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Daily Archives: December 22, 2013

JPMorgan Limits Access to Customer Funds After Target Data Breach – Susanne Posel | Susanne Posel

JPMorgan Limits Access to Customer Funds After Target Data Breach – Susanne Posel | Susanne Posel.

JPMorgan & Chase Co are limiting how much money their customers can spend on a daily basis because of the data breach at Target over the 2013 Back Friday shopping event.

Cash and debit card spending limits are being implemented on 2 million debit card holders because those customers are suspected of having shopped at Target during the time period in question.

JPM is considering issuing new debit cards to those customers who were directly affected by the data breach.

Chase customers will be limited to $100 daily withdrawal from ATMs.

Debit card users will see $200 – $500 daily limits as well as $500 daily purchase limit.

Customers are encouraged to come into their local branch to withdraw more cash if necessary; however that too is limited to $300 per day.

The new rules will take a few weeks for full implementation. With issuing new cards, JPM recommends that “about half of its 5,600 branches in 23 states can issue new cards on the spot for customers who want the limits lifted faster.”

Due to this new change, JPM “decided to open about a third of its branches on Sunday, when they were normally closed, to help affected customers.”

Because an estimated $40 million was allegedly stolen due to the data breach, JPM does not want to take chances with customers – thereby installing controls on customer funds.

Target Corporation has offered in-store shoppers a 10% discount over this past weekend for having their person information stolen.

Ken Perkins, founder of Retail Metrics commented : “Given how deep discounts have been across the retail landscape this holiday season, I don’t know if that moves the needle that much. Twenty percent might have drawn serious interest, but 10 percent? I don’t know.”

Other banks such as Bank of America (BoA) and Citigroup are taking precautions to monitor and control cash flow from customer accounts using the Target incident as justification.

Earlier this week, Target Corporation had a security breach during this year’s Black Friday in which “millions of customer credit and debit card records” were stolen.

Brian Krebs, computer security expert, stated: “I’ve heard from five different people at five different banks, and the banks are being tipped by the card companies. At least two major card issuers [banks] said hundreds of thousands of cards had been compromised, and there are dozens of card issuers, so that adds up to millions of cards.”

This problem “extends to nearly all Target locations nationwide, and involves the theft of data stored on the magnetic stripe of cards used at the stores.”

Krebs explains: “The type of data stolen — also known as track data — allows crooks to create counterfeit cards by encoding the information onto any card with a magnetic stripe. If the thieves also were able to intercept PIN data for debit transactions, they would theoretically be able to reproduce stolen debit cards and use them to withdraw cash from ATMs.”

Analysts have concluded that the breach occurred on Black Friday and continued into the middle of December affecting “an unknown number of Target customers who shopped at the company’s main street stores during that timeframe.”

Target collects data on customers, including:

• Name
• Address
• Date of birth
• Social security number
• Driver’s license number
• Credit card information
• Email address

By installing malware into the system, “or persuaded an unsuspecting employee to click on a malicious link that downloaded malware that gives cybercriminals a foothold into a company’s point-of-sale systems.”

Technology has afforded retailers the ability to track customers through mobile phones, work computers and even while in line at the register.

Holiday shopping is proving to be a massive data mining endeavor with signups for loyalty cards that collect data on customer behavior.

The private information available to retailers from customer loyalty cards can include:

• Zip codes
• Home/employment addresses
• Personal income
• Insurance expiration

Retailers claim that this information derived from monitoring the public can “determine exactly what kind of buyer [the customer] might be and how much [the customer is] willing to pay” for products.

Mailing lists can ensure that retailers can install cookies into customer’s computers to watch their movements online with provisions for ‘relevant pop-up ads” marketed to specified potential customers.

 

Toxic E-Waste Dumped in Poor Nations, Says United Nations – Our World

Toxic E-Waste Dumped in Poor Nations, Says United Nations – Our World.

e-waste

Millions of mobile phones, laptops, tablets, toys, digital cameras and other electronic devices bought this Christmas are destined to create a flood of dangerous “e-waste” that is being dumped illegally in developing countries, the UN has warned.

The global volume of electronic waste is expected to grow by 33 percent in the next four years, when it will weigh the equivalent of eight of the great Egyptian pyramids, according to the United Nations StEP initiative, which was set up to tackle the world’s growing e-waste crisis. Last year nearly 50 million tonnes of e-waste were generated worldwide — or about seven kilograms for every person on the planet. These are electronic goods made up of hundreds of different materials and containing toxic substances such as lead, mercury, cadmium, arsenic and flame retardants. An old-style CRT computer screen can contain up to three kilograms of lead, for example.

Once in a landfill, these toxic materials seep out into the environment, contaminating land, water and the air. In addition, devices are often dismantled in primitive conditions. Those who work at these sites suffer frequent bouts of illness.

An indication of the level of e-waste being shipped to the developing world was revealed by Interpol last week. It said almost one in three containers leaving the EU that were checked by its agents contained illegal e-waste. Criminal investigations were launched against 40 companies. “Christmas will see a surge in sales and waste around the world,” saysRuediger Kuehr, Executive Secretary of StEP. “The explosion is happening because there’s so much technical innovation. TVs, mobile phones and computers are all being replaced more and more quickly. The lifetime of products is also shortening.”

According to the StEP report, e-waste — which extends from old fridges to toys and even motorized toothbrushes — is now the world’s fastest growing waste stream. China generated 11.1 million tonnes last year, followed by the US with 10 million tonnes, though there was significant difference per capita. For example, on average each American generated 29.5 kilograms, compared to less than five kilograms per person in China.

By 2017, Kuehr expects the volume of end-of-life TVs, phones, computers, monitors, e-toys and other products to be enough to fill a 15,000-mile line of 40-tonne lorries. In Europe, Germany discards the most e-waste in total, but Norway and Liechtenstein throw away more per person. Britain is now the world’s seventh most prolific producer, discarding 1.37 million tonnes, or about 21 kilograms per person. No figures are available from government or industry on how much is exported.

Although it is legal to export discarded goods to poor countries if they can be reused or refurbished, much is being sent to Africa or Asia under false pretences, says Interpol. “Much is falsely classified as ‘used goods’ although in reality it is non-functional. It is often diverted to the black market and disguised as used goods to avoid the costs associated with legitimate recycling,” said a spokesman. “A substantial proportion of e-waste exports go to countries outside Europe, including west African countries. Treatment in these countries usually occurs in the informal sector, causing significant environmental pollution and health risks for local populations,” he said.

Few countries understand the scale of the problem, because no track is kept of all e-waste, says the European Environment Agency, which estimates between 250,000 tonnes and 1.3 million tonnes of used electrical products are shipped out of the EU every year, mostly to west Africa and Asia. “These goods may subsequently be processed in dangerous and inefficient conditions, harming the health of local people and damaging the environment,” said a spokesman.

new study by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology suggests that the US discarded 258.2 million computers, monitors, TVs and mobile phones in 2010, of which only 66 percent was recycled. Nearly 120 million mobile phones were collected, most of which were shipped to Hong Kong, Latin America and the Caribbean. The shelf life of a mobile phone is now less than two years, but the EU, US and Japanese governments say many hundreds of millions are thrown away each year or are left in drawers. In the US, only 12 million mobile phones were collected for recycling in 2011 even though 120 million were bought. Meanwhile, newer phone models are racing on to the market leaving old ones likely to end up in landfills. Most phones contain precious metals. The circuit board can contain copper, gold, zinc, beryllium, and tantalum, the coatings are typically made of lead and phone makers are now increasingly using lithium batteries. Yet fewer than 10 percent percent of mobile phones are dismantled and reused. Part of the problem is that computers, phones and other devices are becoming increasingly complex and made of smaller and smaller components.

The failure to recycle is also leading to shortages of rare-earth minerals to make future generations of electronic equipment.

 

Seven Crucial Questions That ’60 Minutes’ Failed to Ask the NSA | Motherboard

Seven Crucial Questions That ’60 Minutes’ Failed to Ask the NSA | Motherboard.

NSA Director Gen. Keith Alexander during 60 Minutes’ look at the agency

One of the most difficult questions facing journalists is how one stays objective when given deep access. When a subject opens his or her doors and rolls out the full hospitality routine, it’s easy to feel sympathetic or even beholden to a source, which can color reporting. It’s human nature, but it’s easily countered: You make sure you’ve talked to a variety of outside sources, and you ask questions that don’t simply take a subject’s claims at face value, which doesn’t necessarily mean being combative. It’s just the job.

Last night, while trumpeting its unprecedented access to the NSA, 60 Minutes did none of those things. In a segment that discussed the NSA’s activities without interviewing a single outside source, 60 Minutes largely defaulted to lobbing softball questions to NSA Director Keith Alexander—who naturally denied the veracity of the wealth of reporting from this year on documents leaked by Edward Snowden—while taking a breathless tour of the NSA’s facilities, watching an NSA whiz kid solve a Rubik’s cube, and calling Snowden a weirdo who could help China blow up the US economy.

The correspondent for the segment, John Miller, was touted by CBS as being the “ultimate insider,” likely due to the fact that he was formerly the FBI’s national spokesman, after which he worked in the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. While that surely means he’s well-informed and well-connected, it also means he’s more likely to be sympathetic to Alexander’s side of the story, which led to exchanges where Miller asked questions designed to allow Alexander to refute previous reporting from the likes of the Guardian, Washington Post, and New York Times, without any follow up.

60 Minutes indeed did get incredible access to the NSA, which was cool to see, but which made its empty questioning all the more disappointing. It’s also worrisome: 60 Minutes has huge reach, and for any viewer who hasn’t been following the NSA saga obsessively, last night’s segment made it sound like some sketchy guy named Snowden ran off to Russia with a bunch of documents that will now hamper the NSA’s mission to fight terrorism and China, while privacy and legal concerns were swept under the rug. So, in the interest of setting the record straight, here are seven questions that 60 Minutes should have asked:

How are FISA restrictions interpreted by the NSA?

Under Section 215 of the Patriot Act, the NSA may collect phone call metadata in bulk as long as it’s proven relevant to a specific investigation and “adequate minimization procedures” are taken. These requirements, and the resulting approval of metadata collection, is overseen by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, a secret court that, after being accused of being a rubber stamp, has called out the NSA for willfully misleading the court about the scope of the agency’s activities. The end result? The NSA collects millions upon millions of phone records every year.

How does the NSA reconcile this descrepancy? Miller tried to ask:

John Miller: A judge in the FISA court, which is the court that secretly hears the NSA cases and approves or disapproves your requests. Said the NSA systematically transgressed both its own court-appointed limits in bulk Internet data collection programs.

Gen. Keith Alexander: There was nobody willfully or knowingly trying to break the law.

That’s a pretty weak denial, one which Miller didn’t follow up on. It’s also not true: The NSA has knowingly disciplined employees for illegally spying on Americans. More importantly, how does the NSA argue that collecting bulk metadata fits under “minimization” procedures? Aside from saying data has to be stored in bulk to be effective—which is hardly an argument that anything is minimized—Alexander didn’t have to say.

The first half of the segment

What can the agency actually do with metadata?

Alexander justified bulk data collection by saying it’s just anonymous data on phone numbers, call duration, and time; in other words, he says it should be of no concern to regular Americans because it doesn’t really say much. But the NSA stores five years worth of call data, which would be a strange choice if it was worthless. What can the agency actually do with it?

Miller didn’t really ask, but thankfully the incredible value of metadata has been explained before. On its own, it can reveal a lot about a person’s personal life, and combined with the billions of social interactions the NSA collects every day, can paint a pretty clear portrait of who a person interacts with and what their interests are. But Alexander played metadata off like it’s essentially worthless, an argument Miller was too ready to accept.

What do privacy advocates say about the NSA?

It’s pretty clear that 60 Minutes traded access to the NSA’s facilities for a puff piece on what it does, much as it did with Amazon’s drone announcement last week. But as much as the Amazon segment reeked of straight-up PR, doing a soft segment is far worse when it concerns the most important politics story of the year. Not only did 60 Minutes manage to avoid interviewing a single outside source in the segment, Miller never once mentions the series of lawsuits from big-time advocacy groups that have been levied against the NSA. Ignoring those makes it even harder for viewers to understand that the NSA is even doing anything controversial, which is a fundamental failure of the piece.

Why did Snowden have such incredible access?

In the piece, Snowden’s trove of some 1.7 million documents is mentioned as having severe national security ramifications, especially with regards to the NSA’s capabilites and interests in sensitive countries, like China or Iran. That’s not a particularly surprising claim, but how did one man get such access?

The 60 Minutes segment doesn’t fully address that point. According to Rick Ledgett, the man doing damage assessment on the leaks, “the people who control that, the access to those machines, are called system administrators and they have passwords that give them the ability to go around those–security measures and that’s what Snowden did.”

The segment also tries to paint Snowden as a weirdo, such as this curious exchange:

At home, they discovered Snowden had some strange habits.

Rick Ledgett: He would work on the computer with a hood that covered the computer screen and covered his head and shoulders, so that he could work and his girlfriend couldn’t see what he was doing.

John Miller: That’s pretty strange, sitting at your computer kind of covered by a sheet over your head and the screen?

Rick Ledgett: Agreed.

That 60 Minutes is investigating Snowden’s personality is fine—he’s an important figure, after all—but makes you wonder. How does Snowden—an outside contractor who had been working with the NSA for mere months, and one who apparently acted strangely enough to comment on—get access to so many documents? Is the NSA changing procedures? The answer isn’t clear.

What is the NSA’s relationship with the US tech industry?

From the beginning of the Snowden-NSA saga, US tech companies have been implicated, knowingly or not. But whether or not the companies had any involvement, the revelation that the NSA has incredible access to US tech companies, by court order or not, has huge ramifications for the US tech sector.

The 60 Minutes segment notes that replacing all the computers Snowden touched cost tens of millions of dollars, but makes no mention of reports suggesting the NSA’s activities will cost the US tech sector tens of billions. While Miller notes that the CEOs of eight major tech companies called for new limits on the NSA, he doesn’t ask Alexander about it. Instead, Miller sets up Alexander to refute prior media reports.

For example, there was this exchange regarding the Post’s blockbuster report about the NSA accessing Google and Yahoo data centers, which caused uproar from both companies:

John Miller: One of the Snowden leaks involved the concept that NSA had tunneled into the foreign data centers of major U.S. Internet providers. Did the leak describe it the right way?

Gen. Keith Alexander: No, that’s not correct. We do target terrorist communications. And terrorists use communications from Google, from Yahoo, and from other service providers. So our objective is to collect those communications no matter where they are.

But we’re not going into a facility or targeting Google as an entity or Yahoo as an entity. But we will collect those communications of terrorists that flow on that network.

And that was that. If Miller asked any follow-up questions, it never made the final cut.

Part two of the segment

What is the US’s approach to cyberwar?

At one point, the segment veered off into a discussion of state-sponsored cyberattacks, and 60 Minutes repeats claims from the NSA that it stopped an attack from China called the BIOS Plot. Debora Plunkett, the NSA’s director of cyber defense, explained that by bricking computers, China could have hacked its way into economic destruction:

Debora Plunkett: That’s right. Think about the impact of that across the entire globe. It could literally take down the U.S. economy.

John Miller: I don’t mean to be flip about this. But it has a kind of a little Dr. Evil quality– to it that, “I’m going to develop a program that can destroy every computer in the world.” It sounds almost unbelievable.

Debora Plunkett: Don’t be fooled. There are absolutely nation states who have the capability and the intentions to do just that.

China is indeed building a hacker army, but what about the US? The section about China’s hacking capabilities seems designed to help defend the NSA’s activities, but it’s also important to note that the US has offensive capabilites as well. Have we already forgotten about Stuxnet? Asking about the NSA’s own approaches, rather than scare-mongering, would have been far more valuable.

What’s the future look like?

Alexander is expected to retire soon, which Miller doesn’t ask about. Miller does ask whether or not Alexander tried to resign, which the Wall Street Journal previously reported. Alexander confirmed that he tried, saying that “Well, I offered to resign. And they said, ‘We don’t see a reason that you should resign. We haven’t found anybody there doing anything wrong. In fact, this could have happened to anybody in the community.'”

It’s fairly shocking in its own right that the Director of National Intelligence and Secretary of Defense, to whom Alexander presumably sent his resignation, said that such a massive leak could have happened to anyone. Is the sanctity of secret intelligence documents so fragile?

The 60 Minutes segment goes on to explain that the NSA regularly gives Top Secret clearances to high school kids, which seems a strange choice at the very least. But beyond that, what will the NSA change? Miller doesn’t ask, instead asking about Alexander’s potential loss of power (which wouldn’t matter if he retires), and to which Alexander responds with an aside about terrorism:

John Miller: After all of this controversy, you could come out of this with less authority than you went into it. What does that say?

Gen. Keith Alexander: Well, my concern on that is specially what’s going on in the Middle East, what you see going on in Syria, what we see going on– Egypt, Libya, Iraq, it’s much more unstable, the probability that a terrorist attack will occur is going up. And this is precisely the time that we should not step back from the tools that we’ve given our analysts to detect these types of attacks.

There are plenty of other questions the 60 Minutes segment could have asked. Two big ones are whether or not the PRISM program can collect as much as Snowden’s docs say it does, as well as following up on Alexander’s claim that the NSA didn’t have metadata collection capabilities before 9/11, which whistleblowers say is false. (Feel free to add more in the comments.)

But I think the above seven are the most damning to 60 Minutes’ report, because by not asking them, the segment glosses over the key aspects of the NSA controversy. For an average viewer watching last night, what was the takeaway? That some computer weirdo named Snowden stole documents that could help China destroy the US with computers, and that everything you may have heard about the NSA’s spying in newspapers isn’t exactly true.

It’s no surprise that a guy who was once the FBI’s PR man would be sympathetic towards the national security world, but by presenting such a soft and one-sided report—literally one-sided, as there wasn’t a single outside source, which is appallingly shoddy journalism for such a contentious story—60 Minutes did its viewers a disservice.

 

Canada’s Harper pledges to seek fourth term | Canada | Reuters

Canada’s Harper pledges to seek fourth term | Canada | Reuters.

OTTAWA (Reuters) – Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper on Thursday brushed aside any suggestion he might step down in the next couple of years, saying he would seek a fourth term in the 2015 general election.

“It is interesting to read in the papers one day that I plan to retire, and the next day to read that I intend to trigger elections immediately,” he said in a television interview with the French-language TVA Nouvelles.

“The reality is there are elections on a fixed date in 2015. I intend to lead my party (into the next election), which is the only party which has serious policy on the number one priority of the population, which is the economy.”

Only four of Canada’s 22 prime ministers, including Pierre Trudeau, father of current Liberal leader Justin Trudeau, have won more than three mandates.

The speculation of Harper’s possible departure has mounted at the end a difficult year for him and his Conservative government.

It has been marked by criminal allegations extending into his office over a Senate expense scandal, and the Conservatives are polling at their lowest level since taking power in 2006, well behind the newly resurgent Liberals under Trudeau.

Harper has denied any knowledge of what police say was corruption by his then-chief of staff, who provided money from his personal funds to a Conservative senator to help pay back expenses determined to be inappropriate. The former chief of staff denies any wrongdoing.

But the affair has tarnished the reputation of Harper, who came to power pledging accountability and avoiding even the appearance of evil after Liberal wrongdoing. The Senate expense scandal overshadowed his government’s biggest accomplishment of the year, a major trade deal with the European Union.

Asked if he would use the Christmas holidays to reflect on his political future, Harper said flatly, “No.”

“My intention for this period is to determine the next steps for the government… We have finished the most productive year of any since we took power. I hope 2014 will be like that,” he said.

“There are a lot of challenges. There are a lot of opportunities for Canada but also a lot of threats, a lot of challenges, and we must ensure a prosperous future for our children.”

Harper said the government was in the process of making fundamental economic changes, for example, launching Canada’s biggest infrastructure plan, and transforming immigration as well as research and development to better serve economic needs.

 

Wave of Radiation from Fukushima Will Be 10 Times Bigger than All of the Radiation from Nuclear Tests Combined Washington’s Blog

Wave of Radiation from Fukushima Will Be 10 Times Bigger than All of the Radiation from Nuclear Tests Combined Washington’s Blog.

Putting Fukushima In Perspective

There was no background radioactive cesium before above-ground nuclear testing and nuclear accidents started.

Wikipedia provides some details on the distribution of cesium-137 due to human activities:

Small amounts of caesium-134 and caesium-137 were released into the environment during nearly all nuclear weapon tests and some nuclear accidents, most notably the Chernobyl disaster.

***

Caesium-137 is unique in that it is totally anthropogenic. Unlike most other radioisotopes, caesium-137 is not produced from its non-radioactive isotope, but from uranium. It did not occur in nature before nuclear weapons testing began. By observing the characteristic gamma rays emitted by this isotope, it is possible to determine whether the contents of a given sealed container were made before or after the advent of atomic bomb explosions. This procedure has been used by researchers to check the authenticity of certain rare wines, most notably the purported “Jefferson bottles”.

As the EPA notes:

Cesium-133 is the only naturally occurring isotope and is non-radioactive; all other isotopes, including cesium-137, are produced by human activity.

What people call “background” radiation is really the amount of radiation deposited into the environment within the last 100 years from nuclear tests and nuclear accidents (and naturally-occurring substances, such as radon).

2,053 nuclear tests occurred between 1945 and 1998:

Above-ground nuclear tests – which caused numerous cancers to the “downwinders” – were covered up by the American, French and other governments for decades. See thisthisthisthisthis and this.

But the amount of radiation pumped out by Fukushima dwarfs the amount released by the nuclear tests.

As nuclear engineer and former nuclear executive Arnie Gundersen notes, the wave of radioactive cesium from Fukushima which is going to hit the West Coast of North America will be 10 times greaterthan from the nuclear tests (starting at 55:00).

This graphic from Woods Hole in Massachusetts – one of the world’s top ocean science institutions – shows how much more cesium was dumped into the sea off Japan from Fukushima as compared to nuclear testing and Chernobyl:

(And Fukushima radiation has arrived on the West Coast years earlier than predicted.)

The Canadian government has confirmed in October that Fukushima radiation will exceed “levelshigher than maximum fallout” from the nuclear tests.

The party line from the Japanese, Canadian and American governments are that these are safe levels of radiation.   Given that those countries have tried to ban investigative journalism and have tried tocover up the scope of the Fukushima disaster, people may want to investigate for ourselves.

For example, Gundersen notes that the U.S. government flew helicopters with special radiation testing equipment 90 days after the Fukushima meltdown happened.  The government said it was just doing a routine “background radiation” check, but that it was really measuring the amount of “hot particles” in the Seattle area (starting at 27:00). Hot particles are inhaled and become very dangerous “internal emitters”. The government then covered up the results on the basis of “national security”.

As the Washington Department of Health noted at the time:

A helicopter flying over some urban areas of King and Pierce counties will gather radiological readings July 11-28, 2011. [Seattle is in King County.] The U.S. Department of Energy’s Remote Sensing Laboratory Aerial Measurement System will collect baseline levels of radioactive materials.

**

Some of the data may be withheld for national security purposes.

Similarly, the Department of Homeland Security and National Nuclear Security Administration sent low-flying helicopters over the San Francisco Bay Area in 2012 to test for radiation. But they have not released the results.

Indeed, residents of Seattle breathed in 5 hot particles each day in April of 2011 … a full 50% of what Tokyo residents were breathing at the time:

(the video is from June 2011.)

After all, the reactors at Fukushima literally exploded … and ejected cladding from the reactors and fuel particles. And see this.

Gundersen says that geiger counters don’t measure hot particles. Unless the government or nuclear scientists measure and share their data, we are in the dark as to what’s really going on.

 

CNN Claims “Americans Want Security Over Freedom” | A Lightning War for Liberty

CNN Claims “Americans Want Security Over Freedom” | A Lightning War for Liberty.

Wow, this is straight up insane propaganda at the highest level. He is not even trying to hide the message. CNN’s Jake Tapper just comes out and says it:

I think the American people, honestly, want security over freedom.
– Jake Tapper

Compare that to let’s say, Benjamin Franklin:

Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both.
– Benjamin Franklin

That right there demonstrates perfectly how far we have fallen culturally.

Vince Cable: interest rates may have to rise to combat housing boom | Business | theguardian.com

Vince Cable: interest rates may have to rise to combat housing boom | Business | theguardian.com.

Vince Cable<br />

Vince Cable has again called for the government to rethink its help to buy scheme. Photograph: David Cheskin/PA

The business secretary, Vince Cable, has warned that interest rates may have to rise to constrain a “raging housing boom” in London and the south-east.

Speaking on BBC1’s Andrew Marr Show, he said if interest rates were not increased by the Bank of England, there was a danger that large parts of London could be inhabited only by foreigners and bankers as house prices spiralled.

He added that, on the other hand, if interest rates were increased it would have a negative impact on UK manufacturing since exchange rates would rise, making exports harder.

It is the first time Cable has spoken so openly about the possibility of interest rates rising due to the imbalance in the economic recovery.

He again called for the government to rethink its Help to Buy scheme, which he said was conceived in entirely different circumstances. He also hinted strongly he did not want to follow the Conservative path on spending cuts after the election in 2015, saying the social fabric was under strain.

Cable said: “There is a raging housing boom in London and the south-east, and not in other parts of the country. The danger of raising interest rates is that you hit those parts of the country which are not yet fully recovered, you push up the exchange rate and that hits manufacturing. We don’t want that. On the other hand, if you do not increase interest rates – if that is the way the governor and the Bank of England go – then this boom that is taking place in housing prices gets out of control and the only people that can afford to live in large parts of London are foreigners and bankers, and we don’t want that either.”

He said the government needed to look again at the Help to Buy scheme, which involves government backing for mortgages so that buyers do not have to provide such a large deposit, saying “it was conceived in very different circumstances”.

Cable also said he noted the rating agency Standard & Poor’s hadreaffirmed the UK’s AAA rating, but had expressed concerns about imbalance in the UK economy.

He said: “We have got to have a sensible balance on public spending cuts – which is getting very severe. Some very good services are now being seriously affected.”

 

Idle No More flash mobs in 9 cities this weekend – Aboriginal – CBC

Idle No More flash mobs in 9 cities this weekend – Aboriginal – CBC.

A year ago today flash mob round dances took place across the country, and thousands of people danced and marched from Victoria Island to Parliament Hill, in Ottawa.

“It was an impressively massive show of cultural and solidarity” said CBC’s Waubgeshig Rice, “and although I was covering it for CBC, I found it impossible not to be moved.”

While some have wondered whether Idle No More is still a growing movement, the flashmob Round Dances taking place across the country this weekend are in indication that there is still a lot of momentum.

So far this weekend flash mob round dances have taken place in Winnipeg, Toronto, Sudbury, Saskatoon, and Lethbridge. There are plans in place for Fredricton, Surrey, and Montreal. And there is a ‘treaty information check stop in Delaronde, SK.

Flash mob round dances in 9 cities this weekend

While some have wondered whether Idle No More is still a vibrant movement, the flash mob round dances taking place across the country this weekend are an indication that there is still a lot of momentum.

  1. A year ago today Idle No More flash mobs took place across the country.
  2. Women Hand Drummers called to the front – #IdleNoMore #INMMarch to Parliament Hill, Ottawa ON, Dec. 21, 2012pic.twitter.com/YJzWxUxOUk
  3. Here are some snapshots of round dances happening across the country this weekend.
  4. Drumming, Singing from inside Yonge-Dundas Intersection#RoundDance#IdleNoMore #cdnpoli #TOpoli  http://twitpic.com/dph9wh 
  5. First Nation Voices echoing throughout Yonge-Dundas Intersection.#RoundDance #IdleNoMore #Toronto  http://twitpic.com/dpha6a 
  6. …Hand in Hand in Hand in Hand goes The Yonge+Dundas#RoundDance#cdnpoli #TOpoli #Toronto  http://twitpic.com/dphaqz 
  7. Downtown Sudbury Ontario we are idle no more!! 1yr later we are still strong!!!!! #nationbuilding pic.twitter.com/aWBuqhehEF
  8. This one is a re-share of Aaron Pierre’s Instagram photo at Winnipeg’s Friday flash mob:
  9. To change it up, Idle No More in Treaty 6 Territory held an treaty information check-stop by Delaronde Lake in memory of those who lost their lives defending the land.
  10. It’s cold out here, Treaty Information Check Stop still ON#IdleNoMore pic.twitter.com/mLLxGpWoZs
  11. Treaty Information Check Stop in ON! #IdleNoMore …it’s pretty cold though 🙂 pic.twitter.com/vniklyHEGe

 

North America to Drown in Oil as Mexico Ends Monopoly – Bloomberg

North America to Drown in Oil as Mexico Ends Monopoly – Bloomberg.

The flood of North American crude oil is set to become a deluge as Mexicodismantles a 75-year-old barrier to foreign investment in its oil fields.

Plagued by almost a decade of slumping output that has degraded Mexico’s take from a $100-a-barrel oil market, President Enrique Pena Nieto is seeking an end to the state monopoly over one of the biggest crude resources in the Western Hemisphere. The doubling in Mexican oil output that Citigroup Inc. said may result from inviting international explorers to drill would be equivalent to adding anotherNigeria to world supply, or about 2.5 million barrels a day.

That boom would augment a supply surge from U.S. and Canadian wells that Exxon Mobil Corp. (XOM) predicts will vault North American production ahead of every OPEC member except Saudi Arabia within two years. With U.S. refineries already choking on more oil than they can process, producers from Exxon to ConocoPhillips are clamoring for repeal of the export restrictions that have outlawed most overseas sales of American crude for four decades.

“This is going to be a huge opportunity for any kind of player” in the energy sector, said Pablo Medina, a Latin American upstream analyst at Wood Mackenzie Ltd. in Houston. “All the companies are going to have to turn their heads and start analyzing Mexico.”

Unprecedented Output

An influx of Mexican oil would contribute to a glut that is expected to lower the price of Brent crude, the benchmark for more than half the world’s crude that has averaged $108.62 a barrel this year, to as low as $88 a barrel in 2017, based on estimates from analysts in a Bloomberg survey. Five of the seven analysts who provided 2017 forecasts said prices would be lower than this year.

The revolution in shale drilling that boosted U.S. oil output to a 25-year high this month will allowNorth America to join the ranks of the world’s crude-exporting continents by 2040, Exxon said in its annual global energy forecast on Dec. 12. Europe and the Asia-Pacific region will be the sole crude import markets by that date, the Irving, Texas-based energy producer said.

Related: Oil Supply Surge Brings Calls to Ease U.S. Export Ban

Exxon’s forecast, compiled annually by a team of company economists, scientists and engineers, didn’t take into account any changes in Mexico, William Colton, the company’s vice president of strategic planning, said during a presentation at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington on Dec. 12.

Opening Mexico’s oilfields to foreign investment would be “a win-win if ever there was one,” said Colton, who described the move as “very good for the people of Mexico and people everywhere in the world who use energy.”

$15 Billion Boost

Mexico Invites Foreigners to Boost Drilling

The bill ending the state monopoly was approved by the Mexican Congress Dec. 12. Before becoming law, the proposal must be ratified by state assemblies, most of which are controlled by proponents of the reform. Oil companies will be offered production-sharing contracts, or licenses where they get ownership of the pumped oil and authority to book crude reserves for accounting purposes. The contracts will be overseen by government regulators.

Though some foreign companies already operate in Mexico under service contracts with Petroleos Mexicanos, or Pemex, the reform could increase foreign investment by as much as $15 billion annually and boost potential economic growth by half a percentage point, JPMorgan Chase & Co. said in a Nov. 28 report.

Potential Delays

A doubling in production as suggested by Citigroup’s Ed Morse would put Mexican output at 5 million barrels a day, an unprecedented level for Pemex, the state oil company created during nationalization in 1938.

U.S. crude production will expand to 9.5 million barrels a day in 2016, the highest since the nation’s peak in 1970, the U.S. Energy Information Administration said today. That contrasts with last year’s EIA forecast that production would reach 7.5 million in 2019 before gradually declining to 6.1 million in 2040. U.S. output reached an all-time high 9.6 million in 1970.

A doubling of Mexico’s output maybe be slower to realize than the most bullish predictions as companies confront barriers in accessing capital and human resources needed for development, Riccardo Bertocco, a partner at Bain & Co. in Dallas.

An increase of 1 million barrels a day in output is the most realistic upper limit of what Mexico could achieve by 2025 based on the cost for new infrastructure, competition for new fields and opportunities all over the U.S., Bertocco said in a telephone interview Dec. 12.

“The opportunities are there, but they are still far from being materialized,” he said.

Regulator Inexperience

Drilling in Mexico will be held back by a lack of infrastructure, such as pipelines, in some of the potential shale developments. The government will need to decide on details for development such as tax rates, royalty structures and standards for booking reserves, Kurt Hallead, an analyst atRBC Capital Markets, wrote in a Dec. 12 note to clients.

It will take time to organize and conduct bidding rounds for licenses, and additional exploration, such as seismic tests, will need to be done, Hallead said.

“We are not expecting any significant impact from the reform to be felt in the next two years,” he wrote.

Foreign oil companies will face a backlash from Mexicans opposed to sharing the nation’s oil wealth, said Ricardo Monreal Avila of Movimiento Ciudadano Party, who sees the reform as violating Mexico’s constitution.

Local Opposition

“We are going to see serious problems in the operations of these reforms. Indigenous communities and places chosen by foreign companies for extraction will not allow them on their property. There are going to be serious operational problems.”

Brent crude futures, the benchmark for more than half the world’s oil, rose as much as 1.8 percent to $110.80 a barrel in London today, the biggest intraday gain in two weeks, after Libyan rebels refused to relinquish control over oil ports to the central government. Libya, home to Africa’s largest proven reserves, has seen output tumble to the lowest since 2011 amid civil strife.

The first assets that will attract foreign investment will be mature oil fields drilled decades ago and reservoirs that need injections of steam or carbon dioxide to coax more crude out of the ground, Medina said. Deep-water prospects, shale and other technically challenging endeavors will follow later, he said.

The level of investor interest will be partly determined by which assets Pemex chooses to keep and which it will put up for auction, Medina said.

Chicontepec Price

The Chicontepec field northeast of Mexico City may be among the richest prizes Pemex surrenders after its problems overcoming low pressure and disconnected crude deposits that have limited output, Medina said. Production that has averaged about 60,000 barrels a day may be increased to more than 100,000 by an international producer experienced in handling such fields, he said.

Chicontepec is just one of the over-budget, long-delayed projects for which Pemex will be eager to find partners, said Jose Antonio Prado, a former general counsel of Mexico’s energy ministry and Pemex official.

“The Mexican state will be able to incorporate private participants in projects that are already in force as well as new opportunities,” said Prado, now a partner at the law firm Holland & Knight LLP in Mexico City.

Deep Water

The reforms are especially important to open up exploration in Mexico’s deep-water fields, where additional capital, as well as better technology and expertise are needed, Carlos Solé, a Houston-based partner at Baker Botts LLP, said in a telephone interview. Pemex estimated the country’s deep-water Gulf of Mexico prospects may hold the equivalent of 26.6 billion barrels of crude.

Onshore, the potential is even greater with more than 60 billion untapped barrels, according to a Pemex presentation last month.

Some of the potential shale production sits across the border from Texas’s prolific Eagle Ford formation. The most resource-rich area studied so far is around the city of Tampico, a coastal city about 300 miles (480 kilometers) south of the bottom tip of the Texas border.

“I can’t tell you the amount of banks and investment funds coming from the U.S. and Europe that have been talking to us and are trying to have an expectation of what’s going to happen with the energy reform,” Prado said. “All those guys are going to be in Mexico next year in various forms trying to seek new opportunities.”

 

Egypt court jails activists over protests – Middle East – Al Jazeera English

Egypt court jails activists over protests – Middle East – Al Jazeera English.

Mohamed Adel (right) and Ahmed Maher (left) were sentenced with protesting without permission [Reuters]
A Cairo court has sentenced three leading activists to three years in prison for organising an illegal protest, the latest move in a widening crackdown on critics of the interim government.Two of the three activists, Ahmed Maher and Mohamed Adel, are leading members of the April 6 movement. The third is Ahmed Douma, a longtime activist who has been arrested under each of Egypt’s three post-revolutionary governments.

The court on Sunday also handed down fines of 50,000 Egyptian pounds ($7,200).

The defendants were charged with organising a protest last month outside Abdeen Court in downtown Cairo. Maher was at the court to turn himself in on charges connected with another illegal protest, also in November, outside the Shura Council, the upper house of parliament.

A restrictive law approved last month requires demonstrators to seek advance approval from the interior ministry.

The defendants were also charged with obstructing traffic, “thuggery,” and damaging private property: Security forces and protesters briefly scuffled with batons and plastic furniture from a nearby cafe. Officers said the defendants attacked them first. April 6 has denied this, and called the charges “political.”

Douma was arrested at his home several days after Maher turned himself in. Adel remained free until early Thursday morning, when he was detained during a raid on a local human rights organisation.

Thousands of people have been arrested since the military ousted President Mohamed Morsi in July, most of them supporters of the president and his Muslim Brotherhood. But the crackdown has recently widened to include liberal and secular activists.

 

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