Backfire: World’s Fourth Largest Iron Ore Producer Stops Purchasing Carbon Offsets
About three weeks after Shell, Europe’s largest oil company, quietly shelved the world’s largest corporate plan to develop carbon offsets, the world’s number four iron ore producer, Fortescue Metals Group Ltd., has decided to end purchases of voluntary carbon offsets. This comes as at least one major study has revealed carbon offsets are prone to ‘greenwashing’ and most credits don’t actually benefit the climate.
Billionaire Andrew Forrest’s Fortescue Metals produced about 2.55 million tons of scope 1 and 2 carbon dioxide emissions in the year leading up to June 30. Bloomberg said the company has implemented a new policy to halt purchases of carbon offset credits from the current fiscal year.
“We are the only heavy emitter in the world to stop purchasing voluntary offsets,” Dino Otranto, chief executive officer of Fortescue’s metals business, said in a statement.
The move by Fortescue comes after Shell laid out an updated strategy for the company that included cutting costs and doubling down on profit centers (oil and gas) – which notably shelved the world’s largest corporate plan to develop carbon offsets.
According to Bloomberg Green’s investigations, many offset programs don’t deliver the promised environmental benefits.
A study by the University of California, Berkeley’s Goldman School of Public Policy found that REDD+ credits account for a quarter of the carbon offset market. And according to researchers, “Most credits probably don’t represent any climate benefit.”
The Berkeley findings raise serious questions about the carbon offsets market come months after the world’s leading carbon credit certifier, Verra, sold worthless offsets to major corporations.
Recall Elon Musk tweeted one year ago, “ESG is a scam. It has been weaponized by phony social justice warriors.”
As we noted earlier this year, “Carbon Credits Are The Biggest Scam Since Indulgences… How You Can Avoid Being Fleeced.”
Thu, 09/21/2023 – 04:15
The BRICS Commodity Powerhouse: Can It Force A New Economic ‘Order’?
Who now controls inflation in the U.S.: A trapped Fed, or the new commodity king?
A quiet ‘watershed’ moment has passed. It was nothing ‘splashy’; many perhaps barely noticed; yet significant it truly was. The G20 did not descend into the expected sordid confrontation, with the G7 states (which Jake Sullivan has called the ‘steering committee of the free world’) demanding explicit condemnation of Russia over Ukraine, versus the Rest – as happened last year at Bali. No, the G7 unexpectedly ‘surrendered’ to an ascendant global ‘Non-West’ – one that cohesively insisted on its collective stance.
The stirrings of insurrection had been evident from the BRICS summit in August – the writing was on the wall. The Non-West would not be corralled or coerced into support for the G7 ‘line’ on Russia. The war in Ukraine was barely mentioned in the final – agreed – declaration; the export of grain (Russian as well as Ukrainian) was treated even-handedly. It was a masterpiece of diplomacy by India.
The G7 evidently decided that the Ukraine ‘point-scoring game’ was not worth the candle. The former prioritised getting to consensus, rather than crashing the G20 (perhaps ‘finally’, with a deadlocked declaration).
But for the sake of clarity, it was not the downplaying of Ukraine that marks the ‘watershed’. The shift on Ukraine – now consolidated within a wider U.S. Ukraine policy-switch – was very important but not primordial.
The ‘primordial’ was that the collective Non-West was able to coalesce around their urgent demand for radical reform of the global system. They want change in the global economic architecture; they contest the structures (i.e. the voting systems that lie behind those institutional structures such as the WTO, the World Bank and the IMF) – and above all they object to the weaponised dollar hegemony.
The demand – to put it plainly – is for a seat at Top Table. Period.
None of this is new, it has been germinating since the famous Bandung Declaration (1955), whose resolution laid the foundation for the non-aligned movement. Then, those states lacked the clout to realise their aims. It is different today: Led by China, Russia, India and Brazil, the BRICS has the economic weight and ‘frontline standing vs the West’ to contest the ‘Rules Order’, and to insist that if there are to be ‘Rules’, they must be consensual.
This is a truly radical agenda. Again, the ‘watershed’ is that the Non-West, even without Presidents Xi or Putin being present, showed it has the ‘heft’ to wrestle the G7 to a ‘fall’.
Good in theory – but now comes the ‘concrete’: Plainly, India aspires to a permanent seat on the UN Security Council. Many would argue that India is well qualified. That may be so – The Security Council structure today tends to look a fossilised relic from the post-WW2 era.
Yet, who would volunteer to yield up their seat to a worthy India? Brazil (surprise, surprise) thinks that South America should have its permanent say in the Council, too. All in all, reform of the Council has been an issue that, at least until now, has proved ‘untouchable’. Times though ‘are a-changing’. This is an issue into which the Global South has its teeth, and will continue to tug at it, irrespective, terrier-style.
Then there is the issue of the ‘Two Spheres’. Both the BRICS and G20 statements insist that their aim is not to supplant the existing ‘Order’, but to inhabit it on equitable terms, after major reconstruction and re-orientation.
India, in particular, is reluctant to burn all bridges with the West, and leans towards the notion of an incremental reform of the global economic structure, leading to the establishment of a single trading sphere (India has many interests in the West). Other BRICS too, states share this view. They decline to be forced to choose between two incompatible spheres. (China was of this view, but now sees that it is the U.S., despite its denials, that is the one intent on burning bridges with China!)
But isn’t it a tad naïve though, to expect the West to recant its stealth colonialism?
Western primacy hangs on the pillars of the threat of financial and sanctions war; the monopoly of tech patents, regulatory standards and protocols, and in holding and keeping a global ‘technological edge’. Does Prime Minster Modi truly think that the West can be induced simply to relinquish these assets because the Global South asks it?
It seems ‘a stretch’ (though no doubt Xi and Putin have explained some of these financial ‘facts of life’ to Modi).
Well, these ‘facts of life’, which some BRICS members are not yet ready to internalise, are precisely the reason why both Russia and China are preparing an alternative Economic Sphere, totally severed from the dollar and the dollar-linked banking and financial system. It is a plan ‘B’, which can easily become plan ‘A’.
This debate (one single trading sphere, or two) possibly will become the key issue facing the BRICS and the West. It rests with the Western reaction: Will it be possible to compel the U.S. to make such radical reforms to the present U.S.-aligned Institutions and Structures, such that a quite separate Non-Western economic sphere becomes is not required?
These issues may surface earlier than some expect – perhaps even at the UN General Assembly next week.
Frankly put, the hard reality is that were the U.S. to yield up its grip over the global financial architecture, Americans’ standard-of-living may be expected to fall significantly as demand for dollars withers (with increased global own currency trading). The dollar demand, of course, will not wholly disappear.
The timing of this collective demand for a new financial architecture – a new ‘Bretton Woods’ Accord – could not have come at a more delicate moment for the West. Serendipitously for Russia and China …?
Although many in the West think everything ‘is fine’ – that the U.S. Fed likely will bring inflation under control, and soon will be cutting interest rates. Yet oil prices are up 37% and rising. This has been the case since the price bottomed out a few months ago. “People forget oil prices fell almost 50% from their peak, and that fall ended in May of this year. And that big decline in oil prices was the major factor in bringing headline inflation [down] from 9% to 3%”. Energy is a major cost input that needs to be passed on to consumers. And so is interest on debt, which increases as interest rate rises cut across the economic spectrum.
Everybody is waiting for the Fed to cut rates, because the only way for the U.S. government, American consumers, and businesses to manage their present debt (on which they loaded-up – at zero rates) is if interest rates drop. People may understand this, but they just assume that it’s not going to be an issue because, of course, the Fed ‘is going to cut rates’.
It is very unlikely however, that the western authorities will be able to get rates down again to zero. Selling further oil from the U.S. Strategic Reserve just isn’t going to happen: At this point, the U.S. economy can only run for 20 days on its current oil reserves.
And the Fed is not going to be able to launch much of another round of money-printing, should the economy drop into recession. The Fed may try to rescue the economy in this way, though when inflation is the problem, it is not possible to solve an inflation problem by creating more inflation. Inflation (and interest rates), after a short lag, would again rise.
The point is that much of the ruling strata still do not ‘get it’: the decades-long experience of near-zero inflation that the West has experienced has imprinted itself on the collective mindset – but that world of effortless money-making was an aberration, not a norm. Plainly put, the West now is somehow trapped in various diverse financial ways, such as fiscal exhaustion (i.e. U.S. deficit spending has reached 8.5% of GDP).
Whilst true, that many in the West do not understand that the zero-inflation era was an aberration, caused by factors that no longer pertain – for sure, the aberration is well understood in Beijing and Moscow.
Liam Halligan notes similarly that oil prices are up almost a third over the last three months: “It’s a hugely significant increase that could seriously aggravate the cost of living crisis. Yet the surge seems to have barely been noticed by much of our political and media class”.
Crude markets began to tighten earlier this summer after the Opec exporters’ cartel agreed to withhold oil supplies in a bid to raise prices, and Halligan tartly observes: “Anyone who downplays the power of Opec knows nothing about worldwide energy markets and even less about geopolitics”. (Emphasis added.)
Is it happenstance that a quiet financial war, triggered by the drip-drip of de-dollarisation and higher energy costs, might finally give BRICS the leverage to coerce a change of policy in the West? And should western reluctance to re-structure persist, might the BRICS leadership ratchet higher? The newly expanded BRICS, after all, is now a Commodity Powerhouse.
So, who now controls inflation in the U.S.: A trapped Fed, or the new commodity king?
Thu, 09/21/2023 – 03:30
EU’s Conservative Leaders Blast Meloni’s “Betrayal, Cowardice” Amid Lampedusa Migrant Invasion
The European Right is calling out Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni for what they call a betrayal and U-turn on migration at this key moment that the southern Italian island of Lampedusa is being overwhelmed with well over 6,000 migrants, the bulk of which flooded the tiny outpost on a single day last week.
For example, Matteo Salvini and France’s Marine Le Pen, who leads the National Rally’s parliamentary faction, have blasted Meloni for her handling of the crisis, or rather for being missing in action at this pivotal moment.
“(There is) trouble, trouble for those leaders who don’t realize there are signs of alarm and danger from the massive arrival of migrants on Lampedusa,” Le Pen said at a rally this week. “An island of 6,000 people, where more than 6,000 migrants arrived in a single day — trouble for the population in which the leaders don’t take action immediately to face this giant challenge.”
The AP called it a direct “swipe” at Meloni, even though she wasn’t mentioned by name. Le Pen went so far as to say these same leaders “justify their cowardice by claiming there is no alternative.”
She added that European parties must defend “our people, as Matteo (Salvini) did so brilliantly with courage and pugnacity when he had the power to do so (…) by dramatically reducing the number of migrants.”
Some officials in Italy and across Europe have questioned why Meloni hasn’t gone to the overwhelmed tiny island of Lampedusa in person, or else why she’s not taking a more direct and active role in solving the crisis while enacting more aggressive preventative measures.
Before and after of #Lampedusa.
The before is a beautiful tourist island, now it’s become a migrant island.
Migrants are the majority and the nationals are a minority.@vonderleyen wants all EU members to take in a percentage of these men.
Other EU members are saying no more.… pic.twitter.com/pqiWIcBYgJ
— patrice 🇮🇪 (@patricej36) September 20, 2023
Instead, Europe is debating the 10-point plan offered by European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, but so far it doesn’t look like it will get off the ground…
Poland rejects EU’s proposals to transfer migrants from the Mediterranean island of Lampedusa across member states, a minister said on Wednesday.
“Nobody can force us to do this. We will act in such a way as not to accept immigrants. The EU is preparing to introduce such coercion. That is why we are holding a referendum so that Poles can have their say,” Maciej Wasik, a deputy interior minister, told Polish Radio.
The public vote on migration and three other issues, and parliamentary elections in Poland are scheduled for Oct. 15.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen’s 10-point plan for Lampedusa includes, among other pledges, supporting the transfer of migrants to other EU member states, and returning them to their countries of origin.
Thousands of the migrants on the Italian island of Lampedusa have decided to break out of the temporary asylum center and are now building road blocks as a protest against the authorities.
They demand to be allowed to go to mainland Europe immediately. pic.twitter.com/OlRVnoMLp0
— Visegrád 24 (@visegrad24) September 17, 2023
Polish officials when asked how many migrants from Lampedusa Poland is ready to accept have replied: “None.”
Meanwhile, there are persistent stories and reports of more boats having arrived…
In the past 24 hours 20 more boats have arrived.
Total over over 18,000! More boats are underway towards Lampedusa, Italy.
The local population of the island is 6,000 and is now outnumbered by 3 to 1. Areas of the island are now blocked off and controlled by various ethnic… pic.twitter.com/DH7p0jCyUl
— Wall Street Silver (@WallStreetSilv) September 20, 2023
And already the island’s very limited holding facilities for migrants, with merely some 400 beds, have long been overwhelmed. Simple food, housing, and logistical infrastructure is in extremely short supply – and footage of migrants roaming the streets or packed along roadside facilities continues to emerge.
Thu, 09/21/2023 – 02:45
Syria On The Verge Of Collapse?
Syria is clearly on the verge of collapse in terms of the economy and humanitarian situation.
The country’s southern province of al-Suwayda’, whose population primarily comes from the Druze minority, is currently witnessing protests on an unprecedented scale. While the province has previously seen protests motivated primarily by the country’s deteriorating economic and livelihood situation, these protests are now far more widespread in the province and larger in scale.
There has also been a definite paradigm shift in these protests: the main initial demands to improve the economy and livelihood situation were endorsed by the Druze community’s three leading religious authorities in Syria. Calls for the government to resign, for the departure of President Bashar al-Assad and a political transition are now stronger and more prevalent. In multiple localities in the province, which has formally been under government control since the start of the unrest and civil war in 2011, demonstrators have closed the Ba’ath Party headquarters and removed portraits of Assad and his father, Hafez al-Assad.
While these protests are in themselves remarkable for the province in terms of the numbers participating, their persistence and how open the calls for political change are, they do raise the question about whether they constitute the potential for a real shift in Syria’s “status quo” since spring 2020. However much one might sympathise with the protests, they are probably unlikely to shift the situation in a significant way. The protestors, although immensely courageous, are too few, and have little leverage.
The current status quo means that Syria is effectively divided into three major zones: the majority of the country that is held by the Damascus-based government backed by Russia and Iran; the northeast held by the American-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (the second-largest zone of control); and parts of the northwest and north of the country on and near the border with Turkey, controlled by an assortment of insurgent factions that are backed by Turkey to varying degrees. What has kept the frontlines frozen since the spring of 2020 are the understandings between the main foreign powers involved in the war as well as policies of deterrence through the stationing of foreign troops in these zones of control. The most important in this regard seems to be the Turkey-Russia dynamic, whereas American influence is far more limited.
At the same time, all the major zones have been seeing low-level skirmishes along their frontlines and experiencing internal security concerns. The Syrian Democratic Forces, for example, which are dominated by Kurdish cadres linked to the Kurdistan Workers Party, are contending with an ongoing Islamic State insurgency and more recently have had to deal with an uprising among Arab tribal elements in the east. In a similar vein, the southern province of Deraa, which is next to al-Suwayda’ and formally came back in its entirety under Syrian government control in 2018, sees regular incidents of assassinations and bomb attacks, some of which can be attributed to Islamic State, while others, in terms of responsibility, remain murky.
For the Syrian government, however, it is not the military frontlines and internal security that are the main issue today, but rather the deterioration of its economy and the accompanying fall in standards of living. The clearest indication of this decline is the fall in the value of the Syrian pound. Since the onset of the war, it had been steadily falling, but took a sharp turn for the worse in late 2019. This steep decline has continued despite some brief hiatuses; the currency now stands at record low values versus the U.S. dollar. In 2010, the rate of exchange was around 50 Syrian pounds to the dollar, now the rate of exchange is hovering near 15,000 Syrian pounds to the dollar.
There is much debate about the causes of this downturn, but it seems clear that the decline can be attributed in significant part to the Syrian government’s economic isolation and its shortage of hard currency. Despite controlling the country’s most important cities and the sole access to the Mediterranean Sea along the northwest coastline, the government faces extensive Western economic sanctions; it does not benefit from the main oil assets held by the Syrian Democratic Forces and sees only marginal trade over the land border with neighbouring Jordan to the south. The Syrian government also has extremely little control over its extensive northern border with Turkey, which could be a major trading partner with the government.
The Syrian government’s isolation has also meant that its economy became ever more intertwined with that of neighbouring Lebanon, which is also facing its most severe economic crisis since the end of the Lebanese civil war in 1990 and has also seen a sharp decline in the value of its currency.
In the meantime, the Syrian government has no real solutions to its economic woes. It has been offering up measures such as increasing the salaries of state employees, military personnel and pensioners while also cutting fuel subsidies. While the normalisation of relations between Arab states and Syria (foremost embodied in Syria’s return to the Arab League) has attracted considerable media attention, it is probably unrealistic to expect that this development will lead to a sudden turn-around in the Syrian government’s economic fortunes. The government is not going to be given handouts of billions of dollars in aid and foreign investment from Arab states or the international community at large in a short timeframe and for nothing in return from Damascus. In the meantime, any concept of normalisation with Turkey still has a long way to go, with a fundamental sticking point: that the Damascus-based government would like Turkey to agree to withdraw troops from Syrian territory, whereas Turkey appears to have no interest in doing so in the near- or even medium-term.
Few within government-held areas would deny that the economic and livelihood situation is difficult. It is common to see people there venting their frustrations on Facebook about the quality of services provided, the rising prices of goods, perceptions of corruption, and so on. Yet opinions about the causes of these woes are varied. Some blame the Western economic sanctions on Syria, others see the economic problems as created from within. Some impugn government corruption but consider criticism of Assad himself to be a red line: they seem to think that he is doing all he can to try to help the country — while being surrounded by corrupt officials. Unfortunately, trying to determine what proportion of people subscribe to which views is virtually impossible: no reliable polling data exist, and it is doubtful anyone could conduct such surveys under the present circumstances.
Yet qualitatively speaking, it can be said that in al-Suwayda’, criticism of Assad is less of a red line than in other areas that have remained under government control throughout the war. Besides the current deterioration of both the economy and living standards, there has long been resentment of a perceived marginalisation of the southern province in economic and developmental terms. In addition, there are grievances against conscription; conspiracy theories that the government colluded with the Islamic State to allow the group, in 2018, to attack the eastern countryside of the province while killing hundreds of Druze in the process; complaints about the spread of drugs in al-Suwayda’ and the use of the province as a gateway for smuggling them into Jordan. The government’s most recent economic decisions to raise salaries of state employees, military personnel and pensioners while cutting fuel subsidies provided a spark for protests in the province that are even larger than before.
It is nonetheless important to be realistic about what these protests can achieve. The protestors remain committed for now to sustaining a civil disobedience movement that is peaceful. There appears to be no plan to launch an armed rebellion and make the province a separate rebellious enclave akin to the Turkish-backed enclaves in the northwest. Moreover, the Syrian government is adopting a non-confrontational stance towards the protests. The government seems to have issued general directives to its security forces in the province to lie low and avoid opening fire or taking any repressive measures unless they are attacked.
In effect, these protests remain a peripheral rebellion in the grander scheme of things and are unlikely by themselves to bring down the government and lead to real change. There are really only two ways in which Assad can be brought down: either being militarily overthrown (not being contemplated by any international power) or if the elites propping up his rule decide that his presidency is no longer worth preserving. Despite the deterioration of Syria’s economy and living standards, it seems that those closest to Assad who could bring about his removal from within are either largely unaffected by the situation or possibly even benefitting from it.
To stand some sort of chance of realising change, the al-Suwayda’ protests would have to transform into a large-scale movement of protests and unrest across government-held Syria, including in areas such as the capital Damascus and the coastal regions that have served as key constituencies of support for the government throughout the war.
In turn, these protests raise the question about the efficacy of the ongoing Western sanctions on the Syrian government. A more optimistic portrayal would see the protests as bringing about the precise results intended by the sanctions: a deterioration in the economy and living standards, popular discontent with that deterioration, unrest, and thus some sort of pressure that would lead the government to agree to a peaceful political transition. Yet it is unlikely that these sanctions will accomplish those results. Instead, one finds an immiserated population that is unable to do much to better its own lot, with outbreaks of ultimately ineffectual protests, the continued outflow of people from Syria seeking to migrate to other countries in the region and Europe, and the persistence of the country’s division between its major zones of control.
A greater focus on stemming the country’s collapse in terms of the humanitarian situation could certainly help — if “middlemen” were left out. The United Nations’ World Food Programme (WFP) now faces a much larger shortfall in terms of funding requirements and actual funding for WFP’s operations in Syria, with the result that monthly assistance was cut to 2.5 million people in Syria in July. An important reason behind this reduction, according to the Syria Report, is a reduction in the American contribution to WFP’s global budget. Making up for that shortfall would at least provide some short-term relief.
Sanctions – no doubt well-intended to prevent governments from brutalizing their own people even further and to encourage the leadership toward a democratic form of rule – seem simply not to work. First, it is harder for a people who are starving to rise up against a dictatorship; they are often too busy looking for food and trying to survive on a daily basis, besides having an understandable fear of reprisals. Countries such as Russia and Iran, as we well know, find ways around sanctions; or else the population starves, while the leaders go on living in indifferent comfort.
Perhaps a more realistic approach might be as follows: rather than tying sanctions to vague hopes of political transition, sanctions could instead be linked to more specific concessions such as serious efforts to combat drug trafficking, the release of political prisoners, and so on.
Otherwise, sanctions often deliver just a punitive message, which, although understandable for dictators such as Assad, does not really accomplish anything in terms of accountability, change or bettering the lot of Syrians like the protestors in al-Suwayda’.
Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi is an Arabic translator and editor at Castlereagh Associates (a Middle East-focused consultancy), a writing fellow at the Middle East Forum, and an associate of the Royal Schools of Music. Follow on Twitter and at his independent Substack newsletter.
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Thu, 09/21/2023 – 02:00
Escobar: Russia, North Korea Stage ‘Strategic Coup’ Against Western Hegemony
Authored by Pepe Escobar,
It will take ages to unpack the silos of information inbuilt in the Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok last week, coupled with the – armored – train-keeps-a-rollin’ conducted by North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un straddling every nook and cranny of Primorsky Krai.
The key themes all reflect the four main vectors of the New Great Game as it’s being played across the Global South: energy and energy resources; manufacturing and labor; market and trade rules; and logistics. But they go way beyond – exploring the subtle nuances of the current civilizational war.
Key statements by Russian President Vladimir Putin in his address to delegates at the Eastern Economic Forum:
▪️ The global economy continues to change, primarily because the West is tearing down the system of financial relations;
▪️ Amid the destruction of the financial system by the West, the list of countries that are ready to cooperate not based on Western conventions, but for all humanity, is expanding;
▪️ The dynamics of investment in the Far East is three times faster than for all of Russia in its entirety;
▪️ Most regions in the Far Eastern Federal District still face energy shortages, and this is a problem; a large-scale update of this industry is needed;
▪️ It is necessary to expand logistics routes in the Far East, including the Northern Sea Route;
▪️ High-speed highways will pass through Siberia, the Far East to the Pacific Ocean;
▪️ Russian President Vladimir Putin has called for a comprehensive action plan to be prepared by 1 March for the development of the air complex of the Far Eastern Federal District;
▪️ Constantly enhancing the conditions for doing business in the Far East is a must;
▪️ The global economic situation has invigorated our work in the Far East;
▪️ The restriction of payments in dollars has driven all countries to set their sights on payments in national currencies, while trust in the West is being eroded;
▪️ Today, logistics chains for the supply of goods have almost recovered, and by the same token, this is due to the exchange rate;
▪️ We must come to an agreement with the business community, so that they understand that it is safer to work in Russia.
So Vladivostok presented…
– A serious debate on the surge of anti-neocolonialism, presented for instance by the Myanmar delegation; geostrategically, Burma/Myanmar, as a privileged gateway to Southeast Asia and the Indian Ocean, was always an object of Divide and Rule games, with the British Empire only caring about extracting natural resources. This is what “scientific colonialism” is all about.
– A serious debate on the concept of the civilization-state, as already developed by Chinese and Russian scholars, applied to China, Russia, India and Iran.
– The interconnection of transport/connectivity corridors. That includes the upgrading of the Trans-Siberian in the near future; a boost for the Trans-Baikal – the world’s busiest rail line – connecting the Urals to the Far East; a renewed drive for the Northern Sea Route (last month two Russian oil tankers sailed from Murmansk across the Arctic to China for the first time; ten days shorter than the Suez Canal route); and the coming of the Chennai-Vladivostok channel, which will be connected to the International North South Transportation Corridor (INTSC).
– The common Eurasia payment system, discussed in detail in one of the key panels: Greater Eurasia: Drivers for the Formation of an Alternative International and Monetary and Financial System. The immense challenge to set up a new payment settlement currency against “toxic currencies” instrumentalized amid relentless Hybrid War. In another panel, the possibility of a timely BRICS and EAEU joint summit next year has been evoked.
All Aboard The Kim Train
The genesis of Kim Jong Un’s train journey to the Russian Far East – coinciding with the Forum, no less – is a masterful strategic coup that was in the works since 2014, at the time of the Maidan.
Xi Jinping was still in the beginning of his first mandate; he had announced the New Silk Road exactly ten years ago, first in Astana and then in Jakarta. The DPRK was not supposed to be integrated into this vast pan-Eurasian project that would soon become China’s overarching foreign policy concept.
The DPRK then was on a roll against the Hegemon, under Obama, and Beijing was no more than a worried spectator. Moscow, of course, was always focused on peace in the Korean Peninsula, especially because its geopolitical priorities in 2014 were Donbass and Syria/Iran. The last thing Moscow could afford was a war in Asia-Pacific.
Putin’s strategy was to send Defense Minister Shoigu to Beijing and Islamabad to calm it all down. Pakistan at the time was helping Pyongyang to weaponize their nuclear arsenal. Simultaneously, Putin himself approached Kim, offering serious guarantees: we’ve got your back if ever there is an attack by the Hegemon supported by Seoul. Even better: Putin got Xi himself to double down on the guarantees.
The categorical imperative was simple: as long as Pyongyang did not start any trouble, Moscow and Beijing would be by its side.
A sort of calm before any possible storm then set in – even if Pyongyang continued to test their missiles. So over the years, Kim’s mindset changed; he became convinced that Russia and China were his allies.
The DPRK’s geoeconomic integration into Eurasia was seriously discussed in previous, pre-Covid editions of the Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok. That included the tantalizing possibility of a Trans-Korean Railway linking both North and South to the Far East, Siberia and the wider Eurasia.
So Kim started to see the Big Eurasia Picture, and how Pyongyang could finally start to benefit geoeconomically from a closer association with the EAEU, SCO and BRI.
This is how strategic diplomacy works: you invest during a decade, and then all the pieces fall into place when an armored train keeps-a-rollin’ across Primorsky Krai.
From the perspective of a Russia-China-DPRK triangle, it’s no wonder the collective West has been reduced to the status of crying toddlers in a sandbox. The Hegemon’s puny US-Japan-South Korea axis to counter, simultaneously, China and the DPRK, is a joke compared to the DPRK’s brand-new role as a sort of Asia-Pacific Military District, adjacent to their immediate neighbor, the Russian Far East.
There will be military integration, of course, in missile defense, radars, ports, airfields. But the key vector, along the way, will be geoeconomic integration. Sanctions from now on are meaningless.
No one in 2014 was seeing this all play out, except for a very sharp analyst who coined the precious Double Helix concept to define the still evolving, at the time, Russia-China comprehensive strategic partnership.
The Double Helix perfectly explains the full-spectrum geostrategic symbiosis between two civilization-states which happen to be former empires but since the middle of the previous decade willfully decided to accelerate their mutual drive to lead the Global Majority in the path towards multipolarity.
The Road to Polycentricity
All of the above finely coalesced in the last panel in Vladivostok – informally known even to the Japanese and Koreans as “the European capital of Asia”, in the heart of Asia-Pacific. The debate was on a “global alternative to Western dominance”. The West, incidentally, was absolutely invisible at the Forum.
Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova summed it all up: the recent G20 and BRICS summits had set the stage for President Putin’s remarkable address to the plenary session in Vladivostok.
Zakharova alluded to “fantastic strategic patience”. That applies to the whole “pivot to Asia” policy and boosting the development of the Far East, initiated in 2012, and now implying a full turn of the Russian economy towards Asia-Pacific geoeconomics. But at the same time, that also applies to integrating the DPRK into the geoeconomic Eurasian high-speed train.
Zakharova stressed how Russia “never supported isolation”; always “advocated partnership” – which the Forum graphically displayed for dozens of Global South delegations. And now, under the conditions of a “dirty fight, unlawful and with no rules”, a serious stand-off, the Russian position remains easily recognizable for the Global Majority: “Not to accept dictatorship”.
Andrey Denisov, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary, made a point to mention crack political analyst Sergey Karaganov as one of the key drivers of the concept of Greater Eurasia. More than “multipolarity”, Denisov argued, what is being built is “polycentricity”: a series of concentric circles, involving plenty of dialogue partners.
Former Austrian Foreign Minister Karin Kneissl now heads a new think tank in St. Petersburg, G.O.R.K.I. As a European who ended up being ostracized by her own peers under the blatant toxicity of cancel culture, she stressed how freedom and rule of law have disappeared in Europe.
Kneissl referred to the Battle of Actium as the key passage of power from the Eastern Mediterranean to the Western Mediterranean: “That’s when the dominance of the West started”, complete with all the mythology built around the Roman Empire which obsesses the Anglosphere to this day.
With sanctions dementia and irrational Russophobia installed at the head of the EU and the European Commission, Kneissl stressed, the notion that “treaties must be preserved” disappeared while “the rule of law has been destroyed. This is the worst that could have happened to Europe”.
Alexander Dugin, online, called for understanding “the depth of Western domination”, expressed via hyper-liberalism. And he proposed a key breakthrough: the Western modus operandi should become an object of research, in a sort of Gramscian attempt to define what distinguishes Western ideology, and thus act towards “deep decolonization”.
In a sense this is what is being attempted by current actors in West Africa – Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger. That poses the question of who is a real Sovereign in a new world. The West, argues Dugin, is a Total Sovereign; Russia, as a nuclear power and prime military power defined as an existential threat by the Hegemon, is also a Sovereign.
Then there’s China, India, Iran, Turkey. These are key poles in a dialogue of civilizations; actually what was proposed by former Iranian President Khatami way back in the late 1990s, and then dismissed by the Hegemon.
Dugin remarked how China “has moved far away in building a civilizational state”. Russia, Iran, India are not far behind. These will be the essential actors steering the world towards polycentricity.
Wed, 09/20/2023 – 23:40
Subtropical Storm Might Swamp Northeast This Weekend
As Hurricane Nigel churns in the Atlantic Ocean, weather forecasters are closely watching the possibility of a subtropical depression or storm forming off the Southeast coast later this week and could swamp the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast by the weekend.
The National Hurricane Center expects a non-tropical area of low pressure to form east of the Florida coast by late week:
“This system could acquire some subtropical characteristics this weekend while it moves generally northward.
“Regardless of subtropical development, this low could bring gusty winds, heavy rain, and high surf conditions to portions of the coastal Carolinas into the coastal Mid-Atlantic states this weekend.”
Although it’s unclear if the system will be a named storm, it is anticipated to cause gusty winds, rough seas, dangerous rip currents, and coastal flooding.
Additionally, it might result in heavy rainfall from the Carolinas through the Northeast.
At the same time, Hurricane Nigel is in the central Atlantic, and a new tropical wave is emerging from western Africa.
Wed, 09/20/2023 – 23:20
A Nation Of Snitches: DHS Is Grooming Americans To Report On Each Other
“There were relatively few secret police, and most were just processing the information coming in. I had found a shocking fact. It wasn’t the secret police who were doing this wide-scale surveillance and hiding on every street corner. It was the ordinary German people who were informing on their neighbors.”
– Professor Robert Gellately, author of Backing Hitler
Are you among the 41% of Americans who regularly attend church or some other religious service?
Do you display an unusual number of political and/or ideological bumper stickers on your car?
Are you among the 44% of Americans who live in a household with a gun? If so, are you concerned that the government may be plotting to confiscate your firearms?
If you answered yes to any of the above questions, you may be an anti-government extremist (a.k.a. domestic terrorist) in the eyes of the government and flagged for heightened surveillance and preemptive intervention.
Let that sink in a moment.
If you believe in and exercise your rights under the Constitution (namely, your right to speak freely, worship freely, associate with like-minded individuals who share your political views, criticize the government, own a weapon, demand a warrant before being questioned or searched, or any other activity viewed as potentially anti-government, racist, bigoted, anarchic or sovereign), you have just been promoted to the top of the government’s terrorism watch list.
I assure you I’m not making this stuff up.
So what is the government doing about these so-called American “extremists”?
The government is grooming the American people to spy on each other as part of its Center for Prevention Programs and Partnerships, or CP3 program.
According to journalist Leo Hohmann, the government is handing out $20 million in grants to police, mental health networks, universities, churches and school districts to enlist their help in identifying Americans who might be political dissidents or potential “extremists.”
As Hohmann explains, “Whether it’s COVID and vaccines, the war in Ukraine, immigration, the Second Amendment, LGBTQ ideology and child-gender confusion, the integrity of our elections, or the issue of protecting life in the womb, you are no longer allowed to hold dissenting opinions and voice them publicly in America. If you do, your own government will take note and consider you a potential ‘violent extremist’ and terrorist.”
Cue the dawning of the Snitch State.
This new era of snitch surveillance is the lovechild of the government’s post-9/11 “See Something, Say Something” programs combined with the self-righteousness of a politically correct, hyper-vigilant, technologically-wired age.
For more than two decades, the Department of Homeland Security has plastered its “See Something, Say Something” campaign on the walls of metro stations, on billboards, on coffee cup sleeves, at the Super Bowl, even on television monitors in the Statue of Liberty. Colleges, universities and even football teams and sporting arenas have lined up for grants to participate in the program.
The government has even designated September 25 as National “If You See Something, Say Something” Awareness Day.
If you see something suspicious, says the DHS, say something about it to the police, call it in to a government hotline, or report it using a convenient app on your smart phone.
This DHS slogan is nothing more than the government’s way of indoctrinating “we the people” into the mindset that we’re an extension of the government and, as such, have a patriotic duty to be suspicious of, spy on, and turn in our fellow citizens.
This is what is commonly referred to as community policing.
Yet while community policing and federal programs such as “See Something, Say Something” are sold to the public as patriotic attempts to be on guard against those who would harm us, they are little more than totalitarian tactics dressed up and repackaged for a more modern audience as well-intentioned appeals to law and order and security.
The police state could not ask for a better citizenry than one that carries out its own policing.
After all, the police can’t be everywhere. So how do you police a nation when your population outnumbers your army of soldiers? How do you carry out surveillance on a nation when there aren’t enough cameras, let alone viewers, to monitor every square inch of the country 24/7? How do you not only track but analyze the transactions, interactions and movements of every person within the United States?
The answer is simpler than it seems: You persuade the citizenry to be your eyes and ears. You hype them up on color-coded “Terror alerts,” keep them in the dark about the distinctions between actual threats and staged “training” drills so that all crises seem real, desensitize them to the sight of militarized police walking their streets, acclimatize them to being surveilled “for their own good,” and then indoctrinate them into thinking that they are the only ones who can save the nation from another 9/11.
Consequently, we now live in a society in which a person can be accused of any number of crimes without knowing what exactly he has done. He might be apprehended in the middle of the night by a roving band of SWAT police. He might find himself on a no-fly list, unable to travel for reasons undisclosed. He might have his phones or internet tapped based upon a secret order handed down by a secret court, with no recourse to discover why he was targeted.
This Kafkaesque nightmare has become America’s reality.
This is how you turn a people into extensions of the omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent police state, and in the process turn a citizenry against each other.
It’s a brilliant ploy, with the added bonus that while the citizenry remains focused on and distrustful of each other and shadowy forces from outside the country, they’re incapable of focusing on more definable threats that fall closer to home—namely, the government and its cabal of Constitution-destroying agencies and corporate partners.
Community policing did not come about as a feel-good, empowering response to individuals trying to “take back” their communities from crime syndicates and drug lords.
Rather, “Community-Oriented Policing” or COPS (short for Community Partnerships, Organizational Transformation, and Problem Solving) is a Department of Justice program designed to foster partnerships between police agencies and members of the community.
To this end, the Justice Department identifies five distinct “partners” in the community policing scheme: law enforcement and other government agencies, community members and groups, nonprofits, churches and service providers, private businesses and the media.
Together, these groups are supposed to “identify” community concerns, “engage” the community in achieving specific goals, serve as “powerful” partners with the government, and add their “considerable resources” to the government’s already massive arsenal of technology and intelligence. The mainstream media’s role, long recognized as being a mouthpiece for the government, is formally recognized as “publicizing” services from government or community agencies or new laws or codes that will be enforced, as well as shaping public perceptions of the police, crime problems, and fear of crime.
Inevitably, this begs the question: if there’s nothing wrong with community engagement, if the police can’t be everywhere at once, if surveillance cameras do little to actually prevent crime, and if we need to “take back our communities” from the crime syndicates and drug lords, then what’s wrong with community policing and “See Something, Say Something”?
What’s wrong is that these programs are not, in fact, making America any safer while turning us into a legalistic, intolerant, squealing, bystander nation.
We are now the unwitting victims of an interconnected, tightly woven, technologically evolving web of real-time, warrantless, wall-to-wall, widening mass surveillance dragnet comprised of fusion centers, red flag laws, behavioral threat assessments, terror watch lists, facial recognition, snitch tip lines, biometric scanners, pre-crime programs, DNA databases, data mining, precognitive technology and contact tracing apps, to name just a few.
This is how the government keeps us under control and in its crosshairs.
By the time you combine the DHS’ “See Something, Say Something” with CP3 and community policing, which has gone global in the guise of the Strong Cities Network program, you’ve got a formula for enabling the government to not only flag distinct “anti-government” segments of the population but locking down the entire nation.
Under the guise of fighting violent extremism “in all of its forms and manifestations” in cities and communities across the world, the Strong Cities Network program works with the UN and the federal government to train local police agencies across America in how to identify, fight and prevent extremism, as well as address intolerance within their communities, using all of the resources at their disposal.
What this program is really all about, however, is community policing on a global scale with the objective being to prevent violent extremism by targeting its source: racism, bigotry, hatred, intolerance, etc. In other words, police will identify, monitor and deter individuals who could be construed as potential extremist “threats,” violent or otherwise, before they can become actual threats.
The government’s war on extremists has been sold to Americans in much the same way that the USA Patriot Act was sold to Americans: as a means of combatting terrorists who seek to destroy America.
However, as we now know, the USA Patriot Act was used as a front to advance the surveillance state, allowing the government to establish a far-reaching domestic spying program that has turned every American citizen into a criminal suspect.
Similarly, the concern with the government’s ongoing anti-extremism program is that it will, in many cases, be utilized to render otherwise lawful, nonviolent activities as potentially extremist.
Keep in mind that the government agencies involved in ferreting out American “extremists” will carry out their objectives—to identify and deter potential extremists—in concert with fusion centers, data collection agencies, behavioral scientists, corporations, social media, and community organizers and by relying on cutting-edge technology for surveillance, facial recognition, predictive policing, biometrics, and behavioral epigenetics (in which life experiences alter one’s genetic makeup).
This is pre-crime on an ideological scale and it’s been a long time coming.
For example, in 2009, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) released two reports, one on “Rightwing Extremism,” which broadly defines rightwing extremists as individuals and groups “that are mainly antigovernment, rejecting federal authority in favor of state or local authority, or rejecting government authority entirely,” and one on “Leftwing Extremism,” which labeled environmental and animal rights activist groups as extremists.
These reports, which use the words terrorist and extremist interchangeably, indicate that for the government, anyone seen as opposing the government—whether they’re Left, Right or somewhere in between—can be labeled an extremist.
Fast forward a few years, and you have the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which each successive presidential administration has continually re-upped, that allows the military to take you out of your home, lock you up with no access to friends, family or the courts if you’re seen as an extremist.
Now connect the dots, from the 2009 Extremism reports to the NDAA and the far-reaching data crime fusion centers that collect and share surveillance data between local, state and federal police agencies.
Add in tens of thousands of armed, surveillance drones that will soon blanket American skies, facial recognition technology that identifies and tracks you wherever you go and whatever you do. And then to complete the circle, toss in the real-time crime centers which are attempting to “predict” crimes and identify criminals before they happen based on widespread surveillance, complex mathematical algorithms and prognostication programs.
If you can’t read the writing on the wall, you need to pay better attention.
As I point out in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People and in its fictional counterpart The Erik Blair Diaries, unless we can put the brakes on this dramatic expansion and globalization of the government’s powers, we’re not going to recognize this country five, ten—even twenty—years from now.
As long as “we the people” continue to allow the government to trample our rights in the so-called name of national security, things will get worse, not better.
It’s already worse.
Wed, 09/20/2023 – 23:00