Monsanto Slammed With $289 Million Verdict In Historic ‘RoundUp’ Cancer Lawsuit

A San Francisco Jury awarded $289 million in damages to a former school groundskeeper, Dewayne Johnson, who said Monsanto’s Roundup weedkiller gave him terminal cancer. The award consists of $40 million in compensatory damages and $250 million in punitive damages. 

Johnson’s trial was fast-tracked due to the severe state of his non-Hodgkins lymphoma, a cancer of the lymph system he says was triggered by Roundup and Ranger Pro, a similar glyphosate herbicide that he applied up to 30 times per year. His doctors didn’t think he’d live to live to see the verdict. 

Johnson testified that he had been involved in two accidents during his work in which he was doused with the product, the first of which happened in 2012. Two years later, the 46-year-old father of two was diagnosed with lymphoma – which has covered as much as 80% of his body in lesions. 

Monsanto says it will appeal the verdict. 

“Today’s decision does not change the fact that more than 800 scientific studies and reviews — and conclusions by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. National Institutes of Health and regulatory authorities around the world — support the fact that glyphosate does not cause cancer, and did not cause Mr. Johnson’s cancer,” Monsanto Vice President Scott Partridge said in a statement.

Monsanto is a subsidiary of Germany’s Bayer AG, which closed on its $66 billion purchase of the agrochemical company in June. 

On Tuesday, Johnson’s attorney Brent Wisner urged jurors to hold Monsanto liable and slap them with a verdict that would “actually change the world” – after arguing that Monsanto knew about glyphosate’s risks of cancer, but decided to ignore and bury the information. 

According to The Guardian, Johnson is the first person to take Monsanto to trial over allegations that the chemical sold under the Roundup brand is linked to cancer although thousands have made similar legal claims across the United States. This lawsuit focuses on the chemical glyphosate, the world’s most widely used herbicide, which Monsanto began marketing as Roundup in 1974.  The company began by presenting it as a “technological breakthrough” that could kill almost every weed without harming humans or the environment. –SHTFplan.com

In September, 2017 the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) concluded that glyphosates were not likely carcinogenic to humans, based on a decades-long assessment. In 2015, the World Health Organization (WHO)’s cancer arm issued an opposite statement – warning that glyphosate was “probably carcinogenic to humans.” 

Johnson’s case isn’t part of the consolidated proceedings in Missouri, Delaware or California state court, where some 2,000 similar cases are pending. It’s also separate from a federal multidistrict litigation waiting to be heard by US District Judge Vance Chabria of San Francisco – who allowed hundreds of Roundup lawsuits to proceed to trial after ruling that there was sufficient evidence for a jury to hear the cases despite calling a plaintiff’s expert opinions “shaky.” 

Documents released in August of 2017 led to questions over Monsanto’s efforts to influence the news media and scientific research and revealed internal debate over the safety of its highest-profile product, the weed killer Roundup. 

As the New York Times noted last year, new internal emails, among other things, reveal ethical objections from former employees to “ghost writing” research studies that were pawned off as ‘independent’ analyses.

The documents underscore the lengths to which the agrochemical company goes to protect its image. Documents show that Henry I. Miller, an academic and a vocal proponent of genetically modified crops, asked Monsanto to draft an article for him that largely mirrored one that appeared under his name on Forbes’s website in 2015. Mr. Miller could not be reached for comment.

A similar issue appeared in academic research. An academic involved in writing research funded by Monsanto, John Acquavella, a former Monsanto employee, appeared to express discomfort with the process, writing in a 2015 email to a Monsanto executive, “I can’t be part of deceptive authorship on a presentation or publication.” He also said of the way the company was trying to present the authorship: “We call that ghost writing and it is unethical.”

The newly disclosed emails also reveal internal discussions which cast some doubt over whether internal scientists actually believed in the company’s external messaging that Roundup was, in fact, safe.

“If somebody came to me and said they wanted to test Roundup I know how I would react — with serious concern.”

And, here’s more:

The documents also show that a debate outside Monsanto about the relative safety of glyphosate and Roundup, which contains other chemicals, was also taking place within the company.

In a 2002 email, a Monsanto executive said, “What I’ve been hearing from you is that this continues to be the case with these studies — Glyphosate is O.K. but the formulated product (and thus the surfactant) does the damage.”

In a 2003 email, a different Monsanto executive tells others, “You cannot say that Roundup is not a carcinogen … we have not done the necessary testing on the formulation to make that statement.”

Not surprisingly, Monsanto’s lawyers have argued that the comments above have simply been taken out of context… 

Monsanto said it was outraged by the documents’ release by a law firm involved in the litigation.

“There is a standing confidentiality order that they violated,” said Scott Partridge, vice president of global strategy for Monsanto. He said that while “you can’t unring a bell,” Monsanto would seek penalties on the firm.

“What you’re seeing are some cherry-picked things that can be made to look bad,” Mr. Partridge said. “But the substance and the science are not affected by this.”

Glyphosphate – Roundup’s main ingredient, was first approved for use in weed killers in 1974, and has grown to become the world’s most popular and widely used herbicide. 

Bunker Mentality: Start Preparing for Ecological & Economic Disaster Free Of Corporate Overlords

Authored by Robert Bridge via The Strategic Culture Foundation,

Let’s face it: reading stories about the ongoing destruction of planet Earth, the life-sustaining blue marble that all of us – aside from maybe Elon Musk – are permanently trapped on, has got to be one of the least-favorite topics of all time. The reasons are understandable, but no longer feasible.

In the realm of politics, replete with its cast of colorful culprits, the possibility of radical change always hovers just over the horizon, which gives the subject much of its universal appeal. Stories devoted to environmental issues, on the other hand, inundate the reader with a dizzying array of mind-boggling statistics that are not only incredibly depressing, they seem impossible to do anything about.

For example, take what I consider to be the most depressing story in recent memory – the so-called ‘Great Pacific Garbage Patch,’ a swirling garbage dump trapped in a vortex between Hawaii and California, estimated to be twice the size of Texas. How is anyone expected to wrap their brain around that modern monument to our collective stupidity over their morning cup of coffee? Somehow we always expected the oceans, due to their sheer size and vastness, to remain beyond the reach of mankind’s destructive tendencies. Yet the story of the slowly dying oceans and its vibrant sea life – despite some truly fantastic schemes to reverse the trend – proves not just how wrongheaded that belief is, it belies the destructive nature of our hedonistic and materialistic lifestyles.

This leads to yet another reason so many people shy away from apocalyptic stories of environmental degradation: their own collusion in the ongoing tale of planetary destruction, which is part and parcel of our inquisitive lifestyles. Whether we want to admit it or not, we are all deeply indebted consumers of the corporate cornucopia. The majority of us spend a disproportionate amount of our time earning a living just to feed the monkey of our worldly desires, which our corporate overlords happily provide in superabundance – at excessive interest rates, I might add.

In fact, when our situation is viewed critically and objectively, human beings now live like astronauts, totally cut off from the natural world, yet, at the same time, connected by a fragile umbilical cord to the corporate world. Such a scenario must give any thinking person tremendous pause, for it highlights our dangerous level of dependency on external economic forces – namely, the corporate world – to sustain us. Here is where the idea of ‘environmental destruction’ should really pique our interest.

It is not so difficult to conduct a thought experiment that involves the ramifications of a massive economic downturn, or some unexpected natural disaster (on the scale of Hurricane Katrina, for example, multiplied by 10,000) of such magnitude that corporations are no longer able or willing to provide for our most basic daily needs. It may be exceedingly difficult to imagine such a grim scenario, especially since we now take it for granted that grocery stores will always remain open for business and stocked full of goodies, but the majority of us would quickly perish in the event that some unexpected crisis brought the global economy down on our heads. Such a nightmare may be easier to imagine when it is considered that just 10 companies control the entire global food supply, while most people have no means or knowledge of tilling the land for their food supplies.

Perhaps it is on this point that the topic of ‘environmental destruction’ can become not only sexy, like the exciting world of politics, but vital for mankind’s continued existence. It’s time to stop acting like children and face an ugly truth: our current materialistic lifestyles are not sustainable in the long-term, and probably not in the short term either. Our incredible level ofwastefulness, compounded by Earth’s finite resources, guarantees that the planet’s 7 billion people are living on borrowed time. Exactly what ‘short-term’ means, however, is a question none of us can really answer. It may mean the day after tomorrow or another 500 years. Again, nobody can say. But given the upsurge of interest, for example, in “doomsday prepping” among people of average means (a topic that even the high-brow Financial Times reported on), to the construction of sprawling underground bunkers for the elite, there is a growing consensus among many people that it is time to start taking back some control of our lives.

Currently, I am living in Russia, where the difference between Russians and Americans when it comes to preparing for the ‘unknown’ could not be greater. While Americans spend untold hours per week mowing their lawns, pulling weeds and trimming the hedges, Russians are toiling at their ‘dachas’ (in Russia, it is common for people to own an apartment in the city and a piece of land in the countryside), growing fruit and vegetables in greenhouses, and collecting mushrooms in the forest (picking mushrooms is a veritable art form, where it can literally mean the difference between life and death to choose the correct variety among dozens of species). Every Russian I have met in the countryside also have their own private source of water from painstakingly dug wells on their land. This is no small consideration when it is remembered that corporations are gradually buying up, in addition to our food supplies, the rights to our water supplies as well.

The entire notion of ‘prepping’ in Russia is completely nonexistent since the knowledge of working the land, which became absolutely critical during the severe food shortages of the communist years, has been a traditional part of Russian life since the country’s inception. Although Russians, like any other people, would suffer grave hardships in the event of a severe economic downturn, many of them would still be able to feed themselves due to their time-tested ‘survival’ skills. I am not sure the same could be said of their American and European counterparts.

There is a memorable scene in the 2009 post-apocalyptic US film, The Road, where a father and son, forced to trek across a devastated American landscape following some sort of unspeakable disaster, stumble upon a discarded underground bunker that is loaded with food, allowing them to survive the next leg of their impossible journey.

It is a film I would highly recommend every person watch to get a sense of what an unexpected turn of environmental and economic events could mean for them and their loved ones.

Since corporations not only greatly control to what extent the environment will remain viable for our survival, but also the keys to the corporate cornucopia, there is no better time than the present to consider what would happen if or when, to put the matter bluntly, the shit hits the fan.

Number Of “McRefugees” Sleeping In Hong Kong McDonald’s Jumps 600%

The number of Hong Kong residents sleeping overnight at McDonald’s has increased 600% over the past five years, driven in part by the city’s sky-high rents and substandard housing amid an unbearably hot summer, a study has found. 

The survey, organised by Junior Chamber International’s Tai Ping Shan branch and conducted in June by volunteers, found 334 people had slept in a McDonald’s outlet nightly over at least the past three months. Of the 110 branches that operate 24 hours in the city, 84 had seen overnight sleepers.

This is a six-fold increase from a similar study in 2013, which found only 57 such people, popularly dubbed McRefugees or McSleepers.

A branch in Tsuen Wan hosted more than 30 sleepers, the highest among all branches, according to the latest study. –SCMP

The researchers spoke with 53 such “McRefugees” between the ages of 19 and 79 – finding that 57% are employed and 71% have apartments they rent or own – contrary to the belief that only homeless, jobless people are camping out at the restaurants. 

Topping the list of reasons for camping out, McRefugees point to saving on air conditioning costs, comfort and security, followed by high rents, crappy housing, family conflicts and the ability to develop social relationships. The ability to save on transportation costs and temporary shelter while waiting for low-rent public housing were also included. 

One of the cases, a 19-year-old referred to in the study as Ah Lung, was a construction worker who ate, played mobile phone games and slept at a McDonald’s branch in Mong Kok. He did not want to go home due to a bad relationship with his parents, while his income enabled him to live away from home.

“Family is the basic unit in a society,” Tai Ping Shan publication commission chairwoman Jennifer Hung Sin-yu said. “Even one person who has a home but cannot return is too many. This phenomenon is worth our attention.”

One McRefugee renting a subdivided flat in To Kwa Wan, Hung said, told volunteers that her landlord charged her HK$16 for a unit of electricity, compared to about HK$1.10 charged by the city’s two main power suppliers.

Hung said the woman’s flat did not have any windows, which made the city’s humid and hot summer even more unbearable without air conditioning.

“She told us sometimes she couldn’t even feel the flow of the air,” Hung said. –SCMP

Hong Kong is one of the world’s least affordable property markets, with over 270,000 applicants on the waiting list for puiblic rental housing. The average wait for families or a single elderly applicant is five years and one month

While they wait, subdivided shared-housing is the most common option – however these units, often around 100 sqft, are fraught with the risk of fire, poor ventilation and poor hygene.  

One 60-year-old well-dressed woman who was “without the unique characteristics of street sleepers” and owns her own flat, said that she spends most of her time at McDonald’s eating by herself because she’s lonely since her husband died and wants to socialize. 

Project consultant Lee Ho-ey said the government should allocate more resources to non-governmental organisations to reach out to McRefugees, providing them with counselling and help.

He said the government should allocate more resources to non-governmental organisations to reach out to McRefugees frequently and regularly, providing them with counselling and help. –SCMP

We would note that nobody mentioned the smell of McDonald’s food as a reason for camping out…

Giving Trump Carte Blanche For War

Authored by John Kiriakou via ConsortiumNews.com,

Have you ever heard of Senate Joint Resolution 59 (S.J.Res. 59)? Neither had I. A friend of mine saw a blurb about it on an obscure national security blog and brought it to my attention. At first glance it didn’t seem to be any big deal. It’s inelegantly named the “Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) of 2018.” It was introduced on April 16, 2018 by Senators Bob Corker (R-TN), the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC), and Tim Kaine (D-VA). Officially, the bill would “Authorize the use of military force against the Taliban, al-Qaeda, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, and designated associated forces, and provide an updated, transparent, and sustainable statutory basis for counterterrorism operations.”

It’s hard to oppose a bill that would “keep Americans safe,” as Corker said in the SFRC hearing. But this bill is so bad, such an affront to our freedom, such an attack on our civil liberties, that we should be compelled to oppose it.

S.J.Res. 59 is bad for a number of reasons.

First and most importantly, it would provide blanket permission for the president to launch a military attack of literally any size and intensity whenever he wants without specific congressional approval.

That seems obviously unconstitutional to me, although I’m not a constitutional scholar. Still, the constitution says in Article I, Section 8 that only Congress shall have the authority to declare war, among other things military. It does not allow the president the ability to launch a war.

Congress alone has the power to declare war. Article 1, Section 8.

Secondaccording to Marjorie Cohn, professor emerita at the Thomas Jefferson School of Law and former president of the National Lawyers Guild, it also would write the president a “blank check to lock up Americans who dissent against U.S. military policy.” That’s right. If you oppose U.S. military policy, the president would have the right to lock you up indefinitely without charge.

Certainly, our government already does that. But we’re told that this happens to the worst of the worst—those terrorists who happen to be American, but who also have planned large-scale terrorist attacks against the country or its citizens or who have taken up arms against the United States. Think “dirty bomber” Jose Padilla or the a-yet-unnamed Saudi-American currently being held somewhere and being represented by the American Civil Liberties Union.

This is different. This would mean everybody would be at risk. It would mean you could be held in a gulag, incommunicado, if the White House doesn’t like your politics.

The reason this could come to pass is that, third, the bill is (probably unconstitutionally) broad. It says that the president may, “use all necessary and appropriate force” against Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Yemen, Libya, Somalia, al-Qaeda, ISIS, the Taliban, and their “associated forces” anywhere in the world and without limitation. But it doesn’t define what “associated forces” means, nor does it define a “co-belligerent,” someone acting in support of one of these countries or groups. It allows the White House to do that for us.

Fourth, unlike almost every other bill in Congress, this one doesn’t have a sunset clause, meaning it never expires. Congress, to remain relevant, almost always includes a sunset clause so that, if a law is working, it can be renewed. If it isn’t, it can expire. And if it’s flawed, it can be fixed. This one would just go forever.

Several weeks after the bill was introduced, the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) wrote a letter to Corker and to SFRC ranking member Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ), another S.J.Res. 59 supporter. CCR said that it had “grave doubts” about the appropriateness and the constitutionality of the bill, and that the bill would “hand over broad authority to expand war—that should reside with Congress—to the executive.” CCR continued that passage of the bill would “complete the erosion of congressional war-making authority set in motion by the 2001 AUMF” passed in response to the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

Representatives Walter Jones (R-NC), the former chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, and Barbara Lee (D-CA) issued a letter to the SFRC saying that, “The Corker-Kaine proposal would further limit congressional oversight of our perpetual wars. Replacing one blank check with another even broader one is a recipe for disaster.” While conceding that some sort of military authorization is probably necessary, Jones and Lee added that any new bill must include a sunset clause; it must repeal the AUMFs of 2001 and 2002, which also had no sunset clauses; it must be mission-specific; and it must be transparent.

This terrible bill is stuck in the muck of the congressional process right now. As the months tick by, there’s a greater and greater likelihood that it will simply die. But that doesn’t solve the problem. The problem is that Congress is generally made up of lemmings and cheerleaders for the military/industrial/intelligence complex. They do as they’re told, whether it’s by their leadership or whomever happens to be sitting in the White House. That’s bad for the country. It’s bad for the constitution. And it’s bad for future generations.

There’s an old saying in Washington. “Don’t kick a man when he’s down. But if he’s already down, don’t stop kicking him.” Now is the time to kick this bill until it’s dead.

MRAM Developer Day

MRAM appears poised to become an important element in the memory hierarchy, filling roles as stand-alone cache and buffer memory to replace volatile memory. It is also poised to have an increasing use in embedded applications.

In Shocking UN Accusation, China Said To Hold 1 Million Uighur Muslims In “Massive Internment Camps”

A breaking report based on findings of a United Nations human rights panel accuses China of holding up to one million ethnic Uighurs in what the report says resembles a “massive internment camp that is shrouded in secrecy”.

The minority ethno-religious group concentrated in the western Chinese province of Xinjiang has found itself under increased persecution and oversight by Chinese authorities of late as their collective Sunni Islamic identity and separatist political movements have resulted in historic tensions with the Communist government.

Chinese Muslim women passing a checkpoint in Xinjiang province. Image source: AFP/Getty

Most notable is the ethnic Uighur-founded and led East Turkistan Islamic Movement (ETIM, also commonly called the Turkestan Islamic Party, or TIP), a Muslim separatist group based Xinjiang known to have conducted dozens of terror attacks in Chinese cities like Shanghai and Yunnan, but also in places like Afghanistan, and as far as Syria, where it’s believed up to 5,000 Uighurs fight alongside al-Qaeda. 

Beijing has in recent years been accused of practicing collective punishment and broad crackdowns on the Uighur population in Xinjiang, which is numbered in total at 11 million (with some estimates of up to 15 million; China’s total Muslim population is at about 21 million). The minority ethnic group is also found in sizable numbers in neighboring Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan.

The new UN statements come after a number of recent cases of prominent Uighur Chinese citizens and dissidents being “disappeared”

According to Reuters:

A U.N. human rights panel said on Friday that it had received many credible reports that 1 million ethnic Uighurs in China are held in what resembles a “massive internment camp that is shrouded in secrecy”.

Gay McDougall, a member of the U.N. Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, cited estimates that another 2 million Uighurs and Muslim minorities are forced into so-called “political camps for indoctrination”.

The UN panel began its work Friday and is expected to go through Monday examining China’s human rights record. As Reuters also notes a Chinese delegation of about 50 officials present at the proceedings made no immediate comment. 

Historically throughout parts of the 20th century, the strict Islamic strand of Wahhabi thought and practice has made deep inroads among the Uighurs, with a number of recent historical analysis papers documenting an uptick in Saudi money and influence in Xinjiang province in the 1990s something which flies in the face of China’s official Communist party and ideology.

Commenting further on the UN meeting, the South China Morning Post highlighted Chinese officials’ silence concerning the growing accusations of mass Uighur internment:

Chinese delegation leader Yu Jianhua highlighted economic progress and rising living standards, among other things, but did not directly address the report on the Uygurs.

Monitoring groups say the Uygurs have been targeted in a surveillance and security campaign that has sent thousands into detention and indoctrination centers.

The initial UN statement issued from Geneva follows on the heels of a Friday New York Times report which details the case of 52-year old Uighur professor Rahile Dawut, who disappeared while traveling to Beijing sometime during or after last December. She hasn’t been heard from since. 

Professor Dawut’s close friends and family members told the Times they believe she’s been secretly detained as part of the severe crackdown on the Muslim minority group. Dawut herself has become somewhat famous as an ethnographer known for chronicling the Uighur’s unique and varied historical traditions. 

A fuller UN report and statements are expected next week, and it will be interesting to see both any concrete evidence that’s produced to back the significant charge of one million “disappeared” and interned persons, as well as the Chinese delegation’s response to the accusation. 

World Remains Blind To “Ticking Time Bomb” Counting Down To War On Australia’s Doorstep

A “TICKING time bomb” on Australia’s doorstep is counting down to war – and an expert says the world is blind to it.

Authored by Gavin Fernando viaNews.com.au,

A MAJOR new war is looming – and this one sits worryingly close to home.

Asia is at risk of descending into a region-wide crisis with global implications, a leading expert in Asia-Pacific affairs has warned.

Dr Brendan Taylor, Associate Professor at ANU Coral Bell School of Asia Pacific Affairs, argues Asia is at a dangerous crossroads in his new book The Four Flashpoints: How Asia Goes to War.

A lot is happening in the northeast. China is set to overtake the United States as the world’s dominant power over the next decade. Questions remain over Kim Jong-un’s supposed dismantling of his nuclear arsenal. Japan is building up its military power again, and regional battles for ownership of lucrative oceans are intensifying.

At the same time, Asia is going through a series of individual crises that feed off and escalate one another — a similar pattern that occurred before the outbreak of World War I and II.

Dr Taylor argues there are four key “flashpoints” — politically unstable areas with the potential to erupt into sudden conflict — and all are situated within the continent.

“The risk of major war in Asia is much greater today than most individuals assume,” he warns. “All it would take is an accidental clash between the wrong two militarities, at the wrong place or the wrong time, and a highly dangerous escalation could occur. Asia has been lucky so far that it hasn’t.”

But what are the four “flashpoints” — and how bad is the situation?

SOUTH CHINA SEA

A lot has been said about China’s rising superpower status.

According to the Lowy Institute’s latest Asia Power Index, China is set to surpass the United States as the most powerful country in the Asia-Pacific region by 2030.

Nowhere is this more clear than in the South China Sea, a marginal sea in the Pacific Ocean bordered by 10 competing countries. Over the past five years, the size and scale of China’s land-reclamation has intensified, with satellite evidence of military build-up and threats uttered to the rest of the world — including Australia.

The sea continues some of the world’s most important shipping lanes, and is believed to hold trillions of dollars in undiscovered oil and gas reserves.

The South China Sea has long been considered a potential outbreak spot for a global war.Source:Getty Images

The prospect of war breaking out over the South China Sea continues to be a major discussion point.

It’s perhaps surprising, then, that Dr Taylor says the South China Sea is the least likely of the four major flashpoints to erupt into war.

He notes that, while a lot of countries are involved in the ownership debacle, most of them aren’t interested enough to go to war over it.

But whether the West can keep the waters free in the face of an increasingly aggressive China is another thing. “Washington will find it increasingly harder to stare down Beijing in the South China Sea; ­geography favours China too strongly.”

Meanwhile, in the sea to China’s east, a similar — if not more worrying situation — is bubbling.

EAST CHINA SEA

You probably haven’t heard of this conflict in nearly as much detail. But the threat of escalating into war is just as real — if not more so — than the South China Sea.

The East China Sea is a disputed region situated in the middle of China, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan, believed to hold valuable natural resources.

At 1.25 million square kilometres, it’s less than half the size of the South China Sea, and receives significantly less media attention. But it’s just as hotly contested — and includes stand-offs between Japan and South Korea, Japan and China, and Taiwan.

The threat of the East China Sea escalating into war is just as real — if not more so — than the South China Sea.Source:Supplied

While its location makes it less relevant to Australia than the South China Sea, this body of water has caused controversy for several years, with China’s vessels repeatedly sailing into the disputed waters.

“The prospect of Japan developing nuclear weapons is no longer unthinkable,” said Dr Taylor.

Noting a complicated relationship between China and Japan, he warns the East China Sea conflict could spark war between Japan and China over an “accidental military clash or a miscalculation”, as well as “virulent nationalism” between the two countries.

As Dr Taylor notes, one of the main reasons Japan is increasing its involvement in the South China Sea is out of concern that what China might get away with there will set the terms for what it can do in the East China Sea.

The resulting conflict could be catastrophic.

THE KOREAN PENINSULA

Tensions between North Korea and the wider world made a peak last year with the trade of threats between US President Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un.

Despite a symbolic pledge towards peace at the recent Singapore summit, Dr Taylor says the risk of escalation remains of the Korean peninsula.

He warns that the faltering of these diplomatic efforts could still lead to a strike from Mr Kim, should he read too much into American rhetoric and US military preparations.

“Or Kim, feeling invulnerable because of his burgeoning nuclear and missile arsenal, and buoyed by the prospect of a faltering US-South Korea alliance, could launch a surprise conventional strike against Seoul with a view to reunifying Korea by force.”

There are concerns Kim Jong-un isn’t dismantling his nuclear arsenal as promised in the June Singapore summit with Donald Trump.Source:AP

Even if Mr Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping were to strike a deal and trade North Korea for Taiwan, he said it’s unlikely Mr Kim would go down without a fight.

“In a worst-case scenario, he (Kim) even might unleash his nuclear arsenal on the world. Troublingly, declining powers throughout history have shown a tendency to lash out.”

Just last week, new evidence from satellite photos revealed renewed activity at the North Korean factory that produced the country’s first intercontinental ballistic missiles capable of reaching the United States.

The satellite images sparked fears Mr Kim was not keeping his word to dismantle his nuclear and ballistic missile program.

TAIWAN

Taiwan is only 36,000 square kilometres — but the island is hugely controversial.

Beijing sees the island as part of China, and is prepared to reunify the two nations by force if necessary, even though the island has its own self-ruling democratic government, and views itself as a sovereign nation.

While the US has continued to supply Taiwan with military arms for decades — despite officially recognising only China — Dr Taylor describes Taiwan as a “ticking time bomb”.

“America’s military ability to defend Taiwan is already at its limit,” he writes. “The US advantage will likely be gone in a decade … allowing Beijing to deny America access to this theatre.

“America’s ability to intervene in the Taiwan Strait is receding, while an attempt to re-engage carries the risk of sparking “a war like no other”.”

Donald Trump has taken a harder line on Taiwan recently, which Dr Taylor believes is “a reflection of his frustration at Beijing’s unwillingness to deal more decisively with Pyongyang or to de-­escalate in the South China Sea”.

He notes there are concerns Mr Trump may be willing to trade away US support for Taiwan in exchange for China’s help with resolving the North Korean issue.

Taiwan has its own democratic government, but China still views it as part of the mainland country.Source:Supplied

Dr Taylor notes that there “seems a strange complacency” about the prospect of war in Asia, “even as the key players understand how devastating a major war would be”.

The good news is that finding a solution isn’t impossible — but it won’t be easy. “It will require careful management of Asia’s increas­ingly interconnected flashpoints, which each require subtly different methods of control,” warns Dr Taylor. “More importantly, it will demand of Asia’s leaders a much greater sense of urgency than has so far been shown.

“Because time is running short. The doomsday clock is ticking, and midnight is almost upon us.”

“Leave Immediately” – CNN Records Chinese Warnings Aboard Naval Flight Near Artificial Islands

In the latest serious incident to further prove that China is militarizing its rapidly expanding set of man made islands in one of the most hotly contested bodies of water in the world, a US Navy plane flying 16,500 feet over the South China Sea was unexpectedly contacted by the Chinese and warned to “Leave immediately and keep out to avoid any misunderstanding,” according to a new CNN report

This was one of six radio communicated warnings to a US Navy P-8A Poseidon reconnaissance plane as it reportedly flew safely in international air space early Friday, likely to monitor the string of artificial islands popping up and catching the world by surprise over the past couple years, specifically the new fortifications built upon Subi Reef, Fiery Cross Reef, Johnson Reef and Mischief Reef, in the Spratley Islands.

This is similar to last week’s Chinese threats against the Armed Forces of the Philippines operating near the islands, who were told, “Leave immediately or you will pay”.

Spratley Islands, with military runway; image via QRZ Now

Perhaps most interesting about Friday’s encounter is that it was all recorded by a CNN reporter and camera crew who were aboard the Navy flight.

CNN reports:

Aboard a US Navy P-8A Poseidon reconnaissance plane, CNN got a view from 16,500 feet of low-lying coral reefs turned into garrisons with five-story buildings, large radar installations, power plants and runways sturdy enough to carry large military aircraft.

During the flight the crew received six separate warnings from the Chinese military, telling them they were inside Chinese territory and urging them to leave.

Observing the artificial island chains up close, both the aircraft crew and CNN were shocked at just how expansive the military infrastructure on the islands are, noting that in the instance of Subi Reef, “the Poseidon’s sensors picked up 86 vessels, including Chinese coast guard ships, moored in a giant lagoon, while on Fiery Cross Reef rows of hangers stood alongside a lengthy runway.”

The recon flight commander, Lt. Lauren Callen, told CNN, “It was surprising to see airports in the middle of the ocean.”

In response to the belligerent Chinese radio communications to “leave immediately” the US crew cited that the plane was conducting lawful activities over international territory.  Under international law, a country’s airspace is considered to be 12 nautical miles distant from the coastline of the nation.

As long suspected, it appears China has used the man-made islands to lay claim to vast swathes of the South China Sea as falling under its definition of what constitutes sovereign Chinese space

CNN relates the radio confrontation in the following:

Each time the aircraft was challenged by Chinese military, the US Navy crew’s response was the same.

“I am a sovereign immune United States naval aircraft conducting lawful military activities beyond the national airspace of any coastal state,” the response said.

“In exercising these rights guaranteed by international law, I am operating with due regard for the rights and duties of all states.”

CNN has reached out to the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs for comment.

The Chinese government staunchly maintains large areas of the South China Sea have been part of the country’s territory “since ancient times.”

Listen to the inflight recording to the China’s warning below (starts at :50 mark)

Beijing’s so called “nine-dash line” encircles as much as 90 percent of the contested waters in the South China see and runs up to 2,000 kilometers from the Chinese mainland and within a few hundred kilometers of Malaysia, Vietnam, and the Philippines — all within this vaguely defined zone Beijing claims as within its “historical maritime rights”.

The UN estimates that one-third of global shipping passes through the expansive area claimed by China — and crucially there’s thought to exist significant untapped oil and natural gas reserves.

The CNN report, while noting missiles were recorded as placed on the Spratly island chain during naval exercises last April, details the following observations during Friday’s flyover:

Flying over Fiery Cross Reef on Friday, a five-story building was visible, as well as a large radar installation, which looked like neatly arranged golf balls on the Navy plane’s infrared camera.

Though no Chinese missiles were seen on Friday’s flight over the South China Sea, Navy officers said some of the structures seen could potentially be used to house them.

A previously leaked treasure trove of high quality surveillance images, likely from the the Philippine National Intelligence Coordinating Agency (NICA), proved Beijing’s drive to militarize the heavily disputed artificially-created islands it controls in the South China Sea.

Though such warnings issued to US military planes and vessels are less common, albeit increasingly frequent, the Philippines’ military have had an uptick in threats issued against them, such as multiple incidents this summer.

Despite many Chinese warnings threatening the Philipines, Washington has made it clear that it will maintain and increase an active presence in the region.

“International law allows us to operate here, allows us to fly here, allows us to train here, allows us to sail here, and that’s what we’re doing, and we’re going to continue to do that,” the Pentagon told the AP last February, and said further that, “The United States military has had a lot of experience in the Western Pacific taking down small islands.”

As China and its militarized islands in the South Sea prepare for a military conflict, we must continue asking the very simple question: What could possibly go wrong?