TOP VIEWS BY COUNTRY – JULY 2015

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Last week, the human race met its very first Earth-like planet orbiting a Sun-like star in the habitable zone. Kepler-452b’s discovery was met with resounding excitement, but the news was bittersweet. Because life on this distant world — if it exists at all — could be facing imminent extinction.

Earth’s new cousin has spent the last spent 6 billion-ish years in the habitable zone, but its aging, brightening star could’ve already kickstarted a runaway greenhouse event, spelling the beginning of the end for complex life. In a billion years, a similar process will transform the Earth into a miserable wasteland.

Aging is a natural step in planetary evolution, and it’s one that 452b might help us understand. To speculate about what’s going down on this distant world, scientists rely on what we know about how our own biosphere will die.

 

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Lame-duck Obama’s brave new world

THE ROVING EYE
Lame-duck Obama’s brave new world
By Pepe Escobar

Fresh out of his latest Congressional election shellacking delivered by the minority who bothered to vote in the United States, the formerly most powerful leader in the world, US President Barack Obama, will star in a thriller this weekend, appearing in the same room with China’s Xi Jinping, Japan’s Shinzo Abe and – fasten your seat belts – Russia’s Vladimir Putin.

What a drag – the Bomber-In-Chief must be musing. The global economy is mostly a disaster. China, even growing at “only” 7% a year, keeps eroding his “indispensable nation” aura. Japan has decided to copy the Federal Reserve and embark on its own kamikaze version of quantitative easing. Numerous Southeast Asian nations keep freaking out about a few rocks in the South China Sea.

And last but not least, Obama’s nemesis, pesky Vlad “the Hammer” Putin, has just been crowned Most Powerful Leader in the world – even if for the most stupid reasons (“unpredictable” head of a “rogue state”) [1] – while he, the Nobel Peace Prize leader of the exceptionalist, indispensable nation, is now nothing but a pitiful lame duck.

The get-together, extended to Monday and Tuesday, will be the highlight of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Beijing – actually, outside of Beijing, so presumably unpolluted blue skies may also have a chance at the photo op. This is APEC’s 25th birthday. And the 20th birthday of the Indonesian summit in Bogor – I happened to be there – which, under Bill Clinton’s flowery charm, set the 21-member APEC nations a goal of “free” and open trade and investment by 2020. “Free” as in US corporations dictating the rules, of course.

What the whole planet really wants to know about APEC is whether The Lame Duck with meet The Bear face to face, one on one. The White House remains mum. The Kremlin did not rule it out. Well, there’s always Plan B: the Group of 20 summit on November 15-16 in Brisbane, Australia.

What the whole planet already knows is that the new slimy show premiering on Capitol Hill on January 2015 has a top priority: the Republicans will do everything in their power to make the lame duck cry for mercy over and over again. So what will this mean in terms of Obama’s self-styled “Don’t Do Stupid Stuff” foreign policy doctrine, which that 2016 juggernaut known as “The Hillarator” has already derided as a “non-organizational principle”? Just extra layers of cosmic stupidity, or something more substantial?

That old axis of evil
Let’s start with The Caliph, aka Islamic State (IS) leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. Obama already said, after his shellacking, he is going to seek Congressional authorization for his coalition of the cowards bombing IS – aka Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, or Daesh, the jiahdi outfit’s Arabic acronym

Now that’s not a dumb move. If Republican-ruled Congress says “yes”, they will be responsible for the fiasco (and it’s already a fiasco). If they say “no”, the fiasco can be attributed to their irresponsibility.

Republicans are immersed in their own internal split – the boots-on-the-ground favored by the establishment against the non-interventionist Tea Party. So in the end, the lame duck may profit from it after all.

Iran is a much dicier proposition. It all depends on a nuclear deal between Iran and the P5+1 (the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany) being reached in a little over two weeks, on November 24. That’s a taller-than-the-Himalayas order, although feasible. The Obama administration is desperate for a deal – as the leak of a “secret letter” from Obama to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei attests. But a deal under Washington’s terms, which for Tehran is unacceptable. [2]

The new US Senate only takes over in January. Obama has already stressed he won’t ask the Senate to ratify the deal. Once again, the problem is what deal? Obama’s idea of a grand design in the Middle East is to use a “responsible” – according to US standards – Tehran to balance the Sunni-Shi’ite divide and get rid of the current proxy wars, the whole thing arbitrated by Washington. This is a pipe dream. But it’s what the lame duck wants.

Needless to say, Republicans – for whom Tehran never left the “axis of evil” – will try to bomb the dream, pipelines and all, for instance by passing legislation preventing the lifting of key sanctions. Sparks will fly. Tehran won’t accept a nuclear deal where Washington just says “take my word for it, we will lift sanctions”; this has to be in the letter of the agreement. After all they have vast experience of dealing with gun-crazy Republicans in power.

Nothing will change on Russia – even as the Obama administration needs Moscow to get a deal with Tehran. The relentless demonization of Putin and the resurgence of the same old Cold War meme, “The Russians are Coming”, are guaranteed to keep propelling stupidity 24/7 to intergalactic spheres.

Capitol Hill will go on overdrive. After all, Russia demonization is a bipartisan sport in Washington. The only “solution” would be regime change. Not only is Putin not going anywhere, but he’s ratcheting up his defiance of the Empire of Chaos. This implies increased problems with Germany, where Chancellor Angela Merkel keeps appeasing the Americans while German businesses want increased trade with Russia and Eurasia as a whole.

Another China win-win?
On trade, here’s where APEC collides with the two-pronged US version of an economic NATO: the proposed Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) with Europe and the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) with Asia.

What the Obama administration is fighting for is nothing less than a totally unregulated global marketplace. Imagine the “free” market – as Bill “Bubba” Clinton was already parading in Indonesia two decades ago – setting all sorts of standards on everything from working conditions to the environment. In theory, that’s exactly what Republicans love. So here Obama would be right in their alley, which implies an easy Senate ratification.

It’s actually way more complicated. Republicans simply cannot stomach an Obama victory. That means this upcoming Senate won’t give him the fast track he needs to clinch the TPP deal.

That happens to be exactly what China wants. Beijing will use APEC to promote the road map for its own, anti-TPP trade deal, the Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific (FTAAP). TPP involves 12 APEC members – but not China. And even inside TPP there’s a monster revolt; Tokyo is battling the US because they Japan is sure its auto industry and agriculture may be devoured by US corporations.

So we’re right into a titanic Transformer-style Battle of the Deals. In fact any deal is problematic, as China, Japan and South Korea may want, in principle, broader economic cooperation. But on trade, in so many levels, they are fiercely competing against each other – as in the auto industry and agriculture, for instance – not to mention that heavy historical baggage between Japan and China and Japan and South Korea.

The Chinese charm offensive at APEC in Beijing is all about “innovative development”, “building infrastructure investment” and “comprehensive connectivity”. It’s all a mirror image of the extremely ambitious New Silk Roads proposed by President Xi to connect Eurasia.

Beijing is proposing a new “connectivity framework” into three key areas – “physical connectivity, institutional connectivity, and people-to-people connectivity”. But still no one knows how this will work out in practice towards Asia integration. Washington doesn’t care; it just wants a “free” unregulated mega-market for US corporations.

Beijing sees Asian economic integration as APEC facilitating an FTAAP by 2025. Needless to say, the US and a few vassals aboard the TPP have been adamant that no regional deal jeopardizes TPP. Washington was betting on TPP being signed before APEC. It didn’t happen. So Plan B is to boycott FTAAP until TPP is signed. And that Beijing won’t allow. The lame duck will have to duck a lot on his one-on-one with Xi in Beijing.

Finally, what about the Obama-Capitol Hill battle on the climate-change field? For the absolute majority of Republicans, climate change and global warming are nothing but an evil conspiracy. End of story.

The lame duck and Capitol Hill at least may agree on – what else – the Global War on Terror. Pentagon supremo Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel recently said the US should get ready for endless wars, as “tyranny”, “terrorism”, national security challenges and – surprise! – climate change pose a substantial “threat”.

Since 2002, the Pentagon has been saying to anyone who was bothered to listen that Endless War is the only deal in town – or the universe, for that matter. The lame duck might even fraternize about it with his Republican nemeses over the odd round of golf. What a wonderful (lame duck) world this would be.

Notes:
1. Putin Vs. Obama: The World’s Most Powerful People 2014, Forbes, November 5, 2014.
2. Obama Wrote Secret Letter to Iran’s Khamenei About Fighting Islamic State, Wall Street Journal Online (subscription).

Pepe Escobar is the author of Globalistan: How the Globalized World is Dissolving into Liquid War (Nimble Books, 2007), Red Zone Blues: a snapshot of Baghdad during the surge (Nimble Books, 2007), and Obama does Globalistan (Nimble Books, 2009).

He may be reached at pepeasia@yahoo.com.

 

Putin, Abe May Meet During APEC Summit: Kremlin

Russian President Vladimir Putin may meet with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in November.

Russian President Vladimir Putin may meet with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in November.

MOSCOW, September 26 (RIA Novosti) – Russian President Vladimir Putin may meet with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in November, presidential aide Yury Ushakov said Friday.

“Contacts on the sidelines of multinational events are possible, so a meeting with the Japanese premier is also possible,” Ushakov said, adding that such meetings do not fully replace a bilateral meeting.

“Prime Minister Abe invited Putin [to visit Japan], but there were no discussions via diplomatic channels on when such a visit will take place. Media speculations are far from reality,” the Kremlin official said.

Earlier the same day, Abe confirmed he hoped to meet with Putin. He also said he was looking forward to continue dialogue with Moscow.

The Abe government said earlier that a final decision would be taken after considering various factors.

Since Abe entered office in 2012, he has held multiple summits with Putin aiming to improve economic relations and to resolve the Kuril Islands dispute. However, as the situation in Ukraine started to deteriorate, Japan, along with the United States, the European Union and other members of the Group of Seven industrialized nations introduced sanctions against Russia over its involvement.

The Japanese sanctions are the softest compared to those imposed by other G7 nations as Tokyo is seen as unwilling to ruin relations with Russia.

 

Listen: GRMLN’s new song “White Lung//Black Lung”

GRMLN

GRMLN

 

When singer-songwriter Yoodoo Park, aka GRMLN, moved from Japan to Southern California a few years back, he immediately distilled his music with the region’s carefree dynamic and innately sunny vibes. The result was 2012’s Explore EP and last year’s Empire full-length, both of which were born out of a romantic approach to free-wheeling pop-punk. Now, after lengthy touring and a bit of personal reflection, Park finds himself exploring much darker waters on his sophomore album, Soon Away, due out September 16th via Carpark Records.

The 10-track effort was written in Japan and while Park was traveling stateside. During the latter, Park holed himself up in Different Fur Studios in San Francisco alongside Empire collaborators/producers Patrick Brown and Sean Paulson. He recruited friend and drummer Keith Frerichs and his brother/bassist Tae San Park to round out the recording lineup

According to a press release, the result is an “aggressive album, darker and heavier than what’s come before. While it carries these characteristics, there’s a certain peace to Soon Away, thanks to Park’s personal growth. The album grapples with letting go and getting used to good-byes. The singer-guitarist sees the constant changes of life allowing people to embrace the true nature of living. The teachings of Krishna were an inspiration to Park while writing the record and it’s a force that helped define Park’s perspective in these songs.”

Already Park has shared the driving lead single, “Jaded”; today, he unveils “White Lung//Black Lung”. Clocking in at five minutes in length, the track packs the immediacy and surging energy of early ’70s punk. Yet even as Park has renounced its poppy undertones for utter hopelessness, the song still vibrates with slight tinges of pop-punk optimism.

Listen in below.

 

Watch Atoms for Peace Perform “Judge Jury and Executioner” – Thom Yorke

Update: XL Recordings have revealed the deluxe edition packaging for Atoms for Peace’s forthcoming debut album, Amok. Check it out in gif form below.

Naturally, the build-up to the release of the Thom Yorke/Nigel Godrich/Flea/Joey Waronker/Maouro Refosco project Atoms for Peace‘s debut album has been marked by relative mystery.

Now, if you scroll through the Stanley Donwood-designed landscape on Atoms for Peace’s website, you’ll find a grim-looking little man wearing a black hooded jacket in a rowing boat; when clicked, he reveals a live video of the band performing “Judge Jury and Executioner” at Japan’s Fuji Rock festival.

Rather than spoil your fun by posting it here, scroll along yourself to unearth the clip, and watch a Tarik Barri-designed visual for the song below.

[ click on image ]

[ click on image ]

Update: That’s the single artwork above. It will be released on 12″ vinyl accompanied by the B-side “S.A.D.” on March 19.

Thom Yorke and Nigel Godrich just dropped by Zane Lowe’s BBC Radio 1 show, where they premiered the new single from the Atoms for Peace project, “Judge Jury and Executioner”. It’s off their album Amok, which is out February 25 in the UK and February 26 in the U.S. via XL Recordings.

Atoms for Peace also features the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Flea, Joey Waronker, and percussionist Mauro Refosco. Talking with Lowe, Yorke and Godrich said that they don’t have any shows planned at the moment, but they’re considering a European tour. They hinted that members of the group will probably play Glastonbury in some capacity. But according to Yorke, the full band “won’t have our shit together by then.”

As for that Radiohead stuff recorded at Jack White’s Third Man Studio, Yorke said it will be released eventually, “but I have to pick the kids up from school first.”

The single is available for purchase on iTunes starting at midnight UK time or offered as a free download for those who pre-order the album.

There’s also an accompanying visual for the track, with imagery by Tarik Barri. See below:

Update: This is the single artwork above. It will be released on 12" vinyl accompanied by the B-side "S.A.D." on March 19.  There's also an ccompanying visual for the track, with imagery by Tarik Barri.

Update: This is the single artwork above. It will be released on 12″ vinyl accompanied by the B-side “S.A.D.” on March 19. There’s also an accompanying visual for the track, with imagery by Tarik Barri.