RUSSIANS ARE CUTTING BACK on personal spending and trading rubles for dollars as the collapse of world oil prices cripples an economy that just months ago soared on the strength of record prices for its petroleum exports. Even vodka sales are down.
Economists are especially worried by the mounting flight of capital and increased dollarization of the economysomething that last happened a decade ago when the government defaulted on its foreign debts.
"Some of my friends have converted all their savings into dollars, leaving just 500 rubles to pay the phone bill in their account," said an administrative assistant at a bank, who asked that only her first name, Olga, be used because she was not authorized to speak to the press.
"I've been telling my friends for months to buy dollars while they were cheap, but some of them just wouldn't listen," she said. A recent World Bank report documented the extent to which the decline of oil prices from a high near $150 a barrel to about $50 is wreaking havoc on the Russian government's budget and depleting its foreign-currency reserves.
This is a wicked turn of events just weeks after we have been on the edge of our minds fretting the absolute collapse of the dollar, and this after a snarky Vladimir Putin tried to threaten the West with strong words and stronger acts of aggression against its own former satellites. So it seems that national confidence always resides on a floating scale. At least the Russians still possess a fiscal reserve, despite the relative spoilage of their currency, which is something the United States can't boast as we continue to roll up debt.
Wonder what bad news Putin will have for Hugo Chavez in the near future, as the Russians rush to stop the bleeding while the Venezuelan regime suffers from the same impact of oil prices on its own ego-driven economy?
MOSCOWAs the stock markets in Russia tumbled again Friday and the Kremlin continued struggling to shore up the nation's banks, Maria Isayeva emerged from a subway station near Victory Park and shrugged off the crisis with a laugh.
"It only affects the rich people! It doesn't affect us!" declared the 61-year-old retired bus terminal cashier, who seemed amused anyone might think she owned stocks. "We're okay. We're surviving, and we have enough to eat."
Isayeva admitted feeling anxious that her children might face hardship in an economic downturn but appeared more concerned about how others in the world were faring. "I just feel sorry for the Americans," she said.
Despite a stock market that has suffered one of the steepest falls in the world, a banking system on the verge of severe upheaval, and mounting evidence of troubles in the rest of the economy, people in Russia remain remarkably calm, even sanguine, about the impact of the global financial crisis on their country.
In interviews and surveys, many Russians expressed unease about the economy, and some are bracing for a meltdown like the one that crippled the nation a decade ago. But so far there is little sign of panic, much less anger, underscoring how insulated most Russians are from the financial system, how effective the Kremlin has been in controlling media coverage of the turmoil, and how fully people here have embraced capitalism, for better or worse.
THE SUDDEN COLLAPSE OF COMMODITIES that drove oil prices back below $70 a barrel Thursday is reverberating through the world economy from Alberta to Texas to Timbuktu.
While falling commodities prices are helping struggling American consumers and businesses with dramatically lower energy costs, they are devastating rising stars such as Brazil, Russia, Dubai and Australia. Even China, the engine behind the commodity boom, is faltering, though it remains one of the only emerging-market juggernauts that still has growing surpluses of cash to keep plowing into U.S. financial markets.
Indexes of major commodities from copper and wheat to coal and corn have plummeted more than 40 percent since setting record highs in early July, led by the halving of oil prices. The big drop in energy costs helped give Wall Street a lift Thursday, sending the Dow Jones Industrial Average up 401 points.
While the price plunge has brought welcome relief from commodity-fed inflation that surged to 5.8 percent in the United States, it has hurt some U.S. energy investors, farmers and mining companies while causing a collapse in income for major commodity producers like Brazil, Russia and the Middle Eastern oil exporters, most of whom depend on the revenue from commodity exports not only to drive growth but to fund government.
As the commodity bubble burst in July, revenues abruptly fell, leading to precipitous drops in the financial markets of emerging countries. Those declines accelerated with the recent rout in global markets. The economic outlook has dimmed for countries that once boasted double-digit growth, while their brimming coffers of foreign reserves have stopped growing.
Brazil's international reserves fell by nearly $1 billion in one day this week to $203 billion, while the drop in revenues of oil producers like Russia has been even steeper, sinking the country into a deep financial crisis. Russia's 25 richest oligarchs reportedly have lost an astounding $240 billion from the crisis in commodities and other financial markets.
Within a matter of months, Dubai, an oil-rich emirate in the Persian Gulf, has gone from boasting it would become a major new Middle Eastern financial center serving businesses around the world to having to be bailed out of a financial crunch with a $15 billion cash infusion from its sister emirate, Abu Dhabi.
This is all good. Now we need American leadership to rebuild American industry and infrastructure, financing it however it can be pieced together. I am not an economist. I am a patriotic American who is tired of sending billions of dollars elsewhere to prop up other nations and despots, nations who generally despise us for it, yeah, just like the Republican candidate for the top spot said.
LET US NOT FAIL TO RECALL, nor long forget Beslan either, as we seek to save the world from enemies that live among us, some that look like sheep, and some that look like the ravenging wolves that they are. Here's a tasteful link to the tragedy. And here's a gem of writing by a poster over at Jihad Watch. Thanks to "dumbledoresarmy."
I just got my copy of Andrew Bostom's "The Legacy of Islamic Antisemitism". Part One, entitled 'Islamic Antisemitism: Jew-Hatred in Islam', which is the overview and distillation of all his research, makes for rivetingand terrifyingreading. If every Christian priest or pastor, and every Jewish rabbi, had to read just that portion of Bostom's book, during their training, and show evidence of having understood it, before their ordination, we would be spared many of the more embarrassing displays of Useful Idiocy that we are forced to witness today from our spiritual leaders. The nonsense about 'three Abrahamic religions' that we hear so much about, would cease.
If our journalists and political leaders also read Bostom's damning report, and truly understood and believed it, much Western reporting and diplomacy vis a vis 'the Middle East situation' would be radically different.
If every Jewish member of the Knesset read, learned, marked and inwardly digested what Bostom has discovered, they would *know* the mind of the enemy that they face every day. They would *know* exactly where the hate is coming from. They would know that no concession, no negotiation, no bribe, no talks, no nothing, is going to achieve 'peace' with the Arab Muslims, or indeed, the entire Muslim world: only Jews all dead, or Jews reduced to a terrified, powerless, tormented and despised remnant of dhimmi near-slaves, will ever be enough for the Muslims.
Read part one of Bostom's latest book, David England. You wrote: "It is sometimes said that the radical islam of today is fascistic. What is not talked about is how it may have grown out of Nazi fascism directly".
No, it didn't. I see Nazism and Islam more as cases of 'convergent evolution'. And they hopped into bed with each other so quickly, and borrowed ideas and strategies so eagerly, because they were kindred spirits before they ever met.
Muslim jihadist hatred of Jews is a good example. Bostom's book shows that Muslims did NOT need Nazis to teach them to hate Jews, they already did that quite thoroughly and comprehensively, all by their little selves.
Furthermore Ibn Warraq, when he identified a whole string of congruences between Islam and fascism was not talking about anything that modern Islam has *learned* or *copied* from European fascism: the Islam he had in mind was classical mainstream Islam, what Hugh [Fitzgerald] calls "'Islam, Islam, Islam", Islam of Qur'an-Sira-Hadith, Islam as it was expounded by Muslim jurists and theologians, and practised by Muslim despots and Muslim mobs, for over a millennium before European Fascism was ever a gleam in a philosopher's eye.
THE DUST IS SETTLING on the conflict in Afghanistan and not one major figure from the Taliban or Al-Qaida has been found. Bin Laden remains elusive and, according to some reports, he may have moved to the Pashtun-dominated area of Pakistan weeks ago.
In that sense, Operation Enduring Freedom is so far a failure. And that leaves one vital question still open. Does Bin Laden still own the fabled nuclear suitcase bomb?
We can safely assume that nothing of that nature was found in the Tora Bora complex. One does not abandon equipment that cost millions of dollars, especially if a heavy American attack on Afghanistan was worked into Bin Laden’s war game tactics prior to September 11th.
The answer, in my opinion, is somewhere between probably and not likely. But, whatever one’s view is, the major question is concerned with what these devices are capable of. The answer to that depends on a number of different factors which I shall explore below. A likely scenario of bomb parameters will be used and we shall arrive at a set of numbers, which will show only too clearly what an undesirable visitor such a device would be to an American city.
Furthermore, a city with a flat topology may be favoured above more contoured cities since hills will deflect and absorb the blast waves as was the case in Hiroshima and Nagasaki attacks. Hiroshima was a flatter city than Nagasaki and paid for this with a greater death toll and destruction per square mile.
The first parameter to establish is the explosive yield of the device. Based on the various media reports and articles I have examined, the alleged nuclear "backpacks" or "suitcases" would appear to be in the one to ten kiloton range. As a benchmark, the uranium fission bomb dropped on Hiroshima was just over ten kilotons. However, the majority of the articles tend towards the lowest figure of one kiloton and that is the number I will assume.
The mode of detonation is very influential as to the range of the effects of the nuclear explosion and is partly dependent on the intentions of the terrorists. High altitude airbursts are normally intended for Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) effectsi.e. to knock out electronic command and control equipment. But this is not useful to terrorists and is useless anyway for such a low-yield device.
A ground burst minimises blast and thermal damage due to the shielding of successive buildings and hills but maximises the production of fallout particles. These particles are vacuumed up into the initial fireball, which vaporises and then irradiates them before they condense back into solids and float down to earth within hours.
Finally, a low altitude airburst would balance blast, heat, and fallout damage into one infernal combination and has the dubious but added "bonus" of the Mach Effect, which is a reinforced blast wave, created when a fireball blast wave meets the initial blast wave reflected from the ground in the manner of constructive interference.
Which method would a terrorist choose? I suggest the low altitude airburst since it is emotive pictures of decimated sectors of cities and high numbers of immediate casualties that they want the world to witness. For sure, fallout from a ground burst could kill many more over the following months and years, but that does not generate the razor-sharp publicity that a terrorist hungers for.
But could a terrorist pull off a low altitude airburst? The only conceivable way to do this is to carry the weapon over ground zero in a light aircraft. Getting the aircraft would probably be quite easy as would be the loading of the device. Flying the aircraft over the city is more difficult, but once again the nefarious deed could be executed before the military were alerted, scrambled a fighter jet, and engaged the enemy. The likelihood of a USAF fighter catching such a plane is also diminished if a lower-priority city is chosen. In that respect, I will assume a low-altitude airburst. If they can kidnap and fly three out of four Boeing jets into their intended targets in one day, they can do this as well.
A ground detonation is still entirely possible from inside a hidden building or a ship coming into port (though half the energy of the blast could be directed towards the ocean) and these would be easier operations. But this is primarily a question of what the terrorists believe is desirable and achievable rather than what is easiest.
Target and Environment...
Which is the unlucky American city? Certainly, it will be a city and it will be American as far as an Islamic fanatic with an extremely rare and potent weapon is concerned. New York? Los Angeles? San Francisco? New York has had a hard time of it with the two WTC attacks and the downing of flight 587 (yes, I believe it was a terrorist attack), so we may be forgiven for thinking the next attack will happen elsewhere.
However, the Eastern seaboard is the favoured route for bringing in smuggled items and terrorists will not want to spend critical time in long, hazardous journeys westwards. We know that some of the WTC terrorists were based and trained in Florida and that the alleged terrorist on trial just now was caught in the mid-southern state of Oklahoma (ominously he had undertaken Cessna flight training). I suggest that coastal cities further south or even into the Gulf of Mexico may be at greater risk.
Furthermore, a city with a flat topology may be favoured above more contoured cities since hills will deflect and absorb the blast waves as was the case in Hiroshima and Nagasaki attacks. Hiroshima was a flatter city than Nagasaki and paid for this with a greater death toll and destruction per square mile.
Seeking to get the last iota of destructive power out of their devilish device, the terrorists would also favour southern cities because of the hotter conditions and better atmospheric conditions. In other words, clear, sunny skies are better "tinderbox" conditions as would that time of day since Bin Laden would want clear conditions for the infamous mushroom cloud to be recorded by the world’s media.
Ultimately, I have no topological maps of southern US cities to make such judgements, but the reader can draw their own conclusions. So far, all this is deductive common sense, but I now move onto the actual effects based on a warm sunny morning in such an American city. The range given in feet and miles will be for the actual distance from ground zero and assumes the fireball centre to be 200 feet above it.
People located about three-quarters of a mile or more from ground zero will have survived with mainly minor injuries, their immediate task is to play their part in helping friends and relatives to evacuate and beyond that lies the task of rebuilding and repairing homes as well as shattered lives.
On that fateful morning, the citizens close to ground zero will note the unremarkable drone of a light aircraft flying above their buildings. It is the last thing they ever hear. Whether the blinding, split second flash of a hundred suns registers with them is unlikely because the intense heat that kills them also travels at the speed of light. As the fireball expands rapidly to its maximum diameter of 460 feet, its centre rages at a temperature of 10,000,000° C for its brief lifetime. Note that temperatures in the WTC attacks were unlikely to have exceeded 5,000° C.
Metallic objects up to 450 feet from ground zero of the initial flash will vaporise. Metallic objects up to 670 feet away will melt. It is needless to guess what happens to people caught out in the open at these rangesthey cease to exist in any meaningful sense of the word and join the raw material for the later fallout.
At 1400 feet from ground zero, rubbers and plastics will ignite and melt whilst wood will char and burn. For victims out in the open, 3rd degree burns are inflicted up to 0.4 miles away, 2nd degree burns up to half a mile away and 1st degree burns at up to nearly a mile away. It is at the extremity of this range that we have the "open oven door effect" which needs no further explanation.
The bomb will expend about 35% of its energy as this radiated heat; a further 50% is absorbed by the atmosphere and becomes a juggernaut blast wave roaring across the city centre at speeds of up to the limit of sound.
Coastal cities used to visiting hurricanes will not have witnessed the boiling winds we describe here. As a comparison, a hefty hurricane-like wind velocity of 116 miles per hour will hit residents at just under half a mile from the blast, whilst those experiencing less damaging winds of 70 mph at under 0.6 miles will feel fortunate.
Meanwhile, those buildings which survived the melting effects of the heat radiation will be finished off by the high winds further into the city centre as winds approaching 670 mph will level or badly damage even steel concrete structures within 740 feet of the blast. No one inside this perimeter can hope to survive unless they are in good underground shelters.
Where the wind speed drops to 380 mph at about 1050 feet, tall multi-storey buildings will be lucky to be left standing and survivors of the heat pulse will suffer potentially fatal lung injuries. As the speed drops to 225 mph at about 1650 feet, most dwelling houses will be wrecked and the streets blocked by debris. Flying fragments become the killer rather than sheer air pressure at these distances.
What the initial radiation pulse did not ignite, the blast does by igniting new fires due to damaged power lines, gas mains and oil tanks. Asphyxiation can also occur at these ranges as much of the air is devoted to fuelling uncontrollable firestorms, which have no mercy on wooden housing.
As I said, this factor will not be so important to devastation-minded terrorists, but the statistics bear witness to further death and misery. The main figure here is the LD-50 dose level which will kill at least 50% of humans exposed to it for an hour or longer. This value is 400 Rads for humans and the victim can die within 30 days. Assuming a weather wind velocity of 15 mph which gives a simple ellipse pattern of fallout, then this lethal dosage can extend downwind for up to several miles but will be confined to a maximum width of only several hundred feet on average.
Out of 77 major American cities, they may feel the odds are closer to 1 in 77 rather than 1 in 7250. This is all about psychology and a feeling of security and these terrorists know that only too well. The protection of Heaven may yet prevent such devices being used, but one suspects that it is more a case of "In the CIA we trust" rather than "In God we trust!"
It is to be noted that an instant gamma ray burst of 400 Rads from the fireball burst will also have this effect up to about 700 feet from ground zero, but the victim would surely be dead from heat and blast effects already.
As the winds drop to gale force at just under a mile, and the glow of the fireball abates, the grim spectacle is over within minutes. We are confronted with a scene of complete devastation within hundreds of feet of ground zero. As the four mile high mushroom cloud silently presides over its work, rescue services will find this a radiation-infested no-go area for months and will concentrate on helping those who have survived further away from ground zero.
Those who are capable of moving will be directed to get out of the immediate area to escape the fallout which is beginning to rain down like snow along the wind patterns of the day. The wreckage on roads as well as every possible vehicle taking to the road at the same time will hamper evacuation procedures as will the transportation of the wounded and infirm.
People located about three-quarters of a mile or more from ground zero will have survived with mainly minor injuries, their immediate task is to play their part in helping friends and relatives to evacuate and beyond that lies the task of rebuilding and repairing homes as well as shattered lives. Though only people in the immediate area of the fallout will be in danger, panic and ignorance will no doubt lead to widespread evacuation across the whole city.
Based on the Hiroshima bombing and scaling down for bomb yields, one could expect fatalities of up to 20,000 and a similar number of injured. If the contours of the land are favourable then these number could drop by half as in the case of Nagasaki. Other factors such as the time of day (e.g. not all people at work yet), accessibility to good medical facilities, evacuation efficiency, and weather conditions all have a large part to play in the final casualty figures.
America is at war with international terrorism and will have to prepare itself against all that its enemies can throw against it. In the larger scheme of things, terrorists can only inflict minimal damage to the American continent as a wholeforty thousand casualties out of nearly 290 million people is 1 in 7250. As a comparison, a resident of the U.S.A. dies every 13 seconds or 20,000 will die of natural and unnatural causes every 3 days. But these are not the cold-blooded statistics which interest the average citizen. Out of 77 major American cities, they may feel the odds are closer to 1 in 77 rather than 1 in 7250. This is all about psychology and a feeling of security and these terrorists know that only too well. The protection of Heaven may yet prevent such devices being used, but one suspects that it is more a case of "In the CIA we trust" rather than "In God we trust!"
January 4 , 2002
Roland Watson writes from Edinburgh, Scotland. If you are a cynic on the existence or the viability of the suitcase nuke, perhaps you might wish to read this opinion. This is indeed all so terrifying. Everywhere one turns there is paranoia and fear. From the Left, all one hears is the fear of a totalitarian fascist America, and with what has been revealed up in Montgomery County, MD, mere blocks from my own DC neighborhood, who can blame them. Fortunately, state lawmakers are planning formal hearings on Maryland State Police efforts to spy on peace activists and death penalty protesters, potentially paving the way for a thorny debate in the next General Assembly session over whether to restrict the law enforcement agency's authority.
I just happen to know, and am loose friends with several of these notorious peace activists, others not so much, and while I yearn and pray for peace, I am not naive enough to think we can simply wish away the imminent threats facing our nation. And it is very sad to me that these personally harmless peace activists do not and will not consider these threats seriously, and persist in what I consider a severely misguided rage against America, while giving a pass to our enemies and competitors.
That said, is our government really doing all it can do to protect its citizens? Hell no it's not! That's my visceral response. That's my intellectual response. Living in Washington, DC, a certain ground zero for whatever these Islamic terrorists can manage to throw at us, is indeed a frightening scenario, and no, I don't believe that the United States defense team is doing enough to protect us. Instead we pay homage to Saudi blackmailers and infiltrators, let China abuse the system we helped launch them into, and ignore our national borders and idiotic immigration patterns in a time of war and great uncertainty. America has made mistakes in the past, and in my own isolated opinion, is making tragic mistakes even today. Our enemies are no shy about telling us their gameplan. And there's not a weak-kneed pacifist among them. Meanwhile, we unconnected Americans need some sense of unity, some sense of well-being and vital purpose for a rational survival if we are to defeat these assaults we now face, and that's just on the economic and military fronts.
Fear is being sold everywhere. Pick your poison. The Left will dish out theirs, clinging to emotional facts. The Right will counter with another version, using nearly the same mortal facts. Heaven help us if only the rich and the devious survive this crisis when our leadership fails us. What a country, indeed...
DESPITE ALL THE NATIONAL TREASURE spent for the sake of others over the past sixty or so years, the inimitable West is still trying to reclaim lost ground in the culture war. We believe that the following paragraphs may very well be grounded in truth, with one exception. Oil money has allowed the frothing deeply-entrenched Jew-hatred of Islam to once again rise to the top of their poisoned cup. Russia may have poured gasoline on the festering resentment, but they didn't invent it.
"In 1972, the Kremlin decided to turn the whole Islamic world against Israel and the U.S. As KGB chairman Yuri Andropov told me, a billion adversaries could inflict far greater damage on America than could a few millions. We needed to instill a Nazi-style hatred for the Jews throughout the Islamic world, and to turn this weapon of the emotions into a terrorist bloodbath against Israel and its main supporter, the United States. No one within the American/Zionist sphere of influence should any longer feel safe.
"According to Andropov, the Islamic world was a waiting petri dish in which we could nurture a virulent strain of America-hatred, grown from the bacterium of Marxist-Leninist thought. Islamic anti-Semitism ran deep. The Muslims had a taste for nationalism, jingoism, and victimology. Their illiterate, oppressed mobs could be whipped up to a fever pitch."
Read it all in the National Review articleRussian Footprints, authored by former Soviet General Ion Mihai Pacepa, the highest ranking intelligence officer to have defected from the former Soviet bloc.
In a simple twist of fate, some pundits think that France will be the first European country in modern times to be overwhelmed by Muslims due to her very large, violent immigrant population and effeminate native populace. Others point to the Netherlands, from which native Dutch people are beginning to flee in the face of hostile Islam among the immigrants in that densely-populated nation. But Russiaa huge nation with vast natural resources, thousands of nuclear warheads, and until recently a global superpowermay be the first to capitulate to Muslim sensibilities. This seems possible even though Russia suffers little from those suicidal bouts of uncritical tolerance and multiculturalism that afflicts Western Europeans.
In 2015, less than ten years from now, Muslims could make up a majority of the Russian military. Military service is compulsory for young Russian men, though only 10% actually serve due to college deferments, bribes to escape duty, and the like. Given the famously brutal Russian military, perhaps avoiding military service is a forgivable trait. But will the generals be able to avoid having a Muslim military if most young men who haven't fled Russia are Muslim? Will such a military operate effectively given the fury that many domestic Muslims feel toward the Russian military's tactics in the Muslim region of Chechnya? What if other Muslim regions of Russiasome of which contain huge oil reservesrebel against Moscow? Will Muslim soldiers fight and kill to keep them part of the Russian motherland?
With birthrates, death rates, and emigration rates the way they are now, it is highly plausible that Russia could be majority Muslim by 2040. And there are other opinions.
Writes Bill Abbott, sparing few feelings, "The demographic implosion of the West is due to feminism and women's refusal to accept the role either God or nature (depending on one's belief) has given them. The acceptance of this responsibility by most Muslim women is what will win for Islam in the end. In no other species, does the female not understand that continuation and survival of the group is her responsibility and, for the most part, hers alone. Among some homo sapiens, selfishness reigns. It has been said that a society that sends its daughters, sisters and even mothers into harms way will not long survive. I wonder if it even deserves to survive."
STEUBENVILLE, WVReports today from news services in India say Essar Steel is making a bid to buy Wheeling-Pittsburgh Steel Corp. from parent Esmark Inc., which completed its takeover of the local steelmaker in November.
The Economic Times of India is reporting industrial Essar is in a bidding war for Wheeling-Pitt with Russia’s Severstal. The newspaper placed the value of Wheeling-Pitt at $1.5 billion.
The value of the company has been an issue of late as Esmark prepared federally required financial reports on year-end and first quarter data. Company officials have said there were several issues delaying the financial reports, including how to set values for some of the company’s assets, as well as accounting complexities relating to the completion of the Esmark takeover in the fourth quarter. The value of a deal for Wheeling-Pitt was not disclosed in the reports.
Esmark stock has been on the rise since March 28, when its adjusted closing price was $11.27. The stock hit a recent peak of $13.62 at the close on Wednesday and closed Thursday at $13.49. At the time of the Esmark deal in November, the stock was valued at $19.24.
Wheeling-Pitt officials did not immediately return calls for comment this morning. The Economic Times said Essar had no comment on the deal.
Severstal won the bidding war for ArcelorMittal’s Sparrows Point, Md., mill with an $810 million cash bid. Esmark had tried to buy the Maryland steel plant but a $1.35 billion financial package unraveled in December. ArcelorMittal had been ordered by the Justice Department to sell Sparrows Point Industrial to satisfy antitrust concerns regarding concentration of tin production in the eastern portion of North America.
According to the paper, Essar had been a bidder on Sparrows in the second round of bidding, losing out to Severstal.