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Vietnam jails blogger for critical posts – Asia-Pacific – Al Jazeera English

Vietnam jails blogger for critical posts – Asia-Pacific – Al Jazeera English.

A Hanoi court finds dissident Pham Viet Dao guilty of “abusing democratic freedoms” in the latest crackdown on dissent.

Last updated: 19 Mar 2014 10:12

Human Rights Watch said the number of political trials in Vietnam has increased every year since 2010 [Reuters]
A Vietnamese court sentenced a dissident blogger to 15 months in prison for posting online criticism of the government, the latest case in an intensifying crackdown against dissent in the one-party communist country.

At a two-hour trial at the Hanoi People’s Court, Judge Ngo Tu Hoc said on Wednesday that Pham Viet Dao was guilty of “abusing democratic freedoms to infringe the interests of the state” by posting dozens of articles that “distorted, vilified and smeared the senior leaders”.

Dao, 61, confessed to the court and apologised for the “erroneous” details in some of his posts, but said he did not do that on purpose.

“I don’t think that my articles have had bad impact on society,” said Dao, who refused a lawyer and defended himself at the trial.

‘Sincere confession’

“The defendant’s acts are dangerous to the society, causing anxiety among the public and reducing people’s trust in the leadership of the (Communist) Party and the state,” the judge said.

Hoc said the court handed down a light sentence because of Dao’s “sincere confession,” clean criminal record and contribution to the country.

Several Western diplomats and foreign reporters followed the court proceedings via a closed circuit television screen in a separate room.

Dao, a former Cultural Ministry official and member of the Vietnam Writers Association, was arrested at his Hanoi home last June. His membership to the Communist Party was suspended after his arrest.

Earlier this month, a court in the central city of Danang sentenced a well-known blogger, Truong Duy Nhat, to two years in jail on the same charges.

New York-based Human Rights Watch issued a statement on Tuesday calling for Dao’s “immediate and unconditional” release.

“The Vietnamese authorities are shaming themselves before domestic and international public opinion by staging yet another political trial of a peaceful critic,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch.

Human Rights Watch says that the number of people sentenced in political trials in Vietnam has increased every year since 2010, and that at least 63 people were imprisoned for peaceful political expression last year.

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Oil, War and the Future Prospects for Peace – Our World

Oil, War and the Future Prospects for Peace – Our World.

A British firing party provides cover for Royal Engineers building a temporary bridge near Ramadi, Iraq, 1 June 1941. Public Domain photo: UK Government.

A British firing party provides cover for Royal Engineers building a temporary bridge near Ramadi, Iraq, 1 June 1941. Public Domain photo: UK Government.

We live in a time of amazing technological, economic and social progress where large segments of global society have attained relative prosperity and improved living conditions. We are interconnected like never before and by historical comparison the world is more peaceful than it has ever been.

At the same time, there are hundreds of millions of people still living in abject poverty and hunger. We have been making a concerted effort to try to alleviate their situation and bring more and more people out of extreme poverty under the framework of the Millennium Development Goals. As we go forward, surely we will not let this progress slip away.

But there is always that niggling doubt. How can we sustain a complex global society in a finite world with exponentially growing numbers of people and an economy that consumes vast resources just to keep running on the spot?

I worry about whether we will allow ourselves to get pushed beyond the limits to growth that Dennis and Donella Meadows warned us about back in 1972. We have done very little to alter that trajectory and my concern is that we will find ourselves fighting over a declining resource base as some like Michael Klare suggest.

Richard Heinberg is one of those rare insightful individuals with foresight and a sound understanding of contemporary affairs. His 2003 book, The Party’s Over – Oil, War and the Fate of Industrial Societies, published at the start of the Iraq War, explores the notion of a world without cheap oil and the potential for resource related wars. In response to this possibility, he recommends that the world implement a global programme of resource conservation and cooperation. The alternative is too dreadful to think about since it may represent the breakdown of modern civilization.

But how is it that oil became so strategically important and why is it linked to wars? Why is it that a world with less oil is viewed as analogous with the decline or even collapse of industrial societies? To better understand, we need to look back by around 100 years.

1914–1918 Great War

This year is the 100th anniversary of the Great War and a time that European nations in particular are commemorating those tragic events and the terrible loss of life. It is hard to imagine what the world looked like in 1914. It was a time dominated by European empires stretching across the globe connected by major shipping routes to support the trade in raw materials from the colonies and manufactured goods from the colonizers.

Britain was prosperous and London was a hub of global commerce, connected to the world via wireless telegraphy. The British had not been involved in a conflict on the European continent since the 1853–56 Crimean War, although colonial wars were frequent.

The 1814–1815 Congress of Vienna (precursor to the League of Nations or even the United Nations), where the major powers had come together to redraw national boundaries, had proved successful. The balance of power in Europe had been maintained and prolonged periods of war had been avoided (the exception being the 1870–71 Franco-Prussian War). Some at the time may have hoped that there would never be another war in Europe.

In school we were taught that it was the assassination of Austria’s Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Serbia on 28 June 1914 that ignited World War I, although we now appreciate that this assertion is too simplistic. Another possibility is that the Germans wanted and had been preparing for this war. We can certainly point to the 1905 Schlieffen Plan that illustrated how Germany could rise victorious from a war fought on two fronts: France to the west, Russia to the east.

But perhaps one of the most provocative recent analyses comes from the British historian, Niall Ferguson. In his 2000 book entitled The Pity of War, Ferguson argues that fear was a key factor in shaping European sentiments at that time. The Russians wanted to reassert themselves after their embarrassing defeat to Japan in 1905. The Germans and Austrians feared a growing Russia, and the French and British feared a powerful Germany.

He also presents another possible explanation. He argues, in an essay entitled “Complexity and Collapse — Empires on the Edge of Chaos” that the Great Powers and empires were complex systems and that they operated in a state “somewhere between order and disorder”.

“Such systems,” he continues, “can appear to operate quite stably for some time; they seem to be in equilibrium but are, in fact, constantly adapting. But there comes a moment when complex systems ‘go critical’. A very small trigger can set off a ‘phase transition’ from a benign equilibrium to a crisis.” The end result can be war, revolutions, financial crashes and imperial collapse. In this context, our world today is not very different from that of 1914.

The Great Oil Game begins

It was Winston Churchill, then Britain’s First Lord of the Admiralty, who made oil the strategically important fuel that it is. Together with Lord John Fisher, he proposed in 1911 that the British Royal Navy switch from coal powered ships to oil. The change was necessary in order to keep pace with the German naval build-up, with oil being viewed as a superior fuel. The conversion took seven years to complete and resulted in the maintenance of oil supplies becoming a strategic military objective.

The first target for investment was the Anglo-Persian Oil Company (APOC) that had been set up in 1908 to explore and extract oil from what is now southern Iran. On 14 June 1908, just weeks before the commencement of hostilities in Europe, Winston Churchill succeeded in getting the British Government to invest £2.2 million in APOC, as explained by Daniel Yergin in The Prize – The Epic Quest for Oil, Money and Power.

Clearly, the British were not alone in recognizing oil’s potential and there are some who argue that Germany’s proposal to construct the Berlin to Baghdad railway as well as their close ties with the Ottoman Empire caused great concerns for the British. This could explain why, within months of the war beginning, British troops landed in Mesopotamia (now Iraq) in November 1914 to defend the APOC oilfields around Basra.

The strategic significance of oil was to remain constant throughout the Second World War. For instance, the Japanese in 1941, facing oil embargoes from the West, attacked Pearl Harbor and invaded the Dutch East Indies for the oil resources. Likewise, the Germans, having limited local oil resources, sought to capture the Baku oil fields in the former Soviet Union in 1942.

Following the Second World War, we have other examples. At the time of the first oil crisis in 1973, we see that the United States Congress, seriously concerned about the potential for oil supplies to be cut off, ordered an investigation into how it may be possible to use military force to gain access to oil supplies in the event of a supply disruption.

The report, published in 1975 and entitled “Oil Fields as Military Objectives” concluded that the risks associated with military action in the Middle East were too high, the prospects of success were poor and the consequence of failure would be disastrous. One unknown factor in this assessment was the possibility of a Soviet response to US military interventions.

The party’s over

The picture looked very different in 1991 during Operation Desert Storm and even more so in 2003 with the full invasion of Iraq, where the oil fields were occupied quickly. The Soviet Union was no longer a threat thereby reducing the risks of such operations. As former Chairman of the US Federal Reserve Alan Greenspan was to admit in 2007, the invasion of Iraq was all about oil. And that is what makes Heinberg’s 2003 book even more compelling. What Heinberg suggested in his book was that we are close to a peak in global oil production. Although this assertion has been contested, very recently there have been a number of studies that appear to confirm Heinberg’s claims.

In January 2012, for example, James Murray and David King published a paper entitled “Oil’s tipping point has passed” in which they note that global crude oil production has been capped at about 75 million barrels per day since 2005 — even in the face of continued price increases. As oil prices go up, you would normally expect that it would be profitable to produce more oil and supply should increase. For this not to happen, something must be fundamentally wrong.

More recently, in January 2014 the UK Royal Society published “The Future of Oil Supply” that looked at all the data and concluded that a “sustained decline in global conventional production appears probable before 2030 and there is a significant risk of this beginning before 2020”.

Third, Steven Kopits from Douglas-Westwood, one of the world’s top energy research groups, gave a lecture in February 2014 explaining how oil production by the major oil firms has faltered in recent years (dropping from 16 million barrels per day in 2006 to 14 million in 2012) while capital expenditure doubled (from US$109 billion to US$262 in the same period). Consequently, some high cost exploration and extraction projects are being abandoned. This led Gail Tverberg, a researcher and commentator on energy issues, to ask whether we are witnessing the beginning of the end of the oil industry as we know it.

What does this mean for the future?

Back in 2005, in his book The Long Emergency, James Howard Kunstler explored the consequences of a peak in world oil production and the fact that this would coincide with the forces of climate change, resurgent diseases, water scarcity, global economic instability and warfare. He essentially portrayed our future with less oil as a long, drawn-out and painful emergency.

More recently, international security scholar Nafeez Mosaddeq Ahmed, writing in the Guardian newspaper on 28 February 2014 explained contemporary riots as being symptomatic of a world without cheap fossil fuels. He argues that the financial crisis and food riots of 2008, the Arab Spring in 2010–11 in Tunisia, Libya and Egypt, and the 2013–14 riots in Venezuela, Bosnia, Ukraine, Iceland and Thailand are symptoms of the long emergency unfolding before our eyes.

Other commentators have come to the same conclusion. The military in different countries have been warning of tensions around the world in the face of declining oil supplies. The US Joint Forces Command’s “Joint Operating Environment Report” is a good example as well as another from the German Bundeswehr Transformation Center. Both reports were published in 2010.

But what does this mean for nation states? Jorg Friedrichs of the University of Oxford explores how countries might respond to fuel scarcity in his 2013 book The Future Is Not What It Used to Be. He argues that we should look at the past experience of Japan, North Korea and Cuba to draw lessons about what different nations may do when they have reduced access to oil supplies.

As mentioned above, in the period from 1918 to 1945, Japan faced oil and other resource embargoes from the Western Powers and was presented with two options: economic collapse or militaristic expansion to grab those resources. We know how that turned out.

In the 1990s, both North Korea and Cuba faced a situation of fuel scarcity after the collapse of the Soviet Union. In North Korea the governing class turned towards totalitarian retrenchment while in Cuba we witnessed a far more positive form of socio-economic adaptation (more local production of food, widespread adoption of permaculture, and adoption of a diet containing less meat).

Friedrich concludes the following with respect to how countries will respond to fuel scarcity. First, those with a strong military potential and the perception that force is more effective than the free market in protecting access to vital resources are more likely to adopt predatory militarism.

Second, countries with less experience of humanism, pluralism and liberal democracy, are more likely to have elites willing and able to impose a policy of totalitarian retrenchment on their population.

Finally, countries with less exposure to individualism, industrialism and mass consumerism, are more likely to pursue adaptive regression to community-based values and a subsistence lifestyle.

Avoiding collapse

But surely there is another path based on enhanced international cooperation. If we understand that we all lose when we fight over diminishing resources, then the answer is to avoid conflict at all costs and to set up mechanisms for this purpose. Today, we are living in a complex, chaotic world, and we will need to struggle to stop it from “going critical”.

The challenge we face is how best to avoid collapse in these circumstances. In this context, the writings of Dmitry Orlov in his 2008 book Reinventing Collapse – The Soviet Experience and American Prospects may be very insightful. If we can learn from the Soviet Union’s experience of collapse, might it be possible to somehow mitigate the worst impacts caused by the peaking of global oil production?

Orlav shares with us what he calls five stages of collapse. The first is financial collapse and many of us experienced this directly in 2008 such that we began to lose faith in “business as usual”. The second is commercial collapse, where we lose faith in ability of markets to provide for all our needs and this was perhaps experienced in parts of Portugal, Italy, Greece and Spain – the PIGS – from 2009 onwards.

The third stage is political collapse where faith in the government taking care of you is lost. Today this can be found in the many failed states around the world but mainly in Africa including Somalia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and South Sudan.

The next stage is social collapse where you no longer believe that “your people” will take care of you and the sense of community is lost. The final stage is cultural collapse where you lose faith in the goodness of humanity. At that point, what we think of as civilized life has all but disappeared.

Ensuring a peaceful future

While most of us appreciate that we will face some pretty major problems going forward from here, it is also true that nobody can know for sure how things will play out. But is it inevitable that things will get worse?

Professor Steven Pinker in his 2012 book, The Better Angels of Our Nature, argues convincingly that we are living in the most peaceful times in human history. He describes the very powerful forces explaining why this is the case.

These are, first of all, the rise of the nation state and judiciary that work to reduce the individual need/temptation to use violence to resolve disputes. Second, the role of commerce and particularly the way that the exchange of goods and services interconnect people so that we care about “others”. Third, there is the feminization of the world with increased respect paid for the interests and values of women.

Fourth, there is the role of cosmopolitanism and the rise of literacy, mobility and mass media. Fifth, there is something described as the “escalator of reason”, which is the application of knowledge and rationality in human affairs forcing people to recognize the futility of violence and war as a means to solve our problems.

In his engaging 2013 lecture at the University of Edinburgh where Pinker explained his ideas in detail, he was asked by a member of the audience whether we might solve the resource/climate challenges through global cooperation, or whether violence, chaos and anarchy would result, as in the past.

He responded thoughtfully by saying “maybe (we would face violence, chaos and anarchy) but not necessarily”. The research seems to show big wars in the past have not been fought primarily over resources, but more as a result of other factors — fear, revenge and ideology.

So how can resource related wars be avoided? The answer is to invest in what works and that is clearly the five forces that have made the world more peaceful.

Now there will be those who argue that nation states have pursued violent paths in the past, that the judiciary can be corrupt, that commerce can lead to exploitation, that women leaders can be as warlike as men, or that the media can distort the truth. But it is essential to focus on the overall direction of change which has been positive, even when in some cases we have witnessed significant problems along this road.

We have to continue to invest in what works because that will increase our ability to adapt socio-economically. This is an important contribution to the energy transition debate that tends to be focused on either technological solutions or community-based responses. The basic line of thinking is that our overriding objective has to be to continue to ensure that we maintain peace and social progress. We have to focus on what makes the world a better place and in what has been historically proven to make the world more peaceful and less violent. This is naive, idealistic and simplistic I suppose, but what is the alternative?

Creative Commons License
Oil, War and the Future Prospects for Peace by Brendan Barrett is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

NSA Recorded the CONTENT of 'EVERY SINGLE' CALL in a Foreign Country … and Also In AMERICA? Washington's Blog

NSA Recorded the CONTENT of ‘EVERY SINGLE’ CALL in a Foreign Country … and Also In AMERICA? Washington’s Blog.

Yes, They’re Doing It To Americans As Well…

The Washington Post reports – based upon documents leaked by Edward Snowden – that the NSA is recording “every single” phone call in one foreign country (at the request of the NSA, the Post is withholding the name of the country. However, the Post notes that the NSA is also planning on expanding the program to other nations).

The Post also reports that the NSA has the ability to “reach into the past” and retroactively go back and listen to the calls later.

Sadly, this is also occurring in America.

Specifically, there is substantial evidence from top NSA and FBI whistleblowers that the government is recording the content of our calls … word-for-word.

NSA whistleblower Russel Tice – a key source in the 2005 New York Times report that blew the lid off the Bush administration’s use of warrantless wiretapping – says that the content and metadata of alldigital communications are being tapped by the NSA.

Tice notes:

They’re collecting content … word-for-word.

***

You can’t trust these people. They lie, and they lie a lot.

Documents leaked by Edward Snowden to Glenn Greenwald show:

But what we’re really talking about here is a localized system that prevents any form of electronic communication from taking place without its being stored and monitored by the National Security Agency.

It doesn’t mean that they’re listening to every call, it means they’re storing every call and have the capability to listen to them at any time, and it does mean that they’re collecting millions upon millions upon millions of our phone and email records.

CNET reported last year:

Earlier reports have indicated that the NSA has the ability to record nearly all domestic and international phone calls — in case an analyst needed to access the recordings in the future. A Wired magazine article last year disclosed that the NSA has established “listening posts” that allow the agency to collect and sift through billions of phone calls through a massive new data center in Utah, “whether they originate within the country or overseas.” That includes not just metadata, but also the contents of the communications.

***

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), the head of the Senate Intelligence committee, separately acknowledged this week that the agency’s analysts have the ability to access the “content of a call.”

NBC News reported last year:

NBC News has learned that under the post-9/11 Patriot Act, the government has been collecting records on every phone call made in the U.S.

Former FBI counter-terrorism agent Tim Clemente told CNN:

There’s a way to look at digital communications in the past.

In other words, if an analyst wants to spy on you, he can pull up your past communications (Remember, the private Internet Archive has been archiving web pages since the  1990s. So the NSA has undoubtedly been doing the same thing with digital communications).

Tice and top NSA whistleblower William Binney confirmed to PBS that the NSA is recording every word of every phone call made within the United States:

[PBS INTERVIEWER] JUDY WOODRUFF: Both Binney and Tice suspect that today, the NSA is doing more than just collecting metadata on calls made in the U.S. They both point to this CNN interview by former FBI counterterrorism agent Tim Clemente days after the Boston Marathon bombing. Clemente was asked if the government had a way to get the recordings of the calls between Tamerlan Tsarnaev and his wife.

TIM CLEMENTE, former FBI counterterrorism agent: On the national security side of the house, in the federal government, you know, we have assets. There are lots of assets at our disposal throughout the intelligence community and also not just domestically, but overseas. Those assets allow us to gain information, intelligence on things that we can’t use ordinarily in a criminal investigation.

All digital communications are — there’s a way to look at digital communications in the past. And I can’t go into detail of how that’s done or what’s done. But I can tell you that no digital communication is secure.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Tice says after he saw this interview on television, he called some former workmates at the NSA.

RUSSELL TICE: Well, two months ago, I contacted some colleagues at NSA. We had a little meeting, and the question came up, was NSA collecting everything now? Because we kind of figured that was the goal all along. And the answer came back. It was, yes, they are collecting everything, contents word for word, everything of every domestic communication in this country.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Both of you know what the government says is that we’re collecting this — we’re collecting the number of phone calls that are made, the e-mails, but we’re not listening to them.

WILLIAM BINNEY: Well, I don’t believe that for a minute. OK?

I mean, that’s why they had to build Bluffdale, that facility in Utah with that massive amount of storage that could store all these recordings and all the data being passed along the fiberoptic networks of the world. I mean, you could store 100 years of the world’s communications here. That’s for content storage. That’s not for metadata.

Metadata if you were doing it and putting it into the systems we built, you could do it in a 12-by-20-foot room for the world. That’s all the space you need. You don’t need 100,000 square feet of space that they have at Bluffdale to do that. You need that kind of storage for content.

JUDY WOODRUFF: So, what does that say, Russell Tice, about what the government — you’re saying — your understanding is of what the government does once these conversations take place, is it your understanding they’re recorded and kept?

RUSSELL TICE: Yes, digitized and recorded and archived in a facility that is now online. And they’re kind of fibbing about that as well, because Bluffdale is online right now.

And that’s where the information is going. Now, as far as being able to have an analyst look at all that, that’s impossible, of course. And I think, semantically, they’re trying to say that their definition of collection is having literally a physical analyst look or listen, which would be disingenuous.

 

Binney tells Washington’s Blog:

It would have to come from the upstream collection/recording “Fairview etc” [background here and here] with – probably – telcom cooperation. That’s how the former FBI agent Tim Clemente could say on CNN that they had ways of getting back to the content of the phone call from one of the bombers to his wife prior to the bombing. Now we are starting to see some of the monitoring of US citizens on the Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN) [background]. Up till now it’s been mostly the internet that we hear about.

What’s new about the PSTN network is the content. We have heard a lot about phone metadata but not content. This is what I have been saying for a long time: that they are taking and storing content too. It’s not just about metadata. So [NSA’s claim that it doesn’t record the phonecalls of Americans is] just another government lie.

NSA Recorded the CONTENT of ‘EVERY SINGLE’ CALL in a Foreign Country … and Also In AMERICA? Washington’s Blog

NSA Recorded the CONTENT of ‘EVERY SINGLE’ CALL in a Foreign Country … and Also In AMERICA? Washington’s Blog.

Yes, They’re Doing It To Americans As Well…

The Washington Post reports – based upon documents leaked by Edward Snowden – that the NSA is recording “every single” phone call in one foreign country (at the request of the NSA, the Post is withholding the name of the country. However, the Post notes that the NSA is also planning on expanding the program to other nations).

The Post also reports that the NSA has the ability to “reach into the past” and retroactively go back and listen to the calls later.

Sadly, this is also occurring in America.

Specifically, there is substantial evidence from top NSA and FBI whistleblowers that the government is recording the content of our calls … word-for-word.

NSA whistleblower Russel Tice – a key source in the 2005 New York Times report that blew the lid off the Bush administration’s use of warrantless wiretapping – says that the content and metadata of alldigital communications are being tapped by the NSA.

Tice notes:

They’re collecting content … word-for-word.

***

You can’t trust these people. They lie, and they lie a lot.

Documents leaked by Edward Snowden to Glenn Greenwald show:

But what we’re really talking about here is a localized system that prevents any form of electronic communication from taking place without its being stored and monitored by the National Security Agency.

It doesn’t mean that they’re listening to every call, it means they’re storing every call and have the capability to listen to them at any time, and it does mean that they’re collecting millions upon millions upon millions of our phone and email records.

CNET reported last year:

Earlier reports have indicated that the NSA has the ability to record nearly all domestic and international phone calls — in case an analyst needed to access the recordings in the future. A Wired magazine article last year disclosed that the NSA has established “listening posts” that allow the agency to collect and sift through billions of phone calls through a massive new data center in Utah, “whether they originate within the country or overseas.” That includes not just metadata, but also the contents of the communications.

***

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), the head of the Senate Intelligence committee, separately acknowledged this week that the agency’s analysts have the ability to access the “content of a call.”

NBC News reported last year:

NBC News has learned that under the post-9/11 Patriot Act, the government has been collecting records on every phone call made in the U.S.

Former FBI counter-terrorism agent Tim Clemente told CNN:

There’s a way to look at digital communications in the past.

In other words, if an analyst wants to spy on you, he can pull up your past communications (Remember, the private Internet Archive has been archiving web pages since the  1990s. So the NSA has undoubtedly been doing the same thing with digital communications).

Tice and top NSA whistleblower William Binney confirmed to PBS that the NSA is recording every word of every phone call made within the United States:

[PBS INTERVIEWER] JUDY WOODRUFF: Both Binney and Tice suspect that today, the NSA is doing more than just collecting metadata on calls made in the U.S. They both point to this CNN interview by former FBI counterterrorism agent Tim Clemente days after the Boston Marathon bombing. Clemente was asked if the government had a way to get the recordings of the calls between Tamerlan Tsarnaev and his wife.

TIM CLEMENTE, former FBI counterterrorism agent: On the national security side of the house, in the federal government, you know, we have assets. There are lots of assets at our disposal throughout the intelligence community and also not just domestically, but overseas. Those assets allow us to gain information, intelligence on things that we can’t use ordinarily in a criminal investigation.

All digital communications are — there’s a way to look at digital communications in the past. And I can’t go into detail of how that’s done or what’s done. But I can tell you that no digital communication is secure.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Tice says after he saw this interview on television, he called some former workmates at the NSA.

RUSSELL TICE: Well, two months ago, I contacted some colleagues at NSA. We had a little meeting, and the question came up, was NSA collecting everything now? Because we kind of figured that was the goal all along. And the answer came back. It was, yes, they are collecting everything, contents word for word, everything of every domestic communication in this country.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Both of you know what the government says is that we’re collecting this — we’re collecting the number of phone calls that are made, the e-mails, but we’re not listening to them.

WILLIAM BINNEY: Well, I don’t believe that for a minute. OK?

I mean, that’s why they had to build Bluffdale, that facility in Utah with that massive amount of storage that could store all these recordings and all the data being passed along the fiberoptic networks of the world. I mean, you could store 100 years of the world’s communications here. That’s for content storage. That’s not for metadata.

Metadata if you were doing it and putting it into the systems we built, you could do it in a 12-by-20-foot room for the world. That’s all the space you need. You don’t need 100,000 square feet of space that they have at Bluffdale to do that. You need that kind of storage for content.

JUDY WOODRUFF: So, what does that say, Russell Tice, about what the government — you’re saying — your understanding is of what the government does once these conversations take place, is it your understanding they’re recorded and kept?

RUSSELL TICE: Yes, digitized and recorded and archived in a facility that is now online. And they’re kind of fibbing about that as well, because Bluffdale is online right now.

And that’s where the information is going. Now, as far as being able to have an analyst look at all that, that’s impossible, of course. And I think, semantically, they’re trying to say that their definition of collection is having literally a physical analyst look or listen, which would be disingenuous.

 

Binney tells Washington’s Blog:

It would have to come from the upstream collection/recording “Fairview etc” [background here and here] with – probably – telcom cooperation. That’s how the former FBI agent Tim Clemente could say on CNN that they had ways of getting back to the content of the phone call from one of the bombers to his wife prior to the bombing. Now we are starting to see some of the monitoring of US citizens on the Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN) [background]. Up till now it’s been mostly the internet that we hear about.

What’s new about the PSTN network is the content. We have heard a lot about phone metadata but not content. This is what I have been saying for a long time: that they are taking and storing content too. It’s not just about metadata. So [NSA’s claim that it doesn’t record the phonecalls of Americans is] just another government lie.

Northeasterners turn to burning wood for power | The Daily Caller

Northeasterners turn to burning wood for power | The Daily Caller.

Americans living in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic U.S. are increasingly turning to a source of heat favored by humans for thousands of years: wood.

More and more people are using wood as their main source of heat as opposed to heating oil and kerosene.

The Energy Information Administration reports that, “All nine states in the New England and the Middle Atlantic Census divisions saw at least a 50% jump from 2005 to 2012 in the number of households that rely on wood as the main heating source.”

Those who switched to wood burning were spared high fuel oil and kerosene prices during this year’s harsh winter.

About 2.5 million households across the country now use wood as the main source of heat in their homes, up from 1.9 million households in 2005. And another 9 million households burn wood as a secondary fuel source for heating.

Millions of families faced skyrocketing energy prices as record low temperatures and snowfall hit much of the country. The U.S.’s constrained pipeline system could not keep up with the demand for propane and natural gas, causing prices to surge and utilities to burn oil and coal for power.

Midwesterners are expected to pay 54 percent more this winter on propane than last,reports EIA, and Northeasterners are expected to spend 7 percent more. Those who live in areas fueled by natural gas will pay 10 percent more this year and five percent more for electricity.

“Cold temperatures have continued to tighten heating oil supplies and helped drive up retail prices,” according to EIA. “Weekly U.S. residential heating oil prices increased by $0.20/gal during January and have averaged near $4.24/gal since the beginning of February.”

But EIA adds that heating oil prices will probably average about one percent lower this winter than last because of lower crude oil prices. Though natural gas spot prices hit record levels during periods of extreme cold.

But what this winter’s severe price swings demonstrate is the danger of over-reliance on one fuel source, says the coal industry. While low-priced natural gas is a good source of fuel overall, gas-fired plants have trouble operating in cold weather — which coal plants have make up.

This winter, gas-fired power plants failed due to cold weather and federal regulations that make it nearly impossible to burn coal.

“This year’s historically cold winter has served as a crystal ball into our future, revealing the energy cost and electric reliability threats posed by the Obama Administration’s overreliance on a more narrow fuel source portfolio that excludes the use of coal,” said Laura Sheehan, spokeswoman for the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity.

If the Northeast’s natural gas infrastructure is not improved and prices remain volatile during the winter, it might not be such a bad idea to burn wood for heat. But even that may become harder thanks to federal environmental regulators.

The Environmental Protection Agency recently updated its wood stove emissions standards that would effectively ban The EPA’s new action bans 80 percent of the wood-burning stoves in America, “the oldest heating method known to mankind and mainstay of rural homes and many of our nation’s poorest residents,” reports Forbes.

EIA notes that: “Most households still burn split logs, although wood pellet use has risen in recent years. And while households in higher income brackets are more likely to use wood, those at lower income levels who burn wood consume more on average.”

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Content created by The Daily Caller News Foundation is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a large audience. For licensing opportunities of our original content, please contact licensing@dailycallernewsfoundation.org.

Northeasterners turn to burning wood for power | The Daily Caller

Northeasterners turn to burning wood for power | The Daily Caller.

Americans living in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic U.S. are increasingly turning to a source of heat favored by humans for thousands of years: wood.

More and more people are using wood as their main source of heat as opposed to heating oil and kerosene.

The Energy Information Administration reports that, “All nine states in the New England and the Middle Atlantic Census divisions saw at least a 50% jump from 2005 to 2012 in the number of households that rely on wood as the main heating source.”

Those who switched to wood burning were spared high fuel oil and kerosene prices during this year’s harsh winter.

About 2.5 million households across the country now use wood as the main source of heat in their homes, up from 1.9 million households in 2005. And another 9 million households burn wood as a secondary fuel source for heating.

Millions of families faced skyrocketing energy prices as record low temperatures and snowfall hit much of the country. The U.S.’s constrained pipeline system could not keep up with the demand for propane and natural gas, causing prices to surge and utilities to burn oil and coal for power.

Midwesterners are expected to pay 54 percent more this winter on propane than last,reports EIA, and Northeasterners are expected to spend 7 percent more. Those who live in areas fueled by natural gas will pay 10 percent more this year and five percent more for electricity.

“Cold temperatures have continued to tighten heating oil supplies and helped drive up retail prices,” according to EIA. “Weekly U.S. residential heating oil prices increased by $0.20/gal during January and have averaged near $4.24/gal since the beginning of February.”

But EIA adds that heating oil prices will probably average about one percent lower this winter than last because of lower crude oil prices. Though natural gas spot prices hit record levels during periods of extreme cold.

But what this winter’s severe price swings demonstrate is the danger of over-reliance on one fuel source, says the coal industry. While low-priced natural gas is a good source of fuel overall, gas-fired plants have trouble operating in cold weather — which coal plants have make up.

This winter, gas-fired power plants failed due to cold weather and federal regulations that make it nearly impossible to burn coal.

“This year’s historically cold winter has served as a crystal ball into our future, revealing the energy cost and electric reliability threats posed by the Obama Administration’s overreliance on a more narrow fuel source portfolio that excludes the use of coal,” said Laura Sheehan, spokeswoman for the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity.

If the Northeast’s natural gas infrastructure is not improved and prices remain volatile during the winter, it might not be such a bad idea to burn wood for heat. But even that may become harder thanks to federal environmental regulators.

The Environmental Protection Agency recently updated its wood stove emissions standards that would effectively ban The EPA’s new action bans 80 percent of the wood-burning stoves in America, “the oldest heating method known to mankind and mainstay of rural homes and many of our nation’s poorest residents,” reports Forbes.

EIA notes that: “Most households still burn split logs, although wood pellet use has risen in recent years. And while households in higher income brackets are more likely to use wood, those at lower income levels who burn wood consume more on average.”

Follow Michael on Twitter and Facebook

Content created by The Daily Caller News Foundation is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a large audience. For licensing opportunities of our original content, please contact licensing@dailycallernewsfoundation.org.

The dominoes begin to fall in China

The dominoes begin to fall in China.

March 18, 2014
Bali, Indonesia

[Editor’s Note: Tim Staermose, Sovereign Man’s Chief Investment Strategist, is filling in for Simon today.]

Forget tapering. Forget Ukraine. The largest single risk to the world economy and financial markets right now is China.

What’s going on in China reminds me a lot of what I witnessed firsthand when I lived in South Korea in the 1990s, before that economy’s crash in 1998.

Just as China now, South Korea was an immature, state-controlled financial system funneling cheap money to well-connected and politically favored large enterprises.

Fuelled by a steady diet of cheap money, these companies kept adding capacity with no regard to profitability or return on capital. They simply focused on producing more stuff and expanding their size. They employed more people, and everyone was happy.

But, all the while, they were borrowing more and more money, until eventually they collapsed under the debt load when liquidity dried up.

Before Korea, the exact same thing happened in Japan, and a giant, unsustainable debt binge brought the “miracle economy” to its knees.

But the Korean and Japanese debt bubbles are nothing compared to what we see in China today.

Consider this: in the last five years, the Chinese created $16 TRILLION in credit that is now circulating in the economy… financing ghost cities and useless infrastructure projects.

Floor space per capita in China is now 30 square meters (about 320 sq. ft.) per person. Japan was at that level in 1988. And the economy burst the following year.

More astounding, this $16 trillion in credit is DOUBLE the $8 trillion in credit that China created in the previous 5,000+ years of its existence.

The Chinese government recognizes it has a problem. It realizes it can no longer keep the dam from breaking. And in the past week, it bit the bullet.

In the last two weeks, Chaori Solar and Haixin Steel were allowed to default, i.e. they weren’t bailed out.

This is the first time in China’s modern history they’ve had a default, let alone two. They can no longer keep the game up, and the dominoes are beginning to topple.

I cannot stress this enough. What we’re witnessing is a major paradigm shift.

Of course, the Chinese government claims they can control the impact of these “relatively minor” corporate defaults.

But as we saw during the sub-prime crisis in the Unites States, the complex web of inter-linkages in the financial system means they are playing with fire.

I expect many more defaults in China in the coming weeks and months. I expect some important Chinese financial institutions to get into trouble.

And I expect the Chinese government will completely lose control over the situation.

My recommendations are 2-fold:

1. If you have any exposure to Chinese stocks, or the Chinese Yuan, I strongly suggest you reconsider.

2. If you have investments in iron ore or copper producers, get out.

But it’s not all doom and gloom. It’s going to take time for China to suffer through this crisis. But, if the Chinese government lets the dominoes fall where they may, the country will be better off in the long term.

The lessons from markets such as South Korea and Indonesia, in aftermath of the 1997-1999 Asian economic crisis, are clear.

If China frees up and liberalizes its financial markets in the face of a crisis, writes off bad loans, and closes down insolvent banks, it will emerge in a much stronger position once the crisis blows over.

And there will be lots of money to be made buying good-quality Chinese shares during the crisis. But, for now, it’s time to brace for the downturn.

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