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Thursday, 25 March 2010

Ukraine ponders pipeline sell-off

As the financial crisis lengthens and deepens across Europe, Ukraine is now considering a sell off of state controlled pipelines to various commercial interests, notably Gazprom.
This week he opened negotiations with the Kremlin to sell control over the pipelines’ operations to a consortium including Ukraine’s usual antagonist in these disputes, Russia’s natural gas giant Gazprom, and an unspecified European company.

Russia has already negotiated similar agreements with Belarus and Armenia, where Gazprom owns stakes in the pipeline systems with implied vetoes over strategic energy decisions and in exchange sells gas at steep discounts. Belarus, for example, now pays $168 for 1,000 cubic meters of gas compared with $305 in Ukraine.

If Ukraine had the lower price, it would save about $3.7 billion a year, supporters of Mr. Yanukovich’s proposal say.

Ironically, it is IMF strictures that demand reduction in oil and gas subsidies, as well as state asset privatization, that will potentially net Russia the prize of "supremacy of the Eurasian pipeline network."


Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Global Water Vector

A troubling vector:

Click on image for a larger version

A tiny island claimed for years by India and Bangladesh in the Bay of Bengal has disappeared beneath the rising seas


Water is moving from fresh to salt.  For humans, and almost every other modern life form, this is the most significantly worry fact of global warming.More

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

The Hong Kong Redirect

The Google v. China political fisticuffs has all the business and political pages atwitter.  In a seeming fit of "don't be evil" righteousness, Google had decided that Google China will be henceforth redirected to Google Hong Kong, or until such time as China rescinds its censorship laws.  No one is holding breath on that.

This is an interesting gambit by Google, and one which Shockfront applauds.  We've been critical of Google and their dominating paradigm of advertising, for fuck sakes, as the future of mega-business, but this is a ballsy move, regardless the motive.  For it would have politico-economic repercussions, and indeed, is having now.
China’s biggest cellular communications company, China Mobile, was expected to cancel a deal that had placed Google’s search engine on its mobile Internet home page, used by millions of people daily. In interviews, business executives close to industry officials said the company was planning to scrap the deal under government pressure, despite the fact that China Mobile has yet to contract with a replacement.

China’s second-largest mobile company, China Unicom, was said by analysts

Bad Water & War

With the advent of World Water Day, March 22, we have some indication of the bleak state of potable water and public health.  Be sure to check out National Geographic's World Water Day in Pictures, "Epic Disappearing Acts."
A total of 880 million people around the globe do not have access to clean water, while 2.7 billion lack proper sanitation facilities.
More people die from unsafe water than from all forms of violence, including war, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Monday in a message to mark World Water Day.

The United Nations children's agency UNICEF noted that more than 155 million people, or 39 percent of the population in West and Central Africa, do not have access to potable water, with only eight of 24 countries in the region on track to meet key poverty-reduction targets by 2015.

"These deaths are an affront to our common humanity, and undermine the efforts of many countries to achieve their development potential," Ban said as the issue was discussed at a high-level UN General Assembly dialogue.

"Day after day, we pour millions of tons of untreated sewage and industrial and agricultural wastes into the world's water systems," he said, noting that clean water has become scarce and would be even scarcer as a result of climate change.

US Secretary of State Hillary


Sunday, 21 March 2010

French land regionals blow on Sarkozy

Ah, the French.  Shockfront loves the French, and all their trenchant car burning, for the French have landed a body blow to Sarkozy, and now he is not so anymore.  He is SarlUMPymattress.
President Sarkozy's centre-right UMP party has suffered a heavy defeat in the French regional elections.

With over 97% of votes counted, the Socialist-led opposition alliance took 52% of the vote with the UMP on 35%.

Prime Minister Francois Fillon acknowledged the defeat, admitting the the left's "success" and is expected to offer his resignation.

The results leave the UMP in control of only one of France's 22 regions, the Alsace region in the east.

These elections are the last major electoral test in France before the presidential election in 2012.

With approval ratings at an all time low, and having suffered a major blow in the regionals, in response to this dire political landscape, Sarkozy is planning a "modest reshuffle of the government."  Which should fix everything.

Friday, 19 March 2010

Israel Lobby Launches on Commander CENTCOM

Now, this will be interesting to watch.  The ADL is taking a swing at General Petraeus.  Okay, let's settle this; who's the dog and who's the tail?  Of course, what is publicly presented in the resolution of such a scrap will have been rotated, and possibly translated, through several orthogonal planes of n-dimensional scheme space from the originating scheme plane.  All of which means, nothing is as it appears, and the title of this blurb is completely wrong. 

General David Petraeus has come under fire from the Anti-Defamation League for comments he made before the Senate Armed Services Committee this week in which he suggested that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict foments anti-American sentiment due to the perception that the US favors Israel.

"Enduring hostilities between Israel and some of its neighbors present distinct challenges to our ability to advance our interests in the area of responsibility," Petraeus said Wednesday. "Arab anger over the Palestinian question limits the strength and depth of U.S. partnerships with governments and peoples [in the region]."

In a statement released Thursday, the ADL labeled Petraeus' views on the issue "dangerous and counterproductive."

"Gen. Petraeus has simply erred in linking the challenges faced by the U.S. and coalition forces in the region to a solution of the Israeli-Arab conflict, and blaming extremist activities on the absence of peace and the perceived U.S. favoritism for Israel," the statement said.


Tony Blair and his secret go-juice ride

Not that you would think otherwise, dear readers, but there is a notable inability here at Shockfront to resist quoting, at length, stories with the words, "secret," "links," and "oil " in the headline.  The "Tony Blair" part is, whew, a big bonus.
Tony Blair's secret links to Gulf oil giants were revealed today as fresh details emerged of his “carte blanche” support for George Bush's Iraq war.

The former prime minister has been in the pay of the Kuwaiti government and a South Korean oil firm for up to 18 months, a parliamentary watchdog has revealed.

But the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments allowed Mr Blair to keep his contracts secret because of “market sensitivities” and because the Kuwaitis requested confidentiality.
And then there is … the memo.  More school yard love note, really.
In a further revelation, a classified memo from Mr Blair to President Bush showed the full extent of his support for the toppling of Saddam Hussein.

The personal note — which has been seen by the Chilcot Inquiry but not released by the Government — shows that Mr Blair wrote: “You know, George, whatever you decide to do, I'm with you.”

The contents of the memo, which is buried in Andrew Rawnsley's book The End Of The Party, confirm the exact words Mr Blair used to offer his strong backing for Bush in July 2002, eight months before the invasion.

The Chilcot committee was barred from quizzing Mr Blair publicly about the private notes to the US president when he gave evidence in January. Downing Street has refused permission to release the secret documents.
These issues [...]More

The 9/11 "Probe"

More just a tickle, really.
"9/11 panel was warned not to probe too deeply"
And didn't they do just that?

From torture extracted "details" that constructed the terrorist narrative arc*, to the lying exposed by The Ground Truth, wherein the fantastical stories concocted by the FAA and Norad were reported as the "facts of the day" by the 9/11 Commission, the official story of 9/11 remains riddled with fantasy, fraud and fiction.  Indeed, "the facts," as exposed to the 9/11 Commission and others, appeared to emerge as candy from a struck piñata; scattered, partially random in ejection.  What? don't like that candy?  Here, we'll take another whack, and we do mean whack, see how you like the next batch.

For continuity's sake, all parties agreed, against the wishes of the aggrieved, to hush it up, and not to "probe too deeply" into the construction of the terrorists' narrative about their "jihad," a narrative then being extracted by torture in Guantanamo Bay while the 9/11 Commission sent the torturer questions via the CIA.  The terrorists' narrative, as reported by the 9/11 Commission, was born in the USA.
Leaked confidential documents have revealed that senior officials from the former US administration had warned a 9/11 investigation panel against probing too deeply into the terrorist attacks.

In a letter obtained by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the 9/11 Commission was refused permission to question terror suspects, with the Bush administration arguing that by doing so the panel would "cross" a "line" and obstruct the administration's efforts to protect

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

China Moves on SoAm Oil Front

Cnooc takes a 50% stake in Argentine oil explorer Bridas Energy subsidiary Bridas Corporation; holdings in Argentina, Bolivia, and Chile.
Cnooc, China’s top offshore oil explorer, said on Sunday that it had secured a South American beachhead by agreeing to pay $3.1 billion in cash for a stake in one of the largest Argentine oil explorers, with fields in Argentina, Bolivia and Chile.

The acquisition is the Chinese oil industry’s latest move to expand its reach around the world. Starting at the beginning of the decade, companies like PetroChina, Sinopec and Cnooc began buying assets across Africa, Asia and the Middle East to drive the country’s booming economy. More recently, they have struck deals to develop Iraq’s huge reserves and Canada’s oil sands.

Cnooc, a unit of the China National Offshore Oil Corporation, said it would form a joint venture with the Argentine oil explorer, Bridas Energy, by acquiring a 50 percent share in one of the company’s subsidiaries, the Bridas Corporation.

The Bridas unit has proven reserves of 636 million barrels of oil, and daily production of 92,000 barrels a day. It owns 40 percent of Pan American Energy, the Argentine oil producer, with BP owning the rest.

Global Economic Domination: Tastes Like Chicken

Those bloody Chinese!  At it again with their clever exploitation of international trade rules.

A lot of griping sallies forth, but one striking passage did not escape notice.  Currently, under these exploitable trade rules, China has four WTO complaints filed against two other economic regions: two against the United States, and two against the EU, respectively on "poultry and tires," and "steel fasteners and poultry."

What are we to glean from this interesting little fact? That, in the global struggle for economic domination between forces East and West, the common commodity denominator in geo-economic trade disputes is … chicken.


DHS scraps SBInet

And Boeing takes a hit.  Considering how badly they reacted the last time they were nipped on a juicy government contract, this move by Napolitano may not go down without a fight.  Boeing, of course, will have what will surely be some hot Minute Man outrage to back their claims on taxpayer money.
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano has put the brakes on SBInet, the $3 billion plan to build a virtual fence along the U.S. border with Mexico.

“Not only do we have an obligation to secure our borders, we have a responsibility to do so in the most cost-effective way possible,” Napolitano said in a statement Tuesday. “The system of sensors and cameras along the Southwest border known as SBInet has been plagued with cost overruns and missed deadlines.”

With that in mind, Napolitano is withholding funding for the program’s first deployment until a review she ordered in January is finished. And she’s taking away $50 million in stimulus funds from the Boeing-managed program.

Now, mind you, this isn't the end of the "virtual" border fence, just that SBInet is not living up to the Boeing hype, and so a replacement is being sought. />More

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

WHO Pandemic Phase 6: Kaching!

Wolfgang Wodarg, a member of the German parliament, tells the European Council in Strasbourg that "millions of people worldwide were vaccinated for no good reason." According to Wodarg, the WHO's classification of the swine flu as a pandemic have earned the pharmaceutical companies $18 billion in additional revenues. Annual sales of Tamiflu alone have jumped 435 percent, to €2.2 billion.

"We wanted to overestimate rather than underestimate the situation,"
-- Keiji Fukuda
World Health Organization (WHO)

Well, they sure as shit did that now, didn't they?

"Sometimes some of us think that WHO stands for World Hysteria Organization."
-- Richard Schabas,
Former CMO
Province of Ontario

Though notably less lethal than nominal seasonal flu, swine flu hit the rafters with a media/CDC/WHO/BigPharma swing.  Finally, a human-to-human transmissible!  Hell, it even sounded dirty.  Gotta be bad.  Terribly, terribly bad.  Of course, the pig, swine, cloven hoof, it gets all Biblical in no time.  Further media spectacle was to be had in the odd range of actual victims, furthering the weirdness and intrigue.

Blaze your way to Der Spiegel's tale of the pandemic nature of the swine flu.
Swine flu kept the world in suspense for almost a year. A massive vaccination campaign was mounted to put a stop to the anticipated pandemic. But, as it turned out, it was a relatively harmless strain of the flu virus. How, and why, did the world overreact?
Here's a core nugget:
three weeks before the swine flu was declared a pandemic, 30 senior representatives

US, UK face downgrade threat on approach to "debt reversibility band"

If this isn't a metaphor for, well, almost everything; the facade faces a downgrade.
The U.S. and the U.K. have moved “substantially” closer to losing their AAA credit ratings as the cost of servicing their debt rose, according to Moody’s Investors Service.

Under the ratings company’s so-called baseline scenario, the U.S. will spend more on debt service as a percentage of revenue this year than any other top-rated country except the U.K., and will be the biggest spender from 2011 to 2013, Moody’s said today in a report.

“We expect the situation to further deteriorate in terms of the key ratings metrics before they start stabilizing,” Cailleteau said. “This story is not going to stop at the end of the year. There is inertia in the deterioration of credit metrics.

”The U.S. government will spend about 7 percent of its revenue servicing debt in 2010 and almost 11 percent in 2013, …

Under its adverse scenario, which assumes 0.5 percent lower growth each year, less fiscal adjustment and a stronger interest-rate shock, the U.S. will be paying about 15 percent of revenue in interest payments, more than the 14 percent limit that would lead to a downgrade to AA, Moody’s said.

Financing costs above 10 percent put countries outside of the AAA category into a so-called debt reversibility band, the size of which depends on the ability and willingness of nations to reduce their debt burden by raising taxes or reducing spending. The U.S. has a 4 percentage-point band, while the U.K. has a 3 percentage-point band.

Monday, 15 March 2010

Who contols the present, controls the past ....

And, apparently, the idiots are running the show in Texas.
For the next ten years, millions of students in Texas and across the country will read history textbooks suggesting that the actions of witch-hunt instigator Joseph McCarthy were justified. They will read about religious icon John Calvin instead of Thomas Jefferson. They will read a description of the US government that includes the words "constitutional republic" but not the word "democratic."

These are just a few of the changes an ultra right-wing Texas Education Board has tentatively approved for the state's history curriculum. There is one more stage for approval, but the board voted yes to the changes in a 10-5 vote. That's 10 Republicans voting yes and 5 Democrats voting no, making the chances for reevaluation almost negligible.

Once fully approved, it will be a decade before the board reviews the curriculum again.

"I am very distressed," said Mary Helen Berlanga, D-Corpus Christi, who sponsored an unsuccessful amendment to mention that Tejanos were among the fallen heroes of the Alamo.

Most of the board's members make no secret of their intent to instill their own religious and political ideologies into public schools, and the consequences of their activism have far-reaching consequences.


Sunday, 14 March 2010

US Ups Indonesian Military Ante

The military-brick path of US foreign policy receives some refurbishment from the Obama administration, as Obama now considers rescinding a ban on US military support for Indonesia, sanctions enacted after the brutal crackdown in East Timor by Indonesian Special Forces, Komando Pasukan Khusus (Kopassus).

I cannot quite discern how this is "changing the ways of Washington," but it seems acceptable to the various dweeb factions of Obama-land.  After all, forcing, under threat of law, the purchase of a a very profitable, and guaranteed to be more so, commercial product, is a wonderful step forward in the delivery of health care in the US.

To give him some credit, Obama is certainly picking up some unaddressed pieces left over by the Bush days.  What a hand-off this couplet has managed.  Obama wants to train, or possibly retrain, likely war criminals operating under guise of state authority, deep in the jungles of Indonesia.  Now, that's continuity!
The administration of President Barack Obama hopes to resume United States training of an elite Indonesian military unit whose members have been convicted of gross human-rights abuses in East Timor and elsewhere in the sprawling archipelago.

The leaders of Indonesia's controversial special forces division - the Komando Pasukan Khusus, or Kopassus - were in Washington to discuss the proposal this week.

Its meetings come ahead of President Barack Obama's state visit to Indonesia later this month. The trip will launch "The US-Indonesia Comprehensive Partnership"enhance security and economic cooperation between the two countries.

"In the next few months, the US State Department will conduct a review of the
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