Thursday, February 27, 2020

Poppy Output Hits Record High as US Troop Surge in Afghanistan Completed

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by Rachel Blevins, Activist Post:

The opioid crisis has killed thousands in the United States, and as more than 100 Americans die every day, opium poppy cultivation has hit a record high in Afghanistan in 2017. Coincidentally, President Donald Trump’s troop surge in Afghanistan has essentially been completed, boosting the number of service members on the ground from 11,000 to 14,000, the Pentagon said this week.

We’ve just completed a force flow into Afghanistan,” Marine Lt. Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, the Pentagon’s Joint Staff Director, said at a news conference. “The new number for Afghanistan is now approximately 14,000—might be a little above that, might be a little below that, as we flex according to the mission.”

Coinciding with the completion of the troop surge, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime and Afghanistan’s Ministry of Counter Narcotics released a report claiming that the “area under opium poppy cultivation increased by 63{5f621241b214ad2ec6cd4f506191303eb2f57539ef282de243c880c2b328a528} since 2016, reaching a new record high.”

The total area under opium poppy cultivation in Afghanistan was estimated at 328,000 hectares in 2017, a 63{5f621241b214ad2ec6cd4f506191303eb2f57539ef282de243c880c2b328a528} increase or 127,000 hectares more compared to the previous year. This level of opium poppy cultivation is a new record high and exceeds the formerly highest value recorded in 2014 (224,000 hectares) by 104,000 hectares or 46{5f621241b214ad2ec6cd4f506191303eb2f57539ef282de243c880c2b328a528}. Strong increases were observed in almost all major poppy cultivating provinces.

The report also noted that opium poppy cultivation both intensified and expanded to new regions in 2017, decreasing the number of poppy-free provinces in Afghanistan from 13 to 10, and increasing the number of provinces affected by opium poppy cultivation from 21 to 24.

There is no single reason for the massive 2017 increase in opium poppy cultivation in Afghanistan … Rule of law-related challenges, such as political instability, lack of government control and security, as well as corruption, have been found to be main drivers of illicit cultivation. also impact farmers’ decisions, for example scarce employment opportunities, lack of quality education and limited access to markets and financial services continue to contribute to the vulnerability of farmers towards opium poppy cultivation.

As a result of the increase in 2017, the report acknowledges, “The significant levels of opium poppy cultivation and illicit trafficking of opiates will probably further fuel instability, insurgency and increase funding to terrorist groups in Afghanistan. More high quality, low cost heroin will reach consumer markets across the world, with increased consumption and related harms as a likely consequence.”

As TFTP has previously reported, a former British Territorial Army mechanic, Anthony C Heaford released a report two years ago, and a series of photos, which he says proves that British and American troops are harvesting opium in Afghanistan.

It is also no secret that Afghanistan opium production has increased by 3,500 percent, from 185 tonsin 2001 to 6,400 in 2015, since the US-led invasion.

Not only is the increase in opium poppy cultivation hurting civilians in Afghanistan and fueling the same terrorist groups the United States claims to be working to defeat, it has made Afghanistan responsible for producing 90 percent of the world’s opium supply.

Read More @ ActivistPost.com

There Is No Way to Stop the Planet-Wide Spread of the “Black Death”

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by Dave Hodges, The Common Sense Show:

The Black Death is thought to have originated in the dry plains of Central Asia, where it then travelled along the silk Road, eventually reaching Crimea by 1343. From that point, it was most likely carried by Oriental rat fleas   living on the black rats that were regular passengers on various merchant ships. Then this “Black Death” spread throughout the Mediterranean and Europe.

The Black Death is estimated to have killed 30–60{5f621241b214ad2ec6cd4f506191303eb2f57539ef282de243c880c2b328a528} of Europe’s total population. All together, the plague may have reduced the population of the world from an estimated 450 million down to 350–375 million in the 14th century. The world population, as a whole. did not recover to pre-plague population levels until the 17th century. This was largely due to the fact that the plague recurred as outbreaks in Europe until the 19th century. Now, humanity is looking at the potential for a similar scourge. This is not a statement to made lightly because the devastation lasted over 300 years. The most amazing thingg about the spread of the pathogen, was that the enormous number of victims, as well as the vast geography that the disease covered, was accomplished without the aid of carriers spreading the disease without modern air travel.

A Pathogen Like No Other

The disease cannot be eradicated, thus leaving a feeling of helplessness among humans seeking to eliminate the plague. Writing for The Conversation, Professor Allen Cheng, infectious disease expert at Monash University, described the airborne plague as “unusual” due to the number of cases reported in major cities. Cheng stated “It’s not possible to eradicate plague, as it is widespread in wildlife rodents outside the sphere of human influence.”

The plague has spread to at least 10 nations, probably more. As healthcare officials scramble to treat patients, experts believe the highly lethal bacteria may evolve to become resistant to antibiotics leading to “eternal” plague outbreaks. Enter Paul Martin, as he presents a much more dire picture based partially upon the fact that humans have so overused antibiotics that the use of antibiotics will accelerate the severity of the pathogen as well as the spread.

Read More @ TheCommonSenseShow.com

Spain’s Pension System Hits Crisis Point (and Everyone Ignores it)

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by Don Quijones, Wolf Street:

But how did things get this bad?

By most measures, sun-blessed Spain is an idyllic place to grow old in. Life expectancy is among the highest in the world, and the national pension fund’s payout ratio (pension as percent of final salary) is the second highest in Europe after Greece. But if current trends are any indication, that may soon be about to change.

The country’s Social Security Reserve Fund, which was meant to serve as a nationwide nest egg to guarantee future pension payouts — given Spain’s burgeoning ranks of pensioners — has been bled virtually dry by the government. This started ever so quietly in 2012 when the government began withdrawing cash from the fund. Some of it was used to fill part of the government’s own fiscal gaps while billions more were tapped to cover the Social Security system’s growing deficits. As a result the pension pot has shrunk from over €66 billion in 2011 to just €15 billion in 2016.

To avoid wiping out the fund altogether this year, the Spanish government extended a €10.1 billion interest-free loan to Spain’s social security system, which enabled it to pay out the two extra pension payments due in June and December. That way, only €7-7.5 billion will be tapped from Spain’s public pension nest egg. Emptying the pot altogether this year would have been politically unpalatable, says El País. Instead, it will be emptied next year as the social security system racks up yet another massive annual shortfall.

Last year it registered its biggest deficit in its history (€18.1 billion), which was covered by the pension pot. In 2017, the deficit is forecast to be €16.6 billion, according to the government’s own projections. That’s roughly 1.5{5f621241b214ad2ec6cd4f506191303eb2f57539ef282de243c880c2b328a528} of Spanish GDP. Another €18-20 billion will be needed next year. Successive deficits are expected until at least 2020, when there will still be an annual deficit of around 0.5{5f621241b214ad2ec6cd4f506191303eb2f57539ef282de243c880c2b328a528} of GDP — and that’s according to the government’s own rosy figures!

Without large annual cash transfusions paid for with freshly issued government debt, the system would have collapsed this year. But the fix is merely temporary and it’s likely to store up a whole new slew of problems for a country that’s already seen its public debt-to-GDP ratio triple over the last ten years. If, as expected, the interest on that debt continues its slow upward trajectory as the European Central Bank gradually pares back its purchases of European sovereign debt, the strain could become too much.

But how did things get this bad?

There are two main causes for Spain’s pensions nightmare: the rapid ageing of Spanish society, and the mass destruction of decent or semi-decent paying jobs in the wake of the financial crisis. Both problems are evident across most advanced Western economies, but they are particularly pronounced in Spain.

When Deaths Outperform Births. For the last two years Spain has registered more deaths than births. The last time that happened for a sustained period of time was during the bloody Civil War years (1936-39) when more than half a million people perished.

The current trend has only just begun. In 2014 Spain’s National Statistics Institute (INE) predicted that an era of more deaths than births would begin in 2015 and the gap would continue to widen until 2062. It said the country’s population, now numbering more than 46 million, would probably fall by more than a million over the next 15 years and by 5.6 million over the next 50 years. It’s a trend that is already having very serious implications for the sustainability of Spain’s public pensions system.

Bullshit Jobs, Bullshit Pensions. The popping of Spain’s mind boggling property bubble and the subsequent collapse of most of its savings banks triggered a wave of job destruction in Spain that was virtually unparalleled in other parts of Europe.

In return for a €60 billion financial sector bailout, the Troika demanded harsh wage cuts and sweeping labor reforms. The Rajoy administration was more than happy to oblige, with the result that most of the new jobs that have been created in recent years are both poorly paid and highly precarious, which may be good news for cost-cutting employers (at least in the short term), but terrible news for Spain’s pension scheme.

Read More @ WolfStreet.com

China Is Testing Weapons That Can Reach The US In 14 Minutes

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from ZeroHedge:

A secretive hypersonic wind tunnel, nicknamed ‘Hyper Dragon’, is helping the experts ‘reveal many facts that Americans have not found out’, one Chinese researcher said in a propaganda documentary…

South China Morning Post’s Stephen Chen reports that China is building the world’s fastest wind tunnel to simulate hypersonic flight at speeds of up to 12 kilometres per second.

A hypersonic vehicle flying at this speed from China could reach the west coast of the United States in less than 14 minutes.

Zhao Wei, a senior scientist working on the project, said researchers aimed to have the facility up and running by around 2020 to meet the pressing demand of China’s hypersonic weapon development programme.

“It will boost the engineering application of hypersonic technology, mostly in military sectors, by duplicating the environment of extreme hypersonic flights, so problems can be discovered and solved on the ground,” said Zhao, a deputy director of the State Key Laboratory of High Temperature Gas Dynamics at the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing.

The ground tests will significantly reduce the risk of failure when test flights of hypersonic aircraft start.

The world’s most powerful wind tunnel at present is America’s LENX-X facility in Buffalo, New York state, which operates at speeds of up to 10 kilometres per second – 30 times the speed of sound.

Hypersonic aircraft are defined as vehicles that travel at speeds of Mach 5, five times the speed of sound, or above.

The US military tested HTV-2, a Mach 20 unmanned aircraft in 2011 but the hypersonic flight lasted only a few minutes before the vehicle crashed into the Pacific Ocean.

In March, China conducted seven successful test flights of its hypersonic glider WU-14, also known as the DF-ZF, at speeds of between Mach 5 and Mach 10.

Other countries including Russia, India and Australia have also tested some early prototypes of the aircraft, which could be used to deliver missiles including nuclear weapons.

“China and the US have started a hypersonic race,” said Wu Dafang, professor at the school of aeronautic science and engineering at Beihang University in Beijing who received a national technology award for the invention of a new heat shield used on hypersonic vehicles in 2013.

Read More @ ZeroHedge.com

A Perfect Storm for Silver – Steve St Angelo

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from Silver Fortune:

An interview with Steve St. Angelo of the SRS Rocco Report. This includes discussion about precious metals, the energy sector, and a potentially groundbreaking project that Steve is working on.

Check out his website: https://srsroccoreport.com/

Commodity Ad Network: https://commodityadnetwork.com/

Xi Jinping Pledges To “Strengthen Relationship” Between Saudi Arabia And China

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from ZeroHedge:

In what can only be described as a masterful play to entice Saudi Arabia to list shares of Aramco in Hong Kong (assuming the kingdom follows through with the listing, which is reportedly in jeopardy) Chinese state media reported Friday that Chinese President Xi Jinping pledged to strengthen the relationship between China and Saudi Arabia as the latter tries to reform its economy.

According to the South China Morning Post, Xi vowed to strengthen cooperation between the two states at a time when the Middle Eastern kingdom is facing a political shake-up at home, and heightened tensions with Lebanon and Iran. Xi’s vow of friendship came with the crucial qualifier that the relationship between the two countries wouldn’t be affected by shifting international circumstances.

No matter how the international and regional situation changed, China’s determination to deepen strategic cooperation with Saudi Arabia would not change, President Xi Jinping told Saudi King Salman in a telephone conversation, according to a report by China’s state broadcaster CCTV.

“China supports Saudi in its efforts to safeguard its sovereignty and achieve greater development,” Xi was quoted as saying.

Of course, that’s an implicit threat that China might come to KSA’s aide if the simmering hostilities between the kingdom and Iran explode out into a military conflict between the two regional rivals. However, the SCMP also stresses that China has a strong relationship with Iran as well.

Hong Kong is reportedly still in consideration to host the Aramco IPO.

And while China will presumably play the dual role of investor and adviser as the Kingdom seeks to diversify its economy into other industries besides energy, including technology and manufacturing, KSA has in returned promised to assist Xi’s “one belt, one road” economic reform program.

King Salman told Xi that Saudi Arabia was willing to become China’s “important partner” in the Gulf. The kingdom also intended to play a role in China’s “Belt and Road Initiative” and cooperate with Beijing in the energy and financial sectors, he said

Though Chinese media reports didn’t delve into too much detail about the recent purge orchestrated by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the call between the two leaders obviously follows an event two weeks for KSA, where its leaders reportedly pressured Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri to resign. Hariri had to go, allegedly, because he was deemed too soft on Hezbollah, the shiite militant group that’s affiliated with Iran and is also an important powerbroker in Lebanon.

Two weeks ago, dozens of Saudi princes and officials were detained on corruption charges, a move that is believed to have helped Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to consolidate his power. And yesterday the Financial Times exposed the “corruption crackdown” for what is truly is: A naked cash grab meant to refill KSA’s foreign currency reserves while allowing it the financial flexibility to help ensure the Aramco IPO is executed at the best possible price.

Lebanese President Michel Aoun this week accused Saudi authorities of “detaining” Hariri, but Riyadh said he was free to leave the kingdom “when he pleases”. Hariri was reportedly supposed to arrive in France on Friday.

Read More @ ZeroHedge.com

India’s Continued War on Gold Causes a Monstrous Increase in Silver Imports

by Nathan McDonald, Sprott Money:

For anyone that has followed my writing for some period of time, you will remember the series that I wrote, which broke down India’s war on gold and how it was going to fail in its goal – and fail spectacularly it did.

This series went on and through time, my initial estimations were proven correct – the officially reported number of gold imports did indeed crash, but this was simply because the black market exploded. Smuggling of gold into India increased dramatically and all kinds of innovative ways of getting the metal into the country at reduced costs were created. The free market exerted its will and as always, won the day.

Undoubtedly, there was some reduction in imports, but not as much as the government of India was hoping for. Yet, there was one other predication that was made during this time period, of which has also been proven correct through time. The demand for silver was going to explode.

India in the past has had a history of being the largest importer of the yellow metal, which it has only recently been dethroned from. Their appetite for gold is insatiable and therefore it was only logical to assume that a large percentage of the funds intended to flow into gold, were going to go to the next best thing: silver.

This has and continues to prove to be the case. As reported, imports of silver in September exploded higher, increasing by a whopping 152{5f621241b214ad2ec6cd4f506191303eb2f57539ef282de243c880c2b328a528} year over year! This is coming on the back of an already significant surge seen in the month of August.

566.778 tons of silver were imported throughout the month of September, up from 225 tons in September 2016. This is a massive and huge increase, indicating that India’s appetite for precious metals not only remains strong, but is increasing, despite the government’s best efforts to clamp down on it. In fact, this was the highest level seen since 2009.

Meanwhile, in the West, precious metals continue to be scorned and ridiculed, cast aside and forgotten as the latest and greatest thing continues to siphon funds out of this market. Cryptocurrencies, led by Bitcoin, continue to drain funds that would otherwise have gone into the precious metals space.

Read More @ SprottMoney.com

GAME OVER HILLARY! FBI Informant Has Video Of Russian Agents With Briefcases Of Bribe Money In Clinton-Uranium Scandal

from Zero Hedge:

An undercover FBI informant in the Russian nuclear industry who was made to sign an “illegal NDA” by former AG Loretta Lynch, claims to have video evidence showing Russian agents with briefcases full of bribe money related to the controversial Uranium One deal – according to The Hill investigative journalist John Solomon and Circa‘s Sara Carter.

The informant, whose identity was revealed by Reuters as William D. Campbell, will testify before congress next week after the NDA which carried the threat of prison time was lifted. Campbell, originally misidentifed by Reuters as a lobbyist is actually a nuclear industry consultant who is currently battling cancer. 

As previously reported, Campbell was deeply embedded in the Russian nuclear industry where he gathered extensive evidence of a racketeering scheme involving bribes and kickbacks.

The Russians were compromising American contractors in the nuclear industry with kickbacks and extortion threats, all of which raised legitimate national security concerns. And none of that evidence got aired before the Obama administration made those decisions,” a person who worked on the case told The Hill, speaking on condition of anonymity for fear of retribution by U.S. or Russian officials. –The Hill

Campbell’s attorney, former Regan Justice Department official Victoria Toensing, previously told Fox Business host Lou Dobbs “He can tell what all the Russians were talking about during the time that all these bribery payments were made.”

Sara Carter and John Solomon sat down with Fox News host Sean Hannity to discuss:

Sarah Carter: He’s very sick and he’s been battling cancer and going chemo. He is in a battle for not only his life, but in a battle against what he perceives as people within the US government that don’t want this story to come out.  But there’s so much information that he is willing to share with the public to set the record straight, and believe me we’re gonna get it out there. He is going to have his say. His voice will be heard.

Hannity: He knew about the bribery, kickbacks, extortion of Putin’s agents in the US?  

Sara Carter: Yes, and he will be able to lay that all out for everyone, and he will do that for Congress. John and I have been working on this for months and months and months. He came to the [Obama] DOJ with this information. 

John Solomon: He is going to be an extraordinary fact witness because he gathered so much information. There are videotapes where the Russians are opening up briefcases full of cash. These are the people we then gave uranium to, that we then gave nuclear fuel contracts to. 

Hannity: This is happening before they sign off on Uranium One? They knew about bribery extortion kickbacks money laundering before? They knew this was Putin and they did it anyway!

John Solomon: Yes. The Russians really thought they had played America on this one. 

 

Read More @ ZeroHedge.com

Who Gets to Push the Nuclear Button?

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by Paul Craig Roberts, Paul Craig Roberts:

William Binney is the former National Security Agency (NSA) official who created NSA’s mass surveillance program for digital information. He says that if the Russian government had conspired with Trump, hacked the Democratic National Committee’s computer, or in any way influenced the outcome of the last US presidential election, the National Security Agency would have the digital evidence. The fact that we have been listening to the unsubstantiated charges that comprise “Russiagate” for more than one year without being presented with a scrap of evidence is complete proof that Russiagate is entirely fake news.

The fake news originated with CIA director John Brennan and FBI director Comey conspiring with the DNC in an effort to discredit and unseat President Trump and at a minimum prevent him from damaging the vast power and profit of the military/security complex by normalizing relations with Russia.

Consider what this means. The directors of the CIA and FBI made up a totally false story about a newly elected President and fed the lies to the presstitutes and Congress. The presstitutes never asked for a drop of evidence and enlarged the Brennan/Comey lie with a claim that all 17 US intelligence agencies had concluded that Russia had interfered. In actual fact, a handful of carefully selected people in three of the agencies had prepared, perhaps under duress, a conditional report that had no evidence behind it.

That it was fake news created to control President Trump was completely obvious, but corrupt security officials, corrupt senators and representatives, a corrupt DNC, and corrupt media used constant repetition to turn a lie into truth.

Here is Binney: http://www.washingtonsblog.com/2016/12/creator-nsas-global-surveillance-system-calls-b-s-russian-hacking-report.html
See also: https://www.strategic-culture.org/news/2017/11/17/capitalism-collapsing-from-inequality-blame-russia.html

Having shoved Trump into the militarist camp, his enemies have turned on Trump as an unstable, volatile person who might push the button. Senator Bob Corker (R, TN) and Senator Chris Murphy (D,CT) are using the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to portray President Trump as a quixotic person who shouldn’t have his finger on the nuclear button. We have gone full circle, from Trump who wants to defuse nuclear tensions to Trump who might push the button.

If Senators Corker and Murphy were really concerned and not just orchestrating a new way to attack Trump, they would bring out the fact that Russiagate is a hoax that has made nuclear war more likely. As I have pointed out, Washington has convinced Moscow that Washington is planning a surprise nuclear attack on Russia and also collecting Russian DNA for a tailored Russian-specific bio-weapon. I cannot think of anything more likely to trigger nuclear war than the escalated tensions that Russiagate is preventing Trump from reducing. See: https://www.paulcraigroberts.org/2017/11/13/will-america-survive-washington-paul-craig-roberts/

For the record, contrary to the erroneous assertions of “nuclear experts,” the president cannot simply order a nuclear attack. The president either has to accept a Joint Chiefs war plan and order a launch when the military is ready or he has to accept the advice of his national security adviser to launch in retaliation for incoming enemy ICBMs. If a president simply ordered a nuclear strike, he would be ignored.

If it is not the president who must make the nuclear decision, who is it to be? The military? We should be thankful that that was not the case when the Joint Chiefs pressured President John F. Kennedy to approve a nuclear attack on the Soviet Union.

The question who should have launch authority is an easy one to answer. No one.

If nuclear missiles are incoming, launching does not protect you. You are already going to be destroyed. Why destroy the other side of the world in an act of revenge. It is pointless.

There is no such thing as a preemptive strike that prevents retaliation.

Nuclear war is an act of insanity. Nothing can justify it.

The purpose of diplomacy is to prevent war. However, ever since the Clinton regime attacked Serbia, US diplomacy has been used to cause wars. During the 16-years of George W. Bush and Obama the US destroyed in whole or part seven countries, killing and maiming millions of peoples and producing millions of refugees. Not a single one of these wars was justified. Everyone of these wars was based in lies. The last US government that showed any respect at all for truth was the George H. W. Bush administration.

Before launching each of these acts of unprovoked aggression, Washington demonized the leader of the country. To get rid of one person, Washington did not flinch at murdering large numbers of people and destroying the infrastructure of the country. This tells you that Washington has no morality. None. Zilch. Therefore, Washington is capable of launching a preemptive nuclear strike. Back when nuclear weapons were puny by today’s standards, Washington nuked two Japanese cities while Japan was trying to surrender. That was in 1945, a lifetime ago. Whatever bits of morality that still existed then are long gone.

Read More @ PaulCraigRoberts.org

Madagascar Outbreak: It Is ‘Inevitable’ The Plague Becomes Resistant To Drugs

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by Mac Slavo, SHTFPlan:

The newest warning about the outbreak of the airborne pneumonic plague, or black death, in Madagascar has been released. Officials warn that it’s inevitable that this bacterial infection that’s infected over 2000 people will become resistant to antibiotics.

The only way to treat a person who has contracted the plague is with antibiotics. But experts now warn that because they are being used so much to treat the infection, antibiotics resistance is inevitable and making this disease much more terrifying. Once the bacteria is resistant, the Madagascar healthcare system will be overwhelmed, and the disease will have control of the nation.

According to the Daily Mail, Madagascar’s healthcare system will be unable to cope if the deadly plague outbreak continues to escalate, a scientist has warned. Scores of doctors and nurses have been struck down with the disease, which is predicted to gather momentum in the coming weeks and there are growing fears hospitals will be unable to meet the illness’ burden. Official figures reveal at least 2,034 people have been infected with the “medieval disease” so far in what has been described as the “worst outbreak in 50 years.” The black death outbreak has so far claimed at least 165 lives.

Although the plague is responding well to antibiotics right now, drug resistance is also an increasing concern amongst experts who predict it will vastly accelerate the disease’s death toll. Professor John Joe McFadden from the University of Surrey told MailOnline: “Fortunately in [the] plague, it has not developed much antibiotic resistance. If that kicks in, the plague will be far, far scarier. If you throw more and more antibiotics at patients, antibiotic resistance is more or less inevitable.”

Read More @ SHTFPlan.com