“China prioritizing Turkmenistan over Russia in next big pipeline project”

SINGAPORE/ASHGABAT, May 24 (Reuters) – China is accelerating the building of a long-delayed Central Asian pipeline to source gas from Turkmenistan even as Russia pushes its own new Siberian connection, as Beijing juggles its energy security needs with diplomatic priorities. Beijing is keen to bolster Central Asia ties under its Belt & Road Initiative, but nearly a decade after construction began, the “Line D” project has been hobbled by complex price talks and the technical hurdles of laying a pipeline crossing another three central Asian nations, Chinese state oil officials said.

But Moscow’s recent push to land its second Siberia pipeline connection with China, the Power of Siberia 2, to make up for shrunken sales in Europe due to the Ukraine crisis, provides Beijing a lever to advance the central Asian project, according to Chinese oil officials and industry consultants. “Central Asian pipelines are considered a cornerstone investment in China’s energy and geopolitical space. It’s a supply channel with strategic value that supersedes commercial concerns,” a state-oil official familiar with China National Petroleum Corp’s (CNPC) global strategy told Reuters.

China may eventually seal both deals to feed its massive long-term gas needs, but is prioritizing Turkmenistan, industry officials said, as Beijing has long seen Central Asia as a frontier to expand trade, secure energy and maintain stability in its once-restive western Xinjiang region.

Combined, multi-year contracts worth tens of billions of dollars to bring gas via both pipelines would meet 20% of China’s current demand. The pipelines are key to Beijing’s goal of using gas as a bridge fuel towards its carbon neutrality targets and also helping to shield it from the volatile tanker-carried liquefied natural gas (LNG) market. Estimated in 2014 to cost $6.7 billion, Line D would carry 30 billion cubic meters of gas a year.

Speaking last week at the first in-person summit of central Asian leaders in the ancient Silk Road city of Xian, President Xi Jinping urged parties to accelerate laying Line D, which would be China’s fourth gas pipeline to the region, almost a decade after the start of construction in Tajikistan. In 2022, China imported 35 bcm gas or worth $10.3 billion via three pipelines from Turkmenistan, compared with 16 bcm via a single pipeline from Russia at about $4 billion.


Comment: This is a switch, a title that is not misleading. I’ve seen several  articles that gives the impression that China is abandoning Russia. No, China is not abandoning Russia, but this “friendship without limits” apparently has limits. China is doing what’s best for China. And it appears to be at a considerable price in the short term. This will also come at a considerable price to Russia. She can ill afford to complete The Power of Siberia 2 pipeline on her own. All this in pursuit of expanding and solidifying Chinese influence in Central Asia.

Although it’s just a hunch on my part, I think China will move on old Chinese territories she lost to Russia before she seriously attempts to reincorporate Taiwan into the Empire. As the saying goes, “In the midst of every crisis lies great opportunity.” She might even see it as a necessary stepping stone in her quest to take our place as a leading power.   


Posted in Central Asia, China, Russia, TTG | 49 Comments

The Solitude of Combat Veterans – Alan Farrell

Ladies and Gentlemens:

Kurt Vonnegut — Corporal Vonnegut — famously told an assembly like this one that his wife had begged him to “bring light into their tunnels” that night. “Can’t do that,” said Vonnegut, since, according to him, the audience would at once sense his duplicity, his mendacity, his insincerity… and have yet another reason for despair. I’ll not likely have much light to bring into any tunnels this night, either.

The remarks I’m about to make to you I’ve made before… in essence at least. I dare to make them again because other veterans seem to approve. I speak mostly to veterans. I don’t have much to say to them, the others, civilians, real people. These remarks, I offer you for the reaction I got from one of them, though, a prison shrink. I speak in prisons a lot. Because some of our buddies wind up in there. Because their service was a Golden Moment in a life gone sour. Because… because no one else will.

 In the event, I’ve just got done saying what I’m about to say to you, when the prison psychologist sidles up to me to announce quietly: “You’ve got it.” The “it,” of course, is Post Stress Traumatic Traumatic Post Stress Disorder Stress… Post. Can never seem to get the malady nor the abbreviation straight. He’s worried about me… that I’m wandering around loose… that I’m talking to his cons. So worried, but so sincere, that I let him make me an appointment at the V.A. for “diagnosis.” Sincerity is a rare pearl.

So I sulk in the stuffy anteroom of the V.A. shrink’s office for the requisite two hours (maybe you have), finally get admitted. He’s a nice guy. Asks me about my war, scans my 201 File, and, after what I take to be clinical scrutiny, announces without preamble: “You’ve got it.” He can snag me, he says, 30 percent disability. Reimbursement, he says, from Uncle Sam, now till the end of my days. Oh, and by the way, he says, there’s a cure. I’m not so sure that I want a cure for 30 percent every month. This inspires him to explain. He takes out a piece of paper and a Magic Marker TM. Now: Anybody who takes out a frickin’ Magic Marker TM to explain something to you thinks you’re a bonehead and by that very gesture says so to God and everybody.

Anyhow. He draws two big circles on a sheet of paper, then twelve small circles. Apples and grapes, you might say. In fact, he does say. The “grapes,” he asserts, stand for the range of emotional response open to a healthy civilian, a normal person: titillation, for instance, then amusement, then pleasure, then joy, then delight and so on across the spectrum through mild distress on through angst — whatever that is — to black depression. The apples? That’s what you got, traumatized veteran: Ecstasy and Despair. But we can fix that for you. We can make you normal.

So here’s my question: Why on earth would anybody want to be normal?

And here’s what triggered that curious episode:

The words of the prophet Jeremiah:

My bowels. My bowels. I am pained at my very heart; my heart maketh a noise in me… [T]hou hast heard, O my soul, the sound of the trumpet, the alarm of war. Destruction upon destruction is cried; for the whole land is spoilt and my curtains… How long shall I see the standard and hear the sound of the trumpet?

I dunno about Jeremiah’s bowels… or his curtains, but I’ve seen the standard and heard the sound of the trumpet. Again. Civilians mooing about that “Thin Red Line of ‘eroes” between them and the Darkness. Again. ‘Course it’s not red any more. Used to be olive drab. Then treetop camouflage. Then woodland. Then chocolate chip. Now pixelated, random computer-generated. Multi-cam next, is it? Progress. The kids are in the soup. Again. Me? I can’t see the front sights of me piece any more. And if I can still lug my rucksack five miles, I need these days to be defibrillated when I get there. Nope. I got something like six Honorable Discharges from Pharaoh’s Army. Your Mom’s gonna be wearing Kevlar before I do. Nope. This one’s on the kids, I’m afraid, the next generation.

I can’t help them. Not those who make the sacrifice in the desert nor those in the cesspool cities of a land that if two troopers from the One Oh One or two Lance Corporals could find on a map a few years ago, I’ll be surprised. Nobody can help… except by trying to build a society Back Here that deserves such a sacrifice.

We gonna win the war? I dunno. They tell me I lost mine. I know I didn’t start it. Soldiers don’t start wars. Civilians do. And civilians say when they’re over. I’m just satisfied right now that these kids, for better or worse, did their duty as God gave them the light to see it. But I want them back. And I worry not about the fight, but about the after: after the war, after the victory, after… God forbid… the defeat, if it come to that. It’s after that things get tricky. After that a soldier needs the real grit and wit. And after that a soldier needs to believe. Anybody can believe before. During? A soldier has company in the fight, in Kandahar or Kabul, Basra or Baghdad. It’s enough to believe in the others during. But after… and I can tell you this having come home from a war: After …a soldier is alone. A batch of them, maybe… but still alone.

Years ago, maybe… when I was still in the Army, my A Team got the mission to support an Air Force escape and evasion exercise. Throw a bunch of downed pilots into the wilderness, let local guerrillas (us) feed them into a clandestine escape net and spirit them out by train just like in The Great Escape to… Baltimore, of all places. So we set up an elaborate underground network: farmhouses, caves, barns, pickup trucks, loads of hay where a guy can hide, fifty-five gallon drums to smuggle the evadees through checkpoints in. We’ve even cozened the Norfolk and Western Railroad out of a boxcar. Sooooo… come midnight, with our escapees safely stowed in that car, we wait for a special train to make a detour, back onto the siding, hook it up, and freight the pilots off to Maree-land. Pretty realistic, seems to us.

Now, for safety’s sake the Railroad requires a Line Administrator on site to supervise any special stop. Sure enough, just before midnight two suit-and-ties show up toting a red lantern. Civilians. We sniff at them disdainfully. One of them wigwags to the train. With a clank she couples the boxcar and chugs out into the night. The other guy — frumpy Babbit from the front office — shuffles off down the track and out onto a trestle bridge over the gorge. He stands there with his hands behind his back, peering up at the cloud-strewn summertime sky, a thousand bucks worth of Burberry overcoat riffling in the night breeze. I edge over respectfully behind him. Wait. He notices me after a while, looks back. “You know,” he says, “Was on a night like this 40 years ago that I jumped into Normandy.”

Who’da thought?

Who’da thought? Then I thought… back to right after my return from Vietnam. I’m working nights at a convenience store just down the road from this very spot. Lousy job. Whores, bums, burnouts, lowlifes. That’s your clientele after midnight in a convenience store. One particular guy I remember drifts in every morning about 0400. Night work. Janitor, maybe. Not much to distinguish him from the rest of the early morning crowd of shadows shuffling around the place. Fingers and teeth yellowed from cigarette smoke. A weathered, leathered face that just dissolves into the colorless crowd of nobodies.

Never says a word. Buys his margarine and macaroni and Miller’s. Plunks down his cash. Hooks a grubby hand around his bag and threads his way out of the place and down the street. Lost in another world. Like the rest of the derelicts. One night, he’s fumbling for his keys, drops them on the floor, sets his wallet on the counter — brown leather, I still remember — and the wallet flops open. Pinned to the inside of it, worn shiny and smooth, with its gold star gleaming out of the center: combat jump badge from that great World War II… Normandy maybe, just like the suit-and-tie.

Who’da thought?

Two guys scarred Out There. Not sure just where or how even. You can lose your life without dying. But the guy who made it to the top and the guy shambling along the bottom are what James Joyce calls in another context “secret messengers.” Citizens among the rest, who look like the rest, talk like the rest, act like the rest… but who know prodigious secrets, wherever they wash up and whatever use they make of them. Who know somber despair but inexplicable laughter, the ache of duty but distrust of inaction. Who know risk and exaltation… and that awful drop though empty air we call failure… and solitude! They know solitude.

Because solitude is what waits for the one who shall have borne the battle. Out There in it together… back here alone. Alone to make way in a scrappy, greedy, civilian world “filching lucre and gulping warm beer,” as Conrad had it. Alone to learn the skills a self-absorbed, hustling, modern society values. Alone to unlearn the deadly skills of the former — and bloody — business. Alone to find a companion — maybe — and alone — maybe — even with that companion over a lifetime… for who can make someone else who hasn’t seen it understand horror, blackness, filth? Incommunicado. Voiceless. Alone. My Railroad president wandered off by himself to face his memories; my Store 24 regular was clearly a man alone with his.

For my two guys, it was the after the battle that they endured, and far longer than the moment of terror in the battle. Did my Railroad exec learn in the dark of war to elbow other men aside, to view all other men as the enemy, to “fight” his way up the corporate ladder just as he fought his way out of the bocages of Normandy? Did he find he could never get close to a wife or children again and turn his energy, perhaps his anger toward some other and solitary goal? Did the Store/24 guy never get out of his parachute harness and shiver in an endless night patrolled by demons he couldn’t get shut of? Did he haul out that tattered wallet and shove his jump badge under the nose of those he’d done wrong to, disappointed, embarrassed? Did he find fewer and fewer citizens Back Here who even knew what it was? Did he keep it because he knew what it was? From what I’ve seen — from a distance, of course — of success, I’d say it’s not necessarily sweeter than failure — which I have seen close up.

Well, that’s what I said that woke up the prison shrink.

And I say again to you that silence is the reward we reserve for you and your buddies, for my Cadets. Silence is the sound of Honor, which speaks no word and lays no tread. And Nothing is the glory of the one who’s done Right. And Alone is the society of those who do it the Hard Way, alone even when they have comrades like themselves in the fight. I’ve gotta hope as a teacher that my Cadets, as a citizen that you and your buddies will have the inner resources, the stuff of inner life, the values in short, to abide the brute loneliness of after, to find the courage to continue the march, to do Right, to live with what they’ve done, you’ve done in our name, to endure that dark hour of frustration, humiliation, failure maybe… or victory, for one or the other is surely waiting Back Here. Unless you opt for those grapes…

My two guys started at the same place and wound up at the far ends of the spectrum. As we measure their distance from that starting point, they seem to return to it: the one guy in the darkness drawn back to a Golden Moment in his life from a lofty vantage point; t’other guy lugging through God knows what gauntlet of shame and frustration that symbol of his Golden Moment. Today we celebrate your Golden Moment. While a whole generation went ganging after its own indulgence, vanity, appetite, you clung to a foolish commitment, to foolish old traditions; as soldiers, sailors, pilots, Marines you honored pointless ritual, suffered the endless, sluggish monotony of duty, raised that flag not just once, or again, or — as has become fashionable now — in time of peril, but every single morning. You stuck it out. You may have had — as we like to say — the camaraderie of brothers or sisters to buck each other up or the dubious support (as we like to say… and say more than do, by the way) of the folks back home, us… but in the end you persevered alone. Just as alone you made that long walk from Out There with a duffle bag fulla pixelated, random computer-generated dirty laundry — along with your bruised dreams, your ecstasy and your despair — Back Here at tour’s end.

And you will be alone, for all the good intentions and solicitude of them, the other, the civilians. Alone. But…together. Your generation, whom us dumbo civilians couldn’t keep out of war, will bear the burden of soldier’s return… alone. And a fresh duty: to complete the lives of your buddies who didn’t make it back, to confect for them a living monument to their memory. Your comfort, such as it is, will come from the knowledge that others of that tiny fraction of the population that fought for us are alone but grappling with the same dilemmas — often small and immediate, often undignified or humiliating, now and then immense and overwhelming — by your persistence courting the risk, by your obstinacy clinging to that Hard Way. Some of you will be stronger than others, but even the strong ones will have their darker moments. Where we can join each other if not relieve each other, we secret messengers, is right here in places like this and on occasions like this — one lousy day of the year, your day, my day, our day, — in the company of each other and of the flag we served. Not much cheer in that kerugma. But there’s the by-God glory.

“I know…” says the prophet Isaiah:

... I know that thou art obstinate, and thy neck is an iron sinew, and thy brow brass…I have shewed thee new things, even hidden things. Behold, I have refined thee, but not with silver; I have [refined] thee…in the furnace of affliction…

Well, all right, then. Why on earth would anybody want to be normal? Thanks for Listening and Lord love the lot of youse.

Note: Alan Ferrell is a long-time friend of Colonel Lang, a fellow Green Beret and Viet Nam veteran. I reprint this in honor of both gentlemen.


Posted in Farrell, Prose | 7 Comments

Trump’s White House lawyer predicts ex-president will end up in jail.

Donald Trump’s former attorney has boldly predicted that the former president is going to jail as the criminal investigation into the trove of classified documents found at Mar-a-Lago continues to heat up. Ty Cobb, who worked as a White House attorney for the Trump administration from July 2017 to May 2018, told CNN that he believes the evidence against Mr Trump will lead to a conviction and prison time.

“I wouldn’t necessarily expand the case to try to prove the Espionage Act piece of it because there is so much evidence of guilty knowledge on the espionage piece that all they really have to do is show that Trump moved these documents at various times when DOJ was either demanding them or actually present, that he filed falsely with the Justice Department, had his lawyers file falsely with the Justice Department and affidavit to the effect that none existed, which was shattered by the documents they discovered after the search and the many other misrepresentations that he and others have made on his behalf with regard to his possession of classified documents,” he said.

“Yes, I do think he will go to jail on it.”

Mr Cobb’s comments came as it was revealed that the National Archives had found a trove of records allegedly proving the former president knew he shouldn’t have taken classified documents to Mar-a-Lago.


Comment: A flurry of similar predictions came out a few days ago. It’s almost a seasonal thing. A few of Trump’s former lawyers are now quipping that he’ll end up in prison. I don’t see it happening. Will he be convicted of some felonious crime revolving around the Mar-a-Lago classified documents? I do believe that, but he won’t go to prison for it. First of all, rich and powerful white guys don’t go to prison for things like this. You know, affuenza and all. Secondly, think of the logistics of hard time for the Trumpster. He still has Secret Service protection. Even in a country club prison, that would be problematic. I think the most he would get is house detention in Mar-a-Lago, maybe with an ankle bracelet, but even the bracelet may be too much. And I don’t see any of this affecting his run for the White House. Hell, broadcasting under house arrest from the Mar-a-Lago waffle station might be a winning image for him.


Posted in Current Affairs, Justice, Politics, TTG | 78 Comments

Russia invaded… by Russians

We call on all Russians, all soldiers and officers of Russia to join us and our fight for a Free Russia.

Ilya Ponomarev, the political leader of the Freedom of Russia Legion, told Tonight With Andrew Marr that his group is one of two regiments that have taken part in an operation that seized a village near the Ukrainian border during a cross border raid. The anti-Putin forces say they have overrun Kozinka and has units on the way to Grayvoron, a town in the Belgorod region. Footage of armoured vehicles purportedly moving around that area has been posted online, while Russian authorities declared a “counterterrorist regime”. Russian and Ukrainian officials both said there was fighting at the border, though claims of taking territory have not been verified.

Mr Ponomarev, a former opposition deputy in Russia’s parliament, exclusively told LBC: “This war will not end in Ukraine, this war can only end in Moscow… when Putin’s regime is replaced. “Obviously it will not be done by Ukrainians or by Nato forces, British forces, whatever, it will be done by Russians.” He said his group’s fighters are made up of Russian army defectors who have been trained by Ukraine’s GUR military intelligence agency. “But it’s our job. It’s not fair if Ukrainians would spill their blood for our freedom,” he added. No Ukrainian troops were involved in the operation, he claimed. He said the other regiment was a right-wing militia but his group is considered centrist.

It follows escalating activity in Russia that looks directed against prominent war supporters and the regime. A war blogger was blown up in a St Petersburg café in April, while the daughter of a far-right thinker who was once dubbed “Putin’s brain” was killed in a car bombing last year. Earlier this month, a drone exploded over the Kremlin. Mr Ponomarev said that was done by “people we know”.


Comment: Reports of this cross-border raid have been coming in most of the day. It appears that in addition to Ponomarev’s Freedom of russia Legion, Denis Nikitin’s Russian Volunteer Corps took part in the combined arms assault. I’ve seen a drone video of an armored column heading up the road towards Grayvoron, no more than ten miles beyond the border. There was some fighting there, but the resistance Russians seemed to have pulled back and dug in in a couple of towns just across the border. The Russians have engaged the rebels with reports of Grad fire being heard. I don’t know if the rebels are still there or have returned to Ukraine.

The meaning of this action is well summarized by Artor Micek (@Artur_Micek), a Polish twitter commentator.

My commentary on what is happening in the Belgorod region. What we are witnessing is a small rain from a large cloud, heavily inflated by the Ukrainian side. That’s the truth. This is not a Ukraninian offensive, although some local form of attack has taken place.

The aim of the operation, which in my opinion will end soon, is to force the Russians to disperse its own forces. Recently, the Russians left quite a small amount of troops on the border with Ukraine. Kyiv probably wants Moscow to send its own reserves to this area (as well as other). Thanks to this, real Ukrainian attacks can be more successful in other places.

This is another element of the last phase of preparations for the main offensive, i.e. forcing the Russians to move the reserves. Thanks to this, Ukrainian forces also have an easier task in attacking the logistics and command points of such formations. Oh, there will be more similar actions plus a lot of fake attacks.

In addition to how this contributes to the Ukrainian shaping of the battlefield, This action has “symbolic significance and the hope that is being spread among Russian elites and diaspora cannot be overestimated.”  as explained by Ponomarev. Plus, this does confirm my thoughts that the drone attack on the Kremlin was the work of Russian resistance forces just like all those factory fires and train derailments across Russia.


Posted in Russia, TTG, Ukraine Crisis | 119 Comments


If there was any doubt that the G-7 countries are in accord that the challenges coming from China and Russia must be addressed head-on, the outcome of the G-7 summit in Hiroshima should have put any doubts to rest. The final communique and a separate document addressing economic challenges made clear that the leading economies of North America, Western Europe, and Japan are in accord that Ukraine must be backed “for as long as it takes” to defeat the Russian invasion.

Broader and more permanent sanctions are part of the agenda. The separate document on the economic challenges ahead singled out China (without naming names) for conducting economic coercion jeopardizing the global trading system. In the same document, the G-7 countries acknowledged that they must do more to address the economic crises across the Global South, or China’s Belt and Road Initiative will overtake their too-little-too-late recognition of the challenge. Many nations in Africa, Asia, and Latin America openly say they prefer “Chinese cash to American and European lectures.”

On the eve of the summit, former British Prime Minister Liz Truss toured Asia, including a stop in Taiwan. She delivered a series of speeches urging the G-7 leaders to establish an “economic NATO”–an alliance to coordinate economic containment of China. The subject was widely discussed behind the scenes and while no such treaty agreement is under consideration, the actions taken at the summit tipped in the direction of such a future arrangement.

Indian Prime Minister Modi was feted as an invited guest and India is chairing the G-20 summit in September. Modi is flexing his muscle as a champion of the Global South, reviving images of the 1950s Non-Aligned Movement. But his presence at the G-7 has officials in Moscow and Beijing wondering whether India is inching towards closer engagement with the Western powers aligned against them.

According to some participants, the discussions in the corridors and in the more private side gatherings frequently turned to Joe Biden and concern that he is too old to run for reelection and would possibly not live through a second term. Whether this proves to be a legitimate concern or overblown, the fact that it was a frequent topic in informal talks is significant in itself.

Above all the summit showcased Japanese Prime Minister Kishida’s emergence as a global leader. While Western mainstream media covereage of the summit was spotty and selective, the Japanese media covered every moment of the summit, including the tour by all the heads of state of the Hiroshima Memorial Museum. Given the current state of warfare in Ukraine and fears of Putin using a nuclear weapon out of desperation, the visit was a stark reminder of the consequences of escalation. Japanese friends believe that Kishida has boosted his popularity and is in a stronger leadership position that most people expected after the death of Japan’s longest-serving postwar Prime Minister Abe.

Another dimension of the Kishida hosting was his bilateral meeting with President Yoon of South Korea. The two countries are moving toward resolving century-old bitter resentments, largely driven by common concerns about North Korea and China’s own rapid nuclear weapons expansion.

Boring US and European media coverage aside, it was a significant event.

Posted in Ukraine Crisis | 49 Comments

“Wagner chief claims complete capture of Bakhmut, but Ukraine says it still controls part of the city”

“Hold on, Bakhmut. We’ll meet again”
Illia Ponomarenko, defense reporter with the Kyiv Independent

The chief of the Wagner private military group, Yevgeny Prigozhin, claimed Saturday that his forces have taken complete control of the long-contested city of Bakhmut in eastern Ukraine. “The operation to capture Bakhmut lasted 224 days,” he said in a video posted to Telegram, seeking to claim a final victory for the city.

CNN could not independently verify Prigozhin’s claim, and a message from a Ukrainian defense official partially disputed it. Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliar, in a Telegram post less than an hour after the Russian mercenary’s claim was published, admitted the situation in Bakhmut was “critical” but said Ukrainian troops were still “holding the defense in the ‘Airplane’ district of the city,” which is on Bakhmut’s westernmost edge. “As of now, our defenders control certain industrial and infrastructure facilities in the area and the private sector,” she said.  

While Russian forces have continued their slow street-by-street advance in the city itself for many months, Ukrainian forces have recently managed to re-capture small pockets of outlying territory to the northwest and southwest of the city. Prigozhin claimed his forces will hand the control of Bakhmut to the Russian military on May 25.


Comment: The phrase “Bakhmut Holds” has been a Ukrainian rallying cry since last summer. It’s getting pretty thin now. Thin enough to be retired. At the same time, Prigozhin’s capture of Bakhmut seems pretty hollow. It was a logical intermediate objective on the road to Slovyansk and Kramatorsk, but the Russian’s ability to even hold the flanks of Bakhmut are now in doubt.

This is a smart move by Prigozhin to declare victory at this point and “unass the AO” as we often referred to any kind of pull out. Objectively, he and his Wagner Group needs to do this. They’re badly in need of rest and refit. Although every Russian unit on the line around Bakhmut seems to be in the same predicament. If the Wagner Group is out of the battle when the Ukrainian counteroffensive commences, they can’t be tainted by any ensuing Russian setbacks and they and Prigozhin will be in a position to take advantage of any situation those setbacks may bring. I think that’s been Prigozhin’s thinking for some time now.


Posted in TTG, Ukraine Crisis | 78 Comments

“Orcas have sunk 3 boats in Europe and appear to be teaching others to do the same. But why?”

He Rises!

Scientists think a traumatized orca initiated the assault on boats after a “critical moment of agony” and that the behavior is spreading among the population through social learning. Orcas have attacked and sunk a third boat off the Iberian coast of Europe, and experts now believe the behavior is being copied by the rest of the population.

Three orcas (Orcinus orca), also known as killer whales, struck the yacht on the night of May 4 in the Strait of Gibraltar, off the coast of Spain, and pierced the rudder. “There were two smaller and one larger orca,” skipper Werner Schaufelberger told the German publication Yacht. “The little ones shook the rudder at the back while the big one repeatedly backed up and rammed the ship with full force from the side.” Schaufelberger said he saw the smaller orcas imitate the larger one. “The two little orcas observed the bigger one’s technique and, with a slight run-up, they too slammed into the boat.” Spanish coast guards rescued the crew and towed the boat to Barbate, but it sank at the port entrance. Two days earlier, a pod of six orcas assailed another sailboat navigating the strait. Greg Blackburn, who was aboard the vessel, looked on as a mother orca appeared to teach her calf how to charge into the rudder. “It was definitely some form of education, teaching going on,” Blackburn told 9news.

Reports of aggressive encounters with orcas off the Iberian coast began in May 2020 and are becoming more frequent, according to a study published June 2022 in the journal Marine Mammal Science. Assaults seem to be mainly directed at sailing boats and follow a clear pattern, with orcas approaching from the stern to strike the rudder, then losing interest once they have successfully stopped the boat “The reports of interactions have been continuous since 2020 in places where orcas are found, either in Galicia or in the Strait,” said co-author Alfredo López Fernandez, a biologist at the University of Aveiro in Portugal and representative of the Grupo de Trabajo Orca Atlántica, or Atlantic Orca Working Group.

Most encounters have been harmless, López Fernandez told Live Science in an email. “In more than 500 interaction events recorded since 2020 there are three sunken ships. We estimate that killer whales only touch one ship out of every hundred that sail through a location.” The spike in aggression towards boats is a recent phenomenon, López Fernandez said. Researchers think that a traumatic event may have triggered a change in the behavior of one orca, which the rest of the population has learned to imitate. “The orcas are doing this on purpose, of course, we don’t know the origin or the motivation, but defensive behavior based on trauma, as the origin of all this, gains more strength for us every day,” López Fernandez said. 

Experts suspect that a female orca they call White Gladis suffered a “critical moment of agony” — a collision with a boat or entrapment during illegal fishing — that flipped a behavioral switch. “That traumatized orca is the one that started this behavior of physical contact with the boat,” López Fernandez said.


Comment: I can fully sympathize with White Gladis. I’m more of a FAFO guy than a turn the other cheek guy. I was torn between Moby Dick or Mogli’s Song Against People for an apt illustration. I wasn’t very social as a youth and I found great solace in Mogli’s words.

I have untied against you the club-footed vines – 
I have sent in the Jungle to swamp out your lines ! 
  The trees – the trees are on you !
    The house-beams shall fall;
  And the Karela, the bitter Karela,
    Shall cover you all ! 


Posted in Nature, Science, TTG | 16 Comments

Ukrainian Assault on a Russian Strongpoint

Every day for a week I wanted to post this video, but each time I missed the opportunity. Today for the first time I saw another boring video on the channel of the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation from Bakhmut, it tells how army units hold the flanks, and how they have everything PERFECT. Perhaps, they decided to take over the agenda. Once again, just in case, I’ll say that the Russian Armed Forces are mostly good fighters, but what’s the use to recruit 300, 500, or at least 900 thousand of them, when, in view of the almost complete absence of a built-in combat control system in the troops, coherence of actions, communications, reconnaissance complex, fire support, training, etc., etc., they will simply be crushed as below in the video. Below in the video is how a week ago the 3rd Assault Brigade “Azov” of the Armed Forces of Ukraine took the platoon-strongpoint (48°29’13″N 37°54’57″E) of the Russian Armed Forces, which is located 2.5 km south of those positions that they had taken a little earlier (that footage with the 72nd brigade infantry fleeing from an enemy tank).

The assault itself lasts about 16 minutes, filmed in one shot. During this time, the enemy crosses 305 meters. Where are the hand-held anti-tank weapons? Where are the anti-tank firing points with ATMs? Where is the minefield with TMs? Where is the fire support from the flanks (from perpendicular woodlines) on the left and right? WHY THE FUCK DOES THE BMP RIDE SLOWLY IN OPEN SPACE FOR 15 MINUTES? What did they say in that video by the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation? “We’re burning enemy vehicles as they approach”?

Why were our servicemen simply crushed, on foot? Probably, the “Wagnerites” are to blame for this again, and not the commanders of the RF Armed Forces on the ground. I’ll just say for myself that I can’t imagine that we could go like this along the woodline, hiding behind vehicles, where the enemy is on the defensive. Most likely, we would not even have had time to dismount from the vehicles, we would have been burned on the way. The enemy placed TM mines at all approaches. The BMD could not even go to the line to pick up the wounded, so they were dragged through one more woodline. And when a group of VDV was withdrawn (only 300m) to occupy a site in the “gray zone”, they were immediately cut off from the neighboring woodline by enemy fire, preventing us from leaving and gaining a foothold at a previously set point.


Comment: This is the commentary of Grey Zone, a Wagner-friendly war blogger. It’s not so much a commentary as a cry of anguish and despair. More than anything else, what this video shouts is that the VDV troops around the ever so important Bakhmut are woefully inadequate in the defense. What does that say for the rest of the Russian forces manning the Fabrege line across southeast Ukraine? They were manning entrenched positions. They weren’t under intense artillery fire. Yet it looks like most of them high-tailed it out of there. The few that remained appeared to retreat to dugouts before they were killed. The conduct of a successful defense requires skilled, motivated troops with bold and determined leadership just as the conduct of a successful offensive. Defense is not easy. And it doesn’t appear the Russians are up to it.

As for the Ukrainian squad conducting the assault, they exhibited all those traits. They assaulted dismounted because of the threat of mines and advanced in the tracks of their MICV (mechanized infantry assault vehicle). This is one of the Dutch donated vehicles very similar to the MICVs I saw being tested at Benning (now Moore) when I was going through Infantry Basic. They’re only slightly better than the original M-113 APC. This one seems to be armed with a 50 cal MG. The squad was expecting engineer support which never arrived. They made effective use of grenades and rifle grenades, but had no artillery support. They still managed to take the strongpoint without casualties. That should not have happened in the face of a competent, if not determined, defense.

Putin and his generals should be shivering in their boots watching this video. Grey Zone obviously is.


Posted in The Military Art, TTG, Ukraine Crisis | 16 Comments

“SpaceX Ax-2 private astronaut mission is ‘go’ for May 21 launch”

The second-ever private astronaut mission to the International Space Station (ISS) remains on track to lift off this weekend. NASA, SpaceX and Houston company Axiom Space held a flight readiness review (FRR) today (May 15) for the Ax-2 mission, which is scheduled to launch four people toward the International Space Station on Sunday afternoon (May 21). “At the end of that review, the full team polled ‘go,'” Ken Bowersox, associate administrator for NASA’s Space Operations Mission Directorate, said during a post-FRR press conference this afternoon.

If all goes according to plan, Ax-2 will launch atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket at 5:37 p.m. EDT (2137 GMT) on Sunday from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida. The Ax-2 astronauts will ride a SpaceX Dragon capsule to the orbiting lab, getting there around 9:30 a.m. EDT (1330 GMT) on Monday (May 21). The mission will spend eight days docked to the ISS, team members said today. That’s a slight change from the previous plan, which had called for a 10-day ISS stay.

If Ax-2 can’t get off the ground on Sunday, it has another chance on Monday (May 22). If the mission misses that backup opportunity, however, it will have to wait a while to get to space: NASA and SpaceX will then shift toward preparing for the launch of CRS-28, SpaceX’s 28th robotic cargo mission to the ISS, which is slated to lift off from KSC on June 3. “And then, at that time, Axiom, NASA and SpaceX will get together and look for the next best opportunity as we look at the missions that we have this summer,” Joel Montalbano, manager for NASA’s International Space Station Program, said during today’s telecon.



Posted in Space, TTG | 11 Comments

“Russia says hypersonic missile scientists face ‘very serious’ treason accusations”

MOSCOW (Reuters) – Three Russian academics who have worked on hypersonic missile technology face “very serious accusations”, the Kremlin said on Wednesday, in a treason investigation that has spread alarm through Russia’s scientific community.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said he was aware of an open letter from Siberian scientists in defence of the men, but that the case was a matter for the security services. In the letter, published on Monday, colleagues of Anatoly Maslov, Alexander Shiplyuk and Valery Zvegintsev protested their innocence and said the prosecutions threatened to inflict grave damage on Russian science. “We know each of them as a patriot and a decent person who is not capable of doing what the investigating authorities suspect them of,” they said.

President Vladimir Putin has boasted that Russia is the global leader in hypersonic missiles, capable of travelling at speeds of up to Mach 10 (12,250 kph) to evade enemy air defences. On Tuesday, Ukraine said it had managed to destroy six of the weapons in a single night, although Russia disputed this.

Notices of academic conferences stretching back over many years show the arrested scientists were frequent participants. In 2012, Maslov and Shiplyuk presented the results of an experiment on hypersonic missile design at a seminar in Tours, France. In 2016, all three were among the authors of a book chapter entitled “Hypersonic Short-Duration Facilities for Aerodynamic Research at ITAM, Russia”.

The open letter from their colleagues at ITAM – the Khristianovich Institute of Theoretical and Applied Mechanics in Novosibirsk – said the materials the scientists had presented in international forums had been checked repeatedly to ensure they did not include restricted information. The cases showed that “any article or report can lead to accusations of high treason”, the open letter said. “In this situation, we are not only afraid for the fate of our colleagues. We just do not understand how to continue to do our job.”

The letter also cited the case of Dmitry Kolker, another Siberian scientist who was arrested last year on suspicion of state treason and flown to Moscow despite suffering from advanced pancreatic cancer. Kolker, a laser specialist, died two days later. It said such cases were having a chilling effect on young Russian scientists.


Comment: This looks like Russia is actively looking for scapegoats to explain the less than stellar performance of their Kinzhal hypersonic missiles, especially considering the offending paper was written in 2016.  That’s quite a stretch.

Posted in Intelligence, Russia, TTG | 38 Comments