EIR Daily Alert Service, TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 27, 2018
TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 27, 2018
Volume 5, Number 41
EIR Daily Alert Service
P.O. Box 17390, Washington, DC 20041-0390
Feb. 26 (EIRNS)—What was it that President Trump promised, intended, was elected to reverse? The collapse of the winning optimism, the industrial prowess, the productive spirit of America. Let’s stop starting wars, he said, and rebuild our nation, industry, infrastructure, economy, put “our footsteps on distant worlds.” His target, whether he precisely called it this or not, was to end the deepening pessimism of an America which had once led mankind into space.
For those intentions, the President himself became the target, of those who insist on America-always-at-war, and America back in great power confrontation with China and Russia rather than in great power cooperation for peace and economic progress.
For the neo-conservatives ascendant during the Bush and Obama presidencies, and for unfortunate millions of Americans, the United States has become a nation for which “winning” means only being the best at identifying adversary “regimes,” “tribes” or peoples and killing them, along with the odd terrorist group these wars spin off.
In the course of this identification—or creation—of adversaries and preparations to kill them, both neo-conservative and liberal establishments attribute their own practices to those “adversaries”—a “mirror trap.” The astonishing recent report of the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) which stated that China is preparing for pre-emptive cruise missile strikes on Washington and assassinations of U.S. leaders while invading Taiwan, is typical of the “new Cold War” hysteria. China’s very long history shows no such actions; the United States’ last 50 years is full of them, and they have multiplied in the last 20. China’s Global Times rightly answered the CSIS outrage by naming it “U.S. frightened by its own mirror image.”
Mass public shootings of Americans themselves by Americans, mirror that cultural and moral pessimism.
Americans should be frightened by the image of the mass shooters in the mirror: imagining themselves snipers and special forces, ridding themselves of imagined enemies, always with suicide the ultimate goal. All but one of the 25 worst mass shootings in America’s history have occurred since 1980. The 1950s and 1960s—with gun laws unreformed, but with the strong pull of scientific and economic optimism and a nation exporting atomic power and looking toward space—saw just six such public shooting outbreaks in 20 years.
In 1999, when the “Columbine massacre” occurred (despite a national assault-weapons ban), EIR Founder Lyndon LaRouche wrote that Littleton, Colorado, had suffered “an omen for our time…. How does one corrupt innocent children into becoming psychotic-like killers? The quick answer to that question, is: Dehumanize the image of man…. It is no oversimplification to say, that once that first step, dehumanizing the image of man, is accomplished, the axiomatic basis has been established, to make war, and killing, merely a childish game….”
And how does one now restore the image of man in the universe, and of a nation helping other nations in development of “the common aims of mankind”? “Winning” actually means “win-win.” Commit to the Belt and Road Initiative of great infrastructure projects in collaboration with China and 60 other nations. Launch back into space exploration, as in the Apollo Project, with the other spacefaring nations. See to America’s economy before it is hit by another financial crash, by imposing Glass-Steagall on Wall Street and generating development credit as Alexander Hamilton did it.
But the 50 years since President Kennedy was killed have been a growing nightmare for America. To return to what it means to be human—the real subject of LaRouche’s 1999 reflection on Columbine—is the fundamental thing.
U.S. POLITICAL AND ECONOMIC
Feb. 26 (EIRNS)—In a recent discussion, former FBI whistleblower and now member of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS) Coleen Rowley addressed the issue of “domestic terror” behind mass shootings, pointing to the media’s role in fostering a widespread “culture of violence.”
In a Feb. 21 podcast discussion with Jeff Schechtman of “WhoWhatWhy,” Rowley stated that, while the FBI liked to look at everything as a simple “Perry Mason detective plot,” the reality of what we are dealing with is something much larger. “The CIA and the Pentagon have been backing, helping make about 1,800 movies,” she said, pointing to titles like the 2014 “American Sniper” and (2012) “Zero Dark 30,” or even, years earlier, Arnold Schwarzenegger’s 1984 role in “The Terminator.” “The hero will be someone who’s wronged,” Rowley said, “and then at the end they shoot everyone…. A mentally impaired or emotionally troubled person is seeing themselves as that hero in those movies…. Even with suicide this happens. If a person in a—a friend commits suicide, that often will have such an impact on that group of people that it will spawn copycat suicides.”
“Our culture is doing this,” she insisted, “it’s promoting this violent culture. And of course this is over and above the availability and easy access to weapons…. You put all of those things together and that does not explain the question, ‘Columbine, why is this happening?’ Why are we experiencing an epidemic of mass violence? Again, our news never mentions that because we want to … compartmentalize this and make it seem as if it’s easily—it’s not us as a culture.” By pointing to mental illness, or to the easy availability of guns, “you want to make it something that doesn’t reflect badly on our culture.”
In addition, Rowley pointed out the influence of the “perpetual war” on the society. As far back as the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, Timothy McVeigh was “a product of Gulf War One,” as was Washington Beltway sniper John Muhammad in 2002. Two studies have now shown that veterans are “twice as likely” to become one of these mass shooters. She continued to tick them off: the 2016 Dallas, Texas ambush of police (killed 5, wounded 9); the 2013 D.C. Navy Yard shooter (killed 12); and more. “This is twice as likely.” (The Feb. 14 Parkland, Florida shooter was a junior ROTC member, though not a veteran per se.)
STRATEGIC WAR DANGER
Feb. 26 (EIRNS)—The South Korean Presidency issued a statement saying that North Korea is willing to start direct talks with the United States, following talks on Sunday between South Korean President Moon Jae-in and the head of the North Korean delegation, Kim Yong-chol, vice-chair of the Workers’ Party of Korea Central Committee.
South Korea’s presidential Blue House stated: “The North Korean delegation said that North Korea is fully willing to talk to the U.S. and agreed that North-South relations cannot be separated from North Korea-U.S. relations.”
Following the announcement of new U.S. sanctions against North Korea, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said on Sunday, from South Korea, “There is a brighter path available for North Korea if it chooses denuclearization. We will see if Pyongyang’s message today, that it is willing to hold talks, represents the first steps along the path to denuclearization.”
Kim Yong-chol was leading an eight-person delegation from North Korea which included officials responsible for its nuclear program and Ri Son Gwon, chairman of the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Country. At a luncheon hosted by South Korean National Security Council Chief Chung Eui-yong, on Monday, Kim had that “the door remains open for dialogue with the United States,” a senior South Korean official at the presidential office told media.
It was reported by China’s CGTN, meanwhile, that South Korean President Moon was urging the Trump Administration now to keep U.S.-R.O.K. military exercises suspended for several more months at least.
An insight into China’s important role in this break was given by Japan’s Nikkei news service in an article dated Feb. 25. Nikkei’s sources reported that U.S. Ambassador to China Terry Branstad, a long-time acquaintance of China’s President Xi Jinping, had been invited by China to make three “secret tours,” since November, of the Yanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture, in China’s Jilin Province on the Yalu River border with North Korea. Jilin’s city of Tumen is not far from the D.P.R.K. nuclear test site in Punggye-ri.
These tours were highly unusual for any foreign diplomat in China. Through them, Nikkei reports, Branstad learned first-hand how tense the situation there is, and how the Korean population in Jilin is turning against North Korea; and a very direct signal was sent to the D.P.R.K., that China strongly wanted it to negotiate the situation directly with the United States.
Feb. 26 (EIRNS)—In a report issued on Feb. 25, the Russian Defense Ministry’s Center for Reconciliation of Opposing Sides in Syria warned that militants in Eastern Ghouta are preparing a provocation involving chemical weapons, in order that it be blamed on the Syrian government.
“The data at our disposal indicates the leaders of militant units are preparing a provocation that will involve the utilization of chemical weapons in order to accuse the government forces of deploying chemical weapons against peaceful civilians,” the report said, according to TASS. “The Russian Center for Reconciliation of the warring sides calls on all the parties to the conflict to stop any combat actions and armed provocations.”
Feb. 26 (EIRNS)—Russian President Vladimir Putin held a joint phone call with French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Syria’s situation and UN Security Council Resolution No. 2401.
“The sides said they were content that the joint constructive work had helped agree and adopt UN Security Council Resolution No. 2401 on Feb. 24. The sides noted the importance of continuing joint efforts in order to implement the provisions of the resolution in full and as quickly as possible,” according to a statement by the Kremlin.
Putin informed the French and German leaders of the practical steps Russia was taking to evacuate civilians, deliver humanitarian cargoes, and render medical assistance to the population in need in Syria, and emphasized that the ceasefire did not extend to military operations against terrorist groupings in Syria. The Kremlin stated that the sides “reached agreement on stepping up information exchange through various channels on the Syria situation.”
The German Chancellor’s spokesman Steffen Seibert said Merkel and Macron stressed the importance of a rapid and full-scale fulfillment of the resolution and urged Russia to put maximum pressure on the Syrian government for the purpose of an immediate ending of airstrikes and combat actions. “Germany and France remain willing to cooperate with Russia, as they have done so far, and with other international partners for reaching these objectives,” Seibert said.
THE NEW GLOBAL ECONOMIC ORDER
Feb. 26 (EIRNS)—On the sidelines of the International Conference on Lake Chad, which opened today in Abuja, Nigeria, Italian Ambassador Stefano Pontesilli communicated to the Executive Secretary of the Lake Chad Basin Committee, Sanusi Imran Abdullahi, that the Italian government is pledging a donation of up to €1.6 million to finance a feasibility study for the major water-transfer infrastructure project known as Transaqua. Pontesilli stressed that, although his communication was a verbal one, it was official and would be soon be made formal.
With the Italian decision, the Transaqua feasibility study is as good as funded. In fact, the strategic agreement, signed by the Italian engineering firm Bonifica and PowerChina, says that the Chinese will match any funding that Italy is putting into the deal. This means that the costs for the feasibility study are covered, and nothing further stands in the way.
In response to a question from EIR in a press conference, Nigerian Water Resources Minister Eng. Suleiman Hussein Adamu said that the Italian donation is “very welcome,” and that this will make the feasibility study possible. In a second stage, he said, there must be a detailed engineering study.
At the same press conference, UNESCO Deputy Director Getachew Engida said he was “happy that Italy is joining hands” in the effort to save Lake Chad. UNESCO was a co-sponsor of the Abuja conference, together with the Nigerian government and the LCBC.
The Schiller Institute Special Report by Hussein Askary and Jason Ross “Extending the New Silk Road to West Asia and Africa: A Vision of an Economic Renaissance” was presented to the Nigerian Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo and Water Resources Minister Adamu.
UNESCO Deputy Director Engida, who is from Ethiopia, was asked whether he agrees with those Europeans who think that small projects are better help than large projects. He said, “Although you need both small and large projects, for Lake Chad—you need a big one. I am tired of being forced to go via London if I want to travel from one African capital to another one.”
Feb. 26 (EIRNS)—Described in the Indian media as a low-key visit, India’s Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale held wide-ranging talks with China’s State Councillor Yang Jiechi, Foreign Minister Wang Yi, and Deputy Foreign Minister Kong Xuanyou. Gokhale, who had been Ambassador to China from January 2016-October 2017, was also in China to prepare the upcoming talks between the Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping scheduled during the June Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit in Qingdao, China.
It is evident that the upcoming summit talks require careful preparation. A number of differences between India and China need to be resolved. Following the peaceful resolution of the Doklam issue, which saw weeks of stand-off between the border forces of both countries, the political turmoil in the Indian Ocean island-nation, Maldives, has exposed their differences.
“During the consultations, the two sides reviewed recent developments in bilateral relations, including high-level exchanges, and discussed the agenda for bilateral engagement in the coming months,” an Indian Embassy press statement said. Without making any specific reference to Maldives, the statement said that the “two sides also exchanged views on regional and international issues of common interest,” The Hindu reported on Feb. 25.
The statement pointed to the necessity of building on the “convergences” between the two countries. But it also stressed that Beijing and New Delhi should “address differences on the basis of mutual respect and sensitivity to each other’s concerns, interests and aspirations.”
COLLAPSING WESTERN FINANCIAL SYSTEM
Feb. 26 (EIRNS)—The upward movement of key interest rates is beginning to pull down certain key sections of the U.S. economy, and at the same time threatening a more destructive financial blowup.
Today’s Wall Street Journal reported, in a front-page article, that stock market margin debt has rapidly risen even as rising rates have increased the cost of servicing it, making “margin calls” to sell stock more likely. Only three months ago, margin debt equalled for the first time the 2007 record level of 2.4% of the total value of all stocks; now it is nearing 3%, at $650 billion in total. The Journal’s main theme was that margin calls on this debt were the accelerator which turned the stock market downturn three weeks ago into a deep plunge; and that it will drive more such in the near future.
The American housing market has also been sharply affected by rising mortgage rates since December. Both new home and existing home sales have suffered drops totalling 10% or more over the past two months, and real estate experts have reported that sales have also shifted toward the “luxury segment” of the home market.
The most important bottleneck may be the shrinkage of the municipal (state and city) bond market, hit by unintended consequences of the GOP “tax reform” legislation as well as rising interest rates. Municipal bond issuance in January was 27% lower than January 2017, and dropped 57% from December 2017.
“New muni volume in 2018 is indeed headed for a steep decline,” according to CUSIP Global Services. Interest rates on these bonds have risen even more quickly than for Treasuries, while the interest-income tax-exemption for investors who buy “advance refinancing” municipal bonds was eliminated in the tax bill.
This is a crucial market for infrastructure investment. Paradoxically for the White House, its infrastructure plan relies predominantly on the now-shrinking municipal bond market for the $1 trillion-plus supposed to be raised for infrastructure.
Feb. 26 (EIRNS)—Today, the biggest subsidy—if you can call it that—propping up family farmers in the U.S., is working off the farm on outside jobs. Median income from actual farming itself, earned by farm households, was estimated at −$940 in 2016, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. For this coming year of 2018, it is forecast to be worse, and be in the range of −$1,316.
An estimated 60% of principal farm operators work off the farm; and many of these, as well as full-time farmers, have relatives or others who likewise work off-farm in order to subsidize the household, given losses in direct farm income.
The following are the levels of expected losses incurred for farming, by crop and per acre, as of December 2017, according to the Agricultural Policy Analysis Center at Knoxville, Tennessee:
For example, net revenue for cotton is slated for its seventh straight year of loss; and grain sorghum lost money for eight out of the last nine years.
The USDA Economic Research Service “Highlights From the February 2018 Farm Income Forecast” for Feb. 20, began with the gross overview for 2018, under the headline, “Farm Sector Profits Expected To Decline in 2018.”
The ERS article reports, “Net farm income, a broad measure of profits, is forecast to decrease $4.3 billion (6.7%) from 2017 to $59.5 billion in 2018, the lowest net farm income level in nominal dollar terms since 2006…. In inflation-adjusted (real) 2018 dollars, net farm income is forecast to decline $5.4 billion (8.3%) from 2017 and, if realized, would be the lowest real-dollar level since 2002.” (Net farm income is a “comprehensive measure that incorporates non-cash items, including changes in inventories, economic depreciation, and gross imputed rental income.”)
SCIENCE AND INFRASTRUCTURE
Feb. 26 (EIRNS)—Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) Satellite Center (ISAC) Director Mylswamy Annadurai told the Times of India that it has started working on building “igloos” with the intent of creating outposts on the Moon. He also said “the space agency has mastered the process of creating lunar simulant (material that approximates the properties of lunar soil), and it has about 60 tons of it. Its properties match 99.6% with the samples brought from Moon by Apollo missions,” TOI reported. These “lunar habitats” will be built by sending robots and 3D printers to the Moon, and by using lunar soil and other material. In stating the objective, Dr. Annadurai said astronauts going to the Moon in the future will spend more than just a few hours there. “To keep them safe and help them work from there, we need smart materials, which is what we are focusing on building,” he said.
Annadurai likened the igloos on the Moon to India’s outpost in Antarctica. “We are planning to use the Moon as an outpost—like missions in Antarctica. In the long run, the space station is likely to be scrapped. Many countries, including the U.S., are considering building more permanent structures on the Moon and working out of there. When that happens, we want India to have contributed,” he told Times of India.
In another Moon-related finding, a new analysis of data from India’s Chandrayaan-1 mission and NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter suggests that the Moon’s water may be widely distributed across the surface, not confined to a particular region—such as permanently shadowed craters near the poles—or type of terrain. The water appears to be present day and night, though it was not necessarily easily accessible, according to the study published Feb. 12 in the journal Nature Geoscience. NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center reported the study Feb. 23.
“We find that it doesn’t matter what time of day or which latitude we look at, the signal indicating water always seems to be present,” said Joshua Bandfield, a senior research scientist with the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colorado, and lead author of the study. “The presence of water doesn’t appear to depend on the composition of the surface, and the water sticks around,” NASA quoted Bandfield as saying.