A Holiday Public Service Announcement for Our Cat Owners

While I’m sure all of our reader, commenter, and lurker cat owners are already aware, just a quick Easter weekend cat health PSA:

Easter Lilies are Deadly to Cats

Lillium sp. and Hemerocallis sp. of lilies, including Easter, Asiatic, tiger, and day lilies are all incredibly toxic to cats. It is not known what causes this toxicity.

Ingesting any part of the Easter lily plant causes acute kidney failure in cats. This appears to be due to the death of kidney cells, but the exact mechanism by which it occurs is not known. Cats can be poisoned by Easter lilies in the following ways:

  • Eating less than one lily leaf can cause a cat to develop kidney failure.
  • Cats may rub up against the lilies or walk through pollen that has dropped from the flowers. When they groom the pollen off of their fur or paws and ingest it, they can be poisoned.
  • Chewing on and swallowing the flower of the Easter lily results in toxicity.

Signs of Easter Lily Toxicity in Cats

The following signs are seen in cats that are poisoned by Easter lilies:

  • Within two hours of ingestion:
    • Vomiting is often the first sign of Easter lily toxicity.
    • Anorexia, or unwillingness to eat accompanies the vomiting.
    • The cat develops lethargy, and doesn’t want to move around or play.
  • Increased urination may be present in between two and twelve hours after the cat consumes the lily. After that, the cat may stop producing urine altogether, as the kidneys shut down.
  • Death usually occurs within three to four days of lily toxicity that is untreated.

If you know or even suspect that your cat may have ingested any part of a lily plant, take your cat and the plant, if you have it, to the veterinarian immediately.

The following therapies are all used to treat cats that have ingested lilies:

  • Induction of vomiting to remove as much of the plant as possible before it is absorbed into the cat’s system. This needs to be done fairly quickly after ingestion.
  • Activated charcoal is administered to the cat to absorb as much of the remaining plant product from the stomach as possible and carry it through the GI tract without allowing to be absorbed.
  • Intravenous fluid therapy is administered at a high rate in order to flush the system of the lily toxins and support the kidneys.

If treatment is delayed until eighteen hours or more have passed since ingestion of the lily, your cat’s prognosis for recovery decreases dramatically. When it is caught early and treated aggressively, lily toxicity usually carries a good prognosis for full recovery.

For those who observe have a Happy and (cat) Healthy Easter. Everyone else: have a nice weekend.

Cheryl Rofer Guest Post on What is Going on in the DPRK Right Now: Fireworks

(and a mushroom cloud hat too!)

Sunday is the anniversary of the birth of Kim Il Sung, the father of North Korea and grandfather of its current president, Kim Jong Un. The North Koreans promise a big event and may have prepared some fireworks for the celebration. Reports of activity at their Punggye-ri nuclear test site suggest that the biggest firework will be underground.

Sunday is also Easter for Christians and part of Passover for Jews. North Korea likes to intrude on others’ holidays. It’s something of a tradition. And this year brings the added frisson of showing up an American president whose bluster approaches Kim Jong Un’s.

The New York Times has an extensive article on the preparations. 38 North has better overhead photos.

North Korea has conducted five nuclear tests and is working toward a nuclear weapon small enough to be carried on their missiles, which they also have been testing and improving.

The way in which this test could be different from the previous five is that an American carrier group is heading toward Korea. Its purpose has not been stated, but it is obviously part of the Trump administration’s desire to show off its military strength. There is nothing it could do, short of starting a war, to stop a nuclear test.

I’ve been thinking about the estimates of North Korean nuclear weapons. The common way to estimate is to take the estimate of fissile material, an estimate of what is needed for a weapon, and divide the second into the first. But there are other considerations. I’ve worked some of them out and come to the conclusion that North Korea doesn’t have as many nukes as sometimes is claimed. My best guess is a half-dozen or fewer. But even that could cause a lot of damage.

Cheryl has indicated she’ll hang around in comments for about an hour to answer whatever questions you all might have.

For We Were Strangers in a Strange Land…

In the wake of today’s unfortunate remarks by the White House Press Secretary, let alone the sad pictures of this year’s White House Passover seder (and I’ll leave the Easter Egg thing to the non-Jewish front pagers as a professional courtesy) I thought it would be appropriate to post the Keane College of New Jersey Holocaust Resource Center video testimony of Mrs. Rae Kushner. Mrs Kushner is, of course, Jared Kushner’s late grandmother whose family survived the Holocaust by fleeing into the forest and connecting with the Bielski Partisans. Given the day’s events and the ongoing debate in the US about what to do in regard to refugees from Syria and elsewhere, it no longer makes sense to save this for a better time.

The full two hours of video can be found here at the US Holocaust Museum’s website. And the transcript found here. But here’s a taste:

The Strikes Against Al Shayrat Air Base: Highly Detailed Security Theater With No Deterrent Effect

As night gave way to day we began to get greater clarity about exactly what happened with last night’s missile strikes against al Shayrat Air Base in Syria. It was security theater with no deterrent effect.

Davis also said that U.S. officials notified Russian forces in advance of the strike and took precautions to minimize risk to Russian or Syrian personnel located at the airfield.

Syrian military officials appeared to anticipate Thursday night’s raid on Syria‘s Shayrat air base, evacuating personnel and moving equipment ahead of the strike, according to an eyewitness.

Local residents say the Russian military had used the air base in early 2016 but have since withdrawn their officers, so the base is now mainly operated by Syrian and Iranianmilitary officers. There is also a hotel nearby where Iranian officers have been staying, though it was not clear whether it was damaged.

The eyewitness believes human casualties, at least within the civilian population, were minimal, as there was no traffic heading toward the local hospital.

Former National Security Adviser and ABC News contributor Richard Clarke said this attack, one of the quickest displays of force by a new president in recent history, is largely “symbolic.”

“This attack on one air base seems more symbolic,” Clarke said. “I think Secretary of Defense [General] James Mattis gave the president a list of options, this being the smallest. It was a targeted attack not designed to overwhelm the Syrian military … I think the president was trying to differentiate himself from his predecessor.”

If the purpose of the attack was not to actually reduce and degrade Syria’s chemical weapon stockpile and Syria’s ability to use chemical weapons, then there really was no purpose in the strike. It served no deterrent effect. Everyone already knows the US has the capability of striking targets from over the horizon. Given the warnings the US gave Russia, which Russia appears to have passed on to its Syrian client allowing them to move personnel and equipment and minimize/mitigate operational losses, the strike had no actual or effective strategic purpose. It doesn’t deter the Syrians from doing anything – they already knew we could do this at any time. Also, providing all these warnings seems to completely bely the President’s oft stated preference for utilizing the element of surprise. There was no surprise in last night’s attacks.

Moreover, once again the Interagency process appears to have either broken down or been ignored.

What we instead have is the use of an over the horizon strike as security theater intended to bolster the Administration’s theme of the week, not actually and effectively deter the use of chemical weapons.

And this type of security theater has significant repercussions:

Just as I suspect the North Korean missile test on Tuesday was intended not just to intimidate North Korea’s neighbors, but to give Xi Jinping additional leverage in his summit with the President today, last night’s missile strikes were partially intended to reverse that dynamic. Unfortunately they’ve also given the Kremlin a new opportunity to pursue the Putin Doctrine of showing that liberal democracy, as exemplified by the US, is not any better than, and often is hypocritically worse, than any other form of government and governance.

Reuters reports that:

Russia wants an emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council to discuss U.S. missile strikes on Syria, the Russian Foreign Ministry said on Friday, describing the action as “thoughtless”.

The ministry said in a statement that Russia was also suspending a Syrian air safety agreement with the United States, saying:

“This is not the first time the United States has resorted to such a thoughtless step, which merely exacerbates existing problems and threatens global security.”

Russia has dismissed Western accusations against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad who Washington says was responsible for a chemical gas attack that left scores dead in the Syrian province of Idlib.

The foreign ministry said it was clear that the U.S. missile strikes were prepared before the Idlib incident.

The United States, and specifically the Trump Administration, is now going to experience having Russia try to use the UN Security Council to turn the tables over the strikes against the al Shayrat Air Base. Whoever thought that coordinating the strike with the Russians, in order to deconflict the airspace, minimize damage, and conduct a symbolic attack to demonstrate US resolve, the ability to project force (which no one doubted), and deter future attacks was a good idea just got played for a fool. Putin and the Russian government are going to use this to beat the US about the head and shoulders to achieve their own objectives in the Levant and within the global system.

6 April 1917 and 6 April 2017

As others have remarked, today is the 100th anniversary of the US’s entry into World War I. I recently began reading Robert Gerwarth’s The Vanquished. Gerwarth’s book focuses on how and why WW I never really ended, especially for those on the losing end of the war. Which led to almost 2 decades of civil wars, ethnic cleansing, revolutions, and acts of what we would now call terrorism. These events set the conditions for the rise of fascism, its racist offshoot of NAZIsm, and the spread of Bolshevism contributing to WW II.

I came across a reference to Gerwarth’s book in a post by Josh Marshall. Marshall’s referencing of The Vanquished spoke to me as I had just begun thinking through a report I’m working on in regard to how to set the conditions in Iraq and Syria to win the peace, not just the war, against ISIL. The President’s change of position in regard to Assad, including tonight’s limited strike on a Syrian military airfield, makes thinking of such things even more important.

Marshall highlighted one passage from Gerwarth’s book:

“Nazi Germany and its overtly exterminationist imperial project of the later 1930s and and early 1940s owed much to the logic of ethnic conflict and irredentism created by the Great War and the redrawing of borders in 1918-19.”


Marshall applied Gerwarth’s analysis to make this important point:

Cataclysmic and sustained violence is brutalizing and traumatizing to whole societies as much as it is to individuals. The victorious states at least had victory to justify what had happened. The defeated states not only lacked ‘victory’; the end of the conflict saw something approaching complete societal collapse. There was the collapse of states, recurrent revolutions, often followed by reaction and new rounds of violence. More than anything else there was a search to find some way to justify or create some value to justify the scale of loss. After a brief window of time where leaders tried to create democracies out of the collapsed states and thus become ‘victors’ against destroyed autocracies, the two most obvious channels were to build up cults of revenge or to strive to create new, ethnically pure states. In many cases, the two drives were combined.

One persistent theme of this story was that each ‘ethnicity’ had a state somewhere or was trying to create one that would vindicate and protect it and brutalize those communities which stood in the way of creating ethnically homogenous states. So Magyars were the brutalizers in one place and the brutalized in another – the same could be said for virtually every national group, albeit with the groups with new states generally having the whip hand. This story is most discussed in the arc of German history but Gerwarth places it in a broader, pan-European (at least all-East and Central European) context.

What connects WW I and today is that the US and its allies at the time failed to properly secure the peace at the end of WW I. The real strategic challenge facing the US led Coalition in the fight against ISIL in Iraq and Syria, as well as the actions of the Assad government, is not how to conduct the fight. We are very good at this. With a lot of hard won knowledge accumulated over the past sixteen years. Rather the real strategic challenge is how do we, working by, with, and through our local partners set the conditions, as part of these campaigns, to win the peace and ensure that the people of Iraq and Syria post ISIL and of Syria post civil war have the opportunity and security to move forward in a peaceful manner. Rather than devolving once again into sectarian violence and/or civil war.

One of the most difficult pieces of the Syrian problem set is that no one in Syria on the ground, or among the exile Syrian groups involved with the Syrian Civil War, can articulate what happens after the Civil War ends. There is nothing even close to a consensus on who controls what. There is nothing even close to a consensus on who would replace Assad if he should go. There is nothing even close to a consensus on what to do if Assad doesn’t go. There is nothing even close to a consensus as to who gets to consider themselves Syrian or what that will even mean post Civil War. And there is almost no discussion about the on the ground reality that this is not simply Russian and Iranian backed Assad and the Alawite minority versus all the other Syrians. Assad has support from a cross section of Syrians, not just the Alawites. But Syriac Christians, Syrian Druze, those portions of the Syrian Sunni community that have benefited from his family’s rule and/or been coopted by the Assads through patronage. The Syrian Civil War, despite the best efforts of almost everyone, cannot simply be reduced to: Assad and the Alawites with the backing of Russia and Iran against everyone else. This is simply not true. To borrow Gerwath’s formulation, or Marshall’s interpretation of Gerwath: there are brutalizers and brutalized on each side of the Syrian Civil War. Breaking that dynamic, or, at least, working by, with, and through our local partners to set the conditions to do so, will be necessary to not just win the war, but to win and secure the peace.

North Korea Tests Another Missile

From US Pacific Command (USPACOM):

U.S. Pacific Command Detects, Tracks North Korean Missile Launch

By CDR David Benham | U.S. Pacific Command | April 04, 2017

CAMP H.M. SMITH, Hawaii — The U.S. Pacific Command (USPACOM) detected and tracked what we assess was a North Korean missile launch at 11:42 a.m. Hawaii-Aleutian Standard Time, April 4. The launch of a single ballistic missile occurred at a land-based facility near Sinpo.

The missile was tracked until it landed in the Sea of Japan at 11:51 a.m.

Initial assessments indicate that the type of missile was a KN-15 medium-range ballistic missile (MRBM).

USPACOM is fully committed to working closely with our Republic of Korea and Japanese allies to maintain security.

The North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) determined that the missile launch from North Korea did not pose a threat to North America.

An Administration official has issued the following statement:

A senior White House official issued a dire warning to reporters Tuesday on the state of North Korea’s nuclear program, declaring “the clock has now run out and all options are on the table.”

“The clock has now run out, and all options are on the table,” the official said, pointing to the failure of successive administration’s efforts to negotiate an end to North Korea’s nuclear program.
The senior White House official who issued Tuesday’s ominous missive also said North Korea is a “matter of urgent interest for the President and the administration as a whole” and emphasized that “all options are on the table.”
Those options could include stepped up economic sanctions — including against Chinese entities that do business with North Korea — cyberattacks or military action.
Earlier Tuesday, Gen. John Hyten, the commander of US Strategic Command, which oversees US nuclear weapons and missile defense forces, contradicted Trump, saying China was critical to solving the North Korea nuclear challenge.
As I wrote last week, the biggest issue here is that we have a dearth of expertise. While we do have a handful of really sharp subject matter experts on North Korea, we don’t have a lot. And most of the folks you’ll see opining on what to do are not these subject matter experts. And this deficit of knowledge is combined with a new Administration that is not properly or fully staffed. As a result Kim Jong Un, like Bashar al Assad and others, will continue to probe, prod, and push the new Administration to see what they can and cannot get away with.
Stay frosty!

Syrian Arab Armed Forces Chemical Weapons Attack at Idlib

It is being reported that earlier today Bashar al Assad’s Syrian Arab Armed Forces conducted a chemical weapons attack against targets in the city of Idlib. Here is video footage from inside a hospital at the moment of the attack:

The BBC is reporting:

At least 58 people have been killed and dozens wounded in a suspected chemical attack on a rebel-held town in north-western Syria, a monitoring group says.

Reuters reports:

The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the attack killed at least 58 people and was believed to have been carried out by Syrian government jets. It caused many people to choke, and some to foam at the mouth.

Director Rami Abdulrahman told Reuters the assessment that Syrian government warplanes were to blame was based on several factors such as the type of aircraft, including Sukhoi 22 jets, that carried out the raid.

“We deny completely the use of any chemical or toxic material in Khan Sheikhoun town today and the army has not used nor will use in any place or time neither in past or in future,” the Syrian army command said in a statement.

The Russian Defence Ministry said its aircraft had not carried out the attack. The U.N. Security Council was expected to meet on Wednesday to discuss the incident.

The official US response at this time is:

On Tuesday, the White House blamed the Syrian government for the attack, which it called a “reprehensible” act “that cannot be ignored by the civilized world.”

Sean Spicer, the White House spokesman, further told reporters that “these heinous actions by the Bashar al-Assad regime are a consequence of the last administration’s weakness and irresolution.”

Mr. Spicer declined to respond to questions about Mr. Trump’s declaration that his administration’s policy in Syria is not regime change.

“He is not here to telegraph what we are going to do, but rest assured he has been speaking with his national security team this morning,” Mr. Spicer said, adding later: “The statement speaks for itself.”

As of now (1430 EDT) there is still no statement on the Department of State’s website, nothing on the Department of State’s twitter feed, and nothing on Ambassador Haley’s twitter feed about the attack. Regardless, this morning’s chemical attack in Syria points to the complexity of the real strategic wicked problem on the Syrian side of the US led Coalition’s fight against ISIL. What happens after ISIL is defeated? How does the Coalition begin to set the conditions now to secure post conflict success in a Syria that has been liberated from ISIL? What does the Coalition do with the areas that it liberates from ISIL as the counter-ISIL operations in Syria are being conducted without the support and without an invitation from the Syrian government. These are the real strategic issues and concerns and they are brought back into the foreground by today’s chemical weapons attack and the denials from the government of Bashar al Assad and his Russian patron.