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Defensive bioweapon? DARPA wants insects to spread genetically modified viruses… to ‘save crops’

RT | October 5, 2018

A US military program dubbed ‘Insect Allies’ could be used as a biological weapon, a group of European scientists warns. The Pentagon’s research arm claims they are intended to defend crops, but doesn’t deny ‘dual-use’ potential.

Researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Biology and the University of Freiburg in Germany, as well as the University of Montpellier, France, have published a critique of the program, dubbed “Insect Allies,” in the October 5 edition of Science.

They argue that “the knowledge to be gained from this program appears very limited in its capacity to enhance US agriculture or respond to national emergencies” and therefore the program “may be widely perceived as an effort to develop biological agents for hostile purposes and their means of delivery,” which would mean a breach of the Biological Weapons Convention.

Speaking to Gizmodo on Thursday, Dr. Blake Bextine, program manager of Insect Allies, said that DARPA was “not producing biological weapons, and we reject the hypothetical scenario,” though they “accept and agree with concerns about potential dual use of technology.”

However, Bextine’s two-page response, released by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency later in the day, did not contain the forceful denial of bioweapons charges. Instead, Bextine argued the program was intended to “respond rapidly to threats to the food supply” and that it was subject to government regulation and transparency rules.

Nothing could possibly go wrong, Bextine firmly emphasized, simply because “every performer in the program is required to include at least three independent kill switches in their systems to shut down functionality of the technology.”

DARPA’s insect allies would work by injecting the affected crops with gene-editing viruses intended to target whatever ailment affects them, using CRISPR technology. The researchers point out this mechanism could also be used to introduce viruses into healthy organisms, however.

The question is not whether the program can be weaponized; it already has been. DARPA has been one of the major sources of funding for a project to release genetically modified mosquitoes into the wild, armed with a gene-editing virus intended to sterilize the species that transmits malaria. There have been plans to release these GMO mosquitoes in the Florida Keys.

The dispute over Insect Allies comes as Russia has raised concerns about a US biological research facility in Tbilisi, Georgia. A former government minister has recently published online some 100,000 pages of documents about the facility.

The Russian military is now looking into the outbreaks of African swine fever since 2007 that originated in Georgia and spread into Russia, Europe and China.

“The infection strain in the samples collected from animals killed by the disease in those nations was identical to the Georgia-2007 strain,” Igor Kirillov, commander of the Russian military branch responsible for defending troops from radiological, chemical and biological weapons, said on Thursday.

The Pentagon, however, rejected Moscow’s concerns as part of “a Russian disinformation campaign directed against the West.”

For some obscure reason, a US Air Force contract in July 2017 sought samples of ribonucleic acid (RNA) and synovial fluid from Russian subjects who “must be Caucasian.” It also sought information on the donor’s sex, age, ethnicity, weight, height and medical history, and specifically disqualified tissue samples from Ukraine.

In October that year, Russian President Vladimir Putin told the country’s Human Rights Council that someone was collecting “biological material” from various ethnic groups and regions of the Russian Federation, wondering at the purpose behind this.

Despite worrisome scientific breakthroughs and controversial research programs, so far the notion of a genetically tailored virus being used as a bioweapon has been confined to science fiction. A story published in 2015, titled “Seven Kill Tiger,” posited the nightmare scenario of China using such a weapon to wipe out much of Africa.

Read more:

Dozens of Georgians likely killed by US toxin or bioweapon disguised as drug research – Russian MoD

October 5, 2018 Posted by | Deception, Militarism, Timeless or most popular | , | Leave a comment

President Trump to Create Space Force: Another Race US May Trigger to Lose

By Arkady SAVITSKY | Strategic Culture Foundation | 01.04.2018

On March 23, 1983, 35 years ago, President Ronald Reagan unveiled his space-wars program, the SDI, to intercept and destroy incoming missiles and other weapons for battling in this new domain. It never came to fruition, as the technology that existed at that time was insufficiently advanced to meet the requirements. But times change. It has been announced that the project is once again to be pursued. The US plans to deploy weapons in space, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov issued a warning about this in January. That warning proved accurate.

Donald Trump believes that space is becoming a “warfighting domain,” just like the land, air, and sea, and is thus encouraging the creation of a space force on par with the other branches of the armed forces. It was hardly an off-the-cuff comment.

The idea enjoys strong support in Congress. Pushing forward such an initiative would strengthen the president’s position at a time when he needs it the most. Some lawmakers say that force could be created as part of the Department of the Air Force in just three to five years. The proposal is not popular among the military brass, but on March 13 the president made his views known. “The president is very focused on outcomes. He has prioritized space, he has recognized the threats that have evolved, and the pace with which they’ve evolved, and he recognizes that as a warfighting domain,” says Kenneth Rapuano, assistant defense secretary for homeland defense and global security.

The initiative dovetails with the recently issued National Security Strategy. Some initial steps have already been taken. Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan, the chief space adviser, provided lawmakers with an interim report on upcoming space reforms this month. An updated report is due August 1.

No doubt Donald Trump’s statement was prompted by President Putin’s March 1 address to lawmakers in which he unveiled some details about Russia’s new weapons. The balance of forces in the air, land, and sea is not tilting in America’s favor, but domination of space could change that picture. The Joint Vision 2020 states that the US should dominate and control the military use of space.

What could this mean in practice? It’s logical to assume that all the satellites belonging to the branches of the military and STRATCOM will operate under the new command. No doubt the structure will have teeth, such as the HTV-2 and AHW hypersonic-glide-vehicle weapons, the Boeing X-37 spacecraft, and the Dream Chaser reusable space planes. The X-37 has flown several secret missions into orbit carrying mystery payloads. Anti-satellite weapons have been tested. Now that they have undergone testing on land and at sea, laser technology will move to space.

The 1967 Outer Space Treaty imposes no restriction on conventional weapons. The diplomatic efforts to reach an international agreement regulating space activities have been rejected by the US as disingenuous non-starters. In 2014, the UN General Assembly adopted a Russian resolution, “No First Placement of Weapons in Outer Space,” which was dismissed by Washington. The US has never come up any initiatives of its own.

So, the US wants to dominate space. But will it? The USSR suspended many space-war programs, such as “space-to-space” munitions, which could be quickly brought back to life. The R36 ORB was actually the third stage of the well-known Voevoda (Satan) ICBM. Its warhead could be placed in orbit and left there for some time, reducing to just a few minutes the time required to strike any target on Earth. The weapon was even operational for a short period.

There have been programs to create space platforms, including some that were nuclear powered. Russia was the only country to successfully use Halleffect thrusters to maneuver objects in space. In his famous “new weapons” speech, President Putin mentioned the Avangard boost glider that could be easily reconfigured for space-interceptor missions. In 1984 Russia launched a program to create the 79М6 Kontakt anti-satellite (ASAT) system as a direct response to US ASAT tests. The system carried a modified MiG-31D fighter on board that theoretically could attack as many as 24 satellites within a 36-hour period. The Kontakt never became operational, as tensions subsided and Moscow reached an agreement with Washington to terminate the program. It could be resurrected, leaving no American satellite safe. Some sources report that the development has already been revived. And almost all modern US systems are heavily dependent on satellites.

It could be that opening up discussions with Russia on measures to curb the militarization of space might be a much cheaper and more reliable way to safeguard US national security than throwing down the gauntlet. It’s quite likely that the US would touch off a race it won’t win.

April 1, 2018 Posted by | Militarism, Timeless or most popular | , , | Leave a comment

‘Thousands of Syrians, Iraqis Killed in US Airstrikes Over Past Year’

Sputnik – 10.11.2016

Thousands of Syrian and Iraqi civilians have been killed in US airstrikes over the past year, a source in the Russian Defense Ministry said Thursday.

The statement was made in response to the statement by US Central Command spokesman Col. John Thomas that 64 people were killed and eight wounded in US airstrikes in Syria and Iraq in November 2015 — September 2016.

“Listening to such statements from the US Central Command spokesman, we have an impression that the Pentagon does not consider the remaining thousands of Syrian and Iraqi civilians killed in US Air Force strikes to be humans. But even such an advanced stage of dishonesty and cynicism of US colleagues should have its limits,” the Russian source said.

The statement noted that US Air Force has been conducting up to 20 strikes per day in Syria and Iraq, or about 7300 strikes in the past year.

“Moreover, a significant part of this ‘work’ has been assigned to the B-1B to the B-52H bombers, while the ‘humanity’ and ‘accuracy’ of their carpet bombings are well known since the days of the Vietnam War,” the statement added.

The US-led coalition of more than 60 nations has been conducting its anti-terror aerial campaign in Syria and Iraq since 2014. The strikes in Syria have not been authorized by Damascus or the UN Security Council.

November 10, 2016 Posted by | Deception, War Crimes | , , , | 1 Comment

Libya slams US airstrike on Sabratha as flagrant violation of sovereignty


RT | February 20, 2016

The Libyan interim government has condemned the US airstrike on a suspected Islamic State training camp in Sabratha in which two abducted Serbian embassy staff were killed, calling the unsanctioned bombardment a grave violation of its sovereignty.

Libya’s interim government issued a statement saying that it “strongly condemns the airstrikes carried out by the US Air Force at certain positions in the town of Sabratha on Friday morning, February 19, 2016, without any coordination or consultation with the interim Libyan government.”

“Any interference, similar to the one that has taken place, will be considered an open and flagrant violation of the sovereignty of the Libyan state and international law,” the statement said.

The interim government said that it values the foreign assistance it receives in the war on terror, but added that “any military or political interference into Libyan affairs should be performed in a legal way through parliament and the newly formed government.”

In the statement, the government also said it “places the responsibility for the worsening of the domestic economic and social situation, as well as the security situation that contributed to the spread of these organizations (Islamic State) in our country, on the international community.”

The Friday airstrike carried out by the US in western Libya reportedly killed more than 40 people and was hailed as a major success by the Pentagon.

However, two Serbian hostages – embassy communications chief Sladjana Stankovic and her driver Jovica Stepic – also died in the bombardment, which came just as ransom negotiations had gotten underway with the kidnappers.

Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic said that Belgrade “demanded explanations from the US about whether they knew that foreigners were present at the site. They said they didn’t.”

Stankovic and Stepic were abducted in the northwestern coastal city of Sabratha on November 8, 2015, when their car was hijacked by gunmen after becoming separated from a convoy carrying Serbia’s ambassador to Libya.

The circumstances of the two Serbs’ alleged deaths are reminiscent of those of Italian Giovanni Lo Porto and American Warren Weinstein, who were killed by an alleged US drone strike on a Taliban compound in January, 2015.

February 20, 2016 Posted by | Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , , | 1 Comment

Bomb the Budget: US Stealth Bomber Financials Defy Laws of Physics

Sputnik – 19.08.2015

The US Air Force apparently made a ‘slight’ miscalculation worth several billions of dollars regarding the cost of research, procurement and support of its upcoming top-secret long-range bomber, according to media reports.

In 2014, in its annual report to the US Congress, the Air Force estimated the cost of the Long-Range Strike Bomber program between fiscal years 2015 through 2025 would be $33.1 billion. A year later however a similar report contained quite a different figure — $58.4 billion for fiscal 2016-2026.

In an attempt to explain this ‘minor’ discrepancy, Air Force officials claimed that both figures were in fact off the mark, with the correct numbers in both cases being $41.7 billion, according to Bloomberg.

US Air Force spokesperson Ed Gulick said in a statement that the program costs remained stable and that the service “is working through the appropriate processes to ensure” the report, requested by lawmakers is “corrected, and that our reports in subsequent years are accurate.”

The Air Force originally intended to award the development and production contract for the bomber in June or July, but eventually delayed the announcement until September. Currently, two entities, Northrop Grumman and a joint team of Lockheed Martin and Boeing, – are working to secure the contract.

The Pentagon intends to use the new stealth aircraft to bolster its aging bomber fleet. According to the US Air Force’s estimates, it would cost about $55 billion to construct up to 100 of the new bombers, with each aircraft being worth about $550 million.

August 19, 2015 Posted by | Corruption, Economics, Militarism | , , , , | Leave a comment

US airbase in Kyrgyzstan officially closes

RT | June 3, 2014

The US military has finally closed its transit center at Bishkek’s Manas airport, Kyrgyzstan. During the 12 1/2 years of the Afghan military campaign the facility remained the primary air supply hub for the ISAF’s contingent in the war zone.

Formerly known as Manas Air Base (unofficial name: Ganci Air Base), the facility became operable in 2001, when the US started Operation Enduring Freedom against the Taliban forces in Afghanistan.

The facility soon proved to be absolutely indispensable, as it transported to and from Afghanistan up to 5.5 million American servicemen and allied troops from 26 countries – accounting for 98 percent of personnel rotation during the Afghan campaign.

Under the base’s current commander, US Air Force Colonel John Millard, there were days when it hosted up to 4,000 servicemen either being deployed on a mission to Afghanistan or returning from the warzone.

Another important job done by the 376th Air Expeditionary Wing in Manas was the aerial refueling of ISAF fighter jets operating in Afghanistan. Over the years, Boeing KC-135 Stratotankers performed 33,000 flight refueling operations in Afghan skies, pumping 1 million tons of aviation fuel into the tanks of assault fighter jets.

The US base has been at the center of several scandals, including the fatal shooting of a local man by an American guard at a base checkpoint. The killing was not prosecuted by Kyrgyzstan, as US military personnel have legal immunity in the country. Critics also voiced concerns over environmental damage and potential terrorist threats from US enemies against the base.

In 2009, then-Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiev announced plans to shut the base. Yet after long negotiations with Washington, the airbase was simply renamed Transit Center Manas.

But in 2013, the Kyrgyz parliament refused to prolong the contract with Washington, obliging the US to withdraw all personnel form the base no later than on July 10, 2014. Now it appears that the demand will be fulfilled one month earlier than the deadline, by the end of next week.

Millard, who earlier handed over the symbolic keys to the base to Kyrgyz authorities, told journalists that the US government has left $30 million worth of equipment, facilities and generators to the country’s government.

The base’s closure has left several hundred locals previously employed at the base without work.

Reportedly, there are 300 American servicemen left at Manas airfield, carrying out the closure of the base.

Yet its closure does not mean that the US has no more interests in Kyrgyzstan. A new US embassy is currently being constructed in the country.

The new building will reportedly be big enough to host not only a diplomatic mission but also a detachment of US intelligence personnel to be stationed in the country.

The geographical position of Kyrgyzstan, situated right at the crossroads between Russia, China, Afghanistan and a number of Central Asian countries, make Kyrgyzstan an ideal place for intelligence gathering and eavesdropping, to ensure that Washington keeps an eye on the region after its troops withdraw from Afghanistan.

June 4, 2014 Posted by | Militarism | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Air Force General who Overturned Sexual Assault Conviction Says Accused was Too Good a Husband and Father to be Guilty

By Noel Brinkerhoff and David Wallechinsky | AllGov | April 12, 2013

Lieutenant General Craig A. Franklin, commander of the Third Air Force in Europe, shocked political leaders in Washington with his decision on February 26 to overturn the sexual assault conviction of a celebrated fighter pilot, saying the defendant was just too good a husband and father to be guilty.

“Letters from Lt Col and Mrs Wilkerson’s family, friends and fellow military members,” wrote Franklin in a letter to his superiors, “painted a consistent picture of a person who  adored his wife and 9-year old son, as well as a picture of a long-serving professional Air Force officer…. Some letters were from people who did not personally know the Wilkersons, but wanted to convey their concerns to me about the evidence and the outcome of the case”

When the testimony of Wilkerson and his wife were in conflict, Franklin interpreted this as proof that they had not colluded in creating a cover story.

Wilkerson was convicted by an all-male jury of raping a woman while she slept in his home. He was sentenced to a year in the brig and discharged from the Air Force.

Franklin used his authority to overturn the court’s decision, which allowed the accused to return to active duty.

Members of Congress and advocacy groups have strongly criticized Franklin’s interference with the ruling, with some saying it is yet another sign of how the U.S. military refuses to take sex crimes seriously and punish those responsible.

April 13, 2013 Posted by | Militarism | , , | Comments Off on Air Force General who Overturned Sexual Assault Conviction Says Accused was Too Good a Husband and Father to be Guilty