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Activist Post: UK War Crimes Exposed

Activist Post: UK War Crimes Exposed.

Stephen Lendman
Activist Post

Britain is complicit in most US wars of aggression. It’s no surprise when new information surfaces. More on it below.

The July 2002 “Downing Street memo” was leaked to The Sunday Times. In May 2005, it was revealed. Its authenticity never was challenged.

Secret Washington/UK collusion was exposed. So-called intelligence claiming justification for war on Iraq was cooked to fit already agreed on policy.

Smoking gun evidence said so. Bush, Tony Blair and their close advisors lied. They falsified evidence for war on Iraq. Nonexistent WMDs were claimed.

Then Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz was later asked why fictitious WMDs became a casus belli. “It was the only thing we could all agree on,” he said.

Tony Blair’s so-called 2003 “Dodgy Dossier” included more incriminating evidence. Dr. David Kelly death followed proof he revealed about sexing up the dossier to justify war on Iraq.

Subsequent Hutton report misinformation claimed Kelly committed suicide. He was murdered. Coverup tried to conceal it. Ravaging Iraq continues.

Bush and Blair bear full responsibility. Obama, Gordon Brown and David Cameron share it.

More information is now known. On January 12, London’s Independent headlined “Exclusive: Devastating dossier on ‘abuse’ by UK forces in Iraq goes to International Criminal Court.”

It’s titled “The Responsibility of UK Officials for War Crimes Involving Systematic Detainee Abuse in Iraq from 2003 – 2008.”

“A devastating 250-page dossier” detailed evidence of beatings, burnings, electrocutions, mock executions, sexual assaults, cultural and religious humiliation, as well as threats of rape, death and other forms of torture.

High-level UK officials face potential prosecution for “systematic” war crimes. UK Army head General Peter Wall was named. So were former Defense Secretary Geoff Hoon and former Defense Minister Adam Ingram.

Evidence includes “thousands of allegations of mistreatment amounting to war crimes of torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.”

Public Interest Lawyers (PIL) and the European Centre for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR) compiled volumes of damning evidence.

It reveals grave war crimes. The Rome Statute’s Article 15 calls for prosecutorial investigations “on the basis of information of crimes within the jurisdiction of the Court.”

“The Prosecutor shall analyse the seriousness of the information received,” it says.

An investigation will follow if a “reasonable basis” to conduct one is determined. If individuals involved are believed culpable, prosecutors will charge them accordingly.

The Independent reviewed lengthy dossier evidence. It called it “the most detailed ever submitted to the ICC’s Office of the Prosecutor on war crimes allegedly committed by British forces in Iraq.”

In 2006, the Court acknowledged the commission of war crimes, saying:

“There was a reasonable basis to believe that crimes within the jurisdiction of the court had been committed, namely willful killing and inhuman treatment.”

It referred to fewer than 20 cases. Investigations didn’t follow. Hundreds of subsequent claims came to light.

Will UK political and military leaders be held accountable this time? Will or won’t they be prosecuted?

High crimes are indisputable. US officials are guilty of multiple crimes of war, against humanity and genocide.

No one was held accountable. America commits mass murder, torture and other high crimes with impunity.

Torture is official US policy. Guantanamo is the tip of the iceberg. America maintains black sites worldwide. Dozens operate secretly. Numerous US allies host them.

Indefinite detentions, interrogations, torture and other forms of abuse are standard practice.

America is by far the world’s leading human rights abuser. No nation in history matches its ruthlessness.

Israel is a willing partner. So is Britain. Thousands of innocent victims suffer horrifically. Their ordeal continues.

Today’s Iraq alone reflects America’s genocidal legacy. Britain shares guilt.

The Independent called the “sheer scale and seriousness of the (new dossier’s) allegations” reason enough for a full investigation.

A formal complaint said “those who bear the greatest responsibility (for alleged war crimes) include individuals at the highest levels” of Britain’s government and military.

They include prime ministers, top defense officials, and general staff.

Damning evidence “justifies further investigation.” Criminal responsibility “of senior individuals within the UK military and government must be fully examined.”

Top level British commanders and government officials either ordered, “knew or should have known” about horrific crimes of war and against humanity.

Evidence shows “civilian superiors knew or consciously disregarded information at their disposal, which clearly indicated that UK services personnel were committing war crimes in Iraq.”

“(T)he the pattern of abusive treatment by UK services personnel in Iraq continued over almost six years of military operations.”

According to PIL’s Phil Shiner:

I think we easily meet the threshold for these issues to be looked at. I would be gobsmacked and bitterly disappointed if they don’t look at this.

Only a handful of low-level UK forces were prosecuted. One to date was convicted. Corporal Donald Payne was hung out to dry for the crimes of his superiors. He served a year in prison. It was for treating Iraqi civilians inhumanely.

Shiner said no one except Payne was held accountable. The complaint sent ICC prosecutors presents evidence too horrific to ignore.

It includes “systematic use of brutal violence, that at times resulted in the death of detainees, while in the custody of UK Services Personnel.”

It claims “evidence of brutality combined with cruelty and forms of sadism, including sexual abuse, and sexual and religious humiliation.”

It documents horrendous forms of torture and abuse. Nothing was too extreme to avoid. Bringing detainees close to death and back was practiced.

Clear patterns of abuse are undeniable. Mistreatment was systematic, widespread and lawless. ICC prosecutors are under mounting pressure to act.

Setting a precedent is vital. Last October, Ethiopian Foreign Minister Tedros Adhanom accused the Court of being “a political instrument targeting Africa and Africans.”

It’s an imperial tool. It targets victims, not Western perpetrators. America, Britain, other NATO partners and Israel were never held accountable. It’s high time that changed.

According to human rights expert Professor William Schabas:

Documented UK war crimes “throw(s) down the challenge to the court to show there are no double standards. There is definitely a case for an investigation…”

“(T)here’s no doubt” about UK forces committing war crimes. Higher-ups “should be worried,” he added.

Law Professor Andrew Williams said the complaint amounts to “a prima facie investigation mapped out for the prosecutor.” It’s “supported by sophisticated legal argument which adheres to (ICC) requirements…”

UK authorities are going all out to block ICC action. Foreign Secretary William Hague lied claiming no need for allegations to be investigated.

ECCHR secretary general Wolfgang Kaleck said:

With the current communication to the ICC, we want to move forward the criminal prosecution against those political and military leaders in the UK who bear the most responsibility for systematic torture in Iraq.

The International Criminal Court in The Hague is the last resort for victims of torture and mistreatment to achieve justice.

Double standards in international criminal justice must end. War crimes and other severe violations of human rights must be investigated and prosecuted, regardless of whether they are committed by the most powerful.

Hundreds of Iraqis testified about monstrous torture and abuse. They revealed damning evidence. Examples documented make painful reading.

Horrific torture and abuse was standard practice. Hundreds of victims bear witness to what happened.

Coverup and denial no longer wash. It remains to be seen whether ICC prosecutors act responsibly. Doing so will be unprecedented.

America commits the same systematic war crimes. Occasionally, low level US soldiers are hung out to dry for their superiors. Professor Stjepan Mestrovic is a regular Progressive Radio News Hour guest.

He documented examples in his book titled The ‘Good Soldier’ On Trial: A Sociological Study of Misconduct by the US Military Pertaining to Operation Iron Triangle, Iraq.

Low level soldiers were unfairly convicted. Responsible higher-ups were absolved.

“(A) crime becomes a ‘war crime,’ said Mestrovic, “when it involved the government, which is to say, when a crime is the result of unlawful social policies and plans.”

Lawful rules of engagement (ROE) killings result from orders in time of war. Unlawful ones are war crimes.

Military commanders and high government officials bear full responsibility. Sociologist Emile Durkheim once observed:

“The immorality of war depends entirely on the leaders who willed it – the soldiers and even those government officials who had no part in the decision remain innocent.”

According to Mestrovic:

In America’s war on terror, “the open secret is that” low level soldiers are blamed. Higher-ups are absolved. The same holds in Britain.

Who are the real criminals in wars of aggression? Who’s guilty? Who’s innocent?

In his opening Nuremberg address, Justice Robert Jackson said:

The common sense of mankind demands that law shall not stop with the punishment of petty crimes by little people.

It must also reach men who possess themselves of great power and make deliberative and concerted use of it to set in motion evils which leave no home in the world untouched.

He called Nuremberg defendants “men of a station and rank which does not soil its own hands with blood.”

These were men who knew how to use lesser folk as tools. We want to reach the planners and designers, the inciters and leaders.

The same standard applies to America and Britain under binding international laws.

America’s Iron Triangle commander illegally ordered the killing of every military-aged Iraqi in sight.

Captured ones were imprisoned and tortured. Four low level US soldiers were wrongfully convicted.

Bogus charges included conspiracy, murder, aggravated assault, and obstruction of justice.

Orders issued were obeyed. Court-martials, imprisonments, fines, and dishonorable discharges would have followed otherwise.

Crimes of war and against humanity were committed. Higher-ups bore full responsibility. Culpability extended to the Pentagon and White House.

Mestrovic documented “hundreds of instances of deceit, chicanery, and dubious behavior on the part of the government” and high level military officials.

Operation Iron Triangle was one of many similar incidents. They occur in all US/UK/NATO/Israeli wars.

They occur in torture prisons. They occur out of sight and mind. Evidence obtained from victims and witnesses are damning.

Accountability is sorely lacking. Torture, abuse, and other crimes of war and against humanity continue daily. They do so out of sight and mind.

Imperial lawlessness operates this way. America bears full responsibility. Britain and other complicit partners share it.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net. His new book is titled How Wall Street Fleeces America: Privatized Banking, Government Collusion and Class War. Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening. http://www.progressiveradionetwork.com/the-progressive-news-hour/

America’s Feel-Good Oil Bonanza

America’s Feel-Good Oil Bonanza.

Think back to early 2004. Oil cost around $40 per barrel1—on the high side compared to the previous few decades but not much out of the ordinary. Gasoline still cost under $2.00 a gallon for most of the country. The evening news was more concerned with wardrobe gaffes by Janet Jackson (too little, at the Super Bowl) and President Bush (too much, on the USS Abraham Lincoln) than with energy prices.

In retrospect, these were the last days of “normal.” Most everyone in business, the media, and government assumed that the world had plenty of cheap oil.2 And hardly anyone outside the fossil fuel industry had heard of peak oil, the idea that we were nearing physical limits to global oil production and a new period of oil price and supply volatility.

We now know that the world’s conventional oil production would effectively stop growing the very next year, setting off a sickening global economic rollercoaster ride. The complacency of 2004 would change to worry by 2005 as the price of oil surged past historic highs, and to outright panic in 2008 when it crossed the once-unthinkable $100 barrier. It would spark massively increased investment in alternatives like tight oil, tar sands oil, shale gas, renewable energy, and nuclear power—all while the global economy made painful adjustments to the new normal of $80-plus oil.

By now you’d think we’d be chastened by the last ten years, and would be planning cautiously and conservatively for our nation’s energy future. Instead, almost everyone is once again assuming that we’ve got plenty of (admittedly more expensive) oil, and that there’s nothing to worry about.

Such shortsightedness isn’t necessarily surprising for Wall Street, where only the current quarter’s figures matter; nor for the news media, where energy-literate journalists are sadly few and far between. But it’s quite another matter to see it in a federal government agency, especially one whose most important functions include projecting the future of the country’s energy needs and resources.

In this respect, the Energy Information Administration’s (EIA) recently releasedAnnual Energy Outlook 2014 (AEO 2014), which foresees impending and long-term US oil abundance, is not just surprising—it’s a dangerous return to a 2004 way of thinking.

California Dreaming

Lest you think the projections issued by a relatively small government agency are immaterial to real-world decisions about the world’s most important resource, consider the case of the Monterey shale. Two years ago the EIA released a 105-page assessment of technically recoverable shale gas and tight oil in the lower-48 states.3 Among other things, it estimated a massive amount of tight oil in California’s Monterey formation: 15.4 billion barrels, or over 64% of the country’s projected total tight oil resource base.

America’s supposed new oil nest egg was quickly accepted as unquestionable fact. The New York Times4Wall Street Journal5, CNN6, and countless other media outlets reported it uncritically. It became a central argument in the fossil fuel industry’s efforts to influence California’s regulations on drilling and new technologies like fracking.7 And one can only assume that the 15.4 billion barrel worm made its way into the ears of politicians and policymakers across the country, whispering, “We’ll have decades of American energy independence!”

Of course, a deus ex machina like this raised more than a few eyebrows, including here at Post Carbon Institute; so we looked into it.8 We found that the EIA report’s authors9 had tallied up 15.4 billion barrels simply by assuming that every square mile of the Monterey would be more productive than practically all the best areas in America’s two best tight oil plays, the Bakken shale (in North Dakota) and the Eagle Ford shale in Texas. That’s it. No consideration of the Monterey’s significant geological complexity compared to the two plays, nor of data from actual Monterey oil production. In other words, our new cornerstone of energy independence rested on a back-of-the envelope calculation that any first-year petroleum geology student would recognize as unrealistic.

But simply because it was published by the EIA, the 15.4 billion barrel worm went on to influence some of America’s most important policy and planning decisions for over two years—unquestioned and unchallenged.

So, what the EIA says matters—regardless of its veracity or substantiation. In this light, let’s take a look at what the EIA is now saying in AEO 2014.

Saudi America

The most-repeated nugget from AEO 2014 is the projection that US oil production will reach 9.61 million barrels per day (mbd) by 2019, matching its historic peak of 1970.10 Less-repeated but just as important is the projection that after 2021 US oil production will start a very gradual decline, leaving us in 2040 with daily production at a respectable 7.48 mbd (which happens to roughly be 2013’s average daily production).11 It’s an energy patriot’s dream come true—an imminent, rapid rise in domestic production to give a boost to the economy, followed by a gradual tapering-off that will allow for an orderly transition to alternative energy sources.

[chart]

This rosy projection is driven by significant and sustained production of tight oil from shale formations (enabled by fracking and other technologies)—a cumulative total of 42.8 billion barrels by 2040. Anyone who’s not a petroleum geologist might be forgiven for assuming this means the EIA has a pretty good idea where that 42.8 billion barrels is and how it will realistically be produced. As we’ll see, this is not the case.

Most of America’s tight oil—about 74%—currently comes the aforementioned Bakken and the Eagle Ford plays. These look set to peak as soon as 2016-2017, although they could possibly recover a total of 11 billion barrels by 2035 if 48,000 new wells can be drilled (five times the current total).12 However, the Bakken and the Eagle Ford are the best we’ve got; none of America’s other tight oil plays look to have such high-producing wells over such large areas. Producing an additional 31 billion barrels by 2040 from increasingly marginal (and thus more expensive) plays is a real stretch.

A quick look behind the EIA’s numbers further undermines confidence. According to the assumptions underlying last year’s Annual Energy Outlook (the equivalent background material is not yet available for 2014), the EIA sees total recoverable tight oil resources of 13.7 billion barrels from the Monterey (a recent downward revision from the original 15.4 billion mentioned earlier), 7.3 billion barrels from the Austin Chalk, 5.3 billion barrels from the Permian Basin, and the remainder from a scattering of other plays. They’re impressive numbers…until one remembers the flimsy case behind the Monterey projections.

The EIA also says nothing about the rate of production from wells in these plays, which is critical to profitability and has proved to be an Achilles Heel in other tight oil plays. Production in Eagle Ford tight oil wells, for example, declines 60 percent on average in their first year; in the Bakken it’s 69 percent.13 This means more wells must constantly be drilled to keep overall production from collapsing. But there is a physical limit to the number of wells that can be usefully drilled in an area; once that limit is reached (in the Bakken and Eagle Ford it could be within the next 10-12 years depending on drilling rates14), production will decline sharply.

A perennial argument against such pessimism is that more oil resources will become accessible as rising oil prices make the more technically challenging oil economic to produce. However, in AEO 2014 the EIA actually expects the price of oil to drop to as low as $88 per barrel by 2018, and thereafter rise at a meager 1.5-2.5% per year15—about the rate of inflation the last few years.

Is the forecast that the United States will hit 9.61 million barrels of day of oil in 2019 credible? Perhaps, if everything goes right and capital inflows don’t falter; the forecast is largely driven by measurable results from the most productive areas of the Bakken and the Eagle Ford.16 But once those are tapped out, there’s scant evidence for a future in which the oil produced from the remaining tight oil plays will amount to nearly four times as much as from the Bakken and Eagle Ford—let alone that tight oil production will decline only gradually over the following 20 years. Indeed, one must conclude that the EIA’s projection assumes that future technological innovations will make it economical to produce currently unprofitable oil despite oil prices hardly changing.

Reality Check

A more prudent, conservative US oil forecast would look very different. It would consider that, although surprises are always possible, the most productive fossil fuel resources do tend to be discovered first and produced first. It would take note of the fact that production in fracked wells declines extremely quickly, requiring an accelerating drilling treadmill to maintain—let alone grow—production, with associated collateral environmental impacts. It would assume that most tight oil plays producible at current oil prices have already been discovered and put into production, and that major new resources—if they exist—are unlikely to be forthcoming unless there is a significant rise in oil prices.17 In short, the forecast would be based on actual data from existing and legitimately forthcoming plays, and leave the feel-good speculation about future resource abundance to Wall Street.

This is no small matter. The projected availability and price of future oil directly impacts decisions being made today about everything from factory expansions to multi-billion dollar transportation projects. It influences federal government policy on encouraging (or discouraging) gas mileage standards, electric vehicles, building efficiency, and renewable energy. And it certainly colors the debate around regulating the exploration and production of fossil fuels in communities and public lands across the country.

That last debate is playing out in California right now, as the fossil fuel industry pushes legislators to relax environmental laws to allow more development of tight oil in the Monterey shale via fracking and acidization. The heightened risk of environmental damage caused by developing Monterey tight oil may seem acceptable to legislators who believe 15.4 billion barrels of oil, $24.6 billion per year in tax revenue, and 2.8 million jobs18 are in the offing—though far less so if the recoverable oil is actually a small fraction of that (which our report Drilling California concluded is likely the case19).

The stakes are also sky-high with respect to the national economy. The EIA sees US oil imports remaining relatively low throughout 2040 thanks to the supposed windfall of domestic tight oil production. If they’re wrong, oil imports would have to make up the difference, adding to our already substantial monthly petroleum trade deficit of $20 billion per month.20 And, of course, the price of oil would go up—possibly significantly—until global demand balances with the new, reduced, global supply.21

Conclusion

The EIA’s yearly publication of the Annual Energy Outlook is, without a doubt, an enormously challenging undertaking. Each year’s AEO pulls together projections that involve extremely large sets of data, endless analysis of industries and economies, and—of necessity—significant assumptions and caveats. The EIA’s own retrospectives on the accuracy of its projections reveal, however, that it generally overestimates oil production and underestimates price.22 Nevertheless, once the EIA’s annual projections are released they’re inevitably treated as future fact by the media and the public.

Although few would disagree that the EIA’s data collection and dissemination activities are world-class, its projections in AEO 2014 are, like most of its previous projections, overly optimistic and unlikely to be realized. The risks to long-term American energy security are obvious if the EIA’s projections of low-priced energy abundance don’t work out.

Good news sells, and doesn’t rock any boats, but policy makers and politicians comforted by rosy forecasts are unable to understand the risks and properly prepare the country for long-term energy sustainability. It’s unfortunate—and yes, dangerous—that rosy forecasts are exactly what the government’s premiere energy fortuneteller continues to offer, despite its dismal track record.
ENDNOTES

1 In 2013 dollars.

2 The EIA’s Annual Energy Outlook 2005 reference case oil price for 2025 was around $30 (~$37 in 2013 dollars). http://www.eia.gov/forecasts/archive/aeo05/pdf/0383(2005).pdf

8 J. David Hughes, Drilling California: A Reality Check on the Monterey Oil (Santa Rosa, CA: Post Carbon Institute, 2013), http://montereyoil.org.

9 The report was authored by a contractor, INTEK, Inc., but published by the EIA with an EIA-written introduction.

10 Energy Information Administration, Annual Energy Outlook 2014 (Early Release); figures include crude oil and lease condensate. These projections are not to be confused with those of the International Energy Administration’s World Energy Outlook 2013 which, because it includes natural gas liquids, sees the United States being the world’s top producer in 2015.http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-11-12/u-s-nears-energy-independence-by-2035-on-shale-boom-iea-says.html

11 Energy Information Administration, Annual Energy Outlook 2014 (Early Release), Table 14. The EIA includes non-tight-oil liquids in these numbers that happen to come from tight oil plays.

12 J. David Hughes, “Tight Oil: A Solution to U.S. Import Dependence?,” presentation to Geological Society of America, Denver, Colorado, October 28, 2013,https://gsa.confex.com/gsa/2013AM/webprogram/Handout/Paper226205/HUGHES%20GSA%20Oct%2028%202013%20-%20Short.pdf.

13 J. David Hughes, Drill Baby Drill: Can Unconventional Fuels Usher in a New Era of Energy Abundance? (Santa Rosa, CA: Post Carbon Institute, 2013), http://shalebubble.org/drill-baby-drill/.

14 J. David Hughes estimates this could happen within 10-12 years in the Bakken and Eagle Ford; seehttps://gsa.confex.com/gsa/2013AM/webprogram/Handout/Paper226205/HUGHES%20GSA%20Oct%2028%202013%20-%20Short.pdf.

15 Energy Information Administration, Annual Energy Outlook 2014 (Early Release), Table 14.

16 According to J. David Hughes, $450 billion in capital expenditures (capex) will be required to drill the wells needed for the Bakken and Eagle Ford alone by 2025. The Permian Basin will also make a notable contribution to the 9.61 mbd figure.

17 See especially Art Berman’s comments on capital expenditures in Arthur Berman, “Reflections on a Decade of U.S. Shale Plays,” presentation at Shreveport Geological Society, Louisiana, December 17, 2013. http://www.jeremyleggett.net/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/SGS_Reflections-on-A-Decade-of-U.S.-Shale-Plays_17-Dec-2013.pdf.

18 Per this widely cited report: University of Southern California, USC Price School of Public Policy, The Monterey Shale and California’s Economic Future, (March 2013),http://gen.usc.edu/assets/001/84955.pdf.

19 J. David Hughes, Drilling California: A Reality Check on the Monterey Shale, (Santa Rosa, CA: Post Carbon Institute, 2013), http://montereyoil.org/report.

21 It’s unlikely that a significant amount of “lost” American tight oil would be compensated with increased production elsewhere without higher oil prices, as few areas of the world are expecting significant oil production growth outside of North America.

22 In his book Snake Oil Richard Heinberg notes that “during the past dozen years the [EIA] had underestimated oil prices and overestimated oil production most of the time” based on the EIA’s own AEO Retrospective Review published March 2013.http://www.eia.gov/forecasts/aeo/retrospective/

China Preparing to Target U.S. Aircraft Carriers  |  Peak Oil News and Message Boards

China Preparing to Target U.S. Aircraft Carriers  |  Peak Oil News and Message Boards.

“Mutually Assured Destruction” guiding hypersonic missile policy in Washington & Beijing

China’s new hypersonic missile vehicle is primarily designed to target U.S. aircraft carriers, military expert Chen Hu told the state-run China Central Television (CCTV) in yet another admission of Beijing’s increasingly hostile geopolitical posturing.

The WU-14, a hypersonic glide vehicle which can penetrate missile defense systems by traveling at up to ten times the speed of sound, underwent its first test flight earlier this month.

Despite assurances by China’s defense ministry that the new vehicle was not aimed at any particular country, Chinese military expert Chen Hu told state media that the system, “can surely be used against US carriers in any region around the globe” and that it was “designed to strike large military targets including US aircraft carriers.”

Noting that the development of the vehicle was necessary in order to maintain the balance of power in East Asia, Chen said that its purpose is to prevent the United States from using its hypersonic weapons against China, adding that the Cold War-era doctrine of “mutually assured destruction” is guiding policy both in Washington and Beijing.

Last year, China reportedly sunk a mock U.S. aircraft carrier utilizing the DF-21D anti-ship missile, dubbed the “carrier killer,” during a wargame which took place in the Gobi Desert.

Bellicose rhetoric directed at the United States by China has intensified in recent months in light of heightened tensions over the disputed Senkaku Islands.

Last month, Beijing bragged that its first aircraft carrier combat task force, led by the inaugural Liaoning warship, matched anything the United States had to offer.

A lengthy editorial which appeared in Chinese state media last month explained how the Chinese military’s current reformation process was part of a move by President Xi Jinping to prepare the People’s Liberation Army for war in response to US aggression in the Asia Pacific, developments which have prompted “major changes” in China’s national security situation.

Beijing has also pontificated about China’s ability to attack US military bases in the Western Pacific, as well as releasing a map showing the locations of major U.S. cities and how they would be impacted by a nuclear strike launched from the PLA’s strategic submarine force.

Infowars.com

The Takehome Lesson From Neil Young: Read the Jackpine Mine Decision For Yourself | DeSmog Canada

The Takehome Lesson From Neil Young: Read the Jackpine Mine Decision For Yourself | DeSmog Canada.

Neil Young Waging Heavy Peace Book Cover

This is a guest post by energy economist Andrew Leach.

Neil Young and the Honour the Treaties Tour is crossing the country in support of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation’s court challenge against Shell’s proposal to expand its mining operations north of Fort McMurray.

The biggest risk I see from this tour is not that Neil Young says things which are wrong (there have been a few), that he blames Prime Minister Harper for promoting an industry that has played an important role in the policies of pretty well every Prime Minister to precede him in the past four decades (that part was pretty clear), or, least of all, that he’s a famous musician who hasn’t spent his life working on energy policy.

The biggest risk I see is that all of the heat and light around the Neil Young tour will distract you from what you should do, which is to sit down, read the mine approval, and decide for yourself what you think.

joint review panel approved (PDF) the Jackpine Expansion in July 2013, and in December, the project received cabinet approval. The most important issue here, so far over-shadowed during Neil Young’s tour, is summarized in one line in the decision letter: “the matter of whether the significant adverse environmental effects (of the project) are justified in the circumstances.”

This decision is likely to be as important for the future of the oil sands in Canada and its so-called social license as the pipelines, rail accidents and greenhouse gas policies which have been covered to a much larger degree in the media. This is a decision where your government had spelled out clearly before it the environmental risks and uncertainties of an oil sands project, in all its gory detail, and decided it was worth it or, “justified in the circumstances.”

We’ve come a long way from the days when then-Premier Ed Stelmach declared environmental damage from the oil sands to be a myth.  Around that time, in its approval of the Kearl oil sands mine, for which Phase I started last year, a Joint Review Panel concluded that, “the project is not likely to result in significant adverse environmental effects.” But, the panel evaluating Kearl raised a flag, saying that, “with each additional oil sands project, the growing demands and the absence of sustainable long-term solutions weigh more heavily in the determination of the public interest.”

We’ve now reached the point—the panel evaluating the Jackpine Mine left no doubt—where significant environmental consequences will occur in order to not (and, I kid you not, these are the words used) sterilize bitumen. Reading the Report of the Joint Review Panel (warning, it’s a slog) will be eye opening. Let me give you a couple of excerpts, in case you can’t spare the time:

·      The Panel has concluded that the Project would provide significant economic benefits for the region, the province, and Canada

·      The Project will provide major and long-term economic opportunities to individuals in Alberta and throughout Canada, and will generate a large number of construction and operational jobs.

·      The Panel concludes that the Project would have significant adverse environmental project effects on wetlands, traditional plant potential areas, wetland-reliant species at risk, migratory birds that are wetland-reliant or species at risk, and biodiversity

·      The Panel understands that a large loss (over 10,000 hectares) of wetland would result from the Project, noting in particular that 85 per cent of those wetlands are peatlands that cannot be reclaimed.

·      The Panel finds that diversion of the Muskeg River is in the public interest, considering that approximately 23 to 65 million cubic metres of resource would be sterilized if the river is not diverted

·      The Panel recognizes that the relevant provincial agencies were not at the hearing to address questions about why the Project (which seeks to divert the Muskeg River: author’s addition) is not included in the Muskeg River Interim Management Framework for Water Quantity and Quality;

·      The Panel concludes that it could not rely on Shell’s assessment of the significance of project and cumulative effects on terrestrial resources;

·      The Panel notes that a substantial amount of habitat for migratory birds that are wetland or old-growth forest dependent will be lost entirely or lost for an extended period;

·      The Panel is concerned about the lack of mitigation measures proposed for loss of wildlife habitat…that have been shown to be effective.

Don’t stop reading before you get to the good parts:

·      Although the Panel has concluded that the Project is in the public interest, project and cumulative effects for key environmental parameters and socioeconomic impacts in the region have weighed heavily in the Panel’s assessment;

·      All of the Aboriginal groups that participated in the hearing raised concerns about the adequacy of consultation by Canada and Alberta, particularly with respect to the management of cumulative effects in the oil sands region and the impact of these effects on their Aboriginal and treaty rights.

It’s these last two that have got us to where we are today—to a First Nation challenging the government in court for a decision that it made which valued bitumen over the environment and their traditional territory and for not fulfilling its constitutional duty to consult on that decision.

The decision on this project will, in all likelihood, go all the way to the top court in the land. The decision which really matters, however, will be the one you take: is it justified, in your mind, given the circumstances?

This article originally appeared on Maclean’s. Republished here with permission. Read Leach’s Neil Young Fact Check, also on Maclean’s, here.

Image Credit: Waging Heavy Peace book cover

When Net Neutrality Becomes Programmed Censorship Washington’s Blog

When Net Neutrality Becomes Programmed Censorship Washington’s Blog.

Guest Post By Sartre, BATR.

The worst fears of all free speech proponents are upon us. The Verizon suit against the Federal Communications Commission, appellate decision sets the stage for a Supreme Court review. The Wall Street Journal portrays the ruling in financial terms: “A federal court has tossed out the FCC’s “open internet” rules, and now internet service providers are free to charge companies like Google and Netflixhigher fees to deliver content faster.”

In essence, this is the corporate spin that the decision is about the future cost for being connected.

“The ruling was a blow to the Obama administration, which has pushed the idea of “net neutrality.” And it sharpened the struggle by the nation’s big entertainment and telecommunications companies to shape the regulation of broadband, now a vital pipeline for tens of millions of Americans to view video and other media.

For consumers, the ruling could usher in an era of tiered Internet service, in which they get some content at full speed while other websites appear slower because their owners chose not to pay up.

“It takes the Internet into completely uncharted territory,” said Tim Wu, a Columbia University law professor who coined the term net neutrality.”

What the Journal is not telling you is that this “uncharted territory” is easy to project. If ISP’s will be able to charge varied rates or decide to vary internet speed, it is a very short step towards selectively discriminate against sites based upon content. Do not get lulled into thinking that constitutional protective political speech is guaranteed.

Once again, the world according to the communication giants paint a very different interpretation as the article, Verizon called hypocritical for equating net neutrality to censorship illustrates.

“Verizon’s argument that network neutrality regulations violated the firm’s First Amendment rights. In Verizon’s view, slowing or blocking packets on a broadband network is little different from a newspaper editor choosing which articles to publish, and should enjoy the same constitutional protection.”

The response from advocates of the Net Neutrality standard, that is about to vanish, sums up correctly.

“The First Amendment does not apply, however, when Verizon is merely transmitting the content of third parties. Moreover, these groups point out, Verizon itself has disclaimed responsibility for its users’ content when it was convenient to do so, making its free speech arguments ring hollow.”

Prepare for the worst. The video, Prepare To Be Robbed. Net Neutrality Is Dead!, which includes frank language and expletives, provides details that place the use of internet access into question coming out of this appellate decision.

Analyze the implications logically. It is one thing to charge a for profit service like Netflix a higher fee to transverse the electronic bandwidth of a communication network. Selling a membership to an end user is the source of their cash flow. However, most activist political sites usually provide internet users free access to their particular viewpoint and source links.

Your internet service provider controls the pipeline that feeds your devices and data connection. No matter which company you pay for this service, you are dependent upon this union. A free WiFi link may well become a memory. Beaming a satellite signal, mostly is an alternative, when DSL, cable or other broadband is not available.

No matter what method is used to surf the net, this decision clearly implies that internet access is now a privilege, at the effective discretion, if not mercy; of a provider that allow an account for service.

Next, consider the implication that search engines will use this decision to re-work their algorithms lowering their spider bots selection of sites that challenge the “PC” culture. Restrictive categorization used for years by Google, Yahoo and Bing can use this decision as cover to purge dissenting sites even more from their result rankings.

It is common knowledge that YouTube censors and targets certain uploads. One particular subject that experiences technical glitches is Fukushima. The video You Tube Censoring Truther Channels explains the drill. Add to the frustration are the ads, especially the ones with no skip option and imagine future requirements for uploading approval. What is next, a paid subscription to use and upload to the service?

Yes, the Ending Net Neutrality Signals A Digital Paradigm Shift. It also means that they could unfairly push sites like (add the name of your favorite sites) out of the way of users if they (the “PC” protectors) didn’t like them, acting as effective censors.

Stephen Lendman writes in Digital Democracy vs. Corporate Dominance: R.I.P. Internet Neutrality?

“Without Net Neutrality, ISPs will be able to devise new schemes to charge users more for access and services, making it harder for us to communicate online – and easier for companies to censor our speech.”

Corporate gatekeepers will control “where you go and what you see.”

Verizon, AT&T, Comcast and Time Warner Cable “will be able to block content and speech they don’t like, reject apps that compete with their own offerings, and prioritize Web traffic…”

They’ll be able to “reserve the fastest loading speeds for the highest bidders (while) sticking everyone else with the slowest.”

Doing so prohibits free and open communications. Censorship will become policy. Net Neutrality is too important to lose.”

Ready yourself for the inevitable results! According to Michael Hiltzik, Net neutrality is dead. Bow to Comcast and Verizon, your overlords.

“In the U.S., there’s no practical competition. The vast majority of households essentially have a single broadband option, their local cable provider. Verizon and AT&T provide Internet service, too, but for most customers they’re slower than the cable service. Some neighborhoods get telephone fiber services, but Verizon and AT&T have ceased the rollout of their FiOs and U-verse services–if you don’t have it now, you’re not getting it.

Who deserves the blame for this wretched combination of monopolization and profiteering by ever-larger cable and phone companies? The FCC, that’s who. The agency’s dereliction dates back to 2002, when under Chairman Michael Powell it reclassified cable modem services as “information services” rather than “telecommunications services,” eliminating its own authority to regulate them broadly. Powell, by the way, is now the chief lobbyist in Washington for the cable TV industry, so the payoff wasn’t long in coming.”

In a digital environment, access to an internet that provides uncensored content at the lowest costs is a direct threat to the corporate economy. Innovation and creative cutting-edge services are clearly marked as competing challenges to the Amazon jungle of merchandising. The big will just get bigger.

Then the unavoidable effects from the “all the news fit to report” mass medium, intensifies their suppression of honest investigative journalism. Filtering out the alternative and truth media is the prime objective of this ruling. Eliminating political dissent from the internet is the ultimate implication. What would the net be like without access to the Drudge Report?

When the cable or satellite services bundle their programming into a “take it or leave it” format, the choices for the consumer becomes a major financial burden just to watch the few channels that have interest. Applying this pattern to the internet will cause even greater resentment.

Just look at the disaster from the Yahoo retooling. That Ms. “wicked witch” MM have pushed up the stock price, but ask any yahoo group member what they think of the new format. This is a classic example of how to turn off users and ruin your product.

Subscription services are playing with fire. With the collapse of the main street economy, the added fees to access content that is mediocre at best, is the actual fallout. Like the dinosaur TV networks, the corporatist sites risk total rejection from internet visitors.

Totalitarian culturalists are rejoicing with this latest damper on free speech. News by way of government press releases is pure propaganda. How did this happen?

For a short explanation history, Nilay Patel writes in The Wrong Words: How The FCC Lost Neutrality And Could Kill The Internet.

“The FCC tried to appease the out-of-control corporate egos of behemoths like Verizon and Comcast by pretending internet providers were special and classifying them as “information service providers” and not “telecommunications carriers.” The wrong words. Then, once everyone was wearing the nametag they wanted, the FCC tried to impose common carrier-style telecommunications regulations on them anyway.”

Credo Action believes that “FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler can undo the Bush-era decision to deregulate broadband Internet providers and allow them to operate outside of the legal framework that has traditionally applied to companies that offer two-way communication services.”

Such optimism seems naive in light of the real controllers of policy, much the same, for the Supreme Court coming to the rescue. Mark this court decision as the strategic destruction of the internet as a beacon of unfeigned free expression of information and open political speech. The programmers will be working overtime to set up layers of tasks, restrictions and huddlers to jump over. If you think Facebook censorship is bad, get ready for a purely governmental approved net along the Chinese model.

Delhi ministers protest against police – News – Al Jazeera English

Delhi ministers protest against police – News – Al Jazeera English.

Chief Minister Kejriwal has been conducting official work while protesting on the streets [EPA]
Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal, who slept the night out on the streets while on an unprecedented 10-day protest against the state police, has appealed to the people to take “off from work and join him.”

He said his “unconventional politics” would usher in a new era in Indian politics.

Kejriwal together with his Aam Admi Party (AAP) ministers and followers have been on a protest since Monday, bringing chaos to areas around the Indian Parliament and key political areas of the national capital New Delhi.

He and his supporters are seeking the suspension of several polilce officers for “dereliction” of duty. Kejriwal, the newly elected chief minister of Delhi, also wants the police to report to the Delhi government, instead of the federal Home Ministry.

On Tuesday he rejected federal Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde’s suggestion to shift the venue, “Who’s Shinde to ask us to move?”

Senior police officials and the government want Kejriwal and team to shift their protest to another venue for the annual Republic Day (26 January) parade. “True republic is when people are protected and safe”, retorted Kejriwal to reporters.

Kejriwal told CNN IBN news channel, “How can the home minister sleep when the country’s women can’t? How can the home minister not be bothered about the sad state of police in the country?”

He rejected Shinde’s suggestion that an inquiry report will confirm the charge against the police officers and adequate action will be taken.

Governance critiqued

Metro stations to key government offices and zones around the protest area will be shut to halt people from joining in on Tuesday.

Kejriwal’s activism led to the cancellation of many government appointments. He was shown on TV signing official papers, trying to conduct his office on the streets.

Both Congress party and opposition leaders accused Kejriwal of “gimmickry”, “activism over governance” and disrupting life for common people through mass protests.

China Liquidity Fears Ease As PBOC Injects 255 Billion CNY – Most Since Feb 2013 | Zero Hedge

China Liquidity Fears Ease As PBOC Injects 255 Billion CNY – Most Since Feb 2013 | Zero Hedge.

Despite all the reform policy imperatives to constrict credit and normalize and liberalize policy and rates, the PBOC just provided the largest liquidity injection to its banking system in a year – 255bn CNY. While this is not entirely unusual for a year-end, when Chinese banks have to confess their illiquidity sins and cover mismatches (and are always helped by the PBOC); this year, short-term money-market rates are triple that of last year and there is a very real chance of a very real default within the shadow banking system. Of course, the sell-side are desperately writing cover that this is all priced in and even if the PBOC “lets some Trusts go” then they will come to the rescue and any crisis will be “contained.” However, no one knows who will be saved and therein lies the safety-first rub – now where have we heard “contained” before?

  • *PBOC TO CONDUCT 75B YUAN OF 7-DAY REVERSE REPOS: TRADER
  • *PBOC TO CONDUCT 180B YUAN OF 21-DAY REVERSE REPOS: TRADER
  • *PBOC OFFERS 7-DAY REVERSE REPO AT 4.1% YIELD: TRADER
  • *PBOC OFFERS 21-DAY REVERSE REPO AT 4.7% YIELD: TRADER

China Repo (lower) and Reverse Repo liquidity provision…(biggest liquidity provision in a year)

Crucially, the PBOC will have to withdraw this liquidty (obviously as the repo matures) if it is merely year-end window-dressing (as is obvious in the chart above with the large downward red bars in each Feb).

For now short-term repo rates are lower

1d: -85bps at 3.48%
7d: -135bps at 5.25%
14d: -34bps at 5.57%

But of course, the big banks always bid first and scoop up the supply – just as we saw yesterday – its the smaller banks that are the most in distress and 7-day repo went through a 8, 9, and 10% rates – these are triple those of the peak rates during last year’s new-year liquidty crunch.

And as much as banks will contend – just as the China itself admitted tonight:

Credit default risks with Chinese companies are emerging because of rising borrowing costs and tight liquidity conditions, said the official China Securities Journal in a front page editorial. The government needs policy flexibility to prevent any systematic financial risks.

This problem – described as “contained” by one sell-side shop reminds us of the “it could never happen here” mentality in the 2008 US shadown banking system. Critically, when the PBOC suggests it may let some banks go (to prove its mettle and resolve to fight out of control credut creation); investors will sell first and think later about which are safe and which are not. A ‘default’ – which looks increasingly likely – may just be the test of just how ‘planned’ and ‘controlled’ the Chinese banking system can really be…

We have on little question… for now the only Wealth Management Trust product that is publicly on the verge of default is CEQ#1 and that is only a 3 billion CNY position – so why did the PBOC feel the need to provide more than 80 times that amount of liquidity to the banking system unless it was epically worried about contagion and the total size of the Trust market.

Of course, the knne-jerk reaction is positive (well it is 255 Billion CNY of magic money) but between the BoJ starting its two-day meeting and John Hilsenrath confirming that Taper is here to stay – JPY weakness (and USD strength) are dragging stocks higher with S&P futures +7.5 from Friday’s close.

 

Fun-DURR-mentals?

 

Charts: Bloomberg

RBC cuts fixed-rate mortgages by 10 basis points – Business – CBC News

RBC cuts fixed-rate mortgages by 10 basis points – Business – CBC News.

Fixed-rate mortgages at RBC are down by 10 basis points. (Canadian Press)Fixed-rate mortgages at RBC are down by 10 basis points. (Canadian Press)

RBC lowers fixed mortgage rates

RBC lowers fixed mortgage rates 2:15

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RBC has cut two-, three, four- and five-year fixed mortgage rates by 10 basis points after a slide in Canadian bond yields.

Other Canadian banks will be watching the change and could move Monday to follow.

RBC posted the new rates over the weekend on its website. RBC’s discounted five-year fixed rate is now 3.69 per cent, though it may discount that rate for preferred customers.

Five-year fixed mortgage rates rose industry-wide for much of 2013 with an uptick in August helping to cool the overheated housing market.

The five-year rate is an important measure because it is the rate used to qualify borrowers for CMHC financing and for variable and other fixed-rate terms.

The new rate reflects the lowering of Canadian bond yields by 26 basis points in January, which mirrors the slide in yields on U.S. bonds. Bank borrowing costs rest in part on bond yields.

The Bank of Canada has not changed its key overnight lending rates to the banks – it will announce its latest decision on interest rates on Wednesday.

Bond yields rose when the  U.S. Federal Reserve decided in December to taper its bond-buying program to $75-billion US a month, but the market has since absorbed the change. However, further Fed tapering or changes in the U.S. economic outlook could lead to fluctuation in the bond markets later this year.

The small change in rates won’t have much impact on home buyers at a time when rates are so low, says one mortgage broker.

“From a mortgage broker’s perspective and probably from a lot of homeowners’ perspective, the real question is not necessarily interest rates,” said Jason Scott of The Mortgage Group in Edmonton.

“It’s got more to do with what the finance minister and the department of finance will do vis-a-vis making it harder to qualify for a mortgage if they don’t like the fact that rates are low and they’re concerned about a possible housing bubble.”

Finance Minister Jim Flaherty has expressed concern at Canada’srapidly rising housing prices and has taken a series of measures over the last two years to cool them, including demanding higher downpayments and limiting most mortgage terms to 25 years.

Phillippines storms force thousands of homeless to flee shelters | World news | theguardian.com

Phillippines storms force thousands of homeless to flee shelters | World news | theguardian.com.

Philippines storm Agaton in Butuan city

A view of houses swept away during heavy flooding brought by tropical depression Agaton. Photograph: Erik De Castro/Reuters

Emergency workers have evacuated thousands of people across the southern Philippines, including many already made homeless by a typhoon in November, after three days of rain flooded towns and farmland.

Hundreds of survivors of Typhoon Haiyan – one of the strongest storms ever to make landfall – were forced to flee by tropical depression Agaton after emergency shelters were damaged or destroyed on the eastern central island of Samar.

Tents collapsed under the weight of the rain and emergency plastic sheets have been torn away, Oxfam said.

An average of 20 typhoons hit the Philippines every year with Haiyanslamming into central islands on 8 November, killing more than 6,100 and wiping out entire coastal communities in Leyte and Samar.

More than 200,000 people have been taken to shelters over the past three days as flood waters rose, but hundreds were still marooned on the roofs of their houses on Tuesday, said Eduardo del Rosario, executive director of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council.

Del Rosario said 42 people had been killed, 65 had been injured and damage to property and farms had reached 367m pesos (£5m).

“Our troops are trying to reach them and bring them to safer ground,” Del Rosario said.

Nenita Matuda, 45, and her children perched on their neighbours’ roof as she watched the rampaging waters outside Butuan City in the north of Mindanao island.

“Thank God we are safe but we just lost our house,” she said.

A state of calamity has been declared in Agusan del Norte and 15 other towns in the Davao del Norte, Surigao del Sur and Agusan del Sur areas of Mindanao even as the weather bureau lifted alert levels as the storm weakened.

Violence as Ukraine anti-protest law enacted – Europe – Al Jazeera English

Violence as Ukraine anti-protest law enacted – Europe – Al Jazeera English.

A controversial anti-protest law has come into effect in Ukraine, despite violent rallies against the legislation that have taken place for the past two days, ignoring an appeal for calm by President Viktor Yanukovych.

The new law, which bans all forms of protests, was published in the official Golos Ukrainy, or Voice of Ukraine, newspaper, raising fears that the government would use excessive force to quell dissent.

Opposition and and the West have condemned the bill, demanding that it be reversed, but the interior ministry said at least 32 protesters had been arrested in the most recent round of demonstrations.

Yanukovych made a call for calm on Monday, when demonstrators braved sub-zero temperatures and clashed with police over new anti-protest laws.

A statement issued on the presidential website said: “When peaceful actions have escalated into mass riots accompanied by demolition, arson and violence, I am confident that such phenomena threaten not only Kiev but the whole of the Ukraine. I call for dialogue, compromise and peace in our native land.”

The situation was tense in Kiev, with protesters occasionally charging against police lines guarding the passage to government buildings, throwing stones and Molotov cocktails.

The violence, which began on Sunday, came after Yanukovych pushed through an anti-protest law that significantly increased fines and imposed jail terms for unauthorised street protests.

The new law also prohibits activists from wearing helmets or masks to demonstrations, curbs free speech and limits the ability to investigate or monitor the activity of officials, including judges.

Sunday’s fighting left about 200 people wounded.

Reconciliation talks

In an attempt to find a compromise, opposition leader and former boxer Vitali Klitschko travelled to Yanukovych’s home outside Kiev to meet him.

The president received Klitschko and promised on Monday to create a special commission of officials set up by national security council secretary Andriy Klyuyev to solve the crisis. The move was announced by Klitscko’s party, the Ukrainian Democratic Alliance for Reform, and the presidency.

The presidency said the new commission would meet the opposition but there was no sign that the meeting had taken place as of Monday evening.

Meanwhile, European Union foreign ministers meeting in Brussels deplored the continued violence, saying the government was at fault for adopting the repressive laws.

The White House urged an end to the fighting, with US National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden saying that Washington was deeply concerned and urged “all sides to immediately de-escalate the situation”.

“The US will continue to consider additional steps – including sanctions – in response to the use of violence,” Hayden added.

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