Friday, November 14, 2014

Declassified OSS Film of WWII Decoy Paratrooper 1943

Satellite images shed light, or lack thereof, on the impact of the Syrian conflict - Science Daily

In their recent study published in International Journal of Remote Sensing, Xi Li and Deren Li analysed the effect of the Syrian Crisis on levels of night-time light as a means of evaluating and monitoring the conflict. By comparing the levels of light in March 2011 and February 2014, (see Fig 1. attached) they found that in all of the provinces, the levels of night-time light had declined sharply following the breakout of the conflict. Indeed, in most provinces, the level of night-time light decreased by more than 60%.

Notably, the authors also found that the number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) from each province showed a linear correlation with the level of night-light loss. This relationship between the number of displaced persons and the drop in night-time light levels may allow for the quantitative estimation of the number of IDPs from other areas of conflict, such as Iraq, where the activities of Islamic State are causing significant civil unrest.

-bth:  last week it was reported that in western Syria the use of firewood had gone up 12 fold. Also interesting that there are no lights that seem to increases in Turkey due to the refugee crisis.

Wendy's commercial with Russian theme

The Horseshoe Nail

Poet: George Herbert

For the want of a nail
The shoe is lost

For the want of a shoe
The horse is lost

For the want of a horse
The rider is lost

For the want of a rider
The battle is lost

For the want of a battle
The kingdom is lost

And all for the loss
Of a horse shoe nail

Andrew Bacevich: Go all in on the Middle East, or go home

...Yet from the outset, Americans have refused to acknowledge what employing military means to do big things entails. On this point, the lessons of history are quite clear. Business as usual won’t do. Put simply, doing big things militarily necessitates reconfiguring national priorities, with peacetime pursuits taking a back seat to wartime imperatives.

Vaguely inclined to “support the troops” as long as they themselves remain personally unaffected and uninvolved, Americans willfully ignore this essential truth: If you will the end, you must will the means. Meanwhile, in Washington, where dereliction of duty is a way of life, no one in a position of influence has mustered the gumption to state the obvious: For the United States to achieve “victory” in the greater Middle East will require exertions that exceed those made thus far by orders of magnitude.

Is victory, however defined, worth a vastly greater expenditure of lives and treasure? If the answer is yes, then it’s time to let out the stops. If the answer is no, then continuing on our present course is foolish, immoral and constitutes a betrayal of those sent to fight a war that we have no hope of actually winning. If we’re not willing to go all in, then we should go home.

Andrew Bacevich is a fellow at Columbia University. 

Monday, November 10, 2014

Robert E. Lee's farewell address, April 9th, 1865

"I need not tell the brave survivors of some many hard fought battles who have remained steadfast to the last that I have consented to this result from no distrust of them.

But feeling that valor and devotion could accomplish nothing that could compensate for the loss that must have attended the continuance of the contest, I determined to avoid the useless sacrifice of those whose past services have endeared them to their countrymen.

By the terms of the agreement, officers and men can return to their homes and remain until exchanged. You will take with you the satisfaction that proceeds from a consciousness of duty faithfully performed; and I earnestly pray that a Merciful God will extend to you His blessings and protection.

With an unceasing admiration of your constancy and devotion to your Country, and a grateful remembrance of your kind and generous consideration for myself, I bid you all an affectionate farewell."

R.E. Lee

(Robert E. Lee's farewell address, April 9th, 1865)."
"When you are the anvil, be patient.  When you are the hammer, strike."
- Arab proverb

Projection of falling poppies

Russia holds firm on Syria - Al Monitor

.... At the Oct. 22-24 meeting of the Russia-Syria intergovernmental commission on trade, economic and scientific research cooperation in Sochi, Russian and Syrian representatives discussed how to strengthen cooperation between the two countries. On Oct. 23, Kommersant, citing economic sources in the Russian government, reported that Syrian representatives led by Minister of Finance Ismail Ismail were going to ask Russia to grant them a state credit in the amount of $1 billion. Syria is badly in need of these funds to support its currency exchange rate and to fulfill social commitments. According to the publication, the Russian Finance Ministry responded coolly, probably taking into account both Russia's own complexities caused by sanctions and the fact that all official Syrian financial organizations are sanctioned by the United States and European Union. At the commission's previous meeting in May, the decision was made to provide a 240 million euro ($300 million) grant to Syria to resolve a number of social problems....

bth: so last year Russia squeezed cash out of Assad in exchange for help in resolving the chemical weapons issue with the UN and providing weapons for this year's fighting season.  Assad has depended on lines of credit from Iran as well.  Now the Russians are squeezed for cash and weapons are being sent to the Ukrainian rebels from the available reserves on hand.  Cash is tight all around, even in Iran.  Perhaps the big exception might be the Iraqi government, but it seems unlikely that they would fork over cash to Assad at this point.  Assad's Syria has lost control of their main oil fields and is now burning firewood to stay warm.  The economy is in shambles and even if the Russians provide weapons, what real prospect does Assad have of being IS in eastern Syria? No doubt the Russians will want Syrian off shore gas rights or some equivalent as oligarchs don't work for free.  One wonders what a circular discussion must be going on between Russia, Iran and Assad's regime as the winter rolls in.

Senior intel officer removed after controversial comments on China -The Navy Times

Fanell leaped into the public spotlight earlier this year when the press picked up on remarks he made at the U.S. Naval Institute's WEST 2014 conference, saying naval intelligence believed that China was preparing for a possible war with Japan.
"[We believe] the [People's Liberation Army] has been given the new task to be able to conduct a short, sharp war to destroy Japanese forces in the East China Sea following with what can only be expected [as] a seizure of the Senkakus or even southern Ryukyu [islands]," Fanell was quoted as saying.
Fanell has also stated that China is at the center of virtually every maritime territorial dispute in the Asia-Pacific and that the Chinese were engaging in a blatant land-grab of islands that would enhance their exclusive economic rights to fishing and natural resources.
"I do not know how Chinese intentions could be more transparent," he said, adding that when Beijing described its activities as the "protection of maritime rights," this was really "a Chinese euphemism for the coerced seizure of coastal rights of China's neighbors," the Financial Times reported.... 

Bluto's Big Speech - Animal House (9/10) Movie CLIP (1978) HD

Iran released decoded footage from captured U.S drone RQ-170.flv

Sunday, November 09, 2014

A Booming Business for Firewood, as Syrians Seek Ways to Keep Warm this Winter - Syria Deeply

"I would estimate that the sale of wood has multiplied more than 12 times because of the surge in demand"
Syria is facing a tougher winter this year, with fuel increasingly difficult to find and the cost of diesel rising dramatically (up 140% in some parts of the country). The scarcity of diesel is making a bad problem even worse, sparking an active black market selling it for extremely high prices.
As a result Syrians are resorting to the use of firewood to heat their homes, in what's become the easiest and often the only solution to stave off the winter cold.
Syria Deeply spoke with Yousef, a woodcutter in Damascus, who has made a robust business out of selling lumber to keep Syrians warm.
Syria Deeply: Is the high cost of diesel the only reason why people are leaning more towards wood, or are there other reasons?
Yousef: Everyone knows about the difficult and often cruel financial circumstances Syrians are facing today. Syrian families try to spend as little money as possible, so wood has become the obvious choice for warmth during the winter....

bth: Hard to see how any sort of modern economy could function on firewood.

David Butter - Chatham House interview on Syria

Syria Deeply: What is the impact on Syria's population? How has their energy access changed as a result of the war?
Butter: It’s become more expensive [to survive]. The prices that are officially charged have been pushed up close to market levels – that was a reform that was already planned. Gasoline is now effectively indexed to the exchange rate of international prices and recently the prices for diesel and fuel oil for industries were also indexed to international prices and exchange rates. Added to which of course is that fuel is often not available at these prices, so people have to rely on the black market. Scarcity and higher prices make life more expensive and difficult for Syrians.
Syria Deeply: What else should we know about Syria's oil and energy picture – how it's shaping the overall situation?
Butter: As long as the oil comes from tankers paid for by Iranian credits, there is enough to keep things going. The main part of the oil pictures is tankers coming to and being refined in Baniyas, and products are then distributed, as well as road tankers coming from Beirut. The other important issue is natural gas and electricity. Any kind of expansion in Homs province by ISIS will have very serious implications for natural gas and electricity.

-bth: worth reading in full. With ISIS control of Syrian oil fields, the financial situation of the Syrian government is such that it is dependent on Iranian lines of credit.  Russia has certainly provided help but I suspect that cash must be growing very tight for all concerned. I wonder how intense the financial squeeze on Assad really is?


And I said let grief be a falling leaf
At the dawning of the day.

US oil breakeven points