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Rebuilding the Natural World: A Shift in Ecological Restoration by Richard Conniff: Yale Environment 360

Rebuilding the Natural World: A Shift in Ecological Restoration by Richard Conniff: Yale Environment 360.

17 MAR 2014: ANALYSIS

Rebuilding the Natural World:
A Shift in Ecological Restoration

From forests in Queens to wetlands in China, planners and scientists are promoting a new approach that incorporates experiments into landscape restoration projects to determine what works to the long-term benefit of nature and what does not.

by richard conniff

Restoring degraded ecosystems — or creating new ones — has become a huge global business. China, for instance, is planting 90 million acres of forest in a swath across its northern provinces. And in North America, just in the past two decades, restoration projects costing $70 billion have

Tianjin Qiaoyuan Wetland Park

Turenscape
Qiaoyuan Wetland Park in Tianjin, China, has terraced ponds that incorporate designed experiments to monitor benefits.

attempted to restore or re-create 7.4 million acres of marsh, peatland, floodplain, mangrove, and other wetlands.

This patchwork movement to rebuild the natural world ought to be good news. Such projects are, moreover, likely to become far more common as the world rapidly urbanizes and as cities, new and old, turn to green infrastructure to address problems like climate change, flood control, and pollution of nearby waterways. But hardly anyone does a proper job of measuring the results, and when they do, it generally turns out that ecological restorations seldom function as intended.

A 2012 study in PLOS Biology, for instance, looked at 621 wetland projects and found most had failed to deliver promised results, or match the performance of natural systems, even decades after completion. Likewise,

A new study finds more than 75 percent of river restorations failed to meet minimal performance targets.

an upcoming study by Margaret A. Palmer at the University of Maryland reports that more than 75 percent of river and stream restorations failed to meet their own minimal performance targets. “They may be pretty projects,” says Palmer, “but they don’t provide ecological benefits.”

Hence the increasing interest in what Alexander Felson, an urban ecologist and landscape architect at the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, calls “designed experiments” — that is, experiments designed by ecologists and incorporated into development and landscape restoration projects to test which alternative approaches work best — or whether a particular approach works at all. The idea is both to improve the project at hand, says Felson, and also to provide a scientific basis for making subsequent projects more successful.

At first glance, the designed experiment idea might seem to echo practices that already exist. Environmental consultants have been a part of most development projects for decades. But they almost never do long-term research on a project, says Felson. “Adaptive management,” the idea of continually monitoring environmental projects and making steady improvements over time — or “learning by doing” — has also been around in ecological circles since the 1970s. But a recent survey in Biological Conservation found “surprisingly few practical, on-ground examples of adaptive management.” In part, that’s because “long-term investigations are notoriously difficult to establish and maintain.”

To deal with that challenge, Felson proposes incorporating ecologists into the design team, so that designers and ecologists build a relationship and complement each other’s strengths from the start. As part of its Million Tree Initiative, for instance, New York City was proposing in 2007 to plant almost 2000 acres of new and restored forest over a ten-year period. The project fit the city’s sustainability agenda to reduce air pollution, sequester

As part of New York’s Million Tree Initiative, a scientific team proposed experiments for the planned forests.

carbon dioxide, control stormwater run-off, and provide wildlife habitat.

But planners didn’t have much basis for determining which species were more likely to achieve those goals, or where to plant them. The usual feedback about whether an urban tree planting project is successful boils down to a single question: “Are they alive or are they dead?” Nor could science provide much guidance. A literature search turned up only a single long-term study of new urban forests planted with native tree species.

So Felson and a team of scientists and designers proposed designed experiments for New York’s planned forests — plantings with different species, in varying configurations, some with compost or other amendments, some without — to learn what worked best.

The proposal represented a compromise between two sensible but contradictory ideas. On the one hand, it is widely accepted that the best time to plant a tree is 50 years ago — or, failing that, right now. On the other hand, Felson writes, you “would not build a wastewater treatment plant if it did not achieve water-quality standards, so why plant an urban forest without knowing that it performs the intended function?”

Because experimental plots are not typically scenic, the ecologists worked with park managers to disguise the test plots within a more natural-looking forest. The first test forest went in at Kissena Corridor Park in Queens in 2010, and a second at Willow Lake in 2011, on the site of the 1964 World’s Fair.

The ambition is to study traits like carbon sequestration and how species patterns change over decades. But the study is already producing results that may be useful within the context of the Million Tree Initiative, according to Felson and Yale co-authors Mark Bradford and Emily

The Chinese park features a terraced system of 21 ponds, designed to filter urban runoff.

Oldfield: If the goal is to get trees to canopy height as quickly as possible, for instance, competition from shrubs will actually make them grow faster, not slower. Some trees, like basswood, do better in more diverse plantings; others, like oaks, prefer less diversity. Compost doesn’t seem to make much difference for the first two years but kicks in during year three.

The designed experiment idea has begun to turn up in restoration projects around the world, notably in China. The northeastern city of Tianjin, for instance, was struggling in 2003 to deal with a 54-acre former shooting range that had become an illegal dumping ground and was also heavily polluted by urban runoff. It hired Kongjian Yu, founder of the Beijing design firm Turenscape, who had trained at Harvard with Richard T.T. Forman, a leading thinker in urban landscape ecology.

The result, Qiaoyuan Wetland Park, opened in 2008, with none of the great lawns and formal plantings seen in conventional Chinese parks. Instead, Yu’s design features a naturalized landscape of ponds, grasses, and reeds, with walkways and viewing platforms for local residents.

Traditional landscape design in China is “based on art and form,” says Yu. “My practice is to find a scientific basis.” The park features a terraced system of 21 ponds, designed to filter urban runoff as it moves through the site. Yu calls it “peasant” landscaping, based on traditional rice farms. But the ponds are of different sizes and depths, with the aim of monitoring how

As urban crowding increases, cities may require new projects to deliver multiple ecosystem services.

each microhabitat affects water quality, PH values, and the character of the evolving plant community.

Ecologists on staff at Turenscape and Yu’s students at Beijing University do the monitoring. Among other results, they recently reported that three families of Siberian weasel now call the park home, a remarkable development in a city of 7.5 million people. Yu acknowledges that the experimental results don’t hold much interest for city officials, who have sometimes tried to replace “messy” reeds with playgrounds and formal plantings. But Yu has employed the results from Tianjin to improve his subsequent projects, which also incorporate designed experiments.

The pell mell pace of urban development in China, combined with the often catastrophic environmental after-effects, together create a demand for landscape designs that do more than look pretty, according to Yu. The usual engineering solutions — for instance, “larger pipes, more powerful pumps, or stronger dikes” to handle monsoon flooding — often just aggravate other problems, like the water shortages and falling groundwater levels that now afflict 400 Chinese cities. Yu sees naturalized landscapes as urban “green sponges” to retain and filter water, with designed experiments to show whether or not they deliver the promised services.
The goal of incorporating designed experiments more broadly in restoration and development projects is likely to meet resistance on both sides. Developers may regard ecologists as natural adversaries, and research as a costly nuisance. The idea of working within the agenda of developers and government agencies may also strike some ecologists as a fatal compromise.

But China is no means the only place with rapidly worsening environmental issues. As urban crowding increases worldwide and the effects of climate change become more evident, cities may require every new development or restoration project to deliver multiple ecosystem services. The stricter financial standards of the green marketplace will also oblige project managers to demonstrate that those services are real and quantifiable.

“There are certainly problems with what we’ve been doing in restoration projects, but it doesn’t mean we should stop,” says Franco Montalto, a Drexel University environmental engineer who has written about the designed experiment idea. “We should be trying to figure out what doesn’t work and stop doing that, and figure out what does work and do more of it. That’s what you learn from experiments.”

POSTED ON 17 MAR 2014

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Canada's Finance Minister Flaherty Resigns Unexpectedly | Zero Hedge

Canada’s Finance Minister Flaherty Resigns Unexpectedly | Zero Hedge.

In a surprising development out of Canada’s cabinet, moments ago the finance minister, Jim Flaherty, a noted deficit hawk and proponent of paying down government debt, just announced his resignation.

  • CANADA FINANCE MINISTER FLAHERTY RESIGNS FROM CABINET
  • FLAHERTY SAYS DECISION TO LEAVE POLITICS WAS NOT RELATED IN ANY WAY TO HIS HEALTH

As Bloomberg and Globe and Mail add, Flaherty said he’s stepping down to pursue work in the private sector. “Yesterday, I informed the Prime Minister that I am resigning from Cabinet,” Flaherty said today in a statement e-mailed by his office. “This was a decision I made with my family earlier this year, as I will be returning to the private sector.”

“As I begin another chapter in my life, I leave feeling fulfilled with what we have accomplished as a government and a country during one of the most challenging economic periods in our country’s history,” he said.

Flaherty said there’s “no doubt” Canada will balance its budget as promised in the year starting April 2015, and said the decision isn’t related to his health issues

Still, there is rife speculation that it was indeed his health that was the reason for this unexpected resignation. Either way, Canada’s housing mess will now be someone else’s problem.

Canada’s Finance Minister Flaherty Resigns Unexpectedly | Zero Hedge

Canada’s Finance Minister Flaherty Resigns Unexpectedly | Zero Hedge.

In a surprising development out of Canada’s cabinet, moments ago the finance minister, Jim Flaherty, a noted deficit hawk and proponent of paying down government debt, just announced his resignation.

  • CANADA FINANCE MINISTER FLAHERTY RESIGNS FROM CABINET
  • FLAHERTY SAYS DECISION TO LEAVE POLITICS WAS NOT RELATED IN ANY WAY TO HIS HEALTH

As Bloomberg and Globe and Mail add, Flaherty said he’s stepping down to pursue work in the private sector. “Yesterday, I informed the Prime Minister that I am resigning from Cabinet,” Flaherty said today in a statement e-mailed by his office. “This was a decision I made with my family earlier this year, as I will be returning to the private sector.”

“As I begin another chapter in my life, I leave feeling fulfilled with what we have accomplished as a government and a country during one of the most challenging economic periods in our country’s history,” he said.

Flaherty said there’s “no doubt” Canada will balance its budget as promised in the year starting April 2015, and said the decision isn’t related to his health issues

Still, there is rife speculation that it was indeed his health that was the reason for this unexpected resignation. Either way, Canada’s housing mess will now be someone else’s problem.

Is This The Provocation? Ukraine Soldier Allegedly Killed By Russians In Crimea | Zero Hedge

Is This The Provocation? Ukraine Soldier Allegedly Killed By Russians In Crimea | Zero Hedge.

As feared earlier, the attack by “unidentified” forces on a Ukrainemilitary base in Semferopol has resulted in fatalities:

  • *UKRAINE SOLDIER KILLED AFTER UNIDENTIFIED GUNMEN STORMED BASE
  • *UKRAINE SOLDIER’S DEATH IN CRIMEA CONFIRMED BY DEFENSE MINISTRY

And two further “self-defense” fighters are injured. Once again it seems the market misread Putin’s comments and one wonders how will Turchynov respond?

The incident occurred in Crimea’s main city of Simferopol, regional defence ministry spokesman Vladislav Seleznyov said, without specifying whether the base was stormed by Russian soldiers or pro-Kremlin militia who also patrol the peninsula.

Via Interfax,

One self-defense fighter has been killed and two more injured in Simferopol, according to the Crimean news agency which cited a source in the republic’s Interior Ministry.

The self-defense fighters were shot by a sniper from an uncompleted building opposite a Ukrainian military base, the source said

We’re now easily a couple hundred meters away from base entrance “foreign journalists are liars”-Russian self defense pic.twitter.com/2xQsNyeqa5

— Ed Flanagan (@edmundflanagan) March 18, 2014

Is This The Provocation? Ukraine Soldier Allegedly Killed By Russians In Crimea | Zero Hedge

Is This The Provocation? Ukraine Soldier Allegedly Killed By Russians In Crimea | Zero Hedge.

As feared earlier, the attack by “unidentified” forces on a Ukrainemilitary base in Semferopol has resulted in fatalities:

  • *UKRAINE SOLDIER KILLED AFTER UNIDENTIFIED GUNMEN STORMED BASE
  • *UKRAINE SOLDIER’S DEATH IN CRIMEA CONFIRMED BY DEFENSE MINISTRY

And two further “self-defense” fighters are injured. Once again it seems the market misread Putin’s comments and one wonders how will Turchynov respond?

The incident occurred in Crimea’s main city of Simferopol, regional defence ministry spokesman Vladislav Seleznyov said, without specifying whether the base was stormed by Russian soldiers or pro-Kremlin militia who also patrol the peninsula.

Via Interfax,

One self-defense fighter has been killed and two more injured in Simferopol, according to the Crimean news agency which cited a source in the republic’s Interior Ministry.

The self-defense fighters were shot by a sniper from an uncompleted building opposite a Ukrainian military base, the source said

We’re now easily a couple hundred meters away from base entrance “foreign journalists are liars”-Russian self defense pic.twitter.com/2xQsNyeqa5

— Ed Flanagan (@edmundflanagan) March 18, 2014

How do ex-Saudi Aramco geologist Dr Husseini's oil price spike predictions of USD 140 by 2016-17 stack up?

How do ex-Saudi Aramco geologist Dr Husseini’s oil price spike predictions of USD 140 by 2016-17 stack up?.

by Matt Mushalik, originally published by Crude Oil Peak  | TODAY

In an interview with ASPO USA in January 2014 Ex-Saudi Aramco geologist Dr. Sadad-Al-Husseini predicted oil price spikes of $140 by 2016/17. This post shows some graphs explaining why this could happen.

Husseini: My base oil price forecast in 2012 dollars still ranges between $105 and $120/barrel Brent with a volatility floor of $ 95/barrel and more probable upward spiking to $140/barrel within 2016/2017.

Husseini did not elaborate how he arrived at that time frame but this question and answer give us a hint:
ASPO: “In the larger context, how has your view of future world oil production supply evolved over the last four or five years? As a benchmark, I reference your slides from the 2009 Oil & Money Conference slides”
Husseini: “The realities of the 2009 O&M forecast of a limited plateau of oil supplies have been pretty much vindicated since then. The oil plateau may now be inflated by about 1 – 2 Mbd of high cost unconventional oils but all major forecasters see this as pretty much transitional. The plateau itself remains a reality and unfortunately its duration is still unlikely to extend beyond the end of this decade.”
So how did Husseini’s 2009 plateau look like and how does it compare with actual production data? The slides are contained in a presentation titled “Structural realities that define the oil supply outlook”
This was done continent by continent and country by country. In the following graphs, the grey shaded columns are from Husseini’s 2009 projection and the colored columns represent actual production (data from EIA).
Central and South America

Actual production in 2013 was 1 mb/d less than in the 2009 projection, mainly due to limited Brazilian production.
Europe
Actual production in 2013 was 460 kb/d less than in the 2009 projection, mainly due to higher decline rates in UK.
Former Soviet Union

Actual production in 2013 was slightly less (80 kb/d) than in the 2009 projection due to weaker output in Kazachstan. Note that crude oil production in West Siberian fields peaked in the mid 80s, triggering the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Asia
Actual production in 2013 was 300 Kb/d higher than the 2009 projection mainly as a result of higher production in China.
Africa
The 2009 projection estimated a peak of around 11 mb/d in 2015 but actual production in 2013 was only 8.7 mb/d or 1.9 mb/d less than projected for that year. Production was less in Angola, Algeria, Libya and Sudan.
Middle East

Actual production in 2013 was 1.2 mb/d higher than in the 2009 projection. While there was an actual decrease in Iran, Yemen and Syria (together -850 kb/d), this was more than offset by an increase in all other countries including Iraq (+ 440 kb/d), Kuwait (300 kb/d), Qatar (250 kb/d), Oman (290 kb/d), UAE (220 kb/d) and Saudi Arabia (+ 540 kb/d).
North America 
While in the above all of Husseini’s underlying 2009 graphs relate to crude oil, the North American graph includes NGLs .
First, we need to re-stack the columns to show the impact of shale oil:

For 2013, Husseini’s projection for Mexico was spot on and for Canada slightly over-estimated. The big difference is US shale oil, 3.3 mb/d, but that contains NGLs because shale oil is a very light oil as we have seen in recent fires in oil train accidents.

The uptick in crude was less, around 2.6 mb/d. So Husseini’s North America projection for crude and NGL has to be adjusted by the ratio crude/(crude+NGL).
All together now.

We see that total actual crude production was slightly higher than Husseini’s forecast, 600 kb/d or 0.8% in 2013, a small percentage in view of all the uncertainties. As is usual for estimates there is a lot of plus and minus.
The biggest difference is the unforeseen increase in US shale oil which was, however, cancelled out by too optimistic forecasts for Africa and South America.
So how might Dr. Husseini in his interview have come to oil price spikes in 2016/17?
Let’s adjust his original 2009 projection as follows: + 600 kb/d to bring projected production into line with actual production in 2013, then shift his projection by a further +2 mb/d to add unconventional oil as mentioned in the interview.
On the demand side, let us take the long-term view of the IEA WEO 2013 (p. 501): “Demand for oil grows from 87.4 mb/d in 2012 to 101.4 mb/d in 2035 in the New Policies Scenario, but the pace of growth slows steadily, from an average increase of 1 mb/d per year in the period to 2020 to an average of only 400 kb/d in the subsequent years to 2035”.
So for crude oil this means +800 kb/d pa until 2020 and + 300 kb/d pa thereafter. Let’s put that into a simplified graph:
We see that the intersection point is somewhere in 2016. What is more important than the precise year in which the next oil crunch may happen is the widening gap in the 2nd half of this decade.
Conclusion:
Whether the world wants to follow the New Policies Scenario of the IEA WEO 2013 is another question altogether. It seems governments are rather on a current policies track which increases oil demand and therefore pressure on oil prices.
Oil dollars teaser image via shutterstock. Reproduced at Resilience.org with permission.

How do ex-Saudi Aramco geologist Dr Husseini’s oil price spike predictions of USD 140 by 2016-17 stack up?

How do ex-Saudi Aramco geologist Dr Husseini’s oil price spike predictions of USD 140 by 2016-17 stack up?.

by Matt Mushalik, originally published by Crude Oil Peak  | TODAY

In an interview with ASPO USA in January 2014 Ex-Saudi Aramco geologist Dr. Sadad-Al-Husseini predicted oil price spikes of $140 by 2016/17. This post shows some graphs explaining why this could happen.

Husseini: My base oil price forecast in 2012 dollars still ranges between $105 and $120/barrel Brent with a volatility floor of $ 95/barrel and more probable upward spiking to $140/barrel within 2016/2017.

Husseini did not elaborate how he arrived at that time frame but this question and answer give us a hint:
ASPO: “In the larger context, how has your view of future world oil production supply evolved over the last four or five years? As a benchmark, I reference your slides from the 2009 Oil & Money Conference slides”
Husseini: “The realities of the 2009 O&M forecast of a limited plateau of oil supplies have been pretty much vindicated since then. The oil plateau may now be inflated by about 1 – 2 Mbd of high cost unconventional oils but all major forecasters see this as pretty much transitional. The plateau itself remains a reality and unfortunately its duration is still unlikely to extend beyond the end of this decade.”
So how did Husseini’s 2009 plateau look like and how does it compare with actual production data? The slides are contained in a presentation titled “Structural realities that define the oil supply outlook”
This was done continent by continent and country by country. In the following graphs, the grey shaded columns are from Husseini’s 2009 projection and the colored columns represent actual production (data from EIA).
Central and South America

Actual production in 2013 was 1 mb/d less than in the 2009 projection, mainly due to limited Brazilian production.
Europe
Actual production in 2013 was 460 kb/d less than in the 2009 projection, mainly due to higher decline rates in UK.
Former Soviet Union

Actual production in 2013 was slightly less (80 kb/d) than in the 2009 projection due to weaker output in Kazachstan. Note that crude oil production in West Siberian fields peaked in the mid 80s, triggering the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Asia
Actual production in 2013 was 300 Kb/d higher than the 2009 projection mainly as a result of higher production in China.
Africa
The 2009 projection estimated a peak of around 11 mb/d in 2015 but actual production in 2013 was only 8.7 mb/d or 1.9 mb/d less than projected for that year. Production was less in Angola, Algeria, Libya and Sudan.
Middle East

Actual production in 2013 was 1.2 mb/d higher than in the 2009 projection. While there was an actual decrease in Iran, Yemen and Syria (together -850 kb/d), this was more than offset by an increase in all other countries including Iraq (+ 440 kb/d), Kuwait (300 kb/d), Qatar (250 kb/d), Oman (290 kb/d), UAE (220 kb/d) and Saudi Arabia (+ 540 kb/d).
North America 
While in the above all of Husseini’s underlying 2009 graphs relate to crude oil, the North American graph includes NGLs .
First, we need to re-stack the columns to show the impact of shale oil:

For 2013, Husseini’s projection for Mexico was spot on and for Canada slightly over-estimated. The big difference is US shale oil, 3.3 mb/d, but that contains NGLs because shale oil is a very light oil as we have seen in recent fires in oil train accidents.

The uptick in crude was less, around 2.6 mb/d. So Husseini’s North America projection for crude and NGL has to be adjusted by the ratio crude/(crude+NGL).
All together now.

We see that total actual crude production was slightly higher than Husseini’s forecast, 600 kb/d or 0.8% in 2013, a small percentage in view of all the uncertainties. As is usual for estimates there is a lot of plus and minus.
The biggest difference is the unforeseen increase in US shale oil which was, however, cancelled out by too optimistic forecasts for Africa and South America.
So how might Dr. Husseini in his interview have come to oil price spikes in 2016/17?
Let’s adjust his original 2009 projection as follows: + 600 kb/d to bring projected production into line with actual production in 2013, then shift his projection by a further +2 mb/d to add unconventional oil as mentioned in the interview.
On the demand side, let us take the long-term view of the IEA WEO 2013 (p. 501): “Demand for oil grows from 87.4 mb/d in 2012 to 101.4 mb/d in 2035 in the New Policies Scenario, but the pace of growth slows steadily, from an average increase of 1 mb/d per year in the period to 2020 to an average of only 400 kb/d in the subsequent years to 2035”.
So for crude oil this means +800 kb/d pa until 2020 and + 300 kb/d pa thereafter. Let’s put that into a simplified graph:
We see that the intersection point is somewhere in 2016. What is more important than the precise year in which the next oil crunch may happen is the widening gap in the 2nd half of this decade.
Conclusion:
Whether the world wants to follow the New Policies Scenario of the IEA WEO 2013 is another question altogether. It seems governments are rather on a current policies track which increases oil demand and therefore pressure on oil prices.
Oil dollars teaser image via shutterstock. Reproduced at Resilience.org with permission.

Ukraine Prime Minister Says Crimea Conflict Has "Moved From Political To Military Stage" | Zero Hedge

Ukraine Prime Minister Says Crimea Conflict Has “Moved From Political To Military Stage” | Zero Hedge.

More headlines, more buying fuel for the algos, and apparently another step closer to all out war:

  • CONFLICT IN CRIMEA HAS MOVED FROM POLITICAL TO MILITARY STAGE – UKRAINIAN PM YATSENIUK
  • UKRAINIAN PM SAYS HAS ASKED DEFENCE MINISTER TO ORGANISE URGENT MEETING WITH RUSSIAN, BRITISH, U.S. COUNTERPARTS
  • UKRAINIAN PM: “TODAY RUSSIAN SOLDIERS BEGAN SHOOTING AT UKRAINIAN SERVICEMEN. THIS IS A WAR CRIME”

What, still reading? Run, run, run to your nearest Virtu colocated terminal and BTFWWWIIID already!

Ukraine Prime Minister Says Crimea Conflict Has “Moved From Political To Military Stage” | Zero Hedge

Ukraine Prime Minister Says Crimea Conflict Has “Moved From Political To Military Stage” | Zero Hedge.

More headlines, more buying fuel for the algos, and apparently another step closer to all out war:

  • CONFLICT IN CRIMEA HAS MOVED FROM POLITICAL TO MILITARY STAGE – UKRAINIAN PM YATSENIUK
  • UKRAINIAN PM SAYS HAS ASKED DEFENCE MINISTER TO ORGANISE URGENT MEETING WITH RUSSIAN, BRITISH, U.S. COUNTERPARTS
  • UKRAINIAN PM: “TODAY RUSSIAN SOLDIERS BEGAN SHOOTING AT UKRAINIAN SERVICEMEN. THIS IS A WAR CRIME”

What, still reading? Run, run, run to your nearest Virtu colocated terminal and BTFWWWIIID already!

Another Escalation: US Freezes Diplomatic Relations With Syria, Orders Non-US Personnel To Leave Country | Zero Hedge

Another Escalation: US Freezes Diplomatic Relations With Syria, Orders Non-US Personnel To Leave Country | Zero Hedge.

Putin 2 – Obama 0, which means it is time to go back to the one place where it all started last year, and where Putin had his most resounding victory over the US foreign policy apparatus (at least until the Ukraine, where we trampled not only over Obama’s red line… again… but where nobody quite explained the “costs” to the ex-KGB leader): Syria.  Sure enough, with the US unable to respond in Crimea, has decided to take its fight back to where Europe’s natgas reliance on Gazprom product was first truly exposed.

BREAKING: US freezes diplomatic, consular relations with Syria; Orders non-US personnel to leave country.

— The Associated Press (@AP) March 18, 2014

The US can order non-US personnel around? More from Reuters:

  • U.S.
    IMMEDIATELY SUSPENDS OPERATIONS OF SYRIAN EMBASSY IN WASHINGTON, AS
    WELL AS HONORARY CONSULATES IN MICHIGAN AND TEXAS – STATE DEPARTMENT
  • U.S.
    SPECIAL ENVOY FOR SYRIA SAYS ‘UNACCEPTABLE’ FOR INDIVIDUALS APPOINTED
    BY ASSAD REGIME TO CONDUCT DIPLOMATIC, CONSULAR OPERATIONS IN U.S.

Regardless, if the bloodless Russian annexation of Crimea wasn’t enough to push the S&P to new all time highs, this surely will.

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