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Sunday, August 28

Ghouta Sarin Gas story: I think this is as close to the truth as it can get at this time

"Yet only one day later, Obama had been informed that both these statements were false. It's clear that the UK defence lab scientists and defence intelligence officials were well aware that the JIC was misleading the House of Commons (a crime against the constitution) and that they resorted to passing information via the military chain of command."

This concerns an entry today in the comment section at Moon of Alabama by "pmr9" that disputes the MoA author's ("b") acceptance of a report in a German paper about the sarin gas. The dispute lays out in compressed form key aspects of the controversy surrounding the incident. It is the best summary I've come across, and I believe it's the correct one -- the most correct available in open source. 

I am publishing the entire comment here because it is extremely important that as many people as possible clear up their misconceptions about the attack. But first I want to support b's speculation that the report in a German-language paper he's quoting signals a change in Germany's approach to Bashar al-Assad. (b is a German.):
... the German newspaper analysis is a sign that the tide has turned and that the official "regime change" storm is calming down. The dismantling of a major official propaganda item, like the Sarin attack, points to the introduction of a new narrative. How that will develop further is yet to be seen.
I am weighted to agree, although I also believe pmr9 is right in disputing the German paper's version of the sarin attack controversy. With no further introduction, except to mention that since I've been following Col. Pat Lang's blog Sic Semper Tyrannis (since late last year) I've had no cause to question David Habakkuk's observations, and clearly Col. Lang holds them in high regard.

Comment #13

b,

This is an important story so it's worth examining in some detail. I don't think Abu Ahmad's story about finding "barrels filled with chlorine, sarin and mustard gas" at Regiment 111's base is credible. There's no evidence that the Syrian military has ever stockpiled or used chlorine, and sarin would be stored as binaries. The Syrian government has always maintained that none of its sarin stocks fell into opposition hands, even though this would have been an easy way to blame the opposition for the sarin attacks.

The story in Die Welt appears to be based on Seymour Hersh's article "The red line and the rat line" in the LRB in April 2014. David Habakkuk, a contributor to Pat Lang's blog, has drawn together all available evidence on this story, and his interpretation can be found in the comments to several posts. He infers that UK and US defence intelligence officials were well aware by the summer of 2013 that a sarin false flag was being planned with the collusion of the civilian intelligence agencies, and worked together to block this from being used to launch a war.

There is ample evidence that (1) the Nusra Front was producing sarin, and (2) that the sarin used in Syria in 2013 was kitchen sarin that did not match the synthetic pathway used for Syrian military stocks. Mokhtar Lamani, the UN Special Representative in Damascus, had reported to the UNSG in March 2013 that Nusra was bringing nerve agents into Syria through the border at Azaz. The Russian lab that analysed environmental samples from the Khan-al-Assal attack in March 2013 reported that the sarin had been produced under "cottage industry" conditions. It's likely that Porton Down had obtained similar results from their own analysis of a sarin sample from Uteybah, and were able to compare the Russian findings with their own (very helpful when trying to interpret mass spectrometry results on a complex mixture). This would have helped to establish the credibility of the Russian in this matter.

The phone transcripts of the Nusra team arrested in Turkey in May 2013 showed that they were buying sarin precursors in quantities of hundreds of kilos, including white phosphorus. The OPCW labs reported that the sarin used in Ghouta contained hexafluorophosphate. This indicates that the synthesis started with phosphorus trichloride or elemental phosphorus, and that intermediate reaction products were not purified at each step. The Syrian government's sarin production started with trimethyl phosphite, bought in large quantities from the UK and India during the 1980s. Finally, Seymour Hersh has reported that the US, which fitted out the ship Cape Ray as a sarin disposal facility, obtained samples of the sarin binaries given up by the Syrian government and determined that their chemical profile did not match the Ghouta sarin.

The story in Die Welt misleadingly states that "the British secret service" was in possession of environmental samples from Ghouta. It wasn't MI6 but Porton Down, which is under the UK Ministry of Defence. MI6 was reported to have provided the earlier samples from Uteybah, perhaps without realizing that the profile of impurities in environmental samples (not blood samples) would give the game away. Hersh reported that the Russians provided these samples to Porton Down and that Sir Peter Wall, then the head of the British Army, called General Martin Dempsey with the results. Dempsey then met with Obama, and forced him to call off the attack on Syria by threatening to testify to Congress (and to prime them to ask the questions) that he had told Obama that the sarin used in Ghouta did not come from regime stocks. It was at this point, on the evening of 30 August, that Obama effectively called off the attack by announcing that he would seek Congressional approval (which he knew he was unlikely to get). Up to this point he had been planning to attack without Congressional approval.

On 29 August, just before the House of Commons met to debate the resolution for war on Syria, the UK Joint Intelligence Committee released a report to the Prime Minister stating that there was "no evidence for an opposition CW capability" and therefore "no alternative to a regime attack scenario". Yet only one day later, Obama had been informed that both these statements were false. It's clear that the UK defence lab scientists and defence intelligence officials were well aware that the JIC was misleading the House of Commons (a crime against the constitution) and that they resorted to passing information via the military chain of command.

Posted by: pmr9 | Aug 28, 2016 7:19:36 AM |

********

Young European Muslim radicals no longer listen to imams. They listen to social media.


Counterterrorism expert Boaz Ganor made the above observation on John Batchelor's August 25 show. See the show schedule page; Hour 3, Block B, for details on Ganor's credentials. Unfortunately I can't locate the discussion on the show podcast page but here are some notes from it on the schedule page:
... [Islamic State] recruitment: how and of whom? Start with Muslim communities in Europe: youngsters, mainly aimed at second- and third-gen Muslim immigrants to Europe, who are much more frustrated than ... parents. For elders, getting European citizenship was the biggest achievement of their lives, whereas their offspring blame the state and their own parents; are deeply frustrated. This is used by terrorist organizations via social networks. "Forget about France and Spain; you’re part of a much greater group, the ummah. ..."
However, what caused me to drop my note-taking pen was Dr Ganor's specific remark that the youth are listening to social media rather than imams. Do you realize what this means?  

For starters it means that Scott Shane's New York Times report, Saudis and Extremism: "Both the Arsonists and the Firefighters", which I linked to last week, is behind the curve of reality. 

The Saudi ruling family created a veritable army of clerics to control the Muslim masses, and the ruling family controlled the imams. The pyramidal arrangement worked well enough that when the masses got too far out of line the Saudis could assure other governments that they were taking steps, via the clerics, to rein in the troublemakers.

But Dr Boaz points to what is happening now. The reality is making a mockery of Saudi attempts at control. When I thought about it I realized his observation had been shouting at the world from numerous news reports since Islamic State began its media blitz, including this report that FARS (Iran's government news agency) scooped up yesterday from a Kuwaiti press outlet:
TEHRAN (FNA)
[...]
The Kuwaiti interior ministry has arrested a citizen working for a governmental organization who used his office and computer for hacking the official websites of certain countries and spreading the ISIL thoughts.
"This is not a rare case, rather the ISIL has many of its members inside the Arab countries' governmental bodies and institutions and all of them work for the ISIL in one way or another," Omar Badreddin, an Arab analyst, said on Saturday.
Noting that the ISIL has formed an cyber army using the resources of the Arab and western world, he said that the terrorist group is leading a cyber war against the world nations.
Badreddin said that the Kuwaiti security forces have arrested a person, namely Othman Zain Nayef who used his office and computer to promote ISIL thoughts through the social media, adding that Nayef has admitted that he was a member of the 'Caliphate Cyber Army' and expert in hacking the websites used by other ISIL members.
[...]
The problem now for Saudi rulers is there's no master sorcerer to save them from the consequences of their foolish use of religious preceptors to maintain order in the kingdom. That should have been evident to them after the stampede at last year's Hajj. They were unable to control the news getting out that the death toll was much higher than their official announcement. And Muslims the world over who'd lost loved ones in the stampede weren't listening to clerics who told them it was a blessing to die while on the Hajj. They wanted the Saudi rulers held accountable.

The rulers had no intention of being held accountable. Situations like that have helped destroy the authority of the clerics. Their authority is passing to -- what did Nayef call it? A caliphate cyber army.

********

CHINESE AIR FORCE TO JOIN ANTI-TERRORISM OPERATIONS IN SYRIA. Maybe.

Heeeere comes the cavalry Pundita stop hopping up and down on the couch. Besides it's not a done deal. Not yet. 

I think it must be a first for the Iranian government news agency to quote an Israeli source but the FARS editorial staff is probably also hopping up and down in excitement.

However, from my quick trip to DEBKAfile just now, the report there quoted by FARS must be behind a paywall because I don't see it -- unless DF took down the report after they saw FARS had picked it up.

How right are DEBKAfile's intelligence reports? They claim they can demonstrate 80 percent accuracy. Anyhow the report is too juicy not to headline.  

And I don't want to hear that I'm being contradictory by cheering on China in Syria. The West had its chance. It preferred supporting Al Saud and Al Thani, and the Turks. While a very old pluralistic people are methodically destroyed. Already it's being called a holocaust. 

August 27, 2016 - 12:41 local time
FARS

TEHRAN (FNA)- Media sources disclosed that a Chinese military delegation in a visit to Damascus explored avenues for the dispatch of a number of warplanes to Syria to intensify the war on terrorism in the Middle-Eastern country.

"In a surprising visit, a Chinese military delegation conferred with Syrian Defense Minister Fahad Jassim al-Freij over engagement of Chinese fighter jets in bombardments of terrorist groups' positions in Syria, mainly in Aleppo," Debka file quoted a military analyst as saying.

"Chinese jets may launch bombing of positions of Jeish al-Islami al-Turkistani with over 3,000 Uighur fighter," the analyst quoted senior spy officers of the US intelligence as saying.

Earlier this month, Beijing and Damascus agreed that the Chinese military to provide humanitarian aid to Syria, a high-ranking People's Liberation Army officer said, adding that the training of Syrian personnel by Chinese instructors was also been discussed.

Director of the Office for International Military Cooperation of China's Central Military Commission, Guan Youfei, arrived in Damascus for talks with al-Freij.

During the negotiation, Guan noted China’s consistent diplomatic efforts to find a political solution to the Syrian crisis, adding that Beijing is now seeking closer military ties with Damascus.

"The Chinese and Syrian militaries traditionally have a friendly relationship, and the Chinese military is willing to keep strengthening exchanges and cooperation with the Syrian military," he said.

Guan and al-Freij discussed the enhancement of training and "reached a consensus" on the Chinese military providing humanitarian aid to Syria. Guam also met with a Russian general during his visit to the Syrian capital.

Despite being a permanent UN Security Council member and relying on the Middle East for oil, China was previously reluctant to become involved in the Syrian conflict.

Beijing preferred to concentrate on domestic affairs and the territorial dispute with its neighbors in the South China Sea.

It praised Moscow’s anti-terrorism efforts in Syria as Russia staged a bombing campaign there in September 2015 to March 2016. Russia still has some of its forces in the country to provide humanitarian and military assistance to Syrian President Bashar Assad’s government.

Last year, there were reports that China was sending dozens of military advisers to Syria to help the country fight terrorists.

[END REPORT] 

Saturday, August 27

Asia Pivot belly flop

I'm beginning to wish Gregory Copley would just enjoy his vacation in Australia and shut up. By the time he finished detailing for John Batchelor's Friday radio audience whatever happened to President Obama's Asia Pivot, I was sitting under the kitchen table and sucking my thumb.

It might take the rest of the century to untangle the mess Mr Obama made but by then it will be TOO LATE. 

Well, in times like these all one can do is sing. See the post I put up a few minutes ago. Next up: O Magnum Mysterium. Thanks Charles! 

*******    

You can't sing any worse than Ryuichi Sakamoto. So what's your excuse for not singing?

It isn't only that he has a crummy voice for singing but amazingly, given his brilliance as a composer, he can't even carry a tune.  Yes, for all his many accomplishments as a composer and pianist Ryuichi Sakamoto can't sing. 

Well too bad for the audience because he wanted to sing a couple songs for his 1992 Heartbeat concert at Nippon Budokan ("Rock 'n Roll's Eastern Palace") in Tokyo. Come to think of it Bob Dylan sounds like two tomcats fighting at 3 AM when he sings but that never stopped him either. 

However, Ryuichi's singing for Sayonara was so awful that at one point in the five-minute set I felt sorry for the band members, all of them accomplished musicians in their own right, and the backup singer.    

The sympathy was wasted. To my utter disbelief -- I had to listen to the set twice before I'd believe my ears -- the troupe onstage, with two violinists leading the charge, transformed Sayonara into a paean to lyricism. 

So, was the whole thing a setup, meant to provoke the very sequence of feelings I experienced? Well, this is Ryuichi Sakamoto I'm talking about. He is a philosopher and performer in addition to being a musician and highly innovative composer. And he has very strong ideas about music and musicality. Indeed, it might be said that he stuck with music as a career to flesh out his ideas. From a Guardian interview in 2009: 
In the old days people shared music, they didn't care who made it; a song would be owned by a village and anyone could sing it, change the words, whatever. That is how humans treated music until the late 19th century. Now with the internet we are going back to having tribal attitudes towards music.
Everybody in the tribe has to pitch in with the music, right? The designations of good and bad singing evolved from performance art. They have nothing to do with singing as the language of the heart.            

[smiling] Then again, maybe he just wanted to sing.  


Here's a list of the musicians who accompanied him, which I found at a YouTube posting of another set from the same concert.    

Ryuichi Sakamoto - Heartbeat Tour - Asadoya Yunta 
Live at the Budokan, Tokyo (1992) featuring:


Victor Bailey - Bass (Weather Report)
Manu Katché  - Drums (Sting, Peter Gabriel)
Derek Sivers (Founder of CD Baby)
Everton Nelson - Violin (Peter Gabriel, Soul 2 Soul)
Prabjote Kur Osan - Violin  
Scott Roberts - Percussion
Vivian Sessoms - Vocals

And for people who can't get enough of the Heartbeat concert, here's Triste:



*******

Friday, August 26

Saudism has done more damage to Islam than all the Christian Crusades combined

Scott Shane at The New York Times has pulled together an excellent review of the Saudi efforts to Islamize the world in their own image. (Saudis and Extremism: "Both the Arsonists and the Firefighters")

No real surprises in the report for those who've been closely following the long war. But it brings home that by methodically destroying the many cultural variations in Islam across the world, the Saudis not only arrested the evolution of the religion, they also made it very fragile.

Maintaining Saudism depends on large and constant infusions of Saudi money to scores of countries. When the infusions cease there will be nothing left for the Muslims in those countries to fall back on because their own Islamic traditions had been wiped out -- by Saudi money!

How right Mr Gurdjieff was, when he said that those who live in sleep bring about the exact opposite of the results they intended.

*******

Thursday, August 25

Amatrice and beyond: "No one in the world is safe" as major earthquakes loom

97 year-old Antonio Putini, survivor of the Amatrice earthquake, comforted by his caretaker's dog

My condolences to the relatives of those killed in Italy's earthquake. It's no comfort at all to observe that the death toll could have been much higher if the quake had struck three days later than it did but that is what happened. Even by the eve of the earthquake tourists and residents from all over Italy were starting to pour into villages in central Italy to celebrate the annual Spaghetti Festival in honor of everyone's favorite Italian food. 

The search for survivors continues. Thousands of volunteers from all over Itay have joined professional rescue teams, ignoring the threat to their own lives as scores of aftershocks collapse buildings around them. "They just keep digging," reports the Guardian as the rescuers race the clock to search for the living buried under rubble.

Against this backdrop an Australian news site has taken the opportunity of Italy's earthquake to issue the kind of warning that's always ignored until tragedy from a quake strikes.

Life on the fault lines: Major earthquakes overdue and ‘no one in the world is safe, expert says
by Megan Palin
August 26, 2016 - 9:13 AM
News Australia

A SERIES of overdue high magnitude earthquakes is expected to strike at any moment along some of Earth’s major fault lines, an expert says.
UTS Geotechnical and Earthquake Engineering senior lecturer Dr Behzad Fatahi said “no one in the world is safe” from the looming natural disasters of potentially apocalyptic proportions.
“There are a lot of magnitude 6-plus earthquakes overdue in the Middle East, India, China, Japan and the US,” Dr Fatahi told news.com.au.
“There are some fault lines that have not released their energy for a while.
“There are at least 5-10 that are overdue, but we don’t know when they’re going to happen.
“The question is not will they be activated. The question is when.”
Dr Fatahi said there was a “return period” for earthquakes and those that didn’t strike within the expected time frame only came back stronger. He said an example of this was the 7.8 magnitude earthquake in Nepal that left more than 8000 people dead in April last year.
“You expect a particular fault line will be activated every 100 years or 500 years,” he said.
“If the period is longer we expect higher magnitude earthquakes ... looking at the history of some of those major fault lines, some are very overdue.
“The return period has passed but the earthquakes haven’t happened.
“So we are just waiting for them to happen.”
THE COLLISION COURSE
Earthquakes claim tens of thousands of lives all over the world each year.
But the places most often rocked by them are those closest to major fault lines, where different tectonic plates meet.
“The crust has several pieces,” Dr Fatahi said.
“The line between each of these pieces is called a ‘fault line’.
“The most dangerous fault lines are those where two tectonic plates collide.”
That was the case in central Italy, when a 6.2 magnitude earthquake struck the regionon Wednesday. More than 257 people died and many more were injured. Rescue workers are racing against the clock to find people trapped under rubble, but hope is diminishing as reports of voices from under collapsed buildings drift off.
“The Eurasian Plate and African Plate both have a very big fault line where they meet somewhere under Italy ... this is what caused the earthquake (on Wednesday),” Dr Fatahi said.
“Below that plate you have got magma ... if the fault opens there’s a chance magma will come up.”
Earthquakes are common along the red lines that are the plate boundaries — fault lines. 
Picture: Geoscience Australia

Tectonic plates are giant slabs of rock that make up the earth’s upper crust (lithosphere) and move, float, and sometimes fracture, causing continental drift, earthquakes, volcanoes, mountains, and oceanic trenches.
Seismic activity is most common around the edge of the Pacific Plate, which takes in New Zealand, Vanuatu, the Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinea, Japan and the Americas, and in Indonesia, where the Indo-Australian Plate collides with the Eurasian Plate.
The San Andreas fault line in California is the longest in the world. It sits between the Pacific and North American plates and measures 1300kms. The depths of these collision zones can range from 0-700km.
THE RING OF FIRE
Houses were swallowed by tsunami waves and burned in Natori, Miyagi Prefecture (state) after Japan was struck by a strong earthquake off its northeastern coast on March 11, 2011. Picture: Kyodo NewsSource:AP

Some countries, including Japan, Chile, Mexico and New Zealand, lie on the ‘Ring of Fire’ — a horseshoe-shaped band of fault lines that circles the Pacific Basin and is prone to frequent earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.
“The earthquake in Japan in 2011 was above a magnitude 8 and caused a tsunami and the melting down of the nuclear power plant and so on,” Dr Fatahi said.
“If something of that scale happens it’s really devastating.”
There is an earthquake every minute, according to Dr Fatahi. But it’s mostly those stronger than a magnitude 6 that tend to cause significant destruction and loss of life. For every numberhigher, the earthquake is 30 times stronger, he said.
Peru, also on the ‘Ring of Fire’, was struck by a magnitude 7.9 earthquake on August 15, 2007. Its epicentre was on the central coast, just west of the major city of Pisco. It killed 595 people.
Earlier this month, a moderate 5.3-magnitude earthquake in Peru killed at least four people including a US tourist and left 68 injured, crushing villagers under rubble and blocking roads. The quake knocked down about 50 homes and cut off roads and power in the southern Arequipa region.
“It was tragic. They got wounded people out as best they could,” said John Rivera, a resident of Yanque, a hard-hit rural village of mud huts.
New Zealand has endured more than its fair share of earthquakes. New fault lines emerged there as recently as September 2010 when Christchurch was struck by a powerful 7.1-magnitude earthquake. The quake smashed buildings, cracked roads, twisted rail lines and ripped a new 3.5 metre wide fault line in the earth's surface.
ITALY
A man walks in a street in Amatrice, central Italy, where a 6.2 earthquake struck just after 3:30am, on August 24, 2016. Picture: Emilio Fraile.
A man walks in a street in Amatrice, central Italy, where a 6.2 earthquake struck just after 3:30am, on August 24, 2016. Picture: Emilio Fraile.Source:AP
Italy sits on two fault lines, making it one of the most seismically active countries in Europe.
This week’s 6.2 magnitude earthquake in central Italy killed at least 247 people and injured many more. It occurred 1,937 years to the day since Mt Vesuvius erupted in 79AD and destroyed Pompeii and Herculaneum — one of the most catastrophic volcanic eruptions in European history.
The most deadly since the start of the 20th century came in 1908, when an earthquake followed by a tsunami killed an estimated 80,000 people in the southern regions of Reggio Calabria and Sicily.
More recently, a 2009, 6.3-magnitude earthquake in the Aquila region, about 90km south of the latest quake, which was felt in the Italian capital, left more than 300 dead.
That disaster led to lengthy recriminations over lax building controls and the failure of authorities to warn residents that a quake could be imminent.
Another quake hit the northern Emilia Romagna region in May 2012, when two violent shocks 10 days apart left 23 people dead and 14,000 others homeless.
Associate Professor of Earthquake Science in the School of Earth Sciences at the University of Melbourne, Mark Quigley said central Italy was experiencing “crustal extension”.
“Eastern central Italy is moving to the NE relative to Rome,” Mr Quigley said.
“As a result, this region experiences normal faulting earthquakes as the land is torn apart. The fault systems are short and structurally complex, so the earthquakes are not overly large by global standards (almost always < magnitude 6.8 to 7).
“But because the earthquakes are shallow and structurally complex, and because many of the local towns and cities contain vulnerable buildings, strong shaking from these earthquakes has the potential to inflict major damage and loss of life in urban areas.”
MYANMAR
The ancient Sulamani temple is seen shrouded in dust as a 6.8 magnitude earthquake hit Bagan in Myanmar on August 24, 2016. Picture: Soe Moe Aung.
The ancient Sulamani temple is seen shrouded in dust as a 6.8 magnitude earthquake hit Bagan in Myanmar on August 24, 2016. Picture: Soe Moe Aung.Source:AFP
The highly active tectonic plate boundary passing through middle of Myanmar — known as the Sagaing Fault — has induced many deadly earthquakes in the small country, as recently as this week. 
Rescue workers are surveying the damage after a powerful earthquake shook Myanmar on Wednesday, killing at least four people and damaging 185 ancient Buddhist pagodas in the former capital of Bagan, a major tourist site.
The US Geological Survey said the magnitude 6.8 quake was centred about 25 kilometres west of Chauk, a town south of Bagan.
It was located fairly far below the Earth’s surface at a depth of about 84 kilometres, it said.
“Since this is a deep earthquake very few aftershocks are expected,” Dr Fatahi said.
Deep earthquakes generally cause less surface damage because the energy dissipates before it gets there. At least 185 brick pagodas in Bagan were damaged, the state newspaper reported. Bagan, also known as Pagan, has more than 2,200 structures, including pagodas and temples constructed from the 10th to the 14th centuries. Many are in disrepair while others have been restored in recent years, aided by the UN cultural agency UNESCO. The “major strike slip fault in (Myanmar) moves about 18mm per year”, according to Dr Fatahi. In April 2016, a magnitude 6.9 earthquake hit the country, causing two deaths and dozens more injuries.
Using brooms and their hands, soldiers and residents of the ancient Myanmar city famous for its historic Buddhist pagodas began cleaning up the debris a powerful earthquake shook the region, killed at least four people, and damaged nearly 200 temples. Picture: Hkun Lat
Using brooms and their hands, soldiers and residents of the ancient Myanmar city famous for its historic Buddhist pagodas began cleaning up the debris a powerful earthquake shook the region, killed at least four people, and damaged nearly 200 temples. Picture: Hkun LatSource:AP
AUSTRALIA
While Australia is not on the edge of a plate, the continent experiences earthquakes because the Indo-Australian Plate is being pushed north and is colliding with the Eurasian, Philippine and Pacific plates, according to Geoscience Australia. This causes the build up of mainly compressive stress in the interior of the Indo-Australian Plate which is released during earthquakes.
“Australia is right in the middle of a plate and it’s not sitting on a major fault line,” Dr Fatahi said.
“Everywhere you have minor faults, which are measured in terms of being only 100m or so long. Activity that cause earthquakes happens around the sides of plate, where one plate meets the other plate. Australia is sitting in the middle of a relatively stable plate, and that’s why we don’t have huge tectonic activity.”
There are on average 80 earthquakes of magnitude 3.0 or more in Australia each year. Adelaide has the highest earthquake hazard of any Australian capital. It has experienced more medium-sized earthquakes in the past 50 years than any capital because South Australia is being slowly squeezed in an east-west direction by about 0.1mm/yr, according to Geoscience Australia.
Australia’s largest recorded earthquake was in 1988 at Tennant Creek in the Northern Territory with an estimated magnitude of 6.6, but it occurred in a sparsely populated area. A magnitude 6.5 earthquake at Meckering in 1968 caused extensive damage to buildings and was felt over most of southern Western Australia. Earthquakes of magnitude 4.0 or more are relatively common in Western Australia with one occurring about every five years in the Meckering region.
PREDICTING WHEN AND WHERE MAJOR QUAKES WILL STRIKE
Dr Fatahi said it was impossible to accurately predict the exact timing, place or scale of an earthquake.
“Usually with earthquakes you can only measure them around one minute before they happen, as the activity happens kilometres below ground,” he said.
megan.palin@news.com.au
[END REPORT]
See also the BBC video at the Australian site, "Why can't we predict earthquakes?"
*********  

U.S. Blacks doing better under Obama presidency, Moon made of cheese tostitos

Donald Trump is so right on this score that now the House Built By Slaves, as Mrs Obama has described the White House, is getting nervous that his remarks will somehow filter down to the Low-Information Black Voter. Therefore --

White House disputes Trump’s claim that blacks are worse off
By Dave Boyer
The Washington Times
Thursday, August 25, 2016

Despite government data supporting Donald Trump’s claim that blacks are worse off under President Obama, the White House insisted Thursday that blacks have made progress under the first black president and that the Republican nominee would reverse those gains.

Mr. Trump’s pitch that black Americans have “nothing to lose” by voting for him is clearly irritating the White House, which tried but failed to muster much convincing evidence that life for blacks in America has improved much over the past eight years.

“I think you’d be very hard pressed to make the case that somehow the African-American population in the United States is somehow not better off,” said White House press secretary Josh Earnest.

The black unemployment rate in July was 8.4 percent, compared with 12.6 percent when Mr. Obama took office in January 2009. But the jobless rate for whites, now at 4.3 percent, has fallen slightly more than it has for blacks in the past eight years — down 37 percent for whites and 33 percent for blacks.

On a range of other government data, blacks are faring worse under Mr. Obama. The black labor force participation rate has fallen from 63.2 percent in 2009 to 61.2 percent last month — down 3.1 percent.

Black home ownership last month was 41.7 percent, down from 46.1 percent in 2009 — a drop of nearly 10 percent.

The percentage of black Americans living below the poverty line has risen from 25.8 percent in 2009 to 26.2 percent in 2014, according to the most recent Census Bureau data. The number of black food-stamp participants spiked from 7.3 million to 11.7 million, an increase of 58 percent.

Confronted with such statistics, the White House said it’s important for Hillary Clinton to build on Mr. Obama’s legacy.

“The president’s never made the case that the work is finished, that the job is done,” Mr. Earnest said. “The point is, President Obama’s interested in being succeeded in office by someone who is committed to building on the progress we’ve made thus far as opposed to tearing it down.”

[END REPORT]

The singing of The Jesus Prayer and The Prajñāpāramitā-hṛdaya Sūtra

The Jesus Prayer



The Jesus Prayer in English:

"Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner."

The prayer is generally not sung, although there are a few instances of this at YouTube. This one is my favorite. It's beautifully sung in the Russian language by the choir of monks at Valaam Monastery in Russia.

A visitor at the YouTube page kindly provided transliteration to the Latin alphabet so those who don't read Cyrillic text can sing with the monks:

"Gospodi Iisuse Khriste, Syn Bozhe pomiluj mya greshnago."


*    *    *

Stanzas from The Prajñāpāramitā-hṛdaya Sūtra



The Sanskrit lyrics interspersed in the instrumental score are stanzas from the Prajñāpāramitāhṛdaya, "The Heart of the Perfection of Understanding," the best-known Mahayana Buddhist sutra, generally referred to in English as "The Heart Sutra." 

The score was composed by Ryuichi Sakamoto for Bernardo Bertolucci's 1993 Little Buddha. Ryuichi composed all the music for the film but the particular music featured above is the final track, titled "Acceptance."

The Sanskrit stanzas are sung by English soprano Catherine Bott, whose vocal specialty is Baroque music. She is accompanied by The Ambrosian Singers, the British choral group.

There is a story connected with "Acceptance."  You see, almost no one who saw the movie beyond, I suppose, those who are very familiar with Sanskrit realized that Ms. Bott was singing in Sanskrit or that she was singing stanzas from the sutra, and it seemed Ryuichi didn't take out an ad in a trade paper to announce these facts. 

This isn't surprising given that Little Buddha was made for Western audiences and that never before in all the centuries since its composition had The Heart Sutra been sung. And until Ryuichi got hold of it, no composer would have imagined the sutra being sung in High Baroque. (Or is it High Renaissance?)

But he is known as a particularly innovative composer. What he did with a few stanzas from The Heart Sutra was transform them into perhaps the most majestically spiritual music that has been composed in the modern era. I can only wish that George Frideric Handel had heard it.  

Yet the meaning of the lyrics remained hidden because most people had no idea they were listening to Sanskrit, much less The Heart Sutra.       

The years passed after Little Buddha's premiere, the musical score to the film all but forgotten. 

One day, on January 15, 2013 to be precise, a man named Egon Blant uploaded the "Acceptance" piece to YouTube with the visual of the Little Buddha theatrical release poster to accompany it. There it was eventually found by a man named Minh Tue Vo Thanh. About a year ago he added this comment to the YouTube page:

I have listened to this score hundreds of times. But today, I realized that the lyrics are the Prajnaparamita Heart Sutra in Sanskrit - the Essential Perfection of Wisdom:

iha śāriputra: rūpaṃ śūnyatā śūnyataiva rūpaṃ

(O Sariputra, form is emptiness, emptiness is form)

rūpān na pṛthak śūnyatā śunyatāyā na pṛthag rūpaṃ
(emptiness does not differ from form, form does not differ from emptiness,)

yad rūpaṃ sā śūnyatā; ya śūnyatā tad rūpaṃ
(whatever is emptiness, that is form)

evam eva vedanā saṃjñā saṃskāra vijñānaṃ
(the same is true of feelings, perceptions, impulses, and consciousness) 

I was completely stunned and moved to tears to hear Sanskrit singing in such an artful, operatic manner. ‪#‎mindblown‬


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[smiling]  YouTube can certainly be a mind-blowing place.

I do have a quibble; the last stanza posted (evam eva vedanā saṃjñā saṃskāra vijñānaṃ) doesn't sound to my ears to be the one that Catherine Bott is singing, although I'll grant I'm not listening with the best sound speakers. 

However, there is no question that the Sanskrit in the stanza is correct and in the correct place in the sutra. So this is a minor mystery I might clear up by listening to a few recordings of the sutra being chanted in Sanskrit.

But once the ears realize what they're hearing the other stanzas sung by Bott are easy to follow with help from the Sanskrit text. And because the melody is quite simple, nothing tricky, it's easy to sing along with Bott although for most in a lower musical register than hers.     

I'll add that a couple months before Egon Blant posted "Acceptance" someone beat him to the punch, but using a gorgeous video of the sun slowly setting over water as the visual accompaniment, which I've used here for a special reason I'll perhaps explain in a subsequent post.


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Is there any way to square The Jesus Prayer and the Prajñāpāramitā-hṛdaya Sūtra?

Oh I think there's more than one way, but that's enough deep thought for me for one day. It all comes down anyway to a guy, a gal, a dark cocktail bar on a rainy afternoon, and the piano player.



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