FBI formally accuses North Korea in Sony hack

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The Federal Bureau of Investigation first time on Friday officially weighed in on the colossal computer hack suffered by Sony Pictures Entertainment that in recent days has been elevated to an issue of national security.

According to a statement released by the bureau late Friday morning, the FBI says there is now “enough information to conclude that the North Korean government is responsible” for the major breach.

“Technical analysis of the data deletion malware used in this attack revealed links to other malware that the FBI knows North Korea actors previously developed,” the FBI said. “The FBI also observed significant overlap between the infrastructure used in this attack and other malicious cyber activity the US government has previously linked directly to North Korea.”

“Separately, the tools used in the SPE attack have similarities to a cyberattack in March of last year against South Korean banks and media outlets, which was carried out by North Korea.”

Earlier Friday, Reuters reported that North Korean hackers had launched the breach, citing unnamed US officials, but did it by way of Chinese computer networks to cover their tracks.

The intrusion into the Hollywood studio’s internal networks last month has since caused a trove of sensitive files, including stolen company emails, records and unreleased films, to surface on the web.

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Earlier this week, Sony announced that it would be cancelling plans to release “The Interview” next week, a comedy in which North Korea President Kim Jong Un is assassinated, following threats perpetrated by the purported hackers.

Previously, Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Michigan), the outgoing chair of the United States House Intelligence Committee, and Newt Gingrich, the Republican politician who formerly served as speaker of the House, said they were all but certain the Kim regime was behind the hack. Prior to Friday, however, the State Dept. said it could not yet put the blame publicly on any entity.

On its part, Pyongyang has denied any alleged involvement, but hailed the attack as a “”righteous deed” and that screening “The Interview” should be considered an “act of terrorism.”

According to CNN, the hackers involved in the breach said after “The Interview” was pulled from theaters that Sony may be spared further embarrassment if the studio continues to comply.

“It’s very wise that you have made a decision to cancel the release of ‘The Interview,'” the message said, according to CNN. “We ensure the security of your data unless you make additional trouble.”

US Pres. Barack Obama will hold an end-of-year press conference on Friday afternoon where he is expected to weigh in on the Sony hack.

EU court removes Hamas from terror blacklist

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The EU General Court has ordered that the Palestinian militant group Hamas be removed from the bloc’s terror blacklist. The move comes over four years after Hamas appealed its terror designation before the EU.

The European Union first banned Hamas’ military wing, the Izz a-Din al-Qassam Brigades, in 2002, though the organization’s social and political divisions were not put on the terror list. Following a series of Hamas suicide bombings during the second intifada or uprising in September 2003, the EU extended the ban to include the organization as a whole.

On September 12, 2010, Hamas appealed the ban, largely on procedural grounds. In its complaint, the group cited a lack of due process, specifically, that it had not been properly informed the act was being implemented. It further asserted that as a “legitimately-elected government,” it cannot be labeled as a terrorist organization, saying such a designation flies in the face of “the principle of non-interference in the internal matters of a State.”

The court accepted the organization’s argument, saying that the decision to remove Hamas from the list was not based on an examination of Hamas’ activities, but rather on an examination of the procedures used to institute the 2003 ban in the first place. Unless an appeal brings closure, however, a funding freeze against the group and sanctions against its members will remain in place for three more months.

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The lawyer for Hamas, Liliane Glock, told AFP she was “satisfied with the decision.”

Hamas official Izzat al-Rishq lauded the decision, saying the court had righted an injustice done to the organization, which he said is a “national freedom movement,” and not a terrorist organization, the Jerusalem Post reports.

But a deputy from Israel’s major right-wing Likud party, Danny Danon, said, “The Europeans must believe that there blood is more sacred than the blood of the Jews which they see as unimportant. That is the only way to explain the EU court’s decision to remove Hamas from the terror blacklist.”

“In Europe they must have forgotten that Hamas kidnapped three boys and fired thousands of rockets last summer at Israeli citizens,” he added.

Shortly after the ruling, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called on the EU to keep Hamas on its list of terrorist organizations.

“We expect them to immediately put Hamas back on the list,” Reuters cites Netanyahu as saying in a statement. “Hamas is a murderous terrorist organization which in its charter states its goal is to destroy Israel.”

The EU and Israel have attempted to downplay the ruling, saying that groups standing within Europe as terror organizations will not change. Israeli and European officials say the court will be given a few months to rebuild its file against Hamas with evidence of the group’s activities, which will enable it to be placed back on the list of terror organizations, the Israeli news portal Ynet reports.

According to RT’s Paula Slier, Israeli politicians “across the political spectrum” have unanimously condemned what they call a “temporary” removal.

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According to Slier, EU officials have given Israel assurances that Brussels’ position has not changed, saying Wednesday’s ruling was a “technical” mistake. Officials from the 28-member bloc further said the court did not have sufficient authority to affect the entire EU’s position.

In the interim, however, EU member states will be empowered to establish diplomatic ties with Hamas.

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The EU ambassador to Israel, Lars Faaborg-Andersen, will meet with Israel’s Foreign Minister, Nissim Ben-Sheetrit, on Wednesday to discuss the matter, Israeli daily Haaretz reports. Faaborg-Andersen is expected to reiterate that the EU’s position on Hamas remains unchanged, and that a future decision to reclassify Hamas as a terror organization is forthcoming.

During the January 2006 Palestinian parliamentary elections, Hamas defeated the PLO-affiliated Fatah party and has governed the Gaza Strip for the past seven years. Some countries have treated Hamas as a terrorist organization, while others have not. While Australia, Canada, Egypt, Israel, Japan, Jordan, Qatar, the US and the UK all treat Hamas or its military wing as a terrorist organization, other states, including China, Iran, Russia and Turkey, do not.

Hamas leaders have made several diplomatic trips to Russia to discuss a range of issues, from Palestinian reconciliation to economic relations.

ON THE BRINK OF WAR AND ECONOMIC COLLAPSE

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On occasion a reader will ask if I can give readers some good news. The answer is: not unless I lie to you

by PAUL CRAIG ROBERTS DECEMBER 13, 2014

On occasion a reader will ask if I can give readers some good news. The answer is: not unless I lie to you like “your” government and the mainstream media do. If you want faked “good news,” you need to retreat into The Matrix. In exchange for less stress and worry, you will be led unknowingly into financial ruin and nuclear armageddon.

If you want to be forewarned, and possibly prepared, for what “your” government is bringing you, and have some small chance of redirecting the course of events, read and support this site. It is your site. I already know these things. I write for you.

The neoconservatives, a small group of warmongers strongly allied with the military/industrial complex and Israel, gave us Granada and the Contras affair in Nicaragua. President Reagan fired them, and they were prosecuted, but subsequently pardoned by Reagan’s successor, George H.W. Bush.

Ensconced in think tanks and protected by Israeli and military/security complex money, the neoconservatives reemerged in the Clinton administration and engineered the breakup of Yugoslavia, the war against Serbia, and the expansion of NATO to Russia’s borders.

Neoconservatives dominated the George W. Bush regime. They controlled the Pentagon, the National Security Council, the Office of the Vice President, and much else. Neoconservatives gave us 9/11 and its coverup, the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, the beginning of the destabilizations of Pakistan and Yemen, the U.S. Africa Command, the invasion of South Ossetia by Georgia, the demise of the anti-ABM Treaty, unconstitutional and illegal spying on American citizens without warrants, loss of constitutional protections, torture, and the unaccountability of the executive branch to law, Congress, and the judiciary. In short, the neoconservatives laid the foundation for dictatorship and for WW III.

The Obama regime held no one accountable for the crimes of the Bush regime, thus creating the precedent that the executive branch is above the law. Instead, the Obama regime prosecuted whistleblowers who told the truth about government crimes.

Neoconservatives remain very influential in the Obama regime. As examples, Obama appointed neoconservative Susan Rice as his National Security Advisor. Obama appointed neoconservative Samantha Power as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations. Obama appointed neoconservative Victoria Nuland as Assistant Secretary of State. Nuland’s office, working with the CIA and Washington-financed NGOs, organized the U.S. coup in Ukraine.

Neoconservatism is the only extant political ideology. The ideology is “America uber alles.” Neoconservatives believe that History has chosen the United States to exercise hegemony over the world, thereby making the U.S. “exceptional” and “indispensable.” Obama himself has declared as much. This ideology gives neoconservatives tremendous confidence and drive, just as Karl Marx’s conclusion that history had chosen the workers to be the ruling class gave early communists confidence and drive.

This confidence and drive makes the neoconservatives reckless.

To advance their agenda neoconservatives propagandize the populations of the U.S. and Washington’s vassal states. The presstitutes deliver the neoconservatives’ lies to the unsuspecting public: Russia has invaded and annexed Ukrainian provinces; Putin intends to reconstitute the Soviet Empire; Russia is a gangster state without democracy; Russia is a threat to the Baltics, Poland, and all of Europe, necessitating a U.S./NATO military buildup on Russia’s borders; China, a Russian ally, must be militarily contained with new U.S. naval and air bases surrounding China and controlling Chinese sea lanes.

The neoconservatives and President Obama have made it completely clear that the U.S. will not accept Russia and China as sovereign countries with economic and foreign policies independent of the interests of Washington. Russia and China are acceptable only as vassal states, like the UK, Europe, Japan, Canada, and Australia.

Clearly, the neoconservative formula is a formula for the final war.

All of humanity is endangered by a handful of evil men and women ensconced in positions of power in Washington.

Anti-Russia propaganda has gone into high gear. Putin is the “new Hitler.”
Daniel Zubov reports on a joint conference held by three U.S. think tanks.
The conference blamed Russia for the failures of Washington’s foreign policy. Read this article:http://sputniknews.com/columnists/20141205/1015538604.html to see how neoconservatives operate in order to control the explanations. Even Henry Kissinger is under attack for stating the obvious truth that Russia has a legitimate interest in Ukraine, a land long part of Russia and located in Russia’s legitimate sphere of influence.

Since the Clinton regime, Washington has been acting against Russian interests. In his forthcoming book, The Globalization of War: America’s Long War against Humanity, Professor Michel Chossudovsky presents a realistic appraisal of how close Washington has brought the world to its demise in nuclear war. This passage is from the Preface:

“The ‘globalization of war’ is a hegemonic project. Major military
and covert intelligence operations are being undertaken
simultaneously in the Middle East, Eastern Europe, sub-Saharan
Africa, Central Asia and the Far East. The US military agenda
combines both major theater operations as well as covert actions
geared towards destabilizing sovereign states.

“Under a global military agenda, the actions undertaken by the
Western military alliance (US-NATO-Israel) in Afghanistan, Pakistan,
Palestine, Ukraine, Syria and Iraq are coordinated at the highest
levels of the military hierarchy. We are not dealing with
piecemeal military and intelligence operations. The July-August
2014 attack on Gaza by Israeli forces was undertaken in close consultation
with the United States and NATO. In turn, the actions in
Ukraine and their timing coincided with the onslaught of the attack
on Gaza.

“In turn, military undertakings are closely coordinated with a
process of economic warfare which consists not only in imposing
sanctions on sovereign countries but also in deliberate acts of destabilization
of financial and currency markets, with a view to undermining
the enemies’ national economies.

“The United States and its allies have launched a military adventure
which threatens the future of humanity. As we go to press, US
and NATO forces have been deployed in Eastern Europe. US military
intervention under a humanitarian mandate is proceeding in sub-Saharan
Africa. The US and its allies are threatening China under President Obama’s
‘Pivot to Asia’.

“In turn, military maneuvers are being conducted at Russia’s
doorstep which could lead to escalation.

“The US airstrikes initiated in September 2014 directed against
Iraq and Syria under the pretext of going after the Islamic State are
part of a scenario of military escalation extending from North Africa
and the Eastern Mediterranean to Central and South Asia.
The Western military alliance is in an advanced state of readiness.

“And so is Russia.”

As I have often remarked, Americans are an insouciant people. They are simply unaware. Suppose they were aware, suppose that the entire population understood the peril, could anything be done, or have the insouciant Americans fallen under the control of the police state that Washington has created?

I don’t think there is much hope from the American people. The American people cannot tell genuine from fake leadership, and the ruling private elites will not permit real leaders to emerge. Moreover, there is no organized movement in opposition to the neoconservatives.

The hope comes from outside the political system. The hope is that the House of Cards and rigged markets erected by policymakers for the benefit of the One Percent collapses. David Stockman regards this outcome as a highly likely one. The collapse that Stockman sees as being on its way is the same collapse about which I have warned. Moreover, the number of Black Swans which can originate collapse are even more numerous than the ones Stockman correctly identifies. Some financial organizations are worried about a lack of liquidity in the fixed income (bonds) and derivatives markets. Barbara Novack, co-chair of Black Rock, is lobbying hard for a derivatives bailout mechanism.

David Stockman’s article is important. Read it until you understand it, and you will know more than most everyone. http://www.lewrockwell.com/2014/12/david-stockman/duck-and-cover%E2%80%A8/

Many will ask: If the wealth of the One Percent is vulnerable to economic collapse, will war be initiated to protect this wealth and to blame the Russians or Chinese for the hardships that engulf the American population? My answer is that the kind of collapse that I expect, and that David Stockman and no doubt others expect, presents government with such social, political, and economic insecurity that organizing for a major war becomes impossible.

Whereas the political impotence of the American people and the vassalage of the Western World impose no constraints on Washington, economic collapse brings revolutions and the demise of the existing order.

As hard as collapse would make it for people to survive, the chances for survival are higher than in the event of nuclear war.

Paul Craig Roberts was Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for Economic Policy and associate editor of the Wall Street Journal. He was columnist for Business Week, Scripps Howard News Service, and Creators Syndicate. He has had many university appointments. His internet columns have attracted a worldwide following. His latest book, The Failure of Laissez Faire Capitalism and Economic Dissolution of the West is now available.

Obama’s Final Tab for the G-20 Summit Leaves Other World Leaders in the Dust

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BY MICHAEL HAUSAM | NATION, POLITICS, WORLD

Last month, the President spent one night in Brisbane, Australia, before speaking at the G20 Summit.

Now, thanks to a little digging by The Weekly Standard, we know that no expense was spared for him.

The bill for the one night’s stay exceeded $1.7 million at the Brisbane Marriott, whose tagline is “The Epitome of Five Star Elegance.”

Here are the details:

The presidential delegation required 4,096 rooms.
Three different hotels were used.
Logistics, security, and negotiating teams were there in advance of – and subsequent to – his visit.
The entire floor he stayed on was completely stripped down and examined prior to his arrival.
His suite was aptly named “The Presidential Suite” and cost just over $2,135 for the night.

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The U.K.’s Daily Mail provided some insight on how some other leaders were accommodated, and there’s a stark difference:

British PM Cameron’s room cost 1/2 that amount, Russia’s Putin spent 74% less, and Australian PM Abbott’s room cost 88% less.

Chinese President Jinping was the silver-medal winner and spent only $1,400 for his room.

And Japan’s Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, was forced to get by in a room that was only $171.60 per night.

When it comes to big-spending and making an impressive display of opulence, it seems our President is second to none.

Does America realize the consequences of forcing Russia into China’s arms?

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In Ukraine, the US is cutting off its nose to spite its face, as it transforms a regional struggle over “spheres of influence” into a global one. Unless the runaway train is swiftly derailed, the world faces a 21st century standoff between east and west.

In 867AD, Æbbe the Younger, Mother Superior of the convent at Coldingham in Scotland cut off her nose and upper lip and urged her fellow nuns to also disfigure themselves. It wasn’t for sacrificial reasons; it was because Viking raiders had landed nearby and the Abbess feared they would rape the community and deprive them of their chastity. By destroying their appearance, Mother Æbbe, correctly, guessed the Nordic marauders would show no interest. She was right – the Vikings were so disgusted that they burned the entire convent to the ground.

From this event was born the phrase “cutting off the nose to spite the face.” Although the original circumstances were slightly different, the term is a warning against pursuing revenge in a way that would damage the instigator more than the object of the anger. The USA is doing precisely this in its current attitude to Russia. By “punishing” Russia for resisting Western attempts to “grab” Ukraine, it is laying the foundations for a far more serious estrangement.

A feud that began when President Putin stymied the hopes of elements in Washington to wage war with Syria now has the potential to reshape the entire world. You all know the story by now, neocon factions in the State Department took revenge against Putin’s perceived stubbornness by ratcheting up tensions in Ukraine, leading to a violent revolution and civil war. The Crimean people voted to rejoin Russia and Washington, in tandem with the EU, imposed sanctions on Moscow.

Except they weren’t the kind of sanctions designed to damage Russia’s ability to defend itself. Instead, they were clearly aimed at regime change by targeting close supporters of the Russian President. Subsequently, the short-sighted sanctions led to unprecedented approval ratings for Putin as the Russian people rallied around their leader. In their eyes, an attack on their President was an attack on the nation. What the State Department meddlers didn’t countenance is that Russians, with high levels of education, are too savvy to be hoodwinked by playground tactics.

Since then, bilateral relations between the White House and the Kremlin have reached their lowest point since the Russian Federation was founded in 1991. This has happened only 4 years after Putin advocated a free trade agreement between the EU and Russia. “A harmonious economic community stretching from Lisbon to Vladivostok,” as he wrote in Germany’s Süddeutsche Zeitung at the time.

In 48 months we have gone from a prospective giant Western alliance, with Russia at its centre, to a situation where Russia is now ready to possibly join an Eastern alliance led, to all intents and purposes, by China. We know neocons aren’t the brightest lights in the firmament but are they really this stupid?

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If you didn’t know the personalities involved and were asked to suggest the obvious alignment of the world, you’d probably say that Russia’s place was in the European camp. It shares a Christian faith with the rest of the continent and has always been at least a “slightly” European power – much like the United Kingdom.

In truth, Russia has little in common with Asian cultures, aside from geography. Even in the far eastern outpost of Vladivostok (which is on the far side of China), an Italian is far more likely to blend in than a Malaysian. This is not related to appearance – there are many ethnic east-Asians in the region, who regard themselves as thoroughly Russian and, by virtue, European. Indeed there are millions of people east of the Urals who have actually never set foot in what is generally considered to be Europe, but describe themselves as being Europeans. It’s a state of mind but, then again, Europe has always been as much an idea as a place.

For years commentators have speculated: “imagine Russia’s resources and military power with Western Europe’s technology and fiscal heft?” It would, of course, be the single most powerful economic and martial bloc in the world. Not only that, but such a rapprochement makes complete sense and has done since 1991.

However, it is Washington’s worst nightmare. An EU-Russia alliance and partial union would erode America’s influence in Europe. Hence, to knock it on head, just as it seemed Germany was warming to the notion, the US has managed to drive a massive wedge between Moscow and its natural allies in Europe.

Before they clap themselves on the back too loudly, the Americans might want to pause for a second. In pursuing this haphazard course, they’ve managed to send Russia hurtling into China’s warm embrace.

Thus, cutting off their nose to spite their face. Instead of allowing a tri-polar world, the US in control of the Americas, China in Asia, and a giant Eurasian alliance as a buffer – Washington has managed to create a much more confrontational bi-polar world. In the blue corner, the USA and a castrated, divided Europe which is being pulled in all kinds of directions and in the red corner, a resurgent China and a Russia that, most likely, would prefer to be in a different corner altogether, or none,

This is the way the US State Department wishes the world to be – in a constant state of chaos. Now, instead of a US-EU-Russia detente, they have managed to manufacture a new Cold War for the 21st century with Ukraine as the new Berlin.

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With Russia alienated by the West and China eager to buy high-end weaponry, a joint military pact seems the likely outcome. Concurrently, the previously zombie-like NATO has awoken like a pensioner who was discovered house music and fancies a last youthful dance.

If a Moscow-Beijing military alliance does take shape, such a bloc would dominate the Eurasian landmass, with naval bases all the way from the Baltic, via the Arctic and Pacific, to the South China Sea. A union between Russia’s advanced weaponry and China’s huge population and industrial muscle would eventually prove a match for NATO, thereby giving the US an excuse to ratchet up military spending. If Europe attempted to follow suit, it would likely deepen its economic malaise. The main point is that the whole notion is such an incredibly wasteful use of finite global resources.

The confrontation between Russia and the West is a gift that keeps on giving for China. Just as the self-destruction of the Euro-centric world a century ago allowed the building a new US-centric system, the weakening of the US will probably result in China becoming the world’s leading power. Europe’s last chance to stake its own claim, has evaporated into thin air thanks to a bone-headed, subservient (to Washington) strategy in eastern part of the continent. Europe’s inability to separate the European Union from the archaic NATO has been its undoing.

Four years after Putin proposed a Russian-EU alliance from “Lisbon to Vladivostok,” we instead have an embryonic new Cold War. It’s not too late to halt the wagons but time is limited. The next US administration, if it’s sufficiently blessed to be shorn of neocons, must decide which is more important to it: to antagonize Russia in the eastern borderlands, losing its world hegemony in the process, or to find a way of resolving friction with Moscow, thus halting the process of China’s accession to the role of global superpower.

FOR THE FIRST TIME SINCE ULYSSES S. GRANT WAS PRESIDENT, USA NOT LEADING ECONOMIC POWER ON PLANET…

It’s official: America is now No. 2

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And throw away that big, fat styrofoam finger while you’re about it.

There’s no easy way to say this, so I’ll just say it: We’re no longer No. 1. Today, we’re No. 2. Yes, it’s official. The Chinese economy just overtook the United States economy to become the largest in the world. For the first time since Ulysses S. Grant was president, America is not the leading economic power on the planet.

It just happened — and almost nobody noticed.

The International Monetary Fund recently released the latest numbers for the world economy. And when you measure national economic output in “real” terms of goods and services, China will this year produce $17.6 trillion — compared with $17.4 trillion for the U.S.A.

As recently as 2000, we produced nearly three times as much as the Chinese.

To put the numbers slightly differently, China now accounts for 16.5% of the global economy when measured in real purchasing-power terms, compared with 16.3% for the U.S.

This latest economic earthquake follows the development last year when China surpassed the U.S. for the first time in terms of global trade.

I reported on this looming development over two years ago, but the moment came sooner than I or anyone else had predicted. China’s recent decision to bring gross domestic product calculations in line with international standards has revealed activity that had previously gone uncounted.

These calculations are based on a well-established and widely used economic measure known as purchasing-power parity (or PPP), which measures the actual output as opposed to fluctuations in exchange rates. So a Starbucks venti Frappucino served in Beijing counts the same as a venti Frappucino served in Minneapolis, regardless of what happens to be going on among foreign-exchange traders.

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PPP is the real way of comparing economies. It is one reported by the IMF and was, for example, the one used by McKinsey & Co. consultants back in the 1990s when they undertook a study of economic productivity on behalf of the British government.

Yes, when you look at mere international exchange rates, the U.S. economy remains bigger than that of China, allegedly by almost 70%. But such measures, although they are widely followed, are largely meaningless. Does the U.S. economy really shrink if the dollar falls 10% on international currency markets? Does the recent plunge in the yen mean the Japanese economy is vanishing before our eyes?

Back in 2012, when I first reported on these figures, the IMF tried to challenge the importance of PPP. I was not surprised. It is not in anyone’s interest at the IMF that people in the Western world start focusing too much on the sheer extent of China’s power. But the PPP data come from the IMF, not from me. And it is noteworthy that when the IMF’s official World Economic Outlook compares countries by their share of world output, it does so using PPP.

Yes, all statistics are open to various quibbles. It is perfectly possible China’s latest numbers overstate output — or understate them. That may also be true of U.S. GDP figures. But the IMF data are the best we have.

Make no mistake: This is a geopolitical earthquake with a high reading on the Richter scale. Throughout history, political and military power have always depended on economic power. Britain was the workshop of the world before she ruled the waves. And it was Britain’s relative economic decline that preceded the collapse of her power. And it was a similar story with previous hegemonic powers such as France and Spain.

This will not change anything tomorrow or next week, but it will change almost everything in the longer term. We have lived in a world dominated by the U.S. since at least 1945 and, in many ways, since the late 19th century. And we have lived for 200 years — since the Battle of Waterloo in 1815 — in a world dominated by two reasonably democratic, constitutional countries in Great Britain and the U.S.A. For all their flaws, the two countries have been in the vanguard worldwide in terms of civil liberties, democratic processes and constitutional rights.