Arab nations has condemned the Houthi takeover of Yemen as "a grave and unacceptable escalation [that] endangers the security, stability, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Yemen." The GCC said its own security was linked to that of Yemen and vowed to take "all the necessary measures to defend their interests." Arab News

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 8-Feb-15 World View -- Iannis Xenakis's work 'Kottos' echoes Greece's Nazi vs Communist struggle thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (8-Feb-2015) Permanent Link
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7-Feb-15 World View -- Central African Republic 'peace deal' collapses instantly as slaughter continues

Houthis complete takeover coup in Yemen

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Central African Republic 'peace deal' collapses instantly as slaughter continues


Central African Republic refugees plow a small plot of land for food (UN)
Central African Republic refugees plow a small plot of land for food (UN)

Two former presidents of the Central African Republic (CAR) signed a "peace agreement" in a meeting in Nairobi, Kenya, several days ago. One was Francois Bozizé, the Christian former president, who was ousted in a coup in March 2013 by the other participant, Michel Djotodia, the Muslim former president, who served until January 2014. The ceremony was kind of laughable, since the agreement was meaningless from the moment it was signed.

After Djotodia's coup took place in March 2013, Muslim Seleka militias began committing atrocities, particularly targeting the Christian constituencies of the deposed Francois Bozizé. In December 2013, French Foreign Legion peacekeeping troops arrived to disarm the Seleka militias, but then the Christian anti-balaka militias "rushed into the vacuum," and began committing atrocities in 2014, for revenge against the Selekas.

Throughout 2014, various African Union and United Nations committees and conferences have been looking for ways to bring the violence to an end. On Thursday, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon asked the Security Council to approve 1,030 more peacekeepers to bring the total to nearly 13,000. Just to put that number in perspective, the NY City police department has over 34,000 uniformed officers for just one city, while CAR is an enormous country the size of France. However, NY City has 8 million people, while CAR has 5 million.

However, considering the situation in CAR, 13,000 peacekeepers is far too few. According to the UN, 438,000 people in are displaced within CAR, more than 423,000 people have fled to Cameroon, Chad, and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), and 2.5 million people are in urgent need of humanitarian assistance.

Michel Djotodia was interviewed by the BBC on Thursday and asked if he would be able to return to Bangui, the capital city, and take part in elections planned for later this year (my transcription of simultaneous translation):

"The conditions are not right. I can't.

The provisional government is having trouble protecting even the palace in Bangui. So what would I do? I can't return. There must be some security. That's why I'm here - to try and bring back peace and security to the country.

But the people don't want it. First of all, there aren't even any institutions in CAR. The state as such no longer exists. The army has disappeared. The police doesn't exist. Justice is on its knees. All these state institutions have practically vanished.

One, how can anyone claim that we're ready for elections? Two, the majority of Central Africans are outside the country. How can we organize elections? You'd have to take the ballot boxes on your head to Chad, Cameroon, and France, so that people could vote. Do you find that normal? It would make a mockery of CAR's people."

The United Nations and Djotodia together describe a disintegrated country in total chaos. Most of the peacekeeping forces are concentrated around the capital city Bangui, and even there are not keeping much peace. The Muslim Selekas are mostly in control of the east, while the Christian anti-balaka militias are mostly in the west.

From the point of view of Generational Dynamics, CAR is in a generational crisis war, and it won't end until it's fully run its course, and reaches a climax.

CAR's last generational crisis war was the 1928-1931 Kongo-Wara Rebellion ("War of the Hoe Handle"), which was a very long time ago, putting CAR deep into a generational Crisis era, where a new crisis war is inevitable.

The Kongo-Wara rebellion was nominally an uprising against the French colonialists, but it also had its share of the same kind of tribal violence that we are seeing today. After a crisis war like that ends, the survivors on both sides look back in horror at the acts that were perpetrated on both sides, and vow to devote the rest of their lives to making sure that nothing like that happens to their children or grandchildren. They succeed at that, but once the survivors have passed away, so that there's no one left with a personal memory of the last crisis war, then there's nothing to stop a new crisis war from starting, and that's what's happening now.

Many people are surprised at this narrative, mainly because they've never heard of the Kongo-Wara Rebellion. But just as young Americans today have heard of World War II, you can be sure that young people in CAR today, both Muslims and Christians, have heard of the Kongo-Wara Rebellion. And these young people know nothing of the horrors of that war. What the Muslims know is that their great-grandfathers were war heroes because they killed thousands of French and Christians, while the Christians have heard that their great-grandfathers were even bigger heroes, because they slaughtered even more Muslims.

So, the French Foreign Legion and the United Nations and African Union peacekeepers will try desperately to put a lid on the current war, but nothing will stop it now. All Africa and Bloomberg and United Nations and Reuters

Nigeria's Boko Haram attacks towns in Niger, as war expands into region

Nigeria's terrorist group Boko Haram invaded Niger on Friday, attacking two towns in a part of Niger that is already home to tens of thousands of refugees who have fled Boko Haram attacks back in Nigeria. On Wednesday and Thursday, Boko Haram attack a town in Cameroon, leaving nearly 100 dead and 500 wounded.

The Boko Haram insurgency is rapidly becoming an international war, with Cameroon, Niger, Chad and Benin all having pledged to send troops to fight Boko Haram. AP

Houthis complete takeover coup in Yemen

After several days of large anti-Houthi public demonstrations, often violently disrupted by Houthi officials, the minority Houthis have completed their coup and taken complete control of Yemen's government in Sanaa, replacing the elected parliament with a military council completely controlled by the Houthis.

The Shia Houthis are thought to be supported by Iran. They now have control of northern Yemen, but Sunni tribes in central and southern Yemen are not expected to accede to their control. These include the moderate Islamist Islah party, backed by Saudi Arabia, Al-Qaeda on the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), and the secessionist groups in Yemen's Southern Movement.

The main concern now is that tensions among these groups will spiral into a civil war, joining the growing war engulfing the Mideast that I've been talking about for weeks. Probably the best scenario that can be hoped for is that Yemen will quietly become a disintegrated state, joining Libya, Syria and Iraq, joining Somalia and Central African Republic in Africa, with Nigeria on the horizon.

The previous government had depended on aid from Saudi Arabia to pay salaries. That aid is being cut off, and so the next crisis may be unable to pay salaries in one of the poorest countries in the world. Yemen Online and VOA and BBC

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 7-Feb-15 World View -- Central African Republic 'peace deal' collapses instantly as slaughter continues thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (7-Feb-2015) Permanent Link
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6-Feb-15 World View -- Mideast war widens as Jordan vows to destroy ISIS

80 million people exposed by massive Anthem Inc. data breach

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Mideast war widens as Jordan vows to destroy ISIS


Jordanians chant slogans to show support for government action against ISIS, carrying posters of the slain pilot and of King Abdullah II (AP)
Jordanians chant slogans to show support for government action against ISIS, carrying posters of the slain pilot and of King Abdullah II (AP)

For months I've been describing the Muslim versus Muslim war that has been growing throughout the Mideast, North Africa and South Asia. This week, the Mideast war has widened as Jordan begins to take revenge against the Islamic State / of Iraq and Syria (IS or ISIS or ISIL).

Two days after a video emerged showing Jordanian pilot Muath al-Kaseasbeh being burned alive, Jordan has apparently declared all-out war on ISIS. Jordan began with airstrikes on Thursday, targeting ISIS training centers and arms and ammunition depots, in an air mission named "Muath the Martyr."

The military, in statement directed at ISIS read on state TV, said, "This is the beginning and you will get to know the Jordanians." Other messages called ISIS the "enemies of Islam."

Jordan's foreign minister Nasser Judeh said: "We said we are going to take this all the way, we are going to go after them wherever they are and we're doing that." This means that Jordan will be conducting air strikes in Iraq, as well as in Syria as before. The United States military is cooperating by speeding up arms deliveries and by moving search and rescue capabilities from Kuwait to Iraq.

The mood in Jordan has changed substantially. Last week, the population was split between wanting to stay in the American-led coalition and those wanting to withdraw completely. This week, the public seems to be united in favor of revenge. The National (UAE) and CNN and AP

80 million people exposed by massive Anthem Inc. data breach

The massive Anthem Inc. data breach affects 80 million current and former customers of the following health plans: Anthem Blue Cross, Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Georgia, Empire Blue Cross and Blue Shield, Amerigroup, Caremore, Unicare, Healthlink, and DeCare.

The following information was apparently obtained: names, dates of birth, member ID/ social security numbers, addresses, phone numbers, email addresses and employment information. Medical information was not obtained.

Unfortunately, there is no time limit on this exposure. Once hackers have your social security number and other information, they can use it for identity theft at any time in the future.

If you are potentially affected by the breach, you should go to the Anthem Inc. data breach FAQ and take steps to protect yourself. Anthem is offering its customers a free identity theft protection service.

Anthem says that they have a "state of the art security system," but that seems to be a joke right about now. One problem is that social security numbers, birth dates and other information were stored in the data base in clear text. If that information had been stored in encrypted form, then it would be useless to hackers. But, as an IT professional and a Senior Software Engineer, I know from my personal experience and the experience of friends that trying to convince management to encrypt this data is liable to get you admonished or fired. Something like that probably happened at Anthem, and now 80 million people will have to pay the price. As in other industries, stupidity has no limits in the computer industry. USA Today and Wired and Anthem Inc.

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 6-Feb-15 World View -- Mideast war widens as Jordan vows to destroy ISIS thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (6-Feb-2015) Permanent Link
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5-Feb-15 World View -- Terrorists attack school, part of growing violence in Karachi Pakistan

The European Central Bank turns the screws on Greece's banks

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Terrorists attack school, part of growing violence in Karachi Pakistan


Warning letter left by terrorists after bombing Karachi school on Tuesday
Warning letter left by terrorists after bombing Karachi school on Tuesday

Seven terrorists riding motorcycles hurled hand grenades at a school in the port city of Karachi in Pakistan. The school was damaged, but there were no casualties. Before leaving, the terrorists left a threat letter (shown above) saying that this attack was only a beginning, and that "the flames of war WILL intensify and engulf your homes!"

The attack was emblematic of the daily violence that occurs in Karachi, making it possibly the most dangerous megacity in the world. The massive terror attack on a Shia mosque that I reported on a couple of days ago took place in a Karachi suburb. There were at least 1,135 fatalities in 2014 from terror attacks in Karachi. Although many of them could be classified as ordinary gang warfare, many of the attacks are also sectarian in nature. Pakistan's government has repeatedly promised to fight terrorism, but despite terrorist activity is increasing throughout Pakistan, authorities have done little.

Violence has been increasing in Karachi for decades, and is now approaching a crisis level that has the potential to transform into a sectarian war that engulfs first the region, then the entire country. Express Tribune (Pakistan) and South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP - India)

Jordan's King vows 'relentless' war on ISIS 'on their own ground'

In the aftermath of the video by the Islamic State / of Iraq and Syria (IS or ISIS or ISIL) depicting the barbaric murder of Jordan's pilot Muath al-Kaseasbeh, Jordan's King Abdullah II has promised a "relentless" war:

"We are waging this war to protect our faith, our values and human principles and our war for their sake will be relentless and will hit them in their own ground."

Two jihadists in Jordan's jails, previously convicted and sentenced to death, were executed by hanging on Wednesday morning. However, the father of the murdered pilot, who belongs to a powerful tribe in Jordan that is close to the king, said that wasn't enough:

"I demand none of them amongst us be kept alive. I demand the revenge be greater than executing prisoners. I demand the ISIL organization be annihilated.

This murderous organization, made up of militants from all the world countries, is acting in barbaric ways, violating all the international laws, codes of ethics, and prisoners' conventions. That is why I strongly demand the government to swiftly take revenge for the blood of Moaz and the dignity of our country."

Public opinion in Jordan, which last week seemed to favor withdrawing Jordan from the anti-ISIS coalition, now appears to have undergone a complete reversal. Al Jazeera and Reuters

The European Central Bank turns the screws on Greece's banks

Greece's new finance minister Yanis Varoufakis, part of the Syriza government of radical left-wing prime minister Alexis Tsipras, is telling anyone who will listen that Greece will not be meeting its austerity commitments that it made in return for receiving 240 billion euros of bailout money paid so far, and that it will inaugurate new spending programs.

With Greece on a collision course with Europe, the European Central Bank (ECB) has taken the first step to isolate Greece financially. As part of the previous bailout negotiations, the ECB had implemented a waiver that would allow Greek banks to borrow money from the ECB using Greek bonds as collateral, despite the fact that Greek bonds are "junk bonds" with little investment value. On Wednesday, the ECB announced that it was lifting that waiver, and so Greek's banks may no longer use Greek bonds as collateral.

Greek banks are already in trouble. During December alone, 4.6 billion euros in deposits were withdrawn from Greek banks and deposited in banks in other countries. A full-scale bank run is feared.

There is another way that Greece can borrow from the ECB, the Emergency Liquidity Assistance (ELA) program. The ELA is considerably more expensive, but it doesn't require collateral. Kathimerini and ECB Press Release

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 5-Feb-15 World View -- Terrorists attack school, part of growing violence in Karachi Pakistan thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (5-Feb-2015) Permanent Link
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4-Feb-15 World View -- Nationalism surges in Japan and Jordan after ISIS atrocities

Analysts are puzzled by ISIS's burning alive of Jordan's pilot

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Analysts are puzzled by ISIS's burning alive of Jordan's pilot


Muath al-Kaseasbeh, drenched in gasoline, watches as the flames approach his cage to burn him alive, in screen grab from ISIS video.  (Memri)
Muath al-Kaseasbeh, drenched in gasoline, watches as the flames approach his cage to burn him alive, in screen grab from ISIS video. (Memri)

On Tuesday, the Islamic State / of Iraq and Syria (IS or ISIS or ISIL) released a 22:34 minute video that portrays Jordan's pilot Muath al-Kaseasbeh being locked in a cage and burned alive. Jordan is part of the coalition conducting air strikes on ISIS, and al-Kaseasbeh was captured by ISIS several weeks ago.

A number of analysts on Tuesday expressed surprise that ISIS committed this atrocity. Al-Kaseasbeh was a very high-value hostage, a member of a leading tribe in Jordan. His value was second only to the value of a captured American pilot, if one should occur. ISIS could have leveraged al-Kaseasbeh for many things, including millions of dollars in ransom money and the release of scores of terrorists in Jordan's jails, in exchange for his release. Also, Jordan's involvement in the American coalition against ISIS was becoming increasingly unpopular in Jordan, and ISIS might have even been able to force Jordan to withdraw from the coalition. In fact, Jordan stopped taking part in the anti-ISIS airstrikes since the pilot was captured.

There are reports of a split within ISIS between factions that wanted to kill the pilot and the factions that wanted to use him for negotiating leverage. However, analysts are saying that it appears that the pilot was actually killed some time ago, possibly on January 3, so negotiating was never a serious option. Obviously, the winners in ISIS were the factions that wanted not only to kill him, but to kill him in as barbaric a way as possible. What was the motivation?

The analysts I heard point out that every time ISIS posts a video of this sort, the number of recruits joining ISIS surges. Thousands of young men and women from around the world have been traveling to Syria to join the ISIS bloodbath, and this video will bring more. These would-be jihadists are mostly used as cannon fodder in ISIS's war against other Muslims in Syria and Iraq.

The ISIS strategy has to be seen in the context of the reality that ISIS is facing. As I've been describing for weeks, there is a growing Muslim versus Muslim war in the Mideast, North Africa, and South Asia, and ISIS is one of the armies fighting in that war. ISIS's armies are not fighting Europeans or Israelis; they're fighting and killing Muslims. For ISIS to succeed, it needs an even bigger army. Negotiating with Jordan for the release of the pilot would have done nothing to increase the size of the ISIS army. Burning him alive in a barbaric fashion as a PR stunt will have that result. MEMRI

Jordan promises revenge against ISIS for killing pilot

Analysts on Tuesday were speculating whether the barbaric killing of Jordan's pilot would cause Jordan's public to demand that the government get revenge, or demand that the government withdraw from the anti-ISIS coalition. As of this writing on Tuesday evening ET, it seems clear that Jordan is committed to revenge.

Actions that Jordan might take include the following:

During the America's war with Vietnam in the 1960s-70s, whenever the North Vietnamese committed some atrocity, such as burning down a village and slaughtering all the women and children, or committing atrocities against American soldiers, these acts would fuel the American anti-war movement, and bring cheers from the likes of John Kerry and Jane Fonda. America was then in a generational Awakening era, one generation past the end of World War II, when nationalism is typically at a low point. But Jordan today is in a generational Crisis era, and we've reported in the past how nationalism is increasing in countries around the world, including the U.S., Europe and China. Anti-war movements gain little traction at such times, so it's not surprising that those wanting revenge in Jordan are having their way today. VOA and Time

Japan's nationalism surges over ISIS killings of two Japanese hostages

ISIS was embroiled in another hostage drama in recent days, having abducted Japanese journalist Kenji Goto and his friend Haruna Yukawa. ISIS demanded $200 million in ransom for the freedom of the two hostages, even though it was clear that no sum that large would ever be paid. In retrospect, it appears that ISIS had no intention of freeing the two Japanese than it had to free Jordan's pilot, under any circumstances.

So when ISIS released videos in the last few days showing the beheadings of the two hostages, prime minister Shinzo Abe reacted with outrage, promising "to make the terrorists pay the price." He added:

"No country is completely safe from terrorism. How do we cut the influence of ISIS, and put a stop to extremism? Japan must play its part in achieving this."

Abe's statement seems straightforward enough, but in fact it appears to mark a watershed in Japan's military policy. After being defeated in World War II, Japan adopted a constitution that permitted the military to be used only for self-defense. The U.S. has been pressuring Japan for decades to increase its military budget, to take on a greater share of responsibility for its own defense, and to participate more in multilateral, global security operations by committing self-defense forces.

Japan has resisted for decades. It was thought that only a major military confrontation with China or North Korea would cause Japan to reverse its policy. But now, ISIS seems to have accomplished something that the US couldn't accomplish. The beheadings of the two hostages have infuriated the Japanese people and increased nationalism to the extent that they may now support greater military commitments abroad.

Over the weekend, a Japanese diplomat said:

"This is 9/11 for Japan. It is time for Japan to stop daydreaming that its good will and noble intentions would be enough to shield it from the dangerous world out there. Americans have faced this harsh reality; the French have faced it, and now we are, too."

This reference to 9/11 is interesting because 9/11 was also cited frequently in past weeks in reference to the Charlie Hebdo terror attacks in Paris. 9/11 has become a symbol in one country after another to describe an event that turns the country around to cause a surge in nationalism and willingness to use the military. (In generational theory, these are called "regeneracy events," because they regenerate civic unity for the first time since end of the preceding crisis war.) Any country is susceptible to such popular reversals during a generational Crisis era.

What was particularly infuriating to the Japanese people was that ISIS gave as a reason for beheading Goto that Japan was a member of the American-led coalition against ISIS. The reason that this is infuriating is that Japan was NOT a member of the coalition, and could not have been a member because of the country's constitutional restrictions on the military to defense only. However, Japan did offer $200 million in humanitarian aid to countries fighting ISIS. KForce NightWatch and NY Times

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 4-Feb-15 World View -- Nationalism surges in Japan and Jordan after ISIS atrocities thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (4-Feb-2015) Permanent Link
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3-Feb-15 World View -- China builds more man-made islands in the South China Sea

Jordan returns its ambassador to Israel

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

China builds more man-made islands in the South China Sea


Satellite picture of China's man-made island, November 2014 (Janes)
Satellite picture of China's man-made island, November 2014 (Janes)

China continues to occupy regions in the South China Sea that have historically belonged to other countries, and continues a massive military to enforce its seizures. In addition to building oil rigs and taking control of fishing grounds in other countries' territories, China has been building man-made islands to use as military bases and landing strips. China has claimed the entire South China Sea, including regions historically belonging to Vietnam, Brunei, Malaysia, Indonesia, Taiwan and the Philippines. China's claims are rejected by almost everyone outside of China, and China refuses to submit them to the United Nations court deciding such matters, apparently knowing that they would lose. Instead, China is becoming increasingly belligerent militarily, annexing other nations' territories, and militarizing the entire sea. This is exactly the behavior that the Nazis used, leading to World War II.

China has already created a new island nearly 2 miles long and several hundred yards wide. China is rapidly building five man-made islands from tiny reefs and shoals in the South China Sea. These islands will be used to for military operations, including combat and support aircraft, when the inevitable day arrives that China's seizures of other countries' territories leads to a military confrontation that could spiral into war. LA Times and Janes Defense Weekly

Pentagon would welcome Japan air patrols in the South China Sea

With China becoming more and more militarily belligerent in the South China Sea, a Pentagon official said that the U.S. would welcome Japanese air patrols over the South China Sea. According to Admiral Robert Thomas:

"I think allies, partners and friends in the region will look to the Japanese more and more as a stabilizing function. In the South China Sea, frankly, the Chinese fishing fleet, the Chinese coastguard and the (navy) overmatch their neighbors. I think that JSDF (Japan Maritime Self Defense Forces) operations in the South China Sea makes sense in the future."

However, the State Dept. and the Pentagon may be in disagreement over this idea. State Department spokesman Jen Psaki said, "We’re not aware of any plans or proposals for Japan to patrol the South China Sea. ... It sounds like reports aren’t accurate." Reuters and Japan Times

Jordan returns its ambassador to Israel

On Monday, Jordan announced that its country's ambassador to Israel Walid Obeidat would be returning to Jordan's embassy in Tel Aviv.

Obeidat was recalled three months ago at a time of violence in the Temple Mount / Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem. Temple Mount is the holiest site in the Jewish religion, and the Al-Aqsa Mosque is the third holiest site in Islam, after Mecca and Medina. When violence forced Israel to shut down access to the Al-Aqsa mosque for two days, Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas called it "tantamount to a declaration of war," and Jordan recalled its ambassador to Israel. Jordan had said that Israeli practices in Jerusalem were undermining 1994 peace treaty between the two countries. The peace treaty had reaffirmed Jordanian oversight of Jerusalem's holy sites.

In its announcement on Monday, Jordan's government says it noted a "positive development" in Israel's stance as 65,000 worshippers now pray in al-Aqsa Mosque on Fridays. Middle East Eye and Reuters

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 3-Feb-15 World View -- China builds more man-made islands in the South China Sea thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (3-Feb-2015) Permanent Link
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2-Feb-15 World View -- Washington joins the world in explosive spending splurge

The Iraq war had nothing to do with the federal deficit

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

End of sequestration signals explosive new spending splurge in Washington

We have governments around the world spending like drunken sailors. Japan and Europe are planning enormous quantitative easing programs, and the new radical far-left government in Greece is demanding that many of its debts be erased so that it can go on a new spending binge.

America's experiment with "sequestration" was truly mind-boggling. It was proposed by President Obama as a stunt, thinking that the Republicans would never agree to let it be applied to defense spending, and then when the Republicans signed on, we could all enjoy a few rounds of Schadenfreude watching Obama try to squirm out of it.

What was mind-boggling about it is that it did cap spending in Washington for a while, something akin to pigs flying, and something that could only have happened by accident -- in this case the unexpected outcome of Obama's stunt.

But now many Republicans are pointing to unrest in the Mideast and the militaristic rise of China with concerns for the defense budget, while Obama would like to join Greece in going on a new spending binge.

A major part of that spending binge is on Obamacare, which is a financial disaster but is being held together with duct tape and astronomical subsidies. In 2014, 87% of federal Obamacare enrollees got subsidies. For the silver plan, out of an annual $4,140 premium, the subsidy amounts to $3,132, leaving the patient only $828 to pay out of the $4,140. And even with that, a typical deductible is $5,000-15,000, which means that most of these insured are effectively uninsured, since they'll have to pay all their own medical expenses anyway. So there may be more "effectively uninsured" people today than there were uninsured people in the past.

Then there's CNBC, where the analysts lie constantly about stock valuations. I used to quote analysts doing this, hoping to name and shame them. (See, for example, "14-Apr-12 World View -- Wharton School's Jeremy Siegel is lying about stock valuations" from 2012.) But now criminal fraud is so entrenched in the culture that no one has any shame. And they're just taking after the Obama administration that brings criminal investigations against reporters they don't like, and uses the IRS to attack political opponents with a level of criminality that goes far beyond what Richard Nixon ever dreamed of or was threatened with impeachment for. Congress is just as bad, with massive insider trading and fraud conducted by both parties and both branches of Congress, as exposed by former Breitbart editor Peter Schweizer, covered at length on the CBS show 60 Minutes.

By the way, according to Friday's Wall Street Journal, the S&P 500 Price/Earnings index (stock valuations index) on Friday morning (January 31) is still at an astronomically high 19.79. This is far above the historical average of 14, indicating that the stock market is in a huge bubble that could burst at any time. Generational Dynamics predicts that the P/E ratio will fall to the 5-6 range or lower, which is where it was as recently as 1982, resulting in a Dow Jones Industrial Average of 3000 or lower.

I've been around for a long time, but I never thought I'd live to see the current massive level of criminality in Washington and on Wall Street.

With sequestration likely to be thrown out, and a new spending binge approved in Washington and around the world, this is a good time to go over some interesting facts about the federal deficit. AP and Guardian (London)

The Iraq war had nothing to do with the federal deficit


Federal income, outlays and deficit, 1980 to present (as of November)
Federal income, outlays and deficit, 1980 to present (as of November)

We're going to look at the above graph, step by step, to show where the federal budget deficit comes from.

Almost everybody believes that the large federal budget deficit was caused by the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Nothing could be farther from the truth. In fact, since the deficit began in the year 2000, so the Iraq war couldn't have caused it.

So start by looking at the above graph. To begin, focus on the blue line - government expenditures:

Government receipts plunged when the bubbles burst

Next, in the above graph, focus on the red line - government income / tax receipts:

The high federal deficit is caused by bubbles bursting, not the Iraq war

Finally, in the above graph, focus on the green line - government surplus or deficit (surplus increase upward, deficit increases downward):

So the government surplus at the end of the 1990s was caused by the tech bubble. The government deficit in the early 2000s was caused by the crash of the tech bubble. The reduced deficit in the mid-2000s decade was caused by the real estate bubble. The deficit increased when the real estate bubble crashed. Now the deficit is coming down because of the new stock market bubble.

As I wrote above, the S&P 500 Price/Earnings ratio is at astronomically high levels. It will fall to about 5-6 or lower at some point, and the stock market index will fall by 75% or more.

At that point, the deficit will soar to unsustainable levels, and all these new spending programs will have to be canceled, except those on which the survival of the country depends.

St. Louis Fed - Fred graph

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 2-Feb-15 World View -- Washington joins the world in explosive spending splurge thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (2-Feb-2015) Permanent Link
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1-Feb-15 World View -- Egypt's al-Sisi blames foreign countries for terrorist attacks

Spain's far left Podemos party hopes to copy success of Greece's Syriza party

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Spain's far left Podemos party hopes to copy success of Greece's Syriza party


Podemos supporters in Madrid's Cibeles square on Saturday (Skyline Webcam)
Podemos supporters in Madrid's Cibeles square on Saturday (Skyline Webcam)

A week after Greece's radical far-left Syriza took power in Greece, Spain's radical far-left Podemos (Spanish for "we can") hopes to do the same. In a major show of force, some 100,000 party supporters held anti-austerity demonstrations in Madrid on Saturday, chanting "Yes we can" and "tick tock tick tock," the latter to tell politicians that the clock was ticking. The party is tapping into anger over austerity programs that the EU forced them to impose and over corruption among the political elites.

Podemos makes many of the same promises that Syriza did. They promise to significantly raise the minimum wage, enact laws preventing businesses from laying off employees, lowering the retirement age from 65 to 60, and increasing pension payments.

However, the path for Podemos will be much harder than it was for Syriza. Podemos is polling at only 30%, not enough to gain a majority, and without the ability to take advantage of any quirk in Spain's election laws similar to one in Greece's election laws that turned Syriza's 36% plurality into a governing majority. Furthermore, Spain's economy has been doing a lot better under austerity than Greece's has. Even though the unemployment rate is still 23.7%, it's been steadily declining.

The rapid growth of Podemos in Spain shows the danger that Europe is facing in its crisis negotiations with Greece. If Europe is too tough, then Greece could be forced to leave the eurozone, which would some analysts say would be disastrous for both Greece and the eurozone. And if Europe is too easy on Greece, then you get "contamination," where countries like Spain, Portugal and Italy will demand similar treatment that Germany, among others, would not stand for. Spain Report and Bloomberg

Egypt's al-Sisi blames foreign countries for terrorist attacks

Egypt is still in shock in the aftermath of Thursday's multi-location terror attack in North Sinai that killed 25-30 people, most of them soldiers. Egypt had imposed a curfew and harsh security measures on North Sinai after a large terror attack in October, and it's clear that those security measures have failed.

On Saturday, Egypt announced harsh new measures to try to prevent new violence.

Egypt's "Cairo Court of Urgent Matters" issued a verdict banning Hamas and designating its military wing Al-Qassam Brigades as "terrorist organizations." The court ruled that:

A spokesman for Hamas said that the verdict was "dangerous," and that "Al-Qassam Brigades are the symbol of resistance against the Israeli occupation, and a symbol of the [Palestinian] nation's pride and dignity, despite all attempts at defamation."

Shortly after the court decision, in a strident televised speech on Saturday, Egypt's president Abdel al-Fattah al-Sisi blamed Hamas, the Muslim Brotherhood, and unnamed foreign countries for the terror attacks on Egypt:

The terror group Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis (ABM - Ansar Jerusalem - Champions of Jerusalem) took credit for Thursday's terror attack, and has perpetrated numerous attacks in the past. In November, ABM changed its allegiance from al-Qaeda to the Islamic State / of Iraq and Syria (IS or ISIS or ISIL). At the same time, ABM changed its name to "State of Sinai," in harmony with the ISIS name "Islamic State."

Hamas itself was founded in the early 1980s as an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood, and there were reports last year that the Brotherhood is funding ABM. According to Nabil Naeem, founder of the Islamic Jihad, another terror group in Gaza, ABM has two branches, one in Gaza and one in Sinai, and has close relations with Hamas.

Al-Sisi concluded:

"We will not leave Sinai to anyone. With your will the army will win its confrontation with the terrorists.

It was your will on the 30 June 2013 (the date of mass anti-Morsi protests), and it was one of the hardest decisions taken by you; and it's your will that will keep Egypt strong and able to defeat these terrorists."

We've been reporting since last summer on the changing alliances in the Mideast, particularly the aftermath of a major Mideast realignment following the Gaza war, bringing Israel plus Egypt plus Saudi Arabia plus the Palestinian Authority in alliance versus Hamas plus Qatar plus Turkey plus the Muslim Brotherhood. The split between Qatar and Egypt had been particularly vitriolic prior to the war, ever since the ouster of Mohamed Morsi, but after the Gaza war the split between the Saudis and Qataris was equally vitriolic. Saudi King Abdullah acted as a mediator and was able to paper over the differences and obtain a reconciliation in time for an Arab summit meeting in December.

But now King Abdullah has passed away, and two things on Saturday indicate that the vitriol is returning in full force: the court verdict banning Hamas, and al-Sisi's accusations directed at "foreign countries."

Lebanon's last generational crisis war was the 1980s war with Syria, putting Lebanon today into a generational Awakening era, and so it is quite believable that the Lebanese people do not want another war with Israel, and so Hezbollah is backing down from war with Israel, as I wrote yesterday.

But Egypt, Israel, Saudi Arabia and Qatar are in generational Crisis eras, and so are attracted to war. So it's very unlikely that there will be a new reconciliation between Egypt and Qatar, or between Egypt and Hamas. Israel and Egypt now appear to be firmly in the same corner, fighting terrorist acts from Palestinians, al-Qaeda and ISIS, and these relationships are expected strengthen with each new terrorist attack. The Muslim versus Muslim war in the Mideast, North Africa, and South Asia, that I've been describing for weeks, continues to grow and become more dangerous on a weekly basis. Al Ahram (Cairo) and Daily News Egypt and Al Ahram and Egypt Independent (9-Sep-2014)

Houthis use live fire against protesters in Yemen

Tens of thousands of people demonstrated in several cities in Yemen on Saturday, as opposition continues to grow against the Houthi takeover of the government in Sanaa. Houthi militia fighters used live ammunition to break up the demonstrations, firing live rounds into the air. Several protesters were reportedly abducted on Saturday by Houthis, including youth activist Fouad al-Hamdani. Al Jazeera and Middle East Eye

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 1-Feb-15 World View -- Egypt's al-Sisi blames foreign countries for terrorist attacks thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (1-Feb-2015) Permanent Link
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31-Jan-15 World View -- Hezbollah backs down from war with Israel

In Denmark you are now paid to take out a mortgage

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Hezbollah backs down from war with Israel


Hezbollah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah giving televised speech on Friday
Hezbollah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah giving televised speech on Friday

Hezbollah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah gave a televised speech on Wednesday gloating about Wednesday's attack on an Israeli convoy that killed two soldiers. According to Nasrallah:

"If Israel thinks the resistance is deterred and is scared of a conflict, I tell you now after the attack in Qunetra, we are not afraid of war. We will not think twice about confronting the enemy and we will do so if he forces us.

We don't want war but we don't fear it. The resistance in Lebanon is not concerned with rules of engagement. It is our legitimate and legal right to fight aggression, wherever and whenever it may occur."

It was a retaliation attack for Israel's January 18 airstrike at a convoy in Syria that killed two of Hezbollah's top commands, as well as five Iranians and a senior officer in Iran's élite Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC). It was feared that Hezbollah would demand additional revenge beyond the killing of two Israeli soldiers, or that Israel would strike back. Either way the fear was that something would spiral into a larger war, as had happened in 2006.

But in fact there had already been several reports that Hezbollah was signaling Israel that it was backing down and didn't want a war.

That Nasrallah wanted to back down is completely believable. As we explained two days ago, the Lebanese people are unified in being opposed to another war between Israel and Hezbollah, since the 2006 war accomplished nothing but to make like miserable in Lebanon.

In addition, Hezbollah is completely tied down in Syria. It's undoubtedly true that Nasrallah would like to be responsible for killing a few Jews, but his behavior indicates that he's much more excited by the possibility of massacring and slaughtering thousands of Muslims in Syria.

As I've been reporting for a few weeks, the real war going on in the Mideast today is not Muslims versus Westerners, but Muslims versus Muslims. The same is true in South Asia and North Africa. We have major terror attacks in Egypt and Pakistan (see below), as well as news that Chad is bombing Boko Haram positions in Cameroon. This large war of Muslims versus Muslims is growing in many countries, including Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Libya, Nigeria, Mali, and others to a greater or lesser extent. Daily Star (Beirut) and Times of Israel

Clashes between Nusra front and Free Syrian Army spreading in Syria

Although the Islamic State / of Iraq and Syria (IS or ISIS or ISIL) gets most of the press these days, thanks to their beheadings and other publicity stunts, there are still other groups fighting in Syria, and one those fights is said to be spreading. The al-Qaeda linked Jabhat al-Nusra (al-Nusra Front) and Western-backed Free Syrian Army (FSA) are both supposed to be fighting against the army of Syria's Bashar al-Assad regime but, instead, they're fighting each other. The clashes began on Thursday, just west of Aleppo, and on Friday spread into Idlib province.

However, Ahrar al-Sham, another Islamist militia in Syria, has worked with both groups in the past, and is calling for an end to the clashes, and said the disagreement should be settled in an independent Shariah court. Daily Star (Beirut)

Jundallah takes credit for massive mosque attack in Pakistan

A powerful explosion leveled a crowded Shia mosque during Friday prayers in Shikarpur, a city 200 miles north of Karachi in southern Pakistan. At least 56 people were killed. Jundullah, a splinter group of Tehrik-e-Taliban (TTP - Pakistan Taliban) claimed credit: "Our target was the Shia mosque ... They are our enemies."

TTP and its various splinter groups have in the past attacked both Sunni and Shia targets, but Jundullah has specialized in sectarian attacks against Shias. Some of these targets have been on Iranian soil, though most have been in Pakistan. Some analysts are warning that sectarian attacks are increasing in Pakistan, at a time when Muslim versus Muslim attacks of all kinds are increasing throughout the region. Daily Times (Pakistan) and AFP

Egypt's military begins 'wide military offensives' in North Sinai

After Thursday's sophisticated multi-location North Sinai terrorist attack by the ISIS-linked terror group Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis (ABM - Ansar Jerusalem - Champions of Jerusalem) killing 31 people and injuring dozens, Egypt's president Abdel al-Fattah al-Sisi is under heavy criticism. There was a similar terrorist attack by the same group last October, leading al-Sisi to declare a state of emergency in the Sinai, and to build a one kilometer wide buffer zone along the Gaza border, and yet ABM apparently defeated the security measures with ease.

Al-Sisi has cut short his participation in the African Union summit in Ethiopia to deal with the aftermath of the terror attack, and Egypt's army is starting wide military offensives throughout North Sinai, targeting terrorist hideouts using Apache helicopters and un-manned planes.

There is a feeling in Egypt that the harsh security measures that were taken after the October attacks have backfired, in the sense that the Bedouins living in Sinai have become even more estranged from Cairo. Al Ahram (Cairo)

Greece clashes with eurogroup 'No more bailout, no more troika!'

Greece's new Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis met with the Eurogroup of eurozone finance managers, and quickly announced that the meeting was over. Varoufakis said that Greece did not want an extension to meet the bailout conditions, and he said that he wanted to meet with European leaders, not with technicians the "Troika" of organizations that have been bailing out Greece -- the European Commission (EC), the European Central Bank (ECB) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

Greece is supposed to receive an additional seven billion euro loan at the end of February in order to made debt payments that will come due in March. Greece needs to make those payments or else declare bankruptcy and leave the eurozone. However, that money is dependent upon a review by the Troika, and Varoufakis said he would not negotiate with the Troika. Varoufakis says that Greece doesn't want the money, because it would be used to pay for things they don't care about -- namely their debts. Instead, Varoufakis wants to negotiate directly with European heads of state and negotiate staying the eurozone without going bankrupt and without leaving the eurozone.

After the meeting, eurogroup chief Jeroen Dijsselbloem said, "Taking unilateral steps or ignoring previous arrangements is not the way forward." Greek Reporter and Kathimerini

In Denmark you are now paid to take out a mortgage

As we've been reporting for some time, Europe is in a deflationary spiral which will end in a major financial panic and crisis. Now we have a new sign: Nordea Kredit, a Danish bank, is offering a mortgage with a negative interest rate -- which means that the bank lends you the money, and then pays you interest. Actually, the interest rate can vary from +0.03% to -0.03%, so not everyone will qualify for negative interest rates, but a mortgage rate of +0.03% is not that much anyway.

In a deflationary spiral, most people and businesses postpone purchases and hoard cash. Hoarding cash is socially acceptable for a residential family, but not for a bank, which is expected to lend money for business loans and mortgages. And now, with the European Central Bank planning a massive quantitative easing program, which will "print" a lot of money and pump it into banks and the stock market, banks are expected to get rid of that cash any way they can, and now we're seeing the first negative rate mortgage.

The deflationary spiral in the U.S. is not advanced as far as it is in Europe, but it's coming. Zero Hedge

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 31-Jan-15 World View -- Hezbollah backs down from war with Israel thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (31-Jan-2015) Permanent Link
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30-Jan-15 World View -- ISIS-linked terrorists kill dozens in Egypt's northern Sinai

Greece forces compromise in planned new EU sanctions against Russia

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

ISIS-linked terrorists kill dozens in Egypt's northern Sinai


Egyptian armed forces in Sinai
Egyptian armed forces in Sinai

At least 26 people were killed and 105 injured on Thursday in a series of four coordinated terror attacks in Egypt's northern Sinai. The attacks involved car bombs and mortar rounds. They targeted army and police personnel, but civilians were killed as well.

The terror group "Sinai Province" claimed credit for the attack. The group used to be named Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis (ABM - Ansar Jerusalem - Champions of Jerusalem) and was linked to al-Qaeda, but late last year pledged its allegiance to the Islamic State / of Iraq and Syria (IS or ISIS or ISIL), and changed its name to "Sinai Province."

In October of last year, ABM used a car bomb to kill 33 Egyptian troops in northern Sinai, causing Egypt's president Abdel al-Fattah al-Sisi to declare a state of emergency in the Sinai peninsula to last three months, with a curfew in force between 5 pm and 7 am. That curfew expired a few days ago, but was renewed for another three months. ( "26-Oct-14 World View -- Egypt in state of emergency after terrorist attack in Sinai")

In addition to declaring a state of emergency, Egypt closed the border with Gaza, and began building a kilometer-wide buffer zone along the border the Gaza. The buffer zone has received a great deal of criticism because it required thousands of Egyptians to leave their homes and relocate. However, al-Sisi may now announce more extreme new measures to combat terrorism. Al Ahram (Cairo) and Reuters

Russia looks to Greece as an ally against EU sanctions

With Greece's new radical far-left prime minister Alexis Tsipras questioning EU sanctions against Russia over its invasion of Ukraine and annexation of Crimea, Russia is considering financial aid to Greece. According to Russia's Finance Minister Anton Siluanov, Greece has not yet requested assistance from Russia, but a request would be considered:

"Well, we can imagine any situation, so if such [a] petition is submitted to the Russian government, we will definitely consider it, but will take into account all the factors of our bilateral relationships between Russia and Greece, so that is all I can say. If it is submitted we will consider it."

Both Russia and Greece are Orthodox Christian countries, and have a long history of economic and cultural ties, and of course the Nazis invaded both countries during World War II. Almost 13% of Greek imports came from Russia in 2013, according to the IMF. CNBC and CNN

Greece forces compromise in planned new EU sanctions against Russia

Last week, ethnic Russians in east Ukraine, backed by heavy weapons and possibly thousands of soldiers from Russia, launched an attack on the port city of Mariupol, although so far they've held back from an all-out assault on Mariupol. It's assumed that Russia's objective is to create a land bridge between Russia and Crimea, the Ukrainian peninsula that Russia invaded, occupied and annexed last year.

In view of this new military attack, the European Union in Brussels issued a statement saying that all 28 EU nations agreed that Russia "bears responsibility" for the attack on Mariupol. On Tuesday, however, the new Greek government issued a statement that

"[The EU statement] was released without the prescribed procedure to obtain consent by the member states, and particularly without ensuring the consent of Greece. In this context, it is underlined that Greece does not consent to this statement."

Hungary, Slovakia, and Austria had also voiced objections earlier. These are the countries whose economies are most negatively affected by the anti-Russia sanctions.

The result was an emergency meeting on Brussels on Thursday. Although the Russian sanctions were a completely separate issue from the bailout of Greece, one EU official implied that they might be linked:

"You just cannot, on the one hand, demand from Europe to show solidarity with your own country like Mr. Tsipras does and then, as a first official step, split the joint European position."

So Greece's Finance Minister said on his blog that it was all just a big misunderstanding:

"The problem was that [Alexis Tsipras], and the new Greek government, were never asked! So, clearly, the issue was not whether our new government agrees or not with fresh sanctions on Russia. The issue is whether our view can be taken for granted without even being told of what it is!"

At Thursday's meeting, EU extended the existing sanctions on Russian officials until September but, at Greece's insistence, did not add anyone new to the list of sanctioned individuals. Greece indicated that it was prepared to use its veto to block sanctions in the future. Reuters and Russia Today and Greek Reporter and Kathimerini

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 30-Jan-15 World View -- ISIS-linked terrorists kill dozens in Egypt's northern Sinai thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (30-Jan-2015) Permanent Link
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29-Jan-15 World View -- Greece's Alexis Tsipras escalates confrontation with Germany

Israel promises revenge after Hezbollah attack kills two soldiers

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Greece's Alexis Tsipras escalates confrontation with Germany


Alexis Tsipras places flowers on the National Resistance Memorial in Kaisariani on Monday. (EPA)
Alexis Tsipras places flowers on the National Resistance Memorial in Kaisariani on Monday. (EPA)

On his first days on the job, Greece's new Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras moved quickly to implement costly government programs that Brussels and Germany have warned him against. Wednesday's announcements included halting the sale of the state-owned Public Power Corporation of Greece (PPC), halting the privatization of the port of Piraeus, raising pensions for those on low incomes, and reinstating some fired public service workers.

The Athens Stock Market index plunged 4%, with bank stocks falling over 12%. The Greek 10-year bond yield was at an unsustainable 10.3%, meaning that Greece would have to pay 10.3% interest to anyone willing to lend it money.

As if that weren't enough, Tsipras delivered what one commentator called "another 'up yours' to the Germans": He visited the National Resistance Memorial at Kaisariani where, on May 1, 1944, German Nazi forces executed 200 Greek citizens, mostly Communists.

In a recent article ( "26-Jan-15 World View -- Alexis Tsipras' far-left Syriza party wins historic election in Greece"), I asked whether Greece's new far left prime minister Alexis Tsipras would be pragmatic, seeking an agreement with Brussels and Germany, or delusional, believing that he can bully the Europeans into accepting huge new spending programs by Greece's government. After Tsipras' first days on the job, it appears that he's heading in the direction of being delusional. Kathimerini and Guardian (London)

Israel promises revenge after Hezbollah attack kills two soldiers

In the worst Hezbollah attack on Israel since the two were at war in 2006, Hezbollah fired anti-tank missiles at a convoy of Israeli military vehicles in Shebaa Farms in Israeli-occupied southern Lebanon. The attack killed two soldiers and injuring several others. Israel responded by firing at least 25 artillery shells into Lebanon. Apparently, one of these artillery shells killed a Spanish member of the UN peacekeeping force that's supposed to separate Hezbollah from Israeli forces.

According to a statement from Hezbollah:

"At 11:25 [Wednesday morning] the Qunaitra Martyrs unit targeted with appropriate missile weapons an Israeli military convoy comprising several vehicles and [transporting] Zionist officers and soldiers causing the destruction of several vehicles and inflicting many casualties on the enemy."

Hezbollah made it clear that the attack was made in revenge for a January 18 Israeli airstrike at a convoy in Syria that killed two of Hezbollah's top commands, as well as five Iranians and a senior officer in Iran's élite Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC). However, it's feared that Hezbollah will demand additional revenge beyond the killing of two Israeli soldiers.

Israel's prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that "Those behind the attack today will pay the full price," and compared the situation to the run-up to summer's Gaza war:

"To anyone who tries to challenge us on the northern border, I suggest that they look at what happened here, at the Gaza Strip. Last summer Hamas took the hardest blow ever since its establishment and the IDF is ready to act, with might, in all sectors. Security is above all."

Ron Prosor, Israel's ambassador to the UN Security Council, said that Hezbollah is violating the Security Council resolution that was passed following the 2006 war, which demands the disarmament of all armed groups in Lebanon:

"For years, Hezbollah has been stockpiling weapons in Southern Lebanon in violation of Security Council resolution 1701. Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah regularly threatens Israel and his terrorist organization took responsibility for this morning’s attack. Hezbollah has the military capabilities, it has made its intentions clear, and this morning we saw the results.

Israel will not stand by as Hezbollah targets Israelis. Israel will not accept any attacks on its territory and it will exercise its right to self-defense and take all necessary measures to protect its population."

Hezbollah and Israel have been building up to a new war ever since the 2006 war ended. The fear is that, with the heated rhetoric and tit-for-tat violence, the time will be now. Daily Star (Beirut) and Telegraph (London) and Algemeiner (New York)

Hezbollah's attack breaks a taboo from 2006 war

In 2006, Hezbollah abducted two Israeli soldiers patrolling near the Lebanon border. Within four hours, Israel panicked and launched a full-scale war with Hezbollah, with no plan and no objectives. The war was a disaster for both Israel and Lebanon. Israel accomplished nothing but to destroy a great deal of Lebanon's infrastructure.

Some people in Lebanon favored Israel to win the 2006 war, and some favored Hezbollah. But once the war ended, all the people of Lebanon were united in not wanting anything like that to happen again. And so it became taboo for Hezbollah to provoke Israel again and risk another attack. Wednesday's attack breaks that taboo, and is the worst Hezbollah attack since the 2006 war.

The taboo was clearly stated in a Wednesday editorial in Beirut's Daily Star:

"Hezbollah’s reaction to Israel’s targeting of its convoy in Syria less than two weeks ago came as no big surprise Wednesday, as the resistance party was being pushed – both politically and physically – by Israel into a response. But it is imperative now that Hezbollah thinks of what is best for all of Lebanon, not just the party itself.

The party has made it clear that the attack in the Israeli-occupied Shebaa Farms came in retaliation for Israel’s deadly attack on its convoy. And Iran – which also lost a general in the attack – sent a warning to Israel Tuesday. But in terms of Syria’s place within all this, amid the numerous attacks against it by Israel over the last few years – the latest one occurring early Wednesday morning – it still seems it is unable or unwilling to retaliate itself.

Israel cannot claim to have been shocked by Hezbollah’s response, which it surely expected. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and many close to him in government will indeed have welcomed Hezbollah’s response, for parliamentary elections in March are fast approaching, and war is always good for a hawkish leader’s ratings.

This is just one of the many reasons that Hezbollah must now act with wisdom, caution and also a degree of humbleness. It would do Israel too many favors now to escalate the situation on the border.

Hezbollah must think of the entire country, and not just its own interests and pride. Lebanon cannot afford the response that Israel is promising. The country is in such a precarious security position that a new conflict could prove disastrous."

The concern is that now that the taboo is broken, then the floodgates are open. (Sorry for the mixed metaphor.) Hezbollah's leaders may feel that they have not extracted enough revenge for Israel's January 18 attack, and Israeli leaders have already promised retaliation for Wednesday's attack. Even if neither side wishes a war, a war may occur anyway through miscalculation, as each side retaliates for the other side's previous retaliation. That's pretty much how last summer's Gaza war began, and it could happen again. Daily Star (Beirut)

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 29-Jan-15 World View -- Greece's Alexis Tsipras escalates confrontation with Germany thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (29-Jan-2015) Permanent Link
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28-Jan-15 World View -- S&P lowers Russia's bonds to junk status

ISIS-linked group takes credit for hotel bombing in Tripoli Libya

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

ISIS-linked group takes credit for hotel bombing in Tripoli Libya


Flaming oil storage tank after being targeted with rockets by militias in Libya (Reuters)
Flaming oil storage tank after being targeted with rockets by militias in Libya (Reuters)

Militants linked to the Islamic State / of Iraq and Syria (IS or ISIS or ISIL) took credit for an attack on the the Corinthia Hotel, Libya's most elegant hotel, in the capital city Libya. The attack combined gunfire and a grenade. Of the nine people killed, five were foreigners, including American, one Frenchman, and the rest from unspecified Asian countries.

In the 2011 civil war that ousted Muammar Gaddafi, the United States "led from behind" in a Nato operation that aided anti-Gaddafi tribes. Many of these tribes were united in overthrowing Gaddafi, but afterwards splintered into two loose confederations. The government in the west is Libya Dawn, with Islamists and militia from the Misrata region, in control of Tripoli. The second government is the internationally recognized government, headquartered in Tobruk in the east. In addition, an al-Qaeda linked terrorist group, Ansar al-Sharia, is operating in Libya with headquarters in Benghazi, where it was responsible for the attack that killed American ambassador J. Christopher Stevens in 2012. In recent months, a number of individuals in Libya have pledged themselves to ISIS, and have traveled to Syria for terrorist training. Some may already have returned.

The 2011 Nato operation did not pacify Libya, and so Gaddafi would have to be acknowledged as correct when he warned that Libya would descend into chaos if he were ousted. Even worse, there was no follow-on from Nato, and huge storehouses of Gaddafi's weapons were left unprotected, and those weapons have spread throughout Northern Africa and beyond, via al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM).

However, it must be noted that Libya is in a generational Crisis era, and that conflicts between militias began well before the ouster of Gaddafi. Indeed, it was one of those conflicts that led to the civil war in which Nato intervened. We can never know what would have happened in Libya if Nato had not intervened, but in view of Libya's generational timeline, it's quite likely that Libya would have sunk as deeply into chaos as it did with the Nato intervention.

The war in Libya is becoming more violent every day. As I've been reporting for several weeks, there is a large and growing Muslim versus Muslim war already in progress, not just in Libya, but across North Africa, the Mideast and South Asia. This war is of historic proportions, and will affect all of us. Reuters and CNN

Libya's oil production plummets because of conflict

Just as there are now two competing governments in Libya, there are also two competing national oil corporations, with oil tankers and pipelines becoming war targets. Libya holds the largest oil reserves in Africa, and in good times has produced up to 1.6 million barrels of oil per day. Since its militia wars began, however, daily production has dropped as low as 200,000 barrels. However, the oil production began to fall long before the civil war that ousted Gaddafi, thanks to conflicts between militias during Muammar Gaddafi's reign. VOA and Reuters

S&P lowers Russia's bonds to junk status

Russia's financial crisis deepened on Monday, as ratings agency Standard & Poors cut Russia's rating to BB+, which is junk status. The move had been widely anticipated, but the value of the ruble fell 6% against the dollar. Russia is still at investment grade with the two other major ratings agency, Moody's and Fitch, although many analysts expect them also to lower Russia's rating to junk status in the near future.

Russia's financial troubles stem from years of generous spending programs based on an oil price of $100-120 per barrel, as oil production is Russia's biggest industry. But facing oil prices now below $50 per barrel, and with no spare industrial capacity because of lack of industrial investment in the last two decades, Russia has no way to generate foreign reserves. Add to that, the Ukrainian invasion has turned out to be very expensive, and the Western sanctions have made it almost impossible for Russian entities to borrow money. The result is that Russians are moving their dollar-denominated accounts and assets to other countries, fearing that their bank accounts might be frozen. The result is that Russia's economy is in a downward spiral, with no visible way of recovering. Moscow Times and Forbes

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 28-Jan-15 World View -- S&P lowers Russia's bonds to junk status thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (28-Jan-2015) Permanent Link
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27-Jan-15 World View -- Kurdish militias drive ISIS out of the Syrian town of Kobani

Australian backlash grows over knighthood for Queen Elizabeth's husband

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Kurdish militias drive ISIS out of the Syrian town of Kobani


 A fire burns in Kobani Syria during heavy fighting between ISIS and Kurdish Peshmerga forces (Reuters)
A fire burns in Kobani Syria during heavy fighting between ISIS and Kurdish Peshmerga forces (Reuters)

Kurdish forces announced on Monday a major victory over the Islamic State / of Iraq and Syria (IS or ISIS or ISIL), having driven all ISIS forces out of Kobani Syria, a town strategically located on the border with Turkey.

The battle over Kobani dominated news coverage for a while starting in summer of last year because ISIS had committed so many of its men, weapons and other resources to capturing the town, largely occupied by Kurds. Syrian PYD Kurdish militias were losing ground to ISIS, even with the help of daily American warplane strikes. Tens of thousands of Kobani refugees were pouring into Turkey as refugees.

Note: Peshmerga = Kurdish militias in Iraq. PYD = Kurdish militias in Syria. PKK = Kurdish anti-government insurgents in Turkey.

Then, in October, Turkey had a major policy reversal, and announced that it would, after all, allow Iraqi peshmerga Kurdish militias to cross the border from Iraq into Turkey, travel over Turkish soil, and then cross the border into Kobani in Syria. This was a big problem for Turkey, and actually caused a political rift, because Turkey has fought an insurgency by PKK Kurdish insurgents in Turkey over the last two decades. So it was a surprise when Turkey's president Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced in October that this would be permitted. The peshmerga forces from Iraq were heavily armed, and their aid to the PYD are now given credit for turning the tide in the battle of Kobani.

Numerous analysts have stated that the U.S. administration's announced military strategy of airstrikes-only, without "boots on the ground," has no chance of pushing back ISIS. The battle of Kobani is actually an example of the kind of battle that these analysts have been describing as necessary, but with Kurdish peshmerga forces supplying the boots. However, there is no other publicly-declared example of US-led forces closely coordinating militarily with a ground force to battle ISIS.

The withdrawal of ISIS from Kobani raises the question of what ISIS is going to do next with the forces that have become available. Zaman (Turkey) and Cihan (Turkey) and Zaman (Turkey)

Turkey opens its biggest refugee camp to house 35,000

Turkey on Sunday opened its biggest refugee camp to house 35,000 people fleeing from the fighting in Kobani. There are 1.7 Syrian refugees in Turkey, of which 200,000 have come from Kobani. The majority of the refugees live outside camps, sometimes on the streets and in shantytowns, creating tensions with the local population. Turkey has some 24 camps, housing 265,000 Syrian refugees. Zaman (Turkey)

Australian backlash grows over knighthood for Queen Elizabeth's husband


Queen Elizabeth, with her husband Prince Philip to her right, in a group shot with the Knights of the Thistle. (AFP)
Queen Elizabeth, with her husband Prince Philip to her right, in a group shot with the Knights of the Thistle. (AFP)

Australia's Prime Minister Tony Abbott has awarded Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, with an Australian knighthood, the country's highest honor. Prince Philip is the husband of Queen Elizabeth, who is Australia's ruling monarch in name only.

According to Australia's Defense Minister Kevin Andrews, Prince Philip's contribution to Australia has been "phenomenal":

"It doesn't cost us anything to give him this award. How else do we say, in a sense, thank you to someone who's given six decades of public service? I think it's a phenomenal contribution. He's still doing it in his 90s now and I think we should just be generous about it."

However, many MPs were angered and dismayed by the award. One said that the award was "a stupid announcement" and "manifestly amazing in the worst possible way." Another said, "I thought it was wackily quaint and anachronistic. But now it's just become an acute embarrassment, just plainly ridiculous." Australian Broadcasting

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 27-Jan-15 World View -- Kurdish militias drive ISIS out of the Syrian town of Kobani thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (27-Jan-2015) Permanent Link
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26-Jan-15 World View -- Alexis Tsipras' far-left Syriza party wins historic election in Greece

Is Greece's Alexis Tsipras pragmatic or delusional?

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Girlfriend Peristera (Betty) Baziana good fit for Greece's Alexis Tsipras


Alexis Tsipras and Peristera (Betty) Baziana
Alexis Tsipras and Peristera (Betty) Baziana

The girlfriend (or common law wife) of 40 year old Alexis Tsipras, Greece's new Prime Minister, seems to be a perfect fit for him. They're both good looking, and they share common radical far left political beliefs.

38 year old Peristera (Betty) Baziana was an activist in the Greek Communist Party Youth in high school, where she met Tsipras, and joined him protests and school occupations. They've lived together for 17 years, but don't believe in marriage. Their first son, Pavlos, was born in May 2010. Their second son was born in June 2012, and was named Orpheus and Ernesto, after Ché Guevara, a hero of Tsipras. Greek Reporter

Alexis Tsipras' far-left Syriza party wins historic election in Greece

Greece's radical far left politician Alexis Tsipras has led his Syriza party to victory in what is being called a historic election, because of its implications for Europe and the eurozone. Tsipras's campaign slogan had been "Hope is coming!" In a victory speech reminiscent of Barack Obama's 2008 victory speech, when he promised that the world would be a different place on January 21, the day after he took office, Tsipras promised that "the period of austerity" is over:

"Greece leaves behinds catastrophic austerity, it leaves behind fear and authoritarianism, it leaves behind five years of humiliation and anguish.

Our priority from the very first day will be to deal with the big wounds left by the crisis. Our foremost priority is that our country and our people regain their lost dignity."

Leftists were dancing in the streets in Athens when the first exit poll results were announced, and they were joined by visitor from left-wing parties in Italy, Germany, Spain and elsewhere. Voters were reacting to huge budget cuts and heavy tax rises during six years of crisis that has sent unemployment over 25 percent and pushed millions into poverty.

Here are some of the promises that Tsipras made during the campaign:

As I wrote several times during the various Greek crisis periods of the past years, there is no solution to Greece's debt problem. Saying this did not require a crystal ball; it simply required doing some simple arithmetic. As we'll discuss further below, obvious truths are simply ignored by everyone, when they're not part of the narrative or either the left wing or the right wing. Now Tsipras has come up with his own non-solution.

Greece has already received some 240 billion euros in bailout loans. It needs an additional 10-20 billion euros in loans this year, starting in March, just to avoid bankruptcy -- and that assumes that the austerity measures are kept in place. With Tsipras's spending splurge, that figure could easily go up to 30-50 billion euros. Are Greece's creditors, including the IMF and Germany, going to lend that kind of money to Greece to fund a spending splurge? The question answers itself.

However, there's another side to this, and this is probably what Tsipras is counting on. Tsipras's Syriza is an umbrella party for a number of far-left, communist and marxist policies, who will not tolerate any compromise by Tsipras. So Tsipras will go to Brussels and say, "Hey help me out guys. If you don't give me the 50 billion euros I need, then my government will collapse, Greece will be forced to leave the eurozone, and that will be a disaster for you guys, because you need Greece more than Greece needs you." Kathimerini and BBC

Neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party is third in Greece's elections

The neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party, which has in the past demanded that anyone not of Greek ancestry be deported from Greece, has come in third place in the voting, at 6.3%. This is behind Syriza, at 36%, and New Democracy, at 28.2%. New Democracy is headed by the departing prime minister Antonis Samaras, and was the governing party until this election.

This is a remarkable showing for Golden Dawn, despite the fact that the party's leader and most of its lawmakers are behind bars, facing charges of participating in a "criminal organization" accused of murders, brutal attacks on migrants and others, extortion and arson. These crimes include the Sept. 2013 murder of a leftist rapper, Pavlos Fyssas. AP and Kathimerini

Is Greece's Alexis Tsipras pragmatic or delusional?

I've told this story several times over the years, but it's highly relevant today:

When I heard Obama campaigning in 2008, saying that with his election the earth would heal and the tides would recede, and making other ridiculous promises, I didn't think much of it, since politicians always say ridiculous things when they're campaigning, and then they pull them back after the election.

After the election, when I heard Obama continue saying the same things, that the world would be a different place starting on January 21, then I knew we were in trouble, and the thought that came into my mind was, "Holy crap! If he really believes his campaign rhetoric, then he must be delusional." Since then, Obama has had one foreign policy disaster after another.

So now Greece's Alexis Tsipras is in the same situation, following an election in which his major campaign promises were, in effect: "After I'm elected, 2+2 will equal 5."

Now, it really doesn't matter whether Tsipras is the greatest orator in the world, or the most charismatic leader in the world, or the smartest person in the world, or the best politician in the world. 2+2 does not equal 5, and never will equal 5. Just as Obama blames the Republicans and Fox News for 2+2 not equaling 5, Tsipras will blame his political opposition in Athens, his political opposition in Brussels, the "Nazi" Germans, the European Central Bank (ECB), or the International Monetary Fund (IMF). But no matter whom he blames, 2+2 will never equal 5.

Tsipras and Obama both have a common personality type that I began writing about frequently in 2007 (See "The nihilism and self-destructiveness of Generation X.") I've seen this personality type frequently, almost always among Gen-Xers, not only in politicians, journalists and other public figures, but also in the computer industry, where I've personally seen it lead to disaster, as well as in my personal life.

I've written about many examples of this in the 12 years I've been developing Generational Dynamics. In the mid-2000s, it was perfectly obvious that there was a huge housing bubble, and I wrote about it constantly. I sold my own condo in November 2005, at the height of the bubble. But the problem is that a housing bubble does not fit the ideological narrative of either liberals or conservatives, and so the delusion was massive. Mainstream financial analysts, economists and journalists would say, "Housing prices can't go down -- people have to live somewhere," and "Banks won't foreclose -- it's not in their interest to do so" and "These housing construction firms know what they're doing, and they wouldn't be building houses if it were just a bubble." It wasn't until 2009 that mainstream economists began saying that there had been a housing bubble years earlier. Duh!

The personality type that I'm describing is common today in Generation-Xers, who drive public opinion, and I've seen in many of them the two major characteristics of someone with this personality type:

This is why such people are delusional. When a decision leads to bad results, it must be because other people are sabotaging it, and since the decision could not possibly have been bad, he doubles down on it. He knows with absolute certainty that 2+2=5, and when it doesn't turn out that way, then other people are to blame, and he has to take additional steps to force 2+2 to be 5, which it never can be. Those additional steps create the disaster.

As an example, one disaster in the last decade was the financial crisis that followed from the collapse of the housing bubble that didn't even exist because everyone has to live somewhere.

So in the days and weeks ahead, we're going to see whether or not the radical left Tsipras is pragmatic or delusional. If he proceeds pragmatically, if he works for some compromise that everyone, including Brussels, the ECB, the IMF and the Germans, can go along with, thus ending the crisis, then he'll turn out to be an intelligent politician and leader, which will surprise a lot of people, most of all me.

But if he doubles down, and pursues a policy of blackmailing Brussels and the Germans, saying in effect "You need me more than I need you, the eurozone needs Greece more than Greece needs the euro, and so I can do whatever I want, and you'll have to go along with it," then we can anticipate the worst of all possible scenarios. Bloomberg

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 26-Jan-15 World View -- Alexis Tsipras' far-left Syriza party wins historic election in Greece thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (26-Jan-2015) Permanent Link
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25-Jan-15 World View -- Measles outbreak being blamed on the 'anti-vaccine movement'

Russians re-invade Ukraine, targeting Mariupol port city

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Measles outbreak being blamed on the 'anti-vaccine movement'


Visitors ride Dumbo the Flying Elephant at Disneyland in Anaheim on Thursday (AP)
Visitors ride Dumbo the Flying Elephant at Disneyland in Anaheim on Thursday (AP)

Measles was eliminated in the United States in 2000, but 71 new cases of measles have been reported in the last month. The number is expected to climb. Almost all of the measles patients had not received measles vaccinations, or had had only one of the two required vaccine shots.

62 of the cases were in California, with the rest in Utah, Washington, Colorado, Oregon, Arizona and Mexico. Almost all the patients had visited Disney theme parks in Anaheim around Christmas, or had contact with someone who had visited Disneyland.

The resurgence in measles is being blamed on the anti-vaccine movement -- people who are refusing to allow their children to be vaccinated. Many of them have refused vaccinations because they still believe now-discredited research linking the measles vaccine to autism.

In California, most of the measles cases are occurring in certain pockets, in places where there is a community reluctance to vaccinate.

The measles vaccine first became available in 1963, and had eliminated measles in the United States by 2000. But that announcement caused many parents to decide that it was no longer necessary to vaccinate their children, and now measles is reappearing. However, starting last year, the number of parents refusing to vaccinate their children declined slightly, and is expected to decline further this year. Mercury News (San Jose) and SF Gate (San Francisco) and LA Times

Russians re-invade Ukraine, targeting Mariupol port city

In a significant escalation of the conflict in Ukraine, ethnic Russians in east Ukraine, backed by heavy weapons and possibly thousands of soldiers from Russia, are apparently launching an attack on the port city of Mariupol. Mariupol is a strategic objective that would give the Russians access to the Sea of Azov, and would provide much of what's needed to secure a land bridge between Russia and Crimea. Russia invaded, occupied and annexed Ukraine's Crimean peninsula a year ago, and has had to bear enormous expenses supplying troops and civilians in Crimea by sea. Conquest of additional Ukrainian territory to provide a land connection between Russia and Crimean would result in considerable cost reductions. The attack comes just one day after the east Ukrainian Russians rejected a ceasefire agreement reached last September, when an east Ukrainian leader, Alexander Zakharchenko, announced, "We have started an offensive on Mariupol." On Saturday, Zakharchenko said that the Mariupol offensive would be "the best possible monument to all our dead."

Russia's government claims that it's had nothing to do with the new offensive, but an AP reporter saw convoys of pristine heavy weapons arriving last week, apparently in preparation for this attack.

Apparently we're now going to have to deal with another period of Russian government statements in clear contradiction to reported facts, and so it's a good idea to recall what happened last year. Russia claimed they weren't invading Crimea, just as Russian troops were invading Crimea. Russia claimed that they wouldn't annex Crimea, just before they annexed Crimea, a clear violation of international law. Russia claimed that there were no Russian troops in east Ukraine at a time when Russian troops were entering east Ukraine. On September 5, Russia signed an international peace agreement (the "Minsk protocols") in which they committed to a political compromise in east Ukraine, and then repeatedly violated their own agreement. Basically, anything that comes from Russian state media or Russia's government should be considered to be a lie. Washington Post and BBC and AP

Yemen appears to be further destabilizing after president Hadi's resignation

The coup by the Iran-backed Shia al-Houthi militias, taking control of the ministerial government functions in Sanaa, the capital city of Yemen, followed by the resignation Yemen's Sunni president Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi, appear to have sparked several groups into action on Saturday, further destabilizing the country:

The Yemeni parliament is scheduled to meet on Sunday to discuss Hadi's resignation, which has not yet been accepted, or to appoint a successor. Al Jazeera and World Bulletin (Turkey) and Gulf News and AFP

U.S. policy in Yemen affected by Houthi takeover

For years, the U.S. has been conducting counter-terrorism operations, including drone strikes, targeting Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), with the cooperation of Hadi, who just resigned, and his predecessor, the former president Ali Abdullah Saleh, who was ousted by Hadi in 2011.

On Friday, the Washington Post reported that the U.S. has been forced to suspend counter-terrorism operations in Yemen, because of the government takeover by the vitriolicly anti-American Houthis. However, administration officials are saying that the drone strokes and other operations are continuing, but without the aid of information from Yemeni intelligence agencies, which are now controlled by the Houthis. Washington Post and Guardian (London)

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 25-Jan-15 World View -- Measles outbreak being blamed on the 'anti-vaccine movement' thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (25-Jan-2015) Permanent Link
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24-Jan-15 World View -- Death of Saudi's King Abdullah raises concerns about policy changes

More on the political realignment of the Mideast following the Gaza war

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Death of Saudi's King Abdullah raises concerns about policy changes


The four Arab capitals claimed last year by Iran -- Beirut (Top L), Sanaa (Top R), Baghdad (Bottom L), Damascus (Bottom R) (AlWeeam)
The four Arab capitals claimed last year by Iran -- Beirut (Top L), Sanaa (Top R), Baghdad (Bottom L), Damascus (Bottom R) (AlWeeam)

The death on Thursday of Saudi Arabia's 90-year-old King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz al Saud and the subsequent appointment of his younger half-brother, 79-year-old Salman bin Abdulaziz al Saud, is raising a number of questions about whether Saudi policies are going to change under the new leadership. The consensus is that the succession was carefully planned in advance to preserve stability and continuity, but still, some concerns have been raised. Most of the media coverage has been about women's rights, but there are other issues of greater geopolitical significance.

First, Yemen is along Saudi Arabia's southern border and as we've been reporting, the government has collapsed, and no one knows who's running the country today, let alone who will be running the country next week. The Iran-backed Shia Houthis have taken over most of the government buildings in the capital city Sanaa, and may thus be considered the de facto government, but the Houthis have made it clear that they want to run the government without actually being officially in charge. One of the reasons for this gracious reluctance is that the Saudis have made it clear that they won't tolerate a Shia government in Yemen. In the meantime, Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), which is headquartered in Yemen, is taking advantage of the chaos in Sanaa to link up the other Sunni tribes in preparation for a sectarian war, while the tribes in the far south of Yemen are declaring their intention of seceding.

Next, Iran is Saudi Arabia's bitter enemy, and Iran is gaining influence throughout the Mideast, at Saudi expense. In fact, last year Iran bragged that Sanaa is fourth Arab capital in Iran's grasp, joining "the three Arab capitals who are already a subsidiary of the Iranian Islamic revolution," and part of "the greater jihad." The other referenced Arab capitals are Beirut Lebanon, Baghdad Iraq, and Damascus Syria. Iran is also supporting Shia activists in eastern Saudi Arabia and in Bahrain. Saudi Arabia has urged both Israel and the U.S. to go through with much-discussed plans to take out Iran's nuclear facilities with military strikes.

The meteoric rise of Islamic State / of Iraq and Syria (IS or ISIS or ISIL) is obviously of concern to the Saudis, as it is of concern to everyone in the Mideast. It's widely believed in the West that some tribal elements in Saudi Arabia are providing funds and support to ISIS, with the intention of eventually overthrowing the al-Saud government, replacing it with an ISIS or Wahhabi government.

An interesting sidebar is that the Saudis have discussed building a 600-mile barrier along its northern border, to provide protection from ISIS in Iraq and Syria, and another fence along its southern border, to provide protection from the Houthis in Yemen. Since the fall of the Berlin Wall 25 years ago, we've seen fences built along the southern border of the U.S., around all the borders of Israel, and along the border between Greece and Turkey. These would be two new fences.

Oil policy could play a big part in the decision making of the new King. Oil prices have fallen 60% since June of last year, mainly thanks to fracking in the United States, and the Saudis are being pressured by some other oil-producing countries to reduce oil output, to boost oil prices. Immediately after the death of Abdullah, the Saudis reassured the world that there would be no reduction in oil output. Oil prices increased briefly, but soon decreased again. BBC and Reuters and Daily Mail (London)

Saudi Arabia trapped in a corner over Syria policy

Like many Arab Sunnis, the Saudis are appalled that Syria's president Bashar al-Assad has been conducting virtual genocide against his own people. Syria's Shia/Alawite president Bashar al-Assad has flattened entire Sunni villages with Russia's heavy weapons, he's killed children by sending missiles into exam rooms and bedrooms, he's killed dozens with sarin gas, and he's killed countless more with barrel bombs loaded with explosives, metals, and chlorine gas. In addition, he's used electrocution, eye-gouging, strangulation, starvation, and beating on tens of thousands of prisoners on a massive "industrial strength" scale, and does with complete impunity, and in fact with encouragement and support from Russia and Iran.

The Saudis blame the rise of ISIS on al-Assad's actions (as do I). The Saudis are furious that the U.S. did nothing to stop al-Assad's genocidal attacks on Sunni Arabs in Syria, and are particularly contemptuous of President Obama's "red line" flip-flop, allowing al-Assad to use chemical weapons on his own people with impunity.

In a recent interview, Prince Turki bin Faisal Al Saud likened ISIS to the Mafia, saying that they are "more criminal than they are religious." His own anecdotal evidence suggested to him that the group's members were more concerned with "robbing" and "looting," with many only joining the organization for the money.

This is potentially an explosive situation, because it's not clear how long the Salafist factions in Saudi Arabia will continue to tolerate al-Assad's genocidal actions. Whether the West likes it or not, the new Saudi leadership may decide it has no choice but to take its own action against al-Assad. CNBC and Deutsche-Welle

More on the political realignment of the Mideast following the Gaza war

As I've written several times last year, there has been a major Mideast realignment following the Gaza war, bringing Israel plus Egypt plus Saudi Arabia plus the Palestinian Authority in alliance versus Hamas plus Qatar plus Turkey plus the Muslim Brotherhood. The split was extremely vitriolic, especially between the Saudis and Qataris, and although the differences were papered over late last year, there's little doubt that the feelings are as strong as ever. And the mediator who got everyone to agree to paper over the differences was none other than Saudi King Abdullah, who has now passed away.

This is a deep, simmering issue in the Arab world, and the new King of Saudi Arabia is going to be at the center of it. All the Arab states have as a policy the destruction of "the Zionist entity," at least at the lip service level. But there are plenty of open questions. When something happens that forces both the Saudis and Qataris to choose between the Palestinian Authority and Hamas, will they both choose the same side or different sides? Once again, this is a potentially explosive situation that only time can resolve.

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 24-Jan-15 World View -- Death of Saudi's King Abdullah raises concerns about policy changes thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (24-Jan-2015) Permanent Link
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23-Jan-15 World View -- Yemen government resigns, creating power vacuum for AQAP to fill

Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah dies

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Yemen government resigns, creating power vacuum for AQAP to fill


A tank sits near the presidential palace in Sanaa Yemen on Thursday (CNN)
A tank sits near the presidential palace in Sanaa Yemen on Thursday (CNN)

The agreement reached on Wednesday between Yemen's Sunni president Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi and the Shia leader Abdel-Malek al-Houthi or the insurgent Houthi militias collapsed within 24 hours after it was agreed. It was not so much an agreement between equal partners, anyway. It was much more a set of demands forced on Hadi by the Houthis. On Thursday morning, al-Houthi refused to remove his troops from Sanaa, and Hadi resigned, taking his cabinet with him.

Most commentators agree that what the Houthis wanted was for a weakened Hadi to remain as president, where he could be controlled by the Houthis. The Houthis apparently do not want to take complete control of the government, and so Hadi's resignation presents them with a problem. The Houthis announced that they are appointing a military council to select a successor, but the choice is going to be tricky.

Hadi was the deputy of former president Ali Abdullah Saleh, and when Saleh was forced out by a coup in 2012, Hadi was the "safe choice" to replace him, someone that everyone could live with. Thus, Hadi's resignation now, along with his cabinet, creates a power vacuum that will be very hard to fill.

For Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), the chaos in the capital city Sanaa is a golden opportunity. AQAP has been partially held in check by US drone strikes coordinated with the Hadi government, but now AQAP may have nothing to hold them back. AQAP is going to tap into the discontent of all the Sunni warlords and Sunni tribes, pointing to the Iran-backed Shia militias in power and the overthrow of the Sunni president, who was supported by Saudi Arabia. The nightmare scenario is a full-scale sectarian war between the Sunnis and Shias. Reuters and BBC

Southern Yemen leaders call for secession from North Yemen

The resignation of the government of Yemen's president Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi was enough to trigger an announcement by Yemen's southern separatist movements to call for secession. North and South Yemen were united in 1990, and this is a call to split Yemen in two again.

Police and other security officials in southern Yemen say they are no longer taking orders from Sanaa. Houthi militants have already seized and taken control of almost all state-run media announcements, and during the televised announcement by southern leaders to break with Sanaa, Houthi officials cut off the live televised feed, further angering people in the south. Middle East Eye and APA (Anadolu Agency - Baku)

Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah dies

Saudi Arabia's 90-year-old king Abdullah bin Abdulaziz died on Thursday. His younger brother, 79-year-old crown prince Salman bin Abdulaziz will succeed Abdullah.

There are concerns that Saudi Arabia is now going to join the unrest that's been spreading throughout the Mideast in the last four years. However, with Abdullah ailing in recent months, Salman has been taking on most of Abdullah's responsibilities, and so it's hoped that things will be calm for the time being. BBC and CNN

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 23-Jan-15 World View -- Yemen government resigns, creating power vacuum for AQAP to fill thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (23-Jan-2015) Permanent Link
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22-Jan-15 World View -- Yemen's president accepts Houthi demands, possibly resolving crisis

Leader of Germany's anti-Muslim Pegida movement resigns over Hitler photo

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Leader of Germany's anti-Muslim Pegida movement resigns over Hitler photo


German newspapers carrying the photo of Pegida leader Lutz Bachmann posing as Hitler (BBC)
German newspapers carrying the photo of Pegida leader Lutz Bachmann posing as Hitler (BBC)

Officials in the anti-Islam Pegida movement ("Patriotische Europäer gegen die Islamisierung des Abendlandes," or "Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the West") forced the group's leader Lutz Bachmann to resign on Wednesday, after it emerged that he had posted a picture of himself posing as Hitler on his Facebook page two years ago. His troubles increased on reports that he had called refugees "animals" and "scumbags."

Bachmann said that the Hitler photo was a joke, and apologized for the inappropriate remarks about refugees. However, the incident has been a huge embarrassment to Pegida, which bills itself as a moderate political movement, and rejects characterizations as "neo-Nazi." One German official said, "Anyone in politics who poses as Hitler is either a total idiot or a Nazi."

Pegida's "anti-Islamization" protests have been growing larger and larger each week since they began on Monday. However, anti-Pegida protests have grown larger than the Pegida protests, especially since the Charlie Hebdo attack in Paris. In Leipzig on Wednesday, about 7,000 Pegida demonstrators were blocked by 20,000 counter-protesters, while the police worked to keep the two groups apart. Deutsche-Welle and BBC

Yemen's president accepts Houthi demands, possibly resolving crisis


Members of the Yemeni presidential guards, wearing civilian clothes, leave the presidential palace with their belongings in Sanaa on Wednesday, after being driven off by Houthi militias (Reuters)
Members of the Yemeni presidential guards, wearing civilian clothes, leave the presidential palace with their belongings in Sanaa on Wednesday, after being driven off by Houthi militias (Reuters)

Yemen's president Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi, surrounded by Houthi militias after his own presidential guard had been defeated, agreed to all of the demands of the leader Abdel-Malek al-Houthi of the Shia Muslim group backed by Iran. The Houthis will be given positions of power in all state institutions, and will not be required to withdraw their forces from the capital city Sanaa, as they had committed previously in an September agreement.

Hadi had no choice but to accede to this agreement, but it remains to be seen whether it will be acceptable to the Sunni tribes south and east of Sanaa. Concerns have been increasing that a Houthi coup would unite the moderate Sunni tribes with the terrorists in al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), leading to a sectarian war. Indeed, a statement on Wednesday from the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) of mostly Sunni Arab nations warned that they "would take all measures necessary to protect their security, stability and vital interests in Yemen." It's hoped that Wednesday's agreement will head off a larger conflict. Others point out that the Houthis are in power, and may not be satisfied by stopping with the gains they've already made. AFP and Reuters

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 22-Jan-15 World View -- Yemen's president accepts Houthi demands, possibly resolving crisis thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (22-Jan-2015) Permanent Link
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21-Jan-15 World View -- U.S. prepares Yemen evacuation as Houthis apparently complete coup

Obama calls for Congressional approval of military action

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

U.S. prepares Yemen evacuation as Houthis apparently complete coup


Houthi leader Abdel-Malek al-Houthi giving a televised State of the Yemen speech on Tuesday
Houthi leader Abdel-Malek al-Houthi giving a televised State of the Yemen speech on Tuesday

The U.S. military on Monday night has moved two amphibious ships, the USS Iwo Jima and USS Fort McHenry, from the Gulf of Aden to the southern Red Sea, in preparation to evacuate the U.S. embassy in Sanaa, the capital city of Yemen, if it becomes necessary.

Iran-backed Shia al-Houthi militants stormed the presidential palace in Sanaa, and are reported to be approaching the private residence of president Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi, where he's thought to be. The Prime Minister's resident is also under attack. One government minister called the actions "the completion of a coup."

Shortly afterwards, Abdel-Malek al-Houthi, the head of the al-Houthis went on nationwide television and gave a kind of rambling State of the Yemen address, which was full of threats and accusations:

As we reported yesterday, analysts were hoping that the al-Houthis would stop short of taking complete control of Yemen's government, because of the consequences that would result. But after today's events, including the harsh personal criticisms of Hadi, it appears very likely that the existing government is about to collapse. The al-Houthis are already in de facto control, and today's events seem close to formalizing that control. CS Monitor and AP

Obama calls for Congressional approval of military action

Last year in June, President Obama announced that the U.S. would send 300 American advisors to train, advise and support the Iraqi securities forces fighting the Islamic State / of Iraq and Syria (IS or ISIS or ISIL). Since then, this number has been increased, one step at at time, from 300 to 800 to 1500 to 3100. He said that this was "not mission creep." He insisted that the "U.S. will not be putting boots on the ground." The goal is "to degrade and ultimately destroy the terrorist group known as ISIL." ( "8-Nov-14 World View -- Obama sharply escalates U.S. involvement in Iraq war") All of this was in addition to air force strikes against ISIS.

In Tuesday's State of the Union address, Obama said:

"In Iraq and Syria, American leadership – including our military power – is stopping ISIL’s advance. Instead of getting dragged into another ground war in the Middle East, we are leading a broad coalition, including Arab nations, to degrade and ultimately destroy this terrorist group. We’re also supporting a moderate opposition in Syria that can help us in this effort, and assisting people everywhere who stand up to the bankrupt ideology of violent extremism. This effort will take time. It will require focus. But we will succeed. And tonight, I call on this Congress to show the world that we are united in this mission by passing a resolution to authorize the use of force against ISIL. We need that authority."

I thought that air strikes against ISIL were already "the use of force." So it's not clear whether this is a further escalation, or whether it's simply requesting the legal authority to take the military action that's already taking place. (The phrase "We need that authority" was added to the prepared text.)

I have not yet heard any military analyst claim that Obama's strategy will succeed in its goal "to degrade and destroy ISIS." Every analyst I've heard says that American "boots on the ground" will be required.

In fact, as I've been reporting repeated in the last few weeks, there is a growing Muslim versus Muslim war in the Mideast, South Asia and North Africa, with tens of thousands of Muslims slaughtered every year. Generational Dynamics predicts this will spiral into a full scale regional war, and after that into a world war.

In the speech, Obama did not brag about Afghanistan, except to say, "Instead of Americans patrolling the valleys of Afghanistan, we’ve trained their security forces, who’ve now taken the lead." Obama was burned after withdrawing from Iraq without leaving a residual force, and today it's far from clear how the withdrawal from Afghanistan will fare. Washington Post and Guardian (London)

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 21-Jan-15 World View -- U.S. prepares Yemen evacuation as Houthis apparently complete coup thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (21-Jan-2015) Permanent Link
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20-Jan-15 World View -- Israel on alert after Iran confirms its general was killed by Israel

Muslim vs Muslim war escalates in Nigeria and Yemen

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Nigeria's Boko Haram terrorists spread into Cameroon


The town of Baga, after the Boko Haram attack, where hundreds or thousands of people were slaughtered
The town of Baga, after the Boko Haram attack, where hundreds or thousands of people were slaughtered

As I've been reporting for the last few weeks, there is a large and growing war in the Mideast and South Asia of Muslims at war with Muslims. Where a few dozen Westerners may be killed in terror attacks each year, the Muslim versus Muslim war is killing tens of thousands of Muslims every year, mostly civilians. This Muslim versus Muslim war is almost invisible in the West, which focuses on the occasional terrorist acts. There is almost no evidence of a war between Islam and the West, and it's increasingly clear that things like the Paris Charlie Hebdo terror attacks have as their primary purpose the public relations value of attracting disaffected young men from the West to come to Syria or Yemen for training in terrorist skills, to aid in the slaughter of other Muslims. ( "12-Jan-15 World View -- Is Islam at war with the West?") Judging from the global daily news coverage, this public relations plan has been remarkably effective.

So today's news is about three countries participating in this huge Muslim versus Muslim war, and how the war is escalating in each of the three countries.

The fight against Boko Haram in Nigeria is becoming more international, as troops from neighboring Chad entered Cameroon to fight Boko Haram there. Boko Haram terrorists kidnapped 80 people in northern Cameroon over the weekend, many of them children and young girls.

Boko Haram gained international notice when they kidnapped hundreds of schoolgirls, aged 12-25, on April 16 last year, in order to sell them into sexual slavery or force them to marry its fighters. Last week, Boko Haram burned down the town of Baga in northeast Nigeria, and 15-20 other nearby villages, killing up to 2000 resident civilians.

Cameroon's has been fighting Boko Haram in northern Cameroon apparently more successfully than Nigeria has been fighting Boko Haram. It's widely believed that some of Nigeria's politicians and parts of Nigeria's army support Boko Haram. With a presidential election scheduled for next month no February 14, the country is almost paralyzed in confronting Boko Haram.

Boko Haram's goal is to mimic the Islamic State / of Iraq and Syria (IS or ISIS or ISIL) in setting up an "Islamic State" in Nigeria, Cameroon and Chad. There are reports that Boko Haram has been linking up with elements of Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), making it a much more international terror group. The fear is that Boko Haram is going to gain so much power that it force Nigeria's government to collapse completely. All Africa and CNN and Guardian (London)

Major escalation in fighting in Yemen

Iran-backed Shia al-Houthi militias surrounded the presidential palace in Sanaa, the capital city of Yemen, on Monday, clashing with Yemen's army. President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi doesn't actually live in the presidential palace, but it's believed that he's hiding out there during the escalated fighting.

This major escalation in the fighting is threatening the stability of Yemen, which is already one of the poorest countries in the world. If the Shia militias take full control of Sanaa, then there would be several consequences: The warlords of Sunni tribes have promised to take control of oil fields, essentially starving Sanaa of income; al-Qaeda on the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) will become more active; and southern tribes would call for the secession of South Yemen, which had only joined with North Yemen in the early 1990s.

Another fear is that the war in Yemen will spiral into a proxy war between Iran and Saudi Arabia. Iran has been providing military and financial aid to the al-Houthis, while the Saudis have refrained, so far, from getting involved. However, the Saudis have also made it clear that if the Shia al-Houthis gain control of Yemen, or if Yemen's government collapses, then Saudi Arabia will intervene.

For all of these reasons, some analysts believe that the current al-Houthi military initiative is little more than political posturing, to gain political leverage as a new Yemen constitution is being considered. According to this view, the al-Houthis could have taken control of Sanaa several months ago, but didn't do so because they don't want to be in control of the government. Governing costs a lot of money that they don't have, and they can't count on money from Iran, which is having its own financial problems. Instead, the al-Houthis want to have a major minority position in whatever government evolves. Al-Jazeera and Reuters

Israel on alert after Iran confirms its general was killed by Israel

Israel's armed force have gone on alert after Iran confirmed on Monday that Sunday's Israeli air strike that killed Hezbollah commanders also killed Gen. Mohammad Ali Allahdadi of Iran's élite Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC), as well as five more Iranians.

As we reported yesterday the air strike on the convoy was a heavy blow to Hezbollah because it killed two of Hezbollah's top commanders. But now it turns out that it's also a heavy blow to Iran's IRGC, which means that Israel's air strike was a strike at all three: Hezbollah, Iran and Syria.

Iran does not like to admit that it has IRGC forces in other countries. According to some analysts, the IRGC has about 150,000 fighters in its al-Quds paramilitary force, and also has a navy and air force. It's primary mission is to foment terrorism in other countries, but its forces are currently fighting in Iraq and Syria.

At this point, it's not a question of whether, but only a question of how and when Hezbollah, Iran and Syria will strike back. Hezbollah claims that it has 60-100,000 rockets that it could use to strike anywhere in Israel. Iran might also strike at Jewish targets in other countries, as it has in the past struck at Jewish targets in Bulgaria and Argentina. Or Hezbollah may abduct Israeli soldiers near the border with Lebanon -- a move like this triggered the 2006 war between Israel and Hezbollah.

Everyone "knows" that a war between Israel and Hezbollah is coming. Hezbollah is so tied down in Syria, that it may not want to risk a full-scale war at this time, and so may decide to strike back only symbolically. However, even a symbolic strike could cause the situation to deteriorate quickly, and Israel and Hezbollah may find themselves in a war earlier than either of them expected. McClatchy and YNet

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 20-Jan-15 World View -- Israel on alert after Iran confirms its general was killed by Israel thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (20-Jan-2015) Permanent Link
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19-Jan-15 World View -- Lebanon on edge after Israeli air strike kills Hezbollah commanders

Miss Lebanon may lose her title over selfie with Miss Israel

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Miss Lebanon may lose her title over selfie with Miss Israel


From left to right: Miss Israel, Miss Lebanon, Miss Slovakia, and Miss Japan
From left to right: Miss Israel, Miss Lebanon, Miss Slovakia, and Miss Japan

A selfie of four girls, in which Miss Lebanon Saly Greige is posing next to Miss Israel Doron Matalon, with wide smiles on their faces, may get Greige kicked out of the Miss Universe contest. Miss Slovenia and Miss Japan also appear in the selfie. Social media in Lebanon is being harshly critical:

"You could have avoided mingling with the Israeli contestant like previous Lebanese contestants have done throughout the years. And if you were harassed like you say, you could have at least avoided the huge smile [we see] on your face."

Greige could be stripped of her Miss Lebanon title, and kicked out of the Miss Universe contest, but Greige said it wasn't her fault:

"From the first day I arrived at the Miss Universe pageant I was very careful not to take any pictures with Miss Israel, who tried repeatedly to take pictures with me. While I was preparing with Miss Slovenia and Miss Japan to get our photograph taken, Miss Israel jumped in and took a selfie with her phone and posted it on social media. This is what happened. I hope you continue supporting me."

In 1993, Miss Lebanon Huda al-Turk was stripped of her title for posing with a picture with Miss Israel at the time.

Lebanon's government will launch a full-scale investigation on Monday. Daily Star (Beirut)

Lebanon on edge after Israeli air strike kills Hezbollah commanders

Lebanon and Israel are both on edge after an Israeli air strike in Syria killed two Hezbollah commanders. Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah is promising revenge, and there are fears that tit for tat retaliation might spiral out of control.

An Israeli helicopter struck a convoy of Hezbollah operatives, killing 12. One of the dead is field commander Jihad Mughniyeh, 25, the son of top commander Imad Mughniyeh. Imad was on the United States' most wanted list for terrorist when he was killed in Damascus by a car bomb in Damascus in 2008, allegedly from the Israelis. Imad's son Jihad had been taking a more prominent role since his father's death, and was overseeing operations in the Golan Heights.

Also killed was field commander Mohamad Issa, chief of Hezbollah operations in Syria, making this strike a major blow against Hezbollah, according to reports.

A Hezbollah statement confirmed the names of six Hezbollah fighters that had been killed, but omitted the names of six fighters from the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) that are fighting alongside their Hezbollah counterparts. Iran has been supplying IRGC troops to Syria's president Bashar al-Assad and to Hezbollah, as well as to Iraq's army, but has denied doing so. YNet (Israel) and Daily Star (Beirut) and Ya Libnan (Lebanon)

Europe, under intense financial pressure, expected to start quantitative easing

Many analysts expect the European Central Bank (ECB) to announce on Thursday a quantitative easing (QE) program, in which it will purchase hundreds of billions of euros of bonds issued by the various eurozone countries. Effectively, the ECB will be "printing money," and giving it to the individual countries.

Several countries, including the U.S. and Japan, have been aggressively pushing QE for years, but the ECB has resisted it because of fears of harming the euro currency and because the Germans have been opposed.

But pressure on the ECB to start QE has been increasing, along with numerous eurozone financial problems:

The markets are widely expecting QE to be announced this week, and as the US QE situation has shown, that money just goes into the stock market, so that the top 1% make even more money. So if there's no QE announcement this week, then disappointed investors may sell off, causing the stock market to fall.

Some analysts are concerned that whatever the ECB tries, it will be too little too late. Pressure from Germany may keep the ECB program from being too aggressive. Furthermore, other countries started QE years ago, and it may be too late to catch up. Forbes and Bloomberg and Brisbane Times (Australia)

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 19-Jan-15 World View -- Lebanon on edge after Israeli air strike kills Hezbollah commanders thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (19-Jan-2015) Permanent Link
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18-Jan-15 World View -- Thousands in Muslim countries protest cartoon depiction of Mohammed

Swiss franc revaluation panics East European currency markets

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Fox News apologizes for misreporting on 'no-go zones' in Europe


Fox News anchor Julie Banderas reading apology statement
Fox News anchor Julie Banderas reading apology statement

As I reported last week ( "13-Jan-15 World View -- Concern rising over Muslim 'no-go zones' as terror breeding grounds"), Britain's prime minister David Cameron called a Fox News contributor "an idiot" when he said that Birmingham England was "totally Muslim, and that non-Muslims just simply don't go in." The contributor was Steve Emerson, self-described as "an internationally recognized expert on terrorism," who described similar "no-go zones" in England and France.

Emerson himself apologized, and Fox News issued a retraction, pointing out that only 21% of the Birmingham population is Muslim, as I reported. But Fox News has received a continuing stream of backlash, ridicule and criticism this week for the error.

On Saturday evening, news anchor Julie Banderas on Fox News read the following statement (my transcription):

"A correction now. Over the course of this last week, we have made some regrettable errors on air, regarding the Muslim population in Europe, particularly with regard to England and France.

Now this applies especially to discussions of so-called no-go zones, areas where non-Muslims allegedly aren't allowed in, and police supposedly won't go.

To be clear, there is no formal designation of these zones in either country, and no credible information to support the assertion that there are specific areas in these countries that exclude individuals based on solely on their religion.

There ARE certainly areas of high crime in Europe, as there are in the United States and other countries, where police and visitors enter with caution. We deeply regret the errors, and apologize to any and all who may have taken offense, including the people of France and England."

According to a Fox News spokesman, it's highly unlikely that Emerson will ever be booked again on Fox News. Washington Post

Swiss franc revaluation panics East European currency markets

Back in September 2011, as we reported at the time, the Swiss National Bank (SNB) conduct a major experiment. Switzerland is not part of the eurozone, so has its own currency, the Swiss franc. Before the 2008 credit crisis, one euro could buy you 1.65 Swiss francs. But then the Swiss franc became stronger and stronger, and the euro became weaker, and by August 2011, the two currencies were at parity, meaning that one euro could buy you just one franc. This did a great deal of harm to Switzerland's tourist and export business, since people with dollars or euros could buy less and less in Switzerland.

So the SNB announced that it was going to "print" billions of Swiss francs, and use them to purchase euros. It was an incredible experiment. They guaranteed that the franc would not become stronger than 1.20 francs per euro.

They actually kept that promise. The SNB now has hundreds of billions of euros on its balance sheet that it doesn't know what to do with. The euro to Swiss franc exchange rate has been almost flat since then, at 1.20 francs per euro.

Until Friday. Suddenly, and without notice, and much to the surprise of the financial community, the SNB abruptly abandoned the printing program. They issued this statement, where "CHF" is the symbol for the Swiss franc:

"The Swiss National Bank (SNB) is discontinuing the minimum exchange rate of CHF 1.20 per euro. ...

The minimum exchange rate was introduced during a period of exceptional overvaluation of the Swiss franc and an extremely high level of uncertainty on the financial markets. This exceptional and temporary measure protected the Swiss economy from serious harm. While the Swiss franc is still high, the overvaluation has decreased as a whole since the introduction of the minimum exchange rate. The economy was able to take advantage of this phase to adjust to the new situation.

Recently, divergences between the monetary policies of the major currency areas have increased significantly – a trend that is likely to become even more pronounced. The euro has depreciated considerably against the US dollar and this, in turn, has caused the Swiss franc to weaken against the US dollar. In these circumstances, the SNB concluded that enforcing and maintaining the minimum exchange rate for the Swiss franc against the euro is no longer justified."

When they refer to "a trend that is likely to become even more pronounced," many believe that they're referring to reports that the European Central Bank (ECB) is going to start its own "printing" program, using quantitative easing (QE) to purchase bonds and make billions or trillions of additional euros available.

The results were dramatic. The franc immediately strengthened to above parity with the euro, and closed at parity (1 euro for 1 franc) by the end of the day, 20% stronger than before. In currency trading, a 2-3% change is considered big. A 20% move could be disastrous (just as a 20% fall in the stock market could be disastrous).

Financial markets went into panic in Croatia and Serbia on Friday. Hundreds of thousands of people have loans denominated in Swiss francs in these two countries, and the amount of debt owed by these people effectively increased by 15-20% in one day. Newspaper headlines read "Catastrophe" and "Debt crisis" and "Swiss strike."

At least two currency brokerages in the U.K. filed for bankruptcy by the end of the day, and others across the globe may follow next week. The reason that currency brokerages are filing for bankruptcy is that their clients are applying for bankruptcy. In many cases, investors made currency bets based on margin, and after the SNB move, they're no longer able to meet margin calls. This means that the brokerages that funded these margin debts are now responsible for them, driving some of them into bankruptcy.

If I were to take a guess, I would guess that there are top secret meetings going on this weekend of Fed officials and ECB officials, with the purpose of finding a way to prevent this situation to spiral into a global panic. DPA and Reuters and Swiss National Bank and XE.com - Euro vs Swiss Franc historical conversion chart

Troops and police spread across Europe, in fear of terror attacks

Thousands of police and troops are in the streets of Belgium, Germany and other countries, hoping to head off new terror attacks. This following the terror attacks in Paris two weeks ago, and raids targeting returning Syrian jihadists in the last few days. In Belgium, police are stationed in buildings within the Jewish quarter of Antwerp and the Jewish Museum in Brussels. Troops will reinforce police at least until Thursday. This is the first time in decades that troops have been on the streets of Belgium.

Police in Athens Greece arrested four people allegedly connected to a foiled terror plot that last week's police action in Belgium had foiled. The alleged mastermind was identified as a Belgian of Moroccan descent.

Up to 300 members of the military will be stationed at locations such as the U.S. and Israeli embassies in Brussels and NATO and EU institutions. AFP and VOA

Thousands in Muslim countries protest cartoon depiction of Mohammed

Muslims across the world have expressed revulsion at the jihadist attack on the journalists of Charlie Hebdo in Paris last week, but they're also expressing fury that Charlie Hebdo insulted Islam by publishing a new satirical cartoon depicting Mohammed, something that's forbidden in the Muslim culture.

Protests are common on Fridays, after midday prayers, and on this Friday there were thousands of protests in many countries, including Sudan, Russia's North Caucasus, Mali, Senegal, Mauritania and Jordan.

However, in Pakistan's port city of Karachi, three people were injured as police battled activists from the Jamaat-e-Islami party, who were trying to enter the French consulate.

In Niger, at least ten people have died in violence on Friday and Saturday, as rioters burned churches and cars, and attack French-linked businesses. All of the dead were civilians, with most killed inside burned churches or bars. Guardian (London) and AFP

Barack Obama describes an American advantage over Europe

At a press conference on Friday with UK prime minister George Cameron, President Barack Obama discussed the difference between the U.S. and Europe with respect to Islamic terrorism (my transcription):

"Europe has some particular challenges. The United States has one big advantage in this whole process. And it's not that our law enforecement or our intelligence services etc are so much better, although ours are very very good, and I think europeans would recognize that we've got capabilities that others don't have. Our biggest advantage is that our Muslim populations -- they feel themselves to be Americans, and there is this incredible process of immigration and assimilation that is part of our tradition that is probably our greatest strength.

Now that doesn't mean that we aren't subject to the kinds of tragedies that we saw at the Boston Marathon, but that I think has been helpful. There are parts of Europe where I think that's not the case, and that's probably the greatest danger that Europe faces. Which is why as they respond, as they work with us to respond to these circumstances, it's important for Europe not to simply respond with a hammer and law enforcement and military approaches to these problems, but there also needs to be a recognition that the stronger the ties of a north African or a Frenchman of North African descent to French values, French Republic sense of opportunity -- that's gonna be as important, if not more important, in over time solving this problem. And I think there's a recognition across Europe and it's important that we don't lose that."

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 18-Jan-15 World View -- Thousands in Muslim countries protest cartoon depiction of Mohammed thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (18-Jan-2015) Permanent Link
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17-Jan-15 World View -- International Criminal Court opens probe into Israel's war crimes

Fearing bank runs, Greece's banks make emergency aid request

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

International Criminal Court opens probe into Israel's war crimes


Masked Hamas members carry a model of a rocket in a Gaza rally in December (Flash90)
Masked Hamas members carry a model of a rocket in a Gaza rally in December (Flash90)

In a move that some are describing as purely symbolic, at least for the time being, the International Criminal Court (ICC) has opened a preliminary investigation into war crimes committed by Israel during the summer 2014 Gaza war.

Once Mahmoud Abbas, representing the State of Palestine, made the request to the ICC, the prosecutor Fatou Bensouda is required by ICC policy to conduct a preliminary investigation, to determine whether she should launch a complete formal investigation. She has two options, in that she can decide to launch the formal investigation, or decide not to. However, there's no timeline or deadline. In fact, according to one analyst, there are already pending preliminary investigations for Afghanistan, Colombia, Georgia, Guinea, Honduras, Iraq, Nigeria and Ukraine, so Israel would just be another one. If she does launch a formal investigation, there could be war crimes charges against both Israeli leaders and Hamas leaders.

It's far from clear whether the ICC has the jurisdiction to take on this case. The U.N. General Assembly voted in November 2012 to create a State of Palestine, but it's not a member of the U.N., and only has observer status. There is no precedent for a non-member (like the Holy See) to join the ICC. For the ICC to have full jurisdiction in this case, there would have to be an affirmative vote of the Security Council, and the U.S. has already indicated that it would veto such a resolution. Al Jazeera and LA Times and Washington Post

Moody's lowers Russia's bonds to near-junk status

Moody's Investors Service cut its rating on Russia's government bond to Baa3 from Baa2. This puts the bonds just one notch above the non-investment grade, or "junk status."

Moody's lowered the bond grade to Baa2 in October, just three months ago. According to Moody's today:

Moody's one-notch downgrade to Baa2 in October 2014 balanced an increasingly subdued growth outlook -- in part reflecting Russia's weak institutional strength and the challenging geopolitical environment -- against the government's still extremely strong balance sheet.

The negative outlook reflected the fragile nature of that balance, with both the growth outlook and the government's fiscal position exposed to further shocks that could more profoundly undermine consumer and investor confidence, hastening the erosion of fiscal and foreign currency buffers.

As evidenced by the recent further steep falls in oil prices and the exchange rate, these shocks have materialized. According to Moody's, the severe -- and likely to be sustained -- oil price shock, alongside Russian borrowers' highly restricted international market access due to ongoing sanctions, is undermining economic fundamentals and increasing financial stresses on both the public and private sectors. In its updated growth outlook for Russia, Moody's now expects real GDP contractions of around 5.5% in 2015 and 3% in 2016, bringing real growth over the 10 years through 2018 to virtually zero.

Last week, Fitch Ratings downgraded Russia’s credit rating to BBB- from BBB, which is also just one step away from junk level. In December, Standard & Poor's revised Russia’s rating to BBB-, saying there is a 50 percent possibility it will drop Russia to junk level in mid-January 2015. Moody's Investors Service and Russia Today

Fearing bank runs, Greece's banks make emergency aid request

Two of Greece's banks have requested an emergency credit line under the Emergency Liquidity Assistance program, or ELA. Neither bank plans to use the money at this stage, but it requested out of concern over a possible bank run following the January 25 election. The radical far left Syriza party is leading in the polls and is expected to win. The party's leader, Alexis Tsipras has said that he will renege on Greece's austerity commitments that it made in return for its 240 billion euro bailout paid so far. There is a possible "Grexit" scenario with Greece will leave the eurozone and start printing drachma currency again, which would substantially devalue existing Greek bank accounts.

Fearing this scenario Greek bank account holders have been withdrawing money from Greek banks and depositing the money foreign banks, where it would be safe from Grexit. Bank deposits fell by 3 billion euros in December, and have been accelerating since then.

Tsipras has said that Greece will not leave the eurozone because the eurozone needs Greece more than Greece needs the eurozone. He may be right. There are new reports that Eurogroup members are considering offering Greece a six-month bailout extension, and possibly renegotiating a new bailout package. A Eurogroup meeting of eurozone finance ministers will take place one day after the elections to decide what to do next. Bloomberg and Kathimerini

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 17-Jan-15 World View -- International Criminal Court opens probe into Israel's war crimes thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (17-Jan-2015) Permanent Link
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16-Jan-15 World View -- Belgium police raid multiple groups of returning Syrian jihadists

Lithuania asks citizens to prepare for Russian invasion

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Belgium police raid multiple groups of returning Syrian jihadists


Foreign fighters flow to Syria.  This graphic is from Oct 2014, so the figures may have doubled by now (WaPost)
Foreign fighters flow to Syria. This graphic is from Oct 2014, so the figures may have doubled by now (WaPost)

Belgium police raided ten locations where it was suspected that home-grown jihadists returning from Syria were planning terror acts. One location was in the town of Verviers, where two suspected terrorists were killed after a shootout, and the others were spread across the capital city Brussels, which is also the capital city of the European Union.

Police believe that the terrorists were planning a "major attack," although there was no evidence of an imminent threat. The counter-terrorism raids come one week after the Charlie Hebdo terrorist attack in Paris, though it's not believe that the two are linked. AFP and Bloomberg

The growing problem: Young men return home after ISIS terror training

The Belgium raids highlight a rapidly worsening problem: That disaffected young people from any country can go to Syria and receive terrorist training from the Islamic State / of Iraq and Syria (IS or ISIS or ISIL), and then return home and use their newly acquired skills for a terror attack.

I've been discussing this issue for almost two years, but the graphic at the top of this article illustrates it beautifully. The actions of Syria's Shia/Alawite president Bashar al-Assad to conduct a genocidal war of extermination against innocent Sunni women and children in his own country, using weapons supplied by war criminal Vladimir Putin, have turned Syria into a magnet for depressed and disaffected young men around the world who think that they'll find true happiness maiming and killing other people. (The graphic is from October 2014, so the figures may have doubled or tripled by now.)

The most significant development of the last year has been the rise of ISIS in Syria and Iraq, led by the charismatic Abu Omar al-Baghdadi, who is attracting even more would-be jihadists to populate his self-declared caliphate.

The events of the last couple of weeks have seen another major, significant development. The Charlie Hebdo attackers were trained in Yemen by Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), before ISIS ever gained prominence. In the last few days, AQAP has been crowing about how they were responsible for the Charlie Hebdo attack. The new development is that the leaderships of ISIS and AQAP are apparently now in competition with each other to be most fashionable and trendy terror group, so that they'll attract the most would-be jihadists.

Unfortunately, there's every sign that these trends are going to accelerate. It takes only a few lone-wolf jihadists, after getting some training in Syria or Yemen, to set off a bomb or launch a gunfire assault, and it's apparently the desire to both ISIS and AQAP leaders to encourage such attacks. The number of young men willing to go to Syria and Yemen to get terrorist training is growing, and the number of young women going to Syria to marry a terrorist because maiming and slaughter is so erotic is also growing. So the simple math is that there is going to be more of these attacks.

In Belgium on Thursday, the police were able to act before it was too late. It's doubtful that they'll always be so lucky. Washington Post (11-Oct-2014)

Lithuania asks citizens to prepare for Russian invasion

For most of the last century, Lithuania was part of the Soviet Union, and only achieved independence in 1991, after which it joined Nato and the European Union. But the recent Russian invasions of Georgia and Ukraine, annexing territory from each, has led Lithuania's government to issue a manual on "How to Survive a Russian Invasion."

The main advice is:

"Keep a sound mind, don’t panic and don’t lose clear thinking. Gunshots just outside your window are not the end of the world."

In the event of invasion, the manual says Lithuanians should organize themselves through Twitter and Facebook and attempt cyber-attacks against the enemy.

In case of Russian occupation of Lithuania, the manual advises demonstrations and strikes or "at least do your job worse than usual" as resistance techniques. Reuters and Russia Today

The Historical Thesaurus of English now available online

The University of Glasgow Historical Thesaurus of English web site was launched on Thursday. It contains 800,000 words from Old English to the present day, based on the Oxford English Dictionary, arranged into detailed hierarchies within broad conceptual categories such as Thought or Music. According to the university, it is the world's only complete historical thesaurus published in any language.

193 words for "drunk," include drink-drowned, jug-bitten, swilled, bumpsy, drunk as wheelbarrow, muckibus, half-shaved, grogged, pickled, swizzled or elephant's trunk, many from the 1600s.

Instead of "darling," try: honey, babe, my dove, lamb, mopsy, flitter-mouse, prawn or my ding-dong.

The Historical Thesaurus has been under development since 1965, and some 230 linguists have been involved in the project. Daily Mirror (London) and University of Glasgow Historical Thesaurus of English

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 16-Jan-15 World View -- Belgium police raid multiple groups of returning Syrian jihadists thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (16-Jan-2015) Permanent Link
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15-Jan-15 World View -- Sri Lanka follows a predictable pattern after its civil war

Pope canonizes first Sri Lanka saint, calls for national unity

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Pope canonizes first Sri Lanka saint, calls for national unity


Pope Francis, visiting a Catholic shrine in Madu, Sri Lanka (TamilNet)
Pope Francis, visiting a Catholic shrine in Madu, Sri Lanka (TamilNet)

More than half a million people attended a seafront mass in Colombo, the capital city of Sri Lanka, on Wednesday, as Pope Francis announced that Reverend Joseph Vaz had been canonized as a saint. Vaz was a 17th century Indian missionary who revived the faith in Sri Lanka during a time of anti-Catholic persecution by Dutch colonists, who were Protestant Calvinists.

The Pope's visit comes five years after the end of Sri Lanka's 26-year civil war. Sri Lanka has two major ethnic groups, the majority Sinhalese, mostly Buddhist, who control the markets and the government, and the minority Tamils, mostly Hindu, who were rebelling against the government to create a separate Tamil state. The Pope said that he hoped that religion could help heal the divisions between Sinhalese and Tamils, just as Saint Joseph Vaz had helped bring the peace in the 17th century.

The Pope encouraged the Sri Lanka government to appoint a "truth commission" to determine what happened in the civil war, to bring about healing:

"The process of healing also needs to include the pursuit of truth, not for the sake of opening old wounds, but rather as a necessary means of promoting justice, healing and unity."

This was actually a swipe at the Sinhalese government, which has been accused by the U.N. Human Rights Council of having committed genocide during the civil war. Although the war ended in 2009, there are still some Tamil groups in Sri Lanka and in the European diaspora that would like to revive the war, and the Pope's nice-sounding remarks give encouragement to those groups.

Here's an excerpt from a letter sent by a Tamil leader to the Pope, shortly before his visit:

"I am Mrs. Ananthy Sasitharan, an elected member of Northern Provincial Council in the island. I am working for the people who lost their family members in the last phase of the genocidal war waged on Tamil people in the North-East. We have been tracing the whereabouts of many of the cases that are being regarded in the records as ‘missing persons’. ...

I hope that Your Holiness is aware of the fact that the underlying conflict in the island is a 60-year-long genocide against Tamils. It has claimed the lives of most of the talented people from our traditional homeland in the North-East. A significant number of our resource people are forced into exile. The remaining Tamils are forced to live as second-class citizens, facing various forms of oppressions, colonization, Sinhalicisation and finally Buddhicisation of the traditional Tamil homeland through Sinhala militarisation.

During your visit, the Sri Lankan political leaders ... will be fighting for the opportunity to kiss your hand and get your blessings. ... The political leaders and their military commanders of the Colombo government are seeking to protect themselves and their system from its crime of genocide. ...

Your Holiness, please do not be fooled by their false promises on protecting ‘minorities’. In fact, transforming Tamils into their ‘minorities’ was their first step in the genocide. Tamils are not a minority in our own traditional homeland, which is subjected to systematic Sinhala Buddhist colonization with a genocidal motive. ...

We look at Vatican, as a moral guardian of humanity. The Catholic Church, having witnesses among the people, has a moral duty to safeguard the people from the protracted crime of genocide."

As this letter shows, the civil war ended in 2009, but the tensions and emotions that drove the civil war are still burning. Reuters and Guardian (London) and TamilNet

Sri Lanka's presidential election exhibits high drama

Mahinda Rajapaksa was first elected president of Sri Lanka in 2005, and led Sri Lanka to victory over the Tamils in the civil war that ended in 2009. His political party, the United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA), has won almost every local and national election since then. In October of last year, sure of victory, Rajapaksa called for a new election for January 8, a year earlier than he had to.

However, Rajapaksa's own Health Minister, Maithripala Sirisena, declared that he would create a new party, the New Democratic Front (NDF), and oppose Rajapaksa. Even two weeks ago, it was thought that Rajapaksa would score a major victory. But when the election was over and they counted the votes, everyone was shocked that Sirisena won. Rajapaksa was hailed as a unifier when he graciously conceded defeat to Sirisena.

Then it turned out that, on the morning of election day, Rajapaksa realized that he might lose, and he sought the support of the army in overturning the results of the election. Only after they failed to back him did he concede.

The campaign spokesman of the new president claimed on Saturday that the Sri Lankan army had defied Rajapaksa's orders to use force to keep him in power:

"The army chief got orders to deploy the troops on the ground across the country. They tried attempts to continue by force. The army chief defied all the orders he got in the last hours.

We spoke to the army chief and told him not to do this. He kept the troops in the barracks and helped a free and fair election."

However, Rajapaksa denies that there was any coup plot. According to his spokesman:

"When U.S. State Secretary John Kerry spoke to Rajapaksa over the phone, the former president assured him there will be a smooth power transition as stipulated in the constitution."

Whether the allegations of a coup attempt are true or false, the damage has already been done in the sense that the election results have been clouded, and in the future, Tamils will view election results with suspicions of Sinhalese tampering. Ada Derana (Sri Lanka) and South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP - India) and Economist

Sri Lanka follows a predictable pattern after its civil war

As long-time readers may recall, as the Sri Lanka civil war approached a climax in May 2009, every news organization and analyst that reported on the civil war were predicting that the civil war would continue on for months or years, because it had already gone on for 26 years.

As far as I know, every analysis in the world was wrong except the Generational Dynamics analysis. As I had been saying for months earlier, the Sri Lanka civil war was a generational crisis war, headed for an explosive climax, and when that climax was finally reached, then the war would be over once and for all. The comparison I made was to the surrender of Berlin and Tokyo that ended World War II once and for all.

From the point of view of Generational Dynamics, civil wars are very interesting studies because they're self-contained. With a war involving two or three nations, it gets complicated to sort out the various ethnic groups, religions, and generational timelines. But in the case of a civil war, such as the Sri Lanka civil war, you have two opposing sides with the same generational timelines, and with a clear fault line separating. The result is that the generational timelines for civil wars are more predictable than for multi-nation wars.

Let's illustrate this in the case of Sri Lanka.

The Sri Lanka civil war was fought between two ancient races: The Sinhalese (Buddhist) and the Tamils (Hindu). WW II was a crisis war for India and for Ceylon, the former name of Sri Lanka. There was relative peace on the island until 1976, when the Tamils began demanding a separate Tamil state, and formed a separatist group called the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), or just "Tamil Tigers."

A non-crisis civil war began in 1983, and the low-level violence continued until a peace treaty was signed in 2002. In the next few months, the peace treaty has been unraveling, and in the last couple of weeks it appears closer to a full-scale crisis civil war.

In 2006, the fighting became a lot more serious and by 2008 it was a full-fledged generational crisis war. The major characteristic of a crisis war is that the value of an individual life goes to zero, while the only thing that matters is the society and its way of life. To illustrate this, I always like to point to the Allied storming of Normandy Beach in 1944, where the American soldiers were shot down like fish in barrel. Subsequently, the allies firebombed and destroyed Dresden, and then nuked two Japanese cities.

WW II had a literally explosive climax, but the Sri Lanka civil war had a climax that was just as explosive, though not literally, and just as genocidal. The Tamils had been using civilians as shields. Since the Sinhalese army did not want to kill innocent civilians, this Tamil tactic worked for years. In January, 2008, the Sri Lankan military commanders promised to "defeat the Tamils once and for all" by the end of 2008. This was a signal that the lives of civilians would no longer matter, and that the army would attack the Tamil Tigers even if it meant killing civilians. (See "Sri Lanka government declares all out war against Tamil Tiger rebels" from January 2008.)

Finally, in May 2009, the Sinhalese army trapped the Tamil Tiger militants in a U.N.-declared "safe zone" and slaughtered them, including a number of civilians, although 50,000 civilians that had been trapped there were freed. That was the end of the war. (See "Tamil Tigers surrender, ending the Sri Lanka crisis civil war" from May 2009.)

The genocidal climax of a civil war is particularly shameful for both sides, because the mass slaughter was not directed at foreigners, but against cousins, brothers and neighbors.

Once a crisis civil war ends, the country goes through a Recovery Era, where the traumatized survivors pass laws and create institutions whose purpose is to guarantee that such a war will never happen again, not to their children and not to their grandchildren.

Sri Lanka is now in the midst of a Recovery Era. Tensions are high and bitterness is deep, but there's no more war, at least for the time being. But there's a new generation rising, young people with no personal memory of the horrors of the civil war. After about 15 years after the climax, there's a generational Awakening Era, and they begin to make their voices heard. Young Tamils will demand an end to discrimination, and many young idealistic Sinhalese will join them. But then the incidents of violence will start, expanding into low-level violence, and the cycle will continue.

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 15-Jan-15 World View -- Sri Lanka follows a predictable pattern after its civil war thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (15-Jan-2015) Permanent Link
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14-Jan-15 World View -- Europe prepares for Greece's possible exit from eurozone

Paris France's Charlie Hebdo attacks provoke anti-Pegida protests in Germany

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Europe prepares for Greece's possible exit from eurozone


Syriza leader Alexis Tsipras dances with party official Rena Dourou at pre-election rally last month (EPA)
Syriza leader Alexis Tsipras dances with party official Rena Dourou at pre-election rally last month (EPA)

It's far from certain, but the impending Greek crisis rerun during the next month poses a real threat that Greece might have to leave the eurozone and start printing drachmas again, with the result that bankers and politicians are drawing up contingency plans in case it happens.

The radical far left Syriza party is maintaining a "stable and sharp edge in the polls," according to one analyst, for the January 25 election, meaning that Syriza leader Alexis Tsipras is the most likely person to be Greece's next Prime Minister. Tsipras has promised that if he wins, then Greece will renege on the austerity commitments it made when it received a 240 billion euro bailout that has already been paid. In particular, he took a swipe at Germany when he promised that the country will "write down most of the nominal value of debt... That's what was done for Germany in 1953, it should be done for Greece in 2015."

Greece is in serious economic trouble. It has to come up with 4.6 billion euros in bond maturities in March, and 31 billion euros total by the end of 2015. On the income side, tax revenues have been 40-50% below expectations. In February, Greece has to pay creditors 2 billion euros, and must pay another 4.5 billion euros to International Monetary Fund (IMF) this year.

So Greece needs another bailout, and both sides are playing a game of chicken. Germany says Greece won't get the new bailout unless they stick to the existing austerity commitments. Tsipras says that they're reneging on the commitments, and that Europe will have to provide the bailout anyway.

Most analysts believe that "Grexit", the Greek eurozone exit, will be avoided because some compromise will be reached. But in the 1950s, the game of chicken was played with two cars racing at each other until one car or the other turned away, and we know that sometimes neither car turned away, with explosive results. Greek Reporter and Nasdaq and Greek Reporter

Paris France's Charlie Hebdo attacks provoke anti-Pegida protests in Germany

Germany's anti-Islam Pegida movement fielded 25,000 protesters in Dresden on Monday, the largest number ever. The Pegida movement ("Patriotische Europäer gegen die Islamisierung des Abendlandes," or "Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the West") protests have been growing in size since Pegida was launched in October.

There has also been a growing opposition, and 100,000 Germans attended anti-Pegida counter-demonstrations. The growth of the anti-Pegida movement was spurred by the Charlie Hebdo attack in Paris last week by Islamic jihadists. As I've been writing, the number of Islamic terror attacks is expected to increase as collateral damage to the growing Muslim versus Muslim wars in the Mideast, South Asia and North Africa. ( "12-Jan-15 World View -- Is Islam at war with the West?")

According to some historians, Dresden is the perfect city for the growth of the Pegida movement, because of its role in World War II. In February 1945, American and British bombers dropped 4,000 tons of explosives on Dresden, destroying the city. Twenty-five thousand people were killed. The anniversary is still marked every year with protest marches through Dresden’s rebuilt center. The history shapes the worldview of many Pegida supporters. According to Werner Patzelt of Dresden University:

"The argument runs basically like this: Dresden has been destroyed by Americans and English bombers. Americans have never stopped bombing around the world. Now they bomb in the Near East [Middle East]. They destroy states there. As a result, we have so many refugees."

Patzelt adds that Russian flags seen during Pegida marches indicate the desire among some for a counterweight to American power. VOA and Globe and Mail and Bloomberg

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 14-Jan-15 World View -- Europe prepares for Greece's possible exit from eurozone thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (14-Jan-2015) Permanent Link
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13-Jan-15 World View -- Concern rising over Muslim 'no-go zones' as terror breeding grounds

France to deploy 5,000 police to protect Jewish schools

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Britain's PM Cameron calls Fox News commentator a 'total idiot'


A typical sight in a commercial area of a Muslim 'no-go zone' in France (Daniel Pipes)
A typical sight in a commercial area of a Muslim 'no-go zone' in France (Daniel Pipes)

Steve Emerson, self-described as "an internationally recognized expert on terrorism", appeared on Fox News on Sunday evening, and was asked about "no-go zones." He said that there are a number of European cities "where sharia courts were set up, where Muslim density is very intense, where the police don't go in, and where it's basically a separate country almost, a country within a country." He added:

"In Britain, it's not just no go zones, there are actual cities like Birmingham that are totally Muslim where non-Muslims just simply don't go in. And parts of London, there are actually Muslim religious police that actually beat and actually wound seriously anyone who doesn't dress according to Muslim, religious Muslim attire. So there's a situation that Western Europe is not dealing with."

When Britain's prime minister David Cameron was asked about it, he said:

"Frankly I choked on my porridge and thought it must be April Fool's Day. This guy is clearly a complete idiot."

Perhaps Emerson's hysterical remarks were in some way forgivable, but one is tempted to agree with Cameron. In 2006, the Congressional Quarterly did an informal survey of Mideast "experts" in Washington, including some who had been analysts for years, and discovered they were abysmally ignorant. One so-called expert, for example, thought that al-Qaeda was a Shia Muslim organization.

That Congressional Quarterly caused some British politicians to smirk about dumb Americans. So the London Times did a similar survey of British politicians, and found that they were equally ignorant. (See "Guess what? British politicians and journalists are just as ignorant as Americans" from 2007.)

As I wrote at the time, I've had many shocks and surprises since I started writing about Generational Dynamics in 2002, but probably no more shocking than the realization that I now know more about the history and current events about the world than do 99.9% of the politicians, analysts, journalists, pundits and others in Washington. This is a reflection on how much work I've done, but it's even more a reflection of the sheer arrogance and stupidity that pervades Washington -- and London. And of course I've written many times about the open lying about stock valuations on CNBC and Bloomberg TV.

So it's not really surprising that a self-described "internationally recognized expert on terrorism" Steve Emerson says incredibly stupid things, since saying incredibly stupid things is the norm.

Fox News later issued a retraction, pointing out that 21 per cent of Birmingham population is Muslim, with 46.1 per cent identifying themselves as Christians.

Emerson himself issued the following apology:

"I have clearly made a terrible error for which I am deeply sorry. My comments about Birmingham were totally in error. And I am issuing this apology and correction for having made this comment about the beautiful city of Birmingham. I do not intend to justify or mitigate my mistake by stating that I had relied on other sources because I should have been much more careful. There was no excuse for making this mistake and I owe an apology to every resident of Birmingham. I am not going to make any excuses. I made an inexcusable error. And I am obligated to openly acknowledge that mistake. I wish to apologize for all residents of that great city of Birmingham. Steve Emerson PS. I am making donation to Birmingham Children's Hospital."

Birmingham Mail and YouTube and IBN Live and Fox News

Controversy revived over France's 'no-go zones'

Emerson's remarks have revived a controversy over "no-go zones" in Europe and elsewhere, which might be breeding grounds for terrorism. France has identified 751 Zones Urbaines Sensibles (ZUS - Sensitive Urban Zones). These are sometimes informally called "no-go zones," because it's claimed that they're almost entire Muslim, self-governing with Sharia law, and where even the police never go.

Other places where it's claimed that these no-go zones exist are in Birmingham England, Hancock New York, and Dearborn Michigan.

It turns out that France's list of ZUS is from 1996, and many of them are simply places where urban renewal projects have been planned, because of poverty and crime. Today, some of them have been rehabilitated, some are poor but non-violent, and some are poor and occasionally violent.

The ZUS were in the news in 2005, when there were several days of Muslim violence in the suburbs of Paris. However, these were not recent immigrants. In most cases, the youths were French citizens who were second and third generation Moroccans, Turks and Arabs whose parents and grandparents came to France in the 1960s and 1970s, seeking a better life.

Mideast blogger Daniel Pipes started blogging about France's no-go zones in 2006, and updated his blog repeatedly, sometimes with horror stories. Then, in a January 2013 update, he wrote:

"Jan. 16, 2013 update: I had an opportunity today to travel at length to several banlieues (suburbs) around Paris, including Sarcelles, Val d'Oise, and Seine Saint Denis. This comes on the heels of having visited over the years the predominantly immigrant (and Muslim) areas of Brussels, Copenhagen, Malmö, Berlin, and Athens.

A couple of observations:

For a visiting American, these areas are very mild, even dull. We who know the Bronx and Detroit expect urban hell in Europe too, but there things look fine. The immigrant areas are hardly beautiful, but buildings are intact, greenery abounds, and order prevails.

These are not full-fledged no-go zones but, as the French nomenclature accurately indicates, "sensitive urban zones." In normal times, they are unthreatening, routine places. But they do unpredictably erupt, with car burnings, attacks on representatives of the state (including police), and riots.

Having this first-hand experience, I regret having called these areas no-go zones."

As Pipes points out, the unrehabilitated no-go zones are similar to high-crime areas in American cities, such as the Bronx, Detroit and Chicago. And he might have mentioned the far worse situation in Mexican cities where drug cartels are in charge.

The fact that unrehabilitated Muslim no-go zones are similar to high-crime areas in large cities everywhere would be cause enough for concern, but it's believed that these are breeding grounds for would-be jihadists planning to commit terrorist acts. It's known that some 1,200 young French citizens have gone to Syria for training, possibly to return to France with new terror skills, and it's feared that many of them may be coming from the unrehabilitated ZUS. Catholic Online and Snopes and France - government and Trip Advisor and Daniel Pipes

France to deploy 5,000 police to protect Jewish schools

Four Jews were killed on Friday in an attack on a kosher supermarket, in an attack that was linked to the Charlie Hebdo attack in Paris two days earlier. France's president François Hollande responded by promising the Jewish community would be protected by the French army, "if necessary." The interior minister announced on Monday that 5,000 security forces and police will protect the 700 Jewish schools in the country, though how long this protection will continue was not announced.

Israel's prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu has annoyed French politicians by urging French Jews to move to Israel, but in fact that was already happening prior to Friday's attack. A record 7,000 Jews emigrated from France to Israel in 2014. According to historian Marc Knobel:

"There are Jewish people living in sensitive neighborhoods where anti-Semitism has become a daily part of life for them. They feel uneasy. Some are scared to go the synagogue or put their children in Jewish schools because they feel something might happen.

Netanyahu persuading Jews to come to France is not new. It's a policy started by Ariel Sharon in 2002. They see it as logical where Jews are living in situations of peril to tell them to come to Israel."

As I've been reporting the last few weeks, there is a growing Muslim versus Muslim war, with Muslim militias and armies killing Muslims throughout the Mideast, South Asia and Northern Africa. The collateral damage from this war is an increase in terrorist acts in Europe and elsewhere, and many of these terrorist acts may target Jews. Nationalism and xenophobia are increasing in Europe and elsewhere, and Generational Dynamics predicts that this trend will continue and lead to war. AFP and The Local (France)

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 13-Jan-15 World View -- Concern rising over Muslim 'no-go zones' as terror breeding grounds thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (13-Jan-2015) Permanent Link
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12-Jan-15 World View -- Reader comments: Is Islam at war with the West?

Is PEGIDA a neo-Nazi movement, or just a grass roots protest?

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Reader comments on Islam and Christianity


U.S. Marines storm Tripoli during the First Barbary War (1801-05) against North African Berber Muslims
U.S. Marines storm Tripoli during the First Barbary War (1801-05) against North African Berber Muslims

In several recent articles, I've been describing the massive and growing war of Muslims against Muslims in the Mideast, South Asia and Northern Africa. I've made the point that Islam is NOT at war with the West, and that the terrorist attacks, such as this past week's Charlie Hebdo attack in Paris, were collateral damage from the real war, the war between Muslims and Muslims.

The following are some comments that I received.

Is Islam at war with the West?

"I come to your site every day because I believe you have something valuable to say, but when you make this statement, you destroy your credibility.

'As I've been reporting repeatedly, there is no Muslim war against the West. Even in the last week, when a score of people in Paris were killed, thousands were killed in Boko Haram massacres in Nigeria, while hundreds more were killed in Syria, Yemen, Pakistan, Somalia and other countries.'

Muslims are surely fighting against each other - but to declare the war is only happening on one front is nothing less than selective denial. Hitler fought the West, but you might remember he fought on an "Eastern Front" too. Save your credibility sir, Islam is at war with everyone, including their own families."

I've been writing about Muslim violence since 2003 -- thousands of articles. I have, on file, almost 90,000 news stories that I've copied and pasted from media sources around the world. I've read all of these, as well as millions more that I didn't copy. In addition, I've listened to untold thousands of hours from the BBC, al-Jazeera, and domestic news services.

With all of that input, I find plenty of terrorist acts, but I cannot find any evidence of an actual war by Muslims against the West -- as measured by actual behavior, not by the rantings of Muslim terrorists and jihadist leaders.

As I've described in recent articles, there have been fewer than 9,000 Christians killed in individual terrorist acts in the 13 years since 9/11/2011. Now that's a lot of Christians, but it's not what I would call a war, except in a symbolic sense. For it to be a real war, you would need to see Muslim armies attacking Europe or America.

On the other hand, there are militias and large armies of Muslims attacking other Muslims in Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Somalia, Mali, Nigeria, Afghanistan and Pakistan. EACH YEAR there are 50,000 or so Muslims killed by these armies, five times as many killed each year as Christians were killed in THIRTEEN YEARS.

I want to emphasize what a big difference this is. Individual terrorist acts by individual terrorists are bad, but they're not the same as large armies conducting a real war.

In some ways this is just semantics. For most people, there isn't much difference between being at war with Islamist jihadists versus being at war with Islam.

I think it's dangerous for the West not to know who their real enemy is. Those who say that "Islam is the enemy of the West" or "All Muslims are enemies of the West" are doing a disservice because, if they're believed, then resources will be wasted fighting the wrong enemy. Indeed, it's quite possible that that's exactly what the ISIS and AQAP leaders want -- to see the West waste their resources attacking "Islam" or "all Muslims", rather than ISIS or AQAP or other Muslim terrorist jihadists.

For more discussion, see the following articles:

"10-Jan-15 World View -- Up to 2000 Nigeria civilians killed in three-day Boko Haram massacre"
"8-Jan-15 World View -- The historic dilemma of the West versus the Muslim jihadists"
"1-Jan-15 World View -- The three most important dangers for 2015"
"29-Dec-14 World View -- Do news organizations ignore jihadist attacks on Christians?"

Is Islam a religion, like Christianity, or just an ideology or mindset?

"Once there is a resolution of the Sunni-Shia schism within Islam, it needs to be clearly understood that this resolution is only the beginning. John's comments make no provision for dealing with the ideology of radical Islam after the resolution of their internal conflict (I have come to believe that there is no Islam other than radical Islam). I can't stress forcefully enough that Islam is not a religion... it is a mind set. Islam makes no provision for the accommodation of anything other than Islam - it isn't just about Allah, it's about Allah in government, it's about Allah in speech (the "rationale" for todays murders in Paris), it's about Allah in school, it's all about Allah in every single aspect of life. Further, to be clear, and make no mistake, there is an Imam someplace who is willing to issue a fatwa that is going to tell you just exactly what that means, and how you WILL comply with orthodox (as he sees it) Islam, under penalty of death. Understand: there is no aspect of life that is outside of the purview of Islam."

Islam is just as much a religion as Christianity is. Or, if you like, Christianity is also just an ideology, in view of Christian Nazis who killed Jews and other Christians, or Irish Protestants who killed Catholics.

"John, on most occasions we are in sync. Here we shall have to agree to disagree.

Grew up in Dearborn, MI - largest Muslim community in the U.S. The high school I attended was 30% Muslim - now it's 100% Muslim. Developed an unfavorable attitude first hand - Muslims are routinely strident, belligerent, and combative. After high school, I lived in Turkey for a year - at the time Turkey was the most moderate of the Muslim countries. Living in a Muslim country made me understand what I saw in high school. I can remember leaving Ankara in 1967 looking out the airplane's window thinking: "... no one will believe what I tell them about this place... God help the world if these people ever get money...." That was over 45 years ago, and now they have the money to buy arms, and explosives, i.e. the means to carry out their mentality; and there is no longer a powerful moral America with the will to stop them.

Muslims are a problem wherever they alight. Philippines, Timor, Myanmar, India, Kashmir, China, Russia, Israel, Britain, France, Nigeria, Thailand, Kenya, et al. Virtually every airplane hijacking since 1970 has been by Muslims, not Christians. ... The only time Muslims seek freedom and tolerance is when they are a significant minority; when they achieve a significant plurality, or majority it is their way or the sword, they have no compunction regarding impressing their will - Sharia Law - upon all. They tolerate nothing, it's Allah, or die - it's Sharia for all. Muslims believe that anyplace Muslims have occupied is theirs forever, anyplace Muslims have prayed is theirs forever. ...

And Christianity is certainly not without issues, but here we are discussing the differences between Christianity and Islam. The difference between Christianity, and Islam is that the embrace of Christianity is voluntary, with no direct physical harm, or ill consequences suffered if one rejects the conversion. As recent events have made clear, in Islam the conversion is not voluntary; it's convert, or the sword - the conversion is coerced and once converted, should you desire to exit Islam, it is a capital offense subjecting you to death. ...

While Christianity has its dark chapters, those are not taking place now. At this moment the Christian Church is as was given to us through the Enlightenment and to a somewhat lesser degree by the American Revolution (the inherent value of life, honesty, the rule of law, personal freedom, freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and many more, among others)."

Your final remark about "dark chapters" is where your argument contradicts itself.

You claim that Christianity and Islam are fundamentally different in that Islam isn't even a religion -- it's an ideology or mind set. To support that claim in practice you would have to prove two things: not only that Christianity and Islam have had different cumulative outcomes throughout centuries of history, but also that Christianity could never return to a new "dark chapter" in the future.

I claim you have no hope of proving either of those. All you can hope to prove is that AT THE PRESENT TIME Islam is producing different outcomes than Christianity. And the latter may in fact be true, as the examples you've given illustrate. But that means that Islam and Christianity are both religions, and differences in outcomes are only temporal.

Why would such temporal differences exist? For the answer to that, we look to a generational analysis.

WW II is still remarkably fresh in the minds of most Christians. How was it possible for the entire Christian German population to turn into Nazis and create the Holocaust to exterminate Jews, and also to turn on the Christian French population, the Christian British population, and also the Orthodox Christian Russian population. This is still a matter of shame throughout the world Christian community, and it affects every Christian's attitudes to people of other religions.

But there is no similar collective memory in the Muslim community. For Muslims, the destruction of the Ottoman Empire (in 1922) was in the far more distant past than WW II, and to them was not a cause for shame among Muslims, but a cause for shame among Europeans and Russians, including Christians and Jews. Furthermore, the loss of the Istanbul Caliphate is a gaping hole in the Muslim psyche.

That brings us to Iran's Great Islamic Revolution and the Iran/Iraq war (1979-1988), which is as important to Islam as WW II is to the West. This was a generational crisis war largely in the Shia Muslim community. The problems that you described as Muslim problems are actually almost always Sunni Muslim problems. Since Shia Muslims have had a generational crisis war much more recently than Sunni Muslims, then have far different attitudes and behaviors. So your argument about Islam falls apart even when you consider temporal differences between Shia and Sunni Islam.

Finally, as another counterexample to the uniqueness of Islam, the shame of WW II does not extend to the Buddhist community, and the Buddhists in Burma (Myanmar), led by a Buddhist monk, are massacring innocent Muslim women and children, razing entire villages. The Muslims under greatest attack are Rohingya immigrants, but the Buddhists have even attacked Muslim villages that have existed for hundreds of years.

Is PEGIDA a neo-Nazi movement, or just a simple grass roots protest?

This comment was in response to an article on PEGIDA, a growing 'anti-Islamization' movement in Germany.

"You interpret PEGIDA as the rise of some neo-Nazi movement. Writing to you this very moment from Germany, I can assure you that thousands of Germans are most decidedly NOT parading around shouting "Deutschland für Deutsche! Ausländer raus!" That was/is the slogan of the far right, to use the phrase, and you are wrong to conflate it and them with PEGIDA.

This movement, a grass roots protest, arose in the former GDR [Communist East Germany], a region that has more familiarity with totalitarian government than you or I have. They know a lie when they are being forced to believe it, first under the SED dictatorship, as socialism, and now under the EU and its constant cheerleaders and propaganda. If you are located on the continent, you will be only too aware of this. If you are not, then you are, as I posted previously, writing with a less than full understanding."

The article was not about me. What I was doing in my article was reporting that European leaders are describing Pegida as neo-Nazi or xenophobic.

In fact, Pegida organizer Kathrin Oertel agrees with my reporting: "Or how would you see it when we are insulted or called racists or Nazis openly by all the political mainstream parties and media for our justified criticism of Germany's asylum seeker policies and the non-existent immigration policy?"

So Oertel agrees with me that many Europeans view Pegida as xenophobic or racist or Nazi. My personal opinion is that Hungary's Jobbik and Greece's Golden Dawn are neo-Nazi, but Pegida is only "a little bit xenophobic," at least so far.

"To make the claim that this is the echoes of the 1930s all over again is patently false. There is not mass unemployment, there is not anarchy, there is no hyperinflation, there is no war just lost, there are no humiliating reparations, there is no loss of territory, no occupation by foreign powers. Would you like me to continue? Today's Germany is a modern, peaceful, prosperous and surprisingly tolerant country. Did you know it took in more refugees from the Yugoslavia conflict than all the other countries put together?"

Oh, really? Unemployment rate at 25% in Greece and Spain, 16% in Italy, above 10% in other eurozone countries. Hyperinflation was an early 1920s phenomenon -- deflation was a 1930s phenomenon, same as today. No humiliating reparations, but humiliating bailout accusations between Germany and Greece, with the same effect. No loss of territory or occupation, but floods of Syrian and African refugees evoking the same emotions.

"But given that a phobia is an irrational fear, there is nothing irrational in witnessing whole areas of the town or city where you were born and raised becoming nothing less than foreign enclaves filled with people who refuse to integrate, let alone be able to even if they should want."

I don't disagree with your characterization, and I might well feel the same way in those circumstances.

As a student of history, surely you must see the similarities with the 1930s. The Nazis gave very "rational" reasons for their attitudes towards Jews -- Jewish bankers had made money from the reparations, Jews had sold out the Germans, etc. One can always find "rational" reasons for any emotion.

But that doesn't change the point that I'm making. Xenophobic and neo-Nazi movements are spreading across Europe today, and Pegida is one of them, even if it's in its early stages. This is a trend that's been growing for years, particularly since the rise of Generation-X, and the trend is going to continue and grow.

By the way, suppose you were King of Europe. What would you do? Deport all the Muslims? Lock them up in camps? Close the borders to Syrian women and children fleeing starvation and bloody massacres? Sink their boats and let them drown in the Mediterranean? What would you do, and why would what you would do be better than what the neo-Nazis would do?

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 12-Jan-15 World View -- Reader comments: Is Islam at war with the West? thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (12-Jan-2015) Permanent Link
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11-Jan-15 World View -- France officials criticized for not stopping Charlie Hebdo terror attack

'Anonymous' declares war on terrorist web sites

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

France officials criticized for not stopping Charlie Hebdo terror attack


Massive rally in support of Charlie Hebdo victims in Marseille France on Saturday (AFP)
Massive rally in support of Charlie Hebdo victims in Marseille France on Saturday (AFP)

Criticism is mounting against French officials for not doing more to prevent Wednesday's terrorist attack by means of closer surveillance of the two brothers who carried out the attack. One of them, Cherif Kouachi, had been convicted on terrorism charges in 2008, while the other, Said Kouachi had traveled to Yemen in 2011 and was believed while there to have been trained in jihadist skills by al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). Both were on the U.S. no-fly list. When Said returned from Yemen in 2012, both Kouachi brothers were placed under close surveillance, but after a while the surveillance was reduced.

Some problems have no solution. You can prove mathematically that there's no solution to the problem of squaring the circle. There's no mathematical proof in this case, but there's still no solution to the problem of preventing "lone wolf" terrorist attacks.

Thousands of young men from around the world have gone to Syria to learn terrorist skills from training by the Islamic State / of Iraq and Syria (IS or ISIS or ISIL), almost 1,000 of them from France alone. Many, like the Kouachi brothers, return to their home countries to prepare terrorist attacks. If the Kouachi brothers and all others like them were to be kept under constant surveillance, it would take a virtual army of surveillors, and even then many would be missed.

It's believed that there are thousands of people across Europe on government surveillance lists. These lists include not only returning jihadists, but people suspected of financial crimes, sex crimes and other serious offenses. Hurriyet (Ankara)

Al-Qaeda in Yemen claims to have directed Paris Charlie Hebdo attack

A senior AQAP official, Harith al Nadhari, is claiming that "The operation was directed by the leadership of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP)." He does not claim credit for the attack, but said that France in particularly was targeted because of the cartoons portraying Mohammed.

As I've been reporting repeatedly, there is no Muslim war against the West. Even in the last week, when a score of people in Paris were killed, thousands were killed in Boko Haram massacres in Nigeria, while hundreds more were killed in Syria, Yemen, Pakistan, Somalia and other countries. This is a massive and growing war of Muslims against Muslims that is both ethnic (tribe against tribe) and sectarian (Sunni and Shia against each other).

AQAP is embroiled in its own war, far from Paris. The Sunni jihadists in AQAP in Yemen are under attack by Shia Houthi militias thought to be supported by Iran. The Houthis have made substantial gains in the last six months, and are threatening the gains that AQAP made before that.

With so much on their plate in Yemen, one might ask why AQAP would even be interested in what's going on in Paris. Apparently what's going on is a competition between al-Qaeda and ISIS. If there are thousands of young men going to Syria to train with ISIS, those are thousands of young men who might instead have gone to Yemen to train with AQAP, which is what Said Kouachi did in 2012, before ISIS rise to prominence.

AQAP is fully involved with the war in Yemen, while ISIS is fully involved with the war in Syria and Iraq. Every war has both a military component and a public relations component, and the attack on Paris was part of AQAP's public relations component.

It wasn't long ago that al-Qaeda was Numero Uno in the terror business, but they've been eclipsed in the last year by ISIS. Maybe AQAP directed the Charlie Hebdo attack in Paris, maybe not. But claiming to have done so is a way of trying to return to prominence. Thus, the Paris attack is collateral damage in the real growing war between Muslims and Muslims, and we can expect more of the same. Guardian (London) and Fox News

'Anonymous' declares war on terrorist web sites

Cyber-terrorist group Anonymous, which has attacked many government, military and commercial web sites in the paste, is now naming terrorist web sites as their next target. According to a statement:

"Message to the enemy of the freedom of speech.

January 7, 2015, freedom of speech has suffered an inhuman assault. Terrorists broke into the premises of the "Charlie Hebdo" newspaper and shot in cold blood several satirical cartoon artists, journalists and two policemen. The killers are still at large. Disgusted and also shocked, we cannot fall to our knees. It is our responsibility to react."

The statement was followed by a YouTube video directly confronting Al-Qaeda and ISIS on the Paris massacre. Russia Today and Pastebin and YouTube

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 11-Jan-15 World View -- France officials criticized for not stopping Charlie Hebdo terror attack thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (11-Jan-2015) Permanent Link
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10-Jan-15 World View -- Up to 2000 Nigeria civilians killed in three-day Boko Haram massacre

Cameroon requests international help to fight Boko Haram

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Up to 2000 Nigeria civilians killed in three-day Boko Haram massacre


Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau (AFP)
Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau (AFP)

After a coordinated three-day rampage on the town of Baga in northeast Nigeria, as well 15-20 other nearby towns, up to 2000 resident civilians have been killed. The towns are now "virtually nonexistent" according to local officials:

"These towns are just gone, burned down. The whole area is covered in bodies."

This would make the massacre among the most deadly terror attacks in history.

There's supposed to be a Multi-National Joint Task Force, a French-sponsored alliance of Nigeria, Cameroon, Niger and Chad, stationed in a army base near Baga. The base was supposed to provide protection for Baga and the other nearby towns. But last Saturday, there were only Nigerian soldiers in the army base, and Boko Haram overran the base, as the Nigerian troops once again fled rather than fight. The massacre in Baga began four days later.

Following the philosophy of better late than never, Nigerian ground forces backed by air strikes are now fighting to reclaim Baga and the military base.

In April 2013, Boko Haram abducted over 200 schoolgirls from a school in Chibok. Those girls are still missing.

Nigeria is one of the biggest oil producers in the world. It's thought that Boko Haram is trying to create a secessionist state in northeast Nigeria. NBC News and Reuters

Cameroon requests international help to fight Boko Haram

President Paul Biya of Cameroon is appealing for international military help to fight Boko Haram. According to Biya, Boko Haram has gone beyond being a regional threat to being a global threat that has attacked Mali, the Central African Republic and Somalia:

"A global threat calls for a global response. Such should be the response of the international community, including the African Union and our regional organisations."

The appeal follows a threat from Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau in a youtube video posted on Monday:

"Oh Paul Biya, if you don’t stop this, your evil plot, you will taste what has befallen Nigeria ... Your troops cannot do anything to us."

The "evil plot" is Biya's attempt to rid Cameroon of Boko Haram. ( "30-Dec-14 World View -- Cameroon's air force bombs Boko Haram positions, forcing retreat") Biya ordered air strikes after the terrorists began crossing the border from Nigeria and attacked villages in Cameroon's north. Nigerian Tribune and AFP

Some random political and media notes

Washington Examiner and Daily Beast

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 10-Jan-15 World View -- Up to 2000 Nigeria civilians killed in three-day Boko Haram massacre thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (10-Jan-2015) Permanent Link
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9-Jan-15 World View -- Russia faces economic cliff on Monday, January 12

Qatar may be turning against Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Qatar may be turning against Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood


Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal
Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal

Last summer's Gaza war between Israel and Hamas tore open a gash between Arab and Mideast countries, with Qatar, Turkey and Iran strongly supporting the Muslim Brotherhood and its offshoot Hamas, versus Egypt, the Palestinian Authority and Saudi Arabia opposing Hamas, hence supporting Israel. The differences were expressed with extreme vitriol, especially after Hamas was thoroughly defeated by Israel in the war. But Saudi Arabia managed to convince Qatar to a reconciliation prior to the big Arab summit meeting last month.

Hamas's defeat is only a small part of their problems. Hamas used to have a headquarters office in Damascus, Syria. But in 2011 Syria's genocidal president Bashar al-Assad started exterminating innocent Sunni women and children, forcing a split between al-Assad and Hamas's leader, Khaled Mashaal. After months of rumors, Mashaal and Hamas HQ moved to Doha, Qatar, allowing Mashaal to direct the summer Gaza war from afar.

Now, thanks to the reconciliation, there are reports that Qatar is throwing Mashaal out of Doha. Hamas is denying the reports, but other reports are saying that if Mashaal stays in Doha, then he has to agree to keep a very low profile, and not do anything to embarrass Doha. A Hamas official was quoted as saying, "Hamas was asked at least not to engage in any high-profile political activities that may be interpreted as Qatar still supporting the Muslim Brotherhood, particularly after the Egyptian–Qatari reconciliation."

If Mashaal leaves Doha, then he has three choices: Ankara Turkey or Tehran Iran or Khartoum Sudan, the capitals of the three countries that still support Hamas. Iran is a particularly problematic choice, because Hamas still strongly opposes al-Assad while Iran supports al-Assad, and because Hamas is Sunni Muslim while Iran is Shia Muslim, so they have little in common except their common hatred for Israel.

Current speculation is that Mashaal and Hamas headquarters are headed for Ankara. Daily Sabah (Ankara) and Asharq Al Awsat (Riyadh)

Russia faces economic cliff on Monday, January 12

Russia is on a long-term holiday that started two weeks ago and ends on Monday, January 12. At that time, the banks and the stock exchange will reopen, and it's feared that both the ruble and the Moscow stock exchange will fall sharply. Russia's economy is being hit hard by multiple problems: Russia's main source of income has been deeply slashed because oil prices have been collapsing. The inflation rate has grown from 6.5% to 11.4% in a few months, with food prices growing at 15.4%.

The invasion and occupation of eastern Ukraine and annexation of Crimea are much more expensive than expected. Now that Russia has "bought" eastern Ukraine, it's stuck with it, and has to provide aid. Russia has almost no spare industrial capacity, and badly needs massive investment and new technologies that are not forthcoming. Western sanctions have made it impossible for Russian companies to borrow money, forcing them to drain their reserves. Capital is flowing out of Russia as Russians with dollar-denominated accounts and assets move them to other countries, fearing that their accounts might be frozen.

Russia's president Vladimir Putin may have no choice but to impose capital controls, which would prevent anyone's dollar reserves to move out of Russia to foreign banks. But the people who would be hurt most would be Russia's elite oligarch class who, up till now, have been Putin allies. If Putin is forced to impose capital controls, it may be a game changer in that he may lose the support of his biggest allies.

The only good news was an announcement that the price of vodka will decrease from $7 per liter to $6 per liter. This will be accomplished by lowering taxes on vodka. Lowering taxes is not something that the Russian government can afford, but it's thought that with cheap vodka the people will be happier. Jamestown and Guardian (London)

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 9-Jan-15 World View -- Russia faces economic cliff on Monday, January 12 thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (9-Jan-2015) Permanent Link
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8-Jan-15 World View -- The historic dilemma of the West versus the Muslim jihadists

Eurozone inflation rate becomes negative, falling into deflation

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

The historic dilemma of the West versus the Muslim jihadists


After Wednesday's attack, France is on high alert with thousands more police on the streets in Paris (Reuters)
After Wednesday's attack, France is on high alert with thousands more police on the streets in Paris (Reuters)

Wednesday's terrorist attack in Paris requires an appraisal of where the world stands today:

Wednesday's terrorist attacks in Paris are certain to exacerbate these trends.

This was not a random shooting. The terrorists were well trained in using assault weapons, and the attack was carried out with clockwork precision, probably after being planned for weeks. They spoke perfect French, leading to the speculation that they were home-grown terrorists who had gone to Syria for training. The terrorists murdered the editor and several cartoonists at the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, which had published cartoons and articles mocking Islam and the Prophet Mohammed. They shouted, "We have avenged the prophet" and "Allahu akbar" (God is great). It's said to be the deadliest terror attack on French soil in 50 years, since 1961 when a right-wing paramilitary organization opposed to France's withdrawal from Algeria blew up a train killing 28 people.

Some Muslim leaders are blaming the attack on the victims. According to one Sunni Muslim scholar, it came as a response to "extremism from the other side." "When freedom of thought oversteps boundaries and legitimizes and encourages the insult of other religions, there will be such consequences." I disagree with this conclusion. In my opinion, it's the other way around, with the mocking of Mohammed purposely triggered by the actions and PR strategy of the jihadists.

Wednesday's attack is creating a backlash within the populations of the West, especially Europe:

From the point of view of Generational Dynamics, this is the kind of thing that happens during generational Crisis eras. In World War II, Japanese were interred, while Germans were not. Today, Muslims are under suspicion (probably with worse to come), while Chinese are not.

This isn't true only in the West. In China, for example, anti-American and anti-Japanese xenophobia are also growing.

As the world today goes deeper into a generational Crisis era, we can expect xenophobia and nationalism to increase in nations around the world. The world becomes a more dangerous place every day, and the growing Muslim versus Muslim war is just one part of it. It's only a matter of time until somebody does something that triggers a real war. AFP and USA Today and Bloomberg and Telegraph (London) and The Trumpet

Eurozone inflation rate becomes negative, falling into deflation

The inflation rate in the eurozone has been extremely low for years, as we've reported several times, and in December it crossed over into deflation, with an inflation rate of -0.2%. The deflation is being blamed on the falling price of oil. Deflation in Europe is an important story, and there's a lot more to be said, but it's been squeezed out by the news from Paris. Maybe tomorrow. BBC and Eurostat

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 8-Jan-15 World View -- The historic dilemma of the West versus the Muslim jihadists thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (8-Jan-2015) Permanent Link
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7-Jan-15 World View -- Bethlehem celebrates the second of its three Christmases

Hamas blasts Abbas's plan to re-submit statehood resolution to the Security Council

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Bethlehem celebrates the second of its three Christmases


Members of the marching band of the Arab Orthodox Scouts of Beit Sahour march through Manger Square in Bethlehem.
Members of the marching band of the Arab Orthodox Scouts of Beit Sahour march through Manger Square in Bethlehem.

It's Christmas in Bethlehem today (Wednesday). Bethlehem is unique in that it celebrates Christmas three times each year:

About 50% of the Palestinian Arab Christian community across Israel and the Palestinian territories belong to the Orthodox Church of Jerusalem, and celebrate Christmas on January 7. Jerusalem Post and Middle East Monitor

Hamas blasts Abbas's plan to re-submit statehood resolution to the Security Council

It's been a week since Palestinian Authority (PA) leader Mahmoud Abbas suffered a humiliating defeat in the U.N. Security Council, when it rejected, without even requiring a U.S. veto, Abbas's resolution that would require Israel to withdraw from the Palestinian territories to pre-1967 borders by 2017.

Following the rejection, Abbas signed the documents to apply on behalf of the State of Palestine to join the International Criminal Court (ICC), in order to bring war crimes charges against Israeli officials. Israel retaliated by withholding $175 million in tax collections from the PA.

According to one theory, this was all part of a larger plan. This theory suggests that Abbas knew that the Security Council vote would be rejected (which is certainly true), and that he wanted an excuse to join the ICC. The purpose is to shape the narrative of conflict, changing it from the "peace process" to "war crimes." Joining the ICC means that Israeli soldiers and commanders could be arrested and tried for war crimes when they travel abroad.

As of January 1, the makeup of the Security Council has changed, with Angola, Malaysia and Venezuela replacing Rwanda, South Korea and Argentina as non-permanent members. Abbas has said that he plans to re-submit the resolution, expecting that with the new membership he would get the required nine votes for passage. However, there would still be a U.S. veto in that case.

However, Hamas is completely opposed to any submission to the Security Council, because a successful resolution would "legitimize Israeli occupation." According to Hamas co-founder Mahmoud Zahar:

"This Palestinian resolution is catastrophic and has no future on the land of Palestine. The future belongs to the resistance. We will continue to work to liberate all the land and achieve the right of return for Palestinian refugees. Hamas will not accept anything less than all the lands that were occupied in 1948."

Once again, Abbas is trying to calm the waters by seeking a solution that might avoid all out war between Palestinians and Israelis. As I've written many times, Abbas was born in 1935, and survived the horrific 1948 war between Jews and Arabs that following the partitioning of Palestine and the creation of the state of Israel. Like most survivors of generational crisis wars, Abbas has literally devoted his life to doing everything possible to prevent that horrific kind of war from occurring again. As regular readers know, Generational Dynamics predicts that he will not succeed in preventing that horrific war, though he may continue to postpone it.

In fact, the man that most Palestinians consider the most likely successor to 80-year-old Abbas is the fiery 53-year-old Mohammed Dahlan, who announced on Saturday that he would form a united front in opposition to Abbas. According to Dahlan:

"Most of the Palestinian people oppose the proposal that [Abbas] put forward [at the Security Council]. This was a hasty and reckless decision that wasn’t made with the unified consensus of the Palestinians. The proposal was changed a number of times without consultation of the decision makers. This was a decision that constitutes a new disaster for relations with Israel which will bring shame and destruction of the Palestinian issue."

Bloomberg and Palestine Chronicle and Times of Israel

US weights cutting aid to Palestinians after ICC application

The Obama administration said Monday it was reviewing its annual $440 million aid package to the Palestinians because of their effort to join the International Criminal Court to pursue war-crimes charges against Israel. Under American law, any Palestinian case against Israel at the court would trigger an immediate cutoff of U.S. financial support. Membership itself doesn't automatically incur U.S. punishment. AP

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 7-Jan-15 World View -- Bethlehem celebrates the second of its three Christmases thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (7-Jan-2015) Permanent Link
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6-Jan-15 World View -- Wall Street, European stocks, euro, oil all plunge on Monday

Surge in migrants from Cuba trying to reach the U.S. illegally

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Germany's PEGIDA 'anti-Islamization' protests grow, stirring counter-protests


Cologne Cathedral lights turned off in protest of Pegida rallies
Cologne Cathedral lights turned off in protest of Pegida rallies

The anti-Islam PEGIDA movement ("Patriotische Europäer gegen die Islamisierung des Abendlandes," or "Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the West") protests have been growing in size since the movement's founding in October, but they're also stirring counter-protests by those considering Pegida to be xenophobic.

In Cologne on Monday evening, 20,000 residents gathered on the streets to block Pegida protests in that city, carrying banners that read "Nazis, out!" "We will not let a racist mob run free on Cologne's streets." In addition, the lights on bridges over the Rhine and the Cologne Cathedral were turned off. According to the dean of the cathedral, "We don't think of it as a protest, but we would like to make the many conservative Christians [who support Pegida] think about what they are doing." The Pegida demonstrations were canceled in Cologne.

But in Dresden, where Pegida is headquartered, 18,000 people turned up for one anti-immigration rally, carrying signs that said, "Germany for Germans!" and "No to Islamization of Europe!"

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has publicly condemned Pegida. Deutsche Welle and BBC

Wall Street, European stocks, euro, oil all plunge on Monday

A couple of weeks ago, on a day when investors were in a drunken euphoria because the Dow Jones Industrial Average surged 421 points, I pointed out that if the market could go up 421 points in one day, then it could just as easily go down 421 points in one day. That didn't quite happen on Monday, but there was a plunge of 331 points, illustrating how dangerous the recent drunken euphoria is. Indeed, a number of things happened in unison.

West Texas Intermediate (WTI) oil fell briefly below $50 per barrel on Monday, before settling at $50.44 per barrel, representing a plunge of 4.3%. It was just a few months ago that it was in the range $100-110 per barrel. Although lower oil prices means lower gasoline prices, it's also signaling a decrease in demand, as the global economy slows down and continues its deflationary spiral.

European stocks also fell on Monday, from 2-4%. The fall in oil prices affected a number of energy companies, resulting in something of a domino effect, and a new report showed that Germany is getting closer to deflation.

The euro currency tumbled to a nine-year low against the dollar, based on widespread concerns that the European Central Bank (ECB) is going to start "printing money" (quantitative easing), in order to bail out Greece again.

In his weekly investors newsletter, investment guru John P. Hussman says that he's in the camp that believes that "the likelihood of a market loss on the order of 40%, 50% or even 60% in the next few years is quite high."

Generational Dynamics predicts that we're headed for a global financial panic and crisis. According to Friday's Wall Street Journal, the S&P 500 Price/Earnings index (stock valuations index) on Friday morning (January 2) was back up to an astronomically high 18.66. This is far above the historical average of 14, indicating that the stock market is in a huge bubble that could burst at any time. Generational Dynamics predicts that the P/E ratio will fall to the 5-6 range or lower, which is where it was as recently as 1982, resulting in a Dow Jones Industrial Average of 3000 or lower.

It's not known even today what the event was that triggered the 1929 panic, except that conditions just prior to the panic were similar to conditions today -- an astronomically high P/E ratio, and a period of highly volatile wild swings in stock prices. Motley Fool and AP and Bloomberg and Dow Jones and John P. Hussman

Europe speeds ahead to a new, bigger Greece crisis

As we recently reported, Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel has reportedly said that she's prepared to support Greece leaving the eurozone, and returning its original drachma currency, if Greece abandons the austerity commitments it made in return for the 240 billion euro bailout that has already been paid.

Polls are showing that the radical far left Syriza party, led by Alexis Tsipras, is poised to win Greek elections on January 25. With Tsipras promising to renege on Greece's austerity commitments, Merkel's remarks have triggered a major debate in Europe.

Here are some of the things that various analysts and politicians are saying:

Despite 25% unemployment in Greece, the Germans are not prepared to make significant concessions to Tsipras, because significant concessions have already been made -- Greece has been allowed more time to pay down its debt than originally agreed and interest payments have been largely discontinued.

The existing aid programs for Greece are set to expire at the end of February. It's pretty certain that there's going to be a major new Greek crisis during the next two months, although no one knows how that crisis is going to turn out. Greek Reporter and Der Spiegel and AP

Surge in migrants from Cuba trying to reach the U.S. illegally


Coast Guard approaches a Cuban vessel with 12 migrants on December 30.  The migrants were later repatriated to Cuba
Coast Guard approaches a Cuban vessel with 12 migrants on December 30. The migrants were later repatriated to Cuba

According to the Coast Guard, the rate of Cuban migrants attempting to reach the U.S. illegally has more than doubled since the December 17 announcement restoring diplomatic relations between Cuba and the United States. Cubans on the island are speeding up their plans to make the trip because they fear that immigration laws are about to change, making it more difficult to avoid deportation. Miami Herald

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 6-Jan-15 World View -- Wall Street, European stocks, euro, oil all plunge on Monday thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (6-Jan-2015) Permanent Link
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5-Jan-15 World View -- War in Yemen expands as Shia al-Houthis threaten new Sunni provinces

Iran's Rouhani challenges Khamenei in speech demanding reforms

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

War in Yemen expands as Shia al-Houthis threaten new Sunni provinces


Followers watch a televised speech by al-Houthi leader Abdel-Malek al-Houthi commemorating the birth of Prophet Mohammed in Sanaa on Saturday (Reuters)
Followers watch a televised speech by al-Houthi leader Abdel-Malek al-Houthi commemorating the birth of Prophet Mohammed in Sanaa on Saturday (Reuters)

We've been reporting recently on the growing war between Muslim tribes and sects that is threatening to engulf the entire Mideast, and Yemen is part of that trend. During 2014, at least 7,000 people were killed, including at least 1,200 civilians.

This last year saw the rise of the al-Houthis, an Iran-backed Shia tribe, originally from northwest Yemen on the border with Saudi Arabia. In September, the al-Houthi militias moved south and captured Sanaa, the nation's capital, ousting the Sunni-led government. Since then, they've continued to take control of additional mainly Sunni provinces, and it's now thought that the al-Houthis control about 70% of the army's capabilities. It's believed that the al-Houthis are being backed by former president Ali Abdullah Saleh.

The al-Houthis are opposed by two Sunni groups. One is al-Qaeda on the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), currently considered to be the most dangerous branch of al-Qaeda. The second is the Islamist Al-Islah movement, a collection of Sunni tribes that have lost power since the Houthi takeover, and who are now cooperating against AQAP against the al-Houthis.

There's a third power center -- a growing secessionist movement in the south. Prior to 1994, North Yemen and South Yemen were two separate countries.

The international community had hoped that Yemen would be stabilized by a peace plan agreement made last year in February to divide the country into six federally organized regions. However, al-Houthi leader Abdel-Malek al-Houthi announced in a televised address on Saturday that he was completely rejecting the peace agreement. Beware of any attempts to overthrow the revolution," he said. Al-Arabiya and AP and AEI Critical Threats Project

Iran's Rouhani challenges Khamenei in speech demanding reforms

Iran's President Hassan Rouhani on Sunday called for an end to the country's international isolation by curbing corruption and mismanagement with reforms that are opposed by Supreme leader Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei and by the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC). According to Rouhani:

"Our economy will not prosper as long as it is monopolised (by the government). The economy must be rid of monopoly and see competition.

It must be freed of insider speculation, be transparent, all people must be aware of the statistics. If we can bring transparency to our economy, we can fight corruption.

Our political life has shown we can't have sustainable growth while we are isolated."

Rouhani has threatened to call a national referendum if he can't get the reforms he's demanding:

"As the enforcer of our constitution, I would like, even for once, to see conditions ripe to implement a tenet of the common law calling for major issues - economic, social, political and cultural - to be put to public referendum rather than parliamentary vote.

Some 36 years have passed now and this article has not been enforced even once."

From the point of view of Generational Dynamics, Iran is in a generational Awakening era, just one generation past the 1979 Great Islamic Revolution and the Iran/Iraq war that ended in 1988. There is a "generation gap" splitting the hardline survivors of the crisis wars from the younger generations growing up after the war. This is similar to America in the 1960s, when there was a generation gap between the World War II survivors and the generations growing up after the war.

As I've been writing for ten years, Iran's younger generations are generally pro-American and not particularly anti-Israel. Iran will be our ally in the coming Clash of Civilizations world war. Payvand (Iran) and Reuters

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 5-Jan-15 World View -- War in Yemen expands as Shia al-Houthis threaten new Sunni provinces thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (5-Jan-2015) Permanent Link
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4-Jan-15 World View -- Far left Greece election victory may trigger confrontation with Europe

Israel cuts payments to Palestinians in retaliation for ICC bid

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Far left Greece election victory may trigger confrontation with Europe


Torn euro flag from Greece austerity protests in January 2013
Torn euro flag from Greece austerity protests in January 2013

Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel has reportedly said that she's prepared to support Greece leaving the eurozone, and returning its original drachma currency, if Greece abandons the austerity commitments it made in return for the 240 billion euro bailout that has already been paid. During previous Greek crisis events, it was feared that Greece leaving the eurozone would completely destabilize the euro currency, but reportedly Merkel believes that the euro has become sufficiently strong to withstand a Greek exit.

The new crisis may be precipitated with the snap elections on January 25. The radical far left Syriza party, led by Alexis Tsipras, is now ahead in the polls, at 30.4%. Tsipras has promised to renege on Greece's austerity commitments. He also promised to do away with a real estate tax, freeze house foreclosures, raise the minimum wage and reinstate a 12,000 euro ($14,400) tax-free threshold to help low earners.

How would Tsipras like to pay for all these enormous social programs? There's going to be a policy meeting of the European Central Bank (ECB) on January 22. At that meeting, there may be an announced plan for the ECB to "print money" by purchasing billions of dollars in government bonds (quantitative easing). In that case, Tsipras would like the ECB to purchase billions of dollars worth of worthless Greek bonds, so that Greece can use that money to pay for all the welfare handouts. I can just imagine Angela Merkel agreeing to that scenario. This is shaping up to be quite a spectacle. Deutsche Welle and Kathimerini

Villagers evacuated after gunfire exchange in Kashmir on India-Pakistan border

It's once again necessary to evacuate villagers near the India-Pakistan border in Kashmir and Jammu, after gunfire was exchanged this week between Indian and Pakistani forces. Two people, including a 13-year-old girl, were killed and eight more injured, in several incidents, with casualties on both sides.

Kashmir was a major battleground for the 1947 Partition war that following the partitioning of the Indian subcontinent into India and Pakistan, one of the bloodiest wars of the last century, and there have been two more wars fought across the Line of Control (LoC) separating Pakistan and India since then. There have been gunfire incidents across the LoC for years, though it's been relatively peaceful since a cease-fire agreement in 2003. However, as we reported in October, there was a new round of gunfire, the worst in years. At that time, Pakistan said that Indian forces resorted to "unprovoked firing," while India blamed Pakistan for firing first, and promised "effective retaliation."

With regard to this week's new fighting, India's military said:

"Pakistani troops resorted to unprovoked and heavy firing and mortar shelling on posts and civilian areas along [the border]. [Border Security Force] troops gave a befitting reply."

In response, Pakistan's military accused India of an unprovoked barrage of artillery, and the Defense Ministry issued a threat:

"In the past six-seven months, we have tried to better our ties with India so that peace can prevail. But it seems that they do not understand this language. I believe, we will now communicate with India in the language they understand."

The thing that has definitely changed in the last six-seven months is that both sides are significantly hardening their positions, and exhibiting a willingness to shoot first and ask questions later. India Times and Kashmir Watch

Israel cuts payments to Palestinians in retaliation for ICC bid

The decision by Palestinian Authority (PA) president Mahmoud Abbas last week to apply on behalf of the State of Palestine to join the International Criminal Court (ICC) has brought retaliation, as originally promised by Israel's prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Israel is withholding $175 million in tax collections from the PA. This is money that Israel collects administratively on behalf of the PA in taxes and fees. The amount being withheld is the collections from December.

Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat called the move an act of "piracy" and a "collective punishment" against the Palestinian people:

"If Israel thinks that through economic pressure it will succeed in diverting our approach from freedom and independence, then it is wrong. This is the money of the Palestinian people and Israel is not a donor country."

Israel's left-wing opposition was also critical of the move, saying, "Netanyahu has no real solution to Israel's deteriorating situation on the world stage. Whoever is weak in the face of (Palestinian President Abbas) and fails to act to take steps that will protect IDF soldiers in The Hague cannot really stop this trend." They're opposing Netanyahu in the upcoming elections, and recommending negotiating with Hamas, rather than with Mahmoud Abbas.

There's a feeling of déjà vu in this situation. In December 2012, Israel withheld $100 million in tax revenues from the PA in retaliation when Mahmoud Abbas applied to the United Nations General Assembly to create a state of Palestine with non-member observer status. However, the tax payments were reinstated shortly afterwards. AP and YNet

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 4-Jan-15 World View -- Far left Greece election victory may trigger confrontation with Europe thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (4-Jan-2015) Permanent Link
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3-Jan-15 World View -- Sweden shocked by arson attacks on three mosques in eight days

Obama administration imposes additional sanctions on North Korea

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Sweden shocked by arson attacks on three mosques in eight days


Scores of red paper hearts hang on the entrance to the mosque in Uppsala, as demonstrators stood outside, shouting 'Don't touch my mosque' (Getty)
Scores of red paper hearts hang on the entrance to the mosque in Uppsala, as demonstrators stood outside, shouting 'Don't touch my mosque' (Getty)

Over an eight-day period, mosques in cities across Sweden -- Eslöv, Eskilstuna, and Uppsala -- were torched in arson attacks. The words "Go home Muslim shit" were written on the main door of Uppsala's mosque on Thursday, after someone threw a Molotov cocktail at the building. Nobody was injured.

The series of mosque attacks follows the surge in popularity of the "Sweden Democrats" party, a far-right anti-immigration party. (The phrase "far right" has different meanings in Europe and America.) The party won 13% of the vote in September elections, and recent polls put the party's support at over 17%. In early December, the Sweden Democrats precipitated a government crisis by withdrawing its approval of the government's proposed budget.

Prime Minister Dagens Nyheter Löfven said that:

"I will never act in a way that would give power over the country's development to a neo-fascist single issue political party that neither respects human diversity or Sweden's democratic institutions."

Löfven called for new snap elections on March 22.

However, the three mosque attacks appear to have changed the country's mood considerably. After the first attack, Löfven was able to reach a deal with the main opposition alliance, allowing him to avoid the snap elections without compromising with the Sweden Democrats.

The public appears to have a mixed reaction to the wave of xenophobia exposed by the arson attacks on the mosques. More than a thousand demonstrators took to the streets in Sweden on Friday to protest the spate of attacks on mosques, carrying a banner that said "Don't touch my mosque." On the other hand, some online forums saw some Swedes praising the arson attacks. The Local (Sweden) and AFP and Deutsche Welle

Obama administration imposes additional sanctions on North Korea

President Obama on Friday for the first time formally accused North Korea of being responsible for the cyber attack on Sony Pictures. Also, for the first time, Obama signed an executive order applying new sanctions specifically in retaliation for the cyber attack. Obama had previous promised a "proportionate response" to the attack. The executive order "is a response to the Government of North Korea’s ongoing provocative, destabilizing, and repressive actions and policies, particularly its destructive and coercive cyber attack on Sony Pictures Entertainment," according to the White House.

There are already in place numerous sanctions against North Korea related to its development of nuclear weapons, and so the new sanctions are not expected to make much of a difference beyond their symbolic significance. White House and USA Today

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 3-Jan-15 World View -- Sweden shocked by arson attacks on three mosques in eight days thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (3-Jan-2015) Permanent Link
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2-Jan-15 World View -- European migrant crisis escalates with crewless cargo ships

Palestine to join the International Criminal Court

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

European migrant crisis escalates with crewless cargo ships


The abandoned cargo ship Blue Sky M on Wednesday, found in the open seas packed with 970 migrants and no crew (Reuters)
The abandoned cargo ship Blue Sky M on Wednesday, found in the open seas packed with 970 migrants and no crew (Reuters)

In drama on the high seas, the Italian coast guard has rescued two large merchant ships in the Mediterranean, packed with migrants from Syria, Eritrea, and Africa. The first ship contained 975 migrants, and the second ship has 450 migrants.

This is a new development. In the past we've seen migrants come to Europe in creaky little boats or even inflatable dinghies, sent out into the open sea with a few dozen migrants in the hope that Italy's navy or a passing merchant ship will respond to distress calls.

In the case of the two cargo ships, the people smugglers packed hundreds of people into each one, after typically collecting thousands of dollars from each migrant, and sent the ship out into the open sea with no crew, running on autopilot. The Italian navy was able to board the first ship and take control of it. At this writing, there is a major naval operation in progress to do the same with the second ship.

2014 was a record year for both migrant crossings and migrant deaths. At least 3,072 people died while trying to cross the Mediterranean to reach Europe, though an unknown number may have drowned without being rescued. And nearly 200,000 migrants attempted the crossing. In 2013, there were about 700 deaths, out of an attempted 60,000 crossings. BBC and Toronto Star

Syria war deaths increase in 2014, as Muslim vs Muslim war escalates

At least 76,021 people died in the Syria conflict in 2014, up from 73,447 in 2013, 49294 in 2012, and 7,841 in 2011.

Of the 2014 total, 17,790 were civilians, including 3,501 children.

The Syrian war is currently the biggest component of the escalating Muslim versus Muslim war throughout the Mideast. AFP

Palestine to join the International Criminal Court

Palestine Authority (PA) president Mahmoud Abbas, acting on behalf of the State of Palestine, has signed the Rome Statute, on the path to joining the International Criminal Court (ICC). The intent is to bring war crime charges against Israel, but there are a number of legal hurdles. The ICC Prosecutor must first recognize Palestine as a full member and accept its signature to the Rome Statute. Palestine can then submit complaints to the ICC, but it's up to the Prosecutor to determine whether to order a preliminary investigation, and then a full criminal investigation. In that case, Israel will also be able to bring charges against Hamas for war crimes committed during the Gaza war. Guardian (London) and Jerusalem Post

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 2-Jan-15 World View -- European migrant crisis escalates with crewless cargo ships thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (2-Jan-2015) Permanent Link
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1-Jan-15 World View -- The three most important dangers for 2015

Iran-Saudi Arabia tensions increase further as oil prices fall

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Happy New Year to everyone!


Fort Bragg fireworks
Fort Bragg fireworks

Iran-Saudi Arabia tensions increase further as oil prices fall

Prices of West Texas Intermediate oil fell another 82 cents on Wednesday, to $53.27 per barrel. It was just few months ago that the price was over $100 per barrel, and oil exporting countries, including Iran, Russia and Venezuela, are facing financial crises as a result.

Saudi Arabia is refusing to cut production in the face of falling oil prices, and many Iranians are accusing the Saudis of purposely letting prices fall in order to conduct economic warfare on Iran. According to an article in the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) weekly newsletter:

"The most recent Aal-Saud oil war against Iran, Russia, and Venezuela, waged at the command of the American bosses, is the newest and most overt Aal-Saud hostility... First of all, the new Saudi oil war proves once again that as long as [Iran's] budget is based [almost entirely] on oil, the enemy can exploit this weapon in order to pressure Iran. For this reason, there needs to be an initiative, once and for all, so that [Iran's] revenues will not be oil-based; therefore, senior Iranian political and economic leaders must seriously address the 'resistance economy' [plan] emphasized in recent years by [Supreme] Leader [Ali Khamenei], so that we can neutralize weapons of this kind.

Now that Saudi Arabia is using all its capabilities to harm Iran, the Islamic Republic [of Iran] can also use all the means at its disposal to pressure this obsolete, deteriorating regime. Iran has many options for harming Saudi Arabia. Because this tyrannical, medieval family is now at its nadir, all Iran needs to do is to use a single one of these means so that nothing remains of the entity named the Aal-Saud regime or of Saudi Arabia itself.

Increased public protests, particularly in the oil-rich eastern [and largely Shi'ite-majority] areas of Saudi Arabia, have undermined the legitimacy of Saudi [rule]. These anti-[Saudi] regime protests are not unique to this part of Saudi Arabia; they are [also] happening in other parts of it. Additionally, the Houthis [in Yemen], who are considered Aal-Saud's sworn enemies, are at Saudi Arabia's back door [Yemen]; all they have to do is lift one finger for the disintegrating Aal-Saud corpus to collapse.

Saudi Arabia no longer has the respect it once had from its Arab neighbors – and has serious problems with some of them. On the other hand, its support for the terrorist organization ISIS, and its operation of it, has spawned great hatred of Saudi Arabia in public opinion, in both the region and the world. Elements of ISIS that have been fattened by the Saudi regime have become sworn enemies of Saudi Arabia. Apparently, Saudi Arabia's free oil money cannot stop the increase in the weakness of the Aal-Saud regime."

Other analysts list serious problems facing the Saudi regime:

On top of that, Saudi Arabia is facing a looming succession crisis as the 91-year-old King Abdullah has been taken into a Riyadh hospital. The country's next ruler will almost certainly be a generation or two younger, and all the above problems could suddenly become more serious. Memri and Al Monitor and Business Insider and Platts Financial

The three most important dangers for 2015

No one can seriously doubt that the world has become a much more dangerous place in 2014, and so now is a good time to review the most three most important dangers to watch out for in 2015:

Any one of these three could explode in 2015, and they're interrelated in the sense that one of these major crises could be the trigger for the others.

There is one crisis that isn't as dangerous as I'd expected. I thought that Ebola would have spread far more than it has already, but it hasn't. The mistake that I made was that I didn't believe it was possible for Ebola to spread so wildly throughout Western Africa, and stop at the borders of Mali and Côte d'Ivoire. But in fact that has happened, and I'm still astonished that the international community was successful in doing that.

The Ebola crisis is far from over, and it's still possible that there may be major outbreaks in other places, especially war zones and crowded cities. But for now, it looks like the worst is not going to occur.

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 1-Jan-15 World View -- The three most important dangers for 2015 thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (1-Jan-2015) Permanent Link
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31-Dec-14 World View -- Hamas struggles to find a direction after the Gaza war

UN Security Council rejects Palestinian Authority resolution, without US veto

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Hamas struggles to find a direction after the Gaza war


Gaza still in ruins after summer war, with reconstruction promises forgotten (Getty)
Gaza still in ruins after summer war, with reconstruction promises forgotten (Getty)

Hamas's popularity within Gaza surged to its highest levels during the summer Gaza War, especially when Hamas promised that they would never allow Gaza to return to the status quo ante prior to the war. Militarily, the war was a disastrous defeat for Hamas, since Israel's Iron Dome anti-missile system blocked almost every Hamas missile entering Israel, while Hamas could put up almost no resistance to the Israeli warplanes bombing Gaza. Hamas had to agree to a ceasefire that was, effectively, a return to the status quo ante. Now Palestinians look around and see a Gaza in ruins. Promises of reconstruction have been almost forgotten. Promises to negotiate opening the borders have been forgotten. Not surprisingly, Hamas's popularity has been falling, and there is popular discontent with the Hamas leadership.

Apparently this discontent has spread to the leadership of Qatar. During the last two years, Qatar has increasingly split with Egypt, and strongly supported the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas, even providing substantial aid to Hamas. But now, threats from the Islamic State / of Iraq and Syria (IS or ISIS or ISIL) and from Iran are bringing about a reconciliation between Qatar and Egypt, and even the financial aid is threatened.

This is requiring Hamas's leader to face some difficult choices:

The above two policy proposals are, of course, in conflict with each other. But the fact that two such radical concepts are even being discussed illustrates how directionless Hamas has become, and difficult its choices are now. Al Monitor and Independent (London) and Debka

UN Security Council rejects Palestinian Authority resolution, without US veto

In what was apparently the outcome of a strategic blunder by the Palestinian Authority (PA), the U.N. Security Council on Tuesday voted against a resolution that would require Israel to withdraw from the Palestinian territories to pre-1967 borders by 2017.

The motion was rejected because only 8 of the 15 members voted in favor of it, with two votes against and five abstentions, including the UK. Nine votes of support are required, and so it was not necessary for the U.S. to exercise its veto, as it had said it would do. But the PA had wanted to force a U.S. veto anyway for symbolic reasons.

The fact that the vote was scheduled at all was a diplomatic surprise. Many diplomats had expected the vote to take place after January 1, when there would be new non-permanent members, and supposedly a greater likelihood of passage. However, the PA insisted on having the vote today, after France and Luxembourg announced that they would vote for the resolution, which led the PA to believe they had the necessary nine votes. That was the miscalculation as Nigeria, which had been expected to vote in favor, abstained instead.

According to the U.S. State Department: "There are a number of countries that have indicated they cannot support this resolution. Even among countries that are longstanding supporters of the Palestinians and that have indicated they would vote in favor of the resolution, many of them have also acknowledged that it is an unconstructive and poorly timed resolution." Reuters and Al Alaribya (Riyadh)

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 31-Dec-14 World View -- Hamas struggles to find a direction after the Gaza war thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (31-Dec-2014) Permanent Link
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30-Dec-14 World View -- Cameroon's air force bombs Boko Haram positions, forcing retreat

Greece's stocks plunge as government collapses

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Pakistan may free the alleged Mumbai 2008 terror mastermind


Mumbai's Taj Mahal Palace during the 2008 terror attack
Mumbai's Taj Mahal Palace during the 2008 terror attack

Two weeks after Pakistan suffered a horrific Taliban attack on a Peshawar army school, killing over 130 schoolchildren, Pakistan's court is about to set free the alleged mastermind of the horrific 3-day terror attack on Mumbai in 2008, when many hundreds were killed and injured, the iconic Taj Mahal Palace hotel was burned and gutted, and the crowd in the CST Railway Station was sprayed with bullets.

After some investigation, there was little doubt that the perpetrators were Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT), a terror group that had originally been constituted in the 1990s by Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence agency (ISI) to fight Indian forces in disputed Kashmir regions. India said it had evidence that government agencies of Pakistan were involved in plotting the attack, and threatened to send security forces into Pakistan to arrest LeT members. War was averted between the two countries only after hard intervention by then US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

A conflict was averted when Pakistan promised to prosecute the perpetrators, but although LeT members were arrested, there have never been any prosecutions or trials. Now, a Pakistani court has granted $10,000 bail to Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi, the alleged mastermind of the Mumbai attack, and he may be walking free soon, although he may continue to be held on other charges. There is outrage in India at this development, but there seems to be little concern in Pakistan that a major attack by Pakistan's LeT on Indian targets will pass with impunity.

Following the Peshawar attack, Pakistan's prime minister Nawaz Sharif, said: "We announce that there will be no differentiation between 'good' and 'bad' Taliban, and resolve to continue the war against terrorism till the last terrorist is eliminated." Only a few days later, that promise is now very much in doubt. Express Tribune (Pakistan) and India Times and AFP

Cameroon's air force bombs Boko Haram positions, forcing retreat

For the first time, Cameroon's air force conducted air strikes in support of the army against Boko Haram positions in northern Cameroon, forcing the terrorists to retreat. Though Cameroon has deployed thousands of troops to the Far North, the region is difficult to police because of the rugged terrain. Vast expanses of territory are uninhabited and there are few physical barriers demarcating Cameroon's border with Nigeria. Many on either side speak the same Hausa language and it is often difficult to distinguish locals from foreigners.

The bombings follow an escalation of the fighting in Cameroon. In the past, Nigerian Boko Haram fighters have focused on hit and run raids on individual settlements. But now Boko Haram is seeking to expand the territory its holding in Nigeria by taking territory in Cameroon.

According to Cameroon, about 1000 Boko Haram fighters over the weekend seized parts of several villages, and briefly occupied a military camp.

In addition, the militants kidnapped several girls between the ages 12 and 15 for forced marriages to the group's fighters. In the past year, Boko Haram has stepped up kidnappings of young women in Nigeria to sell them into sexual slavery or force them to marry its fighters. Leadership (Nigeria) and Al-Jazeera and VOA

Cameroon bombings raise questions about Nigeria's army

A story that received worldwide attention in October was that it took just 30 Boko Haram militants to capture the commercial city of Mubi, in northeast Nigeria, without firing a shot.

An investigation has revealed that the city was defended by over 1,000 well-armed Nigerian troops, but that they dropped their arms and ran instead of fighting. The debacle is being blamed on sabotage by sympathetic northern troops and some of their commanders who refused to fight the insurgents.

Just as some people in Pakistan's government are sympathetic to the Taliban and support them, it appears that there are people in Nigeria's government and army that are sympathetic to Boko Haram and support them.

The actions by Cameroon to conduct bombing raids against Boko Haram positions in Cameroon have highlighted the problem. Nigeria has a much larger and more powerful air force, but they've refused to take similar actions against Boko Haram positions in Nigeria. This Day Live (Nigeria)

Greece's stocks plunge as government collapses

After Greece's prime minister Antonis Samaras received on Monday what is in effect a vote of no confidence from the nation's parliament, Samaras will call on Tuesday for snap elections on January 25.

Polls indicate that the likely winner will be the radical far left Syriza party, led by Alexis Tspiras. Tspiras is demanding that Greece renege on the commitments it made in order to qualify for a 240 billion euro bailout that has already been paid. This would push Greece's government into bankruptcy, and push bond yields up well into double or even triple digits, making it almost impossible for Greece to borrow money. Tspiras has indicated that it would be fine with him if Greece completely abandons the euro currency, and goes back to its old drachma currency.

Greece's stock market fell 11.3%, before partially recovering and closing down 3.9%. Kathimerini and Reuters

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 30-Dec-14 World View -- Cameroon's air force bombs Boko Haram positions, forcing retreat thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (30-Dec-2014) Permanent Link
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29-Dec-14 World View -- Do news organizations ignore jihadist attacks on Christians?

ISIS kills almost 2000 in Syria in six months

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Do news organizations ignore jihadist attacks on Christians?


Christians forced out of the town of Mosul by ISIS take shelter in a church. (Aleteia)
Christians forced out of the town of Mosul by ISIS take shelter in a church. (Aleteia)

There's a frequently heard complaint that while the mainstream media frequently report on jihadist attacks, they seem to ignore the attacks on Christians. This criticism was directed at me after this article: "26-Dec-14 World View -- 'Barbaric' ethnic massacre in Assam province shocks Indians". One person wrote (paraphrasing): "John, my point is that you left Christians off your list entirely, while at the same time they are being brutally massacred all around the world. You didn't get it then, perhaps due to your biases. You're not getting it now." Another person wrote, "Admit it. You don't like Christians and you downplay violence against them."

Let me assure you, Dear Reader, that I wouldn't hesitate for a nanosecond to report on a massacre of Christians by jihadists or anyone else. So if that's true, you may ask, then why don't I write about massacres of Christians more often?

Let's look at some numbers. How many Christians have actually been massacred by jihadists? I went to the anti-Muslim "Religion of Peace" web site where they have tables of jihadist attacks, including a table of Christians killed by jihadists. Here are the numbers:

A new report sponsored by the BBC finds that more than 5,000 people worldwide died in November alone -- just one month -- as a result of jihadist violence. This would indicate that about 60,000 people have died from jihadist attacks per year.

If you put all these figures together, you can see that the number of Christians killed by jihadists is minuscule -- less than 2% --- compared to the total number of people killed by jihadists. Quite honestly, I would guess that in any given country in recent years, more Christians have been killed by traffic accidents than by terrorists. Overwhelmingly, the people being killed by jihadists are other Muslims.

So that explains the lack of media coverage of Christians killed by jihadists. If fewer than 2% of the victims are Christian, then you would expect Christians to get not much more than 2% of the coverage.

Once again, Dear Reader, when there is a massacre of Christians (let's hope that it won't happen), then I would not hesitate to report it. But what's really going on is that jihadists are overwhelmingly attacking other Muslims. There's a war going on, and it's not between Christians and Muslims. It's between Muslims and Muslims, and it's going to have a huge effect on all our futures. The Religion Of Peace and BBC

ISIS kills almost 2000 in Syria in six months

According to figures published by the Syrian Observatory For Human Rights, there have been at least 1878 documented executions by the Islamic State / of Iraq and Syria (IS or ISIS or ISIL) since it became a self-declared "Caliphate" on June 28, 2014.

That figure includes 120 of its own ISIS members, who were executed for trying to return back home.

The dead included 930 members of the Shaitat tribe, an important Sunni Muslim tribe that's been opposing ISIS. This is an example of Sunni Muslims massacring Sunni Muslims.

Hundreds of thousands of civilians have been killed in Syria since 2011, when Syria's genocidal monster Bashar al-Assad began launching heavy weapons and chemical-laden barrel bombs on innocent women and children. Now they've been joined by ISIS in massacring thousands more Sunni civilians.

And by the way, I should also mention Pakistan. Last week's horrific Taliban attack on a Peshawar army school, killing over 130 schoolchildren, shows that Pakistan is at war with itself, with Sunni Muslim terrorists killing Sunni and Shia Muslim civilians almost every day.

Once again, Dear Reader, we are not seeing a war of Muslims against Christians, although some Christians are targeted. What we're seeing is something of historic proportions: A massive and growing war of Muslims against Muslims -- Sunni Muslims against Sunni Muslims, Sunni Muslims against Shia Muslims, and Shia Muslims against Sunni Muslims. The intensity of this war has been growing for several years, and at some point will engulf at least the Mideast and South Asia. Syrian Observatory For Human Rights and AFP and Washington Post

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 29-Dec-14 World View -- Do news organizations ignore jihadist attacks on Christians? thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (29-Dec-2014) Permanent Link
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28-Dec-14 World View -- Darfur on verge of return to full-scale civil war

America and North Korea accuse each other of internet hacking

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Darfur on verge of return to full-scale civil war


There are 2 million people in Darfur refugee camps
There are 2 million people in Darfur refugee camps

I've been following the genocide in Darfur, the western region of Sudan, since it became worldwide news in 2004, and it's been an interesting case study for Generational Dynamics. The genocide has sometimes been called "Everybody's favorite African war," since George Clooney and other movie stars, and politicians like Susan Rice, Nancy Pelosi and Joe Biden have all made "Stop the genocide" and "Save Darfur" and "Enough is enough" part of a very stylish and progressive do-good campaign.

What I wrote over and over since 2004 is that Darfur was experiencing a generational crisis war, and that the war was a force of nature that could not be stopped until it reached a climax.

Low level violence began in the 1970s between two ethnic groups, one of farmers (the "Africans") and the other of camel herders (the "Arabs"). At that time, disputes over land and water were resolved by the village elders, but by the 2000s, the elders had all disappeared, and the younger generations were more interested in confrontation than mediation. During the 1990s, Sudan's government in Khartoum delegated the responsibility of policing the region to the Arab Janjaweed militia, formed from certain groups of herders. This was an ideal solution to Khartoum, since it meant that the "African" and "Arab" Darfuris would have to solve problems themselves, and Khartoum would stay out of it. During the early 2000s, a series of incidents escalated the violence, until the conflict became a generational crisis war in 2003. (A more detailed history can be found in my 2007 article, "Ban Ki Moon blames Darfur genocide on global warming") At that point, the Janjaweed militias (herders) became extremely violent, with a program of massacres, mass murders, rapes, genocide and scorched earth.

Starting in 2006, the United Nations mounted an expensive, high profile peacekeeping operating, with 20,000 blue-helmeted soldiers on the ground at its peak. The peacekeepers rounded up all the hundreds of thousands of displaced people, and herded them into enormous refugee camps, where they were still exposed to attacks by the Janjaweeds. Since then, the budget for the UN peacekeeping force has been dwindling, as have the number of peacekeeping soldiers, though it still costs $1.4 billion per year.

Now Sudan's government in Khartoum, backed by China, is demanding that the UN shrink the peacekeeping force even more, or even eliminate it completely. This is despite the fact that the massacres and rapes by the Janjaweeds are continuing, with hundreds of thousands of people displaced in 2014 alone, and with more than 2 million people in refugee camps. With the peacekeeping forces out of the way, as Sudan and China demand, then the Janjaweeds will be free to complete their mission of mass slaughter of millions of refugees.

In 2004, I wrote that the Darfur war is a generational crisis war that is a force of nature and can't be stopped any more than a tsunami can be stopped. George Clooney has gone home, and Susan Rice has gone on to other causes. After ten years, the tsunami is finally reaching shore. AP and International Business Times and NY Times

Italian navy picks up record number of Mediterranean migrants over Christmas

The number of migrants fleeing from Syria, Eritrea and northern Africa continues to surge. Supposedly, the European Union was supposed to be responsible for patrolling the Mediterranean shores for migrants, but in practice that responsibility has continued to fall to Italy's navy. Over the Christmas period, the navy picked up a total of 2,300 people. About 165,000 people have made the crossing in 2014, compared to 60,000 in 2013.

Most migrants leave from Libya, where they are charged several thousand dollars by migrant smugglers to make the trip. The migrants are crammed into poorly maintained vessels, sometimes no more than inflatable dinghies. However, traffickers are increasingly switching to a new tactic: They simply have to get the vessel out into the open water in the Mediterranean Sea, and hope that the migrants will be picked up by Italy's navy or by passing merchant ships which are obliged, under the law of the sea, to respond to distress calls. AFP and VOA

America and North Korea accuse each other of internet hacking


Billboard advertising 'The Interview' (BBC)
Billboard advertising 'The Interview' (BBC)

North Korea's National Defense Commission on Friday accused the US of shutting down North Korea's internet access, describing President Barack Obama as "reckless" and "a monkey." Another North Korean internet shutdown was observed hours later. Obama has already several days ago accused North Korea of being responsible for the hacking of Sony Pictures. ( "6-Dec-14 World View -- Sony suffers catastrophic breach, possibly from North Korean hackers")

The situation now is that both America and North Korea have hardened positions, each blaming the other for a fairly substantial cyber attack. It remains to be see whether these mutual accusations will settle down or escalate. BBC

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 28-Dec-14 World View -- Darfur on verge of return to full-scale civil war thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (28-Dec-2014) Permanent Link
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27-Dec-14 World View -- China's missile tests may signal end of nuclear no-first-use policy

China debates banning Christmas celebrations

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

China debates banning Christmas celebrations


Owners of Harley-Davidson motorcycles wearing Santa Claus costumes ride along a street to give presents to elders at a nursing home during a promotional event celebrating Christmas in Guangzhou, Guangdong province on Dec. 24, 2014 (Reuters)
Owners of Harley-Davidson motorcycles wearing Santa Claus costumes ride along a street to give presents to elders at a nursing home during a promotional event celebrating Christmas in Guangzhou, Guangdong province on Dec. 24, 2014 (Reuters)

Citizens, schools and even whole towns in China are attempting to curb Christmas celebrations amid a backlash against what is seen as the increasing influence of Western culture.

At one university where Christmas celebrations were banned, students on Christmas eve instead had to attend screenings of what were described as propaganda films about Confucius. Banners were draped outside the university with slogans that read: "Strive to be outstanding sons and daughters of China, oppose kitsch Western holidays," and "Resist the expansion of Western culture."

Schools in Wenzhou, East China's Zhejiang Province, have been forbidden from holding any Christmas-related events this year. The ban on Christmas events covered all high schools, middle schools, primary schools and kindergartens. Wenzhou has been for years a hub of Christian missionary activities. The city is home for roughly a million Christians, according to previous reports.

The ban on Christmas events came on the heels of a series of conflicts between Zhejiang Christians and authorities this year, as the local government tried to demolish churches and crosses that violated construction standards. A church in Yongjia county, Wenzhou was nearly torn down earlier this year. The authority said the building was not built lawfully and was in violation of construction regulations. The church was eventually saved after a series of negotiations in April.

However, an editorial by Xinhua, China's state-run news mouthpiece, says that there's no need to abolish Christmas:

"The debates over Christmas, however, reveal certain anxieties behind China's cultural ambitions. Some critics associate Christmas with a public obsession for anything Western, while others lament the "shipwreck" of Chinese culture.

For Chinese Christmas fans, the logic is simple: Like Valentine's Day, Christmas is just a merry time to shop, party and exchange gifts. Non-Christian Chinese associate Christmas more with the "Old Man of Christmas", Santa Claus, than any Christian theology.

One reason for the growing popularity of Western festivals here, particularly among the young, is that they offer an excuse to be with friends and lovers, while traditional festivals are more family-centered, celebrated with family get-togethers and feasts.

There is no need to pit Western festivals against Chinese: Chinese Christmas revelers will still number among the hundreds of millions who travel home for the Lunar New Year family reunion."

One reason that the Chinese Communist Party does not want to end Christmas celebrations is because Christmas is big business for China, especially through the Alibaba e-commerce web site. For example, China manufactures 60 percent of the world's Christmas decorations. Global Times (Beijing) and International Business Times and Xinhua (Beijing)

China's missile tests may signal end of nuclear no-first-use policy

For decades, China's military has claimed a defensive "no first strike" policy for nuclear weapons, meaning that they would not use nuclear weapons until after surviving a nuclear strike by an enemy, particularly the United States. However, developments associated with the recent tests of the nuclear-capable WU-14 hypersonic missile suggest that China is now focusing on offensive preemptive nuclear strikes, rather than purely defensive responses.

The WU-14 is a major advance in China's military capability. A conventional intercontinental ballistic missile is shot in an arc higher than the atmosphere, and allowed to fall to the target. American missile defenses are thought to be capable of detecting and intercepting attacks of this kind.

The hypersonic missiles under test work differently. They're still carried up by ballistic missiles, but they're released while still in the atmosphere, and they're allowed to glide almost horizontally to their targets at almost 8,000 miles per hour. Because they travel so fast, they're thought to be able to defeat America's current missile defenses. The systems provide enhanced precision, speed, range, maneuverability and multiple-targeting.

In actual practice, the Chinese would launch simultaneous missile attacks, combining traditional ballistic missile attacks with very high speed hypersonic missiles coming in at low altitudes. "It makes the defense problem orders of magnitude worse for the defender," according to one analyst.

The hypersonic missile is capable of delivering either conventional or nuclear weapons. It's thought that China has between 500-1000 nuclear weapons, stored in a vast network of tunnels. The tunnel network is often called China's "underground great wall." There are some 3,000 miles of tunnels, hundreds of meters underground, deep in mountain areas, difficult to detect from space spy satellites. Details of the tunnels have not been publicized for obvious security reasons, but it is known that they are scattered across China and are not all connected to one another. They are designed to withstand nuclear and conventional attacks. Rail lines and trucks move missiles, related equipment, and personnel within the network. All the activities necessary for launch preparation can be done in the tunnels.

Although China has not announced any change to its no-first-use nuclear policy, there are some signs. China's official defense documents now make no mention of no-first use. China's president Xi Jinping made no mention of no-first-use during a visit to China's Second Artillery Corps to congratulate them on the development of the WU-14. The Second Artillery Corps has developed the WU-14 with both conventional and nuclear capabilities, and the same people worked on both sides. In open discussions of the systems, nuclear no-first-use is rarely if ever mentioned. Instead, the discussions have been on the pre-emptive nature of these systems.

This is not proof that China has abandoned its no-first-use policy. But China has been rapidly building its military for years with a variety of weapons and missile systems that have no other purpose than to preemptively strike American aircraft carriers, American military bases, and American cities, and Generational Dynamics predicts that China is preparing for pre-emptive war with the United States. It stands to reason that the developers of these massive military capabilities would not hesitate to use a nuclear weapon in a pre-emptive strike if they believed that it gave them a significant military advantage. Washington Free Beacon and Lowy Institute (Australia) and Bulletin of Atomic Scientists (Jan, 2012)

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 27-Dec-14 World View -- China's missile tests may signal end of nuclear no-first-use policy thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (27-Dec-2014) Permanent Link
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26-Dec-14 World View -- 'Barbaric' ethnic massacre in Assam province shocks Indians

Jordan may exchange prisoners with ISIS

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

'Barbaric' ethnic massacre in Assam province shocks Indians


Children in Assam relief center on Thursday (AP)
Children in Assam relief center on Thursday (AP)

Indians have expressed shock over the brutality of the barbaric massacre that took place on Tuesday in Assam province, in India's far northeast. A group of 80 members of the ethnic Bodo tribe massacred 76 men, women and children and caused hundreds in Adivasis villages to flee as their homes were being burned and destroyed. Both groups are a mix of Hindus and Christians, with some Muslims.


India's Assam province has over 20 ethnic groups, many minorities, few majorities and over 50 languages
India's Assam province has over 20 ethnic groups, many minorities, few majorities and over 50 languages

The attackers were from a separatist group, the National Democratic Front of Boroland (NDFB), formed in 1994 to demand their own autonomous homeland, Boroland. In particular, the attackers were from a branch of the NDFB known as NDFB-S, after its leader I K Sonbijit. (Note: Boroland is sometimes called Bodoland, apparently because the actual consonant in the original language is somewhere between an 'r' and a 'd'.) The Sonbijit faction was formed in 2012 to fight Bangladeshi Muslims. Hundreds were killed, and thousands are still living in relief camps.

There have already been a few revenge attacks by Adivasis on Bodos, and the fear is that the situation may spiral into a full-scale ethnic war. The Bodo terrorists have apparently fled to Bhutan and Burma (Myanmar), and India is requesting cooperation from those governments to arrest the perpetrators.

We've seen this kind of ethnic massacre recently in Burma, where Buddhists have been massacring Muslims, in Syria, where Muslims have been massacring each other, and in Central African Republic, where Christians and Muslims have been massacring each other.

From the point of view of Generational Dynamics, sex and genocidal massacres are both part of the human DNA, and the human race would not have survived without both of them. Times of India and AP and DNA India

Jordan may exchange prisoners with ISIS

American military officials are saying that the Jordanian F-16 warplane that crashed over territory in Syria held by the Islamic State / of Iraq and Syria (IS or ISIS or ISIL) was not shot down. However, the actual cause of the crash, if known, has not been announced. ISIS is known to possess shoulder-launched land to air missiles, and they have had some success shooting down Iraqi helicopters with them. But an F-16 flies too high for these shoulder-launched missiles. It's not known whether ISIS has captured some advanced missiles that Russia supplied to the regime of Syria's president Bashar al-Assad, or whether the F-16 crash was caused by mechanical failure. At any rate, this was the first capture of a pilot participating in the air strikes against ISIS by the American-led coalition.

There are some unconfirmed reports that Jordan is negotiating for a prisoner swap to get the Jordanian pilot returned. The old al-Qaeda in Iraq, which was the predecessor to ISIS, was founded in 2004 by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, a Jordanian terrorist. Al-Zarqawi was killed in 2006 by an American drone strike, but some of his terrorist underlings were captured and put into Jordanian jails. Several of these underlings may be exchanged for the captured Jordanian pilot. CNN and Jerusalem Post

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 26-Dec-14 World View -- 'Barbaric' ethnic massacre in Assam province shocks Indians thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (26-Dec-2014) Permanent Link
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25-Dec-14 World View -- Christmas pageantry brings a little cheer to Bethlehem

Christmas is subdued in much of the world

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Merry Christmas to all my readers!

Christmas pageantry brings a little cheer to Bethlehem


Christian pilgrims pray inside the Grotto of the Church of the Nativity, thought to be the birthplace of Jesus Christ, in Bethlehem on Wednesday. (AP)
Christian pilgrims pray inside the Grotto of the Church of the Nativity, thought to be the birthplace of Jesus Christ, in Bethlehem on Wednesday. (AP)

Thousands of Christian pilgrims from around the world crowded into the little town of Bethlehem in the West Bank of the Palestinian territories. Manger Square was decked out in white and yellow lights and a carnival atmosphere, at a time when there are a multitude of things to be sad about: the persecution of Christians, the July-August Gaza war between Israel and Hamas, and the war in Syria, which pits one genocidal Barbarian regime, led by president Bashar al-Assad, against another genocidal Barbarian regime, the Islamic State / of Iraq and Syria (IS or ISIS or ISIL), led by Abu Omar al-Baghdadi.

At midnight mass, the Latin Patriarch Fouad Twal said that, "this Holy Land has become a land of conflict." Bethlehem and Jerusalem lie at the intersection of the world's four major monotheistic religions -- Judaism, Western Christianity, Eastern Orthodox Christianity, and Islam. Twal called for Jews, Muslims and Christians in the Holy Land to "live together as equals with mutual respect." AFP and AP

In China, Christmas is for partying and e-commerce

There's almost no sign of Jesus in China, but there are plenty of pictures of Father Christmas, especially in large cities. While Chinese festivities are solemn, serious and spiritual, Christmas is an excuse to party. Young people especially go out to movie theatres, bars or clubs. According to one citizen, "Christmas is just an excuse to go shopping, as there are many big sales at a lot of places. The theme is to have fun."

But it's also big business. The Christmas season allows China's e-commerce giant Alibaba to play "Santa Claus for the whole world." On Black Friday alone, the company set a one-day sales record of $2.65 million, a growth of 65.6% from last Black Friday. The Atlantic and Xinhua

Christmas in Pakistan is subdued because of the Peshawar massacre

Christmas is embraced even by Muslims in certain parts of Pakistan's society, especially among the wealthy and education. Large festive Christmas markets spring up in the large cities, including Karachi and Islamabad. Even Muslim children write letters to Santa telling them what presents to bring.

However, Christmas this year has been toned down across the country because of last week's horrific attack on a Peshawar army school, in northwest Pakistan, killing over 130 schoolchildren. Instead, Christmas this year is a time to wonder why Pakistanis have let this happen to themselves. "It is us who have failed, not our children," says one mother. "We have to teach our children to say ‘no’ to wrong. Do not hate anybody, love your country. We are all Pakistanis." Dawn (Pakistan) and NBC News

In Iraq, it's Christmas in refugee camps in Kurdistan

After a year of the self-declared Caliphate of the Islamic State / of Iraq and Syria (IS or ISIS or ISIL), and the systematic purging of Christians in Iraq and Syria, most Iraqi Christmas celebrations are being held in Baghdad or in refugee camps in Kurdistan in the north of Iraq.

ISIS has conducted operations of ethnic and religious cleansing of hundreds of thousands of Christians. "Talk of Christmas and Christian occasions is forbidden under ISIS," according to a researcher. "The group has destroyed, torched and looted all churches, and barred any display of Christian faith. They also forced the hijab and Islamic way of dress on Christian women, and killed several Christian men for refusing to obey their orders." Al Arabiya (Saudi Arabia) and Huffington Post

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 25-Dec-14 World View -- Christmas pageantry brings a little cheer to Bethlehem thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (25-Dec-2014) Permanent Link
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24-Dec-14 World View -- Ukraine abandons unaligned status, with intention to join Nato

France is on high alert after a string of 'isolated' attacks

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Ukraine abandons unaligned status, with intention to join Nato


A protester in front of the Ukrainian parliament in Kiev on Tuesday (AFP)
A protester in front of the Ukrainian parliament in Kiev on Tuesday (AFP)

Ukraine's parliament on Tuesday voted overwhelmingly to drop the country's non-aligned status as the first step towards Nato membership. According to Ukrainian lawmaker Yuri Bereza:

"If Ukraine had moved to join NATO right after the breakup of the Soviet Union, Russia would have never dared to deploy its troops in Crimea, annex the peninsula and then incite, supply troops and hardware for an armed mutiny in Donbass.

Now it is up to us to conduct necessary military and political reforms to join the [North Atlantic] alliance. That will be our iron-clad guarantee against a new Russian aggression."

This point of view is consistent with many Nato officials. According to an essay last June by present and former Nato officials:

"Security on the continent has changed dramatically since NATO agreed in 2008 to admit Albania and Croatia, which joined the following year, the last round of enlargement. Russia subsequently used force against Georgia and then Ukraine, changing borders. Well before the annexation of Crimea and destabilization of eastern Ukraine, Putin had come to regard NATO as an adversary. He has also declared Russia’s intention to use force against perceived oppression of Russian speakers, wherever they are. ...

Enlargement contributes to security because it leads to more predictable relations with Russia. Membership has a calming effect on Moscow’s ties with nations as NATO entry greatly increases the costs to Moscow of interfering. Imagine if Estonia or Latvia – two neighbors of Russia with large Russian minorities – were not members of NATO. They could be under as much pressure now as Ukraine. But Moscow has reasons to tread carefully because it knows that an intervention in the Baltics would trigger a collective NATO response."

A Ukraine membership in Nato would create substantial obligations on all sides. Nato would be obligated to come to Ukraine's aid in case of a further Russian invasion, and Ukraine would be obligated to the aid of other Nato members facing military threats. BBC and LA Times and CNN (June 2014)

France is on high alert after a string of 'isolated' attacks

France's government announced on Tuesday that it would deploy up to 300 extra troops to patrol public areas over the Christmas period. The alarm has been triggered by three bizarre "lone wolf" attacks in three days, combined with charges issued by the Islamic State / of Iraq and Syria (IS or ISIS or ISIL) to jihadists in France to conduct more lone wolf attacks.

On Saturday, a Burundian national who had converted to Islam walked into a police station in Joué-les-Tours, shouted "Allahu Akbar," and stabbed police officers with a knife. On Sunday, a man with a history of mental illness also cried "Allahu Akbar" and used his car to run down pedestrians in several locations in Dijon. then on Monday, a man ploughed his van through a crowded Christmas market in Nantes, before repeatedly stabbing himself with a knife.

The three incidents are unrelated, as far as is known, except that the third one may be a copycat killing. It's feared that there will be further copycat killings. (However, it's not clear to me how a few more policemen are going to stop a crazy driver from driving his car into a crowd.)

In September, ISIS urged Muslims around the world to kill "in any manner" those from countries involved in a coalition fighting against ISIS, singling out the French. Among instructions for killing civilians or military personnel was to run them over with a car or truck. France24 and AFP

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 24-Dec-14 World View -- Ukraine abandons unaligned status, with intention to join Nato thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (24-Dec-2014) Permanent Link
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23-Dec-14 World View -- Furor in India over Muslim/Christian conversions to Hindu

UN Security Council discusses North Korean human rights crimes

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

US suspected in massive North Korea internet outage


Kim Il Sung 101st anniversary in Pyongyang, North Korea
Kim Il Sung 101st anniversary in Pyongyang, North Korea

North Korea for several hours on Monday suffered massive internet outages affecting the whole country, or at least the few people that the North Korean government permit to access the internet. According to Dyn Research, which monitors North Korea:

"For the past 24 hours North Korea's connectivity to the outside world has been progressively getting degraded to the point now that they are totally offline.

There's either a benign explanation - their routers are perhaps having a software glitch; that’s possible. It also seems possible that somebody can be directing some sort of an attack against them and they're having trouble staying online."

Last week, President Barack Obama named North Korea as the perpetrator on the massive attack on Sony Pictures, and promised a "proportional response" at the place and time of our choosing. Many people suspect that this is a US counterattack, although there's no evidence of that, and it's being flatly denied by the administration.

Whether the US is actually responsible or not, if the North Koreans assume that the US is really responsible, then they may plan their own retaliation, making the situation extremely dangerous. Reuters

UN Security Council discusses North Korean human rights crimes

North Korea issued its usual litany of threats of war and world disaster on Monday, after 11 of the 15 members of the UN Security Council voted to put the issue of North Korean human rights on the Security Council's agenda. The discussion will be based on a report issued by the UN Human Rights Council earlier this year in February. The report documents North Korean crimes against humanity, including torture, abductions, forced prostitution, starvation, and imprisonment for believing in Christianity.

North Korea said that the US was using the human rights issue to overthrow the government. It also calls the dozens of defectors who fled the North and aided the commission of inquiry "human scum."

Among the Security Council nations voting in favor of the resolution were Australia, Great Britain, Jordan, Lithuania, the United States, France and South Korea. Both Russia and China voted against it, calling the resolution "counterproductive." The Security Council will be asked to vote to send North Korea to the International Criminal Court (ICC), but that resolution can be vetoed by any of the five permanent members, and Russia and China will almost certainly do so. There's honor among thieves. AP and Bloomberg and UN Human Rights Council

Furor in India over Muslim/Christian conversions to Hindu

Outrage is growing in India among minority groups, including Muslims and Christians, because of allegedly forced massed conversions to the Hindu religion. Indeed, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) organization claims to have brought 500 people from 100 Christian families "back into the Hindu fold" in large ceremonies. At a ceremony on Saturday, all participants were given a pendant with an image of Lord Ram, along with a Rudraksh [Hindu prayer beads] necklace.

According to one VHP official:

"A yagna [Ritual of Sacred Fire] was performed and participants were given pendants with an image of Lord Ram. They discarded the pendants of another faith. We did not lure any participant."

According to another VHP official:

"Several Hindus had left the religion on account of the inhumane treatment they got. They were taken to Christianity under the influence of foreign money and other temptations. Within Christianity, they have realized they were facing neglect. Hence, many are willing to return to Hinduism. Sometimes, it would become a trend."

Hindu nationalism (Hindutva) has become an extremely contentious issue in India since the election of self-described Hindu nationalist Narendra Modi as prime minister in May. ( "24-Aug-14 World View -- Narendra Modi and rise of Hindutva (Hindu nationalism) in India")

Hindutva activists supporting Modi refer to India as "Hindustan":

"Hindutva is the identity of our nation.

Hindustan is a country of Hindus.

The entire world recognizes Indians as Hindus, therefore India is a Hindu state. The cultural identity of all Indians is Hindutva and the present inhabitants of the country are descendants of this great culture."

However, Modi and his political party, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), have disavowed the forced conversions. Times of India and Indian Express and Times of India

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 23-Dec-14 World View -- Furor in India over Muslim/Christian conversions to Hindu thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (23-Dec-2014) Permanent Link
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22-Dec-14 World View -- Israel-Palestine struggle moves to the United Nations

Reader comments say that Vietnam can defend against China

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Israel-Palestine struggle moves to the United Nations


Sisyphus
Sisyphus

The mythical Sisyphus was condemned to perform hard labor by pushing a heavy rock to the top of a hill, watching it roll downhill, and push it again, continuing to eternity. The participants in the cursed Mideast "peace process" are all like Sisyphus, in that they keep doing the same things over and over, and start all over again after each failure. And as I've written many times starting in May, 2003, the "peace process" will fail with mathematical certainty, and the Sisyphean negotiations will finally end only with a major new war between Jews and Arabs, re-fighting the 1948 war that followed the partitioning of Palestine and the creation of the state of Israel.

In the latest chapter, Jordan, which is currently a member of the United Nations Security Council, has submitted on behalf of the Palestinian Authority a resolution formulated by France that specifies:

Several countries, including Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and United Arab Emirates, all support the resolution.

But Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is bitterly opposed to the resolution, saying, "we will not accept attempts to dictate to us unilateral moves on a limited timetable."

And the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) also bitterly opposes it, saying that it presents a false view of the conflict as one between equal partners with legitimate rights and interests, it provides no punishment for Israel for failing to meet its obligations and, most important, it negates the "Palestinian refugees' inalienable right to return" to the homes of their ancestors in Israel.

At first, Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas demanded a vote in the Security Council and, assuming it doesn't pass, a vote in the General Assembly were passage is all but certain, but non-binding.

However, US Secretary of State John Kerry warned that if the resolution passed prior to Israel's March 17 elections, it would strengthen the hardliners in Israel's government and affect the elections.

And so, a vote on the resolution has been postponed, this time until after March 17. And thus ends the current round of labor. For the next three months, the participants can watch the boulder roll down the hill again, after which they move on to the next Sisyphean round of their task.

Middle East North Africa Financial Network (MenaFn) and AFP and Jerusalem Post and Palestine News Network

ISIS executes 100 foreign fighters for trying to flee Syria

Syria is turning into something of a roach motel for would-be jihadists who had hoped to join the fight against Syria's genocidal president Bashar al-Assad: They can check in, but they're discovering that they can't check out.

The Islamic State / of Iraq and Syria (IS or ISIS or ISIL) has reportedly created a military police force to penalize those who do not report for duty. Hundreds of foreign fighters have been arrested and held prisoner by ISIS, while several dozens have been executed. They've become disenchanted with the grueling fight for various reasons. Some who escaped complained that they were fighting against other rebel groups in Syria rather than against the al-Assad regime. One said, "We aren’t able to speak the truth, and we are forced to do useless things." Another said, "[If] you turn against ISIS, they will kill you." International Business Times

Reader comments say that Vietnam can defend against China

Whenever I express my belief that Vietnam's military is no match for China's, I always get reader comments disagreeing, and my latest such analysis did the same. ( "20-Dec-14 World View -- Philippines and Vietnam launch military and legal buildup to confront China")

Many recalled how the Vietnamese defeated America:

"I remember they said the same thing about Vietnam, back in the sixties. The flags on the ships bringing supplies into Haiphong Harbor will be different this time."

Another pointed to Vietnam's long history with China:

"Vietnam is no match for China?

Well, tell that to the 5,000 year history of Vietnam, and Vietnam is still Vietnam standing tall today. Certainly, China didn't learn any lesson from the last deadly anti-China riot in Vietnam. Did China shamefully pick up over 10,000 Chinese losers in Vietnam back to mainland China?

Vietnam - a country like no other, has a great history of resisting and defeating the world's great powers. Well, bring it on because the Vietnamese are ready."

Indeed, the explosive Tay-Son rebellion of the late 1770s is the most celebrated military event in Vietnamese history, when the Vietnamese troops repelled a much larger Chinese army in a brilliant battle that united the north and south for the first time. (See "18-May-14 World View -- A generational history of Vietnam")

Another reader, Emily Han, laid out an entire Vietnamese military strategy:

"Of course, if the Chinese compare numbers and incite continued Han-based nationalism so to feel good of thumping these 2 regional challengers then, yes the Philippines and Vietnam would be no match. However, given the world-wide attention and background of South China Sea conflict, Chinese aggressions are limited to at the most, "a justifiable return of foreign occupied assets" and even that will be near impossible to pull off without chain reactions:

* Australia, Japan and India will not watch and in fact are awaiting for such act to populate South China Sea with their warships, lands-based military counter-measures (India) and East China Sea's naval maneuvers (Japan), starting with a Chinese ship-lanes closure.

* Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore will step out of their faked "neutral" interested parties as they can't cover under "salami slicing" and "cabbage peeling". Minimally, they will shut down Malacca Strait as part of the economic blockade.

* To avoid the triggering of US-Philippines treaty, Chinese will target Vietnamese 29 positions with missiles launchers from warships and follow up with amphibious assault vehicles and without air forces. Strategically, Vietnam's asymmetric warfare has sufficient sustainable counter-measures for several months: every position is a self-defense line against individual landing and 9 positions have a 50-kilometers radius of coordinated defense. Within 1 hour of notification, squadrons of Su-30's and Mig's will directly engage en-route Chinese ships while awaiting arrivals of 3 Kilo submarines, 4 Gepard frigates and 24 Molniya high-speed (40 mph), shallow water (500 tons), missiles carriers (16 Kh-35) to conduct hit-and-hide tactics.

* While Chinese navy must build its offense with replenishment waves, Vietnamese goal is simply 1:1 exchange of ships, delaying landing, disrupting re-supplies and retreats (3 days to nearest Hainan base vs.1/2 day or less to Vietnamese shore)

* When Vietnam destroys or damages more than 2 dozens of Chinese warships (regardless of their own losses), the invasion will be called off and the fight will end. China, however may select to save-face by launching ballistic missiles against Vietnam's mainland targets to cause civilian casualties and claim victories - like they did in the failed 1979 cross-borders. Such move will be ill-advised as it will then, invite global interventions beyond South China Sea theater."

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 22-Dec-14 World View -- Israel-Palestine struggle moves to the United Nations thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (22-Dec-2014) Permanent Link
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21-Dec-14 World View -- After 'Pakistan's 9/11', war is declared on the Taliban

For the first time, US, Afghanistan and Pakistan will cooperate against Taliban

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Pakistan declares no more 'good' and 'bad' Taliban


Shoes lie in blood in aftermath of Peshawar school massacre (Reuters)
Shoes lie in blood in aftermath of Peshawar school massacre (Reuters)

After Tuesday's horrific attack on a Peshawar army school, in northwest Pakistan, killing over 130 schoolchildren, Pakistan is essentially declaring war on the Taliban.

The Taliban are not viewed monolithically in Pakistan, as they are in the West. Pakistan's army and the public generally approve of the Afghan Taliban, which attack American and Nato-allied targets in Afghanistan, including Afghanistan's government. And they also generally approve of the Punjabi Taliban, which attack India-linked targets, usually in Kashmir. That's why the first remarks by Pakistan's prime minister Nawaz Sharif, following the massacre, referred only to "terrorist" perpetrators, not to the Taliban.

By Wednesday, Pakistanis were beginning to refer to the attack as "Pakistan's 9/11," and were calling for a full-scale attack on the Taliban. According to Sharif:

"We announce that there will be no differentiation between 'good' and 'bad' Taliban, and resolve to continue the war against terrorism till the last terrorist is eliminated.

We have decided that all parliamentary and political leaders will form a national consensus to defeat terrorism. We have decided to draft an action plan against terrorists and act upon it immediately."

He added that "the entire region (of South Asia) should be cleaned of terrorism," and indicated that the army will conduct a massive counter-terrorism operation in the tribal area along the border with Afghanistan.

Pakistan ends moratorium on hanging terrorists

He also announced an ended to the moratorium on the death sentence. The moratorium had been adopted in 2012 in the hope of a negotiated peace with the Taliban. Pakistan has one of the largest death row populations in the world, with more than 8,000 prisoners awaiting hanging.

Pakistan hanged two convicted militants Friday in the country's first executions in years, while warplanes and ground forces pounded insurgent hideouts in a northwest region bordering Afghanistan. So far, 150-200 militants have been killed in the counter-terror operation announced on Wednesday.

However, the United Nations human rights office issued a statement on Friday asking Pakistan to refrain from hangings, saying that they would not stop terrorism and might even feed a "cycle of revenge."

The Taliban have announced that the reason that they attacked army schoolchildren was in revenge for previous army attacks on Taliban hideouts, which their own wives and children. They promised more attacks on schools, and they also promised revenge for the two hangings.

According to Pakistan's foreign minister, "This has shaken the entire Pakistani society to the core, and in many ways it’s a threshold in our strategy for countering terrorism." India Times and Asian Age and The Nation (Pakistan)

For the first time, US, Afghanistan and Pakistan will cooperate against Taliban

For the first time, Pakistan has agreed to cooperate with Afghan, US and coalition forces in Afghanistan in a joint operation against the Taliban on both sides of the border.

One of the peculiarities of most of the last year or two has been that the Pakistani Taliban has been headquartered in Afghanistan, while the Afghan Taliban has been headquartered in Pakistan. This was convenient for both terror groups, because each side could conduct massacres and terror attacks and then flee across the border to the other side, thus escaping the security forces pursuing them.

Part of the new agreement still forbids "hot pursuit" of fleeing Taliban militants across the border in either direction, as that would breach Pakistan's or Afghanistan's sovereignty. However, the intention is that both the Pak and Afghan armies would cooperate in an anti-Taliban operation, so in theory the Taliban would not be able to escape by crossing the border. ("In theory, theory and practice are the same. In practice, they are not." -- Albert Einstein.)

The agreement also provides additional open Pakistani approval of American drone strikes targeting Taliban officials in the tribal area. A drone strike on Saturday ago killed five militants in North Waziristan.

However, in a sign that the era of cooperation may not last, former prime minister Pervez Musharraf rose from political death long enough to blame Afghanistan and India for ordering the attack on the Peshawar school. Daily Times (Pakistan) and The National (UAE) and Dawn (Pakistan)

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 21-Dec-14 World View -- After 'Pakistan's 9/11', war is declared on the Taliban thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (21-Dec-2014) Permanent Link
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20-Dec-14 World View -- Philippines and Vietnam launch military and legal buildup to confront China

China's Achilles' Heel -- the law of the sea

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Philippines and Vietnam launch military and legal buildup to confront China


Philippine troop and Chinese maritime police boat confrontation at Second Thomas Reef.
Philippine troop and Chinese maritime police boat confrontation at Second Thomas Reef.

With China taking aggressive military actions to annex Philippine and Vietnamese territories in the South China Sea, both of these countries are building up the military capabilities, though nothing that they plan would have more than a small token resistance when facing the massive Chinese military -- until the United States got involved.

The Philippines aims to buy two frigates, two helicopters, and three gunboats for deployment in the South China Sea. South Korea, Spain, France, Italy and Indonesia are bidding on the contracts to supply the weapons.

India is planning to sell to Vietnam several warship -- four patrol boats at first, with seven more later. The sale of these warships has strategic implications for India as well as Vietnam, since India has oil drilling blocks off the coast of Vietnam. New Delhi TV and Reuters

China's Achilles' Heel -- the law of the sea

China continues a massive military buildup in the South China Sea, even going so far as to build an artificial island to use for its air force. But on the legal front, China continues to hide behind bluster.

Outside of China, there are few international law experts who believe that China's South Sea China claims, or their notorious "nine-dash-line" doctrine, have any basis in modern international law, specifically the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). China has been nothing but evasive in response to arbitration procedures in front of the UN Arbitral Panel in the Hague, initiated by the Philippines in 2013 and later joined by Vietnam and supported by the United States. China has refused to recognize any form of arbitration, and last week missed an important deadline in submitting a statement of defense to the panel. No one seriously believes international law will affect China's vast military operation in the South China Sea, but for the time being, the law of the sea is an embarrassment to China. Straits Times (Singapore) and National Interest and VOA

China: Vietnam and Philippine militaries are no match for China

According to an analysis by China's military, the countries of the South China Sea are no match militarily for China, but among them, Vietnam is the strongest, followed by Malaysia and the Philippines.

China Military Online

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 20-Dec-14 World View -- Philippines and Vietnam launch military and legal buildup to confront China thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (20-Dec-2014) Permanent Link
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19-Dec-14 World View -- Floating weapons armories present new terrorist threats

Stock market continues parabolic climb with high volatility

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Floating weapons armories present new terrorist threats


Weapons storeroom on a floating armory
Weapons storeroom on a floating armory

The explosion of piracy off the coast of Somalia, which reached a peak between 2008-10, has resulted in a new, unexpected terror threat. The widespread privacy gave rise to a number of "Private Maritime Security Companies" (PMSCs) that a shipper can hire to provide protection for his ships from pirates.

To perform their service, PMSCs need access to large stores of weapons -- arms, ammunition, body armor, night-vision goggles, and other military equipment. Storing this equipment on land has several problems -- national governments don't like having it there, and the PMSCs constantly have to return to home port to get the equipment.

This has given rise to an explosion of PMSCs with floating armories. These are fishing vessels, tugs, patrol boats and other vessels that have been converted by private companies into floating weapons stores. Sometimes the weapons are made available to third parties for a fee, according to Mark Gray, a director of the British company MNG Maritime:

"It's not the Hilton. As well as storing their weapons, we provide hotel services for security guards who are between jobs. We have bunk beds in cabins, the kind of accommodation they were used to during their military careers. Plus two chefs, a gym on deck and the ever essential WiFi."

It's believed that there are currently 31 floating armories at the present time. Many are in the Red Sea and Persian Gulf, but they might be in international waters anywhere.

There's nothing illegal about them, but they're unregulated, and the vessels that were converted have special security features. Pirates or terrorist groups could seize the weapons, hijack the weapons, or blow them up. A recent statement by the government of India says that it stood "exposed and seriously threatened due to the presence of largely unregulated floating armories with large amounts of undeclared weapons and ammunition." BBC and Oxford Research Group and Full Report (PDF)

Stock market continues parabolic climb with high volatility


Dow bounces back
Dow bounces back

As I've written several times recently, the extreme volatility of the stock market is very dangerous, because it indicates that the stock market is being used as a gambling parlor completely unrelated to the company stock shares underlying the market. As we reported ten days ago, the Bank of International Settlements has taken the same view. ( "8-Dec-14 World View -- Bank of International Settlements warns of 'fragile' and 'sensitive' markets")

The drunken euphoria that I heard from analysts today, after the parabolic 421 point surge in the Dow Jones Industrial Average, is a sign of just how dangerous the situation. They don't seem to realize that if the Dow can go up 421 points in one day, then it can just as easily go down 421 points in one day. And with the S&P 500 price/earnings ratio at around the astronomically high 19, well above the historical level of 14, it's only a matter of time before the stock market bubble bursts.

And that's exactly the kind of situation that triggers a panic. These swings are getting wider and wider, just as they did prior to the 1929 crash.

The stock market fell 90% following the 1929 panic, but that didn't happen all in one day. It fell 13% on Black Monday, and then another 12% the next day, but then it gained back 17% on the next two days, so by the end of the week, people were wondering whether it would recover completely. But it kept relentlessly falling, and only bottomed out in the summer of 1932, despite repeated interventions by the Fed, and repeated claims by President Herbert Hoover that "Prosperity is just around the corner."

It shouldn't be called the "Crash of 1929," since the stock stock market didn't really crash in 1929. It should be called the "Panic of 1929" since, after all this time, the day that America remembers is the day of the panic, October 28, 1929. That's how it will happen again. These wild swings will keep increasing, until one day these computerized trading computers ("algos," as they're now called) will take over and produce some sort of "flash crash," and a lot of people will lose a lot of money. That will be the panic that everyone remembers. Then the stock market will partially recover, and people will cross their fingers, but the worst will be yet to come. Detroit News / AP

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 19-Dec-14 World View -- Floating weapons armories present new terrorist threats thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (19-Dec-2014) Permanent Link
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18-Dec-14 World View -- Cuba's shift is similar to E. Germany, Hungary, Poland, others

US officials say that North Korea is responsible for Sony hack

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

US officials say that North Korea is responsible for Sony hack


Screen shot from the Sony Pictures movie 'Annie', which hackers stole and made available on the internet
Screen shot from the Sony Pictures movie 'Annie', which hackers stole and made available on the internet

As I wrote two weeks ago, Sony Pictures suffered a serious hacker attack that's so widespread and destructive that Sony Pictures may not survive. ( "6-Dec-14 World View -- Sony suffers catastrophic breach, possibly from North Korean hackers")

US officials are now saying on background that US intelligence and the FBI have pulled out all the stops to track down the hackers, and they've pieced together the evidence that North Korea ordered the attack, although the individual or group behind the attack were not in North Korea. Analysts have been speculating what the U.S. can do in retaliation.

However, I haven't yet heard mentioned by these analysts what is possibly a more significant point. Sony Pictures may be an American corporation, but it's a subsidiary of a Japanese corporation, Sony Inc. It will not be missed by the people of Japan that North Korea has launched a major attack on a Japanese company, and their retaliation may be a lot more serious. ABC News and AP

Cuba's shift is similar to E. Germany, Hungary, Poland, others

On Wednesday, US president Barack Obama and Cuba's president Raul Castro simultaneously announced the restoration of diplomatic relations, for the first time since the Cuban Revolution of 1960 and the Bay of Pigs invasion of 1961. Although politicians are crowing about this and taking credit, it has nothing to do with politicians, but with generational changes in Cuba itself.

This wasn't even the most important change in Cuba. The major change occurred in 2010, when Cuba announced the end of its Communist economy. (See "16-Sep-10 News -- Cuba's seismic shift has global implications") Wednesday's restoration of relations was just the next step in a process that Cuba is still undergoing.

From the point of view of Generational Dynamics, the 2010 announcement was an "Awakening climax," which means that a generational conflict has been settled. The announcement occurred 50 years after the end of Cuba's last generational crisis war, the Cuban Revolution.

All countries follow a similar pattern following the end of a generational crisis war:

For many countries (not Cuba), the last crisis war was World War II, which ended in 1945. Here are some examples of Awakening climaxes following WW II:

Here are some additional examples of Awakening climaxes that illustrate different possibilities:

Really, none of this should be surprising. Fidel Castro ruled for decades by demanding that the Cuban people suffer because of the evil United States. Now Fidel and his brother Raul are in their 80s, and they're simply too old and tired to continue to drive the anti-US fervor, especially because the younger Cubans couldn't care less about the Revolution. And so, Raul agreed to renewing diplomatic relations with the US.

In many ways, Iran is similar to Cuba. Iran's last generational crisis war was the 1979 Great Islamic Revolution, followed by the Iran/Iraq war that ended in 1988. Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei has been trying to maintain revolutionary fervor by citing threats from the evil United States, just like Cuba. If Iran follows the usual pattern for an Awakening climax, then the hardline Iranian regime will collapse 40-50 years later, or within 2008-2018, which would be within the next four years. [Correction: Sorry, but apparently I can't add. This computation is all wrong. 1988+40 = 2028, not 2008. So the time range should be 2028-2038.](Paragraph modified. 18-Dec)

Havana Times and Miami Herald/AP

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 18-Dec-14 World View -- Cuba's shift is similar to E. Germany, Hungary, Poland, others thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (18-Dec-2014) Permanent Link
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17-Dec-14 World View -- Pakistan Taliban crosses a red line with mass slaughter of army children

Russia's crisis deepens as ruble falls another 11%

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Germany's anti-Islam demonstrations become too large to ignore


PEGIDA demonstrators in Dresden on Monday (Reuters)
PEGIDA demonstrators in Dresden on Monday (Reuters)

For each Monday in the past nine weeks, supporters of the explicitly anti-Islam far right Pegida movement have been protesting in cities like Dresden and Düsseldorf. (The phrase "far right" has different meanings in Europe and America.) The demonstrations have been growing in size from a few dozen to start to the 10,000 who demonstrated in Dresden. Germany's government ignored them at first, but the rapid growth of the demonstrations is forcing it to deal with them. Germany's justice minister Heiko Maas said that the protests were "an embarrassment for Germany" and that the country was experiencing a new "level of escalation of agitation against immigrants and refugees."

Pegida is an acronym for "Patriotische Europaeer Gegen die Islamisierung des Abendlandes," which translates to "Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamification of the West." Much of the discontent comes from the fact that Germany has accepted a record number of refugees this year, especially from Syria, and has also witnessed the rise of Salafist movements in German cities with heavy populations of immigrants.

Many of the complaints are about the economy. One elderly man shouted: "I'm a pensioner. I only get a small pension but I have to pay for all these people (asylum seekers). No-one asked me!" However, a woman said, "I am not right wing, I'm not a Nazi. I am just worried for my country, for my granddaughter." Deutsche Welle and BBC and Getty and Pegida facebook page

Pakistan Taliban crosses a red line with mass slaughter of army children

Terrorists from Tehrik-e-Taliban (TTP, Pakistan Taliban) attacked an army school in Peshawar in northwest Pakistan on Tuesday, killing 141 people, 132 of them schoolchildren, most of them children of soldiers. The attack, which is being described as the worst in years, is being described as revenge for the army's operations against the TTP in Pakistan's tribal area.

During the last few years, the Taliban have splintered into three branches -- the Afghanistan Taliban, targeting US and Nato forces, the Pakistan Taliban, and the Punjabi Taliban, attacking Indian targets. According to analyst reports I've heard, the army has good relations the first and third of these, but has lost control of the Pakistani Taliban.

Many Pakistani people believe that the Taliban are good people, defending their religion, and some even believe that the terrorist attacks are being perpetrated by Iran or the U.S. to discredit the Taliban. Tuesday's attack is thought to be so horrific that it will wash away these attitudes and change minds once and for all. Others point to the bombing of the Marriott Hotel in Islamabad in 2008 that took place just a couple of blocks from the government buildings. That was also a horrific bombing, and it was thought that this attack would change mind permanently, but instead, old attitudes took hold as soon as the initial shock wore off.

Prime minister Nawaz Sharif ran his election campaign with a promise to end TTP attacks by negotiating with the TTP. As we've described many times, these negotiations always were a farce, and were treated with contempt by the TTP. Tuesday's attack should end those attempts once and for all though, although it has been noted that when Sharif condemned Tuesday's attack, he referred only to "terrorists," and not to the Taliban.

Pakistan's major opposition politician is Imran Khan, the former cricket superstar turned anti-American politician. He's been even more supportive of the Taliban, calling for an end to American drone strikes against the Taliban, and calling for the resignation of Nawaz Sharif for allowing the drone strikes.

At the very least, this attack has infuriated the army, who are now promising blood revenge against the perpetrators. Daily Times (Pakistan) and Dawn (Pakistan)

Pakistan and Australia move from denial to shock

One of the characteristics of a generational Crisis era is the enormous state of denial about many things. Just one illustration of this in the US was the real estate bubble of the mid 2000s decade. Even though I wrote repeatedly about this bubble, starting in 2004, mainstream economists were ridiculously clueless about this, and didn't even begin to talk about the bubble until around 2009, when the real estate crisis was in full flower.

Pakistan's population have clearly been in denial about the danger of the Taliban, despite major terrorist attacks every few days. Some of the attacks have targeted Sufi or Shia Muslims, but most of them have been political, attacking the government or the army by massacring civilians. Tuesday's senseless attack on hundreds of schoolchildren in Peshawar has transformed the denial to shock.

The terrorist attack in Sydney on Monday and Tuesday has had a similar effect on the people of Australia. Australia is a peaceful, open, generous, multi-cultured and inclusive country with strict gun control laws, so Australia's sense of denial took the form of believing that a terror attack would not occur there.

Now Australians are waking up to the fact that dozens of young Australian men have gone to Syria to become jihadists.

The biggest political battle will probably be over gun control. After a 1996 gun massacre, strict gun control laws were imposed, and over a million guns were destroyed in two buybacks since then. Now it's being revealed that the number of guns is back to pre-1996 levels, thanks mainly to gun smuggling operations.

When a country's population moves from denial to shock during a generational Crisis era, then results can be very dangerous, because nationalist forces may be triggered that leads to further shocks, and then to a war. India Times and Daily Telegraph (Sydney) and Sydney Morning Herald

Russia's crisis deepens as ruble falls another 11%

Russia's desperate move yesterday, raising interest rates to 17%, seems to have backfired. The value of the ruble plunged another 11% against the dollar on Tuesday. It's now fallen 20% this week, and fallen more than 50% since the beginning of the year.

It may be that the currency crisis is now being driven by sheer panic, as Russia has several hundred billion dollars saved up in reserves. According to one analyst I heard, Russia could get revenge against the west by bailing out Russian government debts denominated in dollars, but let the corporate debts denominated in dollars simply default. Since most of the holders of Russian dollar-denominated debt are European banks and American investors, Russia could make the currency crisis the West's problem. Reuters

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 17-Dec-14 World View -- Pakistan Taliban crosses a red line with mass slaughter of army children thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (17-Dec-2014) Permanent Link
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16-Dec-14 World View -- Desperate Russia raises interest rates to 17%, as ruble and oil prices collapse

China: 300 Chinese citizens join ISIS in Iraq and Syria

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

China: 300 Chinese citizens join ISIS in Iraq and Syria


ISIS fighters (AFP)
ISIS fighters (AFP)

As we've reported in the past, young men from Asia are flocking to Syria and Iraq to pledge allegiance to the Islamic State / of Iraq and Syria (IS or ISIS or ISIL). ( "6-Oct-14 World View -- ISIS influence spreads in Asia, as Pakistan Taliban pledges support") Young jihadists throughout Asia, including China, Pakistan, India, Indonesia and Australia, have been drawn by the youthful ISIS leader Abu Omar al-Baghdadi to Syria to join the jihad.

The horrific terrorist attack in Sydney on Sunday and Monday have reminded Australian authorities that some 60 young men from Australia have gone to Syria to join ISIS.

China rarely releases similar figures about Chinese citizens, but did so on Monday, when state media reported that some 300 Chinese people are fighting alongside ISIS in Iraq and Syria. According to the report, these are Uighurs who have joined the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM), and traveled through Turkey to Syria, where they join the Turkistan Islamic Party (TIP). Chinese media blame "ambiguous policies" by Turkey's government that allow easy access to Turkey through southeastern Turkey's Sanliurfa Province, and then to join ISIS:

"The fact that these extremists can easily enter Turkey and later travel to Syria and Iraq to join IS is a direct consequence of the Turkish government's ambiguous policies."

Turkey's embassy in Beijing called the claims "ridiculous," saying that they only issue passports to Turkish citizens. They blamed the governments of China and other Asian countries:

"The illegal issuance of passports and visas and customs loopholes in some Southeast Asian countries have allowed extremists to travel to Turkey and then go on to join the jihadists. If there weren't so many illegal passports and visas available, there would not be so many members of ETIM in Syria and Iraq."

Reuters and Global Times (Beijing)

Desperate Russia raises interest rates to 17%, as ruble and oil prices collapse

A desperate Russian central bank raised interest rates to 17% from 10.5% early Tuesday morning to halt the collapse of the ruble currency. On Monday, the ruble fell 10% in one day against the dollar, for a total of 49% fall this year, resulting in rampant inflation.

Prices of West Texas Intermediate oil took another plunge on Monday to less than $56 per barrel. It was just a few months ago that it was priced at over $100 per barrel.

Russia's economy appears to be spiraling out of control, in the same way that Greece's economy did a couple of years ago. The reasons for Russia's crisis are:

Reuters and Nasdaq

Russia builds a road connecting Dagestan to Georgia

Russia is rushing at breakneck speed to complete a road connecting Dagestan, its province in the North Caucasus, across the Caucasus mountain ridge to Georgia. The road construction is raising alarm in Georgia, as it will allow Russia to invade Georgia rapidly. Russia invaded Georgia in 2008, and occupied two Georgian provinces, Abkhazia and South Ossetia. The road would also establish a land corridor with Armenia, Russia’s ally in the South Caucasus, and cut off the Caspian and the Central Asian region, which is rich in energy resources, from international markets. The highway is expected to be completed by March 2015. Jamestown

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 16-Dec-14 World View -- Desperate Russia raises interest rates to 17%, as ruble and oil prices collapse thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (16-Dec-2014) Permanent Link
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15-Dec-14 World View -- Lynchings of 43 students revive the Mexican Revolution fault lines

Oil production to increase despite, or because of, crashing prices

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Lynchings of 43 students revive the Mexican Revolution


Wanted poster for Pancho Villa - March 9, 1916.  He was wanted in Columbus, New Mexico, for killing American citizens in Mexico
Wanted poster for Pancho Villa - March 9, 1916. He was wanted in Columbus, New Mexico, for killing American citizens in Mexico

On September 26, a group of 43 students in a rural teachers' college in Ayotzinapa, Guerrero, in southern Mexico all disappeared, while traveling to the town of Iguala for an anti-government demonstration. At first it was believed that criminals from drug cartels had abducted and killed the students. But later it turned out that José Luis Abarca, the former mayor of Iguala, working hand in hand with the police and the drug traffickers, ordered the lynchings. The 43 students were believed to be burned and dumped, though only the remains of one have been found. Abarca was later arrested by federal officers and charged with murder.

These atrocities led to violent mass protests in Mexico City last month. They are inflaming the fault lines of the Mexican Revolution of the 1910s. Mexico's last crisis war was the Mexican Revolution, running from 1910-1922, so Mexico is deep into a generational Crisis era, and overdue for a new crisis war, from the point of view of Generational Dynamics.

Mexico is like other Latin American countries in that the major fault lines are between the indigenous peoples ("Amerindians") and the indigenous descendants of French and Spanish invaders. The indigenous peoples in Mexico are the Mayans in the south and the Aztecs and Comancheros in the north. The French and Spanish descendants generally live in the center, around Mexico City. During the Mexican Revolution of the 1910s, Pancho Villa (from the north) was the leader, along with Emiliano Zapata, of the indigenous rebel insurgency groups in the south.

Ayotzinapa is in a region populated mostly by indigenous Mayan descendants. The students were called "normalistas" because they went to a "normal" college, one of those that were set up in the 1920s, following the Mexican Revolution, to help the poor indigenous people.

José Luis Abarca was born nearby in Arcelia, Guerrero. He started out poor but got into the gold business and, as a member of the Democratic Revolution Party (PRD), became mayor of Iguala in June 2012, despite having no political experience. He and his wife María de los Ángeles had ruled as "the Imperial Couple." Three of María's brothers were drug traffickers, but had been killed or captured.

The atrocities and massive corruption are pushing all the buttons of the indigenous activists. From the point of view of Generational Dynamics, Mexico is headed for a new war, refighting the Mexican Revolution of the 1910s along the fault line separating the people of European ancestry versus the indigenous peoples. This war may spread into southwestern United States, as there are Aztec descendants in the Aztlán movement who claim that the southwest really belongs to them, and was their ancestral homeland. Reuters and Vice News and Yucatan Times

Oil production to increase despite, or because of, crashing prices

Oil prices have been plunging due to increased supply from US shale production (fracking), and due to falling demand caused by a slowing world economy. The oil importing countries (Indonesia, India, Taiwan, South Korea, Japan) are benefiting enormously from the plunge in oil prices, while it's a disaster for several oil exporting countries -- Venezuela, Russia, Iran, Iraq, Nigeria. Saudi Arabia has announced it will try to increase oil production, presumably in the hope of putting the US fracking industry out of business.

An analysis by the US Energy Information Administration (EIA) that may shed some light on what's going on. Even though the price of oil is plummeting, US fracking production is going to continue increasing, though perhaps slightly less rapidly than has been previously predicted.


Oil production in 2014.  WTI is West Texas Intermediate (EIA)
Oil production in 2014. WTI is West Texas Intermediate (EIA)

The graph on the left shows that drilling permits have been holding steady, while the number of rigs has fallen slightly. The graph on the right shows that oil production continues to increase, despite the fall in oil prices.

The existing wells are backed by hedge funds and junk bonds that are now in distress because of the fall in prices. As a result, production in the existing wells will actually be increased as much as physically possible, to generate revenue at low oil prices to meet margin calls for these junk bonds.

It occurs to me that the Saudis may be in a similar situation. They may also have shaky investments backing up their oil wells, and so they too would have to keep production as high as possible to make their own margin calls.

This is a good illustration of how deflation feeds on itself, and how some deflation causes more deflation, almost as if were caused by a deflationary attitude. By the law of supply and demand, falling prices normally should cause production to decrease. But the current situation we're in, a highly leverage debt bubble, is an anomalous situation. Falling oil prices are causing production to increase, not because of the oil market, but because of the debt market, resulting in a deflationary spiral. Businesses desperately increase production and sales in the hope of making up for lost earnings, in order to meet their debt margin calls, but the increased supply simply causes prices to fall even faster, resulting in more deflation.

This is a dangerous situation because, as the price of oil continues to fall, one or more of these funds may go bankrupt, and that may cause a chain reaction of multiple bankruptcies. US Energy Information Administration (EIA) and Investment Watch/Wolf Richter

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 15-Dec-14 World View -- Lynchings of 43 students revive the Mexican Revolution fault lines thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (15-Dec-2014) Permanent Link
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14-Dec-14 World View -- The GCC honeymoon: Arab countries reach a 'historic' agreement

Pragmatic attitudes towards Israel and Iran

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Gulf Arab countries reach a 'historic' agreement


Gulf Cooperation Council meeting, December 9 (AFP)
Gulf Cooperation Council meeting, December 9 (AFP)

The Gulf Cooperation Council (Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates) has succeeded in getting through its summit meeting last week, apparently in relative harmony. (See "21-Nov-14 World View -- Gulf nations paper over their differences for GCC Summit in December")

It's being called a "historic turning point" for the GCC, with potentially far-reaching consequences, because the GCC members have stopped quibbling with each other, and have unified against their common enemies.

As I've written several times in the last few months, the Gaza war has brought about a major Mideast realignment, splitting the GCC members apart. Egypt was the catalyst for this split, at two points. First, when Egypt's army ousted democratically elected Mohammed Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood government, and replaced him with former army general Abdel al-Fattah al-Sisi, who proceeded with a very bloody crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood, Muslim Brotherhood supporters Turkey and Qatar turned vehemently against al-Sisi, while Saudi Arabia supported him.

Second, when the Gaza war between Israel and Hamas began this summer, al-Sisi supported Israel and the Palestinian Authority, and turned against Hamas, an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood. In addition, Iran supported Hamas against Israel. This created a de facto realignment of the Mideast, with Israel plus Egypt plus Saudi Arabia plus the Palestinian Authority in alliance versus Hamas plus Qatar plus Turkey plus Iran.

The newfound friendly Arab consanguinity

The reasons being given for this newfound friendly Arab consanguinity is that a unified GCC stance is necessary "to stop ... attempts led by neighboring countries to intervene in Arab affairs." The two countries referenced are:

According to the final communiqué issued by the summit:

"On Egypt, the Supreme Council reiterated its firm position in support of the Republic of Egypt and President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s roadmap, stressing the Council’s full support and stand with the people and Government of Egypt in achieving stability and prosperity. The Council underscored the role of Egypt at Arab and regional levels for the benefit of both the Arab and Islamic countries."

The communiqué also indicates unanimous opposition to the al-Qaeda linked terrorists in Syria and Iraq:

"The Supreme Council welcomed the UN Security Council resolution No 2170 in August in 2014, under Chapter VII, which condemned the spread of serious human rights violations by terrorist groups, including terrorist groups in Iraq and Syria, in particular the Daash and Al Nusra Front, and the sanctions imposed on individuals associated with these groups."

"Daash" is the contemptuous Arabic name for the the Islamic State / of Iraq and Syria (IS or ISIS or ISIL).

So everything's agreeable. Is there any trouble in paradise? The problem is that the communiqué doesn't mention Israel, Hamas, or the Palestinian Authority. The only mention of Gaza is the following:

"The Supreme Council praised the results of the Gaza reconstruction conference, which was held in Cairo in October 2014."

Well that's nice, but are all the GCC nations really going to turn against Hamas, which would make all the member nations de facto allies of Israel and the Palestinian Authority? How long is this pleasantness going to last?

Well, at the very least, we can understand the old Arab saying, "The enemy of my enemy is my friend." Eurasia Review/Arab News and Asharq Al-Awsat (Riyadh) and Saudi-US Relations Information Service

The GCC honeymoon: Pragmatic attitude towards Israel and Iran

An explanation of the GCC compromise with respect to Iran and Israel was given in a television interview by a Saudi writer, Abdullah Hamidaddin. Does Israel pose a threat to Saudi Arabia? His answer was characterized by extreme pragmatism:

"No. Israel is a troublemaker in the region, but it poses a threat to the Palestinians, not to the Saudis. This has nothing to do with the fact that the Palestinians have rights. Israel is an aggressor on many levels. It is an unjust country. We condemn the violence that we witness day and day out. I am not talking about Israel's injustice towards the Palestinians ...

It is imperative to distinguish between the two. The pan-Arabists and the Islamists believe that because Israel occupied an Arab or Muslim country, it must be annihilated as a matter of principle.

I have a different perspective. There is no doubt that Israel plundered [Arab] land, but today the region is divided into countries, one of which is Saudi Arabia. Israel attacked the land of others, not my own land. By no means am I justifying this attack, but with all its evils, it does not pose a threat to the Saudi state or the Saudi citizens."

The interview pointed out that according to the official and declared Saudi position, the Palestinian cause is the cause of all the Arabs.

"There are two reasons for this. First, there is a real problem. Israel's crisis with the Palestinians has generated a regional problem. This crisis has ramifications – although, by the way, these ramifications are highly exaggerated.

The second reason is the need to align with the general [Arab] position. King Abdullah's 2003 initiative involved complete normalization, and it was signed by all the Arabs, including Syria. People were convinced that relations with Israel could be normalized, and that we could have coexistence with it, on condition that the problem in the West Bank and Gaza was resolved.

It is in Israel's interest for the problem to remain unresolved. Israel is not a peaceful country. It is a very oppressive country towards its Palestinian neighbors, and it does whatever it can do to prolong the problem, because it benefits from it."

Hamidaddin concluded by saying that the Arabs have wasted resources attacking Israel in the past:

"No, but I want to focus on the issues that affect me. If Israel does not pose a strategic national threat, we should not treat it as if it does. ...

[Israel did not create the threats coming from Iraq and Iran.] No, it was us. Since the 1960s, when we turned Israel into a problem, we have wasted our resources. Since the 1950s, the Arabs have spent billions on the conflict with Israel, and have sacrificed hundreds of thousands of lives. The outcome is that we are in decline, whereas Israel is on the rise. If we had treated the Palestinian cause differently right from the start, we would have been today stronger and more capable than Israel, and the Palestinians would have been better off."

So is the GCC crisis over? Another Saudi columnist, Salman Aldossary, suggests that the honeymoon may not last, and that the worst may be yet to come:

"It is premature to think that the crisis has been completely resolved. We should admit that only some of the roots of the problem have been addressed. In addition, some details remain vague. Perhaps the coming months will be sufficient to demonstrate if the good intentions that have been expressed about putting the GCC’s general interests above the narrow ones of its member states are genuine. It should not be overlooked, however, that this acute crisis produced fierce reactions that went beyond those of previous inter-Gulf disputes. This was the case when some sides, affiliated with some parties involved in the dispute, lashed out at certain states or figures. These incidents will definitely not be forgiven, no matter how hard those who were responsible for them try to reach out to their brothers. There is a big difference between disagreeing with someone and registering one’s position through objective criticism on the one hand, and throwing the worst insults at someone on the other. It is true that the Gulf states have overcome their political differences and are quite pragmatic, but they do not forget personal differences and the insults that accompany them.

The GCC [has witnessed] a honeymoon period in the run-up to its ... annual summit. ... Who knows, the honeymoon may last throughout the next year. ...

It would be dangerous if the crisis returned and the wound opened once again, God forbid. In this case, the crisis would certainly be more extreme, dangerous, and complex than before, and would produce decisions whose impact no one will be able to comprehend.

May the honeymoon last forever! Nevertheless, wishes need to be accompanied by deeds."

Generational Dynamics predicts that there will be a new war between Arabs and Israelis, refighting the 1948 war between Jews and Arabs that followed the partitioning of Palestine and the creation of the state of Israel. Memri and Asharq Al Awsat (Riyadh)

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 14-Dec-14 World View -- The GCC honeymoon: Arab countries reach a 'historic' agreement thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (14-Dec-2014) Permanent Link
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13-Dec-14 World View -- Stocks plunge again, as economy spirals into deflation

Russia may pause military hostilities in Ukraine for the winter

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Stocks plunge again, as economy spirals into deflation


NY Stock Exchange
NY Stock Exchange

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 315 points on Friday, capping off a brutal 3.8% fall this week on Wall Street. In Europe, Britain's FTSE fell 2.5%, Germany's DAX fell 2.7%, and France's CAC 40 fell 2.8%.

Oil prices continued their free fall, into the below-$60 range. West Texas Intermediate oil fell 3.6% to $57.81 per barrel, down 12.6% for the week.

Also on Friday, the Dept. of Commerce announced that wholesale prices (Producer Price Index) fell 0.2% in November, faster than the 0.1% fall predicted by analysts.

The fall in wholesale prices was led by a fall in overall energy costs. Those prices fell 3.1% on the month, due to a sharp drop in the cost of petroleum products. Energy prices have declined for five straight months. The gasoline index declined 6.3% in November. Home-heating oil costs fell 2.8% and diesel-fuel prices declined 3.5%. From a year earlier, energy prices were down 5.9%, according to the producer measure.

According to Friday's Wall Street Journal, the plunge in stock prices has pushed the S&P 500 Price/Earnings index (stock valuations index) on Friday morning (December 12) down to an astronomically high 18.66, down from the even more astronomically high 19.54 from last Friday (December 7). This is far above the historical average of 14, indicating that the stock market is in a huge bubble that could burst at any time. Generational Dynamics predicts that the P/E ratio will fall to the 5-6 range or lower, which is where it was as recently as 1982, resulting in a Dow Jones Industrial Average of 3000 or lower.

As I've been saying for years, starting in 2003, Generational Dynamics predicts that the economy is in a deflationary spiral. Since mainstream economists have been predicting inflation and hyperinflation, it's pretty clear that mainstream economists don't have the vaguest clue what's going on. Today's reports may give them pause.

One more warning: Hedge funds and other investors now have the entire weekend to think about what they're going to do next, and they may all reach the same decisions -- up or down. The major plunges of the 1929 crash and the 1987 false crash both occurred on Monday. So we may know by midday Monday whether the stock market is going to continue plunging, or whether it's going to recover in the short run. USA Today and Bloomberg and Nasdaq

Russia may pause military hostilities in Ukraine for the winter

In the last few days, Russian military attacks on Ukrainian positions in east Ukraine have markedly subsided, and Russia's state media has cooled its rhetoric on the highly nationalistic "Novorossiya" (New Russia) project, referring to all of southern and eastern Ukraine. According to Ukrainian General Staff estimates, Russian troops in Donbas currently total 32,000, including between 6,000 and 10,000 regular Russian Army personnel, the remainder being irregulars recruited locally and from Russia. But the Russian troops have avoided full scale conflict, for fear that the West would impose further sanctions. Instead, the troops transitioned to a kind of positional warfare, but have failed to make any gains against the Ukrainian forces in doing so. In particular, the Ukrainians have blocked Russian probing moves on Mariupol, and the land route from Russia to occupied Crimea.

Part of the calculation is that Russia's economy is heading for disaster. Putin’s policy of state and crony capitalism plus protectionism has eliminated Russia’s economic growth. Since July, Western sanctions have stopped all refinancing of Russian foreign debt, whether private or public. Since June, the price of oil has fallen by 40 percent and with it the ruble exchange rate. These three factors are likely to worsen.

Russia's adventures in Ukraine, while politically popular, have been extremely costly for Russia. Now that Russia has invaded, occupied and annexed Crimea, Moscow is saddled with annexation costs and providing any humanitarian aid that's necessary. In east Ukraine, Russia must provide for an estimated 3.5-4 million people that live on the territory that Russia occupies. Russia is now preparing its tenth humanitarian convoy of hundreds of trucks with food, medicines and other supplies, but these are only a temporary emergency procedure.

There's a debate among economists as to how long Russia can continue in this way. It's true that Russia has hundreds of billions of dollars in foreign reserves that it can tap, but it's also true that Russia's economy may be in a downward spiral. So it now appears that Russia is going to pause for the winter in order to consolidate its gains, and make plans for warmer weather. Jamestown and Peterson Institute for International Economics

Uganda calls for mass Africa pullout from International Criminal Court

Uganda's president Yoweri Museveni said Friday that at the next meeting of the African Union, set for January 30-31, he will propose that all African countries withdraw from the International Criminal Court (ICC)

"I will bring a motion to the next sitting of the African Union to have all African states withdraw from the court, then they [Western nations] can be left alone with their own court. They have used it as a tool to target Africa."

Museveni's remarks came just a few days after an ICC case targeting the president of Kenya collapsed in an embarrassing debacle. Museveni accused the West of using the ICC to destabilize African nations.

Although that ICC does appear to have targeted Africa, that's only because war crimes trials for other countries have taken place in other courts. There are trials targeting the Khmer Rouge for their alleged war crimes in Cambodia's "killing fields" war in the 1970s, but that trial is being held in the "Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia" (ECCC) in Angk Snuol, Cambodia.

There's a trial targeting Ratko Mladic for atrocities committed at the 1995 Srebrenica massacre in the Bosnian war, but that trial is being conducted in the "International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia" in The Hague.

There were trials in 1945 for Nazi war criminals, but they were held in special courts in Nuremberg, Germany. Japan's war crimes trials were held in 1946 in the International Military Tribunal for the Far East (IMTFE) in Tokyo.

So, taken as a whole, war crimes courts have certainly not specifically targeted Africa.

From the point of view of Generational Dynamics, these war crime trials are only for political show, and will do nothing to prevent war crimes in future. AFP and Al-Jazeera

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 13-Dec-14 World View -- Stocks plunge again, as economy spirals into deflation thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (13-Dec-2014) Permanent Link
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12-Dec-14 World View -- Palestinians threaten to halt security coordination with Israel

Palestinian Authority decides on actions following death of Ziad Abu Ain

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Palestinians threaten to halt security coordination with Israel


Funeral for Ziad Abu Ain in Ramallah on Thursday (AP)
Funeral for Ziad Abu Ain in Ramallah on Thursday (AP)

The death of a Palestinian Cabinet minister following a clash with Israeli police has caused the Palestinian Authority (PA) to make a series of threats, including a halt to security coordination with Israel.

The Cabinet minister, Ziad Abu Ain, had been participating in a confrontation between Palestinian protesters and Israeli soldiers. At one point, an Israeli grabbed Abu Ain by the throat and pushed him. After the confrontation, Abu Ain spoke to tv cameras, and then collapsed. An autopsy showed that he had a major heart attack. The Israelis are saying that he would have had a heart attack sooner or later anyway. The Palestinians are saying that the heart attack was the direct fault of the Israeli soldiers, who caused Abu Ain to have "anguish and stress." Abu Ain was the PA Cabinet minister in charge of organizing protests against Israeli settlements and the West Bank separation barrier.

The death of Abu Ain has (further) infuriated the Palestinians, leading the PA to threaten to end security cooperation with Israel. If this occurs it will be a major big deal. It would mean that the Palestinians themselves would not take any further responsibility for any kind of crime occurring the West Bank, and that Israel, as the "occupying power," would be responsible for all West Bank security. The cooperation agreement is very unpopular with the Palestinians, because it often means that Palestinians are prevented by other Palestinians from violence and protests against Israeli settlements.

Although the PA is making this threat, it's not thought that PA president Mahmoud Abbas will go through with it. As I've written many times, Abbas was born in 1935, and survived the horrific 1948 war between Jews and Arabs that following the partitioning of Palestine and the creation of the state of Israel. Like most survivors of generational crisis wars, Abbas has literally devoted his life to doing everything possible to prevent that horrific kind of war from occurring again. As regular readers know, Generational Dynamics predicts that he will not succeed in preventing that horrific war, though he may continue to postpone it.

In this case, Abbas is well aware that ending the security cooperation agreement with Israel is a sure-fire way to create a lot more confrontations between Palestinians and Israelis, and may well be all that's needed to trigger the new war between Jews and Arabs that Abbas has devoted his life to trying to prevent. AP and CNN

Palestinian Authority decides on actions following death of Ziad Abu Ain

According to senior Palestinian official Saeb Erekat, in an interview on al-Jazeera, the Palestinian Authority (PA) has tentatively decided to take six actions in response to the death of Ziad Abu Ain (my transcription, sometimes edited for clarity):

The Palestinian Authority will meet on Sunday to decide how to move forward on these actions. Irish Times and Jewish Virtual Library

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 12-Dec-14 World View -- Palestinians threaten to halt security coordination with Israel thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (12-Dec-2014) Permanent Link
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11-Dec-14 World View -- UN says nations should make saving migrants' lives the highest priority

Wall Street sell-off deepens as oil prices plummet

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

No World View column yesterday

Due to circumstances beyond my control, there was no World View column yesterday. My apologies to anyone who was inconvenienced.

Russia deploys nuclear capable missiles into occupied Crimea


Iskander mobile missile system (Russia Today)
Iskander mobile missile system (Russia Today)

Russia is deploying nuclear capable Iskander missiles in Ukraine's Crimea peninsula, which is occupied by Russia in violation of international law, unapproved by the UN Security Council. Iskander systems could be fitted with up to ten different types of warhead, including tactical nuclear warheads, which can be transported to Crimea in a matter of hours.

This is part of a project to build up Russia's existing military infrastructure in occupied Crimea, particularly associated with the basing of its Black Sea Fleet, to extend its level of control in the Black Sea region more broadly. Nato commander General Philip Breedlove has expressed his concern about what he described as Russia’s "militarization of Crimea," which received widespread publicity in Moscow. He also noted the increasing numbers of weapons in Crimea and cruise missiles, which could affect the regional military balance.

Last year, Moscow confirmed the deployment of Iskander missiles in Kaliningrad, on the border with Nato and the Baltic states. Combined with a deployment of the system to occupied Crimea, NATO’s eastern flank is heavily exposed to the capabilities of the Iskander. Jamestown and Russia Today (16-Dec-2013)

UN says nations should make saving migrants' lives the highest priority

UN human rights chief Antonio Guterres is calling many countries "mean-spirited" for making keeping migrants out a higher priority than saving migrants' lives. According to Guterres:

"This is a mistake, and precisely the wrong reaction for an era in which record numbers of people are fleeing wars. Security and immigration management are concerns for any country, but policies must be designed in a way that human lives do not end up becoming collateral damage."

According to the UN, there have been at least a record-breaking 348,000 "boat people" so far this year, migrants who risked traveling over water to go to another country:

Related to the increasing flood of refugees are the unprecedented numbers of countries in crisis. For the first time, the UN has declared five "Level 3" humanitarian crises: West Africa (Ebola), Iraq, South Sudan, Syria, and the Central African Republic. Many crises are centered in the Palestine region, with a population that grew from 600,000 a century ago to 12 million today -- the most rapid population growth in the world.

From the point of view of Generational Dynamics, there are many simultaneous trends -- population growth, increased food prices, increased nationalism, increased recklessness, increased fragility of the global economy -- that are leading to a new world war in the current generational crisis era. And to emphasize the point, the BBC is reporting that 5,000 people worldwide have been killed by jihadist attacks in November alone. Euro News and UN High Commissioner for Refugees and AFP

Wall Street sell-off deepens as oil prices plummet

As I wrote a couple of days ago, the Bank of International Settlements is confirming the view that the wild swings in the stock market are similar to those that occurred just before the 1929 crash, and are extremely dangerous today. ( "8-Dec-14 World View -- Bank of International Settlements warns of 'fragile' and 'sensitive' markets")

Analysts are blaming the three-day sell-off in Wall Street stocks, capped on Wednesday with a fall of 268 points in the Dow Jones Industrial Average, on a dramatic plunge in the price of oil. West Texas Intermediate oil fell to $59 dollars a barrel on Wednesday, before closing at $61.21, and OPEC predicted reduced oil demand next year, suggesting that oil prices will go a lot lower. It's thought that the plunge in oil prices is a proxy for slowing economies in Europe and Asia.

According to one analyst I heard on Wednesday, this is a "global margin call." 15 of the 20 largest sovereign wealth funds get their money from oil, and now they're being forced to sell their assets as their oil-linked investments plummet in value. As with any broad-based margin call, this is causing a chain reaction that's affecting markets around the world.

The S&P 500 Price/Earnings ratio (stock valuation index) is above 19, which is astronomically than the historic average of 14. This indicates that the stock market is in a huge bubble which, like all bubbles, has to implode at some point. From the point of view of Generational Dynamics, this could happen at any time. It remains to be seen whether the current round of volatility settles down. CNBC and Fortune

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 11-Dec-14 World View -- UN says nations should make saving migrants' lives the highest priority thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (11-Dec-2014) Permanent Link
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9-Dec-14 World View -- State of Palestine joins the International Criminal Court

Canada and Britain close their Cairo Egypt embassies over security concerns

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Canada and Britain close their Cairo Egypt embassies over security concerns


British Embassy in Cairo
British Embassy in Cairo

Canada on Monday joined Britain in closing its embassy in Cairo Egypt over security concerns raised by the Islamic State / of Iraq and Syria (IS or ISIS or ISIL). According to a statement from Canada's foreign affairs minister:

"As a security precaution, and to ensure the protection of Canadian staff, we have closed our embassy in Cairo for the day. We take the safety of our personnel and our mission overseas very seriously. We are monitoring events closely and taking appropriate security measures. ... We don't comment publicly on security precaution specifics at our missions."

According to the UK government web site, "Public services at the British Embassy in Cairo are currently suspended. The office of the British Consulate-General in Alexandria is operating as normal."

The U.S. issued a travel warning, but the Cairo embassy remains open.

The security concerns are thought to be related to recent terrorist attacks in Egypt, and threats by ISIS. The concerns were heightened by a suspicious yellow powder sent to multiple Western consulates in Istanbul, Turkey.

According to an Australian travel advisory:

"Reports of early December, 2014, indicate that terrorists may be planning attacks against tourist sites, government ministries and embassies in Cairo."

Decision on whether to reopen the embassies are being made on a day by day basis. Globe and Mail (Ottawa) and UK Government

State of Palestine joins the International Criminal Court

Carrying through on his threat, Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas joined the International Criminal Court (ICC) with observer status on Monday. In doing so, the PA came one step closer to seeking membership in the ICC in order to bring war crimes accusations against Israel for the Gaza war earlier this year. At present, Palestine has the same observer status as the US, Russia, China, India or any other country that is not a signatory of the Rome Statute.

However, if the ICC takes jurisdiction over crimes committed in the Israel-Palestine conflict, then both sides would have to be held accountable. The Palestinians would have to deal with the following problems:

For those reasons, Abbas may completely avoid making charges related to the Gaza war and, instead, accuse Israel of human rights violations in the West Bank. Al Jazeera and Open Democracy

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 9-Dec-14 World View -- State of Palestine joins the International Criminal Court thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (9-Dec-2014) Permanent Link
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8-Dec-14 World View -- Bank of International Settlements warns of 'fragile' and 'sensitive' markets

Israel's warplanes strike Syria, in areas near Damascus

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Israel's warplanes strike Syria, in areas near Damascus


Hezbollah-provided picture of Sunday's Israeli air strike (Al Arabiya)
Hezbollah-provided picture of Sunday's Israeli air strike (Al Arabiya)

Syria said on Sunday that Israel's warplanes had bombed areas near Damascus international airport and in the town of Dimas, near the border with Lebanon. Syrian state media said that messages had been sent to the United Nations demanding sanctions against Israel:

"The messages read that Israel has committed a heinous crime against the sovereignty of Syria as Israeli warplanes attacked two safe areas in al-Dimas and near Damascus International Airport in Damascus Countryside, causing material damage in a number of institutions there.

The Ministry stressed that the attack is in the framework of extending help and support to the armed terrorist groups in Syria, especially after the series of achievements made by the Syrian army in Deir Ezzor, Aleppo, Daraa and other areas. ...

The attack reflects the Israeli explicit involvement in supporting the armed terrorist groups in Syria, on top of which Jabhat al-Nusra, along with well-known regional and western countries."

Israel and Syria have been in a state of war since 1948. Israel refused comment on the accusations.

It's thought that Israel was striking advanced weaponry or chemical weapons held by the regime of Syria's president Bashar al-Assad and in transit to Hezbollah in Lebanon for use in attacking Israel. However, a Lebanese TV correspondent reported that Israel struck 10 crucial intelligence-linked locations in Syria that belong to Iran. SANA (Syria) and Jerusalem Post and Al Arabiya (Saudi Arabia)

Egypt continues building buffer zone on Sinai border with Gaza

Schools in Egypt's North Sinai region along the border with the Gaza Strip are reopening after ten days closure due to Egypt's counter-insurgency operations in the area.

Egypt's army is attempting to eliminate "once and for all" the threat from Hamas terrorists from Gaza, following a massive October 24 terrorist attack with a car bomb that killed 33 Egyptian troops. Egypt's president Abdel al-Fattah al-Sisi labeled the attack an existential threat to Egypt, and ordered that a buffer zone be built along the border with Gaza with the objective of eliminating the smuggling tunnels under the wall that separates Gaza from Sinai.

The original plan was that the buffer zone would be 500 meters (1/2 km) wide and 13.5 km along the border. However, several days ago Egypt announced that it would double the width of the buffer zone to 1 km. According to the state news agency:

"A decision was taken to increase the buffer zone along the border in Rafah to one kilometer. The decision ... came after the discovery of underground tunnels with a total length of 800 to 1,000 meters."

Egypt has been demolishing homes in Sinai along the Gaza border in order to make room for the buffer zone. Egypt originally announced that 802 homes were to be demolished and 1,156 families to be relocated. With the doubling of the width of the buffer zone, it's assume that 1600 homes will be demolished and 2300 families displaced and relocated.

There has been little international condemnation or interest in Egypt's plan to demolish 1600 homes. However, there has been a great deal of international condemnation when Israeli forces demolished the home of Abdelrahman Shaludi, a terrorist who had purposely plowed his car into pedestrians on October 22, killing two people. Daily News Egypt and Daily News Egypt (18-Nov)

Bank of International Settlements warns of 'fragile' and 'sensitive' markets

Last week, on one of days when the Dow Jones Industrial Average reached a fresh all-time high, I heard one of the male anchor on CNBC say something like: "The Dow Jones has reached an all-time high 48 times this year. That's the highest number since 1929." The female anchor said, "What are you saying????" and quickly changed the subject.

In fact, the near-parabolic spike in stock prices is only one of the ways that Wall Street is signaling danger. According to Friday's Wall Street Journal, the S&P 500 Price/Earnings index (stock valuations) on Friday (December 5) has shot up to 19.54. This is far above the historical average of 14, indicating that the stock market is in a huge bubble that could burst at any time.

On October 16, I warned that wild stock market swings, which are similar to the wild swings that occurred in October 1929, were particularly dangerous, because the next wild swing could be sharply downward by hundreds of points.

Now the Bank of International Settlements (BIS) is confirming this view in its quarterly report:

"These abrupt market movements (in October) were even more pronounced than similar developments in August, when a sudden correction in global financial markets was quickly succeeded by renewed buoyant market conditions.

This suggests that more than a quantum of fragility underlies the current elevated mood in financial markets. Global equity markets plummeted in early August and mid-October. Mid-October's extreme intra-day price movements underscore how sensitive markets have become to even small surprises."

The BIS pointed out that the US dollar has been strengthening significantly in recent weeks against the euro, the yen, and other emerging market currencies. This is happening because the Federal Reserve is cutting back on quantitative easing ("printing money"), at the same time that the European Central Bank (ECB) and the Bank of Japan (BOJ) have been significantly increasing their quantitative easing programs. On Friday, there was an unemployment report of a larger-than-expected rise in U.S. jobs in November, and this sent the dollar to multi-year highs against the yen and euro.

Many companies in emerging economies have been going increasingly into debt, just as American companies did in the mid-2000s, leading to the financial crisis. However, many of the emerging market company debts are denominated in dollars, and so a significant strengthening of the dollar means, in effect, that the amount owed is growing substantially, relative to the country's own currency. This could force these businesses into bankruptcy, creating a chain reaction of further bankruptcies. Also, it could force many hedge funds and businesses to liquidate their assets, such as stocks and bonds, in order to pay their debts, causing a chain reaction of asset sales, causing a stock market plunge.

According to one currency analyst, Kit Juckes at Sociéte Générale, this could have an effect as early as Monday morning:

"It's the warning that the rising dollar could bring more (emerging markets) trouble in its wake - as it did in the 1990s - that is going to challenge FX [foreign exchange] markets tomorrow [Monday] morning while we're all thinking about what the U.S. non-farm payroll data mean for Fed rate hike timing."

Reuters and AFP and Bank of International Settlements (BIS)

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 8-Dec-14 World View -- Bank of International Settlements warns of 'fragile' and 'sensitive' markets thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (8-Dec-2014) Permanent Link
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7-Dec-14 World View -- Obama orders 1000 more troops for Afghanistan

Britain will open a new military base in Bahrain

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Britain will open a new military base in Bahrain


The base will be an expansion of Bahrain's Mina Salman port, with limited facilities that Britain has been using since 1971
The base will be an expansion of Bahrain's Mina Salman port, with limited facilities that Britain has been using since 1971

Britain and Bahrain announced a deal for Britain to open a new military base in Bahrain. The U.S. Navy's Fifth Fleet is also based in Bahrain, and Britain has been sharing some of its facilities. This new agreement will permit Britain to substantially expand its presence in the Mideast. Britain closed all is major bases east of the Suez canal following major defense spending cuts in 1971, so this agreement marks the first permanent base in the Mideast since then. According to Britain's defense secretary:

"This new base is a permanent expansion of the Royal Navy's footprint and will enable Britain to send more and larger ships to reinforce stability in the Gulf."

Immediate plans including using the new facilities in the fight against ISIS. The US has been escalating its military presence in Iraq and Afghanistan, and it appears that Britain is doing so as well. Guardian (London) and AFP

Obama orders 1000 more troops for Afghanistan

Outgoing U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel announced on Saturday that the administration is increasing by 1,000 the number of soldiers that the US will keep in Afghanistan next year. Hagel noted that there has been a particularly violent surge of Taliban attacks in Kabul recently. "The recent wave of Taliban attacks has made it clear that the international community must not waver in its support for a stable, secure and prosperous Afghanistan," he said.

President Obama had promised to have all US troops out of Iraq and Afghanistan by the end of 2014. He brought in anti-war politician Hagel as Secretary of Defense in order to complete the withdrawal, but circumstances, especially the Islamic State / of Iraq and Syria (IS or ISIS or ISIL), have forced him to order American troops to re-enter Iraq, and then to continually increase the US presence. ( "8-Nov-14 World View -- Obama sharply escalates U.S. involvement in Iraq war") It now appears that increased Taliban violence is beginning to force a similar escalation in Afghanistan. Reuters and CNN

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 7-Dec-14 World View -- Obama orders 1000 more troops for Afghanistan thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (7-Dec-2014) Permanent Link
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6-Dec-14 World View -- Sony suffers catastrophic breach, possibly from North Korean hackers

Mahmoud Abbas blames Gaza war on lies by Hamas and Muslim Brotherhood

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Sony suffers catastrophic breach, possibly from North Korean hackers


Publicity poster for Sony's movie 'The Interview'
Publicity poster for Sony's movie 'The Interview'

You may have read some news reports that hackers broke into Sony Pictures's computer network, downloaded some movies and made them available for free online. According to the reports, North Korean may have perpetrated the hacks in retaliation for the pending release of a move, "The Interview," which is a comedy that mocks North Korea's easily mockable president Kim Jong-un. North Korea has previously reacted to news about the film by threatening war.

It turns out that the hacker breach was far more serious than the release of a couple of movies, and is so widespread and destructive that Sony may not survive. The hackers downloaded a dozen terabytes of data, including substantial corporate data and intellectual property. The data included employee salaries, performance reviews, criminal background checks, passwords, RSA tokens, global network maps, email accounts, and 47,000 Social Security numbers. The hackers are releasing much of that data online. The data includes everything that a hacker would need to compromise Sony all over again, in the manner of their choosing.

As bad as that is, it goes far beyond even that to wholesale large-scale system destruction. The hackers released malware designed to completely erase all data files throughout Sony's entire network, including servers and PCs.

The attack was so vicious and so personal that it may well have been a North Korean attack. However, the hackers had customized the malware with specific knowledge of Sony's internal networks, indicating that the hackers may have had help from an insider, someone like the American traitor Snowden.

Other corporations are looking on the Sony situation with horror, because they know that they could be next. They're appalled at the seeming ease with which the hackers entered the system, the sheer volume of data that was released, and the amount of destruction that was wrought. Any corporation that hasn't been worried about cybersecurity in the past should start worrying now. Dark Reading and Bloomberg and BBC

Mahmoud Abbas blames Gaza war on lies by Hamas and Muslim Brotherhood

Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas on November 30 gave a lengthy interview on his strategy for dealing with Israel, Egypt and Hamas. He repeated many things we've described before -- plans to gain worldwide recognition for the State of Palestine, plans to bring war crime charges against Israel, opposition to the plan to declare Israel a "Jewish state," as that would degrade positions of the Arab Israelis.

Abbas also laid out how the Gaza war began. As we've written in the past, three Israeli teenagers were abducted on June 10, and their dead bodies were found on June 30. This triggered a spiral of violence that led to the Gaza war, and further violence in Jerusalem since then. Israel accused Hamas of the murders of the teens, and Hamas denied it. Abbas says that it was this lie by Hamas that led to the war:

"We agreed [with Hamas] that we would establish the [unity government between Hamas and Abbas's Fatah], but that it would not include a single member of the Hamas movement. This government was sworn in on June 2,.[2014], and exactly ten days later, on June 12, they kidnapped the three settlers [near] Hebron. I tried to avoid creating a crisis. I spoke with [Hamas political bureau head] Khaled Mash'al and asked him whether Hamas had anything to do with the kidnapping of the settlers, and he said: We have nothing to do with it. I wanted him to confirm it again, and he swore by Allah that they had nothing to do with it. I told him: I believe you. That was in Doha.

Then the war in Gaza broke out, and I visited Qatar and Turkey to consult [with them] about the Egyptian initiative. I had a meeting with the Emir of Qatar, and I asked him [to hold a meeting] attended by the Hamas leadership and by members of the movement who were in Qatar. Before this meeting [was held], Hamas member Salah Al-'Arouri officially declared from Istanbul that it was Hamas that had kidnapped the three settlers and killed them, in order to promote Hamas's attempt to mobilize the Palestinians in the West Bank and Jerusalem. Then I asked Mash'al again about those involved in the affair, and he said that Al-'Arouri had spoken for himself, not for Hamas.

I want to say here that no one lies more than them [Hamas] and the Muslim Brotherhood (MB). I am not against Islam, but I am against the MB. I am a good Muslim – I fast, I pray, and I read the Koran – while they are a bunch of liars...

Because of Hamas's lie, this regrettable Gaza war broke out. I phoned the Egyptian president and asked him to submit a proposal to stop the war. I clarified that [such] an initiative would save the Palestinian people, and that it was the entire Palestinian people that was asking him to do this, not Hamas. [I explained this because] I sensed from his words that he wanted nothing whatsoever to do with Hamas. President Al-Sisi met my request, and the Egyptian initiative was proposed. They [had to] propose it for 51 days, because of Hamas's obstinacy, and during this time the land [Gaza] was completely destroyed. On the last day [of the war], Hamas members begged me to declare a ceasefire with no reservations or conditions, after many had already been killed and wounded and Gaza was in ruins.

During the 50-day war, everyone spoke out against me, first of all Fatah. I told them that I am not willing to destroy the West Bank and Ramallah. Hamas, for example, killed three [Israelis], and it wanted an intifada, and I did not respond... At the end of the war, my men told me: You were right. Had we acted like them [i.e., like Hamas], the [entire] land would have been ruined..."

I wondered why Hamas did not accept the reconciliation from the outset, instead of [allowing] the destruction that was caused in the [Gaza] Strip. The same thing happened when they blew up the homes of the Fatah leaders in Gaza recently [on November 7], but claimed that they were not involved in this and that they were investigating the incident. They are liars."

Abbas simply can't understand why Hamas leaders seem to want a war that would destroy Gaza when he does not, but this is exactly the kind of thing that Generational Dynamics explains. Abbas was born in 1935, and lived through the horrors of the 1948 war between Jews and Arabs that followed the partitioning of Palestine and the creation of the state of Israel. He says, "Had we acted like [Hamas], the entire land would have been ruined." How did he know that? Because the entire land was ruined by the 1948 war.

The Hamas leaders are young, and have no personal memory of the horrors of the 1948 war. They look at Iran's 1979 Great Islamic Revolution, where a popular uprising overwhelmed the existing government, and installed a hardline Shia government. Using that as a model, they believe that a war with Israel would bring about a popular uprising that would destroy the state of Israel, and put a hardline Sunni government -- governed by Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood -- in charge of all the Palestinian territories -- that is, the State of Palestine.

Generational Dynamics predicts that a new war between Jews and Arabs will in fact take place, though it may not turn out exactly as the Hamas leaders hope. The state of Israel may or may not survive, but the Hamas government may not survive either. One thing is pretty certain: That Abbas's worst fears will come true, and the entire land will be ruined. And the Hamas leaders, if they survive, will almost certainly be sorry that the war ever started. MEMRI

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 6-Dec-14 World View -- Sony suffers catastrophic breach, possibly from North Korean hackers thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (6-Dec-2014) Permanent Link
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5-Dec-14 World View -- AQAP in Yemen bombs Iranian ambassador's house, killing six

AQAP in Yemen threatens to kill journalist not saved by failed US rescue attempt

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

AQAP in Yemen bombs Iranian ambassador's house, killing six


Aftermath of bombing of Iranian ambassador's home in Sanaa Yemen (Reuters)
Aftermath of bombing of Iranian ambassador's home in Sanaa Yemen (Reuters)

A car bomb exploded near the home if Iran's ambassador to Yemen on Wednesday, killing six people and injuring seventeen. Hossein Niknam had only just become Iran's ambassador a few days before, and was apparently the target of the bombing, though he was not at home and was unharmed.

Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) has claimed responsibility for the attack. In addition, their statement boasted that "despite the security precautions put in place by the Yemeni regime forces and the Houthi political committees, the mujahideen managed to park the explosive laden vehicle and detonate it at 9:02 am (local time)."

Sectarian Sunni versus Shia violence has been growing in Yemen ever since the Iran-backed Shia Houthi tribes from northern Yemen invaded the capital city Sanaa in September and took control of the government. On October 9, a suicide bomber struck a Houthi checkpoint, killing 47 people. AQAP are still holding embassy staffer Nour Ahmad Nikbakht who was abducted in July last year. Saba News (Yemen) and The National (UAE) and Long War Journal

AQAP in Yemen threatens to kill journalist not saved by failed US rescue attempt

AQAP has threatened to kill 33-year-old Luke Somers, an American photojournalist born in Britain, whom AQAP kidnapped in September, 2013 from Sanaa, the capital city of Yemen.

US officials have for the first time public acknowledged a failed attempt to rescue Somers last month. According to the White House:

"As soon as the US government had reliable intelligence and an operational plan, the president authorized the Department of Defense to conduct an operation to recover Mr Somers. Regrettably, Luke was not present."

However, in the assault on a cave, US and local security forces rescued six Yemenis, a Saudi and an Ethiopian, and killed seven Al Qaeda kidnappers.

AQAP commander Nasser Bin Ali Al Ansi issued a video condemning the American "stupidities" -- attempts to rescue abducted hostages, and gave Washington three days to meet al-Qaeda's demands or "otherwise, the American hostage held by us will meet his inevitable fate." The video does not specify the demands, but says that Washington is aware of them. Reuters and AP

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 5-Dec-14 World View -- AQAP in Yemen bombs Iranian ambassador's house, killing six thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (5-Dec-2014) Permanent Link
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4-Dec-14 World View -- Nigeria mobilizing thousands of vigilantes to fight Boko Haram

Iran strongly denies it's targeting ISIS with airstrikes, despite video

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Nigeria mobilizing thousands of vigilantes to fight Boko Haram


Vigilante fighter in Nigeria (AP)
Vigilante fighter in Nigeria (AP)

The Nigerian terror group Boko Haram continues to abduct schoolgirls and to take control of entire villages in the northeastern state of Adamawa, especially near the border with Cameroon. Nigeria's army continues to appear to be helpless against Boko Haram, and some reports indicate that soldiers have been shedding the uniforms and fleeing when Boko Haram approaches.

Authorities in Adamawa now say they're implementing their own plan. They plan to mobilize some 4,000 vigilantes from the local villages. Bala James Nggilari, the governor of Adamawa, said:

"The vigilantes and hunters are local people, local boys who know the terrain. When you bring a soldier from Bayelsa [in southern Nigeria], for example, who is coming here for the first time he doesn't know the terrain.

The people we are fighting are also part of the local community. There is nothing on their forehead that says 'insurgent' but these local hunters are familiar with them, they know them, they have the native intelligence which the regular army may not have."

These vigilantes, in cooperation with the army, have already retaken several towns that Boko Haram has captured.

Boko Haram is afraid of these vigilante groups, according to one resident. The local men know some of the insurgents personally and would be able to identify them to security forces. For Boko Haram to operate freely, "they must be sure they overcome those vigilante groups."

Boko Haram last week attacked Damasak, a town on the Cameroon border, killing dozens of people. There is evidence that this attack was a revenge attack against the town's young men who have been joining anti-Boko Haram vigilante groups. BBC and VOA

Iran strongly denies it's targeting ISIS with airstrikes, despite video

There has been video on al-Jazeera and elsewhere of Iranian war planes striking ISIS targets in Iraq, and also of Iranian special forces on the ground in Iraq. American officials have confirmed it. And yet, Iran's foreign ministry has firmly denied any Iran military presence in Iraq against the Islamic State / of Iraq and Syria (IS or ISIS or ISIL).

The situation is embarrassing for both America and Iran. American officials have insisted strenuously that America and Iran are not cooperating or coordinating air strikes or any other military action in Iraq, and that that Iraq government was responsible for an coordination of the two air forces that might be necessary, presumably to make sure, for example, that American and Iranian war planes don't crash into each other. That's because the administration doesn't want to be seen as cooperating in any way with Iran.

It's even worse for the Iranians. The Iranian leadership, starting on top with the delusional Supreme Leader Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei, blames everything on "the Zionist regime" (Israel) and the "minions of Arrogance" (America). To show even the slightest cooperation with either the Zionist regime or the minions of arrogance would undermine the entire purpose of his daily rants. In fact, I suspect that the entire government might collapse if he admitted to cooperating with the Americans.

There's another reason. Iran and Iraq fought a generational crisis war in the 1980s, climaxing in 1988. Iraqi Sunnis do not trust the Shia Iranians in any way, and one of the reasons that many of them have joined ISIS is because they believe that Iraq's Shia government in Baghdad is in league with Iran -- which is undoubtedly true. To admit that Iranian warplanes were bombing targets in Iraq would only further infuriate the Iraqi Sunnis. The bombing is also making Iran's Sunni enemies in Saudi Arabia and Qatar nervous.

Still, more and more commentators are noting the irony of Iran and American working together to oppose ISIS. I wrote ten years ago that American and Iran would be allies in the coming Clash of Civilizations world war, and we're seeing that prediction come closer and closer to confirmation almost every week. With Iran now bombing Sunni targets in Iraq, it would take only one or two miscalculations to turn this into a broader sectarian war between Sunnis and Shias. Mehr News (Tehran) and AP

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 4-Dec-14 World View -- Nigeria mobilizing thousands of vigilantes to fight Boko Haram thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (4-Dec-2014) Permanent Link
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3-Dec-14 World View -- Wife and son of ISIS leader al-Baghdadi captured in Lebanon

Kenya's government in crisis after al-Shabaab kills 36 Christians

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Kenya's government in crisis after al-Shabaab kills 36 Christians


Soldiers of Kenyan Defense Forces look over the bodies of some 36 Kenyans killed by al-Shabaab on Tuesday (AP)
Soldiers of Kenyan Defense Forces look over the bodies of some 36 Kenyans killed by al-Shabaab on Tuesday (AP)

On Tuesday, al-Shabaab terrorists killed 36 mainly Christian miners working in a quarry in northern Kenya, near the border with Somalia. The 60 or so workers were asked to recite the Shahada, an Islamic creed declaring oneness with God. Those who couldn't were shot and killed.

This follows a similar incident that occurred on November 22, when Al-Shabaab terrorists forced a bus carrying 60 passengers to stop. They asked the passengers to recite Koranic verses, and those who were unable to do so were lined up and then killed. 28 people were killed, 19 men and 9 women.

Kenya's president Uhuru Kenyatta has been facing growing criticisms ever since al-Shabaab terrorists attacked the Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi last year, killing 67 people. Facing a political crisis, Kenyatta on Tuesday announced a government shakeup, and replaced two of his top security chiefs.

Other Christians working in the same area are in dread for their lives. Many of them have no money and are in debt, so they're unable to leave the area. ("You load 16 tons, and what do you get? Another day older and deeper in debt. Saint Peter don't you call me, cause I can't go - I owe my soul to the company store." - Tennessee Ernie Ford) Standard Media (Kenya) and AP and Bloomberg

Wife and son of ISIS leader al-Baghdadi captured in Lebanon

Officials in Lebanon's army say that they've arrested the wife and son of Abu Omar al-Baghdadi, the self-describe caliph and leader of the Islamic State / of Iraq and Syria (IS or ISIS or ISIL). The pair were arrested ten days ago as they tried to enter Lebanon from Syria. The arrests were made in conjunction with American and Western intelligence sources. It's believed that authorities waited ten days to announce the capture in order to have time to interrogate the pair and get information that could be used for a surprise attack on ISIS or al-Baghdadi himself. For example, she might know where al-Baghdadi is now, or what routes he uses to travel around.

The name of the captured woman is Saja Hamid al-Dulaimi. It's unclear whether she actually is one of al-Baghdadi's three wives, or whether she's a former wife, or whether she's really married to some other jihadist unrelated to al-Baghdadi. There are also questions about whether the child who was captured was a boy or a girl. And if al-Dulaimi is al-Baghdadi's wife, then why was she coming to Lebanon? Was it to escape from al-Baghdadi, for whatever reason?

Whether al-Dulaimi knows enough to provide useful intelligence is unknown, but her greatest value may be as a bargaining chip to win the release of 26 Lebanese security personnel previously kidnapped by ISIS. Daily Star (Beirut) and Daily Star (Beirut) and CNN and Time

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 3-Dec-14 World View -- Wife and son of ISIS leader al-Baghdadi captured in Lebanon thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (3-Dec-2014) Permanent Link
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2-Dec-14 World View -- World Food Program terminates aid to 1.7 million Syrian refugees

Syrian refugees increasingly threaten regional stability

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

World Food Program terminates aid to 1.7 million Syrian refugees


Syrian refugee camp
Syrian refugee camp

Some 1.7 million Syrian refugees, who have depended on the United Nations World Food Program (WFP) to provide food vouchers so that they can eat at least one meal a day, are now going to have to go without that food. The WFP food voucher program has been shut down as of December 1 for lack of funding, just as winter is approaching.

Every month, the UN feeds over four million people inside Syria, and almost two million more now sheltered in other countries. The food voucher program allowed 1.7 million refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, Iraq and Egypt to purchase food in local stores.

Many countries have pledged money to the WFP without honoring their pledges. That lack of honor is not true of the United States which has given almost $1 billion to the WFP for its operations with Syrians since the conflict started, including a donation last week of $125 million. But that money covered food vouchers issued in November, and was not enough to stave off the end of food vouchers on December 1.

The food voucher money not only allowed refugees to purchase food, but it also provided cash that traveled through the community to create jobs and business opportunities. The loss of this funding, especially with the cold winter approaching, is going to mean increased instability in a region where instability is growing on a daily basis anyway.

Syria's refugees are currently the world's largest humanitarian disaster, but not the not the only one. Recently, the WFP was forced to cut food rations for the half-million Sudanese and Somalian refugees in Kenyan refugee camp. The Ebola crisis in West Africa is creating food shortages for more than a million people. The growing millions of people in crisis are overwhelming United Nations' aid agencies to the point where they can no longer operate effectively. CS Monitor and LA Times

Syrian refugees increasingly threaten regional stability

It's been personally astonishing to me to see the Syrian conflict unfold from peaceful demonstrations into a proxy war threatening the region and the world.

The Islamic State / of Iraq and Syria (IS or ISIS or ISIL) is a creation of Syria's president Bashar al-Assad and his supporters, including Russia's president Vladimir and Iran's Supreme Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei. These are all war criminals because they participated in and supported wholesale genocide against innocent Syria Sunnis. Syria's Shia/Alawite president Bashar al-Assad has flattened entire Sunni villages with Russia's heavy weapons, he's killed children by sending missiles into exam rooms and bedrooms, he's killed dozens with sarin gas, and he's killed countless more with barrel bombs loaded with explosives, metals, and chlorine gas. In addition, he's used electrocution, eye-gouging, strangulation, starvation, and beating on tens of thousands of prisoners on a massive "industrial strength" scale, and does with complete impunity, and in fact with encouragement and support from Russia and Iran.

When I was growing up in the 1950s, it was hard for me to understand how Hitler and Stalin could have gotten away with what they had done, and why they had so many supporters. I remember asking my mother that very question and not getting a satisfactory answer. Now I understand why, as I see the sycophants of al-Assad and Putin defend their horrific actions. And the sycophants have been rewarded. Al-Assad's genocidal actions against innocent protesting Sunnis have encouraged jihadists from around to world to join ISIS and other jihadist organizations. We can now see how stupidity brings about disaster.

When refugees began crossing borders in 2011, they were treated with sympathy and given the aid that they needed. But as the hundreds of refugees have grown into thousands, then tens of thousands and then hundreds of thousands, their welcome has worn thin, and they're straining the resources of the neighboring countries. Syrians are willing to work for low wages, forcing everyone's wages down. Rents are rising because of the refugees, and schools and hospitals are becoming crowded. The refugees complain of discrimination, abuse, and sexual exploitation by landlords and merchants.

And there's no end in sight. Apparently nobody is going to stop al-Assad and his chemical-weapons-laden barrel bombs being dumped on neighborhoods filled with innocent women and children. So there's really no expectation that the refugee crisis will end anytime soon. Al-Assad and Putin will continue with mass murder, and ISIS will continue to become more powerful.

Lebanon has attempted to enforce new measures aimed at limiting the number of Syrians entering the country. These new measures have reduced the influx of refugees, but rights groups have denounced the measures, claiming that they violate international law.

Jordan is a small country, but it's hosting 1.2 million Syria refugees. The Syrians are the third big wave of refugees to enter Jordan since independence in 1946. First came the Palestinians – those who lost their homes when Israel was created in 1948, and a second exodus in the wake of the 1967 war. Iraqis arrived in 1991 and again in 2003. Now the Syrian refugees have done it again.

Like Lebanon, Jordan is closing its border to all but a small number of further Syrian refugees. This is motivated largely by security needs. The refugees are coming from regions of Syria under control of ISIS, and there's a danger that ISIS terrorists will enter Jordan pretending to be refugees. VOA and Guardian (London)

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1-Dec-14 World View -- Arab League agrees on plan to 'end Israeli occupation' of Palestine

Hong Kong police clash with protesters, worst violence in weeks

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Hong Kong police clash with protesters, worst violence in weeks


Protesters clash with police officers on the main road outside government headquarters in Hong Kong on Sunday (AP)
Protesters clash with police officers on the main road outside government headquarters in Hong Kong on Sunday (AP)

Police used batons and pepper spray to beat back pro-democracy protesters trying to surround government headquarters in Hong Kong. Protesters yelled "I want true democracy!" and "Surround the headquarters. Paralyze the government." Protesters wore surgical masks, hard hats and used umbrellas -- which have come to symbolize the pro-democracy movement -- to shield themselves from the pepper spray, and pelted the police with water bottles and other objects. The clashes began on Sunday and continued through the night into Monday. The protests had been simmering down recently, but this was the worst violence in weeks. 40 protesters were arrested.

The renewed violence comes just one day after Taiwan's pro-Beijing governing party (KMT) had a disastrous election loss, giving power to Taiwan's pro-independence opposition party (DPP). ( "30-Nov-14 World View -- Taiwan voters choose independence from China")

Activists say that many people in Hong Kong are excited and inspired by the results of Taiwan's election. According to one, "If Taiwan can create change, so can Hong Kong in the future."

It's thought that China would like to end the Hong Kong protests peacefully, so as not to further encourage the anti-Beijing activists in Taiwan. However, the Hong Kong activists point out that they have no other way to get their demands heard except by occupation. AAP and AFP and Central News Agency (Taiwan)

Arab League agrees on plan to 'end Israeli occupation' of Palestine

Saying that "Israel is no longer a peace partner," Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas said that "the current situation of the Palestinian territories is not sustainable. ... We have no option but to internationalize the issue." He added that in case the statehood bid is thwarted, "we would move towards defining our relations with Israel by halting security coordination and calling for the occupation to assume its responsibilities" under international law as "an occupying power" of the West Bank. The statements were made at an Arab League meeting in Cairo on Saturday.

Abbas laid out a specific timeline for "ending the Israeli occupation," and gaining international recognition of Palestine:

Abbas noted that the parliaments of three separate Western countries (Sweden, the UK, and Spain) have recognized "Palestine," and that France will be voting on the issue.

Abbas referred to proposed legislation by Israel's prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu to declare Israel as a "Jewish state." Abbas said that the proposal was "racist," and that "Palestinians will not recognize Israel as a Jewish State," which would attempt to enshrine Israel's "apartheid regime." Abbas pointed to other Israeli laws that he considers "racist."

Generational Dynamics predicts that there will be a new war between Arabs and Israelis, refighting the 1948 war between Jews and Arabs that following the partitioning of Palestine and the creation of the state of Israel, and that there is no guarantee that Israel will survive that war. WAFA (Gaza) and Israel National News

Egypt promises troops for Palestine to assist police forces

The summer Gaza war made public some very bitter disagreements between Saudi Arabia and Egypt versus Qatar and Hamas. As we reported two weeks ago, Saudi Arabia mediated a truce to last at least through the summit meeting on December 4. ( "21-Nov-14 World View -- Gulf nations paper over their differences for GCC Summit in December")

At Saturday's Arab League meeting, all the nations were able to continue papering over their differences by agreeing that the biggest issue facing all the Arab states is the "Israeli occupation of Palestine." One of the issues in resolving that conflict is to find a way to provide security in the West Bank without relying on Israeli security forces.

This issue was not discussed at the Arab League meeting, since it would have opened up new bitter disagreements.

Egypt's president Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi had previously stated in an interview that he would be willing "to send military forces to a Palestinian state" in order to reassure Israel and assist police forces. In a TV interview on Saturday, Abbas said that there is no objection to the presence of Egyptian troops on Palestinian territories. "It is welcomed, as Al-Sisi wouldn’t say anything contrary to the interests of the Palestinian people."

However, this agreement leaves completely unresolved the question of Gaza and Hamas. Qatar supports Hamas, while Egypt considers them to be a terrorist group. Hamas would not tolerate Egyptian troops in Gaza. Furthermore, Hamas is tolerating Abbas as president of the Hamas-Fatah unity government only because of political expediency, and Hamas would expect to govern the entire State of Palestine. This means that Egyptian troops would not be tolerated, and there would immediately be a state of war between Israel and Palestine.

Saturday's Arab League meeting was able to maintain cordiality by focusing narrowly on Abbas's plans to force international recognition of a State of Palestine. However, Abbas's plan makes no mention of Gaza and Hamas, and the intrinsic contradiction in any plan to have a fully independent State of Palestine alongside Israel. Daily News Egypt and Gulf News (Dubai)

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 1-Dec-14 World View -- Arab League agrees on plan to 'end Israeli occupation' of Palestine thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (1-Dec-2014) Permanent Link
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30-Nov-14 World View -- Taiwan voters choose independence from China

Sunflowers and Umbrellas

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Taiwan voters choose independence from China


Student protests in Taiwan in April of this year (AFP)
Student protests in Taiwan in April of this year (AFP)

Taiwan's ruling nationalist party KMT (Kuomintang) suffered disastrous losses in local elections across Taiwan on Saturday, giving victories to the opposing DPP (Democratic Progressive Party), and forcing the resignation of the prime minister. Thousands of municipalities, including the capital city Taipei, that had been ruled for years by KMT mayors and politicians will not be ruled by DPP mayors and politicians.

The Kuomintang (KMT) is the modern day incarnation of Chiang Kai-shek's original nationalist party of soldiers that fought against Mao Zedong's Communist Revolution and lost, and fled to Hong Kong, then a British colony, and from there to Formosa (Taiwan) in 1949, at the conclusion of the civil war. The KMT position has always been that Taiwan would reunite with China.

KMT held an iron grip on power in Taiwan after the war, and that only began to fade in the 1980s with the founding of the DPP. However, the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre in Beijing, which people in Taiwan viewed with horror, proved to be a catalyst in turning Taiwanese people against Beijing, and by 2000 the DPP won a national election. A DPP corruption scandal in 2006 put KMT back into power, and KMT officials have been working closely with Beijing officials to woo Taiwan's public to voluntarily want reunite with China.

The policy hasn't really been effective. There are two groups of people who don't want to reunite. One group is the indigenous Taiwanese people who lived there before 1949, and who have suffered at the hands of the KMT. Young people generally form the second group, and they distrust China and they distrust the KMT for selling out to China. Central News Agency (Taiwan) and BBC and Forbes

Sunflowers and Umbrellas

In April of this year, hundreds of university students and other activists protested the proposed Cross-Strait Services Trade Agreement (CSSTA), which KMT had negotiated with Beijing in secret. The students occupied the legislative chamber for several days, and moved to occupy the cabinet offices. This triggered a violent response from the police. The scenes of bloodied protesters, injured police officers and water cannon trucks galvanized the resolve of the protesters.

In the first week of the occupation of the legislature, a supporter brought bunches of sunflowers to the building to symbolize the need to let sunlight into the black box of KMT negotiations between Taiwan and mainland China. The protesters became known as the Sunflower Student Movement.

The Sunflower movement fizzled out as the summer began, but over in Hong Kong a new protest began, which later came to be known as the Umbrella Movement, because protesters used umbrellas to fend off police tear gas. In fact it was the use of tear gas that galvanized the Hong Kong protesters, just as police violence galvanized the Taiwan protesters last Spring.

The two protests have become synergistic in the sense that each one is providing energy to the other. According to some reports, the leaders of the two protests are helping each other out, providing mutual support and strategies.

The anti-Beijing movement in Taiwan really took off after the Tiananmen Square massacre, and each new show of force by government officials serves to renew the contempt that these protesters have for Beijing. With the KMT in power, Beijing has followed a conciliatory policy towards Taiwan, but in the months to come if it looks like the DPP is going to come back into power in 2016, then Beijing may feel forced to take some military action. The China Story (April) and Thinking Taiwan

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 30-Nov-14 World View -- Taiwan voters choose independence from China thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (30-Nov-2014) Permanent Link
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29-Nov-14 World View -- Britain's David Cameron draws a red line on immigration

David Cameron accused of 'blackmail' on immigration demands

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Britain's David Cameron draws a red line on immigration


David Cameron on Friday (AFP/Getty)
David Cameron on Friday (AFP/Getty)

Britain's prime minister David Cameron offered a set of proposals on Friday to discourage migrants from "benefit shopping" -- coming to the UK just to take advantage of the generous welfare benefits. His proposals are not targeted at Muslim migrants coming from Syria or northern Africa, entering the EU illegally. They're targeted at mostly Christian EU citizens in eastern Europe, for example in Bulgaria, where wages are typically 20% of those in the UK, or in Poland, with wages that are 40% of those in the UK.

Cameron is under tremendous political pressure to find a way to limit east European migrants from coming to UK. The UK Independence Party (UKIP), which favors Britain leaving the EU entirely, is gaining strength because of the immigration issue, and the fact that EU immigration is reaching record levels.

Previous proposals to simply put an annual cap or limit on the number of migrants have met with almost universal hostility from leaders across the EU, because they violate "guaranteed freedom of movement," which is one of the founding principles of the 1957 Treaty of Rome on which the EU is based.

So now Cameron is trying something different: To limit migrants by making Britain's welfare benefits less attractive for migrants.

The major elements of Cameron's proposal are:

Guardian (London) and BBC

David Cameron accused of 'blackmail' on immigration demands

In his speech, Cameron warned against the UKIP -- "betraying you" with "simple solutions":

"The British people will not understand - frankly I will not understand - if a sensible way through cannot be found, which will help settle this country's place in the EU once and for all. ...

Because those who promise you simple solutions are betraying you.

Those who say we would certainly be better off outside the EU only ever tell you part of the story. Of course we would survive, there is no doubt about that.

But we would need to weigh in the balance the loss of our instant access to the single market, and our right to take the decisions that regulate it. And we would of course lose the automatic right for the 1.3 million British citizens who today are living and working elsewhere in Europe to do so. That is something we would want to think carefully about giving up.

For me, I have one test, and one test only: what is in the best, long term interests of Britain? ...

If I succeed, I will, as I have said, campaign to keep this country in a reformed EU. If our concerns fall on deaf ears and we cannot put our relationship with the EU on a better footing, then of course I rule nothing out."

European leaders have accused Cameron of blackmail in the past, for threatening to put to a vote a referendum on whether Britain should leave the European Union. Those accusations were renewed on Friday over his threat to veto new members from joining the EU unless his demands are met. Albania is likely to be the next EU member - population nearly 3 million - but there are several others in the wings, including Bosnia (3.8 million) and Montenegro (650,000)

Friday's speech is a change in tactics for Cameron. He's given up the idea of putting any sort of cap on the number of immigrants to Britain, since that proposal has received almost unanimous hostility from other EU nations. Instead, he's proposing to make Britain less desirable for migrants by limiting benefits. He's hoping that those proposals will be more acceptable to other European leaders, and that they will be enough to satisfy British citizens who are increasing turning towards UKIP. BBC and Daily Mail (London)

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 29-Nov-14 World View -- Britain's David Cameron draws a red line on immigration thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (29-Nov-2014) Permanent Link
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28-Nov-14 World View -- Oil prices crash after OPEC meeting ends in discord

Russia and Venezuela on their knees with oil prices plunging

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Oil prices crash after OPEC meeting ends in discord


OPEC
OPEC

The 12-nation oil cartel, the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), ended its meeting in Vienna on Thursday in discord. Poorer members, such as Iran, Iraq, Angola and Venezuela, had been calling for an agreement where all cartel members would cut production of oil, in order to force a global increase in the price of oil.

However, Saudi Arabia refused to agree to any such cuts. News of the discord led to a crash in oil prices. Oil was selling for $100-120 per barrel just a few months ago. But on Thursday, West Texas Intermediate plunged to $67.75 a barrel (for January delivery), while London's Brent North Sea crude nosedived to $71.25.

The plunge in oil prices is occurring because of a glut in the oil markets, and the glut in turn is caused by high production and decreasing demand. A lot of the glut has come about because of America's increased production of shale oil (fracking), which has made America the number one oil producer in the world. Even the OPEC cartel, which was supposed to be limiting combined oil production from the 12 members to 30 million barrels per day actually produced 30.6 million barrels per day in October. The reduction in demand is largely due to slowing growth in Europe and China. Reuters and AFP

Oil price plunge pressures budgets of oil exporting countries

Although the plunge in oil prices will cause a fall in gasoline prices, which is good news for consumers, it's going to put a great deal of pressure of the budgets of oil exporting countries that were counting on oil prices above $100 per barrel.

I've been listening to a number of analysts throw out different numbers for how high oil has to be for each country's budget to balance. The following list is a synthesis of all that I heard:

+----------------+--------+
| Libya          |   $184 | 
| Iran           |   $131 | 
| Algeria        |   $131 | 
| Venezuela      |   $110 | 
| Russia         |   $105 | 
| Nigeria        |   $100 | 
| Saudi Arabia   |   $ 98 | 
| UAE            |   $ 80 | 
| Kuwait         |   $ 78 | 
| Qatar          |   $ 77 | 
+----------------+-----------+
Table: Oil price per barrel required
to balance each country's budget

According to analysts, in order for American fracking operations to make money, oil prices have to be at least $65-70 per barrel. Analysts say that Saudi Arabia is keeping prices low as a long-range investment in order to suppress America's fracking industry, and that Saudi Arabia has enough currency reserves that it can sustain these low prices for 6-12 months. However, poorer countries will be in trouble much more quickly.

Russia and Venezuela on their knees with oil prices plunging


Oil revenue as share of government revenue (Quartz)
Oil revenue as share of government revenue (Quartz)

When Vladimir Putin first became president of Russia in 2001, oil revenues accounted for just 9% of the Russian economy. In 2013, oil revenues accounted for 52% of the Russian economy. On Thursday, the ruble currency slumped to historic lows against the dollar and the euro. Even at a price of $80 per barrel of Urals crude, the federal budget will run a deficit of 2-2.5%.

There's a feeling that Venezuela is getting its comeuppance with the plunge in oil prices. Hugo Chávez used to stick it to the United States whenever he could, because high oil prices made his country wealthy. But instead of saving any of that money, he wasted it on huge socialist programs design to buy popularity for himself and for his party, the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV). These included things like subsidizing food so that prices are one-sixth of market prices.

But now Chávez is gone, and oil prices are plunging. His successor, Nicolás Maduro, doesn't have anything like Chávez's charisma, so he's been trying to borrow some charisma from Chávez by pretending to be able to talk to him in the afterlife. According to Maduro:

"I'm going to confess that a bird approached me, and approached me again and said ... that the commander [Chávez] was happy and full of love for the loyalty of his people ... must be proud."

I don't know how many people believed the talking bird story, but other PSUV politicians are saying things that are much harsher. According to one of Chávez's cabinet ministers, "It’s painful and worrying to see a Presidency that doesn’t show leadership." He criticized the “repetition of the approaches formulated by Comandante Chávez, without the necessary coherency."

The broader picture is that the plunging oil prices are part of a global deflationary spiral. I said, starting in 2003 when I first began writing about Generational Dynamics, that it was predicting deflation. Mainstream economists have been predicting high inflation and even superinflation every quarter for years, so they've been wrong every quarter and Generational Dynamics has been right. Quartz and Moscow Times and Panama Post and ABC (Madrid) (Trans)

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 28-Nov-14 World View -- Oil prices crash after OPEC meeting ends in discord thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (28-Nov-2014) Permanent Link
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27-Nov-14 World View -- Ukraine, Lithuania, Poland forming alliance to confront Russia

Two British brothers jailed for training at Syria terror camp

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Happy Thanksgiving to all my readers!

Ukraine, Lithuania, Poland forming alliance to confront Russia


Ukraine's president Petro Poroshenko, right, greets Lithuania's president Dalia Grybauskaite in Kiev on Monday (AP)
Ukraine's president Petro Poroshenko, right, greets Lithuania's president Dalia Grybauskaite in Kiev on Monday (AP)

Lithuania may supply weapons to Ukraine as part of plans to increase its support to the Ukrainian military with the formation of a joint Lithuanian, Polish and Ukrainian Brigade project. According to Lithuania's Defense Minister Juozas Olekas:

"A joint brigade formed by Lithuania, Ukraine and Poland will provide an opportunity for Ukraine to learn from Lithuania's and Poland's experience of Nato integration and to develop efficient armed forces."

The plan grew out of a visit to Kiev this week by Lithuania's president Dalia Grybauskaite and Ukraine's president Petro Poroshenko. Grybauskaite announced that Lithuania would be providing Ukraine with military aid, but did not specify if this would include weaponry or be of the non-lethal kind.

In a bizarre statement of a kind that we've come to expect from the Russians, Russia's foreign ministry warned that supplying weapons to Ukraine would violate international agreements:

"We heard repeated confirmations from the [US] administration, that it only supplies non-lethal aid to Ukraine. If there is a change of this policy, then we are talking about a serious destabilizing factor which could seriously affect the balance of power in the region."

This is bizarre because Russia hasn't worried about seriously destabilizing the region when it invaded Ukraine and annexed Crimea, and continues to pour weapons and troops into east Ukraine, all in violation of international law.

Lithuania already has a tense relationship with Russia. Grybauskaite recently called Russia a "terrorist country" because of its troops in east Ukraine.

Ukraine has been lobbying for months to receive military assistance from Nato as a whole or from the United States, but those requests have always been refused. The new alliance will allow Ukraine to become integrated with two Nato countries - Lithuania and Poland - though obtaining far fewer resources.

Ukraine is already in an alliance of post-Soviet countries. The alliance is called "GUAM - Organization for Democracy and Economic Development" where GUAM stands for Georgia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan and Moldova. It used to be called GUUAM, but the fifth member, Uzbekistan, dropped out. However, GUAM is more an economic union, while the new alliance is primarily military in nature. Paul Goble and Army Technology and Russia Behind The Headlines and Global Security

Health workers boycott Pakistan's polio vaccination campaign after shooting

Gunmen killed four polio workers and injured three others on Wednesday morning in Quetta, in southwest Pakistan. The Lady Health Workers (LHW) association in the province subsequently announced a boycott of the polio campaign in Balochistan.

The polio vaccination campaign was announced earlier this month. Over 238,000 children under the age of five were to be administered polio vaccine. The boycott will put the campaign on hold. At least 10 cases of polio were reported so far this year from the region around Quetta. Many parents refuse to allow their children to receive polio vaccine, believing the Taliban claims that the polio vaccination campaign is a Western plot to sterilize Muslim children. Pakistan is one of only three countries in the world where polio remains endemic, along with Afghanistan and Nigeria, while polio has also reemerged in Syria.

Polio cases in Pakistan have been surging to record-breaking levels, thanks to the Taliban's opposition to polio vaccine, claiming that it's a Western plot to sterilize Pakistani children. The Taliban have been murdering health care workers in Pakistan involved in polio providing vaccines, ever since the U.S. administration bragged in 2011 that a hepatitis vaccination program in Pakistan was used as a cover to locate and capture Osama bin Laden. Dawn (Pakistan)

Two British brothers jailed for training at Syria terror camp

Two brothers, Mohommod Nawaz, 30, and Hamza Nawaz, 24, both citizens of Britain, were sentenced to 4 1/2 years and 3 years in jail, respectively, after admitting to having attended a terrorism training camp in Syria in 2013. According to the judge,

"It is clear from the evidence from mobile phones that you both had been in a camp in Syria used for terrorist training. The evidence shows you were there for jihad, or holy war, and wanted to join an extremist group."

In August 25 of last year, the pair said they were going out for a meal, but instead left for France by car, and then flew to Turkey and ultimately crossed the border to join a jihadist training camp. Later, they send a message by social media to selected friends confirming what they had done.

They returned to the UK in September but were stopped by border officers who found ammunition designed for use in AK-47 rifles, mobile phone pictures of a training camp, and videos of their trip to the war zone.

The jailing of the two men is the first in a string of cases, with several men convicted of terrorism offences in relation to Syria waiting to receive sentences. At least three other men face similar charges directly linked to activity in Syria. Others are awaiting sentencing for planning their own activity or assisting others.

European officials are becoming increasingly alarmed that thousands of young men and women are traveling to Syria to join terrorist groups, including the Islamic State / of Iraq and Syria (IS or ISIS or ISIL). Some of them have already returned to Europe and others are expected to return. The fear is that they'll use the skills developed in Syria to perform terrorist acts in their home countries. Britain can't prevent young men and women from going to Syria, but the new laws mean that they can't simply return to Britain and resume their former lives as if nothing had happened. BBC and Independent (Ireland)

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 27-Nov-14 World View -- Ukraine, Lithuania, Poland forming alliance to confront Russia thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (27-Nov-2014) Permanent Link
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26-Nov-14 World View -- Pope Francis calls Mediterranean a 'vast cemetery' for migrants

E-Cigarettes can infect your computer with malware

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Pope Francis calls Mediterranean a 'vast cemetery' for migrants


Pope Francis at the European Parliament on Tuesday (AFP)
Pope Francis at the European Parliament on Tuesday (AFP)

Pope Francis has previously spoken out on the treatment of migrants. Last year he criticized the "globalization of indifference" towards migrants, saying that the western society had "forgotten how to cry," and that "the culture of our own well-being makes us insensitive to the cries of others."

On Tuesday he gave a speech to the European Parliament in Brussels:

"There needs to be a united response to the question of migration. We cannot allow the Mediterranean to become a vast cemetery.

The boats landing daily on the shores of Europe are filled with men and women who need acceptance and assistance. ...

One of the most common diseases in Europe today is loneliness. You can see it in the eyes of migrants who came here seeking a better future."

Francis also said that the European Union had lost its way:

"Europe seems to give the impression of being somewhat elderly and haggard, feeling less and less a protagonist in a world which frequently regards it with aloofness.

We encounter a general impression of weariness and ageing, of a Europe which is now a grandmother, no longer fertile and vibrant.

The time has come for us to abandon the idea of a Europe which is fearful and self-absorbed, in order to revive and encourage a Europe of leadership."

Francis also declared that the EU had lost its bearings, and was hostage to a uniform economic model that undermined democracy while the centrality of human rights was becoming confused with and supplanted by individualistic narcissism.

Over the past weekend alone, some 800 migrants were rescued from drowning by naval vessels from Italy and Libya. At least 215,000 asylum seekers arrived in Europe so far this year, while only 43,000 arrived during the entire year 2013. Guardian (London) and Reuters and AFP

Mali attempts to prevent the spread of Ebola

Two weeks ago, a 70-year-old sick Imam traveled by car from Guinea to Bamako, the capital city of Mali, where he went to a local hospital and died. Hundreds of people touched his body in the funeral preparations that followed, before anyone realized he had Ebola. ( "15-Nov-14 World View -- Ebola cluster growing in Mali, hundreds possibly exposed")

Mali officials said on Monday that another person had tested positive for Ebola, bringing the total number of cases to eight. Six previously identified patients have died. Health officials in Mali are currently monitoring some 300 people who may have come in contact with the Imam, or with someone who had been in a contact chain to the Imam. Teams of people check each of these people twice a day, every day, to catch anyone who may be sick with Ebola. Not everyone is cooperating, but Mali officials are being aggressive in chasing down anyone who avoids monitoring.

Health officials have been successful so far in preventing widespread Ebola infections outside of the three main West African countries - Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. They're hoping that quick action has prevented Mali from becoming the fourth country devastated by Ebola.

The level of anxiety and panic has also simmered down. Thanks to political crises over immigration and Ferguson, I haven't heard a peep lately out of anyone demanding that anyone traveling by plane from West Africa be refused entry into the United States.

There was a time last spring, for about a month, when everyone thought that Ebola had been all but eradicated in West Africa. Then suddenly it turned out that there were dozens of cases that had previously been unreported, and soon these turned into hundreds, and then thousands.

Officials are hoping that nothing like that will happen in any other country, but the case of the Imam shows what can go wrong. All you need is one Ebola patient who travels to a crowded city or a war zone. Since an infected patient may not show symptoms for 21 days, it would be possible to start a new Ebola cluster anywhere, just as recently happened in Mali. VOA and Reuters

E-Cigarettes can infect your computer with malware

E-cigarettes are a great invention for people who are addicted to the nicotine in cigarettes. E-cigarettes look like cigarettes, they fulfill the need for nicotine, but they do not have any tars and other poisons that cause lung cancer. The "smoke" they give off is only water vapor.

However, an e-cigarette contains a battery that has to be charged, and many of them are recharged by connecting them to a computer with a USB cable. At least one brand of e-cigarette made in China infects your computer with malware when you connect the USB cable.

Apparently the same thing is possible for photo frames, MP3 players, or any other device that plugs into the computer via a USB cable. Guardian and Reddit

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 26-Nov-14 World View -- Pope Francis calls Mediterranean a 'vast cemetery' for migrants thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (26-Nov-2014) Permanent Link
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25-Nov-14 World View -- After swallowing Crimea, Russia goes after Abkhazia and South Ossetia

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel fired by President Obama

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

After swallowing Crimea, Russia goes after Abkhazia and South Ossetia


Novoafonsky Monastery Abkhazia
Novoafonsky Monastery Abkhazia

Russia and Georgia's province of Abkhazia signed a treaty on Monday that will put a Russian commander in charge of all security forces in Abkhazia. The treaty envisages a gradual, but ultimate merger of Russian-occupied Abkhazia’s defense, security, law enforcement, border, customs, economic and healthcare agencies with that of Russia’s within three years. Many analysts believe that this is a step along the path of Russia annexing Abkhazia, just as it invaded and annexed Crimea earlier this year.

In 2008, Russia invaded Georgia and took control of two Georgian provinces, Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Last week, South Ossetia declared that it is negotiating a new "comprehensive agreement on integration" with Russia, which will raise the relationship between the two sides to a "qualitatively new level," indicating that South Ossetia is on the same path as Abkhazia.

We now have two countries -- Russia and China -- using military force to annex territories belonging to other countries. This is a very dangerous situation that could spiral into a wider war at any time, just as happened in the 1930s. Russia Today and Jamestown and AP

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel fired by President Obama

Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel is a Republican, mainly because he's pro-life on abortion, but he's well on the political left on defense issues. He and Obama worked together on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in the mid-2000s, where they opposed the Iraq war. Obama selected Hagel in January 2013 to be Secretary of Defense in order to pursue Obama's goal of reducing the military power and footprint of the U.S., and to manage the withdrawal from Afghanistan.

Pretty much all of Obama's foreign policy decisions have been debacles, and those were no exception. The rise of the Islamic State / of Iraq and Syria (IS or ISIS or ISIL) has forced Obama to send troops back into Iraq, and there have been several escalations in recent weeks. On Friday of last week, Obama escalated the U.S. mission in Afghanistan for 2015.

Pundits have been giving three reasons why Hagel was fired. The first reason is that Obama is using him as a scapegoat for his string of foreign policy debacles.

The second given reason is that Hagel contradicted and indirectly criticized the President. In January, Obama referred to ISIS as a "JV team in Lakers uniforms," where "JV" stands for "junior varsity." But in August, Hagel said that ISIS was "an imminent threat to every interest we have, whether it's in Iraq or anywhere else," and that ISIS was "as sophisticated and as well-funded as any group we've seen."

The third reason given by pundits is that Hagel was an ineffective manager of the armed forces.

Whatever the reason, Hagel's successor is going to have deal with a military and foreign policy in chaos. NBC News and Investors' Business Daily

Iran nuclear deal collapses, forcing another seven months of talks

For weeks, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry was saying that a deal to halt Iran's development of nuclear weapons would be successful by Monday, the self-imposed deadline. Even as late as Sunday evening, Kerry was saying that a deal was close. But apparently he wasn't telling the truth, since on Monday it was announced that the deal would be postponed for seven months, until June, 2015.

Kerry wants a deal because the administration could tout it as a success, breaking the string of foreign policy debacles by the Obama administration.

Iran wanted a deal, because it would mean the end to Western sanctions. Sanctions have already been eased as an "incentive," and the remaining sanctions have been leaking badly, but the deal would remove the sanctions completely.

As things stand, the sanctions remain, and Monday's collapse is another debacle.

This is a good time to repeat something I've written about several times. There is no doubt in my mind that Iran will develop nuclear weapons. Iran was attacked with weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) in 1988 by Iraq, and Iran would already have developed nuclear weapons if Saddam Hussein hadn't been expelled by the Iraq war in 2003. Iran sees itself surrounded by potential enemies, Pakistan and Israel, both having nuclear weapons. For Iran, developing nuclear weapons is an existential issue.

However, as I've described before, Iran takes an enormous amount of pride in not having invaded other countries, even though other countries have invaded Iran. If you look back at Iran's major wars of the last century -- the Constitutional Revolution of the 1900s decade, the Great Islamic Revolution of 1979, and the Iran/Iraq war of the 1980s, Iran never attacked anyone else. This is now part of Iran's DNA, and even the top leadership would be repulsed by the idea of a preemptive attack on Israel.

So my conclusion is that Iran will develop nuclear weapons as a defensive measure, but has no plans at all to use them on Israel, which is what is widely believed. USA Today and Foreign Policy

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 25-Nov-14 World View -- After swallowing Crimea, Russia goes after Abkhazia and South Ossetia thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (25-Nov-2014) Permanent Link
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24-Nov-14 World View -- China's military strength and poor civilian control alarm neighbors

The disappearance of the 'Long March' generation

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

China's military strength increasingly alarms neighbors


China's military
China's military

China's Defense Minister General Chang Wanquan was forced to respond to concerns from China's Asian neighbors who are expressing alarms at China's rapid military expansion and aggressiveness in the South China Sea and elsewhere. According to Chang:

"The remarkable growth of China's comprehensive national power, and the continued progress in national defense modernization, have become a focus of international attention in recent years. China has learned a bitter lesson from its wretched history [as a victim of aggression and the] practical need to secure its own territory."

As we've reported many times, the "practical need to secure its own territory" means using military power to confiscate and annex regions in the South China Sea that have historically belonged to Vietnam, Brunei, Malaysia, Indonesia, Taiwan and the Philippines. Channel News Asia/AFP and Reuters

Fears increase over poor civilian control of China's military

Along with a simmering concern about China's intentions in building a huge military machine, alarm bells have also been rung over whether China's People's Liberation Army (PLA) does what it wants with little civilian control by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). There have been a number of incidents where the CCP has been caught by surprise by PLA actions. One that got worldwide publicity occurred when the PLA ran a surprise stealth fighter test during a visit by then U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates in 2011. Apparently the PLA wanted to send a message to both the United States and the CCP. A similar event occurred in September 2012, during a visit by Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta.

An analysis by Andrew Scobell finds a "civil-military gap" with two meanings:

Members of the military are "tougher than ... civilian officials" and more "hawkish" toward the United States and the international system. Much of this is related to the preoccupation with achieving unification with Taiwan, and the US military is the PLA's likely adversary.

I would modify Scobell's analysis to say that the gap between the CCP and the PLA is a generational gap, not a "civil-military gap." The policy-makers in the CCP are survivors of Mao's Communist Revolution (1934-49), while the military is filled with younger generations. We all know how, in the United States, many Millennials and Gen-Xers think that all Boomers are completely full of crap. The same thing is true in China, with the younger officers in the military thinking of the geezers in the CCP as hilarious and irrelevant.

The disappearance of the 'Long March' generation

In fact, Scobell himself gives a generational explanation. According to Scobell, the loss of CCP control over the military occurred with a generational change in the 1990s, when the generations of survivors of Mao's Communist Revolution all disappeared. Scobell refers to these survivors as the "Long March generation," referring to Mao's Long March that started China's civil war in 1934:

"The disposition and background of the post-Long March generations of political and military leaders have altered the format of civil-military relations and structure of the mechanisms of control.

A core distinguishing characteristic of the Long March generation was the substantial overlap of political and military elites. Former top leaders Mao Zedong, who dominated the Chinese Communist Party from the mid-1930s until his death in 1976, and Deng Xiaoping, who was the paramount figure from the late 1970s until his death in 1997, were the most prominent members of this famous generation of leaders who had participated in the legendary 1930s trek that ensured the survival of the Communist movement. In fact, most leaders of this generation were both political and military elites.

By the mid-1990s, with the passing of the Long March generation, China's civil-military relations had evolved. In subsequent generations, civilian and military leaders became more differentiated and distinct. At the highest echelon, elites such as retired top leader Jiang Zemin and current [2009] paramount leader Hu Jintao, while holding the position of head of the PLA in addition to their formal government and party posts, did not exert the same kind of influence in, or engender the same kind of deference from, China's military. In the twenty-first century, China's Communist Party leaders are civilian technocrats with little or no military experience or expertise. Twenty-two of the 25 members elected to the Politburo at the 17th Party Congress in October 2007 have no military experience, and two of the three remaining are PLA generals."

As I've written many times, it's a core principle of Generational Dynamics that even in a dictatorship, major policies and events are determined by masses of people, entire generations of people, and not by politicians. Thus, Hitler was not the cause of WW II. What politicians say or do is irrelevant, except insofar as their actions reflect the attitudes of the people that they represent, and so politicians can neither cause nor prevent the great events of history.

With this generation gap between the PLA and the CCP, we can see how a war with China could start. We've already seen a number of aggressive moves by younger, more impetuous PLA members. These include, for example, provoking confrontations with Japan over the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands, and provoking dangerous confrontation with U.S. surveillance planes flying over international waters in the South China Sea. One of these impetuous acts could quickly lead to miscalculations that spiral into a wider war. However it happens, the loss of CPP control over the PLA is a very dangerous situation. Diplomat and Andrew Scobell (2009)(PDF) and Foreign Policy (2013)

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 24-Nov-14 World View -- China's military strength and poor civilian control alarm neighbors thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (24-Nov-2014) Permanent Link
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23-Nov-14 World View -- Somalia's Al-Shabaab claims responsibility for religion-based Kenya attack

Obama expands the U.S. mission in Afghanistan for 2015

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Somalia's Al-Shabaab claims responsibility for religion-based Kenya attack


File photo of al-Shabaab
File photo of al-Shabaab

Al-Shabaab terrorists forced a bus in Mandera County to stop carrying 60 passengers to stop. They asked the passengers to recite Koranic verses, and those who were unable to do so were lined up and then killed. 28 people were killed, 19 men and 9 women.

"The Mujahideen successfully carried out an operation near Mandera early this morning, which resulted in the perishing of 28 crusaders [Christians or non-Muslims], as a revenge for the crimes committed by the Kenyan crusaders against our Muslim brethren in Mombasa."

Early this week, police in Mombasa shot dead a man and arrested over 376 others when they searched four mosques in the largely Muslim coastal town of Mombasa that they said were used to recruit militants and store weapons.

Kenyans have not yet recovered from the horrific three-day attack on the Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi, Kenya, in September of last year. ( "23-Sep-13 World View -- Minnesota link to Kenya shopping mall attack raises U.S. fears") 68 people were killed and hundreds injured.

After Saturday's attack, President Uhuru Kenyatta called for calm, as he did after the Westgate mall attack. Kenyatta's own nephew was killed in the Westgate mall attack, as was the nephew's fiancée. Abdikadir Mohammed, a senior adviser to Kenyatta, said:

"The aim is to create conflict between the Muslims and the non-Muslims in this country. The aim is to create a religious war, religious strife, in Kenya.

We have had a lot of the Muslim leaders come out today [Saturday] and strongly condemn this and call on Kenyans of all faiths and creeds to stand together against these heinous crimes and criminals."

The perpetrators are al-Shabaab, a Somalian offshoot of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). Al-Shabaab have been terrorizing Somalia, the country next door to Kenya, for years. Starting in 2011, Kenya's troops and African Union troops have been fighting al-Shabaab in Somalia, and have significantly reduced al-Shabaab's influence. However, since then, al-Shabaab has launched about 135 terrorist attacks inside Kenya. The Westgate Mall attack was the worst so far, but Saturday's attack has been a new major shock to Kenya. Standard Media (Kenya) and BBC and AP

China creating an island with an airstrip in South China Sea

China has been using a "salami-slicing" technique of using military force to annex one portion after another of regions of the South China Sea historically belonging to Vietnam, Brunei, Malaysia, Indonesia, Taiwan and the Philippines.

Now China is using an even more aggressive military tactic. China is building its own island on a reef in the Spratly Islands large enough to accommodate an airstrip. The island on Fiery Cross Reef, which was previously underwater, is at least 3,000 m long and 200-300 m wide, and is being occupied by China's People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN). China has previously built new islands at Johnson South Reef, Cuateron Reef, and Gaven Reefs, but none are large enough to house an airstrip in their current form.

China has a massive military advantage over the other countries in the region, and appears determined to annex every other country's territory in the South China Sea. Building an airstrip in the Spratly Islands has no other apparent purpose but to further this military takeover at a more rapid pace. Jane's Defence Weekly and Reuters

Obama expands the U.S. mission in Afghanistan for 2015

President Barack Obama has quietly approved guidelines to expand the mission of U.S. troops remaining in Afghanistan in 2015, although the number of troops remains the same at 9,800. According to previous guidelines, U.S. forces could only attack the Taliban or al-Qaeda in self-defense, if they were being attacked. The new guidelines permit attacks on the Taliban if they are preparing to attack American troops. However, U.S. troops can't conduct offensive operations on any Taliban forces they locate. Those forces have to be threatening U.S. troops. The new guidelines also permit additional airstrikes in support of Afghan forces -- but only when they're in serious trouble.

President Obama has suffered a number of recent setbacks in his announced plans for fighting the Islamic State / of Iraq and Syria (IS or ISIS or ISIL), forcing him to escalate American troop involvement from 300 to 800 to 1500 to 3000.

Now a similar escalation process might be occurring in Afghanistan. In the last few weeks, the Taliban have been launching a lot more aggressive attacks, and a lot more successful attacks. As in Iraq, it may be necessary for Obama either to admit defeat in Afghanistan or to return thousands of additional troops. Obama has had one foreign policy disaster after another, and this has to count as an additional one. CBS and CNN

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 23-Nov-14 World View -- Somalia's Al-Shabaab claims responsibility for religion-based Kenya attack thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (23-Nov-2014) Permanent Link
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22-Nov-14 World View -- Britain in nationalistic surge as anti-EU UKIP party gains ground

Arab workers in Israel being fired in backlash from synagogue attack

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Arab workers in Israel being fired in backlash from synagogue attack


Israeli border policeman shown during clashes with Palestinian protesters in Rmallah on Friday (Reuters)
Israeli border policeman shown during clashes with Palestinian protesters in Rmallah on Friday (Reuters)

Following Tuesday's terrorist attack on a Jerusalem synagogue, Arab workers across Israel are being fired from their jobs. This came to light after the announcement that the mayor of Ashkelon, one of Israel’s leading cities, fired Arabs who were building bomb shelters in municipal kindergartens. Many Arabs in Israel are construction workers, and it's believed that one of the perpetrators of the synagogue attack was a construction worker.

The decision to fire Arab workers is causing outrage and charges of racism across the Israeli political spectrum. Israel's Commission for Equal Employment Opportunities said that "a not insignificant number of requests regarding employers firing or wishing to terminate the employment of Arab male and female employees, solely on racial grounds."

Prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu said:

"The vast majority of Israel's Arab citizens are law abiding and whoever breaks the law — we will take determined and vigorous action against him."

National Post and AP

Britain in nationalistic surge as anti-EU UKIP party gains ground

The anti-EU anti-immigrant UK Independence Party (UKIP) had a startling by-election victory on Thursday when former Conservative (Tory) party MP Mark Reckless won re-election after defecting to the UKIP. Prime minister David Cameron, leader of the Conservative Party, had promised to "throw everything" at the campaign in order to defeat Reckless, but in the end Reckless got 42%, defeating the Tory candidate at 35%. This was the second by-election in a month where

Nigel Farage has been gloating about the victory and is warning other Tory MPs that they should also defect to the UKIP, or risk losing their seats in next year's general election.

However, it's not just Tory seats that are at risk. Comparing Thursday's vote to the 2010 election, Reckless stole away 14% of the Tory votes, but also took 12% of the Labour vote and 16% of the Lib Dem vote. This is only one district, but the vote could be signaling a rapid surge in nationalism.

According to the UKIP web site,

"UKIP is a patriotic party that promotes independence: from the EU, and from government interference. We believe in free trade, lower taxes, personal freedom and responsibility.

UKIP believes in Britain becoming a democratic, self-governing country once again. This can only be achieved by getting our nation out of the European Union and reasserting the sovereignty of Parliament.

As a party we are unashamedly patriotic: we believe there is so much to be proud about Britain and the contribution it has made to the world. We believe that Britain is good enough to be an independent nation, trading and building harmonious relations with the rest of the world.

We believe Britain must get back control over its borders, so that it can welcome people with a positive contribution to make while limiting the overall numbers of migrants and keeping out those without the skills or aptitudes to be of benefit to the nation.

UKIP believes in promoting self-reliance and personal freedom from state interference. We believe the state in Britain has become too large, too expensive and too dominant over civil society."

From the point of view of Generational Dynamics, the increased British nationalism is no surprise, as countries around the world, including China and the United States, including the Israelis and the Palestinians, are becoming increasingly nationalistic. The survivors of the horrors of World War II were well aware of the dangers of extreme nationalism, and how it can cause the most brutal kinds of wars. That's why those survivors have done everything possible to promote globalism and racial tolerance. But those survivors have all but disappeared, and the generations that grew up after WW II are now in charge and have no fears of nationalism. Mirror (London) and Irish Times and UKIP Web Site

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 22-Nov-14 World View -- Britain in nationalistic surge as anti-EU UKIP party gains ground thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (22-Nov-2014) Permanent Link
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21-Nov-14 World View -- Gulf nations paper over their differences for GCC Summit in December

Egypt may be considering release of al-Jazeera reporters

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Gulf nations paper over their differences for GCC Summit in December


GCC Summit meeting in 2009
GCC Summit meeting in 2009

Saudi Arabia has managed to mediate a reconciliation among the members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) that very publicly and vitriolicly split in March of this year, when Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Bahrain recalled their ambassadors from Qatar after a stormy GCC meeting. This year's GCC annual summit was originally scheduled for November 10, but was postponed to December 9-10. Now, the three countries had agreed to put their differences aside, at least until the end of the summit meeting, and return their ambassadors to Qatar.

Since the GCC was formed in 1981, there have always been differences between the individual countries, but until the explosion earlier this year, they were carefully hidden from the public. The trigger that raised tensions among the countries was the army coup, in July 2013, that ousted Egypt's president Mohamed Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood government. Qatar supports the Muslim Brotherhood, or at least is neutral towards it, and supported Morsi with billions of dollars in aid, and Qatar opposes the presidency of former army general Abdel al-Fattah al-Sisi. Saudi Arabia and UAE support al-Sisi with billions of dollars of aid, and consider the Muslim Brotherhood to be a terrorist organization.

Relations between Qatar and Egypt have been further complicated because Qatar is the home of al-Jazeera, which reported on the bloody army crackdown on protesters following the coup. Egypt got revenge by jailing three al-Jazeera reporters, who remain in jail to this day, and have given sentences of 7-10 years.

As I've written several times, there has been a major Mideast realignment following the Gaza war, bringing Israel plus Egypt plus Saudi Arabia in alliance versus Hamas plus Qatar plus Turkey. This was, and continues to be, a sharp and bitter division.

So now, in the last few weeks, King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud of Saudi Arabia says that these differences have all been resolved. That's not particularly credible. The GCC Summit on December 9-10 may be extremely stormy, and another bitter split may go beyond shouting to violence. Asharq Al Awsat (Riyadh) and Reuters

United Arab Emirates identifies 86 terrorist groups

One sign that sharp differences remain is that the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has announced a list, controversial in the Arab world, naming 86 organizations that it considers to be terrorist. Some are uncontroversial, such as the Islamic State / of Iraq and Syria (IS or ISIS or ISIL), Jabhat al-Nusra, the Taliban, Boko Haram, Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), and Al-Qaeda on the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM).

Also named were Iran-supported groups, including the Houthis in Yemen, and Hezbollah's affiliates in the Gulf states -- though not Hezbollah's main branch in Lebanon, considered a terrorist organization by the U.S. and the West.

But two Qatari-supported groups, the Muslim Brotherhood and the Union of Muslim Scholars in Qatar are named.

Hamas was not named.

Within the United States, the most controversial selection will be the Washington-based Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR). Also included are the Muslim Association of Britain and the Islamic Relief Organisation in London.

Some Muslim analysts complain that the inclusion of these organizations fosters Islamophobia in the U.S. and Britain. According to Anas al-Tikriti, the former president of the Muslim Association of Britain, the terrorist list is "beyond ludicrous":

"The fact that it piles together terrorist groups like Boko Haram and IS with think tanks and research centers who aren’t involved in political work and who espouse democratic principles belies any kind of rationality or logic.

Some of these organizations represent tens of thousands of people. Does the UAE mean to suggest there are tens of thousands of terrorists throughout the world from America, to Europe, to Africa?"

The National (UAE) and Middle East Eye and Gulf News - complete list and Al-Jazeera

Egypt may be considering release of al-Jazeera reporters

Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud has been encouraging Egypt to fix its strained relations with Qatar, and one consequence is that Egypt's president Abdel al-Fattah al-Sisi may be considering releasing the three al-Jazeera journalists. In an interview with France24, al-Sisi said:

[At the time of the journalists’ arrests, I] did not have the power to take decisions about their situation. If I were president at that time, I would have decided, for the good and the security of Egypt, that the journalists would have to be expelled, so [it would] put an end to this issue once and for all."

Al-Sisi has said things like this before, but this time, when asked whether he intends to issue a presidential pardon, he said:

"Let me just say, this issue is currently under discussion so that we may find a solution."

This indicates, for the first time, that some kind of negotiation is going on that might result in the release of the reporters. The reporters' fates may be in the hands of the GCC negotiations, and particularly any possible reconciliation between Egypt and Qatar. France 24 and Al-Jazeera

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 21-Nov-14 World View -- Gulf nations paper over their differences for GCC Summit in December thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (21-Nov-2014) Permanent Link
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20-Nov-14 World View -- Jerusalem becomes a city of fear, in a torrent of mutual hostility

Israel approves construction of 78 new homes in Jerusalem

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Global warming and climate change strike Buffalo NY


Buffalo man digs out his car on Wednesday
Buffalo man digs out his car on Wednesday

Israel demolishes apartment of terrorist

On Wednesday, Israeli forces demolished the home of Abdelrahman Shaludi, who had purposely plowed his car into pedestrians on October 22, killing two people. This was done following a policy revived by Benjamin Netanyahu of demolishing the homes of terrorists as a method of deterrence. Netanyahu has promised to do the same to the homes of the two perpetrators of Tuesday's synagogue attack. However, Palestinians claim that the policy is a violation of international law because it uses "collective punishment" of many people for the crimes of one person.

The Israelis point out that they didn't demolish the entire apartment building in which Shaludi lived, but only demolished Shaludi's individual apartment.

A reporter on al-Jazeera on Wednesday described the history of using home demolishing as deterrence. According to the reporter, the policy was used during British rule of Palestine prior to World War II in order to inhibit Jewish insurgents. Israel began using the home demolition policy starting in 1967, and it was continued until 2005, when it was ended because it was considered ineffective. However, Netanyahu reinstated the policy earlier this year after the three teenagers were abducted and killed in the West Bank. Israel National News

Jerusalem becomes a city of fear, in a torrent of mutual hostility

Following Tuesday's terrorist attack on a synagogue in Jerusalem, both Israelis and Palestinians are afraid to walk the streets. Israelis are afraid that any passing car driven by a Palestinian might change direction and kill pedestrians. Palestinians are afraid of revenge attacks from Israeli settlers.

Several analysts have pointed out that the conflict between Arabs and Israelis has shifted. It used to be a political conflict over land, but now it's become a conflict over religion, and a religious war is much more dangerous than a political war.

Former Senator George Mitchell, who was President Obama's "Special Envoy for the Mideast," said the following on the BBC on Wednesday (my transcription):

"I think one thing that the parties should consider is the potential that this could spread and branch out in ways that were unlikely in the past. There have been two Palestinian uprisings. at that time, there was a relatively stable and quiet region around the Israeli Palestinian conflict. That no longer exists. Syria, Iraq, Egypt, Tunisia, Libya -- you go down the list of turmoil and conflict, intersecting, overlapping different routes, different branches, so many competing organizations that the average person has trouble keeping track of them, and an outbreak of violence this time could spread in ways that was not possible in the past, and we may not fully comprehend yet."

This is exactly the kind of point that Generational Dynamics makes. As I've been saying since 2003, Generational Dynamics predicts that there will be a new war between Arabs and Israelis, refighting the 1948 war between Jews and Arabs that following the partitioning of Palestine and the creation of the state of Israel. The mechanism that all these crisis wars follow is that a crisis war is so horrible that the traumatized survivors -- both "winners" and "losers" -- vow to make sure that the same thing never happens again, to their children or grandchildren. And they succeed, until they all disappear (retire or die), all at once, leaving behind generations of children and grandchildren who have no personal memory of those horrors, and willing to cross any line, even if it risks another crisis war, which happens sooner or later. Pretty much the only important survivor of the 1948 war still left is Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas, who is undoubtedly well aware of what's coming, but can't do anything to stop it.

Mitchell continued:

"And there is a further fact. Of all the difficult issues between Palestinians and Israelis, none is more difficult or important than Jerusalem. In part because Jerusalem is not just a Palestinian issue. Jerusalem is Muslim issue. Today of the 7 1/2 billion people in the world, 1 in 5 is Muslim, about a billion and a half. In the middle of this century, when the world's population gets past 9 1/2 billion, 1 in 3 will be Muslim. They all have an interest in Jerusalem, and it's in everyone's interest not to let this get out of control and dominate the issue. So the dangers are greater. The potential losses on all sides are greater. And to me the incentives of doing something about it should be greater. Will that be persuasive to the participants, I can't say that with certainty, but I believe that's the case we should be making to them."

Mitchell is making a fundamental error here. He was born in 1933, so he remembers well the horrors of World War II, and would do anything to keep them from happening again. But he assumes that because he doesn't want war, then nobody wants war. However, that's patently untrue, as history is replete with leaders who wanted war, thinking that they would win easily, and living to regret it. In fact, there are plenty of people in the Mideast, including both Palestinians and Israelis, who are itching for a war.

I've been writing for years that Sunni jihadists are doing everything possible to trigger a war. These groups, affiliated with al-Qaeda and lately the Islamic State / of Iraq and Syria (IS or ISIS or ISIL), see one shining event that's guiding their lives -- the 1979 Great Islamic Revolution that turned Iran from a secular state into a Shia Islamic state. Al-Qaeda and ISIS would like to repeat that "success," and they've tried to trigger a war in numerous countries, and are still trying in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

There are plenty of young radical Israelis and Palestinians who would like to trigger a war because they hate each other and because each side thinks they would win. That day is coming, and there will be no winners. Reuters

Israel approves construction of 78 new homes in Jerusalem

Jerusalem’s municipal planning committee approved the construction of 78 settlements on Wednesday, provoking further fury among the Palestinians. Jerusalem Post

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 20-Nov-14 World View -- Jerusalem becomes a city of fear, in a torrent of mutual hostility thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (20-Nov-2014) Permanent Link
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19-Nov-14 World View -- Jerusalem synagogue attack raises Arab-Israeli violence to new levels

Obama could order combat troops into Iraq and Syria

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Jerusalem synagogue attack raises Arab-Israeli violence to new levels


Israeli security forces run in front of the synagogue that was attacked on Tuesday
Israeli security forces run in front of the synagogue that was attacked on Tuesday

The spiral of violence that began last Spring with the kidnapping of three Israeli teenagers who were later found dead took a new leap upward on Tuesday when two Palestinians wielding a gun and butcher knives attacked a Jerusalem synagogue during morning prayers, killing four rabbis and a policeman. Three of the rabbis were American, and the fourth was British.

The extremely brutal attacks have drawn comments from both sides that are likely to enrage the other side further.

Palestinian Authority (PA) president Mahmoud Abbas, also known as Abu Mazen, condemned the attack, but blamed Israel for inciting it:

"It is time to end this occupation, to end all causes of violence and tension; we are committed to the two-state solution, and implementing all related international legitimacy resolutions."

Recently, Abbas called for an end to the "contamination" of the Jerusalem holy sites by Jews.

Israel's prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu blamed Abbas and he blamed the international community as well:

"This is a direct result of incitement led by Hamas and Abu Mazen, incitement that the international community has been irresponsibly ignoring.

We will respond with a heavy hand to the brutal murder of Jews who came to pray and were killed by lowly murderers."

Netanyahu said that the homes of the perpetrators would be demolished, an act that Palestinians say punishes innocent people living in the same homes.

The attack follows a death by hanging earlier this week in east Jerusalem of Yusuf Hassan al-Ramouni, a Palestinian bus driver. The death was apparently a suicide, but Palestinians are claiming, without confirmation, that he was killed by Israeli settlers. However, an autopsy performed jointly by Israeli and Palestinian coroners found no evidence of foul play.

A Hamas spokesman call for more attacks on Israelis:

"Jerusalem attack is a reaction to the execution of the martyr al-Ramouni and the ongoing Israeli crimes at al-Aqsa. Hamas calls for the continuation of acts of revenge."

There are increasing fears of a so-called "third intifida," a general violent uprising of Palestinians against Israelis. International Middle East Media Center (Gaza) and International Business Times and Latin American Herald Tribune

Spain's parliament calls for recognition of State of Palestine

On the same day as the synagogue attack in Jerusalem, Spain's parliament passed a resolution calling on the government to recognize the State of Palestine:

"The Spanish parliament urges the government to encourage the recognition of Palestine as a state... This recognition should be the consequence of a process negotiated between the parties that guarantees peace and security for both."

This was actually a version that was watered down at the last moment, possibly because of the Jerusalem attack.

European Union leaders have been expressing frustration about Israel's continuing settlement-building program in the West Bank. Palestinians claim that the settlements are being built on Palestinian land, making the two-state solution impossible. Israelis claim that the new settlements are being built only on land that would be part of Israel in a two-state solution. Reuters

Obama could order combat troops into Iraq and Syria

President Obama has repeatedly said that he would not permit American combat troops into Iraq or Syria to fight the Islamic State / of Iraq and Syria (IS or ISIS or ISIL), but on Sunday he said:

"If we discovered that [ISIS] had gotten possession of a nuclear weapon, and we had to run an operation to get it out of their hands, then, yes. I would order it."

This is reminiscent of Obama's "red line" promise to attack the regime of Syria's president Bashar al-Assad if it used chemical weapons. Obama immediately backed down when al-Assad attacked his own people with Sarin gas. Al-Assad is still using chemical weapons -- barrel bombs packed with explosives, metals, and chlorine gas, which he's using against innocent civilians with impunity. So it seems unlikely that anyone will take this new red line very seriously.

On Tuesday, the al-Assad regime dropped multiple barrel bombs on a civilian neighborhood in Aleppo, killing at least 14 people, including mothers and children. ABC News and AP

NATO and OSCE see Russian military buildup on both sides of Ukraine's border

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg says that information from NATO and OSCE (Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe) and other sources indicates that Russia is in the midst of "serious military buildup" on both sides of the Ukraine border. According to Stoltenberg:

"[We see] a military buildup...inside Ukraine, but we also see a military buildup on the Russian side of the border.

And we speak about troops, we speak about equipment, and we speak also about artillery and very modern air-defense systems so this is a serious military build-up. ...

We see that Russia is still destabilizing Ukraine, we see the movement of troops, of equipment, of tanks, of artillery and also advanced air defense systems and this is in violation of the cease-fire agreement. And we call on Russia to pull back its forces from eastern Ukraine and to respect the Minsk agreement."

Germany's Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier is practicing "shuttle diplomacy," traveling between Kiev and Moscow to prevent a Russia-Ukraine war. RFERL

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 19-Nov-14 World View -- Jerusalem synagogue attack raises Arab-Israeli violence to new levels thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (19-Nov-2014) Permanent Link
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18-Nov-14 World View -- More Pakistan jihadist groups swear allegiance to ISIS

Japan in shock as economy plunges into recession

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Germany's friendly relations with Russia turn hostile


Putin wags his finger at Merkel at the 70th anniversary of D-Day commemoration in June (Reuters)
Putin wags his finger at Merkel at the 70th anniversary of D-Day commemoration in June (Reuters)

Russia's president Vladimir Putin has long had a soft spot for Germany, even developing a love for the German language when he was stationed in the East German city of Dresden as an office of the KGB in the late 1980s.

For her part, Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel has always promoted good relations with Russia, and for solving problems with dialogue. The business lobby in Germany is both more powerful and more sympathetic toward Russia than any major European state, and the German electorate has generally favored a neutral stance on foreign policy.

But that's changed dramatically in the last few months. Thanks to Russia's invasion of Ukraine, annexation of Crimea, and the Russians' shooting down of airline flight MH17, Putin's reputation among the German public has been plummeting. In a nationwide survey conducted in August, a German pollster reportedly found that 82% of Germans do not believe that Russia can be trusted, while 70% called for tougher sanctions against the Russian economy.

Over the weekend, Merkel said, "Truly, the Ukraine crisis is in no way a regional issue. It affects all of us." She said that she was particularly concerned that Russia would not stop with the invasion of Ukraine, but would go to the Balkans.

She warned that the EU will not yield to Moscow like East Germany once did:

"Otherwise, one would have to say: We are too weak, be careful, we can't accept any others, we have to first ask Moscow if it is possible. That's how things were for 40 years; I never really wanted to return to that situation.

And that doesn't just apply to Ukraine. It applies to Moldova, it applies to Georgia. If the situation continues ... we'd have to ask about Serbia, we'd have to ask about the western Balkan countries. ...

After the horrors of two world wars and the end of the Cold War, [the Ukraine crisis] has challenged the peaceful order in Europe."

With the loss of Merkel as an ally, Russia is now almost completely estranged from Europe and the West, and further confrontations are sure to follow. Der Spiegel and Time and Europe Online

More Pakistan jihadist groups swear allegiance to ISIS

The black ISIS flag is beginning to appear all across Pakistan, from the south of Punjab province north to Islamabad, and in Balochistan and in the Afghan-Pakistan tribal region. At least 330 Pakistani terrorists are already known to be fighting alongside ISIS in Syria and Iraq.

ISIS has been recruiting heavily in Pakistan and Afghanistan, anticipating a gain of territory as American military forces withdraw. After meeting a three-man delegation from ISIS, the Jundullah terrorist group pledged allegiance to ISIS last week. Lashkar-e-Jhangvi is also considering allegiance. What these two groups have in common is that they're committed to exterminating Shia Muslims wherever possible, and have committed numerous bombings of mosques and marketplaces in Balochistan and Iran to accomplish this. Analysts say that so far IS has mainly attracted sectarian (anti-Shia) groups rather than anti-state militants like the Taliban.

In response, al-Qaeda has announced a new umbrella organization, Al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS) that has made deep inroads into Pakistan. On September 3, 2014, al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, in a 55-minute video posted on the Internet, announced the launch of AQIS to spread Islamic rule and "raise the flag of jihad" across the Indian subcontinent, including Pakistan. South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP - India) and Reuters

Japan in shock as economy plunges into recession

Economists were expecting Japan's economy to grow by 2% in the third (most current) quarter, after having plunged a historic 7.6% in the second quarter. Instead, the GDP fell an additional 1.6% in the third quarter. And since the GDP has now fallen for two months in a row, Japan's economy is officially in a recession. The fall into recession is being blamed on a sales tax increase from 5% to 8% in April, which caused consumers to stop spending.

Japan's prime minister Shinzo Abe will put any further planned tax increases on hold, and will dissolve the Lower House and hold a "snap election" in December.

Japan's economy has been in a deflationary spiral since the early 1990s, following a huge real estate and stock market bubble in the 1980s, and a huge crash that began in January, 1990. In the spring of 2013, Shinzo Abe launched something called "Abenomics," involving a huge quantitative easing program. Japan's central bank "printed" hundreds of billions of dollars and used it to buy bonds. This is similar to America's recent quantitative easing program which, at its peak, put $85 billion per month into the banking system.

The objective of Abenomics was to end deflation once and for all. But instead of stimulating spending, all the money just poured into the stock market, benefiting only a minority of rich people. The vast majority of Japanese people have incomes that are stagnant or falling.

This has also been a criticism of America's quantitative easing program. In the U.S., the median income has been falling, but the stock market has been pushed up into bubble levels, with the S&P Price/Earnings ratio (stock valuations) close to 19, an astronomically high level, much higher than the historical average of 14. Asahi Shimbun (Tokyo) and BBC

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 18-Nov-14 World View -- More Pakistan jihadist groups swear allegiance to ISIS thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (18-Nov-2014) Permanent Link
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17-Nov-14 World View -- Turkey's Erdogan says Muslims, not Christopher Columbus, discovered America

Merger of ISIS and al-Nusra seen unlikely, despite reports

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Blunt language from Canada's Stephen Harper to Vladimir Putin


Stephen Harper and Vladimir Putin at G20 meeting on Saturday
Stephen Harper and Vladimir Putin at G20 meeting on Saturday

As we reported yesterday, Russia's president had to eat lunch alone on Saturday at the G20 meeting being held in Brisbane, Australia, because none of the other countries' national leaders wanted to be seen with the man who invaded Ukraine.

It's now been revealed that the conversation between Canada's prime minister Stephen Harper and Putin was particularly blunt:

HARPER: "I guess I’ll shake your hand, but I have only one thing to say to you: you need to get out of Ukraine."

PUTIN: "I’m not in Ukraine."

HARPER: "That’s why I don’t want to have a meeting with you, you’ll just lie to me."

AFP

Merger of ISIS and al-Nusra seen unlikely, despite reports

There have been several recent news reports about a possible merger between the Syrian jihadist groups Islamic State / of Iraq and Syria (IS or ISIS or ISIL) and the al-Qaeda linked Jabhat al-Nusra (al-Nusra Front). However, examination of these reports make it evident that they all come from the same unreliable sources.

Although al-Nusra and ISIS fighters have cooperated in one or two specific local instances, ISIS would demand full subjugation of al-Nusra to itself, and that's not going to happen. In fact, statements from al-Nusra have expressed contempt for ISIS' claim to be either a "state" ("Islamic State") or a Caliphate, as ISIS leader Abu Omar al-Baghdadi has claimed.

In the larger picture, al-Baghdadi has asked jihadist groups around the world to subjugate themselves to his self-declared ISIS caliphate, and a scattering of smaller jihadist groups from Indonesia to Algeria have done so. However, neither of the major al-Qaeda umbrella groups, Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) headquartered in Yemen, nor Al-Qaeda on the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), headquartered in northern Africa, is going to give up its identity and subjugate itself to ISIS. Joshua Landis

Turkey's Erdogan says Muslims, not Christopher Columbus, discovered America

At a meeting of the 1st Latin American Muslim Religious Leaders Summit in Istanbul on Saturday, Turkey's president Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that Muslims discovered America long before Christopher Columbus did:

"Latin America's contact with Islam dates back to the 12th century. Muslims discovered America in 1178, not Christopher Columbus. Muslim sailors arrived in America in 1178. Christopher Columbus mentions the existence of a mosque on a hill along the Cuban coast. I will talk to my brothers in Cuba and a mosque would suit the top of that hill today as well. We would build it if they [the Cuban government] say so. Islam had expanded in the American continent before Columbus arrived."

Various groups, from Malians to Vikings, have claimed to be the first to "discover America," but there's no archaeological evidence of any permanent settlements prior the expedition of Italian explorer Christopher Columbus in 1492.

There is a small Muslim minority in Cuba, many of whom claim that they're discriminated against. A delegation from Turkey traveled to Cuba earlier this year to seek permission to build a mosque in Havana, but the Cuban authorities rejected the request. Today's Zaman (Istanbul) and Independent (Ireland)

UN committee in Jordan investigates Israeli war crimes

The investigation committee of the UN Human Rights Council is meeting in Amman Jordan to hear the testimonies of Palestinians claiming to be victims of Israeli violence, to gather evidence of Israeli war crimes in the Gaza war of several months ago. They're meeting in Jordan because Israel has denied its members entry into the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Likewise, Egypt has denied them entry into Gaza via the Rafah border crossing.

Israel's Foreign Ministry officially announced last week that it would not cooperate with the Council's investigation, saying that the Council has already predetermined that Israel is guilty, and is not investigating crimes by Hamas. The probe is headed by Canadian legal expert William Schabas, who previously stated that he believes Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu should be brought before the International Criminal Court on war crime charges. Ma'an (Bethlehem) and Jerusalem Post

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 17-Nov-14 World View -- Turkey's Erdogan says Muslims, not Christopher Columbus, discovered America thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (17-Nov-2014) Permanent Link
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16-Nov-14 World View -- Obamacare and the 'stupidity of the American voter'

Vladimir Putin eats lunch alone at G20 meeting

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Vladimir Putin eats lunch alone at G20 meeting


An isolated Vladimir Putin eats lunch alone at G20 meeting on Saturday(Reuters)
An isolated Vladimir Putin eats lunch alone at G20 meeting on Saturday(Reuters)

Nobody wanted to eat lunch with Russia's president Vladimir Putin on Saturday at the G20 Leaders' Summit being held in Brisbane, Australia. It was supposed to be an economic summit, but most other leaders used the opportunity to blast Putin for Russia's repeated military intervention in Ukraine, for annexing Crimea, and for supplying the weapons and training to the Russians who shot down the MH17 airliner over Ukraine, killing hundreds of innocent passengers. Several leaders told Putin bluntly to "get out of Ukraine."

By lunch time, Putin was so isolated that no one wanted to be seen having lunch with him, so he sat at a lunch table alone. Later, his delegation announced that he would be leaving the G20 meeting early, calling the meeting "nonsense." Australian Broadcasting

Jonathan Gruber on Obamacare and the stupidity of the American voter

Obamacare supporters have been fleeing in droves from MIT professor Jonathan Gruber, who was the principal architect of Obamacare. But there's no getting away from him. A glowing article in the NY Times on March 28, 2012, made it clear that Gruber was the number one health care expert in the country, not only because he had been developing models for decades, but also because he was a prime architect for Romneycare in Massachusetts, on which Obamacare was based.

Gruber's lectures at MIT are available on videotape, and they've revealed everything from the contemptuous attitude of Obamacare officials, and also deception and fraud in the selling of Obamacare.

According to Gruber:

"This bill was written in a tortured way to make sure CBO did not score the mandate as taxes. If CBO scored the mandate as taxes, the bill dies. Okay, so it’s written to do that. In terms of risk rated subsidies, if you had a law which said that healthy people are going to pay in – you made explicit healthy people pay in and sick people get money, it would not have passed.... Lack of transparency is a huge political advantage. And basically, call it the stupidity of the American voter or whatever, but basically that was really really critical for the thing to pass... Look, I wish Mark was right that we could make it all transparent, but I’d rather have this law than not."

I'd like to point out that it's not people like me that Gruber is calling "stupid." The stupid people, in Gruber's view, are the supporters of Obamacare, who are presumably too stupid to see through the deception and fraud of Obamacare, as I was and many others were able to do. Gruber's remarks are an indictment of the Obamacare supporters, mostly Democrats who, in Gruber's view, were too stupid to see what was going on.

When I first wrote about the "Obama's health plan, a proposal of economic insanity" in 2009, I said that this plan would never be implemented because it would destroy markets and be economically disastrous. I compared it to President Richard Nixon's wage-price controls which were not as disastrous for the markets as Obama's health plan, but still wrecked the economy for close to a decade. I've repeated that many times since, and I'll discuss if further below.

However, let's turn to another Gruber quote, this one revealing financial fraud on the part of the Obamacare officials.

Obamacare advocates have repeatedly made statements to the effect, "Romneycare worked in Massachusetts, which proves that Obamacare can work across the country." However, another Gruber videotape says that's not true, because Romneycare was essentially bailed out by the federal government:

"We had a pretty powerful senator you may have heard of named Ted Kennedy. Ted Kennedy had managed to figure out a way to rip off the federal Medicaid program to the tune of about $500 million a year through a series of strange manipulations.

Here was Mitt Romney’s dirty little secret that we don’t like to talk about in Massachusetts, which is the way we passed our law is the federal government paid for it.

George Bush said why am I sending this Democrat $500 million a year, I’m taking it back. Mitt Romney to his credit went to George Bush and said, look, can we keep the money if we use it for universal coverage. And Bush to his credit said yes.

We realized that we can’t do this at the state level anymore. The feds are going to have to get involved. ...

[Kennedy was] delivering about $400 million a year in slush funds to our SafeNet hospitals, basically ripping off the federal Medicaid program."

So Romneycare was never self-sustaining, as Obamacare supporters have said, but was actually "ripping off the federal Medicaid program" to survive, according to Gruber. We now know that Obamacare was based on deception and fraud on many levels:

Daily Caller and Washington Examiner and New York Times (29-March-2012)

Massachusetts health care site finally up -- for $254 million

It's almost impossible to even imagine the astronomical sums that have been spent on the greatest IT disaster in world history, the HealthCare.gov web sites. As I wrote a year ago, this would have been a $10 million project if implemented in the private sector. (See "1-Dec-13 World View -- Obamacare: 500M lines of code, $500M, only 60% completed" from last year.)

But let's say that it should have cost $20 million. Then triple that amount because everything the government does is inefficient, and wastes enormous amounts of money, due to corruption, public sector labor unions, and cronyism. So that would be $60 million paid to the government for something that the private sector could do for $10 million.

According to some estimates, Healthcare.gov implementation costs are now in the billions of dollars.

On Saturday, open enrollment began, and the Massachusetts Obamacare web site, known as the Health Connector, came up. The cost for this one state web site? $254 million. And that was $80 million over budget.

This is almost unbelievable. Where is all this money going? There's no way that this is simply IT development expenses. There must be hundreds of millions of dollars being skimmed off by the contractors implementing Obamacare, and those contractors are going to be big Obama supporters and Democratic party contributors. My guess is that Obamacare contractors skimming off hundreds of millions of dollars and kicking it back to Obama administration cronies, to pay for the 2016 elections. That's the most credible explanation, until someone tells me where billions of development costs have been going. Boston Business Journal

The implementation of Obamacare

As soon as Obamacare was proposed, I called it a "proposal of economic insanity," and compared it to Nixon's wage-price controls, which is the same kind of proposal as Obamacare, at its core. I said that Obamacare would never be implemented, and I've repeated that many times.

Has Obamacare been implemented? It was supposed to be universal health coverage, and it certainly is not.

Nixon's wage-price controls were supposed to reduce inflation from 4% to 2%. That didn't happen. Instead, the economy was so screwed up with shortages and misallocations that the inflation rate rose to 12%. In other words, Nixon's wage-price controls destroyed the economy, and not only accomplished nothing, but were much worse than nothing.

Nixon's wage-price controls were popular because they promised something for nothing. They promised price controls that would keep prices of everything low. But then the shortages started occurring -- gasoline, heating oil, red meat, soybeans, and numerous other products. Nixon did everything he could to save the controls, granting special exemptions and perks to favored people, announcing frequent rule changes to resolve each new problem as it arose, and so forth.

Obamacare has followed the same path. People loved the promise of low-cost health care. But then shortages started showing up in the form of restricted networks. Skyrocketing insurance premiums are being ameliorated by federal subsidies that are a clearly in violation of the Obamacare law, and are being reviewed by Supreme Court, with a decision to be announced in June. (At least Nixon didn't try to reduce high prices with federal subsidies. That's an Obama invention.) And Obama has issued a wealth of rule changes and modifications to Obamacare to keep it from collapsing.

Obamacare supporters like to brag that there are 8 million more insured people now. That's a distortion of the situation. There are millions of "insured" people with deductibles of $5,000-$15,000. These millions of people are effectively uninsured, because they have to pay all of their medical expenses, in addition to the Obamacare insurance premiums. As a separate issue, millions of the newly insured are on Medicaid, and are unable to find doctors or hospitals that will accept Medicaid insurance. These people are also effectively uninsured. It's quite possible that there are fewer "effectively insured" people today than there were before Obamacare. (Paragraph modified. 16-Nov)

The heart of Nixon's wage-price controls were the mandates -- it was illegal to increase prices or wages by more than a certain amount.

The heart of Obamacare are the mandates -- the employer mandate that forces employers to provide insurance, and the individual mandate that forces people to purchase insurance.

Both of these have been eviscerated, for the time being. Because they were so unpopular, Obama was forced to effectively postpone them until 2015, under the assumption that Obamacare would be so wildly popular by 2015 that the mandates could be implemented then. Even so, millions of people with full-time 40 hour/week jobs have been forced into part-time 29.5 hour/week jobs by employers who can't afford to pay for health insurance for their employees. These mandates are at the core of Obamacare, just as wage/price mandates were at the heart of Nixon's controls, and without the mandates, both Nixon's controls and Obamacare become meaningless.

Nixon desperately did everything he could to save his wage-price controls, but in the end they were so unpopular and so disastrous that Congress forced them to be ended. They did enormous damage to the economy and accomplished nothing.

Similarly, Republicans are going to control both houses of Congress next year. My expectation is that some "compromise" will be found to weaken the mandates so much as to make them meaningless. In that case, both Obama and Republicans will be able to declare victory, and the only casualty will be the health care system which has been enormously damaged by Obama's "Obamacare" ego trip. But no matter. Obama will have his meaningless Obamacare legacy, and his cronies will have their hundreds of millions of dollars.

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 16-Nov-14 World View -- Obamacare and the 'stupidity of the American voter' thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (16-Nov-2014) Permanent Link
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15-Nov-14 World View -- Ebola cluster growing in Mali, hundreds possibly exposed

U.S. scaling back troop presence in Liberia

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Liberia announces end of Ebola state of emergency


A woman crawls toward the body of her sister as a burial team takes her away for cremation on October 10 in Monrovia, Liberia. The sister had died from Ebola earlier in the morning while trying to walk to a treatment center.  (Getty / CNN)