Mapping Global Geopolitical Uncertainty By Country

Mapping Global Geopolitical Uncertainty By Country

The Russia-Ukraine war highlighted how geopolitical risk can up-end supply chains and weaponize trade. More precisely, the war led to trade sanctions, a food crisis, and energy shortages.

In this graphic from The Hinrich Foundation, the third in a five-part series on the sustainability of trade, Visual Capitalist’s Jenna Ross explores how geopolitical risk differs by economy. It pulls data from the 2022 Sustainable Trade Index, which The Hinrich Foundation produced in collaboration with the IMD World Competitiveness Center.

Breaking Down Geopolitical Risk

Geopolitical risk has a strong correlation with GDP per capita, meaning that developing economies typically have less stability.

The following table shows how geopolitical risk breaks down for select economies that are covered in the 2022 Sustainable Trade Index. A lower number indicates less stability, while a higher number indicates more stability.

Economy Geopolitical Stability
Pakistan 5.2
Myanmar 9.9
Bangladesh 16.0
India 17.0
Mexico 17.9
Philippines 18.9
Papua New Guinea 20.3
Russia 20.8
Thailand 24.5
Indonesia 28.3
Ecuador 34.4
China 37.7
Peru 38.7
Cambodia 41.0
Vietnam 44.8
Sri Lanka 45.3
U.S. 46.2
Chile 49.1
Hong Kong 50.0
Malaysia 50.9
UK 61.3
South Korea 62.7
Laos 69.3
Taiwan 72.2
Australia 73.1
Japan 87.3
Canada 90.1
Brunei 90.6
Singapore 97.2
New Zealand 97.6

Source: World Bank, based on the latest available data from 2020. Values measure perceptions of political instability and violence, which are a proxy and precursor to geopolitical risk.

New Zealand has the highest level of stability, likely supported by the fact that it is a small nation with no direct neighbors. The country has taken steps to repair relationships with Indigenous peoples, through land and monetary settlements, though challenges remain. 

The U.S. has moderate stability. It has been impacted by increasing political polarization that has led to people having lower trust in institutions and more negative views of people from the opposing party. As the world’s largest economy, the U.S. also faces geopolitical risk such as escalating tariffs in the U.S.-China trade war. 

Want more insights into trade sustainability?

Download the 2022 Sustainable Trade Index for free.

Russia has one of the lowest levels of stability. The country’s invasion of Ukraine has led to war along with economic roadblocks that restrict normal trade activity. For instance, sanctions against Russia and blocked Ukrainian ports led to a food shortage. The two countries supply a third of the world’s wheat and 75% of the sunflower oil supply. 

The Impact of Geopolitical Uncertainty on Trade

Geopolitical risk can lead to civil unrest and war. It also has economic consequences including trade disruptions. As a result of the Russia-Ukraine war, the World Bank estimates that “world trade will drop by 1%, lowering global GDP by 0.7% and GDP of low-income economies by 1%.” A separate study found that Pakistan’s history of political instability has negatively affected trade in the country.

Of course, geopolitical risk is just one component of an economy’s trade sustainability. The Sustainable Trade Index uses a number of other metrics to measure economies’ ability to trade in a way that balances economic growth, societal development, and environmental protection. To learn more, visit the STI landing page where you can download the report for free.

Tyler Durden
Wed, 02/08/2023 – 04:15

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The WEF Wants To Hack Your Brain

The WEF Wants To Hack Your Brain

Authored by John Mac Ghlionn via The Epoch Times,

Once an idea reserved for the pages of dystopian sci-fi novels, brain hacking is already here. The elites in Davos appear to be interested in harnessing this technology to further their questionable agenda…

At a recent World Economic Forum (WEF) presentation, those in attendance were told that attempts to decode the human brain was already well underway. As Tim Hinchcliffe, a man who has been sounding the alarm on the WEF’s plans for years, noted, the presentation came five years after historian Yuval Noah Harari told those in Davos that human beings were entirely hackable. We are, in a nutshell, walking, breathing, living algorithms, according to the academic. Harari’s vision, at the time, was a thing of feverish fantasy. Now, though, this fantasy is fast becoming a reality.

At the WEF Annual Meeting 2023, The Atlantic’s CEO Nicholas Thompson chaired a session called “Ready for Brain Transparency?” The session opened with an Orwellian-inspired video showing a scenario in which employees’ brainwaves were monitored and decoded. Besides using the information gathered to evaluate employee performance, brainwaves were decoded to assess whether or not any individuals had participated in criminal activity.

Following the video, Duke University’s Nita Farahany, an expert on both the ethical and legal implications of emerging technologies, explained to the audience that methods of decoding brainwaves already exist. Certain technologies, she said, already allow powerful organizations and governments to “pick up and decode faces that you’re seeing in your mind—simple shapes, numbers, your PIN number to your bank account.”

A file photo of an electroencephalogram (EEG) cap used to study brain activity. (Oli Scarff/Getty Images)

“Artificial intelligence,” she continued, “has enabled advances in decoding brain activity in ways we never before thought possible.” All those thoughts and feelings bubbling around inside, added Farahany, are just pieces of data, adding that this data can be decoded using artificial intelligence (AI). Contrary to popular belief, devices used to decode this “data” needn’t be as invasive as Elon Musk’s neural implants. According to Farahany, devices used are more like Fitbits for the human brain. “We’re not talking about implanted devices of the future; I’m talking about wearable devices that are like Fitbits for your brain,” she concluded in a rather chirpy tone.

On the same day Farahany was giving her presentation, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg was also in Davos. Like Farahany, Stoltenberg probably knows his fair share about brain hacking. In 2021, NATO chaired a forum exploring the “‘weaponization of brain sciences” and exploiting the “‘vulnerabilities of the human brain.” As reported by Project Censored, an organization dedicated to the promotion of investigative journalism, greater media literacy, and critical thinking, the forum was created to explore “more sophisticated forms of social engineering and control.” This explains why, in the two years since the forum, NATO has added a sixth level to its five operational domains (air, land, sea, space, and cyber): the cognitive domain.

In a NATO-approved piece, experts from Johns Hopkins University and Imperial College London discuss the many ways in which the human mind should be considered a battlefield. Cognitive warfare, they noted, involves much more than changing what people think; it also involves changing people’s behaviors. “Waged successfully,” reads the piece, cognitive warfare “shapes and influences individual and group beliefs and behaviours to favour an aggressor’s tactical or strategic objectives.” The aggressors “could conceivably subdue a society without resorting to outright force or coercion.” NATO’s purpose, it’s important to remember, is to keep us safe. That purpose appears to be changing.

From the origin of the coronavirus to claims of Russian collusion, this is the golden age of information warfare. But the golden age, with its focus on media control, is currently evolving. As the academics Tzu-Chieh Hung and Tzu-Wei Hung explained in an article last year, cognitive warfare extends from focusing solely on media control to explicit brain control. Cognitive warfare seeks to weaponize “neurological resources” as well as “mass communication techniques.” Whereas information warfare focuses almost entirely on the input of information, cognitive warfare focuses on both the input and the output (that is, our behaviors).

One needn’t be a card-carrying QAnon member to read the above and feel a profound sense of dismay. Talks of hacking the brain are straight out of communist China. As I write this, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is already using cognitive warfare to subdue the enemy. In the not-so-distant future, the unelected globalists in Davos and Brussels, home to NATO’s headquarters, could use the very same technology to subdue us.

Tyler Durden
Wed, 02/08/2023 – 03:30

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French Strikes Halt Fuel Shipments From Refineries And A Fuel Depot

French Strikes Halt Fuel Shipments From Refineries And A Fuel Depot

The French nationwide strike over proposed pension reform (Macron is seeking to raise the retirement age from 62 to, gasp, 64; the French say “non”) which we profiled last week, interrupted on Tuesday the shipment of fuels from refineries and a fuel depot of TotalEnergies, the French supermajor told Reuters.

Workers and employees in various sectors, including the energy sector, civil servants, and teachers, have been staging strikes for weeks to protest against President Emmanuel Macron’s plan to raise the retirement age.  

Workers at the oil refineries at Donges and Feyzin, operated by TotalEnergies, are on strike today, a representative of the Force Ouvriere trade union told Reuters. Workers at the fuel depot Flandres have also joined the massive industrial action in France, the official added.  

As Oilprice notes, this is not the first time that fuel deliveries have been disrupted by strikes this year. 

Two weeks ago, the strike in France halted wholesale fuel deliveries from three refineries operated by TotalEnergies on the first day of a series of planned nationwide strikes in many sectors. The Donges, Normandy, and Feyzin refineries of TotalEnergies stopped the wholesale supply of gasoline and diesel, while the refinery at Feyzin had to reduce processing rates to a minimum on January 19.

TotalEnergies and the French unit of ExxonMobil hold most of the refining capacity in France. The strikes against Macron’s unpopular pension reform are expected to continue.

The most recent wave of strikes comes three months after refinery workers went on strike for weeks in September and October amid a pay row. Strikes at refineries in France in the autumn of 2022 left more than 60% of the country’s refining capacity offline while gas stations in and around Paris and in the northern part of the country began to run out of fuel.

The strikes against the planned pension reform also come just as the EU banned imports of petroleum products from Russia as of February 5.

Tyler Durden
Wed, 02/08/2023 – 02:45

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Truth About Tanks: How NATO Lied Its Way To Disaster In Ukraine

Truth About Tanks: How NATO Lied Its Way To Disaster In Ukraine

Authored by Scott Ritter,

Tank warfare has evolved. The large force-on-force armored battles that were the hallmark of much of WWII, the Arab-Israeli conflicts, which served as the foundation of operational doctrine for both NATO and the Soviet Union (and which was implemented in full by the United States during Operation Desert Storm in 1991), has run its course.

Like most military technological innovations, the ability to make a modern main battle tank survivable has been outstripped by the fielding of defensive systems designed to overcome such defenses. If a modern military force attempted to launch a large-scale tank-dominated attack against a well-equipped peer-level opponent armed with modern anti-tank missiles, the result would be a decisive defeat for the attacking party marked by the smoking hulks of burned-out tanks.

Don’t get me wrong: tanks still have a vital role to play on the modern battlefield. Their status as a mobile bunker is invaluable in the kind of meat-grinder conflicts of attrition that have come to define the current stage of large-scale ground combat. Speed and armor still contribute to survivability, and the main gun of a tank remains one of the deadliest weapons on the modern battlefield.

But the modern tank performs best as part of a combined arms team, supported by infantry (mounted and unmounted) and copious amounts of supporting arms (artillery and close air support.) As part of such a team, especially one that is well-trained in the art of close combat, the tank remains an essential weapon of war. However, if operated in isolation, a tank is simply an expensive mobile coffin.

Much has been made about the recent decision made by NATO and allied nations to provide Western main battle tanks to Ukraine. The politics of this decision is its own separate topic. This article will address the operational practicalities of this decision, namely has the military capability of Ukraine been enhanced through the provision of these new weapons systems.

To answer this question, one needs to examine three basic issues: training, logistical sustainability, and operational employment.

Training

It takes 22 weeks to train a basic American M1 Abrams crewmember. That training just gives the soldier the very basic skill set to be functional. Actual operational expertise is only achieved through months, if not years, of additional training in not just the system itself, but employing it as part of a similarly trained combine arms team. Simply put, even a Ukrainian tank crew experienced in the operation of Soviet-era T-72 or T-64 tanks will not be able to immediately transition to a Western-style main battle tank.

T-72B3M main battle tanks from the 1st Guards Tank Regiment at Red Square

First and foremost, the crew size of a Soviet-era tank is three, reflecting the reality that the Soviet tanks make use of an automatic loading mechanism. Western tanks have four crew members because the loading of the main tank gun is done manually. Adapting to these dynamics takes time, and requires extensive training.

Training is expensive. NATO is currently providing Ukraine with three types of Western main battle tank: the British Challenger 2, the German Leopard 2, and the American M1A2. There is no unified training course—each tank requires its own unique training prospectus that is not directly transferable to another system.

The decentralized training processes created by such a diverse approach promotes inefficiencies and generates discrepancies in outcome—one crew will not be like another, which in combat, where units are supposed to be interchangeable to promote predictable outcomes if all other circumstances remain the same, is usually fatal.

Moreover, these problems will only be enhanced by the emphasis that will be placed on rapid outcomes. The reality is whatever training programs that are developed and delivered by the nations providing the tanks will be insufficient to the task, resulting in poorly trained crews taking extremely complicated weapons systems into the most dangerous environment in the world for a tank—the teeth of a Russian Army designed and equipped to kill these very same tanks.

Logistical Sustainability

Tanks are among the most technically challenging weapons systems on a modern battlefield. They are constantly breaking down, especially if not properly maintained. For the M1 Abrams, for every hour a tank is in the field, there are three hours of maintenance time required. This problem only becomes magnified in combat.

Normally an armor unit is equipped with highly specialized organic maintenance crews that can repair most of the minor issues that can sideline a tank. Given the training requirements to produce this level of high-quality mechanic, it is unlikely Ukraine will be provided with this kind of maintenance support.

A Ukrainian artilleryman throws an empty 155MM shell tube as Ukrainian soldiers fire a M777 howitzer towards Russian positions on the frontline of eastern Ukraine, on November 23, 2022.

This means that the tanks that are being provided to Ukraine will need to be returned to NATO nations for any significant repairs of equipment that is damaged through simple usage or actual combat. In short, it is highly likely that a Western main battle tank in Ukrainian hands will break down at some point during its operational use by Ukraine, meaning that the total number of tanks available to Ukraine will be far less than the number of tanks provided.

Operational Employment

Ukraine’s commander in chief of the Armed Forces, General Valerii Zaluzhnyi, told The Economist last month that he needed 300 tanks, 500 infantry fighting vehicles, and 500 artillery pieces, if he were going to have any chance of defeating [Russia].

Following the January 20 meeting of the Ramstein Contact Group, and subsequent follow-on discussions about the provision of tanks, NATO and its allied partners have agreed to provide less than 50% of the number of tanks requested, less than 50% of the number of infantry fighting vehicles requested, and less than 20% of the artillery requested.

Moreover, the timetable for delivery of this equipment is staggered incoherently over a period that stretches out for many months, and in some cases extends into the next year. Not only does this complicate training and logistical sustainability issues that are already unfavorably inclined for Ukraine, but it makes any meaningful effort to integrate this material into a cohesive operational employment plan all but impossible. In short, Ukraine will be compelled to commit the equipment provided—especially the tanks—into combat in piecemeal fashion.

The truth about tanks is that NATO and its allied nations are making Ukraine weaker, not stronger, by providing them with military systems that are overly complicated to operate, extraordinarily difficult to maintain, and impossible to survive unless employed in a cogent manner while supported by extensive combined arms partners.

The decision to provide Ukraine with Western main battle tanks is, literally, a suicide pact, something those who claim they are looking out for the best interests of Ukraine should consider before it is too late.

Tyler Durden
Wed, 02/08/2023 – 02:00

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Balloon With 3 Hypersonic Missiles Tested By China In 2018

Balloon With 3 Hypersonic Missiles Tested By China In 2018

Authored by Andrew Thornebrooke via The Epoch Times (emphasis ours),

Chinese state-owned television aired footage of a high-altitude balloon dropping hypersonic weapons in 2018.

China tested hypersonic glide vehicles dropped from a balloon in 2018, according to Chinese state broadcaster CCTV. (Screenshot via Chinese social media)

The stunning footage displays a high-altitude balloon, not dissimilar from the one that traversed over the United States last week, carrying three hypersonic glide vehicles (HGVs) into high altitude and dropping them for testing.

Chinese state broadcaster CCTV reported on the weapons test in September 2018. The footage has since been deleted from Chinese media, but photographs and short clips can still be found online.

In one post from 2018, a Twitter user shared footage from Douyin, China’s version of TikTok, which shows the balloon lifting the three HGVs from the ground.

HGVs are generally launched by rockets in a similar manner to traditional missiles. Upon reaching orbit, however, HGVs detach from the rocket and fly through the atmosphere using their own momentum.

Such weapons are much faster than other missiles while they are in low orbit, but become much slower upon hitting the dense air of the atmosphere as they have no jets to power them. The three HGVs dropped by the balloon in the footage appear to have been designed to test this phenomenon.

The balloon-dropped HGVs were part of an effort to develop precision warheads for hypersonic weapons, which would give the Chinese military an “unstoppable nuclear-capable weapon,” according to the South China Morning Post.

Read more here…

Tyler Durden
Tue, 02/07/2023 – 23:50

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New York City Dominates America’s Fine-Dining Capitals

New York City Dominates America’s Fine-Dining Capitals

Receiving a Michelin star is still the highest honor for a restaurant and more than 200 in the United States currently hold the distinction.

As Statista’s Katharina Buchholz details below, Michelin-star restaurants cluster around the country’s biggest metros and most can be found in New York City.

Diners there have a large variety to pick from, including Michelin-starred Mexican at Casa Enrique in Long Island City, contemporary Scandinavian cooking at Brooklyn’s Aska or modern, set family-style meals at Family Meal in Manhattan. A total of 72 restaurants in the city currently have at least one Michelin star. 12 boast two stars and five even have three stars, also the highest number of any U.S. city.

Infographic: The U.S. Fine Dining Capitals | Statista

You will find more infographics at Statista

San Francisco and the Bay Area come in second in the ranking, with 38 highly-awarded eateries stretching from the North Bay through Palo Alto all the way to Saratoga. Restaurants offering different Asian cuisines are most often Michelin-starred in the area, followed by those offering contemporary or so-called Californian fare, which is focused on local and seasonal ingredients as well as fresh vegetables and lean meats. 

The dining scene is quite similar in Greater Los Angeles, where 28 star-studded restaurants are welcoming well-heeled customers from Hollywood to Costa Mesa. Another place where Michelin-starred restaurants are typically found in the United States is Napa Valley north of San Francisco, where plush dining rooms looks out over the countryside.

Washington D.C. and Chicago have fewer Michelin-starred restaurants than Californian cities, but in contrast to Greater Los Angeles, both places boast one locale with three Michelin stars each. Alinea in Chicago offers contemporary cooking that borders on the performative with dishes that flip and other tricks that the Michelin website describes as “tableside fun”. In Washington D.C., The Inn at Little Washington is a more traditional joint that dishes up intricate vegetable creations and grows many ingredients on site.

Tyler Durden
Tue, 02/07/2023 – 23:30

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Does The FBI Have Spies In Congress?

Does The FBI Have Spies In Congress?

Authored by Ken Silva via Headline USA,

House Republicans vow to pull no punches when investigating the FBI this session of Congress. The bureau may be monitoring them in return.

Christopher Wray / PHOTO: AP

This is according to attorney Jesse Trentadue, who about a decade ago uncovered the FBI’s “sensitive informant program.” He said the bureau uses it to embed informants in the media, congressional offices, churches, defense teams and other “sensitive” institutions.

Trentadue never found direct evidence of FBI informants operating in Congress—but that’s because a federal court struck down his lawsuit seeking records about such activity in 2015.

Nearly eight years later, Trentadue told Headline USA that he hopes the newly formed House select subcommittee to investigate the weaponization of the federal government will resume what his lawsuit started. Doing so would be in Congress’s best interest, he said.

Trentadue first caught wind of the sensitive informant program in 2011, while prepping for a separate lawsuit. His friend and fellow investigator, Roger Charles, had discovered an FBI memo showing that a journalist at ABC News was also doubling as a federal informant.

The journalist, whose name is not disclosed in the document labeled ‘secret,’ not only cooperated but provided the identity of a confidential source, according to the FBI memo—a possible breach of journalistic ethics if he or she did not have the source’s permission,” the Center for Public Integrity wrote in April 2011 about the finding.

While the story moved through the news cycle quickly with little impact, it prompted Trentadue to file records requests with the FBI to see if the bureau had other informants in the media, as well as places such as congressional offices, courts, churches, other government agencies and even the White House.

“I thought they’d come back and say, ‘We would never do that because that would be illegal and unconstitutional,’” he said. “Instead, they came back and said, ‘Yeah, we do that. We have manuals on that, but you can’t have them because of national security.’”

Trentadue filed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit over the matter in 2012, seeking unredacted copies of the FBI Domestic Investigations and Operations Guide, the FBI Confidential Human Source Validation Standards Manual, the FBI Confidential Human Source Policy Manual and the FBI Confidential Human Source Policy Implementation Guide.

After about two years of litigation, the FBI moved for a summary judgment in April 2014, arguing that it should be allowed to exercise FOIA’s national security exemptions to keep the manuals secret.

Included with the FBI’s motion was a sworn declaration from Eric Velez–Villar, the assistant director of the FBI’s Directorate of Intelligence at the time, who told the court that Trentadue’s lawsuit threatened to “disclose critical tools utilized by the FBI in its investigations and intelligence gathering efforts.”

The head of the CIA’s litigation support unit, Martha Lutz, also submitted a sworn statement, telling the court that disclosing the FBI manuals could compromise CIA sources.

Trentadue opposed the FBI’s motion for summary judgment and the two parties argued at a November 2014 hearing. But after reviewing the unredacted manuals in private, Judge Kimball said the FBI could keep the manuals secret.

Kimball noted that government agencies are “entitled to considerable deference” when they exercise national security or law enforcement exemptions—unless there’s evidence of bad faith by government actors. Then, he said, the courts have no power to make government agencies disclose secret information.

Kimball ordered the case closed on June 9, 2015.

While some might defend the FBI’s sensitive informant program as necessary for national security, Trentadue said the records he’s uncovered—such as the FBI memo revealing its informant at ABC News—show that the bureau has far overstepped its boundaries.

With recent disclosures like the Twitter Files having shed more light on the agency’s role in partisan censorship campaigns and election-meddling, others might agree.

“This isn’t the case of the FBI investigating corruption,” Trentadue said. “The bureau is recruiting spies in an effort to infiltrate and influence.”

Ken Silva is a staff writer at Headline USA. Follow him at twitter.com/jd_cashless.

Tyler Durden
Tue, 02/07/2023 – 21:50

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Number Of Foreign Workers In Japan Reaches Record High

Number Of Foreign Workers In Japan Reaches Record High

The number of foreigners working in Japan has reached a new high of almost 1.7 million.

As Statista’s Katharina Buchholz reports, after years of slow growth in the number of foreign workers admitted into the country, Japan has increased its efforts to attract them in the past couple of years.

Infographic: Number of Foreign Workers in Japan at Record High | Statista

You will find more infographics at Statista

Since the Japanese population is aging rapidly, the Japanese government is feeling the need to bring in talent from abroad.

Immigrants, mainly from developing Asian countries, but also from the West, are now coming to Japan in larger numbers. Since 2014, the number of foreigners working in Japan has more than doubledaccording to data by MHLW Japan (link in Japanese). The Japanese government revised immigration and refugee recognition laws in early 2019 with the aim of accepting an additional 340,000 workers to the country. Some special provisions were also taken to attract nurses, restaurant workers and laborers. In December of 2019, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe und his cabinet had already adopted measures to foster the coexistence of Japanese and foreign nationals that came at a price tag of US$55.3 million.

In the light of all this, it appears the country is indeed serious about a more multicultural future. Still, this new vision of Japanese society might be a hard sell: The measures adopted have drawn some controversy and have even led to kerfuffles during parliamentary debates. Right-wing politicians slammed the reform saying it would bring in crime and destroy the homogenous Japanese society.

Tyler Durden
Tue, 02/07/2023 – 21:30

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Sky Lanterns, Fu-Go Wind Ships, Drones, Balloon Bombs, & The Markets

Sky Lanterns, Fu-Go Wind Ships, Drones, Balloon Bombs, & The Markets

Authored by Dr. Pippa Malmgren via Substack,

The Chinese balloons over the US reveal many things.

  1. We are already at war. But the US authorities don’t want to say this because social media will create hysteria. China knows this. The purpose of the balloons may not be spying or payload delivery but about the kind of spectacle that creates doubt amongst Americans about their own Government. This is a live staged Tik Tok event.

  2. It reveals that the American leadership had thought they could be at war without the public needing to know about it. Biden and Xi can shake hands and declare a truce, but under the surface, the two nations are all out in confrontation. New economic measures are coming that will confirm this.

  3. The destruction of the Chinese craft gives China an excuse to retaliate. This amounts to the “go ahead and hit me” taunting strategy that Russia has long been engaged in.

  4. This technology reveals that China intends to avoid fighting the US nose to nose, ship to ship, and person to person. Instead, they understand leverage ratios. Just as the terrorists used $5 box cutters to take down aircraft over the US and destroy significant buildings on 9/11, China can create havoc with cheap balloons, toy drones, and other small aerial devices, including in space. In Taiwan, the Chinese might do flyovers with fighter jets to create an atmosphere of tension and to keep everybody on edge. In the US, that would invite an overwhelming response. Balloons seem so innocuous. This “Sky Lantern” strategy creates confusion, a sense of helplessness, and a realization that “big” Western military tech may be useless against “small” Chinese military tech.

Across Asia there is an ancient tradition of letting paper lanterns with tea candles loose into the sky or across bodies of water.

This “Sky Lantern” tradition spills over into the realm of strategic security too.

Americans have forgotten that the Japanese once launched some 9000 “wind-ships” called Fu-Go Bombs into the US from Honshu Island. It was 1944. Since all the Japanese men were at war, young Japanese schoolgirls were assigned to construct these 33 feet wide balloons, which were made of a kind of paper-mâché using fibers from mulberry trees and potato flour glue.  Each carried “either a 32-pound anti-personnel device or two 24-pound thermite incendiary bombs,” and all were painted with Japan’s Signature Rising Sun image.  Most disappeared over the Pacific, but a few hit their mark. They seemed innocuous at first. They were found unexploded in 26 states, including Kalispell, Montana, and California at Saticoy in the Santa Clara River and Oxnard and in Milton, Saskatchewan, Estacada, Oregon, Tacoma, and South Hill. Washington, Bigelow Kansas, Laurens Iowa, Nebraska, near Detroit, Dorr Michigan, Desdemona and Woodson, Texas, and Timnath, Colorado. In 2014 one was found in Lumby, British Columbia, and another in Attu in the Aleutian Islands. One blew up in Omaha, Nebraska, and another in South Hill, Washington.  

But, one downed balloon in a tree in Bly, Oregon, killed a party of school children led by a Reverend and his pregnant wife. This is said to be the only attack by a foreign nation to kill Americans on American soil. The story was totally suppressed. In an amazingly lucky strike, another Fu-Go balloon bomb took out the main power line that supplied the very nuclear reactor that happened to generate the plutonium that would later be used in the Nagasaki nuclear bomb. Perhaps this was nothing more than an eerie coincidence. The Japanese did not know what had happened because the US Military had instituted a virtual press blackout and told all the witnesses to stay schtum. The military had good reason to suppress these stories. At that time paranoia was running high. The US authorities still had not solved the mystery of the 1942 arson attack on the second-largest ship in America’s Atlantic Fleet. The SS Normandie was the world’s largest ocean liner at the time and was moored at Pier 88 in NYC when a fire broke out that sank the ship. This was just after it had been commandeered by the US Navy, which intended to convert it into a carrier for troops. So, the possibility of foreign sabotage and attacks had a visceral reality to it at the time.

Fast forward to today. Multiple Chinese government balloons have been spotted over America, including Wyoming, Montana, (apparently) Texas, Hawaii, and elsewhere and then one was shot down over the Atlantic off South Carolina. There are rumors that one exploded over Billings, Montana. Americans may not remember this earlier Japanese Fu-Go episode. But they are avid watchers of Yellowstone on Netflix. The whole point of going to Montana and Wyoming is to get away from government authorities. The zeitgeist of these Western states is one of militant and armed independence from the outside world. This is the part of America that kicked Liz Cheyney out of office for being too soft a Republican. The folks in Wyoming and Montana don’t want to depend on Washington to defend them. They certainly don’t take kindly to having a foreign power hovering over their land.

The initial questions are why did the Chinese mark the balloons so it would be crystal clear it was them? If they want to surveil America, why not rely on their satellites or pay private commercial operators like MAXAR? They’ve been very effective in Ukraine.

Ah, one of the balloons was found near the Malmstrom Airbase, which is one of the three locations of America’s Minuteman nuclear missile silos. According to the Air Force Nuclear Weapons Center, “The current ICBM force consists of 400 Minuteman III missiles located at the 90th Missile Wing at F.E. Warren AFB, Wyoming”. So, it looks like the Chinese balloons got two out of three of these valuable targets this time.

So, the thought process naturally turns darker. You can’t pay private firms for that data, and the US has ways to make it impossible for satellites to see what’s happening there. Just to remind everybody, we remain in a Cuban Missile Crisis-type environment where all the superpowers are on an extraordinarily high level of alert. North Korea alone has not only been engaged in a record number of ballistic missile tests over the last year but is now accusing Washington of pushing tensions to an “extreme red line”. In response, they threaten to use “overwhelming nuclear force.”

Meanwhile, the START talks between Russia and the US have completely broken down. The US says Moscow is blocking inspections, but Russia accuses the US of operating in violation of all the remaining nuclear weapons agreements.  Now the war in Ukraine is escalating as the Western nations start supplying more powerful and advanced equipment to the Ukrainian side. President Putin went to Volgograd on the 80th Anniversary of the Battle of Stalingrad and obliquely threatened nuclear again. To add drama to all this, the Daily Mail and Telegram are reporting that four UFOs pitched up at his speech and buzzed the Russian President. I am really hoping a higher intelligence will prevent anybody from engaging in nuclear strikes myself. But in all seriousness, we already see press reports of the threat of a Russian response in the form of a “low yield/tactical nuclear weapon” in Europe, possibly even over Europe.  In other words, there was already concern about an EMP device being delivered without a missile even before these Chinese balloons showed up.

So, perhaps these balloons were not intended for surveillance. Perhaps they are delivering payloads just as they did in the 1940s. Already the net is overwhelmed by conspiracy theories about payload possibilities from bioweapons to EMP devices. The Former Head of the Pentagon’s EMP Task Force and chairman of the American Leadership & Policy Foundation, Air Force Maj. David Stuckenberg has been writing about the possibility of EMP devices on balloons since 2015. The aim would not be to drop a nuclear weapon but rather to explode one at a high-altitude which would fry all electronics on the ground. The point is that, like in the 1940s, we are already at such an advanced stage of confrontation amongst the superpowers that the job of the military is not so much to respond to the balloons as it is to prevent public panic.

It seems similar events have obviously been suppressed in recent years. The New York Times has just confirmed the following: “ Since 2021, the Pentagon has examined 366 incidents that were initially unexplained and said 163 were balloons. A handful of those incidents involved advanced surveillance balloons, according to a U.S. official, but none were conducting persistent reconnaissance of the U.S. military bases. In a formal press release, the Pentagon also confirmed that these balloons entered the US at least three times under the previous administration, although Former President Trump is denying this.

The story of the seemingly innocuous balloons is also taking place against the backdrop of substantial military positioning in the Pacific between the US and China. I flew over the Pacific twice this week from LA to Hawaii, Hawaii to San Fran and San Fran to Seoul. It seems to calm and peaceful, but the reality is that there is a massive build-up of military power underway by China and by the US.

The US has two major island footholds in the Pacific – Hawaii and Guam. Hawaii now has 14 military bases, including supporting facilities such as the Maui Space Force Surveillance Complex on Mount Haleakala and the Air Force Maui Optical and Supercomputing Observatory.  This is the location of PACOM, Pacific Command, for all the branches of the US military. Just last week, the former chief of the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, Philip Davidson, suggested that China may attack Taiwan by 2027. The Head of the CIA, William Burns, also just announced that this threat should not be underestimated. It is as if the Western military establishment learned a great lesson from having underestimated President Putin’s threat to invade Ukraine.  The assumption then was, “he’ll never dare, and it’s a bluff.” The assumption now is to fully prepare in order to avoid the threat, whether it’s a bluff or not. But Burns made the possibility much starker by saying that the US now knows, “as a matter of intelligence,” that Xi has ordered the Chinese military to be ready for this attack by 2027. The US and NATO have been tracking China’s training efforts and changing NATO doctrine to contend with the possibility of a direct confrontation. See The Rise of China and NATO’s New Strategic Concept.

So, what is being done to strengthen The US Indo-Pacific Command (USINDOPACOM)? A lot! It matters. Note the Wikipedia entry: is responsible for military operations in an area that encompasses more than 100 million square miles (260,000,000 km2), or roughly 52% of the Earth’s surface, stretching from the waters of the West Coast of the United States to the east coast maritime borderline waters of Pakistan at the meridian 66° longitude east of Greenwich and from the Arctic to the Antarctic.”

Bashi Channel

Guam has long been referred to as America’s “Unsinkable Aircraft Carrier”. It’s being shored up now as the US begins expanding further into the Marianas Island Chain. Tinian Island looks set to be a new, more modernized military base. A new deal has just been concluded with the Philippines that gives the US four new military bases there.  Other locations, such as Palawan, are under discussion. The focus seems to be The Bashi Channel which is the stretch between the Philippines and Taiwan that China feels so hemmed in by. Guam is also expanding to accommodate the 5000 Marines that will no longer be stationed in Okinawa. Instead, they’ll be based at the new 4000-acre Camp Blaz in Guam, which was “reactivated” on January 26th, 2023, and is currently under construction. The US has also apparently doubled the size of the Pacific Submarine fleet based in Guam. Remember that Guam is where the USS Connecticut, one of three Seawolf-class attack submarines, went when it was damaged after a still-unexplained accident in The South China Sea.

The US may be downgrading its presence in Okinawa, but Japan is still hosting the US in new locations. Japan has just started building a new base twenty off of Kyushu. The new $1.6b Magashima base will “host aircraft carrier landing practices.” The US is also adding to its naval capabilities in Japan, especially near the Taiwan Straights.

Meanwhile, China’s efforts to establish a greater presence in the South China Sea used to be seen as a simple territorial grab. But, they’ve converted these islands into “unsinkable aircraft carriers” themselves. Perhaps it was a military strategy more than the West realized.

Let’s not forget that a Chinese Navy J-11 fighter jet had a near miss of less than 3 meters with a US RC-135 spy plane only a few weeks ago over the South China Sea.

Perhaps the most worrying thing is that the US military has shifted from holding exercises to engaging in mission rehearsals. This is a dramatic change. Exercises keep militaries limbered up. Mission rehearsals serve to find out how actual warfighting will occur. You could say exercises are held to increase confidence in high star Generals. Mission rehearsals are to increase confidence in the twenty-year-olds who will be actually conducting warfighting. Gen Z and Gen Y, you need to read The Fourth Turning now.

The Chinese Sky Lantern Strategy has resulted in one nearly impossible outcome. It has totally united the Democrats and Republicans. The only other issue that has generated a completely unified stance between the left and the right is the UFO/UAP/Anomalous phenomena issue. Now we can see that the two are related. As Senator Gillibrand has said, “We don’t know what it is” is no longer an acceptable answer, especially with all this going on. It strikes me that the two are closely related, given the uptick in reporting of UAPs against the backdrop of escalating confrontation via new small aerial devices, whether balloons or drones of tiny satellites. This is about robots on robots at altitude.

On drones, Western militaries still have not understood the true power of the tiny toy drones that are made in China. It’s not the drone that matters, although all that data is available to Beijing. That’s useful from a reconnaissance perspective. The bigger deal is running AI, facial recognition, and the now-banned SenseTime over the data. This allows easy assessment of the mental state of the troops or of a person. A balloon goes up, and the emotional responses of the personnel on the ground are even more valuable than data feed from the aircraft itself. It’s not the video that matters. It’s the assessment of the video where the strategic advantage lies. It’s not that balloons are a threat. It’s that they create chaos in the decision-making apparatus, and that’s very valuable. They also can be used to create diplomatic incidents, which also have value in wartime. Head fakes are part of the negotiation process.

So, we can expect the US to lash back. My father, Amb. Harald Malmgren @HalsRethink and Nick Glinsman @nglinsman have recently written an important piece called Decoupling of Global Commerce will be a Painful Divorce. It explains the reverse CIFIUS, meaning mandated constraints on US investment into China. Can the West keep cutting off China and expect no response? Can China keep taunting the US and expect no response? The markets won’t like all this.

This is The Invisible War that we occasionally get brief glimpses of. China’s Sky Lanterns illuminated this fact.

*  *  *

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Tyler Durden
Tue, 02/07/2023 – 21:10

via ZeroHedge News https://ift.tt/m71KCdT Tyler Durden

Gun Control Laws Backfiring In California

Gun Control Laws Backfiring In California

Authored by John R. Lott Jr. via RealClear Wire,

After the three public shootings over the last two weekends in California, Democrats are again clamoring for even more gun control laws. To California Gov. Gavin Newsom, the solution is to ban more places where people can carry permitted concealed handguns. Unfortunately, the proposal has nothing to do with stopping these attacks, and more gun-free zones only encourage these attacks. Other heavily Democratic states such as New York, New Jersey, and Maryland are making similar pushes.

Concealed handgun permit holders didn’t commit those or other mass public shootings. Permit holders are also extremely law-abiding, being convicted of firearms-related violations at 1/12th the rate of police officers.

With the country’s strictest gun control laws, California probably shouldn’t hold itself out as a model for the rest of the country to followThe periods after 2000, 2010, or 2020 show a consistent pattern: The per capita rate of mass public shootings in California is always greater than the rate for the rest of the country. The rate is also much higher than for Texas, which gun control groups give an “F” grade for its gun control laws. Since 2010, California’s mass public shooting rate per capita is 43% higher than for Texas and 29% higher than for the rest of the U.S. From 2020 on, California’s rate was 276% higher than Texas’ and 100% higher than the rest of the country.

But while California is moving to create more gun-free zones, the problem is that it has already been virtually impossible to get concealed handgun permits in the parts of California where the attacks occurred. In Los Angeles Country, where two of the attacks occurred, there is only one permit for every 5,660 adults. In San Mateo County, where the other attack occurred, there is one permit per every 24,630 adults. By comparison, there is one permit holder for every nine people in the 43 right-to-carry states.

Unsurprisingly, concealed handgun permit holders don’t stop mass public shootings in California. But they do make a difference in the 43 states where there are a lot of permit holders. Indeed, people legally carrying guns stopped at least 31 mass public shootings since 2020. And when Americans are allowed to legally carry concealed handguns, they stop about half the active shooting attacks in the US.

It is hard to ignore that these mass public shooters purposefully pick targets where they know their victims cannot protect themselves. Yet, the media refuses to discuss that these mass murderers often discuss in their diaries and manifestos how they pick their targets. For example, the Buffalo mass murderer last year wrote in his manifesto explaining why he chose the target that he did: “Areas where CCW are outlawed or prohibited may be good areas of attack” and “Areas with strict gun laws are also great places of attack.”

That is a common theme among mass murderers. These killers may be crazy, but they aren’t stupid. Their goal is to get media coverage, and they know that the more people they kill, the more media attention they will receive. And if they go to a place where their victims are defenseless, they will be able to kill more people.

Even if an officer is in the right place at the right time, a single uniformed police officer has an almost impossible job in stopping mass public shootings. An officer’s uniform is a neon sign saying, “Shoot me first.” Once the murderer kills the officer, the attacker has free rein to go after others. But where concealed carry is allowed, the attacker will have to worry that someone behind him is also armed.

Take school shootings: Twenty states, with thousands of schools, have armed teachers and staff. There has not been one attack at any of these schools during school hours since at least 2000 where anyone has been killed or wounded. All the attacks where people have been killed or wounded occurred in schools where teachers and staff can’t have guns.

Newsom’s approach contrasts sharply with another country that faces constant terrorist attacks. After a Jan. 27 mass public shooting in Israel left seven people dead, Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared: “Firearm licensing will be expedited and expanded in order to enable thousands of additional citizens to carry weapons.”

Unfortunately, California’s strict gun control laws create fertile ground for successful mass public shootings. But the new push in some states for more gun-free zones is guaranteed to give mass murderers and other criminals even more hunting grounds.

Tyler Durden
Tue, 02/07/2023 – 20:40

via ZeroHedge News https://ift.tt/wWFfO98 Tyler Durden