CALIFORNIA WILDFIRES: INMATES ARE RISKING THEIR LIVES WORKING ALONGSIDE FIREFIGHTERS FOR $2 A DAY(Source Newsweek) As California firefighters work to contain the largest wildfire in state history, they find themselves working their 24-hour shifts alongside a group of unlikely partners: 3,400 inmates from the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. The groups work in unison, but while salaried California firefighters earn an annual mean wage of $74,000 plus benefits, inmates earn just $2 per day with an additional $1 per hour when fighting an active fire. Inmates without histories of arson, sexual crimes, kidnapping, gang-affiliation, escape attempts or facing a life sentence are allowed to volunteer for the firefighting program and are trained for two weeks in fire safety and field conditions before taking a physical exam. Once the exam is passed, prisoners are sent to live in one of 43 low-security field camps throughout the state. Juvenile delinquents are also eligible for the program, at least 58 youth offenders are currently fighting active wildfires.

“In an active fire, Cal Fire makes the determination for all crews based on the conditions, and the safety and security of all firefighters. In other words, inmate firefighters are not treated differently in the work they perform at the camps,” Vicky Waters, California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation told Newsweek on Tuesday. “I just want to emphasize that we absolutely recognize the incredible job these firefighters are doing, particularly when lives and properties are at stake.” An inmate also earns extra time off of their sentence for good behavior, typically two days off for each day served.

Russia’s S-500: How Putin Could Kill Air Force F-22s and B-2 Stealth Bombers?

Russia’s S-500: How Putin Could Kill Air Force F-22s and B-2 Stealth Bombers? (Source The National Interest)

Russia’s fearsome new S-500 air and missile defense system has apparently entered production—and is setting new records for missile engagement range. The next generation weapon is designed to supplement Moscow’s already potent S-400 and replace the A-135 anti-ballistic missile system. Not only does the weapon have unprecedented capability to hit high altitude targets—including ballistic missiles and satellites—at extremely long ranges, there have been some claims—usually from the media—that the system could target stealth aircraft. However, while some analysts believe that might be theoretically possible, there has been nothing to substantiate that claim. What is definitively known about the S-500 is that it is of very high priority to Russian president Vladimir Putin and that it presented publicly as primarily a high-altitude defense system. “It is necessary to develop and build up technological groundwork in the area of air defense, to continue modernization of Pantsir systems, to finish the development and preparations for mass production of the S-500 newest systems capable of hitting targets at super-high altitudes, including near-the-earth space,” Putin said in May.

While not all aspects of the S-500’s capabilities have been known to have been demonstrated by the West, there is little reason to doubt the capabilities of Russian air defense systems.

Florida Declares State Of Emergency As Red Tide Spreads (Source Huffington Post) Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) declared a state of emergency on Monday as a months-long red tide continues to spread throughout the region’s waters, killing hundreds of turtles and sickening people in coastal communities. The red tide ― a harmful bloom of algae that occurs naturally ― began last year and has spread through the Gulf of Mexico, now spanning some 150 miles. Fish and other wildlife have been washing up dead on beaches throughout Florida, including more than 300 sea turtles, manatees and even a whale shark that may have been killed by the phenomenon. “I am issuing an emergency declaration to provide significant funding and resources to the communities experiencing red tide so we can combat its terrible impacts,” Scott said in a statement on Monday. The declaration will provide $1.5 million in emergency funding and make state scientists available to help with clean-up efforts and animal rescues. The bloom of algae began last October and extends from Naples to the Everglades region, with no sign of slowing down. Residents have reported some negative health effects, including eye, nose and throat irritation, due to the vapors released by the red tide, according to The Washington Post.

“I can’t describe the smell. It’s like unbelievable,” Alex Kuizon, a resident of Bradenton Beach, told The Associated Press last week. “It makes you throw up.” More than 100 tons of dead fish have been removed from area beaches, NPR reports, and officials say they’re worried about the tide’s impact on tourism.


The US Air Force is ordering new satellites to harden defenses against Russian and Chinese missile threats

The US Air Force is ordering new satellites to harden defenses against Russian and Chinese missile threats (Source

The US Air Force has awarded Lockheed Martin a nearly $3 billion contract for new missile early warning satellites.

The satellites support the critical US nuclear deterrence mission and serve as the first line of defense against threats from Russia and China, which are expanding their counterspace capabilities. The US Air Force is ordering three new and survivable missile warning satellites, the service revealed Tuesday in an announcement stating that the contract had been awarded to Lockheed Martin for $2.9 billion. The Geosynchronous Earth Orbit (GEO) satellites, part of the larger Next-Generation Overhead Persistent Infrared (Next Gen OPIR) constellation, are expected to bolster US early warning capabilities, as well as demonstrate greater survivability against present and emerging counterspace threats from US rivals and adversaries than existing systems, Defense News reported Wednesday.

“This is early warning to support our nuclear deterrence,” Thomas Karako, a senior fellow with the International Security Program and the director of the Missile Defense Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told Business Insider. The Next Gen OPIR constellation is expected to replace the current Space Based Infrared System (SBIRS), with the first satellite launch now expected in 2023, two years earlier than initially planned. The initial procurement plans were first announced in April.

Economic war on Iran is war on Eurasia integration

Economic war on Iran is war on Eurasia integration (Source Asia Times) Hysteria reigned supreme after the first round of US sanctions were reinstated against Iran over the past week. War scenarios abound, and yet the key aspect of the economic war unleashed by the Trump administration has been overlooked: Iran is a major piece in a much larger chessboard. Eurasian integration is on display in Astana, where Russia, Iran and Turkey are deciding the fate of Syria, in coordination with Damascus.

Iran’s strategic depth in post-war Syria simply won’t vanish. The challenge of Syrian reconstruction will be met largely by Bashar al-Assad’s allies: China, Russia and Iran.

In parallel, the Russia-China strategic partnership – from the intersection between the BRI and the Eurasia Economic Union (EAEU) to the expansion of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) and the solidifying of BRICS Plus — has immense economic stakes in the stability of Iran.

The complex interconnection of Iran with both Russia (via the EAEU and the International North-South Transportation Corridor) and China (via BRI and oil/gas supplies) is even tighter than in the case of Syria in the past seven years of civil war. Iran is absolutely essential for Russia-China for the partnership to allow any “surgical strike” — as floated in Syria — or worse, hot war initiated by Washington.

A case could be made that with his recent overture to President Putin, President Trump is trying to negotiate some sort of freeze in the current configuration — a remixed Sykes-Picot for the 21st century. But that assumes Trump’s decision-making is not being dictated or co-opted by the US neocon cabal that pressed for the 2003 war in Iraq. If the situation turns volcanic when the US oil sanctions on Iran kick in by early November, an actual remix of the recent North Korea scenario would be in the cards. Washington simultaneously sent three carrier battle groups to terrify North Korea. That failed – and Trump ended up having to chat with Kim Jong-un. Despite the US record around the world — endless threats of a Venezuela invasion with the only tangible result an amateurish, failed drone attack; 17 years of endless war in Afghanistan, with the Taliban still as immovable as the Hindu Kush peaks;  the “4+1” – Russia, Syria, Iran, Iraq, plus Hezbollah – winning the vicious proxy war in Syria — US neocons scream and shout about striking Iran. As with North Korea, Russia and China will send unmistakable signs that Iran is in their closely coordinated Eurasian sphere of influence, and any attack on Iran will be considered an attack on the whole Eurasian sphere.

Catholic Church Covered Up Child Sex Abuse in Pennsylvania for Decades, Grand Jury Says

Catholic Church Covered Up Child Sex Abuse in Pennsylvania for Decades, Grand Jury Says (Source

Bishops and other leaders of the Roman Catholic Church in Pennsylvania covered up child sexual abuse by hundreds of priests over a period of 70 years, persuading victims not to report the abuse and police officers not to investigate it, according to a report issued by a grand jury on Tuesday.

The report, which says there were more than 1,000 identifiable victims and covered six of the state’s eight Catholic dioceses, is the broadest examination yet by a government agency in the United States of child sexual abuse in the Catholic Church. There have been ten previous reports by grand juries and attorneys general in the United States, according to the research and advocacy group, but those examined single dioceses or counties. The report catalogs horrific instances of abuse. “Despite some institutional reform, individual leaders of the church have largely escaped public accountability,” the grand jury wrote. “Priests were raping little boys and girls, and the men of God who were responsible for them not only did nothing; they hid it all. For decades.” The grand jury added that the church officials named in their report have been protected, and some have been promoted. “Until that changes, we think it is too early to close the book on the Catholic Church sex scandal,” the jury wrote.

Austria’s Imperial Presidency

Austria’s Imperial Presidency (Source

For more than 1,000 years, Europe has been home to emperors who claimed to be the successors of Roman emperors. Each pursued the same goal of uniting Europe under the imperial crown. From the mid-16th century until around 1800, the seat of these emperors was Vienna, Austria. One of the earliest emperors of the Holy Roman Empire was Charlemagne. His empire included much of what is now France, Germany and Austria. Under threat from the east, Charlemagne founded the “Ostmark,” a region where the Alps form a natural, defensive line against the eastern Slavic people. The Ostmark formed the core of modern Austria and is where it gets its name. This modest beginning laid the groundwork for Vienna to rise as the heart of the Holy Roman Empire. “Charlemagne endeavored to bring unity and peace to his empire—whose borders corresponded roughly to what today is Central Europe—that was established through crusades and interest-driven politics,” Vienna’s Imperial Treasury wrote at the start of Austria’s presidency of the Council. “As such, he may be regarded as the father of Europe, as is recalled annually in Aachen by the award of the city’s International Charlemagne Prize”. One of the EU’s founders, Otto von Habsburg, said, “The [European] Community is living largely by the heritage of the Holy Roman Empire, though the great majority of the people who live by it don’t know by what heritage they live.”

Under Chancellor Kurz, this Holy Roman Empire heritage is again gaining emphasis.

Correlating with Austria’s presidency, the Imperial Treasury in Vienna is offering tours between July 1 and December 31. The tours were advertised throughout Vienna with a large picture of the crown of the Holy Roman Empire. Vienna’s Imperial Treasury explained:

In July Austria assumes the presidency of the Council of the European Union. This is the occasion for lively debate about what Europe is, and what it should be in the future. The Imperial Treasury in the Vienna Hofburg is well suited as a forum for this discourse, for many of the objects preserved here are directly related to Europe’s past.

Today’s EU citizens face some of the same concerns as the Habsburg dynasty faced. During the Habsburg dynasty, Europe faced the greatest threat of an Islamic invasion in its history. Many Europeans today fear much the same. Vienna at the time was the center of the Holy Roman Empire, and the Islamists aimed to conquer it. What concerned the Holy Roman Empire anciently concerns the European Union today.

On the 333rd anniversary of the Battle of Vienna, Archbishop of Vienna Christoph Schönborn warned that “a third attempt at an Islamic conquest of Europe” could happen if Europeans don’t return to their “Christian roots.”


World Bank to issue world’s first blockchain bond

World Bank to issue world’s first blockchain bond (Source The World Bank is taking a step into the brave new world of digital finance to sell the first-ever bond to be issued entirely using blockchain technology, the bank announced Friday. More than just funds, the World Bank aims to gain experience using blockchain — a digital public registry of transactions — that could lead to “a golden future” for financial services for developing nations, a bank official told AFP. The technology is most often associated with cryptocurrencies — like bitcoin — which often raise suspicion about their reliability and volatility, as well as their use for criminal purposes. But because there as yet is no central bank-backed digital currency in existence, the two-year blockchain bond will rely on real-world money: Australian dollars. The Washington-based development lender aims to raise about Aus$50 million (about $36 million), although it could be double that if more investors get involved before the bond is finalized the week of August 20.

“Since our first bond transaction in 1947, innovation and investor satisfaction have been important hallmarks of our success with leveraging capital markets for development,” World Bank Treasurer Arunma Oteh said.

“Today, we believe that emerging technologies, equally offer transformative, yet prudent possibilities for us to continue to innovate, respond to investor needs and strengthen markets.”


Iran test-fired anti-ship missile during drills last week: U.S. source

Iran test-fired anti-ship missile during drills last week: U.S. source (Source Reuters) Iran test-fired a short-range anti-ship missile in the Strait of Hormuz during naval drills last week that Washington believes were aimed at sending a message as the United States reimposes sanctions on Tehran, a U.S. official said on Friday. The official, however, did not suggest that such a missile test was unusual during naval exercises or that it was carried out unsafely, noting it occurred in what could be described as Iranian territorial waters in the Strait. Iran’s Revolutionary Guards confirmed on Sunday it had held war games in the Gulf over the past several days, saying they were aimed at “confronting possible threats” by enemies.

U.S. Army General Joseph Votel, head of the U.S. military’s Central Command, said earlier this week the scope and scale of the exercises were similar to ones Iran had carried out in the past. But the timing of this particular set of exercises was designed to get Washington’s attention.

“It’s pretty clear to us that they were trying to use that exercise to send a message to us that as we approach this period of the sanctions here, that they had some capabilities,” Votel told reporters at the Pentagon.

Iran has been furious over U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to pull out of an international agreement on Iran’s nuclear program and re-impose sanctions on Tehran. Senior Iranian officials have warned the country would not easily yield to a renewed U.S. campaign to strangle Iran’s vital oil exports. Last month, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei backed President Hassan Rouhani’s suggestion that Iran may block Gulf oil exports if its own exports are stopped. Votel said the U.S. military was keenly aware of Iran’s military activities. “We are aware of what’s going on, and we remain ready to protect ourselves as we pursue our objectives of freedom of navigation and the freedom of commerce in international waters,” Votel said.


US sanctions on Russian banks would be ‘economic war’, threatens Medvedev

US sanctions on Russian banks would be ‘economic war’, threatens Medvedev (Source Reuters)

Russia would consider any US move to curb the operations of Russian banks or their foreign currency dealings to be a declaration of economic war, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said on Friday. The United States announced a new round of sanctions on Wednesday targeting Russia that pushed the rouble to two-year lows and sparked a wider sell-off over fears Russia was locked in a spiral of never-ending sanctions. Separate legislation introduced last week in draft form by Republican and Democratic senators proposes curbs on the operations of several state-owned Russian banks in the United States and restrictions on their use of the dollar.

Mr Medvedev said Moscow would take economic, political or other retaliatory measures against the United States if Washington targeted Russian banks.

“I would not like to comment on talks about future sanctions, but I can say one thing: If some ban on banks’ operations or on their use of one or another currency follows, it would be possible to clearly call it a declaration of economic war,” said the Russian prime minister. “And it would be necessary, it would be needed to react to this war economically, politically, or, if needed, by other means. And our American friends need to understand this,” he said, speaking on a trip to the Russian Far East.


US used Hiroshima atomic bomb victims as ‘guinea pigs’, survivor tells RT

US used Hiroshima atomic bomb victims as ‘guinea pigs’, survivor tells RT (Source RT)

Survivors of the Hiroshima atomic bomb were used as lab rats for US research, and the post-war occupation forces censored media reports attempting to shed light on the atrocity, a survivor of the nuclear attack told RT.

Setsuko Thurlow, a nuclear weapons disarmament activist and survivor of the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima, told RT’s Sophie Shevardnadze that US forces occupying Japan after the end of World War Two were more interested studying the effects of nuclear warfare than they were in helping victims of the attack. “The United States established an institution called ABCC (Atomic Bomb Casualty Commission) and people were very happy that finally we got some medication, medical experts who knew what this was all about, who would help Japanese doctors who were at a loss,”Thurlow said while speaking on Shevardnadze’s SophieCo program.

“But the sole purpose of the ABCC was to study the effects of radiation on human bodies, not to help the people sick because of the radiation. The survivors felt they were used as guinea pigs twice: first time as a target, second as a subject for research.” To make matters worse, the US occupation forces did all they could to suppress media coverage about the deadly attack and its horrific aftermath, Thurlow said. “Occupational forces didn’t want the media, newspapers to write anything that could be seen as disadvantageous to occupational forces. And if a newspaper writes something about the destruction and especially human suffering in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, this would be considered disadvantageous, this would have stop. So they censored and forced some media companies to close the shop. This is not exactly a democratic thing to do.”

According to Thurlow, tens of thousands of personal items such as diaries, photographs and even haiku – Japanese poetry – were confiscated by the US authorities in order to prevent the world from understanding the full consequences of nuclear war.