The Resolution Foundation says those aged 25-34 are worst hit compared with other age groups.
For approximately the past five years, the Mainstream Media (MSM) and the Obama-administration supported research “think-tanks” for monitoring the North Korean situation have had a field day. They consistently (along with the brain-dead public’s crowds of naysayers) and intentionally understated the capabilities of North Korea. The experts in the field (such as Dr. Peter V. Pry, Admiral Bill Gortney, General Curtis Scapparotti) have not been able to be denied; however, they have been marginalized and made to seem to be “in conflict” with the prevailing, majority “view.” The “tyranny of the majority,” in this case, was needed to accomplish the objectives of the Obama administration: appear to be “strong” on sanctions, and “aloof” with diplomacy, i.e., Barack Hussein Obama II’s not “lowering” himself to deal with North Korea diplomatically.
The true objective of Obama regarding North Korea was to pursue a laissez-faire policy and allow North Korea to progress, becoming a viable threat, as it is today.
All of this was deliberately planned by Obama and his handlers. As far back as April 7, 2015, Admiral Bill Gortney (the former commander of North American Aerospace Defense, a.k.a. NORAD) gave a press conference in which he warned of North Korea’s capabilities with an ICBM, an Intercontinental Ballistic Missile…warned that North Korea could strike the United States with a nuclear warhead on an ICBM…he stated this in 2015. Six months prior, in October of 2014 Admiral Gortney stated that North Korea had nuclear weapons, had miniaturization capabilities, and could place them on missiles that could reach the continental United States.
Fast-forward to this year. There was a joint article that was penned by Dr. Peter V. Pry, America’s foremost expert on EMP (Electromagnetic Pulse) threats posed to the United States by foreign nations and the head of every committee to brief Congress on those issues. A former analyst with the Central Intelligence Agency, Dr. Pry is currently the Executive Director of the EMP Task Force on National and Homeland Security. The article was co-authored by R. James Woolsey, former Director of the Central Intelligence Agency. Here are excerpts from that article, released on March 29, 2017 by The Hill:
“The mainstream media, and some officials who should know better, continue to allege North Korea does not yet have capability to deliver on its repeated threats to strike the U.S. with nuclear weapons. False reassurance is given to the American people that North Korea has not “demonstrated” that it can miniaturize a nuclear warhead small enough for missile delivery, or build a reentry vehicle for an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) capable of penetrating the atmosphere to blast a U.S. city.
Yet any nation that has built nuclear weapons and long-range missiles, as North Korea has done, can easily overcome the relatively much simpler technological challenge of warhead miniaturization and reentry vehicle design.
The notion that North Korea is testing A-Bombs and H-Bomb components, but does not yet have the sophistication to miniaturize warheads and make reentry vehicles for missile delivery is absurd.
…North Korea should be regarded as capable of delivering by satellite a small nuclear warhead, specially designed to make a high-altitude electromagnetic pulse (EMP) attack against the United States.
According to the Congressional EMP Commission, a single warhead delivered by North Korean satellite could blackout the national electric grid and other life-sustaining critical infrastructures for over a year – killing 9 of 10 Americans by starvation and societal collapse. Two North Korean satellites, the KMS-3 and KMS-4, presently orbit over the U.S. on trajectories consistent with surprise EMP attack.
Why do the press and public officials ignore or under-report these facts? Perhaps no administration wants to acknowledge that North Korea is an existential threat on their watch. Whatever the motives for obfuscating the North Korean nuclear threat, the need to protect the American people is immediate and urgent…”
There you have the main points to substantiate what was written earlier: a deliberate obfuscation of the facts by the Obama administration coupled with the complicit MSM to allow North Korea the time to develop the capabilities to strike the continental United States. Let’s also try not to forget that a “standard” ICBM is not the only focus of North Korea: the SLBM (Submarine-Launched Ballistic Missile) is a threat. Recall that CNN put this report out on April 24, 2016:
“After previous launch attempts by Pyongyang failed, this one seems to have gone much better, one U.S. official noted. “North Korea’s sub launch capability has gone from a joke to something very serious,” this official said. “The U.S. is watching this very closely.” Asked whether the test was successful, another U.S. official told CNN, “essentially yes.”
(CNN, from Don Melvin, Jim Sciutto, and Wil Ripley)
For years, now, the paid think-tank naysayers have decried the capabilities of North Korea and downplayed their programs of missile and nuclear warhead developments. on September 7, 2016, two days prior to the North Korean nuclear test of September 9th, a DoS (Denial of Service) attack crashed the website of the Project on Crowdsourced Satellite Imagery based in California. Working on this “project” are two analysts, Melissa Hanrahan, and Jeffrey Lewis. Both have consistently and repeatedly denied North Korea’s nuclear capabilities and as late as this year, both have stated that North Korea “was years away from perfecting an ICBM.” Not only have they been proven wrong, but Lewis “backpedaled” and declared that this latest launch from last week was indeed a North Korean-launched ICBM.
Fast-forward to today: The United States just flew a live-fire “exercise” on the border of North Korea, and the United States is now screwing with North Korea’s money.
Two American B-1 B bombers dropped live bombs on simulated missile battery targets while accompanied by South Korean fighter aircraft targeting simulated underground bunkers. North Korea responded in their state-run media with such:
“The US, with its dangerous military provocation, is pushing the risk of a nuclear war on the peninsula to a tipping point.”
They labeled the maneuver as “…a dangerous military gambit of warmongers who are trying to ignite the fuse of a nuclear war on the peninsula,” and went on to add this, of great importance for you to focus upon, so much so that I’ve underlined the important part:
“A small misjudgment or error can immediately lead to the beginning of a nuclear war, which will inevitably lead to another world war.”
Do you realize the silent significance of the underlined portion? The MSM has tried to paint a picture of North Korea as a “rogue” state with an insane leader. In truth, there are other nations, such as China and Russia that conduct commerce with North Korea as well as having pledged military alliances.
Does anyone really think that China and Russia will sit this one out, and that it will all be just an EMP by North Korea followed by a couple of nukes dropped by the U.S.?
In the meantime, it has just been revealed by Jonathan Stempel of Reuters that the U.S. is going after North Korea’s money. Here is an excerpt of that article:
“U.S. authorities have tried to seize millions of dollars associated with several companies that deal with North Korea, including the country’s military, from eight large international banks, according to court filings made public on Thursday. The effort was revealed two days after North Korea tested a long-range missile capable of reaching Alaska, ratcheting up tensions with the United States and adding to worries about North Korea leader Kim Jong Un’s nuclear weapons plans. Thursday’s filings show that Chief Judge Beryl Howell of the federal court in Washington, D.C. on May 22 granted U.S. prosecutors’ applications for “damming” seizure warrants against Bank of America Corp, Bank of New York Mellon Corp, Citigroup Inc, Deutsche Bank AG, HSBC Holdings Plc, JPMorgan Chase & Co, Standard Chartered Plc and Wells Fargo & Co. Prosecutors believe the banks have processed more than $700 million of “prohibited” transactions on behalf of entities tied to North Korea since 2009, including the period after Donald Trump was elected U.S. president, the filings show.”
With measures such as military exercises and money seizures, it can be clearly seen that Un and North Korea are being maneuvered into a situation where the only recourses are capitulation to the U.S./IMF hegemony (which we know will not occur) or to conduct a strike against the United States. North Korea has that capability right now…to launch a nuclear strike against the continental United States.
The next world war will be initiated by an EMP, and North Korea will either launch it or take the blame for it by a country that did launch it…to include the United States.
Do not be in denial of the threat: be the “10th Man,” as in the movie “World War Z.” Think outside of the confines that society places upon your intellect. It is not “fear porn” to continuously “sound off” about what is going on around us, especially when people are either unaware of it or denying that it can happen. The MSM is either silent on the subject, or it skews the information. There are still those who are unaware of the current threats to the U.S. outlined in this article. There are still many people who will be reading this information for the first time: those who may have heard bits and pieces of it and are not aware of what is going on or the depth and significance of it.
It is primarily for them that I write this piece, and secondly to those who may wish to review some of the previously-released information and reflect upon it…for them to make the right decisions regarding preparations for themselves and their families.
Bottom line: everyone is pretty much on their own…everyone and their families. The “sink or swim” tenet does apply. It is stupid to discount information that may help you when the time comes (or before it does) just because of “going along with the crowd,” or skepticism. Many people would willingly burn to a crisp and stay in a target area just to emphasize their denial and disagreement with someone else’s view. Throughout history, these people follow a stubborn refusal to admit there is always more than what appears on the surface. To act upon such information and decisively (at the critical point) is paramount.
I implore everyone to study carefully the buildup by the parties involved and weigh the reasons (who, what, when, where, how, and…most importantly, why) there could be a strike against the U.S. coming soon. Many people believe that it is, and I am one of them. I’d rather be wrong a thousand times than be “right” once on it, but the situation changes day to day. It is better to be prepared for it. If it comes, I’m not going to take any satisfaction at those who constantly deride or detract. Instead I’m going to thank God that I’m safe and pray that others took steps to keep themselves and their families safe, too, and make it through the times to come. Perhaps the whole country will come crashing down, but maybe…just maybe, we can survive and make it better than it was before.
I close with the words of Dr. Pry:
“…North Korea is a mortal nuclear threat to the United States – right now. North Korea has already successfully tested and developed nuclear weapons. It has also already miniaturized nuclear weapons for ballistic missile delivery and has armed missiles with nuclear warheads.
Any nuclear weapon detonated above an altitude of 30 kilometers will generate an electromagnetic pulse that will destroy electronics and could collapse the electric power grid and other critical infrastructures – communications, transportation, banking and finance, food and water – that sustain modern civilization and the lives of 300 million Americans. All could be destroyed by a single nuclear weapon making an EMP attack.
A Super-EMP attack on the United States would cause much more and much deeper damage than a primitive nuclear weapon…North Korean nuclear tests look suspiciously like a Super-EMP weapon. A Super-EMP warhead would have a low yield, like the North Korean device, because it is not designed to create a big explosion, but to convert its energy into gamma rays, that generate the EMP effect.
Reportedly South Korean military intelligence concluded, independent of the EMP Commission, that Russian scientists are in North Korea helping develop a Super-EMP warhead. In 2012, a military commentator for the People’s Republic of China stated that North Korea has Super-EMP nuclear warheads. A Super-EMP warhead would not weigh much, and could probably be delivered by North Korea’s ICBM. The missile does not have to be accurate, as the EMP field is so large that detonating anywhere over the United States would have catastrophic consequences.
So, as of Dec. 12, North Korea’s successful orbit of a satellite demonstrates its ability to make an EMP attack against the United States – right now.”
Dr. Peter Vincent Pry, December 19, 2012, Washington Times, “PRY: North Korea EMP attack could destroy U.S. – now.”
A majority of Republicans think higher education is having a negative effect on the U.S. according to new polling from the Pew Research Center.
As Statista's Niall McCarthy notes, both Democrats and Republicans are deeply divided about the impact of a whole host of institutions and in many instances, that partisan divide has widened significantly over the past 12 months. The level of division is most evident when it comes to America's colleges and universities…
You will find more statistics at Statista
While 55 percent of the public think U.S. colleges and universities are having a positive effect on the country, Republicans are particularly downcast about higher education. Pew found that an overwhelming 72 percent majority of Democrats think colleges and universities are exherting a positive influence while 58 percent of Republicans say they are having a negative effect.
Republican skepticism of the national news media is no secret so it comes as little surprise that 85 percent say it is having a negative effect on the country. Democrats are more divided on the media with 46 percent saying it is negative and 44 percent feeling it is positive. When it comes to banks and financial institutions, Democrats are more skeptical than Republicans while majorities in both parties are positive about churches and religious organizations.
China and Syria have already begun discussing post-war infrastructure investment; with a 'Matchmaking Fair for Syria Reconstruction' held in Beijing
Amid the proverbial doom and gloom pervading all things Syria, the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune sometimes yield, well, good fortune.
Take what happened this past Sunday in Beijing. The China-Arab Exchange Association and the Syrian Embassy organized a Syria Day Expo crammed with hundreds of Chinese specialists in infrastructure investment. It was a sort of mini-gathering of the Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), billed as “The First Project Matchmaking Fair for Syria Reconstruction”.
Qin Yong, deputy chairman of the China-Arab Exchange Association, announced that Beijing plans to invest $2 billion in an industrial park in Syria for 150 Chinese companies.
Nothing would make more sense. Before the tragic Syrian proxy war, Syrian merchants were already incredibly active in the small-goods Silk Road between Yiwu and the Levant. The Chinese don’t forget that Syria controlled overland access to both Europe and Africa in ancient Silk Road times when, after the desert crossing via Palmyra, goods reached the Mediterranean on their way to Rome. After the demise of Palmyra, a secondary road followed the Euphrates upstream and then through Aleppo and Antioch.
Beijing always plans years ahead. And the government in Damascus is implicated at the highest levels. So, it’s not an accident that Syrian Ambassador to China Imad Moustapha had to come up with the clincher: China, Russia and Iran will have priority over anyone else for all infrastructure investment and reconstruction projects when the war is over.
The New Silk Roads, or One Belt, One Road Initiative (Obor), will inevitably feature a Syrian hub – complete with the requisite legal support for Chinese companies involved in investment, construction and banking via a special commission created by the Syrian embassy, the China-Arab Exchange Association and the Beijing-based Shijing law firm.
Get me on that Shanghai-Latakia cargo
Few remember that before the war China had already invested tens of billions of US dollars in Syria’s oil and gas industry. Naturally the priority for Damascus, once the war is over, will be massive reconstruction of widely destroyed infrastructure. China could be part of that via the AIIB. Then comes investment in agriculture, industry and connectivity – transportation corridors in the Levant and connecting Syria to Iraq and Iran (other two Obor hubs).
What matters most of all is that Beijing has already taken the crucial step of being directly involved in the final settlement of the Syrian war – geopolitically and geo-economically. Beijing has had a special representative for Syria since last year – and has already been providing humanitarian aid.
Needless to add, all those elaborate plans depend on no more war. And there’s the rub.
With the demise of Daesh (ISIS), or at least its imminent loss of any significant urban center, no one knows in what manner a fragmented, phony Caliphate “Sunnistan” might be manipulated into cutting Syria from its New Silk Road future.
Qatar has already provided a game-changer; Doha has gotten closer to Tehran (common interests in South Pars/North Dome gas-field oblige), as well as Damascus – much to the despair of the House of Saud. So, unlike the recent past, Qatar is not engaged in regime change anymore. But still there are the diverging interests of Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Israel and, of course, Washington, to accommodate.
A possible scenario out of what Putin and Trump negotiated in Hamburg – that was not relayed by either Lavrov or Tillerson – is that the ceasefire in southwestern Syria, assuming it holds, could mean US peacekeeping forces in effect sanctioning the creation of a demilitarized zone (DMZ) between the Syrian Golan and the rest of the country.
Translation: the Golan de facto annexed by Israel. And the “carrot” for Moscow would be Washington accepting Crimea de facto re-incorporated into the Russian Federation.
That may sound less far-fetched than it seems. The next few months will tell if this is indeed a plausible scenario.
The other big sticking point is Ankara against the YPG Kurds. Contrary to the ominous and quite possible Balkanization scenario, Washington and Moscow might well decide, in tandem, to let them sort things out by themselves. Then we will inevitably have the Turkish army occupying al-Bab for the foreseeable future.
The bottom line: that Saudi Arabia gets nothing. And Israel and Turkey get political/military “wins”. It’s hard to imagine how Moscow could possibly sell this arrangement to Iran as a victory. Still, Tehran may not have a free flow Iran-Iraq-Syria-Hezbollah route totally back in action, but it will maintain close relations with Damascus and be engaged in the expansion of the New Silk Roads.
The key question from now on seems to be whether Washington will follow the deep state “Syraq” policy – as in “Assad must go” mixed with support or weaponizing of non-existent “moderate rebels”; or whether Trump’s priority – to eliminate Daesh/ISIS for good – will prevail.
Beijing, anyway, has made up its mind. It will work non-stop for the Iran-Iraq-Syria triumvirate to become a key hub in Obor. Any bets against a future, booming Shanghai-Latakia container route?
In an unexpectedly brazen rattling of sabers, just days after China deployed troops to its first foreign base in Djibouti, a move which the Global Times clarified is “about protecting its own security, not about seeking to control the world, Beijing made a less than subtle reversal, when it told Japan on Friday to “get used to it” after it flew six warplanes over the Miyako Strait between two southern Japanese islands in a military exercise.
It all started late on Thursday night, when Japan’s defense ministry issued a token statement describing the flyover by the formation of Xian H-6 bombers, also known as China’s B-52, earlier that day as “unusual”, while noting that there had been no violation of Japanese airspace.
The flyover was hardly surprising: the Chinese navy and air force have been carrying out a series of exercises in the Western Pacific in recent month, both as they hone their ability to operate far from their home shores, as well as a trial balloon to gauge the reactions of their increasingly more nervous neighbors.
What made this flyover different, is that usually following a formal protest by the “offended” country, Beijing would take note and issue a token statement of its own, “neither admitting nor denying” guilt, but certainly without assurances of further transgressions. But not this time. On Friday the Chinese defense ministry said it was “legal and proper” for its military aircraft to operate in the airspace and that it would continue to organize regular training exercises according to “mission requirements.”
In other words, Beijing pushed back against Japan’s complaint suggesting that China had not only done nothing wrong, but that this behaviour would escalate:
“The relevant side should not make a fuss about nothing or over-interpret, it will be fine once they get used to it,” the ministry said in a statement.
Furthermore, the Miyako Strait is between Japan’s islands of Miyako and Okinawa, to the northeast of self-ruled Taiwan, which China claims as its own.
It wasn’t just Japan: also on Thursday, Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defense said the Chinese bombers flew just outside its air defense identification zone and that it had “closely followed” the movements.
It is probably safe to assume that several more such close encounters, coupled an escalation in the harsh language – don’t expect Japan to back off diplomatically, especially not under Abe who militant ambitions are hardly secret – and a repeat of the tensions that erupted in 2013/2014 over territorial claims in the East China Sea, and which ended with diplomatic relations between China and Japan collapsing as well as nationalist sentiment in both China and Japan erupting, appears likely.
In a separate close encounter, at the same time that the US was conducting a succeeful THAAD-based intercept of a ballistic missile on Tuesday, a Chinese spy ship was lurking just 100 miles from Alaska’s coast to witness the said test for itself, Fox News reported. Furthermore, it was the first time the North American Aerospace Defense Command had seen this class of Chinese spy ship before near Alaska, an official told Fox News. The ship was spotted off the coast of Kodiak, on Alaska’s southern tip.
The THAAD test came after North Korea successfully test launched an alleged ICBM missile (this has subsequently been challenged with many claiming the missile was only intermediate range) that flew longer than any test conducted by Kim’s regime to date. Officials have said that Kim may now have the capability to strike Alaska. Prior to the test, both China and Russia have repeatedly demanded that the US remove its THAAD installations from South Korea over concerns that the balance of power in the Pacific Rim could shift, and destabilize the region.
China has sent warships to Alaska before, most famously in 2015 when former Barack Obama visited Alaska, China “greeted” him by sending five ships, while more recently a Chinese warship trailed a U.S. warship when it sailed earlier this month near a contested island in the South China Sea.
China also recently launched a new class of destroyer in Shanghai, which military experts say is on par with modern U.S. Burke class guided-missile destroyers. Furthermore, China now has roughly the same number of destroyers, cruisers and submarines as the U.S. Navy, according to new study from CNAS a Washington think tank.
In a separate naval adventure, China’s first fully functional aircraft carrier recently sailed near Taiwan after making a port call in Hong Kong that marked 20 years since the British handed the city over. The carrier was declared combat ready following initial tests in November. It does not, however, have advanced steam catapults to launch jets like a modern U.S. Navy aircraft carrier.
It was not clear where the Chinese spy ship had moved to after its brief trip to the Alaska coast.
North Korea’s latest test of a missile with a range capable of threatening American cities has left the Trump Administration somewhere between wishful thinking and a hard place. Too bad neither represents a realistic resolution of the conundrum.
The easy way out, for the US at least, is to “let China do it.” President Donald Trump, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Defense Secretary James Mattis and UN Ambassador Nikki Haley have in unison chanted the same basic mantra: The problem would be solved if China would apply more pressure on North Korea.
First there is no evidence China can tell North Korea what to do with any real hope of success. The two countries are not buddies and there is no love lost between China’s President Xi Jinping and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. They have not met since both leaders came to power in 2012 and they communicate via messengers.
China has supported a UN resolution strongly condemning North Korea. The Kim regime no more pays heed to China than it has to protests from South Korea, Japan or the United States.
Just as China cannot stop North Korea from developing nuclear weapon and intercontinental missile technology, North Korea is not developing these technologies for China’s sake. North Korea believes it needs nuclear strike capability in order to be taken seriously by the US.
To date, sanctions on North Korea have not worked. The American response has been to ask the UN Security Council to impose more sanctions. In particular, Trump does not feel China is tightening the screws hard enough.
Shutting down North Korea’s economy might bring Kim to heel from the American perspective but clearly such a move is unacceptable from China’s view. Economic collapse would trigger a massive humanitarian crisis and China would be left to deal with the refugees as they take the only viable option and migrate north into China.
There is a flip side to this approach. Even if the sanctions bring North Korea to its knees, it does not mean the Kim regime will become more conciliatory. Kim may decide he has nothing to lose and simply launch an attack on the south.
The other tough approach is to launch a Rumsfeldian shock and awe military bombardment on North Korea before the North can attack.
There is virtually no chance, however, that carpet-bombing could vaporize the array of artillery and missiles facing South Korea. The consequent damage to Seoul and other parts of South Korea from the retaliation would be significant, not to mention the danger to the 30,000 American troops stationed in the south.
There is also no assurance any precision strikes could successfully take out Kim and his inner circle nor knock out all the country’s nuclear weapons and development centers. The risks of failure are simply too great to contemplate.
There is a more sensible approach that an increasing number of commentators and foreign policy observers are suggesting the Trump Administration consider: offer talks without preconditions.
North Korea fears the US and knows Beijing cannot commit on behalf of Washington. Pyongyang wants to deal directly with Washington and does not see China as a credible intermediary. Why not begin a direct conversation?
The Clinton Administration almost reached an agreement with Pyongyang when the clock ran out on Clinton’s term. George W. Bush elected to ignore North Korea and then imposed preconditions before being willing to resume negotiations.
Pyongyang saw the Bush White House as dealing in bad faith and that the only way to gain American respect was to complete the development of a nuclear bomb. North Korea detonated its first nuclear bomb in October 2006, during Bush’s second term.
The Obama administration, unfortunately, followed the Bush line: no negotiations without preconditions. To push for North Korea’s agreement, Washington bandied the threats of sanctions and solicited Beijing for help.
In the 16 years since the end of the Clinton administration, Washington and Pyongyang have made no progress in reaching a common understanding. Each has accused the other of acting in bad faith. The US threatened more sanctions; North Korea kept testing weapons with bigger bang and missiles with longer range.
This endless cycle is not going anywhere and the threat of an American shock-and-awe style attack clearly worries Pyongyang. Why can’t Washington soften a bit and show a willingness to talk without pre-conditions? What does it have to lose?
Will the world respect us less as a fearsome hegemon because we are willing to swallow our pride, or will it applaud us for taking the first step towards peace? Donald Trump has an opportunity to accomplish an important foreign policy triumph that has eluded his two predecessors.
Fuel theft in Mexico used to consist of a few villagers drilling holes in Pemex pipelines and carrying away just enough gasoline to fill their vehicles and maybe a couple extra gallons to sell on the side of the freeway. But as The Columbian notes, illegally tapping into pipelines and stealing gas from Mexico’s state-owned oil company has morphed into a very well organized criminal enterprise, run by well-armed regional cartels and supported by distribution on a commercial scale to factories and petrol stations.
Heavy arms and violence seen in Tuesday’s confrontation in Puebla state reflect its growth into a billion-dollar business that supplies not just the people selling gas on the sides of highways — called “huachicoleros” — but factories and gasoline station chains.
It has become an industrial-scale operation, involving a string of villages and hamlets along pipeline routes, not just in Puebla, but in Guanajuato, Veracruz, Tamaulipas and other Mexican states. The government says more than 6,000 illegal pipeline taps were found in 2016 and officials have been detecting an average of about 20 taps a day this year.
“Of all the fuel that is stolen, only 10 percent is sold to the public” by roadside vendors, said Jesus Morales, the top police official in Puebla state. “The other 90 percent goes to big business groups, to gas stations, factories.”
Meanwhile, the collection and distribution of stolen fuel has become every bit as barbaric as the drug trade with local villagers being given quotas by organized cartels and then suffering brutal consequences when those quotas aren’t met.
As the stakes have risen, fuel theft has become a blood industry.
In early July, nine people were killed, including five men whose bodies were burned, in a dispute between fuel thieves in the town of Huehuetlan in Puebla state. Morales said the killings involved a gang of distributors trying to collect from local vendors who were unable to meet their sales quotas because of police raids.
“They committed this barbarous act as a gesture of anger,” said Morales, who claimed that vendors have recently raised the price of stolen fuel to near that of legitimate gasoline — it used to be half as much — because their supplies are being cut off.
As the police officers waited near the cornfield in Puebla, they saw a huge column of smoke rise into the sky after a clandestine warehouse of stolen fuel went up in flames about two miles down the road.
Authorities couldn’t go into the area to fight the blaze because they risked a confrontation with villagers.
“They don’t even let the fire department enter,” Assistant Public Safety Secretary Jose Tlachi said. “They usually try to put the fires out themselves.”
Pemex workers and local villagers paint a surreal scene of the carnage left in the wake of this relatively nascent criminal enterprise which includes 1,000’s of abandoned “Max Max-style” vehicles and gasoline literally flooding entire fields after pipeline taps are drilled and then simply abandoned once tanks have been filled.
A former soldier carrying an AR-15 and extra clips who was patrolling the pipeline for Pemex said the police officers had earlier been attacked by three armored trucks, explaining their reluctance to confront the thieves a second time.
“You can tell they are armored by the weight of the vehicles. They are better-armed than we are,” he said.
The battle against the fuel thieves has left a strange “huachicolero” landscape east of Mexico City. Fields are littered with leaking illegal taps, abandoned fuel tanks and Mad Max-style vehicles whose interiors have been ripped out to hold thousand-liter tanks. Fires from stolen fuel are common.
The vehicles the gangs use are usually stolen and abandoned after a few trips. Over 1,700 of such vehicles have been seized in the last two months.
Meanwhile, just like with the drug cartels, local police forces are finding themselves outgunned by the thieves who have the benefit of better weapons and armored vehicles.
The police officers gripped their assault rifles tightly as they stared at the men filling plastic tanks and loading them onto a dozen pickup trucks in a cornfield in central Mexico. Even though a crime was being committed in front of them, the officers said it was too dangerous to move in.
They had to wait until the army arrived to advance because the suspects were better-armed than they were and an earlier attempt to arrest them had been repelled by gunfire, officials said.
“In the morning there were 40 trucks loading,” said Francisco, a security employee with the state oil company Petroleos Mexicanos, or Pemex, who asked that his last name not be used for safety reasons. “We saw them loading, we went in, and they started shooting at us. The criminals had an armored car.”
Of course, gas thieving skyrocketed in Mexico earlier this year after President Pena Nieto decided to remove federal subsidies and hike prices a little over 20%, a move intended to offset budget deficits. In hindsight, the price hike has cost the state-owned oil company, Pemex, at least $1 billion worth of stolen fuel and launched a brand new cartel war…probably not the expected outcome.
In the 1960’s and 1970’s the US government tested chemical and biological weapons on US troops in still little known secret programs called Projects 112 and SHAD (Shipboard Hazard and Defense). The Vietnam era tests involved some 6,000 military personnel being subject to experiments involving deadly nerve agents like sarin and VX, as well as biological agents like E. Coli, all of which can result in quick death or potential lifelong debilitating health issues such as long-term central nervous system failure. A fatal dose of VX nerve agent, for example, can kill in minutes, but it is unknown if the program resulted in deaths because documents remain classified as “Top Secret” even 50 years later. Veterans advocacy groups have long tried to get specifics of the program declassified in the hopes that disclosure might allow victims of the tests access to health benefits and better medical treatment, but on Thursday Congress slammed the door on these attempts, leaving veterans and some congressional sponsors outraged.
USS George Eastman personnel were among those identified by the National
Academies of Sciences as subject to US government experiments in biochem warfare.
Some limited details of the highly classified program came to light in 2000, when the Department of Veterans Affairs obtained documents related to the program from the Pentagon in order to study medical treatments for claimants. But veteran victims of testing have long been left in the lurch as the Pentagon decides how much information should be shared with the public. Veterans Affairs has an official statement on its website – the result of in-house studies in coordination with the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, claiming there’s no evidence that exposure has led to ill-health:
Project 112/Project SHAD, or Shipboard Hazard and Defense, was a series of tests conducted by the Department of Defense from 1962 to 1974. Servicemembers participated in conducting the tests. The purpose was to determine the potential risks to U.S. warships and American forces from chemical and biological warfare agents.
To date, there is no clear evidence of specific, long-term health problems associated with participation in Project SHAD.
Disturbingly, the National Academies admits in a 2016 study that among the 6000 personnel involved in the tests…
Only some of the involved military personnel were aware of the nature of the tests at the time they were conducted.
Table: National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine study of
Project SHAD agents used on troop personnel and hypothesized health effects.
Reps. Mike Thompson, D-Calif., Don Young, R-Alaska, and Walter Jones, R-N.C. have worked on behalf of veterans groups to put the issue before Congress. The congressmen sponsored language in a defense policy bill this week that would force the secretary of defense to either declassify documents related to the chemical program or explain to Congress why he can’t. The Pentagon has kept silent on the issue.
On Thursday the House Rules Committee, which decides what goes before the House floor, struck down the proposal, so the declassification won’t even be up for discussion before Congress. An enraged Rep. Thompson called the fact that it didn’t even make it out of committee “shameful” and took to the house floor saying:
These tests were an ugly part of our history. They put veteran lives at risk. And our veterans have every right to know what it was they were exposed to, how much they were exposed to, we need to think about their safety and their security.
A number of veteran spokespersons questioned how greater public knowledge of the experiments would compromise national security, which appears to be the Pentagon’s position. Government classification often has more to do with covering up embarrassing secrets and preventing lawsuits than national security. A number of outrageously immoral programs going back to the middle of the last century are already well-known and documented, including Mk-Ultra, Operation Paperclip, and nuclear testing on soldiers. Thompson told McClatchy News just prior to the proposal going to committee:
It’s been over 50 years since these tests were conducted and the DOD has yet to provide a complete accounting of what truly happened to our service members. Veterans can’t wait any longer.
It is entirely possible that buried amidst the stacks of Top Secret DoD documentation on project SHAD is the United States’ own horrific Ronald Maddison story. Maddison was victim of what is widely considered to be the most sickeningly scandalous case of human experimentation in UK history. In 1953 Maddison, a 20-year-old Royal Air Force engineer, thought he had volunteered for mild experiments related to curing the common cold. Instead he was given a large dose of liquid sarin drops applied directly to his skin by military scientists at England’s Porton Down labs in order to study the effects. Maddison died an agonizing death, which the UK government spent decades covering up.
Ronald Maddison, subject of
UK chemical testing at Porton Down
Details of the Ronald Maddison story only came to light over 50 years after his death, when an unwitting eyewitness named Alfred Thornhill went public. Thornhill told The Guardian:
“I saw his leg rise up from the bed and I saw his skin begin turning blue. It started from the ankle and started spreading up his leg. It was like watching somebody pouring a blue liquid into a glass, it just began filling up. I was standing by the bed gawping. It was like watching something from outer space and then one of the doctors produced the biggest needle I had ever seen. It was the size of a bicycle pump and went down onto the lad’s body. The sister saw me gawping and told me to get out.”
Maddison’s ordeal was not an isolated case of chemical weapons testing using human guinea pigs in either Britain or America, but it was certainly one of the ugliest in terms of the circumstances of his death. As 6000 possibly sick US veterans got the door slammed in their faces yesterday regarding project SHAD, we must ask: what is the Pentagon hiding?