Friday, October 21, 2016


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Vladimir Putin, who is doing a lot of the heavy-lifting in a ground war against ISIS in Syria, might be thinking of an explosive new strategy. Literally.

In an interview with Russia Today, Putin hinted that he hasn’t ruled out using some of Russia’s vast arsenal of nuclear weapons against ISIS.

He explained: “We must [look at] everything happening on the battlefield, how the weapons operate.”

“[Russian cruise missiles] have proved to be modern and highly effective, and now we know it for sure – precision weapons that can be equipped with both conventional and special warheads, which are nuclear.”

But Putin was quick to add this caveat:

“Naturally, this is not necessary when fighting terrorists and, I hope, will never be needed.”

Russia has been one of the staunchest opponents against ISIS—because Syria’s beleaguered dictator, Bashar al-Assad, is a key Russian ally in the region. If Assad’s government were to fall (whether to ISIS or another Syrian revolutionary group), Russia’s power and clout in the Middle East would disintegrate almost overnight.

But Putin walks a fine line between blowing up civilian Syrians—many of whom are hostile to ISIS—and blowing up ISIS command centers, which is made even harder with indiscriminate weapons like nuclear missiles.

If Putin were to nuke Syria, it would only be the third time in history that a nuclear weapon was used in wartime—the only other times were when the U.S. bombed Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan to end World War II.

As Putin stated, it’d be unlikely—and generally unnecessary—to use such powerful weapons against ISIS. But the fact that it’s even being mentioned is it’s a clear sign of how the war against ISIS is changing in such a short period of time.

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Russian President Vladimir Putin, sensing weakness in President Barack Obama’s response to his country’s military moves in Syria, escalated his anti-American rhetoric this week by saying Obama’s Syria policy is weak and lacks objectives leaving Russia free to increase bombing of rebel strongholds in support of Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad.

During a Thursday during a visit to Astana, Kazakhstan – a country that borders Russia and falls within his orbit of power – Putin told reporters that:

“I don’t really understand how the U.S. can criticize Russia’s actions in Syria if they refuse to have direct dialogue.” “The basic weakness of the American position is that they don’t have an agenda, though we’re keeping the door open” for high-level discussions with Washington, he said.

Sensing policy paralysis in Washington over Middle East issues in general and the Syrian question in particular, Putin offered to send a delegation, led by Putin lieutenant Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, to Washington to explain Russia’s military campaign against Islamic State.

The offer was met by silence according to Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov earlier this week.

At the same time, the Interfax news service quoted Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Igo Konashenkov as saying that Russian warplanes flew 33 missions and made 32 airstrikes in the past 24 hours against Islamic State positions in Syria’s Idlib, Hama, Aleppo and Deir ez-Zor provinces.

Pressing his advantage, Putin said on Tuesday that some countries (US) had “oatmeal in their heads” for failing to understand that Russia’s airstrikes seek to defeat terrorism while Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov expressed “regret” over the American rejection of high-level talks.

President Obama sent out White House press secretary Josh Earnest to tell reporters (using an acronym for Islamic State) that:

“We’ve said that we’re not interested in doing that as long as Russia is not willing to make a constructive contribution to our counter-ISIL effort,” “Russia has their own agenda and it’s an agenda right now that they’re pursuing on their own.”

U.S. Defense Secretary Ashton Carter issued a tepid response to Russia’s military activity in Syria saying that Russia was wrapping itself in a “shroud of isolation” over Syria and the conflict in Ukraine and that supporting Assad “will inflame and prolong the Syrian civil war.”

U.S. officials were silent on the fact that keeping the Syrian dictator in power is exactly what Putin wants to regain a permanent presence in the Middle East that it has not had since the end of World War II.

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The Russian army’s new tank–designed to be “superior to the West”–is looking more like the infamous Soviet-era car, the Yugo.

The T-14 Armata made its second public appearance ever during a Victory Day parade–but, right as it rolled through Moscow’s iconic Red Square, in front of Vladimir Lenin’s mausoleum, it stalled.

Better during a public parade than an invasion of Ukraine?

Sergei Shoigu, Russia’s defense minister, apparently ran up to the tank to figure out what happened to the shiny new piece of Russian defense. Shortly after, servicemen tried to hook the tank up to another military vehicle for a tow–which also didn’t work.

The tank, left stranded in the middle of the very public Red Square during a parade for a good fifteen minutes, was finally moved after Alexei Zharich, a director from its manufacturer, took charge of the situation.

“[The crew’s] training is still continuing,” he justified later, via Twitter, as if a user error was the problem.

But apparently that Tweet didn’t toe the official Kremlin stance–Zharich quickly deleted it and replaced it with the even-less-truthful, “The Armata is fully operational and left under its own steam.”

This embarrassment isn’t unprecedented–apparently, an anonymous military source to a Russian news website that the Armata had broken down twice during practice runs for the Victory Day parade.

The T-14 Armata is supposed to be Russia’s new go-to battle “combat platform,” with more than 2,300 joining the army by 2020.

There’s no word on whether or not Putin has also put in an order for 2,300 new tow trucks.

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President Barack Obama announced his plan today to designate nearly all of Alaska’s 19.6-million-acre Arctic National Wildlife Refuge as permanent untouchable wilderness lands.

That means there will be no oil drilling, timber harvests, fracking operations, mining, road building, development or any other human activity that would damage the area’s otherwise natural and pristine appearance.

In a statement issued by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Department of the Interior announced the release of its Comprehensive Conservation Plan (CCP) for the refuge. Quoting the statement:

“The release of the CCP and the final environmental impact statement (EIS) for the refuge, which recommends additional protections”. . .”President Obama announced he will make an official recommendation to Congress to designate core areas of the refuge – including its Coastal Plain – as wilderness, the highest level of protection available to public lands.”

In a piece by Ron Arnold writing for The Daily Signal, “Alaska’s U.S. senators, Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan, and at-large Rep. Don Young, all Republicans, vowed at a press conference to fight Obama’s offshore decision…”.

Rep. Young is quoted as saying, “It’s becoming undeniably clear that this administration does not view Alaska as a sovereign state, but rather an eco-theme park for the most extreme environmentalist allies of the president and his party.”

Most disturbing is the role that Russian Federation President Vladimir Putin may have played in the decision.

Former Heritage Foundation investigative reporter Lachlan Markay now a staff writer with The Washington Free Beacon reported that:

“Russian money for anti-oil and gas campaigns had been laundered through a Bermuda investment house, bank, and shell corporation and the California-based Sea Change Foundation.

“The Sierra Club, the Natural Resources Defense Council, Food and Water Watch, the League of Conservation Voters and the Center for American Progress were among the recipients of Sea Change’s $100 million in grants in 2010 and 2011. . .”

More evidence.

In July 2014, the U.S Senate Environmental and Public Works Committee issued a report called The Chain of Environmental Command – an in-depth environmental collusion report detailing how a “Club of Billionaires and Their Foundations Control the Environmental Movement and Obama’s EPA”

The report revealed that three Russian energy investment firms funded a company called Wakefield Quinn, a Bermuda law firm that laundered the funds through a front corporation called Klein, Ltd. Klein in turn passed it on to Sea Change, which distributed the funds to anti-oil-and-gas green groups based in the U.S.

Now that President Obama has walled off the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge from oil and gas exploration at the behest of environmental groups that make their budgets with Russian money, Putin is asserting vast claims to oil and gas reserves for Russia in the Arctic.

That’s an astonishing return on the investment that Russia has made in eco-organizations that may not have America’s best interests at heart – something that might change when President Obama leaves office in 2017.

Until then, when the cats away, the Russian bear will play.

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Putin Oil Prices

Anyone who fills up a gas tank, buys home heating oil or works in a profession like truck driving where the price of diesel could make or break the family budget, has reason to celebrate with world oil prices hovering around $47 dollars a barrel.

For the average consumer, it amounts to an annual savings $234 – a tax cut of $75 billion a year for the nation as a whole according to Matt DiLallo writing for The Motley Fool. Even then, the price of a gallon of gas accounts for only 60% of the price at the pump.

The balance comes from refining costs (6%), distribution and marketing costs (17%) and federal, state and local taxes (15%) according to the latest numbers available from U.S. Energy Information Agency. DiLallo continues:

“That will leave each American family with more money that can be enjoyed by going out to eat more often, taking a nicer vacation, or, better yet, put toward your retirement.”

International Consequences

Cheap oil is bearing fruit on the international stage with American adversaries including Russia, Iran and Venezuela.

Russia is one of the world’s largest oil producers. With the dramatic drop in oil prices, Russia was forced recently to sharply increase the interest they will pay on foreign debt to 17%. This sharply drove down the value of the Russian rouble against the dollar – more evidence of how heavily Russia’s depends on oil and gas now 70% of export income. In fact, Russia loses about $2 billion in revenues for every dollar fall in the oil price.

The consequences are many fold.

Russia may need to rethink its’ foreign adventures in Ukraine, Belarus and the Baltic states and make impotent any Russian threat to cut natural gas supplies to western Europe this winter to exact policy concessions from Germany, France, Italy and Spain.

For Iran, the picture is much the same. Iran has been able to resist western economic sanctions over its’ nuclear weapons program when oil was selling at $120 per barrel or more.

But now that oil is trading in the mid-$40’s, they have been faced with hard choices – continue their nuclear program full bore… continue subsidizing radical Islam in the Middle East… or use sparse oil revenues to quell domestic economic unrest – a choice made easier by President Barak Obama’s unilateral and inexplicable decision to ease sanctions on the Islamic theocracy.

For Venezuela – a country already stressed financially by radical socialism that has burned up its foreign currency reserves – the drop in world oil prices may spell further unrest in a nation where long lines at grocery stores for basics like bread and cooking oil have been met the violence on the food lines.

Another big loser is the radical Islamic army known as ISIS. ISIS is selling deeply discounted oil at $30 a barrel on the black market for revenues of $3 million a day – far less than they need to fulfill their ambitions as the “go to” group for a social safety net for those who tote the line on ISIS recognition and embracing strict adherence to Sharia Law. Many experts believe the income will be used to consolidate ISIS gains and only lead to new aggression once oil prices recover.

Returning to the American market, federal, state and local governments are looking at $2.00 a gallon gas as an opportunity to increase taxes on fuel. They reason that consumers are accustomed to paying more for gas and that they had better move soon to raise taxes before cheap gas becomes the new normal.

Before they do, here are the top ten states with the lowest and highest taxes on gasoline:

Top Ten Least Expensive in order

Mississippi, Louisiana, South Carolina, Idaho, Michigan, New Mexico, Texas, Kansas, Oklahoma and Missouri.

Top Ten Most Expensive in order

Oregon, Washington, Nevada, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Vermont, California, New York, Alaska and Hawaii.

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Photo Credit: iStockPhoto:Kaszojad

Despite the Obama Administration’s war on coal, the draconian regulation of so-called “greenhouse gases” and a freeze on offshore drilling, the U.S. energy sector has seen a dramatic rise in oil output on private land from “fracking”.

Fracking is a method of oil extraction that involves injecting fluids under high pressure into cracks in oil formations allowing once unrecoverable oil and gas deposits to flow at sharply reduced costs.

As a result, the international market for a barrel of oil is down from a high of $100 or more to $60 leading prices at the pump to drop dramatically to less than $3 a gallon in many areas of the country saving consumers more than $300 million a day in gas prices.

That’s not the only benefit that comes from American fracking.

America’s adversaries – particularly Russia and Iran – rely heavily on oil and gas revenues to fund their domestic budgets and their foreign adventures in places like the Ukraine, the Middle East and other hot spots overseas.

With world oil prices flat or falling, Russia’s Vladimir Putin and Iranian’s mullahs will need to take a step back and reassess the cost benefit analysis of continued interference beyond their national borders – financial strains that experts predict will only intensify as North American oil production continues to rise in the year ahead.

Predictably, the Obama Administration and congressional democrats see these developments as a problem.

Earlier this month, in a last ditch effort to survive her run-off election against Congressman Bill Cassidy, Louisiana Senator Mary Landrieu tried but failed to pass the long stalled Keystone XL pipeline through the Senate despite veto threat from Obama Administration officials. The vote to proceed on the pipeline bill was defeated 59 – 41 votes including 39 Democrats voting against. She lost the run-off election by a nearly identical margin of 56% to 44% of the vote.



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