ONE WAY TO DISPLACE MEGACORPS

Ignored By Big Telecom, Detroit’s Marginalized Communities Are Building Their Own Internet

11/16/2017

40 percent of Detroit residents don’t have any access to internet at all.

Kaleigh Rogers

Kaleigh Rogers

Being stuck without access to the internet is often thought of as a problem only for rural America. But even in some of America’s biggest cities, a significant portion of the population can’t get online.

Take Detroit, where 40 percent of the population has no access to the internet—of any kind, not only high speed—at home, according to the Federal Communications Commission. Seventy percent of school-aged children in the city are among those who have no internet access at home. Detroit has one of the most severe digital divides in the country, the FCC says.

“When you kind of think about all the ways the internet affects your life and how 40 percent of people in Detroit don’t have that access you can start to see how Detroit has been stuck in this economic disparity for such a long time,” Diana Nucera, director of the Detroit Community Technology Project, told me at her office.

Nucera is part of a growing cohort of Detroiters who have started a grassroots movement to close that gap, by building the internet themselves. It’s a coalition of community members and multiple Detroit nonprofits. They’re starting with three underserved neighborhoods, installing high speed internet that beams shared gigabit

 

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CA UTILITY FIRE MAPPING OBSTRUCTION AND TREE TRIMMING AVOIDANCE AT GENESIS OF WILDFIRES; PROFIT UBER ALLES

PG&E and the Causes of the Wine Country Fires

11/16/2017

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Last month, I looked at PG&E and Northern California fires collectively known as the Wine Country fires, and related past Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) fires to inadequate tree-trimming (“vegetation management”) and concluded:

In Puerto Rico, lack of tree trimming caused by an austerity regime imposed by the Obama administration acting on behalf of Wall Street caused the complete collapse of Puerto Rico’s grid. In California, a pattern of lack of tree trimming caused by the profit motive led to collapsed power lines and fires in the Sierra Blaze, the Pendola Fire, the Butte Fire, and quite possibly the Wine Country. If the relation between the PUC and PG&E is as cozy as the San Bruno Pipeline Explosion and Clopton’s whistleblower suit suggest, the truth of the matter may be hard to come by. But maybe we’ll get lucky!

One way to get lucky is, of course, through a lawsuit, of which there is now a “wave” against PG&E. And yes, the suits — the litigation, not the litigants — are focusing on tree-trimming. From Law.com:

A coalition of plaintiffs firms has sued Pacific Gas & Electric claiming the utility company’s lackluster maintenance of power lines, poles, and the brush beneath them played a major role in sparking the wildfires that ravaged Northern California’s wine country last month.

Forty-three people died and about 100,000 people were displaced after wildfires burned about 200,000 acres and destroyed about 8,000 structures across North Bay counties.

Attorneys at Cotchett, Pitre & McCarthy; Dreyer Babich Buccola Wood Campora; Panish Shea & Boyle; Walkup, Melodia, Kelly & Schoenberger; and Abbey, Weitzenberg, Warren & Emery filed three separate lawsuits in San Francisco Superior Court Tuesday on behalf of families affected by the fires, claiming PG&E knew its electrical infrastructure was aging and ineffective at preventing wildfires.

Pitre said Tuesday that part of the motivation behind the current lawsuits is to allow investigators hired by the law firms to access evidence that Cal Fire and PG&E collected so that they can make an independent assessment of what caused the blazes. “We have serious concerns about relying on a company that has previously been convicted of misleading the NTSB,” Pitre said.

Luck being the residue of design, we can hope those independent assessments make their way into the press and have beneficial effects on public policy.

Meanwhile — and who can blame them? — PG&E is preparing (and leaking) its defense. From the San Francisco Chronicle:

The deadliest and most destructive of last month’s Wine Country wildfires may have been started by electrical equipment not owned or installed by Pacific Gas and Electric Co., the utility said in a legal filing Thursday.

The filing states that while California fire investigators are still trying to determine the cause of the Tubbs Fire, which destroyed entire neighborhoods of Santa Rosa, “preliminary investigations suggest that this fire might have been caused by electrical equipment that was owned, installed and maintained by a third party.”

On the preliminary investigations: Here’s a link to “incident report” (PG&E Incident No: 171026-8601) performed by a PG&E “compliance specialist” dated October 8, and submitted October 26. The incident location is Calistoga, where the Tubbs Fire(one of the Wine Country Fires) started on October 8. Regarding the third party electrical equipment:

Note the description of the equipment is given only at the point where CalFire takes possession of it on the 26th; all we have on the 8th is the cryptic “Damage? Yes” (with nothing else filled in; reasonable, since the equipment was not PG&E’s). There’s also no indication of the cause of the damage. (Could it be poor tree-trimming, this time on private property?) There is also a mention of PG&E equipment, not damaged at all, from which the defense might infer that the private equipment started the fires, given that the PG&E equipment was undamaged, but I don’t see how we can infer that without knowing what the PG&E equipment was; the incident report does not say. So there is a good deal to be brought out in depositions and testimony (and there are at least a dozen other fires the defense must account for, not just the Tubbs Fire).

But assume the Tubbs Fire was started by private equipment. Does that mean that PG&E is off the hook? Under “man in the dock” theories of blame, yes. Taking a more systemic view, no.

Here is the regulatory state of play on Fire Safety Rulemaking at the California Public Utility Commission (CPUC). I’m quoting a great slab of it

 

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IMPOSTER PHENOMENON

http://www.paulineroseclance.com/impostor_phenomenon.html

I find this very intriguing, that many “successful” people experience an underlying feeling of falseness.  I haven’t spent much time examining this woman’s work, but my first impression is that she is in the business of helping people convince themselves that they are not imposters.

But in a way, I think most of us (except the most ascendant spiritual adepts) ARE imposters.  Which is not to say bad people, it’s just that we have no choice in life except to invent ourselves.  And while we may need to take our invention seriously in order to be consistent and to accomplish what is needed, I think it is an invitation to trouble to forget that self-concepts, and even character itself, are indeed inventions.  If we forget this, then we may forgo the ability to reinvent ourselves when necessary, or to achieve the ultimate bliss of unity with Creation that comes with enlightened dispensation of ego.

GOOD SAUDI ARABIA OVERVIEW

If The Saudi Arabia Situation Doesn’t Worry You, You’re Not Paying Attention

While turbulent during the best of times, gigantic waves of change are now sweeping across the Middle East. The magnitude is such that the impact on the global price of oil, as well as world markets, is likely to be enormous.

A dramatic geo-political realignment by Saudi Arabia is in full swing this month. It’s upending many decades of established strategic relationships among the world’s superpowers and, in particular, is throwing the Middle East into turmoil.

So much is currently in flux, especially in Saudi Arabia, that nearly anything can happen next. Which is precisely why this volatile situation should command our focused attention at this time.

The main elements currently in play are these:

  • A sudden and intense purging of powerful Saudi insiders (arrests, deaths, & asset seizures)
  • Huge changes in domestic policy and strategy
  • A shift away from the US in all respects (politically, financially and militarily)
  • Deepening ties to China
  • A surprising turn towards Russia (economically and militarily)
  • Increasing cooperation and alignment with Israel (the enemy of my enemy is my friend?)

Taken together, this is tectonic change happening at blazing speed.

That it’s receiving too little attention in the US press given the implications, is a tip off as to just how big a deal this is — as we’re all familiar by now with how the greater the actual relevance and importance of a development, the less press coverage it receives. This is not a direct conspiracy; it’s just what happens when your press becomes an organ of the state and other powerful interests. Like a dog trained with daily rewards and punishments, after a while the press needs no further instruction on the house rules.

It does emphasize, however, that to be accurately informed about what’s going on, we have to do our own homework. Here’s a short primer to help get you started.

A Quick Primer

Unless you study it intensively, Saudi politics are difficult to follow because they are rooted in the drama of a very large and dysfunctional family battling over its immense wealth.  If you think your own family is nuts, multiply the crazy factor by 1,000, sprinkle in a willingness to kill any family members who get in your way, and you’ll have the right perspective for grasping how Saudi ‘politics’ operate.

The House of Saud is the ruling royal family of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (hereafter referred to as “KSA”) and consists of some 15,000 members. The majority of the power and wealth is concentrated in the hands of roughly 2,000 individuals.  4,000 male princes are in the mix, plus a larger number of involved females — all trying to either hang on to or climb up a constantly-shifting mountain of power.

Here’s a handy chart to explain the lineage of power in KSA over the decades:

(Source)

We’ll get to the current ruler, King Salman, and his powerful son, Mohammed Bin Salman (age 32), shortly.  Before we do, though, let’s talk about the most seminal moment in recent Saudi history: the key oil-for-money-and-protection deal struck between the Nixon administration and King Faisal back in the early 1970’s.

This pivotal agreement allowed KSA to secretly recycle its surplus petrodollars back into US Treasuries while receiving US military protection in exchange.  The secret was kept for 41 years, only recently revealed in 2016 due to a Bloomberg FOIA request:

The basic framework was strikingly simple. The U.S. would buy oil from Saudi Arabia and provide the kingdom military aid and equipment. In return, the Saudis would plow billions of their petrodollar revenue back into Treasuries and finance America’s spending.

It took several discreet follow-up meetings to iron out all the details, Parsky said. But at the end of months of negotiations, there remained one small, yet crucial, catch: King Faisal bin Abdulaziz Al Saud demanded the country’s Treasury purchases stay “strictly secret,” according to a diplomatic cable obtained by Bloomberg from the National Archives database.

“Buying bonds and all that was a strategy to recycle petrodollars back into the U.S.,” said David Ottaway, a Middle East fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center in Washington. But politically, “it’s always been an ambiguous, constrained relationship.”

(Source)

The essence of this deal is pretty simple. KSA wanted to be able to sell its oil to its then largest buyer, the USA, while also having a safe place to park the funds, plus receive military protection to boot. But it didn’t want anybody else, especially its Arab neighbors, to know that it was partnering so intimately with the US who, in turn, would be supporting Israel.  That would have been politically incendiary in the Middle East region, coming as it did right on the heels of the Yom Kipper War (1973).

As for the US, it got the oil it wanted and – double bonus time here – got KSA to recycle the very same dollars used to buy that oil back into Treasuries and contracts for US military equipment and training.

Sweet deal.

Note that this is yet another secret world-shaping deal successfully kept out of the media for over four decades. Yes Virginia, conspiracies do happen. Secrets can be (and are routinely) kept by hundreds, even thousands, of people over long stretches of time.

Since that key deal was struck back in the early 1970s, the KSA has remained a steadfast supporter of the US and vice versa. In return, the US has never said anything substantive about KSA’s alleged involvement in 9/11 or its grotesque human and women’s rights violations. Not a peep.  

Until recently.

Then Things Started To Break Down

In 2015, King Salman came to power. Things began to change pretty quickly, especially once he elevated his son Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) to a position of greater power.

Among MBS’s first acts was to directly involve KSA into the Yemen civil war, with both troops on the ground and aerial bombings.  That war has killed thousands of civilians while creating a humanitarian crisis that includes the largest modern-day outbreak of cholera, which is decimating highly populated areas.  The conflct, which is considered a ‘proxy war’ because Iran is backing the Houthi rebels while KSA is backing the Yemeni government, continues to this day.

Then in 2016, KSA threatened to dump its $750 billion in (stated) US assets in response to a bill in Congress that would have released sensitive information implicating Saudi Arabia’s involvement in 9/11.  Then-president Obama had to fly over there to smooth things out.  It seems the job he did was insufficient; because KSA-US relations unraveled at an accelerating pace afterwards.  Mission NOT accomplished, it would seem.

In 2017, KSA accused Qatar of nefarious acts and made such extraordinary demands that an outbreak of war nearly broke out over the dispute. The Qatari leadership later accused KSA of fomenting ‘regime change’, souring the situation further.  Again, Iran backed the Qatar government, which turned this conflict into another proxy battle between the two main regional Arab superpowers.

In parallel with all this, KSA was also supporting the mercenaries (aka “rebels” in western press) who were seeking to overthrow Assad in Syria — yet another proxy war between KSA and Iran.  It’s been an open secret that, during this conflict, KSA has been providing support to some seriously bad terrorist organizations like Al-Qaeda, ISIS and other supposed enemies of the US/NATO.  (Again, the US has never said ‘boo’ about that, proving that US rhetoric against “terrorists” is a fickle construct of political convenience, not a moral matter.)

Once Russia entered the war on the side of Syria’s legitimate government, the US and KSA (and Israel) lost their momentum. Their dreams of toppling Assad and turning Syria into another failed petro-state like they did with Iraq and Libya are not likely to pan out as hoped.

But rather than retreat to lick their wounds, KSA’s King Salman and his son are proving to be a lot nimbler than their predecessors. 

Rather than continue a losing battle in Syria, they’ve instead turned their energies and attention to dramatically reshaping KSA’s internal power structures:

Saudi Arabia’s Saturday Night Massacre

For nearly a century, Saudi Arabia has been ruled by the elders of a royal family that now finds itself effectively controlled by a 32-year-old crown prince, Mohammad bin Salman. He helms the Defense Ministry, he has extravagant plans for economic development, and last week arranged for the arrest of some of the most powerful ministers and princes in the country.

A day before the arrests were announced, Houthi tribesmen in Yemen but allied with Iran, Saudi Arabia’s regional rival, fired a ballistic missile at Riyadh.

The Saudis claim the missile came from Iran and that its firing might be considered “an act of war.”

Saudi Arabia was created between the two world wars under British guidance. In the 1920s, a tribe known as the Sauds defeated the Hashemites, effectively annexing the exterior parts of Saudi Arabia they did not yet control. The United Kingdom recognized the Sauds’ claim shortly thereafter. But since then, the Saudi tribe has been torn by ambition, resentment and intrigue. The Saudi royal family has more in common with the Corleones than with a Norman Rockwell painting.

The direct attack was undoubtedly met with threats of a coup. Whether one was actually planned didn’t matter. Mohammed Bin Salman had to assume these threats were credible since so many interests were under attack. So he struck first, arresting princes and ex-minsters who constituted the Saudi elite. It was a dangerous gamble. A powerful opposition still exists, but he had no choice but to act. He could either strike as he did last Saturday night, or allow his enemies to choose the time and place of that attack. Nothing is secure yet, but with this strike, there is a chance he might have bought time. Any Saudi who would take on princes and clerics is obviously desperate, but he may well break the hold of the financial and religious elite.

(Source)

This 32 year-old prince, Mohammed bin Salman has struck first and deep, completely upending the internal power dynamics of Saudi Arabia. 

He’s taken on the political, financial and religious elites head on. For example, pushing through the decision to allow women to drive; a provocative move designed to send a clear message to the clerics who might oppose him. That message is: “I’m not fooling around here.”

This is a classic example of how one goes about purging the opposition when either taking over a government after a coup, or implementing a big new strategy at a major corporation.  You have to remove any possible opponents and then install your own loyalists. According the Rules for Rulers, you do this by diverting a portion of the flow of funds to your new backers while diminishing, imprisoning or killing all potential enemies.

So far, Mohammed bin Salman’s action plan is par for the course. No surprises.

The above article from Stratfor (well worth reading in its entirety) continues with these interesting insights:

The Iranians have been doing well since the nuclear deal was signed in 2015. They have become the dominant political force in Iraq. Their support for the Bashar Assad regime in Syria may not have been enough to save him, but Iran was on what appears to be the winning side in the Syrian civil war. Hezbollah has been hurt by its participation in the war but is reviving, carrying Iranian influence in Lebanon at a time when Lebanon is in crisis after the resignation of its prime minister last week.

The Saudis, on the other hand, aren’t doing as well. The Saudi-built anti-Houthi coalition in Yemen has failed to break the Houthi-led opposition. And Iran has openly entered into an alliance with Qatar against the wishes of the Saudis and their ally, the United Arab Emirates.

Iran seems to sense the possibility of achieving a dream: destabilizing Saudi Arabia, ending its ability to support anti-Iranian forces, and breaking the power of the Sunni Wahhabis. Iran must look at the arrests in Saudi Arabia as a very bad move. And they may be. Mohammad bin Salman has backed the fundamentalists and the financial elite against the wall.

They are desperate, and now it is their turn to roll the dice. If they fall short, it could result in a civil war in Saudi Arabia. If Iran can hit Riyadh with missiles, the crown prince’s opponents could argue that the young prince is so busy with his plans that he isn’t paying attention to the real threat. For the Iranians, the best outcome is to have no one come out on top.

This would reconfigure the geopolitics of the Middle East, and since the U.S. is deeply involved there, it has decisions to make.

So given Yemen, Syria, and its recent domestic purges, Saudi Arabia is in turmoil. It’s in a far weaker position than it was a short while ago.

This leaves the US in a far weaker regional position, too, at precisely the time when China and Russia are increasing their own presence (which we’ll get to next).

But first we have to discuss what might happen if a civil war were to engulf Saudi Arabia.  The price of oil would undoubtedly spike. In turn, that would cripple the weaker countries, companies and households around the world that simply cannot afford a higher oil price. And there’s a lot of them.

Financial markets would destabilize as long-suppressed volatility would explode higher, creating horrific losses across the board.  That very few investors are mentally or financially prepared for such carnage is a massive understatement.

So..if you were Saudi Arabia, in need of helpful allies after being bogged down in an unwinnable war in Yemen, just defeated in a proxy war in Syria, and your longtime ‘ally’, the US, is busy pumping as much of its own oil as it can, what would you do?

Pivot To China

Given its situation, is it really any surprise that King Salman and his son have decided to pivot to China?  In need of a new partner that would align better with their current and future interests, China is the obvious first choice.

So in March 2017, only a very short while after Obama’s failed visit, a large and well-prepared KSA entourage accompanied King Salman to Beijing and inked

 

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TRUMP DISMANTLING ARCHITECTURE OF GLOBAL GOVERNANCE

How Trump Is Quietly Dismantling the Architecture of Global Governance

For a long time, the U.S. has seen Azerbaijan, the oil-and-gas-rich, human-rights-poor former Soviet Republic, in much the same way that Allen and John Foster Dulles saw the entire world in the nineteen-fifties. For the brothers—one running the C.I.A., the other running the State Department—the rest of the globe was infinitely malleable around the interests of the U.S. In today’s geopolitics, Azerbaijan is tiny but crucial. It is a nation with a population of ten million and geographically about the size of Minnesota, but it can serve as an alternative source of oil and gas for Europe through two pipelines. The oil pipeline is complete; the one for gas is under construction. Without Azerbaijan, more than a third of the gas used by the European Unionwill continue to come from Russia. Putin uses the implicit threat of cutting off the gas—especially during winter—to keep NATOsomewhat in line.

If these were still like the days of the Dulles brothers, America might ask nothing more of the Azerbaijani government than that it provide a political stumbling block to Russia. The country could imprison, murder, or torture its enemies—or anybody, for that matter—and extract all the wealth it wanted; America would still call it an ally and support it. Under President George W. Bush and, even more so, under President Obama, however, the U.S. has asked for more than the Dulles brothers ever would. Yes, Azerbaijan imprisons some journalists and politicians who challenge the regime, but it doesn’t torture or kill them, and it allows some freedom of the press. The U.S. has expected Azerbaijan to promise some improvement. The experience of the journalist Khadija Ismayilova is an example of Azerbaijan’s odd approach to meeting these expectations. Ismayilova was able to reveal absurd levels of corruption in the country. She was spied on, pressured, and, eventually, arrested. But the authorities bowed to international pressure and released her, though she is not permitted to leave the country. This is no great triumph. Azerbaijan is still an autocracy, but it’s a far less violent and brutal one than, say, Iran and Guatemala after their Dulles-orchestrated coups.

Azerbaijan and its American supporters have been able to argue that the country, bowing to U.S. pressure, has been moving slowly toward greater democracy and transparency. The greatest hallmark of this progress was Azerbaijan’s surprisingly enthusiastic participation in the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative. E.I.T.I., formed in 2003, is an international organization through which governments, private citizens, and corporations seek to reduce the rampant pilfering of wealth in the oil, gas, mineral, and other extractive industries. To join, nations have to reveal a great deal of information about who is getting money from such industries and insure that there is a robust enough civil society to maintain that transparency. The membership roll has been growing rapidly and now includes dozens of nations, including some, such as the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Myanmar, for which E.I.T.I. membership has marked a big step away from the worst excesses of their corrupt pasts.

Surprisingly, Azerbaijan was the first country to become a full member of E.I.T.I. It used that status to argue that it was changing for the better, which encouraged much more foreign investment in the country. These events seemed to herald a new model for geopolitics. Rather than indulging resource-rich tyrants or hectoring them to instantly abandon their existing political dynamics and become clones of America or Western Europe, E.I.T.I. created the right incentives and a road map for change. E.I.T.I. encouraged governments to allow for and foster the creation of a dynamic civil society, and it promoted more transparent accounting and more useful peer pressure among member nations. It can be politically difficult for small, poor countries to heed moral lectures from America; it can be far more palatable to pay attention to guidance from other small, poor nations facing similar challenges. E.I.T.I. hardly transformed the world or eliminated autocracy, but it showed a realistic model of how that might happen.

As of last spring, the Trump Administration seemed to be moving away from years of enthusiastic, bipartisan American support of E.I.T.I. Meanwhile, Azerbaijan’s full membership was cancelled because

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PRIMARY RUSSIAN STRATEGIC DETERRENCE SYSTEMS ARE NOW NON-NUCLEAR, I.E., SUPERFAST, RELATIVELY INEXPENSIVE, LONG-RANGE, PRECISION MISSILES

War With Russia: Two Great American Myths

There are two myths which are deeply imprinted in the minds of most US Americans which are extremely dangerous and which can result in a war with Russia.

The first myth is the myth of US military superiority.

The second myth is the myth of US invulnerability.

I believe that it is therefore crucial to debunk these myths before they end up costing us millions of lives and untold suffering.

In my latest piece for the Unz Review I discussed the reasons why the US armed forces are nowhere nearly as advanced as the US propaganda machine would have us believe. And even though the article was a discussion of Russian military technologies I only gave one example, in passing, of Russian military technologies by comparing the T-50 PAKFA to the US F-35 (if you want to truly get a feel for the F-35 disaster, please read this and this). First, I am generally reluctant to focus on weapons systems because I strongly believe that, in the vast majority of real-world wars, tactics are far more important than technologies. Second, Andrei Martyanov, an expert on Russian military issues and naval warfare, has recently written two excellent pieces on Russian military technologies (see here and here) which gave many more examples (check out Martyanov’s blog). Having read some of the comments posted under Martyanov’s and my articles, I think that it is important, crucial, in fact, to drive home the message to those who still are thoroughly trained by the propaganda machine to instantly dismiss any notion of US vulnerability or, even more so, technological inferiority. I am under no illusion about the capability of those who still watch the idiot box to be woken out of their lethargic stupor by the warnings of Paul Craig Roberts, William Engdal, Dmitrii Orlov, Andrei Martyanov or myself. But I also think that we have to keep trying, because the war party (the Neocon Uniparty) is apparently trying really hard to trigger a conflict with Russia. So what I propose to do today is to connect the notions of “war with Russia” and “immediate and personal suffering” by showing that if Russia is attacked two of the most sacred symbols of the US, aircraft carriers and the US mainland itself, would be immediately attacked and destroyed.

The aircraft carriers myth

I have to confess that even during the Cold War I always saw US aircraft carriers as sitting ducks which the Soviets would have rather easily destroyed. I formed that opinion on the basis of my study of Soviet anti-carrier tactics and on the basis of conversations with friends (fellow students) who actually served on US aircraft carriers.

I wish I had the time and space to go into a detailed description of what a Cold War era Soviet attack on a US aircraft carrier battle group would typically look like, but all I will say is that it would have involved swarms of heavy air and sea launched missiles coming from different directions, some skimming the waves, others dropping down from very high altitude, all at tremendous speeds, combined with more underwater-launched missiles and even torpedoes. All of these missiles would be “intelligent” and networked with each other: they would be sharing sensor data, allocating targets (to avoid duplication), using countermeasures, receiving course corrections, etc. These missiles would be launched at standoff distances by supersonic bombers or by submerged submarines. The targeting would involve space-based satellites and advanced naval reconnaissance technologies. My USN friends were acutely aware of all this and they were laughing at their own official US propaganda (Reagan was in power then) which claimed that the USN would “bring the war to the Russians” by forward deploying carriers. In direct contrast, my friends all told me that the first thing the USN would do is immediately flush all the carriers away from the North Atlantic and into the much safer waters south of the so-called GUIK gap. So here is the ugly truth: carriers are designed to enforce the rule of the AngloZionist Empire on small and basically defenseless nations (like Saddam Hussein’s Iraq). Nobody in the USN, at least not in the late 1980s, seriously considered forward deploying aircraft carrier battlegroups near the Kola Peninsula to “bring the war to the Russians”. That was pure propaganda. The public did not know that, but USN personnel all knew the truth.

[Sidebar: if the topic of carrier survivability is of interest to you, please check out this Russian article translated by a member of our community which is a pretty typical example of how the Russian don’t believe for one second that US carriers are such hard targets to destroy]

What was true then is even more true today and I can’t imagine anybody at the Pentagon seriously making plans to attack Russia with carrier based aviation. But even if the USN has no intention of using its carriers against Russia, that does not mean that the Russians cannot actively seek out US carriers and destroy them, even very far from Russia. After all, even if they are completely outdated for a war between superpowers, carriers still represent fantastically expensive targets whose symbolic value remains immense. The truth is that US carriers are the most lucrative target any enemy could hope for: (relatively) small, (relatively) easy to destroy, distributed in many locations around the globe – US carriers are almost “pieces of the US, only much closer”.

Introducing the Zircon 3M22 hypersonic missile

First, some basic data about this missile (from English and Russian Wikipedia):

  • Low level range: 135 to 270 nautical miles (155 to 311mi; 250 to 500km).
  • High level range: 400nmi (460mi; 740km) in a semi-ballistic trajectory.
  • Max range: 540nmi (620mi; 1,000km)
  • Max altitude: 40km (130,000 feet)
  • Average range is around 400km (250mi; 220nmi)/450 km.
  • Speed: Mach 5–Mach 6 (3,806–4,567mph; 6,125–7,350km/h; 1.7015–2.0417km/s).
  • Max speed: Mach 8 (6,090mph; 9,800km/h; 2.7223km/s) during a test.
  • Warhead: 300-400kg (high explosive or nuclear)
  • Shape: low-RCS with radar absorbing coating.
  • Cost per missile: 1-2 million dollars (depending on configuration)

All this is already very impressive, but here comes the single most important fact about this missile: it can be launched from pretty much *any* platform: cruisers, of course, but also frigates and even small corvettes. It can be launched by nuclear and diesel-electric attack submarines. It can also be launched from long range bombers (Tu-160), medium-range bombers (Tu-22m3), medium-range fighter-bomber/strike aircraft (SU-34) and even, according to some reports, from a multi-role air superiority fighter (SU-35). Finally, this missile can also be shore-based. In fact, this missile can be launched from any platform capable of launching the now famous Kalibr cruise missile and that means that even a merchant marine or fishing ship could carry a container with the Zircon missile hidden inside. In plain English what this means is the following:

  1. Russia has a missile which cannot be stopped or spoofed by any of the current and foreseeable USN anti-missile weapons systems.
  2. This missile can be deployed *anywhere* in the world on *any* platform.

Let me repeat this again: pretty much any Russian ship and pretty much any Russian aircraft from now on will have the potential capability of sinking a US aircraft carrier. In the past, such capabilities were limited to specific ships (Slava class), submarines (Oscar class) or aircraft (Backfires). The Soviets had a large but limited supply of such platforms and they were limited on where they could deploy them. This era is now over. From now on a swarm of Zircon 3M22 could appear anywhere on the planet at any moment and with no warning time (5000 miles per hour incoming speed does not leave the target anything remotely comparable to even a short reaction time). In fact, the attack could be so rapid that it might not even leave the target the time needed to indicate that it is under attack.

None of the above is a big secret, by the way. Just place “zircon missile” in your favorite search engine and you will get a lot of hits (131,000 on Google; 190,000 on Bing). In fact, a lot of specialists have declared that the Zircon marks the end of the aircraft carrier as a platform of modern warfare. These claims are widely exaggerated. As I have written above, aircraft carriers are ideal tools to terrify, threaten, bully and otherwise attack small, defenseless countries. Even medium-sized countries would have a very hard time dealing with an attack coming from US aircraft carriers. So I personally think that as long as the world continues to use the US dollar and, therefore, as long as the US economy continues to reply on creating money out of thin air and spending it like there is no tomorrow, aircraft carriers still have a bright, if morally repulsive, future ahead of them. And, of course, 

 

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WHO IS DENYING PREAUTHORIZATION OF YOUR MEDICAL TREATMENTS AND WHY

 

Who Actually Is Reviewing All Those Preauthorization Requests?

Milton Packer MD

Several months ago, I was invited to give a presentation about heart failure to a group of physicians who meet every month for a lunch meeting.

Don’t worry. No company sponsored the talk, and I did not receive any payment. I accepted the invitation, because it seemed like to good thing to do.

However, the audience was a bit unusual for me. Among the 25 physicians in the room, nearly all were in their 70s and 80s. All were retired, and none were actively involved in patient care. I guess that explains why they had time in the middle of the day for an hour-long presentation.

I gave my talk, but there were no questions.

I had a few moments afterwards to speak to my audience. Since the physicians were not involved in patient care, I wondered why they wanted to hear a talk about new advances in heart failure.

The response surprised me: “We no longer care for patients, but we care about what’s going on. You see, most of us are employed by insurance companies to do preauthorization for drugs and medical procedures.”

My jaw dropped: “I just gave a talk about new drugs for heart failure. Are you responsible for preauthorizing their use for individual patients?” The answer was yes.

I was really curious now. “So did I say anything today that was helpful? I talked about many new treatments. Did I say anything that you might use to inform your preauthorization responsibilities?”

Their answer hit me hard. “Oh, we’ve heard about those drugs before. We’re asked to approve their use for patients all the time. But we don’t approve most of the requests. Nearly all of them are outside of the guidelines that we are given.”

I stammered. “I just showed you evidence that these new drugs and devices make a real positive difference in people’s lives. People who get them feel better and live longer.”

The physicians agreed. “Yes, you were very convincing. But the drugs are too expensive. So we typically reject requests, at least the first time. We figure that, if doctors are really serious, then they should be willing to make the request again and again.”

I was astonished. “If the drugs will help people, how can you say no?”

Then I got the answer I did not expect. “You see, if it weren’t for us, the system would go broke. Every time we say yes, healthcare becomes more expensive, and that isn’t a good thing. So when we say no, we are keeping the system in balance. Our job is to save our system of healthcare.”

I responded quickly. “But you are not saving our healthcare system. You are simply making money for the company that you work for. And patients aren’t getting the drugs that they need.”

One physician looked at me as if I were from a different planet. “You really don’t understand, do you? If we approve expensive drugs, then the system goes broke. Then no one gets healthcare.”

Before I had a chance to respond, he continued: “Plus, if I approve too many expensive drugs

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