628: Italian Lightning

Adam Curry & John C. Dvorak

3h 27m
June 22nd, 2014
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Executive Producers: Sir Don Tomaso Di Toronto, Marvin & Peggy Brittain, Sir David Foley Grand Duke of The United States, Andrew Wyatt, Jason Keefer

Associate Executive Producers: Blake Israel, Chris Heffley, Helen Barbour, Ryan Spietzer, Rob Wales, Hans-Petter Fjeld, Simon Elisha, Eddie Catflap Mike deCock, Thor Lie, Sir Face of FEMA 5

Cover Artist: 20wattbulb


Start of Show
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Melissa Scott = Barbie Bridges!
The Roku App has been updated with the new feed
New Hams
Adam and John,
You inspired me to get back into ham radio after several years off the air.
Today I passed the exam for Extra!
Thank you for your courage.
73, Stephen Schwarz KA5WJY
Minutes from a meltdown-JCD's MMC Speech
Insider on Kerry notes
Notice to Congress -- Continuation of the National Emergency on Russian Fissile Material
Fri, 20 Jun 2014 04:49
The White House
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release
June 19, 2014
On June 25, 2012, by Executive Order 13617, I declared a national emergency pursuant to the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (50 U.S.C. 1701-1706) to deal with the unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States constituted by the risk of nuclear proliferation created by the accumulation of a large volume of weapons-usable fissile material in the territory of the Russian Federation. Full implementation of the Agreement Between the Government of the United States of America and the Government of the Russian Federation Concerning the Disposition of Highly Enriched Uranium Extracted from Nuclear Weapons, dated February 18, 1993, and related contracts and agreements (collectively, the "HEU Agreements") is essential to the attainment of U.S. national security and foreign policy goals. Assets of the Government of the Russian Federation directly related to the implementation of the HEU Agreements may be subject to attachment, judgment, decree, lien, execution, garnishment, or other judicial process, thereby jeopardizing the full implementation of the HEU Agreements to the detriment of U.S. national security and foreign policy. In order to ensure the preservation and proper and complete transfer to the Government of the Russian Federation of all payments due to it under the HEU Agreements, in Executive Order 13617 I ordered the blocking of all property and interests in property of the Government of the Russian Federation directly related to the implementation of the HEU Agreements and declared any attachment, judgment, decree, lien, execution, garnishment, or other judicial process with respect to such blocked property to be null and void, unless licensed or authorized pursuant to Executive Order 13617 orExecutive Order 13159 of June 21, 2000. The risk of nuclear proliferation created by the accumulation of a large volume of weapons-usable fissile material in the territory of the Russian Federation continues to pose an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States. For this reason, the national emergency declared in Executive Order 13617 of June 25, 2012, and the measures adopted on that date to deal with that emergency, must continue in effect beyond June 25, 2014. Therefore, in accordance with section 202(d) of the National Emergencies Act (50 U.S.C. 1622(d)), I am continuing for 1 year the national emergency declared with respect to the disposition of Russian highly enriched uranium declared in Executive Order 13617. This notice shall be published in the Federal Register and transmitted to the Congress.
Presidential Memorandum -- Creating a Federal Strategy to Promote the Health of Honey Bees and Other Pollinators
Sat, 21 Jun 2014 21:58
The White House
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release
June 20, 2014
MEMORANDUM FOR HEADS OF EXECUTIVE DEPARTMENTS AND AGENCIESSUBJECT: Creating a Federal Strategy to Promote the Health of Honey Bees and Other Pollinators
Pollinators contribute substantially to the economy of the United States and are vital to keeping fruits, nuts, and vegetables in our diets. Honey bee pollination alone adds more than $15 billion in value to agricultural crops each year in the United States. Over the past few decades, there has been a significant loss of pollinators, including honey bees, native bees, birds, bats, and butterflies, from the environment. The problem is serious and requires immediate attention to ensure the sustainability of our food production systems, avoid additional economic impact on the agricultural sector, and protect the health of the environment.
Pollinator losses have been severe. The number of migrating Monarch butterflies sank to the lowest recorded population level in 2013-14, and there is an imminent risk of failed migration. The continued loss of commercial honey bee colonies poses a threat to the economic stability of commercial beekeeping and pollination operations in the United States, which could have profound implications for agriculture and food. Severe yearly declines create concern that bee colony losses could reach a point from which the commercial pollination industry would not be able to adequately recover. The loss of native bees, which also play a key role in pollination of crops, is much less studied, but many native bee species are believed to be in decline. Scientists believe that bee losses are likely caused by a combination of stressors, including poor bee nutrition, loss of forage lands, parasites, pathogens, lack of genetic diversity, and exposure to pesticides.
Given the breadth, severity, and persistence of pollinator losses, it is critical to expand Federal efforts and take new steps to reverse pollinator losses and help restore populations to healthy levels. These steps should include the development of new public-private partnerships and increased citizen engagement. Therefore, by the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, I hereby direct the following:
Section 1. Establishing the Pollinator Health Task Force. There is hereby established the Pollinator Health Task Force (Task Force), to be co-chaired by the Secretary of Agriculture and the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency. In addition to the Co-Chairs, the Task Force shall also include the heads, or their designated representatives, from: ¼¼¼
(a) the Department of State;
(b) the Department of Defense;
(c) the Department of the Interior;
(d) the Department of Housing and Urban Development;
(e) the Department of Transportation;
(f) the Department of Energy;
(g) the Department of Education;
(h) the Council on Environmental Quality;
(i) the Domestic Policy Council;
(j) the General Services Administration;
(k) the National Science Foundation;
(l) the National Security Council Staff;
(m) the Office of Management and Budget;
(n) the Office of Science and Technology Policy; and
(o) such executive departments, agencies, and offices as the Co-Chairs may designate.
Sec. 2. Mission and Function of the Task Force. Within 180 days of the date of this memorandum, the Task Force shall develop a National Pollinator Health Strategy (Strategy), which shall include explicit goals, milestones, and metrics to measure progress. The Strategy shall include the following components:
(a) Pollinator Research Action Plan. The Strategy shall include an Action Plan (Plan) to focus Federal efforts on understanding, preventing, and recovering from pollinator losses. The Plan shall be informed by research on relevant topics and include:
(i) studies of the health of managed honey bees and native bees, including longitudinal studies, to determine the relative contributions of, and mitigation strategies for, different stressors leading to species declines and colony collapse disorder, including exposure to pesticides, poor nutrition, parasites and other pests, toxins, loss of habitat and reduced natural forage, pathogens, and unsustainable management practices;
(ii) plans for expanded collection and sharing of data related to pollinator losses, technologies for continuous monitoring of honey bee hive health, and use of public-private partnerships, as appropriate, to provide information on the status and trends of managed hive losses;
(iii) assessments of the status of native pollinators, including the Monarch butterfly and bees, and modeling of native pollinator populations and habitats; ¼¼¼
(iv) strategies for developing affordable seed mixes, including native pollinator-friendly plants, for maintenance of honey bees and other pollinators, and guidelines for and evaluations of the effectiveness of using pollinator-friendly seed mixes for restoration and reclamation projects;
(v) identification of existing and new methods and best practices to reduce pollinator exposure to pesticides, and new cost-effective ways to control bee pests and diseases; and
(vi) strategies for targeting resources toward areas of high risk and restoration potential and prioritizing plans for restoration of pollinator habitat, based on those areas that will yield the greatest expected net benefits.
(b) Public Education Plan. The Strategy shall include plans for expanding and coordinating public education programs outlining steps individuals and businesses can take to help address the loss of pollinators. It shall also include recommendations for a coordinated public education campaign aimed at individuals, corporations, small businesses, schools, libraries, and museums to significantly increase public awareness of the importance of pollinators and the steps that can be taken to protect them.
(c) Public-Private Partnerships. The Strategy shall include recommendations for developing public-private partnerships to build on Federal efforts to encourage the protection of pollinators and increase the quality and amount of habitat and forage for pollinators. In developing this part of the Strategy, the Task Force shall consult with external stakeholders, including State, tribal, and local governments, farmers, corporations, and nongovernmental organizations.
(d) Task Force member agencies shall report regularly to the Task Force on their efforts to implement section 3 of this memorandum.
Sec. 3. Increasing and Improving Pollinator Habitat. Unless otherwise specified, within 180 days of the date of this memorandum:
(a) Task Force member agencies shall develop and provide to the Task Force plans to enhance pollinator habitat, and subsequently implement, as appropriate, such plans on their managed lands and facilities, consistent with their missions and public safety. These plans may include: facility landscaping, including easements; land management; policies with respect to road and other rights-of-way; educational gardens; use of integrated vegetation and pest management; increased native vegetation; and application of pollinator-friendly best management practices and seed mixes. Task Force member agencies shall also review any new or renewing land management contracts and grants for the opportunity to include requirements for enhancing pollinator habitat. ¼¼¼¼¼
(b) Task Force member agencies shall evaluate permit and management practices on power line, pipeline, utility, and other rights-of-way and easements, and, consistent with applicable law, make any necessary and appropriate changes to enhance pollinator habitat on Federal lands through the use of integrated vegetation and pest management and pollinator-friendly best management practices, and by supplementing existing agreements and memoranda of understanding with rights-of-way holders, where appropriate, to establish and improve pollinator habitat.
(c) Task Force member agencies shall incorporate pollinator health as a component of all future restoration and reclamation projects, as appropriate, including all annual restoration plans.
(d) The Council on Environmental Quality and the General Services Administration shall, within 90 days of the date of this memorandum, revise their respective guidance documents for designed landscapes and public buildings to incorporate, as appropriate, pollinator-friendly practices into site landscape performance requirements to create and maintain high quality habitats for pollinators. Future landscaping projects at all Federal facilities shall, to the maximum extent appropriate, use plants beneficial to pollinators.
(e) The Departments of Agriculture and the Interior shall, within 90 days of the date of this memorandum, develop best management practices for executive departments and agencies to enhance pollinator habitat on Federal lands.
(f) The Departments of Agriculture and the Interior shall establish a reserve of native seed mixes, including pollinator-friendly plants, for use on post-fire rehabilitation projects and other restoration activities.
(g) The Department of Agriculture shall, as appropriate and consistent with applicable law, substantially increase both the acreage and forage value of pollinator habitat in the Department's conservation programs, including the Conservation Reserve Program, and provide technical assistance, through collaboration with the land-grant university-based cooperative extension services, to executive departments and agencies, State, local, and tribal governments, and other entities and individuals, including farmers and ranchers, in planting the most suitable pollinator-friendly habitats.
(h) The Department of the Interior shall assist States and State wildlife organizations, as appropriate, in identifying and implementing projects to conserve pollinators at risk of endangerment and further pollinator conservation through the revision and implementation of individual State Wildlife Action Plans. The Department of the Interior shall, upon request, provide technical support for these efforts, and keep the Task Force apprised of such collaborations.
(i) The Department of Transportation shall evaluate its current guidance for grantees and informational resources to identify opportunities to increase pollinator habitat along roadways and implement improvements, as appropriate. The Department of Transportation shall work with State Departments of Transportation and transportation associations to promote pollinator-friendly practices and corridors. The Department of Transportation shall evaluate opportunities to make railways, pipelines, and transportation facilities that are privately owned and operated aware of the need to increase pollinator habitat.
(j) The Department of Defense shall, consistent with law and the availability of appropriations, support habitat restoration projects for pollinators, and shall direct military service installations to use, when possible, pollinator-friendly native landscaping and minimize use of pesticides harmful to pollinators through integrated vegetation and pest management practices.
(k) The Army Corps of Engineers shall incorporate conservation practices for pollinator habitat improvement on the 12 million acres of lands and waters at resource development projects across the country, as appropriate.
(l) The Environmental Protection Agency shall assess the effect of pesticides, including neonicotinoids, on bee and other pollinator health and take action, as appropriate, to protect pollinators; engage State and tribal environmental, agricultural, and wildlife agencies in the development of State and tribal pollinator protection plans; encourage the incorporation of pollinator protection and habitat planting activities into green infrastructure and Superfund projects; and expedite review of registration applications for new products targeting pests harmful to pollinators.
(m) Executive departments and agencies shall, as appropriate, take immediate measures to support pollinators during the 2014 growing season and thereafter. These measures may include planting pollinator-friendly vegetation and increasing flower diversity in plantings, limiting mowing practices, and avoiding the use of pesticides in sensitive pollinator habitats through integrated vegetation and pest management practices.
Sec. 4. General Provisions.
(a) This memorandum shall be implemented consistent with applicable law and subject to the availability of appropriations.
(b) Nothing in this memorandum shall be construed to impair or otherwise affect:
(i) the authority granted by law to any agency, or the head thereof; or
(ii) the functions of the Director of the Office of Management and Budget relating to budgetary, administrative, or legislative proposals.
(c) Nothing in this memorandum shall be construed to require the disclosure of confidential business information or trade secrets, classified information, law enforcement sensitive information, or other information that must be protected in the interest of national security or public safety.
(d) This memorandum is not intended to, and does not, create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or in equity by any party against the United States, its departments, agencies, or entities, its officers, employees, or agents, or any other person. ¼¼¼
(e) The Secretary of Agriculture is hereby authorized and directed to publish this memorandum in the Federal Register.
Fact Sheet: The Economic Challenge Posed by Declining Pollinator Populations
Sat, 21 Jun 2014 21:59
The White House
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release
June 20, 2014
Pollinators contribute substantially to the economy of the United States and are vital to keeping fruits, nuts, and vegetables in our diets. Over the past few decades, there has been a significant loss of pollinators'--including honey bees, native bees, birds, bats, and butterflies'--from the environment. The problem is serious and poses a significant challenge that needs to be addressed to ensure the sustainability of our food production systems, avoid additional economic impacts on the agricultural sector, and protect the health of the environment.
Economic Importance of Pollinators:
Insect pollination is integral to food security in the United States. Honey bees enable the production of at least 90 commercially grown crops in North America. Globally, 87 of the leading 115 food crops evaluated are dependent on animal pollinators, contributing 35% of global food production.Pollinators contribute more than 24 billion dollars to the United States economy, of which honey bees account for more than 15 billion dollars through their vital role in keeping fruits, nuts, and vegetables in our diets.Native wild pollinators, such as bumble bees and alfalfa leafcutter bees, also contribute substantially to the domestic economy. In 2009, the crop benefits from native insect pollination in the United States were valued at more than 9 billion dollars.The Challenge of Pollinator Declines:
The number of managed honey bee colonies in the United States has declined steadily over the past 60 years, from 6 million colonies (beehives) in 1947 to 4 million in 1970, 3 million in 1990, and just 2.5 million today. Given the heavy dependence of certain crops on commercial pollination, reduced honey bee populations pose a real threat to domestic agriculture. Some crops, such as almonds, are almost exclusively pollinated by honey bees, and many crops rely on honey bees for more than 90% of their pollination. California's almond industry alone requires the pollination services of approximately 1.4 million beehives annually'--60% of all U.S. beehives'--yielding 80% of the worldwide almond production worth 4.8 billion dollars each year.Since 2006, commercial beekeepers in the United States have seen honey bee colony loss rates increase to an average of 30% each winter, compared to historical loss rates of 10 to 15%. In 2013''14, the overwintering loss rate was 23.2%, down from 30.5% the previous year but still greater than historical averages and the self-reported acceptable winter mortality rate.The recent increased loss of honey bee colonies is thought to be caused by a combination of stressors, including loss of natural forage and inadequate diets, mite infestations and diseases, loss of genetic diversity, and exposure to certain pesticides. Contributing to these high loss rates is a phenomenon called colony collapse disorder (CCD), in which there is a rapid, unexpected, and catastrophic loss of bees in a hive.Beekeepers in the United States have collectively lost an estimated 10 million beehives at an approximate current value of $200 each. These high colony loss rates require beekeepers to rapidly, and at substantial expense, rebuild their colonies, placing commercial beekeeping in jeopardy as a viable industry and threatening the crops dependent on honey bee pollination. The loss rates have driven up the cost of commercial pollination: for instance, the cost of renting honey bee hives for almond pollination rose from about $50 in 2003 to $150-$175 per hive in 2009.Some of the viral agents that are impacting honey bee colonies are also now reported to be adversely affecting native pollinators, such as bumble bees, and the pollination services they provide.Population declines have also been observed for other contributing pollinator species, such as Monarch butterflies, which migrate from Mexico across the United States to Canada each year, returning to overwinter in the same few forests in Mexico. The Monarch butterfly migration, an iconic natural phenomenon that has an estimated economic value in the billions of dollars, sank to the lowest recorded levels this winter, with an imminent risk of failure.Administration Actions:
In response to the challenges to commercial bee-keeping, the President's 2015 Budget recommends approximately $50 million across multiple agencies within USDA to: enhance research at USDA and through public-private grants, strengthen pollinator habitat in core areas, double the number of acres in the Conservation Reserve Program that are dedicated to pollinator health, and increase funding for surveys to determine the impacts on pollinator losses.
Building on this budget initiative, President Obama today issued a Presidential Memorandum on Creating a Federal Strategy to Promote the Health of Honey Bees and Other Pollinators that takes a number of important steps to tackle the problem of pollinator declines, including:
Directing the Federal Government to use its research, land management, education, and public/private partnership capacities to broadly advance honey bee and other pollinator health and habitat;Establishing a new Pollinator Health Task Force, co-chaired by United States Department of Agriculture and the Environmental Protection Agency, to develop a National Pollinator Health Strategy. The Strategy will include: a coordinated research action plan to understand, prevent, and recover from pollinator losses, including determining the relative impacts of habitat loss, pesticide exposure, and other stressors; a public education plan to help individuals, businesses, and other organizations address pollinator losses; and recommendations for increasing public-private partnerships to build on Federal efforts to protect pollinators;Directing Task Force agencies to develop plans to enhance pollinator habitat on federal lands and facilities in order to lead by example to significantly expand the acreage and quality of pollinator habitat, consistent with agency missions and public safety; andDirecting Task Force agencies to partner with state, tribal, and local governments; farmers and ranchers; corporations and small businesses; and non-governmental organizations to protect pollinators and increase the quality and amount of available habitat and forage.In line with these efforts, the Federal Government will also work to restore the Monarch butterfly migration using research and habitat improvements that will benefit Monarchs as well as other native pollinators and honey bees. These actions support the February 2014 Joint Statement by President Obama, Prime Minister Harper of Canada, and President Pe±a Nieto of Mexico to renew and expand collaboration between North American nations to conserve the Monarch butterfly.
White House task force charged with saving bees from mysterious decline.
Sat, 21 Jun 2014 22:12
Barack Obama is taking steps save honey bees from a mysterious die-off, ordering new research into the pesticides linked to the pollinators' collapse.
The presidential memorandum released by the White House on Friday charges a new task force with producing a strategy within 180 days to stop the alarming decline of honeybees, butterflies and other pollinators.
The memorandum also for the first time directs the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to carry out research into the role of a new class of pesticides, neonicotinoids, that have been linked with the collapse of the honeybees.
However, Obama stopped short of a ban on neonicotinoids, as the European Union and some local authorites have done.
The die-off of honeybees in many countries over the last decade has caused widespread alarm because so many of the world's food crops require pollination.
The decline has been linked to loss of habitat and disease. But there is growing evidence of a direct link between neonicotinoids, the most widely used class of insectides, and colony collapse disorder.
A Harvard study last month found exposure to two of the neonicotinoids caused honeybees to leave their hives and die.
The EU banned three of the neonicotinoids for two years pending further study on their effects late last year.
The presidential memorandum, while giving pesticides top billing among ''stressors leading to species declines and colony collapse disorder'', also calls for research into poor nutrition, parasites, and loss of habitat as potential causes of the die-off.
Campaign groups welcomed the White House measures '' but said they did not go far enough.
Obama should have followed the example of the EU and put restrictions on pesticide use, said Tiffany Finck-Haynes, food campaigner for Friends of the Earth US.
''He could restrict neonicotinoids today as the European Union has done and he should do that if he wants to protect our pollinators, our food systems, and our environment,'' said Tiffany she said.
The Centre for Food Safety in its response said: ''There is already a wealth of peer reviewed literature demonstrating the harms of pesticides to bees and other pollinators.''
The Pollinator Health Task Force established of Friday is also charged with expanding habitat for honeybees of federal land or on landscaping around government buildings.
''Future landscaping projects at all Federal facilities shall, to the maximum extent appropriate, use plants beneficial to pollinators,'' it said.
Meanwhile, the US Department of Agriculture said on Friday it would spend $8m to establish new habitat for honeybees in Michigan, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wisconsin.
Message to Congress -- Continuation of the National Emergency with Respect to North Korea
Sat, 21 Jun 2014 22:05
The White House
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release
June 20, 2014
Section 202(d) of the National Emergencies Act (50 U.S.C. 1622(d)) provides for the automatic termination of a national emergency unless, within 90 days prior to the anniversary date of its declaration, the President publishes in the Federal Register and transmits to the Congress a notice stating that the emergency is to continue in effect beyond the anniversary date. In accordance with this provision, I have sent to the Federal Register for publication the enclosed notice stating that the national emergency with respect to North Korea that was declared in Executive Order (E.O.) 13466 of June 26, 2008, expanded in scope in E.O. 13551 of August 30, 2010, and addressed further in E.O. 13570 of April 18, 2011, is to continue in effect beyond June 26, 2014.
The existence and risk of proliferation of weapons-usable fissile material on the Korean Peninsula, and the actions and policies of the Government of North Korea that destabilize the Korean Peninsula and imperil U.S. Armed Forces, allies, and trading partners in the region, continue to constitute an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security, foreign policy, and economy of the United States. For this reason, I have determined that it is necessary to continue the national emergency with respect to North Korea.
John's Mic Addiction http://microphone-parts.com/
Brzrezinski quote
Zbigniew Brzezinski (The Grand Chessboard: American Primacy and Its Geostrategic Imperatives, 1997)
“But if the middle space [Russia and the former Soviet Union] rebuffs the West [the European Union and America], becomes an assertive single entity, and either gains control over the South [Middle East] or forms an alliance with the major Eastern actor [China], then America’s primacy in Eurasia shrinks dramatically. The same would be the case if the two major Eastern players were somehow to unite. Finally, any ejection of America by its Western partners [the Franco-German entente] from its perch on the western periphery [Europe] would automatically spell the end of America’s participation in the game on the Eurasian chessboard, even though that would probably also mean the eventual subordination of the western extremity to a revived player occupying the middle space [e.g. Russia].”
ISIS clears the way for the Kurds to take care of the oil business
Russia-China-Iran against US-UK-EU-Japan
The Kirkuk - Haifa Pipeline v2.0
the Haifa pipeline was a major reason why Bush invaded Iraq. Arabs
would never allow Iraqi oil to go to Israel. Therefore northern Iraq
will break . Kurds are not Arabs. They cooperate
with Israel.
The British built the Kirkuk-to-Haifa pipeline in 1927. In 1934, they
completed a 12-inch pipeline from the Kirkuk fields to Al-Haditha on the
Euphrates River. At that point the pipeline forked. One branch went
through Syria to Tripoli (Lebanon). The other went across Jordan to
Haifa. The British built refineries at both Tripoli and Haifa to handle
this Iraq oil.
When Israel started to invade Palestine in 1945, Syria shut down its
branch to Tripoli. Iraq shut down all oil from from Kirkuk to Haifa. At
that point, most of northern Iraq’s oil went to the Turkish port city of
Gihan, which was okay with the USA, since Turkey was a U.S. ally
against the USSR. Turkey collect transit fees for this oil.
The pipeline to Haifa was allowed to decay. Pieces of it were
disamntled. Various inrerests used the pieces to build water pipelines.
In 2003, Bush invaded Iraq, partly to revive the pipipeline to Haifa,
and partly to bring oil deals to his personal friends, such as Ray L.
Hunt. Small American oil companies like Hunt Oil would extract Kurdish
oil as soon as Mosul and Kirkuk were broken off from Iraq (17 November
2007). Mosul is the first stop for Kirkuk oil. From there the pipeline
will go through an Arab part of Iraq. Americans guarded those
sections for israel. We had our bases there
When the Haifa pipeline opens back up, Jordan –not israel --will
collect hefty transit fees. Kurdish oil will go to Europe via israel,
not Turkey. This is one reason why the Turks are pissed
At first, Israel will offer Kurdish oil at a discount, in order to
help Europe adjust to its new master. Then Israel will start to squeeze
Europe, wringing more and more concessions from them.
Wes Clark 7
Iraqi Pipeline to Aqaba Sparks Memories of Kirkuk-Haifa Line - Al-Monitor: the Pulse of the Middle East
Sun, 22 Jun 2014 03:19
People are seen as the sun sets over a beach in the Aqaba Gulf on the Red Sea, south of Amman, Nov. 25, 2011. (photo by REUTERS/Muhammad Hamed)
Author: Jacky Hugi Posted January 3, 2013
The announcement from the office of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki was short. It was released only a few hours after his return from a short visit to Jordan where he met with Jordanian King Abdullah II. Baghdad, Maliki said, will provide crude oil to Jordan via a new pipeline that will reach the city of Aqaba on the coast of the Red Sea, only a few hundred meters from the Israeli border. This is a double blessing for Jordan, as it will provide an alternative to natural gas from Egypt; the latter supply was lost because of sabotage of the Egyptian pipeline in the Sinai Peninsula. In addition, [the transport of Iraqi oil by pipeline] will save the Jordanians the expenses involved in the transport of oil [by vehicles] that is done today.
Summary'Ž Print The oil pipeline to be constructed between Baghdad and Aqaba raises fond memories among Israelis of the Mandate-era Kirkuk-Haifa oil pipeline, a time that many would be happy to resurrect, writes Jacky Hugi. AuthorJacky HugiPosted January 3, 2013Translator(s)Sandy Bloom
Maliki's pipeline will stop in Hashemite Kingdom territory very close to the Israeli border in Eilat. This brings us back to the good old days when we were able to inhale Iraqi oil here in Israel. The pipeline constructed by the Iraqi national company extended from Kirkuk [Mosul] through Jordanian territory to reach refineries in [Israel's] Haifa; from Haifa the oil was sent by sea to Europe. This pipeline was constructed in 1935 and operated for 13 years. Iraq, Jordan and the land of Israel [Palestine] were then British colonies, and internal trade was routine. Moreover, Iraqi experts assisted in the construction of the refineries in Haifa and dealt with searching for oil here. Even then, terrorists used to sabotage the energy installations. Arab fighters struck the pipeline during the Arab Revolt in Palestine (1936-1939). A decade later, fighters of the Hebrew underground Etzel movement sabotaged the line. But the pipeline survived [all those attacks] only to receive its death warrant under political circumstances. The pipeline ceased operating when the British evacuated the land of Israel in May 1948 [when the state of Israel was established].
Thus we Israelis share a nostalgic longing for the Kirkuk-Haifa oil pipeline. It represents the memory of peace economics, economics that is stubbornly forestalled by politics and wars. Sometimes, reality sends us a reminder of those days. During the Gulf War of 1991, Saddam [Hussein] rained Scud rockets on Israel from areas in his territory that were labeled H2 and H3. These are two of the eight pumping stations that run the length of the pipeline, named after their destination '-- Haifa. When Saddam was toppled in 2003, hopes rose in Israel that oil could again be shipped [to Israel from Iraq] with the assistance of the de facto ruler of Iraq, the United States government. This was a false hope because Baghdad, even when occupied by foreigners, still remained Arab. And with regards to the Arabs, so long as no other decision is reached '-- joint initiatives with the State of Israel are still beyond the pale.
The unstable reality in our region may still pose difficulties for the brand-new Jordanian-Iraqi project. Global energy changes may render the use of oil to be superfluous. But if this project will, indeed, hit the road, then the pipeline may provide Jordan with all its energy consumption needs, and even more. Today, Baghdad provides Amman with between 10 to 35 thousand barrels of oil a day, at a very reduced price. The Jordanians need a hundred thousand barrels a day, but the pipeline to Jordan is expected to transport an amount equivalent to a million barrels. And Aqaba does not have to be its last stop.
For all of this to happen, Iraq must first rehabilitate its oil economy that received mortal blows during the [Gulf] war and the years of international sanctions against the Ba'ath regime of Saddam Hussein. Iraq must first rebuild its electrical facilities that have been struck by terrorist groups, without which no proper oil economy is possible. The large network of transport pipes has also been neglected and must be fixed and overhauled. Just around the corner, Iraq awaits the kind of future that is reserved for economic empires. In the coming two years, Iraq has the ability to double its production to five million barrels of oil a day and later on to eight million barrels of oil a day, and even more. If it will properly plan its oil economy, Iraq may yet build itself up in the foreseeable future as an important oil supplier for the giant economies of China, India and Malaysia.
Is an oil pipeline to Haifa also in the cards? Perhaps, in the future. The present '-- not really. The [pipe]line is no longer usable. In the early 2000s, Jordanian metal-robbers extricated many long kilometers of the pipeline from the ground, cut it and attempted to sell it for profit. The transaction was exposed in a Jordanian newspaper, and implementation of the deal was blocked. The sectioned pipes were visible for a few years along the high-speed road between Amman and the Al-Karamah Iraqi border crossing.
In the current era, a future oil pipeline from Iraq to Eilat is a remote dream; the Arab world still views contact with Israel as a dance with the enemy. But if we have learned anything about our region in the last decade, ever since longstanding rulers started to topple like a house of cards, it is ''never say never.'' Not only is the world changing in front of our eyes, but even the change is changing. Change is faster and more startling than in the past, sometimes even fantastical. Few believe today that there will be formal relations between Baghdad and Jerusalem in the foreseeable future. But until two years ago, who would have believed that opponents of Gaddafi's family would rule Tripoli and that a Muslim Brotherhood president would serve in Cairo.
It is true that the Israeli energy economy needs an alternative to Egyptian natural gas, gas whose delivery was halted practically overnight on the heels of the Cairo revolution. But eventually, Israeli consumption may be fully supplied by gas that was discovered in recent years opposite Israel's shores. The Iraqi pipeline is a symbol, an allegory of something else, something wider and deeper: Even if Iraqi oil will not be transported here, most of the Israeli public would find official diplomatic relations with Baghdad a cause for celebration.
Read More: http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2013/01/bagdadhaifa-hugi.html
Mosul-Haifa oil pipeline - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Sun, 22 Jun 2014 03:16
Mosul''Haifa oil pipelineMap of Mosul''Haifa oil pipeline
General informationTypeCrude oilOperatorIraq Petroleum CompanyConstruction started1932Commissioned1935Decommissioned1948 (1954)Technical informationLength942 km (585 mi)Diameter12 in (305 mm)The Mosul''Haifa oil pipeline (also known as Mediterranean pipeline) was a crude oil pipeline from the oil fields in Kirkuk, located in north Iraq, through Jordan to Haifa (now on the territory of Israel). The pipeline was operational in 1935''1948. Its length was about 942 kilometres (585 mi), with a diameter of 12 inches (300 mm) (reducing to 10 and 8 inches (250 and 200 mm) in parts), and it took about 10 days for crude oil to travel the full length of the line. The oil arriving in Haifa was distilled in the Haifa refineries, stored in tanks, and then put in tankers for shipment to Europe.
The pipeline was built by the Iraq Petroleum Company between 1932 and 1935,[1] during which period most of the area through which the pipeline passed was under a British mandate approved by the League of Nations. The pipeline was one of two pipelines carrying oil from the Kirkuk oilfield to the Mediterranean coast. The main pipeline split at Haditha with a second line carrying oil to Tripoli, Lebanon, which was then under a French mandate. This line was built primarily to satisfy the demands of the French partner in IPC, Compagnie Fran§aise des P(C)troles, for a separate line to be built across French mandated territory.
The pipeline and the Haifa refineries were considered strategically important by the British Government, and indeed provided much of the fuel needs of the British and American forces in the Mediterranean during the Second World War.
The pipeline was a target of attacks by Arab gangs during the Great Arab Revolt, and as a result one of the main objectives of a joint British-Jewish Special Night Squads commanded by Captain Orde Wingate was to protect the pipeline against such attacks. Later on, the pipeline was the target of attacks by the Irgun.[2]
In 1948, with the outbreak of the 1948 Arab''Israeli War, the official operation of the pipeline ended when the Iraqi Government refused to pump any more oil through it.[3]
Oil pumping stations[edit]These were named in numerical order going westwards, with the Iraqi stations denoted "K" after Kirkuk and the Trans-Jordanian stations "H" after Haifa.
See also[edit]External links[edit]References[edit]
Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG)
Sun, 22 Jun 2014 03:49
Economist Intelligence Unit assesses the Kurdistan Region6/21/2014 8:00:30 PMErbil, Kurdistan (KRG.org) '' The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), a research wing of the highly regarded Economist magazine, in May completed an assessment of the Kurdistan Region on six key indices.
KRG statement on oil exports6/20/2014 10:03:32 PMErbil, Kurdistan Region, Iraq (MNR.KRG.org) - The Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) is pleased to announce that the KRG's second sale of piped crude oil export via the port of Ceyhan was safely delivered to the buyers.
MNR refutes inaccurate and harmful report about KRG oil sales by Bloomberg news agency6/19/2014 9:09:49 PMErbil, Kurdistan Region, Iraq (MNR.KRG.org) - The Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) is surprised and disappointed that Bloomberg news agency should see fit to publish a story about Kurdistan Regional Government oil sales that is full of inaccuracies, half-truths and highly partisan comment.
Prime Minister Barzani outlines priorities at inauguration of eighth cabinet6/19/2014 5:07:15 PMErbil, Kurdistan (KRG.org) '' The eighth cabinet of the Kurdistan Regional Government was announced at a special session of the Kurdistan Parliament held on 18 June 2014. Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani, Deputy Prime Minister Qubad Talabani, and all cabinet ministers were sworn into office.
The KRG seventh cabinet holds its final session6/18/2014 2:19:25 PMErbil, Kurdistan (KRG.org) - The Kurdistan Regional Government's seventh cabinet, headed by Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani in the presence of Deputy Prime Minister Imad Ahmed, yesterday held its final meeting.
Syrian refugee teachers receive summer training to prepare for school year6/18/2014 1:03:33 PMErbil, Kurdistan (KRG.org) '' The Kurdistan Regional Government's Ministry of Education has initiated a one-month teachers' training programme for Syrian refugees working as teachers in the refugee camps in the Kurdistan Region.
Video: Iraq's fleeing Christians find safe haven in Kurdistan6/18/2014 12:31:26 PMMosul, in northern Iraq, had a substantial Christian population of around 10,000 until Sunni Islamist militants belonging to the Islamic State in Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) took the city in their lightning offensive last week.
Minister Hawrami: New Iraq needs power-sharing and adherence to constitution to avoid further chaos6/18/2014 1:57:06 AMLondon, United Kingdom (KRG.org) '' The key to Iraq's unity is power-sharing, revenue-sharing and the implementation of the Constitution, Dr Ashti Hawrami, the Kurdistan Regional Government's Minister of Natural Resources, told a London conference yesterday.
Iraq conflict: Kurds 'will not help retake Mosul'6/17/2014 2:37:02 PMKurdish Peshmerga forces will not help Iraq's army retake the city of Mosul from jihadist militants, the head of the Kurdistan Regional Government says.
Iraq conflict: Iraqi Kurd PM Nechirvan Barzani6/17/2014 9:59:06 AMThe prime minister of Iraq's autonomous Kurdish region has told the BBC's Jim Muir he does not believe the country will stay together, as Sunni extremist militants continue to make territorial gains.
West Qurna-2 - Iraq - LUKOIL Overseas
Sat, 21 Jun 2014 22:40
On December 12th, 2009, a consortium of LUKOIL and Norway's Statoil won a tender for the development of the West Qurna-2 field in Iraq. Its estimated recoverable oil reserves total approximately 13 billion barrels, which will be produced from two major formations '' Mishrif and Yamama. West Qurna-2 is one of the largest oil fields in the world.
West Qurna-2 is located in southern Iraq, 65 km Northwest of the major port city of Basra. The field was discovered in 1973 and explored (using 2D seismic acquisition and exploration drilling technologies) by Soviet geologists in 1970s and 80s. The size of the current Contract Area is over 300 square kilometers.
Contractual terms
On January 31st, 2010, the Development and Production Service Contract for the West Qurna (Phase 2) Contract Area was signed. The contract has been ratified by Iraq's Council of Ministers. The West Qurna-2 contract is a hybrid of a service contract and a Production Sharing Agreement (PSA) that potentially enables LUKOIL to book part of the reserves and production volumes.
The current stakeholders are the national Iraqi South Oil Company (on behalf of the state) and a consortium of contractors including LUKOIL (75%) and the national Iraqi North Oil Company (25%). Norway's Statoil had a 18.75% stake in the project until May 2012 (when it transferred its share to LUKOIL).
In January 2013, an amendment to the contract was signed which, among other things, establishes a new target production plateau of 1.2 million barrels of oil per day, a plateau production period of 19.5 years and an extension of the contract period to 25, rather than 20, years.
Phases of development
The project envisages re-entry into existing wells, drilling several hundred new production, exploration, appraisal and injection wells, construction of water supply and reservoir pressure maintenance systems and building production and multiple infrastructure facilities. These include a shift camp, access roads, power supply facilities and infield and external pipelines. Construction of the main production facilities began in April 2012.
The West Qurna-2 project is being conducted in three phases. Phase 1 '' Early Oil Mishrif is based on the assumption that commercial production will start at 120 kbpd, which will be increased to 400 kbpd. Phase II '' Mishrif Full Field Development involves the implementation of full-scale field development at Mishrif, which will increase production by another 150 kbpd (to 550 kbpd). Phase III '' Yamama will involve the development of a deeper formation, adding another 650 kbpd.
Early Oil
The first field development phase '' Early Oil '' was launched in record time. The following facilities have been completed in the Contract Area since April 2012: a 400 kbpd capacity Central Processing Facility (CPF) (the field's main production site), 48 development wells (as of March, 2014), 5 well pads, a 126 MW capacity Gas Turbine Power Plant (GTPP), Euphrates water intake, an over 100 km long export pipeline to the Tuba Tank Farm, additional tanks at Tuba Tank Farm with total capacity of 198,000 m3, a field camp, access roads and additional flow lines.
On March 29th, 2014 LUKOIL has started commercial production at the oil field at the target level of 120 kbpd. The official ceremony was attended by Hussain al-Shahristani, Deputy Prime Minister of Iraq for energy, Arkady Dvorkovich, Deputy Prime Minister of the Russian Federation, Vagit Alekperov, President of LUKOIL, members of the Iraqi government, Basra province authorities and representatives of major contractors.
Engaging the local population
LUKOIL is actively engaging the local population for work at West Qurna-2. Over 11 thousand workers were engaged during peak construction; two-thirds were locals employed by international and Iraqi contractors.
The Company set up its training center in the North Rumaila area of Basra as part of its responsibility to the local community. Graduates of the center, which is capable of training up to 350 students simultaneously, have been hired for various specialized jobs at West Qurna-2. Under the guidance of experienced engineering and technical personnel, they will participate in the launch of production and further work on-site.
LUKOIL makes a major effort to improve the lives of the local population. Special attention has been allotted to social projects, especially in athletics, education and medicine, from the very beginning of the project.
UN envoy denies claim he tried to funnel $20m to Hamas behind Israel's back - Diplomacy and DefenseIsrael News - Haaretz Israeli News source
Sun, 22 Jun 2014 13:06
Robert Serry attends a conference Israel, Sept 14, 2011, /By Barak Ravid
Published 08:30 22.06.14
Robert Serry, the United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, denied a report on Saturday that he tried to funnel $20 million to Hamas in the Gaza Strip against Israel's wishes.
In a conversation with Haaretz Saturday evening, Serry rejected Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman's claims that he was trying to make an end run around Israel and the Palestinian Authority in order to transfer the funds. "It's crazy," Serry said, adding, "Those accusations are baseless."
Earlier on Saturday, Israel's Channel 2 news reported that Lieberman sought to have Serry, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's envoy to the region, declared persona non grata and expelled from Israel, for supposedly trying to direct $20 million to Hamas in Gaza via Qatar, to pay the salaries of government employees there. Lieberman's aides later confirmed the report.
According to Lieberman, after both the Palestinian Authority and Israel refused Serry's request to serve as a conduit for the funds, the envoy has been trying to affect the transfer using other means.
Lieberman's aides, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the Foreign Ministry is upset with Serry over a series of unbalanced, anti-Israel announcements that Serry has issued in the past several weeks. The sources in the Foreign Ministry characterized one of these statements, which accused Israel of disrupting this year's Holy Fire ceremony, celebrated in Jerusalem by the Greek Orthodox Church, as a provocation against Israel.
Serry rebuffed Lieberman's claims about the attempts to transfer funds to Gaza, saying he acted with full transparency vis-a-vis the Israeli authorities. The envoy said that two weeks ago, he made a visit to Qatar that was scheduled in advance. During the visit, he discussed with senior Qatari officials the situation in the Gaza Strip, but not the payroll crisis. As a result of a dispute with the PA leadership in Ramallah, hundreds of thousands of government-employed teachers, doctors, police officers and other workers have not received their salaries. Over the past few days, there have been reports that Qatar wants to help solve the payroll crisis.
Serry told Haaretz that a few days ago, he received a phone call from Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah, who spoke to him informally about the payroll crisis in Gaza, the possibility of receiving Qatari assistance and the potential UN role in facilitating it. Serry said he made it clear to Hamdallah that he would only be able to be of assistance if Israel, the Palestinian Authority and Hamas consent to the move.
"I told [Hamdallah and COGAT officials] what I told the Qataris '' that in order for the UN to get involved we need the agreement of all relevant parties. It is just not true that I wanted us (the UN) to do it without their consent," Serry said.
Serry added that he immediately shared this information with the Israeli authorities in the office of the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, who told him Israel was willing for Qatar to send money to buy fuel in order to ease the energy crisis in the Gaza Strip, but not to pay salaries.
Serry also told Haaretz that he was surprised to hear about Lieberman's plan to declare him persona non grata, saying, "I am perplexed to hear about it first from the media. No Israeli official approached me on this."
On Sunday, Lieberman will convene a meeting of senior Foreign Ministry figures to discuss the possibility of expelling Serry. Despite the fact that such a step is unprecedented not only in Israel but also in any Western nation, Lieberman apparently did not inform Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of his intention to expel the UN envoy.
In the wake of reports of Lieberman's plans, the Prime Minister's Office issued a statement reporting a telephone conversation between Netanyahu and Ban Ki-moon. According to the statement, Netanyahu emphasized to the UN head "that Israel opposes the transfer of funds from Qatar to Hamas."
According to associates of Lieberman, in the event a decision is taken in the Foreign Ministry meeting Sunday morning to expel Serry, the Foreign Ministry will ask for Netanyahu's approval of the move.
The professional staff of the Foreign Ministry is opposed to the measure, which they believe will lead to a serious breach with the UN and to widespread international criticism. Figures in COGAT and the Defense Ministry also expressed opposition to the move. One military official noted that two months ago Lieberman pushed for Serry's expulsion from Israel because of his critical statements, but the Defense Ministry blocked the move.
Meretz Chairwoman Zahava Gal-On called on the prime minister on Sunday to publicly denounce Lieberman's attacks against Serry.
"Lieberman's statements just go to show how reckless it was to leave Israel's foreign policy in the hands of a diplomatic pyromaniac," she said.
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Iraq crisis: As the Sunni terror spreads, its fighters look for wives
Sun, 22 Jun 2014 13:31
''I told them that there were only two women in the house and both were married,'' said Abu Lahid. ''They said that many of their mujahedin [fighters] were unmarried and wanted a wife. They insisted on coming into my house to look at the women's ID cards [which in Iraq show marital status].''
Isis says its men have been ordered not to bother local people if they are Sunni, but in many places they are imposing their puritanical social norms in the towns they have captured. In Mosul people were at first jubilant that Isis had removed the checkpoints that for years had made movement in the city very slow.
Merchants and farmers were ordered to reduce the prices of their goods. But tolerance and moderation on the part of Isis is intermittent and may be temporary. In one case in Mosul a woman was reportedly whipped, along with her husband, because she was only wearing a headscarf rather than the niqqab cloak covering the whole body. In some captured towns fanatical Isis militants start imposing rules about women's clothing, watching TV in coffee shops and cigarette smoking almost before the fighting is ended.
The restraint, or lack of it, shown by Isis has important political implications. When al-Qa'ida in Iraq, the forerunner of Isis, insisted on local women marrying their fighters during the Sunni-Shia civil war between 2004 and 2008, they alienated much of the Sunni community. They killed even minor government employees. ''I would rather have my door kicked in by American soldiers than by al'‘Qa'ida because, with the Americans, I would stand a better chance of staying alive,'' a young Sunni man in Baghdad said at the time. Such feelings enabled the Americans to create Sahwa, an anti-al-Qa'ida force among the Sunni.
On guard: Iraqi Turkmen forces man a checkpoint in the northern city of Tuz Khurmatu Isis could isolate itself again through its brutality and bigotry, though its leaders show signs of recognising where they went wrong last time. Its fighters act as the shock troops of what has turned into a general Sunni uprising, but it is only one part, albeit the most important, of a loose alliance of seven or eight militant Sunni groups that could easily break apart.
For now, it is held together by a common sense of grievance and hatred against Nouri al-Maliki, the Prime Minister, and his government whom it sees as persecuting and marginalising the Sunni community. The departure of Mr Maliki will remove part of the glue holding together the Isis-led Sunni alliance.
Some strains between the Sunni rebel factions are already evident: When the Naqshabandi Army, of which Saddam Hussein's former deputy Izzat al-Douri is titular head, put up posters of Saddam in Mosul, Isis gave them 24 hours to take them down or face the consequences. The Naqshabandi Army did not want a confrontation and complied.
Government television channels try to push the idea that the Sunni coalition is already in disarray, but this is probably premature. In most Sunni towns captured by the insurgents, people say they are more frightened by the return of vengeful government forces than they are by the presence of Isis.
For the moment, the battle lines have steadied north of Baghdad after the blitzkrieg advance of Isis and its allies. The fighting for Baiji refinery has been swaying backwards and forwards for the past five days. Further south, Isis holds Tikrit, though a resident said ''many people are fleeing to Erbil and Sulaimaniyah in Kurdistan because they think that if the Iraqi Army returns, it will shoot everybody indiscriminately''. In Sunni areas Isis is still mopping up resistance: yesterday its fighters captured al-Qaim close to the border with Syria after a fight in which 30 government soldiers were killed.
One aspect of Isis's success receives too little attention. Its prestige has been enhanced across the Sunni world, especially among young Sunni men in bordering countries.
For a decade television in Sunni states has dwelt on the oppression of the Iraqi Sunni and it is undeniable that it was Isis forces that broke Baghdad's dominance over its Sunni minority. Isis successes may already be having an impact in Syria, where its fighters have overrun the headquarters of the Western-backed Free Syrian Army in Deir Ezzor province in the north-east of the country.
In the mainly Shia city of Baghdad, there is terror of Isis breaking through and conducting a general massacre. It is noticeable that Isis has not activated its cells in Sunni enclaves and there have, by Baghdad standards, been few bombs. It may be that Isis is over-stretched, but it could be waiting for its fighters advancing from the north to get closer to the capital before activating its cells inside the city.
Sunni and Shia in the capital are both worried for a further reason. The government has handed over security in many parts of Baghdad to militiamen who have been setting up their own checkpoints. Some belong to Asa'ib Ahl al-Haq, a splinter group from the Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr's movements, who are well-armed and wear black. There are other militias such as Ketaeb Hezbollah, no relation to the Lebanese movement of that name, who wear a green uniform like the army. Both these militias carry more authority than regular soldiers and the police, many of the latter melting away and staying at home.
Baghdadis consider these militias as semi-criminal groups quite capable of kidnapping likely targets for ransom at their checkpoints. Asa'ib Ahl al-Haq is seen as being under the influence of Mr Maliki and the Iranians but its men act generally in their own interests.
The strength of the militias was on display yesterday in Sadr City, the stronghold of the movement led by Mr Sadr. Twenty thousand armed men were paraded with heavy weapons such as machine guns, multiple rocket launchers and missiles as well as assault rifles. Mr Sadr has pledged that these militia will only act in defence of the Shia shrines in Samarra, Baghdad, Karbala and Najaf, but the state's inability to defend these holy sites illustrates how far its authority has withered in the past two weeks.
The military situation remains fluid. ''My bet is that the government will not be able to retake Mosul, but Isis will not be able to keep it long-term,'' said an Iraqi political analyst who did not want to be named. He argued that Mosul was a traditional and nationalist city and not a particularly religious one, so Isis will ultimately be evicted by its people.
That may be so, but Isis has proved by its ferocity that it is difficult to dislodge once in power. In its Syrian capital at Raqqa on the Euphrates it publicly crucified young men who had started an armed resistance movement to oppose it.
ISIS mocks Michelle Obama with cruel photoshop of #bringbackourgirls tweet.
Fri, 20 Jun 2014 04:39
Last month Michelle Obama and other celebrities posted tweets of themselves holding signs asking the Nigerian army to #bringbackourgirlsObama did not begin the campaign to get rescue the 275 girls who were abducted by Islamic militant group Boko Haram, but she became the face of the initiative after she spoke out in support of itSupporters of the radical Islamic group terrorizing Iraq are now trolling the White House with #bringbackourhumvee tweetsThe tweets refer to American-made vehicles and weapons seized by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria last week after the Iraqi army retreatedBy Francesca Chambers
Published: 17:09 EST, 18 June 2014 | Updated: 00:32 EST, 19 June 2014
Supporters of the Islamic extremist group ransacking Iraq were seen mocking the White House's hashtag diplomacy with #bringbackourhumvee tweets early this morning.
Middle East and North America photo manager for the Agence France-Presse Patrick Baz said in a tweet that he had seen the #bringbackourhumvee meme on websites and twitter accounts supporting terrorist group Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
The hashtag is a play on the #bringbackourgirls campaign to rescue the 276 Nigerian girls being held captive in Nigeria by Islamic militant group Boko Haram.
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Supporters of the radical Islamic group overtaking Iraq are trolling the White House with #bringbackourhumvee tweets
First Lady Michelle Obama did not start the #bringbackourgirls campaign but she became the face of the initiative after she tweeted this photo last month
First lady Michelle Obama did not start the Bring back Our Girls initiative, but she became the face of the crusade after she tweeted a photo of herself holding up a sign that said #bringbackourgirls and used her husband's weekly address to make case for military intervention by the Nigerian army.
The Nigerian girls never were rescued despite high profile displays of support for military intervention from the first lady and celebrities like Amy Poehler.
Tweets trolling the White House with #bringbackourhumvee refer to a truck of American-made humvees ISIS reportedly confiscated last week in Iraq.
ISIS happened upon the humvees as well as bulldozers, tanks, helicopters and weapons that were left behind by the Iraqi troops when they retreated from their posts as insurgents took the city of Mosul.
The International Business Times reported last Thursday that the terrorist group had transported the humvees and other materials it had captured to Syria, where it is also at war with that country's government.
Photos of the humvees being captured that were posted to twitter could not be verified but the pictures are consistent with reports coming out of the region.
This image made from a video posted by Iraqi0Revolution, a group supporting the al Qaeda breakaway Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) on Wednesday, June 12, 2014, which has been verified and is consistent with other AP reporting, shows a militant standing in front of a burning Iraqi Army Humvee in Tikrit, Iraq
ISIS militants in Mosul stamp on Iraqi military uniforms
The first lady has become increasingly involved in policy making decisions at the White House. Today she advocated for comprehensive immigration reform at a special naturalization ceremony at the National Archives in Washington, D.C.
First Lady Michelle Obama congratulates a new U.S citizen after a naturalization ceremony for 50 new U.S. citizens held today in Washington, D.C.
At the time of the seizure, the U.S. had made no moves to prevent the terrorist group from taking any more ground, and the president had made it clear that he would not send U.S. forces in to defend the Iraqis.
Since then the president has sent the USS George H.W. Bush aircraft carrier with its usual battleship escort, USS Mesa Verde, an amphibious transport ship that can carry 550 marines and helicopters, as well as 275 armed military personal into Bagdhad to protect State Department personnel and American assets as they are moved to safer locations.
The U.S. has not engaged the opposition militarily, and the president is still mulling whether he wants to order air strikes on their strongholds. This afternoon the president sent in armed F-18 fighter jets to do surveillance.
Meanwhile, the battle between the Iraqi army and ISIS blazed on as the terrorist group attacked the country's largest oil refinery on Tuesday night, setting it aflame.
As of Wednesday afternoon they had reached the town of Baquba, less than 40 miles north of Iraq's capitol city, Baghdad.
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The Nigerian schoolgirl hostages the world has forgotten | Mail Online
Sat, 21 Jun 2014 22:11
Published: 16:17 EST, 20 June 2014 | Updated: 18:05 EST, 20 June 2014
These are the names and faces of some of the more than 200 Nigerian girls who were abducted from their school dormitories eight weeks ago.
Each girl has a story, a future they had planned, a family anxiously waiting for them at home.
I was shown these pictures after visiting Nigeria this week. I met the leader of the community council in Chibok, the town from which the girls were abducted.
Slowly and with tears in his eyes, he flicked through a file in which he had recorded the names and photographs of the girls.
Gordon Brown was shown these pictures after visiting Nigeria this week. He met the leader of the community council in Chibok, the town from which the girls were abducted. Slowly and with tears in his eyes, he flicked through a file in which he had recorded the names and photographs of the girls
Not even the police and Army have managed to compile such detail he has amassed from talking to the parents of the kidnapped teenagers.
The file has 185 pages '-- one for every girl. Each page has a photograph, and beside each passport-sized picture some stark facts '-- the girl's name, her school grade and the date of abduction. For the other 19 abducted girls, he has yet to locate photographs. He will.
The community leader and the girls' families have given permission for their names and photographs to be put into the public domain so the world is reminded of the missing girls. He is being helped to publicise this by Arise TV chief Nduka Obaigbena.
The file has 185 pages - one for every girl. Each page has a photograph, and beside each passport-sized picture some stark facts - the girl's name, her school grade and the date of abduction
There is also a file on the 53 girls who escaped by running for their lives from their Boko Haram kidnappers.
I have spoken to three who fled. All want to be doctors and work as medical helpers in their communities.
But for now, their lives are on hold.
They are unable to finish their exams, unable to find a safe place to study near home and are still in fear of another attack from Boko Haram. They have lost a year of their schooling and they are traumatised by the kidnapping of their friends.
For a teenage girl, eight weeks in captivity could have life-time consequences '-- and for their families it is torture. The idea that your daughter should go to school one day and never return is every parent's nightmare. Not to know whether they have been molested, trafficked or are even alive is a living hell.
These girls were abducted for the sole reason that their captors believe that girls have no right to an education.
These girls were abducted for the sole reason that their captors believe that girls have no right to an education. Above, a still from a video released by Boko Haram of the teenagers in captivity
Boko Haram demands prisoner swap for kidnapped girls
Yet this civil rights struggle is being fought out, brutally and '-- for most of the time '-- shamefully unobserved.
On one side, terrorists, murderers, rapists and cowards, hell-bent on acts of depravity. On the other, defiant, relentless, brave-beyond-comprehension young girl-heroes and boy-heroes desperately fighting for a future but, sadly, in a world largely oblivious to their plight.
In Britain and in the United States, we do find out. We do learn about abuse and horror from across the globe and we do react. But it's often too late, and then, inevitably, it's always too little. We should not fail young people, but it seems like we always do.
But we can't forget. We owe them. We can't give up because they won't have given up.
Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau in a video he sent taunting the Nigerian government over the kidnapping of the girls from their boarding school dormitory in April
During the past eight weeks, the world's attention has been drawn to India, where a gang raped and then hanged two girls seen as property to be passed around 28 Indian youths.
There has also been public outrage at the death sentence over a young Sudanese mother simply because a woman is considered to have no right to her own religion.
And this week, in Iraq, extreme Islamists are fighting for demands that include changing the constitution to legalise marriage for girls as young as eight.
The killings, the rapes, the mutilations, the trafficking and the abductions shock western eyes because the assaults seem so out of the ordinary.
However, they are not isolated incidents, but part of a pattern where the violation of girls is commonplace. A pattern where girls' rights are still only what rulers decree and where girls' opportunities are no more than what patriarchs decide.
Consider this. This week, and every week, at least 200,000 school-age girls in Africa and Asia '-- many just ten, 11, 12 or 13 years old '-- will be married off against their will because they have no rights that can stop this occurring.
Thousands more will be subjected to genital mutilation because they have no power to stop a practice designed to make them acceptable as child-brides and for adolescent childbirth.
And girls as young as eight, nine and ten will be in full'‘time work, down mines, in factories, working the fields and in domestic service. Many will be trafficked into prostitution as part of a subterranean world of slave labour.
They are children who have a right to be at school. Today, almost 70 years after the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, we are in the midst of a liberation struggle that has yet to establish every girl's right to life, education and dignity.
It is girls themselves who are doing more than the adults to demand their rights. A few weeks ago I spoke to 2,000 girls in Pakistan, where, in 2012, schoolgirl Malala Yousafzai was shot in the head by Taliban gunmen after speaking up for the right of girls to be educated.
I had found girls who were angry but cowed into submission.
A few weeks ago Gordon Brown spoke to 2,000 girls in Pakistan, where, in 2012, schoolgirl Malala Yousafzai was shot in the head by Taliban gunmen after speaking up for the right of girls to be educated. She is pictured above addressing an assembly before receiving the Amnesty International Ambassador of Conscience Award for 2013
I found that they are a vociferous campaigning group, determined not to allow Pakistan to fail to educate girls. But they need the world to see their freedom fight.
There is an old saying that I don't agree with but goes along the lines of 'children should be seen and not heard'. It should be rewritten.
The girls and boys I have encountered in Nigeria, Pakistan and a hundred other countries need to be heard. They need to be heard loudly. They need to be heard often. Only then will the world listen.
Pictures: Courtesy of This Day/Arise News, Sky Channel 519.
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Kurdistan defies Baghdad and delivers a million barrels of oil to Israel - Quartz
Sun, 22 Jun 2014 03:47
In a step that cements the impression of a de facto independent Kurdistan, a million barrels of Kurdish oil were delivered to a client in Israel today, despite threats by Baghdad to sue anyone buying it. The US government, fearing another blow to embattled Baghdad, had also worked to prevent anyone from buying the oil.
Reuters broke the story in a scoop, followed a few hours later by a statement on the Kurdish government website. ''We are proud of this milestone achievement, which was accomplished despite almost three weeks of intimidation and baseless interferences from Baghdad against the tanker-ship owners and the related international traders and buyers.''
The fate of another million-barrel tanker'--the United Leadership, which embarked with Kurdish oil on May 22'--remains unclear. But the delivery today in the Israeli port of Ashkelon ends a 10-day drama that began June 20, when a million barrels of oil were loaded onto a tanker called the United Emblem. In an apparent diversionary tactic, four days later near Malta, the oil was transferred to the SCF Altai, another tanker. All the while, Baghdad treated the oil shipment as an attack on its sovereignty and said it might sue Turkey and file an arbitration request with the United Nations. American officials, meanwhile, warned potential buyers to stay away from it.
That the oil has been sold and delivered confirms the viability of an independent economic lifeline for Kurdistan'--a dedicated oil export route through Turkey to the Mediterranean port of Ceyhan. That lifeline offers the potential for political survival.
An independent Kurdistan could be a devastating development for the Iraqi state and a blow to the 1916 Sykes-Picot Agreement establishing the boundaries of the Middle East. But it would be a triumphant moment for the Kurds themselves, after more than a century seeking nationhood.
In a note to clients prior to the story breaking, Citi's Seth Kleinman said that the Kurds' capture of Kirkuk on June 14, along with the weakened state of Baghdad and the sale of pipeline crude, had suggested ''significant strides'' toward de facto independence. ''In our view, the final obstacle to de jure independence remains the lack of international support for a Kurdish state, particularly from Turkey, upon which such a state's economic viability rests as the sole viable route to market oil.''
Kleinman said that if Baghdad continues to resist settling a long dispute over the sharing of oil revenue, ''the option of independence may gain support from the international community, including regional powers, raising the likelihood of its eventuality.''
The Kurds, meanwhile, have looked to build upon their gains by loading two more tankers with oil at Ceyhan'--one of them the United Emblem.
Half-Price Kurd Oil Threatens Iraq Breakup With Turkish Help Who Are Making A Killing
Fri, 20 Jun 2014 04:40
June 18 (Bloomberg) -- In today's ''Global Outlook,'' Abhishek Deshpande, oil markets analyst at Natixis, discusses the capture of Iraq's largest oil refinery by ISIL insurgents and how it impacts oil production in Iraq and the global oil market. He speaks on Bloomberg Television's ''The Pulse.''
A tanker containing a million barrels of crude oil is floating around the Mediterranean, and any buyer will be helping Iraq's Kurds to win greater independence.
The oil aboard is available at half-price, an official involved in the trade told Bloomberg, an assertion denied by the Kurdish administration. It's at the center of a fight over ownership between the semi-autonomous region of Kurdistan, which pumped and shipped the crude from its territory in northern Iraq, and the central government in Baghdad, which claims the rights to all oil revenue.
Kurdish Peshmerga armed forces took control of northern Iraq's key oil hub, Kirkuk, after militant Islamists routed the Baghdad government's army last week. The oil dispute has raised the possibility of the Kurdish region achieving financial self-sufficiency to go with the expanding territory.
''If that tanker docks, Iraq's Kurdistan Regional Government will take an important step toward independence,'' Nihat Ali Ozcan, an analyst at the Economic Policy Research Foundation in Ankara, said by phone on June 13.
The KRG says the oil exports are in line with the Iraqi constitution. ''We do not view this issue as a path towards Kurdistan's independence, but rather as the expression of our constitutional rights,'' KRG Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani said on June 4.
Photographer: Emrah Yorulmaz/Anadolu Agency via Getty ImagesKurdish peshmerga forces keep guard around Tal Afar of Mosul where ISIL, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, took hold on June 17, 2014. Close
Kurdish peshmerga forces keep guard around Tal Afar of Mosul where ISIL, the Islamic... Read More
OpenPhotographer: Emrah Yorulmaz/Anadolu Agency via Getty ImagesKurdish peshmerga forces keep guard around Tal Afar of Mosul where ISIL, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, took hold on June 17, 2014.
Turkey's RoleTurkey, the conduit for the Kurdish oil, also sees Kurdish crude oil exports through its Mediterranean port of Ceyhan as ''entirely legitimate'' and will continue as long as oil is sold, Turkey's Energy Minister Taner Yildiz said in an interview in Moscow today. The next shipment is scheduled for June 22, he said at the World Petroleum Congress.
''At the moment, 100,000 barrels to 120,000 barrels of oil flow from northern Iraq per day,'' Yildiz said. ''About 2.3 million barrels of oil are stored in Ceyhan.''
Iraq's Deputy Prime Minister Hussain al-Shahristani said on Iraqiya television on June 17 that Turkey and the KRG are mistaken if they're calculating that the current chaos in Iraq will leave the Baghdad government unable to defend its interests.
''The Iraqi people won't forget those who conspired against them during tough times,'' al-Shahristani said. ''Turkey should be aware that this is like playing with fire. This is plundering the wealth of Iraq.''
U.S. MediationBrett McGurk, the deputy assistant secretary of state for Near East affairs, reiterated U.S. opposition to any oil exports that aren't approved by Baghdad. The U.S. has ''informed all interested parties that any such transactions exposes them to potential legal risks,'' and proposed a compromise plan to both sides, he wrote on Twitter on May 23.
Photographer: Onur Coban/Anadolu Agency/Getty ImagesKurdish Peshmerga forces stand guard in Kirkuk. Close
Kurdish Peshmerga forces stand guard in Kirkuk.
OpenPhotographer: Onur Coban/Anadolu Agency/Getty ImagesKurdish Peshmerga forces stand guard in Kirkuk.
As the Kurds went ahead with pumping the oil, the Baghdad government announced it was suspending the accord under which 17 percent of all oil revenue goes to the Kurdish authorities in their regional capital, Erbil.
''The U.S. failed totally to mediate between Erbil and Baghdad on this issue,'' and their standoff has now sparked ''growing U.S. fears that Kurdistan is headed for independence,'' David Ottaway, senior scholar in the Middle East program at the Wilson Center in Washington, said June 10.
Oil PriceThe violence in Iraq since last week has amplified such concerns and pushed oil prices higher. Brent crude posted the biggest jump in almost a year last week. It rose above $115 a barrel in London today, reaching a nine-month high.
Militants of the Sunni Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant seized Mosul, the largest northern city, on June 10 and have captured other towns. As Baghdad's armed forces fled, the Kurds advanced into Kirkuk, which they've long claimed should be part of their autonomous region. Exxon Mobil Corp. (XOM), BP Plc (BP/) and Turkey's state oil company TPAO began removing employees from Iraq, OPEC's second-largest oil producer, as the insurgents attempted to capture a major refinery.
Even without Kirkuk, the Kurdish region has crude reserves it estimates at 45 billion barrels, a quarter of Iraq's total. Since the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, the KRG has claimed the right to handle shipments from its territory.
In 2004, a year after the U.S. invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein, the KRG struck an agreement with the central government in Baghdad to share oil revenue. The deal left key questions unresolved, including the fate of Kirkuk and how to share untapped oil fields.
Turkish StorageSince 2011, KRG has attracted four big oil companies -- Chevron Corp. (CVX), Exxon Mobil Corp., Hess Corp. (HES) and Total SA (FP) -- as well as 30 or so smaller ones. Tony Hayward, chief executive office of Genel Energy Plc (GENL), the biggest oil and gas operator in Kurdistan, was among those who risked the wrath of the Iraqi government to truck Kurdish oil to Turkey.
Trucks have been superseded since January by a new Kurdish link to the main northern pipeline, which runs from Kirkuk to Turkey's Mediterranean oil terminal at Ceyhan. Turkey agreed to handle the shipment and store it separately from the main Iraqi crude. It allocated seven of 12 storage tanks at Ceyhan for Kurdish oil.
The Iraqi government initiated legal action against Turkey, taking the case to the International Chamber of Commerce in Paris. Asim Jihad, an Iraqi oil ministry spokesman, said a lawsuit has also been filed domestically against the KRG's Ministry of Natural Resources.
Higher FeesThe fees Turkey collects from the Kurds are four times higher than what Baghdad pays, according to an official involved in the transactions, who asked not to be identified because the figures aren't public.
''Turkey has nothing to do with marketing of oil from northern Iraq, its price or to which country it is sold,'' Turkey's Yildiz said. ''Our responsibility is limited with shipment and we're relaying all documents regarding it to the central government.''
On May 22, the first of two tankers filled with the disputed oil left the Ceyhan terminal with 1 million barrels for Europe.
Then it appeared to be bound for the Americas as a concerted Iraqi government effort to block its passage led to the tanker turning around on May 30 after getting almost 200 miles across the Atlantic Ocean. The tanker moored about 5 miles off Mohammedia port in Morocco on June 3.
Lower PriceAs the search for a customer dragged on, the Kurds lowered the price to $56 per barrel as of June 11, according to the same official.
''The KRG would never consider exporting and selling the natural resources of Iraq at 'half price,' either now or in the future,'' the Ministry of Natural Resources said in a statement in response to this story. ''Despite all the blackmail and threats by SOMO and the Ministry of Oil in Baghdad, the KRG has been able to deliver oil to its customers under commercially viable contracts, and all payments are being made into the KRG's account in Turkey.''
Iraq's oil ministry and the state oil-marketing company SOMO have been urging potential buyers to shun the cargo, and threatening legal action. SOMO estimates it is losing $1.2 billion a month in revenue from Kurdish shipments.
The Iraqi government has not been able to send oil to Ceyhan since March 2, when Islamic militants sabotaged the oil pipeline outside Mosul. Last year, it managed to export 13 million tons of oil out of a 71 million-ton carrying capacity, said the official involved in the trade.
Baghdad BlacklistUnder threat of legal action from Iraq the shipping agent Boutros, and cargo inspector Saybolt, which handled the first oil cargo from northern Iraq, were not listed for handling a second tanker. The KRG found a replacement in Palmali Shipping & Agency JSC, owned by Turkish-Azeri tycoon Mubariz Mansimov Gurbanoglu.
When the second ship left Ceyhan on June 9, the Iraqi government sent another protest note to Turkish officials and blacklisted Palmali, saying it will pursue the matter in court.
''The fact is that with this much oil now flowing onto the international market from Kurdistan, with Turkey's help, sooner or later it will find buyers,'' said Ottaway.
Energy companies operating in the Kurdish region have struggled to get paid as the authority feuds with Iraq's central government over oil revenue and contract terms. United Arab Emirates-based DANA Gas PJSC (DANA) was forced to restructure about $900 million of Islamic bonds last year after payment delays in Kurdistan and Egypt, its two main areas of production.
Two more tankers will load Kurdish oil at Ceyhan this week, Ashti Hawrami, the KRG's natural resources minister, said at a conference in London on June 17. Kurdish exports may double to as much as 250,000 barrels a day next month, he said. ''Despite all the unfair treatment and discrimination, the KRG reaches out to Iraq and is ready to cooperate, to work together to resolve these problems.''
To contact the reporters on this story: Selcan Hacaoglu in Ankara at shacaoglu@bloomberg.net; Jack Fairweather in Boston at jfairweathe3@bloomberg.net; Nayla Razzouk in Dubai at nrazzouk2@bloomberg.net
To contact the editors responsible for this story: Alaa Shahine at asalha@bloomberg.net Ben Holland, Mark Williams
MNR refutes inaccurate and harmful report about KRG oil sales by Bloomberg news agency
Sun, 22 Jun 2014 03:50
THU, 19 JUN 2014 21:09| KRG.orgStatement by Ministry of Natural Resources
Erbil, Kurdistan Region, Iraq (MNR.KRG.org) - The Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) is surprised and disappointed that Bloomberg news agency should see fit to publish a story about Kurdistan Regional Government oil sales that is full of inaccuracies, half-truths and highly partisan comment.
The article, titled Half-Price Kurdish Oil Threatens Iraq Breakup With Turkish Help, was published by Bloomberg on June 19. Bloomberg later changed the inaccurate headline following our complaint, but insisted on reporting as fact its false claim that the KRG is offering crude oil at half price.
At a time of great tension for Iraq, such shoddy reporting, analysis and editorialising seems calculated to cause further division and mistrust, and could also harm the financial interests of the KRG and Iraq.
Before publication, Bloomberg made no attempt to contact KRG officials for comment or verification. Bloomberg framed the story and used quotes and language in such a way as to accuse the KRG and Turkey of trying to break up Iraq and steal Iraq's money.
The KRG would never consider exporting and selling the natural resources of Iraq at "half price,'' either now or in the future, as is alleged by an anonymous source quoted by Bloomberg and which supplies the lurid headline.
The KRG sells oil through the pipeline to Ceyhan on an international commercial market basis and unlike SOMO (the State Oil Marketing 'ŽOrganisation, which claims an illegal monopoly over Iraq's oil sales), it is able to deliver cargoes to its customers on its own vessels.
Despite all the blackmail and threats by SOMO and the Ministry of Oil in Baghdad, the KRG has been able to deliver oil to its customers under commercially viable contracts, and all payments are being made into the KRG's account in Turkey.
Export volumes are expected to double within the next weeks.
The KRG-managed export process is legal, constitutional and irreversible and the revenues will benefit the people of the Kurdistan Region and Iraq, helping to spread economic development, which is vital for security and stability.
The KRG conducts its business on a transparent basis with the required documentation of surveys, quantity and quality documentation being undertaken by internationally accepted practitioners. The KRG has repeatedly invited officials from SOMO to observe the sales process.
The KRG has always argued that the key to Iraq's unity is power-sharing and revenue-sharing as is demanded by the Constitution of 2005. KRG oil sales are conducted within the framework of the Constitution and the Region's Oil and Gas Law of 2007, which according to Articles 115 and 121 of the Constitution, supersedes the antiquated legal provisions on oil used by Baghdad.
The export activities fall within the Kurdistan Region's 17 percent entitlement of the federal Iraqi budget.
That budget has been illegally withheld by the federal Prime Minister, Nuri al Maliki at a time when the Peshmerga forces are helping all Iraqis by fighting the scourge of terrorism.
The KRG is currently owed billions of dollars by the federal government and has been forced to borrow money on the international market and accelerate the oil sales process in order to preserve peace and stability.
Nevertheless the KRG remains open to dialogue with officials in Baghdad, whomever they may be, to resolve all outstanding issues on oil and gas within the framework of the Constitution.
'The policy of centralisation and discrimination have put Iraq's future at risk,' said Natural Resources Minister Ashti Hawrami at the CWC Iraq Petroleum Conference in London on 'ŽJune 17.'Ž ''As of last week (following the crisis in Mosul) there is a new Iraq. Iraq needs power-sharing, revenue-sharing and adherence to the constitution. Otherwise we will have more chaos in Iraq.'
The KRG expects international news agencies such as Bloomberg to treat such complex and sensitive issues as the management of Iraq's oil and gas resources with professional detachment and skill, and for its reporters and editors to be aware of the Constitutional issues, to check facts, to not publish damaging claims by unnamed sources, to avoid editorialising, and to allow opportunities to counter any false allegations made before publication.
Hunt Oil Company - International Operations
Sun, 22 Jun 2014 03:44
Hunt Oil Company currently oversees a wide and geographically diverse group of exploration, production and development activities in Peru, Yemen, Canada, Australia, Romania and a number of other countries in South America, Europe and the Middle East.While the majority of the company's activities are the result of internal prospect generation, we remain open to participation in opportunities generated by others that are consistent with our operating philosophy and meet our technical and economic criteria.
Continued Expansion of International Exploration
Hunt Oil Company is continually expanding its international portfolio, conducting exploratory drilling operations in a variety of climactic conditions, both onshore and offshore, with current and former operations in countries as diverse as Argentina; Australia; Canada; Chile; Ethiopia; France; Ghana; Guyana; Kurdistan, Iraq; Laos; Madagascar; Namibia; Niger; Oman; Peru; Portugal; Romania; Togo; the United Kingdom; and Yemen.
Former OperationsArgentina; Chile; Ethiopia; France; Ghana; Guyana, Laos; Madagascar; Namibia; Niger; Oman; Portugal; Togo; the United Kingdom; and Yemen.
Current OperationsAustralia; Canada; Italy; Kurdistan, Iraq; Peru; Romania; and Yemen.
The Hunt Oil Company International Exploration and Production personnel have experience throughout the world. In addition to our headquarters staff in Dallas, we have international offices in Australia, Canada, Yemen, Peru, Romania and Kurdistan, Iraq.
Gazprom Neft Begins Production In Iraq | EPC Engineer
Sat, 21 Jun 2014 22:39
On 31 May, Gazprom Neft began production at the Badra oilfield in Iraq. The central gathering station (CGS) is currently undergoing complex testing of its crude oil processing system. Testing will be completed in three months once enough oil has been accumulated for commercial production to begin. The Badra field will then be ready to reach planned production levels of 15 thousand barrels per day.
New infrastructure for the field's commercial development has been put in place. The CGS's first line has been constructed with a capacity of 60 thousand barrels per day and in March 2014 the Badra field was connected to the 165''kilometre-long main Iraqi oil pipeline system.
Production in the field will reach its peak of 170 thousand barrels per day (around 8.5 million tonnes per year) in 2017 and then remain the same for a period of 7 years.
Vadim Yakovlev, First Deputy CEO of Gazprom Neft said:
''Development at the Badra field is one of Gazprom Neft's first international assets in oil production. We launched this project from scratch and over a short period of time have completed all of the complex work necessary for the industrial development of the Badra field. The experience of being an operator on this project has further strengthened Gazprom Neft's expertise, which will contribute to work on other new projects, for example in the Near East and other regions where the company is exploring opportunities for further development.''
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Two Palestinians shot dead in Israeli search operation for missing teens
Sun, 22 Jun 2014 13:32
A Palestinian teenager, 15, was shot dead by IDF forces during rioting in the West Bank village of Dura early on Friday. The hospital in Hebron said that the youth, Jihad Mohammed Dodin, was killed by gunshot wounds to his chest. A preliminary investigation of the incident showed that a paratrooper company commander encountered severe public disturbances and crowd control measures were of no avail. He then ordered the use of live fire.
Another Palestinian, aged 22, was critically hurt by IDF gunfire in clashes near the Qalandiyah checkpoint. He was transferred to the government hospital in Ramallah and later to the intensive care unit at Hadassah hospital in Jerusalem, but died of his wounds, according to Palestinian sources.
Starting mid-day on Friday, large IDF forces swept through areas north of Hebron, in search of three Israeli teenagers, kidnapped Thursday from the Gush Etzion Junction in the West Bank. The area north of Hebron was declared a closed military zone.
On Friday night Israeli troops arrested at least 10 Palestinians in the West Bank. Forces raided 15 charities and 146 homes. The closed military zone decree for the area north of Hebron remained in effect. Palestinian sources reported 37 arrests, 20 of them in Bethlehem, 11 in Hebron, 3 in Jenin and 3 in Jericho.
The IDF arrested a total of 25 Palestinians, including arrests at the Deheishe refugee camp by the Nachal Brigade, by the paratrooper brigade in Dura and by the Kfir Brigade in villages north of Ramallah. That brought the total number of arrests made since the kidnapping to 355.
Following the firing of two rockets into Israel on Thursday night, the air force attacked two launchers in the northern Gaza Strip, as well a 'center of terrorist activity' in the center and a warehouse in the southern part of the Strip. Gaza sources reported six light injuries, including four children. These sources also reported damage to civilian warehouses.
On Friday morning a rocket exploded near a road in the Hof Ashkelon local authority. There were no injuries and only slight damage to the road.
Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon and Chief of Staff Benny Ganz visited special police force units and units of the General Staff's reconnaissance unit, Sayeret Matkal on Friday. Ya'alon said that the working hypothesis was that the abducted teens were still alive, until proven otherwise. ''We've started to extract a steep price from Hamas in Judea and Samaria, much more painful than aerial attacks. We're causing serious damage to their civilian infrastructure. We won't cease until we assess that we've maximized our gains.''
The two also visited a training facility at Central Command, and Ya'alon said there that the army's operations would continue even after the abductors are found and the teens released. Gantz added that, ''we have been operating for a week, mainly trying to locate the kidnappers and their victims, but also trying to damage Hamas, which we see as being behind this incident. The operation will continue as long as it has to.''
Three Jewish minors were detained by the Judea and Samaria police for throwing rocks and a fire bomb at a Palestinian car. One of the three attends the same seminary as two of the kidnaped youths. The three confessed to the deed.
The Sino-Russian Alliance: Challenging America's Ambitions in Eurasia | Global Research
Sat, 21 Jun 2014 03:14
''But if the middle space [Russia and the former Soviet Union] rebuffs the West [the European Union and America], becomes an assertive single entity, and either gains control over the South [Middle East] or forms an alliance with the major Eastern actor [China], then America's primacy in Eurasia shrinks dramatically. The same would be the case if the two major Eastern players were somehow to unite. Finally, any ejection of America by its Western partners [the Franco-German entente] from its perch on the western periphery [Europe] would automatically spell the end of America's participation in the game on the Eurasian chessboard, even though that would probably also mean the eventual subordination of the western extremity to a revived player occupying the middle space [e.g. Russia].''
-Zbigniew Brzezinski (The Grand Chessboard: American Primacy and Its Geostrategic Imperatives, 1997)
Sir Isaac Newton's Third Law of Motion states that ''for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.'' These precepts of physics can also be used in the social sciences, specifically with reference to social relations and geo-politics.
America and Britain, the Anglo-American alliance, have engaged in an ambitious project to control global energy resources. Their actions have resulted in a series of complicated reactions, which have established a Eurasian-based coalition which is preparing to challenge the Anglo-American axis.
Encircling Russia and China: Anglo-American Global Ambitions Backfire
''Today we are witnessing an almost uncontained hyper use of force'--military force '--in international relations, force that is plunging the world into an abyss of permanent conflicts. As a result we do not have sufficient strength to find a comprehensive solution to any one of these conflicts. Finding a political settlement also becomes impossible. We are seeing a greater and greater disdain for the basic principles of international law. And independent legal norms are, as a matter of fact, coming increasingly closer to one state's legal system. One state and, of course, first and foremost the United States, has overstepped its national borders in every way.''
-Vladimir Putin at the Munich Conference on Security Policy in Germany (February 11, 2007)
What American leaders and officials called the ''New World Order'' is what the Chinese and Russians consider a ''Unipolar World.'' This is the vision or hallucination, depending on perspective, that has bridged the Sino-Russian divide between Beijing and Moscow.
China and Russia are well aware of the fact that they are targets of the Anglo-American alliance. Their mutual fears of encirclement have brought them together. It is no accident that in the same year that NATO bombarded Yugoslavia, President Jiang Zemin of China and President Boris Yeltsin of Russia made an anticipated joint declaration at a historic summit in December of 1999 that revealed that China and the Russian Federation would join hands to resist the ''New World Order.'' The seeds for this Sino-Russian declaration were in fact laid in 1996 when both sides declared that they opposed the global imposition of single-state hegemony.
Both Jiang Zemin and Boris Yeltsin stated that all nation-states should be treated equally, enjoy security, respect each other's sovereignty, and most importantly not interfere in the internal affairs of other nation-states. These statements were directed at the U.S. government and its partners.
The Chinese and Russians also called for the establishment of a more equitable economic and political global order. Both nations also indicated that America was behind separatist movements in their respective countries. They also underscored American-led amibitions to balkanize and finlandize the nation-states of Eurasia. Influential Americans such as Zbigniew Brzezinski had already advocated for de-centralizing and eventually dividing up the Russian Federation.
Both the Chinese and Russians issued a statement warning that the creation of an international missile shield and the contravention of the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty (ABM Treaty) would destabilize the international environment and polarize the globe. In 1999, the Chinese and Russians were aware of what was to come and the direction that America was headed towards. In June 2002, less than a year before the onslaught of the ''Global War on Terror,'' George W. Bush Jr. announced that the U.S. was withdrawing from the ABM Treaty.
On July 24, 2001, less than two months before September 11, 2001, China and Russia signed the Treaty of Good-Neighbourliness and Friendly Cooperation. The latter is a softly worded mutual defence pact against the U.S., NATO, and the U.S. sponsored Asian military network which was surrounding China. [1]
The military pact of the Shanghai Treaty Organization (SCO) also follows the same softly worded format. It is also worth noting that Article 12 of the 2001 Sino-Russian bilateral treaty stipulates that China and Russia will work together to maintain the global strategic balance, ''observation of the basic agreements relevant to the safeguard and maintenance of strategic stability,'' and ''promote the process of nuclear disarmament.'' [2] This seems to be an insinuation about a nuclear threat posed from the United States.
Standing in the Way of America and Britain: A ''Chinese-Russian-Iranian Coalition''
As a result of the Anglo-American drive to encircle and ultimately dismantle China and Russia, Moscow and Beijing have joined ranks and the SCO has slowly evolved and emerged in the heart of Eurasia as a powerful international body.
The main objectives of the SCO are defensive in nature. The economic objectives of the SCO are to integrate and unite Eurasian economies against the economic and financial onslaught and manipulation from the ''Trilateral'' of North America, Western Europe, and Japan, which controls significant portions of the global economy.
The SCO charter was also created, using Western national security jargon, to combat ''terrorism, separatism, and extremism.'' Terrorist activities, separatist movements, and extremist movements in Russia, China, and Central Asia are all forces traditionally nurtured, funded, armed, and covertly supported by the British and the U.S. governments. Several separatist and extremist groups that have destabilized SCO members even have offices in London.
Iran, India, Pakistan, and Mongolia are all SCO observer members. The observer status of Iran in the SCO is misleading. Iran is a de facto member. The observer status is intended to hide the nature of trilateral cooperation between Iran, Russia, and China so that the SCO cannot be labeled and demonized as an anti-American or anti-Western military grouping.
The stated interests of China and Russia are to ensure the continuity of a ''Multi-Polar World.'' Zbigniew Brzezinski prefigured in his 1997 book The Grand Chessboard: American Primacy and the Geostrategic Imperatives and warned against the creation or ''emergence of a hostile [Eurasian-based] coalition that could eventually seek to challenge America's primacy.'' [3] He also called this potential Eurasian coalition an '''antihegemonic' alliance'' that would be formed from a ''Chinese-Russian-Iranian coalition'' with China as its linchpin. [4] This is the SCO and several Eurasian groups that are connected to the SCO.
In 1993, Brzezinski wrote ''In assessing China's future options, one has to consider also the possibility that an economically successful and politically self-confident China '-- but one which feels excluded from the global system and which decides to become both the advocate and the leader of the deprived states of the world '-- may decide to pose not only an articulate doctrinal but also a powerful geopolitical challenge to the dominant trilateral world [a reference to the economic front formed by North America, Western Europe, and Japan].'' [5]
Brzezinski warns that Beijing's answer to challenging the global status quo would be the creation of a Chinese-Russian-Iranian coalition: ''For Chinese strategists, confronting the trilateral coalition of America and Europe and Japan, the most effective geopolitical counter might well be to try and fashion a triple alliance of its own, linking China with Iran in the Persian Gulf/Middle East region and with Russia in the area of the former Soviet Union [and Eastern Europe].'' [6] Brzezinski goes on to say that the Chinese-Russian-Iranian coalition, which he moreover calls an ''antiestablishmentarian [anti-establishmentarian] coalition,'' could ''be a potent magnet for other states [e.g., Venezuela] dissatisfied with the [global] status quo.'' [7]
Furthermore, Brzezinski warned in 1997 that ''The most immediate task [for the U.S.] is to make certain that no state or combination of states gains the capacity to expel the United States from Eurasia or even to diminish significantly its decisive arbitration role.'' [8] It may be that his warnings were forgotten, because the U.S. has been repealed from Central Asia and U.S. forces have been evicted from Uzbekistan and Tajikistan.
''Velvet Revolutions'' Backfire in Central Asia
Central Asia was the scene of several British-sponsored and American-sponsored attempts at regime change. The latter were characterised by velvet revolutions similar to the Orange Revolution in Ukraine and the Rose Revolution in Georgia.
These velvet revolutions financed by the U.S. failed in Central Asia, aside from Kyrgyzstan where there had been partial success with the so-called Tulip Revolution.
As a result the U.S. government has suffered major geo-strategic setbacks in Central Asia. All of Central Asia's leaders have distanced themselves from America.
Russia and Iran have also secured energy deals in the region. America's efforts, over several decades, to exert a hegemonic role in Central Asia seem to have been reversed overnight. The U.S. sponsored velvet revolutions have backfired. Relations between Uzbekistan and the U.S. were especially hard hit.
Uzbekistan is under the authoritarian rule of President Islam Karamov. Starting in the second half of the 1990s President Karamov was enticed into bringing Uzbekistan into the fold of the Anglo-American alliance and NATO. When there was an attempt on President Karamov's life, he suspected the Kremlin because of his independent policy stance. This is what led Uzbekistan to leave CSTO. But Islam Karamov, years later, changed his mind as to who was attempting to get rid of him.
According to Zbigniew Brzezinski, Uzbekistan represented a major obstacle to any renewed Russian control of Central Asia and was virtually invulnerable to Russian pressure; this is why it was important to secure Uzbekistan as an American protectorate in Central Asia.
Uzbekistan also has the largest military force in Central Asia. In 1998, Uzbekistan held war games with NATO troops in Uzbekistan. Uzbekistan was becoming heavily militarized in the same manner as Georgia was in the Caucasus. The U.S. gave Uzbekistan huge amounts of financial aid to challenge the Kremlin in Central Asia and also provided training to Uzbek forces.
With the launching of the ''Global War on Terror,'' in 2001, Uzbekistan, an Anglo-American ally, immediately offered bases and military facilities to the U.S. in Karshi-Khanabad.
The leadership of Uzbekistan already knew the direction the ''Global War on Terror'' would take. To the irritation of the Bush Jr. Administration, the Uzbek President formulated a policy of self-reliance. The honeymoon between Uzbekistan and the Anglo-American alliance ended when Washington, D.C. and London contemplated removing Islam Karamov from power. He was a little too independent for their comfort and taste. Their attempts at removing the Uzbek President failed, leading eventually to a shift in geo-political alliances.
The tragic events of Andijan on May 13, 2005 were the breaking point between Uzbekistan and the Anglo-American alliance. The people of Andijan were incited into confronting the Uzbek authorities, which resulted in a heavy security clampdown on the protesters and a loss of lives.
Armed groups were reported to have been involved. In the U.S., Britain, and the E.U., the media reports focused narrowly on human rights violations without mentioning the covert role of the Anglo-American alliance. Uzbekistan held Britain and the U.S. responsible accusing them of inciting rebellion.
M. K. Bhadrakumar, the former Indian ambassador to Uzbekistan (1995-1998), revealed that the Hezbut Tahrir (HT) was one of the parties blamed for stirring the crowd in Andijan by the Uzbek government. [9] The group was already destabilizing Uzbekistan and using violent tactics. The headquarters of this group happens to be in London and they enjoy the support of the British government. London is a hub for many similar organizations that further Anglo-American interests in various countries, including Iran and Sudan, through destabilization campaigns. Uzbekistan even started clamping down on foreign non-governmental organizations (NGOs) because of the tragic events of Andijan.
The Anglo-American alliance had played its cards wrong in Central Asia. Uzbekistan officially left the GUUAM Group, a NATO-U.S. sponsored anti-Russian body. GUUAM once again became the GUAM (Georgia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan and Moldava) Group on May 24, 2005.
On July 29, 2005 the U.S. military was ordered to leave Uzbekistan within a six-month period. [10] Literally, the Americans were told they were no longer welcome in Uzbekistan and Central Asia.
Russia, China, and the SCO added their voices to the demands. The U.S. cleared its airbase in Uzbekistan by November, 2005.
Uzbekistan rejoined the CSTO alliance on June 26, 2006 and realigned itself, once again, with Moscow. The Uzbek President also became a vocal advocate, along with Iran, for pushing the U.S. totally out of Central Asia. [11] Unlike Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan continued to allow the U.S. to use Manas Air Base, but with restrictions and in an uncertain atmosphere. The Kyrgyz government also would make it clear that no U.S. operations could target Iran from Kyrgyzstan.
Major Geo-Strategic Error
It appears that a strategic rapprochement between Iran and America was in the works from 2001 to 2002. At the outset of the global war on terrorism, Hezbollah and Hamas, two Arab organizations supported by Iran and Syria, were kept off the U.S. State Department's list of terrorist organizations. Iran and Syria were also loosely portrayed as potential partners in the ''Global War on Terror.''
Following the 2003 invasion of Iraq, Iran expressed its support for the post-Saddam Hussein Iraqi government. During the invasion of Iraq, the American military even attacked the Iraqi-based Iranian opposition militia, the Mujahedin-e Khalq Organization (MEK/MOK/MKO). Iranian jets also attacked the Iraqi bases of the MEK in approximately the same window of time.
Iran, Britain, and the U.S. also worked together against the Taliban in Afghanistan. It is worth mentioning that the Taliban were never allies of Iran. Up until 2000, the Taliban had been supported by the U.S. and Britain, working hand in glove with the Pakistani military and intelligence.
The Taliban were shocked and bewildered at what they saw as an American and British betrayal in 2001 '-- this is in light of the fact that in October, 2001 they had stated that they would hand over Osama bin Laden to the U.S. upon the presentation of evidence of his alleged involvement in the 9/11 attacks.
Zbigniew Brzezinski warned years before 2001 that ''a coalition allying Russia with both China and Iran can develop only if the United States is shortsighted enough to antagonize China and Iran simultaneously.'' [12] The arrogance of the Bush Jr. Administration has resulted in this shortsighted policy.
According to The Washington Post, ''Just after the lightning takeover of Baghdad by U.S. forces three years ago [in 2003], an unusual two-page document spewed out of a fax machine at the Near East bureau of the State Department. It was a proposal from Iran for a broad dialogue with the United States, and the fax suggested everything was on the table '-- including full cooperation on nuclear programs, acceptance of Israel and the termination of Iranian support for Palestinian militant groups.'' [13]
The White House impressed by what they believe were ''grand victories'' in Iraq and Afghanistan merely ignored the letter sent through diplomatic channels by the Swiss government on behalf of Tehran.
However, it was not because of what was wrongly perceived as a quick victory in Iraq that the Bush Jr. Administration pushed Iran aside. On January 29, 2002, in a major address, President Bush Jr. confirmed that the U.S. would also target Iran, which had been added to the so-called ''Axis of Evil'' together with Iraq and North Korea. The U.S. and Britain intended to attack Iran, Syria, and Lebanon after the 2003 invasion of Iraq. In fact immediately following the invasion, in July 2003, the Pentagon formulated an initial war scenario entitled ''Theater Iran Near Term (TIRANNT).''
Starting in 2002, the Bush Jr. Administration had deviated from their original geo-strategic script. France and Germany were also excluded from sharing the spoils of war in Iraq.
The intention was to act against Iran and Syria just as America and Britain had used and betrayed their Taliban allies in Afghanistan. The U.S. was also set on targeting Hezbollah and Hamas. In January of 2001, according to Daniel Sobelman, a correspondent for Haaretz, the U.S. government warned Lebanon that the U.S. would go after Hezbollah. These threats directed at Lebanon were made at the start of the presidential term of George W. Bush Jr., eight months before the events of September 11, 2001.
The conflict at the United Nations Security Council between the Anglo-American alliance and the Franco-German entente, supported by Russia and China, was a pictogram of this deviation.
American geo-strategists for years after the Cold War had scheduled the Franco-German entente to be partners in their plans for global primacy. In this regard, Zbigniew Brzezinski had acknowledged that the Franco-German entente would eventually have to be elevated in status and that the spoils of war would have to be divided with Washington's European allies.
By the end of 2004, the Anglo-American alliance had started to correct its posture towards France and Germany. Washington had returned to its original geo-strategic script with NATO playing an expanded role in the Eastern Mediterranean. In turn, France was granted oil concessions in Iraq.
The 2006 war plans for Lebanon and the Eastern Mediterranean also point to a major shift in direction, a partnership role for the Franco-German entente, with France and Germany playing a major military role in the region.
It is worth noting that a major shift occurred in early 2007 with regard to Iran. Following U.S. setbacks in Iraq and Afghanistan (as well as in Lebanon, Palestine, Somalia, and former Soviet Central Asia), the White House entered into secret negotiatiations with Iran and Syria. However, the dye has been cast and it would appear that America will be unable to break an evolving military alliance which includes Russia, Iran, and China as its nucleus.
The Baker-Hamilton Commission: Covert Anglo-American Cooperation with Iran and Syria?
''America should also strongly support Turkish aspirations to have a pipeline from Baku in [the Republic of] Azerbaijan to Ceyhan on the Turkish Mediterranean cost serve as [a] major outlet for the Caspian Sea basin energy sources. In addition, it is not in America's interest to perpetuate American-Iranian hostility. Any eventual reconciliation should be based on the recognition of a mutual strategic interest in stabilizing what currently is a very volatile regional environment for Iran [e.g., Iraq and Afghanistan]. Admittedly, any such reconciliation must be pursued by both sides and is not a favor granted by one to the other. A strong, even religiously motivated but not fanatically anti-Western Iran is in the U.S. interest, and ultimately even the Iranian political elite may recognize that reality. In the meantime, American long-range interests in Eurasia would be better served by abandoning existing U.S. objections to closer Turkish-Iranian economic cooperation, especially in the construction of new pipelines'...''
-Zbigniew Brzezinski (The Grand Chessboard: American Primacy and Its Geostrategic Imperatives, 1997)
The recommendations of the Baker-Hamilton Commission or the Iraq Study Group (ISG) are not a redirection in regards to engaging Iran, but a return to the track that the Bush Jr. Administration had deviated from as a result of the delusions of its hasty victories in Afghanistan and Iraq. In other words, the Baker-Hamilton Commission was about damage control and re-steering America to the geo-strategic path originally intended by military planners that the Bush Jr. Administration seems to have deviated from.
The ISG Report also subtly indicated that adoption of so-called ''free market'' economic reforms be pressed on Iran (and by extension Syria) instead of regime change. The ISG also favoured the accession of both Syria and Iran to the World Trade Organization (WTO). [14] It should also be noted, in this regard, that Iran has already started a mass privatization program that involves all sectors from banking to energy and agriculture.
The ISG Report also recommends an end to the Arab-Israeli Conflict and the establishment of peace between Israel and Syria. [15]
The joint interests of Iran and the U.S. were also analysed by the Baker-Hamilton Commission. The ISG recommended that the U.S. should not empower the Taliban again in Afghanistan (against Iran). [16] It should also be noted that Imad Moustapha, the Syrian ambassador to the U.S., the Syrian Foreign Minister, and Javad Zarif, the Iranian representative to the United Nations, were all consulted by the Baker-Hamilton Commission. [17] The Iranian Ambassodor to the U.N., Javad Zarif, has also been a middle man between the U.S. and Iranian governments for years.
It is worth mentioning that the Clinton Administration was involved in the track of rapprochement with Iran, while also attempting to keep Iran in check under the ''dual-containment'' policy directed against Iraq and Iran. This policy was also linked to the 1992 Draft Defence Guidance paper written by people within the Bush Sr. and Bush Jr. Administrations.
It is worth noting that Zbigniew Brzezinski had stated as far back as 1979 and again in 1997 that Iran under its post-revolutionary political system could be co-opted by America. [18] Britain also ensured Syria and Iran in 2002 and 2003 that they would not be targeted and encouraged their cooperation with the White House.
It should be noted that Turkey has recently signed a pipeline deal with Iran that will take gas to Western Europe. This project includes the participation of Turkmenistan. [19] It would appear that this cooperation agreement between Tehran and Ankara points to reconciliation rather than confrontation with Iran and Syria. This is in line with what Brzezinski in 1997 claimed was in America's interest.
Also, the Anglo-American sponsored Iraqi government has recently signed pipeline deals with Iran.
Once again, America's interests in this deal should be questioned, as should the high opinions being given about Iran by the puppet leaders of Iraq and Afghanistan.
Something's Amiss'...The media attention given in North America and Britain to the positive comments made about Tehran by Anglo-American clients in Baghdad and Kabul is sinister.
Although these comments from Baghdad and Kabul about the positive role Iran plays in Iraq and Afghanistan are not new, the media attention is. President George W. Bush Jr. and the White House criticized the Iraqi Prime Minister for saying Iran plays a constructive role in Iraq in early-August of 2007. The White House and the North American or the British press would usually just ignore or refuse to acknowledge these comments. However, this was not the case in August, 2007.
The Afghani President, Hamid Karzai, during a joint press conference with George W. Bush Jr. stated that Iran was a positive force in his country. It is not odd to hear that Iran is a positive force inside Afghanistan because the stability of Afghanistan is in Iran's best interests. What comes across as odd are ''when'' and ''where'' the comments were made. White House press conferences are choreographed and the place and time of the Afghani President's comments should be questioned. It also so happens that shortly after the Afghani President's comments, the Iranian President arrived in Kabul in an unprecedented visit that must have been approved by the White House.
Iran's Political Leverage
In regards to Iran and the U.S., the picture is blurry and the lines between cooperation and rivalry are less clear. Reuters and the Iranian Student's News Agency (ISNA) have both reported that the Iranian President may visit Baghdad after August 2007. These reports surfaced just before the U.S. government started threatening to label the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps as a special international terrorist organization. Without insinuating anything, it should also be noted that the Revolutionary Guard and the U.S. military have also had a low-key history of cooperation from Bosnia-Herzegovina to Taliban-controlled Afghanistan.
The Iranian President has also invited the presidents of the other four Caspian states for a Caspian Sea summit in Tehran. [20] He invited the Turkmen president while in Turkmenistan and later the Russian and Kazakh presidents at the August of 2007 SCO summit in Kyrgyzstan. President Aliyev, the leader of the Republic of Azerbaijan (Azarbaijan) was also personally invited during a trip by the Iranian President to Baku. The anticipated Caspian Sea summit may be similar to the one in Port Turkmenbashi, Turkmenistan between the Kazakh, Russian, and Turkmen presidents where it was announced that Russia would not be cut out of the pipeline deals in Central Asia.
Iranian leverage is clearly getting stronger. Officials in Baku also stated that they will expand energy cooperation with Iran and enter the gas pipeline deal between Iran, Turkey, and Turkmenistan that will supply European markets with gas. [21] This agreement to supply Europe is similar to a Russian energy transport deal signed between Greece, Bulgaria, and the Russian Federation. [22]
In the Levant, Syria is involved in energy-related negotiations with Ankara and Baku and important talks have started between American officials and both Tehran and Damascus. [23]
Iran has also been involved in diplomatic exchanges with Syria, Lebanon, Turkey, and the Republic of Azerbaijan. Additionally, starting in August 2007, Syria has agreed to reopen Iraqi oil pipelines to the Eastern Mediterranean, through Syrian territory. [24] The recent official visit of Iraqi Prime Minister Al-Maliki to Syria has also been described as historical by news sources like the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC). Also, Syria and Iraq have agreed to build a gas pipeline from Iraq into Syria, where Iraqi gas will be treated in Syrian plants. [25] These agreements are being passed as the sources of tensions between Baghdad and the White House, but they are doubtful. [26]
Iran and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) are also planning on starting the process for creating an Iranian-GCC free trade zone in the Persian Gulf. In the bazaars of Tehran and amongst the political circle of Rafsanjani there are also discussions about the eventual creation of a single market between Iran, Tajikistan, Armenia, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Syria. The American role in these processes in regards to Afghanistan, Iraq, and the GCC should be explored.
Under President Nicholas Sarkozy, France has indicated that it is willing to engage the Syrians fully if they gave specific guarantees in regards to Lebanon. These guarantees are linked to French economic and geo-strategic interests.
In the same period of time as the French statements about Syria, Gordon Brown indicated that Britain was also willing to engage in diplomatic exchanges with both Syria and Iran. Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul, the German Minister of Economic Cooperation and Development, has also been involved in talks with Damascus on mutual projects, economic reform, and bringing Syria closer to the European Union. These talks, however tend to be camouflaged by the discussion between Syria and Germany in regards to the mass exodus of Iraqi refugees, resulting from the Anglo-American occupation of their country. The French Foreign Minister is also expected in Tehran to talk about Lebanon, Palestine, and Iraq. Despite the war-mongering by the U.S. and more recently by France, this has all led to speculation of a potential about-turn in regards to Iran and Syria. [27]
Then again, this is part of the two-pronged U.S. approach of preparing for the worst (war), while suing for the diplomatic capitulation of Syria and Iran as client states or partners. When large oil and weapons deals were signed between Libya and Britain, London said that Iran should follow the Libyan example, as has the Baker-Hamilton Commission.
Has the March to War been Interrupted?
Despite talks behind closed doors with Damascus and Tehran, Washington is nonetheless arming its clients in the Middle East. Israel is in an advanced state of military preparedness for a war on Syria.
Unlike France and Germany, Anglo-American ambitions pertaining to Iran and Syria are not one of cooperation. The ultimate objective is political and economic subordination.
Moreover, either as a friend or foe, America cannot tolerate Iran within its present borders. The balkanization of Iran, like that of Iraq and Russia, is a major long-term Anglo-American goal.
What lies ahead is never known. While there is smoke in the horizon, the U.S.-NATO-Israeli military agenda will not necessarily result in the implementation of war as planned.
A ''Chinese-Russian-Iranian coalition'' '-- which forms the basis of a global counter-alliance '-- is emerging. America and Britain rather than opting for outright war, may choose to reel in Iran and Syria through macro-economic manipulation and velvet revolutions.
War directed against Iran and Syria, however, cannot be ruled out. There are real war preparations on the ground in the Middle East and Central Asia. A war against Iran and Syria would have far-reaching worldwide implications.
Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya is an independent writer based in Ottawa specialising on the Middle East and Central Asia. He is a Research Associate of the Centre for Research on Globalization (CRG).
[1] Treaty of Good-Neighborliness and Friendly Cooperation Between the People's Republic of China and the Russian Federation, signed and entered into force July 16, 2001, P.R. of China-Russian Federation, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People's Republic of China.
The following are treaty articles that are relevant to the mutual defence of China and Russia against American-led encirclement and efforts to dismantle both nations;
The Chinese side supports the Russian side in its policies on the issue of defending the national unity and territorial integrity of the Russian Federation.
The Russian side supports the Chinese side in its policies on the issue of defending the national unity and territorial integrity of the People's Republic of China.
The Russian side reaffirms that the principled stand on the Taiwan issue as expounded in the political documents signed and adopted by the heads of states of the two countries from 1992 to 2000 remain unchanged. The Russian side acknowledges that there is only one China in the world, that the People's Republic of China is the sole legal government representing the whole of China and that Taiwan is an inalienable part of China. The Russian side opposes any form of Taiwan's independence.
The contracting parties shall not enter into any alliance or be a party to any bloc nor shall they embark on any such action, including the conclusion of such treaty with a third country which compromises the sovereignty, security and territorial integrity of the other contracting party. Neither side of the contracting parties shall allow its territory to be used by a third country to jeopardize the national sovereignty, security and territorial integrity of the other contracting party.
Neither side of the contracting parties shall allow the setting up of organizations or gangs on its own soil which shall impair the sovereignty, security and territorial integrity of the other contrasting party and their activities should be prohibited.
When a situation arises in which one of the contracting parties deems that peace is being threatened and undermined or its security interests are involved or when it is confronted with the threat of aggression, the contracting parties shall immediately hold contacts and consultations in order to eliminate such threats.
The contracting parties shall work together for the maintenance of global strategic balance and stability and make great efforts in promoting the observation of the basic agreements relevant to the safeguard and maintenance of strategic stability.
The contracting parties shall actively promote the process of nuclear disarmament and the reduction of chemical weapons, promote and strengthen the regimes on the prohibition of biological weapons and take measures to prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, their means of delivery and their related technology.
[2] Ibid.
[3] Zbigniew Brzezinski, The Grand Chessboard: American Primacy and Its Geostrategic Imperatives (NYC, New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1997), p.198.
[4] Ibid., pp. 115-116, 170, 205-206.
Note: Brzezinski also refers to a Chinese-Russian-Iranian coalition as a ''counteralliance'' (p.116).
[5] Zbigniew Brzezinski, Out of Control: Global Turmoil on the Eve of the 21st Century (NYC, New York: Charles Scribner's Sons Macmillan Publishing Company, 1993), p.198.
[6] Ibid.
[7] Ibid.
[8] Brzezinski, The Grand Chessboard, Op. cit., p.198.
[9] M. K. Bhadrakumar, The lessons from Ferghana, Asia Times, May 18, 2005.
[10] Nick Paton Walsh, Uzbekistan kicks US out of military base, The Guardian (U.K.), August 1, 2005.
[11] Vladimir Radyuhin, Uzbekistan rejoins defence pact, The Hindu, June 26, 2006.
[12] Brzezinski, The Grand Chessboard, Op. cit., p.116.
[13] Glenn Kessler, In 2003, U.S. Spurned Iran's Offer of Dialogue, The Washington Post, June 18, 2006, p.A16.
[14] James A. Baker III et al., The Iraq Study Group Report: The Way Forward '-- A New Approach Authroized ed. (NYC, New York: Random House Inc., 2006), p.51.
[15] Ibid., pp.51, 54-57.
[16] Ibid., pp.50-53, 58.
[17] Ibid., p.114.
[18] Brzezinski, The Grand Chessboard, Op. cit., p.204.
[19] Iran, Turkey sign energy cooperation deal, agree to develop Iran's gas fields, Associated Press, July 14, 2007.
[20] Tehran to host summit of Caspian nations Oct.18, Russian News and Information Agency (RIA Novosti), August 22, 2007.http://en.rian.ru/world/20070822/73387774.html
[21] Azerbaijan, Iran reinforce energy deals, United Press International (UPI), August 22, 2007.
[22] Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya, The March to War: D(C)tente in the Middle East or ''Calm before the Storm?,'' Centre for Research on Globalization (CRG), July 10, 2007.
[23] Ibid.
It is worth noting that Iran has been involved in pipeline deals with Turkey and in negotiation between Syria, Lebanon, Turkey, and the Republic of Azerbaijan in the possible creation of an energy corridor in the Eastern Mediterranean. These deals occurred in the same time frame that both Syria and Iran started talks with the U.S. after the Baker-Hamilton Commission's report.
[24] Syria and Iraq to reopen oil pipeline link, Agence France-Presse (AFP), August 22, 2007.
[25] Ibid.
[26] Roger Hardy, Why the US is unhappy with Maliki, British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), August 22, 2007.http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/6958440.stm
[27] Hassan Nafaa, About-face on Iran coming?, Al-Ahram (Egypt), no. 859, August 23-29, 2007.
www.globalresearch.ca/the-sino-russian-alliance-challenging-america-s-ambitions-in-eurasia/6688" data-title="The Sino-Russian Alliance: Challenging America's Ambitions in Eurasia">
Azerbaijan Shuts Down Gülen-Schools
Sat, 21 Jun 2014 22:34
In a perceived nod to Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Azerbaijan on June 18 shut down a school network associated with the influential Turkish cleric Fethullah G¼len, Erdoğan's bªte noire.
Erdoğan has accused the US-based religious leader and his followers of conspiring against his government '-- a charge viewed by outsiders as largely entangled with the ruling Justice and Development Party's own domestic political struggles '-- and earlier urged ally Azerbaijan to help him in this fight. Looks like he didn't have to ask twice.
Azerbaijan's energy giant, the State Oil Company of the Azerbaijani Republic, already had taken over 11 high schools, 13 university-exam preparation centers and a private university believed to be linked to the G¼len movement.
As in Turkey, the facilities enjoyed a good academic reputation, and had a nationwide presence. Experts earlier interviewed by EurasiaNet.org about the takeover generally saw political motivations for the takeover.
But the schools' parent company, the Azerbaijan International Education Company, in which SOCAR holds shares, claims its eye is just on the bottom line. The schools, the company claimed, were not financially viable.
Charter school companies in US face corruption charges
Fri, 20 Jun 2014 04:33
By Kristina Betinis19 June 2014Two recent episodes expose the corruption rampant in large privately run and publicly funded charter school companies. Charter schools have aggressively expanded in the last decade as a key component of the bipartisan attack on public education in the United States led by George W. Bush and Barack Obama.
In the course of 2013, 17 charter schools were closed in Ohio due to corruption, forcing hundreds of students to find alternative schools in the fall. Touted as the cornerstone of education ''reform,'' there is no longer any question that these so-called education companies are cash grabbing operations that would not exist without the government diverting money from resource-starved public schools.
On June 2, the Securities and Exchange Commission charged Chicago United Neighborhood Organization (UNO) Charter Schools as well as UNO itself, with defrauding investors in a $37.5 million municipal bond offering. UNO did not disclose that several million dollars for new school construction was awarded to construction companies operated by brothers of UNO Schools Chief Operating Officer Miguel D'Escoto. D'Escoto left UNO schools in February.
UNO, the largest operator of charter schools in Illinois, has neither confirmed nor denied the charges, opting to settle by agreeing to ''improve procedures,'' and accepting an independent monitor.
''UNO misled its bond investors by assuring them it had reported conflicts of interest in connection with state grants when in fact it had not,'' said Andrew J. Ceresney, director of the SEC Division of Enforcement. ''Investors had a right to know that UNO's transactions with related persons jeopardized its ability to pay its bonds because they placed the grant money that was primarily funding the projects at risk.''
In 2013, Illinois Governor Pat Quinn cut off state funding to UNO schools for violating the terms of a 2009 state school construction grant totaling $98 million. For that grant, former UNO CEO Juan Rangel and UNO enjoyed the support of Illinois House Speaker and Democratic Party strongman Michael Madigan, a vocal proponent of education and pension reform.
Rangel, who stepped down last year amid the two corruption scandals, co-chaired Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel's campaign in 2010. Emanuel, Obama's former White House chief of staff, has overseen the shutdown of 50 schools, the attack on Chicago teachers' conditions and the expansion of charter schools.
The way for this was paved by the sellout of the 2012 strike by the Chicago Teachers Union. As a reward for this betrayal, the American Federation of Teachers was granted a ''neutrality'' agreement by UNO allowing it to ''organize'' charter school teachers, i.e., collect union dues from miserably paid instructors who have virtually no rights.
On June 4, the Des Plaines, Illinois headquarters of Turkish religious leader Fethullah G¼len's Concept Charter Schools was quietly raided by the FBI. Nineteen other schools operated by the company in Illinois, Indiana and Ohio are also reportedly being investigated. G¼len's charter network is estimated to be the largest in the United States, with around 139 active schools in 26 states.
The schools are privately run and publicly funded, strategically located in urban areas having concentrations of poor and minority youth. The Chicago Math and Science Academy raided in June receives all but 8 percent of its $6 million yearly budget from the public school district.
Concept Schools purports to provide an education emphasizing math and science education, in line with Obama's emphasis on the subjects of science, technology, engineering and math, known as STEM fields. Concept Schools sponsored an invitation-only STEM leadership summit in Washington, DC in April of this year.
A Concept spokeswoman stated the documents taken by federal investigators were part of an audit of grants for the Schools and Libraries Program. However, a representative of the Cleveland FBI office has told media outlets, ''What we did was not part of any audit,'' but part of an ''ongoing white collar crime'' investigation. This involves several agencies, including the US Department of Education and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).
The June 4 federal search warrant on Concept Schools remains sealed, so any connection to previous investigations is unclear. The charter operator has been under federal scrutiny for both crimes and questionable education practices since 2009, including visa fraud.
The raid was conducted very quietly, with no identifying uniforms worn by FBI agents or marked cars present. School has already been dismissed for the summer.
In the last several years G¼len's Niagara Foundation, as well as other Turkish NGOs, paid for House Speaker Madigan, and Chicago Alderman Joe Moore, in whose ward the Chicago Math and Science Academy is situated, to visit Turkey with other Illinois politicians.
Under the Obama administration the number of students enrolled in charter schools has doubled. New Orleans is now an all-charter school district with Detroit not far behind. The Obama administration has used its Race to the Top funding program to press states to lift their cap on the number of charter schools while offering tax breaks to encourage banks and educational ''entrepreneurs'' to invest in charter school construction.
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A damning exposure of the assault on public education in the US[19 June 2014]
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Number of Syrian refugees in Turkey exceeds 1 million: minister.
Sat, 21 Jun 2014 21:01
ANKARA (Reuters) - The number of Syrians who are housed in refugee camps and cities in neighboring Turkey has reached 1.05 million, Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Besir Atalay told a news conference on Thursday.
Ankara has maintained an "open border" policy to refugees fleeing the conflict between President Bashar al-Assad's forces and rebels in Syria.
(Reporting by Tulay Karadeniz; Writing by Daren Butler; Editing by Nick Tattersall and Toby Chopra)
(C) Thomson Reuters 2014 All rights reserved.
F-Russia / Ukriane
From Ukrainian source [email]
Slavyansk is the city is near Gorlovka. All cities of Donbass are close from each other. There from the city to the city there go the trams. Last Saturday the Ukrainian aircraft bombed also Gorlovka. Therefore I worry about my uncle, the aunt and the sister with her family who live there. Every day the Ukrainian junta bombs these small cities and kills local’s people from big guns and howitzers. However, it needs to be known because the world became cynical and hypocritical. I know that in European and the US media is impossible to see all these horrors. All these things are presented as "fight against terrorism". Now the South of Russia on border with Ukraine is full of refugees. The junta doesn't let out the civilian people and they escape from the war, risking to be shot by the “Ukrainian army”. Especially I worry because all my relatives from father sides live there too. In that district of Kiev where live my parents is rather quietly, but nobody knows what will be tomorrow. At any moment my nephews can be taken to this "army". Everything is awful.
UN places blame on Ukraine's gov't for war crimes
Sat, 21 Jun 2014 22:28
The violations include detentions, kidnapping, tortures and killing of people, including women and children.
The authors of a 58-page document write specifically about the death of an Italian journalist and his Russian interpreter, about arrests of Russian and Ukrainian journalists by Ukrainian forces. Moreover, the commission says that the federal media "just increases tensions and provokes people by harsh rhetoric. Southeastern Ukraine faces violence and lawlessness," the report says. The UN observers claim that people, who are not taking part in military actions are often getting kidnapped and killed; Ukrainian forces shell hospitals and kindergartens. "The observers also reported on the kidnapping of pro-Russian activists. According to the report, Ukrainian forces arrested 11 people, who then went missing," KM.ru Internet portal says.
Women and children suffer as well. "Specialists of the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) found out that every second child of the Donetsk and Lugansk areas suffers from depression and insomnia; the Ukrainian government hasn't been paying pensions for two months," the UN's commission says. As for Odessa's tragedy of May 2, the UN thinks that the city faced a monstrous crime; many seriously wounded people didn't turn to doctors for treatment as they were afraid of being killed by the radicals.
The UN has also criticized Kiev for not cooperating with the organization, while investigating Odessa's tragedy. Even anti-Russian deputies of the European Parliament insisted on a scrupulous investigation of the tragedy, claiming that people there were killed with the use of chemical weapons. However, the US claimed that it was against the investigation.
"Other clauses of the document are written on the subject of the Euromaidan, of the referendums in the Donetsk and Lugansk areas and the presidential election of May 25," press says. The UN's observers think that after June 7, the violation of the international regulations has aggravated.
Today, even Ukrainian media, which has recognized the punitive operation in eastern Ukraine, admits that the country faces fascism. Moreover, Human Rights Watch (HRW), the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), CNN journalists and EU deputies think that the Ukrainian government is in violation of the international conventions by using forbidden cluster, phosphorous bombs and explosive bullets against people, including children.
The Ukrainian government also promises to shoot down Russians with tanks over open sights. The government also intends to send Novorossiya's citizens to concentration camps and extradite them from the country if the latter "helps the militia or are part of it."
BBC News - Ukraine crisis: EU deal to be signed on 27 June
Fri, 20 Jun 2014 01:45
19 June 2014 Last updated at 17:49
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko in parliament in Kiev on Thursday The new president of Ukraine, Petro Poroshenko, has said he will sign a controversial association agreement with the EU on 27 June.
His elected pro-Russian predecessor, Viktor Yanukovych, was overthrown in February after refusing to sign the deal at the last moment.
Heavy fighting has erupted between troops and pro-Russian rebels in Donetsk region despite talk of a truce.
Meanwhile, Nato says Russia has moved troops back to the Ukrainian border.
In another development, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) has announced it has re-established contact with two teams of its observers who were abducted in eastern Ukraine last month, and says all of them are well.
"We cannot comment about the identity of those detaining them, nor statements made by any groups or individuals that are reported by media," OSCE spokeswoman Natacha Rajakovic said in Vienna.
Mr Poroshenko was elected president in May on a pro-EU platform after six months of political turmoil.
Since Mr Yanukovych fled Kiev, Russia has annexed part of Ukraine's territory, Crimea, and has also been accused of stoking the rebellion in the east.
According to a UN estimate reported this week, at least 356 people, including 257 civilians, have been killed in eastern Ukraine since 7 May.
Kiev appointments
Political parts of the association agreement were signed in March by Ukraine's interim government.
Mr Poroshenko made the announcement as he was replacing three senior officials in Kiev.
Pavlo Klimkin was appointed foreign minister, replacing Andrii Deshchytsia, who drew outrage from Moscow at the weekend when he publicly used an obscene name to describe Russian President Vladimir Putin during a protest outside the Russian embassy in Kiev.
Vitaliy Yarema was appointed chief prosecutor, replacing Oleh Makhnitskyy, an MP from the far-right Svoboda party, while Valeriya Hontaryeva took over as the country's central banker from Stepan Kubiv.
Correspondents say the appointments are an assertion of authority by Mr Poroshenko.
Rebel appeal
Krasnyy Liman, a town of 28,000 close to the rebel stronghold of Sloviansk in Donetsk region, has been the scene of fierce fighting in recent weeks.
A Ukrainian military source told Reuters a "major battle" was under way in the area and rebels reported government artillery strikes from 04:00 (01:00 GMT).
Unverified amateur video posted on YouTube is said to show shelling of the village of Yampil, near Krasnyi Lyman.
A rebel fighter holds a grenade and a cigarette in Siversk, near Krasnyy Liman A rebel armoured car in Siversk Rebel fighters embrace in Siversk, near Krasnyy Liman, before heading into battle, according to Reuters A rebel fighter holding a grenade launcher in Siversk, near Krasnyy Liman Ukrainian government forces spokesman Vladyslav Seleznyov was quoted by Reuters as saying rebels were trying to break out of an encirclement in the area after rejecting an ultimatum to surrender.
According to the military source quoted by Reuters: "There's a major battle going on which exceeds in terms of force and scale anything there has been up to now."
Rebel commander Igor Girkin, better known as Strelkov, said his forces at Yampol had suffered "great losses" and he feared the government troops, supported by tanks, would break through their positions.
Appealing to Russia for help in a video message, he said: "I still hope Moscow will have the decency, in as much as it has any decency, to take measures."
Mr Poroshenko said he was considering a temporary truce which would allow militants in Donetsk and the neighbouring Luhansk region to lay down their arms.
Rebels rejected the call to surrender their arms.
A limited truce was observed in Luhansk on Wednesday to allow a handover of bodies However, a limited truce has been observed in Luhansk, where rebels and government forces have been exchanging the bodies of their dead.
Nato secretary-general Anders Fogh Rasmussen said on Thursday that at least a few thousand Russian soldiers had been deployed to the border area, in addition to existing forces.
"I consider this a very regrettable step backwards and it seems that Russia keeps the option to intervene further," Mr Rasmussen said in London.
Soros Meets with the President of Ukraine
Fri, 20 Jun 2014 05:00
President Petro Poroshenko held a meeting with billionaire crony opportunist George Soros, at which Soros informed the head of state about his initiative to create a "strategic plan of reforms" for Ukraine.
"We set up a strategic consultative group for immediate reactions to challenges as they arise," the press service of the Ukrainian president reported on Monday, citing Soros.
'‹Russian-Ukrainian 'Satan' rocket blasts into orbit with 33-satellite load '-- RT News
Fri, 20 Jun 2014 03:41
Published time: June 19, 2014 22:13Dnepr rocket (RIA Novosti / Oleg Urusov)
Dnepr rocket also dubbed 'Satan' has blast off into earth's orbit carrying over 30 satellites from 17 countries, including the US. The rocket itself is of Russia-Ukraine make.
ISS crew hug, take selfie to say 'No' to politics and Ukraine tension in space
Russia's Dombarovsky military air base saw the launch at 19:11 GMT Thursday, the 20th such rocket whizzing off into space.
Twenty-six minutes later, "all of the 33 satellites have separated from the rocket at the pre-set time and were put into their respective orbits," Kosmotras, the launch operator, said.
One of them was TabletSat-Aurora, which came as the first Russian private mini-satellite. Weighing just some 25 kilogram, the spacecraft is to observe the Earth, returning images with a resolution of up to 15 meters.
The satellite payload also included Perseus-M 1 and 2 (US), Deimos-2 (Spain), Hodoyoshi-3 and 4 (Japan), BRITE-CA 1 and 2 (Canada), BugSat-1 (Argentina), SaudiSat-4 (Saudi Arabia) and Duchifat-1 (Israel). The latter is an Israeli experimental and educational spacecraft developed and built by Israeli students of secondary schools.
The Satan made its first launch in April 1999, when it deployed Britain's UoSAT-12. At two points it held the record for the most satellites orbited in a single launch '' the first in April 2007 with 14 payloads and the second during its last mission in November 2013. In July 2006 the Dnepr failed to launch due to a malfunctioning of the pumping hydraulic drive of combustion chamber.
The Dnepr rocket is a converted intercontinental ballistic missile based on the R-36MUTTH ICBM '' called the SS-18 Satan by NATO. It was developed by the space agencies of Russia and Ukraine in cooperation with the Russian Ministry of Defense.
Russia develops its own chip technology for national payment card
Sat, 21 Jun 2014 21:30
Published time: June 20, 2014 10:46Universal Electronic Card (RIA Novosti/Vitaliy Ankov)
Russia has developed its own microchip for the national payment card which is hoped will provide better information security.
Russia is ready to replace the technology used in foreign payment systems '' Visa and MasterCard '' with a chip created for Sberbank's Universal Electronic Card (UEC), Kommersant reports.
The chip was developed by Payment Technologies, a company owned by Igor Godowsky, who has been developing Russia's first payment systems the STB Card since 1994.
Shortly before the announcement Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said it was necessary to use Russian technology in the national payment system, which will counter security issues and provide data protection.
The EUC, however, isn't ready to start mass production of the cards with the chip, experts told Kommersant.
''At least 1.5 years will be needed to reach a full scale production until all needed infrastructure is established,'' as at the moment the chip has only passed laboratory testing, one of the experts said.
Earlier in the week the Central Bank of Russia created a wholly owned subsidiary to operate the national payment system. It's now undergoing a state registration, according to the head of the bank Elvira Nabiullina.
''We have an infrastructure road map. A commission has been established in the central bank, which includes representatives from the State Duma, the Federation Council and the government, for technology decisions. It has to give its opinion on the basis of existing analysis and research by July 1," Nabiullina said.
The need to accelerate the development of Russia's own national payment system became evident, after international firms Visa and MasterCard temporarily blocked operations with Russia's Rossiya and SMP banks. The Russian lenders were sanctioned by the US administration, in an attempt to influence the stance of President Vladimir Putin on Ukraine.
The new card is expected to come into wide use by mid-2015 and will also be valid abroad. Operations will be processed within Russia, Itar''Tass reports.
The national payment system card will be co-branded with the Chinese UnionPay, Japanese JCB and the international Visa and MasterCard payment systems. The system will be based on the infrastructure of one of the existing payment system '' Sberbank's PRO100 or Zolotaya Korona (Golden Crown).
On Wednesday, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said the national payment system would be an alternative to the existing operators, not a replacement.
'''...we are not talking about struggling with foreign systems as this is incorrect and actually means a breach of competition fundamentals,'' Itar-Tass quotes Medvedev.
In early May President Putin signed a law to create a national payment system, which also includes a requirement for a so-called ''security fee'' for foreign payment systems, which is hoped will compensate for possible future disruptions.
Under the new legislation coming into effect January 1, Russia will have the right to set an obligatory security deposit of up to 10 percent of the credit card companies' daily turnover, or about $100 million.
The 10 percent deposit is much lower than the initially set 25 percent. The concession was made at the Saint Petersburg International Economic Forum, where Russian authorities agreed with Visa and MasterCard that all processing will be done within Russia, or the international payment card firms will find a Russian owner for their subsidiaries in the country.
However, Visa has recently said it didn't rule out leaving the Russian market, as it thought Moscow's demand of a security deposit was still unacceptable.
Follow the Pipes
South Stream: Partners
Sat, 21 Jun 2014 22:33
cro02.03.2010On March 2, 2010 Russia and Croatia entered into the Intergovernmental Agreement providing for Croatia to join the South Stream project.fr27.11.2009On November 27, 2009 Gazprom and Electricite de France (EDF) signed the Memorandum of Understanding envisaging the EDF's possible entry into the project for building the offshore section of the South Stream gas pipeline.slo14.11.2009On November 14, 2009 the Government of the Russian Federation and the Government of the Republic of Slovenia signed the Agreement of Cooperation within construction and operation of the South Stream gas pipeline in Slovenia.serb24.12.2008On December 24, 2008 Gazprom and state-owned Srbijagas signed the Major Provisions of the Basic Agreement of Cooperation within the South Stream project in Serbia.ro13.10.2010On October 13, 2010 Gazprom and Transgaz signed the Memorandum of Intent to prepare a feasibility study for South Stream in Romania.ru23.06.2007On June 23, 2007 Gazprom and Eni signed the Memorandum of Understanding on the South Stream project implementation.mac17.06.2010On June 17, 2010 at the meeting between Alexey Miller, Chairman of the Gazprom Management Committee and Gjorge Ivanov, President of the Republic of Macedonia the Macedonian party expressed its interest in receiving an increased amount of natural gas from Russia and joining the South Stream project.it23.06.2007On June 23, 2007 Gazprom and Eni signed the Memorandum of Understanding on the South Stream project implementation.gr29.04.2008On April 29, 2008 Russia and Greece signed the Intergovernmental Agreement on the South Stream gas pipeline construction in Greece.de21.03.2011On March 21, 2011 Gazprom and BASF signed the Memorandum of Understanding on implementing the offshore section of the South Stream project.hu28.02.2008On February 28, 2008 Russia and Hungary signed the Intergovernmental Agreement on the South Stream project.bul15.05.2009On May 15, 2009, Gazprom and Bulgarian Energy Holding signed the Agreement of Cooperation while building a gas pipeline for natural gas transit via Bulgaria as part of the South Stream project.au24.04.2010On April 24, 2010 Gazprom and OMV signed the Framework Agreement of Cooperation under the South Stream project in the Republic of Austria.respserb21.09.2012On September 21, 2012 Gazprom and the Government of Republika Srpska signed the Memorandum of Understanding that fixes mutually beneficial partnership and cooperation between Gazprom and the Government of Republika Srpska. In particular, the parties discussed possible construction of a gas lateral from South Stream to Republika Srpska and gasification of the population centers along its route as part of the Memorandum.
South Stream: Project significance
Sat, 21 Jun 2014 22:32
The South Stream project is aimed at strengthening the European energy security. It is the key project in the diversification strategy for gas supply routes to the EU. The South Stream gas pipeline will ensure a direct connection between hydrocarbons suppliers and consumers thus raising significantly the energy supply security on the entire European continent.
Experts share the opinion that in the medium and long term gas demand will grow in the European Union. The countries which used to consume moderate amounts of gas for industrial purposes are likely to guide their economies towards its increased utilization, since coal, fuel oil and nuclear power are less environmentally-friendly if compared to natural gas. Regardless that indigenous production still satisfies the bulk of consumption in Europe today, it will steadily decrease in time. Europe will need more imported gas and, accordingly, new transmission capacities.
According to the consensus forecast by the world's leading forecast centers, Europe's annual demand for additional gas import may reach 80 billion cubic meters by 2020 and surpass 140 billion cubic meters by 2030.
Thus, the main issues of the European energy security are building up gas supplies and eliminating transit risks. These very criteria are fully met by Russia's initiative related to the South Stream pipeline construction.
The major objective of the South Stream project is meeting Europe's additional demand for natural gas, the most environmentally-friendly and secure fossil fuel. Natural gas will long remain a reliable foundation for the European energy sector, therefore, diversification of routes and implementation of joint projects to construct new offshore gas pipeline systems are vital elements of the current energy security architecture in Europe.
Austria, Slovenia back South Stream pipeline project
Sat, 21 Jun 2014 22:31
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Austria and Slovenia backed Friday the construction of the South Stream gas pipeline, calling it an important project to ensure a stable energy supply in the region.
"I believe that the South Stream project is the right and possible path to ensure a mid-term energy supply sustainability", Austrian Chancellor Werner Faymann told journalists after meeting his Slovenian and Croatian counterparts at Brdo pri Kranju near Ljubljana.
He added "Austria in principle backs the South Stream project... and we believe it should be carried out for the mid- and long-term sustainable supply of natural gas."
Faymann's remarks come ahead of a visit by Russian President Vladimir Putin to Vienna next Tuesday, during which Moscow is expected to try to secure Austrian support for the Gazprom-led pipeline after Bulgaria suspended work on the project under pressure from the European Union.
Faymann discussed the fate of the South Stream project during a regular meeting with the prime ministers of Slovenia Alenka Bratusek and Croatia Zoran Milanovic on regional collaboration.
Bratusek also backed South Stream, calling "it is a vital infrastructure project" to ensure energy security.
"There are still some technical issues that remain open and have to be solved with the EU," she said referring to Brussels' call on all 28 member states to stand united in resisting pressure from the Kremlin over the project.
The European Commission believes the pipeline breaches the bloc's competition rules.
Ukraine says it will 'remove need' for South Stream pipeline | EurActiv
Sat, 21 Jun 2014 21:29
Ukraine's parliament agreed yesterday (19 June) to discuss a bill to allow gas transit facilities to be leased on a joint venture basis with participation from firms in the European Union or United States.
Ukraine would hold 51% and foreign partners would be offered 49% in the venture, which would manage both transit pipelines and underground gas storage facilities.
Suffering a third cut-off of natural gas supplies from Russia in under nine years, and with political relations in crisis, Ukraine is desperate to become less dependent on Russian gas, but at the same time to provide more reliable transit for the Russian gas that Europe needs.
The government said the joint venture would bring in investment and remove the need for the South Stream pipeline, which Russia's Gazprom is building to take gas to southeastern Europe across the Black Sea, avoiding Ukraine.
It would also aim to boost Ukraine's capacity to receive "reverse flows" of Russian gas reimported back from EU countries.
"If Europeans join this company, Russia will not build South Stream," Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk told parliament. No date was set for discussion of the bill.
South Stream has fallen foul of EU competition authorities, who object to the fact that it will not be open to other gas producers. However, a number of EU countries including Germany, Austria and Bulgaria are strongly in favour, and European Energy Commissioner Guenther Oettinger said on Monday that it was a project the EU could accept.
If it is built, the pipeline threatens to deprive Ukraine's badly strained budget of the transit fees that it currently receives from Russia for gas heading towards Europe.
The EU imports 30 percent of its natural gas needs from Russia, and about half of that comes via Ukraine, with some already having been diverted through the Nord Stream pipeline under the Baltic Sea.
Its supplies were briefly cut off in 2006 and 2009 when Ukraine argued with Russia about the price of its gas.
On Thursday, Naftogaz said Gazprom had informed the company of its intention to terminate a contract under which Ukraine provides additional gas to Europe when European consumption rises, and is then compensated by Russia.
Naftogaz said it had been told the contract would be terminated on 23 June, and that it believed the move was intended to discredit Ukraine as a reliable supplier.
Gazprom did not respond to a request for comment.
Gas cut off
The flow to Ukraine has been cut off again after Kyiv refused to accept a price rise imposed by Russia following the ousting of pro-Moscow president Viktor Yanukovich in February. Russia annexed Crimea the following month and pro-Russian separatists have taken up arms in east Ukraine.
Ukraine, whose new president, Petro Poroshenko, plans this month to sign the association and free trade agreements with the EU that his predecessor shunned, has continued to allow transit gas to flow normally across its territory.
Oettinger, who has been mediating in the dispute, has said he hopes to bring both sides back to the negotiating table by mid-July.
For its part, the EU has tried to support arrangements for Ukraine to be able to re-import Russian gas back from other parts of eastern Europe, to help it offset in part any disruptions to supplies from Russia.
Ukraine, which consumes about 45 billion cubic metres of gas a year and supplies just less than half that from its own production, has said it expects to receive about 6 bcm in reverse flows from EU countries this year.
Yatseniuk has said total gas volumes shipped to Ukraine from the EU could reach 15 bcm a year.
In April, Germany's RWE began deliveries via Poland under a framework that allows for delivery of up to 10 bcm of gas per year.
And Slovakia has agreed to make technical adjustments to an old unused pipeline so it can ship over 3 bcm of gas a year, rising to up to 10 bcm from next spring.
Another Obama Policy Failure: Canada Approves New Oil Pipeline to Pacific Coast - Hit & Run : Reason.com
Fri, 20 Jun 2014 04:26
TranscanadaPresident Hamlet, I mean, Obama has been dithering for years over the approval of the Keystone XL pipeline that would transport nearly 1 million barrels of Canadian oilsands petroleum from Alberta to American refineries on the Gulf Coast. Several State Department environmental analyses have found that the pipeline is sufficiently safe and would have only a minor effect on the greenhouse gas emissions that are contributing to man-made global warming. Nevertheless, the president has decisively decided not to decide as he tries to avoid alienating either labor unions who favor construction of the pipeline or green activists who don't.
Since 97 percent of Canada's oil exports now go to the U.S., environmental activists fondly hoped that blocking U.S. approval of the Keystone pipeline would force Canadian oil companies to keep the oilsands crude in the ground. Fat chance. Today, the Associated Press is reporting that the Canadian government has approved a new pipeline that will transport more than 500,000 barrels of oil per day from Alberta to the Canadian west coast. That oil will be loaded onto 220 tankers per year and shipped to China.
From the AP:
Canada's government on Tuesday approved a controversial pipeline proposal that would bring oil to the Pacific Coast for shipment to Asia, a major step in the country's efforts to diversify its oil exports if it can overcome fierce opposition from environmental and aboriginal groups.
Approval for Enbridge's Northern Gateway project was expected as Canada needs infrastructure in place to export its growing oil sands production. The project's importance has only grown since the U.S. delayed a decision on TransCanada's Keystone XL pipeline that would take oil from Alberta to the U.S. Gulf Coast.
The northern Alberta region has the world's third largest oil reserves, with 170 billion barrels of proven reserves.
Enbridge's pipeline would transport 525,000 barrels of oil a day from Alberta's oil sands to the Pacific to deliver oil to Asia, mainly energy-hungry China. About 220 large oil tankers a year would visit the Pacific coast town of Kitimat and opponents fear pipeline leaks and a potential tanker spill on the pristine Pacific coast.
Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper has said Canada's national interest makes the pipelines essential.
Way to go Mr. President!
For more background, see my article, "Obama's Devious Dithering Over the Keystone Pipeline."
Disclosure: Back in 2011, I went on a junket to report on the development of Alberta oil sands. My travel expenses were covered by the American Petroleum Institute. The API did not ask for nor did it have any editorial control over my reporting of this trip or, for that matter, any other reporting that I do. For more background, see my articles, "The Man-Made Miracle of Oil from Sand," and "Conflict Oil or Canadian Oil?"
Ronald Bailey is a science correspondent at Reason magazine and author of Liberation Biology (Prometheus).
Canada's pipeline through paradise: Concerns about an oil spill drive huge opposition against planned exports to China
Fri, 20 Jun 2014 04:33
Now the Canadian government has approved a proposal for a major pipeline to transport the country's oil to Asia, despite powerful resistance from environmental groups, the First Nations and Prime Minister Stephen Harper's political rivals in parliament.
Canada's Alberta province has some 170 billion barrels of proven oil reserves, a resource surpassed only by Venezuela and Saudi Arabia. The Calgary-based energy company, Enbridge, now plans to build a 730-mile pipeline from the tar sands town of Brudherheim across British Columbia to the Pacific coast, where it would generate some 525,000 barrels of oil per day for export to Asia.
China, whose state-owned companies have recently invested more than $40bn (£24bn) in Canadian energy, is in line to benefit from the pipeline. Its supporters claim it will boost the Canadian economy, creating jobs and adding an estimated $300bn to Canada's GDP over the next 30 years.
As much as 97 per cent of the Canada's oil exports are to the US, and many consider the proposed $7bn project a crucial diversification.
However, the so-called Northern Gateway pipeline would pass through large swathes of land owned by native tribes, not to mention the pristine Great Bear Rainforest. And, when it arrives at the port of Kitimat, environmental activists fear the possibility of pipeline leaks or, worse, a tanker spill. More than 200 large oil tankers per year would sail in and out of Kitimat to meet the expected demand; the region still remembers the devastating Exxon Valdez oil spill of 1989, which continues to affect local ecosystems 25 years later.
The Northern Gateway project was first proposed in 2006 and has been delayed several times due to heated opposition. Mr Harper claims the pipeline is essential to Canada's national interest, especially since April, when US President Barack Obama's administration indefinitely postponed approval of the Keystone XL pipeline, which would transport Alberta oil through the US to the Gulf Coast in Texas. Mr Harper has said he was ''profoundly disappointed'' by the decision.
Douglas Channel at dusk in Kitimat, BC (AP)Canadian regulators have drafted a list of 209 conditions, which the government says Enbridge must satisfy before construction can begin. ''In addition, consultations with aboriginal communities are required,'' Natural Resources Minister Greg Rickford said. ''[Enbridge] clearly has more work to do in order to fulfil the public commitment it has made to engage with aboriginal groups and local communities along the route.''
Enbridge has suggested it may take as long as 16 months to meet the regulator's conditions. The company's president, Al Monaco, said he was pleased with the government's decision, but acknowledged: ''We still have some more work to do.'' Mr Monaco told reporters that while the economic arguments for the pipeline are clear, the public still wants reassurance that the project is environmentally sound. ''If we can't prove our safety and environmental protection, the economic benefits won't matter,'' he said. ''In other words, the economic benefits alone are not enough to sustain public support.''
The opposition to Northern Gateway is fiercest in British Columbia, where premier Christy Clark has set five conditions for the support of the provincial government, including ''world-leading'' infrastructure for preventing and responding to either land or marine oil spills, and an assurance that British Columbia will receive a ''fair share'' of the economic benefits from the project. Ms Clark, whose administration can deny construction permits, says those conditions are yet to be met.
The pipeline's opponents come from across the political spectrum, and on Tuesday hundreds poured onto the streets of Vancouver, BC, to protest the government's decision. Environmental groups have insisted the Ottawa government's approval does not guarantee the project will go ahead, while more than 130 First Nations have now signed a declaration banning the Northern Gateway pipeline from crossing their territories. ''I never want to dip my paddle in oil,'' Bryan Joe, a member of the Comeakin Nation, told a hearing last year.
Though Canada's Supreme Court has ruled in the past that native groups must be consulted on any construction project that encroaches on their land, legal experts say their powers do not include a veto. Nevertheless, Stewart Phillip, the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs Grand Chief Steward, said the region's indigenous tribes would block any attempts by Enbridge to begin building. In a statement, a coalition of the region's native groups promised to ''defend our territories whatever the costs may be.''
Mr Harper's Conservative government also faced criticism from rivals in parliament. Tom Mulcair, the leader of the opposition New Democratic Party, said the approval of Northern Gateway presented a ''severe threat to social order, social peace'', adding that the idea of sailing oil tankers to Kitimat through the narrow Douglas Channel was ''folly''.
Mr Mulcair and the leader of the Liberal party, Justin Trudeau, both said they would reverse the decision to approve the pipeline were they to take power at the next Canadian general election in October 2015.
Globes English - China's CNOOC in Cyprus talks with Delek and Noble Energy.
Sat, 21 Jun 2014 20:56
China National Offshore Oil Corp. is in talks to buy 30-40% of the Aphrodite field.Energy giant China National Offshore Oil Corp. (CNOOC) is in talks to buy 30-40% of the Aphrodite gas field in Cyprus, sources inform "Globes." Noble Energy owns 70% of the rights of the field, which is in Cyprus's Block 12, and Delek Group Ltd. (TASE: DLEKG) energy exploration units Avner Oil and Gas LP (TASE: AVNR.L) and Delek Drilling Limited Partnership (TASE: DEDR.L) own 15% each.
RELATED ARTICLESThe Aphrodite field, which borders on Israel's Pelagic licenses, an area north of Leviathan, has an estimated 4.1 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, enough to justify developing a Floating Liquid Natural Gas (FLNG), which would allow the Chinese company to export gas to Chinese companies. "Globes" also reported last week that Australian energy exploration company Woodside Petroleum Ltd. (ASX: WPL) is also interested in becoming a partner in the Cypriot field for similar reasons but CNOOC has a better chance of concluding a deal.
CNOOC was also interested in becoming a partner in the Leviathan field and sent representatives to Israel several times for talks. But ultimately the Leviathan partners preferred Woodside and its greater experience in FLNG projects.
Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on June 19, 2014
(C) Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2014
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China's CNOOC in Cyprus talks with Delek and Noble EnergyChina National Offshore Oil Corp. is in talks to buy 30-40% of the Aphrodite field.
Delek Group energy units to pay dividendsThis is the first time since 2008 that Avner and Delek Drilling are distributing dividends.
Shmeltzer unit secures NIS 200m for wind farmsAfcon will build two wind farms at Kibbutz Maaleh Hagilboa and Kibbutz Degania.
Residents warn Golan oil drilling will harm KinneretAfek plans to begin drilling ten exploratory wells in August.
Noy to raise continuation fundNoy Infrastucture and Energy Investment Fund will raise up to NIS 1 billion from financial institutions.
Hapoalim buys Delek shares at peakDelek has completed a number of sales to focus on its energy exploration business.
Azrieli signs NIS 450m Sonol sale dealShlomo Shmeltzer has signed an MOU to buy the fuel company.
Woodside in Cyprus talks with Delek and Noble EnergyDespite withdrawing from the Leviathan deal, Woodside is in talks over Block 12.
Energean joins Myra and Sara partnersThe Cyprus-based company is taking a 25% stake in the energy exploration licenses off Israel's coast.
Shlomo Shmeltzer in advanced talks to buy SonolDavid Azrieli is asking NIS 500 million for the fuel company.
Mirilashvili bids in NIS 150m solar energy tenderAzrieli unit Supergas is selling 12 solar energy fields.
Israel 11th in Bloomberg Gas Price RankingIsrael is just below Finland in the ranking, and above Hong Kong and Britain.
Infrastructures Ministry delays Tamar SW approvalThe ministry claims the gas field encroaches a license that was revoked.
Israel's Sunflower in Finnish wind power projectSunflower has bought licenses for building up to five 20-megawatt wind farms.
Abramowitz settles score with Israeli bureaucracyGreen energy entrepreneur Yossi Abramowitz wants to be President.
On the high seas with Tamar's defenders"Globes" goes aboard an Israel Navy patrol boat protecting Israel's gas rigs.
Tamar enters second year of operationsThe Texans on the Tamar production platform get abundant food and no alcohol.
No work for Israel's energy professionalsGraduates must work abroad with no domestic industry being developed.
Tovia Luskin loses messianic lusterShareholders lost faith in the former Givot CEO, who used the Torah to discover oil.
Antitrust Authority disappoints on gas competitionThe only new company that will compete against Tamar and Leviathan will own less than 8% of Israel's proven gas reserves.
Chinese premier vows to invest in Greek railways to improve transport link to Europe
Sat, 21 Jun 2014 21:33
On a visit on Friday to the port of Piraeus, where Chinese shipping giant Cosco controls two cargo terminals, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang expressed Beijing's interest in investing in Greece's railway network in order to accelerate the transport of goods to Europe.
Li stressed the significance of Piraeus for Chinese trade as Cosco is said to be interested in acquiring a 67 percent stake in the Piraeus Port Authority. Piraeus can become "China's gateway to Europe," Li said, noting that the use of the port would reduce by between 7 and 11 days the time it takes to transport Chinese exports to the EU and cut operational costs for Chinese firms.
The Chinese premier added that Beijing is prepared to invest in modernizing and maintaining Greece's railway connections to Europe in order to further increase the efficiency of transporting goods.
He added that China would "encourage" cooperation between Greek and Chinese companies in the ship-building sector.
Li said that Cosco's investment in Greece has created 1,000 jobs.
Samaras, for his part, pointed to "tangible proof of the next generation of investments" for Greece. He noted that Greece is the biggest customer for Chinese shipyards.
China agrees to design and run new UK nuclear power plants despite concerns about national security.
Wed, 18 Jun 2014 23:57
Deal signed yesterday by China's premier Li Keqiang on visit to BritainState-owned nuclear firms will be able to control power plants in UKChina will also invest massively in HS2 rail link and other infrastructureBy James Chapman, Daily Mail Political Editor
Published: 18:54 EST, 17 June 2014 | Updated: 19:00 EST, 17 June 2014
Visit: Chinese premier Li Keqiang (right) is said to have demanded to meet the Queen
China is to be allowed to design, own and operate a new generation of nuclear power stations in Britain despite concerns about the implications for national security.
A deal signed yesterday during a visit by China's premier Li Keqiang will let Chinese state-owned nuclear firms control British power plants if they meet the requirements of regulators.
Mr Li and David Cameron also agreed that the £50billion HS2 high-speed rail project could involve massive Chinese investment. China says it wants to pour money into major UK infrastructure projects and has signed £14billion in trade deals to mark the premier's three-day visit.
Mr Li is accompanied by dozens of Chinese business leaders eager to discuss investment in areas such as energy where China has faced opposition elsewhere in the world.
The Chinese premier is said to have demanded to meet the Queen although it is relatively unusual for her to receive world leaders who are not heads of state.
Yesterday she welcomed him to Windsor Castle where they were joined by the Duke of York in the White Drawing Room. Later he went to Downing Street for lunch with the Prime Minister and business leaders where he was served a Chinese-themed menu including claypot chicken in a savoury sauce with shiitake mushrooms.
One major deal is expected between BP and China's National Offshore Oil Corporation worth about £11.8billion over 20 years.
Negotiations to end a Chinese ban on imports of British beef and lamb, imposed in the 1980s during the BSE scandal, are also to take place. The state-owned China Development Bank is expected to invest in HS2 and the next generation of nuclear power stations.
Lucrative: David Cameron and the Chinese premier signed trade deals worth more than £14billion
Chinese firms are already heavily involved in a new £14billion Hinkley C reactor planned for construction in Somerset.
Yesterday, the UK and Chinese governments signed an agreement to co-operate on civil nuclear power that could be worth hundreds of millions of pounds to British companies.
A separate agreement stated that Chinese companies could own and operate a Chinese-designed nuclear power station here, if they meet the requirements of the UK's independent regulator. However, the deal is likely to provoke controversy.
Some experts have warned against giving China a controlling stake in the industry on national security grounds, saying it would leave Britain at the mercy of the communist regime.
Mark Pritchard, a Tory member of Parliament's national security strategy committee, said: 'Chinese investment in the UK is very welcome, but we should always consider the national security implications when it comes to critical national infrastructure and sensitive technologies.'
Ministers, however, said investing in nuclear will both diversify the energy mixes of both countries while playing a role in tackling climate change.
The leaders were all smiles outside 10 Downing Street, but critics say the deal could leave Britain vulnerable
The Prime Minister hailed the burgeoning trade links between the two countries, which he said was 'central' to the Government's plan to revitalise the UK's economy.
Chinese investment into the UK in the last 18 months than in the last 30 years, he added at a press conference in Downing Street.
'Today we have signed deals worth more than £14 billion, securing jobs and long term economic growth for the British and Chinese people,' Mr Cameron said.
'Ours is truly a partnership for growth, reform and innovation. The figures tell the story - bilateral trade at record levels, our exports to China up 15 per cent in 2013, they have more than doubled in the last five years and at a billion a month, they are growing faster than France's or Germany's.'
Mr Li yesterday became the latest world leader to line up against Scottish independence when he backed a 'strong, prosperous and united United Kingdom'.
He said China and the UK should view each other's economic development 'as an opportunity'.
He added: 'We both believe that we should increase mutual political trust, engage in equal co-operation and accommodate each other's core interests and major concerns to solidify the political foundation of bilateral ties.'
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China wins stake in British nuclear power and high-speed rail.
Wed, 18 Jun 2014 23:57
Chinese funds are expected to be directed to the new Hinkley Point C nuclear power plant, based in the same part of Somerset as Hinkley Point B, above. Photograph: Matt Cardy/Getty Images
China has been given the chance to take a decisive stake in the next stage of Britain's energy and transport infrastructure as Chinese companies won the right to own and operate a nuclear power station and to help build high-speed rail lines.
The agreements were among trade deals worth £14bn agreed with Beijing during the visit of the Chinese premier Li Keqiang, which prompted David Cameron to declare Britain is playing a part in the rise of China '' which he called a defining event of the 21st century.
The two most controversial aspects of the deals will allow Chinese firms to own and operate a Chinese-designed nuclear power station and to build and operate rail lines in Britain. The Chinese have a mixed safety record on high-speed rail.
The prime minister said: "Ours is truly a partnership for growth, reform and innovation. Our partnership goes well beyond the economic field. The UK recognises that the rise of China is one of the defining events of our century.
"We welcome the fact that China's economic growth is lifting millions out of poverty. As premier Li noted yesterday, as China grows in economic power that brings greater responsibilities on the world stage."
The government moved to stem criticism of co-operation in the highly sensitive area of civil nuclear power by saying it is part of an overall agreement to tackle climate change. China and Britain also signed a joint statement on climate change.
In a Guardian article, the energy and climate change secretary Ed Davey writes: "Given the boost to low carbon electricity, to energy security and to jobs, the Chinese interest in taking forward investment at Hinkley Point C '' the UK's first nuclear station in a generation '' is hugely welcome.
"But equally important is that both China and the UK recognise that climate change is one of the greatest global challenges we face, and for the first time ever, the UK and China have released a joint statement, committing our governments to work even more closely together on a response to climate change.
"It's important because it is only the second time China has done this. The only other country with which China has agreed a statement on climate change is the US. This statement reflects the strength of our cooperation with China on climate change and low carbon."
In a joint statement about high-speed rail, the two governments said: "Both sides agree to promote substantive cooperation between the UK-China on rail, including high-speed rail in areas including design, engineering, construction, supply operation and maintenance on projects in China and the UK."
There were also major deals in energy. An £11.8bn BP gas supply contract was one of a series of deals unveiled by major UK firms during Li's visit.
The deal will provide state-owned China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC) with liquefied natural gas (LNG) for 20 years. Meanwhile, Royal Dutch Shell extended an agreement with CNOOC to work on energy projects around the world, including LNG.
The deals were signed at talks in Downing Streeti.
Shell chief executive Ben van Beurden said the partnership with CNOOC has been fruitful so far and the firms were "committed to growing the business together".
Meanwhile, engineering company Rolls-Royce signed a memorandum of understanding with Chinese nuclear reactor manufacturer SNPTC to cooperate on civil nuclear power projects in the UK and other markets.
The UK-based firm currently supplies emergency diesel generators to almost 40% of all nuclear reactors in China that are in operation or under construction and more than 70% of the safety-critical equipment. Jason Smith, Rolls-Royce's president of nuclear, said: "China represents one of the world's largest civil nuclear markets in which Rolls-Royce has been supplying safety-critical technology solutions for 20 years."
The company employs 55,000 staff in 45 countries, including almost 2,000 in China.
The London Stock Exchange also signed agreements with the Bank of China and the Agricultural Bank of China to strengthen the Chinese renminbi offshore market in the UK and to provide access to cash for Chinese companies. LSE chairman Chris Gibson Smith said: "London is the world's most international financial market and a natural partner to China in its ambitious global development."
In a personal touch, Cameron gave Li a copy of the shooting script for the first episode of Downton Abbey signed by the show's creator. Li had expressed interest in visiting Highclere Castle where the drama is shot. Cameron also gave Li a special £10 lunar gold coin '' made by the Royal Mint and designed by the artist Wuon-Gean Ho '' celebrating the Chinese year of the horse.
Email from Sir Atomic Rod about the French de-nukification
Adam - I heard your call out on episode 628 for insights into France's energy program.
Hollande and his Socialist Party ran on a platform that included scaling back France's dependence on nuclear energy. It was not a very popular part of his campaign pitch, but Sarkozy was such a flawed candidate that Hollande won anyway.
Hollande is trying to follow through on his promise, but there are plenty of well-connected and resourced people who oppose the idea.
Here is a link to an article that points out some of the considerations
It is probably possible to trace some of the Socialist Party funding to Russian natural gas interests. Russia loves its own nukes, but spends quite a bit of time and money spreading propaganda (FUD) about the nuclear programs in its customer and competitor nations.
The unreliables industry is also well known for its complaints that nuclear "crowds" them out of the market. They are working hard to force middle-aged nuclear plants to shut down merely because they were initially licensed for 40 years. That period has nothing to do with the design life or the ability of well-maintained nuclear heated steam plants to last at least as long as coal, oil or gas fired steam plants.
Hollande's proposed "cap" on nuclear electricity capacity - Atomic Insights
Sat, 21 Jun 2014 22:11
France's President Francois Hollande and his Socialist Party ran on a platform that included scaling back France's dependence on nuclear energy. It was not a very popular part of his campaign pitch, but Sarkozy was such a flawed candidate that Hollande won anyway.
Hollande is trying to follow through on his promise, but there are large numbers of well-connected and resourced people who oppose the idea. A few days ago, French Energy Minister Segolene Royal introduced a proposed piece of energy legislation that would, among other things, attempt to cap the total capacity of nuclear power plants in France at 63.2 GWe, which is the current level.
Though I believe that the proposal has little chance of being passed in anything resembling its current form, it is something that needs to be watched. My hope is that there will be strong and well organized resistance to the idea from a wide swath of French industry and consumers who will be harmed by artificially restricting the country's ability to improve on its current nuclear generating fleet and its proven ability to find substantial export markets for the clean, ultra-low emission, reliable electricity that its nuclear plants can produce.
Electricity is a wonderful export product; most customers are repeat customers whose purchases will naturally increase over time if they are happy with the pricing and service, there is no inventory to maintain and there is no burden placed on roads, ports, or airports. Nuclear technology and operational expertise is also a valuable export product; France is one of the few Western nations that has maintained its skills and capabilities in this area '-- though there is plenty of room for improvement as it gains experience in the newest generation of nuclear power plants.
In 2012, Gail Luft, writing for the Journal of Energy Security, published an article titled France: Can the 'Lumiere de Monde' Risk a Brown-Out? that points out some of the considerations that the French people should keep in mind as they discuss and resist Hollande's ill-considered attempt to hamstring such an important part of his country's economic base. Here is an example quote, but there are many additional items in the original article.
One option for Hollande is to use his anti-nuclear stance as a way to endear himself to Berlin. After the disaster in Japan, Germany was the first European country to announce its plan to bid farewell to nuclear power and move aggressively towards green power. Adopting a similar stance would be music to German Chancellor Angela Merkel's ears particularly as the two leaders will be looking for issues on which they can agree. But one hopes that Hollande knows that even the winds of Normandy and the sun of Provence will not come close to replacing nuclear power. France's installed capacity for photovoltaic power is about 100 times less than Germany's, and the French economy is not sufficiently prosperous to embark on massive subsidization of renewable energy, as its northern and southern neighbors, Germany and Spain have done in recent years. Furthermore, by now Europeans like Americans have come to realize the false promise of green jobs as a major driver of economic growth. With unemployment above 10% France does not have the luxury of dismantling the 30,000-job nuclear industry without replacing it with an equally labor intensive one.
It is probably possible to trace some of the Socialist Party funding to Russian natural gas interests. Russia loves its own nukes, but spends quite a bit of time and money spreading propaganda (FUD) about the nuclear programs in its customer and competitor nations. France's domestic nuclear plants help to keep it independent of Russian gas, and France's nuclear electricity exports help its neighbors reduce their purchases of Russian gas.
The unreliables industry is also well known for its complaints that nuclear ''crowds'' them out of the market. They are working hard to force middle-aged nuclear plants to shut down merely because they were initially licensed for 40 years. That period has nothing to do with the design life or the ability of well-maintained nuclear heated steam plants to last at least as long as coal, oil or gas-fired steam plants.
It is interesting to note that many information sources that target the unreliables industry (which prefers to brand itself as the ''renewables industry'') have covered the proposed legislation as a done deal, with phrasing like the following:
France will cap nuclear power and aim for renewable energy to make up 40 percent of its electricity production by 2030 (less than 20 percent now), 38 percent of heat consumption and 15 percent in the transport sector, according to a new energy bill, writes Reuters. France will also boost energy savings. For example, a tax credit will be introduced for renovation work carried out.
(Emphasis added.)
None of those proposed actions will be implemented when the bill is soundly defeated.
The fight will be messy because there are massive financial stakes associated with the decision. My hope, however, is that the full strength of the established and entrepreneurial nuclear industry and all associated interested parties will be brought to the battle for hearts, minds and wallets.
The Fix Is In
Fifa executive committee members 'awarded double pay rise' after new ethics rules ban bonuses | Mail Online
Sun, 22 Jun 2014 14:43
'All 25 members' of world football's governing body received pay riseTheir annual salaries allegedly shot from £59,000 to £118,000 this yearIt comes after audit and compliance body said bonuses would be ditchedAllegations by The Sunday Times are the latest scandal to engulf FifaBy Dan Bloom
Published: 05:56 EST, 22 June 2014 | Updated: 05:57 EST, 22 June 2014
World football's top 25 officials have had their salaries doubled after a new ethics committee promised to stamp out their bonuses, an investigation has claimed.
It is alleged that Fifa - which faces corruption claims over the awarding of the 2022 World Cup to Qatar - also offered to pay its executive committee in wads of cash through a Swiss bank account.
The claims today, revealed in a cache of millions of documents leaked to The Sunday Times, are the latest in a growing litany against the governing body of world football.
Bumper pay: The 25 members of Fifa's top governing body have had their salaries doubled, it was reported today. Pictured: The executive committee (Exco) during a general assembly at its headquarters in Switzerland
The executive committee led by President Sepp Blatter, Exco for short, is Fifa's most powerful body and numbers 25 top officials from the football world.
Britain's representative Jim Boyce is one of Exco's seven vice presidents and has already said he would support a rerun of the 2022 vote if corruption allegations are proven.
The revelations come just four months after Fifa promised to clean up allegations of corruption by scrapping bonuses to its committee.
A new audit and compliance body was formed in July 2012 and its chief, Domenico Scala, said in February that executives had agreed to scrap the bonuses because they could encourage unethical behaviour.
He said Exco was an 'oversight and decision-making body... not responsible for sales,' adding: 'We don't want to provide a bonus to people overseeing the operations.'
But according to the report today in The Sunday Times, each of the 25 members' salaries has risen from £59,000 to £118,000 this year after the bonuses - reputedly worth £44,000 a year - were scrapped.
Timing: The revelations during the current World Cup in Brazil come as Fifa President Sepp Blatter - the head of Exco - is firmly in the public eye. Pictured: Blatter (right) watching his home team, Switzerland
Mounting anger: Brazilians have protested in Rio de Janiero over the huge cost of staging the World Cup
A LITANY OF CLAIMS: RECENT ALLEGATIONS AGAINST FIFAJune 1, 2014: £3m in 'corrupt' payments
The Sunday Times revealed it had been handed 'millions' of documents which exposed how a top Qatari football official, 65-year-old Mohammed Bin Hammam (right), handed officials £3million worth of cash and global junkets to help secure the 2022 World Cup.
MPs called for Qatar to be stripped of the tournament amid an investigation. Qatar hit back, saying it 'always upheld the highest standard of ethics and integrity' and that Bin Hammam 'played no official or unofficial role in Qatar's 2022 Bid Committee'.
June 8: Secret gas deal talks
The newspaper revealed more files detailing how Bin Hammam fixed meetings with the Qatari royal family for at least seven key members of Exco, including Sepp Blatter.
Two secret meetings were brokered between Qatari royals and an aide to Thailand's serving Fifa member to discuss a gas deal in the critical final months before the 2022 ballot, it was reported.
June 15: Fifa 'ignored high terror risk'
Further revelations alleged that Qatar had been deemed at the highest risk of a terrorist attack of any of the 2022 host nations.
The documents added to questions over how a nation with scorching summer heat and little footballing tradition won the World Cup.
An unnamed Exco member told the newspaper the salary 'doubled to take account of the dropping of the bonus.'
The newspaper alleged Exco members enjoy generous expenses - including stays in a £200-a-night hotel in Rio de Janiero during the Brazil World Cup and more than £400 a day in generous expenses.
Leaked documents also claimed Exco members were allowed to take their salaries in envelopes full of cash at Fifa's headquarters in Zurich, Switzerland.
The timing of the revelations, during the current World Cup in Brazil, is devastating for Mr Blatter as he remains firmly in the public eye.
Brazilian authorities are already fighting unrest in large cities including Rio de Janiero over the huge amount spent on the tournament - and the vast profits for Fifa - in a country with extreme poverty.
The governing body of world football is highly secretive about the salaries it pays its top officials.
Accounts list the total of payments to Fifa's 'key management personnel', which includes not only the 25 Exco members but also directors and other top staff.
This figure was £21.3million last year - a rise of £1.6million in a year since 2012.
The pay of Fifa President Sepp Blatter and the other 24 members of Exco is now set by a compensation committee led by Mr Scala.
Earlier this month the chairman of the Britain's parliamentary committee for Culture, Media and Sport said Fifa needed a complete overhaul.
In a BBC interview earlier this month, John Whittingdale said an inquiry three years ago into the 2022 World Cup bidding process had received several allegations of 'potential corrupt payments'.
'Those were swept aside by Fifa, they weren't properly investigated, and that was three years ago,' he said.
'I don't think anybody is going to be that amazed to learned that the bid process is corrupted. It isn't sufficient just to have a rerun of a vote by a small number of people who conduct the vote in secret and are unaccountable.
'There needs to be a complete reform of Fifa.'
Fifa did not immediately return requests for comment.
Concerns: A planned stadium for the Qatar 2022 World Cup, which is allegedly at high risk of a terror attack
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Main man ban leaves Dutch without a Van
Sun, 22 Jun 2014 14:00
SALVADOR, Brazil: The suspension of captain Robin van Persie for Monday's World Cup Group B decider against Chile means the Netherlands will play an international without a player whose surname begins with 'Van' for the first time in almost two decades.
The last time it happened was in 1996 in a friendly against China, some 221 matches ago, the Algemeen Dagblad reported Saturday.
Since then the Dutch have had at least one 'Van' on the field but ironically in the reign of coach Louis van Gaal that run is about to end.
Van Persie is suspended after being booked in the opening two wins over Spain and Australia.
The last time the Netherlands played in the World Cup finals without a 'Van' they lost a group match in 1994 in Orlando to neighbours Belgium, for whom Franky van der Elst lined up on the other side.
Injury before the tournament in Brazil kept Rafael van der Vaart out of the Dutch squad and full back Gregory van der Wiel, who played in the 2010 final, was left out because of poor form.
Dutch football is littered with venerable footballing 'Vans' - Marco van Basten, Edwin van der Sar, Giovanni van Bronckhorst and Ruud van Nistelrooy in recent times and the likes of Willem van Hanegem and the Van der Kerkhof brothers, who played in past World Cups.
'A drunk who has cognac for breakfast': EU presidency favourite faces explosive claims as Cameron prepares for showdown with Merkel to stop him taking top job.
Sun, 22 Jun 2014 13:32
PM to use Ypres summit for last-ditch bid to block Jean-Claude JunckerJuncker's 'boozing' is Brussels' worst-kept secret, says EU envoyHis supporters claim he is the victim of a dirty tricks campaignBy Simon Walters and Glen Owen
Published: 18:11 EST, 21 June 2014 | Updated: 18:11 EST, 21 June 2014
David Cameron is to force a major showdown with German leader Angela Merkel this week after claims that the man set to become the European Union's most powerful politician is a 'drunk who has cognac for breakfast'.
He is to use a summit at Ypres to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the First World War to try to stop Mrs Merkel's ally, Jean-Claude Juncker, becoming President of the EU Commission.
The Prime Minister's tough stance comes amid new claims that Mr Juncker is unfit for the job because of his alleged 'boozing'.
'Wrong man for the job': Jean-Claude Juncker tucks into his food - and wine - at a European finance ministers' meeting in 2011. A senior diplomatic source claims Mr Juncker 'reportedly has cognac for breakfast'
'Most European leaders privately admit Juncker is the wrong man for the job,' said a senior British source. 'But they have given in to the Germans. Let them vote for him in public so we know who to blame when he makes a mess of it.'
The Prime Minister believes arch pro-European Mr Juncker will sabotage his bid to reform the EU, but is resigned to losing after France's Francois Hollande and other Left-wing leaders backed him yesterday. Mr Cameron has warned that if Mr Juncker gets the job, the UK will be more likely to vote to leave the EU.
Senior Tory MPs backed their leader yesterday after a Mail on Sunday investigation uncovered a number of fresh reports about his drinking:
A senior diplomatic source told this newspaper: 'Mr Juncker reportedly has cognac for breakfast'.He was allegedly 'blind drunk', acted in a 'vulgar' way and repeatedly used the f-word in a meeting.A respected German news journal claimed he had 'drunk too much for years' in an article headlined Achtung, Alkoholkontrolle! (Attention. Breathalyser Test!).A top Dutch politician called him a 'stubborn drinker', forcing Mr Juncker to issue an angry denial.An EU envoy told The Mail on Sunday: 'Juncker and his boozing is the worst-kept secret in Brussels. He is politically and personally unsuited to run the EU.'
His supporters, however, claim he is the victim of a dirty-tricks campaign. One said: 'He has a proven track record in taking tough decisions.'
Mr Juncker's father was injured fighting for Hitler, something he cites as one of the reasons for his belief in the EU. He speaks fluent German, though his mother tongue is Luxembourgish. Both are official languages of his home country, as is French.
Germany's Der Spiegel magazine said: 'The more often Juncker's name is dropped, the more the question arises whether he would be sturdy enough for the office of President. Long-time companions report of human weaknesses almost unknown to a broader public.'
His drinking was 'an open secret' in Luxembourg, it said, claiming Juncker had 'drunk too much for years'.
The article even suggested he drank in secret, but would be unable to do so once he was EU President. 'He worked until official events were over and the doors closed behind him. Retreating from time to time would no longer be possible in his new top job in Brussels.'
Talking with Cameron in 2012: The Prime Minister believes arch pro-European Mr Juncker will sabotage his bid for EU reform, but is resigned to losing after Francois Hollande and other Left-wing leaders backed him
Claims about Juncker's drinking first surfaced publicly last year following a Luxembourg spy controversy that saw him forced to resign as the country's prime minister.
A leaked report by former intelligence agent Andre Kemmer described a meeting he attended with Juncker and Marco Mille, the former boss of the country's intelligence agency SREL.
Kemmer wrote: 'Towards the evening, we met in [Juncker's] office'... It had a smell of stale tobacco and there was an ominous note of alcohol in the air. Half staggering, he came up from behind his desk'... Juncker was blind drunk. He ordered two espressos for himself and asked us to take a seat.
'Without any introduction, he started to lay into Mille. ''I f*** where, who, and when I want '' do you get me? You could f*** too, but you can't even do that '' your German correctness'...won't allow you to.''' (It is thought that in this context, the f-word was used to indicate he was prepared to treat someone unfairly, rather than it having a sexual connotation.)
Kemmer's report continued: 'For around five minutes, Juncker continued his diatribe against Mille, which I do not want to describe in more detail for moral reasons.'
Mr Juncker's drinking has been questioned by Holland's Jeroen Dijsselbloem, his successor as chairman of the so-called Eurogroup '' an informal body of EU finance ministers.
Asked if smoking and drinking were allowed at Eurogroup meetings, Dijsselbloem replied: 'It has always been prohibited. Only the former chairman did not abide by it.'
Juncker was 'a stubborn smoker and drinker', he said.
A furious Mr Juncker hit back: 'I have no problems with drink, that's enough! Leave me alone with allegations that are not true. I have no health problems. I find it offensive having to deal constantly with rumours about me.'
Britain's Financial Times said of Mr Junker: 'The booze has always been a subject of Brussels gossip. He has proved his ability to sit through all-night Brussels haggling sessions, fortified by brandy and cigarettes.'
The newspaper joked: 'Perhaps the next EU President could have one of those slogans on the office wall '' ''You don't have to be drunk to work here, but it helps.'''‰'
Last week, it stated: 'It is a commonplace observation among diplomats that Juncker drinks too much. He is the wrong choice.'
Tory MP Jacob Rees-Mogg said: 'Mr Juncker appears to be drunk on power, or the prospect of power. We all knew Mr Juncker was on the gravy train; now it appears he is on the sauce as well.'
A spokesman for Mr Juncker said: 'He will not engage on these topics.'
Additional reporting: Peter Allen in Paris
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EU Parliament: Conservatives propose Muslim for European Parliament President
Tue, 17 Jun 2014 05:13
The conservative ECR group has proposed Sajjad Haider Karim, who in 2004 became the first British Muslim MEP, to be the next European Parliament President. However, the candidacy appears to be a long shot.Sajjad Karim, nominated as European Parliament Presidential candidate by the European Conservatives and Reformists' group (ECR), has written to the leaders of all the main groups in the European Parliament seeking their backing.
He said that the image of the EU in the world had been tainted by the recent European elections, with the rise of extremist parties.
''I ask the group leaders: is it not now time to reinstate our values of tolerance, acceptance and diversity'', writes Karim, who was born in Blackburn, Lancashire, of Pakistani descent. He adds he is relying on a track record of 20 years experience, as an elected public official, 10 of which have been served here in the European Parliament.
''I have served diligently working across groups and political divides always seeking consensus and delivery,'' writes Karim, who was elected in 2004 for the Liberal Democrats, but joined the Conservative Party in November 2007.
Read more: Conservatives propose Muslim for European Parliament President | EurActiv
Merkel praises Danish PM, hints at outsider for EU Council job | EurActiv
Sat, 21 Jun 2014 21:32
German Chancellor Angela Merkel heaped praise on Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt on Thursday (19 June) and said there was no reason why the next president of the European Council should not come from a non-eurozone country such as Denmark.
British officials have mentioned Thorning-Schmidt for the role of European Commission president but the 47-year-old Social Democrat has also been touted as a possible successor to European Council President Herman Van Rompuy, who chairs EU summits.
Asked if she could imagine Thorning-Schmidt in either job, Merkel reiterated Germany's support for Jean-Claude Juncker as Commission president and said leaders had not yet discussed who should take Van Rompuy's post when his term ends in November.
British Prime Minister David Cameron is opposed to Juncker, seen by London as an old-style federalist, but he looks increasingly isolated and EU diplomats say the former Luxembourg prime minister is likely to get the nod at next week's EU summit.
"In principle, it can't be the case, in the sense of the unity of the European Union, that only someone who is in the eurozone can be Council President. There is no such rule," Merkel told a news conference in Berlin with Thorning-Schmidt.
"But as I've said, that has nothing to do with Denmark in particular - it's just a general statement," she said.
Merkel said it was not clear whether EU leaders would decide on a personnel package at a summit next week, adding: "Anyway the Danish prime minister is a great prime minister and I've got the impression that she really enjoys her work back home."
Juncker is ''a very good candidate''
Thorning-Schmidt said she agreed with Merkel that the content laid out in the policy agenda to be outlined by leaders next week was more important than who would carry it out.
"I think the most important thing now is, quite seriously, that you should focus on what we do together in the next five years and that's more important than who will lead any of the institutions," she said.
Thorning-Schmidt, married to the son of former British Labour Party leader Neil Kinnock, said Juncker was "a very good candidate" for the EU's top job, saying she knew him to be a pragmatic politician with a lot of experience.
Merkel said Germany would make decisions in "a European spirit".
"That doesn't mean we can fulfill every single wish; it means that we can think about what is important for Britain," she said, adding that she was prepared to talk "very constructively" with Britain on issues it considered important.
EU diplomats said there was unlikely to be a package of top appointments next week because neither the European Council president nor the EU's foreign policy chief needed parliamentary approval, whereas the Commission president faces a first vote in the EU assembly in mid-July.
That made it necessary to nominate a candidate by the end of the June 26-27 summit, and there was a growing consensus around Juncker, with the exception of Britain and Hungary.
France and Italy flesh out EU policy proposals
On the policy agenda, France and Italy said on Thursday that the top priority should be reorienting European economic policy to promote growth and public investment notably in digital and energy networks.
French Secretary of State for European Affairs Harlem D(C)sir and his Italian counterpart, Sandro Gozi, set out a list of priorities after talks in Paris, saying the new European Commission should grant maximum flexibility within existing EU budget rules to countries undertaking growth-promoting investments and structural economic reforms.
Desir said the EU should consider creating a European savings plan to mobilise citizens' savings to invest in small business and priority infrastructure projects such as extending high-speed broadband and the transition to renewable energy.
France has widely-used tax-exempt savings accounts at public and private banks which drain citizens' savings for investment in public housing and transport projects.
Gozi said a shift to more growth-friendly economic policies was a condition for Italy's support for the next Commission president. Asked whether Rome had sought assurances from Juncker, he said: "Not yet."
The Italian official also said Rome would demand that EU partners share more of the burden of coping with a flood of illegal migrants trying to cross the Mediterranean to Europe.
He called for the EU's Frontex border management agency to gradually take over the Italian navy's Mare Nostrum operation to rescue migrants adrift on overcrowded boats in the Mediterranean.
David Cameron pushes for EU leaders to vote on Jean-Claude Juncker.
Sat, 21 Jun 2014 22:12
Angela Merkel backs the appointment of Jean-Claude Juncker, picture with Martin Schulz, left, the outgoing German president of the European parliament. Photograph: Georges Gobet/AFP/Getty Images
David Cameron plans to force an unprecedented vote among EU leaders over the appointment of Jean-Claude Juncker as the next European commission president if it is decided that he commands sufficient support at a summit next week.
Amid increasing momentum building up behind Juncker, Downing Street will make it clear that EU leaders should be forced to explain their support for the former Luxembourg prime minister at the summit.
The prime minister will hold talks in Downing Street on Monday with Herman Van Rompuy, the president of the European Council, who has indicated in private that he is likely to be able to muster a "qualified majority" of votes supporting Juncker.
Cameron will intensify the pressure on Van Rompuy by calling for the appointment of the next commission president to be discussed at a dinner to be attended by all 28 EU leaders in the sensitive setting of Ypres on Thursday night.
Van Rompuy wants the event, which is being held to mark the centenary of the first world war, to focus on a general discussion about the challenges facing the EU to avoid a row during such a symbolic event.
But Cameron will tell him that it would be absurd to talk about future challenges without mentioning Juncker, and to wait until Friday afternoon '' by which time the EU's leaders will have repaired to Brussels '' to discuss appointments.
Downing Street said that the prime minister, who objects to how the European parliament is seeking to force the hands of the EU's leaders, has won the support of Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orbn in challenging the process. This is not enough to block Juncker but will help Cameron if he attempts to force Van Rompuy into holding a vote.
British officials would like a vote to be held if Van Rompuy believes there is sufficient support for Juncker '' the first to have been held over the appointment of a commission president '' to force the likes of Angela Merkel to state their support.
The German chancellor has private doubts about the former Luxembourg prime minister and the "Spitzenkandidaten" system under which the principal pan-EU groups in the European parliament have nominated candidates for president of the commission. Juncker is the candidate of the centre right EPP group, the largest in the parliament. Britain believes that Merkel would be placed in a highly awkward position if she had to speak in support of Juncker.
But Cameron faces defeat after Merkel and her centre-left coalition partner cut a deal over Juncker's appointment. Sigmar Gabriel, the German vice-chancellor and leader of the Social Democrats (SPD), has joined her in backing Juncker while dropping demands that Martin Schulz, the outgoing German president of the European parliament, be made the German commissioner in Juncker's team.
The deal in Berlin came as the EU's centre-left government leaders prepared to meet in Paris on Saturday to coordinate positions ahead of what promises to be a turbulent EU summit next week focused on Juncker.
Following last month's European elections, leaders are to meet for a summit on Thursday and Friday to debate who should be the next commission chief.
Cameron has waged a loud and aggressive campaign in what looks like a doomed attempt to sway minds against Juncker. Officials in Brussels say that campaign has been driven by Conservative party politics, with fateful implications for Britain's future in Europe.
The Berlin deal suggests domestic party politics in Germany have played an even bigger role in resolving the controversy over Juncker and the EU's future leadership team. Schulz led the European social democrats in the recent election as contender for the commission job while Juncker, with Merkel's backing, led the campaign for the Christian democrats who won, making the Luxembourger the frontrunner. Cameron had no say in either candidacy since the Tories are aligned with neither grouping after the prime minister parted company with Europe's Christian democrats in 2009.
"The SPD will accept a commissioner from [Merkel's] CDU provided Schulz is elected president of the European parliament," Gabriel told Der Spiegel magazine.
That represented a climbdown. The SPD had previously threatened to block Juncker in the necessary vote in the European parliament unless Schulz was named by Merkel as the new German commissioner.
Schulz told the Guardian last week that Juncker had offered him the post of vice-president of the commission and also warned that it would be "easier" for the SPD to support Juncker in a vote if he was assured of the job.
It is not clear how the deal will go down in the rest of Europe and whether Merkel, the EU's most powerful leader, will get her way. But it suggests she will push to have Juncker nominated. If she does, Cameron will insist on a vote at the summit, will vote against, will force other leaders to show their true colours on Juncker, and will probably lose in the qualified majority vote.
Until now, these decisions have always only been taken by consensus by national EU leaders.
Juncker is the candidate for the centre-right. Paradoxically, he seems to enjoy stronger support in the opposition camp than in his own. Several EU centre-right leaders '' in Britain, Sweden, Hungary, the Netherlands, and partly in Germany '' have reservations about him.
Saturday's centre-left summit is likely to agree to support Juncker. The French president, Fran§ois Hollande, and the new star of the European centre-left, Matteo Renzi, the prime minister of Italy, will be joined by Gabriel and Schulz as well as the government chiefs of Austria and Belgium.
They are certain to qualify their support for Juncker by demanding concessions on European austerity policies, infrastructure investment, and gaining more time to reduce public spending burdens.
While Merkel will resist attempts to relax fiscal rigour across the EU, the chair of next week's summit, Herman Van Rompuy, is expected to come up with a formula enabling everyone '' except Cameron '' to save face and claim victory.
Nigel Farage joins forces with (some) far-right Swedish and French MEPs.
Fri, 20 Jun 2014 04:33
Nigel Farage, leader of the UK Independence party), had earlier pledged to avoid alliances with far-right parties in the European parliament. Photograph: Oli Scarff/Getty Images
Nigel Farage has joined forces in the European parliament with a Swedish party that was founded by white supremacists, including a former member of the Waffen SS. In an apparent change of tack, after he pledged to avoid parties on the far right, the Ukip leader also invited a French MEP who was elected for Marine Le Pen's Front National last month to join his pan-European group in the parliament.
Ukip insisted last night that Farage had not broken his word because the two Sweden Democrat MEPs, Kristina Winberg and Peter Lundgren, were obliged to write a letter to the Ukip leader distancing themselves from their party's past.
Jolle Bergeron, who left the FN two days after the European elections last month, also wrote to Emmanuel Bordez, the secretary general of Farage's Europe of Freedom and Democracy group, distancing herself from Le Pen's party.
But the Liberal Democrats last night attacked Farage's decision to allow such controversial figures into his group, which now has MEPs from seven EU member states '' the minimum to form a group. A senior Lib Dem source said: "Regardless of your views on Europe, it is hard to see how British MEPs hanging around the European parliament with the dregs of the far right is going to be of any benefit to British jobs and growth."
Farage came under fire as he spoke of his pride in forming his new group. Winberg and Lundgren's Sweden Democrats party was founded in 1988 as a white supremacist group whose members wore Nazi uniforms to meetings. The party adopted a more moderate facade in 1995 when a new leader, Mikael Jansson, introduced a ban on uniforms and the party announced that its policies would be based on the universal declaration of human rights.
Jimmie …kesson, the current leader, stepped up the process when he changed the party's logo from a torch to a blue daisy. But three of the party's MPs ran into trouble in 2012 when a video was published which showed them telling the Swedish-Kurdish comedian Soran Ismail that Sweden was "my country, not your country", according to the Daily Telegraph.
Ukip insisted it had ensured that the two Sweden Democrats MEPs had distanced themselves from their party's extremist past. In a statement under the heading "We acknowledge and learn from our mistakes", the party said: "The worst of these mistakes was that the party didn't distance itself from radical youths with subcultural looks and that these were allowed to participate in some of the party demonstrations." One of the party's founders, Gustaf Ekstr¶m, had been a member of the Waffen SS.
A source in the EFD group said: "They are a party that has changed dramatically over time. They have acknowledged their mistakes. We have met the two MEPs, they seem two very decent working-class people. They are nice people, they are not extreme. They are Swedish patriots who want the best for their country."
But the Sweden Democrats have been highly critical of the country's immigration policy. Its leader told the Daily Telegraph last month: "Malm¶ is a good example of an irresponsible immigration policy. It is an extremely segregated city. With the economy under pressure, we should raise our voice against the state's irresponsible immigration policy. Everyone who thinks immigration is a good thing should take a good look at this city."
Bergeron, the former FN MEP who joined the Ukip group, said she had been asked to stand down from the European parliament after she spoke in favour of giving immigrants the right to vote in local elections. Bergeron refused to resign which means that she now sits as an independent.
The Ukip group now has 48 MEPs from seven EU states. Ukip, with 24 MEPs, is the largest party followed by Beppe Grillo's 5 Star Movement with 17 MEPs.
Farage, the president of the EFD, said: "I am very proud to have formed this group with other MEPs and we undertake to be the peoples' voice. We will be at the forefront working for the restoration of freedom, national democracy and prosperity across Europe.
"I am excited about working together with other delegations to be effective in exerting as much change as possible in Brussels while labouring at home to alert people to the harm that EU regulation does to the lives of ordinary people. Expect us to fight the good fight to take back control of our countries' destinies. We have struggled against much political opposition to form this group and I am sure it will operate very well. Now it is formed I expect other delegations to join soon."
Farage has struggled to re-establish his group after the Danish People's party defected to the European Conservatives and Reformists group established by the Tories. The Italian Northern League defected to the new group established by Le Pen.
The pro-reform Open Europe thinktank said the Ukip group will claim '‚¬3.8m (£3m) a year. Vincenzo Scarpetta, a political analyst, Open Europe, said: "With millions of subsidies on offer, the European parliament's rules create strong incentives for parties to form groups, even when these parties are not natural bedfellows. It remains to be seen whether this alliance of parties that look so different from each other '' Ukip, which wants to quit the EU, and Italy's Five-Star Movement, which does not want to leave the EU and supports a financial transaction tax '' can coexist in the longer term."
Eurosceptische partijen verenigen zich, mogelijk 'doodsteek' voor Wilders - AD.nl
Fri, 20 Jun 2014 04:24
Eurosceptische partijen verenigen zich, mogelijk 'doodsteek' voor Wilders - AD.nl
Bewerkt door: Redactie18-6-14 - 18:12 bron: ANPUKIP-leider Nigel Farage (C) reuters.Het is de grootste winnaar van de Europese verkiezingen in Groot-Brittanni, de eurokritische partij UKIP van Nigel Farage, toch gelukt om voldoende gelijkgestemden te vinden voor een fractie in het Europees Parlement. Farage wist zes andere partijen aan zich te binden. De fractie, genaamd Europa van Democratie en Vrijheid, telt 48 zetels, zo maakte Farage zelf bekend.
Eerder deze week leek het erop dat de vorming van een EU-fractie lastig zou worden, na het opstappen van de Nederlandse Europarlementarir en SGP'er Bas Belder. Maar de Brit wist de Italiaanse partij van Beppe Grillo aan zich te binden, evenals een Zweedse, Letse, Tsjechische en Litouwse partij. Daarnaast stapt (C)(C)n Franse Europarlementarir van het Front National over naar deze fractie.
Voor het Front National en de PVV van Geert Wilders is de vorming van deze fractie mogelijk de doodsteek. Samen met het Belgische Vlaams Belang, het Oostenrijkse FP– en de Italiaanse Lega Nord zoeken ze nog twee partijen om zich bij te voegen. Er lopen gesprekken met de Poolse partij Kongres Nowej Prawicy (Congres van Nieuw Rechts). Daarnaast hoopten ze de Litouwers, die nu zich hebben aangesloten bij Farage, te overtuigen.
Als fractie kun je in het EU-parlement meer invloed uitoefenen en is er ook meer geld beschikbaar. Om een fractie te vormen in het Europees Parlement zijn minimaal 25 zetels uit zeven verschillende EU-landen nodig. Voor 25 juni moet de fractievorming zijn afgerond, v""r de eerste vergadersessie in Straatsburg begin juli.
SOCIAL MEDIA ACTIVERENRapporteer een fout in het artikel aan onze redactieMeer overgerelateerd nieuwsMeer over(C) 2014 De Persgroep Digital. Alle rechten voorbehouden.Lees de gebruiksvoorwaarden. - Privacy
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Franse drugs en hoeren niet in winstcijfers - AD.nl
Thu, 19 Jun 2014 01:27
Franse drugs en hoeren niet in winstcijfers - AD.nl
Door: redactie18-6-14 - 23:55 bron: ANPProstituees aan het werk in Nice. (C) AFP.Frankrijk gaat de geschatte winst van illegale drugshandel en prostitutie niet meenemen in de economische statistieken van het land. Dit in tegenstelling tot nieuwe EU-regels waarin staat dat drugs en prostitutie wel bij de cijfers mogen worden opgenomen.
Onder meer Itali en Groot-Brittanni hebben toegezegd de gemiddelde winst in het bruto binnenlands product te zullen opnemen. Frankrijk heeft daar geen oren naar omdat zulke transacties niet altijd op basis van wederzijds akkoord plaatsvinden.
'Illegale transacties moeten alleen meegerekend worden als er wederzijdse toestemming is. Dat is duidelijk niet het geval bij illegale prostitutie en daarom rekenen we dat niet mee", aldus een functionaris van het Franse statistiekbureau.
Bij harddrugs, waar iemand verslaafd aan kan zijn, is er volgens de Fransen bij de gebruiker geen 'toestemming' maar 'afhankelijkheid', dus ook dat blijft buiten de boeken. De geschatte winst van legale prostitutie wordt nu wel al meegerekend. Dat blijft zo.
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Workers speak out against privatization of French railways
Fri, 20 Jun 2014 04:34
By Anthony Torres19 June 2014On June 17, approximately 1,000 demonstrators gathered near the National Assembly in Paris for a protest called by the General Confederation of Labor (CGT) and Solidarity Unity Democracy-Rail (SUD-Rail) unions against the Socialist Party's (PS) planned privatization of the French railways. Rail workers who spoke to the WSWS stressed their anger with the PS government and with the media, who are denouncing the strike.
Riot police attacked a column of rail workers who tried to march on the National Assembly with tear gas, leading to clashes.
Rail workers Laurent and Nicolas told the WSWS about the difficult conditions they face, in line with workers throughout France: ''There is no more middle class, it is like in foreign countries. We do not understand what is happening. They are trying to make out like we are privileged people. The media pretend that the French railways are just the train drivers. There are only 1,600 high-speed train (TGV) drivers. But no one sees the upkeep of infrastructure and track. People are paid minimum wage.''
Laurent added, ''I have worked here for five years and I get '‚¬1,300 per month. Young workers are hired on low wages. To get '‚¬1,500 per month, you have to be on call, do overtime, come back on Saturdays, and work nights. After the reform of the railways, moreover, that will no longer be voluntary, we will be forced to do it.''
He added, ''My two grandfathers were rail workers, my father was a rail worker; we want to have a life. You can't have that under just any conditions. A studio apartment in Paris costs more than half our salary. If you find something for '‚¬800 [a month], you are lucky. Rail workers have problems, we have to have a minimum level for a decent life. What about our family life? They want to destroy our working conditions.''
WSWS reporters spoke to a maintenance technician working at Lyon station in Paris, who asked to remain anonymous. He said he wanted the PS to abandon its planned reform of the railways, so they would remain a public service, and that the strike was important for all workers: ''We are not just talking about the reform, but also about wages. If we do nothing, we will lose everything.''
He added, ''It's a year and a half that we have been telling the unions to explain to the public what was going to happen.'' He compared the situation to 1995, when a mass strike of rail workers against pension cuts broke out and escaped the control of the union bureaucracy.
This strike also demonstrated the bankruptcy of the pseudo-left parties, such as the New Anti-capitalist Party and Workers Struggle, who intervened in workers' strike committees to strangle the movement. They blocked a struggle for a political general strike and a revolutionary struggle against the government, ending the strike in exchange for a very partial postponement of the cuts. The cuts were continued since 1995 by governments of all political colors.
The union bureaucracy today is still doing everything it can to block the mobilization of the rail workers and the unification of the working class in struggle against PS austerity measures. Before the June 17 demonstration, they had called off an ongoing protest begun June 12 in front of the Transport Ministry. They are looking for a way to defuse the crisis, as CGT Secretary Thierry Lepaon explained in a letter to President Fran§ois Hollande, adding that he supports the principle of reform of the French railways.
C(C)cile stressed that the rail reform would cost jobs, because ticket offices would be closed to encourage passengers to use automatic ticket counters. She added, ''They will divide the French railways into three companies, to lead to the opening up of competition in 2022. The financiers will control profitability of the railways, which will therefore cost more and be less secure.''
C(C)cile criticized the attack against public services and on ''rail workers' benefits, which the government wants to cut in order to align it downwards on the private sector.''
She said that she did not support any compromise on the reform and that she no longer had any confidence in pro-government unions, though she hoped that the CGT and SUD-Rail would represent the majority of workers. She called Hollande ''a liar, because he claimed he would fight against the financial elite,'' adding that she had voted for Hollande ''by default.''
Laurent and Nicolas warned of the consequences of rail privatization in Sweden: ''Here, we are going towards the privatization of the railways. We see what this produced in Sweden: the railways are on strike, they are on short-term contracts and piece work.''
Nicolas stressed that the French reform would not only attack the workers, but also passengers: ''What they want is to get a lot of money out of the railways. But that is the citizens' money. For us, we are here to provide a service to the public.''
Laurent added, ''The TGV makes profits, but upkeep by itself does not. Therefore, the corporation wants to slash wages.''
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Femen hold topless protest outside French National Front campaign launch.
Fri, 20 Jun 2014 04:39
Femen activists have held a topless protest in central Paris to confront the National Front.
They gathered outside the Maison des Centraliens where far-right leader Marine Le Pen was launching the party's European election campaign.
The women had the Nazi symbol in the colours of the European flag painted on their chest and moustaches drawn on their faces.
Femen leader Inna Shevchenko said: ''We are today here to announce that fascism, a fascist epidemic is spreading all over. Today we are starting our international campaign, there are activists who are coming from all over Europe today to participate in this action. We are announcing that we start our treatment of this fascist epidemic, we know how to treat it, we have an effective plan.''
Femen say they want to draw attention to far-right parties in Europe who are trying to join forces.
Polish authorities try to seize magazine's files
Thu, 19 Jun 2014 00:30
WARSAW, Poland (AP) -- Polish police and state prosecutors on Wednesday raided the headquarters of a magazine that recently published compromising information about the government, in a failed attempt to seize its computers.In scenes broadcast live on Polish TV, Sylwester Latkowski, the editor of the weekly Wprost, said he resisted demands of authorities to hand over his laptop and pen drive and would only do so if he received a court order first. He said agents twisted his arm in order to get the laptop, and they left after a few hours without the materials they sought.A lawyer for the magazine, Jacek Kondracki, said the magazine would sue the authorities for violating press freedoms."We are not living in Putin's country or in Belarus," he said, referring to President Vladimir Putin's Russia, which has faced criticism for curbs on press freedoms.A spokeswoman for the state prosecutors, Renata Mazur, said the search was ordered after Latkowski refused to hand over the recordings. She said the aim was to obtain evidence, not violate journalist secrecy.In Poland, journalists are obliged to protect their sources if they request anonymity, and only a court order can waive that.Mazur said prosecutors pulled back out of fear for their security, under an "escalating conflict." The magazine's offices were filled with cameramen and reporters who stormed into a closed room where Latkowski was meeting with the prosecutors.The sweep comes just days after Wprost published information from secretly made recordings of a restarant conversation last July between National Bank of Poland chief Marek Belka and Interior Minister Bartlomiej Sienkiewicz, in which they discussed how the central bank might use its power to help the government win re-election in 2015.Critics have decried the apparent collusion as a violation of the bank's independence from political interference. Earlier Wednesday, Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski said the government was facing a crisis and urged its leaders to consider in their consciences whether to resign over the scandal."It cannot go on this way," a visibly angry Komorowski said during a visit to the northern city of Sopot. "We must feel responsibility for Poland, for its institutions. We must aim to clarify the most difficult issues and expect a decent behavior, starting with ourselves."The opposition has called for the government to step down, but Prime Minister Donald Tusk has defended the two leaders, saying the conversation was in Poland's interest, and that the secret bugging amounts to an attempted coup.Also Wednesday, Deputy Prime Minister Janusz Piechocinski said he discussed with Tusk the possibility of holding an early election to help calm the political turmoil.The manager of the restaurant, identified only as Lukasz N., was detained for questioning and has been charged with two counts of criminal wiretapping. In Poland, bugging or wiretapping to get unauthorized access to information is punishable by up to two years in prison.
Polish authorities raid premises of weekly that revealed tape scandal.
Fri, 20 Jun 2014 04:41
WARSAWWed Jun 18, 2014 2:50pm EDT
WARSAW (Reuters) - Polish authorities searched the premises of Wprost, the news magazine that published tapes of officials' conversations that have embarrassed to the government, the prosecutor's spokeswoman said on Wednesday.
"This search began just a moment ago," Renata Mazur of the Warsaw prosecutor's office told reporters.
The prosecutor's office has issued a warrant "demanding the surrender of items," she said, indicating that would mean devices carrying the recordings.
At the weekend, Wprost published secretly recordings of private conversations between senior officials, including Interior Minister Bartlomiej Sienkiewicz and central bank chief Marek Belka.
In the recording, made last July in the private room of a Warsaw restaurant, the two men discuss how the central bank might help the government out of its economic troubles if it is heading for election defeat.
(Reporting by Marcin Goettig; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)
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Polish leader says early elections a possibility
Fri, 20 Jun 2014 04:37
WARSAW, Poland (AP) -- Interference from "abroad" could be behind the eavesdropping of the compromising conversation between two Polish top leaders, some claim as a political scandal grows and threatens to topple the government in the Eastern European country.Though no evidence has emerged to that effect, in the current context that's understood as a reference to Russia, whose relations with Poland have worsened due to Warsaw's strong opposition to the Kremlin's actions in Ukraine.The crisis broke five days ago when the popular weekly magazine Wprost released a secretly taped conversation between Poland's central bank head and the country's interior minister in which they appear to be colluding over how the bank could help the governing party win re-election in 2015. That would amount to a violation of the bank's independence.Poland's Prime Minister Donald Tusk said Thursday that early elections within weeks may be necessary to calm the situation, but he vowed not to step down now."I will not resign in response to actions that, we all know, had criminal character, and, maybe were .... aimed at the government's resignation or fall," Tusk said.So far only one suspect has emerged in the criminal investigation of the case: the manager of the restaurant where the talks took place, identified only as Lukasz N. The magazine has referred to its right to protect its sources, but has also suggested that past or current secret agents, a business group or Tusk's political opponents could be behind the recording.Some officials are suggesting interference from the Kremlin."There's a difficult international situation," the leader of the opposition Law and Justice party, Jaroslaw Kaczynski said earlier this week. "We don't know where this information came from. It could be an intervention from abroad. We have to protect this government."Gen. Marek Dukaczewski, a retired head of military intelligence, said he feels certain the bugging was not the work of Polish security forces. In an interview with the newspaper Polska The Times, he said it's more likely the work of "foreign services hostile to us, who have used part of the material for their own internal needs, but also want to cause some turbulence on our internal arena."In past days Poland has been completely focused on the new crisis, pushing aside its earlier focus on Ukraine, said Marcin Zaborowski, the head of the Polish Institute of International Affairs. That of course, serves Moscow's interest, but is not enough to consider the Russian connection "a viable theory" at this point, he said.Edward Lucas, author of the book "Deception: Spies, Lies and How Russia Dupes the West," argued that Russia does have a "big interest in destabilizing Poland," though he too stresses that there is no evidence."The Russians are experts at bugging and at information warfare," he said. "Clearly Poland is a major problem for Russia at the moment."Polish-Russian ties have been tense for years but took a turn for the worse with Russia's annexation of Crimea. Poland is staunchly pro-West and has reacted to the violence in Ukraine by pledging to increase its defense budget and calling for a permanent NATO presence on its soil. For years it has taken the lead in the EU in trying to encourage democratic and Western values in Ukraine.And the Russians are known for using bugged conversations to embarrass political opponents.In February, a bugged phone call posted on YouTube with Russian subtitles captured U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Europe Victoria Nuland dismissing the European Union with an expletive in frustration over Europe's pace in helping Ukraine. U.S. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the video was "a new low in Russian tradecraft," indirectly suggesting that Russia was responsible for bugging the call.Lucas, the author, said there was "a lot of Russian intelligence activity" directed against Poland before it joined NATO in 1999 but it diminished in recent years as Polish counter-intelligence has improved. Still, from time to time Russian spies are caught spying on Poland from within its borders or from elsewhere in Europe, he said."There is no doubt that Poland is a major Russian intelligence target," he said.-----Monika Scislowska in Warsaw contributed to this report.
Dutch Royal Family builds illegal pier for the sake of ''Greek public interest''
Thu, 19 Jun 2014 00:15
tagged: above the law, Ermioni, Greece, illegal building, King, Kranidi, Netherland Times, private pier, Queen Maxima, royal villa, Royals, scandal, security measures, Willem-AlexanderPosted by keeptalkinggreece in Uncategorized
What does the Dutch Royal Family has in common with the Greeks? Fairly nothing '' except maybe some old odd blood relations with the former Greek royal family which Greeks decided to send to a private home long long time ago. So how can the Royal House Oranje serve the Greek public interest? I can answer right away: I have no clue and no idea. But the Greek state, inf act 3 of its ministers, decided that if the House Oranje is happy and swims in a private beach then the Greeks' public interest is served! Even if Holland's King Willem-Alexander and the private beach right in front of his villa in Ermioni, Peloponnese, prohibit locals from swimming around and enjoy their traditional cheese- and spinach pies at the beach.
Fact is that three Greek ministers issued a decision allowing ''at exception of the current laws'' King Willem-Alexander to build a private dock and also to fence the beach. Fact is also that Royals are still above the law and have to secure that foot soldiers swim somewhere else.
Royal jetty
The Royal Villa and the Royal building illegalities
Back in 2012, the Dutch state invested 5.9 million dollars to buy a summer villa for Willem-Alexander and his family in Kranidi in noble municipality of Ermioni in Peloponnese.
In early summer 2014, locals saw that a private dock was built at the seashore in front of the villa and thus in times when the issue of seashore is a highly political issue and the law prohibits private use of the Greek seashores.
According to newspaper ProtoThema, three ministers had issued a special license for the Durch Royal couple to proceed to some buildings. The ministerial decision signed by the minister of Public Order Dendias, of Maritime Varvitsiotis and the deputy minister of Environment Kalafatis approved the Dutch request of January 8th 2014 citing ''public interest.''
Ministerial decision for Royals
''Approved for reasons of public interest and the protection of public order'... under exclusion of any general or special legislation.'' The ministerial decision approved the installation of a security system and also gave building permit for the installment of fencing and ''associate marine works.''
''The ministerial order did not give permit for the building of a private pier though,'' notes the newspaper adding that the villa status does not refer to an embassy or consulate building that is considered to be ''foreign soil'' but a property owned by the Dutch government.
Nevertheless, the royal constructors built in zero time a private dock and a small port, a path to the villa, a small building for the royal sunbeds and the royal security personnel, installed surveillance cameras and prohibition signs and hired security guards who keep a sharp eye to those few daring come close to the royal beach.
Royal Villa
Stay away from Royal Beach
A group of Citizens complained about the Royal exemption from the law, the Royal ''construction illegalities'' and ''arbitrariness'' and Marias Karras, the president of the Citizens' Intervention Initiative told Proto Thema:
''The port was constructed over night with the flimsy excuse of providing an easy escape for the King of Holland in case of danger, while the other fortifications were the reasons for the defense of the royal family in case of attack.''
Karras added that it was the sole responsibility of the government that it ignored the laws to please the Royal Dutch and added that ''according to the laws, no seashore or part of the sea can be property of another state.''
Anger in Holland
While the issue is for Greeks a matter of ''free access to free beaches'' for the Dutch is a matter of ''public money spending''.
According to Netherlands Times,
the Dutch ''Parliament wants clarification from the Cabinet about how much the Dutch state has invested into the Greek vacation villa of King Willem-Alexander and Queen Mxima. Local media claims that ''illegal building'' occurred on the grounds, bought by the Dutch state.
The RVD says that the Greek government gave permission to the national counter-terrorism coordinator (NCTV), who took a package of security measures. The RVD says that a jetty has been constructed at the home, and a plot of land has been leased, but will not clarify the cost of this.
This is not the first time that the construction of a Royal holiday home has come under fire. In 2007, King Willem-Alexander and Queen Mxima bought a home in Mozambique. The high costs of protecting a Royal vacation home in a developing country in Africa became a political discussion, and the home was given up in 2009.''
BTW: the villa is not so legal as it it built in what we call in Greece ''εκÏός σχεδίÎυ'', that is ''outside town/urban planning zone.'' (see the ministerial decision). If you are a common Greek you get no phone land line or even electricity in such a building nowadays.
Proof! A Dutch queen cannot have enough security measures.
Stockman bill allows taxpayers to use same lame excuses as IRS | Congressman Steve Stockman
Sun, 22 Jun 2014 13:18
WASHINGTON -- Taxpayers who do not produce documents for the Internal Revenue Service will be able to offer a variety of dubious excuses under legislation introduced by Rep. Steve Stockman (R-TX 36) a week after the IRS offered an incredibly dubious excuse for its failure to turn documents over to House investigators.
''The United States was founded on the belief government is subservient and accountable to the people. Taxpayers shouldn't be expected to follow laws the Obama administration refuses to follow themselves,'' said Stockman. ''Taxpayers should be allowed to offer the same flimsy, obviously made-up excuses the Obama administration uses.''
Under Stockman's bill, ''The Dog Ate My Tax Receipts Act,'' taxpayers who do not provide documents requested by the IRS can claim one of the following reasons:
1. The dog ate my tax receipts2. Convenient, unexplained, miscellaneous computer malfunction3. Traded documents for five terrorists4. Burned for warmth while lost in the Yukon5. Left on table in Hillary's Book Room6. Received water damage in the trunk of Ted Kennedy's car7. Forgot in gun case sold to Mexican drug lords8. Forced to recycle by municipal Green Czar9. Was short on toilet paper while camping10. At this point, what difference does it make?
Stockman's bill comes a week after the IRS refused to turn over to House investigators emails from former Exempt Organizations Divison director Lois Lerner that would implicate agency personnel in illegal targeting of citizens critical of President Barack Obama.
The IRS claimed a ''computer glitch'' has erased the hard drives of all incriminating evidence. The IRS further claimed the hard drives are not available for forensic investigation as they had just been destroyed for recycling.
The full text of the resolution follows:
The resolution may be cited as the ''Dog Ate My Tax Receipts Resolution.''
Expressing the sense of the House of Representatives that the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) must allow taxpayers the same lame excuses for missing documentation that the IRS itself is currently proffering
Whereas, the IRS claims that convenient, unexplained, miscellaneous computer malfunction is sufficient justification not to produce specific, critical documentation; and,
Whereas, fairness and Due Process demand that the American taxpayer be granted no less latitude than we afford the bureaucrats employed presently at the IRS;
Now, therefore, be it resolved that it is the sense of the House of Representatives that unless and until the Internal Revenue Service produces all documentation demanded by subpoena or otherwise by the House of Representatives, or produces an excuse that passes the red face test,
All taxpayers shall be given the benefit of the doubt when not producing critical documentation, so long as the taxpayer's excuse therefore falls into one of the following categories:
1. The dog ate my tax receipts2. Convenient, unexplained, miscellaneous computer malfunction3. Traded documents for five terrorists4. Burned for warmth while lost in the Yukon5. Left on table in Hillary's Book Room6. Received water damage in the trunk of Ted Kennedy's car7. Forgot in gun case sold to Mexican drug lords8. Forced to recycle by municipal Green Czar9. Was short on toilet paper while camping10. At this point, what difference does it make?
In any case, IRS can see the NSA for a good, high quality copy.
Blog: IRS contracted with email archiving company in 2005
Sun, 22 Jun 2014 00:52
This was was picked up by Peter Suderman of Reason, who writes:
The IRS had a contract with email backup service vendor Sonasoft starting in 2005,according to FedSpending.org, which lists the contract as being for "automatic data processing services." Sonasoft's motto is "email archiving done right," and the companylists the IRS as a customer.
In 2009, Sonasoft even sent out a Tweet advertising its work for the IRS.
The exact details of the service that Sonasoft provided to the IRS aren't clear. But the company advertises its email archiving solution as "ideal for small and medium businesses, government agencies, school districts, nonprofit organizations using Microsoft's Exchange Server." And a document posted on its website describing its services says that its system "archives all email content and so reduces the risk of non-compliance with legal, regulatory and other obligations to preserve critical business content."
Hat tip: Clarice Feldman
Is that a smoking gun I smell? It turns out the IRS contracted with a company that provides email backup services starting in 2005. This first came to light in the Twitter feed of moregenr, who noticed that the IRS appears on the client list of email archiving service provider Sonasoft.
This was was picked up by Peter Suderman of Reason, who writes:
The IRS had a contract with email backup service vendor Sonasoft starting in 2005,according to FedSpending.org, which lists the contract as being for "automatic data processing services." Sonasoft's motto is "email archiving done right," and the companylists the IRS as a customer.
In 2009, Sonasoft even sent out a Tweet advertising its work for the IRS.
The exact details of the service that Sonasoft provided to the IRS aren't clear. But the company advertises its email archiving solution as "ideal for small and medium businesses, government agencies, school districts, nonprofit organizations using Microsoft's Exchange Server." And a document posted on its website describing its services says that its system "archives all email content and so reduces the risk of non-compliance with legal, regulatory and other obligations to preserve critical business content."
Hat tip: Clarice Feldman
"Cluster Of Central Banks" Have Secretly Invested $29 Trillion In The Market
Sat, 21 Jun 2014 22:29
Another conspiracy "theory" becomes conspiracy "fact" as The FT reports "a cluster of central banking investors has become major players on world equity markets." The report, to be published this week by the Official Monetary and Financial Institutions Forum (OMFIF), confirms $29.1tn in market investments, held by 400 public sector institutions in 162 countries, which "could potentially contribute to overheated asset prices." China's State Administration of Foreign Exchange has become ''the world's largest public sector holder of equities'', according to officials, and we suspect the Fed is close behind (courtesy of more levered positions at Citadel), as the world's banks try to diversify themselves and "counters the monopoly power of the dollar." Which leaves us wondering where are the central bank 13Fs?
While most have assumed that this is likely, the recent exuberance in stocks has largely been laid at the foot of another irrational un-economic actor - the corporate buyback machine. However, as The FT reports, what we have speculated as fact for many years now (given the death cross of irrationality, plunging volumes, lack of engagement, and of course dwindling credibility of central planners)... is now fact...
Central banks around the world, including China's, have shifted decisively into investing in equities as low interest rates have hit their revenues, according to a global study of 400 public sector institutions.
''A cluster of central banking investors has become major players on world equity markets,'' says a report to be published this week by the Official Monetary and Financial Institutions Forum (Omfif), a central bank research and advisory group. The trend ''could potentially contribute to overheated asset prices'', it warns.
The report, seen by the Financial Times, identifies $29.1tn in market investments, including gold, held by 400 public sector institutions in 162 countries.
China's State Administration of Foreign Exchange has become ''the world's largest public sector holder of equities'', as the report argues is ''partly strategic'' because it ''counters the monopoly power of the dollar'' and reflects Beijing's global financial ambitions.
In Europe, the Swiss and Danish central banks are among those investing in equities. The Swiss National Bank has an equity quota of about 15 per cent. Omfif quotes Thomas Jordan, SNB's chairman, as saying: ''We are now invested in large, mid- and small-cap stocks in developed markets worldwide.'' The Danish central bank's equity portfolio was worth about $500m at the end of last year.
Read more here
So there it is... conspiracy fact - Central Banks around the world are buying stocks in increasing size.
To summarize, the global equity market is now one massive Ponzi scheme in which the dumb money are central banks themselves, the same banks who inject the liquidity to begin with.
That would explain this.
That said, good luck with "exiting" the unconventional monetary policy. You'll need it.
Average:Your rating: NoneAverage: 4.9(73 votes)
Shut Up Slave!
New sensors will scoop up data in Chicago - chicagotribune.com
Sat, 21 Jun 2014 20:08
The curled metal fixtures set to go up on a handful of Michigan Avenue light poles later this summer may look like delicate pieces of sculpture, but researchers say they'll provide a big step forward in the way Chicago understands itself by observing the city's people and surroundings.
The smooth, perforated sheaths of metal are decorative, but their job is to protect and conceal a system of data-collection sensors that will measure air quality, light intensity, sound volume, heat, precipitation, and wind. The sensors will also count people by observing cell phone traffic.
Some experts caution that efforts like the one launching here to collect data from people and their surroundings pose concerns of a Big Brother intrusion into personal privacy.
In particular, sensors collecting cell phone data make privacy proponents nervous. But computer scientist Charlie Catlett said the planners have taken precautions to design their sensors to observe mobile devices and count contact with the signal rather than record the digital address of every device.
Researchers have dubbed their effort the "Array of Things" project. Gathering and publishing such a broad swatch of data will give scientists the tools to make Chicago a safer, more efficient and cleaner place to live, said Catlett, director of the Urban Center for Computation and Data, part of a joint initiative between the University of Chicago and Argonne National Laboratory.
The novelty of a permanent data collection infrastructure may also give Chicago a competitive advantage in attracting technological research, researchers contend.
"The city is interested in making Chicago a place where innovation happens," said Catlett.
Many cities around the globe have tried in recent years to collect enormous piles of "big data" in order to better understand their people and surroundings, but scientists say Chicago's project to create a permanent data collection infrastructure is unusual.
While data-hungry researchers are unabashedly enthusiastic about the project, some experts said that the system's flexibility and planned partnerships with industry beg to be closely monitored. Questions include whether the sensors are gathering too much personal information about people who may be passing by without giving a second thought to the amount of data that their movements'--and the signals from their smartphones'--may be giving off.
The first sensor could be in place by mid-July. Researchers hope to start with sensors at eight Michigan Avenue intersections, followed by dozens more around the Loop by year's end and hundreds more across the city in years to come as the project expands into neighborhoods, Catlett said.
"Our intention is to understand cities better," Catlett said. "Part of the goal is to make these things essentially a public utility."
Over the last decade many cities have launched efforts to collect data about everything from air quality and temperature at street level to the traffic flow of pedestrians and vehicles, all in the name of making urban centers run more efficiently and safely.
Much of the useful data has been "exhaust" from an increasingly digital and technological world, scientists say. Improvements in such technologies have led to novel conveniences like smartphone applications that tell you whether your bus is on time or how backed up the expressway is likely to be when you head home.
But Chicago researchers are hoping to put in place a system that will make this city a leader in research about how modern cities function, Catlett said.
While the benefits of collecting and analyzing giant sets of data from cities are somewhat speculative, there is a growing desire from academic and industrial researchers to have access to the data, said Gary King, director of the Institute for Quantitative Social Sciences at Harvard University.
"You really don't know until you look," King said.
While he said he was unfamiliar with the project in Chicago, King likened such projects to the early efforts of looking into deep space with the Hubble Space Telescope, opening new and unknown frontiers of information, "only the telescope is pointed downward" at life on the streets of the city.
While the project is led by Catlett's team and the city, other institutions are involved, he said. The boxes that will hold the sensors are being made by designers at the School of the Art Institute, and Catlett said he has secured more than $1 million in in-kind contributions of engineering help from corporations including Cisco Systems, Intel, Zebra Technologies, Qualcomm, Motorola Solutions and Schneider Electric.
Planners envision a permanent system of data collection boxes that can be used by a range of researchers from the public, private and academic sectors who want to test ideas but wouldn't have the resources to build the testing infrastructure. The system also will be flexible with the boxes being secure, and connected to power and the Internet, but otherwise adaptable to "the latest and greatest technology" in sensors, Catlett said.
While there are plenty of advocates singing the praises of the city's push toward gathering and publishing data, some experts say there are risks of invading the privacy of people who don't know their every movement in public is being observed by a computer and analyzed by someone.
Tens of thousands march in London against coalition's austerity measures.
Sun, 22 Jun 2014 13:30
Russell Brand told the marchers there will be a 'peaceful, effortless, joyful revolution' against austerity in the UK. Photograph: Rex Features
Tens of thousands of people marched through central London on Saturday afternoon in protest at austerity measures introduced by the coalition government. The demonstrators gathered before the Houses of Parliament, where they were addressed by speakers, including comedians Russell Brand and Mark Steel.
An estimated 50,000 people marched from the BBC's New Broadcasting House in central London to Westminster.
"The people of this building [the House of Commons] generally speaking do not represent us, they represent their friends in big business. It's time for us to take back our power," said Brand.
"This will be a peaceful, effortless, joyful revolution and I'm very grateful to be involved in the People's Assembly."
"Power isn't there, it is here, within us," he added. "The revolution that's required isn't a revolution of radical ideas, but the implementation of ideas we already have."
A spokesman for the People's Assembly, which organised the march, said the turnout was "testament to the level of anger there is at the moment".
He said that Saturday's action was "just the start", with a second march planned for October in conjunction with the Trades Union Congress, as well as strike action expected next month.
People's Assembly spokesman Clare Solomon said: "It is essential for the welfare of millions of people that we stop austerity and halt this coalition government dead in its tracks before it does lasting damage to people's lives and our public services."
Sam Fairburn, the group's national secretary, added: "Cuts are killing people and destroying cherished public services which have served generations."
Activists from the Stop The War Coalition and CND also joined the demonstration.
The crowds heard speeches at Parliament Square from People's Assembly supporters, including Caroline Lucas MP and journalist Owen Jones. Addressing the marchers, Jones said: "Who is really responsible for the mess this country is in? Is it the Polish fruit pickers or the Nigerian nurses? Or is it the bankers who plunged it into economic disaster '' or the tax avoiders? It is selective anger."
He added: "The Conservatives are using the crisis to push policies they have always supported. For example, the sell-off of the NHS. They have built a country in which most people who are in poverty are also in work."
The People's Assembly was set up with an open letter to the Guardian in February 2013. Signatories to letter included Tony Benn, who died in March this year, journalist John Pilger and filmmaker Ken Loach.
In the letter, they wrote: "This is a call to all those millions of people in Britain who face an impoverished and uncertain year as their wages, jobs, conditions and welfare provision come under renewed attack by the government.
"The assembly will provide a national forum for anti-austerity views which, while increasingly popular, are barely represented in parliament."
The Metropolitan police refused to provide an estimate. A police spokesman said the force had received no reports of arrests.
A spokesman for the prime minister declined to comment.
Agenda 21
Atmosphere over the Pacific Ocean may be getting in gear for El Nino
Sat, 21 Jun 2014 22:40
By Climate CentralFriday, June 20, 2014 15:22 EDT
Originally published by Climate Central
The atmosphere over the Pacific Ocean may be getting its act together and finally cooperating with shifting ocean waters to signal that an El Ni±o has arrived, climate scientists with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported in their latest outlook.
Animation of sea surface temperatures in the tropical Pacific Ocean.Credit: NOAA.
El Ni±o watchers have been waiting for the climate phenomenon to show up since anEl Ni±o Watch was issued back in March, meaning that conditions were favorable for one to develop in the next six months. Potential El Ni±o events are so closely watched because of the influence they can have on the world's weather. Depending on when this El Ni±o develops, it could also bump up Earth's already warming temperature enough to make 2014 or 2015 a record warm year, scientists have said.
An El Ni±o is characterized by warmer-than-normal sea surface temperatures in the central and eastern tropical Pacific. It is the warm phase of a larger cyclical climate phenomenon called the El Ni±o-Southern Oscillation; La Ni±a is the cool phase and is characterized by colder-than-normal temperatures in the same parts of the Pacific.
But the phenomenon isn't limited to the oceans; it also affects the wind patterns over those ocean waters. During an El Ni±o, the trade winds that normally blow from east to west across the tropical Pacific relax and reverse.
Sea surface temperatures have been hovering around the mark that determines an El Ni±o, which is defined as temperatures that are 0.5°C (0.9°F) above normal. Back in March, a large pulse of warm water called a Kelvin wave surged toward the eastern tropical Pacific from the western part. This happened because of the slackening of the trade winds, which normally pile that warm water up in the western part of the basin, but cause it to go tumbling to the east when they dissipate.
That Kelvin wave resulted in temperature anomalies that were comparable to those seen before the intense El Ni±o event of 1997-1998. But since then, temperatures have cooled somewhat, though they still indicate a developing El Ni±o, possibly just a more moderate one, climate scientists who monitor the phenomenon have said.
But as of the latest official forecast update from the Climate Prediction Center, issued on June 5, the atmospheric signals of an El Ni±o weren't quite there, keeping forecasters from issuing an El Ni±o Advisory (which means El Ni±o conditions have been observed and are expected to continue). In particular, forecasters were waiting to see enhanced convection '-- the process that drives thunderstorms '-- over the area, as well as drier conditions over Indonesia, Michelle L'Heureux, a CPC meteorologist who helps put together the updates, told Climate Central at the time.
The latest update from Australia's Bureau of Meteorology, issued on June 17, concurred with the CPC's assessment.
In the last week or two, though, scientists have seen convection near the International Date Line in the tropical Pacific and have seen the trade winds behaving more like they should during a developing El Ni±o, Stephen Baxter, a seasonal forecaster with the CPC, told reporters during the Thursday briefing on the NOAA outlook.
''There is some indication that the atmosphere has become a little more responsive,'' Baxter said.
Some other climate factors could be muddying the waters, L'Heureux told Climate Central in an email this week. A climate cycle called the Pacific Decadal Oscillation, which as its name suggests acts over decades, has been in a phase that tends to favor cooler conditions in the Pacific since the late 90s, just after the major 1997-1998 El Ni±o.
On the opposite time scale, a cycle called the Madden-Julian Oscillation acts over just a month or two and influences the trade winds. L'Heureux thinks the relative cooling over the past couple of weeks can be attributed to the MJO, which amps up the easterly winds, pushing away those warmer waters. But it's possible the MJO could flip around in the next few weeks and set off a westerly wind burst, warming things up again.
''We're in a 'wait and let's see' mode,'' L'Heureux said.
Even without that westerly wind burst, Baxter told reporters, there are indications that the Pacific is still headed for an El Ni±o.
''We're nicely on track for a weak to moderate, but still potentially impactful'' El Ni±o in the fall to winter months, he said.
Originally published by Climate Central
Drone Nation
When drones fall from the sky
Sat, 21 Jun 2014 22:31
MQ-9 ReaperThe bigger, faster and more reliable successor to the Predator. It can fly as high as 50,000 feet and carry four Hellfire missiles, twice as many as the Predator. The Air Force expects to replace all its Predators with Reapers by 2018. The civilian version of the MQ-9 is called the Predator B. (Alberto Cuadra)
See more drone types
The Air Force acknowledged that Predators crash more frequently than regular military aircraft, but officials said the drone's safety record has improved markedly.
During its first dozen years of existence, the Predator crashed at an extraordinarily high rate '-- for every 100,000 hours flown, it was involved in 13.7 Class A accidents.
Since 2009, as the Air Force has become more experienced at flying drones, the mishap rate for Predators has fallen to 4.79 Class A accidents for every 100,000 flight hours.
Army crash ratesThe Reaper has fared better than the Predator, incurring 3.17 Class A mishaps per 100,000 hours over the past five years.
Air Force officials pointed out that the crash rate for Reapers now approaches the standard set by two fighter jets, the F-16 and F-15, which over the past five years have posted Class A mishap rates of 1.96 and 1.47 respectively, according to statistics from the Air Force Safety Center at Kirtland Air Force Base in New Mexico.
''We've learned a lot about flying [drones] because we had to,'' said Air Force Col. James Marshall, the safety director for the Air Combat Command. ''War is a great motivator when lives are on the line.''
The Reaper has not been immune to deficiencies.
After one crashed during a training mission in California on March 20, 2009, Air Force investigators blamed a faulty temperature control valve in the oil system. A similar incident had occurred one month before.
Further investigation revealed that sliders in the valves had been installed upside-down. Air Force inspectors were even more surprised to learn from General Atomics that the firm had bought the valves from a Houston company that did not design its products for use in airplanes.
The valve ''is not of aerospace grade. In other words, the thermostatic valve was designed specifically for industrial applications ONLY,'' an Air Force investigator wrote in the accident report. ''This thermostatic valve was not intended for aircraft.''
A faulty temperature control valve caused a Reaper to crash during a training mission in California in March 2009. (U.S. Air Force photo)
Unlike the Air Force, the Army does not make the argument that its drones are nearly as safe as regular planes.
In June 2013, Army safety officials posted a bulletin noting that their drones had crashed at 10 times the rate of manned Army aircraft over the previous nine months.
As bad as that number sounded, the officials said it actually understated the problem. Commanders were not reporting many drone mishaps, as required, to the Army Combat Readiness/Safety Center at Fort Rucker, Ala.
About 55 percent of the Army's MQ-5 Hunter drones, which can carry weapons, have been ''lost for various reasons'' in accidents during training and combat operations, according to Col. Tim Baxter, the Army's project manager for unmanned aircraft systems.
The RQ-7 Shadow, the smaller reconnaissance model that crashed into the Hercules cargo plane, has also been accident-prone. At least 38 percent of the Army's fleet has been involved in a major accident, according to a Post analysis of Army safety statistics.
Gardasil HPV vaccine approved for the prevention of anal cancer
Sat, 21 Jun 2014 22:28
EC grants a new indication for Gardasil.
19 June, 2014 12:36 PM
Sanofi Pasteur MSD announced today that the European Commission has granted marketing authorisation for the use of Gardasil® (human papillomavirus vaccine [types 6, 11, 16, 18] [recombinant, adsorbed]) for the prevention of anal precancerous lesions and anal cancers causally related to certain oncogenic human papillomavirus (HPV) types in both males and females.Gardasil is already approved from 9 years of age for the prevention of cervical cancer and premalignant genital lesions (cervical, vulvar and vaginal) causally related to certain oncogenic HPV types in females. It is also approved for the prevention of genital warts causally related to specific HPV types in both males and females.HPV is a virus that causes a number of diseases and cancers, including cervical cancer in females and anal cancer in both males and females. This new indication acknowledges the efficacy of Gardasil, targeting the high-risk HPV types 16 and 18 which cause the vast majority of anal cancers.(1)''Thanks to the new indication, Gardasil® provides today a unique opportunity for the prevention of anal precancers and anal cancer," said Dr Jean-Paul Kress, President of Sanofi Pasteur MSD. ''The possibility to prevent anal cancer further reinforces the need for widespread vaccination of both males and females against HPV, especially since there are currently no other routine measures or screening programmes available for prevention of anal cancers," concluded Dr Kress.Gardasil is a quadrivalent HPV vaccine that helps to protect people from HPV-related cancers of the cervix and anus, genital precancerous lesions and genital warts, with demonstrated protection in real-life population studies.(2''4) Launched in 2006, it is the most widely used HPV vaccine globally with approximately 152 million doses distributed to date.(5)
Alemany L, et al. Human papillomavirus DNA prevalence and type distribution in anal carcinomas worldwide. Int J Cancer 2014 [Epub ahead of print].Brotherton JML, et al. Early effect of the HPV vaccination programme on cervical abnormalities in Victoria, Australia: an ecological study. Lancet 2011;377:2085''92.Read TRH, et al. The near disappearance of genital warts in young women 4 years after commencing a national human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination programme. Sex Transm Infect 2011; 87:544''7.Markowitz LE, et al. Reduction in Human Papillomavirus (HPV) Prevalence Among Young Women Following HPV Vaccine Introduction in the United States, National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys, 2003''2010. JID, 2013;208[3]:385''93.SPMSD, internal data, June 2014.
Doctors Without Borders: Ebola 'out of control'.
Sat, 21 Jun 2014 22:00
DAKAR, Senegal (AP) '-- The Ebola outbreak ravaging West Africa is "totally out of control," according to a senior official for Doctors Without Borders, who says the medical group is stretched to the limit in responding.
The outbreak has caused more deaths than any other of the disease, said another official with the medical charity. Ebola has been linked to more than 330 deaths in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia, according to the World Health Organization.
International organizations and the governments involved need to send in more health experts and increase public education messages about how to stop the spread of the disease, Bart Janssens, the director of operations for the medical group in Brussels, told The Associated Press on Friday.
"The reality is clear that the epidemic is now in a second wave," Janssens said. "And, for me, it is totally out of control."
The Ebola virus, which causes internal bleeding and organ failure, spreads through direct contact with infected people. There is no cure or vaccine, so containing an outbreak focuses on supportive care for the ill and isolating them to limit the spread of the virus.
The current outbreak, which began in Guinea either late last year or early this year, had appeared to slow before picking up pace again in recent weeks, including spreading to the Liberian capital for the first time.
"This is the highest outbreak on record and has the highest number of deaths, so this is unprecedented so far," said Armand Sprecher, a public health specialist with Doctors Without Borders.
According to the WHO, the highest previous death toll was in the first recorded Ebola outbreak in Congo in 1976, when 280 deaths were reported. Because Ebola often touches remote areas and the first cases sometimes go unrecognized, it is likely that there are deaths that go uncounted during outbreaks.
The multiple locations of the current outbreak and its movement across borders make it one of the "most challenging Ebola outbreaks ever," Fadela Chaib, a spokeswoman for the World Health Organization, said earlier in the week.
But Janssens' description of the Ebola outbreak was even more alarming, and he warned that the countries involved had not recognized the gravity of the situation. He criticized WHO for not doing enough to prod local leaders; the U.N. health agency did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
"There needs to be a real political commitment that this is a very big emergency," he said. "Otherwise, it will continue to spread, and for sure it will spread to more countries."
But Tolbert Nyenswah, Liberia's deputy minister of health, said the highest levels of government are working to contain the outbreak, noting that Liberia had a long period with no new cases before this second wave.
Governments and international agencies are definitely struggling to keep up with the outbreak, said Unni Krishnan of Plan International, which is providing equipment to the three countries. But he noted that the disease is striking in one of the world's poorest regions, where public health systems are already fragile.
With more than 40 international staff currently on the ground and four treatment centers, Doctors Without Borders has reached its limit to respond, Janssens said. It is unclear, for instance, if the group will be able to set up a treatment center in Liberia, like the ones it is running in in Guinea and Sierra Leone, he said.
Janssens said the only way to stop the disease's spread is to persuade people to come forward when symptoms occur and to avoid touching the sick and dead.
He said this outbreak is particularly challenging because it began in an area where people are very mobile and has spread to even more densely populated areas, like the capitals of Guinea and Liberia. The disease typically strikes sparsely populated areas in central or eastern Africa, where it spreads less easily, he said.
By contrast, the epicenter of this outbreak is near a major regional transport hub, the Guinean city of Gueckedou.
Associated Press video journalist Bishr Eltouni in Brussels and writer Jonathan Paye-Layleh in Monrovia, Liberia, contributed to this report.
IMF's Lagarde urges ECB to consider QE
Sat, 21 Jun 2014 21:35
The European Central Bank (ECB) should contemplate quantitative easing if inflation in the single currency bloc remains low for a protracted period, says International Monetary Fund (IMF) Managing Director Christine Lagarde.
"If inflation was to remain stubbornly low, then we would certainly hope that the ECB would take quantitative easing measures by way of purchasing of sovereign bonds," Lagarde told CNBC on Thursday.
She defines "stubbornly low inflation" as prices remaining well below target in spite of measures being taken to boost inflation.
Read More'Damaging deflation' threatens euro zone: EY
Euro zone consumer prices rose by just 0.5 percent year-on-year in May, down from 0.7 percent in April and well short of the ECB's target of close to 2 percent.
Unlike other major central banks, the ECB has so far resisted embarking on a quantitative easing program, but has said it stands ready do so if needed.
Earlier this month, the central bank unveiled fresh measures to stimulate the economy including taking an unprecedented step on of imposing a negative interest rate on banks for their deposits'--in effect charging lenders to park money with it.
Read MoreDraghi announces host of stimulus measures
When asked whether further ECB action may lead to complacency among governments in terms of carrying out structural reforms, Lagarde said: "They all seem convinced that they have to pursue structural reforms, support demand by good solid monetary policy, and continue the fiscal consolidation path they have agreed."
SDR-"De-Dollarization" Continues - China Starts Direct Trade With UK | Zero Hedge
Fri, 20 Jun 2014 03:54
Following the initial de-dollarization meeting, there has been a slew of anti-dollar moves around the world (including Gazprom's shift of 90% of its clients to non-dollar payments). However, on the heels of the "anti-dollar alliance" discussions yesterday, DW reports that China would start direct trade between the renminbi and the British pound on Thursday. China's Foreign Exchange Trade System (CFETS) confirmed Sterling and yuan would be directly swapped without using the US dollar as an intermediary.
Via DW,
China's Foreign Exchange Trade System (CFETS) said Wednesday the Asian nation would start direct trade between the renminbi and the British pound on Thursday.
Sterling and yuan would be directly swapped without using the US dollar as an intermediary, the trade platform noted.
"The move will promote the bilateral trade and investment between China and the United Kingdom and facilitate the use of renminbi and pound in the cross-border trade settlement," CFETS commented.
China has long had direct currency trade with the US and has recently added Japan's yen, the Australian, New Zealand and Canadian dollars, Russia's ruble and the Malaysian ringgit to its options.
Wednesday's announcement came during a visit to the UK by China's Prime Minister Li Keqiang and after the signing of various bilateral business contracts.
Britain for its part has been looking to make London a European hub for overseas yuan trading in competition with Frankfurt and Paris. China's central bank announced Wednesday that a subsidiary of China Construction Bank had been chosen to undertake yuan clearing business in London.
Still - there's always Iraq to trade USDs with...
Average:Your rating: NoneAverage: 5(6 votes)
"Cluster Of Central Banks" Have Secretly Invested $29 Trillion In The Market
Tue, 17 Jun 2014 05:30
Another conspiracy "theory" becomes conspiracy "fact" as The FT reports "a cluster of central banking investors has become major players on world equity markets." The report, to be published this week by the Official Monetary and Financial Institutions Forum (OMFIF), confirms $29.1tn in market investments, held by 400 public sector institutions in 162 countries, which "could potentially contribute to overheated asset prices." China's State Administration of Foreign Exchange has become ''the world's largest public sector holder of equities'', according to officials, and we suspect the Fed is close behind (courtesy of more levered positions at Citadel), as the world's banks try to diversify themselves and "counters the monopoly power of the dollar." Which leaves us wondering where are the central bank 13Fs?
While most have assumed that this is likely, the recent exuberance in stocks has largely been laid at the foot of another irrational un-economic actor - the corporate buyback machine. However, as The FT reports, what we have speculated as fact for many years now (given the death cross of irrationality, plunging volumes, lack of engagement, and of course dwindling credibility of central planners)... is now fact...
Central banks around the world, including China's, have shifted decisively into investing in equities as low interest rates have hit their revenues, according to a global study of 400 public sector institutions.
''A cluster of central banking investors has become major players on world equity markets,'' says a report to be published this week by the Official Monetary and Financial Institutions Forum (Omfif), a central bank research and advisory group. The trend ''could potentially contribute to overheated asset prices'', it warns.
The report, seen by the Financial Times, identifies $29.1tn in market investments, including gold, held by 400 public sector institutions in 162 countries.
China's State Administration of Foreign Exchange has become ''the world's largest public sector holder of equities'', as the report argues is ''partly strategic'' because it ''counters the monopoly power of the dollar'' and reflects Beijing's global financial ambitions.
In Europe, the Swiss and Danish central banks are among those investing in equities. The Swiss National Bank has an equity quota of about 15 per cent. Omfif quotes Thomas Jordan, SNB's chairman, as saying: ''We are now invested in large, mid- and small-cap stocks in developed markets worldwide.'' The Danish central bank's equity portfolio was worth about $500m at the end of last year.
Read more here
So there it is... conspiracy fact - Central Banks around the world are buying stocks in increasing size.
To summarize, the global equity market is now one massive Ponzi scheme in which the dumb money are central banks themselves, the same banks who inject the liquidity to begin with.
That would explain this.
That said, good luck with "exiting" the unconventional monetary policy. You'll need it.
Setting Negative Interest Rates, Euro Central Bank Plots Heist
Tue, 17 Jun 2014 05:25
Under the guise of seeking higher inflation to ''stimulate'' the economy (and erode the value of people's savings even more quickly), the European Central Bank (ECB) announced negative interest rates on deposits held at the bank '-- the first time a major monetary authority has ever set the rate below zero. If that proves to be not enough in its supposed battle against ''deflation'' or ''not enough'' inflation, the central planners at the eurozone central bank are threatening to do still more. Already, they are talking about potentially even starting up their own Federal Reserve-style ''quantitative easing'' gimmicks to gobble up real assets with fiat currency conjured out of thin air. Critics, though, are warning of disaster.
Since the financial crisis began, central banks around the world have been running the proverbial printing presses like never before. In the United States, the privately owned Federal Reserve System bailed out its crony megabanks around the world with literally trillions of dollars '-- all on the backs of the struggling American people. The Bank of England has been engaged in similar looting. The ECB, meanwhile, despite being slightly more limited in terms of what it can do, has been showering bloated European governments and mega-banks with massive sums of new euros, too.
Apparently, though, it was not enough to satisfy the special interests and central bankers, or ''banksters'' as they are often called these days by critics. Earlier this month, the ECB, purporting to be concerned about how alleged ''deflation'' might derail the purported ''economic recovery,'' announced its newest set of interest rates. Its main refinancing rate is now 0.15 percent, down from 0.25 percent. Meanwhile, the deposit rate '-- the interest rate paid to banks that deposit funds at the ECB '-- officially turned negative for the first time ever at -0.10 percent. It was at zero prior to June 11.
At a press conference announcing what many analysts said was the ''historic'' development, ECB boss Mario Draghi noted that ''the rates we've changed are for the banks, not for the people.'' In other words, everyday Europeans will not be charged interest merely to deposit funds at the bank '-- at least not yet. ''It's wrong to think we want to 'expropriate savers,''' added Draghi, a former Goldman Sachs chief and regular attendee at the shadowy Bilderberg summits along with top Big Business and Big Government bosses. Ironically, one of the goals was to depress the euro exchange rate, so savers holding the currency will indeed have part of their wealth expropriated, regardless of what Draghi says.
What the negative deposit rates mean, essentially, is that commercial banks will be penalized for accumulating reserves rather than loaning out all of those fresh euros into the supposed ''real'' economy. The idea, at least according to the central planners at the ECB, is to force banks to loan out more of the funds to businesses and consumers. That will somehow translate into more ''economic recovery.'' Apparently creating vast new quantities of currency out of thin air and using those euros to gobble up government bonds was not enough.
Economic analysts, though, were not convinced that the ECB's latest ploy would have the supposedly intended effect. ''Of course, they've been trying to jumpstart things for nearly six years, but surely this latest move will work like a charm,'' author Ryan McMaken, editor at the market economics-oriented Ludwig von Mises Institute, noted sarcastically in comments about the ECB developments. ''It's more likely to spur inflation and unemployment.'' Other analysts were even more pessimistic.
Also commenting on the negative rates was economist Frank Hollenbeck, who teaches finance and economics at the International University of Geneva. Despite the ECB claims of fighting ''deflation,'' Hollenbeck said the real reason for the developments lies elsewhere. In reality, he said, the euro central bank is ''panicking'' and ''trying to save itself from the executioner's axe.'' The European ''media'' and complicit mega-bankers, though, are fully behind the effort.
''Of course, the European banking sector and its bought-and-paid-for journalists unanimously support this prospect of continued theft through debasement,'' he said. ''They are giddy at the prospects of higher asset prices and higher banker incomes, unjustified by fundamentals, and the implied massive transfer of income and wealth from the have-nots to the haves.'' Europe, he added ominously, is an ''accident waiting to happen'' as bloated governments continue to borrow and spend citizens into oblivion enabled by the ECB. Hollenbeck called the bloc a ''runaway train'' with a ''certain crash'' in its future.
''Under current economic and political conditions in Europe, a breakup of the Euro is almost a foregone conclusion,'' Hollenbeck continued. ''Instead of letting this happen, the ECB, in trying to save itself, prefers to risk destroying the value of the euro (something it's supposed to protect) by creating massive price distortions and misallocations on an illusionary hope that quantitative easing will magically solve Europe's deep-seated structural problems.'' Longer term, he added, all of the ECB currency printing will lead to ''the complete destruction of the resource allocation function of prices.''
''The ECB will eventually die, but only after massive human suffering,'' Hollenbeck concluded.
Even European central bankers have spoken out about the latest policies. Former ECB board member J¼rgen Stark, for example, blasted as ''irrational'' the whole discussion of ''too low'' inflation by the central bank and the IMF. ''I miss the term price stability,'' Stark told CNBC in an interview. ''Low inflation and price stability will boost real disposable income and will help to foster private consumption. This is good news.'' The ECB has a ''target inflation rate'' (measured in price increases rather than expansion of the currency supply) of less than two percent, but prices have supposedly not risen that fast.
''One can really understand and explain why the inflation rate is so low and ... it is in my view not a threat,'' added Stark, whose native Germany has well-founded historical paranoia about hyperinflation. ''The discussion, all in all, in my view, is really irrational.'' The German central banker resigned from the ECB board in 2011 over disagreements about the outfit's decision to conjure currency into existence to buy government bonds in a half-baked effort to prop up bloated Southern European governments. At the time, critics around the world lambasted the ECB decision. Now it is all set to accelerate, just as analysts warned.
On top of dragging interest rates down into negative territory, ECB boss Draghi also announced that the central bank had undertaken ''preparatory work'' to begin buying asset-backed securities from banks. The U.S. Fed, of course, has been trying to shovel new currency into the economy by gobbling up mortgage-backed securities with its freshly created funny ''money.'' Despite the recently started ''taper,'' the U.S. central bank is still pumping tens of billions of base dollars into the economy each month as part of its outlandish ''quantitative easing'' plots. Eventually, though, as in Europe, the economic pain will come.
The ECB's board apparently thought following the Fed in driving the currency and the economy further off a cliff would be a good idea. Despite the deeply controversial nature of the decisions, the euro central bank's board was apparently unanimous in its decision to keep flooding the bloc with euros. Incredibly, though perhaps not surprising, the central banking boss also promised more currency printing to come. ''We think this is a significant package,'' Draghi said in announcing the new rates and plans for buying up real assets. ''Are we finished? No.''
Of course, in a free economy, interest rates would be set in the market, based largely on the demand for, and supply of, loanable funds. In today's world, those crucial rates, which have implications for the entire economy, are set by failed central-planning committees and unelected commissars at the central banks. Money in a free economy, meanwhile, would not consist of fancy-looking pieces of paper and computer digits issued with impossible-to-pay interest attached and imposed by the coercive power of government. Instead, market participants acting voluntarily would decide what money is. Historically that has generally been a commodity or group of commodities '-- especially gold and silver.
To restore prosperity and liberty while defanging the wild schemes and wholesale looting of the middle class by central bankers and governments, humanity must restore honest money. That means, for starters, abolishing central banks such as the ECB, the Federal Reserve, the Bank of England, and others around the globe. Ending the central planning of interest rates is also crucial. The alternative is the continued and increasingly brazen fleecing of the planet '-- especially the poor and the middle class '-- to enrich the ruling class and its select cronies in the megabanks and government.
Without action, the worst is certainly yet to come.
Alex Newman, a foreign correspondent for The New American, is currently based in Europe. He can be reached at anewman@thenewamerican.com.Follow him on Twitter @ALEXNEWMAN_JOU.
Hillary 2016
CNN's 'Hospitable' Town Hall with Hillary Included Stage Director Coaching the Audience to Applaud to Add 'Energy'
Sun, 22 Jun 2014 13:42
Washington Post media blogger Erik Wemple sat in the crowd at CNN's ''town hall'' interview with Hillary Clinton on Tuesday and concluded: ''If you're a possible Democratic candidate, with or without a book to promote, and you want an experience that will elevate you, push for a CNN town hall in Washington. It's hospitable turf.''
Wemple reported that to add ''energy'' to the Hillary event, the audience was coached to applaud Mrs. Clinton, which they did with great vigor, especially when Christiane Amanpour raised the prospect of Hillary running for president:
CNN deployed an enthusiastic stage director who coached the audience to applaud at various points throughout the broadcast '-- not in a partisan manner for Clinton, but for the sake of the town hall's television optics. Approximately 15 minutes before the show, the producer ran the audience through a practice round of applause and noise-making. The results of the audience-prodding turn up in the show's video.
Ovations were plentiful and, quite often, spontaneous. Clinton's statements on gun control, immigration and other hot topics earned her crowd approval on her own merit.
Janet Brown, executive director of the Commission on Presidential Debates, has studied the role of applause in such civic engagements. Though CNN wasn't hosting a debate, Brown says that a cheering audience ''at some point'...becomes an editorial statement, it's a part of what is broadcast. It becomes a part of the program and that's why we have tried to do exactly the opposite.''
The audience at home was supposed to absorb the message that Hillary was very comfortable among the people, popular with the people, and really succeeding with the people. Except ''the people'' were partisan astroturf, carefully carpeted for appearances.
Wemple cited NewsBusters counting a 5-to-1 tilt to the liberal agenda in the ideological questions from the audience, and the more neutral softballs. He asked CNN how they assembled the crowd:
Just who were these audience members? A spokeswoman for CNN provided this explanation: ''[W]e did what is standard practice for televised town meetings like this. We reached out to universities and community groups to book a diverse cross section of people from around the Washington, DC area and around the country. We don't ask individuals their political affiliation, but we do seek diversity in community groups.''
The crucial words here are ''standard practice.'' The networks ''book'' an audience of liberals, who are show ''diversity'' in that some want liberal answers on gun control, and some want liberal answers on marijuana, and some want liberal answers on amnesty. Several questioners identified themselves with Johns Hopkins, which might make a viewer assume that Johns Hopkins was the event's host.
Story Continues Below Ad '†'
The event took place at the Newseum, which is on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington between the Capitol and the White House. The District is a blue jurisdiction that turned out 91 percent for President Obama in the 2012 election, and it's surrounded by places like Arlington County, Va., and Montgomery County, Md. '-- also very blue spots. When asked whether the Clinton camp played any role in how the town hall interview was presented, Clinton spokesman Nick Merrill responded, ''this was entirely [CNN's] show, so you should talk to them about it.''
Don't buy that. Hillary is averse to spontaneity and surprise. If there was a chance for Tea Party conservatives to walk right in and ask questions, would she have said ''Sure, bring it on?'' Not a chance. This audience was negotiated before they were coached to applaud.
Inside the jealous feud between the Obamas and 'Hildebeest' Clintons.
Sun, 22 Jun 2014 13:40
Outwardly, they put on a show of unity '-- but privately, the Obamas and Clintons, the two power couples of the Democrat Party, loathe each other.
''I hate that man Obama more than any man I've ever met, more than any man who ever lived,'' Bill Clinton said to friends on one occasion, adding he would never forgive Obama for suggesting he was a racist during the 2008 campaign.
The feeling is mutual. Obama made ­excuses not to talk to Bill, while the first lady privately sniped about Hillary.
On most evenings, Michelle Obama and her trusted adviser, Valerie Jarrett, met in a quiet corner of the White House residence. They'd usually open a bottle of Chardonnay, catch up on news about Sasha and Malia, and gossip about people who gave them heartburn.
Their favorite bªte noire was Hillary Clinton, whom they nicknamed ''Hildebeest,'' after the menacing and shaggy-maned gnu that roams the Serengeti.
'Michelle could be president'The animosity came to a head in the run-up to the 2012 election, when Obama's inner circle insisted he needed the former president's support to win. Obama finally telephoned Bill Clinton in September 2011 and invited him out for a round of golf.
''I'm not going to enjoy this,'' Bill told Hillary when they gathered with a group of friends and political associates at Whitehaven, their neo-Georgian home on Embassy Row in Washington, DC.
''Blood Feud'' by Edward Klein
''I've had two successors since I left the White House '-- Bush and Obama '-- and I've heard more from Bush, asking for my advice, than I've heard from Obama. I have no relationship with the president '-- none whatsoever,'' Clinton said.
''I really can't stand the way Obama ­always seems to be hectoring when he talks to me,'' Clinton added, according to someone who was present at the gathering and spoke on the condition of anonymity. ''Sometimes we just stare at each other. It's pretty damn awkward. Now we both have favors to ask each other, and it's going to be very unpleasant. But I've got to get this guy to owe me and to be on our side.''
During the golf game, Clinton didn't waste any time reminding Obama that as president he had presided over eight years of prosperity, while Obama had been unable to dig the country out of the longest financial ­doldrums since the Great Depression.
''Bill got into it right away,'' said a Clinton family friend. ''He told Obama, 'Hillary and I are gearing up for a run in 2016.' He said Hillary would be 'the most qualified, most experienced candidate, perhaps in history.' His reference to Hillary's experience made Obama wince, since it was clearly a shot at his lack of experience when he ran for president.
''And so Bill continued to talk about Hillary's qualifications .'‰.'‰. and the coming campaign in 2016. But Barack didn't bite. He changed the subject several times. Then suddenly, Barack said something that took Bill by complete surprise. He said, 'You know, Michelle would make a great presidential candidate, too.'
''Bill was speechless. Was Barack comparing Michelle's qualifications to Hillary's? Bill said that if he hadn't been on a mission to strike a deal with Barack, he might have stormed off the golf course then and there.''
Blackberry snubBill Clinton would go on to campaign for Obama in 2012, but he felt betrayed when the president seemed to waver when it came to a 2016 endorsement of Hillary. Obama attempted to smooth things over with a joint ''60 Minutes'' interview with Hillary, and later a private dinner for the two couples at the White House.
I hate that man Obama more than any man I've ever met, more than any man who ever lived. - Bill Clinton in 'Blood Feud'
And so, on March'‰1, 2013 '-- the very day that the $85'‰billion in budget cuts known as the ''sequester'' went into effect '-- the Clintons slipped unnoticed into the White House and sat down for dinner with the Obamas in the Residence.
Typically, once Obama decided to do something (for example, the surge in Afghanistan), he immediately had second thoughts, and his behavior during dinner degenerated from moody to grumpy to bad-tempered.
After the obligatory greetings and small talk about family, Obama asked Bill what he thought about the sequester: Would it turn out to be a political plus for him? Bill went into a long '-- and boring '-- lecture about the issue.
To change the subject, Hillary asked Michelle if it was true, as she had heard, that the first lady was thinking about running for the Senate from Illinois.
Michelle said that she was warming to the idea, though she had yet to make up her mind.
Bill shot Hillary a look of incredulity.
Bill then moved the conversation to Obama's vaunted 2012 campaign ­organization. He told Obama that it would be a good idea to fold the organization, along with all its digital and social-media bells and whistles, into the Democratic National Committee.
Obama's only response was a disparaging smile.
President Barack Obama acts cordial with former President Clinton but it's all for show, according to the new book ''Blood Feud,'' by journalist Edward Klein.Photo: White House
''You have to use your organization to aid the candidate in 2016,'' Bill pressed Obama.
''Really?'' Obama replied in a tone of undisguised sarcasm.
The two men went back and forth over the subject of where the money for Obama's campaign organization had come from and how to allocate funds for the 2016 presidential election. Bill raised his voice. So did Obama.
As Bill Clinton went on about his managerial experience, Obama began playing with his Blackberry under the table, making it plain that he wasn't paying attention to anything Clinton had to say. He was intentionally snubbing Clinton. Others around the table noticed Obama thumbing his Blackberry, and the atmosphere turned even colder than before.
Hillary changed the subject again.
''Are you glad you won't have to campaign again?'' she asked Obama. ''You don't seem to ­enjoy it.''
''For a guy who doesn't like it,'' Obama replied tartly, ''I've done pretty well.''
''Well,'' Bill said, adding his two cents, ''I was glad to pitch in and help get you re-elected.''
There was another long pause. Finally, Obama turned to Bill and said, sotto voce, ''Thanks.''
After the dinner, and once the Clintons had been ushered out of the family quarters, Obama shook his head and said, ''That's why I never invite that guy over.''
Obama's mini-meLately, Bill Clinton has become convinced that Obama won't endorse Hillary in 2016. During a gathering at Whitehaven, guests overheard Bill talking to his daughter Chelsea about whether the president would back Joe Biden.
''Recently, I've been hearing a different scenario from state committeemen,'' Clinton said. ''They say he's looking for a candidate who's just like him. Someone relatively unknown. Someone with a fresh face.
''He's convinced himself he's been a brilliant president, and wants to clone himself '-- to find his Mini-Me.
''He's hunting for someone to succeed him, and he believes the American people don't want to vote for someone who's been around for a long time. He thinks that your mother and I are what he calls 'so 20th century.' He's looking for ­another Barack Obama.''
Excerpted from ''Blood Feud: The Clintons vs. the Obamas'' by Edward Klein. Out this week from Regnery Publishing.
Court renews NSA phone program
Sat, 21 Jun 2014 22:27
The federal court overseeing the country's spy agencies renewed an order Friday allowing the National Security Agency to collect phone records of people in the United States.
The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court's renewal of the contested program, authorized under Section 215 of the Patriot Act, comes as lawmakers continue to debate reform legislation.
''Given that legislation has not yet been enacted, and given the importance of maintaining the capabilities of the Section 215 telephony metadata program, the government has sought a 90-day reauthorization of the existing program,'' the Justice Department and Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) said in a joint statement.The NSA's bulk collection of phone "metadata," such as which numbers people dial and how long they talk, was one of the most controversial programs revealed by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden last summer. The program requires renewal by the secretive spy court every 90 days.
Some privacy advocates have urged the Obama administration not to ask for reauthorization while Congress debates a measure to effectively end the program.
The program is ''not effective,'' ''unconstitutional'' and ''has been misused,'' more than two-dozen groups wrote in a letter this week.
Administration officials have said that the program is necessary to track terrorists and foreign agents and have rejected calls to end or significantly reform the program without legislation from Congress.
The program's renewal, which was officially issued on Thursday but unclassified on Friday, expires on Sept. 12.
The House last month passed the USA Freedom Act to end the phone records program, but that bill is still working its way through the Senate. Multiple reform advocates have worried that it does not go far enough.
The bill would end the NSA program and require government agents to get a court order before searching private phone companies' storehouses of phone records, a move endorsed by President Obama earlier this year.
''Overall, the bill's significant reforms would provide the public greater confidence in our programs and the checks and balances in the system, while ensuring our intelligence and law enforcement professionals have the authorities they need to protect the Nation,'' the Justice Department and ODNI explained.
Critics on both sides of the aisle, however, have worried that compromise language in the version passed by the House could still allow NSA agents to grab vast amounts of records in one sweep, such as those of every resident in a single ZIP code or all subscribers of a particular phone company like Verizon.
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Danes tapped Norway data for NSA: Information
Sat, 21 Jun 2014 22:27
A map from the NSA presentation showing cable links from Norway to Denmark. Photo: NSA/Edward Snowden|Information
Denmark's Defence Intelligence Service (DDIS) is intercepting data sent through fibre cables from Norway, according to newly published documents leaked from the US's National Security Agency (NSA)
The four documents, which were leaked by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, were published on Thursday by Denmark's Information newspaper in partnership with The Intercept, the internet news site set up by Glenn Greenwald, the US journalist who received Snowden's leaks.
In one of the documents, a set of briefing notes for a meeting between the then NSA head Keith Alexander and his Danish counterparts, Alexander is told to "remind the Danes of the long NSA-DDIS partnership working cable access with".
This appears to indicate that the Danes are accessing cables in partnership with the NSA. The document also refers to the NSA helping DDIS "manage" its "special access".
The Intercept sees the new documents as demonstrating that the NSA works closely with Denmark and other countries, as well as with the so-called Five Eyes surveillance alliance of the United Kingdom, Canada, New Zealand, and Australia.
"A number of other countries, described by the NSA as ''third-party partners,'' are playing an increasingly important role '' by secretly allowing the NSA to install surveillance equipment on their fiber-optic cables," the site wrote in its article, which was published simultaneously with Information's.
Danish Defence Minister Nicolai Wammen refused to comment on the specific allegations, but stressed that any actions taken by DDIS were within Danish law.
"We are a country that is targeted by terrorists and also from others who do not have a positive agenda when it comes to the kingdom. Therefore, it is in Denmark's interest that our intelligence services cooperate with other countries' intelligence services," he said.
According to the Intercept, governments that participate in RAMPART-A are rewarded with "access to the NSA's sophisticated surveillance equipment, so they too can spy on the mass of data that flows in and out of their territory."
The also receive a commitment from the NSA that the intercepted data will not be used to spy on their citizens, with some exceptions.
Who's Responsible For The Latest Attack on America's Power Grid?
Thu, 19 Jun 2014 01:30
Last Wednesday, a small power station in Nogales, Arizona was the site of a mysterious bomb attack that left no injuries, nor any witnesses. The assailant(s) broke into the facility sometime between 4pm Tuesday and 8 am Wednesday, and planted a small incendiary device on the valve of a 50,000 gallon diesel tank. The device managed to burn the surface of the steel, but failed to ignite the fuel inside the container. If they had succeeded it could have disrupted power for 30,000 people.
The FBI is currently investigating the attack, but have no leads as far as we know. There were no signs of vandalism that are often left behind by environmental terrorists, who would normally be suspected in an electrical grid attack. The FBI is currently looking into several other incidents that were reported earlier this year:
''On Thursday, law-enforcement officials said the FBI was looking at past suspicious incidents in the area, citing one near Sahuarita, north of Nogales. In that incident, someone was reported to be trying to cut power lines, law-enforcement officials said.
On Feb. 9, target shooters near a substation in that area were seen on security cameras, causing alarm. Police and the utility's security officers traveled to the site to ask the shooters to move along, but they were gone when police arrived, Salkowski said.''
This incendiary attack has officials worried after a similar incident was reported at a power substation in San Jose earlier this year. The attack was initially considered to be a case of vandalism until more details were exposed to the public, nearly 10 months after the fact.
Rather than a bomb, the San Jose attack turned out to be a frighteningly coordinated shooting. It's estimated that 6 individuals approached the facility late at night armed with AK-47'²s, and opened fire, but not before sneaking onto the property and disabling the alarm system. The attackers managed to disrupt a total of 10 transformers, and escaped just before police arrived. Investigators would later find more evidence of just how professional the attack was:
''After walking the site with PG&E officials and FBI agents, Mr. Wellinghoff said, the military experts told him it looked like a professional job. In addition to fingerprint-free shell casings, they pointed out small piles of rocks, which they said could have been left by an advance scout to tell the attackers where to get the best shots.''
On the surface, this recent attack doesn't appear to have as much in common with the shooting in San Jose. The suspects didn't use firearms and they failed to disrupt the facility as much as the San Jose incident. The facility they attacked was merely a backup power producer for peak hours, not a major substation. What they do have in common is a little more startling though.
Both attacks reveal the possibility of scouting and probing the property before the attack, in this case armed individuals were seen in the area several months before, and it was reported that someone was trying to cut power lines nearby in a separate case. Both attacks involved assailants infiltrating the facility after hours and despite the coordination of the attacks, neither succeeded in disrupting the power supply in any meaningful way. And of course both incidents involved cheap and relatively low tech weapons to destroy this expensive equipment. Neither incident left the traditional calling signs of a terrorist group.
Let's play devils advocate for a moment, and assume the possibility that both attacks were perpetrated by the same organization (and given the multiple individuals involved in the San Jose attacks, it is definitely an organization of some kind). The coordination and lack publicity from any terrorist groups seems to imply, at least in my mind, that this is state sponsored. If they were sponsored by some foreign state, they certainly had the means to do way more damage and disrupt the power supply in a big way. So Why didn't they?
I suspect these attacks are probing missions. While the American power grid is incredibly vulnerable, it is still massively complicated. If someone were attempting to bring it down, they need to know its ins and outs, and they need know where it is most vulnerable. They need to know how difficult it is to bypass the security of these facilities. They need to develop a map of all of our power plants, substations, power lines etc. Heck, they may even pull off minor attacks of little consequence, just so the news may give them more information on the facility.
Since this organization appears to be fairly low budget, they have to figure out how they can destroy the grid with the fewest number of attacks. There certainly exists a handful of locations that if disrupted, could eliminate the power supply for millions of Americans, if not everyone in the country. These perpetrators are not yet ready to pull off such an operation. They need to see what happens, on the small scale at first, when certain parts of the grid are damaged or disabled.
I'll admit, I could be making a few leaps with these conclusions, and I'm no stranger to paranoia. There isn't nearly enough evidence to prove these attacks are related. But if I'm wrong, that means there may be several unrelated groups interested in destroying our power supply. If you ask me, that might be even more worrisome.
I'd love to hear from anyone with more expertise than myself, such as power company employees, military, police etc. Share your thoughts in the comments below.
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Contributed by Joshua Krause of The Daily Sheeple.
Joshua Krause is a reporter, writer and researcher at The Daily Sheeple. He was born and raised in the Bay Area and is a freelance writer and author. You can follow Joshua's reports at Facebook or on his personal Twitter. Joshua's website is Strange Danger .
'Inventing terrorists': New study reveals FBI set up terrorism-related prosecutions
Mon, 16 Jun 2014 13:50
Published time: June 15, 2014 16:36Edited time: June 16, 2014 11:43AFP Photo / Anne-Christine Poujoulat
Nearly 95 per cent of terrorist arrests have been the result of FBI foiling its own entrapment plots as a part of the so-called post-9/11 War on Terror, a new study revealed.
According to thereportentitled 'Inventing Terrorists: The Lawfare of Preemptive Prosecution', the majority of arrests involved the unjust prosecution of targeted Muslim Americans.
The 175-page study by Muslim advocacy group SALAM analyzes 399 individuals in cases included on the list of the US Department of Justice from 2001 to 2010.
''According to this study's classification, the number of preemptive prosecution cases is 289 out of 399, or 72.4 percent. The number of elements of preemptive prosecution cases is 87 out of 399, or 21.8 percent. Combining preemptive prosecution cases and elements of preemptive prosecution cases, the total number of such cases on the DOJ list is 376, or 94.2 percent,'' the report concluded.
The authors define 'preemptive prosecution' as ''a law enforcement strategy adopted after 9/11, to target and prosecute individuals or organizations whose beliefs, ideology, or religious affiliations raise security concerns for the government.''
Nearly 25 percent of cases (99 of 399) contained material support charges. Another almost 30 per cent of cases consisted of conspiracy charges. More than 17 per cent of the analyzed cases (71 of 399 cases) involved sting operations. Over 16 percent of cases (65 of 399 cases) included false statement or perjury charges, and around six percent of cases involved immigration-related charges.
According to the report, since 9/11 only 11 cases posed ''potentially significant'' threat to the United States.
''Only three were successful (the [Tamerlan and Dzhokhar] Tsarnaev brothers and Major Nidal Hasan), accounting for 17 deaths and several hundred injuries,'' the paper says.
One of the FBI's strategies involved ''using agents provocateur to actively entrap targets in criminal plots manufactured and controlled by the government.''
''The government uses agents provocateur to target individuals who express dissident ideologies and then provides those provocateurs 25 with fake (harmless) missiles, bombs, guns, money, encouragement, friendship, and the technical and strategic planning necessary to see if the targeted individual can be manipulated into planning violent or criminal action,'' the report concluded.
The government could also choose to use ''minor 'technical' crimes,'' such as errors on immigration forms, an alleged false statement to a government official, gun possession, tax or financial issues, etc., to go after someone for their ''ideology.''
''What they were trying to do is to convince the American public that there is this large army of potential terrorists that they should all be very-very scared about. They are very much engaged in world-wide surveillance and this surveillance is very valuable to them. They can learn a lot about all sorts of things and in a sense control issues to their advantage,'' Steven Downs, an attorney for Project SALAM, which issued the report, told RT. ''And the entire legal justification for that depends on there being a war on terror. Without a war on terror they have no right to do this. So they have to keep this war on terror going, they have to keep finding people and arresting them and locking them up and scarring everybody.''
In the conclusion, authors of the report offered the US government several recommendations that the DOJ "should employ" to change the present unfair terrorism laws. A total seven recommendations call on the US government to accurately identify people who offer material support for terrorism, strengthening the ''entrapment'' defense in the courts; abolish ''terror-enhanced sentencing'' that triples or quadruples jail time in cases linked to terrorist acts; disallow secret court proceedings, and immediately notifying defendants if any evidence in their case is derived from secret surveillance.
Space War$
Note from EURO Control insider on radar 'glitch'
Rumor mill has it that the outbound SSR frequency appears to have been subject to 'interference' (jamming?), i.e. the 1030 MHz SSR antenna that is supposed to elicit a response from the transponders onboard the aircraft… Who, what, why, how, and if, still many questions, nothing 'official' of course… Not even a peep on our briefing sheets, which is curious, given the obvious safety implications…
NATO says not to blame for planes vanishing from radar - Yahoo News
Mon, 16 Jun 2014 22:47
LONDON (Reuters) - NATO said on Sunday it was not to blame for recent incidents in which dozens of aircraft briefly vanished from air traffic control radar screens in Austria, Germany, the Czech Republic and Slovakia.
The Slovak state Air Traffic Services company said on Friday that the brief disappearance of planes from radar screens on June 5 and 10 was connected to a military exercise whose goal was "the interruption of radio communication frequencies."
It did not identify the military force organising the exercise, but Austrian media said it was NATO.
The military alliance, in response to a request for comment, said it did carry out some training that involved "localised and low-power jamming" in the skies over Hungary during the June 2-6 period and that it was currently conducting similar training in southern Italy from June 9-20.
However, it said no jamming was conducted on June 5.
"Our assessment is that NATO did not cause any interference with civilian air traffic control frequencies. When NATO conducts such exercises, we coordinate our activities with relevant civilian authorities and only use frequencies provided to us by the host nation," a NATO military officer said.
NATO AWACS surveillance aircraft that have been flying regular missions over Europe to monitor Russian activities near Ukraine could not have caused the interference because they did not have a jamming capability, the officer said.
The European air navigation safety organisation EUROCONTROL and the European Air Safety Agency are investigating the incidents.
"We will cooperate with these authorities in order to be absolutely sure that there is no connection between our exercises and the frequency interference issues that have been reported," the NATO officer said.
(Reporting by Adrian Croft; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)
Politics & GovernmentMilitary & DefenseNATO
War on Weed
Jamaica to decriminalise marijuana for personal use | Caribbean News Now
Sun, 15 Jun 2014 01:37
Justice Minister, Senator Mark Golding (centre), outlines details of proposed amendments to the Dangerous Drugs Act to legislate the decriminalization of ganja for medicinal, religious and personal/private use, during Thursday's media briefing at the Office of the Prime Minister. Listening are: Minister with responsibility for Information, Senator Sandrea Falconer (left), and Consultant to the Minister, Dr Eileen Boxhill. JIS PhotoBy Douglas McIntoshKINGSTON, Jamaica (JIS) -- Jamaica's Cabinet has approved a revision of the Dangerous Drugs Act for the decriminalisation of ganja (marijuana) for medicinal, religious, and private/personal use.
The proposed changes will facilitate ganja being used for therapeutic purposes, as prescribed by a registered practitioner, or for scientific research conducted by an accredited tertiary institution or otherwise approved by the Scientific Research Council (SRC).
The changes will also enable the use of ganja in religious engagements by stakeholders, such as Rastafarians.
Details on the latest development were outlined by Minister of Justice, Senator Mark Golding, during a media briefing on Thursday.
Additionally, the changes will make the possession of small quantities, amounting to two ounces (0.057 kilogrammes) or less, a non-arrestable but ticketable infraction, attracting a fine payable outside of the court, but not resulting in the possessor attaining a criminal record.
Meanwhile, a Bill to amend the Criminal Records (Rehabilitation of Offenders) Act that will result in the expunging of existing criminal records for possession of small quantities of, or smoking of ganja, is to be tabled in Parliament shortly by the justice minister.
Golding indicated that the proposed changes have been under consideration for some time. However, he pointed out that the ''necessary internal consultations'' and ''consequential refinements'' had to be undertaken before the submission was made to Cabinet in April, for consideration.
He emphasized that proposed changes to the law are not intended to promote or give a stamp of approval to the use of ganja for recreational purposes.
''The objective is to provide a more 'enlightened' approach to dealing with possession of small quantities and smoking'...The proposed changes represent an approach which will (redound) to the benefit of the persons concerned and the society as a whole, and reduce the burden on the court system,'' the minister said.
Golding noted that the ''current approach'' to ganja criminalisation places a ''significant burden'' on Jamaica's ''overstretched'' court system, and has contributed to current case backlogs in the Resident Magistrate's Courts. He contended that the treatment of minor offences as ticketable offences should ease the pressure on the court system.
The minister advised, however, that the existing provisions of the law, which make ganja possession an offence, remain unchanged until Parliament approves the proposed amendments
''Therefore, our citizens are obliged to abide by the rule of law, as it (currently) stands,'' he emphasized.
Jamaica anticipates a marijuana rush as decriminalisation looms -- but is it too late?
Tue, 17 Jun 2014 21:07
A farmer with his marijuana plants in Jamaica's central mountain town of Nine Mile. Photograph: David Mcfadden/AP
Hearing the drumbeat of the pro-marijuana lobby, you'd be excused if you believed the typical Jamaican was a Rastafarian pothead lazing on the beach amid the soporific sound of Bob Marley's One Love. Of course, most Jamaicans don't smoke pot, aren't Rastafarians and don't have access to many beaches.
The recently proposed decriminalisation of marijuana, widely called ganja by Jamaicans, has been long anticipated and much unfulfilled '' like a World Cup goal by Wayne Rooney. Commissions and debates to review legislation on marijuana hark back to at least the 1970s, with the most comprehensive recommendations coming in 2001.
Jamaican governments haven't been known for their fortitude. Fearing those big-stick-wielding neighbours, the United States, would crack our backsides, politicians have avoided pressing the reset button on a law that has proved unwieldy, expensive and downright stupid. Seems they've finally grown a pair. And the fact that Washington state and Colorado have snubbed US federal law on smoking weed has undermined the Americans' moral authority as lecturer-in-chief.
Possession of a mere handful of marijuana has for decades clogged Jamaican courts with petty cases and distracted an undermanned police force from tackling the crime cartels pushing drugs and guns. What's worse, the criminalisation of marijuana possession has scarlet-lettered thousands of mainly poor young men with a police record that ruins their prospects of employment and migration, while exposing them to contagion with hardened offenders.
The declaration last week by the justice minister, Mark Golding, that the cabinet would be pressing ahead with legislative changes to make possession of as much as two ounces (0.057kg) of weed a mere ticketable offence, with no criminal record attached, is a welcome move that has been widely endorsed by Rastafarians, business leaders and even clerics of Jamaica's conservative churches.
However, the buzz over weed in the last year has triggered a wave of heady optimism. Michael Lorne, a Rastafarian lawyer, has vowed not to include Jamaican universities in plans for cultivation and research, for fear that middlemen will swipe the profits. Another Rastafarian advocate, Iyah V, called for Rastafarians and the poor to have exclusive rights to operate marijuana farms, and threatened to turn Jamaica upside down if "all of a sudden now when the legalisation aspect comes, some rich people come to take it over".
Humour them. That's all hollow bravado.
All the noise about Jamaica taking a hefty slice of the $2bn (£1.2bn) medical marijuana and hemp-manufacturing industries may be just that: noise. Decades of government intransigence over calls to liberalise the marijuana sector means that Jamaica is light years behind western Europe and the US in terms of establishing laboratory and research infrastructure, official distribution networks, finding merchants untainted by the criminal underworld, and an organised framework of governance. If this were an arms race, the sharpshooting drone would make toast of the rusty Jamaican six-shooter.
Don't bury Jamaica's dreams just yet, though. The little island has punched above its weight before in scientific research. Dr Albert Lockhart and Dr Manley West developed Canasol from cannabis for the treatment of glaucoma. Professor Henry Lowe, another long-time ganja researcher, has recently launched Medicanja in a bid to tap the medical marijuana and hemp markets.
Jamaican prospectors are sprinting at Usain Bolt-speed in the Great Green Gold rush of the Caribbean. The exaggerated script: pharmaceutical start-ups will concoct vials that can cure cancer, HIV and the common cold; weed plantations will sweep the countryside to supply ships docked at Kingston harbour en route to the US and Europe; and the Jamaican economy will shoot into the stratosphere.
Even with the flurry of marijuana conferences and lofty goal-setting, I think Jamaica may have joined the party too late. And there may even be greater delay in refining the legislation with policy pushback from anti-smoking lobbyists and security stakeholders concerned about crime syndicates spreading their wings.
Maybe the ganja growers are on to something big, and I'm just being a party pooper. Or perhaps the huffs and puffs of overhyped hope is because they're just stoned.
BBC News - US lifts restrictions on more detailed satellite images
Sat, 21 Jun 2014 22:52
16 June 2014Last updated at 08:26 ET Sites like Google and Bing Maps will be able to use higher-quality satellite images, thanks to US government restrictions being lifted.
Companies had not been allowed to make use of images where features smaller than 50cm were visible.
But one imaging firm, Digital Globe, said it would be able to sell images that showed features as small as 31cm.
One lawyer told the BBC he expected "repercussions" from people worried about their privacy.
Marc Dautlich, from Pinsent Masons, said there may be "national security considerations" to address as well.
Currently, some sensitive locations around the world are obscured or blurred on mapping websites.
The decision was made after Digital Globe applied to the US Department of Commerce asking for restrictions to be lifted.
'Manholes and mailboxes'Digital Globe said new satellites would be launched to take advantage of the ruling.
The company's Worldview-3 satellite is due to launch in August and will be able to show "key features such as manholes and mailboxes".
"In the past, collecting sub-50cm resolution required chartering and flying aircraft," the company said.
"This is expensive, time-consuming, and can be limited by denied airspace or dangerous conditions."
Jeffrey Tarr, Digital Globe's chief executive, said: "We are very pleased and appreciative that the US Department of Commerce has made this forward-leaning change to our nation's policy that will fuel innovation, create new high-tech jobs, and advance the nation's commanding lead in this strategically important industry.
"Our customers will immediately realise the benefits of this updated regulation, as for the first time, we will be able to make our very best imagery available to the commercial market."
As well as for general public use, the higher-quality images can have other uses, the company said, such as aiding agriculture efforts and disaster relief.
Google recently announced it was planning to purchase an alternative satellite imaging company, Skybox, for $500m (£295m). The company currently has one satellite in orbit - SkySat-1 - but hopes to eventually launch a total of 24.
The satellites may also be used to provide internet access to currently unconnected or restricted parts of the world.
Supreme Court Deals Major Blow to Patent Trolls | Enterprise | WIRED
Sun, 22 Jun 2014 04:12
The United States Supreme Court. Photo: US Gov't
The Supreme Court just dealt a major blow to patent trolls.
On Thursday, the court upheld the notion that an idea alone can't be patented, deciding unanimously that merely implementing an idea on a computer isn't enough to transform it into a patentable invention. Published on the Supreme Court website, the decision does leave room for patenting specific ways of implementing an idea, but it could prevent some of the most frivolous patent cases from moving forward.
Such cases have become an enormous problem in recent years, particularly in the tech industry. The industry is plagued by an increasing number of ''patent trolls,'' companies that exist solely to force money out of others using patents, and many large companies now spend an enormous amount of time and money defending themselves from patents that should never have been granted in the first place. Legislators and activists have long pushed for new patent laws in an effort to solve this problem, but recent efforts have stalled, and today's court decision can help limit the problem while other bills are penned.
The case in question was Alice Corporation vs. CLS Bank. Alice Corporation, a financial company based in Australia, holds a number of patents for facilitating financial exchanges between two parties by using a computer as a third party. CLS Bank, a foreign currency exchange company, filed a claim that the patents were ''invalid, unenforceable, or not infringed,'' and then Alice countered with a claim that CLS was infringing its patents. The court ruled in favor of CLS, reasoning that third party intermediation is a fundamental building block of the economy, and not a novel invention and that ''merely requiring generic computer implementation fails to transform that abstract idea into a patent-eligible invention.''
'What the Supreme Court did in the Alice vs CLS case is give parties dealing with those various patents a very important tool to fight back by invalidating those patents.'
The decision is important because many software patent cases are based on ideas rather than implementations, says Julie Samuels, executive director at the public policy think tank and research outfit Engine. ''Most of the troll cases involve software patents of dubious quality,'' she says. ''What the Supreme Court did in the Alice vs CLS case is give parties dealing with those various patents a very important tool to fight back by invalidating those patents and, going forward, gives the patent office instruction about what it can and cannot issue patents on.''
For example, online advertising company Ultramercial is currently suing video streaming company Hulu. Ultramercial is alleging that Hulu violates its patent on forcing viewers to watch a commercial before playing copyrighted content. Alice vs. CLS establishes that the mere idea of showing ads before content isn't patentable''only the specific implementation.
But other patent reforms are still necessary to protect companies from frivolous patent suits. The Alice vs. CLS ruling may help prevent dubious patents from being granted in the future, but it won't stop patent trolls from filing suits with their existing software patent portfolios. And because of the high cost of fighting litigation, many companies may continue to shy away from fighting such suits, even if they are likely to win.
Legislators have tried to resolve the cost issue, but they've hit political road blocks. Last December, the House of Representatives passed a bill that addressed the matter in part by requiring the loser in a patent suit to pay the legal fees for the winner, which would, in theory, discourage frivolous claims and encourage wrongfully targeted companies and individuals to fight back. It was widely expected to pass in the Senate as well, but Senator Patrick Leahy, a Democrat from Vermont, killed the bill in during committee last month.
Samuels says the patent reform bill is still needed, but the Alice vs. CLS an important victory. It's yet another example of the Supreme Court reigning in patent decisions made by circuit courts. And it solves a problem that was unlikely to be resolved by Congress. ''Neither the House nor the Senate had the political will to address the patent quality issue,'' she says. ''This decision deals with the issue Congress wasn't willing to, even if the law had passed.''
Skybox: Google Maps goes real-time '' but would you want a spy in the sky staring into your letter box? - News - Gadgets and Tech - The Independent
Sat, 21 Jun 2014 22:48
But what if the images you found weren't blurry, dated snapshots '' but live and crystal clear? You could search for traffic jams 50 miles ahead while driving down the motorway '' or check whether you left your garden lights on while away on holiday.
This may sound like CIA-level surveillance, but it may one day be the future of Google Maps ''all thanks to the quiet acquisition of a start-up named Skybox Imaging earlier this month.
Founded in 2009, Skybox launched its first satellite into orbit in 2013. In December it beamed back to Earth the first commercial HD video shot from space. For an encore, Skybox's engineers sent their fridge-sized satellite to float above Kiev, watching in real time as battle lines between police and protesters shifted back and forth.
Editorial: Google's latest innovation - an intrusion too far?Anyone who has played around on current versions of Google Earth will have flicked back the scroll wheel on their mouse, casually zooming out all the way to watch the Earth spinning through space, as real-time as we'd ever need or want for something so apparently unchanging. But distance erases detail and the trip back down to the surface of Google Earth takes users through a patchwork of old and new imagery, stitched together from a variety of sources.
And although these pictures may seem detailed enough to us, they're actually constrained by limits set by the US government. At least, they were until this month. Just one week after Google announced they'd purchased SkyBox, the US Department of Commerce lifted restrictions on high resolution, allowing commercial satellites to trade in what's been called ''manholes and mailboxes'' imagery.
''If you imagine a satellite sat above your office then the old resolution could probably make out your desk. The new imagery '' where each pixel measures around 31cm '' can now make out what's on your desk,'' explains Clive Evans, lead satellite imagery investigator with LGC Forensics.
''When you reach this sort of frequency you can begin to add in what we call 'pattern of life' analysis. This means looking at activity in terms of movement '' not just identification.''
When '' and indeed whether '' Google will make such images available to the public on Google Maps is unclear. In the short term, the real value is going to be for corporations.
In a recent interview with The Wall Street Journal, Skybox co-founder Dan Berkenstock revealed that the company was currently watching the movements of trucks in and out of factories operated by Foxconn '' a major Apple contractor '' because any increase in activity is evidence that the Californian company is about to ship a new iPhone.
''We think we are going fundamentally to change humanity's understanding of the economic landscape on a daily basis,'' said Mr Berkenstock.
With abundant satellite imagery, whole new realms of data analysis are opened up. Investors will be able to predict the price of food by studying a country's farmland; they can gauge a gold mine's productivity by sizing up its slag heaps. One story that's common in the Skybox mythos is of an analyst at UBS who was able to predict Walmart's quarterly earnings in 2010 by simply watching the store's parking lots and calculating the volume of customers.
''There's an emerging industry here '' although Google's business model is a mystery,'' said Marc Dautlich, a lawyer specialising in technology and data protection. ''They could sell the images themselves or sell value-added services.''
Google has so far said that Skybox's satellites will be primarily used to keep its maps up-to-date, but that they'll also be exploring how to deploy the technology alongside their other aerospace ventures, including Project Loon (using weather balloons to deliver internet connections in remote locations) and Titan Aerospace (which builds high-altitude, solar-powered drones that can stay aloft for years).
Domino's Pizza hacked, customer database held to ransom.
Sat, 21 Jun 2014 22:02
Hackers who claim to have cracked a Domino's Pizza database say they have stolen the details of more than 650,000 dough-loving customers.
The hacker group, going by the name of Rex Mundi, says the data will be released later today if the pizza chain fails to pay a ransom of '‚¬30,000 ($40,590, £23,930).
In a post on dpaste.de, the group said it had gained access to a customer database shared between Domino's France and Domino's Belgium which contains passwords and personal data belonging to customers who had previously registered for home deliveries:
Dear friends and foes,
Earlier this week, we hacked our way into the servers of Domino's Pizza France and Belgium, who happen to share the same vulnerable database. And boy, did we find some juicy stuff in there! We downloaded over 592,000 customer records (including passwords) from French customers and over 58,000 records from Belgian ones. That's over six hundred thousand records, which include the customers' full names, addresses, phone numbers, email addresses, passwords and delivery instructions. (Oh, and their favorite pizza topping as well, because why not).
Rex Mundi gave a deadline of 8pm CET (7pm BST) for Domino's to pay up, claiming that failure to do so would result in the posting of "the entirety of the data in our possession on the internet."
The hacking group also publicised its attack on Twitter (account now appear to be suspended), along with a message to the pizza chain's customers advising them to sue if Domino's failed to pay up.
To prove they have the database in their possession, the hackers published the names, addresses, telephone numbers, email addresses and passwords of three customers from each of the two country sites.
And, if Domino's requires further proof that the group is serious, it need look no further than Americash Advance. In 2012 Rex Mundi published thousands of customer records after the payday lender chose not to hand over a $20,000 "idiot tax".
Then, earlier this year, the group tried to extort $20,000 from Belgian hosting provider AlfaNet after stealing customer records.
Belgian newspaper De Standaard reports that Domino's spokesperson Andr(C) ten Wolde said the company has contacted all affected customers and that no credit card information has been compromised.
Domino's France has, however, released a series of tweets in which it explains that it has fallen victim to professional hackers who will likely be able to decrypt customers' passwords.
With that in mind, we would urge Domino's customers to change their passwords immediately.
Choose something strong, making sure it consists of at least 14 characters and uses a combination of upper and lower case letters, numbers and special characters.
And always, always, always use a different password for each site you use. (If you struggle to remember them all you can use a password manager.)
When hackers steal login information from one site, they often try the same combinations against other sites. If each password is unique, they won't be able to access any of your other online accounts.
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Oracle's quarterly results deepen cloud concerns, stock drops
Fri, 20 Jun 2014 05:06
By Noel Randewich
SAN FRANCISCOThu Jun 19, 2014 8:40pm EDT
The company logo is shown at the headquarters of Oracle Corporation in Redwood City, California in this February 2, 2010 file photograph.
Credit: Reuters/Robert Galbraith/Files
SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Oracle Corp on Thursday posted fiscal fourth-quarter results that disappointed investors looking for more progress against rivals selling web-based services, sending its shares lower.
Reflecting expectations of a pickup in its software business and progress in cloud computing, shares of Oracle had gained 10 percent over the past three months, double the S&P 500's increase.
But Thursday's results cast doubt onto Oracle's execution in an industry facing increasingly tight competition.
"It's a bit of a jaw-dropper, in terms of Oracle missing results across the board in its historically strong fiscal year-end quarter," said FBR analyst Dan Ives. "It's like Spain getting knocked out of the World Cup in its first week."
Smaller, aggressive companies like Salesforce.com Inc and Workday Inc have been offering competitive software and Internet-based products at prices that often undercut Oracle.
Oracle's meager quarterly results underscore soft spending across the enterprise technology industry. Spending could become even more restrained as companies around the world move away from operating their own IT departments in favor of cloud services that cost less, said Summit Research analyst Richard Williams.
"As it moves to the cloud, overall tech spending becomes worse than a zero-sum game," Williams said. "There's going to be a lot of pain."
Four-decade-old Oracle has been rolling out its own cloud-based products but they remain under 5 percent of its overall revenue.
A string of acquisitions fueling Oracle's growth has slowed of late although the company is in talks to buy software maker Micros Systems Inc, according to a Bloomberg report this week.
''One thing that's clear is they need to get this M&A engine started again," Ives said.
For the fiscal first quarter, Oracle expects software and cloud revenue to grow between 6 percent and 8 percent, Chief Financial Officer Safra Catz told analysts on a conference call. That forecast includes expectations for software- and platform-related cloud services to grow between 25 percent and 35 percent.
Oracle said it expects its hardware system revenue to be in a range of down 1 percent to up 3 percent.
For its latest fourth quarter, Oracle said overall revenue rose 3 percent to $11.3 billion. That was less than the $11.48 billion analysts had expected on average, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
Net income fell 4 percent to $3.6 billion. Earnings per share were unchanged at 80 cents.
On an adjusted basis, Oracle earned 92 cents per share, less than the 95 cents expected on average by analysts.
Revenue from Oracle's hardware systems products grew 2 percent to $870 million.
Shares of Oracle fell more than 5 percent in extended trade after closing down 0.70 percent at $42.51 on the New York Stock Exchange.
(Reporting by Noel Randewich; Editing by Marguerita Choy, Bernard Orr)
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Venture capitalist sues former boss, now fired, for fraud
Fri, 20 Jun 2014 05:06
By Sarah McBride
SAN FRANCISCOThu Jun 19, 2014 8:11pm EDT
SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Investors in March fired G. Steven Burrill as the head of a $283 million venture-capital fund he ran, amid alleged fraud and misuse of capital, according to a lawsuit.
The lawsuit, filed last week in state court in San Francisco, comes at a time when the Securities and Exchange Commission is taking a hard look at hidden fees at private equity funds, although the investigation has not yet touched venture-capital funds. Private equity funds tend to be larger and invest at later stages than do venture funds.
The lawsuit was brought by Ann Hanham, until November a managing director at the firm, and alleges that $19.2 million in unauthorized payments were made to Burrill or his affiliates from a fund launched in 2006 called Fund III.
Two Burrill colleagues, chief legal counsel Victor Hebert and Chief Financial Officer Helena Sen, knew about the transactions, the lawsuit alleges.
Burrill, Sen and Hebert did not responded to email requests for comment. A spokeswoman for the firm, Marie Daghlian, characterized the issue as an "employment dispute" and declined to comment further.
Hanham, who joined Burrill & Co in 2000, paints a picture of a firm struggling to do well in life sciences, a hot sector in the mid-2000s that has since fallen on hard times. Just five of 25 investments in a previous fund, Fund II, were profitable, according to the suit, a small percentage for a fund that started investing in 2001.
Her position at the firm, once solid, began to erode in September last year once she and two colleagues, fellow managing directors Roger Wyse and Bryant Fong, discovered the missing cash, the lawsuit alleges. They requested that Burrill return the funds, first verbally, and then in writing.
"We can earn our way out of trouble," Burrill wrote to Hanham in mid September, the suit states.
In early October, Burrill and Hebert acknowledged the need to reimburse the fund, but by late that month, "there was no cure in place," the lawsuit states.
As Burrill also ignored requests to alert investors in the fund, Hanham, Wyse and Fong told the fund's advisory committee themselves in late October. Burrill then fired Hanham and withheld portions of her salary, shares of investments owed to her and other payments, the lawsuit said.
But in March, the advisory committee fired Burrill and brought back Hanham to run the fund along with Wyse and Fong.
Hanham is alleging wrongful termination, breach of contract, fraud and civil conspiracy, among other claims.
While investors in venture-capital funds often complain of steep fees - generally annual management fees around 2 percent and 20 percent of any returns - outright fraud in the industry is rare.
Burrill & Co was founded in 1994. Over the years, it has raised $1 billion for various funds.
The news of the lawsuit and firing was originally reported by Forbes.
(Reporting by Sarah McBride; Editing by Steve Orlofsky)
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VIDEO-GMA Swoons Over Katy Perry Attending Hillary Clinton Book Signing: 'A Major Case of Girl Power' | MRCTV
Sun, 22 Jun 2014 14:52
MRC TV is an online platform for people to share and view videos, articles and opinions on topics that are important to them '-- from news to political issues and rip-roaring humor.
MRC TV is brought to you by the Media Research Center, a 501(c) 3 nonprofit research and education organization. The MRC is located at: 1900 Campus Commons Drive, Reston, VA 20194. For information about the MRC, please visit www.MRC.org.
Copyright (C) 2014, Media Research Center. All Rights Reserved.
VIDEO-\China hails Greece as ''gateway to Europe'' | euronews, world news
Sat, 21 Jun 2014 22:36
China's Prime Minister Li Keqiang has begun a three-day visit to Greece to sign trade and investment deals.
Accompanied by his Greek counterpart Antonis Samaras, Li visited the country's largest port of Piraeus to inaugurate a rail link that will transport goods to central Europe.
Chinese and Greek officials are signing 19 deals worth an estimated 4.5 billion euros.
Among the key agreements is one for boosting trade and investment cooperation, as well as a deals for Chinese bank loans to go towards various construction projects, such as shipyards and solar energy parks.
There were also deals aimed at boosting Greek exports of olive oil, wine and marble.
With Greece's stricken economy still very much in the doldrums, analysts say its vital for the country to get closer to the economic powerhouses of the future.
Our correspondent in Athens Stamatis Giannisis said:''In an attempt to put the country back on the track of growth, the Greek government is seeking economic alliances both inside and outside the European Union. In this arduous effort, China appears a promising partner, as it attempts to open more gateways to Europe's markets.''
VIDEO-EASTBROOK- Dr Don Easterbrook Exposes Climate Change Hoax - YouTube
Sun, 22 Jun 2014 14:46
VIDEO-'Anybody who writes a bad story about me is dead': Biden brandishes a plastic water pistol as he jokingly threatens press corps | Mail Online
Sun, 22 Jun 2014 13:35
Vice President Joe Biden made the joke threat during the annual White House Press Corps media picnicThe event is held at the VP's official residenceBy Ryan Gorman
Published: 00:56 EST, 22 June 2014 | Updated: 00:56 EST, 22 June 2014
Vice President Joe Biden threatened reporters Saturday with a water gun.
Biden pulled the water pistol on members of the press during the annual media picnic at his official residence at the U.S. Naval Observatory in Washington, D.C.
'Anybody who writes a bad story about me is dead,' he said while holding the gun. 'I just want you to know that, get this straight, we're not gonna kid around about this.'
Joking around: Vice President Joe Biden threatened White House reporters Saturday with a water gun
Biden cracked a wide grin while the crowd around him roared with laughter.
A platoon of water-gun wielding children then joined him in soaking press corps, according to tweets from a variety of reporters.
'The Vice President of the US just shot me with a super soaker,' wrote the Associated Press' White House reporter Josh Lederman.
Another video by Slate's Dave Weigel shows the veep and a grandson of his shooting each other with the water guns.
'I am your grandfather, what are you doing,' Biden can be heard asking.
The annual event was attended by members of the media, their families, the vice president and his family.
It also featured live music, an inflatable obstacle course and a bungee bounce, according to various other tweets from the event.
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VIDEO-White House Continues To Spin IRS E-mail Scandal as 'Republican Conspiracy Theory' | MRCTV
Sun, 22 Jun 2014 02:13
MRC TV is an online platform for people to share and view videos, articles and opinions on topics that are important to them '-- from news to political issues and rip-roaring humor.
MRC TV is brought to you by the Media Research Center, a 501(c) 3 nonprofit research and education organization. The MRC is located at: 1900 Campus Commons Drive, Reston, VA 20194. For information about the MRC, please visit www.MRC.org.
Copyright (C) 2014, Media Research Center. All Rights Reserved.
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VIDEO-The Thinking Disease | a.nolen
Sat, 21 Jun 2014 21:56
When I was 23, I found a job that really 'sucked me in' and changed the way I viewed the world. I did research for a financial firm, which is a misleading way of describing it'' 'financial intelligence' is closer to the mark. My boss would have me dissect industries: look at how they were set up, by whom and with whose money.
The techniques which I used are similar to those that the FBI uses to 'map' organized crime networks. I would map out capital flows between the 15 largest firms in an industry, or which companies share directors. After a few years of this work, it became clear that there's not much competition in strategically important sectors of the economy.
In fact, strategically important sectors of the economy are driven by political considerations, not economic or 'efficiency' concerns. A consequence of this is that information which is painful to deal with is usually ignored until it's just too painful to keep ignoring it. An example of a painful reality is Peak Oil, the inescapable fact that higher demand and plateauing supply without viable alternatives equals ugly, ugly, ugly.
While I was engrossed in my work and loved it, there was a price to pay. It became difficult to relate to the other newly-grads, who didn't understand that market forces rarely guide the market or that their 80-hr/week job at Sachs was really just government subsidized larceny. The circle of people I could relate to became smaller and smaller'' and older and older'' until the median age of my 'real' friends hit 50. (I kept a circle of twenty-somethings that I'd could 'girls night out' with, but such outings were always an exercise in hiding the fact I was, basically, an NYC-based prepper.)
Another drawback from finding out as much as I did as early as I did, was that I didn't really have the emotional equipment to deal with it. Things looked pretty damn dire and there was no likely hope in sight. When my good job finally ended, I didn't have many options to improve my quality of life: I had graduated with enough debt to keep me needing a $50k+ until I was at least 40, and that's if I wanted to live with my parents the whole time. I didn't have the option'' or I didn't see how I had the option'' to get off this frightening, Sex-in-the-City inspired carnival ride and do something which I could live with, let alone feel good about. There were times that I wished a bus would just hit me.
And that, readers, is what I call 'The Thinking Disease''. ''The Thinking Disease'' is not a disease'' it's perfectly healthy response'' but it is a painful condition. It's the stress of understanding there's a problem without knowing how to tackle the problem or even having your concerns validated by other people (largely because they don't want to think about something that's hard to deal with).
You may not be worried about where the US government is going or plateauing oil resources, but almost anybody who is knowledgeable about something will at some time despair over crazy, short-term policies or preventable problems.
I'm not a genius, there's a lot I don't know. But at 23, I knew enough to understand that political and economic life as we know it'' India to Indiana'' is not sustainable and the people we trust to lead us, academia, 'experts', the government, etc. are, usually, completely untrustworthy. The first few years after finding out that the world view I'd been brought up on was designed to keep me from protecting my own interests'' those first few years were a nightmare of freeze/flight/fight. What do you do? Nobody had the answer, not even my 50 year old friends.
So, in a public-minded spirit, I'm going to share this PeakMoment video, because while my views are unorthodox, they are by no means unusual and there may be other people who are struggling with the question: What do I do?
Disclaimer: I am leery of psychology as a science; as a rule I like data sets not data points. I don't endorse all the people/ideas Dr. Kathy McMahon brings up. I think this video is useful if readers take Dr. McMahon's observations as those of a well-meaning acquaintance. She makes many observations that resonate with me and I feel these may resonate with other people who've contracted ''The Thinking Disease''.
To end this all on a happy note, I'm much older now. While my opinion on many things hasn't got any rosier, I know now that there are ways to live well even in the midst of decrepitude'' you've got to use creativity and prioritization to find them. In fact, sometimes pervasive rot makes it easier to identify those things which make the work of living worthwhile. It's also worth remembering that this too shall pass.
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VIDEO-Brazil: Sao Paulo street violence over transport fares and World Cup | euronews, world news
Sat, 21 Jun 2014 21:36
The latest street protest in Brazil started peacefully enough but it ended in violence as youths demanding free public transport and denouncing spending on the World Cup clashed with police in Sao Paulo.
Shops were looted and luxury cars attacked in a showroom as a group of demonstrators went on a rampage of destruction.
Trouble flared just as the England-Uruguay match was coming to a close on the other side of Brazil's biggest city but there were no reports of any foreign football fans getting caught up in the unrest.
The earlier, largely calm protest had seen some 1,300 people on the streets, celebrating their success in preventing a roughly 10 percent rise in public transport fares this time last year.
VIDEO-U.S. prepared to send 300 military advisers to Iraq as part of 5-step response [VIDEO] - UPI.com
Sat, 21 Jun 2014 21:17
WASHINGTON, June 19 (UPI) --U.S. President Barack Obama spoke Thursday about how the U.S. will respond to the deteriorating security situation in Iraq.The president emphasized that "American forces will not return to Iraq but we will take the fight to the terrorists who threaten the Iraqi people, the region and American interests as well."
After consulting with the National Security Council, the president laid out a five-part action plan:
1) Ensuring the security of the U.S. embassy and consulate personnel in Iraq.
2) "Significantly increased intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance assets to give us a greater understanding of what ISIL [aka ISIS] is doing, where it's located and how we might support efforts to counter this threat."
3) Support to the Iraqi security forces. This may include: the creation of "joint operation centers in Baghdad and northern Iraq to share intelligence and coordinate planning to confront the terrorist threat of ISIL;" additional military equipment to the Iraqi forces; and sending up to 300 military advisers to provide assessments to the Iraqi government, including how to protect Baghdad's perimeter.
4) Pre-positioned military assets in the region. "If and when the situation requires," the U.S. is prepared to take "targeted and precise military action." Such action, the president said, would be taken in consultation with the U.S. Congress and Iraqi leaders.
5) Diplomatic outreach. "Finally, the U.S. will take diplomatic efforts to work with Iraqi leaders and leaders in the region to support stability in Iraq." U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry will depart soon to conduct those meetings, reminding regional leaders that a sovereign and stable Iraq is in everyone's best interest.
When asked whether his plan was a prelude to boots on the ground, the president reiterated that "American troops are not going to be fighting in Iraq again."
"Ultimately," the president said, "this is something that is going to have to be solved by the Iraqis."
In Obama's view, the power to stop the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria "involves partnerships where local forces take the lead."
He encouraged Iraq's government to form an inclusive government. With election results recently finalized, the president urged Iraq to form a new parliament as soon as possible.
"Shia, Sunni, Kurds -- all Iraqis -- must have confidence they can advance their interests and aspirations through the political process and not through violence."
VIDEO-Cashless High Street Ditches Notes And Coins
Sat, 21 Jun 2014 19:40
By Becky Johnson, North of England Correspondent
Shoppers will find their cash is worthless in one Manchester suburb as only cards will be accepted by stores on the high street.
As part of a social experiment, shops along fashionable Beech Road in Chorlton will only take payments on plastic.
It comes as research shows people are increasingly using cards instead of notes and coins.
Many of the shops, bars and restaurants on the road are independently owned.
Mary Paul, of the Beech Road traders' association, said: "Businesses can see the way things are going with more money being taken on cards across the board, so this is a very interesting glimpse into the future for all of us."
This month the British Retail Consortium (BRC) revealed cash use has fallen by 14% in the last five years.
Card use is increasing rapidly, with debit cards currently being used for 32% of transactions compared to 30% last year.
Some experts predict physical currency will cease to exist within 20 years.
Shops on Beech Road in Chorlton are trialling plastic-only paymentsHelen Dickinson, director general of the BRC, said: "Customers are taking advantage of new ways to shop and pay. The availability of contactless cards, handy express stores and self-service tills, as well as online sales, has increased the use of debit cards for smaller payments in place of cash."
Mark Latham, product and innovation director at Handepay, the card payment provider behind the idea to trial a cashless high street, added: "Britain is at the forefront of countries heading towards becoming cashless because the public are always eager to embrace new technology.
"Recent research showed most Londoners would welcome a cash-free society as they're so used to paying for everything with cards.
"There's now an expectation that card payment is available everywhere - it takes us aback as consumers if it isn't.
"Business owners love it too as it cuts down on queues, reduces lost sales and gives them more time to interact with their customers.
"All evidence shows consumers spend more too, as they're no longer limited to just the cash in their pockets."
VIDEO-Massive Explosion Levels House In Colorado! | Showyou
Fri, 20 Jun 2014 05:27
THORNTON, Colo. - An explosion and resulting fire leveled a home in Thornton. Firefighters are there to extinguish the flames and search through debris.The Thornton Fire Department tweeted a photo of the destruction showing smoke rising from the rubble. It is near Cottonwood Lakes Boulevard and Monroe Drive, or Cottonwood Park. That's just west of Colorado Boulevard.http://www.thedenverchannel.com/news/local-news/thornton-home-leveled-by-explosion-at-131st-and-monroe-streets
VIDEO-ENGLISH SPEAKING JIHADIS-There is No Life Without Jihad - مركز اÙحياØ(C) اÙإعÙامي- - YouTube
Fri, 20 Jun 2014 05:05
VIDEO-Josh Groban: ABC's 'Rising Star' competition show is a 'game changer' | WJLA.com
Fri, 20 Jun 2014 05:03
(WJLA) - Here's your chance to literally be the judge for America's next "Rising Star," only on ABC.
Continue reading
With the free app - which you can download in the App Store by searching "Rising Star" - you can vote in real-time and decide if a performer moves on in the competition, or is cut on the spot.
ABC7's "Good Morning Washington" team interviewed superstar international singer-songwriter Josh Groban on Wednesday. Groban will serve as the show's host. Celebrity judges will be Kesha, Ludacris and country superstar Brad Paisley.
Groban said "Rising Star" is unlike any other talent competition on TV because the app allows each person to vote only once, keeping the competition fair and balanced - and the real-time feature makes for game-changing TV, as stars stand in front of a three-story-tall wall with real-time photos of audience members casting their votes as they sing.
Check out why else Groban thinks the show is going to be an instant hit and tell us - will you watch?
'Rising Star' premieres on ABC this Sunday, June 22 at 9 p.m.
VIDEO: The Internet Association and Sen. John Thune Highlight Sioux Falls Internet Success Stories
Fri, 20 Jun 2014 04:44
Beckerman: ''From Internet startups to pastry shops, the Internet has transformed the way Main Street America does business'...''
Washington, D.C. '-- The Internet Association recently stopped by Sioux Falls, South Dakota with Sen. John Thune (R-SD) and FCC Commissioners Ajit Pai and Mike O'Rielly to meet local business owners who rely on the Internet for their businesses to operate and thrive.
During their visits along South Phillips Avenue in downtown Sioux Falls, three businesses opened their doors to explain how the Internet enables their businesses to operate in Sioux Falls and reach customers across the country. The crawl included stops at Blend Interactive, Chelsea's Boutique, and CH Patisserie.
''The Internet is a great way for South Dakota businesses to grow, expand, and create jobs,'' said Sen. John Thune. ''The Internet Association's visit to Sioux Falls highlights how small businesses rely on the Internet to expand their reach in ways that would not have been possible just a few years ago. This digital trade drives economic growth and innovation throughout the U.S. economy, and provides small businesses the opportunity to compete globally.''
''From Internet startups to pastry shops, the Internet has transformed the way Main Street America does business,'' said Michael Beckerman, President and CEO of The Internet Association. ''The Internet drives innovation and allows brick and mortar businesses to expand their reach and create jobs in every state and town.''
VIDEO-Carjacking victim known as Danny describes his life one year after Tsarnaev encounter - Metro - The Boston Globe
Fri, 20 Jun 2014 03:57
CAMBRIDGE '-- In his slim blazer, rumpled oxford shirt, and jeans, he could pass for any of the young entrepreneurs tapping away in the glass-walled warren that houses his Kendall Square start-up and dozens of others. No one bats an eye when he reheats his lunch or grabs a water from the central kitchen.
If they know him at all, it's as the soft-spoken tech developer working on an app to help Asian students navigate life in the United States '-- not the carjacking victim whose poise under pressure saved his own life and helped bring the alleged Boston Marathon bombers to justice, the man millions came to know only as Danny.
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For 75 harrowing minutes that began on April 18, 2013, he feared for his life, a prisoner in his own Mercedes, held at gunpoint by Tamerlan Tsarnaev. After his daring escape, worldwide attention closed in as he camped out in his apartment. He wondered if he would ever get his old life back.
He did, mostly. Now 27, he remains an unfailingly polite engineer-turned-entrepreneur from China who can order a cup of coffee in Cambridge or join a road race in Jamaica Plain without being recognized.
''I'm still the same person. Even though this happened to me, it doesn't change anything,'' Danny said, in an interview on the anniversary of his ordeal, again asking that only his American nickname be used in order to protect his privacy. ''Sometimes when I look back, I feel it's not my story, it's like it's somebody else's story.''
The story began with a tap on the window of his car while he was stopped along Brighton Avenue and ended with a dash to freedom at a Memorial Drive gas station. In between, on a winding route through the city, Danny analyzed every threat and snatch of dialogue from the Tsarnaev brothers for clues about where and when he might die. When Dzhokhar finally went inside to pay at a Shell station and his brother, Tamerlan, put down the gun to fiddle with a navigation device, Danny seized his chance and ran.
He told police they could track his car using its onboard satellite system. Barely 20 minutes later, authorities pinpointed the Mercedes and police swarmed into a residential neighborhood in Watertown, where an explosive standoff left Tamerlan dead and Dzhokhar on the run.
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The carjacking remains with Danny in subtle ways. He tenses up if someone walks near his passenger window at night. He no longer pulls over while driving to respond to text messages, waiting until he has reached his destination instead. He changes the channel if the face of one of the Tsarnaev brothers flashes on TV.
After those first hard weeks when he struggled to focus at work, he resumed his routines and began to feel like himself again. He rarely considers his ordeal, he said, unless the stress of a regular day gets to him; then he recalls it deliberately, remembering that he once endured so much worse. That is what he wants others to know, that ordinary people can sometimes do extraordinary things.
''I hope this story encourages some people,'' he said. ''When [someone] is in a dangerous or difficult situation, you can still have opportunity. Just don't give up.''
He waited until May to tell his mother what happened, worried that she would make him move home. He filled her in as the riveting story of the carjacking '-- of a young Chinese entrepreneur who had prevailed in an extended mental chess match with the Tsarnaevs '-- went viral in China, too, after the Globe published his account.
''I told her, 'Mom, it's OK, I'm safe now, don't be worried, because they have those two guys,''‰'' he said. '''‰'One is dead and one is [in] custody, so they're not able to hurt me again. And people here are so nice, so helpful.''‰''
The hardest part then was being so far from family. Life brightened when his younger brother came to Boston for an extended visit, then settled in to start graduate school at BU, the two of them sharing an apartment. The company of friends has helped, too.
Danny has poured himself into work, and eased his mind by watching sports, attending several Celtics games. (He was drawn to Boston in 2009 for graduate school at Northeastern partly because of how much he loved following Kevin Garnett and the 2007-08 championship run from his home in central China; after earning a master's degree, he went back for a year to await a work visa, then returned to Boston two months before the carjacking.)
Occasionally people will figure out who he is and thank him for his quick-thinking heroics, knowing that if he had not escaped and told police how to track his car, the Tsarnaevs might have made it to New York with their homemade bombs in the trunk.
When that happens, he blushes and laughs nervously and says he is no hero.
''From my point, the definition of a hero is someone willing to sacrifice himself for somebody else,'' he said. ''I don't know, I was trying to save my own life.''
Last summer he tried to revisit the Mobil station at Memorial Drive and River Street in Cambridge where he sprinted and took shelter, after escaping from his car at a Shell station across the street. He wanted to thank Tarek Ahmed, the overnight clerk who dialed 911 and handed Danny the phone. But Ahmed was not working that night he came to visit, and the memories that rushed back when Danny stood there made it hard for him to return a second time.
He replaced his bullet-riddled Mercedes and the iPhone that remained inside it '-- both still in law enforcement custody '-- with similar models. But he changed the color of each, wanting a fresh start. He mostly avoids reading about the Marathon or the case against Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, though he is prepared to testify if called.
Last year Danny went to the Marathon for the first time as a spectator, and was taken immediately by the way so many strangers in the crowd blended as one to cheer the runners. He wants to be there again Monday, once more an anonymous face along the route, the attention focused on the runners.
''The Marathon is a wonderful thing,'' he said. ''A positive thing.''
He has taken up running, enjoying the fresh air and exercise, working toward a goal. Last week he completed his first road race, a slow-and-steady five-miler. Someday, maybe, he will run the Boston Marathon.
''I hope I can do it,'' he said. ''I'm going to keep running, and I will try my best to make it.''
Eric Moskowitz can be reached at emoskowitz@globe.com.
VIDEO-Megyn Kelly Totally Owns Dick Cheney Over His Terrible Iraq Track Record
Fri, 20 Jun 2014 03:53
Fox News' Megyn Kelly mercilessly confronted former Vice President Dick Cheney on her Wednesday show about his track record in Iraq.
After quoting Cheney's recent op-ed on the war, in which he said of President Obama, ''Rarely has a U.S. president been so wrong about so much at the expense of so many,'' she put this scorcher of a question to him:
"Time and time again, history has proven that you got it wrong as well in Iraq, sir. You said there was no doubt Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. You said we would be greeted as liberators. You said the insurgency was in its last throes back in 2005, and you said that after our intervention, extremists would have to 'rethink their strategy of jihad.' Now, with almost a trillion dollars spent there, with almost 4,500 American lives lost there, what do you say to those who say you were so wrong about so much at the expense of so many?"
Kelly didn't drop any mics, but she might as well have. Fox News viewers who were expecting something different might have wondered whether they were watching another network.
"No, I just fundamentally disagree, Reagan '-- I mean, Megyn," Cheney replied.
Luckily for Cheney, the questions got much easier after that.
VIDEO-Today's Tech Landscape - John C. Dvorak - NJVID - Digital Media Repository
Fri, 20 Jun 2014 01:06
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AUDIO-A Mysterious Sound Is Driving People Insane '-- And Nobody Knows What's Causing It - Mic
Thu, 19 Jun 2014 20:57
Dr. Glen MacPherson doesn't remember the first time he heard the sound. It may have started at the beginning of 2012, a dull, steady droning like that of a diesel engine idling down the street from his house in the Sunshine Coast of British Columbia. A lecturer at the University of British Columbia and high school teacher of physics, mathematics and biology, months passed before MacPherson realized that the noise, which he'd previously dismissed as some background nuisance like car traffic or an airplane passing overhead, was something abnormal.
"Once I realized that this wasn't simply the ambient noise of living in my little corner of the world, I went through the typical stages and steps to try to isolate the sources," MacPherson told Mic. "I assumed it may be an electrical problem, so I shut off the mains to the entire house. It got louder. I went driving around my neighborhood looking for the source, and I noticed it was louder at night."
Exasperated, MacPherson turned his focus to scientific literature and pored over reports of the mysterious noise before coming across an article by University of Oklahoma geophysicist David Deming in the Journal of Scientific Exploration, a peer-reviewed academic journal devoted to exploring topics outside of mainstream science. "I almost dropped my laptop," says MacPherson. "I was sure that I was hearing the Hum."
"The Hum" refers to a mysterious sound heard in places around the world by a small fraction of a local population. It's characterized by a persistent and invasive low-frequency rumbling or droning noise often accompanied by vibrations. While reports of "unidentified humming sounds" pop up in scientific literature dating back to the 1830s, modern manifestations of the contemporary hum have been widely reported by national media in the United Kingdom, the United States and Australia since the early 1970s.
Regional experiences of the phenomenon vary, and the Hum is often prefixed with the region where the problem centers, like the "Windsor Hum" in Ontario, Canada, the "Taos Hum" in New Mexico, or the "Auckland Hum" for Auckland, New Zealand. Somewhere between 2 and 10% of people can hear the Hum, and inside isolation is no escape. Most sufferers find the noise to be more disturbing indoors and at night. Much to their dismay, the source of the mysterious humming is virtually untraceable.
While the uneven experience of the Hum in local populations has lead some researchers to dismiss it as a "mass delusion," the nuisance and pain associated with the phenomenon make delusion a dissatisfying hypothesis. Intrigued by the mysterious noise, MacPherson launched The World Hum Map and Database in December 2012 to collect testimonies of other Hum sufferers and track its global impact (he now also moderates a decade-old Yahoo forum along with Deming).
MacPherson quickly discovered that what to him was a strange rumbling was actually having pernicious effects on hundreds of people, from headaches to irritability to sleep deprivation. There are reports that weeks of insomnia caused by the Bristol Hum drove at least three U.K. residents to suicide. "It completely drains energy, causing stress and loss of sleep," a sufferer told a British newspaper in 1992. "I have been on tranquilizers and have lost count of the number of nights I have spent holding my head in my hands, crying and crying." Thousands of people around the world have shared similar experiences of the Hum; some, like MacPherson, are devoting their time to finally uncovering its source.
Above: Self-reported experiences of the Hum, recorded as part of The World Hum Map and Database by Glen MacPhearson, British Columbia.
Tom Moir, a professor at the Auckland University of Technology and Hum investigator, first started looking into the Hum after an Auckland resident called Moir's office at Massey University in 2002. Moir, a professor of control engineering, placed an ad in the local paper after receiving a visit from a Hum sufferer who desperately wanted to find the source of the racket. He received dozens of responses within days, all describing a mysterious droning noise matching the one described in Deming's landmark paper. Residents of Auckland's northern shore claimed that the Hum was so intense that it was preventing them from sleeping or concentrating. "When it's loud, it's like there's vibrations between your ears, that your brain is vibrating," one resident told local TV in 2011. Another Auckland resident said that the noise had been so disruptive to his life that he'd deafened himself in one ear with a chainsaw so he could sleep through the night. Many had lived a life of vibroacoustic agony, unsure if what they were hearing was real or not.
"For my entire life, I was a perfect sleeper," says Steve Kohlhase, 60, who first started to experience the Hum at night in his Brookfield, Connecticut home in September 2009. A mechanical engineer in the chemical industry, Kohlhase, like so many other Hum sufferers, has devoted his free time to searching for the source of the noise. "I immediately felt the effects in my head: It feels like your fingers are in your ears. Other people have different experiences: Sometimes the floorboards in the house have a distinct vibration to them, or they they feel it in their feet in their bedsprings. Many people find their ears ringing."
Above: "The Torment of the Hum" by Rosemarie Mann (2004).
So what's behind the Hum? After nearly four decades, Hum investigators may finally have some idea. The general consensus among sufferers is that the Hum is comprised of very low frequency (or 'VLF', in the range of 3 kHz to 30 kHz and wavelengths from 10 to 100 kilometers) or extremely low frequency (or 'ELF', in the range of 3 to 30 Hz, and corresponding wavelengths from 100,000 to 10,000 kilometers) radio waves, which can penetrate buildings and travel over tremendous distances.
Both ELF and VLF waves have been shown to have potentially adverse affects on the human body. While the common refrain about ELF radiation in popular culture normally involves your cell phone giving you cancer, research by the World Health Organization and the Institute for Electrical and Electronics Engineers has shown that external ELF magnetic fields can induce currents in the body which, at very high field strengths, cause nerve and muscle stimulation and changes in nerve cell excitability in the central nervous system. And VLF waves, like other low-frequency electromagnetic radiation, have also been shown to have a direct impact on biological functions
Finally, there's a body of empirical evidence that makes this theory more appealing. A study funded by the Canadian government and led by University of Windsor mechanical engineering professor Dr. Colin Novak spent the last year listening to the "Windsor Hum" that's been torturing residents in the Windsor area of Ontario since 2011. A previous study had confirmed the existence of the low frequency noise in the vicinity of Zug Island, a highly industrialized island located on Michigan side of the Detroit River. The researchers used specialized equipment to capture and develop a sonic "fingerprint" of the mysterious sound. The study concluded that not only does the Windsor Hum actually exist, but its likely source was a blast furnace at the U.S. Steel plant on Zug Island, which reportedly generates a high volume of VLF waves during its hours of operation. "It sounds like a large truck or a train locomotive is parked outside your house, buzzing away, causing the windows to shake," Novak, himself a Hum sufferer, told Canada's CTV News. "It can be quite uncomfortable at times."
Dr. Novak's study caps off decades of Hum theories, but given the inconsistent experience of the phenomenon around the world, cataloguers of the Hum still aren't quite sure if it has a single, definitive source. While ELF and VLF waves may cause people to experience the incessant droning, not every local Hum appears to have an easily traceable source. What about the Aukland and Taos Hums? And why does the Hum seem to appear and disappear for months at a time?
Some Hum investigators suspect that there's a global source responsible for the Hum worldwide. Deming's research, considered close to authoritative in the Hum community, suggests that evidence of the Hum corresponds with an accidental, biological consequence of the "Take Charge and Move Out" (TACAMO) system adopted by the US Navy in the 1960s as a way for military leaders to maintain communications with the nation's ballistic missile submarines, land-based intercontinental ballistic missiles, and long-range bombers during a nuclear war. As part of TACAMO, military aircraft use VLF radio waves to send instructions to submarines: Because of their large wavelengths, VLF can diffract around large obstacles like mountains and buildings, propagate around the globe using the Earth's ionosphere and penetrate seawater to a depth of almost 40 meters, making them ideal for one-way communication with subs. And VLF, like other low-frequency electromagnetic waves, have been shown to have a direct impact on biological functions. (Strategic Communications Wing One at Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma, which is responsible for the manning, training and equipping of aircraft utilized as part of the TACAMO system, did not respond to requests for comment.)
And there are other theories. While Moir agrees with MacPherson that the disturbance is occurring at a very low frequency, he's convinced that the source of the Auckland Hum is primarily acoustic rather than electromagnetic, partially because he claims his research team has managed to capture a recording of the Hum.
Listen: An alleged recording of the Auckland Hum by Prof. Tom Moir. Plug in your headphones or increase the volume of your speaker system to maximum to hear.
Listen: A simulation of the Auckland Hum created by a research team lead by Prof. Tom Moir.
"It's a very, very low wavelength noise, perhaps between 50 or 56 Hz," Moir told Mic. "And it's extremely difficult to stop infrasound because it can have a wavelength of up to 10 meters, and you'd need around 2.5 meter thick walls, built with normal materials, to keep it out. It gets into our wooden houses very easily. And part of the reason people have so much trouble identifying the source of it is because of how low frequency the Hum is: It literally moves right through your head before you can figure out which ear picked it up first."
This isn't to say that an electromagnetic explanation is impossible: There could be both electromagnetic or acoustic sources that complement each other. The real difficulty is separating the two hypotheses through testing. "There haven't been tests done were you subject people to these frequencies and put them in an anechoic chamber," says Moir, referring to rooms designed to completely absorb reflections of either sound or electromagnetic waves. "But until you can actually prove that by doing tests, there's no way to firmly come to that conclusion."
These tests can't come soon enough for Steve Kohlhase, the mechanical engineer hunting for the Hum in Connecticut. Kohlhase, like Dr. Novak and the researchers who traced the Windsor Hum to Zug Island, hypothesizes that the source of the Connecticut Hum is industrial rather than military, generated by a network of nearby high volume gas pipelines. The arrival of the Hum, Kohlhase argues, coincided with increased development of natural gas pipelines in northern Fairfield County, and the increased hydraulic pressure used by the Iroquois and Algonquin interstate pipelines that run through his corner of Connecticut could result in the non-directional, extremely low frequency (ELF) humming noise previously unheard in the region.
This a pressing public health issue. It is not just some casual annoyance, claims Kohlhase. The resulting infrasonic sounds blanketing the region could result in widespread vibroacoustic disease '-- an occupational disease occurring from long-term exposure to large pressure amplitude and low frequency noise '-- the symptoms of which include those often described by Hum suffers: depression, mood swings, insomnia and other stress-induced pathologies.
State and local governments may finally be paying attention. Worried about the potential behavioral effects of the Connecticut Hum, Kohlhase dispatched concerned emails to state and local health officials laying out his research. Kohlhase was so persistent that he contacted Connecticut State Police investigators almost six weeks after the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, insisting that the Hum allegedly produced by nearby gas pipelines could have had something to do with Adam Lanza's behavior leading up to the shooting. While law enforcement officials field a flood of calls from conspiracy theorists and pranksters following any major incident, investigators deemed the information Kohlhase provided "appropriate" for inclusion in the 7,000 images, audio files, videos and documents released to the public.
"The reason that it could've affected Lanza is that sound and vibrations can have extremely subtle, detrimental affects on someone who's fragile minded," explains Kohlhase. "Imagine if you're mentally ill or have a brain tumor or are just, well, fragile of mind. I am absolutely not an expert, but if sound sensitivity is such a serious issue to those on the autism spectrum, perhaps extremely low frequency sounds can result in a pernicious effect." Kohlhase points to Aaron Alexis, the defense subcontractor who battled mental health issues and scrawled "My ELF Weapon" into the stock of his shotgun before killing 12 people at the Washington Navy Yard in 2013. "He told his psychiatrist he'd been chased by vibrations. Look at a map of instances like this, in Washington, or the Gabby Giffords shooting in Arizona, and I bet you'll see that each place coincides with a Hum cluster."
Here is the fundamental problem facing Hum sufferers around the world: believability. Scientific data and anecdotal experiences of the Hum vary so much from region the world that it's still unclear whether VLF and ELF waves are the source of it, let alone a catalyst for mass murder. The idea of a mysterious noise driving people to suicide has given birth to all kinds of pseudoscientific conjecture, making the phenomenon a favorite for conspiracy junkies who suspect foul play by some malicious government scheme (or UFOs, obviously). The World Hum, a site devoted to exploring the "mysterious phenomenon being heard by thousands around the world," is riddled with byzantine entries about UFOs crashing in Siberia.
MacPherson knows how insane it sounds. "There's a terrible irony to the vision of a conspiracy nut in a tinfoil hat, trying to keep the government from beaming thoughts into their heads," laughs MacPhearson, "since aluminum does protect against some electromagnetic radiation. This is why you don't put that stuff in the microwave."
The federally funded investigation into the Windsor Hum and the serious examination of Kohlhase's research by Connecticut authorities may serve as a beacon of hope for Hum investigators like MacPherson, Moir, Novak and Kohlhase. State-funded tests on Hum-affected regions may yield data that could lead to a real-world solution, rather than conspiracy theories. Until then, developing a unified picture of the Hum is exactly what MacPherson wants to accomplish in British Columbia. By providing one destination for Hum data and testimony, he's hoping that professional and independent researchers will use the collected data to help develop and execute experiments that could help identify the source of their local Hum.
But until someone funds and conducts rigorous tests in an affected region, says Moir, people will continue to use the Hum as an excuse to blame modern technology, from mobile phones to telecom towers to the digital radio bands used by law enforcement. And that aura of pseudoscientific insanity surrounding the Hum has made the job of independent researchers more challenging. "In the past, I've contacted my representatives, I've contacted my governor," says Kohlhase. "There's willful ignorance going on about this problem and the real consequences it has."
But should researchers like MacPherson and Moir finally pinpoint the local sources of the pain-inducing phenomenon, the Hum may transition from unexplained mystery to unfortunate byproduct of modernity, a fixture of human geography like light pollution. In the meantime, many just want to identify some relief.
"A lot of serious researchers don't want to have their name attached to that, but I'm not a formal academic researcher, and I'm quite willing to lend some credibility to this idea if I can," says MacPherson. "This phenomenon is real and many people are suffering: I'm just trying to do the best I can to help."
LAUGHTER-Anne-Marie Slaughter-New America Foundation-One former policy maker argues you can't bomb Iraq without bombing Syria | Public Radio International
Sun, 22 Jun 2014 02:52
The Iraqi government formally requested US military assistance on Wednesday. President Obama last week said the crisis in Iraq affects vital US national interests, and he is consulting with Congress to discuss the possibility of intervention.
But if it happens, the White House has made clear that any intervention would not involve 'boots on the ground.'
Anne-Marie Slaughter is a former director of policy planning at the State Department, and currently President of the think-tank, the New America Foundation.
In an opinion piece in the New York Times on Wednesday, she argues that the United States should go further. The piece is entitled "Don't fight in Iraq and ignore Syria."
''I don't understand why Iraq is a vital interest that would allow us to use force when Syria is not,'' Slaughter told The World.
''Actually, what's happening in Iraq is a direct result of what's been happening in Syria,'' argued Slaughter. ''People have been predicting for over a year that ISIS would try to create their own state in eastern Syria and western Iraq. That's now happening. But the root of that problem is in Syria, and yet in Syria he (Obama) says it's not a vital interest, and so we shouldn't use force.''
Slaughter argues that any US air campaign must attack ISIS inside Syria as well as inside Iraq. But she also argues that as part of that campaign, the United States should also attack the forces of Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad. ISIS is one of many rebel groups in Syria that is fighting to overthrow Assad.
Slaughter agrees that such an attack would complicate negotiations with Iran, which is a close ally of Assad. But she says the overwhelming priority is to help the ordinary people of Iraq and Syria.
Other foreign policy experts say the United States should not get involved in either country. Retired General David Petraeus - the architect of the surge in Iraq in 2007 - said Wednesday that the United States "should not become the air force of a Shia militia."


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