Saturday, February 23, 2019

Kafka’s Nightmare Emerges: China’s “Social Credit Score”

by Charles Hugh Smith, Of Two Minds:

China is creating Kafka’s nightmare world as the perfection of centralized control of its citizenry.

China is rapidly building out a Total Surveillance State on a scale that far surpasses any government surveillance program in the West. The scope of this surveillance is so broad and pervasive that it borders on science fiction:

Life Inside China’s Total Surveillance State (8 min video)

China Aims For Near-Total Surveillance, Including in People’s Homes (“Sharp Eyes” nationwide surveillance network)

“You’re Being Controlled All The Time” – An Inside Look At China’s “Social Credit Score”

Playing for All the Marbles

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by Charles Hugh Smith, Of Two Minds:

Global Plunge Protection Teams must be ordering take-out food; every night is a long one now.

The current stocks/bonds game is for all the marbles, by which I mean the status quo now depends on valuations and interest rates remaining near their current levels for the system to function.

If interest rates soar and/or stocks plummet, the game is over: pension funds collapse, tax revenues drop, debt based on high asset valuations defaults, employment craters and the much-lauded “wealth effect” reverses into a “negative wealth effect” (i.e. everyone looking at their IRA or 401K statement feels poorer every month).

Let’s scan a few relevant charts to understand why this game is for all the marbles. Given the systemic fragility of the global economy, a crash in one asset class or a rise in interest rates trigger defaults, sell-offs, etc. that forcibly revalue other assets.

Glenn Simpson, the Chinese, and a Slip Up

from Tracy Beanz:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-3gqYREfHAc

I Watched Putin’s Entire 4 Hour Q+A With the Russian People – He Even Answered My Question

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by Dmitry Orlov, Russia Insider:

Yesterday I spent four hours watching television. This is not something I normally do because I find the entire television medium tedious, boring and a waste of time. All television programs are, in my case, a bad idea, because I dislike being programmed. In fact, I don’t even own a TV. When I need to watch something, I do so in a window on the screen of my laptop. But this was a special occasion.

What I watched was Putin’s nearly four-hour annual live Q&A marathon. People all over Russia submitted questions—over 2.3 million of them—by calling in, writing in, texting, recording videos, giving interviews to television crews. A very large team then organized the questions into general themes and prepared the most representative and best-expressed ones to be presented. A fair number of questions were asked live, on screen.

Trump and Netanyahu Want Saudi Crown Prince Absolved of Cold-Blooded Murder

by Stephen Lendman, The Sleuth Journal:

Saudi Arabia is the worst of Arab world dictatorships. It’s notorious for committing some of the world’s most horrendous human rights abuses internally and cross-border.

It uses its oil wealth for pure evil, its ideological extremism only exceeded by oppressive Israeli apartheid state terror against Palestinians and America’s wars on humanity.

None of the above matters because the kingdom is a longtime strategic US ally, partnering in its imperial wars, supporting regional terrorists operating as Pentagon foot soldiers.

It opposes sovereign Iran, Israel’s main enemy, its government standing in the way of its aim for unchallenged Middle East hegemony partnered with Washington.

The U.S. and Saudi Arabia Are About to Make More Disastrous and Idiotic Mistakes – Part 2

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by Michael Krieger, Liberty Blitzkrieg:

In Part 1 of this series, I detailed the recent aggressive power plays initiated by 30-something Saudi princeling Mohamed bin Salman (MBS), who is effectively the absolute leader of Saudi Arabia at this time. I also highlighted how 30-something U.S. princeling Jared Kushner, son-in-law of U.S. President Donald Trump, may have been involved in MBS’s scheming during an unannounced visit to Saudi Arabia a little over a week before the purge hammer dropped. Today’s post will focus on what I think this means for the future of the Middle East, as well as U.S. imperial ambitions.

Before I get started, I want to make something clear. I don’t think I’m Nostradamus or anything. These posts are based on the assumption that certain realities remain in place in the months and years ahead. The first is that Mohamed bin Salman’s attempt to consolidate power will prove successful, at least long enough for him to make more extremely stupid mistakes. The second assumption is that Donald Trump will continue to foolishly give this princeling a blank check when it comes to whatever insane aggressions he pursues within the region.

It’s perfectly clear that MBS views recent setbacks in Syria, where Saudi ISIS forces were routed by Russia and Assad, as unacceptable. As such, he’s looking for another place to fight a proxy war with Iran. Never mind the fact that his war in Yemen has been a total failure and humanitarian disaster, MBS doesn’t appear to be someone who lets one failure get in way of future failures. He appears to have chosen Lebanon as the place for his next chaotic adventure.

In that regard, I found a post published at Moon of Alabama extremely informative. Here’s an excerpt from that piece:

Four days ago we asked: Is The “Moderate Al-Qaeda” Set To Target Hizbullah?. The implied answer in that piece was “Yes, the war is coming to Lebanon.”

Today the Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Al-Hariri resigned with a statement issues from Saudi Arabia on the Saudi Arabian TV station Al Arabia (video). This is the opening shot of the war.

The Saudi-Israeli-U.S. axis will lose this war while Iran and Russia will win from it.

Earlier this week the extremely sectarian Saudi Minister for Gulf Affairs Thamer al-Sabhan had threatened Hizbullah in Lebanon and announced surprises:

Firebrand Saudi State Minister for Gulf Affairs Thamer al-Sabhan on Monday called for “toppling Hizbullah” and promised “astonishing” developments in “the coming days.”

Referring to his Sunday tweet about the Lebanese government, the minister said: “I addressed my tweet to the government because the Party of Satan (Hizbullah) is represented in it and it is a terrorist party. The issue is not about toppling the government but rather that Hizbullah should be toppled.”

“The coming developments will definitely be astonishing,” al-Sabhan added.

While the fighting in Syria and Iraq was ongoing, Lebanon was kept at peace. With the wars ending Lebanon is again the place where proxy fights are carried out.

The resignation of Hariri is intended to provoke a constitutional crisis in Lebanon and to prevent new parliament elections. The further Saudi plan is likely to evolve around these elements:

  • The Trump administration will announce new sanctions against Hizbullah and against Lebanon in general.
  • The Saudi government will slip some of its al-Qaeda/ISIS proxy fighters from Syria and Iraq into Lebanon (possibly via Turkey by sea). It will finance local Lebanese terror operations.
  • There will be new assassination attempts, terror attacks and general rioting by Sunni extremist elements against Christians and Shia in Lebanon.
  • The U.S. will try to press the Lebanese army into a war against Hizbullah.
  • Israel will try to provoke and divert Hizbullah’s attention by new shenanigans at the Lebanese and Syrian border. It will NOT start a war.

The plan is unlikely to succeed:

  • The Lebanese people as a whole have no interest in a new civil war.
  • The Lebanese army will not get involved on any specific side but will try to keep everyone calm.
  • Sanctions against Hizbullah will hit all of Lebanon, including Sunni interests.
  • A new Sunni prime minister will be found and installed, replacing the resigned Saudi puppet.
  • Russian and Iranian economic interests will find a new market in Lebanon. Russian companies will engage in Lebanese gas and oil extraction in the Mediterranean and replace U.S. involvement.

The miscalculated Saudi/U.S./Israeli plan against Hizbullah can be understood as a helpless tantrum after their defeat in Syria and Iraq.

In their manic attempts to push back against perceived Iranian (and Russian) influence the Saudis and the U.S. have enabled Iran (and Russia) to gain better and more secure standing that they could ever have hoped to achieve otherwise. Why the Saudis think that their new adventure in Lebanon will have a different result is beyond me.

I completely agree with the above analysis. Everything Saudi princeling MBS has attempted overseas has been an unmitigated disaster, and I expect his Lebanon plan and any that follow will end the same way. The reason this is so important to the world is Donald Trump has completely attached himself to this reckless lunatic. I’ve been warning about this all year, but in case you have any doubts.

When it comes to the incredible stupidity of Trump going all in with this guy, I came across two perfect paragraphs written by Daniel Larison in The American Conservative.

Trump’s embrace of the Saudis has been one of the greatest blunders of his presidency to date, and today he has reaffirmed that he has profoundly bad judgment when it comes to this relationship. There is no reason to have confidence in Salman and his son after the last two and a half years, and there is certainly nothing to support the claim that they know what they are doing. The war on Yemen has become a quagmire for the Saudis and their allies and a catastrophe for the people of Yemen. Trump supports it. The campaign against Qatar has been a useless and ill-advised misadventure that is also hurting members of the Saudi-led bloc. Trump has been an enthusiastic cheerleader. The crown prince is carrying out a massive purge that will drive away foreign investment in the short term and destabilize the kingdom. Once again, Trump is only too happy to approve of anything the Saudi government does, no matter how dangerous or despicable it may be.

Read More @ LibertyBlitzkrieg.com

New Silk Road Shall Bring ASEAN Countries Closer to China

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by Dmitry Bokarev, New Eastern Outlook:

It is a well known fact that the “New Silk Road” project of China (NSR) implies the creation of a wide and dense transport network covering the entire Eurasian continent. However, the further this network shall spread, the more robust shall its central part, located in China and close to it, Asian countries, be. Consequently, one of the most important areas in the development of the NSR for the People’s Republic of China is the 10 neighboring ASEAN member states (Association of Southeast Asian Nations).

The idea of establishing a railway link with ASEAN arose in China earlier than the time the NSR initiative was put forward. This step became feasible in the 2000s, when economic relations between the PRC and ASEAN began expanding rapidly. In 2002, the idea of establishing a free trade area between China and ASEAN countries was articulated. In 2010, the ASEAN-China Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement was signed. Since then, there has been a gradual liberalization of trade relations between the parties, a move that has multiplied the volume of the turnover, which is expected to reach USD 1 trillion by 2020.

Naturally, under these circumstances, the countries developed a desire to improve their transport communication. To connect China with the ASEAN states located on the Eurasian continent, there is need for an extensive Kunming-Singapore railway, which will cover virtually the entire Indochina Peninsula. Kunming City District is the centre of the southwestern China province of Yunnan. Even in ancient times, this area functioned as the crossroads of trade routes connecting Southeast Asia with India and Tibet. It has maintained its status as an important transport hub until now. Kunming hosts one of the largest airports in China –Changshui. In addition, Kunming is the largest railway junction in Yunnan Province from which routes to different areas of China, and also to Vietnam, diverge.

The Kunming-Singapore railway network should connect China and the ASEAN countries located on the Indochina Peninsula. It will pass through Laos, Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia, Malaysia and reach as far as Singapore. These roads should become the most important land transport system in Asia. In the spring of 2011, the media reported the start of construction of the first section running from Kunming to the Mohan Checkpoint on the China-Laos border. Then it was stated that the entire Kunming-Singapore road should be built by 2020.

In September 2013, China Railway Corporation reported that it had already built 150 kilometers of the road to Singapore, and that Chinese builders were preparing to construct an additional 650 km.

In December 2016, the construction of the next section of the Kunming-Singapore Network passing through Laos was launched from the Mohan Checkpoint to the Laotian province of Vientiane. The beginning of the work was marked by a solemn ceremony attended by Laotian Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith and other high-level representatives of the Lao and Chinese governments. The ceremony was intended to highlight the importance of the project to both sides. As for China, it was an important step in developing its trade relations with ASEAN and the possibility of developing its south-western provinces, and for Laos, it was the largest investment project that should contribute significantly to the economic and social development of the whole country.

It is known that the cost of this 400-kilometre road, which will require the construction of numerous tunnels and bridges, will amount to about CNY 40 billion, 70 per cent of which the Chinese side intends to provide. The work shall be carried out based on Chinese technologies, and the railway shall conform to Chinese standards, highlighting its connection with the PRC railway system.

Thailand is also cooperating with China. In December 2016, Chinese Foreign minister Wang Yi met with the head of the Thai Foreign Ministry Don Pramudwinai. Among the various issues of bilateral cooperation, they also discussed the China-Thailand Railway project. Following the meeting, Wang Yi and Don Pramudwinai informed the press that both countries considered the draft to be an important part of the China-Thai cooperation, which is essential both for the NSR project and for the economic development of the Kingdom of Thailand. Wang Yi also added that the PRC is ready to provide Thailand with its latest technology for high-speed railways, and that the project would enable Thailand to become an important transport hub of regional importance and one of the economic centers of ASEAN.

Indonesia is also in the sphere of interests of Chinese railway workers. Despite its island location, the country also needs to develop a railway system to better link its hinterland to the ports through which it communicates with other states. The main partner of Indonesia in the railway sector is Russia, which has been entrusted to participate in the reform of the entire Indonesian railway system. However, China, with its advanced technologies, is also a player. In January 2016, the Chinese company China Railway Group Limited began building a 140 kilometer long high-speed railroad from the Indonesian capital of Jakarta to one of the largest cities in the country, Bandung. The work is scheduled to be completed by 2018. As Indonesia is one of the most developed ASEAN states, cooperation with it is an important step for China in implementing the NSR project.

At the same time, China is developing a railway communication not only with its neighbours, but also within its territory. At the end of July 2017, the passenger train “Ancient Path from the Tang Empire to India” embarked on its maiden cruise from Lhasa, the capital of the Tibet Autonomous Region of the People’s Republic of China, to the second largest city in Tibet, Shigatse. According to Chinese media reports, the train should show the value of the Qinghai-Tibetan railway for the tourism industry and help integrate Tibet into the NSR project. The inclusion of Tibet in the NSR is being pursued not only with the obvious goal of developing this hard-to-reach region, but also to ensure the fuller integration of Tibet into China. This, in its turn, will contribute to the weakening of anti-Chinese sentiments that have lasted for 67 years since the establishment of the PRC government in Tibet.

Read More @ Journal-NEO.org

US Midterms Expose the Russia Hacking Nonsense

by Finian Cunningham, Russia Insider:

After so many warnings about Russian ‘interference’ from the intelligence agencies, politicians and the media there was none in evidence

Don’t hold your breath for it, but there should be an abject apology coming from US politicians, pundits, media and intelligence agencies.

For months leading up to the midterm elections held last week, we were told that the Kremlin was deviously targeting the ballot, in a replay of the way Russian hackers allegedly interfered in the 2016 presidential race to get Donald Trump into the White House.

Catalonia’s Independence Strife Turns into Financial Showdown

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by Don Quijones, Wolf Street:
Will Spain’s central government blink (again)?

Madrid’s standoff with Spain’s north eastern province of Catalonia, which plans to hold a forbidden referendum on national independence on October 1, grows more and more complex by the day. Just in the last week alone the following developments have taken place:

Spain’s Civil Guard has raided Catalonia’s parliament and government HQ as part of its investigation into political corruption in the region. As new research has shown, this investigation forms part of a broader police operation that has served as a means for Spain’s governing People’s Party to spy on political rivals.

Israel’s Prime Minister Netanyahu Is Leading US President Trump to War with Iran

by Prof. James Petras, Global Research:

Can Generals James Mattis (US Secretary of Defense) and John Hyten (Head of US Strategic Command) Prevent a Disaster?

Introduction

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the Presidents of the 52 Major Jewish American Organizations are leading President Trump, like a puppy on a leash, into a major war with Iran. The hysterical ’52 Presidents’ and ‘Bibi’ Netanyahu are busy manufacturing Holocaust-level predictions that a non-nuclear Iran is preparing to ‘vaporize’ Israel, ,  The buffoonish US President Trump has swallowed this fantasy wholesale and is pushing our nation toward war for the sake of Israel and its US-based supporters and agents. We will cite ten recent examples of Israeli-authored policies, implemented by Trump in his march to war (there are scores of others).

1. After many years, Israel and ‘the 52 President’ finally made the US withdraw from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) because of its detailed documentation of Israeli crimes against Palestinian people. Trump complied with their demands.

2. Tel Aviv demanded a Zionist fanatic and backer of the illegal Jewish settler occupation of Palestinian lands, the bankruptcy lawyer David Friedman, be appointed US Ambassador to Israel. Trump complied, despite the ambassador’s overt conflict of interest.

3. Israel launched waves of savage bombings against Syrian government troops and facilities engaged in a war against ISIS-mercenary terrorists. Israel, which had backed the terrorists in its ambition to break-up of the secular Syrian state, demanded US support. Trump complied, and sent more US arms to the anti-government terrorists.

4. Israel denounced the 2015 Iran Nuclear Deal Framework and Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, signed by 6 major states and UN Security Council Members, (US, France, UK, Germany, China and Russia). A furious Netanyahu demanded that President Trump follow Tel Aviv and abrogate the multiparty agreement signed by his predecessor, Barack Obama. Trump complied and the US is at risk of openly violating its international agreement.

Trump parrots Netanyahu’s falsehoods to the letter: He raves that Iran, while technically in compliance, has violated ‘the spirit of the agreement’ without citing a single instance of actual violation. The 5 other signers of the ‘Framework’, the US military and the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency have repeatedly certified Iran’s strict compliance with the accord. Trump rejects the evidence of countless experts among US allies and ‘his own generals’ while embracing the hysterical lies from Israel and the ‘52’. Who would have thought the ‘hard-nosed’ businessman Trump would be so ‘spiritual’ when it came to honoring and breaking treaties and agreements!

5. Israel and the ‘52’ have demanded that Washington imprison and fine US citizens who have exercised their constitutional First Amendment Right of free speech by supporting the international boycott, divest and sanctions (BDS) campaign, which is designed to end the illegal Israeli occupation of Palestinian land and crimes against Palestinians. Trump complied. Americans may soon face over a decade in prison and complete economic ruin for supporting a peaceful economic boycott of Israeli settler products. This will represent an unprecedented violation of the US Constitution. At present, US public employees, like teachers in certain US states, are facing job loss for refusing to sign a ‘loyalty oath’ not to boycott products from Israel’s illegal settlements. Desperate American victims of the floods and natural disasters in Texas are being denied access to public US taxpayer relief funds unless they sign similar loyalty oaths in support of Israel.

6. Israel demanded that the US appoint Zionist fanatic real estate attorney, Jason Greenblatt and real estate speculator, Jared Kushner as Middle East peace negotiators.  Trump appointed South Carolina businesswoman Nikki Haley as US Ambassador to the United Nations. Israel pushed for Ms. Haley, the first US governor to criminalize support for the peaceful BDS movement.

7. Trump went against the advice of ‘his Generals’ in his own cabinet regarding Iran’s compliance with the nuclear agreement, and chose to comply with Netanyahu’s demands.

8. Trump supports the long-standing Israeli project to maneuver a Kurdish takeover of Northern Iraq, grabbing the oil-rich Kirkuk province and permanently divide the once secular, nationalist Iraqi nation. Trump has sent arms and military advisers to the Kurds in war-torn Syria as they attempt to grab territory for a separate ‘Kurdistan’. This is part of an Israeli plan to subdivide the Middle East into impotent tribal ‘statelets’.

9. Trump rejected the Turkish government’s demand to extradite CIA-Israeli-backed Fethullah Gulen, self-exiled in the US since 1999, for his leadership role in the failed 2016 military coup d’etat.

10. Like all his predecessors, Trump is completely submissive to Israeli-directed ‘lobbies’ (like AIPAC), which operate on behalf of a foreign power, in violation of the 1938 Foreign Agents Registration Act. Trump chose his Orthodox Zionist son-in-law, Jared Kushner, a callow real estate investor and prominent supporter for war against Iran, as his chief foreign policy adviser.

President Trump’s irresponsible pandering to Israel and its American-Jewish agents has caused deep unease among the Generals in his cabinet, as well as among active duty and retired US military officers, who are skeptical about Tel Aviv’s push for open-ended US wars in the Middle East.

Ten Reasons Why Military Officers support America’s Nuclear Accord with Iran

The Netanyahu-Israel First power configuration in Washington succeeded in convincing Trump to tear-up the nuclear accord with Iran. This went against the advice and wishes of the top US generals in the White House and active duty officers in the field who support the agreement and recognize Iran’s cooperation.

The Generals have ten solid reasons for rejecting the Netanyahu-Trump push to shred the accord:

1. The agreement is working. By all reliable, independent and official observers, including the International Atomic Energy Agency, the US intelligence community and the US Secretary of State – Iran is complying with its side of the agreement.

2. If Trump violates the agreement, co-signed by the 6 members of the UN Security Council, in order to truckle to the whims of Israel and its gang of ‘52’, the US government will lose all credibility among its allies. The US military will be equally tainted in its current and future dealings with NATO and other military ‘partners’.

3. Violation of the agreement will force the Iranians to restart their nuclear, as well as advanced defensive, weapons programs, increasing the risk of an Israeli-Trump instigated military confrontation.  Any US war with Iran will be prolonged, costing the lives of tens of thousands of US troops, its land bases in the Gulf States, and warships in the Persian Gulf. Full-scale war with Iran, a large and well-armed country, would be a disaster for the entire region.

Read More @ GlobalResearch.ca

ISIS “Coincidentally” Appears Along China’s One Belt, One Road

by Tony Cartalucci, New Eastern Outlook:
Two Chinese teachers based in Pakistan’s southwest province of Baluchistan were reportedly abducted and murdered by militants from the self-proclaimed “Islamic State” (ISIS).

CNN, in an article titled, “‘Grave concern’ over Chinese teachers reportedly killed by ISIS in Pakistan,” would attempt to portray the act of terrorism as a random strike aimed at China’s expanding economic activity abroad.

In reality, the terror attack was very precise in terms of location and purpose, and fits into a larger pattern of violence and political instability that has plagued Pakistan’s Baluchistan province and China’s ambitions there for years.

US Using Proxies to Disrupt China-Pakistan Economic Corridor

Baluchistan, and more specifically, the port city of Gwadar, serve as the central nexus of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). It is a complex and expanding system of rail, roads, ports, and other infrastructure projects built jointly with the Pakistani government to facilitate regional economic growth – and an integral component of the much larger One Belt, One Road initiative.

4 Signposts of American Collapse Which Also Occurred in the USSR

from Russia Insider:

In thinking through the (for now) gradually unfolding collapse of the American empire, the collapse of the USSR, which occurred close through three decades ago, continues to perform as a goldmine of useful examples and analogies. Certain events that occurred during the Soviet collapse can serve as useful signposts in the American one, allowing us to formulate better guesses about the timing of events that can suddenly turn a gradual collapse into a precipitous one.

GOLD FALLS $3.20 TO $1323.20 BUT SILVER ADVANCES BY 6 CENTS UP TO $16.33

by Harvey Organ, Harvey Organ Blog:

SILVER COMEX OPEN INTEREST RISES TO ABOVE 227,000 CONTRACTS OR ONLY 7000 CONTRACTS FROM ITS ALL TIME HIGH/CME REPORTS A HUGE EFP ISSUANCE FOR SILVER OF JUST UNDER 3,000 CONTRACTS; GOLD EFP ISSUANCE ONLY A TOUCH NORTH OF 2400 CONTRACTS/WILBUR ROSS CONFIRMS THAT THE USA WILL INITIATE TARIFFS AGAINST CHINA AND NO DOUBT THAT CHINA WILL RECIPROCATE/LIBOR RISES FOR THE 37TH CONSECUTIVE DAY AT 2.31/LIBOR OIS WIDENS INDICATING RISK TO THE FINANCIAL SYSTEM/USA REPORTS ZERO SPENDING GROWTH AND THAT WILL BE A DAMPER TO 1 ST QUARTER GDP/WAGE GROWTH ALSO VERY WEAK/INSPECTOR GENERAL OF THE USA TO INITIATE PROBE ON THE FISA ABUSES/MORE SWAMP STORIES FOR YOU TONIGHT

In Greece, the Globalists Take It All – Life, Liberty, God, and the Future

by Phil Butler, New Eastern Outlook:

The big push is on to convert Greece into a bastion of liberal democracy and godlessness. At least this is what the latest news from Athens presages. Prime Minister Alexis Tspiras may have gone one step too far in his quest to undermine the Orthodox church. Already under fire for failing at nearly every one of his campaign promises, Tsipras could only be stepping this far with assurances from Washington and NATO. Read on, if you care about Greece at all.

Yesterday, when I went to pick up my little boy from school in downtown Heraklion, people were lining the streets for some parade or event unbeknownst to me at the time. Then I heard the unmistakeable deafening roar of a jet fighter slashing the skies along the waterfront. At the moment I was unsure why an F-16 would be performing aerobatics back and forth along Crete’s northern shore, but the aircraft set off car alarms and scared the birds as it rolled and flew upside down 100 ft off the deck. Kids and dogs were spellbound, and I at first though the Turkish Air Force might be attacking. Now it’s clear though; the air show was a subliminal message to Cretans of the power that rules the skies over often defiant Crete.