An estimated 20 percent shortfall in the annual June-September South-West monsoon has severely affected the lives of hundreds of millions of farmers and agricultural workers in rural India. Severe drought is causing significant crop and financial losses and for many hunger and even starvation.
Yet neither India’s Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government nor the various state governments have seen fit to bestir themselves to mount concerted relief programs so as to alleviate the desperate conditions confronting the rural toilers in large swathes of the country.
The drought has severely affected people in Punjab and Haryana in the north, Maharashtra, Rajasthan and Gujarat in the west and Karnataka in the south and overall conditions are said to be far worse than the last drought in 2009. According to Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh, “[T]he drought in Maharashtra is the worst in last 20 years, the Gujarat drought is the worst in last 25 years and the Karnataka drought is the worst in last 40 years.”
While the all-India rain shortfall is estimated at 20 percent, in the worst affected states it is far in excess of this. For instance the rain deficit in north and south Karnataka is 51 percent and 47 percent respectively, while in Gujarat it ranges from 58 percent to 79 percent.
The government and the corporate media are presenting the ravages caused by the drought as the product of meteorological events beyond human control. But the drought is far from being simply a “natural” disaster. Although the monsoon is notoriously fickle and India’s rainfall is heavily concentrated in a few months of the year, India’s elite, even after 65 years of independent rule, has failed to develop a modern, comprehensive irrigation system.
About 65 percent of India’s agricultural land lacks irrigation facility—and this in a country where at least 60 percent of the population is dependent on agriculture for their livelihood.
The failure to invest in irrigation dates back decades but the problems in India’s agriculture sector have only worsened since 1991, when the Indian elite abandoned state-led economic development in favour of wholesale integration into the world capitalist market. In the name of attracting foreign investment and promoting industrial growth, Indian governments at all levels have slashed corporate taxes, cut subsidies to farmers, and otherwise pursued pro-market “reform.”
Public investment has been diverted from agriculture into building roads, ports, and other infrastructure projects demanded by big business. To the extent that the Indian elite has any agricultural policy at all, it is one of throwing small and medium farmers to the vagaries of the market while seeking to pave the way for the development of agro-business by loosening ceilings on landholdings.
Because of the lack of irrigation and state support for agriculture—many small farmers are only eking out a living in the best of times—the effects of the ups and downs in the monsoon are magnified.
The immediate impact of the drought has been a significant drop in the amount of crops sown, but this will soon translate into reduced incomes for farmers and farm labours and an increase in food prices for all Indians.
Food inflation, it need be noted, has been in double digits for the past several years and even before the drought was causing increasing hardship. More than 75 percent of India’s population survives on less than $2 per day, with a majority of them earning less than $1 per day.
In Gujarat out of a normal sowing area of 900,000 hectares (ha) at least 600,000 ha have been severely affected. Out of this around 470,000 ha have already experienced a crop shortfall of at least 50 percent.
Similarly in Rajasthan, the sowing area is a mere 99,000 hectares as compared with 150,000 hectares last year. Even drinking water is in short supply in parts of Gujarat and Rajasthan.
The cultivation of rice, cotton, soybeans, and pulses (legumes) have all been badly affected.
The drought and the derisory government assistance being offered have resulted in an increase in farmer suicides. For instance, on August 1, Vala Jeeva Modh from Khorala village in Gujarat consumed poison to end his life because of crop failure. The following day Jaypalsinh Jadeja, a 40-year-old farmer from Rataiya village in the same district, hanged himself.
The phenomenon of farm suicides is tied to the power moneylenders wield over small farmers. Unable to obtain government or bank loans, many small farmers are forced to contract loans with moneylenders who charge exorbitant rates so that they can obtain the seed and other inputs they need to grow their crops and support themselves until harvest time. But in the event of crop failure, the moneylenders still press for payment in full.
The so-called Empowered Group of Ministers appointed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to oversee the drought-response has announced a pitiful relief package of a mere 2 billion rupees ($US36 million) with a further relief of 50 percent subsidy to farmers on diesel prices in all drought-affected areas.
When cabinet advisors were asked if the support measures are enough, they reportedly answered with callous indifference, “[I]t is drought-like and not actual drought.” Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar, who chairs the Empowered ministerial group, has cynically said it is up to the states to declare a drought.
The state governments, for their part, don’t want to call the rain-deficit a drought because that would lead to pressure for increased relief payments.
The Hindu supremacist BJP, India’s Official Opposition, is attacking the Congress-led UPA for failing to come to the farmers’ aid. But the BJP state government of Gujarat has established a relief fund of just 500 million rupees (less than $10 million) after asking the central government for 28 times that amount. The Gujarat government is offering drought-afflicted farmers compensation of just Rs. 5000 ($90) per hectare.
Even the meager sums announced by state and Union governments will go mainly to the better-off sections of farmers, while leaving the small farmers and agricultural workers mostly empty handed.
If there was any arms race in the region, India has won it, at whatever the cost may be. But the claims to have good neighborly relations, with MFN-status, no-war pact or no-first-use nuclear arsenal are just a dream seemingly never to come true.
In April this year India yanked open the door of the exclusive ICBM (International Ballistic Missile) club with the first test of Agni-V. Now, if DRDO is to be believed, India has quietly gate-crashed into an even more exclusive club of nuclear-tipped submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs). The most ironic part of this achievement on part of India is that New Delhi had been able to successfully keep it as a secret ‘black project’.
The annual awards function of the Defence Research and Development Organization (DRDO) the other day witnessed Prime Minister Manmohan Singh handing over the “technology leadership award” to a scientist, A K Chakrabarti, of the Hyderabad-based DRDL lab, for the “successful development” of the country’s first SLBM. This capability has been acquired only by four nations, the US, Russia, France and China.
Long shrouded in secrecy as a “black project”, unlike the surface-to-surface nuclear missiles like Agni, the SLBM may now finally come out of the closet. Called different names at different developmental phases, which included “Sagarika” for an extended period, the SLBM in question is the ‘K-15’ missile with a 750-km strike range. Much like the over 5,000-km Agni-V that will be fully operational by 2015 after four-to-five “repeatable tests”, the K-15 is also still some distance away from being deployed. While the SLBM may be fully-ready and undergoing production now, as DRDO contends after conducting its test several times from submersible pontoons, its carrier INS Arihant will take at least a year before it’s ready for “deterrent patrols”.
India’s first indigenous nuclear-powered submarine, the 6,000-tonne INS Arihant, is still undergoing “harbor-acceptance trials” with all its pipelines being cleared and tested meticulously on shore-based steam before its miniature 83 MW pressurized light-water reactor goes “critical”. The submarine will then undergo extensive “sea-acceptance trials” and test-fire the 10-tonne K-15, which can carry a one-tonne nuclear payload, from the missile silos on its hump.
Only then will India’s missing third leg of the nuclear triad – the ability to fire nukes from land, air and sea – be in place. INS Arihant has four silos on its hump to carry either 12 K-15s or four of the 3,500-km range K-4 missiles undergoing tests at the moment. The first two legs revolve around the Agni missiles and fighters like Sukhoi-30MKIs and Mirage-2000s jury-rigged to deliver nuclear warheads.
The sea-based nuclear leg in the shape of SLBMs is much more effective — as also survivable being relatively immune to pre-emptive strikes — than the air or land ones. Nuclear-powered submarines, which are capable of operating silently underwater for months at end, armed with nuclear-tipped missiles are, therefore, considered the most potent and credible leg of the triad. With even the US and Russia ensuring that two-thirds of the strategic warheads they eventually retain under arms reduction agreements will be SLBMs, India with a clear “no-first use” nuclear doctrine needs such survivable second-strike capability to achieve credible strategic deterrence.
The purpose of this year’s conference is to outline global governance under the cover of environmentalism and protecting the planet.
The strengthening of the UN Environmental Program through “secure, adequate and increased financial resources” was one of the biggest issues brought to the forefront at the conference. The UN is kicking into high gear, planning on creating a clear path toward global governance. Their strength will become evident in the international mandates they plan to impose onto the governments of the world.
China, India, Indonesia and South Africa will be represented by their presidents and prime ministers.
President Obama, UK Prime Minister David Cameron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel will send representatives in their stead.
However, extended arms of the UN such as eco-fascist groups, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and “charities” believe that the agreement is not strict enough .
A panel of alarmist scientists, ministers and Nobel laureates are decrying that society is “on the edge of a threshold of a future with unprecedented environmental risks.”
Their declaration, delivered to the attendees of the Summit called for immediate and significant changes. They wrote: “The combined effects of climate change, resource scarcity, loss of biodiversity and ecosystem resilience at a time of increased demand, poses a real threat to humanity’s welfare. There is an unacceptable risk that human pressures on the planet, should they continue on a business as usual trajectory, will trigger abrupt and irreversible changes with catastrophic outcomes for human societies and life as we know it.”
Professor Will Steffen, of the Australian National University, believed that the declaration would send a clear message to the world leaders of their desire to set “intrinsic limits” on consumption so that humanity would not exceed “the planet’s capacity”.
Issues of discussion include:
• The green economy
• Fossil fuel subsidies
• Sustainable development goals
They complain that it only reiterates the governmental commitments as made in previous documents; which have not been upheld in the opponent’s opinion.
Following suit, the European Union (EU) was most unsatisfied with the document, however, Ida Auken, the Danish Environment Minister explained: “The EU would have liked to see a much more concrete and ambitious outcome, so in that respect I’m not happy with it. However, we managed to get the green economy on the agenda, and so I think we have a strong foundation for this vision that can drive civil society and the private sector to work in the same direction, to understand that environment and [that] the social side must be integrated into the heart of the economy.”
Auken still believes that the agreement will be signed by attendees without any further alterations.
Janez Potocnik, EU Environment Commissioner, asserted that the EU “”remains committed, for as long as it takes, to achieving concrete and ambitious outcomes from the Rio+20 negotiations . . . to bring the world towards a sustainable future.”
Radical environmentalists launched a Twitter call to action, campaigning for as much pressure as possible against governments to systematically end fossil fuel consumption immediately.
The agreement asserts that these programs will be “phased out” without setting specific dates and affirming that only if these modes of energy consumption are “harmful and inefficient”.
The UN will be deploying their Environment Program Corporations to report on environmental and social impact in a yet-to-be determined process of sustainable development goals (SDGs) to be mandated by 2015; as well as extensions on the UN’s Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
The agreement mandates “urgent action” against what they classify as unsustainable production and consumption; yet definitions are broad and could be widely reinterpreted. Per usual with UN agreements, there is a lack of dead-line, explanation of how these mandates can be achieved, and no succinct suggestion as to how the world’ economy could afford the programs the UN demands all the world’s governments implement.
Craig Bennett, director of policy and campaigns for Friends of the Earth , asserts that the UN must be more authoritative to “solve the global emergency we’re facing” and explained that: “Developed countries have repeatedly failed to live safely within our planet’s limits. Now they must wake up to the fact that until we fix our broken economic system we’re just papering over the ever-widening cracks.”
According to the agreement, governments will refrain from making water and energy more accessible to their citizens unless directed by the UN. Predatory talks concerning the securitization of resources by the UN within developing nations became outlines for demands and affirmation of pledges of financial and technological assistance from Western countries. The document reads: “We emphasize the need to make progress in implementing previous commitments… it is critical that we honor all previous commitments, without regression.”
Asad Rehman, head of international climate of the Friends of the Earth said: “Faced with the determined efforts by some developed countries, in particular the US, to rip up the Earth Summit agreement of 1992, the text seems to have stopped us moving backwards. But it certainly doesn’t get close to addressing the concerns of the people or our planet. Faced with a triple planetary crisis – climate catastrophe, deepening global inequity and unsustainable consumption driven by a broken economic system – the text is neither ambitious enough nor delivers the required political will needed.”
The UN itself will implement sustainable development programs under UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s Sustainable Energy For All initiative, in developing countries to create “greening” economies. This scheme will mandate UN sanctioned renewable energy efficiency by 2030.
The UN also wants to directly affect control over “measures of progress to complement GDP in order to better inform policy decisions.”
The right to food and water, a subject of broad governance as written in the document is certainly an aspect of the UN’s sustainable development agenda.
Ocean conservation, another topic of interest, explicitly demanded that they govern those assets allocated from this expansive resource. The UN will oversee the international governance over the end of illegal and exploitative fishing, support local small-scale fishers, and set up a process that would eventually regulate fishing and protect life on the high seas. Those definitions, though broad in the document, would left to specific interpretation as needed in individual situations.
The UN will govern the right to:
• Gender equality in the workplace
• Corporate requirements for sustainability
• Youth employment
• Empower the UNEP to extend over-reaching control
Even as doctors, scientists and health specialists in Bihar continue to investigate the “mysterious disease” which has claimed hundreds of lives in the last one month, the death of 18 more kids on Saturday has taken the toll from 156 to 174.
Additional Secretary (Health) R P Ojha said out of 402 children detected with symptoms of Acute Encephalitis Syndrome (AES), 82 have been admitted to different hospitals for treatment, while 156 died. The rest 164 children have been discharged after treatment.
Unofficial sources, however, put the death toll to 203.
Ever since the “mysterious disease” broke out on May 16, the blame game is on in the state. Bihar Health Minister Ashwani Choubey has charged the Centre with stalling the State’s plan to spray the chemical in the susceptible districts — Muzaffarpur and Gaya — where the casualty list is long.
Last year too, the mysterious disease had taken a heavy toll as 85 children died in Muzaffarpur and Gaya. State doctors said that the death took place due to heat-stroke.
Another section of doctors led by former Union health minister C P Thakur had argued that it could be because of the white small germ found in litchi fruit, which is mostly cultivated near Muzaffarpur.
But with death toll rising this year, the experts from the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), New Delhi, came to Bihar and probed the lifestyle and food habits of two survivors – (two children had fallen ill but survived). They have classified the disease as Acute Encephalitis Syndrome and believe that it is caused by an “infectious agent” that remains to be identified.
“We really do not know what is causing this. But what we do know is that this has a very high mortality,” said Milind Gore, a senior scientist with the National Institute of Virology, Pune.
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey told reporters on Thursday that the Obama administration’s continued pursuing of diplomatic solutions in Syria has put military planners in the Pentagon planners in a strategic bind.
Complaining of a “lack of focus,” he declared that with a clear instruction for regime change, “I can build you a plan, and I know how many divisions, I know how many air wings … it takes.”
This is the second time that Dempsey has gone on record to threaten military action. Speaking following the alleged May 25 massacre of over 1000 people at Houla, he went on Fox News to declare, “Of course, there is always a military option … it may come to a point with Syria because of the atrocities.”
The Houla massacre was immediately blamed on the regime of Bashar al-Assad and attributed to shelling by his troops. Within days, however, investigations proved that most deaths had been the result of summary executions by shots at close range and stabbings. Opposition forces blamed pro-government Alawite Shabihi militia, while the government blamed terrorists associated with the Sunni insurgency seeking to destabilize the United Nations ceasefire on the eve of a visit to Syria by Kofi Annan.
Once again, Dempsey utilized an alleged massacre as a platform for his warmongering—joining a Republican lobby led by Senator John McCain and Senator Joe Lieberman, a former Democrat, urging the direct arming of the Syrian opposition and US air support.
The massacre this time is reported to have taken place in the village of Qubair, 20 kilometers from Hama, on Wednesday. But such details as are available are even murkier and more open to question than was Houla. Initial reports spoke of anywhere between 87 and 100 dead, over half women and children. It was supposed to have followed the same pattern as Houla—heavy shelling preceding an attack by Shabiha militia.
This casualty figure has since been revised down to “at least 55 people,” according to the pro-opposition UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. The victims are, it said, mostly from the same Al-Yateem family, including 18 women and children.
Footage purportedly from Mazraat al-Qubeir showed the bodies of what the cameraman states are a dozen women and children, as well as the remains of burned corpses. An anonymous activist claims that the bodies of between 25 and 30 men were taken away by the killers.
The Syrian government has again rejected such accounts, putting the death toll in the town at nine and blaming terrorist groups seeking to promote military intervention on the eve of Thursday’s report to the UN General Assembly by Kofi Annan, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and Arab League chief Nabil Elaraby. This report is to be followed by a closed-door briefing of the UN Security Council.
At the general assembly, Syria’s permanent representative, Dr. Bashar al-Jaafari, said that the massacre was committed five hours before any clashes happened, and that the images broadcast by Al-Jazeera and Al-Arabiya were not those of massacre victims. “The instigative media channels have taken to airing such fabrications before the UN Security Council meetings,” he said.
Al-Jaafari said that local people had affirmed that the gunmen who committed the crime came from another nearby village. “What is taking place in some parts of Syria is an unjustifiable heinous massacre, but countries supporting terrorists and facilitating their crimes in Syria are complicit in the bloodshed,” he said. “Are suicide bombings that targeted Syria acts in self-defense? Are attacks on hospitals, medical staffs and schools democratic aspects?”
Dempsey’s chivvying of the Obama administration does not reflect a fundamental difference over strategy between the Pentagon and the While House. Obama is as much a blood-soaked war criminal as Dempsey. The administration wants regime change in Syria, achieved firstly by destabilization and then possibly some form of proxy war waged by its allies, the Gulf monarchies and Turkey. But it has to confront and neutralize the opposition of Russia, China, India and other states.
At the UN, Annan declared that his own peace plan “is not being implemented.” He told the Security Council that it was time to threaten “consequences” if Assad did not halt the strife, stating to reporters that other actions must be considered, “if the plan is not working, or if we decide it’s not the way to go.”
Ban Ki-moon joined in blaming the Assad regime. “For many months, it has been evident that President Assad and his government have lost all legitimacy,” he said. “The trail of blood leads back to those responsible.”
As the UN met, in Washington US Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner was hosting a meeting of representatives from 55 countries, with the aim of imposing additional punitive sanctions that would force the Syrian business elite to abandon the Assad regime. “Strong sanctions make clear to the Syrian business community and other supporters of the regime that their future is bleak so long as the Assad regime remains in power,” he said.
In Istanbul Wednesday, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was taking part in a mini “Friends of Syria” meeting of foreign ministers and envoys from 16 European, Turkish and Arab countries discussing their plans for regime change. Clinton insisted that Assad must go and “transfer power” to an “interim representative government”. Her proposal is directed at winning support from Russia’s Vladimir Putin for a negotiated regime change like that organized in Yemen.
Though such an outcome is not excluded, Moscow remains at present opposed to what it recognizes as a US attempt to bring Syria into its orbit, isolate Iran and secure its undisputed hegemony over the Middle East at the expense of Russia and China.
On Thursday, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said of the reported massacre at Qubair, “There is no doubt that certain forces once again used vicious and despicable provocations to frustrate Kofi Annan’s plan.”
“It is imperative that the foreign players who are taking part in settling the Syrian problem use their channels to influence the armed opposition groups, whose increased recent activity and calls for outside intervention contradict this plan,” he continued.
Russia and China both reiterated their opposition to military intervention at the UN, with Chinese Vice-Foreign Minister Cheng Guoping stating, “You can’t say that because you dislike a country’s system, you can then think of ways to overturn its government.”
Russia’s Representative to the UN, Vitali Churkin, opposed unilateral pressure on Syria and sanctions, urging instead that the supplying of weapons and money to the opposition must end.
Moscow and Beijing were backed by India, whose representative Hardeep Singh Puri expressed concern at escalating attacks against both civilians and security forces.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told reporters in Beijing on Wednesday that Moscow is proposing an international conference seeking to persuade all Syrian opposition groups to end violence and sit down for talks. This would involve the permanent members of the UN Security Council, Turkey, Iran, the Arab League, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, and the European Union.
He has the backing of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, comprising Russia, China and Central Asian states, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan and Tajikistan, which Thursday called for a negotiated settlement of the Syrian conflict, rejecting any “enforced handover of power”. Alongside economic cooperation, the SCO is pledged to military cooperation, intelligence sharing, and counter-terrorism operations. Its intervention into the Syrian crisis is another sign of how the US drive for regime change threatens wider war in the region.
According to our Jiribam correspondent, the symptoms of the still to be diagnosed disease are excessive vomiting and bouts of loose motion.
The first such case was reported to be one Thangkhahum, 50, son of (L) Phairenthang Khum of Borobekra gram panchayat. The person was rushed to Jiribam community health center with the said symptoms. Even after meagre treatment available at the CHC, the doctors pronounced him dead on June 4.
Our correspondent added, “ I questioned the doctors on the cause of death and the nature of the disease, whereas reply came from the doctors and the lab assistants that the diagnosis is yet to be confirmed”, it was added that the medical samples taken were to be sent to Imphal for clinical analysis.
Sources have also said that along with the deceased, another three persons were admitted to the community health center for treatment and further diagnosis with the same symptoms.
Reports mentioned that the source of the outbreak was suspected to be from Shottobegra, from Phailenthang, a village bordering Jiribam and Churachandpur.
Suspecting the nature of the disease, it was learnt that the pradhan of Borobekra, identified as Neithang Rangpal, intimated the concerned medical officers of the sub division to investigate the issue on June 4.
Later, a team of seven medical staffs including a local pastor, laboratory technician and a doctor went to the said place at Sottobekra and further threated 43 patients having the same symptoms.
Meanwhile, health minister Phungzathang Tonsing has rushed to Jiribam to take stock of the situation. According to reports, the minister has visited the community health centre located at Babupara, Jiribam.
The minister after deliberating in the matter has met patients admitted at the centre and provided monitory relief of Rs 500 each to the patients suffering from such symptoms.
Later, he also left the centre for Barak circle which is located about thirty km from proper Jiribam town towards Borobekra, which is suspected to be the epicenter of the epidemic.
The minister also met officials of a private run hospital and appealed to provide necessary medical attention to patients with symptoms of the disease.
He further inspected a 50 bedded hospital presently under construction at Jiribam headquarters.
It was mentioned that the minister voiced disapproval of the current pace of construction work, whereas the contractor apparently promised to complete the project within December 2012.
According to sources from the medical department, the source of the epidemic is currently under the microscope and necessary treatment is provided to the ailing patients.
It may be mentioned that due to lack of proper medical facilities in Jiribam, majority of the patients are presently referred to private run clinics of Assam.
Our correspondent adds, “this is the first time that we have seen nurses in uniform and clean bedsheets in the CHC”, family members and sections of the public also voice that the visit of the minister should have the desired effects to prevent such outbreaks in future and not at par with the former minister Ph Parijat, who visited Jiribam for assuring proper medical facilities but hence left unaddressed.
In January of this year the three officials in charge of U.S. global military strategy and operations – commander-in- chief President Barack Obama, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta and Chairman of the Joints Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey – unveiled the 2012 Defense Strategic Guidance, entitled “Sustaining U.S. Global Leadership: Priorities for 21st Century Defense,” which officially confirmed American plans to increase its military presence in the Asia-Pacific region to counter China, now the world’s second-largest economy.
Alternately referred to as rebalancing, reemphasis, refocusing and a pivot away from Europe and toward the Asia-Pacific and the Middle East, the new doctrine reflects the past twenty years’ consolidation of U.S. military and political control of Europe through the expansion of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the subjugation of North Africa and the Middle East except for, at least for the present, Syria and Iran through the creation of U.S. Africa Command, NATO’s Mediterranean Dialogue and Istanbul Cooperation Initiative military partnerships and its ten-and-a-half- year-old Operation Active Endeavor in the Mediterranean, and the wars against Iraq and Libya.
Having not so much neutralized opposition – there were no effective challengers to U.S. geopolitical hegemony in the indicated areas – as eliminated remaining pockets of independence and nonalignment (Yugoslavia, Iraq and Libya), the Pentagon and its allies are free to move against China, having already surrounded Russia through NATO expansion and partnerships from the Baltic Sea to the Black Sea, the South Caucasus to Central Asia, the Arctic Ocean to Mongolia.
On June 1 Pentagon chief Panetta spoke at the eleventh annual Shangri-La Dialogue defense summit in Singapore, where the U.S. has recently gained basing rights for its warships, and reiterated plans to expand, tighten and integrate its alliances with defense treaty partners in the Asia-Pacific: Australia, Japan, New Zealand, the Philippines, South Korea and Thailand. (Taiwan is practically if not formally in that category.)
As the Defense Department’s news agency, American Forces Press Service, reported, Panetta emphasized that “Defense policy in the region calls for the U.S. military to expand military-to- military relationships well beyond the traditional treaty allies.” The allusion is to the members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Vietnam and Thailand) not already included in bilateral military alliances with Washington as well as new partners like Afghanistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Mongolia, Tonga and others supplying troops or transit bases for the U.S.-NATO war in Afghanistan. An old ally, Pakistan, and newly acquired ones, India and Bangladesh, are also within the Pentagon’s purview.
In the past few years the U.S. has pulled Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) members Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam into its political-military orbit and expanded partnerships with Malaysia and Singapore, which have troops serving under NATO command in Afghanistan along with Australia, Mongolia, New Zealand, South Korea and Tonga.
Panetta’s comments in Singapore included the following: “By 2020, the Navy will re-posture its forces from today’s roughly 50/50 split between the Atlantic and Pacific to about a 60/40 split between those oceans – including six aircraft carriers, a majority of our cruisers, destroyers, littoral combat ships and submarines.”
To appreciate the scale of what that redeployment portends, it’s worth noting the unprecedented and unparalleled military capacity the U.S. has built from the end of World War II to the present, in the process establishing the first and only global military force.
The U.S. has eleven aircraft carriers with attached strike groups; all the world’s supercarriers and all but one of its twelve nuclear-powered carriers. (France has the other.) The eleven American supercarriers are the largest warships ever built.
It has 61 guided missile destroyers and 22 guided missile cruisers, all of which are part of or can be upgraded to join the Aegis Combat System, thereby being capable of participating in Washington’s worldwide interceptor missile program.
The U.S. Navy also possesses 72 submarines, 18 ballistic and 53 attack models, and 24 frigates, nine amphibious assault ships, seven amphibious transport docks, 12 dock landing ships, four littoral combat ships and scores of other vessels.
Washington has pledged to deploy 60 percent of the above to the Asia-Pacific region in the imminent future.
Ahead of his trip to Singapore, Panetta visited the headquarters of U.S. Pacific Command (PACOM) in Honolulu, Hawaii and American Forces Press Service reported that “There are 330,000 U.S. service members in the Pacific Command area now, and Panetta anticipates the proportion of the total military in the region will rise.”
The same source added: “The American military also wants to strengthen power projection capabilities in the region. Panetta said there will be new platforms and capabilities for troops in the area.”
U.S. military chief Martin Dempsey is also attending the three-day Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore and his meetings in the Southeast Asian nation indicate one component of the Pentagon’s “power projection” strategy for the Asia-Pacific area. He met with the host country’s defense minister, chief of defense and heads of its army, air force and navy and toured the Sembawang Air Base and other military facilities.
His discussions included topics like the regular Commando Sling joint U.S.-Singapore air combat exercises and the imminent deployment of U.S. littoral combat ships to Singapore agreed upon late last year.
Singaporean Defense Minister Ng Eng Hen visited the Pentagon in April, during which Panetta announced the doubling of the number of U.S. warships to be “forward deployed” to Singapore, from two to four, for exercises and operations near the strategic Strait of Malacca.
In the same month the U.S. deployed the first 200 of 2,500 Marines to northern Australia as part of a military buildup which will also include aircraft, warships and drones.
The Philippines is the third Asia-Pacific nation where the Pentagon is securing new bases to contain and ultimately confront China.
In April the U.S. and the Philippines conducted the latest Balikatan military maneuvers with 4,500 American Marines and 2,500 Philippine troops which included an amphibious assault at Ulugan Bay on Palawan Island to rehearse the “recapture” of an island near the Spratly Islands contested by the Philippines and China.
Most of the Asia-Pacific is in the area of responsibility of U.S. Pacific Command, one of six Unified Combatant Commands the Pentagon employs to maintain control of and pre-position for potential military actions throughout the world. It consists of U.S. Army Pacific, U.S. Marine Forces Pacific, U.S. Pacific Fleet and U.S. Pacific Air Forces.
PACOM’s website boasts that its geographical reach “encompasses about half the earth’s surface, stretching from the waters off the west coast of the U.S. to the western border of India, and from Antarctica to the North Pole.”
Its area of responsibility takes in 36 nations and over half of the world’s population.
The website also itemizes American military assets already deployed to the Asia-Pacific:
Some 350,000 military personnel, one-fifth of total U.S. forces.
The U.S. Pacific Fleet, assigned to PACOM, includes six of eleven aircraft carrier strike groups, approximately 180 ships, 1,500 aircraft and 100,000 service members.
U.S. Marine Forces Pacific consists of two-thirds of U.S. Marine Corps combat troops, two Marine Expeditionary Forces and 85,000 personnel.
U.S. Pacific Air Forces has over 40,000 airman and more than 300 aircraft, with an additional 100 aircraft based in Guam.
U.S. Army Pacific has over 60,000 service members and five Stryker combat vehicle brigades.
There are also an estimated 1,200 Special Operations troops assigned to PACOM.
Components of U.S. Pacific Fleet, the U.S. Third Fleet is home-based in California and the Seventh Fleet in Japan. The Seventh Fleet, the largest forward-deployed naval force in the world, has 50 to 60 ships, 350 aircraft and 60,000 Marines and sailors.
U.S. Pacific Air Forces includes the Fifth Air Force in Japan, Seventh Air Force in South Korea, Eleventh Air Force in Alaska and Thirteenth Air Force in Hawaii.
PACOM has three subordinate unified commands: U.S. Forces Japan, U.S. Forces Korea and Alaskan Command.
Pacific Command has in recent years been making inroads into Asian nations that were off-limits during the Cold War period and for the first decade and a half afterward.
PACOM has been running annual Khaan Quest military exercises in Mongolia since 2003, mainly to train Mongolian troops for deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan.
U.S. Army Pacific conducts annual Angkor Sentinel exercises in Cambodia, as with those in Mongolia including troops from American NATO and from other Asia-Pacific allies.
PACOM and its service affiliates also hold regular military exercises elsewhere throughout the Asia-Pacific region.
In January the U.S. and Japan held the latest Keen Edge command post exercise in Japan and Hawaii.
From January 15-February 17 of this year 7,000 U.S, troops and 3,000 from Thailand, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore and South Korea participated in the Cobra Gold 2012 war games in Thailand.
The U.S. and South Korea held their joint Key Resolve and Foal Eagle exercises from February 28 to April 30 (February 28-March 9 and March 1-April 30, respectively) with 11,000 American and over 200,000 South Korean troops.
In March the air forces of the U.S., Thailand and Singapore participated in the Cope Tiger exercise at the Korat Royal Thai Air Force Base.
At the end of the month the three-week U.S.-led Commando Sling air combat exercises in Singapore were begun.
In April the U.S. and India engaged in this year’s Malabar naval exercise, the latest in a series of annual drills with that codename, in the Bay of Bengal. The ten-day Malabar 2012 exercise was led by the U.S. Seventh Fleet and included aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson, guided missile cruiser USS Bunker Hill, guided missile destroyer USS Halsey and American aircraft and a submarine.
In the same month the 7,000-troop U.S.-Philippine Balikatan 2012 exercise was held in the South China Sea.
On May 30 the U.S. began the 18th annual Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) in Indonesia. The nine-day exercise included a U.S. Navy Task Group and Marine landing force.
Other regular U.S.-led military exercises in the Asia-Pacific include the biennial U.S.-Australia Talisman Sabre and the biennial Rim of the Pacific exercises, the second the largest multinational naval maneuvers in the world. This year’s Rim of the Pacific exercise in and near Hawaii will run from June 29 to August 3 and include 24 nations, 42 ships, six submarines, over 200 aircraft and 25,000 personnel.
Having vanquished most all islands of resistance and neutrality in Europe, Africa and the Middle East, the Pentagon is moving its global military machine into the Asia-Pacific for a showdown with China.
Anthrax seems to be on the move globally lately. Here is a few cases I ran into today, June 1st, 2012. Ukraine, India, Africa.
Anthrax is an acute disease caused by the bacterium Bacillus anthracis. Most forms of the disease are lethal, and it affects both humans and other animals. There are effective vaccines against anthrax, and some forms of the disease respond well to antibiotic treatment.
Like many other members of the genus Bacillus, Bacillus anthracis can form dormant endospores (often referred to as “spores” for short, but not to be confused with fungal spores) that are able to survive in harsh conditions for decades or even centuries. Such spores can be found on all continents, even Antarctica.When spores are inhaled, ingested, or come into contact with a skin lesion on a host, they may become reactivated and multiply rapidly.
Anthrax detected in Ukrainian farm
KIEV, May 18 (Xinhua) — A cow in a farm in central Ukraine’s Cherkassy region has been found infected with anthrax, emergency authorities said Friday.
“At least 12 people had contact with the sick cattle. Currently they are under medical supervision, receiving preventive treatment,” the Emergencies Ministry said in a report.
Farmers had to kill the cow, whose body was burnt to prevent infection spread, it said.
Veterinary and health workers were trying to find out the sources and routes of the infection, the ministry said, adding that specialists had taken a number of sanitary-hygienic measures at the farm in Makeevka village.
Over the past 18 years, outbreaks of anthrax occurred in Ukraine’s southern and central regions. A total of 65 people were infected, and three of them died.
Anthrax commonly infects all warm-blooded animals, in particular cattle. Humans can catch anthrax by a direct contact with infected animal or eating contaminated meat.
Anthrax Kills Two At Balungu Africa
After veterinary officers in the Upper East Region had successfully brought anthrax under control in the Bawku West District, the disease has surfaced in the Bongo District, killing two persons.
The Regional Veterinary Officer, Dr. Thomas Anyorikeya, who confirmed the outbreak and the deaths of the two persons to The Chronicle, explained that a cow died at Nabiisi, a section of Balunugu in the Bongo district, and the meat was consumed by some community people.
He said after consumption, three persons, including a woman, were taken ill and sent to the hospital. One of the men and the woman later died.
According to the officer, a combined team of veterinary officers, health, and Zoomlion workers later retrieved and buried the remaining meat.
Dr. Anyorikeya said since the outbreak of the disease in that district, 2,700 livestock had been vaccinated. However, he regretted that the vaccination exercise had come to a halt, following the failure of the Bongo District Assembly and the Ministry of Food and Agriculture to approve a budget submitted to them by the District Veterinary Officer for fuel and working allowances.
He said his personnel in the district had to use their own resources, including money for fuel, to go round to vaccinate the animals. Having exhausted their meagre resources on the exercise, Dr. Anyorikey said, the personnel could no longer continue with the vaccination.
He is, therefore, worried that if immediate steps are not taken to release money for the exercise to continue, it could spell doom for both residents and their livestock, as the disease could spread faster.
Elephant Jumbo dies of anthrax in India?
ERODE: A 17-year-old cow elephant was found dead allegedly due to anthrax in Kurangupallam, Vadavalli in Kuthialathur reserve forest, Sathy, on Sunday.
Locals� informed the forest officials that a carcass of a elephant was found in the Kuthialathur reserve forest area.
The conservator of forest D Arun and Sathy Divisional Forest Officer D Sathish visited the spot with forest veterinarian Dr Manoharan.
In the autopsy, the officials found that the animal died due to anthrax.
The officials are planning to hold anthrax vaccination to the cattle in villages adjacent to the forest area in coordination with animal husbandry department� as part of efforts to prevent spreading of such disease to cattle grazing within the forest area, to wild animals, sources said.