616: Jihadi Disneyland

Adam Curry & John C. Dvorak

3h 7m
May 11th, 2014
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Executive Producers: Sir David Foley Arch Duke of Silicon Valley, Kristin Kitteman

Associate Executive Producers: Andrew Bowerman

Cover Artist: Kosmo

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Presidential Proclamation -- National Women's Health Week, 2014
Sat, 10 May 2014 15:34
The White House
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release
May 09, 2014
NATIONAL WOMEN'S HEALTH WEEK, 2014
- - - - - - -
BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
A PROCLAMATION
As Americans, we strive for a Nation of broad-based prosperity, where hard work pays off and everyone can go as far as their dreams allow. Over the past half-century, women have opened up vast horizons for themselves and their daughters. Yet many still work harder for less, and because of gender inequality in areas like health care, they have had to stretch paychecks further to make ends meet. During National Women's Health Week, we recommit to expanding women's access to care, fighting discrimination, and advancing the opportunity agenda.
The Affordable Care Act (ACA) prohibits insurers from charging women higher premiums simply because of their gender. Insurance companies can no longer discriminate against women due to pregnancy, or deny coverage because of pre-existing conditions. Thanks to the ACA, women can receive preventive services like contraceptive care, recommended cancer screenings, and annual well-woman visits at no out-of-pocket cost. And this year, millions of women signed up for affordable coverage through the Health Insurance Marketplace while millions more gained insurance through the expansion of Medicaid. To learn more about resources available to women and girls, visit www.HealthCare.gov, www.WomensHealth.gov, or www.GirlsHealth.gov.
As we continue to implement this law, my Administration remains dedicated to protecting women's rights to make their own health care decisions. The past few years have seen an orchestrated and historic effort to roll back these basic rights. States have enacted laws aimed at banning or severely limiting the right to choose and introduced legislation that would cut off access to common forms of birth control. Together, we must reject policies that aim to turn back the clock.
This week, let us uphold the principle of equality in health care. Let us affirm that women alone -- not insurance executives, not politicians, and not their bosses -- have the right to make decisions about their own health.
NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim May 11 through May 17, 2014, as National Women's Health Week. I encourage all Americans to celebrate the progress we have made in protecting women's health and to promote awareness, prevention, and educational activities that improve the health of all women.
IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this ninth day of May, in the year of our Lord two thousand fourteen, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-eighth.
BARACK OBAMA
Presidential Proclamation -- National Small Business Week, 2014
Sat, 10 May 2014 16:32
The White House
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release
May 09, 2014
NATIONAL SMALL BUSINESS WEEK, 2014
- - - - - - -
BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
A PROCLAMATION
Small businesses represent an ideal at the heart of our Nation's promise -- that with ingenuity and hard work, anyone can build a better life. They are also the lifeblood of our economy, employing half of our country's workforce and creating nearly two out of every three new American jobs. During National Small Business Week, we renew our commitment to helping these vital enterprises thrive.
From day one, my Administration has been focused on cultivating an environment where small businesses can succeed. During my first term, we added 18 direct tax breaks for small businesses, including new tax credits for hiring unemployed workers and veterans and for investing in new equipment. Through the Small Business Administration (SBA), we have supported hundreds of thousands of loans. And to ensure small businesses have a voice in economic decisions, I elevated the Small Business Administrator to a Cabinet level position.
My Administration is also working to ease burdens on businesses. We cut in half the time it takes for the Federal Government to pay small business contractors, freeing up more resources for growth. To provide a boost to the smallest new businesses, we have eliminated SBA fees on loans under 150,000 dollars and waived fees for veterans who take out loans under 350,000 dollars. Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, it is now easier for small business owners to purchase quality health insurance, and they are now eligible for tax credits that cover up to half of the cost of providing coverage for their employees. And we continue to implement patent reforms that are reducing the application backlog, protecting American intellectual property abroad, and helping entrepreneurs roll out their inventions sooner.
Yet we have more work to do. In the years to come, we must protect tax credits that help small businesses hire and add incentives for paying workers higher wages. We must ensure entrepreneurs -- even those who are not rich -- have the resources to take their businesses to the next level. Because if we create a more level playing field, the best ideas will rise to the top, opportunity will flourish, and America will prosper.
NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, dohereby proclaim May 12 through May 16, 2014, as National Small Business Week. I call upon all Americans to recognize the contributions of small businesses to the competitiveness of the American economy with appropriate programs and activities.
IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this ninth day of May, in the year of our Lord two thousand fourteen, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-eighth.
BARACK OBAMA
Proclamation-- Peace Officers Memorial Day and Police Week, 2014
Sat, 10 May 2014 15:37
The White House
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release
May 09, 2014
PEACE OFFICERS MEMORIAL DAY AND POLICE WEEK, 2014
- - - - - - -
BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
A PROCLAMATION
Each year, America sets aside a week to salute the men and women who do the difficult, dangerous, and often thankless work of safeguarding our communities. Our Nation's peace officers embody the very idea of citizenship -- that along with our rights come responsibilities, both to ourselves and to others. During Peace Officers Memorial Day and Police Week, we celebrate those who protect and serve us every minute of every day, and we honor the courageous officers who devoted themselves so fully to others that in the process they laid down their lives.
As we mourn the fallen, let us also remember how they lived. With unflinching commitment, they defended our schools and businesses. They guarded prisons; patrolled borders; and kept us safe at home, on the road, and as we went about our lives. To their families, we owe an unpayable debt. And to the men and women who carry their mission forward, we owe our unyielding support.
Our Nation has an obligation to ensure that as police officers face untold risks in the line of duty, we are doing whatever we can to protect them. This means providing all necessary resources so they can get the job done, hiring new officers where they are needed most, and investing in training to prepare those on the front lines for potentially deadly situations. It also means making reforms to curb senseless epidemics of violence that threaten law enforcement officers and haunt the neighborhoods they serve.
Just as police officers never let down their guard, we must never let slide our gratitude. We should extend our thanks not only in times of tragedy, but for every tragedy averted -- every accident avoided because a patrol officer took a drunk driver off the streets, every child made safer because a criminal was brought to justice, every life saved because police officers raced to the scene. In other words, we must show our gratitude every day.
By a joint resolution approved October 1, 1962, as amended (76 Stat. 676), and by Public Law 103-322, as amended (36 U.S.C. 136-137), the President has been authorized and requested to designate May 15 of each year as "Peace Officers Memorial Day" and the week in which it falls as "Police Week."
NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, do hereby proclaim May 15, 2014, as Peace Officers Memorial Day and May 11 through May 17, 2014, as Police Week. I call upon all Americans to observe these events with appropriate ceremonies and activities. I also call on Governors of the United States and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, officials of the other territories subject to the jurisdiction of the United States, and appropriate officials of all units of government, to direct that the flag be flown at half-staff on Peace Officers Memorial Day. I further encourage all Americans to display the flag at half-staff from their homes and businesses on that day.
IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this ninth day of May, in the year of our Lord two thousand fourteen, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-eighth.
BARACK OBAMA
Presidential Proclamation --National Defense Transportation Day and National Transportation Week, 2014
Sat, 10 May 2014 16:33
The White House
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release
May 09, 2014
NATIONAL DEFENSE TRANSPORTATION DAY
AND NATIONAL TRANSPORTATION WEEK, 2014
- - - - - - -
BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
A PROCLAMATION
In today's global economy, first-class jobs gravitate to first-class infrastructure. A sound transportation system allows businesses to safely move their goods to market, and maintaining that system creates jobs upgrading ports, unclogging commutes, and repairing roads and rails. During National Defense Transportation Day and National Transportation Week, we underscore the importance of infrastructure to our economy, security, and way of life.
This summer, the Congress will need to protect more than three million jobs by finishing transportation and waterways bills that provide at least 4 years of funding for extensive infrastructure repairs and investments. Because accessible roads, safe bridges, and good jobs should transcend politics, I am hopeful our representatives will do right by the American people. In the meantime, I am taking executive action to slash bureaucracy and streamline the permitting process for key projects. Earlier this year, I launched a competition for 600 million dollars in transportation grants. Cities and States can win this funding by creating plans that both modernize transportation infrastructure and stimulate the economy.
Infrastructure also plays a vital role in America's security. Fluid, dependable, and efficient transportation systems allow first responders and service members to swiftly arrive on the scene of an emergency. When natural disasters strike, we rely on these systems to bring food and first aid to victims. In order to safeguard our Nation, we must ensure our infrastructure is resilient enough to withstand disaster and keep supply lines open.
Today, America has ports that are not prepared for the next generation of supertankers. We have more than 100,000 bridges that are old enough to qualify for Medicare. And we have a world-class labor force ready to tackle this challenge. Let's put them to work.
In recognition of the importance of our Nation's transportation infrastructure, and of the men and women who build, maintain, and utilize it, the Congress has requested, by joint resolution approved May 16, 1957, as amended (36 U.S.C. 120), that the President designate the third Friday in May of each year as "National Defense Transportation Day," and, by joint resolution approved May 14, 1962, as amended (36 U.S.C. 133), that the week during which that Friday falls be designated as "National Transportation Week."
NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, do hereby proclaim Friday, May 16, 2014, as National Defense Transportation Day and May 11 through May 17, 2014, as National Transportation Week. I call upon all Americans to recognize the importance of our Nation's transportation infrastructure and to acknowledge the contributions of those who build, operate, and maintain it.
IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this ninth day of May, in the year of our Lord two thousand fourteen, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-eighth.
BARACK OBAMA
Presidential Proclamation -- Mother's Day, 2014
Sat, 10 May 2014 16:33
The White House
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release
May 09, 2014
MOTHER'S DAY, 2014
- - - - - - -
BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
A PROCLAMATION
For over a century, Americans have come together to celebrate our first friends and mentors, our inspirations and constant sources of strength. Our mothers are breadwinners, community leaders, and pillars of family. They pioneer scientific discoveries, serve with valor in our Armed Forces, and represent our Nation in the loftiest halls of Government. Whether biological, adoptive, or foster, they play a singular role in our lives. Because they so often put everything above themselves, on Mother's Day, we put our moms first.
Through centuries of organizing, marching, and making their voices heard, mothers have won greater opportunities than ever before for themselves and their children. Their victories brought our Nation closer to realizing a sacred founding principle -- that we are all created equal and each of us deserves the chance to pursue our own version of happiness.
Today, there are more battles to win. Working mothers increasingly provide the majority of their family's income, yet even now, discrimination prevents women from earning a living equal to their efforts. My Administration is proud to fight alongside women as they push to close the gender pay gap, shatter glass ceilings, and implement workplace policies that do not force any parent to choose between their jobs and their kids. Because when women succeed, America succeeds.
By words and example, mothers teach us how to grow and who to become. They shape lasting habits that can lead to healthy living and lifelong learning. They demonstrate what is possible when we work hard and apply our talents. Without complaint, they give their best every day so they and their children might achieve the scope of their dreams. Today, let us once again extend our gratitude for our mothers' unconditional love and support -- during years past and in the years to come.
The Congress, by a joint resolution approved May 8, 1914 (38 Stat. 770), has designated the second Sunday in May each year as "Mother's Day" and requested the President to call for its appropriate observance.
NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, do hereby proclaim May 11, 2014, as Mother's Day. I urge all Americans to express love and gratitude to mothers everywhere, and I call upon all citizens to observe this day with appropriate programs, ceremonies, and activities.
IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this ninth day of May, in the year of our Lord two thousand fourteen, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-eighth.
BARACK OBAMA
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Bearded drag queen wins Eurovision Song Contest | New York Post
Sun, 11 May 2014 02:01
COPENHAGEN, Denmark '-- Austrian bearded drag queen Conchita Wurst won the 59th edition of the Eurovision Song Contest Saturday with a James Bond-inspired power ballad.
The song, ''Rise Like a Phoenix,'' helped Wurst '-- the alter ego of 25-year-old Thomas Neuwirth '-- secure Austria's second victory in the competition. The country also won in 1966.
''This is dedicated to everyone who believes in a future of peace and freedom,'' a tearful Wurst said as she accepted the trophy from Denmark's Emmelie de Forrest, who won the contest last year. ''We are unity and we are unstoppable.''
Pushing the boundaries of gender identity is nothing new at Europe's annual song contest '-- an extravaganza known for its eclectic, sometimes unlistenable lineup of techno beats, love songs and pop tunes. But Wurst had been faced with some protests before the competition, highlighting a rift between Europe's progressive liberal side and the traditional values and nationalist rhetoric of Russia and some other nations taking part.
Modal TriggerView ThumbnailsSinger Conchita Wurst representing Austria, who performed the song 'Rise Like a Phoenix,' celebrates with the trophy after winning the Eurovision Song Contest .AP
Conchita Wurst performs during the final competition.AP
Wurst listens to the judging.AP
Wurst listens as points are announced.AP
Wurst celebrates after winning the competition.AP
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Wurst finished ahead of The Common Linnets from the Netherlands in second place and Swedish singer Sanna Nielsen in third, meaning next year's contest will be held in Austria.
Amid growing tensions over the Ukraine crisis, some in Eastern Europe have blasted Wurst as an example of the West's decadence. Activists in Belarus had even urged the country's state television network to edit the Austrian entry out of its Eurovision broadcast.
The annual competition is supposed to be completely removed from politics. Neither Russia's entry '-- teenage twins Anastasia and Maria Tolmachevy '-- nor Ukraine's Mariya Yaremchuk, whose routine included a dancer running in a giant hamster wheel, alluded to the recent tensions between Moscow and Kiev.
Still, every time Russia got votes from mainly neighboring countries, many in the audience of 10,000 booed, and when Moscow gave its respective 8, 10 and 12 points to Armenia, Azerbaijan and Belarus '-- all former Soviet republics '-- more boos were heard.
The winner was picked by juries and television viewers across Europe.
The first Eurovision song contest was held in 1956 in Switzerland and over the years, the contest's most famous winners include ABBA, Celine Dion and Johnny Logan, who won the contest three times '-- in 1980 and 1987 as a performer, and in 1992 as a songwriter.
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NPR Names Jarl Mohn As Its New CEO | Here & Now
Sun, 11 May 2014 01:40
JEREMY HOBSON, HOST:
This is HERE AND NOW from NPR and WBUR Boston. I'm Jeremy Hobson.
And now for some news about us, NPR, that is. Today, the network named a new president and chief executive officer, 62-year-old Jarl Mohn will take over on July 1st and will be the fifth person to hold that job on either an interim or permanent basis in just five years. NPR media correspondent David Folkenflik joins us now for more on this. David, welcome back.
DAVID FOLKENFLIK, BYLINE: Hey, thanks so much, Jeremy.
HOBSON: Well, first, just tell us what you can about Jarl Mohn and his background.
FOLKENFLIK: Well, I literally just stepped out of studio with him to step in to this studio with you on the line. He's a very commanding, charismatic guy. He's kind of a media innovator and creator. He helped found the E! Entertainment Network. He was one of the top first executives, MTV and VH1. He's been involved also on the boards of XM Satellite Radio and of comScore, which is, you know, helps to measure digital traffic.
So a guy who's thought a lot about broadcasting, about entertainment, and about traffic and how audiences respond. One of the first things I said to him was, you know, what do you bring from those endeavors? And said, well, one of the things I really understand are the expectations of audiences and the importance of living up to your mission.
NPR's a very different mission than E! TV. We're not doing reality radio, if you will. You know, I'm not going to change what NPR is good at and what people expect of it. But I am going to try to deliver even better on that promise.
HOBSON: And how is he being received so far by NPR's member stations? There's long been this conflict about how NPR can move forward, especially with digital stuff when the bread and butter does come from all the member stations.
FOLKENFLIK: Well, that's right. A significant portion of NPR's revenue comes from fees for the programs, primarily MORNING EDITION, ALL THINGS CONSIDERED, but some others as well, that the member stations pay. And as a result, member stations are both clients and insofar as member station executives hold 10 of the 17 seats on the governing board of directors, they are also the bosses of NPR, and it means that we're really system rather than a top-down network. And that has its strengths, but it also has a lot of sort of multi-faceted arguments and debates about things.
One thing that I can say about Mohn is as well as being a benefactor of a number of cultural institutions throughout southern California where he lives, he's also been a board member of KPCC, that's Southern California Public Radio. It's one of our largest, most-influential member stations.
And he's, for the last two years call it, been the chairman of the board there. And he's really tried to help them cultivate and reinforce their intention of serving as a civil space for news and information, exchange of ideas, even so far as going to help them come up with one of their recent marketing slogans that he thinks helps reinforce not just their brand, but their mission, and that brand is: No rant, no slant.
HOBSON: Right.
FOLKENFLIK: A slogan he thought of going down the escalator while he was going to pick up his bags at the airport.
HOBSON: I've seen that on billboards around Los Angeles, David. But, let me ask you, just in the minute we have left, do you think he'll last because every CEO seems to get snapped up by somebody else and leave within a short period of time.
FOLKENFLIK: Well, he's committed to a five-year contract. I asked him that very question not minutes ago. And his answer is, look, I don't need a job. I mean, he's a very wealthy man. He doesn't need to do anything right now. And he's taking this job because he says he believes in this. He thinks that there's opportunity to help wildly increase NPR's revenues and to share those revenues with the member stations in a way that inspires greater collaboration rather than greater tensions.
HOBSON: NPR media correspondent David Folkenflik on the news today that NPR has appointed a new president and CEO. It is Jarl Mohn. He will start on July 1st. David, thanks so much.
FOLKENFLIK: You bet.
ROBIN YOUNG, HOST:
So Amanda Beland didn't get the job.
HOBSON: I guess she did not. She's our intern.
YOUNG: And Amanda's our intern. She's graduating from Emerson Sunday with a master's, so Jarl Mohn look out.
HOBSON: Maybe he can give her a job now, or at least starting July 1st. Amanda, we wish you the best of luck. This is HERE AND NOW.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.
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ANSRVR - APRSISCE/32 The future of Amateur Radio APRS
Fri, 09 May 2014 07:59
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PR
Drone Knight film
Dear Friends, Family, Fellow Artists and Supporters,
It is with great excitement that I invite you to the first public viewing of Authorized Drone Strike Zone as part of the Vision Fest Film Festival this Thursday, May 15th.
This documentary short which was skillfully directed and edited by my close friend, compatriot and co-producer Chris Wasmer, will see its world primer in Tribeca Cinemas at 9:30pm.
We would be honored if you could attend!
Nigeria
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boots on the ground email
My friend lives and grew up in Nigeria. I told him to email you about what's going on there. He said white people came in not that long ago to train the group who did the kidnapping. I hope he sends you something
Trevor on no place to hide email
Hi Adam,
re; Nigerian Kidnappings.
SO..... I was in the North of Cameroon from 2005 to 2007. I worked in the villages of Tchevi, Bourrah and the town of Mokolo which sit right up against the Nigerian border. The claim that the hostages are being held in a "remote" region on or over the border is BS.... I have traveled the P1 road between Mokolo and Baléré and know that the whole area is basically bare assed rock as the forests have been totally razed for firewood (this being why I was there as a forester... to replant).
You couldn't hide a few hundred kids there its just impossible, the whole region is heavily populated (relatively speaking) and any movement of a few hundred kids will be seen by someone and reported!
Now to my main point on the whole thing.... more than one local notable told me that oil had been found in the area south of Tchevi around Ibango village which is close to the Nigerian border. This was prospected in 2004 and I heard this in 2005.
Hope this adds a dimension to the Nigerian version of "Catch Kony".......
regards, Trevor.
Anti Gay Laws
nigeria levies harsh prison sentences on anyone who makes a "public show" of a "direct" or "indirect" same-sex relationship or supports an LGBT organization (10 years), and anyone who attempts to enter into a same-sex marriage (14 years), even though this would be virtually impossible in Nigeria. The anti-gay backlash the law has provoked in Nigeria has led not just to violence, but to homelessness, unemployment, harassment, and a steep drop-off in HIV/AIDS treatment.
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Boko Haram V. Nigeria's Crooks.
Sun, 11 May 2014 13:43
Boko Haram V. Nigeria's Crooks
By Eric Margolis
May 10 2014 "ICH" - The kidnapping of some 200 girls in northern Nigeria has sparked world outrage. It's a perfect media sensation: exotic locale and remarkably nasty kidnappers from a northern rebel movement, Boko Haram.
I've long been a connoisseur of Third World nasties, starting way back in the 60's with Haiti's voodoo chief, Papa Doc. Most have been nobodies who achieved instant international prominence by shooting off their mouths, making lurid threats and committing some dramatic outrage.
The latest is Boko Haram's chief, a certain Abubakar Shekau. This lunatic has become a world bogeyman by kidnapping the school girls, gleefully prancing in front of TV cameras, and vowing to sell them into marital slavery.
Howls of fury erupted from leftist women's groups in the US, and from President Barack Obama's liberal warrior women, Susan Rice and UN ambassador Susan Powers. Hillary Clinton lost no time in jumping on this vote-winning issue.
In a truly heartwarming gesture, China says it will send ''specialists'' to aid the hunt for the missing girls. This is really about China's race for Africa's resources and its growing competition there with the US and Europe. The US wants its troops there before the Chinese arrive.
Few people anywhere cared much about the thousands of Afghan villagers just buried alive by a monster mud slide. Even fewer that Boko Haram's previous rampages in northern Nigeria have killed over 1,500 civilians. Or that the thuggish Nigerian army and police's brutal reprisals killed thousands of Muslim villagers.
Few outraged westerners knew that stealing girls is a traditional pastime in sub-Saharan Africa and child brides are second only to cattle rustling. There was no understanding in Washington that the tribal chaos and bloodshed now seething in South Sudan is merely a continuation of traditional raiding for cattle and women between rival Dinka and Neuer tribes. Washington failed to take this into account when it engineered the breakup of Sudan to create South Sudan as an oil-rich US vassal state.
American foreign policy reacts to oil and gas as my cats do to catnip. Now, under the pretext of deep concern for the missing schoolgirls, the US and Nigeria's former colonial master, Britain, are rushing intelligence agents and special forces to this vast nation of 170 million, Africa's largest.
Faux humanitarian missions are the rage for western intervention in the Third World. Libya and Syria offer vivid recent examples. US special forces are now operating out of Djibouti and Uganda in east Africa, ostensibly hunting fanatics of the Lord's Resistance Army, a bunch of drug-crazed primitives hiding in dense forests. The US air base in Djibouti is being expanded to accommodate 4,000 military personnel and more attack drones.
Nigeria is Africa's leading oil and gas producer. Over 40% of its exports go to the United States, supplying 10% of America's energy needs. Nearby Angola has become another major energy supplier to the US.
Nigeria has important mineral and farming assets. Yet it remains mired in the deepest, shameful poverty. One percent of the population controls all the wealth and steals billions annually. In fact, the UN estimates almost all of Nigeria's vast oil wealth has been stolen, squandered or stashed in Switzerland. Oil revenues flow directly to the government, then to powerful state governors. The only thing that trickles down to Nigerians is rain.
Northern Nigeria, mostly Muslim, is dirt poor. Oil wealth goes to the better off Christian south. The north's Hausa and Fulani peoples have bitterly resented the massive theft of the nation's resources by the more nimble southerners favored by British colonial rule. In fact, Britain was at fault for creating the multi-ethnic mess that is Nigeria, another colonial Frankenstein state, like Iraq or Burma.
Boko Haram's rampage must be seen in this context, a popular uprising against Nigeria's limitless government corruption, poverty, and resource theft. Boko uses the idiom of Islam but there is nothing Islamic about it. As in other parts of the Muslim world, reformers call for imposition of Islamic law as an antidote to endemic corruption of governments and courts that has been too often fostered by Western colonialism.
Screaming ''Islamic terrorism'' won't defuse Nigeria's coming explosion. Considered one of the world's most corrupt nations, Nigeria has to clean up its act '' and fast.
Eric S. Margolis is an award-winning, internationally syndicated columnist. His articles have appeared in the New York Times, the International Herald Tribune the Los Angeles Times, Times of London, the Gulf Times, the Khaleej Times, Nation '' Pakistan, Hurriyet, '' Turkey, Sun Times Malaysia and other news sites in Asia.
Copyright Eric S. Margolis 2014
Nigeria's lost girls and the dark heart of Boko Haram
Sun, 11 May 2014 13:41
This, however, was not the Nigerian town of Chibok last month when members of the militant Islamic group seized at least 276 girls from a government-run school. Nor was it Waraba, the village where eight more were taken last week.
It was Gombe, another town in Nigeria's north-east. Yet, unlike the other two cases, this incident was barely reported '' either internationally or by the rest of the country. That is because it happened in the months preceding the schoolgirls' kidnap, when Boko Haram's outrages were not only largely ignored by the world but by Nigeria itself.
Isiaka, who witnessed another Boko Haram raid in Borno and fled with his family to Nigeria's capital, Abuja, vividly recalls how communities like his are left to the militants. The attack resulted in his parents, many friends and his wife's father being killed.
"They come in groups, heavily armed," he said. "They are well organised and come out in their hundreds shouting and chanting, 'God is Great'. They go to their operations driving convoys of new cars and trucks without interruption from anybody.
"[Boko Haram] have their own doctors and engineers in their camps, and a fuel station. They operate like their own government. They steal our animals and food from our farms. Any house they go into, they first of all take valuable items and food stuff before they kill and destroy the place they're attacking.
"They attack for several hours, and they do it unchallenged. They always take some youths back to the forests [where they are based] with them. They initiate them by giving them water mixed with charms. Those that refuse to join them are shot."
The incidents were not alone in barely registering on the Nigerian psyche. Already this year Boko Haram had snatched 25 girls from another school in Borno, and days later 42 male students were killed as their dorm rooms were set on fire while they slept. Neither generated national outrage.
Until the events of recent weeks, deeply held religious, ethnic, economic, linguistic, cultural and geographic differences created an invisible barrier between the terrorised communities and the rest of Nigeria. Boko Haram was seen as a "Northern problem", not least as the popular stereotype of a Northern Nigerian being an illiterate Muslim is deeply ingrained in the national psyche despite the large communities of native Christians of varying tribes living in places such as Yobe, Adamawa, Gombe and Borno.
Lack of pictures or video reports from the terrorised areas meant what was occurring there was easier to ignore, especially as casualty figures were regularly under-estimated. There was also no centralised system for reporting the missing, with little internet coverage in the region, no specialised crime-scene investigation, and no government release of the number of dead, meaning that estimates were often based on the number of bodies seen by journalists, who had arrived after many corpses had already been removed.
For many Nigerians it was this previous indifference that explains Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan's tardy response to the schoolgirls' kidnapping. "In all honesty the Govt [sic] never had any intention of doing anything about the abducted girls, just like every other attack. #BringBackOurGirls," was one typical recent tweet.
That has now, finally, changed, as witnessed by the demonstrations and social-media campaigns across the country in support of the schoolgirls. "We cannot continue to live in the delusion that 'It can't happen to us!'" said social-media activist and educator Japheth Omojuwa. "The Nigerians who die in [the north-east] daily are not less human than those in Abuja. We need to stop thinking it is a northern problem."
President Jonathan has vowed that the abducted girls will be found, and warned that Boko Haram's actions will lead to the "end of terrorism" in the country, not least due to the international outcry over the kidnappings. General Chris Olukolade, spokesman for the Defence Headquarters, said yesterday that Nigeria's army has posted two divisions to hunt for the schoolgirls, stationed in the border region close to Chad, Cameroon and Niger to work with other security agencies.
UK and US experts are now on the ground assisting the search. A spokesman for the Foreign Office said the UK team "will be considering not just the recent incidents but also longer-term counter-terrorism solutions to prevent such attacks in the future and defeat Boko Haram".
Michelle Obama, the First Lady, yesterday used the weekly address issued by the White House to further increase the international pressure by saying that both she and her husband, President Barack Obama, "can only imagine the anguish [the kidnapped girls'] parents are feeling".
Mrs Obama called the "unconscionable act" the work of "grown men attempting to snuff out the aspirations of young girls". She went on to commend the courage of the parents who allowed their daughters to attend school and, in a sentiment retweeted by many in Nigeria, said "education is truly a girl's best chance for a bright future".
Additional reporting by Serina Sandhu
Nigerian President in Crisis as Rescue for Girls Awaited - Bloomberg
Fri, 09 May 2014 15:54
By Daniel MagnowskiMay 09, 2014 8:40 AM EDTPhotographer: Sunday Alamba/AP Photo
Brig. Gen. Chris Olukolade, Nigeria's top military spokesman, left, speaks to people at a demonstration calling on the government to rescue the kidnapped school girls of a government secondary school Chibok, outside the defense headquarters in Abuja, Nigeria, on May 6, 2014.
President Goodluck Jonathan faces a credibility crisis among Nigerians as long as more than 200 girls kidnapped by Islamist extremists remain missing, even as investors affirm confidence in his country.
International political and business leaders attending the World Economic Forum ending today in the capital, Abuja, including Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and Bharti Airtel Ltd. (BHARTI) Chairman Sunil Bharti Mittal, condemned the Boko Haram Islamists that seized the women and pledged continued investment in Africa's biggest economy. Jonathan welcomed the support, describing it as ''a major blow'' to terrorism, yet pressure is mounting from the populace to secure the captives' freedom.
''Barring a rescue of the abducted women, Jonathan's standing will deteriorate,'' Philippe de Pontet, an Africa analyst at Eurasia Group, said in an e-mailed note to clients yesterday. ''The political implications are damaging for the Jonathan administration, which has been seen as ineffective in its response.''
Abubakar Shekau, the leader of Boko Haram, which means ''western education is a sin'' in the Hausa language, has claimed responsibility for the April 14 abduction of 276 girls from their dormitories in Borno state in the northeast. He has threatened to sell the girls in ''markets'' and marry them off, helping galvanize a global campaign to free them joined by U.S. First Lady Michelle Obama and Pakistani activist Malala Yousafzai.
Protest MarchesThe U.S. security team which will assist in the search and rescue operation has arrived in Nigeria, U.S. Embassy Public Affairs officer Rhonda Augustus-Ferguson said by phone from Abuja today. She gave no details about the size or composition of the team. A team from the U.K. has also arrived, the British High Commission in Abuja said in a statement.
France and China also plan to send security personnel and other unspecified support to the West African nation to help locate the students, some of them as young as 15. As many as 53 of the students may have escaped on their own, according to community and school leaders.
In Nigeria there have been protest marches in major cities, including Abuja, the commercial capital Lagos, and the southern oil hub of Port Harcourt, urging the government and the security forces to do more to rescue the girls. Critics have accused the government of being tentative and uncoordinated in its response after the military first said it had rescued most of the girls and then retracted the statement after the school principal disputed it.
With Jonathan struggling to deal with the abductions and elections due in February, the militants ''are likely to become more active over the next year, with the hope of disrupting and/or affecting the outcome,'' Marc Chandler, an analyst at London-based Brown Brothers Harriman & Co., said yesterday in an e-mailed note.
'Political Bump'In the first three months of the year, Boko Haram's insurgency in northeastern Nigeria has left 1,500 people dead, more than half of them civilians, according to Amnesty International. Boko Haram in the past few years has increasingly targeted teachers and students, and more than 50 schools were attacked, partially destroyed or burnt down between July last year and January in Borno state, Unicef says. More than 300 people were killed in a May 5 attack by suspected insurgents on the town of Gamboru, near the border with Cameroon, according to local officials.
''President Jonathan has failed to show the kind of leadership that would unite the country and give him a political bump from the widespread outrage directed at Boko Haram,'' said de Pontet. ''Instead, much of that outrage has shifted to the administration itself, giving the opposition an opportunity to hit the president on his already-suspect national security credentials.''
To contact the reporter on this story: Daniel Magnowski in Abuja at dmagnowski@bloomberg.net
To contact the editors responsible for this story: Antony Sguazzin at asguazzin@bloomberg.net; Nasreen Seria at nseria@bloomberg.net Dulue Mbachu
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You Thought It Was Tough Being Gay in Uganda. "It's Hell in Nigeria." | Mother Jones
Sun, 11 May 2014 02:41
Around midnight on February 13, a young Nigerian man named Femi* was jolted out of his evening prayer by shouting outside his window. A crowd of some 40 people had gathered around his house. "No more homosexuals in Gishiri!" they yelled, referring to Femi's neighborhood within Nigeria's capital city, Abuja. The mob broke down his door and dragged him outside in his boxers. They beat him and about 13 other gay men that night with broken furniture, machete handles, sticks, and a garden rake, vowing to kill them if they didn't clear out of the neighborhood.
The attack, andother acts of vigilante violence targeting gays and lesbians around the country, was motivated by a new anti-gay law that Nigeria's president signed January 7. The measure, modeled off the one that Uganda enacted in late February, levies harsh prison sentences on anyone who makes a "public show" of a "direct" or "indirect" same-sex relationship or supports an LGBT organization (10 years), and anyone who attempts to enter into a same-sex marriage (14 years), even though this would be virtually impossible in Nigeria. The anti-gay backlash the law has provoked in Nigeria has led not just to violence, but to homelessness, unemployment, harassment, and a steep drop-off in HIV/AIDS treatment.
John Adeniyi narrowly escaped the attack in Gishiri and has been recording accounts of the violence that night. He's a human rights program officer atthe International Center for Advocacy on Rights to Health (ICARH), an HIV intervention organization based in Abuja. To find out what life is like for Nigeria's gay community under the country's new law'--and what gay Ugandans are starting to face'--I visited withAdeniyi during a recent trip to Nigeria.
"All the [Gishiri] victims are presently homeless," Adeniyi told me, explaining that Femi and the other victims are afraid to return to their homes, lest their neighbors make good on their pledge to kill them. "Including me. I cannot go back to Gishiri village." After the attack, members of the mob spray-painted homophobic slogans on the homes of residents suspected of being gay.
Four of the residents who were attacked that night subsequently lost their jobs after their employers discovered their sexuality, according to several victims. Chukwuemeka*, a 22-year-old living with HIV, used to work as a cashier. He was fired after the February mob attack, and he now spends his nights in a roadside auto repair shack. Femi owns a clothing boutique, but now he is afraid to go back. "Next week the bank will start calling me," he says, referring to an overdue payment he owes on a 100,000 Naira (about $600) loan he took out to start his business.
As in most African countries, homosexuality has been illegal in Nigeria since the British colonial era, but convictions were rare. Nigerians used to be generally tolerant of LGBT people in their midst, even if they were homophobic, Adeniyi says, but the new law'--imposing harsh penalties for homosexuality'--has stirred up a wave of anti-gay sentiment in the deeply religious country. "People already knew that people were gay," he says. "Now, what we have seen is tenants threatening other tenants, saying, 'I'm going to expose you. I know what you do.''...Now they can call the police and get people convicted."
And since the law does not define who is gay and who is not, the police and the general public are making the determination themselves, sparking witch hunts around the country. Adeniyi says that the head of the police department where Gishiri victims were held overnight after the attack, told them he knew they were gay, citing several arbitrary characteristics: "He said, 'You, because you wrote down you're a hairdresser, you must be gay'...The two of you, because you guys live together, you have to be gay.' He talked to one other, and said, 'I'm sure you picked up a gay personality because you schooled abroad.'"
"After they passed the bill into law'--wow. It's hell in Nigeria. Nobody wants to see you. When you walk, they say, 'Why are you walking like this? Are you a gay?'"
In addition to discrimination and harassment, Nigeria's new law has already led to a sharp decline in HIV/AIDS treatment and prevention in a country that has the second highest HIV rate in the world. About 3.4 million Nigerians are infected and some 17 percent of the gay population has the disease. The anti-gay law discourages people from seeking treatment for fear that doing so could out them as gay, and it also criminalizes organizations that serve the LGBT community.
Adeniyi estimates that since the law took effect in January, the number of patients coming into ICARH for HIV treatment has dropped by over 50 percent. "One person told me he would rather die'...than come to the organization" and risk imprisonment, he says. He adds that LGBT couples living with HIV may also be discouraged from going to the doctor for couples counseling, out of fear that the doctor may turn them over to the police.
Eight organizations that provide HIV treatment and prevention services in northern Nigeria have cut back on HIV outreach, training, and education programs, according to Dorothy Aken'Ova, executive director of Nigeria's International Center for Reproductive Health and Sexual Rights (INCRESE). "People thought, 'You know what? I don't want to be in prison because I'm providing treatment for these gay homosexual people,'" Adeniyi says. He expects more organizations will drop their programs in the coming months.
ICARH has had to scale back, too. The group has halted outreach events designed to encourage people to get tested due to concerns that the authorities might interpret this as an effort to aid the gay community. "Since the law has been passed, we are doing counseling and testing, but we have suspended outreaches."
UNAIDS, a United Nations program to combat HIV/AIDS, and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malariahave warned the new law could hinder progressin the fight against HIV/AIDS in Nigeria. In late January, the US Ambassador to Nigeriasaid the law might impede US efforts to help Nigeriafight the epidemic. Even social scientists have been scared off from taking stock of HIV trends in Nigeria'--data that can improve the response to the epidemic'--until the government can assure researchers that they will be exempt from punishment under the law, says Aken'Ova of INCRESE.
The anti-gay crackdown in Nigeria and Uganda is part of a broader trend in Africa, where at least seven other African countrieshave recently moved to tighten their anti-homosexuality laws. In many cases, lawmakers in these countries have been spurred to action by American anti-gay activists and the Christian right, who in some cases stoked fears of homosexuals preying on African children. US evangelicals have had a hand in anti-gay legislation and constitutional reform measures in Nigeria, Uganda, Namibia, Malawi, Kenya, Liberia, Zambia, Rwanda, and Zimbabwe.
Thanks to their efforts, life for more and more gay Africans is beginning to look like Chukwuemeka's. "After they passed the bill into law'--wow. It's hell in Nigeria," he says. "Nobody wants to see you. When you walk, they say, 'Why are you walking like this? Are you a gay?'"
*Victims' names have been changed.
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China also sending "specialists"
British, U.S. experts arrive to help in Nigeria
Sat, 10 May 2014 16:37
BAUCHI, Nigeria: British experts arrived in the Nigerian capital Friday to help find at least 276 girls being held by Islamic militants in northeastern Nigeria as an international effort began taking hold.
They landed in Abuja as Amnesty International said Nigeria's military had advanced warning of the April 14 attack but failed to take immediate action.
''Damning testimonies gathered by Amnesty International reveal that Nigerian security forces failed to act on advance warnings about Boko Haram's armed raid on the state-run boarding school in Chibok which led to the abduction,'' the rights group said.
The British experts were expected to work closely with U.S. officials and agents in the search for the missing girls, the British government said as Boko Haram militants continued to stage attacks in northeastern Nigeria.
China and France have also promised help and the deputy prime minister of Spain, Soraya Saenz de Santamaria, told reporters in Madrid Friday that her government had decided to make available a specialist team from the police to assist, if Nigeria approves.
Britain said its aim was not only to help with the current crisis but to defeat Boko Haram.
''The team will be considering not just the recent incidents but also longer-term counterterrorism solutions to prevent such attacks in the future and defeat Boko Haram,'' the Foreign & Commonwealth Office said in a statement Friday.
A local government official confirmed that the Islamic extremists bombed a bridge linking the town of Gamboru to the Borno state capital, Maiduguri, the headquarters of the Nigerian military offensive. Gamboru was attacked Monday by Boko Haram, leaving many dead. Estimates of the death toll from that attack ranged from 100 to as many as 300.
Communications with the remote town are difficult and it was not immediately possible to reconcile conflicting accounts of when the bridge was bombed. One account said Monday while another said Thursday.
The bombing of the bridge would prevent army convoys reaching Gamboru while leaving the way open for the insurgents to escape across a strategic bridge into neighboring Cameroon '' a bridge leading into mountains where the militants are known to have hideouts in caves.
The mass kidnapping of the schoolgirls has focused the world's attention on Boko Haram and on their many civilian victims.
Boko Haram, which wants to impose Islamic law in Nigeria, abducted more than 300 girls from a school in the northeast town of Chibok. The government of Borno state, where Chibok is located, Thursday identified 53 girls who escaped, potentially subjecting the girls to stigma in this conservative society.
The government said in a statement received Friday that the 53 girls it identified by name included those who fled the day they were kidnapped and those who escaped from Boko Haram camps days later.
Borno's government did not explain the decision to name the girls.
Jonathan Friday said that he believed the schoolgirls were still in the country and had not been moved to Cameroon.
''There are stories that they have moved them outside of the country. But if they move that number of girls to Cameroon, people will see, so I believe they are still in Nigeria,'' Jonathan told journalists on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in the Nigerian capital.
Amnesty said it had verified the information about the abduction with ''credible sources.''
'' Amnesty International has confirmed '... that Nigeria's military headquarters in Maiduguri was aware of the impending attack soon after 7 p.m. on April 14, close to four hours before Boko Haram began their assault on the town,'' the group said.
The military, however, could not assemble the troops needed to suppress the attack, ''due to poor resources and a reported fear of engaging with the often better-equipped'' Islamists, according to Amnesty.
The 17 army personnel based in Chibok were overpowered by the attackers and had to retreat, the London-based group further said.
''The fact that Nigerian security forces knew about Boko Haram's impending raid, but failed to take the immediate action needed to stop it, will only amplify the national and international outcry at this horrific crime,'' said Netsanet Belay, Amnesty International's Africa Director for research and advocacy.
Chibok residents staged a street protest Friday to press Borno's government to do more to find the missing girls.
Boko Haram has killed more than 1,500 people this year.
Australian,com reported that the Nigerian schoolgirls were released weeks ago so what's going on?
Sat, 10 May 2014 16:35
Goodness Adams, left, a 10-month-old baby, who survived a bomb explosion is carried by her aunt, Grace Sabo, at the Wuse hospital in Abuja, Nigeria.Source: AP
SCORES of female students kidnapped by Islamic militants from a north-eastern Nigerian school are free, Nigeria's military says.
Only eight of more than 100 students are unaccounted for, Major General Chris Olukolade said in a statement that gave no details.
''The others have been freed this evening,'' he said.
The government had reported that security forces were in hot pursuit of militants who abducted more than 100 females from a high school yesterday.
Borno state Governor Kashim Shettima told reporters that 129 students were kidnapped and at least 14 freed themselves: four of the students - aged between 16 and 18 - jumped off the back of a truck and 10 escaped into the bush when the extremists asked them to cook and were not paying attention.
''The others have been freed this evening,'' he said. http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/world/islamists-free-kidnapped-nigerian-schoolgirls/story-e6frg6so-1226887579471
Nigerian schoolgirls kidnapped: Military 'had advance warning' but failed to act, Amnesty International claims
Sat, 10 May 2014 16:26
The human rights group accused the authorities of ''gross dereliction of duty'', saying security forces knew of the Boko Haram raid in the north-eastern state of Borno almost four hours before it took place '' but did too little to stop it.
However, intelligence services claimed that they had discovered the location of the gunmen and at least some of the missing girls, who are understood to have been split into groups. President Goodluck Jonathan said earlier that he believed the missing girls were still in Nigeria.
The ''damning'' claim that warnings failed to galvanise the military into preventing the abductions was made as the US-based organisation released details of information from its ''multiple interviews with credible sources''.
Read more: What is Boko Haram?Netsanet Belay, Amnesty's director for Africa, said: ''The fact that Nigerian security forces knew about Boko Haram's impending raid, but failed to take [immediate steps] to stop it, will only amplify the national and international outcry at this horrific crime.
''It amounts to a gross dereliction of Nigeria's duty to protect civilians, who remain sitting ducks for such attacks. The Nigerian leadership must now use all lawful means at their disposal to secure the girls' safe release and ensure nothing like this can happen again.''
At 11.45pm on 14 April, 200 armed men from the militant Islamic group Boko Haram entered the town of Chibok where, after a brief gun battle with police and soldiers, they seized 276 pupils from the Government Girls Secondary School. Fifty have since escaped, but the rest remain with the insurgents.
Amnesty said the military was told of the impending attack as early as 7pm. Warnings were repeated through the evening but reinforcements failed to reach the town until the next day, long after the raid and the abductions.
Amnesty said: ''An inability to muster troops '' due to poor resources and a reported fear of engaging with the often better-equipped armed groups '' meant that reinforcements were not deployed to Chibok that night.''
Civilian patrols in the nearby village of Gagilam were said to be among the first to report the presence of a large group of unidentified armed men on motorcycles. Among those alerted, according to Amnesty, was the Borno state governor. Herdsmen had even reported that the armed men had demanded directions to the secondary school.
An official who was contacted by residents of Gagilam reportedly told Amnesty: ''I was promised by the security people that reinforcements were on their way.''
Nigerian officials said they ''doubt the veracity'' of the Amnesty report. ''If the government was aware [beforehand] there would have been an intervention [against the militants],'' the Information Minister, Labaran Maku, told BBC World TV. However, he said the government would investigate the claims.
As British experts arrived to help in the search, David Cameron said: ''[This kidnapping] is '... an act of pure evil.''
Saudi Arabia's leading religious authority, Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdulaziz al-Sheikh, condemned Boko Haram as a group ''set up to smear the image of Islam'' and also condemned the kidnapping.
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Chinese Company To Construct $13.1bn Railway Line In Nigeria
Sat, 10 May 2014 16:40
VENTURES AFRICA '' Nigeria's Transportation Ministry has awarded a $13.1 billion contract to China Railway Construction Corporation Limited to build a coastal railway line in the country, that will extend across 10 of its 36 states.
According to the company, the railway line will be 1,385 km long in one-way mileage. The railway line, which will be designed for a speed of 120 km/h, will also have 22 railway stations which will spread across the 10 states.
China Railway Construction Corporation Limited revealed in a statement that China Civil Engineering Group Co. Ltd., one of its subsidiaries, inked the deal.
However, discussions are still on between the company and the Ministry of Transport based on the framework released.
Former President Olusegun Obasanjo had in 2006 signed a contract with the China Civil Engineering Group Co. Ltd. to modernise the Lagos to Kano railway line, but following a dispute in 2008, the project was suspended. Although a supplementary agreement was signed in September 2012, which is expected to restart the project, it is unclear if it has anything to do with the new contract with Transportation Ministry.
The details of the contract was disclosed just as Commerce Minister of China, Gao Hucheng said that his country encourages Chinese enterprises to expand investment in Nigeria.
Gao, who spoke yesterday at the World Economic Forum going on in Abuja, noted that having an economic bilateral relationship will compliment the economic interest of both countries, citing Nigeria's huge consumer market and China's robust processing industry.
According to him, Nigeria and China have worked together under the framework of China-Africa Cooperation Forum to open a furniture and household appliance manufacturing factory, creating over 4,000 jobs in the process.
About Niyi AderibigbeNiyi Aderibigbe, a staff writer for Ventures Africa, a Pan-African business magazine and news service company, holds a Bachelor's degree in Zoology from the University of Ilorin, Nigeria. He is currently studying for a Master's degree in Environmental Biology at the University of Lagos. He has written for several online media platforms, including Information Nigeria.
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Nigeria oil bill should be broken up to speed passage -minister.
Sat, 10 May 2014 16:59
LAGOS (Reuters) - Nigeria should break up its long-awaited Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) to speed its passage through parliament, Oil Minister Diezani Alison-Madueke said on Friday.
The big piece of legislation aims to reform oil taxes and licences and overhaul the structure of the state-owned Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC).
It has been more than five years in the making and has not passed because of political wrangling over its many clauses. Oil majors are also unhappy about proposed fiscal terms.
Uncertainty while it is being debated has held up billions of dollars worth of exploration and production. President Goodluck Jonathan sent the latest draft of the bill to lawmakers almost two years ago.
"I think that it (PIB) should actually be broken up at this point in time if that will allow it to move forward," Alison-Madueke said at a panel discussion at the World Economic Forum in Abuja, Nigeria.
"We have been pondering for some time now. Of course that's something we have to look at alongside the National Assembly," she said.
Oil majors to divest $11 billion worth oil blocks in Nigeria
Sat, 10 May 2014 16:35
DetailsPublished on Friday, 09 May 2014 16:34Published by Linda LarbieHits: 91The international oil companies (IOCs) are expected to divest over 20 oil blocks with not less than 4 billion barrels of oil equivalent (boe) per day and a monetary value of about $11.5 billion before the end of 2014, the minister of petroleum resources, Mrs Diezani Alison-Madueke, has said.
The IOCs led by Shell, Total, Agip, Chevron and ConocoPhillips have since 2010 been divesting from their oil blocks, a situation attributed to issues being addressed under the protracted Petroleum Industry Bill.
The minister spoke while delivering a keynote address with the theme 'Assets Divestment in Nigerian Oil and Gas Industry: Opportunities and Challenges' at the ongoing 2014 Offshore Technology Conference (OTC) in Houston, Texas, USA.
She said that already the total assets divestment by the IOCs has hit about 2.2 billion BOE of hydrocarbon reserves at an estimated monetary value of at least $5 billion.
'By the end of this year, the total number of blocks that are likely to be divested is estimated to exceed 20 with not less than 4 billion BOE and a monetary value of about $11.5 billion,' she said.
Alison-Madueke however dismissed fears that the spate of divestment would lead to crisis in the nation's oil and gas industry.
For her, the divestment campaign by the majors is only changing the onshore corporate landscape and creating brownfield opportunities for upstream players looking to enter the Nigerian upstream space.
The minister maintained that the divestments signify a shift in the IOCs' strategy towards the offshore which now accounts for at least 60 per cent of Nigeria's total production.
According to her, the divestment has created an opportunity for participation in the industry by the Nigerian private sector.
She said that despite the divestment, the IOCs still remain very present in Nigeria with Shell still retaining ownership in 34 onshore blocks.
Giving reasons for the divestment, the minister said 'the fact is that a number of these IOCs are moving into the more challenging frontiers in the deep offshore and are leaving the onshore blocks which they consider less profitable'.
'In addition, some of them have been sitting on oil blocks and have allowed the acreages to go fallow for years without significant development,' she added.
The minister was represented by the group managing director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Engr. Andrew Yakubu.
The Rainbow
Behind the rise of Boko Haram - ecological disaster, oil crisis, spy games
Sat, 10 May 2014 16:33
The kidnapping of over 200 Nigerian school girls, and the massacre of as many as 300 civilians in the town of Gamboru Ngala, by the militant al-Qaeda affiliated group, Boko Haram, has shocked the world.
But while condemnations have rightly been forthcoming from a whole range of senior figures from celebrities to government officials, less attention has been paid to the roots of the crisis.
Instability in Nigeria, however, has been growing steadily over the last decade - and one reason is climate change. In 2009, a UK Department for International Development (Dfid) study warned that climate change could contribute to increasing resource shortages in the country due to land scarcity from desertification, water shortages, and mounting crop failures.
A more recent study by the Congressionally-funded US Institute for Peace confirmed a "basic causal mechanism" that "links climate change with violence in Nigeria." The report concludes:
"...poor responses to climatic shifts create shortages of resources such as land and water. Shortages are followed by negative secondary impacts, such as more sickness, hunger, and joblessness. Poor responses to these, in turn, open the door to conflict."
Unfortunately, a business-as-usual scenario sees Nigeria's climate undergoing "growing shifts in temperature, rainfall, storms, and sea levels throughout the twenty-first century. Poor adaptive responses to these shifts could help fuel violent conflict in some areas of the country."
According to the late Prof Sabo Bako of Ahmadu Bello University, the 1980s "forerunner" to Boko Haram was the Maitatsine sect in northern Nigeria, whose members included many victims of ecological disasters leaving them in "a chaotic state of absolute poverty and social dislocation in search of food, water, shelter, jobs, and means of livelihood."
A year after the USIP study, Africa Review reported that many Boko Haram foot soldiers happen to be people displaced by severe drought and food shortages in neighbouring Niger and Chad. Some 200,000 farmers and herdsman had lost their livelihoods and, facing starvation, crossed the border to Nigeria.
"While a good number of these men were found in major cities like Lagos, pushing water carts and repatriating their earnings to the families they left behind," said Africa Review, "others were believed to have been lured by the Boko Haram."
Indeed, one retired Nigerian security official told the journal that the Nigerian military recognised a correlation between regional climatic events, and an upsurge in extremist violence:
"It has become a pattern; we saw it happen in 2006; it happened again in 2008 and in 2010. If you remember, President (Olusegun) Obasanjo had to deploy the military in 2006 to Yobe State, Borno State and Katsina State. These are some of the states bordering Niger Republic and today they are the hotbeds of the Boko Haram."
The other issue is Nigeria's intensifying energy crisis. In recent months, the country has faced a fuel crisis partly due to the government slashing previously high fuel subsidies, contributing to increasing public anger and civil unrest.
But while corruption and ageing infrastructure play an important role, the end of cheap oil is the real elephant in the room. One study by two Nigerian scholars concluded in 2011 that "there is an imminent decline in Nigeria's oil reserve since peaking could have occurred or just about to occur; this is shown to be in agreement with previous studies."
According to one senior Shell official in March this year, crude oil production decline rates are "as high as 15 to 20 per cent." Replacing this "natural production decline rate... requires more funds than is currently available." The same month, the head of Nigeria's petroleum resources department called for more investment in exploration to offset rapid decline rates:
"Oil reserves are dropping, our output is dropping too... We need to do more in this regards to have more reserves. We have reached the plateau of production in the Niger Delta and we are already going down."
With such domestic oil production challenges undermining Nigeria's oil export revenues, the fuel subsidy slash has pushed the brunt of the crisis onto the population, escalating the poverty and inequality that is a recruiting sergeant for Islamist terror.
In northern Nigeria, where Boko Haram hail from, there is little evidence of an oil boom. With about 70% of the population subsisting on less than a dollar a day - some 20% higher than the already dismal rate in the south, rates of illiteracy and illness are endemic.
As noted by David Francis, one of the first western reporters to cover Boko Haram, "Most of the foot soldiers of Boko Haram aren't Muslim fanatics; they're poor kids who were turned against their corrupt country by a charismatic leader."
Apart from the fact that the west has been content to turn a blind eye to these problems by propping up the corrupt Nigerian government while accelerating oil and gas deals, there is a further complication.
Abundant evidence shows that al-Qaeda in the Maghreb (AQIM) have exploited the rise of Boko Haram to gain increasing control of the Nigerian militant movement.
What we're not being told, however, is that al-Qaeda's rapid expansion through northwest Africa has occurred under the rubric of Algerian state intelligence services - with US, French and British knowledge.
Our relationship with the Algerian military junta, responsible for the massacre of hundreds of thousands of civilians, is driven by the usual unquenchable thirst to access what the US energy department estimates are the world's third largest shale gas reserves.
According to Prof Jeremy Keenan, a leading Algeria expert at the School of Oriental and African Studies who advises the US State Department, European Union, and Foreign Office on regional security issues, AQIM's expansion across north Africa has focused on oil-rich regions - particularly Algeria, Niger Delta, Nigeria, and Chad; the latter three precisely where Boko Haram has reportedly received terrorist training.
Over a decade ago, Keenan reports, these countries signed a "co-operation agreement on counter-terrorism that effectively joined the two oil-rich sides of the Sahara together in a complex of security arrangements whose architecture is American." The agreement evolved into the Trans-Sahara Counterterrorism Initiative, which was eventually absorbed into the US Army's African Command (AFRICOM).
Keenan argues that the west's oil and gas greed has caused our governments to turn a blind eye to the role of oil states like Algeria in fostering regional terrorism - instead exploiting the resulting chaos to legitimise efforts to consolidate access to remaining African energy reserves.
If this analysis is correct, then the hundreds of innocent girls kidnapped in Nigeria are not just victims of Islamist fanaticism; they are also victims of failed foreign, economic and security policies tied to our infernal addiction to black gold.
Dr Nafeez Ahmed is executive director of the Institute for Policy Research & Development and author of A User's Guide to the Crisis of Civilisation: And How to Save It among other books. Follow him on Twitter @nafeezahmed
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Nigerian president 'spent $1million of aid money meant for poverty-stricken country on star-studded festival featuring Beyonc(C) and Jay-Z' | Mail Online
Sun, 11 May 2014 13:33
The money was released for the ThisDay Music Festival in Lagos in 2006It was money from the Bayelsa State poverty alleviation fund in NigeriaBeyonce and Jay Z performed at the festival along with other American performers to 'tell the world through music that Nigeria's time has come'By Alex Ward
Published: 16:57 EST, 23 February 2013 | Updated: 17:13 EST, 23 February 2013
The Nigerian president spent $1million of aid money to entice international popstars such as Beyonce and Jay-Z to perform at a music festival in the poverty-stricken country, a media source reported.
A letter stamped and signed by Bayelsa State officials in 2006 revealed that President Goodluck Jonathan, then the Governor of the state, released 150million Nigerian Nairas from the state's poverty alleviation fund for the inaugural ThisDay Music Festival in the city of Lagos in 2006, according to SaharaReporters.
The document surfaced after reality TV star Kim Kardashian was reportedly paid $500,000 (£329,695) for a fleeting appearance in Lagos last week, angering Nigerian commentators.
Poverty pay: One million dollars of Nigerian aid money was spent to entice international popstars such as Beyonce and Jay-Z to a music festival in the poverty-stricken country
The mother-to-be was billed to 'co-host' the Love Like A Movie event with African R'n'B crooner Darey Art-Alade, for which tickets cost N100,000 (£418). But according to local reports, Kim stayed at the event for 45 minutes, making a 45-second statement on the microphone.
SaharaReporters reported that sources who provided the letter said there was an alleged link between producers of high profile entertainment events and government officials who control the budget at a state and federal level in Nigeria.
The letter was sent from Nduka Obaigbena, the publisher of Nigerian newspaper ThisDay '' the major sponsor for the festival - to the Bayelsa State government asking for money for the festival ahead of the country's 46th independence celebration.
Fleeting appearance: Kim Kardashian was reportedly paid $500,000 (£329,695) to 'co-host' an event in Nigeria last week
The authenticity of the letter has not been confirmed. It is not known whether the funds allegedly released by the government were paid to festival performers directly and if so, how much the performers received.
One source told SaharaReporters: 'Mr Obaigbena often lines up financial bonanzas from numerous governors, ministers and other top government officials to finance his jamborees.'
At the bottom of the letter, a handwritten note allegedly signed by aides of then Governor Jonathan and the state's accountant general says: 'Release N150,000,000.00 (One hundred and fifty million naira) only to be drawn from the poverty alleviation subhead.'
The letter reads: 'The music festival will bring the world's top music icons to Nigeria and showcase the great news coming out of Nigeria.
'Already several top music icons have signed on or are signing on.
'They'll tell the world through music that Nigeria's time has come.'
The publisher added: 'We invite you to partner with us as co-hosts of the festival.
'With a total budget of $10 million, the co-host is expected to contribute a minimum of $2.5 million.'
There was also no indication that Beyonce and Jay Z were aware that their appearance was subsidised by the Nigerian state's poverty alleviation fund, it was reported.
Missy Elliott, Busta Rhymes, Snoop Dogg and Ciara were also among performers at the 2006 festival.
Mr Obaigbena's parent company Leaders & Company have produced other major events in Nigeria which have seen other American stars such as Usher, Rihanna and R Kelly perform since 2006.
ThisDay Festival has also hosted former American President Bill Clinton and Lawrence Summers, the former economic adviser for the Obama office.
Tickets prices have often been too expensive for the average Nigerian with some costing tens of thousands of Nigerian Naira.
Tickets to the Love Like A Movie event in which Miss Kardashian appeared at last week cost N100,000 (£418).
A letter stamped and signed by Bayelsa State officials revealed that the then Governor Goodluck Jonathan, now Nigerian President, released 150million Nigerian Nairas from the state's poverty alleviation fund for the inaugural ThisDay Music Festival in 2006
Guardian blogger Jeremy Weate described how her visit was an example of the country's economic elite 'blowing its money on bling puffery while most of the country suffers'.
He wrote: 'Ms Kardashian appeared, said, ''Hey Naija'' and vamoosed. The rumour was that she'd been paid 500,000 Benjamins for the honour of mixing with the petro-class.'
A representative for Beyonce's record label Columbia Records was unavailable for comment as was the Nigerian High Commission in London.
While Nigeria is Africa's most populous nation and largest oil producer, 47 per cent of Bayelsans live in poverty according to the Nigerian Bureau of Statistics.
In the state's capital, Yenagoa, about two out of every five residents do not have access to safe drinking water.
Spread the word: The letter sent from the festival's major sponsor to Nigerian government officials said that performances from stars such as Beyonce would 'tell the world through music that Nigeria's time has come'
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Weekly Address: The First Lady Marks Mother's Day and Speaks Out on the Tragic Kidnapping in Nigeria
Sat, 10 May 2014 16:48
May 10, 2014 | 5:24 | Public Domain
In this week's address, First Lady Michelle Obama honored all mothers on this upcoming Mother's Day and offered her thoughts, prayers and support in the wake of the unconscionable terrorist kidnapping of more than 200 Nigerian girls.
Download mp4 (200MB) | mp3 (5MB)
Clinton's State Department resisted labeling Boko Haram as terror group
Fri, 09 May 2014 04:07
The kidnapping of nearly 300 Nigerian schoolgirls by radical Islamic terror group Boko Haram has drawn international condemnation, including that of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
"Abominable," is how she described the kidnapping, calling it an "act of terrorism" that merits "the fullest response possible."
But the State Department, under Clinton's leadership, repeatedly resisted and blocked efforts to designate Boko Haram as a terrorist group. Those who pushed for the designation as early as 2011 are now saying the department missed a major opportunity to track and target the deadly organization as it grew.
"The delayed designation of Boko Haram as a Foreign Terrorist Organization cost us two years of increased scrutiny of the group's activities and leadership," Rep. Patrick Meehan, R-Pa., said Thursday in a statement to FoxNews.com. "Boko Haram met the statutory requirements for the designation as early as 2011, but the State Department's delay has left us with fewer resources and less intelligence on an Islamic terrorist group with ties to al-Qaeda that is clearly destabilizing the region."
The State Department did label Boko Haram as a foreign terrorist organization in November 2013, under the leadership of Secretary John Kerry.
But Boko Haram had been killing people for years at that point, building ties with Al Qaeda sympathizers and orchestrating major terror attacks, including one on a U.N. compound in 2011.
Shortly after that attack, lawmakers began lobbying the State Department to consider labeling Boko Haram a terrorist organization, to no success.
A March 30, 2012, letter from Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., and Meehan urged Clinton to "immediately designate" the group, citing estimates that it had killed more than 900 people in the last two years.
The lawmakers noted that designating Boko Haram would authorize a range of punitive measures -- giving the Justice Department clearance to prosecute those tied to the organization and the Treasury Department the ability to go after members. The letter said those in the intelligence and law enforcement community were "deeply" concerned about the group's "rapid progression from a machete wielding mob to a full blown al Qaeda affiliate."
Indeed, just a few months later Reuters first reported that a high-level Justice Department official had sent a letter to the State Department urging them to place Boko Haram on the terror organization list.
The department still resisted. Further, the department reportedly lobbied Congress to stall legislation seeking the designation.
At the time, a department official told Reuters they were "very concerned" about violence in Nigeria but stressed that adding a group to the list is a "rigorous process which has to stand up in a court of law."
According to The Daily Beast, State Department officials now argue there was concern at the time that putting Boko Haram on the list would raise its profile and give it "greater credibility," in turn helping recruitment.
But one unnamed former U.S. official told The Daily Beast that everyone from the FBI to the CIA was urging the department to make the call, calling Clinton's recent comments "gross hypocrisy."
Asked Wednesday why it took so long to place Boko Haram on the list, department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said she could not comment on "internal decision making" but noted that the eventual decision in November to designate them "sends a strong message about how concerned we are about them."
A State Department official noted Thursday that the department did designate three Boko Haram-tied individuals in June 2012, including the group's leader. This was followed, the official said, by an "extensive process of review and research" on possible designation of the group itself.
"After that review and consultations with the Nigerian Government and other partners, we determined that designating these groups was both appropriate and effective in helping advance our larger counterterrorism strategy," the official said, referring to the November 2013 decision.
Timothy Furnish, an author and Islam scholar, told Fox News that the department probably was reluctant "to add another group that is clearly Islamic to the list."
"Better late than never, but unfortunately where were these tweets and where was this outrage when churches were being bombed and thousands of Christians -- and other non-fundamentalist Muslims -- were being killed in Nigeria?" he said, referring to a recent Clinton tweet drawing attention to the kidnappings. "It would have been nice if this outrage had happened earlier."
FoxNews.com's Judson Berger and Fox News' Jonathan Hunt and Lucas Tomlinson contributed to this report.
F-Russia / Ukraine
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Ukraine eastern regions hold 'self-rule' vote today
Sun, 11 May 2014 13:46
Pro-Russian rebels have started to cast ballots in a "self-rule" vote in eastern Ukraine, a move criticised by the US as "illegal" and which could pull the former Soviet republic apart.
Sunday's poll, carried out as two "referendums" in the provinces of Donetsk and Lugansk, where armed men hold more than a dozen towns, marks a serious deepening of the political crisis in the country.
Although a "yes" vote would likely only be recognised by Russia, it would greatly undermine a presidential election which Ukraine is to hold in two weeks time, the AFP news agency reported.
The US and the European Union see the presidential election as crucial to restoring stability in Ukraine.
In a statement released on Saturday, Jen Psaki, the US State Department spokeswoman, said the referendums were "illegal under Ukrainian law and are an attempt to create further division and disorder".
"If these referenda go forward, they will violate international law and the territorial integrity of Ukraine. The United States will not recognise the results of these illegal referenda," she said.
In comments posted on Ukraine's presidential website on Saturday, acting president Oleksandr Turchynov said the vote would lead to "a complete destruction of the economy, social programs and general life for the majority of the population".
"This is a step into the abyss for the regions," Turchynov said.
Earlier on Saturday, France and Germany jointly threatened "consequences" on Russia if the presidential election is scuppered - echoing US President Barack Obama's warning of automatic sanctions that would slice into whole sectors of Russia's weakening economy.
Al Jazeera's Paul Brennan, reporting from Donetsk, said voters had been asked a "deliberately coy" question about self-rule.
He said "it does not specify what form that rule may or may not take. It is deliberately coy".
Our correspondent also said the people in the east do not like the Kiev government but they do not necessarily want to break away.
A new poll by the Pew Global Attitudes Project shows a majority of those living in Ukraine - both in the restive east and more nationalist west - want the country's borders to remain intact, said our correspondent.
The self-rule votes and presidential election come amid intensifying violence on the ground in east Ukraine.
Troops have been battling the well-armed rebels, who have barricaded themselves in towns and cities in Donetsk and Lugansk.
Despite rebel claims that the polling will reach 90 percent of the seven million people living in these two provinces, the areas they hold account for less than half that population.
Polling stations opened in schools in rebel-held territories at 8am (0500 GMT) and will close 12 hours later, according to rebel chiefs in the city of Donetsk.
Reporting from Kiev, Al Jazeera's Kim Vinnell said the Ukrainian government had dismissed the vote as "illegitimate".
However, like in Crimea - which Russia annexed in March after a similar referendum - Ukraine has been powerless to stop preparations.
The government and its Western backers accuse Vladimir Putin, Russia's president, of deploying special forces in east Ukraine, as in Crimea, to see the vote through and to sabotage the May 25 presidential election.
Putin belatedly admitted sending military forces, but not special forces, to Crimea but continues to deny militarily meddling in east Ukraine.
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Ukraine-Krise: 400 US-S¶ldner von Academi k¤mpfen gegen Separatisten - SPIEGEL ONLINE
Sun, 11 May 2014 14:11
Berlin - Es war ein eindeutig formuliertes Dementi. "Unverantwortliche Blogger und ein Onlinereporter" h¤tten "Ger¼chte" verbreitet, wonach Angestellte der Firma Academi in der Ukraine im Einsatz seien. Das sei falsch und nichts mehr als ein "sensationalistischer Versuch, eine Hysterie zu kreieren". So ¤uŸerte sich der US-Milit¤rdienstleister, ehemals unter dem Namen Blackwater zu unr¼hmlicher Bekanntheit gelangt, am 17. M¤rz auf seiner Webseite.
Die staatliche russische Nachrichtenagentur "Ria Novosti" legte freilich am 7. April nach: Blackwater-K¤mpfer agierten in der Ostukraine - und zwar in der Uniform der ukrainischen Sonderpolizei "Sokol". Eine unabh¤ngige Best¤tigung daf¼r gab es nicht.
Ein Zeitungsbericht legt nun nahe, dass an der Sache wom¶glich doch etwas dran sein k¶nnte: Laut "Bild am Sonntag" werden die ukrainischen Sicherheitskr¤fte von 400 Academi-Elitesoldaten unterst¼tzt. Sie sollen Eins¤tze gegen prorussische Rebellen rund um die ostukrainische Stadt Slowjansk gef¼hrt haben. Demnach setzte der Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND) die Bundesregierung am 29. April dar¼ber in Kenntnis. Wer die S¶ldner beauftragt habe, sei noch unklar.
Die Informationen sollen vom US-Geheimdienst stammen und seien w¤hrend der sogenannten Nachrichtendienstlichen Lage, einer regelm¤Ÿigen Besprechung unter Leitung von Kanzleramtschef Peter Altmaier (CDU), vorgetragen worden. An dem Treffen h¤tten auch die Pr¤sidenten der Nachrichtendienste und des Bundeskriminalamts, der Geheimdienstkoordinator des Kanzleramts und hochrangige Ministeriumsbeamte teilgenommen.
Angeblich Luftraum gezielt verletzt
Die Zeitung berichtet aus der Runde weiterhin, dass die US-Geheimdienstler auch ¼ber Informationen verf¼gten, wonach russische Flugzeuge absichtlich den Luftraum der Ukraine verletzt h¤tten. Die Regierung in Moskau hatte das dementiert. Der BND habe aber Informationen der Amerikaner, dass Moskaus Milit¤rpiloten den Einsatzbefehl bekommen h¤tten, gezielt in den ukrainischen Luftraum einzudringen.
Eine Best¤tigung f¼r den Bericht gibt es bisher nicht. Der BND habe eine Stellungnahme abgelehnt, so "Bild am Sonntag". Private Sicherheitsfirmen wie Academi gerieten insbesondere w¤hrend des Irak-Kriegs in die Kritik. In den USA stehen mehrere ehemalige Blackwater-Angestellte im Zusammenhang mit der T¶tung von irakischen Zivilisten vor Gericht. Academi hat sich mit einer Millionenzahlung von Ermittlungen in den USA freigekauft.
Amerikanische S¶ldner sollen in der Ostukraine k¤mpfen - Ausland - FAZ
Sun, 11 May 2014 13:01
Die ukrainischen Sicherheitskr¤fte werden einem Zeitungsbericht zufolge von 400 Elitek¤mpfern des amerikanischen Milit¤rdienstleisters Academi - fr¼her Blackwater - unterst¼tzt. Der Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND) soll die Bundesregierung am 29. April dar¼ber in Kenntnis gesetzt haben. Das berichtet die 'žBild am Sonntag''. Die Angaben sollen sich demnach auf Quellen des amerikanischen Geheimdienstes berufen haben. Der BND hat eine Stellungnahme abgelehnt.
Die Informationen sollen w¤hrend einer der sogenannten 'žNachrichtendienstlichen Lage'', einer regelm¤Ÿigen Besprechung unter Leitung von Kanzleramtschef Peter Altmaier (CDU), vorgetragen worden sein. Daran nehmen in der Regel auch die Pr¤sidenten von BND und Bundeskriminalamt teil.
Academi hatte Meldungen, wonach es Mitarbeiter in die Ukraine entsandt habe, schon Mitte M¤rz auf seiner Homepage dementiert. Dies seien 'žGer¼chte von 'žunverantwortlichen Blogger und einem Onlinereporter'', hieŸ es damals. Ziel sei es, in einer schwierigen Krise Hysterie zu sch¼ren und unverantwortliche Schlagzeilen zu produzieren.
An der Seite von K¤mpfern des 'žRechten Sektors''?Die staatliche russische Nachrichtenagentur Ria Novosti hatte wiederum am 7. April gemeldet, zur 'žUnterdr¼ckung des Volksaufstandes'' habe die Regierung in Kiew Truppen der Nationalgarde in den Osten der Ukraine entsandt, zu denen 'ždie besten K¤mpfer vom 'Rechten Sektor' geh¶rten, sowie eine Einheit der Blackwater-S¶ldner in der Uniform der ukrainischen Sonderpolizei 'Sokol''. Die Agentur berief sich auf Quellen bei den ukrainischen Sicherheitskr¤ften.
Mehr zum Thema
Auf der anderen Seite haben wiederum die Regierung in Kiew und der Westen Russland wiederholt vorgeworfen, den Aufstand in der Ostukraine mit Sondereinsatzkr¤ften zu unterst¼tzen und zu steuern. Moskau bestreitet das. Die ukrainische Armee k¤mpfe in Slawjansk gegen 'žprofessionelle S¶ldner'', hatte Verteidigungsminister Awakow gesagt. Die Soldaten w¼rden mit 'žschweren Waffen'' angegriffen.
Schon im Irak im EinsatzDas Unternehmen, das heute Academi heiŸt, wurde 1997 von einem fr¼heren Mitglied der amerikanischen Spezialeinheit Navy SEAL unter dem Namen Blackwater gegr¼ndet und bietet unter anderem paramilit¤rische Dienstleistungen an. Bekannt wurde es, als es zu Beginn des Irakkriegs offenbar ohne Ausschreibung GroŸauftr¤ge von der Regierung des damaligen amerikanischen Pr¤sidenten George W. Bush erhielt. 2007 geriet Blackwater wegen eines schwerwiegenden Zwischenfalls im Irak in die Schlagzeilen. Mitarbeiter von Blackwater waren im September 2007 an einer SchieŸerei in Bagdad beteiligt, bei der 17 Menschen ums Leben kamen, darunter Frauen und Kinder.
Sp¤ter wechselte das Unternehmen Blackwater seinen Namen in Xe Services. 2010 einigte sich die Firma mit dem amerikanischen AuŸenministerium auf die Zahlung einer Strafe von 42 Millionen Dollar (34 Millionen Euro). Hintergrund waren Vorw¼rfe, das Unternehmen habe gegen Gesetze ¼ber Waffenexporte und Waffenhandel verstoŸen. Der Anklage gingen f¼nf Jahre lange Ermittlungen voraus.
Nach Angaben der Staatsanwaltschaft verstieŸ Blackwater wiederholt gegen amerikanische Gesetze. Im Rahmen der Einigung ¼bernahm Academi 'žVerantwortung f¼r das Verhalten'' in den 17 Anklagepunkten. Nach Ver¶ffentlichung der Einigung erkl¤rten Vertreter von Academi, dies sei kein Eingest¤ndnis von Schuld.
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Germans kidnapped in Ukraine had 'intelligence connections'
Sat, 10 May 2014 16:58
By IAN ALLEN | intelNews.orgFour German military observers, who were kidnapped in Ukraine by pro-Russian separatists, are members of a military agency that has intelligence contacts, but are not themselves spies, according to a leading German newspaper. The German observers were abducted along with several other Western military officials on April 25, in the eastern Ukrainian city of Sloviansk. They were participating in a military verification mission organized by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). At the time of the abduction, one pro-Russian separatist leader, Vyacheslav Ponomarev, said his group had decided to detain the OSCE monitors due to ''credible information'' that they were spies for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). The OSCE strongly denied the accusation that its monitors were intelligence operatives, saying that the kidnappers' claims were aimed at damaging the reputation of the organization. With nearly 60 signatories to its charter, the OSCE has operated since 1975 with the aim of securing peace across the European continent. It regularly supplies military observers to investigate what it terms ''uncommon military operations'' in nations that formally invite their presence, as Ukraine did last month. On Monday, German newspaper S¼ddeutsche Zeitung said that, although the four German OSCE observers are not employees of German intelligence agencies, they do maintain ''certain connections'' with Germany's Federal Intelligence Service, known as Bundesnachrichtendienst, or BND. The Munich-based broadsheet claimed that the inspectors, who had been given diplomatic status during their deployment in Ukraine, are not members of staff at the BND or MAD, Germany's Military Counterintelligence Service. However, they are employed at the Verification Center of the Bundeswehr '--Germany's federal armed forces. The mission of the Center, which is based in the town of Geilenkirchen, in Germany's North Rhine-Westphalia, is to verify compliance with weapons control agreements signed between Germany and other countries. The paper said that the Center works closely with the BND, which also maintains a branch in Geilenkirchen. The article also stated that the BND regularly provides briefings for the Center's observers, who are often employed in OSCE-authorized monitoring missions. The intelligence agency provides observers with information about the security situation in host countries, as well as intelligence about the location of targeted military facilities. The OSCE observers were freed on May 3, after more than a week in captivity, and have been flown to their respective countries of origin.
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Italy looks at Mediterranean for alternatives to Russian gas
Sat, 10 May 2014 16:37
Italy could increase gas imports from Algeria, Libya and the Netherlands to counter any disruption of supplies from Russia, Deputy Industry Minister Claudio De Vincenti said on Monday as G7 energy ministers gathered in Rome.
"We are capable of rapidly increasing imports from the supplier countries ... Libya, Algeria and the Netherlands," De Vincenti told Reuters.
His comments came on the day G7 energy representatives began a two-day meeting to discuss energy policy after a weekend of violence killed dozens in Ukraine, a major transit route for Russian gas into the EU.
Italy, which generates more than 40% of its electricity from gas, is increasingly dependent on Russian gas as Algerian imports decline and Libyan supplies are limited by growing unrest in the country.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has warned Russia could cut off supplies to Ukraine unless it starts to pay off a gas debt, which Gazprom says stands at $3.5 billion ('‚¬2.5 billion).
Rome is placing increasing importance on completing the Trans Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) to bring Azeri gas to Italy, but is also supporting the South Stream project, which will transport Russian gas bypassing Ukraine.
"South Stream remains crucial. We still believe the pipe's arriving in Italy could be advantageous compared to an Austrian endpoint," De Vincenti said.
Austria's OMV agreed last week with the Russian energy giant that South Stream would be routed to the Baumgarten gas hub in Austria, outmanoeuvering Italy, which had wanted it to end in the northeastern Italian town of Tarvisio [read more].
The Rome government wants to turn Italy into a southern European gas hub able to transit African supplies into Europe as it develops reverse flow capabilities at its northern borders.
Discoveries
But De Vincenti said Italy was also looking at developing a gas link with the East Mediterranean, where recent gas discoveries off the coasts of Israel, Cyprus and Malta have raised hopes of fresh supplies for Europe.
"It could certainly be a possibility in the future ... we'll have to see in what form, whether pipeline or liquefied natural gas (LNG)," he said.
The ITGI - Interconnector Turkey-Greece-Italy - pipeline, developed by EDF's Italian unit Edison, might be a candidate for the role, he said.
"The pipeline already has all the permits".
A source close to the matter told Reuters on Monday contacts had been made between the developers of TAP and ITGI to discuss possible cooperation.
De Vincenti said Italy had 3 LNG terminals that were currently under-utilised, but which could be cranked up if needed.
"There are also at least three other terminals we aim to get operating in the next few years," he said.
G7 energy ministers will continue talks on Tuesday with a closed-door meeting to hammer out a proposal on energy security to be addressed to the G7 summit in Brussels in June.
"We are going to discuss a full range of problems relating to energy, energy security and also the transition to new forms of energy," said French Environment minister S(C)gol¨ne Royal.
Tuesday's talks, which will also involve European Energy Commissioner G¼nther Oettinger, will address new strategies for diversifying energy supply sources as the debate over weaning Europe off Russian gas gathers pace.
European Union officials sat down in Brussels yesterday (5 May) to confront the hard choices to be made for the EU, which takes a third of its gas imports from Russia, almost half of that passing through Ukraine.
Ukraine crisis EXCLUSIVE: West draws up plan to 'disarm' Russia's energy supply threat
Fri, 09 May 2014 22:41
Next month, David Cameron and other G7 leaders are expected to sign off on an ''emergency response plan'' to assist Ukraine this winter if Russia restricts gas supplies.
At the same time, G7 energy ministers this week agreed a plan to eliminate Europe's reliance on Russian oil and gas over the longer term and prevent energy security being used as political bargaining chip by the Kremlin.
Russia currently supplies around 30 per cent of all gas consumed within Europe and more than 50 per cent of the gas used by Ukraine.
In 2006, when the Russian state-controlled energy producer Gazprom turned off supplies through its Ukrainian pipeline Austria, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy and Poland reported gas pressure in their pipelines fell by 30 per cent.
While only a small fraction of gas used by the UK comes from Russia, any restriction in supply has a dramatic impact on prices.
Under the G7 proposals, support would be given to build several new liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminals across Europe, while the US would lift restrictions on the export of shale gas.
At the same time, the EU will invest in new pipelines to move gas from West to East and increase supply routes from North Africa.
Japan is also understood to be prepared to re-start some of its nuclear plants that were mothballed in the wake of the Fukushima disaster. Japan is now one of the largest importers of LNG, which has pushed up prices to record levels.
Senior Government sources said the ongoing crisis had ''concentrated minds'', particularly in Europe, over the energy threat and said there was for the first time a ''clear consensus'' to take action.
Next month, David Cameron and other G7 leaders are expected to sign off on an ''emergency response plan'' to assist Ukraine this winter if Russia restricts gas supplies (Getty Images) ''The diversification of sources and routes for fossil fuels is essential,'' the G7 communique stated.
''No country should depend totally on one supplier. Nor should energy be used as a means of political coercion or a threat to security.''
Ed Davey, the Energy and Climate Change Secretary who represented Britain at the G7 talks in Rome, told The Independent that unless action was taken now Russia would ''undoubtedly continue to use energy as a weapon''.
''It is completely unacceptable for President Putin to use Russia's gas and oil supplies as a weapon to exert control and power over Ukraine '' or any other country,'' he said.
''But this is not the first time he has done this, so we have to take a stand this time, or he will undoubtedly continue to use energy as a weapon.''
Mr Davey said that the G7 had agreed a process that, over the longer term, would ''disarm the threat''. But he added that in the short term there would be a plan in place within the next few weeks to support Ukraine's energy needs this winter if there is a Russia switch-off of gas.
''We will be drawing up an emergency winter response if Russia threatens its gas supplies, which will be discussed again at the G7 Heads of State meeting next month.''
A Downing Street source confirmed that Mr Cameron ''fully backed'' the strategy, adding that it was possible that the G7 leader summit in Brussels could ''go further''.
''We will be examining the full range of options available,'' they added.
Russia to switch Kyiv to gas prepayment from June
Sat, 10 May 2014 15:22
MOSCOW - Reuters
This file picture dated on March 4, 2014 shows svalves of gas pipe-line seen in the gas station not far from Kiev. AFP Photo
Russia will require Ukraine to pay in advance for gas starting from June, Energy Minister Alexander Novak said late on Thursday, after Kyiv failed to pay for gas deliveries. Gazprom said on Wednesday that Ukraine's payments for gas supply in April had fallen due and that nothing had been paid, raising Kyiv's total debt for Russian gas to $3.51 billion. "According to contract... failure of obligations automatically leads to a switch to prepayment for gas deliveries for Ukraine starting from June 1," Novak said in a statement late on Thursday. Russia had threatened to cut gas supplies to Ukraine in June if it receives no prepayment by the end of May. Gazprom supplies about 30 percent of the gas consumed in Europe, shipping about half of that via Ukraine. Russia's Energy Ministry added that Gazprom would send a preliminary bill for June before May 16 and will ship gas in volumes reflecting payments received before May 31. The Kremlin has often used its energy dominance as a tool of foreign policy, cutting off supplies to Ukraine and Europe in 2005 and 2009 after price disputes with an earlier pro-Western government in what became known as the "gas wars". Ukraine desperately wants to change the conditions of a 2009 contract, negotiated by an earlier pro-Western government, which locked Kyiv into buying a set volume whether it needed it or not at $485 per 1,000 cubic metres - the highest price in Europe. Moscow dropped the price to $268.5 when ousted President Viktor Yanukovich turned his back on a trade and association agreement with the European Union but re-instated the original price after the uprising in Ukraine. "Russia can't and should no long carry the burden of support of Ukraine's economy alone, giving it discounts on the gas price and forgiving debts, in fact covering the deficit in Ukraine's trade," Novak said in a statement. This week, Ukraine received a first tranche worth about $3.2 billion from a $17 billion two-year aid programme from the International Monetary Fund, which Moscow hopes Kyiv will use to cover gas debt. May/09/2014
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Van Rompuy flies to Ukraine to secure 25 May elections
Fri, 09 May 2014 23:10
Council President Herman Van Rompuy will travel to Ukraine next Monday to discuss how to stabilise the situation there before the 25 May presidential election, the EU said yesterday (8 May).
Western countries are hoping the election will help stabilise the country. But Russia said yesterday it would be senseless to go ahead with the vote, unless the Ukrainian government ended a military operation against separatists in the east and began a nationwide dialogue on constitutional reform.
"I will travel to Kyiv on Monday to continue our talks on how to stabilise the situation in Ukraine ahead of the presidential elections on 25 May, how to put an end to violence in Ukraine and how to create an inclusive national dialogue," Van Rompuy said in a statement.
Van Rompuy, who represents the European Union's 28 national governments, said Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk had invited him in a phone call.
Yatseniuk and several members of his government are already scheduled to come to Brussels next Tuesday for talks with European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso.
The EU has said it is willing to provide $15 billion ('‚¬11 Billion) in loans and grants to Ukraine over several years to help get the shattered economy back on its feet.
Pro-Russian separatists have taken over parts of eastern Ukraine and plan to hold a referendum there on Sunday on breaking away from Kyiv, following the example of Crimea, which was annexed by Russia in March after a similar vote.
The upheaval in Ukraine broke out after former pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovich turned his back last year on an agreement on closer trade and political cooperation with the EU in favour of a $15 billion bailout from Russia. That sparked street protests that ended with him fleeing Ukraine.
Mediators press on peace plan
International mediators took new peace proposals to Kyiv yesterday as tension in eastern Ukraine soared with an announcement by pro-Moscow separatists that they would proceed with a referendum on self-rule on Sunday.
The draft "road map", seen by Reuters, took no direct view on the referendum, which Western leaders say is illegitimate and inflammatory, but said the 25 May elections were key to stabilising the former Soviet republic. It said all sides must refrain from "violence, intimidation or provocative actions".
It was drawn up by the Swiss chair of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and is aimed at giving new impetus to a deal signed in Geneva in mid-April by the European Union, Russia, Ukraine and the United States.
That accord said illegal armed groups would withdraw from places they have occupied in eastern Ukraine in a process to be overseen by the OSCE, a Vienna-based body that seeks to prevent conflict and promote democracy across Europe.
But pro-Russian separatists have shown little sign of budging from public buildings in the east and comments from Moscow and Kyiv yesterday cast further doubt over the prospects for the peace process.
The OSCE plan said Ukraine has the right to use its security forces "in a proportionate manner" to prevent violence in its standoff with pro-Moscow rebels and should adopt an amnesty law to cover any who end their occupation of public places in eastern areas and lay down their arms.
It said the OSCE chair "offers ... to coordinate further steps to implement" the Geneva deal and listed various measures the 57-nation body could help with, including mediation, disarmament, and the launch of a broad national dialogue.
The OSCE already has more than 150 civilian monitors in Ukraine. Eight European military observers from a separate OSCE-linked mission were detained by Ukrainian separatists for a week before they were freed last week.
Two pages
The two-page Swiss plan said "all acts of violence must be promptly investigated and prosecuted accordingly" and that the OSCE would support such measures with a hotline and an expert team that could be operational by 15 May.
However, amnesty would be granted to "protesters and those who have left buildings and other public places and surrendered weapons, with the exception of those found guilty of capital crimes".
Amnesty was also part of last month's Geneva agreement. But the OSCE proposal appeared more concrete in suggesting "the immediate adoption" of such a law by the Ukrainian parliament as a "confidence-building measure".
One OSCE envoy said Swiss Foreign Minister Didier Burkhalter presented the plan to Van Rompuy in Brussels late on Wednesday, after Burkhalter met earlier with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow.
The OSCE press office said Burkhalter had "proposed a road map with milestones and activities in order to make implementation (of de-escalation steps under the Geneva accord) more concrete, structured and effective", but it gave no detail.
Consultations were now taking place with the sides - senior OSCE officials were in Kyiv yesterday - but it was unclear when, if and in what form the proposal would be made public.
The pro-Western leaders who took over Ukraine in February after its Moscow-backed president fled to Russia amid mass protests said yesterday they would not talk to "terrorists" - their term for the separatists.
Russia called on the West to press Ukraine's government to talk to its foes, saying the OSCE peace proposals would have a better chance of success if the Kyiv authorities hold "a truly respectful, equitable conversation" with their opponents.
In a foreign ministry statement, Russia dangled the prospect of unspecified compromises on its part in exchange for such Western pressure. Moscow says Kyiv must halt a security operation in the east and hold nationwide talks on constitutional reform that the Kremlin hopes would grant more power to Ukraine's provinces and keep it out of NATO forever.
"High-level round tables"
In a surprise move, Putin called on the rebels on Wednesday to postpone their planned referendum on self-rule to create conditions for dialogue between Kyiv and the east on what has become the worst East-West standoff since the Cold War.
But the pro-Russian separatists voted yesterday to hold Sunday's vote in spite of Putin's call. While the Swiss plan underlined the need to refrain from actions contrary to Ukraine's "basic security interests", it did not call for any specific measures by Russia, for example regarding the troops the West says it has amassed near Ukraine.
It said OSCE monitors would help mediate between "illegally armed groups" and Ukrainian authorities on disarmament, release of hostages, return of seized buildings and other issues.
A broad national dialogue would cover "decentralization, local self-governance, language and national minorities" and other topics, the Swiss road map said, adding that a series of "public high-level round tables" would be launched immediately.
Ukraine's parliament "is encouraged to take stock of the outcomes of the national dialogue and submit key elements for further work on the constitutional process to a nationwide plebiscite," it said.
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Putin Going After Chinese Money to Sustain Sagging Russian Economy.
Sat, 10 May 2014 16:45
Russian President Vladimir Putin plans to open the door to Chinese money as U.S. and European sanctions over Ukraine threaten to tip the economy into recession, according to two senior government officials.
The move would roll back informal limits on Chinese investment as Russia seeks to stimulate growth, said the officials, who have direct knowledge of talks and asked not to be identified as the information isn't public. The government wants to lure cash from the world's second-biggest economy into industries from housing and infrastructure construction to natural resources, they said.
The Chinese won't be welcome in all areas: Russia plans to set ''red lines'' around significant gold, platinum-group metals, diamond mining and high-technology projects, the officials said.
Putin is turning to Asia as financing from the U.S. and EU tightens and capital outflows surge amid the worst standoff since the fall of the Iron Curtain. The U.S. and the EU have accused Putin of fomenting unrest in Ukraine's easternmost regions after annexing the Crimean peninsula in March, threatening to widen the sanctions to target the economy unless Russia helps ease tensions.
Putin oversaw nationwide military drills in the run-up to today's World War II Victory Day celebrations after saying May 7 that Russia had pulled troops from the border with Ukraine, a claim that the U.S., the U.K. and the government in Kiev challenge.
Autonomy VotesPro-Russian separatists in Ukraine's Donetsk and Luhansk regions vowed to press ahead with autonomy votes on May 11 after the Russian leader urged them to postpone the plebiscites.
The International Monetary Fund said last month that Russia's economy is already in a technical recession and cut its growth forecast to 0.2 percent this year. Russia's exports of gas and raw materials are so far holding up, even in the face of international condemnation over the incursion into Ukraine.
The world's largest energy producer shipped 2 percent more gas to Europe in the first three months of 2014 than a year earlier, government data show. Diesel production for export increased, while cargoes of grains, palladium and nickel either climbed or were at similar levels.
Russia has been building trade ties with China, including long-term oil deals worth hundreds of billions of dollars, to tap Asia's biggest energy consumer as the European economy slowed. China is Russia's largest trading partner with $95.6 billion of business in 2012, followed by Germany, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
'Clinical Fact'''It's a clinical fact'' that China is heading to become the No. 1 state in the global economy, Putin said during his annual televised call-in show on April 17. Russia will develop ties with China and the two countries' union will be a ''significant factor'' affecting the architecture of modern international relations, Putin said.
Still, the Asian country has relatively few major projects in Russia, evidence of informal restrictions on its investments, according to one of the officials. At least two government discussions are scheduled this month to set guidelines for how Chinese investors will be allowed to work in Russia, the officials said.
In addition to limiting access to precious metals and diamonds, Russia is likely to restrict China's investments in high-technology projects, the people said. The government will also look at how to bar large settlements of Chinese citizens on its territory to avoid ethnic tensions, they said.
China's OpportunityPutin's decision, coming as competition from U.S. and European financing slows, may offer China a good opportunity to gain access to Russia's economy. Joining existing resource projects will probably be more appealing than starting from scratch, Moscow-based George Buzhenitsa, a Deutsche Bank AG analyst, said by phone on May 7.
Projects such as OAO Mechel (MTLR)'s Elga coal deposit in Yakutia or Evraz Plc (EVR) and OAO Alrosa's Timir iron ore asset may be interesting to Chinese investors, Buzhenitsa said.
''Given that China has a shortage of raw materials from iron ore to coal to copper, it may be extremely interested in gaining access to such projects in Russia,'' Buzhenitsa said.
Evraz's press service and Mechel spokesman Arseniy Palagin declined to comment.
Sakhalin ProjectRussia invited China to join the Elga development, the government said on April 10 after Deputy Prime Minster Arkady Dvorkovich visited the country. Chinese cooperation on the Sakhalin-3 oil and gas project is also under consideration, the government said at the time.
China is already one of the largest investors in OAO Uralkali, the Russian potash producer, with a 12.5 percent stake. China North Industries Corp. had plans to jointly develop nickel and copper fields in Russia with billionaire Oleg Deripaska's companies, according to an initial agreement signed in 2012.
Russia is also seeking China's help to build a bridge to the annexed Crimean peninsula, Kommersant reported on May 5, citing unidentified people with knowledge of the government's plans.
Russia's relations with China are developing steadily, regardless of any other issues, and no ''special'' government meetings are being planned on China, Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said by phone on May 7.
The government will announce a tender to build a bridge across the Strait of Kerch to Crimea, with all international investors welcome to participate, Peskov said. The cost of construction is estimated to be at least 50 billion rubles ($1.4 billion), which may rise should it be decided to link the bridge to a railroad.
To contact the reporters on this story: Evgenia Pismennaya in Moscow at epismennaya@bloomberg.net; Yuliya Fedorinova in Moscow at yfedorinova@bloomberg.net; Ilya Arkhipov in Moscow at iarkhipov@bloomberg.net
To contact the editors responsible for this story: Hellmuth Tromm at htromm@bloomberg.net John Viljoen, Randall Hackley
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Kerry Sees Ukraine Crisis as Uniquely Putin's - WSJ.com
Sun, 11 May 2014 02:50
By Gerald F. Seib
Capital Journal: In an interview, Secretary of State John Kerry leaves no doubt that he sees Russia's actions in the Ukraine crisis as the product not of any collective Russian view of the world, but of the determination of an individual: Vladimir Putin.
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Real News
Why I cut off my own penis: Rapper who 'used a steak knife for botched DIY vasectomy before jumping off balcony' speaks out.
Sun, 11 May 2014 14:03
Andre Johnson, 40, chopped off his own penis inside a North Hollywood apartment about 1am on April 16He then jumped off a second story balconyGoes by the name Christ Bearer or C.B. as part of rap duo Northstar, founded by Wu-TangJohnson was reported to be under the influence of dangerous dissociative drug PCP at the timeSpeaking for the first time he said it was depression that drove him to do itHe is not allowed to see his two daughtersAdmitted to have smoked weed earlier in the nightDoctors were able to reattach his memberBy Joel Christie
Published: 16:13 EST, 10 May 2014 | Updated: 16:13 EST, 10 May 2014
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The Los Angeles rapper who sliced off his own genitalia before jumping out of a window has broken his silence about the ugly incident last month, saying depression drove him to do it.
Andre Johnson - who performs under the stage name Christ Bearer with the Wu-Tang affiliated group Northstar - was reported to have been high on dangerous psychedelic PCP when he cut off his penis and leaped from a two-storey baclony in North Hollywood.
But the 40-year-old, also known as C.B., has now told TMZ that he was smoking weed and reading a book about monks and vasectomies right before the self-castration.
He said he felt his 'world was collapsing' after being prevent from seeing his two daughters due to a restraining order, and that he had a third child on the way.
Self-castrated: Andre Johnson - who goes by his rap name Christ Bearer or C.B. - said he chopped off his own penis because he was depressed about not being able to see his two daughters. He was reported to be under the influence of the psychedelic PCP, which is known for its dissociative effects
TMZ also reported that Johnson's member was able to be reattached by doctors.
While he claims he will be able to regain full functionality, having more children will likely not be possible.
The incident occurred at an apartment compex about 1am on Wednesday April 16.
Police classified the case as an attempted suicide.
Friends within the building said Johnson managed the mutilation quickly before running and jumping over the ledge.
However E! Online reported that the rapper cut off the tip of his penis first, then removed his testicles and the remainder of his genitalia.
E! also said Johnson was under the influence of PCP at the time, which also goes by names Phencyclidine or Angel Dust.
Seen here in an earlier photo, Andrew Johnson performs as Christ Bearer in the group Northstar, who were originally discovered by Wu-Tang member RZA
When people from the building ran downstairs to see if Johnson had survived the fall, they said he was already on his feet screaming.
He was found in critical condition before he was rushed to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.
The organs were recovered upstairs.
Neighbors initially said Johnson did not seem to be under the effect of hard drugs.
It was also reported that doctors were unable to reattach his penis.
Johnson (right) said he had been smoking weed - and not doing PCP - at the time of the ugly incident on April 16 in North Hollywood
Northstar is described on the Wu-Tang website as a duo from the north side of Long Beach who have produced songs warning of the dangers of drugs and saluting their own Muslim beliefs.
In 1998, they were discovered by Wu-Tang member RZA, who produced some of their albums.
As Johnson's unfortunate incident hit headlines, RAZA moved to distance himself for the rap duo, releasing a statement he has had nothing to do with them for 10 years.
PCP is a 'dissociative drug' meaning that it distorts perceptions of sight and sound and produces feelings of detachment from the environment and self.
First introduced as a street drug in the 1960s, PCP - which comes in crystal form but is often smoked with a herb like mint or marijuana - quickly gained a reputation as a drug that could cause bad reactions and was not worth the risk.
However, some abusers continue to use PCP due to the feelings of strength, power, and invulnerability as well as a numbing effect on the mind that PCP can induce.
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Shut Up Slave!
GLOBAL LOOTING: WELCOME TO THE SLAVE MARKET | The Slog.
Sun, 11 May 2014 13:19
How we all went from Sovereign gladiator to slaveBritish MPs are expressing concern over the plans carefully hidden in the last Budget to allow future governments to withdraw funds allegedly owed to HMRC direct from citizens' bank accounts.
There is also concern being rightly engendered by 38 degrees about the obvious intention of the Coalition to sell our personal financial details to the private sector. Before that, plans within the NHS to sell patient details to the insurance sector were hastily covered up and then denied.
Last year, the citizens of Cyprus were blatantly sold to the slave drivers of the Troika'....their crime having been to help Greece pay back that same salivating trio of cannibals.
Over the last eighteen months, some 23 developed nations have been forced by one means or another to confess that they have plans in place to raid citizen funds in order to pay off bank and sovereign debt.
In Athens, sources tell me that the Troika has four times now tabled the issue of raiding private pension funds directly '' and simply never telling the proposed recipients.
Most pension pots in the Western world '' my own included '' have been illegally reduced by blatant market manipulation to change events one would otherwise have expected based on the fundamentals'...and to compound the crime, they have used our own money to do it.
In a near-sexual sense of the term, we are '' all of us, young or old, European, American, Asian, African or Australasian '' being slowly acclimatised to the idea of our wealth being interfered with, raped, assaulted and mutilated.
Time was, the citizen produced and consumed according to his or her own skills, needs and whims. We in the advertising profession (oh, how we were hated by the 1970s Stalinist Left) frequently used amusement, engagement and guile to '' nevertheless openly '' persuade such consumers that our brand was the best. And if the product behind that brand was no good, then nothing would kill it more quickly than advertising successfully generating trial'...followed by rejection.
What a lucky man I was to be part of that innocent game in which the consumer knew what we were at, and this mutual awareness was displayed clearly in advertising not afraid to pastiche itself.
But what a naive twat I was not to see how '' once the barbarians broke through the gates '' the thin end of permission to sell would become a gun to the head of those being arm-wrestled into purchase.
In just forty years '' a mere blink at the brightness of sunlight - the consumer has plummeted from sovereign to slave. From having been the person calling the shots, the basic unit of Imperial Cistercian currency has become a slave to be prodded, abused, judged, measured up and ultimately sold in the Slave Market. This market laughingly refers to itself as neoliberal, but in reality it is a neoroman orgy of monopolies. Newscorp illegally tapped our phones, the multiple retailers pored over our personal consumption habits, the banks peered through the keyhole at our money arrangements, the media preyed upon human exhibitionism to abase us in ''talent'' contests, and the ISPs quickly became the feverish dirty-mack voyeurs desperate to know with whom we were partying, the objects of our leisure time, how often we got pissed, and who we were fucking.
All of them spy on us for the purposes of selling and control. All of them view us as slaves, too stupid to slam the door of our private lives behind us. And not an ounce of protection has come from those we elect to ensure our liberty and safety.
There's an obvious reason for this. Desperate for money they could no longer generate from voter enthusiasm, the political Parties switched from Union dues, charitythons, Village Green fetes and beetle drives to corporate, interest group, pressure group and then eventually do-what-we-say-or-die groups with no semblance of connection to '' or interest in '' the citizen.
Those who '' by non-avoidance and non-evasion of taxes, generally decent behaviour, and at times injudicious expenditure '' kept the show on the road are now become the reviled roadies and toadies required to tune up the equipment and pimp for the artists'...on pain of expulsion. No longer free agents of consumption, those loudly informed by purveyors of the American Dream fifty years ago that they were Gladiators face the threat of extinction each and every day in the Amphitheatre.
Is that not merely just, you perhaps ask. For is that not what Gladiators are for?
I think not. Very few of us are gladiators. In metaphor rather than pedantry, the gladiatorial Spartacus figure has always been the one who quite rightly demanded more of the dictatorial State than such an unnatural body was willing to give. The Russell Crowe man is more provider than supplicant '' infinitely more Alpha than Zeta. He tells the State that he will obey it up to a point, but beyond that point it is merely in his way.
And therein lies the rub for the 21st century Western citizen. He has little or no desire to face death in the Amphitheatre. He feels irked at the idea of being a slave'....but will go along with it if the only alternative is to put his neck on the block.
It is a person's feelings about the neck/block configuration that represent the difference between the rebel and the slave.
It is the willingness to rebel that separates the user from the used.
Where are the gladiators who will order the State to stop abusing the citizen, and teach the citizen answer the State back?
Well, I doubt very much if any of them were watching the Eurovision Song Contest last night. But one of the worst collaborators was. This is what he tweeted at the end of the show:
Sorry to deconstruct this, but it has to be said: the people of Morley voted for this bloke. He is either a moron, or a pol on the make pretending to be as moronic as they are. Both alternatives, I'd say, are equally depressing'....but I'm 99% certain it's the latter.
Ed Balls got into Parliament by jumping the queue and being parachuted in by a Prime Minister suffering from a personality disorder. He is in his seat for two reasons: first, the use of rotten-borough tactics by Gordon Brown on a par with anything the 18th century had to offer; and second, by being sponsored by the savers and loyal supporters of the Cooperative Movement. These latter folks he sold as slaves to a couple of Hedge Funds in order to cover his fat arse, following which the Labour Party quietly moved its account elsewhere. Which is (in theory) a tricky one for Mr Balls, as he is formally a Cooperative Party MP.
But it won't bother him, because he's just another slave trader. He denies having anything to do with it now, of course; but I and a dozen other hacks could quickly produce between us twenty people who know that's bollocks. And they'd testify to that'...if they too weren't slave traders, and scared of losing the steady supply of brown envelopes.
We are, all of us, to blame for this. Because not only did we do nothing to stop it, in millions of cases we threw open our doors and invited Big Brother in. Some of us are more guilty than others '' either because we were more lazy than stupid, or because we did nothing to protect the stupid. The result of doing nothing to stop evil never changes: you get evil. Every time.
I wish more people could grow up and realise that doing nothing today only makes things worse next week. Pain avoidance '' and fluffy attempts to make a sense of responsibility look like fascism '' got us to where we are today. More on this anon.
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EU to bug every car with tracker chips
Sun, 11 May 2014 13:54
Under EU plans, every new car sold in UK will have a 'black box' deviceGadget contains a phone-like SIM card which tracks drivers' movementsDesigned to help emergency services find vehicles in the event of crashGovernment believes the device will add at least £100 to the cost of carsOfficials also fear it could be used by police to monitor motorists' movesBut ministers admit they are powerless to stop Big Brother technologyAll new car models will have to include 'eCall' device from October 2015By Martin Beckford
Published: 16:39 EST, 10 May 2014 | Updated: 16:39 EST, 10 May 2014
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Every new car sold in Britain will have to have a 'black box' device fitted to track drivers' movements from next year, under plans being imposed by the European Union.
Despite serious concerns about privacy and cost, UK ministers admit they are powerless to stop the Big Brother technology being forced on motorists and car makers.
The Government believes the gadget, designed to help emergency services find crashed vehicles, will add at least £100 to the cost of vehicles without providing significant safety improvements.
New technology: Every new car sold in Britain will have to have a 'black box' device fitted to track drivers' movements from next year, under plans being imposed by the European Union. Above, how the device works
Officials also fear the scheme, known as eCall, could be used by police or insurance companies to monitor motorists' every move.
The European Commission has ruled that by October next year, all new cars and vans sold across Europe must be fitted with the technology, which contains a mobile phone-like SIM card designed to transmit the vehicle's location to emergency services in the event of a crash.
But The Mail on Sunday has seen official correspondence from the Department of Transport showing the UK's opposition to the policy, which could lead to the 'constant tracking' of vehicles.
In a letter to MPs, Transport Minister Robert Goodwill writes: 'The basis for our opposition is that costs to the UK outweigh the benefits.
Concern: Official correspondence from the Department of Transport shows the UK's opposition to the policy. Transport Minister Robert Goodwill (pictured) claims the costs of the device to Britain 'outweigh the benefits'
'Unfortunately, there is very little support for the UK position and no possibility of blocking this legislation. We are working with other member states to minimise the potential burdens on manufacturers and the potential cost to consumers.
'With regard to the rules on privacy and data protection, other member states have expressed similar concerns to us, about the potential for constant tracking of vehicles via the eCall system.'
Emma Carr, of civil liberties group Big Brother Watch, said last night: 'Motorists will not be comfortable forcibly having a black box installed which is capable of recording and transmitting their exact location when they are driving.'
New model: Some car manufacturers, including BMW and Volvo, already include eCall devices in their latest models. However, voluntary take-up has been low across the industry. Above, the BMW i3
Some car manufacturers, including BMW and Volvo, already include eCall devices in their latest models.
An SOS button near the dashboard, linked to a SIM card, allows drivers to call 999 quickly. And if airbags are deployed it automatically sends a text message to emergency services with the car's location '' as well as its unique vehicle ID number.
Voluntary take-up has been low across the industry so the EU ruled all new car models must include eCall from October 1, 2015. Motorists will be unable to switch it off and it will be tested in MoT checks.
'Unfortunately, there is very little support for the UK position and no possibility of blocking this legislation'Robert Goodwill MP
The EU Parliament voted it through last month and a draft of the law is due to be published next week before it is agreed by the EU Commission.
Britain is trying to push back the deadline by two years.
The UK also hopes the new text will include assurances on the privacy risks of eCall, which were highlighted in a European Parliament legal report earlier this year.
The study said manufacturers will want to include 'value added services' for the SOS devices, such as sharing the data with insurers and recovery firms.
A separate study by the EU Data Protection Supervisor warns of the 'potential intrusiveness' of eCall given that it operates on the same basis as mobile phones and 'potentially enables the constant collection of the vehicle's geolocation'. It urges 'stricter safeguards' against 'unlawful' use of personal data.
Brussels insists eCall will save 2,500 lives a year by speeding up emergency services response times.
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Chiner$ AFRIKA
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Chinese Company To Construct $13.1bn Railway Line In Nigeria
Sat, 10 May 2014 16:40
VENTURES AFRICA '' Nigeria's Transportation Ministry has awarded a $13.1 billion contract to China Railway Construction Corporation Limited to build a coastal railway line in the country, that will extend across 10 of its 36 states.
According to the company, the railway line will be 1,385 km long in one-way mileage. The railway line, which will be designed for a speed of 120 km/h, will also have 22 railway stations which will spread across the 10 states.
China Railway Construction Corporation Limited revealed in a statement that China Civil Engineering Group Co. Ltd., one of its subsidiaries, inked the deal.
However, discussions are still on between the company and the Ministry of Transport based on the framework released.
Former President Olusegun Obasanjo had in 2006 signed a contract with the China Civil Engineering Group Co. Ltd. to modernise the Lagos to Kano railway line, but following a dispute in 2008, the project was suspended. Although a supplementary agreement was signed in September 2012, which is expected to restart the project, it is unclear if it has anything to do with the new contract with Transportation Ministry.
The details of the contract was disclosed just as Commerce Minister of China, Gao Hucheng said that his country encourages Chinese enterprises to expand investment in Nigeria.
Gao, who spoke yesterday at the World Economic Forum going on in Abuja, noted that having an economic bilateral relationship will compliment the economic interest of both countries, citing Nigeria's huge consumer market and China's robust processing industry.
According to him, Nigeria and China have worked together under the framework of China-Africa Cooperation Forum to open a furniture and household appliance manufacturing factory, creating over 4,000 jobs in the process.
About Niyi AderibigbeNiyi Aderibigbe, a staff writer for Ventures Africa, a Pan-African business magazine and news service company, holds a Bachelor's degree in Zoology from the University of Ilorin, Nigeria. He is currently studying for a Master's degree in Environmental Biology at the University of Lagos. He has written for several online media platforms, including Information Nigeria.
Beijing to the US by train: China outlines plans to connect world by high speed rail network
Sat, 10 May 2014 16:46
The 'China to Russia plus the United States' line proposed by the Chinese Academy of Engineering would start in the north east of China, travel up through Siberia, across the Bering Strait to Alaska and down through Canada before reaching the contiguous US, The Beijing Times reports.
Other planned lines - construction of which has reportedly began in China - are a link to London via Paris, Berlin and Moscow, along with a second route to Europe following the silk road to reach as far as Germany via Iran and Turkey. The international legs of the lines are currently under negotiation, the state ran paper said.
A fourth Pan-Asian line, connecting China with Singapore via Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand and Malaysia, is already under construction. Proposals for lines running from China to Africa are currently being drawn up, the paper added.
The most structurally ambitious of the proposals is the US-China link, which would require around 200km of tunnels to cross the gap between Russia and Alaska - four times the length of the Channel Tunnel. If completed it would become the world's longest underwater tunnel and take an unprecedented feat of engineering.
''Right now we're already in discussions. Russia has already been thinking about this for many years,'' Wang Meng-shu, a railway expert from the Chinese Academy of Engineering said. The train would travel at 220mph with the entire trip taking two days.
Reporting on the plans, the state owned English language paper China Daily claimed that China already has the technology in place as it will be used to connect the country to Taiwan by underwater high-speed train requiring a 150km long tunnel. Details of this project are also yet to be finalised however.
China mulls high-speed train to US: report
Fri, 09 May 2014 04:06
Photo taken on June 27, 2013 shows China's first intelligent high-speed test train produced by CSR Qingdao Sifang Co Ltd waits to be tested in Qingdao, a coastal city in East China's Shandong province. China is considering building a high-speed railway across the Siberia and Bering Strait to Alaska, across Canada to the US. In not so distant future, people can take the train from China to the US. [Photo/Xinhua]
China is considering building a high-speed railway across the Siberia and Bering Strait to Alaska, across Canada to the US. In not so distant future, people can take the train from China to the US, according to Beijing Times Thursday citing Wang Mengshu, a railway expert and academician of the Chinese Academy of Engineering.The proposed journey will start from China's northeast region, cross Siberia to Bering Strait, and run across the Pacific Ocean by undersea tunnel to reach Alaska, from Alaska to Canada, then on to its final destination, the US. To cross Bering Strait will require approximately 200km undersea tunnel, the technology, which is already in place will also be used on Fujian to Taiwan high-speed railway tunnel. The project will be funded and constructed by China. The details of this project are yet to be finalized.
High-speed railway discounts offered
Beijing-Shanghai high-speed railway sees 200 mln trips
Investment in Expressway and High-speed Railway
Nation's top railway operator adds to new projects budget
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Africa: Oil pipeline deal to be sealed next month
Sun, 11 May 2014 03:12
Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda will next month sign a deal that is expected to guide the construction of the Hoima-Lokichar-Lamu crude oil pipeline, a key project that could dictate the shape the region's energy infrastructure will take.
The three countries said they will sign a Memorandum of Understanding that will bind the two implementing countries '--Kenya and Uganda '-- to ensuring the project is completed in 2017-2018 when both states are to officially start exporting crude oil.
The pipeline is expected to run 1,500km from Hoima near Lake Albert in western Uganda to Lamu port on Kenya's Coast. South Sudan is to be connected at Lokichar.
Each country will build the portion within its territory. Details from last week's Northern Corridor Integration Projects meeting in Nairobi show the three countries agreed to appoint a single transactional advisor for the project but at the same time give each country the option of choosing its own financing arrangement.
''The pipeline should be developed as a single project but split into lots and implemented within the agreed specifications and timelines'... the respective countries to ensure that any change of their priorities doesn't interfere with the construction and operation of the entire pipeline from Hoima to Lamu,'' said a ministerial report of the summit seen by The EastAfrican.
South Sudan, the report says, is expected to continue talks with Kenya on a possible inter-governmental agreement on the project that will see Juba formally join the project.
The Nairobi meeting was attended by presidents Uhuru Kenyatta (Kenya), Paul Kagame (Rwanda) and Yoweri Museveni (Uganda) and Salva Kiir (South Sudan), while Tanzania was represented by Prime Minister Mizengo Pinda, and Burundi by second Vice President Gervais Rufyikiri.
The proposed crude oil pipeline is crucial for Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda who are implementing various joint projects including railway lines, pipelines, power lines and a refinery.
For Uganda, a joint pipeline with Kenya, Rwanda and South Sudan means that it cuts the cost and fast-tracks the construction process.
For Kenya, the pipeline increases the viability of the Lamu Port South Sudan Ethiopia Transport (Lapsset) corridor, especially because a crude pipeline was not part of the initial design.
A shared petroleum infrastructure is vital for Kenya and Uganda as Tullow Oil Plc has confirmed the presence of commercial oil near the shores of Lake Albert in Uganda and also discovered crude oil in Turkana County in northwestern Kenya.
For South Sudan an alternative pipeline to evacuate its oil is a strategic investment especially in the wake of constant hostilities between Juba and Khartoum.
The construction of the new pipelines are seen as crucial in lowering costs and ensuring energy security of hinterland land countries '-- like Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi.
Ventures Africa | LAPSSET: A Peep At The East African Trade Corridor
Sun, 11 May 2014 03:16
VENTURES AFRICA - LAPSSET, the Lamu Port, South Sudan, Ethiopia Transport Corridor (LAPSSET) is a flagship project of Kenya's Vision 2030, the Kenyan government's national development plan which, like Ethiopia's Vision 2025, aims to transform Kenya into a mid-level economy with10 percent annual growth.
The corridor will link Lamu on Kenya's coast to Juba, South Sudan, 1,700 km away, and it aims to combine the development of a new port at Lamu, 2,240 kms of oil pipeline from Lamu to South Sudan and road and railway links to the west of Kenya, then into South Sudan as well as plans for road and rail links to Addis Ababa via Moyale. It also involves plans for the construction of an oil refinery, three international airports at Lamu, Isiolo and Lokichoggio, and three 'resort cities' along the line of the railway at Lamu, Isiolo and Lake Turkana.
Any of these elements would have a significant impact on Kenyan development; in combination they could transform the whole region. There are further long-term ideas and as the UN Commission on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) reports, the project is eventually intended ''to transform regional economies through increased trade, integration and interconnectivity spanning South Sudan and Ethiopia with a first-time land bridge across the middle of Africa from Lamu, all the way to Doula, Cameroon, on the coast of the Atlantic Ocean''.
LAPSSET was launched on March 2, 2012 by the governments of Kenya, South Sudan and Ethiopia, with Presidents Mwai Kibaki and Salva Kiir and Ethiopia's late Prime Minister Meles Zenawi at a formal ground- breaking ceremony for the new Lamu port. MoU's for the proposed railway and pipeline were signed between the three governments, and the World Bank funded the feasibility study and design of the transport corridor linking Kenya to Southern Sudan. In April 2013, Kenya established the LAPSSET Development Authority (LDA), to manage implementation of the various project components, and appointed Silvester Kasuku, former Infrastructure Secretary, CEO. Uganda has subsequently become associated with the project.
Progress has been varied with some aspects on schedule, but construction of Lamu Port, the railway, the oil pipeline and oil refinery all delayed. A Chinese company tender has been accepted for the construction of three berths at the new Lamu Port, crucial for importing construction material for other projects, and these should be completed by 2017. It is planned that the port will eventually have thirty-two berths and will be three times the size of Mombasa, and be deep enough to accommodate post-''Panamax'' vessels.
Road links are on schedule. The Lamu '' Isiolo '' Lokichar '' Lodwar '' Nadapal section to the South Sudan border measures1,256 kms; and the link to Ethiopia from Isiolo (470kms) is under construction; Ethiopia is constructing the road on its side of the border. Work has started on the international airport at Isiolo, which has also been identified as a 'resort city'. Isiolo is also intended, under Vision 2030, to become an export processing zone, with livestock and related food processing plants, an oil refinery and will become an international tourist center. Suitable sites have been identified at both Isiolo and Lake Turkana for 'resort centers'. The railway, 1,500 kms standard gauge from Lamu to Isiolo (530kms), Isiolo to Moyale (450kms) and Isiolo to Nakodok (420km), has yet to start.
The oil pipeline depends upon decisions of the South Sudan government. It commissioned a $3million feasibility study to study a possible route. This looked at two options, comparing merged pipelines from the oilfields in Unity State and Upper Nile State at Juba or elsewhere and then taking these to either Djibouti or Lamu. The results have not been made public, but reportedly, the study found both technically viable, so now South Sudan has to make a decision on the basis of cost, terrain and other aspects. The route to Djibouti would be 1,600km, and to Lamu 2,100 km. The longer distance requires more pumping for the oil to reach the export terminal and also more oil to fill the pipeline. Economically, the pipeline to Djibouti through Ethiopia would be cheaper, but both Kenya and Uganda now want a pipeline following the discovery of commercial oil deposits around Lake Albert in Uganda and the discovery of oil in Turkana County in north-western Kenya. Shared petroleum infrastructure makes sense for Kenya and Uganda. At their summit in Mombasa in August this year, the Presidents of Kenya, South Sudan and Uganda directed officials to integrate plans for a South Sudan, Lokichar, Hoima pipeline into the LAPSSET Corridor plans by the end of the year. LAPSSET expects a tender for a pipeline to be issued by the end of the year.
Oil pipes in Bullisa. The LAPSSET corridor/project is one of East Africa's major infrastructure projects that is expected to trigger economic growth for the countries involved. PHOTO BY ISAAC IMAKA
The issue of a refinery remains open with possible options for Isiolo, Lamu, or in Uganda. No agreement has yet been reached.
Another area of uncertainty remains funding. The costs are currently budgeted at up to $30 billion but are expected to rise. The Kenyan government is funding 25 percent, and public-private partnerships are expected to provide the back-bone of this. The government will invest approximately six per cent of its annual Gross Domestic Product during the first five or more years of development, and then three and four per cent of annual GDP. There are reports that China has offered low-cost loans to finance Lamu and speculation that foreign government agencies and international development banks will be prepared to invest in infrastructure as a humanitarian or development project. There has been international interest from Japan as well as China, and other possibilities for investment and funding include South Korea, Qatar, Brazil and South Africa. USAID and the Grow Africa Investment Forum have been active in supporting agriculture and livestock growth along the corridor.
Concerns have been raised over potential environmental degradation and destruction of ecosystems, and over the possible impact on local populations. The Kenyan government has made it clear historical sites and fragile ecosystems at Lamu will not be affected by construction. LAPSSET's CEO, Silvester Kasuku, says firmly that environmental issues have been taken into consideration, and notes that government has allocated funds for capacity development, compensation and setting up community steering committees. ''Nothing really meaningful will happen unless people agree; there will be continued engagement with communities and dialogue with local leaders.''
In sum, LAPSSET aims to integrate regional transport infrastructure, covering Kenya, Uganda, South Sudan and Ethiopia, and Kenya's maritime shipping industry. It will relieve Mombasa, one of the most congested ports in Africa. It will provide massive development opportunities for Kenya, employment creation, investment, and economic growth, as well as help to tap resources, introduce high-value investments, new technologies, create stronger domestic labor capacity, reducing unemployment rates and poverty levels. South Sudan and Uganda would also benefit significantly as would Ethiopia. With Ethiopia's rapidly growing economy, LAPSSET offers access to other major port to handle its increasing transportation demands. The corridor would provide access to Ethiopia's planned sugarcane developments in the southwest.
LAPSSET is a highly ambitious project requiring considerable foreign investment but it is now attracting substantial interest from multinational companies as oil discoveries are made in the region. The opportunities presented by LAPSSET promise new trade routes with international partners in the Middle East and Asia, greater regional stability arising from a secure export corridor for South Sudan, and the very real potential to lift millions from poverty through jobs and economic infrastructure development.
Culled from A Week in The Horn of Africa, a newsletter that focuses on economic developments in the Horn of Africa region.
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Big oil consolidates African oil assets
Sun, 11 May 2014 03:06
The recent announcement of the $1.35 billion Glencore Xstrata (GLNCY-LON) takeover of Chad oil producer Caracal Energy (CRCL-LON) and the $1.55 billion Al Mirqab Capital takeover of Heritage Oil (HOIL-LON) announced last week are the beginning of a big year for African oils consolidation.
GMP Securities analyst Tao Ly commented recently: ''following Glencore's bid for Caracal, we think the significance of this latest bid for Heritage again confirms that valuations in the sector are low enough to attract opportune M&A'...''
In addition to low valuations, the key driver of further consolidation in the African oil space will be access to rift basin assets. These basins have accounted for almost all of the billion-barrel-plus oil discoveries onshore Africa in recent years with the Kenya rift basins currently ranked as the hottest onshore exploration jurisdiction in the world.
With significant industry interest, low valuations relative to resource potential, and large rift basin acreage positions, Kenyan rift oil companies Africa Oil Corp. (AOI-TSX; AOIFF-US) and Taipan Resources (TPN-TSX-V; TAIPF-US) are primed for potential takeovers.
The first major rift basin oil acquisition was completed by Tullow Oil (TLW-LON) in 2010 with the $1.45 billion purchase of the Heritage Oil Lake Albert Rift Basin assets in Uganda. Tullow then sold two-thirds of the Lake Albert assets to Chinese National Oil Company CNOOC (CEO-NYSE) and Supermajor Total SA (TOT-NYSE) in 2011 for $2.9 billion. Tullow estimates that there is 1.7 billion barrels of recoverable oil in the Lake Albert Rift Basin and is going to spend billions of dollars developing this asset with its partners.
Tullow has also been a leader in the rift basin in Kenya where it farmed-into the Kenyan exploration assets of Africa Oil Corp. prior to the play-opening Ngamia-1 discovery that was made in 2012.
Early entrants into the rift basins In Kenya have had huge exploration success and stock market gains. The market cap of Africa Oil Corp. increased from $250 million prior to drilling to $2.5 billion after the Ngamia-1 well. There have been a number of follow-on discoveries in Kenya and Africa Oil Corp. now has 7 rigs operating in the region with partners Tullow, Marathon Oil (MRO-NYSE), and Afren (AFR-LON) and is drilling six new basin opening wells this year.
Over 368 million barrels of oil have been discovered so far in Kenya with expectations for the total amount of resources to be well above a billion barrels of oil. With large scalable concentrated rift basin assets, Africa Oil is firmly in the sweet spot to be acquired by larger oil companies like CNOOC and Total. The question is not if, but when and for how much.
It is likely that Africa Oil Corp. has already had a number of approaches from Big Oil and is waiting for the right time to sell. This is likely to be later this year after the company has completed further appraisal wells and well tests to better determine the value of its discovered resources in the Lokichar basin. The company is also drilling a number of potential basin-opening wells this year that it may want to complete prior to a take-out.
One of the other reasons Africa Oil is so attractive is that the company has a market cap of only $2.5 billion, making it an easy tuck-in acquisition for Big Oil companies. Most of the other companies operating in Kenya like Marathon Oil and Tullow have market caps of well over $10 billion, while mid-cap companies like Afren have an asset base that is too diversified.
Taipan Resources is the fourth largest acreage holder in Kenya and has a two well fully funded drilling program in 2014 targeting over $1 billion of resources net to the company. Sproule International has also independently assessed that on Taipan's operated Block 2B alone, there is mean gross unrisked prospective prospective resources of 1.6 billion barrels based on 19 exploration leads. Taipan has a market cap of only $40 million, making the company the other likely takeover candidate in Kenya in 2014.
Big Oil won't be interested in Taipan, they are willing to pay billions of dollars after a discovery is made. But mid-sized exploration companies can't afford to wait and will take the opportunity to make a cheap acquisition with two high impact oil wells fully carried and funded. With 19 exploration leads Block 2B would also give a larger, cash rich oil company years of drilling inventory in the hottest onshore rift basin exploration region in the world.
While the market hasn't yet fully appreciated the potential of Taipan's assets, industry certainly has. Premier Oil (PMO-LON) is spending $30.5 million on one of Taipan's blocks this year to drill the Badada prospect after agreeing to a farm-in deal in 2013, and Afren is spending a similar amount on Taipan's other block to drill the Khorof prospect this year.
Paul Logan, who was the Chief Geologist at Heritage Oil that made the original Lake Albert Rift Basin discoveries, also joined Taipan late last year. Logan discovered the 1.7 billion barrels in the Lake Albert Rift Basin, drilling six discovery wells in a row with 100% exploration success.
At the recent Premier Oil investor day, Andrew Lodge Exploration Director of Premier also commented on Block 2B:
''the trick to this is to attempt to identify the Tertiary Rift Basins within the Anza Basin which are analogous to Uganda and the Lokichar discoveries. We think we've found that through farming into Taipan's acreage. We took a 55% interest. We have just done some prospective seismic survey, verified the main prospect and will drill that prospect, Badada this year. The ultimate resource potential in the block is over 1 billion barrels but the key to this, the key unlocker will be the Badada well'...."
Taipan is now fully funded for the Badada and Khorof wells this year with an unrisked NPV net to Taipan of $1.34 billion. This equates to over $8 per share on a fully diluted basis. Taipan closed at $0.40 per share yesterday.
The risked value of Taipan's two wells this year is $1.50 per share. This means that an acquirer could justify paying up to $1.50 per share pre-drilling.
At $0.40 per share Taipan is an attractive risk/reward proposition for mid-sized exploration company. If the market doesn't close the Taipan valuation gap, industry will.
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Statement by National Security Advisor Susan E. Rice on Peace Agreement in South Sudan
Sat, 10 May 2014 16:52
The White House
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release
May 10, 2014
For five months, fighting in South Sudan has robbed that country of hope and denied its people the peace and prosperity they deserve. The agreement South Sudan President Salva Kiir and Riek Machar signed today in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, holds the promise of bringing the crisis to an end. We deeply appreciate the important role the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) played in facilitating the talks. We commend IGAD for its persistent pursuit of peace, and its Chairman, Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn, for his leadership. We urge President Kiir and Mr. Machar to move swiftly to honor the agreement in word and deed by ending the violence and negotiating in good faith to reach a political agreement that can ensure stability, prosperity and peace for all of South Sudan's people.
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Hillary 2016
Chelsea Clinton earns doctorate from Oxford
Sun, 11 May 2014 13:41
OXFORD, England, May 10 (UPI) --Dr. Chelsea Clinton graduated today from Oxford University, earning a PhD in international relations. Former President Bill Clinton and former Secretary of State Hillary Clintonjoined Chelsea's husband Marc Mezvinsky to celebrate with Chelsea.Clinton is already well-decorated academically, studying undergrad at Stanford university and earning master's degrees from Oxford and Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health.
"She'll have as many as her parents do '-- combined," Former President Clinton told Jimmy Kimmel in April. "When she was younger, the way all kids are, she thought she knew more than I did about everything. But alas, in my dotage, it turned out to be true!"
For former President Clinton the ceremony was a return to roots - he studied as an Oxford Rhode scholar from 1968-1970.
In addition to her ongoing humanitarian efforts around the globe, the 34-year-old Clinton currently works as a special correspondent for NBC News.
(C) 2014 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
Pelosi: Two Of The Families Of The Benghazi Dead Asked Us Not To Launch New Committee
Sun, 11 May 2014 03:32
Prove it. Prove that's what they said and meant, and that's not just another crazy train lie that you are fond of telling. ''Not to take us down this road again'' may mean they don't want an investigation that is just going to go nowhere due to all the stalling and cover-up.
Pretty sure it wasn't Pat Smith (you can see Charles Woods in the background of this video as Eric Nordstrum testifies that ''it matters to the families''). This was from Mother's Day a year ago, but her opinion hasn't changed:
Or Charles Woods:
I don't know what Glen Doherty's family, who hasn't yet received his death benefit or insurance, or the family of Ambassador Stevens think, they haven't expressed themselves publicly on this and unlike Nancy, I wouldn't try to put words in their mouths.
It is indisputable that at least some of the families are on the record saying they want answers.
So you put up or shut up, and stop trying to cover-up for this reprehensible regime.
Geithner Suggested H. Clinton as Possible Successor, According to His New Memoir.
Fri, 09 May 2014 23:11
WASHINGTON'--Timothy Geithner says in a new memoir that he considered stepping down as Treasury secretary in 2010 after the financial crisis and suggested Hillary Rodham Clinton as a possible successor.
President Barack Obama rebuffed Geithner's suggestion, and he remained at Treasury until 2013.
Geithner's memoir will be published next week. On Thursday, The Associated Press bought an early copy.
Geithner writes of the incident in ''Stress Test,'' which explores his turbulent four years at Treasury. During his tenure, the Obama administration faced the worst recession and most severe financial crisis since the Great Depression.
In proposing that the White House consider Clinton as his successor, Geithner cited her star power as secretary of state. Among the other names Geithner suggested was Jack Lew, who succeeded him last year.
No Treasury secretary since the Depression confronted so many financial threats at once. Geithner's supporters said he deserved credit for helping steady the banking system, restore investor confidence and avert a complete meltdown.
His critics countered that Geithner's policies consistently favored big banks and neglected ordinary Americans, including many struggling to save their homes after a wave of foreclosures followed the housing bust.
When Geithner became Treasury secretary in January 2009, the economy had sunk into a deep recession. Unemployment was surging, and the financial system was teetering.
Having previously led the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, Geithner had worked with his predecessor at Treasury, Henry Paulson, and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke to craft the government's early response to the financial crisis. The crisis erupted in the fall of 2008 with the fall of investment bank Lehman Brothers and the government takeover of mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
Agenda 21
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World Under Water
Sun, 11 May 2014 02:11
CarbonStory is a social enterprise fighting climate change. Calculate your carbon footprint and support amazing projects all around the world.Contact us
CarbonStory is a social enterprise fighting climate change. Calculate your carbon footprint and support amazing projects all around the world.Contact us
CarbonStory: About CarbonStory
Sun, 11 May 2014 02:13
FoundersFrom left to right: Andreas, Victor and Olof
Andreas Birnik, PhDFounder, Commercial DirectorAndreas brings 17 years of experience from building technology businesses in Asia, Europe and the Middle East. Andreas holds degrees from Harvard University, Cranfield University and Stockholm School of Economics. He has also taught sustainability at the National University of Singapore. Andreas likes to spend time in the Swedish West Coast archipelago and explore Japanese hot springs.
CarbonStory account available here
LinkedIn profile available here
Olof Lundstr¶mFounder, Product Development & Operations DirectorOlof has 9 years of technology experience from Ericsson in Sweden, China and Singapore. At CarbonStory, Olof splits his time between current web site operations and innovating new functionality. Olof holds degrees from the Royal Institute of Technology (KTH) and Stockholm University with additional studies at Stanford University and the National University of Singapore. When not working, Olof is keeping fit by swimming, running or taking long nature walks with his family.
CarbonStory account available here
LinkedIn profile available here
Victor CruzateFounder, Technical DirectorVictor brings 17 years of experience developing interactive products for companies in Argentina, Spain, UK, and the US. Victor is focused on front-end web development and userexperience together with leading the back-end development team. Victor was educated at Universit(C) de Lausanne and University College London. Victor is also a bossa nova guitar player, a badminton fanatic, awannabe surfer, a disciplined ashtanga yoga practitioner and a tireless reader.
CarbonStory account available here
LinkedIn profile available here
Carola GerlachCreative DirectorCarola joined CarbonStory at an early stage and is a member of the core team. She brings over 11 years of experience as a communications-designer having worked in the field of branding, corporate identity/ corporate design and spatial design in Germany, Switzerland and Singapore. She was educated in Design at the University of Applied Sciences Constance and at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University. She likes to explore different countries and food cultures.
CarbonStory account available here
Zhang HaoqiangSoftware EngineerHaoqiang is currently finishing his degree at the School of Computing, National University of Singapore. He has an experience of web developing of 3 years and he works with backend and frontend development at CarbonStory. Haoqiang is passionate about web development, software engineering and graphic design.
CarbonStory account available here
LinkedIn profile available here
Hall of FameAlong the journey we have been fortunate to receive support from a growing number of amazing volunteers. Great thanks to:
Anna-Karin BirnikFrederique PerpetuJoel BillingerJocelyn Ng-FooLo Wei Hong Ian WowonganOlle BillingerSagar BhadraSayed Ali RazaviStaffan Lundstr¶mTan Chun Hao RyanTian MengWang ZihaoWong Kai LiWong Li Wei KeefeWong Mei Wen SabrinaZhao Yangyi AmyYi Yu
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NUKES-Kelp study finds no ocean-borne Fukushima radiation
Sun, 11 May 2014 02:10
Kelp study finds no ocean-borne Fukushima radiationMay 08, 2014 by Rick GloadyA graduate student in the marine biology program at Cal State Long Beach collects kelp in the waters off of Long Beach during Kelp Watch 2014's initial collection of samples. Credit: David J. Nelson/Cal State Long Beach
(Phys.org) '--Scientists working together on Kelp Watch 2014 announced today that the West Coast shoreline shows no signs of ocean-borne radiation from Japan's Fukushima nuclear power plant disaster, following their analysis of the first collection of kelp samples along the western U.S. coastline.
Kelp Watch 2014 is a project that uses coastal kelp beds as detectors of radioactive seawater arriving from Fukushima via the North Pacific Current. It is a collaborative effort led by Steven Manley, marine biology professor at California State University, Long Beach (CSULB), and Kai Vetter, head of applied nuclear physics at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) and a nuclear engineering professor at the University of California, Berkeley.
The new results are from samples primarily collected from Feb. 24 through March 14.
During the first phase of the project, samples were taken from 38 of the 44 sites originally identified, and the data being presented comes from an analysis of 28 of the 38 sample sites represented.
"Our data does not show the presence of Fukushima radioisotopes in West Coast Giant Kelp or Bull Kelp," Manley said. "These results should reassure the public that our coastline is safe, and that we are monitoring it for these materials. At the same time, these results provide us with a baseline for which we can compare samples gathered later in the year."
The samples analyzed to date were gathered from as far north as Kodiak Island, Alaska, to as far south as Baja California. Two sites in the tropics'--Hawaii and Guam, where non-kelp brown algae were sampled (kelps are not found in the tropics)'--were also negative for Fukushima radiation.
"The samples of greatest concern were those from the north, Alaska to Washington State, where it is thought the radioactive water will first make contact with North America," Manley continued. "The tell-tale isotopic signature of Fukushima, Cs-134, was not seen, even at the incredibly low detection limits provided by Dr. Vetter's group at the Berkeley Lab and UC Berkeley."
Vetter added, "We will also publish results of naturally occurring radiation sources, such as those associated with the decay of uranium and thorium, to help provide context to our findings on radioisotopes Cs-134 and Cs-137 from Fukushima."
Although initiated as a California-centric endeavor with 30 sites, Kelp Watch 2014 has steadily grown to include many sites along the west coast of North America and beyond. Manley noted that the project also has Giant Kelp from Chile in South America that will serve as a reference site, far removed from any potential influence from Fukushima.
Information about the procedures and results, including the results of the first samples' analyses, are available to the public at kelpwatch.berkeley.edu. The researchers will continually update the website for public viewing as more samples arrive and are analyzed, including samples from Canada.
"Because the Pacific Northwest may be ground zero for its arrival, we will be receiving monthly samples from the west and southern coastline of Vancouver Island (Canada)," Manley explained. "One of the goals of Kelp Watch 2014 is to keep the public informed, to let them know we are on top of this event, and to document the amount of Fukushima radiation that enters our kelp forest ecosystem."
The second of the three 2014 sampling periods is scheduled to begin in early July.
Explore further:Researchers launch 'kelp watch' to determine extent of Fukushima contamination
More information: For more photos, and videos of the project, go to: www2.csulb.edu/misc/video/kelpwatch.html
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Kelp study finds no ocean-borne Fukushima radiationMay 08, 2014 by Rick GloadyA graduate student in the marine biology program at Cal State Long Beach collects kelp in the waters off of Long Beach during Kelp Watch 2014's initial collection of samples. Credit: David J. Nelson/Cal State Long Beach
(Phys.org) '--Scientists working together on Kelp Watch 2014 announced today that the West Coast shoreline shows no signs of ocean-borne radiation from Japan's Fukushima nuclear power plant disaster, following their analysis of the first collection of kelp samples along the western U.S. coastline.
Kelp Watch 2014 is a project that uses coastal kelp beds as detectors of radioactive seawater arriving from Fukushima via the North Pacific Current. It is a collaborative effort led by Steven Manley, marine biology professor at California State University, Long Beach (CSULB), and Kai Vetter, head of applied nuclear physics at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) and a nuclear engineering professor at the University of California, Berkeley.
The new results are from samples primarily collected from Feb. 24 through March 14.
During the first phase of the project, samples were taken from 38 of the 44 sites originally identified, and the data being presented comes from an analysis of 28 of the 38 sample sites represented.
"Our data does not show the presence of Fukushima radioisotopes in West Coast Giant Kelp or Bull Kelp," Manley said. "These results should reassure the public that our coastline is safe, and that we are monitoring it for these materials. At the same time, these results provide us with a baseline for which we can compare samples gathered later in the year."
The samples analyzed to date were gathered from as far north as Kodiak Island, Alaska, to as far south as Baja California. Two sites in the tropics'--Hawaii and Guam, where non-kelp brown algae were sampled (kelps are not found in the tropics)'--were also negative for Fukushima radiation.
"The samples of greatest concern were those from the north, Alaska to Washington State, where it is thought the radioactive water will first make contact with North America," Manley continued. "The tell-tale isotopic signature of Fukushima, Cs-134, was not seen, even at the incredibly low detection limits provided by Dr. Vetter's group at the Berkeley Lab and UC Berkeley."
Vetter added, "We will also publish results of naturally occurring radiation sources, such as those associated with the decay of uranium and thorium, to help provide context to our findings on radioisotopes Cs-134 and Cs-137 from Fukushima."
Although initiated as a California-centric endeavor with 30 sites, Kelp Watch 2014 has steadily grown to include many sites along the west coast of North America and beyond. Manley noted that the project also has Giant Kelp from Chile in South America that will serve as a reference site, far removed from any potential influence from Fukushima.
Information about the procedures and results, including the results of the first samples' analyses, are available to the public at kelpwatch.berkeley.edu. The researchers will continually update the website for public viewing as more samples arrive and are analyzed, including samples from Canada.
"Because the Pacific Northwest may be ground zero for its arrival, we will be receiving monthly samples from the west and southern coastline of Vancouver Island (Canada)," Manley explained. "One of the goals of Kelp Watch 2014 is to keep the public informed, to let them know we are on top of this event, and to document the amount of Fukushima radiation that enters our kelp forest ecosystem."
The second of the three 2014 sampling periods is scheduled to begin in early July.
Explore further:Researchers launch 'kelp watch' to determine extent of Fukushima contamination
More information: For more photos, and videos of the project, go to: www2.csulb.edu/misc/video/kelpwatch.html
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Lloyd's calls on insurers to take into account climate-change risk
Sat, 10 May 2014 16:53
A home damaged by Superstorm Sandy in 2013 in the Staten Island borough of New York City. Photograph: John Moore/Getty Images
Lloyd's of London, the world's oldest and biggest insurance market, has for the first time called on insurers to incorporate climate change into their models.
The call to action comes a day after a landmark US report, named the National Climate Assessment, which has warned that climate change is wreaking havoc across the US.
Lloyd's says damage and weather-related losses around the world have increased from an annual average of $50bn in the 1980s to close to $200bn over the last 10 years.
The 326-year-old insurance market, whose members write insurance business worldwide, believes the time has come for a formal call on the industry to take into account various climate-change scenarios to avoid unpredictable losses to businesses.
What the industry describes as extreme weather events have increased in number and severity as the global climate system has altered, causing more and bigger hurricanes, typhoons and heatwaves around the world. In the UK the main climate-change related risk is flooding.
Typhoon Haiyan, which last November swept across south-east Asia, especially affecting the Philippines, was one of the strongest tropical cyclones ever recorded.
The year 2011 was the most expensive on record for natural disasters, with insured losses costing the industry more than $126bn.
Superstorm Sandy caused $35bn of insured losses two years ago, making it the second costliest hurricane in US history after hurricane Katrina in 2005.
A new report by Lloyd's, which consulted the world's largest catastrophe modelling firms, says a 20cm rise in the sea level at the southern tip of Manhattan Island increased Superstorm Sandy's surge losses by 30% (up to $8bn) in New York alone.
The 840-page National Climate Assessment, published this week, was described by John Holdren, the White House science adviser, as the "loudest and clearest alarm bell to date signalling the need to take urgent action to combat the threats to Americans from climate change".
Trevor Maynard, head of exposure management and reinsurance at Lloyd's, said: "Climate change is very much here to stay. Hurricanes are getting stronger worldwide, and especially over the north Atlantic '... At the moment we are heading for a rise of four degrees [in temperatures] by the end of the century." He said that increased threats ranged from property damage to political risk '' such as the implications for food security '' and the economic impacts.
It could mean the insurance industry would need to hold more capital to protect against increased risk, he said.
Maynard said that while insurers typically arrange insurance cover for a stretch of one year, planners and building constructors would need to look ahead to the next 40 to 50 years.
Maynard said: "There is every indication that [storms] will get more extreme as the temperature rises." He noted that the report by Sir Nicholas Stern on the economics of climate change concluded that it was cheaper "to avoid it".
Lloyd's made a £516m loss in 2011 after paying out the largest catastrophe claims on record '' caused by earthquakes in Japan and New Zealand, storms in the US, and floods in Thailand and Australia. The area flooded in Thailand was the size of Birmingham and it remained under water for a couple of months.
Since this year Lloyd's has been run by Inga Beale, who became chief executive of the company in January. The organisation, which started in a coffee house in 1688 where merchants insured ships and has evolved into a group of about 80 competing insurance syndicates, has insured a large range of items, from Keith Richards' fingers to satellites, as well as provided cover for homes and companies.
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The return of El Nino: US scientists say there is 80% chance of extreme disruption to world's weather later this year - Science
Sat, 10 May 2014 16:46
''We are now even more bullish that an El Ni±o is impending,'' Michelle L'Heureux, a meteorologist with the federal Climate Prediction Centre in Maryland confirmed, basing her prediction on the latest data and computer models tracking ocean temperatures in the Pacific.
Writing on the realclimate.org website, Ms L'Heureux says that prospects for an El Ni±o reach ''a peak probability of 80 per cent during the late fall/early winter of this year''. That still leaves a two-in-ten possibility that it won't happen, of course. And if it does emerge, the likely strength of it can't yet be gauged.
''At this point, the team remains non-committal on the possible strength of El Ni±o preferring to watch the system for at least another month or more before trying to infer the intensity,'' Ms L'Heureux wrote. ''But, could we get a super strong event? The range of possibilities implied by some models allude to such an outcome, but at this point the uncertainty is just too high.''
The last major El Ni±o, which comes with the gathering of unusually warm surface waters in the tropical Pacific that in turn alters the course of the upper atmosphere jet stream, was in 1997. On that occasion, the surface of central and eastern sections of the ocean jumped by 5 degrees Fahrenheit.
Usually an El Ni±o is associated with higher global temperatures, though for northern Europe, including Britain, they can spell unusually cold and dry winters. Other regions could expect more far-reaching effects, some potentially beneficial others much less so.
Futures markets are already bracing for possible global food shortages amidst fears that a strong El Ni±o could see crops drowned by heavy rains in the American Midwest and Brazil and shrivelled by excessive heat and lack of water in Australia, Southeast Asia, India and Africa.
But an El Ni±o generally heralds elevated rain- and snow-fall amounts for the western half the US. That would be welcome news since California and other western states are currently suffering a serious multi-year drought. Equally well received would be the prospect of diminished hurricane activity in the Atlantic. More hurricanes would be likely in the Pacific, however.
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Coldest Year On Record So Far In The US | Real Science
Fri, 09 May 2014 23:11
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Italian PM vows to push for United States of Europe during presidency | EurActiv
Sun, 11 May 2014 13:05
In an unprecedented speech outlining his vision for Europe, Italian prime minister Matteo Renzi called for courageous leaders to work towards a United States of Europe.
"For my children's future I dream, think and work for the United States of Europe,'' Renzi said, speaking at the State of the Union in Florence, launching an appeal to convince European leaders to show "not in the cold language of technocracy, that a stronger and more cohesive Europe is the only solution to the solve the problems of our time.''
In outlining his vision, Renzi also mapped out the priorities for the Italian presidency of the EU, starting on the 1st of July.
Beginning with the European elections, which "for the first time" are set not as "a summation of election campaigns, but something broader", he warned against the specter of anti-European populism. All mainstream political forces should not be scared to talk out loud, and point to the different line-ups that those populist parties have in terms of history and culture, and the way they are united by the desire to destroy what we have built. ''Populism will thrive on abstentionism,'' Renzi said.
The only effective response, according to the prime minister, is to offer "an idea of '‹'‹Europe that corresponds to an attractive adventure, rather than just a financial or economic exercise," showing that the EU "is not only a common past but a common destiny, to which it is impossible to escape."
Renzi has indicated his priorities for the Italian presidency: growth and employment as the founding values '‹'‹of Europe, citizenship rights and openness to the world, not only in terms of trade and economic relations, but also in terms of values.
''We cannot call ourselves Europeans if, when we witness the pain of the world, we turn the other way," he said.
If it is true that the last period of European integration was dominated by the financial and economic crisis and the need to address these challenges, it is also true that some of the European rules must be changed.
And the change that Renzi has in mind is radical: "We need a light Europe, whereby the rules are simple and better shared.''
At the end of his speech, Renzi highlighted immigration as a top priority: "The economy of trade cannot close in fences and cause us to lose sight of the fundamental value of openness in the world, which calls for a redefinition of the concept of the borders, especially those in the Mediterranean.
"Is the Mediterranean an Italian or European border?'' asked the prime minister. He said he agrees with the European Commissioner for Home Affairs, Cecilia Malmstroem, for whom asylum rights should be under European law and not just a national competence.
''No day in our presidency will pass without us showing the contrast between a Europe that affirms its values, and a Europe that could not practice them, when it denies the possibility to our brothers and sisters to be welcomed in all the EU," said Renzi.
Russia driving up euro, says Draghi
Sat, 10 May 2014 15:21
BRUSSELS - Low inflation, weak demand and high unemployment are not the only reasons for a strong euro, which is a "matter of serious concern" for the governing board of the European Central Bank (ECB).
Russia's actions in Ukraine are "certainly one of the reasons", with credit flows from Russia and Ukraine "having the effect of keeping the euro strong," ECB chief Mario Draghi said Thursday (8 May) in a press conference.
The euro is appreciating because it is seen as a safe haven by investors, compared to the shaky Ukrainian hryvnia and the Russian ruble.
Even though the ECB board decided to keep its interest rates unchanged for the moment, Draghi added there is "consensus" among eurozone central bankers that low inflation - 0.7 percent in April - has to be countered with "unconventional tools."
He also said this decision will be taken in June after the ECB staff comes up with economic projections for the months to come.
Back in the times of his predecessor, Jean-Claude Trichet, the standard answer when asked if the ECB will move interest rates was: "We never precommit."
But Draghi is more blunt. "The era of 'we never precommit' has finished a long time ago," he quipped.
Meanwhile, a special working group within the ECB has been set up to "monitor the geopolitical risk" - codename for the Russia crisis - and its fallout on the eurozone.
Draghi warned that an "escalation of sanctions", along with the recession which has gripped Russia and the instability in Ukraine "would certainly impact the eurozone and the EU more than other parts of the world."
He said similar working groups are being set up in national central banks, notably in those countries that trade most intensely with Russia and Ukraine.
As for media reports that businessmen in Russia are trying to get their capital out and are again flocking to tax havens such as Cyprus - a major issue last year before the island could receive its bailout - Draghi said: "We have no evidence where exactly the capital is going."
"If they go to Cyprus, it means that there is renewed confidence in the Cypriot economy. The government has been acting in compliance with the programme, capital controls are gradually lifted," he added.
A spokesman for the German finance ministry - one of the key actors demanding drastic measures against Russian depositors in Cyprus - told this website that Russian capital inflows in Cyprus "would not raise any concerns for the moment".
Looking ahead, with EU elections dominated by eurosceptic debates in several countries, Draghi said in his opinion, the euro crisis was caused partly by "too little integration".
"Our future lies with more integration, not with the renationalisation of our economies," he said.
Winkeliers vrezen voor terugkeer eurocentjes
Sat, 10 May 2014 15:21
Als de Europese voorstellen erdoor komen, zijn winkeliers straks verplicht om biljetten van 500 euro te accepteren.
Afronden van bedragen op 1 en 2 eurocent mag dan ook niet meer, waarschuwt de winkeliersorganisatie vrijdag.
Nederland hanteert, net als enkele andere Europese landen eigen regels ten aanzien van kleine euromuntjes en grote coupures.
Muntjes van 1 en 2 eurocent worden daardoor al jaren nauwelijks nog gebruikt en winkeliers hebben de vrijheid om grote biljetten te weigeren.
''Dit leidt tot meer gemak, lagere kosten en minder overvallen. De Europese Commissie dreigt hier in deze voorstellen nu voor te gaan liggen. Zij is hierin van mening dat lidstaten niet zelf mogen bepalen hoe zij met contant geld omgaan en wil in heel Europa dezelfde regels toepassen'', aldus Detailhandel Nederland.
Greece: Small bondholder takes his own life
Sun, 11 May 2014 03:07
Association representing small bondholders says that the man's death brings to 17 the number of small bondholders who have ended their lives since the 2012 haircut, which wiped out 75% of their investment
A bondholder holds a sign as he takes part in a protest outside the central Bank of Greece in October 2012 (Photo: Reuters) A Thessaloniki man who was one of the estimated 15,000 small Greek bondholders that suffered losses under the country's debt restructuring in 2012 took his own life on Tuesday evening, the day before his 57th birthday.
The so-called haircut, which wiped out the life savings of many, left the man in a dire financial situation, according to his widow.
On Thursday, an association representing small bondholders said that the man's death has brought to 17 the number of small bondholders who have taken their lives since the haircut.
His wife discovered his body on Wednesday hanging from a tree in a small woods near a the village of Sozopoli, outside Thessaloniki, where they maintained a family home. He had travelled to the village the day before.
"He had indicated several times that he wanted to put an end to his life. I didn't believe that my husband could do this ... He said it, he mimicked it, but I never thought he would do it," his wife, Antigoni Karasavva, told the thestival.gr news site.
She said he was a "victim of the country's economic crisis", someone "who believed the Greek state, invested his money in the Greek state, believing it was more secure than the banks". The March 2012 haircut plunged him into a deep depression, she added.
Laying the blame for her husband's death squarely the government, who she accused of robbing the country, Karasavva said: "I might also get my turn on that tree. But right now I have become a mother and a father and have become strong so that I can support my child."
As a result of the March 2012 haircut, Greece reduced its public debt by about '‚¬100bn. Private creditors swapped government bonds for new ones, incurring a 53.5% nominal writedown, with the remaining value being paid out with maturities of up to 30 years, by which time most of the bondholders, many of them pensioners, will have died.
Small investors were estimated to own bonds worth '‚¬2.3bn in total, with most worth holding between '‚¬5,000 and '‚¬150,000 worth. In real terms, the small bondholders say they have lost more than 75% of their investment.
* Klimaka runs a suicide prevention helpline at 1018
EnetEnglish, Thestival.gr
Just 20% of Dutch voters are interested in EU elections
Fri, 09 May 2014 23:10
Just 20% of Dutch voters are interested in EU electionsFriday 09 May 2014
Enthusiasm for the European elections is lacking in the Netherlands, with just 20% of voters saying they are interested in the May 22 vote, according to research by Ipsos.
Nevertheless, 82% of people are aware the elections take place later this month, the Ipsos survey found. Turnout at the last EU vote in 2009 was around 40% in the Netherlands.
The Dutch will elect 26 out of 766 members of the European parliament on May 22 but the results will not be published until Sunday when the polling stations close in other EU countries.
The Ispos poll says the two Liberal parties VVD and D66 will win most votes, followed by the anti-immigration PVV.
(C) DutchNews.nl
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Austria wins Eurovision Song Contest
Sun, 11 May 2014 03:21
10 May 2014Last updated at 20:32 ET Please turn on JavaScript. Media requires JavaScript to play.
Austria's Conchita Wurst: "This night is dedicated to everyone who believes in a future of peace and freedom"
Austrian drag act Conchita Wurst has been crowned the winner of the 59th annual Eurovision Song Contest held in Denmark's capital, Copenhagen.
The singer, whose real name is Tom Neuwirth, won with the song Rise Like a Phoenix, collecting 290 points.
The Netherlands finished second with 238 points, with Sweden in third place with 218 points.
The UK's Molly Smitten-Downes came 17th, with 40 points for her song Children of the Universe.
It is the first time Austria has won the contest since 1966, and only the second time the country has competed in the final in the past 10 years as it either did not participate or qualify.
Wurst had been the second favourite to win behind Sweden going in to the competition, with many predicting the act could be too divisive among voters.
However she was the clear winner, with her victory announced after 34 of the 37 countries had submitted their scores.
Collecting her trophy on stage the singer said: "This night is dedicated to everyone who believes in a future of peace and freedom. You know who you are - we are unity and we are unstoppable."
Speaking backstage later, Wurst said she felt Europe had taken a stand by voting her the winner.
"I dream of a world where we don't have to talk about unnecessary things like sexuality, who you love. I felt like tonight Europe showed that we are a community of respect and tolerance," she said.
Smitten-Downes, who closed the performances, had been tipped to score highly with bookmakers placing her in the top five.
She received points from only nine countries: San Marino, Denmark, Malta, Iceland, Norway, Ireland, Spain, Belgium and Georgia.
Her result was still better than the UK's entry last year, when Bonnie Tyler finished 19th on the final scoreboard with 23 points.
The evening's events were overshadowed by the current events in Ukraine, with Russia's entry - The Tolmachevy Sisters - receiving boos from the audience during the results when countries including Azerbaijan awarded them the highest number of points.
When Russia's delegate appeared on screen to announce its votes - seven points of which were for Ukraine - more booing could be heard. Ukraine gave four points to Russia in return.
Russia ended the night in seventh place with 89 points, behind Ukraine with 113.
The Tolmachevy Sisters received points from 13 countries, compared with last year's Russian entrant who received votes from 27 countries.
The contest featured the usual mix of pop tunes and ballads, accompanied by spectacular stage performances.
Ukraine kicked off the show with a man in a giant hamster wheel, while Greece included a trampolinist and Poland offered a number of busty performers who suggestively churned butter and washed laundry on stage.
Some 26 countries performed at the B&W Hallerne arena for an expected television audience of more than 120 million fans.
The final scorecard can be found on the Eurovision website.
You Thought It Was Tough Being Gay in Uganda. "It's Hell in Nigeria." | Mother Jones
Sun, 11 May 2014 02:41
Around midnight on February 13, a young Nigerian man named Femi* was jolted out of his evening prayer by shouting outside his window. A crowd of some 40 people had gathered around his house. "No more homosexuals in Gishiri!" they yelled, referring to Femi's neighborhood within Nigeria's capital city, Abuja. The mob broke down his door and dragged him outside in his boxers. They beat him and about 13 other gay men that night with broken furniture, machete handles, sticks, and a garden rake, vowing to kill them if they didn't clear out of the neighborhood.
The attack, andother acts of vigilante violence targeting gays and lesbians around the country, was motivated by a new anti-gay law that Nigeria's president signed January 7. The measure, modeled off the one that Uganda enacted in late February, levies harsh prison sentences on anyone who makes a "public show" of a "direct" or "indirect" same-sex relationship or supports an LGBT organization (10 years), and anyone who attempts to enter into a same-sex marriage (14 years), even though this would be virtually impossible in Nigeria. The anti-gay backlash the law has provoked in Nigeria has led not just to violence, but to homelessness, unemployment, harassment, and a steep drop-off in HIV/AIDS treatment.
John Adeniyi narrowly escaped the attack in Gishiri and has been recording accounts of the violence that night. He's a human rights program officer atthe International Center for Advocacy on Rights to Health (ICARH), an HIV intervention organization based in Abuja. To find out what life is like for Nigeria's gay community under the country's new law'--and what gay Ugandans are starting to face'--I visited withAdeniyi during a recent trip to Nigeria.
"All the [Gishiri] victims are presently homeless," Adeniyi told me, explaining that Femi and the other victims are afraid to return to their homes, lest their neighbors make good on their pledge to kill them. "Including me. I cannot go back to Gishiri village." After the attack, members of the mob spray-painted homophobic slogans on the homes of residents suspected of being gay.
Four of the residents who were attacked that night subsequently lost their jobs after their employers discovered their sexuality, according to several victims. Chukwuemeka*, a 22-year-old living with HIV, used to work as a cashier. He was fired after the February mob attack, and he now spends his nights in a roadside auto repair shack. Femi owns a clothing boutique, but now he is afraid to go back. "Next week the bank will start calling me," he says, referring to an overdue payment he owes on a 100,000 Naira (about $600) loan he took out to start his business.
As in most African countries, homosexuality has been illegal in Nigeria since the British colonial era, but convictions were rare. Nigerians used to be generally tolerant of LGBT people in their midst, even if they were homophobic, Adeniyi says, but the new law'--imposing harsh penalties for homosexuality'--has stirred up a wave of anti-gay sentiment in the deeply religious country. "People already knew that people were gay," he says. "Now, what we have seen is tenants threatening other tenants, saying, 'I'm going to expose you. I know what you do.''...Now they can call the police and get people convicted."
And since the law does not define who is gay and who is not, the police and the general public are making the determination themselves, sparking witch hunts around the country. Adeniyi says that the head of the police department where Gishiri victims were held overnight after the attack, told them he knew they were gay, citing several arbitrary characteristics: "He said, 'You, because you wrote down you're a hairdresser, you must be gay'...The two of you, because you guys live together, you have to be gay.' He talked to one other, and said, 'I'm sure you picked up a gay personality because you schooled abroad.'"
"After they passed the bill into law'--wow. It's hell in Nigeria. Nobody wants to see you. When you walk, they say, 'Why are you walking like this? Are you a gay?'"
In addition to discrimination and harassment, Nigeria's new law has already led to a sharp decline in HIV/AIDS treatment and prevention in a country that has the second highest HIV rate in the world. About 3.4 million Nigerians are infected and some 17 percent of the gay population has the disease. The anti-gay law discourages people from seeking treatment for fear that doing so could out them as gay, and it also criminalizes organizations that serve the LGBT community.
Adeniyi estimates that since the law took effect in January, the number of patients coming into ICARH for HIV treatment has dropped by over 50 percent. "One person told me he would rather die'...than come to the organization" and risk imprisonment, he says. He adds that LGBT couples living with HIV may also be discouraged from going to the doctor for couples counseling, out of fear that the doctor may turn them over to the police.
Eight organizations that provide HIV treatment and prevention services in northern Nigeria have cut back on HIV outreach, training, and education programs, according to Dorothy Aken'Ova, executive director of Nigeria's International Center for Reproductive Health and Sexual Rights (INCRESE). "People thought, 'You know what? I don't want to be in prison because I'm providing treatment for these gay homosexual people,'" Adeniyi says. He expects more organizations will drop their programs in the coming months.
ICARH has had to scale back, too. The group has halted outreach events designed to encourage people to get tested due to concerns that the authorities might interpret this as an effort to aid the gay community. "Since the law has been passed, we are doing counseling and testing, but we have suspended outreaches."
UNAIDS, a United Nations program to combat HIV/AIDS, and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malariahave warned the new law could hinder progressin the fight against HIV/AIDS in Nigeria. In late January, the US Ambassador to Nigeriasaid the law might impede US efforts to help Nigeriafight the epidemic. Even social scientists have been scared off from taking stock of HIV trends in Nigeria'--data that can improve the response to the epidemic'--until the government can assure researchers that they will be exempt from punishment under the law, says Aken'Ova of INCRESE.
The anti-gay crackdown in Nigeria and Uganda is part of a broader trend in Africa, where at least seven other African countrieshave recently moved to tighten their anti-homosexuality laws. In many cases, lawmakers in these countries have been spurred to action by American anti-gay activists and the Christian right, who in some cases stoked fears of homosexuals preying on African children. US evangelicals have had a hand in anti-gay legislation and constitutional reform measures in Nigeria, Uganda, Namibia, Malawi, Kenya, Liberia, Zambia, Rwanda, and Zimbabwe.
Thanks to their efforts, life for more and more gay Africans is beginning to look like Chukwuemeka's. "After they passed the bill into law'--wow. It's hell in Nigeria," he says. "Nobody wants to see you. When you walk, they say, 'Why are you walking like this? Are you a gay?'"
*Victims' names have been changed.
Beverly Hills Hotel Enlists 'Master of Disaster' Mark Fabiani as Consultant - The Hollywood Reporter
Sat, 10 May 2014 21:56
Facing a boycott due to the Sultan of Brunei's ownership, the Beverly Hills Hotel has enlisted a famed public relations strategist to help manage the growing protests.
Mark Fabiani, formerly a special counsel to President Bill Clinton, was hired as a consultant, a hotel spokesperson confirmed to The Hollywood Reporter. Fabiani could not be reached for comment.
Fabiani has been a consultant for the San Diego Chargers since 2002 and reportedly consulted for Lance Armstrong in 2010 during his doping scandal.
The New York Times first reported that Fabiani had been hired.
Fabiani operates a strategic communications firm, Fabiani & Lehane, with business partner Chris Lehane.
The duo authored a book along with writer-director Bill Guttentag entitled Masters of Disaster: The Ten Commandments of Damage Control, which was named after a description of the team that purportedly originated in Newsweek magazine.
The Beverly Hills Hotel is owned by the Brunei Investment Agency, which is controlled by the Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah. On May 1, a new Sharia law penal code in the Southeast Asian nation was instituted that includes a policy that levies harsh penalties -- including plans for death by stoning -- for gays and adulterers.
The industry response to the newly installed code has been swift. The Motion Picture Television Fund's Night Before Oscars Party was pulled from the Beverly Hills Hotel, as well as The Hollywood Reporter's annual Women In Entertainment breakfast.
Ellen DeGeneres, Richard Branson, Sharon Osbourne and Jay Leno have been outspoken in promoting the boycott.
Out Boulder calls on Bolder Boulder to drop 'Sea Level is for Sissies' T-shirt - Boulder Daily Camera
Fri, 09 May 2014 16:00
T-shirts with the slogan "Sea Level is for Sissies" (Bolder Boulder)
Out Boulder, an LGBTQ advocacy group, has launched an online petition seeking to pressure organizers of the Bolder Boulder to drop their slogan "Sea Level is for Sissies" because they say the word "sissies" is derogatory.
But race organizers say they have no plans to retire the slogan.
The Change.org petition was posted Wednesday by Out Boulder's executive director, Mardi Moore, and by the evening it had 25 signatures.
"The word is used to (demean) traits that are problematically and stereotypically associated with women," the petition reads. "Traits that all genders have but are not valued because they are associated with women. ... All genders express emotions and they should be embraced when they do.
"It's past due that the Bolder Boulder retire this slogan. Make your voice heard."
Moore said the slogan is "harmful" and leads to further misunderstanding about gender.
"This has been a longstanding issue for us in the LGBT community," Moore said. "When somebody calls you a sissy, it is not positive. ... That word continues the incorrect thinking that having emotions or expressing something in a stereotypically female way is somehow wrong in society."
Moore said she was motivated to put up the petition after a letter to the editor by Debbie Ramirez appeared in the Daily Camera on April 21 calling the T-shirt "highly offensive."
"I am a women who runs, rock climbs and performs well athletically. I also have the traits associated with someone who is called a sissy," Ramirez wrote. "I cry, I get hurt and I express my emotions. If this is what a sissy is, I am proud to be a sissy and would never wear a T-shirt that does not value these traits in all genders."
But Bolder Boulder race director Cliff Bosley said organizers of the Memorial Day 10K had a meeting about three years ago with Cathy Busha, then-director of Out Boulder, about the slogan and said he thought they came to an understanding that the slogan was not intended to put anyone down.
"While it was not their preference we continue to use it, they understood that it wasn't singling out their organization," Bosley said.
Bosley said Bolder Boulder will not retire the slogan.
He added that "Sea Level is for Sissies" has been one of the race's slogans for more than six years, and, along with others like "Altitude Adjustment" and "Run with Altitude," references the elevation of the annual race.
"This is in keeping with that spirit," Bosley said.
He said the T-shirt with the slogan has been one of Bolder Boulder's most popular sale items, and after the letter to the editor appeared in the Camera, he received numerous calls urging him not to do away with it.
Moore said she understands the slogan might be popular, but there are better ways to promote the race.
"It's a great race, and we're glad it's successful, but there have to be other ways to promote it," Moore said.
Contact Camera Staff Writer Mitchell Byars at 303-473-1329, byarsm@dailycamera.com or twitter.com/mitchellbyars.
Syria
Thousands of Syrians enter Homs after rebels leave
Sun, 11 May 2014 03:08
HOMS, Syria (AP) -- Thousands of Syrians returned to war-battered parts of the central city of Homs Saturday, many making plans to move back as opposition activists expressed bitterness over the rebels' surrender of their strongholds to pro-government forces and vowed they will return.The homecoming came as rival jihadi factions fought deadly battles to the east in an oil-rich region bordering Iraq, the latest clashes between groups trying to overthrow the central government in Damascus.Residents from Homs' smashed ancient quarters scavenged what they could from their homes, mostly clothes, dusty mattresses and some burned gas canisters, carrying them away in plastic bags and trolleys."My house was completely destroyed and burnt, but I found some photos," said Sarmad Mousa, 49, a resident of the old Hamidiyeh district. "They will remain a memory for me of the beautiful days we had here."Some accused rebels of looting and burning their homes. Smaller crowds made the journey Friday.Other residents were already making plans to stay in their homes, sweeping them clear of rubble and broken glass."God willing, we will sleep in our homes tonight, not tomorrow," one man told Lebanese television station al-Mayadeen. "Even if the homes aren't ready, we are going to help each other build our homes," he said.Hundreds of rebels surrendered their stronghold in Homs to government forces in exchange for their safe passage to the nearby northern countryside as part of a deal that began Wednesday.Some 2,000 rebels - and civilians living there - were badly weakened by the nearly two-year blockade and heavy bombing of the area.The surrender deal is widely seen as a victory for President Bashar Assad weeks ahead of a presidential election on June 3 that he is expected to win, giving him a mandate to continue his violent crackdown on rebels in the Syrian civil war, which activists say has killed more than 150,000 people.Assad has two unknown competitors for the presidential elections, Maher al-Hajjar and Hassan al-Nouri, according to an announcement by Syria's supreme constitutional court on Saturday.The spokesman, Majed Khadra, made the announcement in a broadcast on state-run television.Over 20 candidates had applied to run, but Khadra said they did not obtain the necessary support - approval of their candidacy by at least one-third of Syrian lawmakers. His announcement came after six of the original presidential hopefuls appealed to the constitutional court to accept their candidacies.In the east, al-Qaida breakaway group the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant captured the western sector of the oil-rich province of Deir el-Zour after days of fighting with the al-Qaida-linked Nusra Front, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and a journalist in eastern Syria.The Observatory said the 10-day fighting left at least 230 people dead and displaced more than 100,000.Malba Ali, a Syrian journalist in the province of Hassakeh bordering Deir el-Zour confirmed the Islamic State advances, adding that "many are fleeing the region." Ali is in contact with activists and residents in Deir el-Zour.For rebels, the withdrawal from Homs was a bitter day, said an opposition activist who uses the name Thaer Khalidiya."The fighters left to rest and get treatment, but they want to return to liberate Homs," he said over Skype. "They want to go back."Municipal workers began fixing power lines in the city while bulldozers cleared rubble from the street. The Syrian Red Crescent gave clean water, food and candles to residents who wanted to return to their homes, Gov. Talal Barazi said.But danger still lurked in some areas. A man, woman and child have been killed in three separate explosions in Homs after detonating rebel-planted mines left in their homes, Barazi said.At least five military vehicles carrying soldiers searched the area for more explosives.Some citizens rushed to the area of Bustan al-Diwan, gathering to pray around the grave of an elderly, beloved Dutch priest who was shot to death in April in a rebel-held part of Homs.Father Francis Van Der Lugt, 75, was a Jesuit, the same order as Pope Francis. His death underscored fears among many of Syria's Christian and Muslim minorities for the fate of their communities as Islamic extremists gain influence among rebels seeking to topple Assad.In the contested northern city of Aleppo, Syria's largest and former commercial center, opposition fighters continued to cut water supplies from government-held neighborhoods for the seventh consecutive day, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights activist group and state news agency SANA said.---Hadid reported from Beirut. Associated Press writer Bassem Mroue contributed to the report from Beirut.
SnowJob
Hey, does your Smart TV have a mic? Enjoy your surveillance, bro
Sun, 11 May 2014 03:06
NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden told lawyers he met during his sojourn in Hong Kong to put their cell phones in his fridge to thwart any eavesdroppers.
But new research suggests he should have been worried about nearby TVs, too.
Smart tellies with built-in microphones and storage can be turned into bugging devices by malware and used to record conversations, security experts at NCC Group said. And they demonstrated exactly that just down the road from the Infosec Europe conference, held in London.
"Installing the bugging software requires physical access to the device, which is how we did it, or by installing a malicious app," said Felix Ingram, principal consultant at NCC Group.
"Malicious apps could be downloaded from the manufacturer's app store. The TV does have the option for auto-updating, so releasing a legitimate app, then releasing a malicious update, is another attack vector."
In other words, Ingram's research shows smart TVs can be abused in much the same way that dodgy apps on Android software stores hijack smartphones and tablets.
In the NCC demo, the internal storage of a smart TV was used to hold 30 seconds of audio, but a far longer buffer could be set up. The main limitation of the attack is getting malicious code onto vulnerable devices in the first place, as Ingram noted.
"The devices contain microphones and cameras that can be utilised by applications, Skype and similar apps being good examples," Ingram told El Reg.
"The TV has a fairly large amount of storage, so would be able to hold more than 30 seconds of audio '' we only captured short snippets for demonstrations purposes. A more sophisticated attack could store more audio locally and only upload it at certain times, or could even stream it directly to a server, bypassing the need to use any of the device's storage.
TV builders have released source code that makes developing malware a little easier"There is nothing specific about them running Linux that makes the hacking any easier, though some manufacturers have released some of their source code, which could make developing applications for the devices a little easier."
The smart TV hacking was part of a demonstration by NCC experts to highlight security shortcomings on the home front of the Internet of Things. Broadband routers and Wi-Fi-controlled power plugs were also attacked, and a smartphone with NFC wireless radio was used in an attempt to clone a hotel room access card.
Whatever cryptography was used by the hotel system, it was able to thwart the cloning software, thankfully.
The Wi-Fi plugs came with a default password, but without clear instructions on how to change this: users have to download and run an executable to do this, but the software presents an alarming warning that any cock-ups will brick the device.
"To update or change the firmware is too complicated," noted Paul Vlissidis, technical director of NCC Group, in something of an understatement.
Software vulnerabilities and weak configurations made it easy for NCC staffers to break into home routers. Folks using compromised broadband gateways could be directed to servers under the control of crims, allowing the crooks to intercept sensitive e-banking or webmail usernames and passwords, for instance.
As for internet-connected coffee makers and such gear, compromising that kit provides a stepping stone into a home network for a criminal. Seemingly innocuous devices can be chained together to attack the home of the future, we were told.
Net-connected devices are designed with price and functionality in mind rather than security, it seems. "Interoperability trumps security every time," Vlissidis concluded. ®
USA Freedom Act-H.R.3361 - 113th Congress (2013-2014): USA FREEDOM Act | Congress.gov | Library of Congress
Sat, 10 May 2014 23:59
Shown Here:Introduced in House (10/29/2013)Uniting and Strengthening America by Fulfilling Rights and Ending Eavesdropping, Dragnet-collection, and Online Monitoring Act or the USA FREEDOM Act - Amends the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 (FISA) to set forth additional requirements for obtaining orders for business records in counterterrorism investigations, including requiring that the records sought pertain to a foreign power, an agent of a foreign power, or an individual in contact with, or known to a suspected agent of, a foreign power. Requires additional information if the applicant is seeking a nondisclosure requirement in connection with such request. Allows the Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to apply for renewals of nondisclosure requirements. Authorizes the Attorney General (AG) to require the production of call data records by the provider of a wire or electronic communication service.
Amends the USA PATRIOT Improvements and Reauthorization Act of 2005 to require the Inspector General (IG) of the Department of Justice (DOJ), for 2010 through 2013, to report on an examination of the minimization procedures (procedures designed to minimize the acquisition and retention of information and to prohibit its unauthorized dissemination) used in relation to business records orders.
Imposes additional requirements on the authorized use of pen registers and trap and trace devices (devices for recording incoming and outgoing telephone numbers), including that: (1) the information sought must pertain to a foreign power, agent thereof, or individual in contact with or known to such an agent; and (2) the application must contain a statement of proposed minimization procedures. Requires audits of the effectiveness and use of such devices.
Prohibits the searching of collections of communications of U.S. persons, except: (1) under an order or authorization for electronic surveillance or physical search, (2) with the consent of such person, or (3) under a reasonable belief that the life or safety of the person is threatened and the information is sought to assist that person.
Limits the collection of wholly domestic communications of a U.S. person to those communications: (1) to which any party is a target of the acquisition; or (2) that contain an identifier of a target of an acquisition, only if the communications are acquired to protect against international terrorism or the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.
Prohibits receiving into evidence any information obtained in an acquisition against any U.S. person for which a deficiency in the procedures for acquiring such information is identified by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISA Court). Authorizes the FISA Court, if the government corrects any deficiencies so identified, to permit the use or disclosure of information acquired before the correction under such minimization procedures as the FISA Court shall establish.
Repeals on June 1, 2015, FISA procedures regarding the targeting of non-U.S. persons located outside the United States in order to acquire foreign intelligence information. Requires reviews of surveillance targeting and minimization procedures by the IG of the Intelligence Community (IC), including mandatory review with respect to the privacy rights of U.S. persons.
Establishes within the judicial branch an Office of the Special Advocate to participate in proceedings before the FISA Court and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court of Review, request reconsiderations of FISA Court decisions, and participate in appeals and reviews. Requires the Special Advocate to vigorously advocate in support of legal interpretations that protect individual privacy and civil liberties. Requires the Attorney General to publicly disclose specified information in connection with FISA Court or FISA Court of Review decisions appealed by the Special Advocate. Requires the release of as much information regarding the facts and analysis in such decisions as is consistent with legitimate national security concerns.
Authorizes the FBI Director to request from a communication service provider the name, address, length of service, and local and long distance billing records of a person as part of a national security investigation only if there are reasonable grounds to believe that the information sought pertains to a foreign power, an agent of a foreign power, or an individual in contact with, or known to a suspected agent of, a foreign power. Provides similar requirements with respect to an FBI request for information from financial institutions and consumer reporting agencies. Revises provisions prohibiting the disclosure of the receipt of a national security letter by such providers, institutions, and agencies to except disclosure to: (1) those persons to whom disclosure is necessary to comply with the request, (2) an attorney in order to obtain legal advice or assistance regarding the request, or (3) other persons as permitted by the FBI. Includes under such prohibition (with the same exceptions) national security letters issued in connection with the investigation of persons with access to classified information. Allows affected communications providers, financial institutions, and consumer reporting agencies to seek judicial review of requests for information. Requires the DOJ IG to report results of audits of national security letters issued during 2010 through 2013.
Amends provisions of FISA, the Right to Financial Privacy Act of 1978, the National Security Act of 1947, and the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) concerning national security letters to, effective June 1, 2015, make such provisions read as they read on October 25, 2001.
Allows electronic service providers to publicly report on information provided under FISA orders and national security letters. Exempts such providers from liability with respect to such reports. Revises requirements concerning government reporting on the use of FISA orders and national security letters.
Amends the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 to remove the AG as a required intermediary for subpoenas in connection with authorized activities of the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board.
Statement by the Press Secretary on S. 994
Sat, 10 May 2014 16:53
The White House
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release
May 10, 2014
On Friday, May 9, 2014, the President signed into law:
S. 994, the "Digital Accountability and Transparency Act of 2014" or the "DATA Act," which amends the Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act of 2006 to make publicly available specific classes of Federal agency spending data, with more specificity and at a deeper level than is currently reported; require agencies to report this data on USASpending.gov; create Government-wide standards for financial data; apply to all agencies various accounting approaches developed by the Recovery Act's Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board; and streamline agency reporting requirements.
Obama Directive Makes Mere Citing of Snowden Leaks Punishable Offense
Sat, 10 May 2014 16:52
Directive from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) makes mention of news reporting referencing unauthorized informatin, like that leaked by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, a punishable offense. (Image credit: Laura Poitras)In a new policy directive from the Obama administrative, national security and other government officials will no longer be allowed to publicly discuss or even reference news reporting that is based on "unauthorized leaks."
President Obama once promised the American people that his administration would be the most transparent in history, but after years of fights with civil libertarians trying to obtain legal memos used to justify the president's overseas assassination program, an unprecedented pattern of prosecuting government whistleblowers, the targeting of journalists, and all the secrecy and obfuscation related to the NSA's mass surviellance programs made public by Edward Snowden, that claim is now met with near universal laughter, if not scorn, by critics.
According to the New York Times:
A new pre-publication review policy for the Office of Director of National Intelligence says the agency's current and former employees and contractors may not cite news reports based on leaks in their speeches, opinion articles, books, term papers or other unofficial writings.
Such officials ''must not use sourcing that comes from known leaks, or unauthorized disclosures of sensitive information,'' it says. ''The use of such information in a publication can confirm the validity of an unauthorized disclosure and cause further harm to national security.''
Failure to comply ''may result in the imposition of civil and administrative penalties, and may result in the loss of security clearances and accesses,'' it says.
Timothy H. Edgar, a visiting professor at Brown University, told the Times the ODNI directive is overly restrictive because it goes beyond telling officials they cannot comment on or confirm the accuracy of unauthorized leaks'--something he thinks makes sense and is already covered by statute'--but it bizarrely asserts that these people cannot even acknowledge the existence of a story that may have appeared on the cover of a major newspaper.
''You're basically saying people can't talk about what everyone in the country is talking about,'' Edgar said. ''I think that is awkward and overly broad in terms of restricting speech.''
The new rule was first reported by journalist Steve Aftergood at the Secrecy News website on Thursday and relates to other rules that guide national security officials who are speak to the press or in public forums.
Referencing the Times reporting on the directive, the president's critics were focused on the continued hypocrisy between claims of transparency by the president and other high-level officials and the reality represented by the continued attempt to by the White House and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper to control information:
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Obama turns to tech leaders for cash for Democrats
Fri, 09 May 2014 06:54
By Steve Holland
SAN JOSE, CaliforniaFri May 9, 2014 12:04am EDT
1 of 2. U.S. President Barack Obama is introduced to speak by Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer at a DNC fund raiser in San Jose, California May 8, 2014.
Credit: Reuters/Kevin Lamarque
SAN JOSE, California (Reuters) - President Barack Obama warned tech leaders on Thursday to dig deep in their wallets to fund Democratic candidates and feel a sense of urgency about congressional elections in November or risk further gridlock in Washington and a failure to move on their priorities.
Obama was the headline speaker at four California fund-raising events, raising his two-day total to five. His last was a Silicon Valley event in San Jose co-hosted by Y Combinator President Sam Altman and Yahoo Inc CEO Marissa Mayer. About 250 people paid between $1,000 and $32,400 to attend.
During his remarks, Obama struck at the heart of the issue that Republicans are using against Democrats in their campaigns: The Affordable Care Act, the Obamacare law whose troubled rollout has given Obama's political opponents much grist for criticism.
Republicans have mounted a strong effort to seize control of the Senate from Democrats and are also trying to build on their majority in the House of Representatives. Obama said the effort must be stopped in order to prevent more gridlock in Washington.
"The reason that we've got gridlock right now is because you've got a party that's been captured by folks who are on the wrong side of the issues," he said.
Obama, whose own job approval rating under 50 percent is weighing down Democratic prospects in November, said Republicans offer nothing more than their vow to repeal the healthcare law.
"If that's all they've got, then they shouldn't be running either chamber, They shouldn't be running the House. And they sure shouldn't be running the Senate," he said.
Earlier Obama took his California fund-raising tour first to the seaside home in La Jolla of Qualcomm founder Iwin Jacobs.
The tech industry has raised questions about the scale of the National Security Agency's surveillance under the Obama administration, but there's little sign that Obama is losing support in Silicon Valley.
Obama made no mention of these concerns in his luncheon speech attended by 65 guests who paid up to $32,400 per couple for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.
Obama told them that majorities of Americans support the direction that Democrats want to take the country, such as on raising the minimum wage and making sure women receive equal pay as men, but that they have "lost faith that we can actually make it happen" because of Washington gridlock.
Obama needs Democrats to do well in November to allow him to advance his agenda in his last two years in office, in 2015 and 2016.
But most political analysts believe Republicans will build on their House majority and stand a decent chance of winning the Senate.
Obama has been using fund-raising speeches to warn of this outcome, saying Democrats need to avoid getting distracted by media attention on the 2016 presidential election to choose a successor to him.
Obama said in La Jolla that Democrats need to gain seats "in order for us to not simply play defense but to actually go back on the offensive for the American people."
(Reporting By Steve Holland; Editing by Ken Wills and Chris Gallagher)
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Ex-NSA chief Keith Alexander seeks post-Snowden second act
Sat, 10 May 2014 16:39
'This effort is in its exploratory stages, and I look forward to the work ahead.' | John Shinkle/POLITICO
CloseFormer National Security Agency chief Gen. Keith Alexander is launching a consulting firm for financial institutions looking to address cybersecurity threats, POLITICO has learned.
Less than two months since his retirement from the embattled agency at the center of the Edward Snowden leak storm, the retired four-star general is setting up a Washington-based operation that will try to attract clients based on his four decades of experience in the military and intelligence '-- and the continued levels of access to senior decision-makers that affords.
Continue Reading
''He's already out pushing hard,'' said an industry source recently briefed by Alexander on the new business venture. ''He's cleared. If something does pop, he can get in the door and get a briefing. That's part of his stock and trade.''
Alexander will lease office space from the global consulting firm Promontory Financial Group, which confirmed in a statement on Thursday that it plans to partner with him on cybersecurity matters.
''He and a firm he's forming will work on the technical aspects of these issues, and we on the risk-management compliance and governance elements,'' said Promontory spokesman Chris Winans.
(Also on POLITICO: New NSA chief: Agency has lost trust)
''After a 40-year career in the military and the government, I am beginning an effort to see what I could do to help address the cybersecurity threats facing the financial services industry, its customers, and their assets,'' Alexander said in a statement.
''This effort is in its exploratory stages, and I look forward to the work ahead.''
Alexander spoke recently to a large industry trade group on his post-government plans. One person familiar with his pitch said it had an appeal much like the consulting expertise of Tom Ridge and Michael Chertoff, two former homeland security secretaries who went on to establish their own firms.
''Clearly, there will be companies who'd have great interest in having an affiliation with him,'' the source said.
Alexander, who also headed up U.S. Cyber Command from his perch at NSA, has been one of the most visible public defenders of the super secret agency's controversial surveillance practices amid nearly a year of news coverage based off Snowden's stolen cache of thousands of top-secret documents.
Since leaving government, the former NSA chief has been on his own personal publicity tour to explain the NSA's practices and also show his lighter side.
(Also on POLITICO: Dueling dilemmas for NSA reform)
Appearing last month on the debut episode of John Oliver's ''Last Week Tonight'' HBO program, Alexander said life would be easier if he could decree that ''all the bad guys need to be on this section of the Internet.''
Oliver quipped in response that he must be talking about Pinterest, the social sharing site that the comedian said collects ''all the worst people in the world.''
But the joke fell flat with Alexander, who admitted he wasn't familiar with the site. ''I've lived a sheltered life,'' Alexander said.
In an interview published Thursday with an Australian newspaper, Alexander said NSA staffers were ''true heroes'' who were unfairly maligned by the public and media.
Asked about the recent Pulitzer Prize awards won by Guardian U.S. and The Washington Post, Alexander replied, ''I'm greatly disappointed that we have rewarded those who have put so many lives at risk. I think that's the best way to say that.''
Alexander also told the Australian Financial Review that the media portrayed the Snowden leaks ''in such a way that the public is incorrectly led to believe that NSA, and its people, are doing something illegal or improper.''
Ex-NSA chief Keith Alexander seeks post-Snowden second act
Sat, 10 May 2014 16:39
'This effort is in its exploratory stages, and I look forward to the work ahead.' | John Shinkle/POLITICO
CloseFormer National Security Agency chief Gen. Keith Alexander is launching a consulting firm for financial institutions looking to address cybersecurity threats, POLITICO has learned.
Less than two months since his retirement from the embattled agency at the center of the Edward Snowden leak storm, the retired four-star general is setting up a Washington-based operation that will try to attract clients based on his four decades of experience in the military and intelligence '-- and the continued levels of access to senior decision-makers that affords.
Continue Reading
''He's already out pushing hard,'' said an industry source recently briefed by Alexander on the new business venture. ''He's cleared. If something does pop, he can get in the door and get a briefing. That's part of his stock and trade.''
Alexander will lease office space from the global consulting firm Promontory Financial Group, which confirmed in a statement on Thursday that it plans to partner with him on cybersecurity matters.
''He and a firm he's forming will work on the technical aspects of these issues, and we on the risk-management compliance and governance elements,'' said Promontory spokesman Chris Winans.
(Also on POLITICO: New NSA chief: Agency has lost trust)
''After a 40-year career in the military and the government, I am beginning an effort to see what I could do to help address the cybersecurity threats facing the financial services industry, its customers, and their assets,'' Alexander said in a statement.
''This effort is in its exploratory stages, and I look forward to the work ahead.''
Alexander spoke recently to a large industry trade group on his post-government plans. One person familiar with his pitch said it had an appeal much like the consulting expertise of Tom Ridge and Michael Chertoff, two former homeland security secretaries who went on to establish their own firms.
''Clearly, there will be companies who'd have great interest in having an affiliation with him,'' the source said.
Alexander, who also headed up U.S. Cyber Command from his perch at NSA, has been one of the most visible public defenders of the super secret agency's controversial surveillance practices amid nearly a year of news coverage based off Snowden's stolen cache of thousands of top-secret documents.
Since leaving government, the former NSA chief has been on his own personal publicity tour to explain the NSA's practices and also show his lighter side.
(Also on POLITICO: Dueling dilemmas for NSA reform)
Appearing last month on the debut episode of John Oliver's ''Last Week Tonight'' HBO program, Alexander said life would be easier if he could decree that ''all the bad guys need to be on this section of the Internet.''
Oliver quipped in response that he must be talking about Pinterest, the social sharing site that the comedian said collects ''all the worst people in the world.''
But the joke fell flat with Alexander, who admitted he wasn't familiar with the site. ''I've lived a sheltered life,'' Alexander said.
In an interview published Thursday with an Australian newspaper, Alexander said NSA staffers were ''true heroes'' who were unfairly maligned by the public and media.
Asked about the recent Pulitzer Prize awards won by Guardian U.S. and The Washington Post, Alexander replied, ''I'm greatly disappointed that we have rewarded those who have put so many lives at risk. I think that's the best way to say that.''
Alexander also told the Australian Financial Review that the media portrayed the Snowden leaks ''in such a way that the public is incorrectly led to believe that NSA, and its people, are doing something illegal or improper.''
Internet Freedom
Internet piracy: UK ISPs close to deal with entertainment industry
Sat, 10 May 2014 16:51
Music and movie industry bodies will monitor file-sharing networks for copyright infringements under the deal. Photograph: Adam Peck/PA
UK internet service providers and the entertainment industry are near to agreeing a deal to combat piracy.
After four years of negotiations, BT, Sky, TalkTalk and Virgin Media have said they will send "educational" letters to people who illegally download copyrighted music, television or films.
Under the voluntary copyright alert programme (Vcap), the music and movie industry bodies will monitor file-sharing networks for copyright infringements, recording the IP addresses of downloaders.
The IP addresses, which identify individual broadband connections, will be given to UK ISPs who in turn will send out a warning letter about the alleged infringement to the registered subscriber of that broadband connection. The first letters will be sent out in 2015.
The Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) is understood to be looking at the deal, but told the Guardian it did not rubber-stamp agreements.
BT, Sky and Virgin Media said they were in talks with the BPI, which represents the British music industry, and the Motion Picture Association (MPA) over Vcap, but that an agreement had not yet been made.
The media industry originally intended for Vcap to target alleged repeat copyright infringers with letters informing them of possible punitive measures. Access to a database of known infringers was also requested, which could have led to legal action against internet subscribers.
Instead, the draft agreement, seen by the BBC, suggests that no more than 2.5m letters will be sent out each year and that they will have an "educational" tone.
Those who download illegal material can expect to receive up to four alerts. The cost of the system will be shared between the rights holders, who will contribute £750,000 or 75% of the cost for each ISP, with a further £75,000 or 75% of the costs a year to cover the running of the service.
Vcap was proposed as an alternative to the 2010 Digital Economy Act, which envisioned repeat copyright infringers having their internet connections terminated.
Russia: Proposed Bill Would 'Protect' Children From Unpatriotic Information
Sat, 10 May 2014 16:50
A bill introduced at Russia's parliament would seek to protect children from information that "denies or distorts patriotism," according to the document published on the legislature's website.
Submitted Thursday by United Russia lawmaker Arkady Ponomaryov, the bill proposes amendments to Russia's law on protecting children from information deemed detrimental to their well-being, adding supposedly unpatriotic information to the list of knowledge from which Russia's children should be safeguarded.
The bill defines "patriotism" as the "love for the fatherland, devotion to it, striving to serve its interests through one's actions."
If adopted, the bill would add information that "denies or distorts patriotism" to its top category of things from which all children need to be protected, regardless of age. Other items in that category include inducement to commit suicide, promotion of illegal drug use, violence and homosexual relationships.
Readers of the Ekho Moskvy website '-- a respected news outlet whose coverage was denounced as "anti-Russian" by pro-Kremlin monitors earlier this year '-- responded with a flurry of comments deriding the bill.
"The bill says explicitly that citizens must ensure the interests of the state '-- cogs in a machine, now they don't even have the right to make a yelp against it," one of the readers commented.
Another asked: "What kind of a normal country needs to protect patriotism... by law?"
An explanatory note to the bill cited surveys by the state-funded pollster VTsIOM indicating that the number of Russians who consider themselves "patriots" dropped to 80 percent in December, 2012.
No survey data were available to show how Russians' sense of patriotism was affected by the annexation of Crimea, but recent polls showed a significant increase in the number of Russians who consider their country a great power, and President Vladimir Putin's approval ratings soared to a whopping 82 percent in mid-April, according to the Levada Center pollster.
All the polls were conducted among 1600 people throughout Russia and carried a 3.4 percent margins of error.
"The forming of patriotism begins in early childhood," Ponomaryov said in his explanatory note to his bill, noting that the view had been upheld by thinkers such as Alexander Herzen '-- a 19th century writer often regarded as the father of Russian socialism.
It remained unclear how the bill would deal with classical Russian writers whose views on patriotism did not always toe their government's line.
Another Ekho Moskvy reader quoted a poem by Mikhail Lermontov, the great 19th century Russian poet, titled "Motherland," which was part of mandatory school reading during Soviet times: "I love my homeland, but in the strangest way."
Out There 2030
Russia Plans to Colonize Moon by 2030, Newspaper Reports
Sun, 11 May 2014 03:06
Marcos Brindicci / ReutersRussia is planning to start exploring the Moon by 2016, Izvestia reported Thursday.
Russia is planning to put a manned colony on the Moon as soon as in 2030, and is racing to dispatch the first robotic rovers to explore the lunar surface two years from now, a media report says.
Newspaper Izvestia said Thursday it had gained access to a draft government program, prepared by the Russian Academy of Sciences, the Roscosmos federal space agency, Moscow State University and several space research institutes, outlining a three-step plan toward manning the moon.
A robotic craft would be sent to the Moon as early as in 2016 and through the following decade, and by 2028, Russia would be ready to send manned missions to orbit the Earth's satellite, Izvestia said, citing the report.
In the final stage, planned for 2030, humans would be sent to the lunar surface to set up the infrastructure for an initial colony using local resources, the report said. The program also envisages building a space- and Earth-monitoring observatory on the Moon.
The Russian document underlined the need for speedy lunar exploration, saying "leading space powers will expand and establish their rights to convenient lunar footholds to ensure future opportunities for practical use," in the next 20 to 30 years, Izvestia cited the document as saying.
The price tag of the mission is uncertain, but the first stage of the program is expected to cost around 28.5 billion rubles ($815.8 million), while earlier estimates indicated that developing and building a piloted spaceship would add 160 billion rubles or so, though Russia hopes to attract private investors to help bankroll the project, the report said.
But while the program envisages international cooperation on the project, it stresses that the "independence of the national lunar program must be ensured regardless of the conditions and the extent of the participation in it by foreign partners."
Lunar resources may present a "treasure-trove" of rare and valuable minerals of substantial strategic importance, according to NASA, but the concentration and the distribution of those elements remain uncertain.
The Moon can also be used as a launchpad for future missions into deep space, said the research chief of the Institute of Space Policy, Ivan Moiseyev, Izvestia reported.
China, India and Japan are also developing lunar exploration projects, and a California-based company Moon Express is planning to send its first robotic spacecraft to the satellite next year, according to the company's website.
See also:
52 Russians Shortlisted For One-Way Mission to Mars
Russian Space Agency Plans China Shift Amid Sanctions Fears
War on Weed
Federal lawsuit: Can Wash. state legally tax marijuana? | Local & Regional | Seattle News, Weather, Sports, Breaking News | KOMO News
Sun, 11 May 2014 02:24
SEATTLE (AP) - A federal lawsuit is challenging Washington state's authority to tax marijuana as long as marijuana remains illegal under federal law.The case arises from the state's attempt to collect sales taxes from a medical marijuana dispensary. But lawyer Douglas Hiatt, who filed it late Thursday, said it could throw a wrench in Washington's plans for collecting taxes on recreational marijuana, too.
The author of Washington's recreational pot law, Alison Holcomb, disagreed. She doesn't expect the lawsuit to get very far.
Hiatt is representing the dispensary's operator, Martin Nickerson, who is simultaneously being prosecuted criminally for marijuana distribution and targeted by the state Department of Revenue for not collecting and remitting taxes on the pot he was allegedly distributing. Nickerson can't pay the tax without incriminating himself in the criminal case, in violation of his constitutional rights, Hiatt argued.
Furthermore, the state, which says Nickerson owes more than $62,000, has seized more than $800 from his bank account. Hiatt said it's important to get an answer from a federal court about whether the state took that money legally.
Hiatt opposed Washington's recreational marijuana law and argues any meaningful drug law reform must come at the federal level. Nevertheless, he said he doesn't want to "look like the guy spoiling the party."
"I have no choice," Hiatt said. "I've got a client, he's got a problem, and we've got to fix it. It's a way to get some clarity on what's allowed."
The lawsuit asks the U.S. District Court in Seattle whether Washington's decision to tax marijuana sales is in conflict with marijuana's prohibition under federal law. If it is, the court could bar the state from collecting such taxes.
But Holcomb said there's little danger of that. The state isn't specifically taxing the marijuana at issue in Nickerson's case - it's applying a general sales tax to marijuana-related transactions, she argued.
That's an important difference, she said: If the state had imposed a specific tax on medical marijuana, then Nickerson might be implicating himself by paying it.
Instead, when collecting sales taxes on marijuana transactions and turning that money over to the Revenue Department, dispensaries don't have to identity for revenue officials what they sold - they just have to turn over the money owed on the value of the transactions they conducted, Holcomb said. For that reason, Nickerson wouldn't have been implicating himself by turning over the taxes.
And if Nickerson was so concerned about it, she suggested, he could have filed a letter along with his taxes insisting that his payment was not an admission of any illegal activity.
"The bottom line is he should have been paying his sales taxes along the way," she said.
Hiatt dismissed that analysis. He said that the Revenue Department has sent letters to Nickerson saying that he was selling marijuana and that he owed taxes on the pot he sold.
"They're assessing him based on the amount of marijuana they think he has sold," Hiatt said. "They're not applying a general sales tax to a business; they're saying, 'We're applying this tax to you because you're selling marijuana.' We're not talking about squirt guns."
The lawsuit also challenges a change made to the state's medical marijuana law in 2011, which expressly allowed cities and counties to adopt zoning requirements, business license requirements and to collect business taxes from marijuana-related operations. It argues that allows the jurisdictions to regulate a substance that's illegal under federal law, in conflict with the Controlled Substances Act.
The Revenue Department, which says Nickerson owes more than $62,000, has repeatedly warned medical marijuana dispensaries that they're required to pay regular sales and business taxes. Neither the department nor the state Attorney General's Office immediately responded to inquiries seeking comment on the lawsuit.
Strategy of Tenstion
Schietoefening marechaussee schrikt centrum Amsterdam op | RTL Nieuws
Sun, 11 May 2014 02:23
Een oefening van de Koninklijke Marechaussee in de binnenstad van Amsterdam heeft tot onrust bij burgers geleid. De oefening is hierop direct stilgelegd.
De politie in Amsterdam was niet op de hoogte gesteld van de oefening. "Dat is dit keer abusievelijk niet gebeurd", erkent een woordvoerder. Normaal gesproken worden lokale autoriteiten wel gewaarschuwd over oefeningen door de marechaussee.
Geschoten uit geblindeerde auto'sDe Brigade Speciale Beveiligingsopdrachten (BSB) oefende bij het Museumplein. Daarbij is uit geblindeerde auto's geschoten met dummykogels. De oefening maakt deel uit van de basisopleiding van de BSB.
Een woordvoerster van de politie zegt over de onrust: "Het is mooi als we wel op de hoogte zouden zijn gesteld, maar het is nu niet meer terug te draaien."
RTL Nieuws/ANP
Directed Energy
ADAM High Energy Laser Disables Small Boat Target - YouTube
Sun, 11 May 2014 02:14
DPRK
North Korea Run By Mysterious Organization, Not Kim Jong-un - Business Insider
Sun, 11 May 2014 01:34
May 9, 2014, 1:23 PM32,098KCNA KCNA/Reuters
Since Kim Jong-un succeeded his father, Kim Jong-il, in 2011, the 31-year-old has been trying to make his mark as Supreme Leader of North Korea.However, a recent interview with a North Korean defector from Kim Jong-il's inner circle indicates that Kim Jong-un is nothing more than a symbolic head, and that the real power belongs to a mysterious organization called the Organization and Guidance Department (OGD).
Even weirder?
Its director was none other than Jang Sung-taek, the uncle whom Kim Jong-un executed in December. The execution has, apparently, cut all familial ties between the organization and the country's supreme leader.
In the interview, North Korean defector Jang Jin-sung explains that the OGD is like ''an old boys' network'' made up of Kim Jong-il's university friends.
Kim Jong-il rose up the ranks with the men who run the organization, and these very men, most of which the world has never seen, are still running the show.
''When Kim Jung-il died and Kim Jong-un succeeded him, people saw the transfer of power from father to son,'' Jang Jin-sung told CNN. ''What they did not see also was what happened to the apparatus of the totalitarian system that supported the rule of Kim Jung-il.''
That apparatus is essentially the OGD, a body of the government that Kim Jong-un may not have close ties with the way his father did. And now that his uncle is out of the picture, there is nothing that ties him to the institution. Jang Jin-sung assesses that the current situation means that Kim Jong-un has no real power as Supreme Leader of North Korea.
''Kim Jung Il had the OGD as his old boys' network,'' Jang said. ''Kim Jong-un may have friends in his Swiss school, but he has no one inside North Korea.
The OGD is considered the most important department of the Korean Workers Party Central Committee.
It was formed in 1946 as part of the Department for General Matters of the KWP.
It focuses on four main areas: affairs related to the KWP headquarter, matters related to the North Korean army, administrative matters, and party matters.
The military desk was formed by Kim Jong-il in the 1980s as the North Korean military grew.
Kim Jong-il succeeded his uncle Kim Yong-ju as department director in 1974, but never officially left his post, so it was succeeded by the first deputy director after his death.
The first deputy director was Kim Jong-un's uncle Jang Sung-taek, who led the organization until his execution in December.
It is currently led by Jang Sung-taek's wife, Kim Kyong-hui, though several reports have speculated that she may be either dead or in a vegetative state.
The OGD expanded so much in power and influence under Kim Jong-il that party bureaucrats refer to it as the ''party within the party.
Only the very elite those proven to be the most loyal to the regime are permitted to work in the OGD.
The OGD's current first vice directors are Cho Yon-jun, Min Byong-chol, and Kim Kyong-ok. Most pundits are not familiar with them, but they are the link between Kim Jong-un and second and third tier leadership. In other words, they are the power behind the throne.
This post originally appeared at Bustle. You can also check them out on Facebook and Pinterest. Copyright 2014. Follow Bustle on Twitter.
Jang Jin-sung - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Sun, 11 May 2014 01:33
Jang Jin-sung (장ì§ì±) is the pseudonym[1] of a North Koreanpoet who defected to South Korea. He had worked as a high-ranking propaganda official.[2][3][4] Jang claims to have been one of late North Korean leader Kim Jong Il's favorite propaganda poets.[5]
He defected to South Korea in 2004.[6][7]
Memoirs Crossing [8]Poetry collection "I Am Selling My Daughter for 100 Won" ("내 ë--¸ì' 백원에 íŒ'ë‹ë‹¤") (Japanese 2009, English 2010)[9]Kim Jong Il's last woman (ê¹ì •ì'¼ì' ë§ì§ë§‰ 여자)ì‹'를 í'ê" 강ì' ë다 (Japan 2012)Dear Leader: North Korea's senior propagandist exposes shocking truths behind the regime (2014)New Focus International[edit]He started his own defectors' magazine New Focus International (뉴포ì>>¤ìŠ¤).[10]
References[edit]^Jin-Seong, Jang | Southbank Centre There he has just published a volume of poetry, For 100 Won, My Daughter I Sell. Jang Jin-sung uses a pseudonym to avoid endangering relatives left behind in ...^BBC News - Inside North Korea: The day Kim Jong-il gave me a Rolex Jan 5, 2012 - North Korean poet Jang Jin-sung has unique insights into Kim Jong-il's inner circle, having worked as a high-ranking propagandist until he fled ...^'º Culture 'º Books North Korean 'court poet' to publish memoir | Books | guardian.co.uk May 1, 2013 - He's seen Kim Jong-il cry - Jang Jin-sung's story of life inside the totalitarian state's propaganda machine could be electric.^About Us - New Focus International Jang Jin-sung is founder and director. As former chief propagandist and poet laureate under North Korean dictator Kim Jong-il, Jang has unparalleled insights ...^Jin-sung, North Korean Poet, Writes Of Hunger, Brutality In The ... Jul 1, 2012 - LONDON '-- He says he was one of late North Korean leader Kim Jong Il's favorite propaganda artists, singing the praises of the Dear Leader ...^'º Publications 'º The World Today 'º Archive Ten minutes with...Jang Jin-sun | Chatham House: Independent ... Selected as a state poet for Kim Jong-il, Jang Jin-sung defected to South Korea and became a best-selling author. He speaks to Libby Powell. How was your ..."^More on North Korean Literature & poet Jang Jin-sung Jun 6, 2013 - An interesting additional piece, Reclaiming North Korean Literature, by Shirley Lee, which Words Without Borders added after their first ...^'º GlobalPost Blogs 'º Weird Wide Web Crossing the Border: Jang Jin Sung, North Korea's poet laureate, to ... May 2, 2013 - Jang Jin Sung, former poet to Kim Jong Il, has announced plans to publish his memoirs in an English-language translation. Titled 'Crossing the ...^Defector Poet Jang Jin Sung, "I Am Selling My Daughter for 100 Won" May 13, 2008 - Defector poet Jang Jin Sung's poetry collection, "I am selling my daughter for 100 won," which subtly yet realistically portrays the "March of ...^Jang Jin-sung | NK News '' North Korea News Jang Jin-sung is North Korea's former poet laureate under Kim Jong Il, and is now Editor-in-chief of New Focus International.PersondataNameJang, Jin-sungAlternative namesShort descriptionKorean poetDate of birthPlace of birthDate of deathPlace of death
Bank$ters
Marc Rich, presidential pardon: How Eric Holder facilitated the most unjust presidential pardon in American history.
Sun, 11 May 2014 01:27
Marc RichPhoto by Guido Roeoesli/AFP/Getty Images
Crime is Slate's crime blog. Like us on Facebook, and follow us on Twitter @slatecrime.
Marc Rich, the man who got away with it, died last week, and I would be remiss if I let his death pass without comment. Rich became internationally notorious in 2001, when, as a fugitive from justice, he was pardoned by Bill Clinton in the last hours of his administration. What many don't recall is that Attorney General Eric Holder, who was then a deputy attorney general, was instrumental in securing Rich's pardon.
Rich was a pioneering commodities trader who made billions dealing in oil and other goods. He had a habit of dealing with nations with which trade was embargoed, like Iran, Libya, Cuba, and apartheid South Africa. Rich also had a habit of not paying his taxes, to the point where one observer said that ''Marc Rich is to asset concealment what Babe Ruth was to baseball.'' The United States indicted Rich in 1983, hitting him with charges'--tax evasion, wire fraud, racketeering, trading with the enemy'--that could've brought life in prison. Rich fled the country.
He remained at large for almost 20 years. (Rich's obituaries have said that, for much of that time, he was on the FBI 10 Most Wanted List, a claim that I have not been able to independently verify. A Lexis-Nexis database search reveals nothing; a call to the FBI's press office was not fruitful.) Rich lived in a big house in Switzerland and spent lots of money trying to make the charges against him go away, giving money to American politicians and to various Israeli causes, motivated at least partly in the latter case by the hope that officials in Israel might petition the United States on his behalf.
Finally, in 2000, he saw some return on his efforts. Eric Holder was the key man. As deputy AG, Holder was in charge of advising the president on the merits of various petitions for pardon. Jack Quinn, a lawyer for Rich, approached Holder about clemency for his client. Quinn was a confidant of Al Gore, then a candidate for president; Holder had ambitions of being named attorney general in a Gore administration. A report from the House Committee on Government Reform on the Rich debacle later concluded that Holder must have decided that cooperating in the Rich matter could pay dividends later on.
Rich was an active fugitive, a man who had used his money to evade the law, and presidents do not generally pardon people like that. What's more, the Justice Department opposed the pardon'--or would've, if it had known about it. But Holder and Quinn did an end-around, bringing the pardon to Clinton directly and avoiding any chance that Justice colleagues might give negative input. As the House Government Reform Committee report later put it, ''Holder failed to inform the prosecutors under him that the Rich pardon was under consideration, despite the fact that he was aware of the pardon effort for almost two months before it was granted.''
On Jan. 19, 2001, Holder advised the White House that he was ''neutral leaning favorable'' on pardoning Rich. But the U.S. pardon attorney, Roger Adams, needed to sign the pardon, too, and a background check needed to be done. The White House waited to contact Adams until slightly after midnight on Jan. 20, hours before Clinton would leave office. Here's how a recent American Thinker piece described the scene:
Adams would be required to sign the pardons, and when he was informed by White House staff that night, a perfunctory check was done. Adams was stunned to learn that Rich and [Rich's partner Pincus] Green were both fugitives. He tracked down Holder and called him at his home at 1 a.m. that morning.
Adams informed Holder that Clinton was giving serious consideration to pardoning the two fugitives. Holder told Adams that he was aware of that fact, and the conversation abruptly ended.
Later that day, Rich's pardon went through.
Since then, Bill Clinton hasn't stopped apologizing for the pardons of Marc Rich and Pincus Green. ''It was terrible politics. It wasn't worth the damage to my reputation,'' he told Newsweek in 2002'--and, indeed, speculation was rampant that Rich (and his ex-wife) had bought the pardon by, in part, donating $450,000 to Clinton's presidential library. Clinton denied that the donations had anything to do with the pardon, instead claiming that he took Holder's advice on the matter. Holder, for his part, has distanced himself from the pardons as well. As the House Government Reform Committee report put it, he claimed that his support for the pardon ''was the result of poor judgment, initially not recognizing the seriousness of the Rich case, and then, by the time that he recognized that the pardon was being considered, being distracted by other matters.''
The excuses are weak. In the words of the committee report, ''it is difficult to believe that Holder's judgment would be so monumentally poor that he could not understand how he was being manipulated by Jack Quinn.'' And presidential pardons don't just slip through like this, especially not pardons of wanted fugitives. If Holder had followed protocols and made sure the Justice Department was looped in, there's no way that Rich would have been pardoned. Hundreds of thousands of men sit in American prisons doing unconscionably long sentences for nonviolent drug offenses. DNA tests routinely turn up cases of unjust convictions. But Marc Rich bought his pardon with money and access, and the committee's response to that purchase is worth quoting in full:
The President abused one his most important powers, meant to free the unjustly convicted or provide forgiveness to those who have served their time and changed their lives. Instead, he offered it up to wealthy fugitives whose money had already enabled them to permanently escape American justice. Few other abuses could so thoroughly undermine public trust in government.
But there was no real lasting damage to trust in government, or to anyone's reputation, really. Bill Clinton retired to wealth and adulation. Eric Holder got his wish and eventually became attorney general. And Marc Rich died a wealthy man in Switzerland. He never came back to the United States'--if he had returned, he would have been subject to civil suits, which would have ended up costing him money'--but he was able to live out the rest of his life without having to worry about being arrested, having bought his freedom from craven politicians who were only too willing to sell.
Baustin
Miranda Rule Exceptions | LegalMatch Law Library
Sun, 11 May 2014 01:04
Legal Topics > Criminal Law and Police > General Criminal Law > Criminal Law
Authored by Ken LaMance, LegalMatch Law Library Managing Editor and Attorney at LawWhat is a Miranda Warning?A Miranda Warning is the procedure followed by the police when they take someone into custody to be interrogated. If the proper warnings are not given, and a custodial interrogation occurs, all statements made by the defendant are inadmissible. The suspect needs to be made aware of the following if Miranda is properly followed:
Informed of his right to remain silentThe consequences of waiving said rightTheir right to retain of have counsel appointedAre there Exceptions to the Miranda Rule?The following are situations where courts have deemed that Miranda is not necessitated:
Even if a suspect is in custody, officer's statements do not meet the standard of custodial interrogation unless they are either express or equivalent statements, which are reasonably likely to illicit an incriminating responsePolice hostage negotiations are not interrogationsA secretly taped meeting between a suspect and a police officer, where the suspect attended voluntarilyWhile in custody, Miranda is not required if the suspect is unaware that he is voluntarily talking to a police officerPolice may ask standard booking question without necessitating Miranda warningsThe police may question a suspect without reading Miranda warnings if such questioning is necessary for public safetyShould I Contact a Criminal Defense Attorney?If you have been questioned by the police, and feel that your Miranda rights were violated, you may want to contact a criminal defense attorney in order to best determine if this violation constitutes a plausible defense. Because this area of criminal law is complicated, the counsel of an experienced criminal defense attorney may be beneficial when determining what are the best defenses to use in your particular case.
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Ottomania
EIB Lends EUR200 Million To Turkey For Europe-Asia Rail Link Project.
Sat, 10 May 2014 15:22
The European Investment Bank (EIB) is providing a further EUR 200 million loan to the Turkish Government for the Marmaray project, the first rail connection between the European and Asian networks across the Bosphorus Strait.
In a public ceremony held in Turkish capital Ankara on Thursday, Turkey's Undersecretary of the Treasury, Ibrahim ‡anakci, and EIB Vice-President responsible for Turkey, Pim van Ballekom, signed the finance agreement.
Ballekom said he is pleased to sign this loan agreement, bringing further EIB support for this flagship project linking Europe with Asia. "This facility further consolidates the position of the EIB as Turkey's key financial partner for the financing of large priority projects and the country's efforts to re-balance its transport mode mix in favour of the railways. As the EU bank, we have been a solid partner of Turkey for some fifty years. In 2013 we provided a total of EUR 2.3 billion in Turkey. Our presence here today underlines our commitment to strengthening growth and innovation in Turkey. I am convinced we will continue providing substantial funds to Turkey, continuing our support in our three key spheres of activity: infrastructure, SMEs and corporate lending," he added.
The Marmaray tunnel itself was inaugurated on the occasion of the 90th anniversary of the Republic of Turkey in October last year. Significant works are ongoing to upgrade the surface lines feeding into the already completed tunnel sections. These surface sections on either side of the Bosphorus consist of a 63 kilometer rail line and 37 stations in total. The project was first financed by the EIB in 2004. With the additional EUR 200 million, the EIB's total support for Marmaray now amounts to EUR 1.25 billion.
The project consists of connecting the two railway lines on Pan-European Transport Corridor IV, currently terminating on either side of the Bosphorus, through a tunnel. It also joins with the high speed railway between the country's two largest cities, also financed by the EIB. In this way it enables train connections between the two continents. Its merits include significant time gains for the inhabitants of the metropolitan Istanbul area, as well as for travelers, supporting economic development and improving the quality of life while generating significant environmental benefits, the European Commission said in a press release.
The Marmaray tunnel is a flagship project of crucial importance for the integration of Turkey with the European Union and the development of the Union's transport network. It is not only one of the largest and most important infrastructure projects to be undertaken so far in Turkey, it is also providing a stimulus to the Turkish and European economies. It is a good example of the catalytic role the EIB can play in helping to co-finance major trans-European network (TENs) infrastructure projects.
The project constitutes a key element of the Turkish government's plans to increase the share of rail transport by improving the productivity and effectiveness of railway operations.
by RTT Staff Writer
For comments and feedback: editorial@rttnews.com
Business News
Turkey's Erdogan heckles critic, storms out of ceremony.
Sat, 10 May 2014 16:59
By Ayla Jean Yackley
ISTANBUL (Reuters) - An angry Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan heckled the head of the country's bar association on Saturday, accusing him of rudeness for speaking critically of the government at a judicial ceremony before storming out of the hall.
Tensions between Erdogan and his political foes remain high after bitterly contested local elections in March that Erdogan's ruling AK Party won and amid expectations he will seek the presidency in another election in August.
Erdogan has had a difficult year that included the biggest anti-government protests in decades over his perceived authoritarianism and a corruption scandal that implicated family members and cabinet ministers. His response, a sweeping shakeup of the police, prosecutors and judges, prompted accusations of political meddling.
Erdogan interrupted a speech in Ankara by Metin Feyzioglu, chairman of the Union of Turkish Bar Associations, saying his remarks were political and full of untruths.
Feyzioglu had called for a more independent judiciary and questioned the government's handling of the aftermath of a 2011 earthquake that killed more than 600 people in the southeastern province of Van.
"You are speaking falsehoods ... How could there be such rudeness?" Erdogan shouted, and stood up to gesticulate in anger at Feyzioglu, who was onstage at a podium and refused to stop speaking. The scene was broadcast by CNN Turk television.
Erdogan also expressed frustration that Feyzioglu, who has also been an outspoken critic of the criminal prosecution of the government's foes, had broken protocol by speaking for an hour.
It was an unusual outburst even for Erdogan, Turkey's most popular leader in a half-century, whose tough talk are part of his appeal for many Turks. Continued...
SDR
Press Release: IMF Executive Board Approves 2-Year US$17.01 Billion Stand-By Arrangement for Ukraine, US$3.19 Billion for immediate Disbursement
Fri, 09 May 2014 04:21
Press Release No. 14/189April 30, 2014The Executive Board of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) today approved a two-year Stand-By Arrangement (SBA) for Ukraine. The arrangement amounts to SDR 10.976 billion (about US$17.01 billion, 800 percent of quota) and was approved under the Fund's exceptional access policy. The authorities' economic program supported by the Fund aims to restore macroeconomic stability, strengthen economic governance and transparency, and launch sound and sustainable economic growth, while protecting the most vulnerable.
The approval of the SBA enables the immediate disbursement of SDR 2.058 billion (about US$3.19 billion), with SDR 1.29 billion (about US$2 billion) being allocated to budget support. The second and third disbursements will be based on bi-monthly reviews and performance criteria, and the remainder of the program period will be subject to standard quarterly reviews and performance criteria.
Following the Executive Board's discussion, Ms. Christine Lagarde, Managing Director and Chair, said:
''Deep-seated vulnerabilities'--together with political shocks'--have led to a major crisis in Ukraine. The economy is in recession, fiscal balances have deteriorated, and the financial sector is under significant stress.
''Showing unprecedented resolve, the authorities have developed a bold economic program to secure macroeconomic and financial stability and address long-standing imbalances and structural weaknesses to lay a firm foundation for high and sustainable growth. The program focuses on (i) maintaining a flexible exchange rate to restore competitiveness; (ii) stabilizing the financial system; (iii) gradually reducing the unaffordable fiscal deficit; (iv) eliminating losses in the energy sector, while enhancing social safety nets; and (v) decisively breaking with problematic past governance practices.
''Following the floating of the hryvnia, the authorities are committed to maintaining a flexible exchange rate regime and focusing monetary policy on domestic price stability. With Fund technical assistance, they plan to adopt inflation targeting by mid-2015.
''The authorities are determined to stabilize the financial system, maintain confidence in banks, and strengthen balance sheets and financial regulation and supervision. To this end, they have launched diagnostic studies of the largest banks and started reforms which are critical to restore confidence and stem deposit outflows.
''Recognizing the need for fiscal consolidation, the authorities have put in place a package of revenue enhancements and expenditure restraints. Over the program horizon, they target a structural fiscal adjustment of 2 percent of GDP, which will appropriately balance the need to keep public debt on a sustainable path while minimizing the adjustment costs to the economy. To preserve competiveness, the authorities also aim to keep the minimum wage and public wage growth in line with productivity.
''The authorities plan to eliminate the large quasi-fiscal losses of Naftogaz by 2018 and strengthen the company's transparency and governance. To this end, they have embarked on the path of meaningful, broad-based, and sustained gas and heating increases over several years, starting from May 2014. Enhancing social assistance to protect the most vulnerable from energy price adjustments is a crucial element of the reforms. In this context, it is important to reach an early agreement on repayment of accumulated arrears and the gas price dispute with Gazprom to prevent disruptions in energy trade between Russia and Ukraine.
''A strong and comprehensive structural reform package is critical to reduce corruption, improve the business climate, and achieve high and sustainable growth. The authorities have already enacted a new public procurement law, reducing room for misuse of public resources. They have begun addressing governance issues in state-owned companies and are seeking recovery of stolen assets. They are also planning to build capacity to more effectively conduct enforcement of anti-money laundering and anti-corruption legislation, as well as enhance the effectiveness of the judiciary and tax administration.
''Risks to the program are high. In particular, further escalation of tensions with Russia and unrest in the east of the country pose a substantial risk to the economic outlook. Steady and rigorous implementation of policy measures, while maintaining broad public support, will be critical for the program's success and would unlock sizable international official assistance and private capital inflows. The authorities' program is an appropriate response to present challenges and constraints and deserves strong support.''
Annex
Recent economic developments
Inconsistent macroeconomic policies pursued in recent years aggravated deep-seated vulnerabilities that made the economy susceptible to economic and political shocks and led to the second major economic crisis in six years. The pegged and overvalued exchange rate led to a deterioration of competitiveness and slower export growth. Together with a rising fiscal deficit and sizeable losses in the energy sector, this drove the current account deficit to over 9 percent of GDP in 2013 and slowed economic growth. Public debt rose to 41 percent of GDP, while external debt remained elevated at 79 percent of GDP. With significant external payments and restricted access to international debt markets, international reserves fell to a critically low level of around two months of imports.
In a first important break with past policies, with mounting pressures on the hryvnia and reserves at a critically low level, the National Bank of Ukraine (NBU) allowed the exchange rate to float in February. This change in the exchange rate regime, along with increased emergency financing to the budget and the banking system, helped stabilize financial markets. Nonetheless, the economic and political environment remains uncertain. Economic activity is contracting, and international debt markets are closed. The fiscal situation is challenging, as government revenues have fallen on the back of political uncertainty and weak economic performance. The political situation in some regions of the country remains tense. Early presidential elections are scheduled for May 25, 2014.
Program Summary
The authorities' economic reform program aims to restore macroeconomic stability, strengthen economic governance and transparency, and launch sound and sustainable economic growth while protecting the vulnerable groups in society. The program will focus on reforms in the following key areas: monetary and exchange rate policies; financial sector; fiscal policies; energy sector; and governance, transparency, and the business climate.
Monetary policy will focus on domestic price stability while maintaining a flexible exchange rate regime. To this end, the authorities will initially adopt a money-based monetary framework. With IMF technical assistance, the authorities plan on adopting inflation targeting by mid-2015.
Financial sector reforms will aim to maintain confidence in the financial system and strengthen the infrastructure for financial regulation and supervision. Assisted by independent diagnostic studies, the NBU will assess bank resilience to economic shocks and ensure that banks strengthen their balance sheets as necessary. In addition, the authorities will review and upgrade the regulatory and supervisory framework, and take steps to facilitate restructuring of banks' non-performing loans (NPLs).
Fiscal policy will seek to meet near-term spending obligations and gradually reduce the fiscal deficit over the medium-term. The authorities have already put in place a package of measures to stabilize revenue and start on a medium-term expenditure adjustment path that distributed the burden equitably. For 2015''16, further gradual expenditure-based fiscal adjustment'--proceeding at a pace matching the economy's speed of recovery'--will aim to reduce the fiscal deficit to about 3 percent of GDP by 2016.
Energy sector reforms will focus on reducing the sector's fiscal drag and enhancing its efficiency and transparency. The objective to bring Naftogaz's deficit to zero by 2018 will be accomplished by policies to raise its revenue and reduce costs. To this end, gradual, but meaningful and broad-based increases in the very low gas and heating retail tariffs will be accompanied by enhanced social assistance measures to mitigate the impact on the poorest. Structural and governance reforms in Naftogaz will improve its governance and reduce operational costs.
Reforms to strengthen governance, enhance transparency, and improve the business climate will be critical elements of the program. Policy measures in these areas will include capacity building to reform public procurement and tax administration, strengthen anti-money laundering activities, and fight corruption. These measures will help improve the business climate and alleviate long-standing barriers to growth in Ukraine.
In the current difficult environment, real GDP is expected to contract by about 5 percent in 2014 amid weak investor and consumer confidence. Inflation is expected to spike temporarily in response to the exchange rate depreciation and gas and heating tariff increases, reaching 16 percent at end-2014. The current account deficit should fall to about 4½ percent of GDP on the back of the exchange rate adjustment and subdued domestic demand. Replenished by international assistance, gross international reserves will stabilize at around 2½ months of import coverage. The currency devaluation and official borrowing (to help finance a still-wide government deficit) are expected to push public sector debt up to 57 percent of GDP and external debt to just below 100 percent of GDP.
Ukraine's economic prospects will improve in the medium-term. Real GDP growth is expected to rebound to 2 percent in 2015, rising to 4-4½ percent in the medium term. The unemployment rate, which reacts to economic recovery with a lag, will gradually decline from 8½ percent in 2014 to 7½ percent by 2016. Buoyed by the restored competitiveness, exports are projected to grow by over 6 percent a year in 2015''16. By end-2016, inflation will fall to about 6 percent and the NBU will build its international reserves to cover nearly 4 months of imports.
IMF chief says ready to renegotiate Morocco line of credit.
Sat, 10 May 2014 16:59
RABAT (Reuters) - International Monetary Fund chief Christine Lagarde said on Friday that the fund was ready to renegotiate a $6.2 billion precautionary line of credit for Morocco if its government believed it was needed.
The Moroccan finance minister said the North African kingdom was interested in having the insurance of the precautionary line again. The current line of credit ends in August.
Morocco's Finance Minister Mohamed Boussaid told Reuters on Friday that the government still planned a Euro-denominated bond issue this year. He declined to say how much, but last year he had said it could be as much as 1 billion euros.
Morocco's government has started to tackle reforms of the system of food and energy subsidies which it uses to keep down the living costs of millions of people, as required by its international lenders.
SDR-IMF Bailout for Ukraine and a New World Currency
Fri, 09 May 2014 04:20
While much of the world was distracted by the supposed clash over Ukraine between Russian strongman Vladimir Putin and Western politicians, the International Monetary Fund announced a bailout of the new Ukrainian regime denominated in the IMF's increasingly influential proto-global currency known as Special Drawing Rights, or SDRs. Analysts are warning that the developments could have profound implications for the global monetary system and the economy '-- and especially for the United States, which is stealthily being set up for economic calamity as the U.S. dollar continues on the road to losing its prized status as the world reserve currency.
The controversial planetary entity and its Western apparatchiks, along with various communist and socialist dictatorships and the United Nations, have long been agitating to ultimately dethrone the embattled U.S. dollar. Top-level American officials at the U.S. Treasury and the Federal Reserve have been helping them along. The dollar's place as the global reserve currency would be filled by the IMF's SDR, currently composed of a basket of currencies that includes dollars, British pounds, euros, and Japanese yen. The IMF, the UN, and multiple national governments have all openly advocated precisely such a plot in reports and statements made in recent years. The Obama administration, meanwhile, has exploited the Ukraine crisis to further empower the IMF while reducing U.S. influence.
In bailing out the new Ukrainian government, the IMF announcement of its decision '-- taken with approval from Russian authorities despite the alleged East-West brouhaha '-- referred to SDRs on multiple occasions. The press release noted that the IMF board had agreed to a two-year ''Stand-By Arrangement'' that ''amounts to SDR 10.976 billion (about US$17.01 billion, 800 percent of quota).'' The approval under the Fund's ''exceptional access policy,'' the statement said, ''enables the immediate disbursement of SDR 2.058 billion (about US$3.19 billion), with SDR 1.29 billion (about US$2 billion) being allocated to budget support.''
It is not the first time the IMF has relied on SDRs, which were originally created in 1969, for bailing out governments that agree to its demands. Iceland, for example, was also bailed out by the IMF amid the financial crisis with loans denominated in SDRs, which the Fund uses as its "unit of account." However, the move in Ukraine has attracted the attention of prominent analysts including currency expert and best-selling author Jim Rickards, as well as Robert Wenzel, editor of the Economic Policy Journal. ''The U.S. has never really stopped promoting SDRs as a global currency,'' Wenzel noted. ''Now Ukraine is being bailed out with this global government souped up money.''
In an e-mail to The New American, Wenzel noted that during the recent financial crisis, IMF allocations of SDRs occurred in 2009 and 2011 to various countries. ''But what is noteworthy about those distributions is that China voiced its displeasure at the measures,'' he said, citing comments made by the chairman of the People's Bank of China, Zhou Xiaochuan. ''It highlights the legitimate concern of the Chinese that the U.S., because of its major influence at the IMF, is trying to promote the SDR as an alternative to the dollar.''
''The payment to Ukraine in SDRs should be viewed as another move in this direction,'' Wenzel added. ''It signals fear on the part of U.S. government officials that the dollar is slowly losing its luster as a reserve currency. U.S. officials are trying to nudge the SDR as the alternative to the dollar because they will still maintain significant influence with regard to the SDR, as opposed to some other currency taking hold in parts of the world as a reserve currency (the [Chinese] renminbi?) or gold returning as an important reserve. China and Russia are both presently accumulating gold.''
Other analysts have also pointed to the latest IMF move as significant. Writing in Personal Liberty Digest, Alternative Market Project founder Brandon Smith suggested that the supposed bickering between East and West is largely theater for public consumption. Noting that like the U.S. government, Russian authorities are also dominated by global banks, Smith said that what is happening with the Ukraine bailout is part of the quiet but open move toward replacing the U.S. dollar with a global fiat currency such as the SDR.
''The SDR will not immediately be issued as a commonly traded currency itself,'' he said. ''Rather, the IMF will take over management of included currencies and denominate those currencies using SDR valuations. For example, $1 U.S. is worth only .64 SDR today. In the near future, I expect that the dollar will plummet in relation to the SDR's value. We will still have our greenbacks when the IMF begins administrating our currency system, but the international and domestic worth of those greenbacks will fall to pennies. In turn, other currencies with stronger economic positions will rise in worth relative to the SDR.''
Indeed, since the financial crisis began, the SDR, described by the IMF as an ''international reserve asset,'' has taken on a far greater role in the global economic system. In fact, according to an IMF ''Fact sheet'' posted on its website in March, the amount of fiat SDRs in existence mushroomed by an unprecedented ten times in recent years. ''With a general SDR allocation that took effect on August 28 and a special allocation on September 9, 2009, the amount of SDRs increased from SDR 21.4 billion to around SDR 204 billion (equivalent to about $316 billion, converted using the rate of March 12, 2014),'' the IMF said.
In a 2009 statement announcing the conjuring of drastically more SDRs into existence, the Fund said it was meant ''to provide liquidity to the global economic system by supplementing Fund's member countries' foreign exchange reserves.'' The IMF did not respond to e-mails and a spokesperson was not willing to go on record about SDRs, but it seems that the international outfit has been creating its own ''liquidity'' '-- redeemable in U.S. dollars or other fiat currencies in the SDR basket '-- out of thin air. It was not clear if there was a limit to how much ''liquidity'' the Fund could theoretically emit. In other words, the IMF is increasingly becoming more like a central bank.
Even before the IMF stepped in to bail out Ukraine with SDRs, various actors were considering doing something similar on their own. Since at least early last year, transnational entities and national governments have been discussing the use of the IMF's would-be new world currency to prop up Ukraine's fledgling regime. In December, top Russian officials, for example, were plotting a $15 billion bailout to be paid in the global ''asset'' created by the Fund. ''We are now also discussing a loan in the form of SDRs,'' Russian ''Prime Minister'' Dmitry Medvedev was quoted as telling journalists before the whole deal with the former Ukrainian regime fell through.
Even the Communist Chinese dictatorship has been advocating the creation of a new world currency managed by the IMF. In a 2009 report published on the central bank's website entitled ''Reform the International Monetary System,'' for example, the ''people's'' central-bank boss Xiaochuan explained that ''the desirable goal of reforming the international monetary system, therefore, is to create an international reserve currency that is disconnected from individual nations and is able to remain stable in the long run, thus removing the inherent deficiencies caused by using credit-based national currencies.'' The rest of the BRICS regimes are also openly working toward that goal.
Under the explicitly outlined globalist vision, the IMF would serve as the planetary central bank '-- complete with the ability to fleece humanity by conjuring fiat currency into existence at interest like other privately owned central banks around the world, such as the U.S. Federal Reserve. With the SDR-denominated bailout of Kiev, along with the growing influence and amount of the IMF's proto-global currency, analysts say that mission is another step closer to being accomplished. That would be a disaster for the world '-- and especially for Americans.
Alex Newman, a foreign correspondent for The New American, is currently based in Europe. He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . Follow him on Twitter @ALEXNEWMAN_JOU.
Related articles:
Waking up to a World Currency
The Emerging Global Fed
BRICS Regimes Forge New World Bank, Call for Global Currency
Obama Exploiting Ukraine to Empower IMF and Dictatorships
Ukraine: Unraveling the Planned Chaos
IMF Pushes Plan to Plunder Global Wealth
BTC
Federal Elections Committee approves bitcoin donations to political committees
Fri, 09 May 2014 04:10
The U.S. Federal Election Committee said on Thursday that the virtual currency, bitcoin, could be used for donations to political action committees under certain conditions.
In a unanimous vote, the FEC, which enforces U.S. campaign finance laws, said a political committee could accept donations in bitcoins up to an individual limit of $100 for each election cycle and could also purchase bitcoins.
But the advisory opinion, issued in response to a request for guidance by the Make Your Laws political action committee, said the committee ''must sell the bitcoins it purchases and deposit the proceeds into its campaign depository before spending those funds.''
The FEC did not approve the use of bitcoins to purchase campaign goods and services.
The agency approved the request by the Make Your Law committee to accept individual bitcoin donations to $100 for each electoral cycle, require contributors to list their names, addresses, occupations and employers, and affirm they own the bitcoins they are contributing.
Bitcoin, the most popular digital currency, is not backed by any government or central bank, and its value can swing dramatically based on demand. Users can transfer bitcoins to each other online and store the currency in digital ''wallets.''
BitPay Purportedly Raises $30 Million from Investors Including Richard Branson in Larget Bitcoin Investment Round Ever
Fri, 09 May 2014 04:21
Very, very big news just broke in the Bitcoin space. According to TechCrunch, Bitcoin payment processor Bitpay has just raised $30 million in what would be the largest single round of fundraising ever in the Bitcoin space. It slightly surpasses the prior largest round, announced late last year by the other major Bitcoin payment processor Coinbase for $25 million.
BitPay is a company that is very familiar to readers of this site. It has experienced exponential growth over the past year or so. I most recently highlighted this in my post: BitPay is Now Adding 1,000 New Merchants Per Week.
This round implies a total valuation for BitPay of $160 million and it makes me wonder whether or not it could herald the beginning of another major move higher in the Bitcoin price. All year, I have been saying that I didn't think the price would move until the summer. With summer less than two months away, I will become much more sensitive to news.
What makes this investment even more exciting is that Richard Branson (and Yahoo co-founder Jerry Yang) is purported to be involved. Considering his company Virgin Galatic has already been accepting bitcoin via BitPay, he is clearly impressed with the company and sees a very bright future for Bitcoin. As do I. This is big.
From TechCrunch:
We're hearing that BitPay, a platform that processes payments in bitcoin for merchants, is raising the field's biggest round yet. The company is raising $30 million on a roughly $160 million valuation in a round led by Index Ventures, with Richard Branson and Yahoo co-founder Jerry Yang participating. BitPay declined to comment.
Read More...
Federal Regulators Approve Bitcoin for Political Campaign Donations - NBC News.com.
Fri, 09 May 2014 06:50
You might say bitcoin is gaining a bit of political currency.
The six-member Federal Election Commission voted unanimously on Thursday to allow political candidates and committees to accept bitcoin donations.
But there's a catch.
KAREN BLEIER / AFP - Getty ImagesThis May 1 photo taken in Washington shows a bitcoin medal. Bitcoin is a digital currency in which transactions can be performed without the need for a central bank.
Any parties that accept bitcoins must first sell the virtual currency and convert it to U.S. dollars before spending it.
The FEC's green light came after the Make Your Laws PAC asked it for an advisory opinion on the legality of bitcoin donations. Make Your Laws is seeking to accept bitcoin contributions in increments up to $100.
It didn't take long for at least one politician to jump on the bitcoin donation bandwagon after the FEC action.
U.S. Rep. Jared Polis, D-Colo., fired off a tweet saying that he would accept bitcoin campaign donations.
'-- NBC NewsFirst published May 8 2014, 2:13 PM
NWO
Pope Francis: UN should encourage 'legitimate' redistribution of wealth
Sat, 10 May 2014 16:58
Published time: May 10, 2014 11:06Pope Francis (AFP Photo / Vincenzo Pinto)
Pope Francis has called on the UN to do more to help the poor and encourage the "legitimate redistribution" of wealth.
"In the case of global political and economic organization, much more needs to be achieved, since an important part of humanity does not share in the benefits of progress and is in fact relegated to the status of second-class citizens," Francis told Ban Ki-Moon on Friday.
During his latest meeting with UN officials, the Pope said that despite the decrease in poverty, "the world's peoples deserve and expect even greater results."
An awareness of everyone's human dignity should encourage everyone "to share with complete freedom the goods which God's providence has placed in our hands," Francis said, Reuters reported.
Francis also appeared to criticize recent sessions by two UN committees - one on sexual abuse and the other on torture - which saw the Catholic Church's opposition to abortion under fire.
The Pope told Ban Ki-Moon that "life is sacred and inviolable from conception to natural death."
Following the meeting, Ban Ki-Moon renewed his invitation for the Pope to the United Nations General Assembly in New York.
Francis, the first non-European pope in 1,300 years and the first-ever Latin American pontiff, has frequently called for economic changes and expressed his desire to bring the Catholic Church closer to the poor.
He also attacked the global economic system, which, as he put it last September, shouldn't be based on "a god called money" anymore.
Francis is known as the "slum bishop" in his native Buenos Aires, as he often paid visits to shanty towns.
Packet Inequality
Web host gives FCC a 28.8Kbps slow lane in net neutrality protest
Sat, 10 May 2014 16:43
Lots of people are angry about FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler's Internet "fast lane" proposal that would let Internet service providers charge Web services for priority access to consumers. But one Web hosting service called NeoCities isn't just writing letters to the FCC. Instead, the company found the FCC's internal IP address range and throttled all connections to 28.8Kbps speeds.
"Since the FCC seems to have no problem with this idea, I've (through correspondence) gotten access to the FCC's internal IP block, and throttled all connections from the FCC to 28.8kbps modem speeds on the Neocities.org front site, and I'm not removing it until the FCC pays us for the bandwidth they've been wasting instead of doing their jobs protecting us from the 'keep America's internet slow and expensive forever' lobby," NeoCities creator Kyle Drake wrote yesterday.
NeoCities offers free and paid Web hosting. As Drake noted, FCC access to NeoCities is being throttled on the home page only, and not on websites created by NeoCities users.
Drake called Wheeler a "cable industry hand-picked lobbyist" and wrote that the FCC may not be protecting US consumers because "they got a dump truck full of money from the cable corporation lobby."
"If it bothers you that I'm doing this, I want to point out that everyone is going to be doing crap like this after the FCC rips apart Net Neutrality," he wrote. "It's time for the Web to organize and stand up against these thugs before they ruin everything that the Web stands for."
Drake put his FCC-throttling Nginx code on GitHub for anyone who wants to use it on their own site.
Promoted CommentsJon Brodkin / Jon is Ars Technica's senior IT reporter, covering business technology and the impact of consumer tech on IT. He also writes about tech policy, the FCC and broadband, open source, virtualization, supercomputing, data centers, and wireless technology.
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Drone Nation
New documents point to CIA rendition network through Djibouti
Sat, 10 May 2014 16:52
New evidence culled from a court case involving CIA contractors has revealed flight paths through Djibouti that appear to indicate the country's role as a hub of the CIA's rendition network in Africa, according to documents released by the U.K.-based human rights group Reprieve and New York University's Global Justice Clinic.
The documents could support the case of Mohammad al-Asad, a former CIA detainee who is suing the government of Djibouti for its alleged role in hosting CIA ''black sites'' '-- specifically the one where he says he was detained and tortured for two weeks between December 2003 and January 2004. A Senate investigation into the agency's ''detention and interrogation program'' had previously confirmed that several individuals had in fact been detained in Djibouti, according to two officials who read the still-classified report and spoke to Al Jazeera.
Investigators behind the document release combed through contracts, invoices and letters put into evidence for a court case '-- which involved CIA contractors and was separate from the Djibouti allegations '-- and pieced together a series of rendition circuits, or flight paths, between 2003 and 2004. They include legs through Djibouti '-- even though the Horn of Africa did not appear to be a convenient stopover between the United States and Afghanistan, the circuits' endpoints.
''Djibouti was not on the way, it was a destination,'' said Margaret Satterthwaite, al-Asad's attorney and a professor at the Global Justice Clinic. ''That's kind of a telltale sign of a rendition circuit.''
The evidence also implicated private companies '-- including Computer Sciences Corp. (CSC), DynCorp Systems and Solutions (which was purchased by CSC in 2003 and later divested), Richmor Aviation and First Flight '-- in the Africa rendition program for the first time.
''These documents provide further evidence of how U.S. corporations played a crucial role in the CIA's torture network, rendering people to torture around the world far from public scrutiny and even further from the rule of law,'' said Kevin Lo, corporate social responsibility advocate at Reprieve.
A spokesman for Computer Sciences Corp. said his company did not comment on "speculation about its clients or their activities" but added in an email to Al Jazeera: "CSC has had the privilege for over fifty years of supporting governments and private sector organizations worldwide, and has done so within the law."
Richmor Aviation and First Flight did not respond to Al Jazeera's requests for comment in time for publication.
Al-Asad's case is currently under consideration by the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights. In an exclusive interview with Al Jazeera, al-Asad, who is now 54 years old, said he was taken from his home in Tanzania to Djibouti, where he was detained for two weeks. He was then rendered to Afghanistan, where he says he was tortured at various points over the course of more than a year at several CIA black site prisons.
Djibouti has vehemently denied ''knowing'' participation in any U.S. rendition or torture programs in the country. Its ambassador to the U.S., Roble Olhaye, called al-Asad a "liar."
"Everything about his case relies on hearsay and conjecture. There were no flights that came to Djibouti on that day he said he was brought to my country from Tanzania," Olhaye said. "That was checked by our lawyers."
Human rights researchers say that after the 9/11 attacks, dozens of suspects captured by the U.S. were secretly detained, interrogated and tortured in Djibouti. Although President Barack Obama signed an executive order in 2009 banning the CIA's use of black-site prisons, the order states that it does ''not apply to facilities used only to hold people on a short-term, transitory basis.''
And while Djibouti says it is not aware the CIA had ever operated a black-site prison on its soil, Olhaye pointed out: "If something was done in the context of the American base there, how would we know?"
Camp Lemonier in Djibouti, which hosts the Combined Joint Task Force''Horn of Africa, is a known hub for U.S. drone operations against Al-Qaeda in Yemen and Al-Shabab in Somalia.
Satterthwaite said the choice of Djibouti for a black site is logical not only because the country has been a strategic partner in the U.S. "war on terror" for more than a decade, but also because the country has a long history of silencing human rights advocates and journalists. "It's not hard to keep things secret there," she said.
Jason Leopold contributed reporting.
US air official says drone 'almost collided with plane'.
Sat, 10 May 2014 16:44
10 May 2014Last updated at 03:22 A drone almost collided with a US commercial flight in March, an official with America's flight regulatory agency has revealed.
Jim Williams of the Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA) unmanned aircraft systems office said it showed the risks posed by such aircraft.
The near collision was reported to air traffic control as a pilot approached a Florida airport.
The FAA currently only allows non-commercial and police uses for drones.
But it requires drone pilots to alert an airport when flying it within five miles (8km) of the airport.
'Catastrophic' results"The airline pilot said that the UAS [unmanned aircraft system] was so close to his jet that he was sure he had collided with it," Mr Williams said at a drone conference in San Francisco.
"Thankfully, inspection of the airliner after landing found no damage."
American Airlines, which owns the aeroplane, said it was aware of the report and was investigating.
A FAA investigation was unable to identify the drone's owner or pilot, the agency said in a statement.
The use of drones has increased dramatically in the past few years as the aircraft have become cheaper and more accessible, putting the FAA under pressure to develop broader rules.
"Our challenge is to integrate unmanned aircraft into the busiest, most complex airspace in the world," the agency said in a statement.
"Introduction of unmanned aircraft into America's airspace must take place incrementally and with the interest of safety first."
Mr Williams said on Thursday the "risk for a small UAS to be ingested into a passenger airline engine is very real. The results could be catastrophic."
Vaccine$
CIA's Fake Vaccination Ruse Fueling Polio Outbreak: Pakistani Official
Sat, 10 May 2014 16:53
Foreign Ministry spokesperson says CIA's 2011 plot has sparked hostility to vaccination drives and hampered efforts to stem outbreak of highly infectious disease.
Pakistani Sonya Javed, 20, right, holds her son Shahzeb, 1, to receive a polio vaccine by a health worker at her home in Islamabad, Pakistan. The World Health Organization said the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar has become the largest poliovirus reservoir in the world. (AP Photo/Muhammed Muheisen, Nov. 26, 2013)
A Pakistani official on Thursday slammed the CIA's fake vaccination drive in 2011 for fueling distrust of polio eradication campaigns and driving ''attacks on polio workers'' as the country grapples with an outbreak of this highly infectious disease that is spiraling into a global emergency.
Speaking to reporters at a press briefing, a spokesperson for Pakistan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs took direct aim at the CIA's false vaccination campaign, which was conducted as part of the hunt for Osama Bin Ladin and exposed by the Guardian in 2011.
''A fake campaign of vaccination was conducted in Pakistan in which the [International NGOs] were also used,'' said the spokesperson, according to a transcript from the Pakistani government. ''I am referring to Dr. Shakeel Afridi's case. This further reinforced the negative perception about the agenda behind the polio eradication campaign.''
With the help of Pakistani doctor Shakil Afridi, the CIA orchestrated a fake hepatitis B vaccination drive in a poor neighborhood of Abbottabad in a ruse to obtain information and DNA from Bin Laden's family to determine the Al-Qaeda leader's location.
Revelations of the plot sparked skepticism and anger towards health workers legitimately attempting to administer vaccinations, causing them to be driven out of villages, banned by some Taliban factions, and attacked and killed at escalating rates. Local opposition to vaccination efforts remains a key barrier to broad administration of the vaccine.
Usman, a father of four living in a slum of Pakistan's Bhains Colony, toldFT Magazine that, because of the Abbottabad incident, he refused to vaccinate his son Musharaf. At the age of two, Musharaf because the first polio casualty of 2013. ''If the incident in Abbottabad did not happen, and these rumors didn't spread to us, we would have continued the vaccinations as we had been,'' he said.
Despite the near-eradication of polio across the globe, Pakistan remains one of three countries where the highly disease is endemic.
This week, the World Health Organization declared that rising polio infections in Pakistan are spreading to other countries, sparking a ''public health emergency'' on a global scale. The body recommended that all Pakistani residents show proof of vaccination before leaving the country.
Of the 74 new polio cases documented by the WHO this year, 59 of them were in Pakistan.
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WHO to hold emergency talks on deadly MERS virus Tuesday
Sat, 10 May 2014 16:48
GENEVA: The World Health Organization said Friday it would hold an emergency meeting next week on the deadly MERS virus, amid concern over the rising number of cases in several countries.
The UN health agency will host the emergency meeting on Tuesday to discuss the worrying spread of the virus, which in less than two years has killed 126 people in Saudi Arabia alone, spokesman Tarik Jasarevic told reporters in Geneva.
The WHO's emergency committee has already met four times to discuss the mysterious corona virus, which surfaced in mid-2012.
"The increase in the number of cases in different countries raises a number of questions," Jasarevic said, without giving further details of the aim of the new talks.
The WHO experts will brief reporters at the end of the teleconferenced meeting on Tuesday evening, he said.
The Middle East Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) is considered a deadlier but less-transmissible cousin of the SARS virus that broke out in Asia in 2003, infecting 8,273 people and killing nearly 800 of them.
Like SARS, it appears to cause a lung infection, with patients suffering from a temperature, coughing and breathing difficulties.
But it differs in that it also causes rapid kidney failure.
There are no vaccines or antiviral treatments for MERS, a disease that kills more than 40 per cent of those infected and that experts are still struggling to understand.
According to the most recent WHO figures, 496 MERS cases have been detected since September 2012.
The Saudi health ministry says 463 of them have been in the Gulf nation.
MERS cases have also been reported in the United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Egypt, Lebanon and even the United States, with most involving people who had travelled to Saudi Arabia or worked there, often as medical staff.
The Netherlands: Oral sex-related throat cancer cases rise six-fold in 20 years
Fri, 09 May 2014 04:06
Oral sex-related throat cancer cases rise six-fold in 20 yearsWednesday 07 May 2014
There has been a six-fold increase in throat cancer caused by the human papillomavirus (hpv) in the Netherlands over the past 20 years, according to VU university researcher Michelle Rietbergen.
While smoking and alcohol can lead to throat cancer, around 30% of the 550 cases now recorded a year come via the virus, Rietbergen has found. Hpv is sexually transmitted and can lead to cervical cancer in women.
Having a large number of sex partners and oral sex are risk factors for developing hpv-related cancer.
'Research abroad shows that the number of sex partners people have is increasing,' Rietbergen told the Volkskrant. 'In the US, 70% of throat cancers are hpv positive.'
Men are three times as likely as women to develop throat cancer. However, hpv-related cancer is easier to treat than other forms and the survival prognosis is better, Rietbergen said.
(C) DutchNews.nl
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Sir Alan Parker lobbying for Pfizer in takeover bid.
Sat, 10 May 2014 16:47
US drugs giant has made a £60billion+ bid for UK's AstraZenecaMinisters insist they are pushing in 'hard-nosed way' to protect jobsLobbyist received a knighthood in the New Year's Honours ListBy Jason Groves
Published: 09:40 EST, 9 May 2014 | Updated: 18:26 EST, 9 May 2014
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Lobbyist Sir Alan Parker has been trying to influence the decision to allow the hostile takeover of AstraZeneca by US giant Pfizer
A lobbyist friend of David Cameron is at the heart of the hostile bid by American drugs giant Pfizer to take over British rival AstraZeneca, it emerged yesterday.
Sir Alan Parker, who once holidayed with Mr Cameron and received a knighthood in the New Year honours list, is spearheading the UK lobbying operation for Pfizer's controversial £63'‰billion bid.
Mr Cameron has been accused of 'cheerleading' for the bid, despite concerns about the impact on British jobs and science.
Last night Downing Street said it was 'nonsense' to suggest the Prime Minister's friendship with Sir Alan had coloured his view of the proposed deal.
'The Prime Minister is fighting for British jobs and British science,' the spokesman said.
But the revelations will raise fresh concerns about the influence of well-connected lobbyists within government. Sir Alan, whose PR and lobbying firm Brunswick is acting for Pfizer, has close personal links with Mr Cameron.
The Prime Minister was guest of honour at his 50th birthday and the two men's families have been on holiday together.
Sir Alan accompanied Mr Cameron on a trade mission to China in December last year and he was knighted a few weeks later.
Tory sources pointed out that Sir Alan, whose firm acted for US food giant Kraft in its bitter 2009 take-over of British chocolate maker Cadbury, also had close links to Gordon Brown. Brunswick declined to comment.
The revelations came amid mounting concern about the potential impact of a foreign buyout of AstraZeneca.
The Wellcome Trust, Britain's biggest medical research foundation, became the latest high-profile organisation to warn that the deal could damage Britain's science and research base.
Sir Alan is a personal friend of British Prime Minister David Cameron, pictured
In a leaked letter to George Osborne, trust chairman Sir William Castell said the deal raised 'major concerns'. He said AstraZeneca was 'critical' to the UK's science base and he raised doubts about Pfizer's record.
'Pfizer's past acquisitions of major pharmaceutical companies have led to a substantial reduction in research and development activity, which we are concerned could be replicated in this instance,' Sir William said.
Mr Cameron, who has held talks with both sides in the deal, has already extracted a series of assurances from Pfizer about future investment in the UK.
But last week he said he wanted further assurances, and officials are examining how to make any promises binding.
Nick Clegg yesterday warned that the Government's massive spending on pharmaceuticals and science gave it a 'stake' in the outcome of the deal which justified interference '' including demanding assurances on jobs and research.
Swedish premier Fredrik Reinfeldt yesterday said Pfizer's promises could not be trusted. Sweden was given assurances by the US firm during its 2002 acquisition of Pharmacia but Mr Reinfeldt said: 'There were promises that it would mean jobs and operations in Sweden that we don't think were honoured.'
Ed Miliband was accused of 'a huge error of judgment' yesterday after it emerged he had rejected talks with Pfizer about its planned takeover of AstraZeneca.
Labour sources confirmed that Mr Miliband had turned down a meeting with Pfizer boss Ian Read because he was 'too busy' '' just days before he attacked the deal.
Labour leader Ed Miliband was heavily criticised for refusing to meet Pfizer boss Ian Read because he was 'too busy'
The Labour leader was also facing the prospect of a Commons sleaze inquiry over a donation of £4,400 from former Labour minister Shriti Vadera when she was a board member of AstraZeneca last year. Mr Miliband failed to draw attention to it, as required by parliamentary rules, when he criticised the Pfizer deal in the Commons.
Leading Conservatives yesterday accused Mr Miliband of 'posturing' and said it was extraordinary that he chose to hit the election trail rather than discuss the potential fallout of the biggest takeover in British corporate history.
David Cameron, who has held talks with both sides in the deal, said his policy of engagement stood in 'stark contrast to the Labour leader who wouldn't even meet with them'. Chancellor George Osborne added: 'It is a huge error of judgment.'
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Pakistan FM: Fake Vaccination Program to Blame for Polio Outbreak
Fri, 09 May 2014 04:23
Pakistan's Foreign Ministry has issued a statement today angrily lashing the World Health Organization (WHO) for pushing travel restrictions against their country over a polio outbreak, noting a phony vaccination program the UN organization was involved in was the source of the outbreak.
''A fake campaign of vaccination was conducted in Pakistan in which the UN agencies were also used. I am referring to the Dr. Shakeel Afridi case,'' noted the spokeswoman, adding ''this further reinforced the negative perception about the agenda behind the polio eradication campaign.''
Dr. Afridi operated a phony vaccination program in early 2011 on behalf of the CIA, and with tacit support from the WHO. Instead of vaccinating children against polio, they were collecting the DNA of children to look for relatives of terrorists. The program led to the death of Osama bin Laden.
The cost was enormous, however, as the revelation of the program forced aid agencies whose names were falsely tied to the fiasco to withdraw from the country, and had many fearing that polio vaccination programs after Afridi's arrest were also suspect.
Pakistan's Foreign Ministry says the WHO's obsession with ''single vaccination'' programs that only ensure Pakistani children get the polio vaccination, while ignoring many others that are just as important, has also fueled conspiracy theories about why only the one vaccination is being pushed, and militant attacks on vaccination workers has added to that speculation.
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VIDEO-EMP Attack On Power Grid Could Kill 9-In-10 Americans - Investors.com
Sun, 11 May 2014 03:19
Vulnerability: Expert testimony before Congress on Thursday warned that an electromagnetic pulse attack on our power grid and electronic infrastructure could leave most Americans dead and the U.S. in another century.
That dire warning came from Peter Vincent Pry, a member of the Congressional EMP Commission and executive director of the Task Force on National and Homeland Security.
He testified in front of the House Homeland Security Committee's Subcommittee on Cybersecurity, Infrastructure Protection and Security Technologies that an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) event could wipe out 90% of America's population.
Most people's eyes might glaze over upon mention of the committee name, the title of the hearing '-- "Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP): Threat to Critical Infrastructure" '-- and the general subject of EMP. But it is a real threat and not the stuff of science fiction.
Some attention has been paid to the potential cataclysmic effects of a natural phenomenon such as a massive solar storm, an event that has occurred in America's horse-and-buggy era when it did not matter.
Today an electromagnetic pulse event would be devastating. It wouldn't need a solar storm, just a solitary nuke detonated in the atmosphere above the American heartland. We would envy the horse-and-buggy era.
"Natural EMP from a geomagnetic superstorm, like the 1859 Carrington Event or 1921 Railroad Storm, and nuclear EMP attack from terrorists or rogue states, as practiced by North Korea during the nuclear crisis of 2013, are both existential threats that could kill 9-of-10 Americans through starvation, disease and societal collapse," the Washington Free Beacon quoted Pry as saying.
As we reported early last year, Pry, a former CIA nuclear weapons analyst, believes that North Korea's recent seemingly low-yield nuclear tests and launch of a low-orbit satellite may in fact be preparations for a future electromagnetic pulse attack.
A copy of a report prepared by the Department of Homeland Security for the Defense Department, obtained by Pry from sources within DHS, finds North Korea could use its Unha-3 space launch vehicle to deliver a nuclear warhead as a satellite over the South Pole to attack America from the south.
As the Heritage Foundation has reported, an EMP attack with a warhead detonated 25 to 300 miles above the U.S. mainland "would fundamentally change the world:"
"Airplanes would fall from the sky; most cars would be inoperable; electrical devices would fail. Water, sewer and electrical networks would fail simultaneously. Systems of banking, energy, transportation, food production and delivery, water, emergency services and even cyberspace would collapse."
VIDEO-Kidnapped Nigerian Schoolgirls Tell Of Escape
Sun, 11 May 2014 03:09
Nigerian Kidnap Tactic 'Standard Procedure'Updated: 4:26pm UK, Saturday 10 May 2014
Splitting the captured Nigerian schoolgirls into groups by their kidnappers is "standard operating procedure", a hostage negotiator has told Sky News.
Dr James Alvarez explained this was done on the basis of "not putting all your eggs in one basket".
He also said while negotiation was the safest option, it often had to be backed up by the threat of force in order to act as a back-up if talks do not work out, and also as a "prod" to the hostage-takers.
Meanwhile, Davis Lewin from the Henry Jackson Society - a think-tank on extremism - gave a chilling insight into the Boko Haram militant group behind the kidnappings.
Mr Lewin told Sky News the movement had a "gruesome history" and posed a "major security threat".
They demonstrated "a brutality that frankly doesn't compute in Western minds", he said.
It is thought the schoolgirls are being held in a forest near the border with Cameroon.
Their kidnappers have divided the girls into at least four different groups, complicating the search and hampering rescue efforts.
Dr Alvarez said: "It's standard operating procedure. You don't want to put all your eggs in one basket."
He said negotiators would be making contacts locally and trying to gather information about the aims of the group, what they wanted with the girls, and also find out from the Nigerian government what concessions they are prepared to make.
"Negotiations only work if you have got something to exchange," he said.
Mr Lewin added: "What the problem really is, is that there's a very grave lack of infrastructure in terms of intelligence in terms of capability on the part of the Nigerian government in the region of the country where these extremists are active.
"We have seen them get stronger and stronger and they have really proven to be one of the most deadly forms of this radical Islamist threat with thousands dead, and a brutality that frankly doesn't compute in Western minds.
"The leader of this terrorist movement couldn't care less about the outrage that Michelle Obama and so many others have expressed."
VIDEO-Biden takes shot at Clintons in SC | TheHill
Sun, 11 May 2014 02:09
Vice President Joe Biden gave a closed-door speech Friday to South Carolina Democrats that included a shot at the Clintons.
Biden, a potential 2016 candidate, said the unraveling of middle-class financial security began in "the later years of the Clinton administration," not under George W. Bush, CNN reported Saturday.
Speaking for more than thirty minutes at the VIP Capital City Club event in Columbia, S.C., he addressed the prominant group of attendees in the key presidential primary state.
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In recent months, the vice president has focused on revving up liberals on issues of income inequality, as he prepares for a possible run against former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, though many Democrats don't think he'd run against her.Biden did not mention his own presidential ambitions Friday, but multiple sources described his speech as "populist" and high-energy, according to CNN. One attendee said it was an "Elizabeth Warren-type speech" blasting income inequality.
"He said we have some of the most productive workers in the world, but corporations are more concerned about their stockholders than they are about their employees," one attendee said. "He talked about how the fruits of labor go to stockholders, rather than to the people who are producing it. That the people making the money in this country are the corporations."
Another attendee described it as "a stem-winding, almost revival-type speech."
Biden's rare rebuke of the Clintons' economic policies, which some liberals view as too friendly to Wall Street, indicates how he'd possibly approach a 2016 campaign if he and Clinton square off in a primary.
Last April, he delivered a lengthy attack on Rep. Paul Ryan's (R-Wis.) budget at George Washington University in his push to court liberal voters.
This post was updated at 10:40 a.m.
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VIDEO-President Obama Speaks on American Energy | The White House
Sat, 10 May 2014 16:40
May 09, 2014 | 15:20
President Obama announces new steps to help generate more clean energy, waste less energy overall, and leave our kids and our grandkids with a cleaner, safer planet in the process.
Public DomainRead the Transcript
VIDEO-DPRK-Amanpour
Sat, 10 May 2014 16:38
By Mick Krever, CNN
Who controls the Hermit Kingdom?
According to a North Korean defector '' a former regime insider who was one of Kim Jong Il's favorite poet-propagandists '' it is not the 31-year-old dictator Kim Jong Un.
''When Kim Jong Il died and Kim Jong Un succeeded him, people saw the transfer of power from father to son,'' Jang Jin-Sung told CNN's Christiane Amanpour in London. ''What they did not see also was what happened to the apparatus of the totalitarian system that supported the rule of Kim Jong Il.''
That apparatus, Jang said, is the Organization and Guidance Department, or OGD '' it was Kim Jong Il's education as he rose through the ranks, and was full of his university friends.
It is an ''old-boy's network'' made into a massive surveillance organization.
''Kim Jong Il had the OGD as his old boys' network,'' Jang told Amanpour. ''Kim Jong-un may have friends in his Swiss school, but he has no one inside North Korea.''
Jang is the author of a new book, "Dear Leader: Poet, Spy, Escapee '' A Look Inside North Korea."
''After the execution of Jang Song Thaek [Kim Jong Un's uncle], he has become an orphan '' not just in terms of family connections, but in terms of politics.''
''He's a political orphan.''
Precious little is known about Kim Jong Un, who inherited the leadership of North Korea after his father's death in 2011.
Since that time, Jang said, Kim Jong Un has had to rely on his father's ''old-boys network'' to get anything done.
But because that group does not respect the younger Kim, who was educated in Switzerland, the way it did his father, Kim Jong Un has become nothing more than the symbolic head of North Korea.
Defector: I saw Kim Jong Il as 'divine'Meeting Kim
''Until the day I met Kim Jong Il,'' Jang says, ''I truly considered him divine, as someone more holy, like a sage '' someone to be revered, someone who was better than us, who was sacrificing his own life for the people.''
So effective was the regime propaganda machine, he told Amanpour, that he did not even believe that Kim the elder used the toilet.
But Jang, a poet, caught the dictator's eye, and was invited for a private audience with him.
''The man I saw standing in front of me was a man, he was a human being. He was not a holy man; he was not a saint; he was not a god. He was a man just like me, who did use the toilet.''
In propaganda, Kim had used ''perfectly composed, flowery language,'' Jang said, and was deeply reverential of ''the people.''
''But when I met him, he just spoke in slang like in a kind of commanding colloquial, working-class slang, even to his most senior men.''
''And that was shocking to me.''
He even, Jang told Amanpour, wore shoes to boost his height.
Defector lifts curtain on North KoreaShattering the myth
Once a North Korean has been admitted into the dictator's inner circle, Jang said '' ''after having spent more than twenty minutes with him behind closed doors, at his personal request'' '' the leader's ''divinity'' gets transferred onto that person.
''You become immune from all prosecution, all harm. You're protected by his divinity.''
From that highest perch of North Korean society, Jang could clearly see for the first time all the lies he had been told.
The truth became even starker when he went back to visit his hometown of Sairwon, in the southwest of the country.
''That was when I really witnessed the devastating effects of the famine. That's where I saw the corpses in the station area just piling up and being taken away.''
As many as 3.5 million people are estimated to have died during North Korea's severe famine of the 1990s, according to the South Korean NGO Good Friends Center for Peace, Human Rights, and Refugees. (Official North Korean numbers estimate that 220,000 people died.)
It is also, he told Amanpour, where he saw a public execution.
''It is not classified as a punishment in response to a crime. It's considered a method of moral education, of building up society's standards of morality. So that's why these executions happen in public places, such as market squares, where people watch it.''
''It becomes a theater.''
A decade ago Jang decided to flee the country. Not even his family knew he was planning to leave.
Had he told them, he told Amanpour, their innocence would have been compromised, and they would have been vulnerable to the wrath of the state security service.
Cracking the regime
The most closed country on earth continues to fascinate the world, and among the most discussed questions is if, and how, the brutal regime could fall.
''Currently, there are two classes in North Korea locked in battle with each other,'' Jang said.
''One I will call the loyal class. This is the class that is invested, that has a stake in this continuation of the status quo, of oppression and surveillance and control.''
''The other class are the market classes,'' he said. ''Their livelihoods are not sustained by the system, but actually oppressed by it.''
Earlier this year, a PBS Frontline documentary featured stunning footage of ordinary North Koreans using free enterprise and challenging regime security officers.
North Koreans, the documentary showed, are increasingly exposed to the outside world, through smuggled DVDs and USB sticks containing Western and South Korean movies and TV shows.
''In the past, there was only one thing to belong to, one thing that sustained you, one thing that kept your family going'...loyalty to the cult of Kim.''
''But now people have realized finally, after the famine, that it is not loyalty that feeds them. It is money. It is work. It is owning something. It's individual property that feeds one.''
''So loyalty to Kim Il Sung'' '' Kim Jong Un's grandfather '' ''has been trumped by, let's say, the portrait of Washington on a U.S. dollar note.''
Change in North Korea will not come, Jang said, by negotiating with the regime. It will come through knowledge.
''Truth will set North Korea free. The people will set North Korea free. The erosion of control will set North Korea free, not engagement with the regime.''
VIDEO-McCain The Lead with Jake Tapper
Sat, 10 May 2014 16:36
(CNN) '' Terrorist group Boko Haram's kidnapping of 276 Nigerian school girls last month is an "offense against humanity," says Republican Sen. John McCain.
Six U.S. military advisers arrived in Nigeria Friday, a U.S. official told CNN. They will join a team of U.S. and British officials already in the country, helping find the girls, planning rescue efforts, and devising strategies to help subdue Boko Haram.
"I hate to use the words if I were president, so I won't. But what we should have done as soon as we knew these young girls were kidnapped ... we should have utilized every asset that we have, satellite, drones, any capabilities that we had to go after them," McCain said in an interview with CNN's "The Lead with Jake Tapper.""We should have mounted a humanitarian mission," says McCain.
Acknowledging the difficulties of Nigeria's geography and terrain, McCain insists the U.S. should have used every asset available.
For more of our interview with Sen. John McCain, check out the video above.
VIDEO-Obama administration's phony crackdown on the banks - World Socialist Web Site
Fri, 09 May 2014 22:42
By Gabriel Black9 May 2014The US Department of Justice (DOJ) posted a video Monday in which Attorney General Eric Holder sought to dismiss the widely held, and completely justified, belief that the Obama administration treats the major American banks and financial institutions as being above the law. Various newspapers report that the video will be followed by a decision by the DOJ to criminally prosecute two foreign banks for crimes unrelated to the financial crisis.
The video and the likely prosecutions are disingenuous PR moves designed to give the public the impression that the Obama administration is tough on the banks. However, this transparent attempt at cover-up and deception is undermined by the reported decision to target only foreign, not US-based, banks.
In fact, by going after Credit Suisse Group AG and BNP Paribas SA, the Obama administration is compounding its refusal to prosecute American Wall Street bankers for their criminality and fraud by attacking their overseas rivals.
Holder begins his video by declaring: ''There is no such thing as too big to jail.'' He goes on to state that ''some have used that phrase to describe the theory that certain financial institutions, even if they engage in criminal misconduct, should be considered immune to prosecution, due to their sheer size and influence in the economy.''
It is unclear, when Holder refers to ''some,'' if he is referring to himself. In March of 2013, Holder, responding to questioning from Republican Senator Chuck Grassley, who noted that there had been no criminal prosecutions of financial institutions or executives by the Obama administration, said: ''I am concerned that the size of some of these institutions becomes so large that it does become difficult for us to prosecute them, when we are hit with indications that if we do prosecute'--if we do bring a criminal charge'--it will have a negative impact on the national economy, perhaps even the world economy'...''
Holder's testimony before Congress amounted to an admission that the US government does, indeed, consider big US banks and their top executives to be ''above the law,'' and deliberately avoids prosecuting them for illegal activities.
In the video's second half, Holder tells the viewer that he ''personally'' is overseeing criminal charges against some major banks. He explains that the DOJ is working closely with the banks and regulators so that the indictments don't cause any undue harm that could potentially hurt the wider economy.
Holder is reported to be referring to potential charges against Switzerland's Credit Suisse and France's BNP Paribas. The week, before the DOJ video, was released, the New York Times reported that ''lawyers briefed on the matter'' told them that the Justice Department was poised to file criminal charges against the two banks.
BNP is being probed for having financial dealings with Iran, Sudan, and Cuba. Last week the French bank announced that it may face fines exceeding $1.1 billion from the US government for breaking sanction agreements against these and other countries.
Credit Suisse will likely be charged with tax evasion. The Swiss bank is alleged to have offered tax shelters for Americans for many years. The bank has already entered into a ''deferred prosecution'' plea bargain with the DOJ. However, the Justice Department is pushing for an actual guilty plea from a subsidiary of the bank.
In the Times article, the authors virtually repeat the DOJ's video message, indicating a coordinated public relations effort.
The Times writes that ''prosecutors are confronting the popular belief that Wall Street institutions have grown so important to the economy that they cannot be charged,'' and adds that ''prosecutors in Washington and New York have met with regulators about how to criminally punish banks without putting them out of business and damaging the economy.''
Is no accident that the reported charges against the two targeted banks have nothing to do with the fraudulent and illegal activities that played a key role in the financial crash of 2008 and continue to characterize the money-making practices of the major US banks.
In the case of BNP Paribas, the charges of sanctions-busting are a reactionary defense of predatory penalties imposed by the US on foreign governments deemed inimical to the world-wide economic and geo-strategic interests of American imperialism.
Since the 2008 financial meltdown, an abundance of evidence has confirmed that the major banks have been involved in financial wrongdoings--costing hundreds of millions of people their jobs, homes and savings. No top executive has been criminally charged for these actions.
The crimes committed by major financial institutions include:
* Goldman Sachs played a leading criminal role in the selling of mortgage-backed securities. During the height of the financial crisis, it offloaded securities based on toxic sub-prime mortgages to its own customers while simultaneously betting that they would fail. In 2012, the government ended its investigation into Goldman Sachs, despite emails and other records showing criminal actions.
Subsequent probes have documented similar activities on the part of JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America and other major US banks, without resulting in a criminal indictment of any bank or leading executive.
* In 2013, the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations released a 300-paged report documenting systematic fraud and deception by JPMorgan Chase, the biggest US bank, in connection with over $6.2 billion in losses from high-risk speculative trades in financial derivatives in 2012. The losses, incurred by the bank's London-based Chief Investment Office and a trader dubbed the ''London whale'' because of the size of his bets, were concealed from investors, analysts, regulators and the public by the bank's top management, including its chairman and CEO, Jamie Dimon, Obama's ''favorite banker.'' No criminal charges were brought.
* Bernard Madoff's multi-billion-dollar pyramid scheme relied on several major banks. Madoff stated in 2013, ''Although I have offered the bankruptcy trustee the information that I possessed that would demonstrate in detail the complicit behavior of banks like JPMorgan, Bank of NY, HSBC, Citicorp'... the trustee seems unwilling to act on my offer.'' JPMorgan is alleged by one Madoff trustee lawsuit to have made over a billion dollars from the pyramid scheme. No charges were brought against the bank, or its chief executive Jamie Dimon.
* UBS, Switzerland's largest bank, and Barclays both admitted to rigging the London Interbank Offered Rate (Libor), the benchmark global interest rate to which hundreds of trillions of dollars of financial contracts are tied. Several other banks, including JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup, Bank of America, all are thought to have done so as well and are under investigation. In the UBS Libor-rigging case, the US Justice Department deliberately chose not to pursue criminal charges against UBS itself. Instead, it extracted a guilty plea on one relatively minor count of wire fraud from the bank's Japanese unit. As the Wall Street Journal reported, ''Justice Department officials said they decided not to charge the Zurich-based company, fearing such a move could endanger its stability.''
* HSBC, the world's third largest bank, and Wachovia both laundered billions of dollars of drug money for Mexican drug cartels. These cartels flood working class neighborhood with cheap narcotics and other addictive drugs, devastating the lives of hundreds of thousands of working poor. Not a single criminal charge was brought against either bank.
* Virtually every major US bank was involved in fraudulent processing of home foreclosures in the aftermath of the 2008 crash and recession. Untold numbers of American families were illegally forced out of their homes. In a blanket settlement overseen by the Obama administration, none of the banks or their executives were indicted.
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VIDEO- Hillary Clinton: No Reason To Continue Benghazi Investigation - YouTube
Thu, 08 May 2014 22:08
US's Nuland grilled over support for Kiev's Maidan activists (video)
Sat, 10 May 2014 16:42

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