Monday, May 21, 2018



THE 6-FOOT-LONG, 140-POUND Chinese giant salamander is a being that defies belief—and seemingly the laws of the physical universe. It’s the largest amphibian on the planet, a gargantuan (though harmless) beast that rests on river-bottoms hoovering up fish. Once it grows big enough, not many critters dare touch it—save for, of course, humans.
Particularly the conservationists who are working to save the creature. The good bit about that work is that scientists have used tissue samples and genetics to determine that the salamander is not one species, but at least five. Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean that there are automatically five times as many salamanders in the world. And that reclassification means conservationists have been going about trying to save the critically endangered creature all wrong. It’s a devastating reminder that saving species means properly classifying them first.
You could once find the outsized salamander across China, from high elevations to the subtropical climes of the south. And folks mostly left them alone. “People didn't want to touch them, didn't want to eat them, didn't want to go near them,” says conservation biologist Samuel Turvey of the Zoological Society of London, coauthor on two papers out today in Current Biology. “It was bad luck if you did any of those things, or bad luck if you even saw them.”
That changed in the 1970s, when a market emerged in China for giant salamander meat. Today, even with laws in place to protect the creature, poachers still fish them out of rivers. Really, the only place you’re guaranteed to actually find them anymore is in the country’s commercial salamander farms, which breed the things by the millions.
The idea to conserve the giant salamander, then, was to use these farms to replenish wild populations around China. Great idea on paper—had the reality not been that the farms were pretty much only producing one lineage, from the Yellow River. While the distinct species of Chinese giant salamander may look the same—and scientists aren’t fully sure if they do or not because the specimens and historical data are too rare—their genetics most certainly are not. (The salamander has a slightly smaller counterpart over in Japan, by the way, that appears to be faring better, though not particularly great.)
All around the country, different varieties of salamanders were inhabiting wildly different regions. “Consequently, the animals are likely adapted to their native environments,” says Kunming Institute of Zoology biologist Jing Che, coauthor on the papers. “Adaptations could involve breeding times and cues, as well as physiological adaptations to different environs.” And conservationists were unwittingly tainting some of the country’s rivers with the wrong species.
Those imposters likely bred with local varieties of the salamander, hybridizing and homogenizing the gene pool. That may have wiped out a species’ unique adaptations to its home range.
Indeed, Turvey and his coauthors found good evidence that the Yellow River lineage had taken over. This by far the most common variety found in farms. “It's also the lineage that we detected in all of the wild salamanders that we were able to capture and sample,” says Turvey, “including salamanders in the wild from the south of the country, which is not in the Yellow River drainage, so they couldn't have been there naturally.”
Really, though, the researchers were lucky to even find salamanders in their four-year search. “After surveying 97 sites, we found salamanders in only four localities,” says conservation biologist Andrew Cunningham, also of the Zoological Society of London. “And based on the genetics, it appears likely that most or all of them are actually escapes or releases from farms, rather than representing native wild populations.”
Which is not to say that wild populations don’t exist. But the issue remains that a well intentioned, yet not fully informed breeding program may have accidentally doomed the species instead of saving them. “Had this more complex taxonomy come to light earlier, it's quite likely conservation management could have prevented this admixture, this swamping of genetic lineages, from happening,” says Turvey.
There is a cryptic upside to all this. Advances in genetic testing and technological differentiation of species—as opposed to the old-school method of just eyeballing them for differences—will undoubtedly help save other species.
Take the saga of the Lord Howe Island stick insect. It thrived on its namesake island until the early 20th century, when human-introduced rats wiped it out. Then in 2001 scientists found what appeared to be a stockier version of the insect on a neighboring island. Only through genetic testing were the researchers able to determine that even though the living and extinct populations show physical differences, they’re actually the same species. So now conservationists can use the surviving bugs to repopulate Lord Howe Island if they so choose.
But is this the end for the wild Chinese giant salamander? Matters look dire, but not altogether lost. “Locally pure animals need to be located and these need to be bred in non-commercial facilities,” says Che. “Once genetically tested, their offspring can be released.” And the Chinese government has to get better at stopping poachers. Local communities could also step up to help protect the giant.
Maybe, then, the genetic epiphany of the Chinese giant salamander came just in time.

China ‘Dream’ Is Global Hegemony

China ‘Dream’ Is Global Hegemony

U.S. urged to counter Beijing's military, economic expansion

May 21, 2018

Image result for China's Dream Global hegemony

Image result for China's Dream Global hegemony

Image result for China's Dream Global hegemony

China's large-scale military buildup, regional coercion, and economic aggression are part of plan for global domination, experts told Congress on Thursday.
The nuclear and conventional weapons buildup, militarization of islets in the South China Sea and global infrastructure investments aimed at controlling nations are signs Beijing has emerged as America's most significant national security challenge, a panel of specialists told a hearing of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.
"The Chinese Communist Party is engaged in a total, protracted struggle for regional and global supremacy," retired Navy Capt. Jim Fanell, a former Pacific Fleet intelligence chief told the committee.
"This supremacy is the heart of the ‘China Dream.' China’s arsenal in this campaign for supremacy includes economic, informational, political, and military warfare."
Rick Fisher, a China military expert, testified that China's military, economic, and political activities in Asia and globally pose "grave challenges" for American security. He warned that the United States has "about a decade" to take action to counter the threat.
"The battle to hold off China starts in the Taiwan Strait," Fisher said.
China plans to use the Pacific island of Taiwan, some 100 miles from the Chinese coast as a future base for nuclear missiles, aircraft, and naval forces that will be used to coerce regional democracies into bowing to Beijing's will and ending alliances with the United States.
Committee Chairman Rep. Devin Nunes (R., Calf.) said the hearing is part of a committee investigation into the security and economic threats posed by China and an examination of U.S. intelligence and policies. The probe will include both public and closed-door hearings.
Those threats range from advanced military capabilities such as missiles, space warfare, and cyber weapons, and predatory economic aggression, Nunes said.
Image result for China's Dream Global hegemony is;lk road
Past U.S. efforts to assuage China through trade, military exchanges, and other conciliatory gestures were unsuccessful in altering China's threatening trajectory, Nunes said.
"These previous attempts to appease China failed to improve our bilateral relations," he said. "In fact, China has only become emboldened and may now be the preeminent threat to American security, our economy, and our values."
Fanell testified that U.S. intelligence agencies failed for many years to accurately assess the growing dangers from China.
Intelligence analysts suffered from "group think" that mistakenly viewed China as a benign rising power. Instead, China is now poised to expand its Marxist-Leninist system worldwide.
"There were signs the Chinese told us what they were going to do and we ignored them," Fanell said.
U.S. intelligence agencies have denied underestimating China's rise. But several classified studies on the intelligence failures related to China analysis remain secret from the public in an apparent bid to avoid embarrassing spy agencies.
U.S. policies toward China since economic engagement began in the 1980s were guided by early claims China posed no threat. Successive administrations advocated strengthening China through trade and investment in the hope the communist system would eventually reform.
President Trump, however, directed a major shift in U.S. policy toward China by recognizing Beijing as "revisionist" power that threatens U.S. security and economic interests.
Trump has pressured China on its trade and technology theft and recently announced plans to impose tariffs on Chinese goods.
Curbs on Chinese investment in national security-related purchases also are planned.
Dan Blumenthal, a China expert at the American Enterprise Institute, testified that many China hands were wrong about China's rise in the past.
Blumenthal called for directly confronting the Chinese Communist Party and its weaknesses.
"They constantly come at us with political warfare, information campaigns, propaganda. We let them off the hook," he said, adding that the Chinese public should be given more robust information about what the ruling party is doing.
"We can make it very difficult for a continental empire with 14 land borders—14 land borders—to go to sea," Blumenthal said. "And that would mean bringing about the maritime encirclement in terms of building out the allies and partnerships around that first island chain—Japan, Philippines, Taiwan."
China's ruling party is not simply seeking to preserve its hold on power but is "a Leninist party overseeing a continental empire that's going to sea," Blumenthal said.
China is expanding into the Pacific and also advancing in and around the Indian Ocean, using its commercial Belt and Road investment program as a "cash-for-access deal" in many locations.
Fanell, the retired Navy intelligence expert, said China's naval buildup is the "point of the spear in [China's] quest for global hegemony."
China currently has 330 warships, 66 submarines, and is building more. "By 2030, it is estimated the PLA Navy will consist of some 550 ships: 450 surface ships, and 99 submarines," he said.
"From a technological standpoint, the PRC has quickly achieved parity with U.S. Navy standards and capacities for warship and submarine production," Fanell said.
Fanell warned the United States faces a vulnerable "decade of concern" regarding a conflict with China that will begin in 2020.
"If some currently unintended event does not provoke a military confrontation before then, we have until 2020—the deadline that [Chinese supreme leader] Xi Jinping has given the [People's Liberation Army] to be ready to invade Taiwan. From that point on, we can expect China to strike," he said.
China has begun tightening a noose around Taiwan, recently holding large-scale attack exercises in the Taiwan Strait and flying bombers and strike aircraft around the island.
Chinese air forces also currently are threatening Japan's Senkakus and are militarizing disputed islands in the South China Sea with missiles and aircraft.
Beijing also announced plans to develop new nuclear-capable long-range bombers—another indicator of global power projection plans.
In addition to its growing military power, China is using political warfare capabilities under a doctrine described as "uniting with friends and disintegrating enemies," Fanell said.
"In any conflict within the Indo-Pacific region or globally, the PRC’s fight for public opinion will be the PRC’s second battlefield, on which it will wage a wide range of political warfare operations," Fanell said.
The information warfare will employ strategic psychological operations to promote the narratives of events, actions, and policies with the goal of controlling the Chinese public and influencing policies of both friends and foes.
The operations may appear to be benign soft power activities but will include the use of coercive persuasion campaigns that manipulate global perceptions.
China's overseas expansion will grow from its lone military base in the East African nation of Djibouti through a network of bases and dual-use port facilities in places like Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Brunei, Myanmar, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Tanzania, Mauritius, Namibia, and Greece.
Fisher, a senior fellow at the International Assessment and Strategy Center, said the Chinese military also is developing space warfare capabilities, including plans to use the moon as a base.
"China's space control ambitions extend to achieving eventual control of the earth-moon system," Fisher said. "This would be necessary for the PLA to be able to dominate warfare on earth."
Fisher also said China has undermined American security by exporting vehicles to North Korea that are used as long-range missile transporters.
"As recently as last year, China has supplied large 16- to 18-wheel trucks that carry North Korea's ICBMs," he said. "These ICBMs are not able to attack American cities until they are carried to their launch point by these Chinese trucks. Two administrations have failed to sanction the companies that are involved in this commerce."
On non-military power, China plans to use its financial power in a program called Belt and Road Initiative that Fish said will produce a "debt trap" for developing states that can be coerced into cooperating China's strategic aims.
Using $1 trillion to $3 trillion in spending, "it is becoming apparent that China has settled on a new strategy for gaining military access around the world: use a country’s indebtedness to China as leverage to gain ownership or access that could lead to military access," Fisher said.
The United States needs a comprehensive long-term strategy aimed at countering the Chinese threat. "Such a strategy must include a military, economic, and ally focus, and a diplomatic, political, and informational focus," Fisher said.
Fanell said the United States must make a fundamental shift in dealing with China and recognize Beijing as the main threat to U.S. security.
He urged vastly strengthening U.S. strategic communications to counter China's information warfare, and adopting closer ties to Taiwan.
More Asia-deployed military forces and stepped up intelligence against China also are needed, along with increased attack submarine operations to shadow Chinese nuclear missile submarines.
"Bottom line: America needs to get back to being a maritime power supported militarily by strong allies, something that has been sorely neglected since the fall of the USSR," Fanell said.
"We have already slipped. If we fall any further, we may not recover."

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Geoff Raby locks horns with Julie Bishop over her handling of China-Australia relationship

Geoff Raby locks horns with Julie Bishop over her handling of China-Australia relationship

Paul MurrayThe West Australian
Image result for Geoff Raby locks horns with Julie Bishop over her handling of China-Australia relationship

Many people who take an interest in Australia’s relationship with China know the name Geoff Raby.
Raby was our ambassador in Beijing from 2007-11, having headed the embassy’s economics division in 1986-91 where he rubbed shoulders with another young Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade junior called Kevin Rudd.
Having survived that, Raby served as permanent representative to the World Trade Organisation (1998–2001), ambassador to the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum (2002–2004) and rose to become DFAT deputy secretary (2002–2006) before the Beijing appointment.
I first met him in China in 2009 while researching a magazine for this newspaper on WA’s relationship with the country, Riding the Dragon, and saw how highly he was regarded by the expat community.
But according to Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, Raby is “profoundly ignorant and ill-informed” in his recent criticisms of Australia’s diplomacy with China.
Raby has angered Bishop by writing two highly critical articles in which he says that under the Foreign Minister’s watch Australia has adopted a policy of “strategic mistrust” towards China.
As a consequence, “any semblance of influence has waned to the point where relations are now in the freezer,” he wrote in a Fairfax publication this week. He noted Bishop had not been to China for more than two years.
The problem for Bishop is Raby’s clout. After finishing as ambassador, he stayed in China and set up a Beijing-based consultancy where he represents many of Australia’s most influential companies, such as Wesfarmers, Qantas, Pricewaterhouse Coopers and Macquarie Bank.
He was even more critical in an earlier article written for a website called Pearls and Irritations, which is run by a former head of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, John Menadue.
In that, he accused Canberra’s security establishment — bodies like Defence, the Office of National Assessments, ASIO and ASIS — of taking the China relationship out of the hands of DFAT.
“The Foreign Minister’s, and hence her department’s role in managing this critical relationship has become inconsequential,” Raby wrote.
“To try to play herself back into the Canberra China game, the Foreign Minister gave a bizarre speech, written by her office, in Singapore last year in which she declared China to be unfit for regional leadership because it was not ‘democratic’. The department did not see the final text until it was delivered.”
Raby also mentioned that speech in his Fairfax column, but ramped up his attack on Bishop much further:
“Australia ... needs a foreign minister who is steeped in history and geopolitics, who lives and breathes the issues and who has a grasp of the profound challenges Australia faces in the rapidly evolving new world order being shaped, in large measure by China.
“The Prime Minister needs to replace the Foreign Minister with someone better equipped for the demands of the job.”
Bishop’s response was to attack Raby, but leave most of his criticisms hanging. She was backed by Turnbull who called her “a formidable Foreign Minister, a great diplomat and a great colleague” but similarly did not address the issues directly.
In one of her responses, Bishop said the real state of Australia-China relations was a “good news story”.
That was contradicted within a day in a speech by Trade Minister Steve Ciobo in Shanghai which was generally viewed as a fence-mending exercise. “For the partnership between Australia and China, if we find ourselves in choppy waters, we should bring our boats together and help each other to find a way to the other shore, avoiding the storm,” Ciobo told the Australia-China Chamber of Commerce.
His words directly referenced a speech made by President Xi Jinping to the World Economic Forum in Davos last year, a clever, culturally deferential technique.
Fairfax’s China reporter called the speech “conciliatory” and noted it “came as tension in the bilateral relationship was blamed for causing a slow-down in customs clearances for Australian products”.
The day before, Bishop had brushed off concerns about the diplomatic freeze causing trade problems, saying Ciobo was only in China to watch an AFL game.
“Before becoming Prime Minister, the Security Establishment was concerned that Turnbull was ‘soft’ on China,” Raby wrote on Pearls and Irritations, indicating a hawks-doves power struggle in Canberra.
Behind all of this is hand-wringing about how we balance our relationship with our most important trading partner and regional powerhouse. It doesn’t mean we have to kowtow — to use a Chinese term deeply embedded in the Australian vernacular — but that we demonstrate a clear independence in our dealings with China.
“With China’s rise, the global order has changed and Canberra is having great difficulty coming to grips with this,” Raby wrote.
“The steep deterioration in the bilateral relationship needs to be understood against the background of a rapidly changing geopolitical order and an ideologically pre-conditioned policy-making establishment in Canberra which is quixotically hoping for the return of the old, US-led order. This is now damaging Australia’s interests.
“The Australia-China relationship is by far the most important foreign policy priority for any Australian Government.
“China today permeates Australian society — some form of Chinese is the second most widely spoken language in Australian homes; fee-paying Chinese students largely support Australia’s higher education sector financially, while Chinese tourists have long been the biggest spenders. They are now also the most numerous. All of these trends will continue to deepen.”
With American foreign policy in flux — if that’s not being too kind to Donald Trump’s erratic presidency — the need for careful handling of our connection with China is even more important.
His predecessor Barack Obama’s so-called “pivot to Asia” which involved us hosting Marines in the Northern Territory and now creates a demand for basing US submarines at HMAS Stirling played a big role in lifting tensions in the South China Sea.
Raby may have overstepped the mark in calling for Bishop’s head. But he has raised issues of intense national importance.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

EQ/Update Vancouver, Canada...Are You Awake Yet

The Plates are on the move again...[20:15 on vid timeline.]  AreYouReady. Intensity has been observed for a month and its building.
[vid/timeline @ 24:22]

Friday, May 18, 2018

Beijing lands nuclear bombers in the South China Sea in clear sign that it has pushed out the US without firing a shot

  • Beijing lands nuclear bombers in the South China Sea in clear sign that it has pushed out the US without firing a shot

Image result for Beijing lands nuclear bombers in the South China Sea in clear sign that it has pushed out the US without firing a shot

  • Beijing upped the ante in the South China Sea on Friday by releasing footage of its H-6K nuclear-capable bombers landing on artificially made islands in disputed waters – and it sends a clear message of who dominates the region.
  • China has taken an increasingly aggressive stance to back up its unilateral, illegal claims to the waters of the South China Sea, where trillions in international trade pass through every year.
  • Flying bombers in and out proves China runs the show, and nobody will fight them over it because there’s too much at stake.

Beijing upped the ante in the South China Sea on Friday by releasing footage of its H-6K nuclear-capable bombers landing on artificially made islands in disputed waters – and it sends a clear message of who dominates the region.
China has taken an increasingly aggressive stance to back up its unilateral claims to the waters of the South China Sea, where trillions in international trade pass through every year.
The US frequently challenges China’s maritime claims there, which have been ruled illegal under international law, but recent moves from Beijing show that facts in the water have outpaced US determination.
The flight of the bombers comes after China reportedly deployed missiles and radar-jamming equipment to the islands.
“The Chinese are becoming more confident with the deployment of their capabilities,” Bonnie Glaser, director of the China Power project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told Business Insider.
China has begun to doubt “the staying power of the US and whether or not the US can really make a difference,” in its slow moving domination of the waters, Glaser said.
In militarizing the South China Sea, Beijing has gone back on past promises and acted directly against international law, the wishes of the US, and the moves of the US Navy.
“The Chinese are becoming clearer, less concerned about their reactions from their neighbours or the US, or, put differently, they think they can manage those,” Glaser said.
Beijing has increasingly bullied and bossed around its neighbours in regard to the contested waters, recently saying that all South China Sea drilling and fishing activities need to first seek its permission.

Not a strategic deployment, but a strategic message

Though China has built hardened aircraft carriers on its artificial South China Sea islands, the small bases don’t make sense for long-term deployment of nuclear-capable aircraft. Stationing high-value targets like nuclear-capable bombers in the middle of the South China Sea exposes them to US missile fires and isolates them from much of the support infrastructure they’d need to function.
“Simply by being there and having stuff coming and going, they can dominate the region,” associate fellow Bill Hayton of Chatham House’s Asia-Pacific Programme told Business Insider. Hayton called the announcement of the bombers and other steps toward militarization “a way that China can dominate the region and its natural resources.”
Although the US and China’s neighbours disagree with Beijing’s stance and want the waters to remain free and international, “nobody is going to shoot at them to start a war with them, because who wants to do that,” Hayton said.
Instead, China landing nuclear-capable bombers on artificial islands it said it wouldn’t militarize mainly functions to send a message to its neighbours and the US – Beijing has, for now, won the battle of the South China Sea without firing a shot.

Watch video of the H-6Ks in the South China Sea below:

Chinese bombers including the H-6K conduct takeoff and landing training on an island reef at a southern sea area