Middle East

While Ebola Grabs The Headlines, Coronavirus Makes A Comeback In The Middle East

While I’ve been blogging about the Ebola outbreak in West Africa (121 dead last last I heard), I’ve noticed a different virus that I’ve talked about before is making a comeback further east. Deema Almashabi and Oliver Staley reported earlier today on Bloomberg.com:

The government of Saudi Arabia is trying to reassure its citizens that the most recent outbreak of a respiratory virus isn’t a cause for alarm following 16 new cases, including two deaths, reported in the last nine days.

The Saudi health ministry sent text messages through local carriers yesterday asking the country’s 30 million residents to check its website, call a free hotline and check its official Twitter account for updates on the coronavirus, which causes Middle Eastern respiratory syndrome or MERS…

Almost 230 people are known to have been infected since the virus emerged in Saudi Arabia two years ago, and 92 of them have died, according to the World Health Organization. Much about the disease and how it’s transmitted is still unknown…

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

The first time I discussed the coronavirus on Survival And Prosperity, the attention hadn’t yet focused on the Middle East. Rather, it was on Europe. I blogged on February 18, 2013:

Novel coronavirus (NCoV). A SARS-like virus I’ve been hearing more of recently. And of particular concern to the World Health Organization (WHO). From a February 16 posting on the “Disease Outbreak News” section of their website:

The United Kingdom (UK) has informed WHO of another confirmed case of infection with the novel coronavirus (NCoV). This is the third case confirmed in the country this month and is in the same family cluster as the two recently confirmed cases.

The latest confirmed case does not have recent travel history outside the UK. The case is recovering from mild respiratory illness and is currently well.

The confirmation with NCoV in this case with no recent travel history indicates that infection was acquired in the UK. Although this new case offers further indications of person-to-person transmission, no sustained person-to-person transmission has been identified

As of 16 February 2013, WHO has been informed of a total of 12 confirmed cases of human infection with NCoV, including five deaths…

WHO does not advise special screening at points of entry with regard to this event nor does it recommend that any travel or trade restrictions be applied.

WHO continues to closely monitor the situation.

(Editor’s note: Italics added for emphasis)

12 confirmed cases of this new coronavirus. 5 deaths.

The vibe I’m getting from public health circles is that human-to-human transmission of NCoV is pretty difficult, so there’s not much worry of a pandemic at this point in time.

Still, like the WHO suggested in their bulletin, it’s something worth keeping an eye on. People infected with the novel coronavirus have developed acute respiratory illness with symptoms of shortness of breath, cough, and pneumonia. There are no specific treatments for the illnesses caused by the virus.

By last summer, the coronavirus that now had a foothold in the Middle East was being called MERS, or MERS-CoV on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.

Coronavirus/Novel coronavirus/MERS/MERS-CoV- something to keep an eye out for in addition to Ebola.

By Christopher E. Hill
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

Source:

Almashabi, Deema and Staley, Oliver. “Saudi Arabia Seeks to Ease Concerns After New MERS Cases.” Bloomberg.com. 15 Apr. 2014. (http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-04-15/saudi-arabia-seeks-to-ease-concerns-after-new-mers-cases.html). 15 Apr. 2014.

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Tuesday, April 15th, 2014 Africa, Europe, Health, Middle East No Comments

U.S. Security Experts Wary Of American Fighters Returning From Syrian Civil War

Back on December 2, I blogged:

I suspect it’s only a matter of time before the U.S. homeland is attacked once again by Al-Qaeda (major operation), an affiliate, or sympathizers.

Complicating matters is the potential for radicalized Americans and European Union member state passport-carrying jihadists fighting in Syria’s civil war soon being part of this fray…

These radicalized foreign fighters were the focus of a piece that appeared on the International Business Times (UK) website Sunday. Tom Porter reported:

Experts have warned that a terrorist attack by jihadists returning radicalised from the war in Syria is “inevitable”.

It is believed that hundreds of British citizens have fought in the three-year Syrian conflict, with many taking up arms for Islamist groups.

Some have posted videos online, boasting of their exploits.

There are growing fears among security services that returning fighters with combat experience are poised to launch terrorist attacks in the UK. The Telegraph reports that around 250 Syria veterans may be back in the country.

Ahead of a discussion on Syrian fighters at Chatham House this week, Raffaello Pantucci, senior research fellow at the Royal United Services Institute, spoke of the growing danger.

“It seems almost inevitable that some sort of a threat back to the UK will come off the battlefield in Syria, something supported by the fact that security services in the UK believe they have already disrupted at least one plot with links to Syria,” he told the Independent on Sunday.

Last year, security forces are reported to have foiled a Mumbai-style plot, involving killing civilians with guns in central London, which involved Syria veterans

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

Even though Porter talked about the U.K., Syrian Civil War veterans who fought alongside Islamists will also be returning to the United States.

And U.S. security experts are wary of them.

Henry Austin and Charlene Gubash reported on the NBC News website back on February 15:

Foreign fighters returning home to the U.S., Britain and other countries after honing their skills in Syria’s civil war are posing a “nightmare for security services,” experts and officials say.

About 11,000 people have crossed into Syria seeking to help topple President Bashar Assad’s regime – including about 60 who are believed to have traveled from America. However, many have now been left disillusioned by bitter infighting between rival rebel groups and some have given up their weapons and returned to the West.

Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson earlier this month said that the U.S. government was “very focused” on the issue of militants returning to the country.

“Based on our work and the work of our international partners, we know individuals from the U.S., Canada and Europe are traveling to Syria to fight in the conflict,” he added.

Raffaello Pantucci, a senior research fellow at London’s Royal United Services Institute think tank, said recent history shows that “battlefields that have Sunni jihadist ideology have produced some sort of a threat.”

“It’s not true to say that all of those returning from Syria will come back and be a terrorist threat,” Pantucci added. “Perhaps a couple of them will, which makes it a nightmare for security services to track.”

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

Some suspect Muslim extremists have been trying hard to recruit Western Caucasian members for some time now to use in terrorist operations against the United States and its allies in the “War On Terror.”

By Christopher E. Hill
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

Sources:

Porter, Tom. “Experts Warn of ‘Inevitable’ UK Terror Attack By Returning Syria Jihadis.” International Business Times. 6 Apr. 2014. (http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/experts-warn-inevitable-uk-terror-attack-by-returning-syria-jihadis-1443631). 7 Apr. 2014.

Austin, Henry and Gubash, Charlene. “Syria’s American-Born Rebels Pose National Security ‘Nightmare’.” NBC News. 15 Feb. 2014. (http://www.nbcnews.com/news/mideast/syrias-american-born-rebels-pose-national-security-nightmare-n29451). 7 Apr. 2014.

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Al-Qaeda Magazine Lists Willis (Sears) Tower, Chicago Board Of Trade As Potential Car Bomb Targets

I spotted the following on TV the other night while watching the news on Chicago’s ABC affiliate ABC7. Investigative reporter Chuck Goudie wrote Saturday on the station’s website:

Two Chicago landmarks are called out by name as suggested car bomb targets for al Qaeda sympathizers in a newly-released Inspire magazine, the publication considered required reading for American jihadists.

“America is our first target” are the un-minced words in the Spring 2014 edition of Inspire, the first publication from al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) in nearly one year.

The magazine offers a detailed, illustrated recipe for constructing a car bomb “in a few hours,” securing it in a vehicle and then detonating it. “It allows Muslims to train at home instead of risking dangerous travel abroad” explains the just-posted online instruction manual that requires easily purchased components.

“This type of car bomb is not usually used to destroy buildings, but is very effective in killing individuals.”

Two Chicago buildings are listed prominently by al Qaeda as locations where car bombs could accomplish that:

1. Sears Tower (now the Willis Tower), 108-story skyscraper, it held the title tallest building in the world for about 25 years.
2. The Chicago Board of Trade Building

(Editor’s note: Italics added for emphasis)

In the ABC7 I-Team report, Goudie pointed out other suggested U.S. car bomb targets included Washington, D.C, Northern Virginia, New York, and Los Angeles.

I think it’s only a matter of time before Al-Qaeda, an affiliate, or devotee(s) carries out another terrorist attack within the United States.

That being said, as long as there’s still a sizable U.S. troop presence in the Middle East, I can’t help but feel that presents a much more “attractive” target to the jihadists.

Once they come home however, I suspect we’ll see attention shift to the “homeland.”

By Christopher E. Hill
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

Source:

Goudie, Chuck. “Chicago targets in terrorist crosshairs, new al Qaeda magazine Inspire says.” ABC7. 15 Mar. 2014. (http://abclocal.go.com/wls/story?section=news/iteam&id=9467587). 20 Mar. 2014.

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Welcome To Cold War 2

There’s been quite a bit of talk in the mainstream media these days about Russia and the United States being in a new “Cold War.”

As if the Syrian crisis didn’t provide a hint.

In “honor” of Cold War 2, I thought I’d bust out this Elton John classic for readers (I’ve never been a big fan of Elton John, but liked this tune since I first heard it back in the mid-eighties):


Elton John, “Nikita” (1985)
YouTube Video

Even though I first saw this video in 1985, it took me 29 years to realize Elton John was operating the windows of the Rolls Royce Corniche as if the convertible top was on. It wasn’t. Funny guy.

And because I didn’t see the film version of Tommy until 1994, I didn’t realize John had reprised his role as The Pinball Wizard when I first watched the music video on MTV 9 years earlier.

By Christopher E. Hill
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

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U.S. Special Ops Chief Warns Of ‘Broader Threat’ From Al-Qaeda

U.S. Navy Admiral William McRaven, commander of Special Operations Command (SOCOM), talked to the House Armed Services Committee last Thursday about the threat of terrorism posed by Al-Qaeda. SOCOM is charged with overseeing the various Special Operations Component Commands of the various braches of the U.S. armed forces. Admiral McRaven warned:

Core Al-Qaeda has gotten markedly weaker. The threat that was emanating out of the federally-administrated tribal areas with the support of other government agencies and the support of the Pakistanis- we have really decimated the core Al-Qaeda. So I would tell you, that threat is significantly decreased.

But of course, what we’ve seen is the franchise elements begin to pop up… So these franchises are beginning to grow up. However, having said that, I think what we see is a broader threat. But the high-end piece that we saw from Al-Qaeda is not as prevalent as it used to be.

So the threat is metastasizing. It is much more broad. But I would tell you that the threat to the homeland- with one or two exceptions- is less today than it was certainly five or ten years ago when core Al-Qaeda was stronger.

(Editor’s note: Italics added for emphasis)

I did a quick search on the Internet this morning for those “one or two exceptions,” but found nothing. Wish Admiral McRaven could have elaborated on these in the interest of public safety.


“Special Ops Chief: Threat From al Qaeda is ‘Much More Broad’ Today”
YouTube Video

By Christopher E. Hill
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

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Prominent Scientists Warn Of Serious Risk Of Pandemic H5N1 Virus Being Accidentally Released

How many times have you seen this plot in a movie? Scientists toy around with a killer virus that accidentally escapes the lab and goes on to decimate humankind.

According to a number of prominent scientists recently, such a scenario isn’t as far-fetched as many of us would probably like it to be.

Steve Connor reported in The Independent (UK) last Friday:

Some of the world’s most eminent scientists have severely criticised the arguments used by some influenza researchers who are trying to make the H5N1 bird-flu virus more dangerous to humans by repeatedly infecting laboratory ferrets.

More than 50 senior scientists from 14 countries, including three Nobel laureates and several fellows of the Royal Society, have written to the European Commission denouncing claims that the ferret experiments are necessary for the development of new flu vaccines and anti-viral drugs…

The signatories of the letter, who include eminent virologists, microbiologists and vaccine experts, as well as Nobel laureates Sir Richard Roberts, Harald zur Hausen and Richard Ernst, warned that there is a serious risk of an accidental release of a pandemic H5N1 virus from laboratories undertaking such research.

“The potential for accidental release of a hazardous pathogen is real, not hypothetical, as demonstrated by an alarming increase in the number of potential and actual release events in laboratories working with high-threat pathogens,” they say.

“We are in a situation where the probabilities of a laboratory accident that leads to global spread of an escaped mutated virus are small but finite, while the impact of global spread could be catastrophic,” they add…

(Editor’s note: Italics added for emphasis)

“As demonstrated by an alarming increase in the number of potential and actual release events in laboratories working with high-threat pathogens.”

Haven’t heard too much about this supposed increase in potential and actual “release events.”

Somewhat disturbing, if you ask me.

For those of you who don’t know, H5N1 is an avian (bird) flu virus. From the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services website Flu.gov:

H5N1 is a highly pathogenic avian (bird) flu virus that has caused serious outbreaks in domestic poultry in parts of Asia and the Middle East. Highly pathogenic refers to the virus’s ability to produce disease. Although H5N1 does not usually infect humans, nearly 600 cases of human cases of H5N1 have been reported from 15 countries since 2003.

By Christopher E. Hill
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

Source:

Connor, Steve. “’Untrue statements’ anger over work to make H5N1 bird-flu virus MORE dangerous to humans.” The Independent. 20 Dec. 2013. (http://www.independent.co.uk/news/science/untrue-statements-anger-over-work-to-make-h5n1-birdflu-virus-more-dangerous-to-humans-9018666.html). 23 Dec. 2013.

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Americans And ‘EU Passport’-Holding Jihadists Fighting In Syria Scrutinized As Potential Terrorists

I suspect it’s only a matter of time before the U.S. homeland is attacked once again by Al-Qaeda (major operation), an affiliate, or sympathizers.

Complicating matters is the potential for radicalized Americans and European Union member state passport-carrying jihadists fighting in Syria’s civil war soon being part of this fray.

Emery Dalesio of the Associated Press reported on The Christian Science Monitor website this past Saturday:

Federal officials say Americans are joining the bloody civil war in Syria, raising the chances they could become radicalized by Al Qaeda-linked militant groups and return to the U.S. as battle-hardened security risks.

The State Department says it has no estimates of how many Americans have taken up weapons to fight military units loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad in the 3-year-old war that has killed more than 100,000 people. Other estimates — from an arm of the British defense consultant IHS Jane’s and from experts at a nonprofit think tank in London — put the number of Americans at a couple dozen.

“A couple dozen.”

You may recall that only ten members of Lashkar-e-Taiba, a Pakistani terrorist organization, attacked the Taj Mahal Palace hotel and other sites in Mumbai (formerly Bombay), India, between November 26 and November 29, 2008, killing 164 people and wounding at least 308.

Granted, just because these Americans are fighting alongside Muslim extremists (among others) in Syria doesn’t mean they’re automatically terrorists. Still, federal agencies are concerned.


“American Mujahid with Chechen Mujahidin fights in Syrian against Bashar”
YouTube Video

There are also worries over 1,000 or so EU member state passport holders who have also taken up arms in Syria. Vadim Fersovich reported on The Voice Of Russia website on November 25:

Of the 5,000 to 10,000 “foreign” mercenaries, about 1,000 “jihadists” carry EU passports, according to a classified report by the German Intelligence Service (Der Spiegel, October 21st ). But that thousand is made up of dozens, perhaps, hundreds (at the most) of nationals of different countries. Some of them will die in Syria; others will choose not to return. But those who will come back will move to their homes, so the hundreds will again break down into isolated people. Experts believe that an overwhelming majority of those who will buy the return ticket have for good lost interest in dangerous adventures because of actual fierce fighting. The insurgents realize that back home, security agencies are quite effective, while the number of those thinking along the same lines as terrorists is incommensurably small.

Of course, even individual terrorists pose a threat, given that they can use their passports to freely travel about Europe and the United States. According to a former CIA analyst, Michael Scheuer, they return home with a list of their mujahedeen buddies who may give advice and/or help out with the money, if necessary.

(Editor’s notes: Italics added for emphasis)

It should be pointed out that not all “EU passport” holders can “freely travel” around the United States. The U.S. State Department explains such restrictions on their website here.

Regardless, continued vigilance is still required to combat the threat of terrorism now- and maybe even more so- in the future.

By Christopher E. Hill
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

Sources:

Dalesio, Emery P. “FBI warns about Americans joining Islamic fighters in Syria.” Associated Press. 30 Nov. 2013. (http://www.csmonitor.com/layout/set/r14/World/Latest-News-Wires/2013/1130/FBI-warns-about-Americans-joining-Islamic-fighters-in-Syria). 2 Dec. 2013.

Fersovich, Vadim. “Is Jihad likely in the West?” The Voice Of Russia. 25 Nov. 2013. (http://voiceofrussia.com/2013_11_25/Is-Jihad-likely-in-the-West-0430/). 2 Dec. 2013.

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Quote- No, Headlines- For The Week

Something different for readers this week. Instead of a quote, here’s two news headlines which made my eyes roll upon spotting them this weekend…

“Dow 20,000 here we come: It’s different this time”

-MarketWatch.com, November 22, 2013

“It’s different this time.”

I’ve lost count how many times I’ve heard this phrase uttered over the years as some asset bubble was being inflated.

It’s not just me either.

From Michael Kling on the Moneynews website back on May 23, 2013:

Time and again, as stock prices continue rising to unsustainable heights, stock enthusiasts have preached, “This time is different.”

And it’s not just stocks either.

From Charles Hugh Smith on LewRockwell.com this past Halloween:

Defenders of current real estate valuations can draw upon an array of justifications, but they boil down to the same one used to justify valuations in every asset bubble: this time it’s different.

As for my two cents? Like I commented on a Chicago Tribune article last week, it’s my belief that after the economic crisis reared it’s ugly head in the fall of 2008, home prices nose-dived, and the “Great Recession” took hold, Washington and the Fed only managed to paper over the situation and monetary policy was designed to inflate a new asset bubble (or two, what the hell) to “save” the U.S. economy and larger financial system. Subsequently, we find ourselves immersed in QE Infinity and what some of those who correctly-predicted the “Panic of ’08″ and housing crash see as new bubbles forming in residential real estate and equities.

I don’t envision this ending well.

Speaking of the Tribune, here’s another headline that made me cackle in disbelief.

“Breakthrough deal curbs Iran’s nuclear activity”

-Chicago Tribune website, November 24, 2013

All I can say about this hopium-infused headline is that I expect one of two scenarios down the road:

1. Downtown Tehran packed to the gills as the Islamic Republic of Iran parades its first nuclear weapon for the entire world to see. Those in the know understand state actors in this region of the world can only salivate over the prospect of having a nuke in their arsenal- Iran included. Realpolitik, people.

2. A mushroom cloud over an Israeli or U.S. city. If the technology/opportunity presents itself, an electromagnetic pulse originating from a nuclear device detonated in the atmosphere over one of these countries (more bang for the buck).

Of course, all bets are off over these two scenarios taking place if some one (the Israelis?) take out Iran’s growing nuclear capabilities with military force.

Question is, is that even possible anymore given the time Iran has had?

Again, there’s others who think the claim that the interim pact reached betwen Iran and China, France, Germany, Great Britain, Russia, and the United States “curbs Iran’s nuclear activity” is one big joke.

Enter Saudi Arabia’s Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, “the world’s foremost value investor” with a net worth of $20 billion as of March 2013 according to Forbes magazine. Here’s what the Saudi royal had to say about a potential deal with Iran. From Jeffrey Goldberg on Bloomberg.com Friday night:

“There’s no confidence in the Obama administration doing the right thing with Iran,” he told me, with a directness that would make Benjamin Netanyahu blush. “We’re really concerned — Israel, Saudi Arabia, the Middle East countries — about this.”

It is quite something for a Saudi royal to state baldly that his country is part of a tacit alliance with Israel, but Saudi leaders, like Israel’s leaders, are frantic with worry that an overeager Obama will accede to Iran’s desire to become a threshold state, one whose nuclear program is so advanced that it would only need several weeks to assemble a deliverable weapon. Alwaleed, like Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, believes that Iran, in its ongoing negotiations with the world’s major powers, will pocket whatever sanctions relief it gets without committing to ending its nuclear program. “Why are they offering relief?” he asked. “Keep the pressure on. Sanctions are what brought about the negotiations to begin with! Why not keep the pressure up?”

Obama, Alwaleed says, is a man who is in desperate political straits and needs a victory — any victory — to right his presidency. “Obama is in so much of a rush to have a deal with Iran,” he said. “He wants anything. He’s so wounded. It’s very scary. Look, the 2014 elections are going to begin. Within two stamonths they’re going to start campaigning. Thirty-nine members of his own party in the House have already moved away from him on Obamacare. That’s scary for him.”

(Editor’s note: Italics added for emphasis)

Note Goldberg’s headline for his Bloomberg piece:

“Iran Is Playing Obama, Says Saavy Saudi Prince”

Iran is “playing” Obama and many others, judging by the buzz being reported in the mainstream media this Sunday.

Not me. I just can’t see Dow 20,000 being sustained just yet or Iran’s nuclear aspirations being curbed through diplomacy any time soon.

Sources:

Kling, Michael. “New Yorker: No Stock Bubble- This Time Is Different.” Moneynews.com. 23 May 2013. (http://www.moneynews.com/InvestingAnalysis/stock-market-bubble-different/2013/05/23/id/506002). 24 May 2013.

Smith, Charles Hugh. “What Real Estate Bubble? Oh, You Mean the One That’s Bigger Than the 2007 Bubble?” LewRockwell.com. 31 Oct. 2013. (http://www.lewrockwell.com/2013/10/charles-hugh-smith/what-real-estate-bubble/). 24 Nov. 2013.

Goldberg, Jeffrey. “Iran Is Playing Obama, Says Savvy Saudi Prince.” Bloomberg.com. 22 Nov. 2013. (http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-11-22/iran-is-playing-obama-says-savvy-saudi-prince.html). 24 Nov. 2013.

By Christopher E. Hill
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

(Editor’s note: I am not responsible for any personal liability, loss, or risk incurred as a consequence of the use and application, either directly or indirectly, of any information presented herein.)

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U.S. Pandemic Preparedness Still Lacking

It’s been seven years since I left my job in the public safety field. And back in 2006, there was already plenty of discussion in that arena about the threat posed by pandemic influenza to the United States.

I fear the nation is still not prepared to the extent that it can be for such an event, despite improvements in pandemic preparedness in the last several years.

A number of public health experts seem to agree.

I came across the following tonight by Alvin Powell on the official news website for Harvard University. Powell wrote on the Harvard Gazette on November 15:

Despite world-class hospitals and an army of highly trained medical personnel, the local health establishment doesn’t have the excess “surge” capacity to handle a flu pandemic outbreak.

And Boston isn’t alone. A panel of experts on pandemics and public health said Wednesday that not only is such capacity lacking in Boston, it is in short supply around the world and would affect everything from providing beds for the sick to the ability to make and distribute vaccines.

“There’s just little wiggle room in today’s health care system,” said Anita Barry, the director of Boston’s Infectious Disease Bureau.

Barry spoke at the Harvard School of Public Health as part of a discussion about whether heath specialists are ready to handle the next pandemic. Though many people are thinking hard about the problem and keeping an eye on worrisome developments, such as a bird flu outbreak in China that has killed 45 and an outbreak of the SARS-like Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) that has killed 64, the global capacity to handle a major outbreak is still a work in progress.

(Editor’s note: Italics added for emphasis)

Keep in mind something Klaus Stohr, vice president and global head of influenza franchises for Novartis Vaccines and Diagnostics, pointed out in the discussion. Powell wrote:

Though technology has improved production, it still takes weeks to create a new flu vaccine, months to get it to the public, and as long as a year to make it widely available around the world, Stohr said.

(Editor’s note: Italics added for emphasis)

Yet, it might require only 90 days for a pandemic flu to infect the entire United States. Robert Roy Britt wrote on the science news website LiveScience back on April 5, 2006:

A new computer model reveals how a pandemic like the avian flu might spread quickly across the United States and what methods would best thwart the scenario.

Researchers assumed a starting point of 10 highly infectious influenza cases in Los Angeles, then let the model take it from there. The virus spread quickly, peaking in just 90 days with 100 or more infections per 1,000 residents of just about every corner of the country [Animated Map]…

U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt has said the country is not prepared for such a scenario.

(Editor’s note: Italics added for emphasis)

“The country is not prepared for such a scenario.”

I didn’t think so.

Sources:

Powell, Alvin. “Underprepared for the next pandemic.” Harvard Gazette. 15 Nov. 2013. (http://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2013/11/underprepared-for-the-next-pandemic/). 20 Nov. 2013.

Britt, Robert Roy. “Virtual Pandemic: 90 Days to Infect Entire U.S.” LiveScience. 6 Apr. 2006. (http://www.livescience.com/4027-virtual-pandemic-90-days-infect-entire.html). 20 Nov. 2013.

By Christopher E. Hill
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

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Wednesday, November 20th, 2013 Asia, Emergencies, Government, Health, Middle East, Preparedness No Comments

FBI Director: ‘Risk Of That Spectacular Attack In The Homeland Is Significantly Lower’ Than Before 9/11

I heard that FBI Director James B. Comey was on Capitol Hill yesterday speaking before Congress. I was curious to find out what he had to say about potential terrorist threats out there. Timothy M. Phelps reported on the Los Angeles Times website yesterday:

The terrorist threat to Americans is greater overseas than at home and is significantly lower than before the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, continuing a years-long trend, U.S. officials told a Senate committee Thursday…

“Because we took the fight to the enemy and got our act together in the last 12 years in very, very important ways, the risk of that spectacular attack in the homeland is significantly lower than it was before 9/11,” Comey told the Senate Homeland Security Committee.

(Editor’s note: Italics added for emphasis)

Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Randy Beers shared Director Comey’s assessment and was quoted by the Times as saying:

The dispersion of the Al Qaeda brand in North Africa, in Yemen, in Somalia and in other places- and as it is appearing to manifest in Syria now- means that the kinds of activities that will be undertaken are likely to be undertaken overseas, rather than directed against the homeland.

(Editor’s note: Italics added for emphasis)

While what Comey and Beers said makes sense concerning terrorist activities are more likely to be directed at American interests overseas, I can’t help but think this is only for the time being. From what I’ve taken away from Middle East terror experts, it’s just a whole lot easier for the bad guys to stay local and fight Americans in Afghanistan, for example, than attempting to infiltrate the U.S. homeland and pull something big off there. And according to the Associated Press on November 3:

Washington is expected to keep about 10,000 troops in Afghanistan after 2014, provided the security agreement is signed and includes immunity from prosecution by Afghan courts.

So this scenario might continue on for a while.

Still, it must remembered that Al-Qaeda’s stated objective still remains the following (as noted by the Director of Harvard’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Graham T. Allison, in a Council on Foreign Relations debate back on April 20, 2007):

Al-Qaeda spokesman Suleiman Abu Gheith has stated al-Qaeda’s objective: “to kill 4 million Americans—2 million of them children—and to exile twice as many and wound and cripple hundreds of thousands.”

(Editor’s note: Italics added for emphasis)

Which, if you think about, really leaves Al-Qaeda no choice but to attack the U.S. ‘homeland” sooner or later in order to achieve such numbers, provided they have the capability of doing so of course.

By Christopher E. Hill
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

Sources:

Phelps, Timothy M. “Officials say terrorist threat on U.S. soil is declining.” Los Angeles Times. 14 Nov. 2013. (http://www.latimes.com/world/worldnow/la-fg-wn-us-terrorist-threat-declines-20131114,0,2603061.story#axzz2kj9HI8Ps). 15 Nov. 2013.

“American, NATO officials offer mixed reports on readiness of Afghan troops ahead of withdrawal.” Associated Press. 3 Nov. 2013. (http://www.foxnews.com/world/2013/11/03/american-nato-officials-offer-mixed-reports-on-readiness-afghan-troops-ahead/). 15 Nov. 2013.

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Iran Can Now Produce Enough Weapons-Grade Uranium To Build A Nuclear Weapon Within 2 Weeks?

“Despite what this White House or its predecessors have repeatedly told the American people, it’s my belief that Iran will soon have nuclear weapons (barring military intervention by us or our allies).”

-Christopher E. Hill, Survival And Prosperity, January 20, 2011

There’s been plenty of talk lately that Iran may be able to produce enough weapons-grade uranium soon to build themselves a nuclear weapon.

To be fair, the prospect of the Iranians carrying out this achievement is something that keeps popping up in the news on a regular basis.

Still, I stand by that initial statement.

And here’s the latest chatter about the Islamic Republic of Iran getting their weapons-grade uranium and nuke. On October 5, AP White House Correspondent Julie Pace interviewed U.S. President Barack Obama on a wide range of topics. One of those was Iran. From their exchange:

Q: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said this week that Iran is about six months away from being able to produce a nuclear weapon. You said in March, before your trip to Israel, that you thought Iran was a year or more away. What’s the U.S. intelligence assessment at this point on that timetable?

THE PRESIDENT: Our assessment continues to be a year or more away.

U.S. intelligence on an Iranian nuclear weapon? One year.

On October 25, Oren Dorell reported on the USA TODAY website:

Iran could produce enough weapons-grade uranium to build a nuclear bomb in as little as a month, according to a new estimate by one of the USA’s top nuclear experts.

The top nuclear expert Dorell was referring to was David Albright, president of Washington, D.C.-based Institute for Science and International Security and a former inspector for the U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency. From the non-profit, non-partisan ISIS in an October 24, 2013, summary for their report entitled “Iranian Breakout Estimates, Updated September 2013″:

We evaluated a range of breakout scenarios based on the current enriching IR-1 centrifuges and LEU stockpiles, total installed IR-1 centrifuges, and a possible covert facility containing IR-2m centrifuges. This analysis utilizes a modified form of the well-known four-step enrichment process that was developed under A.Q. Khan for Pakistan’s centrifuge program and transferred to other countries, such as Iran. Using all four steps, Iran would enrich natural uranium to 3.5 percent in step one, then to 20 percent in step two, then to 60 percent in step three, and finally to WGU in step four. This analysis considers the four-step, three-step, and two-step process also with the use of existing LEU stockpiles.

The table lists the major estimated breakout times of the four scenarios considered in this report. Today, Iran could break out most quickly using a three-step process with its installed centrifuges and its LEU stockpiles as of August 2013. In this case, Iran could produce one SQ in as little as approximately 1.0-1.6 months, if it uses all its near 20 percent LEU hexafluoride stockpile. Using only 3.5 percent LEU, Iran would need at least 1.9 to 2.2 months and could make approximately 4 SQs of WGU using all its existing 3.5 percent LEU stockpile.

(Editor’s notes: Italics added for emphasis)

ISIS on Iran being able to produce one significant quantity (SQ) of weapon-grade uranium (WGU)? One month.

It was also noted in that summary:

The estimates in this report do not include the additional time that Iran would need to convert WGU into weapons components and manufacture a nuclear weapon. This extra time could be substantial, particularly if Iran wanted to build a reliable warhead for a ballistic missile. However, these preparations would most likely be conducted at secret sites and would be difficult to detect.

Which doesn’t rule out the possibility then that some manufacturing hasn’t already been going on.

And finally, Raphael Ahren reported yesterday on The Times Of Israel website:

Iran could produce enough weapons-grade uranium to build an atomic weapon within two weeks and has, “in a certain way,” already reached the point of no return in its nuclear program, a former senior International Atomic Energy Association official said Monday.

“I believe that if certain arrangements are done, it could even go down to two weeks. So there are a lot of concerns out there that Iran can hopefully now address, in this new phase, both at the P5+1 [talks between Tehran and six world powers] and with the IAEA,” former IAEA deputy director Olli Heinonen said, confirming a report released last week by the Washington-based Institute for Science and International Security, which stated Iran could muster enough uranium for a bomb by converting all of its 20-percent enriched stockpile within 1 to 1.6 months.

Former IAEA deputy director on Iran producing enough uranium for a nuke? Two weeks.

Two weeks.

Something tells me that while the Obama administration would have liked to kick the prospect of an Iranian nuclear weapon down the road as far as possible, they might actually welcome these latest estimates as a convenient distraction for the American public away from other problems the White House is currently trying to deal with.

Stay tuned.

By Christopher E. Hill, Editor
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

Sources:

“Full text of Obama’s interview with AP.” Associated Press. 5 Oct. 2013. (http://www.timesofisrael.com/full-text-of-obamas-interview-with-ap/). 29 Oct. 2013.

Dorell, Oren. “Report: Iran may be month from a bomb.” USA TODAY. 25 Oct. 2013. (http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/world/2013/10/24/iran-bomb-one-month-away/3181373/). 29 Oct. 2013.

“Iranian Breakout Estimates- Summary.” Institute for Science and International Security. 24 Oct. 2013. (http://www.isis-online.org/uploads/isis-reports/documents/Breakout_Study_Summary_24October2013.pdf). 29 Oct. 2013.

Ahren, Raphael. “‘Iran two weeks away from weapons-grade uranium’” The Times of Israel. 28 Oct. 2013. (http://www.timesofisrael.com/iran-two-weeks-away-from-weapons-grade-uranium/). 29 Oct. 2013.

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Al-Qaeda Leader Ayman Al-Zawahiri Urges Attacks On United States

“One of the great intellectual failures of the American intelligence community, and especially the counterterrorism community, is to assume if someone hasn’t attacked us, it’s because he can’t or because we’ve defeated him.”

-Michael Scheurer, retired Central Intelligence Agency officer who tracked Osama bin Laden as Chief of the Bin Laden Issue Station (“Alec Station”) from 1996 to 1999 and later as a special advisor to the unit from 2001 to 2004

The successor of Osama bin Laden in Al-Qaeda, Ayman al-Zawahiri, released an audio speech a day after the 12th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks on New York City and Washington, D.C. The leader of the Muslim terrorist organization urged followers to attack the United States homeland. Ellie Buchdahl reported on the Daily Mail (UK) website on September 13:

Al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri urged small-scale attacks inside the United States to “bleed America economically”, adding he hoped eventually to see a more significant strike, according to the SITE monitoring service.

In an audio speech released online a day after the 12th anniversary of the 9/11 strikes, Zawahiri said attacks “by one brother or a few of the brothers” would weaken the U.S. economy by triggering big spending on security, SITE reported.

At the same time, Muslims should seize any opportunity to land “a large strike” on the United States, even if this took years of patience.


“Al Qaeda calls for attacks inside United States”
Daily Mail Video

As I blogged back in June 2011, Ayman al-Zawahiri still has a point to prove concerning doubts over the operational capabilities of the terrorist organization and his leadership abilities.

Someone or some group answering his call for an attack within the United States would be a nice feather in his cap (turban actually) as Al-Qaeda attempts to plan/carry out their own operations while simultaneously fighting for survival.

Here’s hoping all individuals/groups involved fail big time. God Bless America.

By Christopher E. Hill, Editor
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

Source:

Buchdahl, Ellie. “Al-Qaeda calls for fresh wave of terror attacks inside U.S. to ‘bleed America economically’” Daily Mail. 13 Sep. 2013. (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2419911/Ayman-Al-Zawahiri-Al-Qaeda-leader-calls-terror-attacks-America-boycott-U-S-goods-bleed-America-economically.html). 17 Sep. 2013.

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Remember 9/11

“On September 11 of each year since 2001, I have asked my students to write their memories of the day that robbed this nation of its innocence. I have received heartfelt missives each year, some filled with fear because of our nation being attacked or because of relatives serving in Afghanistan or Iraq. Some have expressed their patriotism and love of the U. S. in words that would bring tears to the eyes of anyone who has served this country.

It has been the source of some of the best student writing I have ever seen, but my students will not be writing about their memories of 9/11 this year.

They don’t remember it.”

-Randy Turner, a Joplin, Missouri, English teacher, writing on the Huffington Post website, September 6, 2011

Lest we forget,

Christopher E. Hill
Editor

9-11 Heroes Stamp

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September 11 ‘Million Muslim March’ Inviting ‘False Flag’ Operation?

“False flag” events. Covert operations conducted by governments, corporations, or other organizations which are designed to deceive the public in such a way that the operations appear as though they are being carried out by other entities.

Something many Americans readily dismiss as existing within the realm of conspiracy.

Yet history is full of such incidents.

Tomorrow is the 12th anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks on New York City and Washington D.C. And it’s also the day the “Million Muslim March” is scheduled to take place in the streets of the nation’s capital. From the American Muslim Political Action Committee (AMPAC) website:

“MAMAF – Million American March Against Fear” Join AMPAC on a Historic Moment on 9/11/13 for Establishing the Humanity and Justice through Civil Rights Movement

AMPAC National News: Washington DC, Feb 2013

Brothers and Sisters In The Struggle For Peace and Justice,

On September 11th, will you stand in peace with us?

Event: MAMAF – Million American March Against Fear on 9/11/13

AMPAC – The American Muslim Political Action Committee AMPAC in cooperation and solidarity with MANDAA – Movement Against the National Defense Authorization Act, NDPAAC – National Democratic Party Asian American Caucus, NYDPAAC – New York Democratic Party Asian American Caucus, NABAB – North American Bangladeshi Association for Bangladesh, MDPAAC – Missouri Democratic Party Asian American Caucus, CLA – Community Leadership Affairs, SACC – South Asian Chamber of Commerce, Mosque Care, DC Area 9/11 Truth Movement ,A&E – Architects and Engineers for 9/11 Truth Movement, MMAT – Muslim Marching Against Terrorism, MD Rabbi Alam – the Founder of AMPAC, Richard Gage – the Founder of Architects and Engineers for 9/11 Truth Movement, Dr. Kevin Barrett – the National Spokesperson for Muslim Think Tank, and The March Against Drones (MAD) will be gathering on the National Mall, and then launching a march on the halls of power.

We invite you to stand with and join us to Rally Against Fear at 12 noon on The National Mall, then the Congress, the Supreme Court, and the White House, to hold truth to power at the three major branches of American government.

We ask all individuals and organizations working for peace to attend this collective action to tell our Government leaders we want transparency and policies of peace. In the past 12 years since 9/11 the United States government as failed to protect and promote Constitutional liberties and human life, here and abroad. We feel that accountability in government has been ignored and the time has arrived to collectively speak truth to power.

Speaking will be experts and individuals on the lack of transparency and questions plaguing 9/11, steady erosion of domestic civil liberties, drone policy and the very dire effect of these on of plight of American Muslims here at home, and Muslim communities globally in the scope of U.S. imperialism, and the modern face of resistance to unmanned aerial surveillance and warfare.

At 2:00 pm we will embark from the Rally Against Fear, and onto the March Against Drones. The march will go from the rally point between 7th and 14th Streets on the National Mall to the Capitol building, around the Capitol, and onto the street between the Supreme Court and Congress. We will rally there, in the streets, for about 15 minutes, and then we will continue. We will take Constitution to Pennsylvania Avenue and down to the White House, where we will rally again in the street between Lafayette Park and the North Lawn.

This will be a professional, positive, and proactive event for the whole family, as we expect very soon for the National Park Service to grant us the permit we requested. At 2:00 pm we will embark from the Rally Against Fear, and onto the March Against Drones. The march will go from the rally point between 7th and 14th Streets on the National Mall to the Capitol building, around the Capitol, and onto the street between the Supreme Court and Congress. We will rally there, in the streets, for about 15 minutes, and then we will continue. We will take Constitution to Pennsylvania Avenue and down to the White House, where we will rally again in the street between Lafayette Park and the North Lawn.

We will have water available for anyone that needs it, we know it is a healthy march, but we feel it will call due attention to the issues at hand, and that it is worth the challenge. We hope you do too, and we sincerely hope you bring your good energy, your friends and family as well, and you stand up and speak out with us. Love, light, and solidarity to you!

I know that the official name of the event is the “Million American March Against Fear,” or MAMAF. But it really began as the “Million Muslim March.” Dr. Kevin Barrett wrote on the PressTV.com website back on January 31, 2013:

AMPAC will be forcefully announcing its presence with a “Million Muslim March” on the White House on September 11, 2013. The goal, announced at AMPAC’s press conference in New York:

“We at AMPAC (American Muslim Political Action Committee) are planning a historic event for 9/11/13. One million Muslims will march to Washington D.C. and demand that our civil rights be protected by our government. We are demanding that laws be enacted protecting our First Amendment rights. We are asking President Obama to fulfill his promise from his first campaign for the Presidency of a transparent government. Lastly we are asking for the establishment of a real 9/11 Commission to reveal the truth to the American people.”

Anyway, while a Muslim-focused march scheduled to take place on the anniversary of a day where 19 Muslim extremists murdered 2,996 people is not surprisingly thought of by a number of Americans as being in bad taste, I respect the marchers’ right to free speech and hope it goes off without any harm to participants.

There may be more to Wednesday’s event though that meets the eye. You see, there’s a part of me that thinks such an occasion is ripe for a possible “false flag” operation being conducted in conjunction with it.

How so?

Well, if some group of Muslim extremists wants to get moderate Muslims on-board with their platform (example: force out U.S./Western interests from the Middle East), they might carry out an attack on the event and hope the blame falls on anti-Muslim Americans and the U.S. government (criticized for the massive failure in public safety).

Or if some group desires more American involvement in the Middle East (particular Israeli entities), they might carry out a “false flag” attack on the march, anticipating retaliatory activity by Muslim extremists and a subsequent U.S. response to that.

Another scenario, perhaps somewhat “out there,” would be an entity attacking the march in hopes certain groups in America today- Tea Partiers, libertarians, militias, even preppers and survivalists- get blamed and subsequently feel the heat from the federal government.

I have to stress this point again- I wish no harm comes to those participating in the Million American March Against Fear tomorrow. But I guess I’m the one who has the “Fear,” fear that the event presents ideal conditions for a “false flag” event to take place.

And if the “Million Muslim March” takes place without incident- fantastic. But my fear will remain a similar opportunity arises in which a “false flag” operation can be carried out.

By Christopher E. Hill, Editor
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

Source:

Barrett, Kevin. “Muslims to march on White House next September 11th.” PressTV.com. 31 Jan. 2013. (http://www.presstv.com/detail/2013/01/31/286487/million-muslim-march-on-white-house/). 10 Sep. 2013.

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Chicago Has Highest Gas Price Of U.S. Cities In Lower 48 States

Nothing takes a bite out of prosperity like high prices at the pump.

And as U.S. cities in the Lower 48 states are concerned, Chicago takes the top spot here.

While on the website of Lundberg Survey, an independent market research company offering local and national coverage of fuel prices, I spotted the following in a linked Associated Press article from Monday:

The average price of regular gasoline in the U.S. has risen 3 cents a gallon during the past two weeks…

Lundberg says a gallon of regular now costs $3.58 on average. Midgrade costs $3.77 and premium is $3.91.

Of the cities surveyed in the Lower 48 states, Chicago has the highest price at $3.92 a gallon. Tucson, Ariz., has the lowest at $3.27.

Blame it on Syria, right?

Is there any wonder why I fill my gas tank to the brim while I’m in Wisconsin?

(Editor’s note: According to WisconsinGasPrices.com this morning, the station I frequent there charges $3.55 a gallon- 37 cents cheaper compared to Chicago)

By Christopher E. Hill, Editor
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

Source:

“US gas prices rise 3 cents a gallon.” Associated Press. 9 Sep. 2013. (http://news.yahoo.com/us-gas-prices-rise-3-143222010.html;_ylt=A2KJNTsl_S1SOQsAy6XQtDMD). 10 Sep. 2013.

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