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Over Easy

3:54 am in Foreign Policy, Government, Media, Politics by Ruth Calvo

Over Easy

The community that began with Southern Dragon’s Lakeside Diner continues. Today we collect news from outside the usual, and renew the discussion.

Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch joined in a call for Israel to allow investigators into Gaza as deaths soared and charges multiplied of abuses there.

‘The Israeli authorities appear to have been playing bureaucratic games with us over access to Gaza, conditioning it on entirely unreasonable criteria even as the death toll mounts,’ Anne FitzGerald, Amnesty International’s director of Research and Crisis Response, said in the release.

At least 2,000 Palestinians, mostly civilians, have been killed since Israel launched Operation Protective Edge on July 7. Over 10,000 Gazans have been injured and half a million internally displaced. On the Israeli side, 64 soldiers have died in combat and three civilians have been killed by rocket attacks on Israeli cities. Both sides have been accused of violating the laws of war during the most deadly conflict between Israel and the occupied Gaza Strip since Hamas took power in 2007.

The rights groups said they want to send researchers into the territory to assess competing claims, and that Israel should not interfere with such independent investigations.

Journalist James Foley was beheaded in video released Wednesday, at the hands of a member of the militant group who spoke in the filmed event and is described by UK Foreign Secretary Hammond, who says he ‘appears to be British.’ Bombing of ISIS locations at Mosul dam continued yesterday.

Unconfirmed video and pictures of the photojournalist’s heartbreaking final moments emerged this morning via Twitter accounts claiming to be associated with the Islamic State, previously known as the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

In what looked like a prepared statement, Foley called on his family to rise up against the US, who he calls his ‘real killers.’

‘I call on my friends, family, and loved ones to rise up against my real killers, the US government, for what will happen to me is only a result of their complacency and criminality,’ he said.

A failure of a U.S. mission to free the hostages was announced yesterday; ‘The U.S. military launched a secret mission this summer to rescue a number of Americans held captive in Syria by the Islamic State but failed to find them, senior Obama administration officials said Wednesday night.’

Comprehensive studies have been completed on Neanderthal remains that have given a picture of the primitive man coexisting with modern men for almost 5,000 years. Kit seems to have used this in his overnight post, as well, but you may have missed that, so I wanted to throw it in here so we can contemplate the ancient legends that might have been caused by coexisting with species different from the now dominant one.

Now an international team of researchers collected more than 400 samples from the most important sites in Europe. The samples were purified and analysed using state-of-the-art dating methods at Oxford University.

The results provide the clearest insight yet into the interaction between our ancestors and Neanderthals, when they first encountered each other and why the Neanderthals went extinct, according to the lead researcher, Prof Thomas Higham of the University of Oxford.

‘I think we can set aside the idea of a rapid extinction of Neanderthals caused solely by the arrival of modern humans. Instead we can see a more complex process in which there is a much longer overlap between the two populations where there could have been exchanges of ideas and culture.’

Four McDonalds restaurants have been shut down in Moscow in the name of consumer protection. Several are under ongoing investigation as well, in a burgeoning competition in sanctions.

‘Multiple violations of sanitary norms were detected in the sourcing of food and waste disposal in McDonald’s restaurants during inspections carried out between the 18th and 20th of August,’ said an official statement from the watchdog, Rospotrebnadzor.

The company has said that it will study the allegations against its franchises, and ‘will do everything to ensure that the restaurants open as soon as possible.’

‘McDonald’s main priority is offering its customers quality and safe produce,’ said a statement on the McDonald’s website.

Those golden arches will make an interesting addition to Putin’s trophy case, along with admirer Sarah Palin and the bears.

Never.Give.Up.

Things that go Stomp in the night

(Picture courtesy of Peachland Joe at flickr.com.)

Over Easy

3:53 am in Culture, Foreign Policy, Government, Media by Ruth Calvo

Over Easy

The community that began with Southern Dragon’s Lakeside Diner continues. Today we collect news from outside the usual, and renew the discussion.

Despite rocket fire that broke a 72 hour ceasefire, all sides agreed to an extension proposed to last for five more days of truce and peace talks in embattled Gaza.

Hamas, the Islamist organisation in power in Gaza, denied they had launched rockets, however, and shortly before midnight Palestinian delegates in Cairo announced the extension.

‘There will be a five-day ceasefire to give more opportunity for negotiation,’ Gamal Shobky, the Palestinian ambassador in Cairo, told the Guardian. ‘We are very close but there are still some things to resolve.’

The news will be welcomed in Gaza, battered by a month-long conflict which inflicted massive damage on infrastructure and housing, as well as killing nearly 2,000 people, mostly civilians. Sixty four Israeli soldiers died, and three civilians in Israel were killed by rocket fire.

As Mt. Sinjar emptied of persecuted minorities chased there by ISIS, the international community sought to change premiers as one step toward less volatile conditions.

The White House on Wednesday urged Iraqi leader Nuri al-Maliki to step aside and allow the man nominated to become his successor as prime minister to form a government.

‘He needs to respect that process,’ Rhodes told reporters. ‘This is what the Iraqis themselves have decided to do.’

President Barack Obama on Monday threw his weight behind the choice of Haidar al-Abadi to form a new government, appealing to Maliki, without directly naming him, to peacefully turn over power.

‘The White House will be very glad to see a new government in place with prime minister Abadi at the lead of that government,’ Rhodes said.

Mexico awarded 83% of its oil resources to national oil firm Pemex as a move toward reorganization and revitalization of its energy industry, enabled by an amendment to the constitution which required state ownership of resources.

Mexico enacted new rules this week to open up the country’s energy sector.

Private oil companies are now allowed to operate in the country for the first time in 76 years.

The next round of bidding will see private oil firms vie for the remaining 79% of possible reserves.

(snip)

The hope is that the changes in the energy sector will boost production back to 2004 levels by 2025.

Crumbling infrastructure, bureaucracy and corruption have pared Mexican production from 3.6 million barrels a day in 2004 to just 2.5 million.

The first woman to be awarded the Fields Medal, mathematics’ equivalent of the Nobel, is an Iranian professor at Stanford, Maryam Mirzakhani, awarded the medal for her work in understanding the symmetry of curved surfaces.

‘This is a great honor. I will be happy if it encourages young female scientists and mathematicians,’ Mirzakhani was quoted as saying on Stanford’s website.

‘I am sure there will be many more women winning this kind of award in coming years,’ she said.

Mirzakhani, 37, was born in Tehran and lived there until she began her doctorate work at Harvard University. She said she dreamed of becoming a writer when she was young, but she pursued her love of solving mathematical problems.

‘It is fun. It’s like solving a puzzle or connecting the dots in a detective case. I felt that this was something I could do, and I wanted to pursue this path.’ she said.

Never.Give.Up.

Over Easy

3:30 am in Culture, Government, Media, Politics by Ruth Calvo

Over Easy

The community that began with Southern Dragon’s Lakeside Diner continues. Today we collect news from outside the usual, and renew the discussion.

European efforts to land a craft on a comet will come to fruition soon, as Rosetta descends to the duck-shaped comet as its target after a journey of ten years’ length.

More than 249 million miles from where it was launched in March 2004, the spacecraft Rosetta will finally meet up with its target, Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.

To get there, Rosetta has had to make four flybys of Mars and Earth, using their gravitational force as a slingshot to build up speed, and then entering a 31-month hibernation as light from the distant Sun became too weak for its solar panels.

It was awakened in January.

After braking maneuvers, the three-ton craft should on Wednesday be about 62 miles from the comet — a navigational feat that, if all goes well, will be followed by glittering scientific rewards.

The departure of one of Great Britain’s highest placed female political leaders put another light on Cameron’s handling of conflict in Gaza.

Lady Warsi said the prime minister had lost moral authority, undermined the national interest and deprived Britain of its historic role as an honest broker in the Middle East by refusing to condemn the aggressive Israeli response to the Hamas rocket attacks as disproportionate.

In her strongly worded resignation letter, whose morning publication came as a surprise to No 10, Warsi warned that ‘our approach and language during the current crisis in Gaza is morally indefensible [and] is not in Britain’s national interest.’

She also complained that Cameron’s response may become ‘a basis for radicalisation [which] could have consequences for us for years to come.’

Her departure came after internal argument inside the National Security Council over Cameron’s refusal to condemn the aggressive Israeli response to the Hamas rocket attacks.

Leader of the Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo Carlotto in Argentina received news that her long missing grandson has been located and they are to be reunited. The child was taken from his family during the regime of the last military dictatorship, his parents murdered.

‘I will not force the situation,’ Carlotto said when asked about the long-expected meeting with Guido. ‘The meeting will take place whenever he decides so, at Grandmother’s headquarters where all these reunions take place.’

Carlotto explained she never met Guido’s father but that her husband had met him. She said she is open to meet her that part of his grandson’s biological family.

Grandmothers’ president also referred to the family that raised her grandson. ‘We do not know much. We know that they lived in the countryside. They must have raised him well. They were farmworkers,’ she said.

Never.Give.Up.

Over Easy

3:19 am in Foreign Policy, Government, Media by Ruth Calvo

Over Easy

The community that began with Southern Dragon’s Lakeside Diner continues. Today we collect news from outside the usual, and renew the discussion.

Two Palestinian journalists were killed in attacks on Gaza during the recent bombardment, bringing to eight the number of journalists who have lost their lives in these events.

According to an affiliate of the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), the Palestinian Journalists’ Syndicate (PJS), the two journalists were killed in the artillery shelling of Shojayah market. A third journalist was seriously injured.

The two who died were Sameh Al-Aryan, 26, of Al-Aqsa TV, and photojournalist Rami Rayan, 25, who worked for the Palestinian Media Network. Photojournalist Hamed Shobaky, of Manara Media, was severely wounded in the same incident.

Ahed Zaqout, 49, a presenter on Palestine TV sport programmes, was killed in his apartment during an attack on the Italian tower in Gaza City.

Jim Boumelha, the IFJ president, said: ‘We express our anger and condemnation at the killing of these journalists, the latest victims in this ongoing cycle of intimidation, violence and murder against media workers in Palestine.’

Dire results are predicted from Argentina’s debt default brought on by vulture creditors’ victories in court over their purchase of debt from that beleaguered country.

Argentina defaulted for the second time in 12 years after hopes for a midnight deal with holdout creditors were dashed, setting up stock and bond prices for declines on Thursday and raising chances a recession could worsen this year.

After a long legal battle with hedge funds that rejected Argentina’s debt restructuring following its 2002 default, Latin America’s third-biggest economy failed to strike a deal in time to meet a midnight deadline for a coupon payment on exchange bonds.

Even a short default will raise companies’ borrowing costs, pile more pressure on the peso, drain dwindling foreign reserves and fuel one of the world’s highest inflation rates.

Health emergency measures including quarantine are being put into effect in Sierra Leone as a result of the outbreak of the ebola virus there.

Ernest Bai Koroma said the epicentres of the outbreak in the east would be quarantined and asked the security forces to enforce the measures.

The UN says more than 670 people in West Africa have died of Ebola since February – 224 of them in Sierra Leone.

This includes Dr Sheik Umar Khan who led Sierra Leone’s fight against the virus. His funeral is on Thursday.

Never.Give.Up.

Over Easy

3:51 am in Culture, Government, Media, Politics by Ruth Calvo

Over Easy

The community that began with Southern Dragon’s Lakeside Diner continues. Today we collect news from outside the usual, and renew the discussion.

International protests opposing sentences given to al Jazeera correspondents in Egypt for their reports that displeased the government came to the U.N. headquarters in New York yesterday.

Three empty chairs sat at the front of the ‘FreeAJStaff’ meeting as a symbolic gesture. The names of each of the jailed journalists were placed on the seats.

The United Nations Correspondents Association (UNCA) hosted the event in an effort to underscore the journalists’ plight and discuss ways to secure their release.

‘Everyone has the right of freedom of opinion and expression,’ Pamela Falk, president of UNCA, said at the meeting. ‘Freedom of the press is not an option — it is an inherent right.’

UNCA has asked Egypt to live up to its international commitments and free all detained journalists. The right to report news is enshrined in international human rights law, and Falk said the U.N. is working to insert language in all conflict and peacekeeping resolutions to protect journalists.

Great Britain is running out of land, with a potential shortage of 2 million hectares anticipated by 2030. Agriculture has been a staple use of the countryside.

The report, from the University of Cambridge, says the growing population plus the use of land for energy crops are contributing to the gap.

(snip)\

With a population expected to exceed 70 million by 2030, the extra demand for living space and food will have a major impact on the way land is used, the report says.

On top of these pressures, the government is committed to using bioenergy crops such as miscanthus as renewable sources of energy, further limiting the stock of land for food.

‘That is putting some very significant future pressures on how we use our land,’ said Andrew Montague-Fuller, the report’s lead author.

Chilean president Bachelet announced a plan to buy and return land to indigenous communities in an effort to integrate them into the country.

Chile’s indigenous peoples, which include the Mapuche, Aymara and Diaguita, have an underweight representation in Congress and often face a harsh economic reality in what is otherwise one of Latin America’s wealthiest countries.

Years of conflict over land claims have increasingly flared into violence between the Mapuche, the largest indigenous group, and local farmers, forestry companies and police, putting pressure on the government to act.

‘It has been nearly 25 years since we got back our democracy,’ Bachelet said at the presidential palace in Santiago, flanked by representatives of indigenous communities.

‘It is time to have the courage to take new steps with a view not to the short-term, but rather the (long-term) development that has been so difficult to obtain for our indigenous sisters and brothers.’

Never.Give.Up.

Over Easy

3:40 am in Culture, Foreign Policy, Government, Media, Politics by Ruth Calvo

Over Easy

The community that began with Southern Dragon’s Lakeside Diner continues. Today we collect news from outside the usual, and renew the discussion.

Hope you will celebrate Juneteenth;

Juneteenth is an annual observance on June 19 to remember when Union soldiers enforced the Emancipation Proclamation and freed all remaining slaves in Texas on June 19, 1865. This day is an opportunity for people to celebrate freedom and equal rights in the United States.

Congratulations, the Halifax Examiner has arrived, featuring the newly emancipated in-depth reporting of award-winning journalist Tim Bousquet, whose exposés of Halifax corruption included the comedic efforts of the city council there to attract the attention of media and businesses.
The province got ready for the G7 by hiring Bristol Communications for $270,000 ‘to market Nova Scotia as a world-class venue during the summit,’ reported the Daily News.

No one then, or since, has defined ‘world-class city.’ It’s just understood to be a good thing, like ‘proactive’ in the ’80s, ‘sustainable’ in the aughts, ‘innovation’ in the current decade—substance-less bureaucratic lingo. Among the ignorant managerial classes, the person who masters bullshit is considered smart.

But whatever ‘world-class city’ meant, it probably didn’t mean a place that had raw sewage and associated ‘floatables’ lapping against the bulkheads along the waterfront where G7 delegates and the international press corps were meeting.

The top security official in the U.K. has issued the opinion under which communication on the internet is deemed ‘external’ and can therefore be routinely monitored by government.

Under Ripa, traditional interception of ‘internal’ communications within the UK requires an individual warrant. Farr argues that in a technologically-fast moving world, where the greatest threat to national security is from ‘militant Islamist terrorists’ operating both abroad and in the UK, identifying individual targets before monitoring starts is too difficult. Those deemed to be “external” can be monitored without an individual warrant.

Farr says: ‘Any regime that … only permitted interception in relation to specific persons or premises, would not have allowed adequate levels of intelligence information to be obtained and would not have met the undoubted requirements of intelligence for the protection of national security.’

Iraqi PM Maliki fired top officers for their failure to resist rebel advances, and those not directly involved in military operations were forbidden to bear arms. The Iraqi government requested U.S. air strikes against the rebel force ISIL, as fighting threatened to disrupt any functioning national operation there. Congressional opponents insist the U.S. President will proceed in Iraq without their approval.

General Martin Dempsey, the top US military commander, shortly confirmed the request during a Senate Appropriations Defencse Subcommittee hearing.

‘We have a request from the Iraqi government for air power,’ said Dempsey.

(snip)

In Salaheddin province, the rebels seized three villages, Albu Hassan, Birwajli and Bastamli, in northern Iraq on Wednesday during clashes with Iraq’s security forces and residents.

The fighting left at least 20 civilians dead, Shallal Abdul Baban, a local official, said on Wednesday.

Later on Wednesday, the United Arab Emitates recalled its envoy from Iraq and slammed ‘sectarian’ policies. Saudi Arabia warned Iraq was heading for civil war.

Argentina’s market unraveled under the fear of losing any standing in the world financial community after the U.S. Supreme Court refused an appeal of lower court rulings that gave creditors the power to demand payment in full of debt bought during crisis.

Economy Minister Axel Kicillof has announced that the government plans to reopen the debt swap program in the hope of renegotiating bonds held by hedge funds, after the US Supreme Court declined to take Argentina’s case against the so-called ‘vulture funds’.

The official spoke today in a press conference to communicate the government’s position on the yesterday’s ruling in the US Supreme Court. The ‘vulture funds’ are investors who refused to enter previous debt swaps, and are using the New York court system to demand full payment of bonds acquired after the 2001 default.

Kicillof told a press conference convened in the Economy ministry that the Cristina Fernández de Kirchner administration would take the necessary steps for ‘a new debt swap under Argentine legislation.’

Never.Give.Up.

Over Easy

3:54 am in Culture, Economy, Government, Media, Politics by Ruth Calvo

Over Easy

The community that began with Southern Dragon’s Lakeside Diner continues. Today I will be putting the outside news up a day early.  Usually on Thursday, but today Wednesday, we will collect news from outside the usual, and renew the discussion.

This was mentioned by attaturk earlier, but worth pointing to for any later than wee hour readers:

Production of shrimp by major Thailand fishing concerns has been revealed to involve use of forced labor working under appalling conditions which has included the killing of workers as well as beatings and grueling long hours.   Shrimp from these concerns are sold to the world’s top four global retailers: Walmart, Carrefour, Costco and Tesco.

The investigation found that the world’s largest prawn farmer, the Thailand-based Charoen Pokphand (CP) Foods, buys fishmeal, which it feeds to its farmed prawns, from some suppliers that own, operate or buy from fishing boats manned with slaves.

(snip)CP Foods – a company with an annual turnover of $33bn (£20bn) that brands itself as ‘the kitchen of the world’ – sells its own-brand prawn feed to other farms, and supplies international supermarkets, as well as food manufacturers and food retailers, with frozen or cooked prawns and ready-made meals. It also sells raw prawn materials for food distributors.

In addition to Walmart, Carrefour, Costco and Tesco, the Guardian has identified AldiMorrisons, the Co-operative and Iceland as customers of CP Foods. They all sell frozen or cooked prawns, or ready meals such as prawn stir fry, supplied by CP Foods and its subsidiaries. CP Foods admits that slave labour is part of its supply chain.

‘We’re not here to defend what is going on,’ said Bob Miller, CP Foods’ UK managing director. ‘We know there’s issues with regard to the [raw] material that comes in [to port], but to what extent that is, we just don’t have visibility.’

You can help in the rejection of slavery by asking how shrimp is produced at stores you frequent, and by telling management at your markets of choice that you will not buy products produced by such methods, and avoiding the shrimps from CP Foods.

Discussions involving proposed Basic Income Guarantee (BIG) are surfacing in many groups, with an underlying concept that if the general population had the means to live at a very elemental level, there would be no need for social services and avoid abuses.

One alternative proposal is the Jobs Guarantee (JG) program. The idea behind the JG is that the government guarantees everyone who is willing and able to work a job at a fixed wage. The government then invites charities and nonprofits to sign on to the program and offer citizens work on neighborhood projects and others that are judged to be beneficial to the community as a whole. The JG has been successfully implemented in countries such as Argentina in the past on a somewhat limited basis.

Never.Give.Up.

Over Easy

3:44 am in Culture, Environment, Government, Media, Politics by Ruth Calvo

Please help keep FDL online, contribute to pay the techies who’ve been salvaging us from the constant DDoS attacks.

Argentina’s legal efforts to escape from ‘vulture creditors’ continues in the courts.

The community that began with Southern Dragon’s Lakeside Diner continues. Today we collect news from outside the usual, and renew the discussion.

Argentina has entered into a payback plan to satisfy international creditors after its default in 2005, which has been heralded as its way to return to the financing denied it during the workout of debt. Agreement reached with The Paris Club has garnered international approval and advanced Argentina’s return to access to international financial sources. The nation’s legal efforts to escape from ‘vulture creditors’ continues in the courts, and is scheduled to be taken up, or denied, by the U.S. Supreme Court on June 12.

‘We do not believe that external debt is bad per se. It is good when taken to finance infrastructure project that allow the country to grow and it is bad when used for gambling,’ Álvarez explained.

‘Argentina pays up as long as the payment conditions are sustainable for the country,’ he asserted, adding that ‘”the vulture funds” business is all about gambling.’

The Argentine government is fighting a decisive battle in the US courts, due to the fact that a favourable ruling would mark a new victory on the road to ending the default status decreed during Adolfo Rodríguez Saá’s short presidency in December 2001.

On May 25, the country made their final presentation to the US Supreme Court, in which it was requested that rulings from lower courts in favour of the ‘Vulture Funds’ be revised.

The most positive outcome for Argentina would occur if the tribunal accepts the case and considers that the lower courts wrongly interpreted the concept of pari passu, which ensures that the country must treat all creditors equally.

Great Britain’s head of a new site, funded by the government to provide security advice to internet users, apologized after the site crashed shortly after it was launched, under unanticipated heavy traffic.

Get Safe Online was publicised as being the place to go for advice to protect computers against a high-profile hack.

But within moments of an announcement on Monday, the website collapsed under a deluge of visitors.

(snip)

‘There is no reason to say this is a DDoS [distributed denial of service] attack. I’d love to say it was an attack – but it’s just the total amount of traffic that’s coming in.’

A day after announcement by the U.S. of 30% goal in cutting air pollution from coal burning plants, China announced the start of efforts to cut its industrial pollution output.

China said Tuesday it will set an absolute cap on its CO2 emissions starting in 2016 — a potentially landmark move that, coupled with an earlier U.S. announcement on power plant emission curbs, could boost sluggish United Nations efforts to produce a new global climate accord.

The exact extent of the cuts was not announced, but officials said renewable energy would account for up to 25 percent of the country’s energy production and nuclear power would be ramped up by the end of the next decade.

‘The Chinese announcement marks potentially the most important turning point in the global scene on climate change for a decade,’ said Michael Grubb, a professor of international energy and climate policy at University College London.

The international community hopes to conclude a global climate treaty to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2015, when the United Nations will host a climate conference in Paris.

On Wednesday, Europe announced cuts of its own, as climate talks began in the U.N. aimed at stopping the global loss of valuable resources and weather catastrophes.

The latest round of U.N. climate negotiations began Wednesday, with the European Union announcing it will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by about 24 percent by 2020 based on 1990 levels — more than its targeted cut of 20 percent — said EU Climate Action Commissioner Connie Hedegaard.

Never.Give.Up. Read the rest of this entry →

Over Easy: Foreign Affairs

3:54 am in Culture, Government, Media, Politics by Ruth Calvo

A demonstration in Union Square in support for the kidnapped Chibok girls.

The community that began with Southern Dragon’s Lakeside Diner continues. Today we collect news from outside the usual, and renew the discussion.

After wins by France’s anti-immigrant National Front in European Union elections, large scale removal of camps of refugees by riot police has begun in Calais — attributed to public health and safety concerns. Similar evacuations are being carried out in northern Spain.

Calais has for years attracted a high number of immigrants who flee poverty or conflict in countries such as Afghanistan, Syria and Iraq, many of them hoping to cross the narrow sea channel to Britain by ferry or the sub-sea train tunnel.

Many of the estimated 600-800 immigrants living in the three camps had moved out before the well-publicized evacuation ordered by Denis Robin, prefect for the Pas-de-Calais region.

Pas-de-Calais is in northwestern France, where the far-right National Front won 34 percent of the vote in Sunday’s EU election – one of its best tallies and a tripling of its score from the 2009 vote.

The party has long campaigned for a dramatic reduction in immigration and opposes the ‘Schengen’ borderless zone at the heart of the 28-member European Union.

Nations around the world are sending search and security efforts, which includes drones, and special assistance to Nigeria in the attempt to rescue the kidnapped Chibok girls. Restrictions against foreign aid have been lifted for the search to proceed.

For most Nigerians, the arrival of these foreign security experts to help in locating and freeing the abducted schoolgirls was the ray of hope they had long expected from the global horizon. Britain alone has sent a mixed team, led by the foreign office, with components from the Metropolitan Police, the Ministry of Defence, the Department for International Development and the intelligence agencies.

Some observers believe that it took repeated pressure from world leaders to convince Jonathan to accept external help. They said offers made earlier were turned down by the president, following claims that over 50 of the girls had been rescued. President Jonathan had come under attack by Nigerians who felt government was too slow in responding to the abduction. Still, there were other Nigerians who insisted that security forces should tread softly because a full blown military rescue operation, even by Special Forces, would amount to putting the lives of the girls at risky.

In its typical race to the bottom, one of Rupert Murdoch’s Australian papers defied custom and published a picture of the Duchess of Cambridge’s ‘beautiful bum’.

The Sydney Daily Telegraph said British newspapers had refused to run the photo out of respect to the royals, but in a comment piece said this was ‘an antiquated code of etiquette’ under the headline ‘My bare lady: Derri-heir to the throne is fair game.’

‘It seems a bit ridiculous to expect the rest of the world’s media to follow suit, particularly in a world in which flesh and commercialism go hand in hand,’ said Telegraph social writer Annette Sharp.

‘If the duchess can’t be bothered protecting herself by having hem weights sewn into her garments, why should the media protect her?’

Never.Give.Up. Read the rest of this entry →

Over Easy

3:50 am in Business, Culture, Government, Media, Politics by Ruth Calvo

The community that began with Southern Dragon’s Lakeside Diner continues. Today we collect news from outside the usual, and renew the discussion.

Fold in Monterey Formation

The U.S. dollar was out on the streets in a deal entered into by Russia and China, agreeing to trade in their own currencies.   This was followed by a massive natural gas sale that has been worked out over ten years, to China from Russia.

“Breaking the dominance of the U.S. dollar in international trade between the BRICS is something that the group has been talking about for some time,” said Chris Weafer, a founding partner of Macro-Advisory, a consultancy in Moscow. “The Ukraine crisis and the threats voiced by the U.S. administration may well provide the catalyst for that to start happening.”

To be sure, the Russia-China bank deal is mostly a symbolic step. Liza Ermolenko, an emerging markets economist at Capital Economics in London, said that the deal was still “a very small one, in the grand scale of things,” and that it wouldn’t change Russia’s reliance on the dollar “overnight.” Most of Russia’s export contracts in the oil and gas markets are still priced in dollars, she noted, and on a wider scale, replacing the dollar with the ruble is much too risky to even consider.

Likewise, even though China has agreed to the gas deal, which could see over $450 billion of Russian natural gas flow from eastern Siberia into China over the next 30 years, Russia is not in a position to abandon its ties with Europe.

“From the commercial standpoint, Europe is the most profitable market for Gazprom,” said Mikhail Korchemkin, the founder of Eastern European Gas Analysis, who has consulted for Gazprom, the Russian state-owned gas company. “Exports to China can generate a small profit, [but] only if the government makes it free of taxes and duties.”

But the bank deal is another indicator that Russia and China are in the middle of a wider rapprochement, which analysts say is premised not on ideological alignment but on a mutual desire to undercut the U.S. in their respective spheres of influence.

(snip)

Separate from that political posturing, the Russian imperative to find new markets for its energy exports is nonetheless very real. Energy demands in Europe have plateaued and may even decline in the long term because of stringent environmental regulations.

At the same time, Israel and China were signing agreements to develop technology for the future together at a joint conference in Jerusalem at  the Israel-China Economic Summit this week.

“The science and technology of Israel need market potential and also market rules, and Zhejiang is a great partner,” Zhou Guohni, director- general of Zhejiang Province (population 55 million), told The Jerusalem Post at the signing in Tel Aviv. “We are facing a transformation and upgrade of the industry, and we need Israel’s technology to help transform and upgrade it.”

The Economy Ministry’s Chief Scientist Avi Hasson said the agreement “will help many Israeli companies expand into the Chinese market and marks the next stage in the economic and technological relationship between our two countries.”

Attorneys for Guantanamo detainee Abu Wa’el Dhiab have been cleared to view footage of forced feeding of their client, a first admission that such films even exist of the practice which is considered abusive.

District court judge Gladys Kessler, of the Washington DC circuit, rejected an argument from the government that the tapes were irrelevant to Dhiab’s unusual lawsuit, which seeks to get a federal judge to set the conditions of his military confinement, which Dhiab considers amount to torture.

One of Dhiab’s attorneys, Jon Eisenberg, said the government possess thousands of tapes detailing feeding and cell extraction conditions of the other detainees. Over 100 Guantánamo detainees participated in the 2013 hunger strike, which garnered international attention and an information blackout from the military command overseeing the detention center.

While California may not qualify as foreign territory, interesting developments there reflect on growing doubt about ‘information’ oil companies issue to promote petroleum extraction.  Estimates of recoverable oil from shale have been backtracked by 96% in developing fields of the Monterey, CA, deposits.  This coincides with warnings issued formerly by Association for the Study of Peak Oil & Gas USA (ASPO-USA) about over-optimistic predictions of the available oil resources, and previously expressed doubts wherein ‘Dallas Federal Reserve advisory board member Deborah Rogers brought out a startling lack of geological evidence that there is present in shale enough gas reserves to justify the expenses of drilling’.

While the Bakken and Eagle Ford shale deposits are “relatively even and layered like a cake,” the L.A. Times said, the 1,750-square-mile Monterey Shale has been “folded and shattered” by earthquakes — meaning the oil is lodged too deep to recover with currently available technology.

For some, the EIA’s new estimate confirms what they’ve been saying for years. Shale oil is notoriously hard to extract because it lies within shale rock formations underground, so drillers have been forced to use more controversial, unconventional methods to get it out of the ground.

The most widely used of those methods has been hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” a process by which drillers inject high-pressure streams of water, chemicals, and sand into underground rock formations, “fracturing” the rock to release oil and gas. Ironically, that process has also been shown to cause earthquakes, the very problem which makes the Monterey Shale’s oil even more difficult to get at.

The outcroppings of radical hate language is hardly confined to AZ where the Bundy ranch seemed to attract extremists against U.S. government.  In Israel, a furor has occurred about one rabbi who called for taking knives to the government.

“On Shabbat I spoke to my kids, and I said that Rabbi Shteinman spoke and said ‘practically speaking we have today Haman, Amalek, all of this government, and the way is to take knives and to kill them, like with the [ancient] Greeks,’” Kaplan said.

“So why aren’t we doing it? Because, he said, ‘I don’t know who the general is to run the war. If I would know who is the general we’d go out with knives.’ This is what Rabbi Shteinman said. There’s a war on religion.”

Maybe there’s a War on Christmas we didn’t even suspect.

Never.Give.Up. Read the rest of this entry →