by John Eberhard
In 2003 I became very interested in a theory developed by Scottish historian Alexander Tytler, and wrote an article on it at the time, which ironically enough is now getting a lot of attention due to being linked to from Wikipedia.
Tytler’s theory set forth a cycle that every democracy goes through, which goes like this. Tytler said the cycle starts out with a society in bondage. Then it goes in this sequence:
Then starting over with Bondage
Tytler organized these items in a circle:
I was fascinated with this because to me it seemed to explain what we are going through as a country right now, where people are more interested in how they can somehow soak the system to get their free ride, than building anything. Clearly we are on the left side of this cycle, somewhere in the selfishness, complacency, apathy or dependence side.
Recently I found an article entitled “An American Tragedy” dated 12/16/08 by James Quinn, a financial writer and senior director of strategic planning for a major university. Most of the article is about disgraced investment guru Bernie Madoff, but a good chunk of it concerns the Tytler cycle and exactly where Quinn thinks we are in the cycle. Here’s what Quinn has to say:
“The following quote attributed to Scottish history professor Alexander Tyler in 1787, seems to portray an accurate reflection of what has occurred during our 200+ years of existence as a democracy.
“The average age of the world’s greatest civilizations from the beginning of history, has been about 200 years. During those 200 years, these nations always progressed through the following sequence:
- From bondage to spiritual faith;
- From spiritual faith to great courage;
- From courage to liberty;
- From liberty to abundance;
- From abundance to complacency;
- From complacency to apathy;
- From apathy to dependence;
- From dependence back into bondage
“These words were written two years before George Washington became our first President. There is so much truth in these words it makes me shudder, especially since we are clearly in stage 7. An honest appraisal of our country’s downward spiral is necessary to begin the process of redemption. We have continually voted ourselves increased benefits, dependent upon the printing presses of the Federal Reserve to sustain our country’s ponzi scheme. We have pawned our future and the bill will eventually come due.
“My assessment of the chronological sequence our democracy has progressed through, follows.
“From bondage to spiritual faith (1760 to 1769)
- King George III becomes King of England
- Currency Act, Sugar Act, Stamp Act, Quartering Act, Townshend Act passed by Parliament
- Sons of Liberty formed by John Adams, Samuel Adams, Paul Revere, John Hancock, Patrick Henry, among others.
“From spiritual faith to great courage (1770 to 1783)
- Boston massacre
- Samuel Adams organizes the Committees of Correspondence
- Parliament passes the Tea Act
- Boston Tea Party
- The First Continental Congress
- Battle of Bunker Hill
- Thomas Paine publishes Common Sense
- Revolutionary War rages for six years
- British surrender at Yorktown
- Treaty of Paris ends Revolutionary War
“From courage to liberty (1784 to 1865)
- Constitutional Convention
- Constitution ratified by 13 states
- George Washington elected President
- Bill of Rights passed
- Fugitive Slave Act passed
- Louisiana Purchase
- Robert Fulton invents steamboat
- War of 1812
- Monroe Doctrine
- President Andrew Jackson battles bankers which leads to the Panic of 1837
- U.S. Mexican War
- California gold rush
- Compromise of 1850
- Dred Scott Decision
- Abraham Lincoln elected President
- Confederate states secede from the Union
- Emancipation Proclamation
- Civil War rages for four years
- Union is restored
- 13th Amendment abolishes slavery
“From liberty to abundance (1866 to 1969)
- Civil Rights Act of 1866
- First Trans-Continental Railroad
- Alexander Graham Bell invents the telephone
- Industrial Revolution
- General Electric founded
- Spanish American War
- U.S. Steel founded
- Airplane invented
- Automobile invented
- Federal Reserve created
- World War I
- Great Depression
- New Deal programs implemented by FDR
- Golden Gate Bridge completed
- World War II
- Atomic bomb used to end war with Japan
- Marshall Plan rebuilds Europe & Japan
- US emerges from the war as the only great economic power
- Cold War
- Korean War
- Interstate highway system built
- Civil Rights Movement
- John F. Kennedy assassinated
- Vietnam War
- Great Society programs implemented
- Civil Rights Act of 1964
- Martin Luther King assassinated
- Neil Armstrong walks on the moon
“From abundance to complacency (1970 to 1989)
- Roe vs Wade
- President Nixon resigns in disgrace
- Oil embargo
- Ronald Reagan elected President
- Military buildup and tax cuts
- Fall of the Soviet Union
“From complacency to apathy (1990 to 2000)
- Gulf War
- Bill Clinton elected President
- Stock market boom
- Gridlock between Congress & President leads to budget surpluses
- President Clinton acquitted in impeachment trial
“From apathy to dependence (2001 to 2007)
- George W. Bush elected President
- Nasdaq stock bubble bursts
- 9/11 attack
- Alan Greenspan lowers rates to 1%
- Invasion of Afghanistan
- Department of Homeland security created
- Invasion of Iraq
- Hurricane Katrina
- Home prices double
- Financial derivatives grow to over $100 trillion
“From dependence back into bondage (2008 to ????)
- Housing prices collapse
- Financial firms collapse
- Government and Federal Reserve intervene to prop up the worldwide financial system
- Government bailouts of financial firms and auto manufacturers
- Federal Reserve & U.S. Treasury commit over $8 trillion of taxpayer funds
- Barrack Obama elected President
- Immediate borrowing & stimulus packages exceeding $1 trillion are discussed
- Federal Reserve lowers rates to below 1%”
I tend to believe the above is pretty accurate, because we can see right now that the US government under Obama-Reid-Pelosi is making an unprecedented power grab, by increasing spending dramatically, and increasing their socialistic hold over American life. The current Democratic Party leadership is the most radically leftist/socialist we have ever had. One of their recent actions was to basically repeal the welfare reform which was enacted in the 1990s, and which was so successful too. Obama’s new budget document blatantly outlines his goals to punish high producers because they have broken the rules, which is as Marxist a plan as I have ever seen.
The question I have had for some time is whether this will continue through the entire cycle of Bondage, Spiritual Faith, Courage, Liberty, Abundance, Selfishness, Complacency, Apathy, Dependence, then starting over with Bondage; or whether concerned and knowledgeable individuals can somehow halt the decline and keep us from going into a new period of bondage?
Clearly we see the American public being apathetic and willing to allow the US government to take over more and more of our lives, and thus becoming more and more dependent.
And yet, at the same time, I see outrage and a building frustration by a large segment of the population, with protest events (the recent spate of Tea Party events), petitions, and a plethora of columns in the conservative press, decrying the power grab. Will it be enough? Can we prevent a new period of bondage?
The Alien Agenda Just Jumped the Shark
Israel “Preparing For War In North”, Boosts Air Defenses; Warns Iran
One day after the most “significant escalation” in tensions between Israel and Syria/Iran, when an Israeli F-16 was shot down over the Golan Heights after it attacked a Syrian base which allegedly launched a drone into Israeli airspace, Israel appears to be “preparing for war in the North” according to the Jerusalem Post, which reports that the Jewish state has boosted its air defense in the region along the Syrian border following the “significant confrontation between the Jewish State, Syria and Iran.”
Witnesses cited by JPost reported seeing a convoy of missile-defense batteries heading north near the Israeli-Arab city of Baka al-Gharbiya. Other witnesses posted photos of several trucks carrying the batteries on central highways in northern Israel.
Israel’s air defenses currently include the Iron Dome, designed to shoot down short-range rockets.
Additionally there is the Arrow system, which intercepts ballistic missiles outside of the Earth’s atmosphere and the David’s Sling missile-defense system, which is designed to intercept tactical ballistic missiles, medium- to long-range rockets and cruise missiles fired from ranges of between 40 km. to 300 km.
Meanwhile, according to AFP, Israel issued a stark warning on Sunday over Iran’s presence in neighbouring Syria after the previously reported confrontation between the neighboring nations threatened to open a new and unpredictable period in Syria’s seven-year civil war, which now appears to also be engaged in de facto war against Israel.
In a dramatic escalation, Israel carried out major air raids in Syria on Saturday, including against what it described as Iranian targets – the first time it had publicly acknowledged doing so since the war began. The raids came after an Israeli F16 fighter was shot down by Syrian air defenses. The pilots survived, but it was Israel’s first loss of a warplane in battle since 1982.
Commenting on the escalation, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said at the start of Sunday’s cabinet meeting that “we inflicted on Saturday a heavy blow to Iranian and Syrian forces,” adding that “w made clear to everyone that our rules of engagement will not change in any way. We will continue to harm anyone who tries to harm us. This was our policy and this will remain our policy.”
Other Israeli ministers spoke of refusing to accept Iran entrenching itself militarily in Syria, as Netanyahu has said repeatedly. Tehran denies it is doing so.
And while several analysts said they did not expect a further escalation in the coming days, some spoke of the possibility of the Syrian war entering a new phase. While we have yet to see how oil will trade after the tension filled weekend, Israel’s stocks dropped as much as 1.3%, after Israel and Iran moved closer to confrontation in Syria.
Quoted by Bloomberg, Ilanit Sherf, head of equity research at Israel’s largest institutional investor, Psagot Investment House said that the drop in Israeli stocks on Sunday is “mainly due to developments in the security arena over the weekend,” and that “the confrontation in Syria was “irregular in a number of ways, and there is concern, of course, of further entanglement.”
In a surprise to some, Ofer Zalzberg of the International Crisis Group think tank said that Syria has become more emboldened to try to stop Israeli strikes inside the country, while Israel wants to maintain its ability to operate there when it sees fit. Imagine that: a country daring to defend its sovereignty.
* * *
Still, optimists believe that the latest escalation will remain contained: “I think this incident is more likely to be contained because fundamentally it is a gradual attempt to renegotiate the so-called rules of the game,” Zalzberg said, adding that Russia should mediate.
Furthermore, on Saturday, Israeli military spokesman Jonathan Conricus warned that Syria and Iran were “playing with fire”, but stressed that Israel was not seeking an escalation. “This is the most blatant and severe Iranian violation of Israeli sovereignty” in recent years, Conricus said.
After Saturday’s escalation, Iran dismissed Israeli “lies” and said Syria had the right to defend itself against Israeli attacks. Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Bahram Ghasemi said “Iran does not have a military presence in Syria, and has only sent military advisers at the request of the Syrian government.”
Meanwhile, Russia stressed the need to “avoid any measure that could lead to a dangerous escalation”.
As reported last night, Netanyahu spoke with both Russian President Vladimir Putin and US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson after Saturday’s confrontation.
Naturally, Washington backed Israel and blamed Iran for the escalation. Tillerson on Sunday begins a Middle East tour that will take him to Jordan, Turkey, Lebanon, Egypt and Kuwait.
Ultimately the decision whether a full-blown war emerges from the latest conflict will fall on Netanyahu and Putin: The Israeli PM has met regularly with the Russian president in recent months in a bid to convince Russia to keep Iranian forces away from Israeli territory. Russia and Israel have also established a hotline to avoid accidental clashes in Syria.
Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Vows “Hell To The Zionists” As Putin Warns Netanyahu
Iran has called reports that they sent a UAV into Israeli airspace “ridiculous,” while an Iranian commander warns that they could unleash “hell” on the “Zionist regime” by destroying all US bases in the area.
“The claim about the flight of an Iranian drone and Iran’s involvement in the downing of a Zionist fighter jet is so ridiculous that it does not merit a comment,” said Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qassemi, while claiming that Iranian officials are only advising the Syrians “at the request of the… legitimate and lawful government.”
Moreover, any “aggressive actions” by Israel would trigger a serious response by Iran, creating “hell for the Zionists” according to Brigadier General Hossein Salami, deputy head of Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards. His statement below:
The Zionist regime in the Muslim world was shaped by the will of the United States and Britain, and they built a cemetery from the Islamic world. You have heard the story of the domination of the world of arrogance after World War II, the tragic story of Muslim slaughter in the wars that Britain has launched and know the role of the United States and Britain in the formation of the Zionist regime, or aware of the defeats of the Arab armies of the Zionist regime by American support.
The United States was banning us and wanted to be paralyzed, but we advanced, and today, from this point on, today we can destroy all American bases in the region and create hell for Zionists.
Today, the Islamic Republic of Iran is more powerful than ever. We trust in God; this was a confession two years ago when we seized the American Marines and the American inability to confront us. –Gen. Hossein Salami via Tasnim News (translated)
Meanwhile, Russian President Vladimir Putin warned Israeli Prime Minister Benajamin Netanyahu in a Saturday phone call to avoid an escalation of the situation in Syria, reports Reuters, while Netanyahu asserted Israel’s right to “defend against aggression.”
“They discussed the situation around the actions of the Israeli air force, which carried our missile strikes on targets in Syria,” Interfax quoted the Kremlin as saying.
The phone conversation took place less than two weeks after a face-to-face meeting between the Israeli and Russian leaders in Moscow, the duo’s seventh face to face meeting in two years, in which the two leaders who are currently reshaping the middle east in the power vacuum left by the US, were said to have discussed military cooperation on Syria and Iran’s influence in the region. It is unclear whether today’s events were part of the talking points.
Netanyahu also spoke with US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Saturday where he reiterated Israel’s stance. Tillerson is about to embark this weekend on a five-nation tour of the Middle East, visiting Turkey, Egypt, Kuwait, Jordan and Lebanon.
“Our policy is clear,” said Netanyahu. “Israel will defend itself against any aggression and any attempt to violate its sovereignty,” adding “Iran undertook such attempt today. It violated our sovereignty, and infiltrated its drone into Israeli airspace from Syria.”
Israel to be key player in the next chapter of Syria’s war
By Anna Ahronheim
February 11, 2018 18:58
For Israel, the next chapter in Syria’s war will be a nightmare scenario.
PRIME MINISTER Benjamin Netanyahu chats with Israeli soldiers at a military outpost during a visit to Mount Hermon in the Golan Heights overlooking the Israel-Syria border in 2015.. (photo credit: REUTERS/BAZ RATNER)
The incident on Israel’s northern border on Saturday was not only a significant event for Israel but a serious incident that shows how the disastrous war in Syria is far from over, rather that a new chapter is just beginning, with Israel poised to be a central character.
Since the intervention of the Russians and the Iranian-backed Shi’ite militias including Hezbollah, the tide has turned in favor of Syrian President Bashar Assad who has become more brazen as he regains control over more territory.
Early on Saturday morning, an advanced Iranian drone believed to be a copy of a US stealth drone that was downed in Iran in 2011, drone took off from the T4 airbase deep in the Syrian province of Homs.
The drone was spotted by Israel and was intercepted near the town of Beit She’an by an Apache attack helicopter after it had flown 1.5 minutes into Israeli territory.
In response, Israeli F-16 fighter jets took off to strike the launch site and were met by massive Syrian antiaircraft fire, over 20 missiles launched from SA-5 and SA-17 batteries.
The pilots of one of the F16s ejected from their jet, which crashed in the lower Galilee. It is assumed that the jet was hit by shrapnel by the Syrian antiaircraft fire.
It was the first time in 30 years that an Israeli jet was lost in a combat situation. This led to an extensive retaliation by Israel with additional strikes against both the Syrian missile batteries and Iranian military targets. CCTV of F-16 crash in northern Israel. (Credit: Mako News)
According to IAF chief of air staff Brig.-Gen. Tomer Bar, the second in command of Israel’s air force, it was the most extensive Israeli attack against Syrian air defenses since 1982.
Syria’s army was almost decimated over the course of the deadly civil war, with some questioning how “Syrian Arab” is the Syrian Arab Army, which is propped up by some 80,000 fighters belonging to the Lebanese Shia terror group Hezbollah and another 10,000 other Shi’ite militia fighters.
As troops loyal to Assad continue to march back to Israel’s border, winning battles with local rebel and al-Qaida linked groups, Israel is watching with concern.
Officials have been warning of Iranian entrenchment on the Golan Heights, an area of key strategic importance for the Jewish state, stressing that it is a red line for Jerusalem.
Once the Assad regime re-cements its hold on the entirety of the country, these fighters, who have been trained and equipped by Iran are unlikely to return to their homes in Lebanon, Afghanistan or Iran.
Their sights will likely turn towards Israel, Syria’s old foe.
On Sunday, OC Northern Command Maj.-Gen. Yoel Strick warned that while Israel is not interested in escalating the situation, the IDF would not allow an Iranian presence in Syria.
“Those who cross the border will, on any level, receive an appropriate response. Iranian involvement in the region is a disturbing threat to Israel and the entire world. Iran wants to create a front command in Syria – we will not allow it,” he said at a ceremony marking the change of the command in the Northern Command’s 210th “Bashan” Division, which is responsible for guarding the Syrian border and the Golan Heights.
“We are not inclined toward escalation, but we have high-level capabilities and we will not hesitate to use them,” Strick added.
Incoming commander Brig.-Gen. Amit Fisher warned not only of the Iranian entrenchment across the border but the return of Syrian troops to an area which was relatively quiet for close to six years while under the control of rebels.
“We must prepare ourselves operationally and in terms of intelligence for the growing threat: The return of the Syrian army and Iranian forces, Hezbollah and others.”
For Israel, the next chapter in Syria’s war will be a nightmare scenario.
Arizona Senate Passes Bill To Allow Tax Payments In Bitcoin
The Senate Bill 1091, which intends to enable cryptocurrencies for tax payment, was introduced Jan. 10, 2018 and passed by the Senate Finance Committee by a 4-3 vote on Jan. 24. On Feb. 8, the Senate passed the bill by a 16-13 margin, with one no-vote.
The bill has now been sent to Arizona’s House of Representatives.
If the bill is adopted, Arizona would become the first state in the U.S. to accept cryptocurrency tax payments by the year of 2020, as stated on the public record. The bill would allow taxpayers of the state to use “a payment gateway, such as Bitcoin, Litecoin or any other cryptocurrency recognized by the department, using electronic peer-to-peer systems.”
According to the bill, the Arizona Department of Revenue, upon receiving payments in crypto for “tax and any interest and penalties”, would be obligated to convert the cryptocurrency payments to U.S. dollars within 24 hours.
Arizona State Republican Rep. Jeff Weninger, who co-sponsored the bill, said the tax measure intends to turn the state into a center of “blockchain and digital currency technology in the future”. Referring to the tax bill, Weninger told Fox News this week:
“It’s one of a litany of bills that we’re running that is sending a signal to everyone in the United States, and possibly throughout the world, that Arizona is going to be the place to be for blockchain and digital currency technology in the future.”
In September, 2017, Cointelegraph reported that the municipality of Chiasso, Switzerland will enable its residents to pay taxes in Bitcoin starting January 2018, following the lead of Zug.
The Mark of the Best is HERE!
Cancer ‘vaccine’ eliminates all traces of cancer in mice
February 5, 2018
Injecting minute amounts of two immune-stimulating agents directly into solid tumors in mice was able to eliminate all traces of cancer in the animals — including distant, untreated metastases (spreading cancer locations), according to a study by Stanford University School of Medicine researchers.
The researchers believe this new “in situ vaccination” method could serve as a rapid and relatively inexpensive cancer therapy — one that is unlikely to cause the adverse side effects often seen with bodywide immune stimulation.
The approach works for many different types of cancers, including those that arise spontaneously, the study found.
“When we use these two agents together, we see the elimination of tumors all over the body,” said Ronald Levy*, MD, professor of oncology and senior author of the study, which was published Jan. 31 in Science Translational Medicine. “This approach bypasses the need to identify tumor-specific immune targets and doesn’t require wholesale activation of the immune system or customization of a patient’s immune cells.”
Many current immunotherapy approaches have been successful, but they each have downsides — from difficult-to-handle side effects to high-cost and lengthy preparation or treatment times.** “Our approach uses a one-time application of very small amounts of two agents to stimulate the immune cells only within the tumor itself,” Levy said. “In the mice, we saw amazing, bodywide effects, including the elimination of tumors all over the animal.”
Cancer-destroying T cells that target other tumors in the body
Levy’s method reactivates cancer-specific T cells (a type of white blood cell) by injecting microgram (one-millionth of a gram) amounts of the two agents directly into the tumor site.*** Because the two agents are injected directly into the tumor, only T cells that have infiltrated the tumor are activated. In effect, these T cells are “prescreened” by the body to recognize only cancer-specific proteins.
Some of these tumor-specific, activated T cells then leave the original tumor to find and destroy other identical tumors throughout the body.
“I don’t think there’s a limit to the type of tumor we could potentially treat, as long as it has been infiltrated by the immune system.” — Ronald Levy, MD.
The approach worked “startlingly well” in laboratory mice with transplanted mouse lymphoma tumors in two sites on their bodies, the researchers say. Injecting one tumor site with the two agents caused the regression not just of the treated tumor, but also of the second, untreated tumor. In this way, 87 of 90 mice were cured of the cancer. Although the cancer recurred in three of the mice, the tumors again regressed after a second treatment. The researchers saw similar results in mice bearing breast, colon and melanoma tumors.
Mice genetically engineered to spontaneously develop breast cancers in all 10 of their mammary pads also responded to the treatment. Treating the first tumor that arose often prevented the occurrence of future tumors and significantly increased the animals’ life span, the researchers found.
Finally, researchers explored the specificity of the T cells. They transplanted two types of tumors into the mice. They transplanted the same lymphoma cancer cells in two locations, and transplanted a colon cancer cell line in a third location. Treatment of one of the lymphoma sites caused the regression of both lymphoma tumors but did not affect the growth of the colon cancer cells.
“This is a very targeted approach,” Levy said. “Only the tumor that shares the protein targets displayed by the treated site is affected. We’re attacking specific targets without having to identify exactly what proteins the T cells are recognizing.”
Lymphoma clinical trial
Future of Artificial Intelligence and its Impact on Society
MIT nanosystem delivers precise amounts of drugs directly to a tiny spot in the brain
January 28, 2018
MIT researchers have developed a miniaturized system that can deliver tiny quantities of medicine to targeted brain regions as small as 1 cubic millimeter, with precise control over how much drug is given. The goal is to treat diseases that affect specific brain circuits without interfering with the normal functions of the rest of the brain.*
“We believe this tiny microfabricated device could have tremendous impact in understanding brain diseases, as well as providing new ways of delivering biopharmaceuticals and performing biosensing in the brain,” says Robert Langer, the David H. Koch Institute Professor at MIT and one of the senior authors of an open-access paper that appears in the Jan. 24 issue of Science Translational Medicine.**
The researchers used state-of-the-art microfabrication techniques to construct cannulas (thin tubes) with diameters of about 30 micrometers (width of a fine human hair) and lengths up to 10 centimeters. These cannulas are contained within a stainless steel needle with a diameter of about 150 micrometers. Inside the cannulas are small pumps that can deliver tiny doses (hundreds of nanoliters***) deep into the brains of rats — with very precise control over how much drug is given and where it goes.
In one experiment, they delivered a drug called muscimol to a rat brain region called the substantia nigra, which is located deep within the brain and helps to control movement. Previous studies have shown that muscimol induces symptoms similar to those seen in Parkinson’s disease. The researchers were able to stimulate the rats to continually turn in a clockwise direction. They also could also halt the Parkinsonian behavior by delivering a dose of saline through a different channel to wash the drug away.
“Since the device can be customizable, in the future we can have different channels for different chemicals, or for light, to target tumors or neurological disorders such as Parkinson’s disease or Alzheimer’s,” says Canan Dagdeviren, the LG Electronics Career Development Assistant Professor of Media Arts and Sciences and the lead author of the paper.
This device could also make it easier to deliver potential new treatments for behavioral neurological disorders such as addiction or obsessive compulsive disorder. (These may be caused by specific disruptions in how different parts of the brain communicate with each other.)
Measuring drug response
The researchers also showed that they could incorporate an electrode into the tip of the cannula, which can be used to monitor how neurons’ electrical activity changes after drug treatment. They are now working on adapting the device so it can also be used to measure chemical or mechanical changes that occur in the brain following drug treatment.
The cannulas can be fabricated in nearly any length or thickness, making it possible to adapt them for use in brains of different sizes, including the human brain, the researchers say.
“This study provides proof-of-concept experiments, in large animal models, that a small, miniaturized device can be safely implanted in the brain and provide miniaturized control of the electrical activity and function of single neurons or small groups of neurons. The impact of this could be significant in focal diseases of the brain, such as Parkinson’s disease,” says Antonio Chiocca, neurosurgeon-in-chief and chairman of the Department of Neurosurgery at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, who was not involved in the research.
The research was funded by the National Institutes of Health and the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering.
* To treat brain disorders, drugs (such as l-dopa, a dopamine precursor used to treat Parkinson’s disease, and Prozac, used to boost serotonin levels in patients with depression) often interact with brain chemicals called neurotransmitters (or the cell receptors interact with neurotransmitters) — creating side effects throughout the brain.
** Michael Cima, the David H. Koch Professor of Engineering in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering and a member of MIT’s Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research, is also a senior author of the paper.
*** It would take one billion nanoliter drops to fill 4 cups.
Superconducting ‘synapse’ could enable powerful future neuromorphic supercomputers
February 7, 2018
A superconducting “synapse” that “learns” like a biological system, operating like the human brain, has been built by researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).
The NIST switch, described in an open-access paper in Science Advances, provides a missing link for neuromorphic (brain-like) computers, according to the researchers. Such “non-von Neumann architecture” future computers could significantly speed up analysis and decision-making for applications such as self-driving cars and cancer diagnosis.
The research is supported by the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA) Cryogenic Computing Complexity Program, which was launched in 2014 with the goal of paving the way to “a new generation of superconducting supercomputer development beyond the exascale.”*
NIST’s artificial synapse is a metallic cylinder 10 micrometers in diameter — about 10 times larger than a biological synapse. It simulates a real synapse by processing incoming electrical spikes (pulsed current from a neuron) and customizing spiking output signals. The more firing between cells (or processors), the stronger the connection. That process enables both biological and artificial synapses to maintain old circuits and create new ones.
Dramatically faster, lower-energy-required, compared to human synapses
But the NIST synapse has two unique features that the researchers say are superior to human synapses and to other artificial synapses:
- Operating at 100 GHz, it can fire at a rate that is much faster than the human brain — 1 billion times per second, compared to a brain cell’s rate of about 50 times per second.
- It uses only about one ten-thousandth as much energy as a human synapse. The spiking energy is less than 1 attojoule** — roughly equivalent to the miniscule chemical energy bonding two atoms in a molecule — compared to the roughly 10 femtojoules (10,000 attojoules) per synaptic event in the human brain. Current neuromorphic platforms are orders of magnitude less efficient than the human brain. “We don’t know of any other artificial synapse that uses less energy,” NIST physicist Mike Schneider said.
Superconducting devices mimicking brain cells and transmission lines have been developed, but until now, efficient synapses — a crucial piece — have been missing. The new Josephson junction-based artificial synapse would be used in neuromorphic computers made of superconducting components (which can transmit electricity without resistance), so they would be more efficient than designs based on semiconductors or software. Data would be transmitted, processed, and stored in units of magnetic flux.
The brain is especially powerful for tasks like image recognition because it processes data both in sequence and simultaneously and it stores memories in synapses all over the system. A conventional computer processes data only in sequence and stores memory in a separate unit.
The new NIST artificial synapses combine small size, superfast spiking signals, and low energy needs, and could be stacked into dense 3D circuits for creating large systems. They could provide a unique route to a far more complex and energy-efficient neuromorphic system than has been demonstrated with other technologies, according to the researchers.
Nature News does raise some concerns about the research, quoting neuromorphic-technology experts: “Millions of synapses would be necessary before a system based on the technology could be used for complex computing; it remains to be seen whether it will be possible to scale it to this level. … The synapses can only operate at temperatures close to absolute zero, and need to be cooled with liquid helium. That this might make the chips impractical for use in small devices, although a large data centre might be able to maintain them. … We don’t yet understand enough about the key properties of the [biological] synapse to know how to use them effectively.”
Inside a superconducting synapse
The NIST synapse is a customized Josephson junction***, long used in NIST voltage standards. These junctions are a sandwich of superconducting materials with an insulator as a filling. When an electrical current through the junction exceeds a level called the critical current, voltage spikes are produced.
Each artificial synapse uses standard niobium electrodes but has a unique filling made of nanoscale clusters (“nanoclusters”) of manganese in a silicon matrix. The nanoclusters — about 20,000 per square micrometer — act like tiny bar magnets with “spins” that can be oriented either randomly or in a coordinated manner. The number of nanoclusters pointing in the same direction can be controlled, which affects the superconducting properties of the junction.
The synapse rests in a superconducting state, except when it’s activated by incoming current and starts producing voltage spikes. Researchers apply current pulses in a magnetic field to boost the magnetic ordering — that is, the number of nanoclusters pointing in the same direction.
This magnetic effect progressively reduces the critical current level, making it easier to create a normal conductor and produce voltage spikes. The critical current is the lowest when all the nanoclusters are aligned. The process is also reversible: Pulses are applied without a magnetic field to reduce the magnetic ordering and raise the critical current. This design, in which different inputs alter the spin alignment and resulting output signals, is similar to how the brain operates.
Synapse behavior can also be tuned by changing how the device is made and its operating temperature. By making the nanoclusters smaller, researchers can reduce the pulse energy needed to raise or lower the magnetic order of the device. Raising the operating temperature slightly from minus 271.15 degrees C (minus 456.07 degrees F) to minus 269.15 degrees C (minus 452.47 degrees F), for example, results in more and higher voltage spikes.
* Future exascale supercomputers would run at 1018 exaflops (“flops” = floating point operations per second) or more. The current fastest supercomputer — the Sunway TaihuLight — operates at about 0.1 exaflops; zettascale computers, the next step beyond exascale, would run 10,000 times faster than that.
** An attojoule is 10-18 joule, a unit of energy, and is one-thousandth of a femtojoule.
*** The Josephson effect is the phenomenon of supercurrent — i.e., a current that flows indefinitely long without any voltage applied — across a device known as a Josephson junction, which consists of two superconductors coupled by a weak link. — Wikipedia
Supporting universal basic income as step in world progress
May 28, 2017
column: letters from Ray
date: May 27, 2017
topic: Adopting a universal basic income for all people can help society think creatively with new ideas, develop new industries — and free-up people to work on important future projects.
This practical social support program can grow as science & technology rapidly evolve, becoming part of world abundance.
story by: Ray Kurzweil
As you might have seen in the news, entrepreneur and renowned Facebook founder & CEO Mark Zuckerberg gave a commencement speech at Harvard University. He said in his talk:
“To keep our society moving forward, we have a generational challenge — to create new jobs, a renewed sense of purpose, and to take on big meaningful projects.
Our generation will have to deal with tens of millions of jobs replaced by automation like self-driving cars & trucks. But we have the potential to do so much more together.
More than 300,000 people worked to put a man on the moon — including that janitor. Millions of volunteers immunized children around the world against polio. Millions of people built the Hoover dam and other great projects.
We should have a society that measures progress not just by economic metrics, but by how many of us have a role we find meaningful. We should explore ideas like universal basic income — to give everyone a cushion to try new things.
We’re going to change jobs many times, so we need affordable child care — to get to work and health care that aren’t tied to one company. We’re all going to make mistakes, so we need a society that focuses less on locking us up or stigmatizing us. And as tech keeps changing, we need to focus more on continuous education throughout our lives.
Giving everyone the freedom to pursue purpose isn’t free. People like me should pay for it. Many of you will do well and you should too. That’s why my wife Priscilla Chan and I started the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative and committed our wealth to promoting equal opportunity. These are the values of our generation.“
— Mark Zuckerberg | source
A universal basic income is a form of security for a society’s citizens in which all residents of a country regularly unconditionally receive a sum of money, either from a government or public institution, in addition to any income received from elsewhere.
I support something along these lines. We want to do it in a way that doesn’t destroy incentives to contribute to society. So the question is how we get there. We already have a muddle approximating UBI * in the form of food stamps, social security, Medicaid, Medicare, emergency rooms and other programs.
You can get most of your needs for basic sustenance from these programs today — with the important exception of housing. There are shelters but these are grim and dangerous.
We are clearly headed toward a situation where everyone can live very well, with the support that society will provide. The fantastic price-performance gains we’ve seen in information technology is coming to physical products, food, energy, and other material items as they all become information technologies — like 3D printing, vertical agriculture, and solar energy.
I plan to talk about these issues, and how they will affect — and ultimately improve our civilization — in my next book. I remain positive that people like Mark Zuckerberg are thinking creatively about the future. We will be able to enter an age of abundance, as technology & science progress makes a better world for all of us.
— Ray Kurzweil
* UBI is universal basic income
The Syrian anti-air missiles which hit an Israeli F-16 early Saturday, Feb. 10, are part of a system operated with and commanded by the Russians from their Kheimim air base. The F-16 was shot down during an Israeli air strike against the Iranian facility at the T-4 air base near Palmyra, which launched a UAV into Israeli airspace that morning. The ongoing clash has therefore gone way beyond an Israeli confrontation with Syria and Iran and marks a serious deterioration in the security situation on Israel’s northern border.
It is unlikely that Israel’s attempt through its diplomatic channels to calm the situation and “restore the status quo ante” will succeed. This situation underwent a fundamental strategic change when Iran sent a UAV over Israel from a Syrian base it shares also with the Russians. It may be assumed that the Russian command, which keeps a close eye on all Syria’s air facilities, was in the know about the Iranian operation and was not surprised when Israeli warplanes retaliated. One of those jets was shot down and its two pilots landed safely in northern Israel. One of them was badly injured.
Whether or not the Russians and Iranians discussed likely Israeli retaliation and decided to ambush one of the planes has yet to be investigated. But it is significant that the second, much broader wave of Israeli air strikes against a dozen Syrian and Iranian targets later Saturday morning, was also attacked by air defense missiles that were fired from Lebanon as well. This has brought Hizballah into the Syrian-Iranian-Russian equation, and even the Lebanese army. Civilian air traffic was consequently halted in northern Israel.
The parties involved in the incident don’t yet appear ready to call it a day. Each is holding out to have the last word, say DEBKAfile’s strategic analysts.
As matters stood at 11 a.m. Saturday morning, Israel and the IDF had come off worst, although another wave of Israeli air strikes was then launched against a broad range of Iranian and Syrian targets. The downing of an air force jet by a Syrian anti-air weapon, mostly likely an SA-5 (whose range extends into northern Israel) has not been lightly dismissed. All the same, Jerusalem reportedly appealed to Washington and Moscow to use their good services for cutting the clash short. This set a tone in direct contrast to the recent, over-the-top rhetoric of Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman, especially his unnecessary comment that a two-front conflict is in store in both Syria and Lebanon; and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s warnings to hostile forces, “Don’t test us.”
That is exactly what Iran and Syria tried to do on Saturday morning. It is too soon to tell how this confrontation will play out. It is still ongoing. As for Russia, DEBKAfile has repeatedly stressed that the regular dialogue Netanyahu conducts with President Vladimir Putin is of limited value. The two leaders have achieved a certain measure of understanding but, in any situation, Putin is sue to be guided solely by Moscow’s strategic interests – even at Israel’s expense.
Tragedy-prone Amtrak suffered another terrifying setback Tuesday — when a high-speed Acela train broke apart as it raced north toward Penn Station at 125 mph, sources said.
In the third wreck in just one week — and the fourth in two months — several cars of an Acela Express heading from Washington, DC, to the Big Apple decoupled at about 6:30 a.m. and were left held together only by their air hoses.
Sparks flew from dragging cables and the train jerked wildly, but none of the 52 terrified passengers aboard were injured, according to reports.
“Someone could have been walking through the train when that happened and fell to their death,” one source said.
A photo taken by an Amtrak worker shows the connector between two coupled trains broken and separated, with a six-foot gap between them.
“There was a lot of sparking and smoking at the head of the train and a lot of bouncing around,” a source said.
The train separated in Maryland about 50 miles north of Baltimore. One passenger was playing on his phone when he felt his car shake suddenly and then saw sparks outside his window.
“It felt almost like we were dragging something,” said Andrew Exum, 39, a journalist who lives in the Washington area and works in New York.
“I looked out the window and saw a shower of sparks coming out the side of the train,” Exum said. “Pretty quickly, the train came to a halt and the Amtrak folks rushed forward. I could tell by their faces that this was serious, and that we weren’t going anywhere.”
The crew first tried to fix the situation themselves, and then told passengers that they had to evacuate everyone from first class and the quiet car, which is where Exum was, the commuter shared.
“There were a lot of fumes and a little bit of smoke,” he said. “So we moved to the next car and just kind of waited. They powered down the train so we were literally in the dark for 30 minutes or so, maybe a little bit longer.”
Tuesday’s scare comes as a rash of wrecks plagues the passenger-rail service.
On Sunday, an Amtrak train traveling through South Carolina from New York City slammed into the back of a freight train, killing two workers.
Four days earlier, an Amtrak train carrying Republican members of Congress slammed into a garbage truck in Virginia, killing one person in the truck.
The worst recent incident happened in December, when an Amtrak train on an inaugural run in Washington state derailed on a turn, killing three people and injuring scores.
Some Amtrak regulars say they are now terrified to ride the trains.
“Seriously, how did riding the train get to be so hazardous?” mused Steve Rosen, 45, who had just arrived in Penn Station on an Amtrak train from Philadelphia.
“Every time I ride Amtrak now, I utter a silent prayer that this train or this car or this conductor or this track won’t be one of the defective ones that ends my life.”
DAMASCUS, Syria — Syria’s official news agency says the military has responded to “a new Israeli aggression” near the capital.
SANA says air defenses confronted the Israeli planes, which targeted an outpost in the Damascus countryside. It did not provide details and there was no immediate comment from Israel.
Wednesday’s report was the second such accusation in less than a month.
Syria’s military on Jan. 9 accused Israel of launching missiles targeting military outposts in the area of Qutayfeh, in the Damascus countryside. The military said that attack caused material damage.
Israel has carried out dozens of airstrikes inside Syria in the course of Syria’s civil war, against what it says are suspected arms shipments believed to be bound for Lebanon’s Hezbollah militant group, which is fighting alongside Syrian government forces.
On the same day the United States Senate took up a bill that would have banned abortions for unborn infants who had reached the 20th week of development, a group of clergy gathered to pray for and bless the work of an abortion clinic in the DC area dedicated to killing those very same infants.
The Washington Post reports on the Christian and Jewish faith leaders who went out of their way to endorse, in the name of God, the clinic and it’s practice of performing late-term abortions.
Yet that was the Rev. Carlton Veazey’s task as he led a prayer in Bethesda on Monday. “God of grace and God of glory, in whom we move and live,” he said, as he opened a prayer for the well-being of the doctor and nurses who facilitate abortions at a clinic here and for their patients. “Keep them safe and keep them strong. And may they always know that all that they do is for Thy glory.”
Veazey was one of four Christian pastors and one rabbi who gathered to bless this Bethesda abortion clinic in an unusual interfaith ceremony. (A Hindu priest who was supposed to attend from a local temple, who has blessed an abortion clinic before, didn’t make it.)
Episcopal Church votes no masculine pronouns for God
Continuing its freefall to the theological left, the Episcopal Church in the Diocese of Washington, D.C., voted last week to pass a resolution that puts an end to the use of masculine pronouns for God as it prepares to update its Book of Common Prayer.
Episcopalian delegates to the Diocese’s 123rd Convention swiftly passed the resolution in the nation’s capital so that “gendered language for God” will no longer be used.
“If revision of the Book of Common Prayer is authorized, to utilize expansive language for God from the rich sources of feminine, masculine and non-binary imagery for God found in Scripture and tradition and, when possible, to avoid the use of gendered pronouns for God,” the diocese’s resolution reads. “Over the centuries, our language and our understanding of God has continued to change and adapt.”
Episcopalian leadership no longer recognizes the inerrancy of Scripture, indicating that Bible manuscripts preserved for thousands of years are no longer aligned with the social gospel it preaches to its congregations.
“[Referring to God using masculine pronouns is to] limit our understanding of God,” the drafters of the resolution argued. “By expanding our language for God, we will expand our image of God and the nature of God.”
St. Bartholomew’s Episcopal Church Clergy Delegate Rev. Linda R. Calkins urged the delegates to press for more liberal changes.
Calkins, who serves in Laytonsville, Maryland, attempted to emasculate God using Genesis 17:1, where God tells Abraham, ‘I am El Shaddai.”
“[If Episcopalians] are going to be true to what El Shaddai means, it means God with breasts,” Calkins told delegates, according to The Institute on Religion & Democracy. “Having studied much feminist theology in my masters’ degrees, I wrote a thesis on liberation and freedom and non-equality in feminist theology and existential counseling.”
The liberal Episcopalian appears to use The Inclusive Bible as a reference – a loose interpretation of the Bible that many leftists use in order to turn Scripture upside-down and give it meaning that was never intended by God and the authors who He chose to write down His direct revelations.
“The Inclusive Bible was published in 2004 and written by a group called Priests for Equality, which … is a project of the Quixote Center in Brentwood, Maryland, and is a ‘grass-roots organization committed to creating a culture where sexism and exclusion are left behind and equality and full participation are the order of the day.’” The Christian Post (CP) reported. “In Genesis 17, the passage of Scripture where God makes the Covenant of Circumcision with Abram, the Hebrew ‘El Shaddai’ is traditionally translated as ‘God Almighty;’ the Inclusive Bible renders it ‘the breasted one.’”
Calkins is looking to give Episcopalians the last push they need to join the feminist movement and use LGBT lingo when addressing God.
“And I am still waiting for the Episcopal Church to come to the place where all people feel that they can speak God’s name,” the leftist church leader continued. “Many, many women that I have spoken with over my past almost 20 years in ordained ministry have felt that they could not be a part of any church because of the male image of God that is systemic and that is sustained throughout our liturgies. Many of us are waiting and need to hear God in our language, in our words and in our pronouns.”
No room for interpretation
Flying in the face of Calkins’ teaching, seminaries have taught that terms used referring to God the Father and God the Son are indisputably and intentionally masculine.
“Christians – following the teachings of Jesus Christ – have prayed to God as ‘Our Father’ from the very beginning,” LifeSiteNews’ Mark Hodges pointed out. “Theologians explain that the masculine word ‘Father’ indicates a relationship.”
Dr. Paul Tarazi of St. Vladimir Orthodox Theological Seminary contends that there is no room for creative interpretation when it comes to the gender reference of God.
“Jesus did not call God ‘Imma’ (Mother), but always and exclusively ‘Abba’ (Father),” Tarazi impressed, according to the Orthodox Research Institute. “’Father’ is the only way Jesus ever referred to God, and the only way He taught His followers to do so.”
For centuries, theologians, have made it clear that deviating from the biblical titles reserved for God is inaccurate, misleading … and ultimately heretical.
“St. Gregory the Theologian explained the name ‘Father’ is proper to God, not a figurative concession to humanity,” Hodges informed. “St. Athanasius the Great stated that only the specific names ‘Father,’ ‘Son,’ and ‘Holy Spirit’ belong ‘to God’s own essence and being.’ St. Gregory of Nyssa taught that deviation from the names ‘Father,’ ‘Son,’ and ‘Holy Spirit’ causes deviations from the one true faith. Any other names, St. Gregory wrote, ‘serve as a starting point for the deflection of sound doctrine.’”
The Bible, according to the LGBT
In addition to the Episcopal Church’s lean toward a feminist agenda, it is also embracing LGBT propaganda, as outlined in another resolution that was passed – without discussion or debate – by delegates to the Episcopalian convention, who declared that “transgender people” will be woven into all aspects of “congregational life” in the church.
“[The diocese will] encourage all parishes to remove all obstacles to full participation in congregational life by making all gender-specific facilities and activities fully accessible – regardless of gender identity and expression,” the resolution states. “Fixed boundaries of gender identity are being challenged, and churches need to respond. This resolution is a clear response to the systematic oppression and violence that transgender people experience on a daily basis.”
UN Envoy Says North Korea Is Only “Months Away” From Striking US
A few weeks ago, we highlighted an interview given by CIA Director Mike Pompeo to “CBS This Morning” where he claimed that North Korea was “only a handful of months” from realizing the long-term goal of its nuclear weapons program: Developing a missile that could deliver a nuclear payload to the Continent US with a high degree of accuracy.
At the time, we cautioned that these remarks should be taken with a grain of salt, because Pompeo had repeated this same claim in the past.
But today, the issue was raised again, when US disarmament ambassador Robert Wood told a UN-sponsored disarmament forum that, by all reasonable intelligence accounts, the rogue state is mere months away from building an ICBM capable of striking anywhere within the Continental US.
To the objections of North Korean representatives, Wood demanded that the committee support the total and complete de-nuclearization of the Korean peninsula.
“North Korea has accelerated its provocative pursuit of nuclear weapons and missile capabilities, and expressed explicit threats to use nuclear weapons against the United States and its allies in the region,” U.S. disarmament ambassador Robert Wood told the Geneva forum.
“North Korean officials insist that they will not give up nuclear weapons, and North Korea may now be only months away from the capability to strike the United States with nuclear-armed ballistic missiles,” he said.
A new U.S. nuclear policy review outlined last week “reaffirms that North Korea’s illicit nuclear program must be completely, verifiably, and irreversibly eliminated, resulting in a Korean Peninsula free of nuclear weapons,” he said.
Predictably, the North Korean representatives at the meeting responded angrily, blaming Washington for escalating the conflict by holding military drills involving nuclear submarines and aircraft carriers in preparation for a preemptive strike.
“In view of the nature and scale of U.S. military reinforcements, they are designed to make a pre-emptive strike against the DPRK,” North Korean diplomat Ju Yong Chol told the talks, referring to his country’s official name the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
“In view of the nature and scale of US military reinforcements, they are designed to make a pre-emptive strike against the DPRK,” North Korean diplomat Ju Yong Chol told the talks, referring to his country’s official name the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
When Woods was asked what the source was for his assessment, he said he had “no new information to share”.
Woods also accused the North of launching a deceptive “charm offensive” with their recent detente involving South Korea – including the two countries’ decision to draft an inter-Korean women’s ice hockey team.
Woods also pointed out that Russia, China and the North are all expanding their stockpiles, increasing the prominence of nuclear weapons in their security strategies.
“What I would call ‘the charm offensive’ frankly is fooling no one,” Wood told the talks.
He also said arsenals in China and Russia were expanding, drawing rebukes from their respective delegations.
“Russia, China and North Korea are growing their stockpiles, increasing the prominence of nuclear weapons in their security strategies, and – in some cases – pursuing the development of new nuclear capabilities to threaten other peaceful nations,” Wood said.
“We are not going to stick our head in the sand, we are going to respond to these growing challenges,” he later told reporters.
The US and the South have agreed to suspend their joint military exercises around the peninsula until after the Winter Games. Still, local security forces aren’t ruling out the possibility of a North-Korean sponsored cyber attack.
State Dept. Embraces Islamic Cleric Who OK’d Killing Americans in Iraq, Called for Israel’s Destruction
Last Thursday, Sam Brownback was sworn in as the State Department’s new ambassador for religious liberty.
Today — in his first official speech as ambassador — Brownback openly embraced a hardline Islamic cleric who authorized a fatwa in 2004 justifying the killing of Americans in Iraq, and another fatwa in 2012 calling for the destruction of the state of Israel.
Sheikh Abdullah Bin Bayyah’s past is no mystery to the State Department. For example, the Obama administration’s State Department had to repeatedly apologize in May 2014 for promoting Bin Bayyah as a moderate. However, the Obama administration then implemented a full-court press with the U.S. media and the D.C. foreign policy “Smart Set” to rehabilitate the image of the Mauritanian cleric.
The presence of multiple senior Trump State Department officials at an “interfaith” event in Washington, D.C. in support of Bin Bayyah’s efforts appears to confirm there will be no change. The Trump administration is continuing the engagement with Bin Bayyah they inherited from Obama — despite the fact that Bin Bayyah’s views on Israel are directly contrary to those of President Trump.
There is also an inherent contradiction in the Trump State Department embracing the interfaith efforts of an Islamic cleric who openly states on his website that Christians are going to hell. Bin Bayyah has also said that interfaith outreach to Jews in Arab lands should only be done with extreme caution — and only with Jews who oppose Israel.
The State Department is promoting Brownback’s speech at Bin Bayyah’s event earlier today:
An Obama administration holdover, State Department Special Advisor for Religious Minorities Knox Thames, gushed his praise of Bin Bayyah during the cleric’s opening keynote last night:
The Obama administration’s attempts to rehabilitate Bin Bayyah were not without controversy. Most embarrassing for the Obama White House was Bin Bayyah’s approval of a 2004 fatwa authorizing the killing of Americans in Iraq and endorsing the Iraqi “resistance.” This information was raised in June 2013 after it was reported Bin Bayyah had been escorted into the White House to meet with senior members of Obama’s National Security Council.
The 2004 fatwa was issued by the International Union of Muslim Scholars (IUMS) while Bin Bayyah was serving as vice president. It called for “resisting occupation forces,” stating this was a “duty” for all able-bodied Muslims inside and outside Iraq. The official Iraqi resistance site posted the IUMS fatwa.
Iraq launches new anti-ISIL offensive
Operations in a northeastern desert region are also targeting the mysterious ‘White Flag’ insurgent group
Iraqi forces launched fresh operations against ISIL fighters and other insurgents in a northeastern desert region on Wednesday, just two months after Baghdad declared victory over the extremist group.
Soldiers and pro-government militias retook several villages and stormed an ISIL camp, according to the military.
“With the goal of enforcing security and stability, destroying sleeper cells, and continuing clearing operations, an operation was launched in the early hours of Wednesday morning to search and clear areas east of Tuz Khurmato (50 kilometres from Kirkuk city),” the Iraqi armed forces said.
The offensive also aims to secure bridges, roads and junctions between Baghdad and Kirkuk, the statement added.
Baghdad wants to consolidate its control of a mountainous area near the Iranian border through which it plans to transport crude from the oil-rich city of Kirkuk to Iran’s Kermanshah refinery by truck.
UN probing suspected use of chlorine gas by Syrian regime
Recent raids in rebel-held areas have killed dozens
United Nations war crimes investigators are probing the suspected use of chemical weapons in the latest attacks by Syrian government forces on rebel-held areas the regime is pushing to reclaim.
The disclosure came after airstrikes from the Syrian Air Force killed at least 78 people on Monday and Tuesday in Eastern Ghouta, a Damascus suburb, and more than a dozen further north in Idlib.
The death toll led the UN to call for an immediate one-month ceasefire throughout Syria to allow delivery of humanitarian aid and ensure casualties be taken for treatment.
Idlib is the last province to largely remain outside government control, with deaths rising and thousands being displaced. President Bashar Al Assad’s forces have been on the offensive in Idlib in recent weeks but the effort intensified after militants shot down a Russian Su-25 fighter jet near the town of Saraqeb over the weekend.
The lead investigator of a UN mandated Commission of Inquiry on Syria said his team was looking into reports that bombs allegedly containing weaponised chlorine were recently used on two occasions in rebel-held zones.
“These reports are extremely troubling, and make a mockery of the so-called ‘de-escalation zones’ intended to protect civilians from such bombardment,” Paulo Pinheiro said.
The zones – meant to stabilise lines of conflict and open corridors for urgently needed humanitarian relief – were formed last autumn, in an agreement with the Syrian opposition that Russia, Iran and Turkey promised to guarantee.
Mr Pinherio described the Syrian government’s siege and indiscriminate bombardment of Eastern Ghouta as “international crimes.”
The French foreign ministry said it was concerned by the reports of chlorine being used on civilians, but that it was too soon to confirm them.
The UN also warned of “dire consequences” regarding the humanitarian crisis in Syria, identifying seven areas requiring urgent humanitarian relief.
Mr Pinherio stressed that the ongoing fighting and deliberate obstruction by forces at front lines was blocking aid organisations from reaching civilians.
The UN says it has a plan to reach 700,000 people in the next two months, if it can get access.
One Palestinian reported killed, 110 wounded in clashes with IDF
IDF forces surrounded an area of Nablus on Tuesday on a manhunt for Abed al-Karim Adel Asi, suspected of killing Rabbi Itamar Ben-Gal.