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Ukraine Replaces Central Bank Head – Bloomberg

Ukraine Replaces Central Bank Head – Bloomberg.

By Daryna Krasnolutska, Kateryna Choursina and Ilya Arkhipov  Feb 24, 2014 1:08 PM ET

Photographer: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty ImagesAnti-government demonstrators guard a government building near Independence Square in Kiev, Ukraine, on February 23, 2014.

Photographer: Louisa Gouliamaki/AFP via Getty ImagesNewly freed Ukrainian ex-premier Yulia Tymoshenko delivers a speech at Kiev’s Independance Square on February 22, 2014.

Photographer: Sergei Supinsky/AFP via Getty ImagesParliament Speaker and newly-appointed interim president of Ukraine, Olekandr Turchynov attends a session at the… Read More

Photographer: Brendan Hoffman/Getty ImagesPeople wave a large Ukrainian flag in Independence Square on February 23, 2014 in Kiev, Ukraine.

Photographer: Thomas Trutschel/Photothek via Getty ImagesUkrainian President Viktor Yanukovych stands in the Presidential Palace on February 21, 2014, in Kiev, Ukraine.

Related

Ukraine replaced its central bank chief as it scrambles to fend off default, while Russiapoured scorn on the legitimacy of the new interim leadership.

The temporary government in Kiev said it needs $35 billion of financial assistance as the U.S. and the European Union pledged aid for a new administration. Russia’s Foreign Ministry said opponents of deposed President Viktor Yanukovych broke a Feb. 21 peace agreement and set the country on a course for “dictatorial, terrorist methods.”

Lawmakers appointed Stepan Kubiv, the ex-chairman of Lviv-based VAT Kredobank, to head the central bank after voting out Ihor Sorkin. The monetary authority this month introduced capital controls to halt the hryvnia’s slide after the currency fell to a five-year low against the dollar. Kubiv plans to invite an International Monetary Fund mission, the Unian news service reported, without giving details.

Related:

“The economic and political challenges that Ukraine faces are enormous,” Lubomir Mitov, chief economist for emerging Europe at the Institute of International Finance, which represents more than 400 institutions globally, said on a conference call with reporters. “To avoid a complete collapse in the coming weeks, Ukraine needs money now.”

With Kremlin-backed Yanukovych on the run from an arrest warrant, payments from a $15 billion Russian bailout stand suspended. An international aid package is taking shape as demonstrators control Kiev and jockeying gets underway before early presidential elections scheduled for May 25.

Bonds Gain

While a new government needs to be established before Ukraine can receive aid, the first payments may arrive next week, Elmar Brok, the head of the European Parliament’s foreign affairs committee, told reporters in Kiev today.

The Cause of Unrest in Ukraine

Ukrainian assets have benefited from the momentum for financial aid, with the yield on the government’s dollar bond maturing in 2023 falling 93 basis points, or 0.93 percentage point, to 9.26 percent, the lowest since Jan. 28. The UX Index of stocks soared 15 percent, the most since May 2010.

Acting Finance Minister Yuriy Kolobov proposed calling an international conference of donors with the EU, the U.S. and other countries. The $35 billion financing package is needed for this year and next, the ministry estimated.

The EU has been working on an international economic support package for Ukraine for the short, medium and long term, European Commission spokesman Olivier Bailly said today. Bailly said he isn’t “personally aware” of a donor conference being organized.

Economic Lifeline

Ukraine’s new leaders are scrambling for a new lifeline as their Russian neighbor signaled changes to its political and financial support for the country.

Russia will honor all its agreements with Ukraine, including an accord for cut-price gas shipments, that Yanukovych signed in December, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said, according to comments posted on a government website. Even so, the premier said he had questions about the legitimacy of many Ukrainian state institutions and warned that his country’s interests are under threat.

“The new government’s task is to stop the country’s slide, to stabilize the currency rate, to ensure timely salary and pension payments, to win back investors’ trust and to create new jobs,” Parliament Speaker Oleksandr Turchynov, handed presidential powers, said today. “Another priority is to return to the European integration path.”

Premier Candidates

Meanwhile, jostling began among those seeking future leadership roles.

Mykola Tomenko, a member of former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko’s Batkivshchyna party, said she was a candidate for the premiership, along with party leader Arseniy Yatsenyuk and billionaire ex-Economy Minister Petro Poroshenko. Tymoshenko, who was imprisoned more than two years ago for abuse of power, later ruled out the role for herself, as did Vitali Klitschko, who heads the UDAR party.

Ukraine spiraled into crisis in November when protesters took to the streets to oppose Yanukovych’s rejection of a deal to deepen ties with the EU. Violence culminated last week in fighting in central Kiev that killed 82 people before a peace agreement brokered by EU foreign ministers ended the clashes and triggered Yanukovych’s flight from Kiev.

U.S. Vow

Yanukovych went to Crimea in southern Ukraine after his plane in the eastern city of Donetsk was denied permission to leave the country, acting Interior Minister Arsen Avakov said on his Facebook page. Stopping at a private residence also in the country’s south, Yanukovych was denied entry by state guards and departed with his entourage “in an unknown direction in three cars,” he said.

“A criminal case was opened into the mass murder of civilians,” Avakov said. “Yanukovych and other officials have been declared wanted.”

With western nations and Russia tussling for sway over the country of 45 million people, the IMF is ready to help Ukraine “not only from a humanitarian point of view but also from an economic point of view,” Managing Director Christine Lagarde told reporters in Sydney following a meeting of Group of 20 officials yesterday.

Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew said the U.S. was prepared to help Ukraine return to a path of democracy, stability and growth.

‘Grave Mistake’

In Ukraine, the political crisis polarized sentiment between its western and central regions bordering the EU and those in the south and east that are home to more Russian speakers and ethnic Russians.

While people toppled statues of Vladimir Lenin across the country in protests, according to Ukraine’s Channel 5, more than 2,000 rallied for closer ties with Russia in the southern city of Odessa. In Kerch, also in the south, marchers replaced a Ukrainian flag at the mayor’s office with Russian and Crimean flags, Unian reported.

The opposition is following the lead of “armed extremists and thugs whose actions pose a direct threat to the sovereignty and constitutional order in Ukraine,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said in a statement on Feb 22.

White House National Security Adviser Susan Rice said the U.S. would work with European partners to help finance Ukraine’s economic recovery, while warning Russia that any insertion of its troops would be “a grave mistake.”

“It’s not in the interests of Ukraine or of Russia or of Europe or of the United States to see the country split,” Rice said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” program.

To contact the reporters on this story: Daryna Krasnolutska in Kiev atdkrasnolutsk@bloomberg.net; Kateryna Choursina in Kiev at kchoursina@bloomberg.net; Ilya Arkhipov in Moscow at iarkhipov@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Balazs Penz at bpenz@bloomberg.net; James M. Gomez at jagomez@bloomberg.net

Ron Paul: “Ukraine Is Their Business, Not Ours” | Zero Hedge

Ron Paul: “Ukraine Is Their Business, Not Ours” | Zero Hedge.

“The American people are very leery of getting involved in another squabble in some other country,” warns Ron Paul following the breakdown in the truce in Ukraine and President Obama’s drawing of more red-lines. In this succinct interview with FOX, the former congressman sums it up perfectly, “That’s their business, and it certainly isn’t ours,” he said. “We’ve tried it for too long, and the American people are sick and tired of it, and we’re also out of money.” Indeed, but the Keynesians must be getting excited…

 

“the further we stay away from there, the better…”

 

 

“I would be willing to wager most of the people in the Ukraine would like to see the United States stay out, and they’d like to see the Russians stay out.”

Ukraine’s Military Releases The Armored Vehicles And Fighter Jets | Zero Hedge

Ukraine’s Military Releases The Armored Vehicles And Fighter Jets | Zero Hedge.

Days after Kazakhstan broke out is tanks post-devaluation, the promise to “Restore order by all means envisaged” is under way in Ukraine as military vehicles are being mobilized into the city center (andfighter jets are being reported overhead). As Martin Armstrong so eloquently noted recently, “the Western powers represented by the EU and the US have nothing to stand on to protect Ukraine and can only offer lip-service at best. So once again, it appears that Ukraine is doomed and the best one can hope for there, is that Russia will allow the West to leave. The countdown goes forward and the political and economic crisis is indicative of what we see with the first shot across the bow in the rising trend of the Cycle of War.” The US has ‘demanded’ an end to the violence…

Via Voice Of Russia,

Two jet aircrafts, presumably military, have appeared over Maidan in the Ukrainian capital of Kiev, the mass media report.

Live Feed

The economy is collapsing:

  • *UKRAINE JAN. INDUSTRIAL OUTPUT FALLS 16.0% IN MONTH (largest on record)

Things are rapidly deteriorating…

  • *KLITSCHKO URGES UKRAINIANS TO FLOCK TO INDEPENDENCE SQUARE
  • *KLITSCHKO SAYS MAIN TASK TO AVOID BLOODSHED
  • *KLITSCHKO SAYS UKRAINE FORCES MAY STORM INDEPENDENCE SQUARE
  • *KLITSCHKO URGES WOMEN, CHILDREN TO LEAVE INDEPENDENCE SQUARE
  • *UKRAINE RIOT POLICE AMASS ON PERIMETER OF INDEPENDENCE SQUARE

The death toll is rising (and hundreds are injured)

  • *UKRAINE INTERIOR MINISTRY SAYS ONE POLICEMAN SHOT DEAD TODAY
  • *UKRAINE SAYS 37 POLICEMAN INJURED IN CLASHES WITH PROTESTERS
  • *UKRAINE OPPOSITION SAYS 3 KILLED IN CLASHES, 7 CRITICAL
  • *TWO MORE DEAD BODIES DISCOVERED AMID KIEV PROTESTS: INTERFAX

The world condemns…

  • *EU’S ASHTON `DEEPLY WORRIED’ ABOUT RENEWED UKRAINE VIOLENCE
  • *GERMANY TO MAKE ALL EFFORTS TO RESOLVE CONFLICT: STEINMEIER
  • FRENCH FOREIGN MINISTER FABIUS CONDEMNS VIOLENCE IN KIEV (FR)
  • *SIKORSKI SAYS UKRAINE URGENTLY NEEDS POLITICAL COMPROMISE
  • *US DEMANDS YANUKOVYCH END VIOLENCE IN KIEV, AFP SAYS

And now the military vehicles are rolling:

Turkey tightens control over judiciary – Europe – Al Jazeera English

Turkey tightens control over judiciary – Europe – Al Jazeera English.

Legislation gives the government more control over how judges are appointed amid violent scuffles between legislators.

Last updated: 15 Feb 2014 15:34
Turkey’s parliament has passed a bill tightening government control over the appointment of judges and prosecutors, with legislators violently scuffling over the contested reforms introduced amid a majorcorruption scandal.The bill would give the Justice Ministry greater sway over the Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK), an independent body responsible for appointing members of the judiciary. The legislation approved on Saturday also gives the justice minister the right to launch investigations into its members.

The opposition says that the reform package is a “government manoeuvre” to limit fallout from a graft investigation that has ensnared top allies of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

The law is an apparent indicator of the ruling AKP attempt to cover the corruption investigationAykan Aydemir, CHP lawmaker

“The law is an apparent indicator of the ruling Justice and Development Party’s [AKP] attempt to cover the corruption investigation by redesigning the judiciary,” CHP legislator Aykan Aydemir told AFP news agency.

The measures were passed on Saturday morning with 210 votes in favour and 28 against.

Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) Deputy Ozcan Yeniceri criticised the bill, saying it was aimed at “meeting the needs of the AK Party” to delay the graft investigation in which dozens of prominent business people, the sons of three cabinet ministers, and state officials were questioned.

Parliament resumed debate of the bill on Friday despite an uproar from opposition parties and the international community who warned it threatened the independence of the judiciary in the country, which hopes to join the European Union.

Ilter Turan, political analyst at Bilgi University, told Al Jazeera that the bill is bound to generate criticism both locally and internationally.

“The Turkish prime minister promised the European Union to observe the rules of the EU as regards to democratic practises. So this is bound to generate negative responses among the opposition domestically and will put Turkey in a difficult position internationally,” said Turan.

Violent scuffle

Fighting erupted with fists flying in the air between ruling party and opposition legislators as the bill was debated overnight into Saturday in a marathon 20-hour sitting.

Overnight debate on the bill left MP Kokturk with a bloodied nose [Reuters]

Ali Ihsan Kokturk, legislator from the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), got a bloodied nose in the brawl, while ruling party legislator Bayram Ozcelik’s finger was broken.

CHP had said on Thursday it would appeal the bill in the Constitutional Court if it was approved in parliament.

The battle for control of the HSYK, the body which appoints senior members of the judiciary, lies at the heart of a feud between Erdogan and US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen.

Gulen, who is said to have millions of followers, has built up influence in the police and judiciary over decades. Erdogan blames him for unleashing the corruption investigation, which he sees as a way of unseating him.

The government has reassigned and dismissed thousands of police officers and hundreds of judges and prosecutors since the graft scandal erupted on December 17.

The risk of reporting US drone strikes – Features – Al Jazeera English

The risk of reporting US drone strikes – Features – Al Jazeera English.

Yemen researcher says he received a death threat after investigating deadly wedding-convoy attack.

 Last updated: 12 Feb 2014 14:17

A photo of alleged victims killed in a December 12, 2013 drone strike in central Yemen [Reprieve]
The disturbing phone call came after Baraa Shiban investigated a drone strike on a wedding party that killed 12 people in central Yemen in December. A clear message was delivered to the human rights researcher over the phone after a major news network reported the story based on his research.

“The caller refused to identify himself and threatened my life if I continued my investigation of the strike,” Shiban told Al Jazeera, noting he conducted similar studies of US drone operations in the past, but had never before received death threats.

Shiban works for the UK-based human rights group Reprieve and interviewed survivors two days after the attack. His investigation ascertained that 12 people were killed after four missiles were fired at the convoy. There were also 14 victims with severe wounds; some lost limbs, others their eyes.

Along with the eyewitness testimony, Shiban gained access to video and still images of the alleged victims of the drone strike. Photos of the aftermath of drone attacks – whether in the tribal regions of Pakistan, or in the deserts of Yemen – are rarely captured. Most occur in obscure regions with hostile terrain, making access difficult for journalists and activists.

I was in the front car and I heard a huge explosion. I went out to see what happened and suddenly another two missiles hit the place. Everyone in the car behind us got killed.

– Mohammed Abdullah al-Taisi,drone victim

 

On December 12, 2013 , about 60 people were traveling in a convoy to attend the wedding near the city of Radda, in Yemen’s central province of al-Bayda. At about 4:30pm, the drivers halted the vehicles when they heard an aircraft approach.

“I was in the front car and I heard a huge explosion,” recalled victim Mohammed Abdullah al-Taisi. “I went out to see what happened and suddenly another two missiles hit the place. Everyone in the car behind us got killed.”

Equipped with the evidence Shiban went to the media, and a day later he received the call threatening his life.

“Just because the people were in a convoy of trucks, they were assumed to be militants and the decision was made to target them,” he said. “The people who died were shepherds and farmers. There was clearly a wedding party.”

Fear and anger

Drones piloted by the CIA and the Pentagon have operated in Yemen since 2002, killing hundreds of people – mostly members of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, but also dozens of civilians.

Peter Schaapveld is psychologist who traveled to Yemen to study the programme’s effects. He told British members of parliament in March 2013 that the constant presence of drones in the skies was causing a “psychological emergency” in the country.

“What I saw in Yemen was deeply disturbing,” Schaapveld said . “Entire communities – including young children who are the next generation of Yemenis – are being traumatised and re-traumatised by drones. Not only is this having truly awful immediate effects, but the psychological damage done will outlast any counter programme and surely outweigh any possible benefits.”

Reports of the missile strike, on a seemingly innocent wedding party, have infuriated nearly every sphere of Yemeni society, including many of the country’s top politicians.

Family members of drone strike victim Aref al-Shafee [Abubakr al-Shamahi/Reprieve] 

“The fact that the Yemeni parliament has just passed a resolution banning drones in Yemeni airspace, and that the National Dialogue has criminalised the use of drones for extrajudicial killing, demonstrates that a national consensus has been reached that these brutal and unlawful attacks are unacceptable,” Shiban said.

Reprieve said the US government is now investigating the strike in Radda following Shiban’s work. The human rights group said the Defense Department was targeting Shawqi Ali Ahmed al-Badani , whom the White House accused of organising a bomb plot that led to 19 US embassies being closed last year.

‘US values and policy’

Caitlan Hayden, a spokeswoman for the US National Security Council, noted that Yemen’s government had stated the targets of the operation were “dangerous” senior al-Qaeda figures. She said she couldn’t comment on this specific attack.

“We take extraordinary care to make sure that our counterterrorism actions are in accordance with all applicable domestic and international law and that they are consistent with US values and policy … And when we believe that civilians may have been killed, we investigate thoroughly,” Hayden told Al Jazeera .

But one survivor of the December drone attack, Salam al-Taisi, insisted no one from the wedding party was involved in terrorism. “None of the victims had anything to do with al-Qaeda or any other group. They were all from the area and all were poor villagers,” he said.

The deaths in Baydah have more resonance considering President Barrack Obama’s announcement upholding the “highest standard” when conducting operations using unmanned aerial vehicles.

“Before any strike is taken, there must be near-certainty that no civilians will be killed or injured,” Obama said in a speech at the National Defense University on May 23, 2013.

Yemen’s security forces have also scrutinised Shiban’s work on the US drone programme. But it’s not just the Yemeni police that have shown interest in him.

Baraa Shiban from human rights group Reprieve [Al Jazeera]

On September 23 last year, he arrived in the United Kingdom with the intention of speaking at a conference at Chatham House . But at Gatwick Airport he was stopped by police and questioned under Schedule 7 of the British government’s Terrorism Act 2000.

“I was asked about my investigation of the covert US drone attacks in Yemen. When I asked why the question was relevant, I was threatened with further detention,” Shiban said.

Drone-reporting dangers

Apparent attempts to suppress any kind of criticism of US covert operations are not new.

In Pakistan, an anti-drone campaigner set to testify before European parliaments has gone missing in the city of Rawalpindi. Kareem Khan , whose brother and teenage son were killed in a drone attack in December 2009, was picked up at his home by security forces in the early hours of February 5, his lawyer said. He hasn’t been heard from since.

Shiban said he is also well aware that the path he’s on now could lead to the same fate of Yemen-based journalist Abdulelah Haider Shaye .

On December 17, 2009, the Yemeni military announced it had successfully destroyed an al-Qaeda camp in al-Majala in Abyan province. But after travelling to the town, Shaye discovered it wasn’t at all an operation carried out by his government, but in fact a US cruise missile strike. And he discovered the people who died weren’t al-Qaeda fighters but innocent civilians. Among the 41 people killed, more than two-thirds were women and children.

Shaye was arrested on August 6, 2010 by Yemeni security forces and charged that October with aiding al-Qaeda by recruiting new operatives for the group. By January 2011, he was convicted and sentenced to five years in prison.

International human rights groups condemned his trial as a sham , which couldn’t provide any credible evidence of his alleged al-Qaeda associations. Shaye was being punished for exposing a US covert operation that resulted in a massacre.

After being incarcerated for nearly three years, Shaye was pardoned in July 2013 but one of the conditions of his release is he must not leave the Yemeni capital, Sanaa, for two years.

Asked about Shaye’s case, and the threats he’s received to his own life, Shiban said he’s determined to carry on highlighting the impact of drone strikes.

“This is an issue of vital importance to Yemen’s future, and I and other human rights activists will continue to defend the basic rights and democratic wishes of the Yemeni people,” he said.

Uranium mine troubles Native American groups – Features – Al Jazeera English

Uranium mine troubles Native American groups – Features – Al Jazeera English.

The project would be built on a mountain considered sacred by Navajos and Pueblos in New Mexico.

 Last updated: 09 Feb 2014 13:14

Mounds of radioactive waste dot the eastern portion of the Navajo Nation in the US state of New Mexico. The earthen monoliths contain contaminated material from the more than 250 abandoned uranium minesthat once provided the raw materials for the US nuclear complex.

As the Cold War ended, so did the demand for uranium. Yet growing international investment in nuclear energy has led to the prospect of renewed uranium mining in New Mexico, including the controversial newRoca Honda mine located on Mount Taylor, an area considered sacred by the Navajo and Pueblopeoples of the southwestern United States.

“If developed, Roca Honda will be a huge underground mine with tremendous impacts,” said environmental attorney Eric Jantz. “This mine could destroy people’s water, land, their places of worship – all for the purposes of funnelling profits to a Canadian company that is in turn selling it to Korea.”

The Roca Honda project, operated by Energy Fuels, is one of four proposed New Mexico uranium mines in the permitting stage, said Jon J Indall, an attorney representing the four mining companies ready to begin operations in the coming years. “The market is a bit sluggish now, but these operations are poised to catch the next upswing.”

The prospect of renewed uranium development has triggered a contentious debate in New Mexico, a state still reeling from the radioactive contamination caused by uranium mining and the economic decline that followed the exit of the industry from the country’s third-poorest state.

“These four projects have the potential to provide 1,000 jobs and millions of dollars in tax revenue,” Indall told Al Jazeera. “This, all for a state whose economy is not exactly booming.”

Navajo opposition

But many from the Navajo Nation vehemently oppose the return of an industry that left hundreds of abandoned and un-reclaimed mines, mill sites and waste piles on indigenous lands. These continue to contaminate water, soil, livestock and housing, causing heath problems for an impoverished and historically marginalised native community.

Larry King, a former miner and member of the Eastern Navajo Dine Against Uranium Mining (ENDAUM), said: “People still talk about Three Mile Island and Chernobyl. Church Rock, where I am from, had the largest radioactive accident in US history, and 19 abandoned mines that remain today, [are] poisoning our community. But no one talks about this, they talk about new mining instead.” 

Oh God yes, this economy needs [uranium mining] bad! Things have changed… I think a lack of education has people still thinking uranium mining is dangerous.

– Jack Farley, miner

Beginning in the 1950s, thousands of Native Americans like King found work in New Mexico’s uranium mines. They were often poorly paid, unprotected and uninformed about the dangers of uranium dust inhalation and chronic radiation exposure.

Nadine Padilla, the director of the MASE coalition, an organisation formed in 2008 by communities affected by mining, spoke to Al Jazeera about what she said were the health effects caused by the mining. “Every day I see people with kidney disease, respiratory problems, and many women fighting various forms of cancer. People still live in houses made with radioactive material from the mills… Baca, where my family is from, has one of the most polluted groundwater systems in the state.”

But others from the region welcome the return of the industry. When asked about his thoughts on new uranium mining projects, Jack Farley, who has worked as a miner for 28 years, exclaimed, “Oh God yes, this economy needs it bad! Things have changed. When I worked there were no laws. I worked 500-1,000 working levels of radiation – that’s 999 times what is allowed now. But I think a lack of education has people still thinking uranium mining is dangerous.”

Health and controversy

The harmful effects of exposure to radon, a radioactive gas often found in uranium mines, are well-known. Yet an absence of health studies or environmental monitoring have led to a poor understanding of the effects of the uranium legacy on the Navajo Nation.

“Part of the reason is that these are marginalised communities, low income, communities of colour, indigenous communities,” said Jantz. “They don’t have the political power or the resources it takes to get the federal government or state government to do the basic science behind the health costs of uranium mining.”

The Church Rock Uranium Monitoring Project (CRUMP) began in 2003 to assess the effects of the 1979 tailings dam failure, which released 1,100 tons of radioactive waste into the Puerco River, and other abandoned mines. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, at the infamous Church Rock mine, “residents graze sheep, cattle and horses, and collect herbs around the area. Due to the proximity of the residents to the mine site, this mine was identified as the highest priority for cleanup by US EPA and Navajo Nation EPA of over 500 abandoned uranium mines on the Navajo Nation.”

King said, “Even before the ’79 spill, contamination from untreated mine watering would flow through our community. After the dam break, it only continued. Kids used to play in the wash, in the mine waste – there were no fences, no signs. I used to graze our sheep where the mines were.”

The CRUMP finding showed contamination of numerous wells and springs in the communities in and around Church Rock, as well as dangerous radon levels in homes made with contaminated materials – equivalent to a lifetime cancer risk of smoking one to two packs of cigarettes a day.

A more comprehensive health study, still under way, found that of the 1,300 people surveyed, “those people living closer to waste site were more likely to have hypertension, auto-immune disease, while people who had history of exposure during active mining had an additional likelihood of kidney disease”, as principal investigator Johnnye Lewis told Al Jazeera.

[Marginalised communities] don’t have the political power or the resources it takes to get the federal government or state government to do the basic science behind the health costs of uranium mining.

– Eric Jantz, environmental lawyer

In response to the contamination, the Navajo Nation enacted a moratorium on uranium mining in 2005, as well as a ban on transporting uranium across reservation land.

Now, the prospect of new mining projects has created a rift within the country’s largest Native American reservation, as certain chapters and officials have come out in support of new uranium projects.

A new bill sponsored by Navajo Council Delegate Leonard Tsotsi has allowed Uranium Resources, Inc to construct a “demonstration project” that would extract uranium ore in the Church Rock chapter. The legislation, seemingly at odds with the uranium ban, has been endorsed by chapter president Johnny Henrie as well as a number of other prominent Navajo officials. Henrie was unavailable for comment for this article.

Some, including Navajo activist Leona Morgan, assume foul play. “These are old tactics from the past, divide-and-conquer. Today, companies target families who have rights to lease their land, they target politicians and offer them something. Right now, everyone is wondering what Leonard Tsotsi and these pro-uranium families are getting.”

King, who lives just across the road from the proposed mine, agreed with Morgan’s assessment. “These men are supposed to protect the community. But you show them a little green, and that changes.”

Increased demand?

In the end, the prospect of new uranium mining will likely have less to do with the internal controversy than with global economic factors related to the growth of the nuclear energy industry.

According to a January 3 report by the World Nuclear Association, there are 435 operable reactors in the world right now, 71 reactors under construction, 172 planned, and another 312 have been proposed.

As Curtis Moore, the director of investor and public relations at Energy Fuels, told Al Jazeera, “There is clearly significant growth in the industry. We’re going to have to get the uranium from somewhere. There is certainly a probability some will come from New Mexico.”

The controversy over renewed mining is far from over, but Curtis believes it comes down to economy. “Uranium mining has gotten a bad rap in the past. But the bottom line is that these projects create jobs, they create tax revenues, they provide clean nuclear energy for the world.”

But King remains sceptical. “Clean has not been my experience.”

Global Defense Spending to Grow After Years of Decline – Bloomberg

Global Defense Spending to Grow After Years of Decline – Bloomberg.

Photographer: Julian Abram Wainwright/Bloomberg

The U.S. remained the top spender last year, at an estimated $582.4 billion, followed… Read More

Defense spending globally will increase this year for the first time since 2009 military budgets surge in Russia, Asia and the Middle East, according to an annual defense budget review by IHS Jane’s.

Four of the five fastest-growing defense markets last year were in the Middle East, the study found, according to a statement by the company. The defense budgets of Russia and China combined will exceed total defense spending of the European Union by 2015.

“Russia, Asia and the Middle East will provide the impetus behind the growth in global military spending expected this year and will drive the recovery projected from 2016 onwards,” Paul Burton, director of IHS Jane’s Aerospace, Defence and Security, said in the statement.

Russia, which is projected to increase defense spending by more than 44 percent in the next three years, now ranks as the third-largest military spender, pushing the U.K. into fourth place, the study showed.

The U.S. remained the top spender last year, at an estimated $582.4 billion, followed by China, with $139.2 billion. Russia spent $68.9 billion.

No region has seen a faster surge in defense spending than the Middle East, where Oman and Saudi Arabia have increased their military budgets by more than 30 percent in the last two years, the study said. Saudi Arabia’s budget has tripled in 10 years.

“We have seen a rapid acceleration of defense spending in the Middle East since 2011,” said Fenella McGerty, a senior IHS analyst, in the statement.

China’s Spending

China, already the No. 2 spender, will spend more than the U.K., France and Germany combined by 2015, McGerty said. China is forecast to spend $159.6 billion that year, compared with $149 billion for the three largest markets in Western Europe.

Total global defense spending this year is projected to reach $1.547 trillion, a 0.6 percent increase from last year’s $1.538 trillion, after adjusting for inflation, the study said.

That increase is the first since 2009.

“The decline in global defense spending over the past five years or so has been heavily influenced by the decline of the U.S. defense budget,” which was cut as part of the drawdown from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, said Guy Eastman, a senior analyst.

“Combined with decreases in Western Europe, the portion of global defense represented by the West has and will continue to decrease over the near term,” Eastman said in the company statement.

U.S. Contractors

Major U.S. defense contractors, including Lockheed Martin Corp. (LMT), Boeing Co., Northrop Grumman Corp. (NOC) and Raytheon Co., are expecting to increase their international sales — especially to the Middle East — for everything from jet fighters to missile defense, said Kevin Brancato, a Bloomberg Government defense analyst.

Even so, the global market for these companies may be unchanged or decline slightly this year, particularly if Russia and China are driving the overall growth, Brancato said.

The study also identified long-term opportunities for defense companies in sub-Saharan Africa, where military spending rose by 18 percent last year. Angola’s spending grew 39 percent last year.

While the African market is expanding, “it still accounts for less than 2 percent of defense spending globally, so growth will need to continue in order for more opportunities to arise in the long term,” McGerty said.

IHS Jane’s is part of IHS Inc. (IHS), based in Englewood, Colorado.

To contact the reporter on this story: David Lerman in Washington at dlerman1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: John Walcott at jwalcott9@bloomberg.net

Russia backs Syria on chemical weapons plan – Middle East – Al Jazeera English

Russia backs Syria on chemical weapons plan – Middle East – Al Jazeera English.

US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel also urged the Syrian government to intensify removal efforts [AP]
Russia has backed Syria as acting in good faith to eliminate its chemical weapons, after the US accused the government of Bashar al-Assad of stalling the plan due to end in June.

Mikhail Ulyanov, a Russian diplomat, was quoted by the Interfax news agency on Friday as saying that there was no need for additional pressure on Damascus over the destruction of its stockpiles.

“We see that the Syrians are approaching the fulfilment of their obligations seriously and in good faith,” he said.

The comment came after the US said just four percent of Syria’s declared chemical stock has been eliminated.

Efforts to remove these materials from Syria have “seriously languished and stalled”, said ambassador Robert Mikulak in a statement to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) on Thursday.

“Syria must immediately take the necessary actions to comply with its obligations under the Chemical Weapons Convention, Executive Council decisions, and UN Security Council Resolution 2118,” said Mikulak, the US permanent representative to the OPCW.

Timelines adopted last year required that 100 percent of “priority one” chemicals be eliminated by December 31, 2013, while the deadline for removing “priority two” chemicals is Feburary 5. That deadline will also not be met.

The Syrian government has attributed the delays to “security concerns”, saying it needs additional equipment to ensure their safe transportation – a claim Mikulak rejected.

“Syria’s requests for equipment and open-ended delaying of the removal operation could ultimately jeopardise the carefully timed and coordinated multi-state removal and destruction effort,” he said.

During a visit to Poland on Thursday, US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel also criticised Syrian efforts, saying he has asked his Russian counterpart to put pressure on Damascus to comply with the deal.

“I do not know what the Syrian government’s motives are – if this is incompetence – or why they are behind in delivering these materials,” Hagel told reporters in Warsaw, the capital. “They need to fix this.”

Peace talks continue

Meanwhile, peace talks between the Syrian government and the opposition continued on Thursday, with UN mediator Lakhdar Brahimi reporting little progress.

In an afternoon update to the media in Geneva, Switzerland, Brahimi said he hoped the two sides would “draw some lessons” from the first round of talks, scheduled to end on Friday, in hopes of becoming better organised for the next round.

 

Geneva 1’s call for a transitional government

Terrorism was among the topics discussed on Thursday, Brahimi said, although there was no agreement on how to deal with it.

“We had tense moments and also rather promising moments,” he said.

Opposition delegation spokesman Louay Safi told reporters that the two sides had spoken about stopping the violence in Syria, noting the opposition presented evidence of government massacres within residential neighbourhoods.

Safi said the government wanted to speak first about issues such as ending the violence and bringing humanitarian aid, instead of dealing with the trickier issue of a political transition. “We believe this is the wrong sequence,” he added.

The opposition views a transitional government as the first step towards a political solution, and has insisted that President Bashar al-Assad step down.

The Geneva 1 communique, a never-implemented roadmap developed during 2012 talks, calls for a transitional government, but the regime denies the document requires Assad to resign.

US-China Rivalry More Dangerous Than Cold War? | The Diplomat

US-China Rivalry More Dangerous Than Cold War? | The Diplomat.

US-China Rivalry More Dangerous Than Cold War?

Mearsheimer says a war between the US and China will be more likely than a US-Soviet one was during the Cold War.

zachary-keck_q
January 28, 2014
 1.6kThe prominent realist international relations scholar John Mearsheimer says there is a greater possibility of the U.S. and China going to war in the future than there was of a Soviet-NATO general war during the Cold War.

Mearsheimer made the comments at a lunch hosted by the Center for the National Interest in Washington, DC on Monday. The lunch was held to discuss Mearsheimer’s recent article in The National Interest on U.S. foreign policy towards the Middle East. However, much of the conversation during the Q&A session focused on U.S. policy towards Asia amid China’s rise, a topic that Mearsheimer addresses in greater length in the updated edition of his classic treatise, The Tragedy of Great Power Politics, which is due out this April.

In contrast to the Middle East, which he characterizes as posing little threat to the United States, Mearsheimer said that the U.S. will face a tremendous challenge in Asia should China continue to rise economically. The University of Chicago professor said that in such a scenario it is inevitable that the U.S. and China will engage in an intense strategic competition, much like the Soviet-American rivalry during the Cold War.

While stressing that he didn’t believe a shooting war between the U.S. and China is inevitable, Mearsheimer said that he believes a U.S.-China Cold War will be much less stable than the previous American-Soviet one. His reasoning was based on geography and its interaction with nuclear weapons.

Specifically, the center of gravity of the U.S.-Soviet competition was the central European landmass. This created a rather stable situation as, according to Mearsheimer, anyone that war gamed a NATO-Warsaw conflict over Central Europe understood that it would quickly turn nuclear. This gave both sides a powerful incentive to avoid a general conflict in Central Europe as a nuclear war would make it very likely that both the U.S. and Soviet Union would be “vaporized.”

The U.S.-China strategic rivalry lacks this singular center of gravity. Instead, Mearsheimer identified four potential hotspots over which he believes the U.S. and China might find themselves at war: the Korean Peninsula, the Taiwan Strait and the South and East China Seas. Besides featuring more hotspots than the U.S.-Soviet conflict, Mearsheimer implied that he felt that decision-makers in Beijing and Washington might be more confident that they could engage in a shooting war over one of these areas without it escalating to the nuclear threshold.

For instance, he singled out the Sino-Japanese dispute over the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands, of which he said there was a very real possibility that Japan and China could find themselves in a shooting war sometime in the next five years. Should a shooting war break out between China and Japan in the East China Sea, Mearsheimer said he believes the U.S. will have two options: first, to act  as an umpire in trying to separate the two sides and return to the status quo ante; second, to enter the conflict on the side of Japan.

Mearsheimer said that he thinks it’s more likely the U.S. would opt for the second option because a failure to do so would weaken U.S. credibility in the eyes of its Asian allies. In particular, he believes that America trying to act as a mediator would badly undermine Japanese and South Korean policymakers’ faith in America’s extended deterrence. Since the U.S. does not want Japan or South Korea to build their own nuclear weapons, Washington would be hesitant to not come out decisively on the side of the Japanese in any war between Tokyo and Beijing.

Mearsheimer did add that the U.S. is in the early stages of dealing with a rising China, and the full threat would not materialize for at least another ten years. He also stressed that his arguments assumed that China will be able to maintain rapid economic growth. Were China’s growth rates to streamline or even turn negative, then the U.S. would remain the preponderant power in the world and actually see its relative power grow through 2050.

In characteristically blunt fashion, Mearsheimer said that he hopes that China’s economy falters or collapses, as this would eliminate a potentially immense security threat for the United States and its allies. Indeed, Mearsheimer said he was flabbergasted by Americans and people in allied states who profess wanting to see China continue to grow economically. He reminded the audience that at the peak of its power the Soviet Union possessed a much smaller GDP than the United States. Given that China has a population size over four times larger than America’s, should it reach a GDP per capita that is comparable to Taiwan or Hong Kong today, it will be a greater potential threat to the United States than anything America has previously dealt with.

Directing Conversations, Censorship, and Propaganda

Amerikan Democracy

Amerikan Democracy (Photo credit: Saint Iscariot)

One of the books I read recently is the classic, Propaganda, by Edward Bernays. I don’t recall what post or website I was on that referred to it but I thought it worth the read. I wanted to explore the concept of liberty and how manipulation of information by the elite could be weaved into my next book (Olduvai 2: Exodus).

As the writeup on Amazon states about Bernays and his book: “A seminal and controversial figure in the history of political thought and public relations, Edward Bernays (1891–1995), pioneered the scientific technique of shaping and manipulating public opinion, which he famously dubbed “engineering of consent.” During World War I, he was an integral part of the U.S. Committee on Public Information (CPI), a powerful propaganda apparatus that was mobilized to package, advertise and sell the war to the American people as one that would “Make the World Safe for Democracy.” The CPI would become the blueprint in which marketing strategies for future wars would be based upon. Bernays applied the techniques he had learned in the CPI and, incorporating some of the ideas of Walter Lipmann, became an outspoken proponent of propaganda as a tool for democratic and corporate manipulation of the population. His 1928 bombshell Propaganda lays out his eerily prescient vision for using propaganda to regiment the collective mind in a variety of areas, including government, politics, art, science and education. To read this book today is to frightfully comprehend what our contemporary institutions of government and business have become in regards to organized manipulation of the masses.”

On the advice of my marketing consultant for Olduvai, I have been more active in attempting to develop an ‘online personality and following.’ One of the ways I have been doing this is to comment on various news articles or opinion pieces that tie in to my book’s major themes (i.e. geopolitics, economy, energy, environment, liberty, etc.) via online comment sections of a limited number of media and theme-related websites, using my book cover as my avatar and adding my website address as a ‘signature’ at the bottom. It has proven to be remarkably effective in attracting readers to my website.

What I have noted is that a relatively small portion of my comments do not get past the ‘moderators’ at the two websites where I have done most of my posting, The Huffington Post: Canada (HPC) and the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC).

When you sign up to participate in such online discussions, your comments must meet certain criteria (CBC’s policy here; HPC’s here). Some of the criteria are fairly specific and not really open to much debate as to what is acceptable and what is not. For example, you may add up to three external links to your post or use French if responding on Radio Canada’s site. Other criteria are open to some disagreement over what is acceptable and what is not. Comments may not be threatening, harrassing, or sexually explicit. Some, however, are open to such broad interpretation that almost any comment could be deemed to be in violation. You may not make repetitive comments, for example. But what defines repetitive? If you interpret the world through a particular lens, for example Christainity, you will very likely bring the concept of God or Christ into your comments. Or, as I tend to do now, your global schema may consider the concepts of exponential growth and energy depletion as fundamental to how you view events. Regardless, my point is that the latitude that is given to moderators allows for personal biases and interpretations to direct the online discussion of many of these websites. I have found that CBC ‘disables’ my comment but continues to show it via my personal profile. The Huffington Post simply ‘loses’ it in the internet ether somewhere, no online record of the comment is visible.

There appears to be at least a couple of different methods used by these corporations to steer conversations. The comment can be entirely ‘disallowed’ or it can be held in queue for an extended period of time while others get through and  then are posted far down the list, buried several pages in.

I also believe that some commentators are ‘blacklisted’ in the sense that their comments are not posted automatically but held up so that they may be moderated/censored more assiduously. I am certain that I am one of those whose comments have been flagged for greater scrutiny. I have sent communcation to both websites enquiring as to the process that is used, yet I have received no response to date (several weeks now).

The HPC’s flagging is quite interesting/humourous. For virtually every one of my posts, I get the message “Due to the potentially sensitive nature of this article, your comment may take longer to appear publicly.” It does not matter what the topic of the article is; apparently all articles have a ‘potentially sensitive nature’, even those in the sports section. Today (Jan. 30/14), I have been quite frustrated at not being able to challenge an article penned by Conrad Black in the HPC who argues that JP Morgan CEO, Jamie Dimon, has become a rich man due to his merit. I attempted to point out several instances of Mr. Dimon’s bank participating in market rigging, fraud, and corruption in order to boost their bottom line, but none of the posts got past the censors.

The conclusion I have reached is that these two sites  work to direct the online conversation, especially when certain assumptions are challenged. To be fair to CBC, often my comments are disabled due to me adding my signature (website address) to the bottom; when I resubmit without the website, the comment is usually posted. However, there is absoluetly no consistency here as many of my comments with my website address are posted. And, every once in a while one does not get posted regardless of the presence or not of my website address.

Bernays himself states the following in the book: “The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country.” [An interesting sidebar to Bernays is that he worked with the American government to control the narrative of at least one government coup organised by the CIA: Guatemala (1957), where he worked with E. Howard Hunt a CIA operative associated with both the Kennedy assassination (eerily similar to the Guatamalan assassination) and Watergate.]

As Alex Jones’s website, InfoWars.com, suggests, there is a war on for your mind, and the corporate media is a large part of the propaganda campaign waged by the elite. Challenging biases, prejudices, assumptions, facts, opinions, etc. is important if we are to better understand the world and its complex isues. Disallowing such challenges through censorship serves only the status quo. As Dr. Nafeez Mosaddeq Ahmed states in his introduction to Censored 2013: Dispatches From the Media Revolution, it is important “to uncover and showcase news stories, in the public interest, that have been ignored, misreported, or simply censored by the  so-called ‘mainstream,’ but more accurately, the corporate media.” It seems it will only be through independent media and bloggers that people will gain a broader perspective of world events and narratives. It will not be through the elite and their corporate media.

Why is this so? I defer to Murray Rothbard in his essay, Anatomy of the State: “…the State is that organization in society which
 attempts to maintain a monopoly of force and violence in a given territorial 
area….[it] provides a legal, orderly, systematic channel for the predation of 
private property; it renders certain, secure, and relatively ‘peaceful’ the 
lifeline of the parastic caste in society…[and] the majority must be 
persuaded by ideology that their government is good, wise, and, at least, 
inevitable…ideological support being vital to the State, it must unceasingly 
try to impress the public with ‘legitimacy,’ to distinguish its activities from 
those of mere brigands.” (emphasis added)

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