Friday, March 7, 2014

World War III, not the TV mini-series

This is the narrative. When the Soviet Union invades Afghanistan the US and the West cut off grain shipments to the starving nation, the victim of the failure of its agricultural system. In the mini-series World War III starring Rock Hudson, the Soviets respond by a secret attack on the trans-Alaska pipeline.
They figure it will be a snap to take a crucial but remote pumping station. Unfortunately, a National Guard unit made up of Alaska natives is nearby.
Hopefully, the impasse between Moscow and the West will not end like the mini-series does. Hudson realizes the Russians are lying, believing they can launch a first strike because the US president has to go to Congress. Hudson's president hangs up and launches a full-scale strike.
Russian President Putin has already been caught lying; denying there are Russian troops in Crimea. The world has seen the trucks, and their armored personnel carriers.
Sixty-eight years ago this week former British Prime Minister identified the Iron Curtain. "From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic, an iron curtain has descended across the Continent,” he said.
Putin said the masked men may have gotten their unforms at an Army-Navy story. Jon Stewart asked : "10,000?"
The Soviets or Russians have always believed they have an advantage because democracies are weak. They are counting on that now.
Their threat to shutdown a natural gas pipeline going through Ukraine will stop shipments to Germany. NATO forces could easily take control of the pipline if the Russians try to bypass Ukraine.
German Prime Minister Angela Merkel will have no choice.
In fact, analysts on some US and international networks are saying Putin has lost. Without the billions from Europe for its gas its treasury will be empty.
The saying goes: "When the treasury is empty, regimes fall."
It has been an exceptionally mild winter in Europe, and energy stockpiles have built up. It may take some time for Norway, the US and other providers to fill the gap, but the Arab oil embargo did not work. Forcing people not to drive faster than 55 mph, and allowing cars with even-numbered license plates to buy gasoline on certain days, and odd-numbered plates on other days, was little more than a nuisance.
In the mini-series, the US is forced to launch its missiles not because of a power-hungry, fluoride-fearing general in Florida as in “Dr. Strangelove.” Rather, rogue KGB officers have deposed the president.
So far, Ukrainian forces endured insults, shots fired over their heads, and still not retalitated. The BBC said Russian troops attacked a Ukrainian base Friday, crashing through a gate. The BBC tried to minimize it, saying perhaps it was only the result of some Russian troops losing patience. Or were they following orders.


Crimean Tatars may be the next to suffer ethnic cleansing

While Moscow claims to be protecting ethnic Russians in the Ukraine, the minority of Tatars fear they will suffer as they did in 1944 when hundreds of thousands were deported by Stalin.
The Soviet leader claimed the Tatars, who have lived in the area since 1441, had cooperated with Nazis.
They were put on trains, just like Jews headed to the Holocaust, and sent deep into Russia. Many died on the trip, only a small fraction ever made it back to Crimea, the New Yorker reported.
It has taken seven decades for them to trickle back to the Crimea. Sounds like a Hollywood movie in the making.
The 70th anniversary of the deportation is in May, and it is on the minds of the estimated 300,000 Tatars who live in Crimea now. That forced exodus began with Stalin’s secret police tagging their homes.
Some in the Crimea claim it is happening again, even before the area becomes part of Russia, which seems inevitable. Houses of the mostly Sunni Muslims have been marked by unidentified masked men.
“Just as we thought we finally had a future. How could anyone do this in the 21st Century,” asked Ava Memtova.
Where will they go, in world tired of Muslims, if the worst occurs? Turkey, where other Tatars live, is overwhelmed by refugees from Syria.
Many are already trying to leave.
It won’t be easy to trample on their rights; they do make up 15 percent of the population. They have created their own representative body, the Qurultay, the Guardian wrote.
They were strong opponents of ousted President Yanukovych, chanting “Glory to the Ukraine” at protest rallies and were seen as Ukrainian patriots.
A Tatar organization, the Mejlis, briefly blocked pro-Russian forces from entering the regional parliament.

Russian delegations have met with them, but were unable to gain their trust. Reports have reached the area of the “Rustification” occurring in Muslim communities in Russia, where the Tartar language is being undermined, and Muslims are considered terrorists, Al Jazeera reports.
The Crimean Tatars know there are Quislings just across the border, ready to cooperate. The pro-Russian Tatars are known as the Kazany, and they claim to be treated well in the Russian Republic of Tatarstan.
There are millions of Muslims in Russia, and it would seem stupid for Russian President Putin to further ignite Sunni unrest.
Yet Putin has been willing to risk it, and has used overwhelming force to try to end it.  Biographer Masha Gessen writes that the only thing post-Soviet rulers have had to offer Russia is to restore its standing as a super power. Efforts to raise their standard of living to Western standards, such as exist in the European Union, have largely failed. But they have succeeded enough to give them a taste of the good life.


Thursday, March 6, 2014

Second stunning success in AIDS drugs

Researchers in Boston have reported a second success in preventing AIDS in a baby born to an HIV-positive mother, and say there may be eight more such cases.
The baby, born in Long Beach, Calif., is the second doctors say aggressive treatment has prevented the disease from developing. The first announcement was greeted with great skepticism in the medical world, but the "Mississippi" baby is now more than 3 years old.
"This could lead to major changes, for two reasons,” Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, executive director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told the New York Times. “Both for the welfare of the child, and because it is a huge proof of concept that you can cure someone if you can treat them early enough.”
Meantime, it was disclosed that doctors are having similar success with five babies in Canada and three in South Africa.
The doctors involved in the second baby's case, in California, were not working with the obstetricians in the Mississippi case, though they were aware of its success.
Within 48 hours doctors will begin clinical tests with up to 60 babies born infected to see if aggressive early treatment will help them.
There was more good news at annual AIDS conference in Boston, according to An experimental drug tested on monkies appears to give victims an alternative to the daily cocktail of pills now taken.
"This is the most exciting innovation in the field of HIV prevention that I've heard of recently," said AIDS expert Dr. Robert Grant at the Gladsone Institutes.
"Both groups are showing 100 percent protection" using the drug. "If it works and proves to be safe, it would allow for HIV to be prevented with period injections, perhaps every three months.
A second, independent test produced similar results.
Research "supports moving this forward" into human testing, said Dr. Judith Currier, an infectious disease specialist at the University of California, Los Angeles.
The drugs being used to treat babies are similar to those given to adults, AZT, 3TC and nevirapine, but they are given immediately after birth instead of waiting for the disease to appear.
The disease has bedeviled the scientific community for decades, claiming as many as 36 millions lives as of 2012.
At first it was considered to mostly affect homosexuals, but later cases involved heterosexuals as well.
The disease was first clinically observed in the US in 1981, though research has indicated it may been around in a milder form in the mid-1950s.


Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Polar vortex from Moscow restarts Cold War

Is it 1938 all over again? Europe can't decide what to do about a power-hungry dictator who only wants a small part of a country with an ethnic Russian minority. Unfortunately, there are several newly independent nations that fit that description.
Will there be peace in our time? But of course, as Russian Television tweeted: Putin will not go to war with Ukraine, our relations are fraternal.
The main difference between now and then is that the United States is not sitting on the sidelines, though some will say why should America care?
US Secretary of State John Kerry is meeting Wednesday in Paris to discuss the Ukraine with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.
The most urgent pleas for help, other than Kiev, are coming from Poland. They can well remember how Hitler's Germany fabricated incidents to justify invading them, and the Soviets took what was left.
Europe is offering $15 billion in aid over the next two years, according to Jose Manuel Barroso, president of the European Commission. Kerry says the US will buttress that with an additional $1 billion.
That is not quite half what Ukraine says it needs. It is not clear how avid foreign investors will be about spending money in a country that could be annexed by the new Russian empire.
"The Russian aggression on Ukraine's territory is having political and economic consequences. The presence of the Russian military on Ukraine's territory is having an extremely negative effect of Ukraine's economy," said Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk.
Of course foreign investors are fleeing Russia, too.
The idea of sending in international monitors to see if ethnic Russians are safe in Crimea is certain to be vetoed by Russia.
Ukraine can write off its Russian debt, just as Syria has already done, perhaps setting Moscow on the same course for bankruptcy that brought down the Berlin Wall.
The mainstream media has concluded Europe is impotent because it needs Russian gas, though there are big stockpiles and it is a warm winter.
France, just like 1938, is the main voice calling for action. Sadly, no one, particularly their British allies, supported them then.
"Let's start to initiate the path of dialogue, but at the same time, tomorrow there is an EU summit and sanctions could be voted tomorrow if there is no de-escalation," said French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius.
One Russian response has been to begin testing new ICBMs and violating the airspace of NATO-member Turkey. It recalls Russian Bears flying into Alaskan airspace and being turned back by American jets.
Also as in 1938, the Crimean Peninsula is being portrayed in the Russian media as a hotbed of Nazi reactionaries, bent on harming ethnic Russians. The Washington Post reported not a single report of such activity has been reported, let alone confirmed.
It is only slightly more absurd than the 1,314 residents of Point Roberts, the tip of a peninsula that extends from Canada, claiming they are in danger of aggression from Ottawa.
Putin said the governor of Lutsk was tortured. The Post said he was doused with water.
Hitler presaged his plans in his book, “Mein Kampf.” Putin has said the greatest catastrophe of the 20th century.
The lukewarm support for the US is partly a result of the invasion of Iraq in a futile search for weapons of mass destruction.