Olduvaiblog: Musings on the coming collapse

Home » Posts tagged 'François Hollande'

Tag Archives: François Hollande

Anti-François Hollande protests in Paris degenerate into violence | World news | theguardian.com

Anti-François Hollande protests in Paris degenerate into violence | World news | theguardian.com.

Ant-François Hollande protests in Paris

‘You, President, get out’: anti-François Hollande protests in Paris. Photograph: Philippe Wojazer/Reuters

Nineteen police officers were injured and 250 people detained as a protest in Paris against President François Hollande‘s leadership degenerated into violence, police have said.

Police said that none of the injuries was critical. The numbers of injuries and detentions are high compared with other protests in recent weeks expressing discontent with Hollande, who is particularly unpopular for his handling of the economy.

Police said 17,000 people took part in Sunday’s largely peaceful protest, while organisers put the number several times higher.

Fifty associations were involved, including conservative and far-right groups. Also present were supporters of the provocateur-comic Dieudonné, who has been repeatedly convicted of antisemitism and racism.

Kiev protesters expand street barricades – Europe – Al Jazeera English

Kiev protesters expand street barricades – Europe – Al Jazeera English.

Ukrainian protesters have erected more street barricades and occupied a government ministry building, fuelling tension after the failure of crisis talks with the president, Viktor Yanukovich.In response to opposition calls, about 1,000 demonstrators moved away from Kiev’s Independence Square in the early hours of Friday and began to erect new barricades closer to the presidential headquarters.

Masked protesters, some carrying riot police shields seized as trophies, stood guard as others piled up sandbags packed with frozen snow to form new ramparts across the road leading down into the square.

After leaving a second round of talks with Yanukovich empty handed late on Thursday, opposition leader Vitaly Klitschko voiced fears the impasse could now lead to further bloodshed.

After speaking first to protesters manning the barricades, Klitschko then went to Independence Square where he declared: “Hours of conversation were spent about nothing. There is no sense sitting at a negotiating table with someone who has already decided to deceive you.”

Klitschko had earlier brokered a truce in the violence between protesters and police, and the ceasefire appears to be holding so far.

A group of protesters took control of the main agricultural ministry building in the centre. “We need the place for our people to warm up,” a local protest leader was quoted as saying by Interfax news agency.

Meanwhile, protesters near Dynamo Kiev football stadium, the new flashpoint in the city, cranked up their action, setting tyres ablaze again and sending a pall of black smoke over the area.

There were no signs that protesters were heeding an appeal from general prosecutor Viktor Pshonka who said early on Friday that those so far arrested would be treated leniently by the courts if protest action was halted.

At least three protesters have been killed so far after clashes between protesters and riot police.

East-West tensions

Hundreds of thousands have taken to the streets in the capital after Yanukovich backed away from signing a free trade deal with the EU, which many people saw as the key to a European future, in favour of financial aid from Ukraine’s old Soviet master Russia.

But the movement has since widened into broader protests against perceived misrule and corruption in the Yanukovich leadership.

Protesters have been enraged too by sweeping anti-protest legislation that was rammed through parliament last week by Yanukovich loyalists in the assembly.

Earlier on Thursday, Yanukovich had suggested he might be prepared to make concessions to the opposition when he called for a special session of parliament next week to consider the opposition demands and find a way out of the crisis. But this did not impress opposition leaders.

Underlining the level of mistrust between the government and opposition, the prime minister Mykola Azarov on Thursday accused protesters of trying to stage a coup and dismissed the possibility of an early presidential election.

Day After Saudi Arabia Gives Record $3 Billion To Lebanese Army, Lebanese Troops Fire At Syrian Warplanes | Zero Hedge

Day After Saudi Arabia Gives Record $3 Billion To Lebanese Army, Lebanese Troops Fire At Syrian Warplanes | Zero Hedge.

That didn’t take long.

It was only yesterday that Saudi Arabia pledged a record $3 billion to prop up Lebanon’s armed forces, in what the WSJ described as “a challenge to the Iranian-allied Hezbollah militia’s decades-long status as Lebanon’s main power broker and security force.” Lebanese President Michel Sleiman revealed the Saudi gift on Lebanese national television Sunday, calling it the largest aid package ever to the country’s defense bodies. The Saudi pledge compares with Lebanon’s 2012 defense budget, which the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute put at $1.7 billion.

The Saudi move was announced hours after thousands of Lebanese turned out for the funerals of former cabinet minister Mohamad Chatah and some of the other victims killed Friday in a bombing in downtown Beirut. The bomb was believed to have targeted Mr. Chatah, an outspoken critic of Hezbollah’s dominance of Lebanese affairs and security. No group has claimed responsibility. Saudi Arabia on Friday responded to the assassination by calling for Lebanon to build up the government and armed forces “to stop this tampering with the security of Lebanon and the Lebanese.”

Surprisingly, the biggest winner here may be none other than France: “Lebanon would use the Saudi grant to buy “newer and more modern weapons,” from France, said Mr. Sleiman, an independent who has become increasingly critical of Hezbollah. It followed what he called “decades of unsuccessful efforts” to build a credible Lebanese national defense force.”

However, back to the Lebanese quid pro quo: less than 24 hours after the announcement, what does Lebanon go ahead and do? Why it fired at Syrian warplanes (recall Syria is the archnemesis of Saudi Arabia’s Prince Bandar) of course, the first time it has done so since the start of the Syrian conflict. From BBC:

Lebanese troops have fired at Syrian warplanes violating its airspace, for what is thought to be the first time since the conflict in Syria began.

Lebanon’s National News Agency said the army had responded to a raid on Khirbet Daoud, near Arsal in the Bekaa Valley.

Syrian government forces have fired into Lebanon in the past, targeting rebels sheltering over the border.

The Lebanese authorities had until now not responded militarily, hoping they would not be dragged into the war.

Arsal is predominantly Sunni and its residents have been broadly supportive of the Sunni-dominated uprising against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, whose Alawite sect is an offshoot of Shia Islam.

The north-eastern town has been flooded with refugees since the Syrian military launched an offensive in the Qalamoun mountains last month.

Some 20,000 people have settled in makeshift camps, as Syrian troops backed by members of the militant Lebanese Shia Islamist movement Hezbollah have sought to cut rebel cross-border supply routes.

And that is how Syria buys proxy war access on yet another front in an indication that its hopes that sooner or later the Syrian conflict will re-escalate enough to allow the “developed west” to stage another chemical attack and finally have the US topple Assad, are still alive. The only question is whether this time Putin, instead of simply diffusing the Syrian confrontation once again, will have an incendiary present or two for the Saudi princes, in part as gratitude for the string of recent Saudi-inspired terrorist attacks in Volgograd.

 

French Constituional Court Approves 75% Tax On High Earners | Zero Hedge

French Constituional Court Approves 75% Tax On High Earners | Zero Hedge.

Almost a year ago, the French constitutional court ruled against Francois Hollande’s triumphal blast into socialist wealth redistribution, with his proposed 75% tax rate on high earners, and so indefinitely delayed the exodus of the bulk of French high earners (even if some, like Obelix, aka Gerard Depardieu, promptly made their way to the country that has become the land of solace for all oppressed people everywhere, Russia) into more tax-hospitable  climes. That delay is now over, when earlier today the same court approved a 75% tax on all those earning over €1 million. The proposal passed after the government modified it to make employers liable for the 75% tax. As BBC reports, the levy will last two years, affecting income earned this year and in 2014.

And with the tax passage, the preparations for an exodus by all high earnings begin, first among the local football teams. BBC reports:

Football clubs in France went on strike earlier this year over the issue, saying many of France’s clubs are financially fragile and say the plans could spark an exodus of top players who are paid huge salaries.

 

The Qatari-owned Paris Saint-Germain has more than 10 players whose pay exceeds 1m euros, including the Swedish striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

 

There has also been a chorus of protest from businesses and wealthy individuals who have condemned the tax – including film star Gerard Depardieu, who left the country in protest.

 

Polls suggest a large majority in France back the temporary tax.

 

Unlike many other countries in Europe, France aims to bring down its huge public deficit by raising taxes as well as some spending cuts. The highest tax rate in the UK is 45% and is applied to individuals.

While the numerous unintended consequences of this shock and awe tax hike will be amusing to watch in real time as this move will almost certainly be the long-awaited catalyst to push France into its long-predicted recession (to the benefit of countries like Belgium where the French uber-rich are already relocating to), one wonders if the drop in the value of French ultra-high end real estate will be offset by the soaring valuations of London’s already “beyond housing bubble” home prices, and just what the local response will be now that domestic real estate is even more inaccessible to anyone but the wealthiest global oligarchs and billionaires (aside from the capital gains tax of course, which as we wrote previously, is about to be launched first in London, and then everywhere else).

 

US Gets Involved In Another Foreign Conflict, Will Support French Troops In Central African Republic | Zero Hedge

US Gets Involved In Another Foreign Conflict, Will Support French Troops In Central African Republic | Zero Hedge.

One of the underreported stories from last week, noted here previously, was that quietly, on the day in which French unemployment soared to a new 16 year high, French president Hollande did what every true Keynesian in his position would do and dispatched troops to the Central African Republic due to a “duty to intervene” and stop the “alarming, frightening massacres” taking place there. There were no YouTube clips available to justify said massacres yet: we assume they are being produced currently. A few days later the fighting has begun with Reuters reporting that French troops fought gunmen in Bangui, the capital of Central African Republic, on Monday as they searched for weapons in an operation to disarm rival Muslim and Christian fighters responsible for hundreds of killings since last week. Shooting erupted near the airport in the morning after gunmen refused to hand over their weapons, and French forces later came under attack by former rebels in the city centre. France said it was prepared to use force if fighters rejected calls to disarm or return to barracks. Paris boosted its military presence to 1,600 troops at the weekend as waves of religious violence swept its former colony.

That’s not news. The news is that the US is once again getting involved in yet another foreign conflict. Also from Reuters:

  • PENTAGON CONSIDERING REQUESTS FOR U.S. MILITARY SUPPORT TO FRENCH AND AFRICAN UNION FORCES IN CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC – U.S. OFFICIAL
  • U.S. MILITARY LIKELY TO PROVIDE SOME LOGISTICAL SUPPORT -OFFICIAL

Some additional detail from the WSJ:

The U.S. will airlift African Union forces to the Central African Republic as part of an effort to aid French troops who are in the country to put down rising violence, defense officials said.

 

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel authorized the deployment of the U.S. transport planes and pilots Sunday night, responding to a request for assistance from France. The planes will be used to carry troops from Burundi to the Central African Republic, where France has deployed 1,600 troops to try to quell rising violence.

 

Fighting has increased in the Central African Republic since March when a rebel group seized power. The rebel leader, Michel Djotodia, named himself president.

 

Turmoil has escalated in recent days, claiming 400 lives and prompting the French intervention. On Monday, French soldiers began disarming fighters in the Central African Republic.

And yet something is different about the C.A.R. – drones. From IBTimes:

Drones were deployed over the Democratic Republic of the Congo on Tuesday, marking the first time the United Nations has used unmanned surveillance aircraft in its peacekeeping efforts. A fleet of five unarmed drones will help U.N. troops monitor the vast Central African country of 66 million people, which has been plagued by violent militias for decades.

 

“Such high-technology systems allow a better knowledge of what is happening on the ground, which allows a force to better do its job,” said Hervé Ladsous, U.N. Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, according to the U.N. News Agency.

 

The new drone program marks another rare initiative for the U.N. It was originally approved by the Security Council in January, due in large part to the conflict in Goma. M23 surrendered last month, but ongoing peace talks in Uganda between the rebels and the Congolese government have reached an impasse over the wording of the final agreement.

Of course, someone must have benefited from the drone “surge.” Indeed, someone did.

The drones for the Congo fleet were purchased from the electronics firm Selex ES, a unit of the Italian industrial and defense company Finmeccanica SpA (BIT:FNC). Deployment was originally planned for August, but a complicated procurement process delayed the launch until this week. If the drones prove effective, the U.N. may consider launching similar initiatives in other countries where peacekeeping operations are under way.

In other words, look for the C.A.R./Congo region to get drastically “destabilized” in the coming weeks, especially with both French and the US forced on the ground, and with hundreds of drones in the air repeating the bang up “peace intervention” job most recently achieved in Afghanistan. Why? Simple – because China has now been actively expanding its sphere of influence in Africa as we have been reporting over the past two years. Indeed as the map below which we posted first over a year ago shows, the Central African Republic is the only place that China does not have a major documented presence yet.

 

So the US (and the west) do the only thing they can: find a pretext to land a military force in order to stake a claim on what they believe are their critical strategic interests before Chinese moneyed-interests decide to do the same.

Average:Select ratingPoorOkayGoodGreatAwesome

Your rating: None Average: 5 (3 votes)

Subscriptions (0) 

 

French President Warns Of Immediate Military Intervention Hours After Reporting Soaring Unemployment | Zero Hedge

French President Warns Of Immediate Military Intervention Hours After Reporting Soaring Unemployment | Zero Hedge.

While we are sure it is just a coincidence that hours after his nation reports record and soaring unemployment rates, French President Hollande announces a doubling of troops in Central African Republic (CAR) deciding to “intervene immediately” after the UN authorization, adding “this intervention will be quick. It has no vocation to last and I’m sure it will be a success,”

  • *FRANCE HAS DUTY TO INTERVENE, HOLLANDE SAYS
  • *HOLLANDE SAYS CENTRAL AFRICA MASSACRES CONTINUING
  • *HOLLANDE SAYS SITUATION CENTRAL AFRICA `ALARMING, FRIGHTENING’

The US State Department “welcomes France’s decision to reinforce its military presence,” adding that, the US is “appalled by today’s reports of the murder of innocent women and children outside of Bangui.”

Of course, it wouldn’t be the modern-day war without drones, and as IB Times reports, a fleet of five unarmed drones will help U.N. troops monitor the vast Central African country of 66 million people, which has been plagued by violent militias for decades.

 

Hollande… (via DPA),

French President Francois Hollande said Thursday he had decide to intervene “immediately” in the Central African Republic, after the United Nations authorized an intervention by African and French forces.

 

France would double its current troop deployment of 600 “within a few days, if not a few hours,” Hollande said in an address from the Elysee Palace.

 

“This intervention will be quick. It has no vocation to last and I’m sure it will be a success,” he said, pledging to regularly brief the nation on its progress.

 

Hollande emphasized that France would be acting “together with Africans and the support of European partners” and assured that the country has “no other objective than to save human lives.”

From the US State Dept.

The United States remains committed to supporting the international community’s efforts to find a solution that protect civilians, restores security, ensures greater humanitarian access, and puts CAR on a path back to democratic governance.

Drone use raises questions…(Via IB Times),

Such high-technology systems allow a better knowledge of what is happening on the ground, which allows a force to better do its job,” said Hervé Ladsous, U.N. Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations.

 

 

But there are some concerns about the U.N. drone program’s transparency and regulatory framework. “Congo is in many ways a laboratory for U.N. peacekeepers with a range of equipment and a range of experiments being used,” said Phil Clark, a political professor at the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies, to Deutsche Welle. “But I think there are big questions here. Such as, what is it like for a non-state actor to use drones and this type of equipment, what kind of information will it be gathering, who exactly will have access to that information and what will they do with it and so I think we need a lot more clarity from the U.N. as to exactly how these drones will be used.

As the Keynesian train rolls on, when all else fails, declare war… all that non-deflatinary ammunition production and waste…

 

France Unemployment Surges To 16 Year High | Zero Hedge

France Unemployment Surges To 16 Year High | Zero Hedge.

Europe’s second largest economy and crucial to the core founding partnership of the euro project, France, has seen its unemployment rate rise unceasingly for 9 quarters in a row now. At 11.03%, French unemployment has not been higher since Q3 1997. Of course, President Hollande, despite falling PMIs and rising unemployment is hopeful that things are turning around as he notes, France is “now in a phase of stabilization that remains very fragile.” Some optimism can be taken from the relative stability in youth unemployment for a change but the over-50s unemployment reached an all-time high of 8.2%.

 

 

 

Is BP ‘trolling’ its Facebook critics? – Features – Al Jazeera English

Is BP ‘trolling’ its Facebook critics? – Features – Al Jazeera English.

Critics using BP America’s Facebook page allege they have been harassed [Erika Blumenfeld/Al Jazeera]
New Orleans, United States – BP has been accused of hiring internet “trolls” to purposefully attack, harass, and sometimes threaten people who have been critical of how the oil giant has handled its disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.

The oil firm hired the international PR company Ogilvy & Mather to run the BP America Facebook page during the oil disaster, which released at least 4.9 million barrels of oil into the Gulf in what is to date the single largest environmental disaster in US history.

The page was meant to encourage interaction with BP, but when people posted comments that were critical of how BP was handling the crisis, they were often attacked, bullied, and sometimes directly threatened.

“Marie” was deeply concerned by the oil spill, and began posting comments on the BP America Facebook page. Today, she asks that she remain anonymous out of what she described to Al Jazeera as “fear for my personal safety should the BP trolls find out that I am the whistleblower in this case”.

In internet slang, a troll is someone who sows online discord by starting arguments or upsetting people, often posting inflammatory messages in an online community, or even issuing physical threats.

Marie sought assistance from the Government Accountability Project (GAP), a non-profit group in Washington DC, and has produced boxes of documents and well-researched information that may show that the people harassing BP’s critics online worked for BP or Ogilvy.

“We’d been hearing of this kind of harassment by BP when we were working on our health project [in the Gulf of Mexico], so it sparked our interest,” GAP investigator Shanna Devine told Al Jazeera. “We saw Marie’s documentation of more serious threats made on the BP page, and decided to investigate.”

According to both Marie and Devine, some of the threats began on the page, but then escalated off the page.

Threats included identifying where somebody lived, an internet troll making reference to having a shotgun and making use of it, and “others just being more derogatory”, according to Devine. “We’ve seen all this documentation and that’s why we thought it was worth bringing to the ombudsman’s office of BP, and we told them we thought some of it even warranted calling the police about.”

Death threats

“We have thousands of documents regarding communications posted through various Facebook websites,” said certified legal investigator Steve Lockman of Levin, Papantonio, Thomas, Mitchell, Rafferty & Proctor. “In addtion, we are in possession of communications between the federal government and the ombudsman’s office of BP regarding the internet communications, and the federal government requesting BP to control the harassment through their Facebook page and their interactions.”

“The harassment communications are not something that BP and their people are not aware of,” Lockman told Al Jazeera. “It’s not a hidden secret that the personal attacks, broadcast abuse, and type-written harassment were happening and continue to go on.”

Marie provided the firm and Al Jazeera with files of complaint letters, computer screenshots of the abuse, and a list of Facebook profiles used by the people who harassed her and others.

“I was called a lot of names,” Marie added. “I was called a streetwalker and a lot of things like that, and eventually had gun threats.”

According to Marie, the harassment didn’t remain on the BP page. Trolls often followed users to their personal Facebook pages and continued to harass them there.

“They resorted to very demeaning methods of abuse,” Marie said. “They were racist, sexist, and threatened me and others with legal action and violence. They’ve insinuated that some commenters are ‘child molesters’, and have often used the tactic of mass reporting with the goal of having their targets completely removed from Facebook.”

One troll using the name “Griffin” makes several allusions to gun violence, while another, named “Ken Smith” also harassed and threatened users, even going so far as to edit a photo of a BP critic’s pet bird into the crosshairs of a gunsight, before posting the photo online – along with photos of an arsenal of semi-automatic weapons.

Another instance occurred involving “Griffin” and an environmentalist who posted a picture of a rendition of Mother Earth saying “Mother Earth Has Been Waiting for Her Day in Court, BP”. “Griffin” posted a comment to the picture that read, “A few rounds from a .50 cal will stop that b**ch”.

According to Marie, Lockman and GAP, BP’s “astroturfing” efforts and use of “trolls” have been reported as pursuing users’ personal information, then tracking and posting IP addresses of users, contacting their employers, threatening to contact family members, and using photos of critics’ family members to create false Facebook profiles, and even threatening to affect the potential outcome of individual compensation claims against BP.

Marie, along with several other targets of harassment, wrote and sent two letters to BP America, asking the company to respond to the allegations and deal with the matter. Neither letter received a response, which is why Marie decided to contact GAP, as well as the law firm.

While Marie’s evidence appears to tie Ogilvy and BP together via the trolls, the law firm Lockman works for is investigating further, in order to conclusively determine the extent of BP’s involvement.

Spinning the disaster

Stephen Marino worked for Ogilvy during the BP disaster. BP had been a client of Ogilvy for five years before the spill, and when the disaster occurred, “we were responsible for all the social media for BP during the spill”,Marino said during a lecture he gave at the University of Texas, Austin, on April 19, 2012.

His team, which he called the “digital influence team”, was “responsible for the crisis response”.  Marino told the audience that his job during the BP disaster was to run a ” reputation management campaign ” and gave this specific example of the depths to which Ogilvy worked to maintain a positive appearance for BP:

“We were putting out ads, if you guys remember those ads that came out where it would be Iris in the Gulf of Mexico and she’d be talking about how she grew up there and she wasn’t going to go away,” he explained . “The way we were working with the strategy on that was we would cut the ads one day, we would edit them overnight, we’d air them on Tuesday let’s say, and then we’d look at social media to see what the response was to the ads – and based upon the feedback we were getting on social media, the advertising agency would then go back and re-cut the ads to fix the message to make it resonate more with what the constituents wanted… that was the first key strategy.”

Chris Paulos, an attorney with the firm investigating Marie’s case, believes this is a perfect example of “subversive attempts by corporations to put forward their ideology of what we should think about them, and doing it in a way that is not decipherable to the average person”.

According to Paulos, the public should be concerned about this because we can no longer tell if people online are truly who they say they are, “or are working for a corporation and talking their script to control the dialogue about whatever issue they are addressing”.

“We are in unprecedented times with technology, and [in] the disparity between the power of corporations and autonomous consumers,” Paulos told Al Jazeera. ” Citizens United has basically emboldened corporations with their ability to speak as individuals with First Amendment rights. Ever since that decision, corporations have been outspoken and vigorously protecting themselves while doing it.”

BP’s response

Billie Garde, BP’s deputy ombudsman, in a letter to the Government Accountability Project dated December 18, 2012, stated clearly that “BP America contracts management of its Facebook page to Ogilvy Public Relations” and added, “Ogilvy manages all of BP America’s social media matters”.

DOCUMENT
PAGES
TEXT
Zoom

p. 1

p. 2

p. 3

«

Page 1 of  3

»

 
“According to BP America, Ogilvy has a group of 10 individuals in different time zones that perform comment screening of the page,” wrote Garde.

Interestingly, Garde’s letter addressed the fact that, at that time, according to Ogilvy’s data, 91 percent of all the comments on BP’s Facebook page were considered to be “unsupportive” of BP, while only nine percent were considered “supportive”.  She added that “i n previous years, the number of comments that were ‘unsupportive ‘ of BP was larger than the present 91 per cent “.

Her letter stated that Ogilvy follows a “three strike” policy for all comments, “meaning if they find a comment to be in violation of the commenting policy, they delete the comment and record a ‘strike’ against the user, and three strikes means a user is no longer able to comment on the page. It is also noted that Ogilvy will delete offending comments and send a note to the user indicating the comment was inappropriate”.

Garde added: “BP America has informed our office that Ogilvy strictly adheres to the Commenting Policy as stated on the BP America Facebook page. This policy serves as the guidelines that Ogilvy follows when evaluating the appropriateness of comments. Ogilvy does not evaluate a comment with respect to it being a positive or negative statement towards BP. Likewise, they do not delete any comments based on either of these qualifiers.”

According to Garde, BP America’s Director of Employee Concerns Oversight, Mike Wilson, was apprised of the situation. Wilson was provided examples of harassment and was asked if the examples were reviewed by Ogilvy. “The discussion is ongoing, and Mr Wilson is addressing these specific concerns internally,” Garde added.

A BP spokesman provided the following statement for Al Jazeera: “The BP America Facebook page, and its moderators, do not endorse or dictate any user activity. All users’ comments and actions are their own. BP created the BP America Facebook page to engage the public in an informative conversation about our ongoing commitment to America and to facilitate constructive dialogue for any and all who wish to participate. No users are compensated for participating in the Facebook community. More information on our commenting policy can be found here .”

Marie, however, staunchly believes that BP is responsible for the pro-BP Facebook trolls.

“I have no doubt that they are, and I’ve found the links between the trolls and their friends who work for BP,” she told Al Jazeera. “The Government Accountability Project, through the inquiry they’re conducting for me, is still trying to find out. But we are being stonewalled on the other end, as far as BP doing some type of an internal investigation into these connections that I’ve uncovered.”

According to Marie, the harassment “almost ceased completely at around the same time GAP received Garde’s letter. I say ‘almost’ because at least two of the people who were involved in the prior harassment are still allowed to comment on BP’s page to this day, and [one of those] was still checking on people’s profiles to obtain their state of residence, and would use this against them on the page.”

‘Terroristic threats’

Lockman’s investigation continues, as do the efforts of recovering additional documentation and sifting through information on hand that links the trolls to both BP and Ogilvy as well as to other subcontracted companies used by BP as creative storytellers.

“The information we possess regarding Marie’s claims, printed out, fills two file boxes, and that does not include all the DVDs which are currently being duplicated at this time,” Lockman said. “It is an unbelievable amount of documentation that has been developed. This documentation, support materials, and information is coming from several different sources. It is like a spider web and we just got started.”

Al Jazeera asked the firm Lockman works for what the possible legal ramifications would be for the alleged actions of BP and Ogilvy.

“What these guys are doing is bordering on illegal,” said Paulos the attorney. “Marie’s allegations are that these guys have made overt acts beyond what they did online, and it does sound like people who’ve been the victims of these actions believe they are in imminent danger of bodily harm, and that can become the basis for a claim of assault.”

Paulos went on to say that if people who had pending claims against BP were being targeted “it can become a claim of extortion or fraud, depending on how the money is being used”. The same applies in cases where money or other benefits are offered in exchange for ceasing the harrassment.

Yet these are not the worst possible crimes.

“They [BP/Ogilvy] are obviously trying to silence folks who are opposed or critical of what they are doing,” Paulos claimed. “But it appears as though it has moved into threats that can be considered terroristic threats depending on the intent behind them, so there are a lot of laws they can be treading on, including stalking, and tortious interference with someone’s businesses. I understand they’ve called the workplaces of people on the websites, and depending on what’s being said that may become actionable under US civil law. So there are a lot of ways they could be breaching the law based on the intent of their communication and how that has been received.”

Paulos believes Marie’s case is an example of how corporations such as BP use their money and power to take advantage of a lack of adequate legal regulations over the use of internet trolls and vigorous PR campaigns, and that this should give the general public pause.

“Marie’s story shows that corporations do not refrain from cyber-bullying, and they are doing it in a very aggressive fashion.”

Other harassment

Linda Hooper Bui, an associate professor of entomology at Louisiana State University, experienced a different form of harassment from BP while working on a study about the impact of the oil disaster on spiders and insects.

“BP was desperately trying to control the science, and that was what I ran into,” Bui told Al Jazeera. According to her, BP’s chief science officer “tried to intimidate me”, and the harassment included BP “bullying my people” who were working in the field with her on her study that revealed how “insects and spiders in the oiled areas were completely decimated”.

While collecting data for the study, Bui and her colleagues regularly ran into problems with BP, she said.

“Local sheriffs working under the auspices of BP, as well as personnel with Wildlife and Fisheries, the US Coast Guard – all of these folks working under BP were preventing us from doing our job,” Bui explained. “We were barred from going into areas to collect data where we had previous data.”

Bui said personnel from the USCG, Fish and Wildlife, and even local sheriffs departments, always accompanied by BP staff, worked to prevent her from entering areas to collect data, confiscated her samples, and “if I’d refused to oblige they would have arrested me” – despite her having state permits to carry out her work.

Bui has also been harassed online, by what she thinks was “a BP troll”, but she remained primarily concerned about what BP was doing to block her science. Her frustration about this prompted her to write an opinion article for The New York Times , titled A Gulf Science Blackout .

That is when she received a call from BP.

“August 24, 2010, at 7:15am the morning my op-ed was published, I received a call from BP’s chief science officer who tried to get me to be quiet,” Bui said. “He said he’d solve my problem, and asked me how much money I needed.”

Bui explained to him she was only interested in being allowed to conduct her studies, and was not interested in working with BP, “that I was publishing science and it involved the entire scientific community”, and she never heard back from him.

She believes her method of dealing with the overall situation was a success. “When somebody starts to mess with me, I publicise it and say: ‘Don’t f**k with me,'” she concluded. “And if you do, I’m going to go very public with it, and that’s what I did.”

BP did not respond to Al Jazeera for comment regarding her specific allegation.

GAP’s Shanna Devine told Al Jazeera she believes the onus is on BP to investigate the possibility that there is a connection between the harassment and Ogilvy and BP employees.

“But so far they’ve taken a very hands-off approach,” she explained. “They’ve not taken responsibility and they are not willing to share information with us.”

Follow Dahr Jamail on Twitter: @DahrJamail

Storms rage across the Arabian Peninsula – Weather – Al Jazeera English

Storms rage across the Arabian Peninsula – Weather – Al Jazeera English.

The storms caused widespread power cuts in Riyadh, and closed schools and universities across the capital. [AFP]
A weather system has caused widespread flooding across the Arabian Peninsula over the past few days.

Initially the thunderstorms stretched from Saudi Arabia to Iraq, then the system slid slowly southwards.

In Saudi Arabia, the storms killed at least seven people, with five more still missing.

The capital, Riyadh, and the northeastern city of Arar were amongst the worst hit.

The storms flooded a number of underpasses on major routes around Riyadh, causing widespread disruption, and the north of the city was plunged into darkness as the storms pulled down powerlines.

Schools and universities across the capital have been closed since Sunday.

Iraq was also badly hit, as the rising flood waters submerged streets and caused buildings to collapse. At least 11 people are known to have died across the country, most of those were killed when their homes collapsed in on them.

In order to try to limit the damage caused by the storms, authorities have tried declaring national holidays. Another holiday was called earlier in the month.

The heaviest rain that has been reported was 112mm in just 24 hours in the Iraqi city of Karbalaa.

The International Airport in Riyadh reported 20mm of rain in a day, just a little more than Doha, where 18mm was received.

The rain is now moving away, across the United Arab Emirates and Oman. Although heavy rain is still expected, the system is weakening, so the flooding should be less extensive.

The region regularly floods when it rains. This is partly due to the lack of drains and also thanks to the sandy soil of the region, which cannot readily absorb water. In May last year, around 20 people were killed after torrential rain swamped parts of Saudi Arabia.

 

Venezuela’s president granted wide powers – Americas – Al Jazeera English

Venezuela’s president granted wide powers – Americas – Al Jazeera English.

Venezuela’s National Assembly has granted President Nicolas Maduro wide-ranging special powers to rule by decree for one year so that he can fix the economy.

Tuesday’s vote over the Enabling Law is the latest move by the elected Venezuelan leader, a protégé of the late President Hugo Chavez, to strengthen his hand as he faces an important political test in municipal elections next month.

The decree will essentially allow Maduro to create laws without parliamentary approval. 

He says he needs greater personal power to stamp out opponents who are waging “economic warfare against his government” as the country struggles with soaring inflation and shortages of basic goods.

“Maduro has to tackle an economy in free fall,” Al Jazeera’s Andy Gallacher, reporting from the Venezuelan capital Caracas, said.

“People are really struggling to buy normal household goods.”

Over the weekend, Maduro used his existing authority to make retail appliance stores slash prices, sending troops to keep order among the crowds that quickly formed.

The Venezuelan unit of General Motors was fined the equivalent of $85,000 on Tuesdsay for allegedly overcharging and practising “usury” in the sale of car parts to local concessionaires.

The government also asked Twitter to take down accounts of users posting the illegal black market exchange rate for the country’s bolivar currency, which is trading at about one-tenth of the official value.

These measures have rallied Maduro’s working-class base and even won approval from some government opponents who have joined the long lines outside appliance stores nationwide for the past 10 days in search of deep discounts on TV sets and refrigerators.

Currency shortage

The deep discounts of as much as 60 percent – which Maduro has said would be extended to toys, cars and clothing  – come as workers cash their year-end pay bonuses, allowing them to make purchases that might otherwise have been out of reach.

The country has been repeatedly battered by a 54 percent inflation rate, a shortage of hard currency and basic goods.

Critics, however, blame Venezuela’s economic hardship on the government-imposed fixed exchange rate and price controls which they say have led to a shortage of basic goods such as rice and meat. 

The vote to approve the so-called Enabling Law had been widely expected after Maduro garnered the two-thirds support he needed, or 99 votes, during a preliminary debate last week.

The move added to the opposition’s speculation that this was a thinly veiled power grab.

After Tuesday’s vote, Diosdado Cabello, the National Assembly president, led a march of more than 2,000 supporters from the legislature to the presidential palace to deliver the text of the decree law to Maduro.

Addressing a crowd smaller than the ones Chavez was accustomed to drawing, Maduro reiterated a pledge to use his expanded powers to keep prices low across industries and limit profit margins to 30 percent.

He also pledgegd to start 2014 with a frontal attack on corruption.

“They underestimated me; they said Maduro was an amateur,” he told the crowd. But “what you’ve seen is little compared to what we’re going to do”.

The legislative process leading up to Tuesday’s vote was marred by controversy after an opposition congresswoman was stripped of her immunity from prosecution over corruption charges, allowing for her substitution by a pro-government legislator who gave Maduro the crucial 99th vote needed to prevail.

 

<span>%d</span> bloggers like this: