April 02, 2016

Suddenly, in Russia....



The Russians now appear set to perhaps double the number of nuclear warheads that they have deployed. This seems unpossible  U.S and R.F warhead totals are limited to 1550 each by a treaty which has all the binding power of....


It gets worse. While the State Department disputes this, the article is reporting that...
Officials said that in addition to adding warheads to the new missiles, Russian officials have sought to prevent U.S. weapons inspectors from checking warheads as part of the 2010 treaty. 

Russia also enjoys a strong civil defense system and some years ago constructed 5000 blast/fallout shelters around Moscow alone. They've recently begun an inventory and inspection of them, you know, just because.  
Puchkov said on August 14 that his ministry has its "fixed attention" on making sure Russia's bomb shelters are "ready to use for their intended purposes."


Russia is also increasing its ties to China which, likewise, is greatly increasing its warhead numbers, and MIRVing its  missiles

While all that's going on, the U.S. is going in rather the opposite direction.




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March 26, 2016

Hey! They Got The Scale Right!

The Dumpy Despot of the DPRK has released a new propaganda video, which exhibits his typical subtle and nuanced approach to foreign relations.



Interestingly, the size of the blast and mushroom cloud are not wild exaggerations, but rather, given its size in comparison to the Lincoln Memorial, it's about what one would expect from a 10 to 15 kiloton blast. Given the quality of the video's FX, especially that business around the 24 second mark, this level of verisimilitude is...surprising. 

Sadly,  they missed an opportunity, given that if they'd set the detonation for this weekend, they'd have been able to show apocalyptic cherry blossoms flying everywhere.  Of course they probably don't appreciate that.


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March 20, 2016

Meanwhile, In, Over and Underneath the DPRK

In the course of discussing the recent photo-op involving Kim Jong Un and a nuclear warhead mock-up, Jeffery Lewis makes the following observation...


 
One of the big questions about North Korea’s nuclear program is whether or not North Korea can design a reentry vehicle that will protect the warhead during its journey from launch to target. The KN-08 missiles that North Korea paraded in 2012 and 2013 were almost certainly mock-ups. Although the quality of the mock-ups improved between parades, the nosecones were particularly unconvincing. North Korea has now shown a reentry body that looks like early US and Soviet ones. The reentry body still hasn’t been tested, but this is the first credible reentry vehicle design that North Korea has displayed.

 

Well, that last sentence may need to be amended now ...





Now that the doughy despot has announced further missile and warhead tests (at least one of which appears imminent), there is some speculation that one of the upcoming tests might be a combined affair.  That is, there is concern that the North Koreans might launch an ICBM with a live warhead on it  against a test range in the DPRK resulting in an above ground nuclear test. 

Such a test would crank the violation of international propriety up to 11 and would, no doubt, result in very harshly worded letter written by the most august of calligraphers and transcribed onto gold leafed bond paper. However, it would give the Norks a rock solid credibility to their small deterrent. Even in the days when the U.S. was conducting over 900 above ground nuclear tests, America only conducted one such test. There were some small antiaircraft missile tests, a single shot fired from a cannon and a handful of ballistic missile tests where the target point was almost directly overhead, but only one long range ballistic missile fired with a live nuclear warhead.. That was shot Frigate Bird of Operation Dominic which involved firing a Polaris missile from a submerged submarine at the ever hapless Johnston Island.  Interestingly, the Chinese only conducted one such test as well. Thus one can assume that such a test would be rather challenging.

  It's unclear how much of this concern is based in actual intel rather than prattle, but given that North Korea's missile program has a checkered history, such an endeavor has the potential for truly spectacular bedlam. 

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March 13, 2016

A Few ISIS Links

ISIS has had some reversals in Iraq recently but it is still a large and formidable entity in that region with considerable potential. At the very least, it is adding to the dreadful suffering of the area and is continuing to accelerate the phenomenon of more middle aged Muslim  men trekking into Europe.


This paper, by the Institute for The Study of War notes that there is the real possibility of an alliance and merger between iSIS and another Islamic terror group, the Jabhat Al Nursa. This is an Al-Quaeda group and as such has a different focus from ISIS. They, being Al-Quaeda, have tended to focus on highly trained operatives who act like special forces, doing precision strikes on one hand but also organizing local partisans. ISIS by contrast has its unconventional wing but is, in many ways a much more conventional military force. The two groups have been at odds, but Jabhat Al Nursa now seems to be seeking some common ground with ISIS. One of J.A.N's group specific, goals is to establish an Emirate run by its leaders. This has been a long term goal in conjunction with A-lQuaeda's eventual Caliphate, but ISIS, one will note has an operational caliphate right now. Note that there are considerable strategic and eschatological differences between the two groups. However, if the two groups combine their efforts to any great extent it will be a major boon to ISIS, since Jabhat Al Nursa has, while no formally claimed territory, a considerable area of operations and influence in the area and a set of capabilities that complement ISIS nicely. Their organization also is quite focused on the precise sort of terror operations and terror cell logistics that ISIS is trying to develop in Europe to take advantage of the vast numbers of disaffected military aged men they are sending there. It should be remembered, that ISIS was initially an Al-Quaeda affiliate with much the same position in that organisation as the Al Nursa Front has today.


Further afield, as International Business Times notes. ISIS has been quite active in Libya. Their operations there are, in fact considerably more than a flags and footprints mission. This map (also by The Institute For the Study of War) shows that pretty much the entire coastline of Libya east of Tripoli has been attacked at one point or another during ISIS's recent offensive.   



There is more on this here. Note that the actual areas under ISIS control, are very close to Italy and Malta and, as per the map above, the Caliphate has already made its presence in the area felt at sea with some very small scale maritime attacks. Raids on Italy are certainly a possibility, but are, while scary, not a strategic threat at this time. The real danger here beyond the ISIS access to the oil fields is that they use this staging area for smuggling in weapons and leadership cadres for a more sustained campaign of terror. The muslim areas of the Balkans are not much farther and a more troubling destination long term. While ships from ISIS controlled ports would be easy to stop, it should be remembered that ISIS has contacts with others, that, while in no way aligned with them, are perfectly willing to sell them expertise in how to,with limited infrastructure take measures to complicate the targeting problem.

Note too that the Balkans are much closer to Libya than the U.S. is to Columbia.

That bears watching.

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February 17, 2016

Compare and Contrast

We mentioned yesterday that it looks like the Chinese may be putting their nuclear force on hair-trigger alert.

According to a report by the Union of Concerned Scientists, Beijing is considering a small but scary change to the way it stores its nuclear weapons. China may be reversing its decades-old nuclear policy and putting its nuclear weapons on permanent high alert. This would make China's nuclear deterrent more credible, but also heighten the possibility of accidental nuclear war.
The full report from the Union of Concerned Scientists is here. As is typical for them their suggestions all involve the U.S. coming off of a strike on warning status. Of course they also think that GMO foods should be banned so take their suggestions with a grain of (iodized) salt.

What is clear, is that China is engaged in a massive modernization of its nuclear forces. Little in the way of specifics is available, but this excerpt of a report from last year gives a good idea of what's in the works. Note that we have NO arms control treaties with China and no joint inspection agreements unlike those we have with Russia, so there is a LOT of room for surprises, particularly on numbers of warheads. 

Meanwhile in the U.S.A. It is unclear if this is the hope or the change, but it does seem consequential whichever it might be. 

Even before the 10-warhead mega-missile retired, plans were hatched for the Air Force to retrofit MX-like accuracy into remaining land-based intercontinental ballistic missiles, called ICBMs.
But that never happened.  Somewhat amazingly, nearly nobody's noticed.

The Minuteman 3 is about 50 percent less accurate than the less old Peacekeeper missiles which were retired some years ago. The minuteman originally compensated for this by having a 1.2 MEGATON warhead. This was, later supplemented by other missiles with 3 smaller warheads, first the W-62, then the W-78. All the Minuteman missiles with the single Big warhead were retired some years ago and when the Peacekeeper missiles were retired, their mid yield warheads (the fairly modern and much safer W-87) were transferred to the much older Minuteman missiles. 

However. The Minuteman missiles were reduced from 3 warheads to 1 each so that they now have about a third the yield of the original Minuteman 1 (and obviously a third the yield they had before the "upgrade"). More significantly, they were supposed to be retrofitted with the much more accurate guidance package of the Peacekeeper missile to compensate for this. However, the Obama administration nixed this along wth several other upgrades to the nuclear arsenal. Thus the ability of these smaller and fewer warheads to deal decisively with a large nation's military is significantly reduced. This is because that while nuclear warheads are very powerful, they still require precise placement to take out a hardened bunker or missile silo, this is especially true with the much fewer and smaller warheads currently deployed.

It gets worse:
Ironically, Carter and the nation's commander in chief, President Obama, may be unaware that the U.S. arsenal cannot actually accomplish what's enshrined in the nuclear-contingency blueprints they've approved, according to defense sources. The promise of greater accuracy for the land-based missiles reportedly helped lay the groundwork for reductions in the 2011 New START agreement between Washington and Moscow, and many have assumed the precision now exists.
It's conceivable, strangely enough, that the Kremlin has already taken stock of the U.S. targeting deficiency. Considerable data about the capabilities of U.S. Air Force and Navy ballistic missiles can be found in open sources and online.
 

I suspect that neither the word "Ironically", nor the phrase "strangely enough" is being used properly in that quote.  

Note that one of the many hurdles to rectifying this is fears of civil service job security. 
But the ICBM program headquarters at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, also stands to lose jobs and clout if the advanced accuracy technology is adopted. Repair personnel based at Hill keep busy maintaining the old Minuteman 3 mechanical guidance units, which break down once every three years on average.
By contrast, solid state uses fewer moving parts and can run for 20 years between breakdowns, according to Air Force Research Laboratory data.
Oh...what EVER would we do with a reliable deterrent that didn't break down every three years? Perhaps not reducing our 400 single warhead missiles to...less at any given time. 

Of course, it is possible that the old '60s era guidance system is less prone to EMP and hacking and doesn't use the GPS  satellites that would be knocked out swiftly in any nuclear attack, so perhaps commercial off the shelf upgrades are not actually the panacea that the article suggests. The blue-screen of ATOMIC death should be limited to Cherenkov radiation on a CCTV. 

An extensive overview of hypothesized scenarios and effects involved in a China-U.S. Nuclear exchange can be found here. Note that this study is from a few years ago and does not take into recent Chinese developments and assumes that the U.S. actually upgraded the Minuteman guidance to render it effective against hardened targets. 



The calculus in these matters for a totalitarian dictatorship or oligarchy is vastly different than a representative republic. The possibility that a large nation which places a low value on human life might think that they can "take the hit" and deal a death blow to an adversary should not be ignored, especially since the vastly reduced numbers of active nukes in the world mean that a nuclear war today would not be a global extinction event. This, ironically could increase the possibility of these terrible weapons use. As such our deterrent should be as robust and credible as possible. 


UPDATE: And in other nuclear news...

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February 16, 2016

News That Doesn't Concern The Trumped-up Trump-Centric Trumpeting of Trumpism by the Trumpen Proletariat

For many of  us who grew up in the later stages of the Cold War, the region known as the Fulda Gap was a tidbit of geography that carried special meaning. Today the Sulwaki Gap seems to be replacing it in the atlas of dread.



Map Via


I momentarily misread this as "Vladimir Putin Wants to Destroy Naruto" and was perplexed, but not alarmed...alas. The article lays out a scenario where Turkey, intervening in Syria, exchanges fire with the Russians and the Russians hit a facility inside Turkey. This is not at all unlikely since the two nations are historical enemies, are currently at cross purposes in Syria and have recently exchanged fire with lethal results. The goal from the Russian perspective would be to destroy NATO's credibility should they refuse to come to Turkey's aid when Turkey invokes article 5 of the NATO charter. If Russian can secure the Hellespont, they will have achieved one of their primary goals of the last 300 years....so their motivation is great, perhaps great enough that the risk of WW3 seems worth it to them. 

That Russia (like China) has numerous domestic problems, does not make the risk of their engaging in ambitious foreign adventures necessarily unlikely. Such circumstances can have the opposite effect. 

The mess in Syria is already disturbingly international in nature. The Washington Post goes so far as to call it a 'mini world war'. While that is certainly hyperbole, the number of nations invested in the outcome of this squalid mess has the potential to widen its reach. 

Elsewhere in the Middle East the Iran Deal so doggedly sought by the current administration appears to be bearing fruit.
"We see signs that countries in the Arab world are preparing to acquire nuclear weapons, that they are not willing to sit quietly with Iran on brink of a nuclear or atomic bomb,"
 

Pivoting to Asia for a bit reveals that China is putting MIRVs on its big DF-5 ICBMs. This is surprising mainly in that the Chinese seem to be keeping the old missiles in service despite the existence of the new Road Mobile DF-41. Most likely the very large throw weight of the liquid fueled  DF-5 is a factor. The Middle Kingdom also seems to be putting its nuclear forces on an alert footing...this is not a short term mobilization but a larger change in policy regarding how their deterrent is handled. 

China is also equipping its "scientific research stations" on the Philippine reefs it has turned into islands with impressive AAA/ABM missile systems...no doubt for launching sounding rockets. 

Meanwhile...In South Korea...
Won Yoo Chul, floor leader for the ruling Saenuri party, on Monday said South Korea should adopt "peaceful” nuclear weapons and missiles against North Korea’s "fearful and self-destructive” ones.

He said South Korea should be independent from ally Washington’s so-called nuclear umbrella to deter North Korea’s nuclear threat, or reconsider deployment of U.S. tactical nuclear weapons, which were withdrawn from South Korea in 1992 under a pact for the denuclearization of the peninsula.  

Fecklessness...the gift that just keeps on giving. 

On the economic front, Kyle Bass, who was something of a Cassandra with regard to the bursting of the 2008 financial bubble is now saying the saying similar things about China...except that he expects it to be far worse than 2008

Silly Cassandra...I'm sure the powers that be would tell us if something were up

In other news...well intentioned hippies should write in English or Spanish...I'm just sayin'. 

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February 04, 2016

Yet More Thoughts on That Non-Gargantuan Nork Nuke

Business Insider is reporting that the claim by the North Koreans that they conducted an H-Bomb test may indeed be something more than a crate of commie kimchee. For one thing, recent analysis of the seismological data indicates that the detonation was actually much deeper than was initially supposed (more than twice the depth of the previous tests). There seem to be other indicators as well, that this was a test related to specific components used in an H-bomb, though officials are a tad coy about specifics, about how they have come to this conclusion or what components they might be. One interesting fact is that air samples aren't detecting any radioactives, which could mean that the DPRK is getting better at preventing any venting. (I suppose it is also possible that they popped of between 7 and 10 thousand tons of TNT; that's not without precedence but there doesn't seem to be any reason to do that as they clearly do have atomic weapons). There is more on this test here and here. American tests that tested H-bomb components prior to the first official H-bomb (Ivy-Mike) included Greenhouse-George. That test (and not Ivy-Mike) was was actually the first thermonuclear burn, though its fusion yield was far less that its fission yield. It was a proof of concept test and could well be what is being implied for the North Korean test. Something along those lines would make North Korean claims about the test substantively true. 


Note that the Buisness insider piece also has this to say....
As Alex Wellerstein, a nuclear historian at the Steven Institute of Technology and creator of Nuke Map, told Business Insider on January 6, a country that's mastered thermonuclear-weapons design suddenly has a number of possible options open to it.

For instance, a country with a thermonuclear capability could build "a very thin-cased bomb of low yield [in this case 1 to 10 kilotons, or 1,000 to 10,000 tons of TNT] that would emit a lot of radiation relative to its blast power."

This jives somewhat with what we posted on the subject last month, though the assumption here is that this was just a proof of concept test, and not (as Nigel Cook suggests) a test of an operational device.

In another area of weapons technology, the North Koreans have an indisputably operational unconventional weapons system, though in this case a minimal amount of R&D was required since the technology involved is quite mature, or, shall we say, quite ripe.  



While the threat of these other weapons is somewhat limited, any country that bombards its neighbors with profanity-filled, exploding poop-balloons is bat-scat bonkers enough that its nuclear arsenal, however modest, should warrant considerable concern. 

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January 12, 2016

Thoughts About That Unexpectedly Underwhelming Blast

As we mentioned earlier, the North Korean government announced that they had successfully detonated a fusion warhead. Given the apparent small yield of the warhead, (6-10 kilotons) there has been considerable skepticism expressed. This skepticism is not unfounded especially given that getting such small yields are hard to get from what we normally think of as an H-bomb. There has been further speculation that the weapon is what is called a "boosted fission weapon". This does not get the majority of its explosive force from fusion, but it does set off a fusion reaction which causes the fission reaction to burn much more completely. This can as much as triple yields on fission warheads, or reduce the amount of fissionable material necessary for any given yield. This alone would be a big breakthrough as it would allow North Korea to make more bombs for the same amount of fissile material. An increase of 2 or 3 times the number of bombs in the arsenal is a very substantial benefit. 


Of course there is the problem of the very low yield. which has led many to conclude that this was a fizzle. That's possible, but the last three North Korean bombs have had very similar yields, in the 6-9 kiloton range. Small nuclear explosions are actually HARD. This was a problem the US had with the W-54 program, where some of the intended the applications (a bazooka!and short range AAM) called for a sub kiloton yield but the tests kept overshooting it. 

The North Korean's first test was very small and may well have been a fizzle, but the subsequent three have been very comparable in yields. Given the difficulties of getting a reliable nuclear yield below 10 kilotons this indicates extraordinarily consistent incompetence....or that it's by design.

It is possible that the North Koreans have had a string of fizzles, but this would mean that they thrice duplicated a design flaw that did not befall the Americans, Russians, Brits, Frenchmen, Chinese, Indians, Pakistanis South Africans* and (presumably)Israelis.

Furthermore, given that a good deal of this program is aimed at chest thumping and deterrence, it seems logical that the North Korean's, if they were experiencing difficulties with an implosion system, would, have at least one very simple gun type weapon like Little Boy. Such weapons are so reliable as to not strictly need testing, so a respectable 10-20 kiloton blast could have been had for propaganda purposes easily.
They have not done this, and after their first detonations their tests have been fairly consistent in yield. 

Doctor Jerry Pournelle has a discussion of this on his site...
There’s some speculation that this is an attempted enhanced EMP weapon. There’s other speculation. Add to that that I have never worked in weapon design, and the last time I seriously needed to know about the minutia of nuclear weapons was more than thirty years ago, and you will understand that I am not going to speculate. We know that North Korea tested something, and they call it a sophisticated fission weapon; what they tested was low yield, and the last time I looked, low yield was harder to do than higher yields: particularly lower than 10 kt....[/quote] 
Pournelle, caries on a discussion with Stephanie Osbourne (a retired rocket scientist who also worked on nuclear planning in the cold war) and they both reference, but do not link to speculation that this is fission boosted weapon designed to utilize the Compton Effect in conjunction with the Earth's magnetic field to produce a powerful electromagnetic pulse.

The Compton Effect

The yield of the tests is actually in the ballpark of the yields that are expected from a first generation EMP optimized nuke. Jerry Emanuelson, who appears to be an electrical engineer, has a very extensive page on what is publicly known about EMP optimization in nuclear weapons. This is part of his larger site on EMP in general. His conclusions seem to be quite consistent with those of Nigel Cook, a former physics professor who has a very heavily researched blog on the effects of nuclear weapons. Mr. Cook posted an extensive (to the point of rambling) post on this possibility after the North Korean tests and included patent data as well as multiple links. He has an earlier more general overview of the problem here.

Note that both sources indicate that this kind of small fusion assisted warhead could allow a 10 kiloton warhead to produce comparable EMP effects to a more conventional warhead in the megaton range (with the tradeoff that it would have to be detonated lower and therefore cover a smaller area). 

This tradeoff would double the number of weapons needed to blackout most of the U.S.A. and southern Canada.




"Well, maybe the Norks just want us to appreciate the night sky like they do."

This of course solves their targeting problems as the target area for this weapon is measured in states rather than meters. Additionally, it would make a small device of the type they can already deliver anywhere on earth (they can launch small satellites) an actual strategic threat. 

A total power failure involving hundreds of transformers blowing up (that requires replacement from France, Finland or China)  would take years to recover from. Add to that occasional widespread fires from overloaded wires and the collapse of the internet as well as the ancillary effects of no power, refrigeration, or heat and this could become a very bad thing. 

If this is in fact what the DPRK is doing (and we have little way of knowing)  it would be quite logical as it would give them a credible counter-value strategic capability that a few nukes, even very big ones would not provide. 

Fortunately, the North Koreans have modest goals (clinging to power by the throats of their citizenry, possibly conquering the south, and killing every Japanese male on earth) . While the regime is odious, it's not like they want to return the whole planet to the 6th century...like some people.

Amongst the ranks of THOSE PEOPLE naturally are included the Iranians, who are working very closely wth the DPRK in the advancement of SCIENCE as part of their general pattern of good behavior in the wake of the nuclear deal that solved everything. One probably ought to assume assume that much of the North Korean nuclear expertise is shared by Tehran now. 

  
Of course the notion that a nation using slave labor to put together a nuclear bomb might bollox it repeatedly should not be utterly dismissed, but the consistency of the yields and the potential payoffs, mean that this option ought to not be rejected out of hand.


more...

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December 07, 2015

An Unlikely Outcome, 74 Years Ago Today

December 7, 1941: Two SOC Seagulls from U.S.S. Northhampton were patrolling near the island of Ni'ihau, (westernmost of the permanently inhabited Hawai'ian Islands) when they began to receive reports that all was not well at their home port of Pearl Harbor 150 miles to the east .   What had been a peacetime training and observation mission was suddenly a war patrol.


After some time, they noted a a plane with a big red meatball on it trailing black smoke and approaching from the east. As it turned out, it was a Zero from IJNS Hiryuu. The little biplanes were completely obsolete and had no hope of besting a modern fighter in a dogfight, but this one was obviously damaged and might be easy pickings...or lead them to the Japanese task force...and in any event, the odds were two against one. Of course, they had no idea what the Mitsubishi plane was capable of....and even less of an idea about the undamaged Zero from IJNS Akagi that was escorting its companion far above them all....



Yeah...things got very interesting for the floatplane crews, very quickly. The odds were now one and a half of the most formidable fighters then in the Pacific verses two planes that were frequently used as target tugs. The dogfight lasted about twenty minutes, with the two biplanes dropping to just above the water, jinking wildly and covering each other with the flexible rifle caliber machine guns in their rear cockpits. All the while the pilots tried to present their observers with a good broadside shot. The little planes were so slow that it was hard for the Zeroes to get them in their sights and their lack of any armor, an extra set of wings and rapidly emptying fuel tanks made them sufficiently maneuverable that Radioman First Class Robert Baxter was able to get a bead on the undamaged Zero and pump it full of enough .30-06 that its status changed from "undamaged" to "little Japanese flag on side of utility floatplane"*. The already damaged Zero was beginning to come apart and its pilot made a desperate bid to reach the nearby island. The two shot up Seagulls limped back home having achieved a small victory against great odds on one of the darkest days in U.S. Navy history. 

There is an odd postscript to this story: The damaged zero made it to Ni'ihau, which was (and still is) a cattle ranch. The cowboys took in the pilot, one Shigenori Nishikaichi  and threw a luau for him until they got access to a news report and realized the situation. They then held him in the house of a ranch hand of Japanese origin named Harada (to facilitate communication) until the authorities could arrive. While they waited, Harada armed the pilot, helped him escape and assisted him in taking over most of the ranch and holding the island hostage, threatening to begin killing people if they could not account for everyone on the island, the names of whom Harada had given him. Since one guy had gone to get help the killing was set to commence starting with the wife of a cowboy named Ben Kanahele. This proved to be a poor choice for victims as Mr. Kanahele tackled the pilot, getting shot 3 times in the process, but while Nishikaichi was shooting him Mrs. Kanahele jumped on the pilot and bit him until the perfidious Harada pulled her off, by which point the profusely bleeding cattleman was able to get to his feet and slit the pilots throat. Yoshio Harada fled and committed suicide. ben Kanahele was hailed as a hero and the traitorous actions of Mr. Harada during this incident may well have contributed to the awful Japanese internment that started the next year. 

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November 18, 2015

The Russian's Strategic Situation Room is Much More Bright and Cheery Than Ours

We cannot tolerate this lily gap!



This is all in Russian, but allegedly they are making a big show of the pounding of ISIS positions earlier in the week which saw the first combat use of the Tu-160 (Blackjack). Tu-22m(Backfire) as well as the ubiquitous 'Bears' were used as well.  Additionally, according to RSNF, Putin orders the CO of the task force built around the big cruiser Moskva to co-ordinate with French forces

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October 26, 2015

Be Concerned. Be Prepared...But Don't Lose All Historical Perspective.

IBT notes that they are shocked to learn that the Russians are poking around undersea cables with their submarines. 


They are not the only paper to point tis out.

Cdr. Salamander has a sublimely titled response.


First of all, if anyone in government service in the national security arena is surprised or shocked by this, please go work somewhere else.

If those who are responsible for maintaining connectivity have not been refining our branch plans to respond to this eventuality, will someone please fire them?  

Do read the whole thing.

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October 21, 2015

218 Years Ago Today

 U.S.S. Constitution was launched. 




Built to fight the Barbary Pirates (yes our first war was against Islamists) the ship distinguished herself in that war as well as the War of 1812, where the ship defeated  HMShips Guerriere, Java, Pictou, Cyane, and Levant and in the process earned the nickname "Old Ironsides".

Saved from the breakers by public outcry, the ship served for nearly a hundred years, circumnavigating the world, fighting pirates and slavers, serving as a a school ship, carrying out various diplomatic duties, and on occasion even supporting archeological and oceanographic expeditions. In 1874 she carried the US delegation and display to that year's Paris World's Fair. 



After a spell as an accommodation hulk, the ship was restored as a museum ship in the early 1900's and is moored in Boston harbor, the oldest commissioned warship afloat. 

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October 18, 2015

The State of Things

Business Insider has published STRATFOR's thumbnail overview of the world situation and their predictions for the rest of the year


It's long but warrants a read (though one should probably ignore the breathless headline). STRATFOR can be hit or miss on their predictions, but they do give a decent overview of what's happening now and, more importantly, they also keep an eye on parts of the world that get less coverage. 

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October 07, 2015

Article 5

Article 5 of the Washington Treaty (generally referred to as the NATO Charter, to avoid confusion with that other Washington Treaty...and because it IS the NATO CHARTER) reads as follows...


Article 5 of the Washington Treaty:

The Parties agree that an armed attack against one or more of them in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all and consequently they agree that, if such an armed attack occurs, each of them, in exercise of the right of individual or collective self-defence recognised by Article 51 of the Charter of the United Nations, will assist the Party or Parties so attacked by taking forthwith, individually and in concert with the other Parties, such action as it deems necessary, including the use of armed force, to restore and maintain the security of the North Atlantic area.

Any such armed attack and all measures taken as a result thereof shall immediately be reported to the Security Council. Such measures shall be terminated when the Security Council has taken the measures necessary to restore and maintain international peace and security.


As an aside, apropos of nothing, I'm sure..., here are a few of the mornings headlines...




...and a couple of analysis pieces. 


(Perhaps your effort should be put into determining how we DON'T)



Well.
I am have tests coming up and no time to opine on these matters so instead I'll just leave this here.


UPDATE@22:44: 
Tam has comprehensive yet concise thoughts on the matter here as well as worrying confirmation that it's not just me looking to Fred Thompson for insight on this matter.  

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October 04, 2015

Shootings, Floods and Lost Ships

are what the news is focused on (a not entirely unwarranted decision) but there are other things deteriorating as well that deserve some attention, as they have considerable potential to generate rather greater levels of grief...




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The photos show smiling children enjoying various rides, as well as landscapes featuring ferris wheels and a play train. The rides fail to disguise the ravages of war; beyond the foreground, dilapidated buildings and bombed-out areas can be seen.

I guess some positive reinforcement to go along with the punishments of children there is necessary for morale. 

Meanwhile, the administrations expert responsible for overseeing the war with ISIS just resigned

He has been joined by the nation's top cyber security advisor, and the Pentagon's top Russian expert.  Three in such a short time would seem to indicate a lack of faith in the administrations policies on these matters. 

On the other hand, Russia took a break from bombing the snot out of the American and European proxies in Syria to hit ISIS headquarters...which had somehow managed to elude the bombs of America's bombing campaign for a year. 

Instapundit links to a Lee Stranahan editorial which comprehensively sums up the situation...assuming of course that the emerging outcomes are not the goal. 

Speaking of Russia, they just drafted 150,000 troops. This seems to be a supplementary conscription, since the annual draft of 150000 (Russia has active selective service) took place in the spring. 


Russia is recomissioning and upgrading 12 nuclear submarines 6 of which are identified in this article. They also announced plans earlier in the year to restart the production line for the TU-160 bomber with 50 (some sources say 60) expected to be commissioned by 2023. There has been some skepticism expressed, but the upgrade program on the existing 16 operational Backfires is actually ahead of schedule and they are producing some very large and very fast planes now so there is no reason to suspect that they can't. 

Speaking of capabilities....the first Chinese indigenously built aircraft carrier, will, reportedly, be launched on December 26. (This date has been chosen to commemorate Mao TzeDong's birthday...presumably because genocidal dictators are the sorts of people the current Chinese Government wants to honor.) Note that the carrier was started earlier this year, so the ship is being launched in less than a year...unheard of for such a large vessel. Note that this is a launch and not a commissioning....lots of equipment needs to be installed, but while analysts are skeptical that commissioning will happen sooner than four years hence, the incredible speed with which the hull was constructed should give one pause. 

Also concerning capabilities, Next Big Future points to a WCT article that gleefully boasts that China has demonstrated the ability to put MIRVs with its ability to launch multiple satellites on a single launcher. They also point out that the Chinese commercial space launcher the Long March 6 can launch 20 (twice as many as the Russian R-36, the biggest ICBM in the world). That a commercial space launcher takes hours to fuel and so could only be used for first strikes (and dozens of launchers fueling would give fair warning) is not mentioned in the article. NBF does point to the capacity of the bigger Long March 5 is 25 metric tonnes.  Taking the conservative path of using the weight of an obsolete USAF ICBM warhead ( the W-56) and a current one (the W-76) dividing 25 tonnes by that amount (25tonnes = 55,115.500 pounds round down so 55,000 / 680 = 81.1 or 55,000 / 362 = 152.3 warheads delivered with one launch. (Capacity to an antipodal target is a bit more than 50% greater than capacity to LEO but there is still a lot of weight involved in the buss and such)...so hey perhaps they don't need but one launch. Naturally, the same basic math would apply to the Russian launchers in the same class such as PROTON.

Of course this is silly as it would be suicide. They'd still face our righteous wrath unless there were some reason to believe our nuclear deterrent was a hollow force. 


Meanwhile...in completely unrelated news in the U.S., the nation's last American owned uranium enrichment plant was just shut down by the DOE. 
U.S. Rep. Brad Wenstrup, whose 2nd District includes Pike County and part of Ross County among others, expressed disbelief. Both he and Portman said that on the heels of a deal that recognizes Iran’s right to enrich uranium and maintain access to thousands of centrifuges, shutting down of the only source of domestic uranium enrichment is irresponsible. The Centrifuge is the only American-owned enrichment facility operating in the United States, while foreign-owned Urenco USA operates an enrichment facility in New Mexico.  
 



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September 27, 2015

I'm SURE This Will All End Well.

China is moving into the Med, allegedly they will be joining the Russians in attempting to shore up Assad. What is certain is that the Russians are coordinating with the Iranians and they, the Syrians and the Iranians have signed military agreements with Iraq

Meanwhile, the U.S. and the French are conducting airstrikes against ISIS (which is pursuing an ambitious agenda) while the Syrian, Chinese, Iranian, Russian and Iraqi forces are conducting air and ground operations. Except for Iraq, none of those air-forces or ground forces are not coordinating with us in any way and at least the Russian planes are running with transponders off. Heck, the Russians got their planes there surreptitiously and were only detected once they arrived.  Meanwhile, all sides are shooting at targets that may or may not be insurgents.

What could POSSIBLY go wrong?


In other, arguably less potentially exiting news, it looks like Catalonia may well be breaking away from Spain as the secession parties just won an election. 

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September 20, 2015

And Then This Stuff Happened

While people are focusing on the epic fantasy fight that is Clock Boy VS Gell-Mann other things were happening in the real world. 


The President has ordered US Navy ships to steer clear of the artificial islands built by China in the South China Sea, thus ceding the seized Filipino and Vietnamese islands and giving China de-facto sovereignty over one of the most important trade routes in the world.

This method of just CREATING national territory anywhere the ocean gets shallow is expected by some analysts to soon be used in the Indian Ocean.

Unless it's all a monumentally expensive and elaborate feint (with the benefit of infrastructure in place for later use) to distract from the thrust into Taiwan.

It is being reported that North Korea is likely to launch a long range missile or satellite on the 70th anniversary of the founding of the North Korean Communist Party....but that is far from certain

What is somewhat more certain is that they are spinning up their nuclear weapons production in a big way and possibly their bioweapons as well. 

Iran just released 5 top members of Al Qaeda in a prisoner swap. Odds are good they did not do so for a deserter. 


Russia is also moving into Syria to defend the odious dictator Assad from the murderous assault on reason that is the Islamic state. A lot of people across the political spectrum seem upset by this. They probably need to analyze their pique more thoroughly. This seems like a point of convergence in our interests and has potential to be a starting point for walking back tensions in other areas. 

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September 09, 2015

A Blast From the Past

...in the multi megaton range.


Via the Secret Projects Forum comes information indicating the Russians have been developing a weapon system that involves an autonomous underwater drone intended to penetrate U.S. harbors. This is no surprise, but this drone is reportedly intended to carry a warhead with a yield measured in "tens of megatons". This weapon system has been given the designation KANYON by the Pentagon.

It's not exactly a new concept for the Russians. As we've reported here before, the initial delivery system contemplated for the RDS-220 (Tsar Bomba) warhead was a rather large torpedo, the T-15. This was initially intended to be the main armament of the project 627 submarines (November Class), though the concept was later abandoned.

KANYON would appear to be a completely terrifying interesting and logical refinement  of the concept. Though not explicitly stated, it would seem to allow the weapon to situate itself much farther inland than could be reached with a simple torpedo shot.  The article suggests that the weapon is specifically targeted at the U.S. Navy's SSBN bases in Kings Bay and Bremerton, the latter being a particularly challenging targeting problem as it is reachable only through a winding  channel through an archipelago that is fairly far inland. This would indicate that other targets with inland deepwater ports would be within its reach. The junction of the Potomac and Anacostia rivers comes to mind, as does Houston which is a major port and energy center. 

This weapon would, of course, precipitate all of the usual mayhem one associates with a high yield nuclear blast (and a ground blast to boot...so fallout would be horrific). However, there is one particularly interesting effect that this sort of unsolicited dredging operation would have. 

Cratering.

Assuming use of the relatively new 20 megaton 8F675 warhead which the Russians recently removed from their ICBMs, the Nukemap online sum of all fears simulator suggests a crater depth of 800 feet. More importantly the crater extends for 1.05 km from the center, so there is a circular reef of trinitite glass completely blocking the harbor's channel. Here we see one at the mouth of  Hampton Roads (home to the worlds largest naval base...and the Brickmuppet). 



The harbor....isn't one any more. Even after the radioactivity subsides. 
The expanse of the effect naturally increases (though less than linearly) with yield, so the 57megaton yield of the 1963 Tsar Bomba test would virtually close the whole harbor mouth.



Of course the more generally appreciated effects still apply.... 



From center out, little black donut=crater seen above, dark red circle=200PSI blast which destroys pretty much everything, green=radiation instant death which is redundant in this context because...light red circle=20PSI which corresponds to ground zero at Hiroshima, dark grey=5psi light grey=windows break with enough force to cause injuries, dark orange=trees burst into flames (weather dependent) light orange=people standing outside get third degree burns (weather dependent) Note that fallout is not shown, but I'd advise against eating the oysters for several decades.

Doing this to Beaumont, Long Beach, South Louisiana, Houston and New York could permanently close those ports and would remove over half of the nations capacity for foreign trade for a very long time. In the case of Louisiana, it would shut down a good bit of internal trade as well. 

Of course, such a weapon would violate the Seabed Treaty and we all know how fastidious the Russians currently are about arms-control treaties

UPDATE: The reason that something as whacked as a multi-megaton robot submarine nuke is is of any interest is that such a device is inherently a first strike weapon. It doesn't actually deter anything unless its deployed and if its deployed it will likely result in the balloon going up. Kanyon is a stupid concept  if one is looking for deterrence rather than destabilization. The Russians aren't stupid. Thus, that a weapon like this is, apparently,  being developed in a country that is rather strapped for cash indicates that this sort of attack is in the rolodex of options that are actually being considered by their war plans division. 

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September 07, 2015

Island Re-Taking Battle

As part of their contribution to peace, stability and good vibes, the Chinese government released this a bit over a week ago.



The island they are "re-taking" looks a lot like Okinawa.


UPDATE: In other China News, there appears to have been ANOTHER explosion at a chemical plant in eastern China. 

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August 31, 2015

More On Grid Hardening and Related Issues

We've taken breaks from our usual fluf-blogging to post about electro magnetic pulse before, tentatively running the math on some worst case scenarios, but we don't pretend to be experts on the topic. 


However, here is a panel of actual experts including James Woolsey and Henry Cooper (who some of you will remember from his work with HIGH FRONTIER) who, in 2013, held forth on the matter for a bit over an hour.


Amongst the things discussed is the possibility of multiple cascading Fukishimas. I was also surprised at the offhanded comment about the North Koreans being caught smuggling missiles into/ out of Cuba

One other interesting bit of information we've turned up on the topic pertains to the more modest nukes and delivery systems that a group with ambition and cleverness could extemporize. In 1958 the US conducted a series of nuclear tests called Hardtack 1. This included a test to determine the effects of a anti aircraft missile warhead that was simulated by lofting a small fission device via a ballon. The yield of shot Yucca was only 1.5 -1.7 kilotons but according to this article, the detonation was just high enough to trigger the High Altitude EMP effect. The fact that most of the observation equipment was destroyed by power surges was chalked up to improper calibration until the later high altitude tests that had populated areas (Like Hawaii) in line of sight revealed that the problem was not with the test equipment. Note that the tropical location would result in far lesser effects than one in a middle latitude location like the continental United States or Europe or Australia....or Kasputin Yar.

So a nuke as small as 1.5 kilotons delivered via balloon could still cause considerable mayhem by tripping breakers and burning out transformers. 

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August 19, 2015

News of the 21st Century

This Iran deal just gets better and better...I knew they weren't allowing the U.S.A. to do inspections of the Iranian nuclear sites, but if this AP story is correct then the agreement is not merely dreadful...it's clinically insane.


VIENNA (AP) — Iran, in an unusual arrangement, will be allowed to use its own experts to inspect a site it allegedly used to develop nuclear arms under a secret agreement with the U.N. agency that normally carries out such work, according to a document seen by The Associated Press.

"Unusual arrangement"...well that is not an inaccurate assessment. 

Read the whole thing. This is not somer obscure site, but rather Parchin, where Iran is perfecting explosive lenses

This is so batscat bonkers that I'm a tad skeptical. However, it would fit with a certain school of thought that the issue on our end is neither fecklessness nor naiveté, but rather motivation. 

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Russia has imprisoned (for 15 years) an Estonian they abducted. 

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The Russian economy may be much worse than thought...which could have either calming or incendiary effects upon that states behavior. 

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China is not retiring the old DF-5 ICBMs. Rather, they are upgrading the series of liquid propellant missiles. The new models increase their range to be able to hit targets anywhere on earth, with multiple warheads. This is similar to the arrangement that Russia has, with a few dozen heavyweight missiles complementing their road mobile ICBMs.

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Oh. Look...




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Finally..the kind of story that would not be out of place in an 80's film SET in the 21st century.... 

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August 12, 2015

Desperation Can Lead to Poor Choices

Nations that are under stress from within or without have historically been prone to attempt unifying their populations and ameliorating or postponing their economic reckoning by military adventure.


In other news...there is this
....Russia is within the perfect storm of an economic crisis. So, the Russian economy started stagnating in 2013. It was never really able to recover after the 2008-2009 recession, and in 2013 the economy really started to slow down. It's just grinding to almost a halt outside of energy. And so that was the very start of it. Then we had 2014 happen. The situation between the West and Russia over Ukraine eventually, of course, led to sanctions. And then, at the same time as sanctions against Russia, we had oil prices pretty much fall in half. And so it was multiple items put together, in which you had the Russian economy just take a nosedive over the past year and a half.

To the southeast of Russia, China is devaluing its currency.
The wild couple of days in the currency market compounded the damage already done by July’s stock market crash to the Communist Party and President Xi Jinping’s reputation as competent stewards of the country’s economy. Xi has amassed unprecedented political control and eliminated potential rivals through a massive crackdown on both corruption and political dissent. That might be all fine by Chinese citizens as long as the government continues to provide strong economic growth, but it works less well when the government seems incompetent on economic matters. The "Chinese dream” Xi has promised citizens includes not just national greatness but personal wellbeing.

However, despite this, the Chinese government is still hoarding oil....

More than 80 million barrels of new strategic reserve capacity is scheduled to start operations this year, and China will continue purchases to fill those tanks, according to Chauhan.

...and are saying that they may be the worlds largest oil importer this year. 

North Korea has the advantage that its economy is already rock bottom and has nowhere to collapse to. However, the drought is causing problems for a country where forestry is serious business
Naturally, the hermit kingdom is ramping up its uranium enrichment and mining as well as making noises about another nuclear test in October


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August 05, 2015

OK This is Neat

An old ad for the Seawolf amphibian variant that was aimed at military customers. I'm skeptical about the claim this you tuber made in the title, but I particularly like the boarding operation at 7:00 and "ninja mode" at 8:25. 



This would be my dream plane. 

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August 04, 2015

How Much Will 150 Billion Dollars Buy?

Obviously, production and sales tax issues aside, one could purchase 150 billion of those sketchy Dollar Tree steaks. However, one would not be Iran, which is getting 150 billion in frozen assets freed up as part of the deal to...ummm....slow their acquisition of nukes.


Anyway, it is rumored that they have made some interesting purchases:

150  Chinese J-10 fighters  (Guestimated at 5.625 billion)
250  Russian SU-30 Strike fighters (Guestimated at 9.375 billion)
100(!)  Russian IL 78 refueling tankers (Guestimated at 3.5 billion)

That is a hell of a lot of planes.  It's an especially large number of tankers, though if they are serious about power projection 4 fighters per tanker is not unrealistic...it just means the Iranians have given a lot of thought to logistics and other non-flashy assets an air-force needs.

The cost estimates come from Wikipedia and Global security and are WAGs only that don't take into account associated ordinance purchases, training or fuel costs. However, 18.5 billion leaves a lot of wiggle room for these and other pointy, sharp things before 150 billion is reached  and its not like the 150 billion is their budget...it's extra. 

A few things about this story.
Iran can't actually take delivery for a few years under the terms of the agreement and it's likely that most of the planes couldn't be built /delivered for some time anyway. However  a chunk of the Chinese order (and possibly the Russian one as well) actually appears to be a preexisting order from 2007, which was frozen because of the sanctions, so its possible that some of the planes have been built and also conceivable that the ex-post facto nature of the arrangement could allow delivery sooner than normally allowed. That is unclear, but the deal is so full of unpleasantness that it is not beyond the realm of possibility. 

This story itself is thinly sourced. It has popped up in a couple of places, but it seems to always refer back to the DEBKA story or a Wall Street Journal article currently behind a paywall. However, It is well within Iran's financial means and similar numbers of planes were being ordered in 2007 so it is very plausible. 

This story also gives some idea of what a windfall Iran has gotten irrespective of the nuclear aspects of the deal by having its assets unfrozen. In adjusted dollars this is a slightly bigger infusion of cash than The Marshall Plan was for Europe

Oy.

Dennis Prager has a good overview of the situation.... 



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August 03, 2015

A Few Things That Make One Just Throw Up Ones Hands And Go Watch Cartoons


For many, the major concern regarding the high octane nightmare fuel that is Pakistan's nuclear arsenal is loose nukes getting into the hands of one of the many Islamist organizations that operate in the country with and without official sanction. For instance:
PESHAWAR, Pakistan—Six leading figures of the Pakistani Taliban pledged allegiance to the terror group ISIS, one of them claimed in an audio message released Tuesday
(There is no word on their position regarding Lion hunting.)


 However, the possibility of Pakistan straight up using their atomic weapons in a war is nontrivial. A lethal 12 hour long gunfight in an Indian border town has thrown tinder on the hot-plate that is India and Pakistan's relationship. This despite the fact that no lions were harmed during the incident. 

 It is part of a general pattern of deterioration of India/ Pakistan relations..

Conditions are ripe for a crisis in this strained environment, even more so if a terrorist attack on Indian soil—such as Monday’s—is traced back to extremist groups supported by Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). These rising tensions make crisis management more difficult and increase the risk of a conflict with nuclear dimensions.

Pakistan and India have been to war several times and Pakistan's statement that they consider battlefield nuclear weapons to be legitimate equalizers should certainly give one pause since once nukes start popping off all in a conflict where both sides have them, all sorts of nastiness is likely to ensue. 

Here is an estimate of the soot cloud that would be generated by 100 nuclear weapons of 15 kiloton yield going off over cities. 


The scale on the bottom measures reduction in watts per square meter.

These estimates tend to lean towards the pessimistic, however, this study assumes blast yields somewhere between approximately one half and one quarter those of the underground tests the countries have conducted and since both countries had stockpiles of around 100 weapons in 2011 (and have been building them up since) the number of blasts modeled is perhaps half what one would see in a real war. It concludes that growing seasons would be reduced between 10 days and a month in many parts of the world.
 Smoke emissions of 100 lowyield urban explosions in a regional nuclear conflict would generate substantial globalscale climate anomalies, although not as large as in previous "nuclear winter”scenarios for a full-scale war (11, 12). However, indirect effects on surface land temperatures, precipitation rates, and growing season lengths (see figure, page1225) would be likely to degrade agricultural productivity to an extent that historically has led to famines in Africa, India, and Japan after the 1783 1784 Laki eruption (13) or in the northeastern United States and Europe after the Tambora eruption of 1815 
This does not include estimates of ozone layer depletion which might persist for as much as 5 years. These models should be taken with a grain of salt of course, but it is apparent that if India and Pakistan go at it full on it would cause problems worldwide.

There has been little coverage of the deteriorating situation between the two nations in the U.S. media which is remarkable given that many of the hypothetically targeted cities in the studies contain zoos, which in turn might contain....lions. 

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Fortunately, no negative impact upon any lions is considered imminent, hence the lack of interest by the media. 

Ukranian 'rebels' are reportedly building a dirty bomb, ie: a conventional explosive laced with radioactive substances to increase its lethality, or at least fear inducing effect. Like everything coming out of the confused region this should be treated with some skepticism, especially since the media has determined that it does not merit extensive coverage despite the fact that, if true it would be an obvious threat to the proud people eating lions of Kiev

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Puerto Rico is defaulting on its debts. This is the U.S. Greece, fortunately no lions seem to have been harmed. 

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China's stocks fell 29% in July. This is having some ripple effects, but may, in the short term, lower the number of Chinese businessmen able to pay for safaris to hunt lions. 

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Poaching lions is a thing worthy of notice, but when the Jews start to flee a nation, it is warning sign of dreadful ugliness in the works .

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