Russia – More Right than Left These Days

160705_POL_Putin-Trump-Promo.jpg.CROP.promo-xlarge2

According to this article in Slate, Vladimir Putin has been somewhat responsible for the rise in European Right-Wing Populists in Europe. And Trump is his kind of chump

Over the past decade, Russia has boosted right-wing populists across Europe. It loaned money to Marine Le Pen in France, well-documented transfusions of cash to keep her presidential campaign alive. Such largesse also wended its way to the former Italian premier Silvio Berlusconi, who profited “personally and handsomely” from Russian energy deals, as an American ambassador to Rome once put it. (Berlusconi also shared a 240-year-old bottle of Crimean wine with Putin and apparently makes ample use of a bed gifted to him by the Russian president.)

There’s a clear pattern: Putin runs stealth efforts on behalf of politicians who rail against the European Union and want to push away from NATO. He’s been a patron of Golden Dawn in Greece, Ataka in Bulgaria, and Jobbik in Hungary. Joe Biden warned about this effort last year in a speech at the Brookings Institution: “President Putin sees such political forces as useful tools to be manipulated, to create cracks in the European body politic which he can then exploit.” Ruptures that will likely multiply after Brexit—a campaign Russia’s many propaganda organs bombastically promoted.

The destruction of Europe is a grandiose objective; so is the weakening of the United States. Until recently, Putin has only focused glancing attention on American elections. Then along came the presumptive Republican nominee.

Unfortunately, even if Hillary is elected, we’ll be moving closer to Russia.

Our old Cold War efforts to avoid confrontation between the superpowers by fighting through proxies like Vietnam, Cuba, Saudi, Iran, etc. has failed. The Syrian Civil War has drawn America and Russia into direct conflict with each other. If we want to avoid nuclear war, we’re going to have to change the way we do things.

It’s in our best interests to change our relationship with Russia, but it’s also in our best interests to set boundaries for Putin. He doesn’t want war any more than we do, but right now, he knows his provocations will have no consequences. The Democrats and Republicans have gotten so fat and lazy, bringing in money by whining about victimhood, calling themselves ‘courageous’ for winning little catfights with each other — neither has the stomach to deal with Putin. They can’t even confront their own, much weaker, ‘allies’ (Qatar, Saudi). It’s going to be up to the voters to get them off their asses and into shape.

Or vote for someone who isn’t fat and lazy…

Posted in Politics/Foreign correspondents | Leave a comment

Israel has had success against ‘lone wolf’ terrorists — here’s how | Jewish Telegraphic Agency

Predict the unpredictable

A new war is being waged against the lone wolves. Their attacks started last fall in Jerusalem, sparked by Palestinian fears of Jewish encroachment on the Temple Mount. But the center of the lone wolf intifada quickly shifted to the West Bank city of Hebron, with attacks on soldiers and settlers in the area, as well as across Israel.

Around that time, at the end of last year, the army began building a system to deal with the new threat that was emerging, the senior officer said. The goal was to predict the unpredictable: when, for example, a particular Palestinian youth might grab a knife from his mom’s kitchen and take to the streets to spill Israeli blood. Motives can range from nationalism to family problems, he said.

“Unlike terrorists who belong to Hamas or the Islamic Jihad, if you get to their house the week before the attack, the kid doesn’t know that he’s a terrorist yet,” the senior officer said. “So that’s the main challenge.”

Based on what was known about previous attackers, the army created an alert system that is constantly being tweaked. These days, army analysts feed huge amounts of intelligence information into that system — a combination of “social media, human intelligence, signal intelligence,” according to the senior officer, who declined to provide further details about intelligence gathering. In return, he said, the system produces a small number of alerts about potential future attacks.

“One of the ways you produce an alert is, what are the last actions that a specific individual did,” the senior officer said. “For example, if he’s exposed to incitement and right afterwards he rents a car, maybe an unregistered car, this raises questions.”

In response to an alert, options include arresting a suspect, monitoring his or her actions, intervening through the family or deploying troops to a potential target area. When attackers are arrested or killed without managing to cause carnage, future attackers are thought to be deterred.

“The attacks are decreasing because of their ineffectiveness, because most of them fail,” said Brom, the Institute for National Security Studies analyst. “There is a limit to the number of even frustrated young people who are willing to give their life and to achieve nothing. So it makes sense that over time, the numbers of attacks are fewer and fewer.”

Go after the inciters

Incitement to violence can occur in person, through traditional media or over social media. Hamas is responsible for a large portion of the incitement of Palestinians against Israel, the senior officer said.

“They create some of the memes of the high-level incitement, or the incitement which is very powerful that you see on the web,” he said. “So when you handle most of the Hamas incitement, or when you stop some of the incitement from getting to social media, you also have less incitement by private people that are just sharing a specific post or adding incitement.”

Get guns off the streets

Despite Israel’s control of the West Bank’s borders, weapons manufacturing in the territory has “increased drastically” in the past couple years, according to the senior officer. He estimated there are hundreds of production centers there.

In recent months, he said, the army has launched an organized crackdown, including closing some 20 locations producing homemade Carl Gustav submachine guns, or “Carlos,” like those used last month by two Hebron-area cousins in a deadly shooting at the upscale Sarona market in Tel Aviv.

“They paid for their suits more than they paid for the weapons,”

via Israel has had success against ‘lone wolf’ terrorists — here’s how | Jewish Telegraphic Agency

Posted in middle east, Politics/Foreign correspondents | Leave a comment

Turkey’s Purge: Erdogan targets his own military

erdogan1

CNN asks What does arresting 9,000 officers do to Turkey’s military readiness?

More than 9,000 military officers are in detention already and the number keeps climbing.

The question is, when does this NATO ally hollow out its armed forces to the point of failure?

The simple answer: No time soon. But that belies the details of precisely who has been arrested.

Turkey has a conscript army and is estimated to have over 500,000 people in its armed forces. The current detentions you might assume barely scratch the surface of a force with such a deep bench strength.

But the reality is, among those thousands detained are over 100 top generals and admirals — that’s one third of the military’s command, which has NATO allies worried. Many of their long-time military partners are gone, raising concerns around who they deal with and whom can they trust.

Claire Berlinski, a Paris-based journalist who used to live in Turkey, wonders why NATO allies weren’t worried about this during the Balyoz trial.

Most Americans are probably wondering “What was the Balyoz trial?” It wasn’t covered very much in the states. According a CNN report, the Balyoz, or “Sledgehammer” (in English) trial shifted Turkey’s balance of power toward “a more civilian authority” (from the military to the Islamist Erdoğan).

In most countries, when a civilian government becomes more powerful than the military, liberals are pleased. But in Turkey, the military is required to step in to keep secular institutions intact, to stop Islamists from turning Turkey into an official (or unofficial) theocracy. Liberals in Turkey were not happy about the blatantly illegal Sledgehammer.

… liberal voices in the Turkish media have criticized the conduct of the trial as well as the evidence presented…

…”This is not to whitewash the military role in Turkey’s past. … But some of the evidence presented in this case would not hold in a court of law in any other country.”

According to Gareth Jenkins of Silk Road Studies:

Balyoz was launched in 2010. It was the second – after the notorious Ergenekon case – in a series of high profile show trials instigated by followers of the exiled Islamic preacher Fethullah Gülen. At the time, what is commonly known as the Gülen Movement had formed an alliance of convenience with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. In return for its support, Erdogan had allowed the movement to establish a substantial presence in the police and the judiciary, which was then used to target their shared enemies, opponents and rivals – ranging from hardline secularists to military personnel, charity workers, journalists, lawyers, trade union officials, opposition politicians, Turkish nationalists and Kurdish nationalists. Thousands of people were charged and imprisoned and tens of thousands more were intimidated into silence for fear of meeting a similar fate.

The Balyoz indictment claimed that the defendants had discussed staging a coup at a military seminar in Istanbul on March 5-7, 2003. (See March 1, 2010 Turkey Analyst) The prosecutors even produced a CD containing what they maintained was a detailed coup plan. The metadata on the CD appeared to show that the documents containing the coup plot had been last saved on March 5, 2003 and not subsequently amended. However, not only did the documents contain numerous anachronisms, contradictions and absurdities but forensic analysis showed that they had been written using Microsoft Office 2007 – the beta version of which was not available until 2006. (See February 13, 2013 Turkey Analyst)

Nevertheless, on September 21, 2012, a total of 331 serving and retired members of the military were convicted in the Balyoz trial. On October 9, 2013, the Turkish Supreme Court of Appeal, or Yargıtay, upheld the convictions of 237 of the accused.

The Yargıtay’s decision came six weeks after 251 defendants had been convicted on August 5, 2013 of membership of what prosecutors described as the “Ergenekon terrorist organization”, which they claimed was controlling every militant group in Turkey and had been responsible for virtually every act of political violence in Turkey over the previous 20 years. Yet they produced no convincing evidence that any of accused had engaged in criminal activity or even that Ergenekon had ever existed. Indeed, much of the “evidence” they did produce had clearly been fabricated and, in some cases, equally clearly planted to try to incriminate the accused.

We should have been alarmed by this obvious show trial, but when the experts portray it as a ‘civilian’ government taking on the big bad military, why would we be concerned?

Why did our experts downplay the dangers of the Sledgehammer trials? It might have something to do with the fact that Erdoğan’s former partner in lawbreaking and current rival, the Islamic preacher Fethullah Gülen, has friends in high places. More about that later…

Posted in middle east, Politics/Foreign correspondents | Leave a comment

Turkey’s coup: The Gülen Movement, explained – Vox

Once Erdoğan had more or less secured his hold on power, however, the relationship started to break down. "Once the old establishment was decisively defeated, sometime around 2010 to 2011, disagreements emerged between the AKP and the Gulen movement," Al-Monitor's Mustafa Akyol explains. It started when a "power struggle between pro-Gulen police/judiciary and the AKP" erupted over an investigation into the country’s top intelligence agency that pitted pro-Erdoğan intelligence officials against pro-Gülen police and prosecutors.

Then, in November 2013, Erdoğan announced he planned to shut down prep schools (weekend classes for university exam preparation), about a quarter of which are run by the Gülen movement.

A month later, Akyol continues, "the real bomb went off: Zekeriya Oz, an Istanbul prosecutor who is widely believed to be a member of the Gulen movement, initiated an early morning raid on dozens of individuals, including the sons of three ministers, an AKP mayor, businessmen and bureaucrats." It was a massive corruption scandal, which alleged that the government illicitly traded gold with Iran in exchange for oil, undermining the international sanctions regime then in place.

The Gülenists argued this proved the government was fundamentally corrupt and in bed with Turkey’s Iranian enemies. Erdoğan and the AKP in turn accused the Gülenists of attempting a takeover through the corruption investigation, and of being in bed with Israel (which would naturally oppose Turkish cooperation with Iran). "An increasingly paranoid prime minister is said to believe that a ‘Gülen-Israel axis’ is bent on unseating him," the Economist wrote of Erdoğan at the time.

via Turkey's coup: The Gülen Movement, explained – Vox

Posted in Politics/Foreign correspondents | Leave a comment

Moon Express Takes Over Delta 2 Rocket Launch Site in Cape Canaveral

WASHINGTON — Moon Express, a Florida company developing commercial lunar landers, announced July 12 an agreement with the U.S. Air Force to take over a former Delta 2 launch site at Cape Canaveral.

The company said it reached an agreement with the Air Force’s 45th Space Wing, which operates Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, to use Launch Complex 17 as a research and development facility, including tests of the company’s lunar landers. The agreement also covers adjacent Launch Complex 18, used for Vanguard launches in the late 1950s but inactive for the last several decades.

Moon Express also announced an agreement with Space Florida, the state’s space development agency, to renovate building at Launch Complex 17 for use by the company. Space Florida will contribute up to $1.85 million for that work, an amount Moon Express will match. [Moon Express: Images of  Private Lunar Lander]

via Moon Express Takes Over Delta 2 Rocket Launch Site in Cape Canaveral

Posted in Politics/Foreign correspondents | Leave a comment

The Great Arab Implosion and Its Consequences » Mosaic

Even in those few locales where centuries of Ottoman or colonial rule had bequeathed a more open and diverse society, clan domination and military repression rapidly became the rule. Wave after wave of political oppression, economic expropriation, and religious persecution—the last conducted not by frenzied Islamists but by the ostensibly secular Gamal Abdel Nasser, Ghaddafi, Saddam, and the Algerian National Liberation Front—squeezed out the most dynamic and creative communities: Jews certainly, but also Armenians, Greeks, and populations of European descent as well as many other Christian groups. The inevitable result was the further impoverishment of social, cultural, and educational capital. The remaining non-Sunni Arabs—like the Egyptian Copts, Sudanese Christians, and Iraqi Shiites—were completely downtrodden, or else transformed themselves into quasi-military sects like the Alawites in Syria, the Kurds of Iraq, and the Shiites in Yemen and southern Lebanon.

As the 20th century progressed, Arabic-speaking societies actually lost ground relative to the world’s other emerging regions save only sub-Saharan Africa. By the 1980s, the dirt-poor South Koreans and Taiwanese, without any significant local political traditions or natural resources, had successfully pulled themselves into the ranks of developed and democratic nations. By the 2000s, not only China and India but also Muslim-majority societies like Indonesia and Malaysia had made substantial strides in the same direction. Meanwhile, Algeria, Egypt, Syria, and Iraq, beginning from a more advanced point than most of their Asian counterparts, were squandering endless opportunities and falling woefully behind. They stumbled into the 21st century completely exhausted, as well as economically and culturally bankrupt.

via The Great Arab Implosion and Its Consequences » Mosaic

Posted in Politics/Foreign correspondents | Leave a comment

3D printing with Sun and Sand

solar-sintervia Solar-Sinter 3D printer creates glass objects from sun and sand

We’ve seen a growing number 3D printers that use additive manufacturing technology to form objects one layer at a time, usually from resin or ABS plastic. But Markus Kayser, an MA student at the Royal College of Art in London, has created a 3D printer that creates 3D objects using two things found in abundance in the desert – sun and sand. As well as being powered by the sun via two photovoltaic panels, the Solar-Sinter also focuses the sun’s rays to heat sand to its melting point so it then solidifies as glass when it cools, allowing the computer controlled device to produce glass objects from 3D computer designs.

Markus Kayser – Solar Sinter Project from Markus Kayser on Vimeo.

Posted in Politics/Foreign correspondents | Leave a comment