Monday, August 31, 2020

Washington and Iran's Nuclear Capabilities - A Complicated Web

As I have posted in the past, there is a great deal more to Iran's nuclear ambitions than Washington would have us believe.  In the past, I have posting this article which looks at the connections between the United States and Iran's nuclear program going back to the Eisenhower Administration.  In this brief posting, we will take a look at more recent history which clearly shows Washington's complicity in the nuclearization of Iran.


Let's open with this document, a signed copy of the formerly "Secret" National Security Decision Memorandum 292 dated April 22, 1975 (during the Gerald Ford Administration and when the Star of Iran was still in power):



Note that, under NSDM 292, the Ford Administration was more than willing to let Iran process radioactive materials and sell the output to nations with which the United States had "Agreements".

In a memorandum regarding the Nuclear Agreement with Iran from the President's Assistant for National Security Affairs, Brent Scowcroft, dated January 26, 1976, we find the following on the Office of the Historian for the Department of State :


"The US has run into a serious impasse in its negotiations for a nuclear agreement with Iran. The agreement was to serve as the enabling vehicle for our supplying Iran with approximately 6 to 8 large nuclear power plants and the associated enriched uranium fuel, and for possible Iranian investment in the next US gaseous diffusion uranium enrichment plant.


Our basic position for these negotiations was set forth in NSDM 292 (Tab D).2 Consistent with those guidelines, which were intended to strengthen our nuclear safeguards, we have been seeking the right to approve where the US supplied fuel can be reprocessed and the resulting weapons-usable plutonium retained. Our objective is to preclude reprocessing and storage in wholly national facilities. We have, however, assured the government of Iran that we would permit our fuels to be reprocessed in Iran on a suitable multinational basis.


In the past, Iran also has expressed an interest in contributing up to 20% of the cost of the next, privately built US gaseous diffusion plant. Iran would then be entitled to receive 20% of the output of the plant. We have informed Iran that we would permit it to physically receive such amounts of this material as are necessary for its own reactors and for pass-through fabrication for use in third countries with whom we have agreements. The remainder of Iran’s proposed share of the output, which would be in excess of such needs, would be stored in the US until actually needed in Iran or in a third country acquiring its fuel through Iran." (my bolds)


One of the issues with the nuclear deal was that France was willing to supply nuclear reactors to Iran with less rigorous safeguards than proposed by the United States, an issue that had shaken the Shah of Iran's confidence in the special relationship that Iran share with the United States.  At that time, the Department of State felt that the Shah was becoming increasingly concerned about the efforts by both India and Pakistan to develop nuclear weapons and the potential for his Arab State neighbours to develop their own nuclear weapons.  


The American agencies involved in the negotiations agreed that:


"1.) We (the United States) should allow Iran to receive and store all enriched uranium to which it might be entitled by reason of an investment in US private enrichment firms (UEA or prospective centrifuge enrichment companies), as long as any retransfer is to countries with which the US has an appropriate agreement for cooperation. (This step should improve the outlook for Iran’s investment in private US ventures, which will increase the chances that they can get off the ground and make private enrichment a reality.)


2.) We (the United States) should determine that Iran still has a serious interest in acquiring US nuclear equipment and material, and that our negotiation is not just an exercise." (my bold)


Now, let's look at National Security Decision Memorandum 324 dated April 20, 1976:



In this document, it is very clear that Washington wanted Iran to pursue the multinational aspect of the nuclear fuel reprocessing business, even to the point of offering Pakistan a stake in the processing facility.  In the mid-1970s, it was clear that Pakistan was embarking on a path that would lead to the development of nuclear weapons, a goal that was achieved in May 1998 in violation of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.


Washington's past dealings with the Shah of Iran led directly to the current nuclear capabilities that Iran has achieved.  Not only did the United States supply Iran with the radioactive material necessary to start its program, out of sheer greed, it wanted to profit from the agreement by having Iran to sell its nuclear products to nations with which Washington had an "Agreement".  Unfortunately, the 1979 coup that ousted the Shah of Iran and brought Ayatollah Khomeini into power put a quick end to Washington's plans for a friendly and profitable nuclear Iran.


Friday, August 28, 2020

The World Health Organization and Climate Change in the COVID-19 Era

The World Health Organization (also known as the Bill Gates Health Organization) has become an instrumental driver of the global response to the COVID-19 pandemic and is largely responsible for many of the more egregious examples of pandering.  Recent but relatively little covered comments by WHO's Director-General Tedros Ghebreyesus provides us with an interesting but unexpected link between the pandemic and one of the world's most divisive issues.


"Throughout history, outbreaks and pandemics have changed economies and societies. This one will be no different. 

In particular, the pandemic has given new impetus to the need to accelerate efforts to respond to climate change.

The pandemic has given us a glimpse of our world as it could be: cleaner skies and rivers.  Building back better means building back greener." (my bolds)


Now, you might think that WHO, whose mandate is global health, should have relatively little to do with the thorny issue of climate change and yet, its General-Director has managed to link the two issues.  But then again, look at the gentleman who is behind the World Health Organization:


Mr. Gates has a very strong interest in global climate change as shown in this TED talk from February 2010:

Here are some quotes from his talk:

"CO2 is warming the planet, and the equation on CO2 is actually a very straightforward one. If you sum up the CO2 that gets emitted, that leads to a temperature increase, and that temperature increase leads to some very negative effects: the effects on the weather; perhaps worse, the indirect effects, in that the natural ecosystems can't adjust to these rapid changes, and so you get ecosystem collapses.


Now, the exact amount of how you map from a certain increase of CO2 to what temperature will be, and where the positive feedbacks are -- there's some uncertainty there, but not very much. And there's certainly uncertainty about how bad those effects will be, but they will be extremely bad. I asked the top scientists on this several times: Do we really have to get down to near zero? Can't we just cut it in half or a quarter? And the answer is, until we get near to zero, the temperature will continue to rise. And so that's a big challenge. It's very different than saying, "We're a twelve-foot-high truck trying to get under a ten-foot bridge, and we can just sort of squeeze under." This is something that has to get to zero.


Now, we put out a lot of carbon dioxide every year -- over 26 billion tons. For each American, it's about 20 tons. For people in poor countries, it's less than one ton. It's an average of about five tons for everyone on the planet. And somehow, we have to make changes that will bring that down to zero. It's been constantly going up. It's only various economic changes that have even flattened it at all, so we have to go from rapidly rising to falling, and falling all the way to zero." (my bolds)

Fortunately, for all of us, Gates has a solution:

"This equation has four factors, a little bit of multiplication. So you've got a thing on the left, CO2, that you want to get to zero, and that's going to be based on the number of people, the services each person is using on average, the energy, on average, for each service, and the CO2 being put out per unit of energy. So let's look at each one of these, and see how we can get this down to zero. Probably, one of these numbers is going to have to get pretty near to zero."


That's right, it's in the title of his talk - innovating to zero!


In a recent posting on his blog "GatesNotes" he observes the following:


"You may have seen projections that, because economic activity has slowed down so much, the world will emit fewer greenhouse gases this year than last year. Although these projections are certainly true, their importance for the fight against climate change has been overstated.


Analysts disagree about how much emissions will go down this year, but the International Energy Agency puts the reduction around 8 percent. In real terms, that means we will release the equivalent of around 47 billion tons of carbon, instead of 51 billion.


That’s a meaningful reduction, and we would be in great shape if we could continue that rate of decrease every year. Unfortunately, we can’t.


Consider what it’s taking to achieve this 8 percent reduction. More than 600,000 people have died, and tens of millions are out of work. This April, car traffic was half what it was in April 2019. For months, air traffic virtually came to a halt.


To put it mildly, this is not a situation that anyone would want to continue. And yet we are still on track to emit 92 percent as much carbon as we did last year. What’s remarkable is not how much emissions will go down because of the pandemic, but how little.


In addition, these reductions are being achieved at, literally, the greatest possible cost."


Now, it's pretty easy for Bill Gates to encourage all of us to change our lifestyles in the name of reducing greenhouse gas emissions when you live in a 66,000 square foot home:



...and fly around the globe in your own private Bombardier BD-700 Global Express jet rather than travelling in cattle class like the sweaty proletarian masses:


...and can afford to buy an all-electric Porsche Taycan which starts at $185,000 US for the Turbo S model:


Apparently, in Gates' world, the mantra of "do as I say not as I do" is alive and well.


Given that the World Health Organization received $455.3 million from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in 2018 - 2019, it really should not be terribly surprising that WHO's profound interest in two of Bill Gates' favourite hobbies, vaccines and global climate change, has become a key part of its narrative.

Thursday, August 27, 2020

Fine Dining, Coronavirus Style

From the nation of origami (the art of folding paper), we have this:

Here is the original instructional video (in Japanese unfortunately): 

You will notice that the gentleman has some difficultly finding his mouth around the napkin, however, he does receive polite applause for his efforts.

According to the Japan Times, Saizeriya Company has subsidiaries in Australia, China, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Singapore and is encouraging other restaurants to follow its lead and introduce these readily available, low-cost masks that it believes will prevent the dreaded COVID-19-laced droplets from spreading throughout an entire restaurant. 

And, that's fine dining, coronavirus style.

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Facial Recognition and Masking in the COVID-19 Era - An Unintended Consequence

With many jurisdictions imposing mandatory masking for their citizenry, it was just a matter of time until someone figured out that there would be an unintended consequence to this policy.  Apparently, the United States Department of Homeland Security, the government arm in charge of protecting the homeland, has realized that there is a downside to masking.


In many parts of the globe, facial recognition has become one of law enforcement's key crime fighting tools. The combined use of CCTV and artificial intelligence technology has allowed governments around the world to track individuals and, since the early days of the War on Terror been adopted as a means of tracking and ultimately apprehend and neutralize potential terrorists.  In the case of the United States, Ban Facial Recognition has "tracked the trackers" and created this map which shows where facial recognition surveillance is occurring in the United States:



Research has shown that facial recognition technology already has issues with non-white, non-male identification as shown in this quote from a 2019 study conducted by the National Institute of Standards and Technology:


"Using the higher quality Application photos, false positive rates are highest in West and East African and East Asian people, and lowest in Eastern European individuals. This effect is generally large, with a factor of 100 more false positives between countries. However, with a number of algorithms developed in China this effect is reversed, with low false positive rates on East Asian faces. With domestic law enforcement images, the highest false positives are in American Indians, with elevated rates in African American and Asian populations; the relative ordering depends on sex and varies with algorithm.


We found false positives to be higher in women than men, and this is consistent across algorithms and datasets. This effect is smaller than that due to race.


We found elevated false positives in the elderly and in children; the effects were larger in the oldest and youngest, and smallest in middle-aged adults."


While facial recognition still has issues with both false positive and false negative identifications, the use of face masks during the COVID-19 pandemic has led to an even greater problem according to the Department of Homeland Security.  Here is a May 2020 Intelligence Note entitled "Violent Adversaries Likely to Use Protective Masks to Evade Face Recognition Systems" from the Counterterrorism Mission Center:



Here is a key quote:


"We assess violent extremists and other criminals who have historically maintained an interest in avoiding face recognition are likely to opportunistically seize upon public safety measures recommending the wearing of face masks to hinder the effectiveness of face recognition systems in public spaces by security partners...While we have no specific information that violent extremists or other criminals in the United States are using protective face coverings to conduct attacks. some of these entities have previously expressed interest in avoiding face recognition and promulgated simple instructions to conceal one's identity, both prior to and during the current COVID-19 pandemic."


As a bit of background, face masks/coverings were used by demonstrators in Hong Kong to defeat the government's CCTV tracking and identification systems.


The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has announced that it will be testing the effects of masks on facial recognition accuracy as shown here:



...and here:



NIST used software to apply masks to 6.2 million facial images that are in its database as part of its tests; this allowed NIST to use a variety of shapes, sizes and colours of masks.  The test using border crossing images without masks failed to authenticate 0.3 percentage of persons.  This false rejection rose to about 5 percent with the highest coverage masks tested.  They also found the following:


1.) The shape of the mask affects performance of the facial recognition algorithm with wider masks given false negative rates two times higher than rounder masks (i.e N95 masks).


2.) Darker coloured masks result in higher errors than lighter coloured masks.


It is important to note that NIST did not test images where the subjects were wearing eye glasses or other eye protection and it only tested masks that were of a uniform colour, unlike the wide diversity of masks that many people are wearing during the COVID-19 pandemic.  It also did not test photographs that had subjects wearing real masks since it claimed that these masks may not fit as well as the "software masks" added to photographs by NIST. This clearly suggests that the real world error rate may be significantly higher than NIST is currently projecting. 


As is typical of government mandated programs, there is often an unforeseen negative consequence.  In the era of mandatory COVID-19 masking, governments around the world will quickly ascertain that they are far less able to identify their citizens using facial recognition than in the world before the SARS-CoV-2 virus began its global journey. 

Friday, August 21, 2020

China's View on America's Presence in the Asia-Pacific

A recent publication by the National Institute for South China Sea Studies:



...takes an updated look at the U.S. military presence in the Asia-Pacific region from the Chinese perspective, a viewpoint that Westerners rarely see laid out in such a clear and concise fashion.


Let's start with some background as presented by the report.  The authors open by noting that during the Cold War, the United States global strategy in the Asia-Pacific region aimed to contain the Soviet Union's expansion in Asia by building a system of bilateral alliances (i.e. Japan, South Korea etcetera).  When the Cold War ended in the early 1990s, Washington felt less threatened and began to withdraw some of its troops posted in Asia to address domestic economic and social issues.  During the later 2010s, as Washington began to wind down its anti-terrorist agenda put in place during the Bush II Administration, it was during the Obama Administration that the United States gave more prominence to the Asia-Pacific region by introducing two concepts; the "pivot to Asia" and the "rebalancing toward the Asia-Pacific region".  Evidence of this rebalancing included positioning 60 percent of U.S. Air Force and Navy forces in the region, equipped with some of the most advanced weapons platforms.  Defense co-operation was stepped up with Australia, the Philippines, India, Singapore, Myanmar, Indonesia and Vietnam.  The United States became a party to the Treat of Amity and Cooperation (TAC) in Southeast Asia, bringing its relations with the Associated of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to a higher level.  During the Obama Administration, Washington pushed for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) with the goal of engaging in geo-economic competition with China.  The Trump Administration has carried the concept of competing with China further, creating a "great-power competition" similar to what was seen during the Cold War, expanding its Asia-Pacific security strategy into a new Indo-Pacific strategy that the authors view as a return to the Cold War.  In 2017, the Trump Administration announced three ways that the United States could uphold order in the Asia-Pacific; strengthening alliances, defense cooperation and American military capabilities.  In October 2017, Rex Tillerson first used the term "Indo-Pacific" rather than "Asia Pacific" in a speech on U.S. relations with India.  This suggests that Washington now views the vast geopolitical landscape composed of the Indian Ocean and the Western Pacific as well as the nations that surround these bodies of water as their "playground".


The Trump Administration has outlined four challenges in the Indo-Pacific region:


1.) China as a revisionist power


2.) Russia as a revitalized malign actor


3.) North Korea as a rogue state


4.) the prevalence of transnational challenges in the Indo-Pacific including terrorism, illicit arms, drug trade, human and wildlife trafficking and piracy


The Trump administration has also outline the four major objectives of its National Security Strategy:


1.) defend the homeland


2.) remain the world's preeminent military power


3.) ensure that the balance of power in key regions remains in the United States' favour


4.) advance an international order that is most conducive to its security and prosperity


Washington will achieve these goals in three ways:


1.) modernizing its military to enhance its lethality, resilience, agility and readiness.  It will also strengthen 


2.) expanding its security alliances and partnerships with nations in the Indo-Pacific as shown on this map:



3.) promoting a networked and more integrated region to deter aggression, maintain stability and ensure free access to common domains.


With that background, let's look at China's assessment of the U.S. military presence in the Indo-Pacific.  According to the authors of the report, the United States has the following military contingent in the region; 375,000 enlisted members with 85,000 forward deployed soldiers (28 percent of the entire U.S. military forces), 60 percent of its Navy ships, 55 percent of its Army and 66 percent of its Marine Corps.  As well, it has hired 38,000 civilian staff members for the region.


Here is a map showing the main locations of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command Forces:


The United States has 1081 military bases and posts in the Asia-Pacific as shown on these two tables:


Here is a table showing the armies of the major military powers in the Asia-Pacific (excluding China):



The report goes on to look at the United States military supremacy in the Asia-Pacific and why it will be so difficult for other nations to overtake U.S. military supremacy in the region for the foreseeable future as shown in this quote:


"The United States has an overwhelming lead in military expenditures among the major military powers in the Asia Pacific; in fact, its budget far exceeds the combined military outlay of China, Russia, India, Japan and South Korea.  The U.S. military supremacy is underpinned by this enormous spending.  Due to major adjustments brought about by its Indo-Pacific strategy and the needs of its great-power competition with China and Russia, the U.S. defense budget for FY 2020 reared a record of $738 billion."


The authors of the report look at the current status of the military relationship between the Trump Administration and China.  During 2018, the tensions between the two countries began to rise as the United States prohibited China's participation in the Rim of the Pacific Exercises (RIMPAC) exercises because of its "continued militarization in the South China Sea".  China views the RIMPAC exercises as a means of enhancing mutual trust between the two nations and a means of avoiding unplanned accidents at sea.  Further tensions were created when the U.S. Department of State announced that it would impose sanctions on China's Central Military Commission for purchasing defense equipment from Russia in September 2018.  One of the issues that repeatedly crops up is Washington's use of territory disputes to justify its aggression in the Indo-Pacific region; these disputes result in open multinational and bilateral military operations including training and drills of its aircraft carrier strike groups, amphibious ready groups and strategic bombers.  In total, American forces were involved in 16 multilateral exercises and 19 bilateral exercises in 2018, 23 multilateral exercises and 39 bilateral exercises in 2019 and 4 multilateral exercises and 16 bilateral exercises between January and April 2020 in the Asia-Pacific.  

Here is a very small sampling of both multilateral and bilateral exercises:



...Freedom of Navigation Operations (FONOPs) as shown here:


...and its interference in the affairs of Taiwan (which China regards as part of its territory) through the use of warships transiting the Taiwan Straits as shown here:


....and through the use of Freedom of Navigation Operations taking place in the South China Sea as shown here:



Despite these and other issues, the authors of the report claim that China does not regard the U.S. as a potential rival nor does it envisage a new cold or hot war with the United States, in sharp contrast to the Pentagon which has clearly identified China as a potential adversary that intends to replace the United States as the dominant global power,  even more threatening that Russia.


In conclusion, the report states the following:


"China has the following position in dealing with its military relations with the U.S.; it actively and properly handles its military relationship with the U.S. in accordance with the principles of non-conflict, non-confrontation, mutual respect and win-win cooperation.  It strives to make the military-to-military relationship a stabilizer for the relations between the two countries and hence contribute to the China-U.S. relationship based on coordination, cooperation and stability."


I would encourage you to read the entire report which you can find here.  It provides us with some fascinating insight on how "the other side" of this looming conflict has perceived Washington's agenda for its own backyard and why China's leadership could perceive America's actions as a threat to its own stability.

Thursday, August 20, 2020

Facebook, Vaccines and Fact-Checking - The Search for the Truth Goes On

In light of the looming vaccinations for the SARS-CoV-2 virus and Big Tech's control of the COVID-19 pandemic narrative through its unfettered censorship powers, a recent lawsuit launched by the Children's Health Defense (CHD) is most pertinent.


As background, CHD is a non-profit organization that was founded by Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and has become a leading independent child health protection and advocacy group.  It's mission is to provide the public with "timely and accurate vaccine and 5G and wireless technology safety information, particularly in the absence of any appreciable ongoing HHS or CDC research, any congressional oversight to reduce the risks of adverse reactions to vaccines or any reliable pharmaceutical industry research.  A key part of its mission is to end childhood epidemics by eliminating harmful toxic exposures and to hold those accountable who knobbly allow children to be unnecessarily exposed to dangerous toxins that destroy their health.


As additional background, Facebook's censorship activities against criticisms of vaccines began in March 2019 at the behest of Democratic Congressman and Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff who asked Facebook to suppress and purge interest content that was critical of government (i.e. CDC among others) vaccine policies.  You can read more about the background to this story here.


Here is the announcement of the lawsuit from CHD's homepage:



Here is the lead page of the lawsuit outlining the plaintiffs and the defendants:



Here are the pages of the legal document outlining the issues that CHD has with Facebook and its censorship of viewpoints to which it does not agree:



CHD claims that "one of the titans of the internet age (Facebook) has technology as an instrument to commit fraud and censorship".


Given that Mark Zuckerberg holds 53.3 percent of Facebook's publicly traded shares, he has sole power to both elect and remove directors from Facebook's Board of Directors and, since he directs and controls Facebook's business, is personally responsible for damages caused by his controlled entities' misconduct.  


According to the lawsuit, we find the following pertinent facts regarding Facebook's use of "fact-checking":


1.) Defendant Science Feedback is a French non-profit organization to which Facebook donates and which Facebook has specifically engaged as a "fact-checker" to flag selected content on CHD's Facebook page as "false information", insert oppositional articles in its place onCHD's page and divert users from CHD's own content on that false basis.


2.) Defendants The Poynter Institute for Media Studies and its wholly-owned subsidiary Politifact...which Facebook has employed as an additional "fact-checker" to flag selected content on CHD's Facebook page as "false information", inserting oppositional articles in its place on CHD's page and diverting users from CHD's own content on that false basis.  Facebook just happens to be a major donor to both Pioneer and Politifact.


Here is a screen capture from Poynter's website showing its major donors:



Here is a screen capture from Politifact's website showing its major donors:



This would clearly suggest that Facebook is hardly a benign entity when it comes to fact-checking its users' pages that it deems "false" and that its fact-checkers are far from independent.


Here are two examples of how Facebook has censored CHD:



According to the lawsuit, Facebook fails to inform its users that it has an advertising client relationship with Merck, Inc. (part of Big Pharma) along with other pharmaceutical companies.


It will now be up to the legal system to determine whether Facebook (and other social media platforms) should be the arbiter of truth and whether the government has the right to dictate its own business model to Big Tech.  This is particularly pertinent in the Age of COVID-19 when "facts" seem to be in the eye of the beholder.


For the rest of us, the never-ending search for the truth goes on.