Friday, January 31, 2020

January 31, 2020
© Photo: Wikimedia
It is astounding and deeply disturbing that 75 years after the end of World World Two the history of that event is being re-written before our very eyes.
That war resulted in over 50 million dead with more than half of the victims from the Soviet Union. It incorporated the worst crimes against humanity, including the systematic mass murder of millions carried out by Nazi Germany, known as the Holocaust. The victims included Jews, Slavs, Roma, Soviet prisoners-of-war and others whom the fascist Nazis deemed to be “Untermensch” (“Subhumans”).
The Soviet Red Army fought back the Nazi forces all the way from Russia through Eastern Europe, eventually defeating the Third Reich in Berlin. Nearly 90 per cent of all Wehrmacht casualties incurred during the entire war were suffered on the Eastern Front against the Red Army. That alone testifies how it was the Soviet Union among the allied nations which primarily accomplished the defeat of Nazi Germany.
Seventy-five years ago, on January 27, 1945, it was Red Army soldiers who liberated the notorious Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp. It was during the Vistula-Oder Offensive which drove the Nazis out of Poland paving the way for the eventual final victorious battle in Berlin some three months later.
It is incredible that within living memory, these objective facts of history about the most cataclysmic war ever waged are being falsified or insidiously distorted.
Germany’s most-read magazine Der Spiegel, American-European journal Politico, a U.S. embassy announcement, as well as American Vice President Mike Pence, are among recent sources who have either falsified or downplayed the heroic role of the Soviet Union in liberating Auschwitz. This is part of a disconcerting trend of rewriting the history of World War Two, by which, preposterously, the Soviet Union is being equated with Nazi Germany. Such pernicious fiction must be resisted and repudiated by all conscientious historians and citizens.
Der Spiegel and the U.S. embassy in Denmark both had to issue embarrassed apologies after they separately stated that it was American forces which liberated Auschwitz. It is mind-boggling how such an error on the 75th anniversary of one of the most iconic events in history could have been made – by a leading magazine and a diplomatic corps.
More sinister was an article published in Politico on January 24 written by the Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki which claimed, “Far from being a liberator, the Soviet Union was a facilitator of Nazi Germany.”
The Polish politician is no exception. It has become a staple argument in recent years contended by other Polish leaders and politicians from the Baltic states who seek to revise the history of the war, blaming the Soviet Union for being an accomplice with Nazi Germany. The corruption of history is partly driven by a desire to whitewash the nefarious role played by these countries as quislings to the Third Reich who helped it carry out the Holocaust.
Vice President Pence’s speech at the Holocaust memorial event in Jerusalem on January 23 was another deplorable sleight of hand. In his address, he never once mentioned the fact of the Soviet forces blasting open the gates of Auschwitz. Pence merely said, “When soldiers opened the gates of Auschwitz…” A sentence later, he went on to mention how “American soldiers liberated Europe from tyranny.”
It is quite astonishing how brazenly false narratives about World War Two are being told, not merely by Neo-Nazi sympathizers and cranks beyond the pale, but by supposedly senior politicians and respectable media. It is perplexing how the heroic role of Soviet commanders, soldiers and people is being eroded, airbrushed and even maligned into something grotesquely opposite.
Washington’s belligerent geopolitical agenda of trying to isolate and undermine Russia is no doubt underlying the process of re-writing history in order to deprive Russia of moral authority and recast it as a malign nation. Of course the obsessive Russophobia of Polish and Baltic politicians neatly plays into this agenda.
This reprehensible revisionism is in flagrant contradiction and denial of international libraries of documented history, archives, official and personal correspondence, photographs, as well as first-hand witness accounts.
An excellent essay by Martin Sieff this week recounts how Soviet soldiers and medics tended to the remaining 7,000 wretched inmates of Auschwitz. More than a million others had been exterminated by the Nazis before they fled from the advancing Soviet forces.
The Soviet officer in command of liberating Auschwitz was Lieutenant Colonel Anatoly Shapiro. He was himself a Russian-born Jew. The Soviet soldiers spoke of their horror and heartbreak upon discovering the hellish conditions in which skeletal men, women and children were teetering on the brink of death. Bodies of dead lay everywhere among pools of frozen blood.
Another Jewish Soviet officer Colonel Elisavetsky told how Russian doctors and nurses worked without sleep or food to try to save the emaciated inmates.
As Sieff notes: “For Colonel Shapiro, the idea that he, his Red Army comrades and the medical staff who fought and died to liberate Auschwitz and who worked so hard to save its pitifully few survivors should be casually equated with the Nazis mass-killers would have been ludicrous and contemptible… The true story of the liberation of Auschwitz needs to be told and retold. It needs to be rammed down the throats of Russia-hating bigots and warmongers everywhere.”
Maintaining the historical record about World War Two – its fascist origins and its defeat – is not just a matter of national pride for Russians. Ominously, if history can be denied, falsified and distorted, then the danger of repetition returns. We must never let the heroic role of the Soviet Union be forgotten or belittled, especially by people who seem to have a penchant for fascism.
The views of individual contributors do not necessarily represent those of the Strategic Culture Foundation.

Thursday, January 30, 2020

China’s virus response has been ‘breathtaking’ by Pepe Escobar, Asia Times

China’s virus response has been ‘breathtaking’
Would Mao Zedong (pictured in background at Tiananmen Gate in Beijing) be happy with China’s attempt to win a ‘People’s War’ on the coronavirus? Photo: Nicolas Asfouri / AFP

China’s virus response has been ‘breathtaking’

Chinese President Xi Jinping is leading a scientific ‘People’s War’ against the coronavirus
President Xi Jinping formally told WHO head Tedros Ghebreyesus, at their meeting in Beijing earlier this week, that the coronavirus epidemic “is a devil and we cannot allow the devil to hide.”
Ghebreyesus for his part could not but praise Beijing for its extremely swift, coordinated response strategy – which includes fast identification of the genome sequence. Chinese scientists have already handed over to Russian counterparts the virus genome, with snap tests able to identify it in a human body within two hours. A Russia-China vaccine is under development.
The devil, of course, is always in the details. In a matter of a few days, at the peak of the most congested travel period of the year, China did manage to quarantine an urban environment of over 56 million people, including megalopolis Wuhan and three nearby cities. This is an absolute first in terms of public health, anytime in history.
Wuhan, with a GDP growth of 8.5% a year, is a significant business center for China. It lies at the strategic crossroads of the Yangtze and Han rivers and at a railway crossroads as well – between the north-south axis linking Guangzhou to Beijing and the east-west axis linking Shanghai to Chengdu.
As premier Li Keqiang was sent to Wuhan, President Xi visited the strategic southern province of Yunnan, where he extolled the immense government apparatus to boost control and sanitary prevention mechanisms to limit propagation of the virus.
Coronavirus catches China at an extremely sensitive juncture – after the (failed) Hybrid War tactics displayed in Hong Kong; an American pro-Taiwan offensive; the trade war far from solved by a mere “phase 1” deal while more sanctions are being plotted against Huawei; and even the assassination of Maj. Gen. Qasem Soleimani, which ultimately is about targeting the expansion of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) in Southwest Asia (Iran-Iraq-Syria).
The Big Picture spells out Total Information War and non-stop weaponization of the China “threat” – now even metastasized, with racist overtones, as a bio-threat. So how vulnerable is China?

A people’s war

For almost five years now a maximum-security biolab has been operating in Wuhan dedicated to the study of highly pathogenic micro-organisms – set up in partnership with France after the SARS epidemic. In 2017, Nature magazine was warning about the risks of dispersion of pathogenic agents out of this lab. Yet there’s no evidence this might have happened.
In crisis management terms, President Xi has lived up to the occasion – ensuring that China fights coronavirus with nearly total transparency (after all, the internet wall remains in place). Beijing has warned the whole government apparatus in no uncertain terms not to attempt any cover-ups. A real-time webpage, in English, here, is available to everyone. Whoever is not doing enough will face serious consequences. One can imagine what awaits the party chief in Hubei, Jiang Chaoliang.
A post that went viral all over the mainland this past Sunday states, “We in Wuhan have truly entered the stage of people’s war against the new viral pneumonia”; and many people, “mainly Communist Party members” have been confirmed as “volunteers and observers according to street units.”
Crucially, the government directed everyone to install a “Wuhan Neighbors” appletdownloaded from WeChat. That determines “our home’s quarantine address through satellite positioning, and then lock on our affiliated community organization and volunteers. Thenceforth, our social activities and information announcements would be connected to the system.”
Theoretically, this means that “anyone who develops a fever will report their condition through the network as soon as possible. The system will immediately provide an online diagnosis, and locate and register your quarantine address. If you need to see a doctor, your community will arrange a car to send you to the hospital through volunteers. At the same time, the system will track your progress: hospitalization, treatment at home, discharge, death, etc.”
So here we have millions of Chinese citizens totally mobilized in what’s routinely described as a “people’s war” using “high technology to fight against illness.” Millions are also drawing their own conclusions when comparing it with the use of app software to fight against the police in Hong Kong.

The biogenetic puzzle

Apart from crisis management, the speed of the Chinese scientific response has been breathtaking – and obviously not fully appreciated in an environment of Total Information War. Compare the Chinese performance with the American CDC, arguably the top infectious disease research agency in the world, with an $11 billion annual budget and 11,000 employees.
During the Ebola epidemic in West Africa in 2014 – considered a maximum urgency, and facing a virus with a 90% fatality rate – the CDC took no less than two months from getting the first patient sample to identifying the complete genomic sequence. The Chinese did it in a few days.
During the swine flu in the US in 2009 – 55 million infected Americans, 11,000 killed – the CDC took over a month and a half to come up with identification kits.
The Chinese took only one week from the first patient sample to complete, vital identification and sequencing of coronavirus. Right away, they went for publication and deposit in the genomics library for immediate access by the whole planet. Based on this sequence, Chinese biotech companies produced validated essays within a week – also a first.
And we’re not even talking about the now notorious building of a brand new state of the art hospital in Wuhan in record time just to treat victims of coronavirus. No victims will pay for their treatment. Additionally, Healthy China 2030the reform of the health/development system, will be boosted.
Coronavirus opens a true Pandora’s box on biogenetics. Serious questions remain about experiences in vivo in which the consent of “patients” will not be required – considering the collective psychosis initially developed by Western corporate media and even the WHO around coronavirus. Coronavirus could well become a pretext for genetic experiments via vaccines.
Meanwhile, it’s always enlightening to remember Great Helmsman Mao Zedong. For Mao, the top two political variables were “independence” and “development.” That implies full sovereignty. As Xi seems determined to prove a sovereign civilization-state is able to win a scientific “people’s war,” that does not exactly spell out “vulnerability.”

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

"Anti-nuclear hysteria is destroying the environment" AsiaTimes

Germany’s overdose of renewable energy
In this 2010 file photo, Germany’s Green Party leaders Cem Oezdemir (R) and Renate Kuenast give a statement against nuclear energy while standing between two inflated nuclear power stations in front of the Chancellery in Berlin. Photo: AFP / Tim Brakemeier/ dpa

Germany’s overdose of renewable energy

Anti-nuclear hysteria is destroying the environment
Germany now generates over 35% of its yearly electricity consumption from wind and solar sources. Over 30 000 wind turbines have been built, with a total installed capacity of nearly 60 GW. Germany now has approximately 1.7 million solar power (photovoltaic) installations, with an installed capacity of 46 GW. This looks very impressive.
Unfortunately, most of the time the actual amount of electricity produced is only a fraction of the installed capacity. Worse, on “bad days” it can fall to nearly zero. In 2016 for example there were 52 nights with essentially no wind blowing in the country. No Sun, no wind. Even taking “better days” into account, the average electricity output of wind and solar energy installations in Germany amounts to only about 17% of the installed capacity.
The obvious lesson is: if you want  a stable, secure electricity supply, then you will need reserve, or backup sources of electricity which can be activated on more or less short notice to fill the gaps between electricity demand and the fluctuating output from wind and solar sources.
The more wind and solar energy a nation decides to generate, the more backup capacity it will require. On “bad days” these backup sources must be able to supply up to 100% of the nation’s electricity demand. On “good days” (or during “good hours”) the backup sources will be used less, or even turned off, so that their capacity utilization will also be poor. Not very good economics.
Much better would be to limit wind and solar to a relative minimum, and rely instead upon controllable, non-fluctuating power sources operating with a high capacity factor, to meet the nation’s base load electricity requirements and to adjust total output in accordance with varying demand. This corresponds to world-wide practice prior to the recent huge buildup with renewable energy.
In theory the ideal backup for wind and solar energy would be to store excess electricity produced when the Sun is shining and strong winds are blowing, and inject it back into the grid when needed. Unfortunately, electricity is a difficult and expensive commodity to store.
By far the most efficient presently available solution for storing excess electric power is to use it to pump water against gravity into a reservoir. When electricity is needed again, it is produced by letting water flow down again via a turbine generator. In this process about 25% of the energy is lost.
Naturally, the costs of construction and operation of such pump storage plants will add to the real costs of providing electricity. Plus, these installations use up a large amount of land area.
Here, too, Germany provides an instructive example. A 2014 study by the Bavarian Ministry of Energy came to the conclusion that pump storage plants were not an economically viable solution. Much better would be to exploit already existing water reservoir resources in Norway and Sweden, where the capacity of pump storage plants can be greatly expanded and new ones built at much lower cost.
This “solution,” however, would require transporting large amounts of electricity over long distances back and forth between Germany and those countries – which in turn would require additional high-voltage lines and cables that have not been built and that no one wants to pay for.
Given the high costs and other obstacles to creating large electricity storage systems, it is not surprising that Germany’s electricity storage capacity amounts today to less than 2% of total electricity output.
There has been much discussion and research concerning alternative ways to store electricity. Theoretically one could be to use excess power to produce hydrogen, store it somehow and then use fuel cells to generate electricity back from the hydrogen. This would be vastly more expensive than pump storage, however, and with much greater losses.

Overdose of renewables?

Today, in order to guarantee stable baseline power and fill the gaps left by its fluctuating wind and solar generators, Germany is forced to rely on (1) CO2-spouting coal and natural gas power plants; (2) its remaining handful of nuclear plants, which it plans to shut down by 2022; and most notably (3) importing electricity from other European nations.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU) fetches a green folder from her briefcase at the start of a government consultation round concerning bill on renewable energy at the Chancellery in Berlin, Germany, 31 May 2016. Photo: AFP / Maurizio Gambarini / dpa
Most of the imports come from France, where about 75% of electricity is produced by nuclear plants, and from Sweden, where 40% is nuclear-produced. On “bad days” Germany could hardly get along without a piece of this much-dreaded nuclear energy.
On “good days” Germany floods the rest of Europe with excess power from its wind and solar installations, often at dumping or even negative prices. In this way Germany has turned its huge amounts of wildly fluctuating renewable power sources into a European-wide problem.
Even with the flourishing European electricity trade, however, Germany is still far from being able to close down its coal and gas power plants.
The German Energy Agency (DENA) published a long-term scenario for electricity production in Germany, based on the assumption that so-called renewable sources should account for 80% of total electricity consumption by the year 2050.
Among other things DENA concluded that in order to insure a stable electricity supply, Germany would still need to maintain 61 gigawatts of conventional power plant capacity “in reserve” and for a remaining portion of base-load production. Electricity storage systems would provide only 9% of reserve capacity in 2050.
Despite – and to a large extent because of — the massive expansion of renewables, conventional power capacity could only be reduced by 14% up to 2030 and by a maximum of 37% by 2050.
Given the government’s commitment to shut down nuclear energy in Germany, this would mean keeping a large reserve of CO-emitting, fossil fuel-based generation capacity. At the same time the political decision has been made to phase out the coal-power stations which up to now have produced the largest part of Germany’s electricity.
That leaves essentially only petroleum (heating oil) and natural gas as realistic fuels for backup power. Natural gas would take first place because it generates about 50% less CO2 per kWh of electricity than coal or petroleum-powered plants.
With this background one can appreciate the German government’s concern to guarantee long-term supplies of natural gas at stable prices. Hence also the government’s insistence on the North Stream 2 project to build a system of offshore natural gas pipelines from Russia to Germany.
The good news, so to speak, is that for most of the time the backup plants would operate at only a fraction of their installed capacity, with many even standing still on “good days.” That way they would release much less CO2 to the atmosphere.
That’s nice for the environment, but not a very efficient way to utilize equipment, infrastructure and manpower – and not very attractive for investors. Also it’s still far from the green dream of a CO2-free energy system.
Preserving the stability of Germany’s electricity grid while at the same time integrating tens of thousands of fluctuating energy sources distributed over the entire country has been a major technical challenge. It has meant reorganizing much of the electricity transmission and distribution system, which was designed and built to operate in a completely different regime.
It means also the construction of thousands of kilometers of new high-voltage lines, including four projected long-distance transmission lines which are needed to move electricity from the windy north to the industrial west and south of the country. This again adds to the real (systemic) costs of supplying the country with electricity.
There is no doubt that the attempted transition to renewable sources as the foundation of Germany’s energy system – Angela Merkel’s famous “Energiewende” – has already significantly reduced the country’s economic efficiency. The constantly rising electricity prices, taxes and levies only begin to reflect the true costs of the government’s policy. There is also a debate concerning the future stability of the electricity grid.
Merkel and others often argue that a successful “Energiewende” would place Germany in a unique position to export know-how and technology for the ongoing “green transformation” of the world economy. Increased income from export of green technology is supposed to compensate for the costs of the Energiewende. This calculation assumes that the other countries will choose to follow the radical German example in reorganizing their power sectors, which is doubtful.
Meanwhile resistance has been growing inside Germany itself, as local environmental groups and citizens’ initiatives mobilize to block construction of wind turbines, transmission lines, pump power stations and other renewable energy projects.
The environmentalist ideology is coming into contradiction with itself. The unprecedented scale of destruction of the natural landscape by 30 000 gigantic wind turbines has brought a growing realization, that reliance on renewable energy is by no means friendly to the environment – and not necessarily safe.
People don’t want to live near wind turbines, because of unpleasant noise and possibly dangerous infrasound emissions, disturbing optical effects, reports of fires, broken-off turbine blades flying through the air, ice throws,  etc. And the dead birds.
In Germany there is political pressure to increase the legally-set minimum for the distance between wind turbines and houses to 1 or even 1.5 kilometers, which would drastically reduce the availability of construction sites. Already, protests and law suits have brought the construction of new wind turbines in Germany to a near-standstill.
Wind farm photo by Winchell Joshua, US Fish and Wildlife Service (Wikicommons)
Solar energy has encountered much less resistance, no doubt to a large extent because only a few large solar farms have been built in the country. Most of the present capacity comes from roof-mounted solar cells, especially on private houses, where they have become quite popular.
The big problem is how to store the electricity, which is generated only during daylight hours and fluctuates according to the cloud cover. So far relatively few house owners have been willing to pay for batteries and other storage devices. Instead, excess electricity is taken up by the grid at a subsidized price.
Projects for pump storage stations, and for new transmission lines have met with such intense resistance, that there is little chance of fulfilling the original goals of the Energiewende.
The question is, whether it makes sense at all to depart from the tried-and-proven model of a stable electricity system based on continuously functioning sources, a large percentage operating in base load mode.
If we want the system to be largely CO2-free, then the only available option is nuclear energy.
Jonathan Tennenbaum received his PhD in mathematics from the University of California in 1972 at age 23. Also a physicist, linguist and concert pianist, he’s a former editor of FUSION magazine. He lives in Berlin and travels frequently to Asia and elsewhere, consulting on economics, science and technology. This is part 2 in a series. Click here to read part 1. Next in the series: Nuclear energy to the rescue.