The Forbes 400 have more wealth than the GDP of the UK

In the United States, the 400 richest individuals now own more wealth than the bottom 64 percent of the population and the three richest own more wealth than the bottom 50 percent, while pervasive poverty means one in five households have zero or negative net worth.

Those are just several of the striking findings of Billionaire Bonanza 2017, a new report (pdf) published Wednesday by the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS) that explores in detail the speed with which the U.S. is becoming “a hereditary aristocracy of wealth and power.” …

“The wealthiest 25 individuals in the United States today own $1 trillion in combined assets,” the report notes. “These 25, a group equivalent to the active roster of a major league baseball team, hold more wealth than the bottom 56 percent of the U.S. population combined, 178 million people.”
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More than 100 F-35s in service can’t fight

The U.S. military has signaled that it might cancel essential upgrades for more than 100 early model F-35 stealth fighters flown by the Air Force, rendering the radar-evading jets incompatible with many of the latest weapons.

In that case, some 6 percent of the flying branch’s planned 1,700-strong F-35 fleet would be unfit for combat, sticking U.S. taxpayers with a $20 billion tab for fighters… that can’t fight. Continue reading

The Pentagon’s use of private contractors adds to a legacy of environmental damage

The military is one of the country’s largest polluters, with an inventory of toxic sites on American soil that once topped 39,000. At many locations, the Pentagon has relied on contractors like U.S. Technology to assist in cleaning and restoring land, removing waste, clearing unexploded bombs, and decontaminating buildings, streams and soil. In addition to its work for Barksdale, U.S. Technology had won some 830 contracts with other military facilities — Army, Air Force, Navy and logistics bases — totaling more than $49 million, many of them to dispose of similar powders. Continue reading

It’s “Call of Duty for real”

This past month, news came of soldiers training with a system called Tactical Augmented Reality.  …

The idea comes from Will Roper, a Rhodes scholar in his late 30s with a PhD in mathematics. Roper runs the Defense Department’s secretive Strategic Capabilities Office; his job is to study where war is headed, and to develop the technological tools that help the United States win there. The military services think about today; DARPA thinks about the distant future; Roper thinks about tomorrow.

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Total world military expenditure rose to $1686 billion in 2016

Military spending in North America saw its first annual increase since 2010, while spending in Western Europe grew for the second consecutive year.

World military expenditure rose for a second consecutive year to a total of $1686 billion in 2016—the first consecutive annual increase since 2011 when spending reached its peak of $1699 billion.* Trends and patterns in military expenditure vary considerably between regions. Spending continued to grow in Asia and Oceania, Central and Eastern Europe and North Africa. By contrast, spending fell in Central America and the Caribbean, the Middle East (based on countries for which data is available), South America and sub-Saharan Africa.
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Don’t Buy Don’t Sell in the Trump era

After authorising the firing of 59 Tomahawk missiles (each costing around $1.5 million) at a Syrian airbase with no apparent consequential strategic purpose and diminishing none of the Syrian regime’s chemical weapons capability, the maker of the Tomahawk missiles, Raytheon’s stock rose sharply, adding more than $1 billion to its market capitalisation. Other missile and weapons manufacturers, Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and General Dynamics, also saw their stock rose considerably – collectively gaining nearly $5 billion in market value. This on its own may not matter much, after all, which president of the USA has not dropped  expensive bombs on some ‘remote’ nations of the world. But this time may be different.

Trump used anti-establishment and anti-corporate language during his election campaign to distinguish himself from all other candidates – he opposed neoconservative foreign policy, financial and corporate interests, notably Goldman Sachs. Now, after his inauguration, you can hardly see much difference between his foreign policy plans and policies proposed by neoconservatives. His cabinet looks like a ‘who’s who’ of Goldman Sachs alumni. He ratcheted up the military tension in the South China Sea, ordered a failed major special force operation in Yemen, and now seems to be pushing the USA to the edge of nuclear war with North Korea. The more he uses militaristic confrontational rhetoric and actions, the more ‘presidential’ he  looks in the eyes of the mainstream media. He seems ‘unstoppable’.

But is he, really?

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Calling North Korea ‘crazy’ won’t help with anything

Trump’s North Korea policy will reportedly focus more on pressuring Beijing to constrain North Korea, and on additional sanctions.

Two things to keep in mind: don’t underestimate North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, and don’t forget South Korea. …

Kim’s desire for deterrence – to not end up like Saddam Hussein or Muammar Gaddafi – helps explain the existence of its weapons program. Someone who has participated in more than a decade of Track 2 dialogues with the North Koreans once recounted to me how North Koreans asked them: “Would the Americans have gone in and done what they did to Gaddaffi, and to Syria, if they had what we have?’ Continue reading