Oceania Takes On Eurasia And Eastasia

Oceania Takes On Eurasia And Eastasia

Submitted by South Front,

The emerging US strategy appears to be centered on imposing a regime of isolation on Russia and China with the aim of ultimately effecting regime change in both countries through a combination of political, economic, and military measures. The military component consists of building up naval, aerial, and space capabilities for blockade and strike directed at these two countries and any countries aligned with them. The ongoing shift of US military capabilities away from protracted land warfare toward naval and aerial long-range strike using hypersonic weapons and swarming munitions, evidenced by the US Marine Corps’ shedding of its tanks and heavy artillery and the US Army opting for long-range missile arsenals and even anti-ship capabilities, indicates a preference for “non-contact” warfare in the future, with client states being assigned the role of “bleeding” in future conflicts. The fact that even the Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, the senior military advisory body to the civilian leadership, a US Army four-star general himself, argues that in the future the US Army will need to have its funding reduced in order to facilitate the US Navy’s improbably ambitious expansion plans, is very telling in and of itself.

NATO’s obsession with so-called “Anti-Access/Area Denial”, or A2/AD “bubbles” supposedly being built by Russia and China in order to protect their territory from NATO’s aggression in locations such as Kaliningrad Region, Crimea, Hainan Island, and other locations, is indicative of the offensive nature of NATO’s operational planning which is plainly inconvenienced by the notion of putative targets being able to shoot back. The development of drone swarms and hypersonic munitions, together with the desperate emphasis on deploying as many of the clearly flawed F-35 stealth fighters as possible, is all part of the technological arms race intended to give offense an advantage over defense.

But technology is only one part of the puzzle. The other is that deep-strike technologies require, well, “access” to politically open airspace which may not always be available. Moreover, US deep-strike capabilities may also rely on bases located in client states that would become targets of counterstrikes. That the possibility, indeed the strong likelihood of such retaliation exists was suggested by Russia’s warning to NATO in advance of the post-Douma false-flag operation cruise missile strikes against Syria that, should Russian forces or facilities be targeted, the Russian military would not limit itself to downing the munitions.Instead it would also go after the launch platforms (meaning aircraft and warships) as well as bases from which they were operating. In that context, it would have meant NATO air and naval bases in Greece, Italy, and as far away as Spain, which homeports four US Navy destroyers at Naval Station Rota. One way or the other, the message was received by NATO and no Russian forces or facilities were targeted. But the precedent was established, and we can assume it will be followed in any future confrontations.

Which means that United States’ ability to launch strikes against Russia or China, their forces and bases both on and outside its national territory and airspace, will also be limited by client states’ unwillingness to suffer retaliatory strikes.

This creates a major diplomatic challenge for the United States, which is relegating its “allies” to the role of punching bags forcing to accept retaliatory blows following its own strikes. The sheer size of Russia and China combined means that the challenge varies from region to region.

Here the situation is relatively the easiest for the US, given the proximity of Alaska where a major military build-up is taking place, including anti-ballistic missile defenses, forward-basing of strategic bombers, and plans for major F-35 permanent deployment in addition to the air-defense F-22s already stationed there. However, these bases have pretty limited reach, even with aerial refueling for the F-35s, which means that to reach targets closer to Arkhangelsk and Murmansk US forces would have to rely, one way or another, on bases in Norway, Iceland, and even Greenland. The likelihood of the relevant political authorities giving assent to the use of these bases in support of strikes against Russian forces or assets in the Arctic reasons appears to be low. Given these countries’ economic interests in the Arctic and the effectiveness of the Arctic Council at managing the problems of the region, it does not appear likely that Norway, Denmark, or Iceland, would go so far as to risk being a target of Russian military retaliation, and the inevitable end to that international organization which would follow. While Sweden and Finland are also making noises about joining NATO, which would enter huge swaths of airspace to “access” by US aircraft and missiles on their way to Russia, the prospect of becoming a target of retaliation has so far kept them from joining that organization outright. One, however, should not discount the possibility of existence of various secret agreements and arrangements that are being kept from these countries’ populations.

Here the United States has two countries that are actually willing, at the governmental level if not popular one, to absorb Russian retaliatory strikes. These are Poland and Romania which have already agreed to host components of US National Missile Defense system, and which are all but guaranteed to give the US whatever “access” it needs in case of an operation against Kaliningrad or Crimea, respectively. The restraining factor here is the fact both of these countries happen to be members of the European Union and will remain such for the foreseeable future in spite of earlier US efforts to split the union by peeling off first Great Britain, and then Eastern Europe. While not members of the Eurozone, they are nevertheless part of the common market and open border zones, and serve as the preferred destination for “outsourcing” by Western European firms seeking to avoid Eurozone’s high labor costs (which creates its own set of problems). The pressure on North Stream 2 and indeed on all EU-Russia economic and political ties is motivated by the desire to eliminate the political resistance to the free use of EU’s airspace for offensive military operations against Russia and its targets. So far it has had little success, and has even elevated North Stream 2 issue to the level of question whether Germany is in any way a sovereign country. United States is also exerting indirect pressure on Germany by actively courting France as its “preferred” continental interlocutor at the expense of Germany. However, the economic benefits of EU-Russia collaboration have proved greater than anything the United States could provide to offset them, and Biden’s own version of “America First” policies is unlikely to be more attractive than Trump’s.

To make matters worse, Poland’s and Romania’s proximity to Russia have meant a certain unwillingness to place major US military bases there, meaning that even when it comes to operations by bombers based in the United States, some of their support functions would be performed by military units based in Germany, Italy, and Great Britain, rendering them vulnerable to retaliatory strikes as well.

Here, if anything, the situation is even worse for the US than in Europe’s case because there does not appear to be a single country that is an equivalent to Poland and Romania in the sense of having political leadership willing to make their country a hostage to Washington’s military planning. The relevant countries where US currently has bases include Japan and South Korea, neither of which views their relationship with China as a zero-sum game. Philippines, Indonesia, Singapore, Thailand, do not show signs of giving the US a blank check in any situation other than a major threat to their own vital interests by China. The political resistance would mean pushing US support infrastructure to as far as Guam, which is too far and too poorly developed to sustain large-scale carrier battle group operations in eastern Pacific or South China Sea. Even Australia, which has a strong Sinophobic lobby and which moreover self-identifies as part of the “Anglosphere”, is on the fence regarding the desirability of granting unfettered access to Australia’s bases and airspace for the purpose of operations against China.

The difficulties United States are experiencing at providing the political preconditions for the implementation of their ambitious aero-naval-space blockade and strike capabilities demonstrate the importance of traditional diplomacy to national security. Russia’s outreach to the European Union, the Middle East, and Asia, as well as China’s oft-maligned “Tiger diplomacy” have created a situation in which US military power is functionally displaced by political considerations. It does not even appear that the US leadership is fully aware of the reasons for the ineffectiveness of its military power, otherwise it would not be sending badly overworked aircraft carriers on “double-pump” deployments or keep decades-old strategic bombers on what looks like a repeat of permanent patrols, though this time without nuclear bombs onboard. This is, however, what a multipolar world looks like and will look like going forward. Biden administration’s agreement to extend the New START with Russia for five years without preconditions, over the objections of such hard-liners as Victoria Nuland, suggests there is some reluctant recognition that the world is shifting toward a more equitable distribution of power and wealth.

Tyler Durden
Mon, 04/19/2021 – 23:50

via ZeroHedge News https://ift.tt/3n1f6p7 Tyler Durden

WHO Rejects Vaccine Passport For International Travelers

WHO Rejects Vaccine Passport For International Travelers

In a statement released following a virtual briefing on Monday, the WHO’s Emergency Committee on international health standards officially recommended that governments avoid making vaccine passports mandatory, a trend that is already catching on in the UK.

Specifically, the committee advised governments “do not require proof of vaccination as a condition of entry, given the limited (although growing) evidence about the performance of vaccines in reducing transmission and the persistent inequity in the global vaccine distribution. States Parties are strongly encouraged to acknowledge the potential for requirements of proof of vaccination to deepen inequities and promote differential freedom of movement.”

To justify this position, the WHO cited both limited data on vaccine effectiveness in reducing transmission, along with the deep inequalities in availability that the WHO has long complained about, while at the same time enabling the man is perhaps, more than anybody, responsible for the fact that poor nations will likely wait years for adequate vaccine supplies.

As we have reported, this man’s name is Bill Gates.

Incidentally, the Committee also exhorted governments to do whatever they could to support Covax, the WHO-sponsored and Gates-designed program to supply enough jabs to vaccinate the populations of more than 130 countries. However, the program hasn’t managed to allocate nearly enough vaccines, and many poorer nations – beyond the 92 officially eligible for aid via Covax – have no idea where vaccine supplies will come from, sine the choice to respect patent law has created massive international supply bottlenecks. Instead of allowing an “open vaccine” that could be produced anywhere, emerging markets must compete for jabs on the free market.

After telling governments to try to keep quarantine restrictions for travelers within the bounds of common sense, the WHO added that governments should also work to “Reduce the financial burden on international travelers” whenever possible while enforcing quarantine measures.

Meanwhile, over in the US, CDC Director Dr. Walensky, whose fearmongering has launched her to front-page coverage in the past, warned that COVID cases have continued to climb even as vaccination numbers have risen, a reality that hasn’t escaped millions of Americans, who are walking on with their masks on as if nothing has changed.

Tyler Durden
Mon, 04/19/2021 – 23:30

via ZeroHedge News https://ift.tt/2Q7QoaJ Tyler Durden

The Age Of Over-Abundant Elites

The Age Of Over-Abundant Elites

Authored by Mark Jeftovic via BombThrower.com,

I’ve been reading Peter Turchin’s “Ages of Discord”, which tries to look at patterns of societal strife that he found in previous, pre-industrial civilizations such as Rome and France, and examine how it holds up in a post-industrial era. It bears some resemblance to other cycle theories like Strauss and Howe’s “Fourth Turning” or other long-wave models like Kondratiev Waves (K-Waves). The basic premise behind these ideas are that societies undergo cyclical or pendulum-like dynamics between relatively steady states of prosperity and stability, the internal dynamics of which then produce the conditions that precipitate reversions into turbulent periods of strife and chaotic change.

The important thing to keep in mind is that to that the likes of Turchin and other historical statisticians, the periods of societal discord that they try to map may look like this:

Turchin: Long-term dynamics of sociopolitical instability in France, 800–1700 (data from Sorokin 1937).

But when experienced in real life look more like this

St. Bartholomew’s Day massacre, 1572 by François Dubois

If there’s one thing in this highly polarized world that everybody probably does agree on it’s that we are almost certainly already in one of these periods of discord right now.

What I’m finding most interesting from Turchin’s take on this isn’t that periods of stability are not terminated by resource depletion (a la the climate alarmists), or any other “limits to growth” per se. While population growth in pre-industrial societies may bump up against “neo-Malthusian” limits, it sets up a counter-cyclical decline in population growth. How these forces interact in a transition from stability to chaos is that an over-abundance of elites creates a situation of the political class splitting into factions and fighting over the spoils of what is now a shrinking pie in terms of real economic wealth:

 “According to this theory, population growth in excess of the productivity gains of the land has several effects on social institutions. First, it leads to persistent price inflationfalling real wagesrural misery, urban migration, and increased frequency of food riots and wage protests.

Second, rapid expansion of population results in elite overproductionan increased number of aspirants for the limited supply of elite positions. Increased intra-elite competition leads to the formation of rival patronage networks vying for state rewards. As a result, elites become riven by increasing rivalry and factionalism.

The above passage made me think of the 2016 US election, one that was framed as a populist political outsider taking on the Washington DC swamp… however as Turchin notes, somewhat uncannily….

“all these trends intensify, the end result is state bankruptcy and consequent loss of military control; elite movements of regional and national rebellion; and a combination of elite-mobilized and popular uprisings that expose the breakdown of central authority.”

MAGA, Democratic Socialism, BLM, whatever comes next all have in common extremely well off elites (millionaires and billionaires) talking up a populist game against some ostensibly amorphous “Establishment”, to which these crusaders are loathe to admit their own membership.

Regional governors and in increasingly more cases, entire police forces are essentially “going rogue”. It all sounds in the ballpark of what Turchin is talking about.

Then the media makes useful idiots of us all, reframing as existential battles between good and evil what are really just internecine conflicts between elites who regard everybody else as serfs (in much the same way that I have always privately remarked that World War 1 was, at it’s core, a family squabble among a pan-European dynasty that ruled by divine right).

Via Brookings Institute: The Family Relationships that couldn’t stop World War 1

Which brings us to today, which Turchin doesn’t assert, but I couldn’t help but notice another uncannily prescient remark:

“epidemics and even pandemics strike disproportionately often during the disintegrative phases of secular cycles”

Global lockdowns and fiscal stimulus are once again framed as public safety and societal stabilizing measures. However as come commentators (thinking specifically of Danielle Di Martino) observed: The financial system was screwed, and the central bankers needed Covid because they were about to pull a Hail Mary to save a rapidly deteriorating financial system.

The Great Pivot: Covid-to-Climate

What’s probably coming next: ubiquitous climate change alarmism, can be understood to mean there aren’t enough private jets to go around, and it was even getting crowded in First Class.

Everything coming out of unaccountable policy institutes like the WEF and the mainstream media are just reframings of what Turchin calls “elite overproduction” such that the rabble believes the revocation of their civil liberties and the decline in their living standards is necessary and just.

What are the alternatives?

Maybe neo-Malthusianism has its place, given The Climate? This is an important point because the signs are already around us that as the pandemic fizzles The Great Pivot will be from COVID-to-Climate.

For starters, numerous environmental and ecological scholars and thinkers who are concerned about humanity’s effects on the ecosystem are vehemently opposed to climate alarmism, finding it destructive and self-defeating. This warrants multiple separate articles but I’ll mention Michael Shellenberger’s “Apocalypse Never” and former Under-Secretary for Energy under Obama, Steven Koonin’s “Unsettled Science”. The latter isn’t out until next month, but Dmitri Kofinas just had him on Hidden Forces, I strongly suggest listening and sharing it.

The coming New Green Deal style clampdowns will make global lockdowns look rather benign, despite an abundance of evidence that lockdowns did nothing to change the actual trajectory of COVID.

Lockdowns vs no-lockdowns. From Tom Woods’  “COVID Charts that CNN Forgot”

The coming Climate Emergency will embark on some fool’s errand like “15 months to cool 1.5C”, and it will probably be announced from some Davos-style ecological summit on Richard Branson’s private island that all the participants arrived at via super-yachts.

Because as per Turchin, this is final stage that transitions us into a period of chaos and instability:

‘First, the elites become accustomed to ever greater levels of consumption. Furthermore, competition for social status fuels “conspicuous consumption” (Veblen 1973 [1899]). Thus, the minimum level of consumption necessary for maintaining the elite status exhibits runaway growth.

Second, the numbers of elites, in relation to the rest of the population, increase. 

The third consequence is that the twin processes of declining living standards for the commoners and increasing consumption levels for the elites will drive up socioeconomic inequality. As a result of the growth in elite appetites and numbers, the proportion of the total economic pie consumed by them will increase. However, there are limits on how far this process can go. Eventually, increasing numbers of elites and elite aspirants will have to translate into declining consumption levels for some, leading to the condition that has been termed elite overproduction (this is reminiscent of population growth leading to overpopulation). Intraelite competition for limited elite positions in the economy and government will become more fierce.

I emphasized the part that provides the most telling signal of them all. If you pay attention to the argument Turchin has been laying out, left to itself, an expanding population with expanding consumption will hit some sort of Neo-Malthusian limit and then begin to reverse under its own constraints.

But this dynamic doesn’t happen at the elite level. The capstone class of society simply continues getting larger and consuming more of the economic pie and owning more of the wealth, exacerbating wealth inequality. The elites are not constrained by limits, until there is nothing left to leach from the underclass and they come into conflict with each other.

Then, well, things need to get serious. We need a world war, or a global lockdown, or a climate emergency to keep the rabble in line so that the people on top can finish sorting out the spoils.

(It is important to note: I’m not saying this is all planned. I don’t think it’s a conspiracy. It’s a dynamic. The people impelling these shifts probably really do think they’re benefactors of humanity and that they deserve to sit atop of it. Divine right persists to this day.)

How about this instead?

What would restore a semblance of natural constraints around both overproduction and overconsumption (and with it externalities like pollution and habitat destruction) would be lifting all artificial attenuators on market signalling. That means: subsidies, bail-outs, governments picking winners and losers, central planning and management by “experts”, all of it has to go.

We have to deal with reality as it is, not as our models insist it is supposed to be. We have to re-gear public policies as responses to facts on the ground as opposed to doubling down on failed models (lockdowns aren’t slowing the spread? Lockdown harder! Masks don’t work? Double masks!)

How about seeing a governor or a premier come out and say this:

“Neither lockdowns nor masks seem to be working, for the next six weeks we want as many people as possible to load up on Vitamin D and Zinc”. We’re going to greenlight Ivermectin and hydroxychloroquine, and we’re going to launch an operation Warp Speed to study any and all alternative approaches”

In any society in which the incentives were such that the ruling class was really trying to solve the problem at hand, this would have happened without any prompting.

Any business or any tribe that has to weigh trade-offs and can’t externalize their failures would have looked at alternatives to failed models because they would have no other choice.

But the elites and the political class? They get paid either way. They get exemptions. They get priority. And when their “public service” is over, they walk through the revolving door into Big Corporate directorships, lobby firms and think tanks.

All they have to do is get the public to ratify their own servitude every few years, and the elites have the entirety of Big Tech and the Corporate Media to brainwash the public that it’s in their best interests to do it.

In our current age, the dynamics Turchin explored were not mathematically precise and he acknowledged that there would be nuances and subtleties in applying these to a post-industrial age:

While the overall dynamics are complex, the dynamical feedbacks between variables, that is, mechanisms that generate the dynamics, are often characterized by a high degree of determinism.

He is probably onto something that these societal dynamics have set an age of discord in motion, one myself among others have been saying for awhile will be remembered as the end of the age of the Nation State.

*  *  *

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Tyler Durden
Mon, 04/19/2021 – 23:10

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US Issues Rare “Cognitive Warfare” Photo As Navy Shadows Chinese Carrier

US Issues Rare “Cognitive Warfare” Photo As Navy Shadows Chinese Carrier

In a rare move the United States Navy has released a photo on Sunday of one of its warships shadowing a Chinese aircraft carrier in the East China Sea, which is said to have occurred days ago.

Currently both countries have carrier strike groups in the region amid heightened tensions between Beijing and Washington. The newly issued photo set shows the USS Mustin shadowing the Liaoning carrier group in what’s clearly a strong “message” to China’s military

The image further shows the US ship’s captain, Commander Robert J Briggs, and his deputy Commander Richard D Slye observing the Liaoning in a casual manner.

The Chinese carrier is seen a few thousand meters away


Via SCMP

The South China Morning Post (SCMP) cited a regional military expert to say it was clearly a form of provocative “cognitive warfare” by the US side

The United States military has engaged in a form of “cognitive warfare” following the latest encounter between its warships and the Chinese navy.

Both countries have deployed aircraft carrier strike groups to the East and South China seas, led by the USS Theodore Roosevelt and the Liaoning, respectively.

According to the key quote, “In the photo, Commander Briggs looks very relaxed with his feet up watching the Liaoning ship just a few thousand yards away, while his deputy is also sitting beside him, showing they take their PLA counterparts lightly,” Lu Li-shih, recently of Taiwan’s Naval Academy in Kaohsiung, commented to the SCMP.

“This staged photograph is definitely ‘cognitive warfare’ to show the US doesn’t regard the PLA as an immediate threat,” the analyst added


PLA’s Liaoning carrier, via Reuters

While such ‘shadowing’ maneuvers in the region are nothing new, the ‘messaging’ of the photograph is indeed unusual (with one of the commander’s feet up, which can be interpreted as an insult being directed at the Chinese side), suggesting a heightened propaganda campaign is now playing out.

Tyler Durden
Mon, 04/19/2021 – 22:50

via ZeroHedge News https://ift.tt/3aoQilH Tyler Durden

Taibbi: An Afghanistan Veteran Looks Back On The “First Postmodern War”

Taibbi: An Afghanistan Veteran Looks Back On The “First Postmodern War”

Authored by Matt Taibbi via TK News,

I first met Adrian Bonenberger in 2014, after he completed two tours in Afghanistan. He’d published Afghan Post, a painful epistolary memoir about his experiences. Bonenberger started that book a breezy, confident, idealistic young officer, but as he came across more cruelty, waste, and corruption, started to break down, second-guessing not only the mission but himself, i.e. why he’d volunteered.


The Mine-Resistant Ambush-Protected vehicle, or MRAP

At the outset of Afghan Post Bonenberger referenced everything from the illustrated versions of The Odyssey and The Iliad he read as a kid, to All Quiet on the Western Front. But after years of head-scratching missions, circuitous contracting schemes, and lies sent down from above (and demanded in return), he seemed to realize, unpleasantly, that his experience was less Homer and more Catch-22.

He laughs some, but mostly the absurdity crushes him. A selection of passages gives a snapshot of his progression:

My life is in near-perfect harmony… This is what I’ve been aiming for, a sense of balance, of co-existing with the world. My job at this instant is precisely what it needs to be, no more, no less. I’m a good commander, man… Life feels correct.

We aren’t here to defeat the enemy; that’s impossible with our resources. We’re here to occupy them, to distract them from the women wearing blue jeans in Kabul.

No matter how many rifle-bearing insurgents we kill, they only seem to increase in numbers and proficiency.

I just want to keep bashing away at the Taliban until they quit. I refuse to stop. I will break them with constant patrolling…

What are we doing. This makes no sense. I feel my grasp on humanity slipping away. The army believes the solution to this is behavioral health. We’d do better with some religious/moral equivalent — sadly, our own multi-faith shepherd/ expert does not provide me with anything like the type of certainty I’d need to get me through this or buck-up.

He unravels, and as the diary goes on, seems to become more concerned with his own mental survival than with making sense of the mission, which becomes little more than an absurdist plot point. By the end, he writes, “Afghanistan is sending me out, as though I never set foot here, utterly unchanged,” adding:

The landscape is so harsh and unforgiving — on the one hand, the people I see trying to drag a living from the dust seem like heroes or madmen — on the other hand, they move slowly and without obvious desperation — it’s only after a great deal of time spent around them that you realize this transcends the fatalist predisposition of their culture… These people are the embodiment of despair; life without hope of improvement, waiting for an early death from disease, accident, or murder.

Can’t wait to leave this place and these thoughts behind.

I thought of Adrian after Joe Biden announced that “I have concluded that it’s time to end America’s longest war.” The question that faded from view by the end of Adrian’s two tours was one of the first Biden addressed.

We went to Afghanistan, President Biden said, “to ensure Afghanistan would not be used as a base from which to attack our homeland again.” And “we did that. We accomplished that objective.”

Is that true? Less than a day after Biden’s speech, even would-be allies of the administration like former Clinton adviser Richard Clarke were saying that there was a “high probability” the Afghan government would fall, and Westerners would soon be chased out by the Taliban, in scenes likely to recall the scrum for helicopter seats in Saigon in 1975.

Is Clarke wrong? If not, what was the point? Was there ever one? I asked Adrian’s perspective, as a former soldier:

Matt Taibbi: Do you believe it? That we’re leaving?

Adrian Bonenberger: I’m just going to go full Charlie Brown and say, yes. Yes, I do. I think they’re going to leave. Hold the football, Lucy. Here I come.

MT: What were some of the first things that concerned you about the mission?

Adrian Bonenberger: The first time I went, I was a first lieutenant. I think I became a captain after I got back from the first deployment. That was with the 173rd Airborne. It was a very kinetic deployment… The terrain wasn’t as bad where we were. Most of the KIAs, the people who died were hit by IEDs in Humvees.

On that first deployment, I got to see the Humvees swapped out for MRAPs [eds. note: Mine-Resistant Ambush-Protected vehicle]. I remember reading all this stuff about how Humvees were terrible, and they were. They broke down all the time. They weren’t designed for 15,000 pounds of armor. They were not designed for a mountain environment. In this desperate attempt to field stronger-armored vehicles, we got MRAPs, which are these giant, lumbering mine-resistant vehicles.

I didn’t realize at the time, but it was a $50 billion expedited program to swap out every up-armored Humvee with MRAPs. What they didn’t know when we got the MRAPs was that here we are, on the border of Pakistan with a bunch of roads that we built that barely supported Humvees, so when we get these MRAPs… I was actually in a rollover in one.

There was a fill that collapsed because we were driving over in a vehicle that weighed about 40,000 pounds. The Humvee weighed 20,000 pounds. We blamed the Afghan contractor at the time. It sounds psychotic, but we were like, “Oh, yeah. The Afghans built this substandard road. It’s their fault.”

That felt so emblematic. It feels to me today so emblematic. We only had those MRAPs in service for five years. We spent $50 billion bucks for a five-year rental, and then sold them to police stations across America. Those MRAPs that did fuck-all for us in Afghanistan are now what the police are using, presumably, for their small towns.

MT: That’s via the 1033 program, where the Pentagon sells its surplus equipment to localities?

Adrian Bonenberger: Exactly.

MT: I remember in Iraq, they recalled the original Humvees and had heavier doors put in, I think to repel rockets.

Adrian Bonenberger: Right.

MT: So in Afghanistan, they did that, and then switched out the replacement Humvees for the MRAPs?

Adrian Bonenberger: When they up-armored the Humvee, they surrounded these things with armor, because obviously, you go to war with the army you have, not the army you want, per the ridiculous claim by Donald Rumsfeld.

That armor was good at protecting you against RPGs and bullets. We were getting shot at, and I remember vehicles coming back from patrols, all of them had been shot up, and all of the windows were just spider-webbed, but the bulletproof windows would stop the bullets. The problem was when they started putting IEDs in the road, it would channel the blast through the cabin, and ended up just killing everybody in it. The thing that was good at keeping the bullets out ended up being the worst possible design for IEDs.

MT: Because it kept the blast inside the vehicle?

Adrian Bonenberger: Exactly.

MT: They didn’t figure that out until later?

Adrian Bonenberger: I just don’t know, man. So many times, so much of our policy, so much of how we… I mean, if we even had a policy, it was reactive and responsive. It seems impossible that nobody, no chemist or no engineer, said, “Hey, if a bomb hits the bottom of this, it’s going to turn these guys into Campbell’s Soup.” Nobody was in the room that said, “This is only solving this one problem, but this other problem, it’s going to make it much bigger.” Insurgents, not being stupid, are probably going to figure that out.

With the MRAP, the big thing was the V-shaped hull. It’s going to be V-shaped on the bottom so the explosion will go around it. Well, I think that certainly helped. That was better, and I saw IEDs that definitely would’ve killed people in Humvees, not kill people in MRAPs, but it didn’t do away with the problem of IEDs. It created this other problem of these vehicles are so fucking heavy, you couldn’t drive anywhere without rolling over and almost dying in a different way.

MT: Did they have to build new roads?

Adrian Bonenberger: I think what happened was we just left. We just got out before they could do that stuff. Eventually, yes, they would’ve had to have built the new roads, which we wanted to do anyway. Yeah, I think we were there for another two or three years in that place where my first deployment happened, and then we left. We haven’t been back.

That’s Taliban. The Taliban own that area now. They’ve owned that for a decade.

MT: Are there other contracting issues you remember?

Adrian Bonenberger: We only had the MRAPs for a few years. By the time I went back, they were already getting swapped out for something called the M-ATV, an off-road vehicle on steroids. It was a lot better.

There’s always a new vehicle.

Another crazy angle was that Biden bragged in a 2020 campaign ad about his involvement in the MRAP push, and the myth of their effectiveness is so complete nobody interrogated the claim. I imagine if anyone registered it in Trumpland it was to grudgingly concede that Biden had played a leading role in fielding MRAPs, which they probably imagined was a good thing. 

Another thing that I remember very vividly was when I was a commander on my second deployment, we had these crypto devices that would fill the radios so the radios could talk to each other via encryption. It’s not like the Taliban had signals, units, or anything else, but we were doing these things in case we ever fought a military that did have the capacity to crack encryption.

We would do this very religiously, and they’re these black boxes that you could throw them on the ground, they wouldn’t break. Everybody knew how to use them. Everybody had been trained on them, and they were a line item on my inventory as a commander, like $4,800, $4,900 bucks apiece. About $5,000 bucks apiece.

I think we had three months left on deployment when a contractor came into the office one day and said, “Hey, you’re getting new crypto devices.” I looked at them and they looked like… Do you remember, I think they’re called pen pilots…

MT: Palm pilots?

Adrian Bonenberger: Palm pilots. That’s it. It looked like a palm pilot. This is the very end of 2010, early 2011, I already had soldiers who had smartphones. When we would get up to Tajikistan, and they could get cell coverage, they would be posting their statuses. I may be one of the earliest commanders to deal with the problem of a soldier posting on social media in the field. It was like, “Dude, text your girlfriend, whatever — I get it, but please do not give away our position to the enemy.”

Anyway we get these palm pilot things that are supposed to be the latest and greatest, and we were a week away from going out on a pretty long mission, a week-long operation, and so I told the contractor, “Thanks. We don’t really need these. Why don’t you just give these to the unit that’s training right now to replace us? They’ll have some time to get comfortable with them.”

His response was, “Maybe I didn’t explain myself. You’re getting these. I’m here to train you.”

I went to the battalion commander, and said, “This makes no sense to me. I don’t have time to train everybody in my unit for these silly new devices that look fragile, they look like palm pilots. I’m very skeptical here.”

He answered, “My hands are tied. These are ours.” Basically, the contractor training you on these is now your commander, for all intents and purposes.

Now it’s $12,000 bucks a pop instead of $5,000 bucks a pop. I’ve heard subsequently that they are actually a far superior device to that original black box, but just the way it was done right before an operation was… I only had time for one soldier, the smart RTO guy, I think his dad was a professor at Princeton, to learn it. He enlisted for dubious reasons. He figured out how to do it, and he just was “the guy who did it,” because nobody else could figure out how to do it.

For the rest of the deployment, there was one guy who knew how to use the device, and whenever there was a new code that came out, he had to run around the battlefield, or drive around updating everybody’s communications stuff, which is the dumbest thing I’d ever seen. It also endangered lives. But, that to me was a very tangible example of the military not being there to do a thing, but as a receptacle, as somebody who was required to purchase expensive new stuff that was not wanted or even really needed at that moment.

MT: So it was the tail wagging the dog?

Adrian Bonenberger: That’s exactly right. The tail was wagging the dog.

MT: What was your conception of why you were there?

Adrian Bonenberger: They got bin Laden in May, 2011, which was probably the time we should’ve gotten out. The most generous explanation for our being there was that we were trying to get him and punish him for 9/11, and then we got him. Then we were still there, for no clear reason. We were all okay with that. I’m okay with that, apparently. That happened ten years ago.

Ten years ago next month. We’re still there.

MT: I remember in the book of fiction you co-edited, The Road Ahead — I think it was Roxana Robinson in the introduction who talked about how when she asked soldiers if it bothered them that WMDs hadn’t been found, they gave her unexpected answers. What was the understanding in Afghanistan among the people you served with about why you were there? Did they care?

Adrian Bonenberger: That’s a great question. I think it really gets to the heart of the problem with Afghanistan. I was talking with Will Mackin, who was with the SEALs and wrote a really beautiful collection of short fiction… I was telling him that I think the wars on terror have been the first post-modern wars, which sounds so buzzy and annoying, like, “Shut the fuck up, nobody cares about that. That’s dumb.”

But, there is no explanation for why we’re there. If you ask ten people why we’re in Afghanistan, or why we’re in Iraq, even, you’ll get ten different answers that are equally plausible. That wasn’t the case in Vietnam. You agreed with why we were in Vietnam or disagreed with it, but we were there to stop communism. A blisteringly stupid and failed idea, but our being there was related to communism in one way, shape, or form. You’ll find people who will explain to you that Afghanistan has nothing to do with terrorism, that it’s about minerals, or it’s about China, or it’s the great game, or it’s Bin Laden.

MT: Or women’s rights now.

Adrian Bonenberger: Women’s rights was a way that I rationalized being in Afghanistan. It’s a powerful rationalization. There were a couple of girls that I saw wearing blue jeans at the end of my second deployment, and that reduced me to tears, because soldiers get sentimental about dumb stuff, and that seemed like it was validating a narrative that I’d constructed in my head that was important to me.

But is that why we were there? No. No, absolutely not. That’s not why we went. That’s not why we stayed.

That’s what some people may think and say in the op-ed pages so that people feel better about us being there, much in the same way that that’s how I felt good about being there when I was a commander. That’s not why we went. We went to get bin Laden, I think, ultimately is what most people will say, or said at the time. That isn’t why we went there, but that’s the story that’s probably closest to the truth.

The Taliban got caught up in it because they refused to hand him over, and nobody said no to the United States of America under George W. Bush. You say no, it’s time to go.

MT: Time to smoke you out of your hidey-holes.

Adrian Bonenberger: Right.

MT: What about the Afghanistan Papers story in the Washington Post? Did you and other vets talk about that when that came out? Military leaders were telling the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) that the war was so expensive in lives and money, and wasn’t getting things done. But the public story was different. What was your reaction?

Adrian Bonenberger: Reading it all laid out there, they just lied. The thing that I’m most worried about right now is, I’m already seeing it around the edges. Biden made the announcement this week, and you see email threads and you see it on Twitter, people are like, “But, what about all the progress? What about all the money that we’ve spent?” It’s just like, “Guys, you’ve been deluding yourselves.”

There was this thing that we did, the officers did. It was kind of a joke to us, and I just didn’t put two and two together. It’s called Red, Amber, Green Trackers. The joke was you would have these maps of your AO or your area of operations, and the places that the Taliban had were red, and then were permutations of this, so red-trending-amber meant that the Taliban had it, but maybe there were a couple of guys there that you could work with, whatever.

Amber was we patrol there, and we’re trying to flip it green. Amber-trending-green is like, “Oh, the Taliban haven’t blown us up here for a few months, and we built them a well.” Then, green is just like, “We got this. The Afghans have it.” The colors would change sometimes. I think blue became a permutation that I saw later. The joke anyway was you would get to the end of the deployment, and all of the red places were listed as red-trending-amber, or amber, and all the places that were amber were now amber-trending-green or green, and all the places that were amber-trending-green were green, 100%. You give it to the next unit, and it all turned red again. It would downgrade one.

MT: They were juking the stats.

Adrian Bonenberger: I saw that and I didn’t think to myself, “This is dumb.” I knew it was dumb. It was more like, “This is fraud.”

This should be illegal. We just all kind of did it all the time. We talked about it, and it’s not like this is a secret. The fact that people were seeing this in the Pentagon and were just like, “Oh, yeah. Of course, we’re just going to keep doing this forever.” There was no plan, and the metrics changed every deployment. They still wanted body counts, EKIA, enemy killed in action.

These frauds, the context changes, but it’s the same.

MT: It sounds like Daniel Ellsberg in his book “Secrets,” when he was talking about a tour with John Paul Vann. They had a similar system. I think it was something like, if the local South Vietnamese commander could sleep without a guard at his door at night, then that area was green. He found that every area that had been designated X was actually X minus one, or X minus two, security-wise… Was that basically what was going on?

Adrian Bonenberger: 100%. The only difference being, and this is one of the saddest things to me… Afghanistan, a parade of sad memories, the eternal bitch-fest… It might’ve been two years ago, it might’ve been three years ago, when SIGAR stopped doing a certain type of report, during Trump’s presidency, because they didn’t have access anymore essentially. They still did the report, but they were like, “Look, we can’t go out and survey 80% of these places, because they’re under Taliban control. We’re going to attempt to do a QA/QC* of projects as they happen. We’re still going to be active in Kabul, but we just can’t get to half of these places.”

I saw that, and I remember thinking, “This should be headline news.” If we can’t go anywhere, we’re already out of Afghanistan in a sense. We’re not there. We can’t even establish what is being done with the building that cost $50 million or $100 million bucks to build. What else would you call that, except fraud?

It’s as if somebody justified that thing being built. Oh, it’s a hospital. It’ll be great. Was it being used as a hospital? You go down there, and the Taliban are using it as a school or a madrassa or whatever. Honestly, at this point, I don’t care. I’m glad that it’s being used for something, but don’t say that it’s going to be a hospital if it’s not going to be a hospital. Just say, “We’re paying for madrassas.” That’s fine. Maybe that’s what Afghanistan needs? I don’t know.

MT: Did you see that? Would they build something, or bid out a contract for something, and it would turn into something else?

Adrian Bonenberger: My second deployment, the first mission I was on was a company-plus mission, maybe a battalion-minus mission, to QA/QC a school that had been built for, I believe, $20 million. It had been completed, but we needed to do a final review of it. It was in Taliban-held territory. We had to fight our way all the way out to QA/QC it. We did that, and determined that the Taliban was using it as a recruiting station!

Then, we fought our way out. I was never able to get back there. At the very end, we probably could’ve gone back out there if we wanted to. We really did “pacify” the province, because of the Afghans. The Afghans did all the heavy lifting. It didn’t last long. It was not something that you can transit again a year or two later, but for that moment, it was. But what is it being used for today? If we’re lucky, it’s being used for that. If we’re not lucky, it’s being used for something worse.

MT: Was that mission just to determine if that building was being used correctly?

Adrian Bonenberger: Yes, and it wasn’t.

MT: There was an article by William Arkin in Newsweek recently, arguing that just because the uniform boots on the ground may be withdrawing, doesn’t mean we’re leaving. We’ve already started to shift to a system where a lot of the people who are actually engaged in an occupation aren’t even in the country, because they’re operating remotely, and/or they’re private contractors who don’t wear uniforms. Or, they work for some enforcement agency like the DEA or the FBI.

Did you see that process start to evolve while you were there?

Adrian Bonenberger: The most compelling argument against our leaving on a certain level is that it at least leaves the military as some type of official mechanism. Yeah, we’re going to read about them being there. There’s a way to tell when a soldier dies, at least.

I remember when Thomas Ricks went on Fox News, and the Fox guy was trying to rake him over the coals over something, and Tom asked, “Do you know how many contractors have died in Iraq?”

He paused for a second, and he said, “No.” Tom said, “Nobody does. There’s no way to know. We think 500 to 700 died,” but that’s a private company. They keep their own statistics. We will never know how many contractors died in Iraq and Afghanistan. There’s no legal mechanism for determining that, and as a result, we’re just not going to know. Historians hundreds of years from now may be able to mount lengthy campaigns to figure it out. That’s a problem.

The DEA wanted me to do raids on certain militias that were smuggling weapons and drugs, and I refused point-blank. I said, “That’s not my problem. That’s Afghanistan’s problem.”

Internally, I figured out, I would’ve drawn the line on human smuggling, like if I found out that one of my Afghan partners was trafficking humans or slaves, I’d say, “We can’t work together. You’re my enemy now.” But with weapons and drugs, I don’t even think drugs should be illegal in this country, so why would I do anything there? But the DEA would ask me to pull security for their raids, and I’d say, “No, I’m not going to do that.”

Imagine one of the soldiers dying on that mission. You either would’ve had to lie about it and say that the Taliban was actually there and the Taliban ambushed us, or you’d have to explain that you were doing Colombia-style drug raids on an ally, because the DEA wanted it. It’s so complicated. It makes no sense. It made no sense to me then, and I’m proud that, however sneakily I accomplished it, I stood up for what was right.

MT: What’s your prognosis for what happens now?

Adrian Bonenberger: The Taliban already have, by fairly conservative estimates, the run of 80% of the country. So the Taliban are already there. I think the hope with Afghanistan was always going to be that we could support the Afghans who are interested in a non-Taliban government for enough time for them to get their act together.

If we continue to support them diplomatically and economically, they have a chance, but in the same way that the USSR supported their communist administration in Kabul for I think two or three years before the USSR fell apart. It held on. It wasn’t doing great, but it was doing okay. I think we can achieve that.

If we can’t, then that’s the most damning indictment possible of everything that we did there, including the things that I did there that I thought were good, and was doing for the right reasons. It means that all of that was just pissing in the wind. The next time we do this, I hope we’ll keep that in mind and do it better, or not at all.

* Quality Assurance, Quality Control

You can find Adrian Bonenberger’s book Afghan Post here. He also co-edited The Road Ahead, a collection of “fiction from the forever war,” and co-edits The Wrath-Bearing Tree, which he describes as “a little independent site that tries to promote good content and be subversive.”

 

Tyler Durden
Mon, 04/19/2021 – 22:30

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Pentagon Now Says Russian Troop Build-Up Near Ukraine “Bigger” Than In 2014

Pentagon Now Says Russian Troop Build-Up Near Ukraine “Bigger” Than In 2014

On Monday Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby for the first time gave a US military assessment of Russia’s troop build-up along Ukraine’s eastern border that goes significantly beyond prior statements. 

Kirby said of the Russian military build-up that “it is certainly bigger than the one in 2014,” however without providing a specific number. Russia insists the buildup is for training, but it is “not clear to us” that this is the only purpose, he added according to Politico’s Lara Seligman. Kirby described that “over the past couple of weeks, officials have continued to see an increase in Russia’s buildup of troops on the border with Ukraine,” Politico’s Pentagon correspondent added. 

Ukrainian government officials late last month had been the first to accuse the Kremlin of destabilizing and saber-rattling with a major troop deployment to Crimea and near the border with war-torn Donbass, setting off a renewed diplomatic crisis between Moscow and the West.

Kiev ultimately charged that Russia was preparing for an “offensive” into Ukraine’s sovereign territory in support of pro-Russian separatists fighting Ukraine’s military in the country’s east. While the conflict had smoldered since the height of fighting in 2014 and 2015, which has taken over 13,000 lives over a half-decade, late last month four Ukrainian soldiers were reported killed in shelling by separatists. 

The Economist has recently voiced the biggest concern out of Western allies as follows: “The last time that Russia gathered so many troops on Ukraine’s borders, it went on to invade the country and annex Crimea.”

The Pentagon’s new assessment that the Russian troop build-up goes beyond 2014 levels comes a week after Secretary of State Antony Blinken first said “We’re now seeing the largest concentration of Russian forces on Ukraine’s borders since 2014.” He had issued the words from NATO’s headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, saying further “That is a deep concern not only to Ukraine, but to the United States” – comments backed by NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg.

Meanwhile also on Monday the European Union’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell issued an astoundingly high estimate and accusation of Russian troop numbers in the area:

Initially, Borrell told reporters that “there’s more than 150,000 Russian troops massing on the Ukrainian borders and in Crimea,” and doubled down on the figure later before his services had to correct it in the transcript, saying the real figure was over 100,000.

Nevertheless, Borrell said that “the risk of further escalation — it’s evident.”

He said that a “spark” could set off major war at any time. “It is the highest military deployment of the Russian army on the Ukrainian borders ever. It’s clear that it’s a matter of concern when you deploy a lot of troops,” Borrell said. “Well, a spark can jump here or there.”


Josep Borrell

Ukrainian leaders have been urging Western countries to make clear to Russia that it will pay a price for its “aggression” – while President Volodymyr Zelensky has lobbied for a ‘fast-tracking’ into NATO membership, considered a Russian ‘red line’. 

Tyler Durden
Mon, 04/19/2021 – 22:10

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“We Made History Today” – NASA’s Ingenuity Helicopter Makes First Flight On Mars 

“We Made History Today” – NASA’s Ingenuity Helicopter Makes First Flight On Mars 

After some delay, NASA’s Ingenuity helicopter was given the “all-clear for takeoff” on Sunday. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) sent instructions for the Mars helicopter to liftoff. By early Monday morning, history was made and would make the Wright brothers proud as Ingenuity lifted off on the Red Planet.

JPL tweeted Ingenuity “made history today by being the first craft to achieve controlled, powered flight on a planet beyond Earth.” 

During today’s historic ascent, JPL released the first photo from the flight. 

The 4-pound helicopter rose a little more than 3 meters, hovered briefly, and returned to the surface. Ingenuity’s altimeter shows flight time and altitude reached. 

NASA’s rover Perseverance tweeted a short GIF of Ingenuity’s flight. Throughout the day, more images and pictures will be released. 

“We can now say we’ve flown a rotorcraft on another planet,” MiMi Aung, NASA’s Ingenuity program manager, told her team earlier this morning in the flight control room. “We together flew on Mars. We together have our Wright brothers moment.”

She added that “We don’t know from history what Orville and Wilbur [Wright] did after their first successful flight. But I imagine the two brothers hugged each other. Well, you know, I’m hugging you virtually.”

Ingenuity’s initial flight was scheduled for April 11. A problem occurred on the helicopter’s onboard computers that engineers on Earth were able to correct. 

Mars’s super-thin atmosphere is just 1% the density of Earth’s, making it more challenging for the helicopters’ blades to spin around 2,500 revolutions per minute to generate lift. For comparison, on Earth, most helicopters operate at about 450-500 revolutions per minute.

As for future flights, at least five are scheduled in the coming weeks. Each flight will be more complex, operating at higher altitudes and longer flight times. 

Tyler Durden
Mon, 04/19/2021 – 21:50

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China Says It Has No Desire To Replace Dollar As Global Reserve Currency With Digital Yuan

China Says It Has No Desire To Replace Dollar As Global Reserve Currency With Digital Yuan

Apparently all it takes to replace a global reserve currency is a digital currency alternative just waiting to be released any moment… and a deep-seated desire to do so.

As regular readers know, China is leaps and bounds ahead of every other central bank and indeed plans to release a digital Yuan in the near future, but for now it supposedly has no interest in dethroning the dollar as the reserve currency… at least according to China.

According to Bloomberg, which last weekend reported that the Biden administration is “stepping up scrutiny of China’s plans for a digital yuan, with some officials concerned the move could kick off a long-term bid to topple the dollar as the world’s dominant reserve currency”,  People’s Bank of China Deputy Governor Li Bo said the goal for internationalizing its currency is not to replace the dollar, and the efforts to create a digital yuan are aimed at domestic use.

“For the internationalization of the renminbi, we have said many times that it’s a natural process, and our goal is not to replace the U.S. dollar or other international currencies,” Li said on a panel at the Boao forum Sunday according to Bloomberg. “I think our goal is to allow the market to choose, to facilitate international trade and investment.”

“Allowing the market choose” is, of course, a passive-aggressive way of saying that while China does not want to overthrow the greenback with its digital yuan, the market may have other plans, and if it so choose to overthrow the reigning reserve currency… then so be it.

As a reminder, in a recent note discussing the upcoming disruption from CBDCs, Morgan Stanley said that central bank digital currencies “have the potential to disrupt the international payments system. If a country’s CBDC gains acceptance for international transactions, significant advantages could accrue to the issuer country in financing costs and control over financial transactions, similar to the US dollar’s privileged role today. Some central banks like the ECB and the PBOC see the move towards digital currency as an opportunity to raise the international status of their currencies and increase their use in cross-border payments.”

And this is precisely what China wants, even if it can’t say so explicitly for fears of provoking a retaliation from the Biden admin. So instead of openly challenging the US with its plans of a “weaponized e-Yuan”, Beijing is hoping to downplay its full potential, if only for the time being:

“The motivation for the e-yuan, for now at least, is focusing primarily on domestic use,” Li said. International “interoperability is a very complex issue and we are not in a hurry to reach any particular solution yet,” although there could be cross-border use “in the long term,” Li said.

The central banker said that the PBOC is planning to test the cross-border use of the digital yuan at the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics, where it could be used by both domestic users as well as athletes and visitors from overseas.

Speaking on the same panel at China’s high-profile Boao Forum, Agustin Carstens, general manager of Bank for International Settlements, said there was huge potential in the cross-border use of digital currencies as they could make foreign exchange transaction and payment settlement extremely efficient. He said countries can explore various ways to achieve international interoperability, including making different systems compatible and creating connectivity links among the systems.

While the digitization of the yuan could benefit its use in cross-border transactions, the key factor in determining the currency’s global role is whether China will relax its capital controls, said Shen Jianguang, chief economist at JD.com Inc. “If you want to have a global reserve currency, you need to allow foreigners to hold it, to use it.”

Which, incidentally, is also in the works: as we reported two weeks ago, China is already quietly “encouraging more capital outflows to ease pressure on yuan“, and in what may be the biggest transformation yet, earlier today we noted that following years of crackdown on crypto, Beijing now calls bitcoin an “investment alternative.”

“I think it is quite significant and is definitely different to their previous statements or positions on public cryptocurrencies,” Vijay Ayyar, head of business development at cryptocurrency exchange Luno, told CNBC by email.

“Governments are realizing that it is a viable and established, yet growing, asset class and need to regulate it. China regulating crypto would be another massive boost to the industry in China and globally,” Ayyar said, talking about the motivation behind the PBOC’s shift in tone. To be sure, China is not alone in changing its mind about bitcoin: over the past 4 years, Bitcoin has transformed from being purely a retail-favored asset and has become more mainstream in the financial world, gaining interest from institutional investors. Major corporations such as Tesla and Square in the U.S. have purchased large sums of bitcoin.

Besides easing on its capital firewall, China will also need to allow its citizens to buy more foreign assets, further develop its financial markets and allow greater exchange rate flexibility in order to push for the internationalization of yuan, Shen said in an interview at the forum.

China has seen a flood of capital flows into its financial markets since last year, boosting the amount of yuan traded globally. Yet, in the context of its vast markets, foreign ownership of local stocks and bonds remains relatively low at around 5% and 3% respectively. And while the yuan’s share of global payments and central bank reserves is still only about 2%, it is rising the fastest of all major currencies.

“The digital yuan is a means to help monetary policy efficiency and cross-border usage with partners that tend to trade with China in goods and services, less so the major economies like the U.S.,” said Stephen Chiu, Asia FX and rates strategist at Bloomberg Intelligence. “Digital or not, it’s not so easy to move the dollar’s dominance, be it as a trade settlement or reserve currency.”

But while the real reason for the digital yuan was hinted at, the panel concluded with China playing coy and claiming its (soon the be gold-backed) digital currency won’t be a challenge to the USD.

“The initial plans for a digital currency weren’t motivated by considerations of cross-border use” said former People’s Bank of China Governor Zhou Xiaochuan, who noted that there are many issues with using a digital currency across national borders. International use could affect monetary policy independence, and it’s important it isn’t used for crime, he said on the same panel in Boao.

Tyler Durden
Mon, 04/19/2021 – 21:30

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Florida Gov. DeSantis Signs “Anti-Riot” Bill Into Law, Creating Tougher Penalties For Non-Peaceful-Protesters

Florida Gov. DeSantis Signs “Anti-Riot” Bill Into Law, Creating Tougher Penalties For Non-Peaceful-Protesters

Authored by Jack Phillips via The Epoch Times,

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Monday signed a bill that intends to crack down on violent protests and riots in the state.

DeSantis, a Republican, signed the so-called “anti-riot” measure in Polk County, saying it is “the strongest anti-rioting, pro-law enforcement piece of legislation in the country.”

The signing comes in the midst of protests, riots, looting, and arson incidents in several major cities around the United States in the wake of an officer involved-shooting death in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota. Meanwhile, a verdict is expected to be handed down by a jury in the murder trial of former Minneapolis officer Derek Chauvin, who was seen kneeling on George Floyd before his death—which sparked months of riots and demonstrations.

The law, known as HB1, increases criminal penalties for assault, defacing monuments, and vandalizing public property during riots. Local governments that interfere with law enforcement trying to contain violent demonstrations would be penalized. Meanwhile, a citizens’ appeal process will be set up when counties and cities try to reduce their respective budgets of police forces.

On Monday, DeSantis said in the signing event that the left-wing cries of “defund the police” that echoed throughout Black Lives Matter demonstrations last year is an “insane theory” and is “not going to be allowed to ever carry the day in the state of Florida.”

Democrats and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) have said that the law is designed to intimidate Black Lives Matter and related protesters.

“The bill was purposely designed to embolden the disparate police treatment we have seen over and over again directed towards black and brown people who are exercising their constitutional right to protest,” said Micah Kubic, the executive director of ACLU of Florida, in a statement.

The law went into effect immediately after DeSantis signed the bill on Monday.

Demonstrators participate in a protest in Miami, Fla., on June 12, 2020. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

According to the text of the bill, other new measures include changing the definition of what a “riot” is in the state of Florida. A riot will be defined as a violent public disturbance involving three or more people acting with a common intent that causes damage to public property or injuries—or can cause imminent injury or damage.

The law creates a new second-degree felony—”aggravated riot”—which takes place when a riot has more than 25 people involved, causes grievous bodily harm, or more than $5,000 in damage to property. It would also be used if participants have or threaten with a deadly weapon or block roadways by force or by the threat of force.

Florida state Sen. Danny Burgess, a Republican who sponsored the measure, said the law defines the difference between a peaceful demonstration and a riot.

“Not only did we do that to put the public on notice as to what constitutes a riot, but also to make it clear to both protester[s] and law enforcement where that line in the law is drawn,” said Burgess, according to Newschannel8.

Tyler Durden
Mon, 04/19/2021 – 21:10

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NY Requires Nursing-Home Workers To Sign Paperwork If They “Opt Out” Of COVID Jab

NY Requires Nursing-Home Workers To Sign Paperwork If They “Opt Out” Of COVID Jab

Now that nearly 130MM Americans have received at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine, the CDC announced Monday that all adults aged 16 and over across the US are now eligible to receive the vaccine.

Almost 130MM people 18 or older have received at least one dose of a vaccine, or 50.4% of the total adult population, the CDC pointed out. Almost 84MM adults, or about 32.5% of the population, have been fully vaccinated.

What’s more, Dr. Anthony Fauci hinted on Sunday that the US government will likely move to resume use of Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine this week, though possibly with restrictions or broader warnings about the rare, but potentially deadly, blood clots.

The news comes just as demand for vaccines in the US appears to be reaching an inflection point, as more states report growing stockpiles of unused jabs as demand for vaccinations tapers off.  Dr. Scott Gottlieb has warned that a demand crisis might be at hand in the US, putting the entirely theoretical 70% herd immunity threshold out of reach – at least temporarily.

Clearly, public health officials across the country are starting to worry about waning vaccine demand, because after nearly half of New York nursing home workers refused the vaccine, the state’s Department of Health us taking steps to pressure nursing homes to get these compliance numbers up. While some health care workers say they haven’t yet had an opportunity to get the jab, Zero Hedge has been chronicling reports about health-care workers declining the jabs in surprising numbers, in states from California to New York and elsewhere.

Like the old saying goes, “sh*t rolls down hill,” and as the state leans on nursing homes to raise staffer vaccination numbers, the homes are being required to force employees who refuse the vaccine to sign “paperwork” affirming their decision.

As the New York Post reported last night, New York’s health department brass are now requiring nursing homes in the state to give every worker an opportunity to get vaccinated. And if they refuse, they must sign paperwork recording their decision to “opt out” of the vaccination process. Nursing homes that don’t comply could face serious fines, according to the New York Post.

Nearly half of New York’s nursing home workers haven’t gotten the COVID-19 vaccine — so the state Department of Health is now putting more pressure on the facilities to bridge the gap, The Post has learned.

Health department brass issued new guidance late Thursday that requires nursing homes to offer “an opportunity to receive” the jab to all consenting residents and staff by April 29 and within two weeks of a new hire or a new admission, records obtained by The Post show. Both staff and residents who opt out will need to sign paperwork acknowledging that they are declining. Facilities that don’t comply with the new rules may be penalized up to $2,000 per violation, the DOH

[…]

They’re trying to get people vaccinated and they’re trying to incentivize it,” said Michael Balboni, the Executive Director of Greater New York Health Care Facilities Association, said of the new requirement.

Only 60 percent of workers in the facilities statewide have gotten the shot since December – and just 56 percent of staff in the five boroughs have received the vaccine, the latest DOH vaccination numbers show.

By comparison, 80 percent of nursing home residents statewide have been vaccinated and 73 percent in the city have gotten the jab.

One nursing home official claimed the guidelines were released without enough consultation and argued that facilities might have trouble meeting the 2-week vaccination rule simply because they don’t have enough jabs. But as we noted above, there could be other reasons – even justifiable reasons – why nursing home workers refuse the vaccine.

While it’s not clear what immediate purpose this paperwork would serve, the ominous notion that the state will be taking names of those who refuse could be interpreted as an implicit threat for a large subset of the state’s health-care workers (and a group that was severely impacted, with vast numbers catching the virus last spring as it tore through state nursing homes while Gov. Andrew Cuomo shopped around his book deal).

Tyler Durden
Mon, 04/19/2021 – 20:50

via ZeroHedge News https://ift.tt/3aoT62o Tyler Durden