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Minority Report

August 9th, 2014 - 4:10 pm

Most public facts fall into the “maybe” category. Let’s review the maybes in three categories of recent headlines.

  1. the conflict with Russia;
  2. the situation in Iraq;
  3. the transmissibility of Ebola.

The conventional wisdom is that “Putin is on the run” and “Edward Snowden was a patriotic whistleblower.”  Ed Epstein has recorded a YouTube video that might make you rethink the proposition that Snowden acted with good intentions.  Epstein argues that the vast majority of documents Snowden stole pertained to U.S. penetrations of Chinese and Russian systems. Only a very small portion of his take bore upon NSA domestic surveillance, and that has been selectively released to people like Glenn Greenwald.  Epstein makes a thoughtful case for the possibility that Snowden was — objectively at least — a Russian intelligence op.

Timothy Ash disputes the idea that Putin is on the run. In a closely reasoned article he asserts that Putin is far more likely to escalate the crisis in Ukraine, probably via some sort of invasion carried on under the cover of restoring peace to that troubled land.  Michael Weiss at Foreign Policy writes, “Russia’s invasion of eastern Ukraine won’t be an armored blitzkrieg. It’s a slow, seditious drip — and it’s already underway.”

For those living the reality of having a portion of their country occupied by Russian intelligence agents and insurgents — all armed with Moscow-dispatched weapons, of course — the question isn’t whether Vladimir Putin will launch a full-scale assault on his neighbor, but when he’ll do it. This week, U.S., NATO, and European officials all seemed to agree that the prospect of that event occurring has risen precipitously.

Is Putin on the run before a triumphantly advancing Obama?  The situation in Iraq is rather interesting. The conventional wisdom is that the Obama has finally arrived to save the day. The best place to begin examining the alternatives is the map provided by the Institute for the Study of War Iraq Updates site.

The map (click to make it bigger) below makes it clear that ISIS is encircling Baghdad to the north and northwest. The black dots represent ISIS control. Moreover, it is apparently trying to sever the links between Baghdad and the Kurdish area, as can be noted from the distribution of the dots.

That would leave the Kurds with their backs to a hostile Turkey and Iran, which fears the prospect of Kurdish statehood.  But the killer move is shown by the black arrow I’ve inserted into the graphic.  If ISIS can control the southern corridor, including the so-called Triangle of Death, then it is game over for Maliki.  Baghdad will effectively be under siege.

ISIS manuevers

But for now, as another Institute for the Study of War map shows, the action is in the north. ISIS is moving in phases. The southern strike is probably going to be left for another phase. Note that the U.S. airstrikes making the headlines are in almost direct defense of Kirkuk. The strikes are far too few and far too localized to affect the overall situation.

2014-08-08 Situation Report high res-01

What Obama is trying to achieve was probably articulated by Elizabeth Warren. She explicitly asserts that Obama is not out to beat ISIS, but to negotiate with them.

“It’s a complicated situation right now in Iraq and the president has taken very targeted actions to provide humanitarian relief that the Iraqi government requested, and to protect American citizens,” Warren told reporters. “But like the president I believe that any solution in Iraq is going to be a negotiated solution, not a military solution. We do not want to be pulled into another war in Iraq.”

For this to work, Obama needs to force Maliki and his Iranian backers to the negotiating table with ISIS. His probable endgame is an agreement between the Shia and ISIS, with some sort of guarantees for the Kurds. My own guess is that Obama hopes that ISIS will turn south and threaten to complete the encirclement of Baghdad. Then Obama can step in with his “negotiated solution.” As Obama notes, his strategy may take “some time.” But from the scale and location of the American blows, the endgame is not victory over ISIS.

I can almost imagine Ken Watanabe reprising his immortal Godzilla lines in the White House, intoning with great gravity: “The arrogance of the Obama administration is thinking the Saudi lobby is in their control and not the other way around. Let them fight.” Even though the monsters will lay waste to everything before they return to the vasty deeps of history. “Let them fight! Let them fiiiight!”

The last topic of today’s post is the debate over the transmissibility of Ebola. Tara Smith at ScienceBlogs cites a study which confirms that Ebola cannot be transmitted air to air, as suggested through a study of pigs. The study had an import caveat. The pigs achieved a pseudo-airborne transmission because they breathed out a lot of mucus particles.

The presence of transmission in the pig-NHP experiment and not the NHP-NHP experiment, both performed under similar conditions and environments, could be explained by the fact that EBOV disease in pigs is respiratory in nature with high amounts of infectious particles present in the oro-nasal cavities in the symptomatic phase of the disease which provided an opportunity for release into the environment. On the receiving end, NHPs are known to be susceptible to lethal EBOV infection through the respiratory tract putting the onus of the transmission on the ability of the source to shed infectious particles.

That’s the good news. The bad news is suggestions that the virus, while not airborne, is more virulent than previously encountered. We have an Israeli doctor from Medecins Sans Frontieres working in Guinea saying: “This is the most virulent Ebola virus I’ve encountered. We don’t know how to assess the scope yet, but the actual numbers are higher than the published ones. The outbreak is coming from all directions.”

Reinich, who has been in Guinea since May, spoke to Haaretz by satellite phone from the town of Guéckédou near the border with Sierra Leone and Liberia — the outbreak’s center.

“Entire villages have been wiped out,” he said. “You come to villages and only find bodies. You don’t know if all the inhabitants died or if some simply fled. It’s a virus with a 90-percent death risk in these regions and we don’t know what condition the people who have fled are in.”
The panic in the afflicted countries is making it hard to contain the epidemic, even before considering other scourges like the Lassa virus and malaria, which are also spreading.

“Villagers are fleeing as if it were a civil war, which increases the spread of Ebola,” Reinich said. “They disappear into jungles and other places and become vagrants. So we’re constantly finding the virus in places we didn’t know about.” In some cases, aid workers like local Red Cross people also panic and run, Reinich says.

The evidence is not entirely anecdotal. At the beginning of the outbreak in April, Dr. Stephan Gunther of the Bernhard Nocht Institute for Tropical Medicine in Hamburg, Germany reported in the New England Journal of Medicine that they were facing a new strain.

The new research analyzed blood samples from 20 patients in the current outbreak and found the strain was unique.

“It is not coming from the Democratic Republic of Congo. It has not been imported to Guinea” from that country or from Gabon, where Ebola also has occurred, Gunther said.

Researchers think the Guinea and other strains evolved in parallel from a recent ancestor virus.

The University of Minnesota Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy noted that it was the unusual virulence which alerted doctors to the possibility. “In the NEJM report, researchers said Guinea’s health ministry first learned of clusters of a highly fatal mysterious disease that had been occurring in two cities in the forested region on Mar 10. The finding triggered an epidemiologic investigation by a European team from Doctors without Borders (Medecins Sans Frontieres) and prompted the collection of blood samples and clinical data from 20 patients, which were sent to biosafety level 4 labs for analysis in Lyon, France, and Hamburg, Germany.” This led to the full genetic sequencing, whose findings were reported in the New England Journal of Medcine.

But perhaps the most suggestive evidence was a report by Replikins Ltd., a company which pioneered the technique of measuring virulence through replikin counts. Their analysis shows that Ebola is becoming progressively more deadly in Africa.

Synthetic vaccine developer Replikins, Ltd., released new data on Thursday showing changes in the gene structure of the ebola virus.

The mean ebola reston gene Replikin count, or number of Replikins per 100 amino acids, increased 16-fold in 2013, according to a Replikins press release.

The increase follows a twofold Replikin count increase in 2010 and a threefold increase in 2012. The mean Replikin count for the ebola gene between 1995 and 2002 was 1.1.

Replikins said the increase of the Replikin count in recent years predicted the current West African outbreak of ebola.

Replikin count technology was used in the past to predict other deadly outbreaks. An increase of gene Replikin counts for H1N1 influenza, found in 2008, preceded the 2009 pandemic. The count has also been used to predict outbreaks of H5N1 influenza.

In the balance therefore, the probability is that the virus is not airborne — yet — but it is more dangerous than its predecessors. This would account for its ability to slip through the protocols designed for less deadly strains of the disease.  It’s not World War E time, but it’s time to worry.

The world is a complex place. Getting at the truth is hard enough without spin doctors and media consultants. But in a world where deceit is practiced by Russian intelligence, the White House and the governments of West Africa, getting at the truth is becoming nearly impossible. Every day on the TV and radio we hear: it’s all under control.

Maybe. But there’s always room for the Minority Report. One day we may rediscover the importance of Mark Twain’s reminder: “It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.”


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Top Rated Comments   
Obama has no endgame planned for anything in particular, but in general, Obama is flippin' th' bird to this whole Nation of ours, and he's a-gittin' even, man, with the very Establishment which has given Him His sense of entitlement, man.

We have to admit this openly: he's hoodwinked us and played upon latent, closeted White Guilt and has milked every possible type of entitlement as it presented itself. Laughin' all the while raisin' his fist, man.

He's a circus barker, and very, very good at sellin' all that snake oil to the erstwhile politically correct, man.

Look for Obama, after he finished trashing the Office of the President of the United States of America, to be anointed leader of the Sharpton racist industrial/claque. We'll be hearing from the newly empowered Obama and his ilk for years to come, man.

Now that the "Cool" factor of half-White Obama has been exposed for its shallowness, we should heed this costly lesson, man.
11 weeks ago
11 weeks ago Link To Comment
In time, the Arab will wreck all that has been built in Iraq, and elsewhere. It is their way. In fulfillment of the will of Allah. Inshallah.
Just wait till the oil runs out, or the fields get set alight.
11 weeks ago
11 weeks ago Link To Comment
The usual rule in virology is that transmission favors a weakened but not killed host. Viruses that are highly fatal tend to burn out, like wildfires used to before they were outlawed. The exception to this is when the host we care about is not the intended target. The influenza virus is generally a nuisance, but becomes a pestilence when the pigs/birds it normally hangs out with are the customer, and humans are bycatch.

This is why Putin tends to be a more reasonable player. Population under control is his endgame. Russia's population would be in dramatic decline if not for the importation of other ethnic groups and annexation of the Russian population of Ukraine. Humans are his intended host.

ISIS has no such qualms, cadavers are their goal, Molech is their prophet, death in the service of Molech is their highest honor. I think the attempt to convert ISIS into a traditional player by State is an attempt to make them care about their host. History is not encouraging, if they were to look at Hamas.
11 weeks ago
11 weeks ago Link To Comment
All Comments   (187)
All Comments   (187)
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There's an important element of the Snowden affair that has escaped notice. In the now, there's the damage of secrets in the hands of Russia and/or China, vs. beneficial effects of his warnings re... let's call the characterization "the United Surveillance State of America."

There's a 3rd corner to the debate.

Snowden's revelations are still creating ripples in the tech world. What changes to hardware, underlying protocols, and new software/ products will we have in 20 years, as a result of alarmed/ pissed-off tech workers? How will that change society, and the balance of power between rulers and ruled?

That isn't talked about much, because it's a question we can't answer for 20 years. But its effects may be greater than the secrets leak and political blowback combined.

Always in motion, the future is. And that's why Minority Reports are so very necessary.
11 weeks ago
11 weeks ago Link To Comment
This is a very useful thread here:

http://www.tfmetalsreport.com/comment/423181

Here are excerpts from posts in the thread:

No. 228:

"While not strictly "airborne", it is clearly very transmissible with very few particles via mucous membranes - recall Ken Isaacs statement about the eye. Droplets, even microscopic, from respiratory or other bodily secretions (sweat, urine, blood, feces) can apparently act very effectively as agents of transmission when landing on fomites (inert surfaces like table tops, seats/chairs, clothing).

It appears from the clinical observations in West Africa that the virus is exquisitely capable of being expelled onto fomites, transferring to another person (via the hands or garments) and then infecting the person through the most minute exposure to a mucous membrane like the eye or the oral mucosa or the respiratory tract.

Remember that only a very few microscopic virion particles could effectively cause an active clinical infection. This spread would then appear to be like airborne transmission while not strictly fitting that definition."

284

"In this link http://www.msdsonline.com/resources/msds-resources/free-safety-data-sheet-index/ebola-virus.aspx it says that the virus can stay infectious in dry or wet material for a "number of days" outside the host.

"… SURVIVAL OUTSIDE HOST: The virus can survive in liquid or dried material for a number of days (23). Infectivity is found to be stable at room temperature or at 4°C for several days, and indefinitely stable at -70°C (6, 20). Infectivity can be preserved by lyophilisation. "

242

"The Ebola targets antigen presenting cells. Each 1 mm of skin definitely has Langerhan's antigen presenting cells. These are macrophage and part of the immune system. Therefore, Ebola lands on your skin and infects those Langerhans cells. Your body is naive to the virus and therefore would not react in either the T-cell mediated or the B-cell humoral response for many weeks.

I know that our hospitals use contact precautions in all blood chemistry labs.
However, if the hospital lab personnel are running a typical ER panel (chem panel, CBC, and differential), the lab techs analyzing the blood samples would be exposed to the body fluid.

For instance, the lab tech would do the CBC manual differential, pick up the slide with gloved hand, and then touch the microscope. If they also adjust their glasses or are not wearing a mask, then they could inoculate themselves with Ebola."
11 weeks ago
11 weeks ago Link To Comment
"...what we have is a disaffected Sunni minority in the case of Iraq... Unfortunately, there was a period of time where the Shia majority in Iraq didn’t fully understand that. They’re starting to understand it now." - President Obama

Yeah, a bullet to the head will do that. But no victor no vanquished. Applying that to an area that has never had anything but victor/vanquished is absurd. These people don't trust each other in ways we've never even thought of. Obama's "plan" is to let them fight it out except for massacres?

Obama cites Tunisia as an example of cooperation but that country is almost 100% one ethnic group and Sunnism is a large majority. That's not cooperation but hegemony.

In Iraq there is no hegemony or anything like it. You have a Shia majority suppressed for decades and now in control. They're not going to suddenly vote Sunni anytime soon cuz democracy.
11 weeks ago
11 weeks ago Link To Comment
Wretchard,

You and Mr. Garton Ash are correct to question the 'conventional wisdom' that 'the Ukrainian army will soon defeat the separatists and they'll stop fighting and/or sanctions will force Putin to abandon them'. Although my previous comments here were swarmed by trolling and then deleted when I unwisely responded to the personal attacks of the trolls, the fact is the Ukrainian government just admitted this past week that it has suffered 3,500 'MIA' -- read combat deaths -- in the 'Southern Cauldron' pocket near the Russian border alone. That's approximately 10% of the total deployed forces the Ukrainian army has in the entire zone!

Everywhere in polite Western mainstream media it is assumed, or almost assumed, that either the rebels will be overwhelmed by Kiev's 'Gen. Grant' meatgrinder tactics and indifference to casualties, or that Putin will directly intervene to save the self-declared Donbas republics.

But what if that assumption is wrong? What if the rebels can keep bleeding the Ukrainian army out until it collapses like the German Army in 1918? Or better yet, when Ukraine runs out of natural gas this winter?


The real deadline it seems for the Ukrainian army and NATO to 'win' this one appears to be December-January. Meanwhile the rebels under Strelkov just ordered Soviet-vintage winter uniforms. They clearly don't think if Kiev manages to take Donetsk in a bloodbath or after reducing the place to rubble in a vain attempt to avoid house to house fighting that the war will be over.

Plus there's the matter of the more overt US/NATO aid to the Ukrainian military becomes, the more Putin's advisors will tell him to retaliate in kind by openly recognizing or arming the NAF with weapons that could inflict major casualties on any encirclement arm. Ukrainian manpower is not bottomless and anti-draft protests if not riots have already begun.

As I said to the trolls that immediately attacked my voice of dissent as Lubyanka propaganda, a horse festooned with 'Slava Ukraina' banners to cover the skeletal ribs while shot up with amphetamines is still a dying horse. Ukraine's economy is broken and it has no gas for the winter, the oligarchs stole it all and sold it to the Germans while no one was looking. A Maidan 2.0 is inevitable this time led by vets with guns, and the Azov Battalion which proudly wears the SS Wolfsangel runes on their banners will die not fighting for Donetsk, but ironically shooting it out with Maidanistas in Kiev or Zaporozhe.
(show less)
11 weeks ago
11 weeks ago Link To Comment
These comments are straight-up analysis. They may come from a different perspective, or even bias, but the only real question is: are they true? Meanwhile, thinking about them has enriched my own view, whose hope bias is generally more pro-Ukrainian than EquisFiles.

I very much hope that these comments are left alone, and will be more than slightly disappointed if they are not.
11 weeks ago
11 weeks ago Link To Comment
The voice of realism, especially about a hated eternal Cold War adversary's proxies and the defeats they're inflicting on a US proxy on the battlefield, are never welcome. Realism nowadays is always attacked as defeatism or disinformation, or even better, 'appeasement'.

But as I said Ukraine is shriveling economically even before it lacks any gas for heating across large swathes of the country this winter. Ukraine is torn by infighting, and fighting a rebellion that, although outnumbered, has a 100 km wide zone along the border for potentially unlimited resupply that Putin can step up anytime he chooses.

The Donbas militia claimed they found a US-built Javelin anti-tank missile in a Ukrainian arsenal in Kharkov region -- not the same arsenal someone shot a rocket propelled grenade at last week. This is a blinking green light from the rebels that Putin should start supplying the equivalent weapon from the Russian arsenal, the Koronet anti-tank missile, in large quantities.

For those that think I'm lying about the Southern Cauldron defeat, here's the images:

http://cassad-eng.livejournal.com/?skip=11
Wreckage of 72nd, 79th brigade remnants in the 'Southern Cauldron' aka Ukraine's own 'Highway of Death'

http://cassad-eng.livejournal.com/50694.html
Ukrainian push on Krasny Luch beaten back with heavy losses, Donetsk encirclement postponed
11 weeks ago
11 weeks ago Link To Comment
Timothy Garton Ash is not a military historian. Although he does hold out the possibility that Russia will simply double down on aid to the rebels and continue bleeding the Ukrainian army as an alternative to direct peacekeeping deployment, he seems to treat this most likely scenario as unlikely. Me thinks Garton Ash is overestimating the Ukrainian army like he's overestimating the 'Maidan administration's ability to create anything other than continued chaos, war, and economic misery for all Ukrainians, East and West. Even as a 'favorite child' of the EU/NATO/EuroAtlantic 'New World Order' Ukraine needs $4 billion a month in unsecured loans just to survive. There is no more Donbas industry to mortgage, and the shale gas in the ground is likely to see its feeder pipes sabotaged by small time partisans for months or years to come (sorry Hunter Biden). That means the only thing left for Ukraine to mortgage is its black earth in central and western parts of the country and its people.

4/4 EOT for me -- abiding strictly by all the PJM rules here. If ya'll delete these comments again, it's just pure censorship and an inability to handle contrary opinions or anything less than total excusing for Kiev's loveshelling of Donetsk and Lugansk.
11 weeks ago
11 weeks ago Link To Comment
Hey how about what looks like some good news on the treatability of ebola? First, we have the hi-tech labs standing by to make it:

US labs on standby to start work on Ebola drug(s)
http://www.cnbc.com/id/101908909?trknav=homestack:topnews:11

All three U.S. facilities established to quickly make vaccines and therapeutics in the event of a major public health threat say they are standing by to support any U.S. government effort to scale up a treatment for Ebola. The facilities, called Centers for Innovation in Advanced Development and Manufacturing (ADM), were set up by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in partnership with private industry, to respond to pandemics or chemical, biological, radiological, or nuclear threats. ... Combined, the centers have the capacity to produce and deliver at least 50 million doses of vaccine against pandemic influenza, the most likely source of a health emergency, within 12 weeks.

Second that we already have *two* different drugs that look effective.

If Obambus were doing anything like a competent job he'd have turned on both of these already. But he probably wants to negotiate a truce with ebola instead of vanquish it. We're lucky he's not publicly bowing to it.
11 weeks ago
11 weeks ago Link To Comment
double post. sorry.
11 weeks ago
11 weeks ago Link To Comment
Endgame: another catastrophe overshadows Iraq, e.g. an Ebola outbreak in America.
11 weeks ago
11 weeks ago Link To Comment
Frank Gaffney neatly summarizes Obama's policies: Embolden our enemies, undermine our allies, and diminish our country.
11 weeks ago
11 weeks ago Link To Comment
Richard sez: "In the balance therefore, the probability is that the virus is not airborne — yet — but it is more dangerous than its predecessors."

The CDC has openly disagreed with you on this one, Richard. See:

http://www.cdc.gov/vhf/ebola/hcp/case-definition.html

Make sure to read footnote 1. And then, someone, please tell me how this page does not amount to a public declaration that this strain of Ebola is at least partially airborne?
11 weeks ago
11 weeks ago Link To Comment
Perhaps it depends on what your definition of "airborne" is.
11 weeks ago
11 weeks ago Link To Comment
We can count on the CDC and other government entities to fuzz the definition of "airborne transmission" until we're all dead. See:

http://pjmedia.com/richardfernandez/2014/08/09/minority-report/?show-at-comment=831104#comment-831104

They'll contend until the end that "airborne transmission" of Ebola means only transmission by exhalation from existing victims, even if new victims contract it by inhalation of dried saliva and blood left around from people who had died days or even a week previously.
11 weeks ago
11 weeks ago Link To Comment
I have noticed the Democrats blaming all of this on George W. Bush. It is as if the First Gulf War, the invasion of Kuwait, and the subsequent 12 years never happened.

Want to tick off a Democrat? Blame Saddam Hussein for the current situation.
11 weeks ago
11 weeks ago Link To Comment
Want to tick off a Republican?
Remind them how many Jews, Christians, and minorities were still alive in the Mideast before we 'saved' them.
11 weeks ago
11 weeks ago Link To Comment
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