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Shockfront

Tuesday, 30 December 2008

The World According to Conflict

There are many parameter spaces by which we might describe and characterize the world.  GDP, health statistics, income levels, all can impart some coloration to understanding.  But conflict, of course, is one of the primary parameter sets in the world today.

Via Stealth Conflicts comes a conflict map of the world.  Compare and contrast the relative sizes of regions in this parameter space, as opposed to what we here and know about those regions within the parameters of news and media coverage.

Map of conflict-related deaths (1990-2007)

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Nigerian Army Repels Oil Raid

Working to keep Shell Oil profits safe:
Nigerian troops have repelled a raid by armed militants on an oil-pumping station run by the local unit of Italy's Eni SpA, killing three attackers.

Soldiers guarding the Tebidaba facility of the Nigeria Agip Oil Company Ltd. fought attackers who came in speedboats yesterday, capturing four injured militants, said Colonel Rabe Abubakar, a spokesman for the military task force in charge of security in the oil region.

Attacks by armed groups in the southern delta, which produces almost all of Nigeria's oil, have cut its crude exports by more than 20 percent since 2006.

The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, the main armed group fighting in the region, said its fighters were not involved in the Tebidaba incident as it was still abiding by its September unilateral cease-fire.

“Whenever hostilities resume, we will take responsibility for any attack we carry out,” Jomo Gbomo, spokesman for the group known as MEND, said in an e-mail today.

The militant group says it is fighting for the poor of the Niger Delta, who are yet to share in the oil wealth pumped from their region.

Nigeria's Niger Delta region, generating huge oil wealth, which is in contrast to the impoverished life of local people, has drawn worldwide attention in 2008 with rampant sabotage on oil facilities and kidnapping.

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269

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That is the number of war crimes documented in a new book, George W. Bush, War Criminal? The Bush Administration's Liability for 269 War Crimes, by Professor Michael Haas. The Foreword to the book is written by former Nuremberg prosecutor Benjamin Ferencz.

The crimes are categorized by chapter:

Crimes of Aggression
Crimes Committed in the Conduct of War
Crimes Committed in the Treatment of Prisoners
Crimes Committed in the Postwar Occupations
Tribunals for War Crimes Prosecution


Get yours today!
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The Hollow Man

“With them, it is all about tanks and land and controlling territories and controlled territories and this hilltop and that hilltop. All these things are worthless.

"Who thinks seriously that if we sit on another hilltop, on another hundred meters, that this is what will make the difference for the State of Israel’s basic security?”
-- Ehud Olmert,
September 30, 2008


Israel has rejected calls for an immediate cease-fire. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert called the four-day bombardment of Gaza "the first of several stages", suggesting that the conflict is far from over.
-- Israeli raids change everything,
Press TV,
30 Dec. 2008

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Beat Down, Gaza

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As the assault on Gaza continues, with more promised, Israeli gunboats are now ramming humanitarian aid ships to prevent the delivery of medical supplies -- clearly needed -- to the beleaguered strip of hell.  After all, Israel is a peace-loving nation we are told, over and over again.  Why else would they try to stop the delivery of humanitarian aid, if not for love and want of peace?  All those US military aid dollars are being used to maximum effect.  Military aid smacking down humanitarian aid; the metaphor of our age.

That most media outlets and commentators insist on calling this murderous beat down a "battle" or, even more obtusely, a "war," remains beyond examination, as does the psychotic cheer leading seen across the spectrum of pontificators.  Palestinians deserve this, you see, because they voted for Hamas! And we just can't have that.

A summary of conditions within the prison is provided by Sarah Roy.  Eroding conditions have been exacerbated by a stranglehold siege, wherein Israeli officials demand that [...]More

Sunday, 28 December 2008

Russo-Ukraine Tit For Tat

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The swath of post Russo-Georgian conflict friction continued its widening course recently when Gazprom and Ukraine's Naftogaz recognized that they would not likely complete a new natural gas agreement before the end of the year.  Indeed, the stalemate of such an agreement likely stemmed from Ukraine's failure to pay accounts already past due, which Russia claims stands at some $2 billion for gas so far delivered.  The fracture was further exacerbated when President Medvedev then announced on Russian television that
"The debt should be paid to the last ruble if they do not want the economy to suffer from Russian sanctions. The situation cannot be tolerated any longer."
Once again, Ukraine could face sanctions in the form of a threatened cut off from Gazprom gas supplies, just as occurred in January of 2006.

Never to be undone by Muscavite acrimony, Ukraine's marginalized president, Viktor Yushchenko, announced two days later that Ukraine would  not extend a 1997 agreement with Moscow on the use of Russian military bases [...]More

Stealth Conflicts

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It has been the great good fortune of Shockfront to have been paid a visit by Dr. Virgil Hawkins, Assistant Professor at the Global Collaboration Center (GLOCOL), Osaka University, Japan, and author of the book, Stealth Conflicts, How the World's Worst Violence is Ignored.  Dr. Hawkins stopped in and left a comment on the article Imperial Clash on the Congo Resource Front.  From Japan!  The internet is awesome.

Hawkins also has a blog of the same name, Stealth Conflicts, which I expect I will now be checking frequently.

As the subtitle of his book suggests, Hawkins attempts to explain how monstrous conflicts and humanitarian disasters, such as we see (or, rather, don't see) in the Democratic Republic of the Congo today.  Having only recently been tipped off to Hawkins book (thanks, Dr. Hawkins!) I look forward to reading his ideas on why this egregious state of affairs exists and how it occurs.

From his website, you can read the introduction to the book, which ought to give you some idea about Hawkins thesis on the matter.  A short primer describes the overall aim of the book:
Many of the world's deadliest conflicts are largely ignored – becoming off-the-radar 'stealth conflicts'. How can this be possible in a world with unprecedented levels of access to information, and unprecedented levels of attention and resources being
[...]More

Saturday, 27 December 2008

Israeli "Shock Treatment" Kills 200 in Gaza

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During what is now the "bloodiest one day death toll in 60 years of conflict," Israeli Defense Forces launched a massive air strike campaign against supposed Hamas "security compounds,"  which are, in fact, police stations, claiming that Hamas had failed to halt rocket attacks emanating from Gaza.  While Hamas has not been responsible for those attacks -- Islamic Jihad has been the party involved -- Israel claims that Hamas nevertheless bears responsibility for them, which in turn means that the Gaza civilian population must suffer the consequences for their poor democratic choice.  The death toll now sits at 208 people, with over 700 hundred wounded.

Despite the fact that Israeli forces have been unilaterally violating terms of the presumed six month "ceasefire," Hamas recently announced that the cease fire was over.  While it may surprise casual observers that an ceasefire was actually in effect, the six month agreement never resulted in anything approaching peace and calm.  Israel tightened and even ratched up sanctions on Gaza during this so-called ceasefire, distressing further an already destitute population.  In the aftermath of the ceasefire, the gloves are now off, and Israel has jumped at the opportunity to inflict a major blow [...]More

IMF Loan to Pakistan "will exacerbate slump and poverty"

Countries teetering on the edge of stability were particularly vulnerable to destabilizing effects that would inevitably stem from the world financial crisis.  Pakistan was one of the first such countries to go wobbly.  After China refused a loan request from Pakistan, the IMF became the loan officer of last resort.  At the time, the expected turn to the IMF was deemed a "politically unpopular prospect."

After decades of the crushing yet entirely routine "austerity measures" that the IMF always demands in exchange for their generally undesirable largess, countries around the world have grown to loathe the prospect of IMF loans.  They are well aware of what exactly these loans are meant to do: create a western-oriented client state through indebtedness, economic ruin and increased poverty.*  After all, a country that prospers cannot be bent to heel, which is exactly why IMF (and World Bank) loans are structured the way they are.  They are not meant to help but to hinder.**

World economic powers turned away from the politically unstable, nuclear-armed Pakistan and forced the new government to turn to the IMF for a hand-out.  As expected, that $7.6 billion loan is coming with some unpleasant strings attached, harming both the public at large and local businesses.
The conditions the IMF is attaching to its loan to Pakistan will severely impact the country's workers and toilers. They include: eliminating all subsidies on energy, petroleum products, and fertilizer; slashing government spending, including "non-priority" development spending; and raising taxes.

In order to pave the way for the IMF loan, Pakistan's central
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Friday, 26 December 2008

Pak Troops Move to India Border

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As Pakistani protesters burned the flag of India (well, that's a change), the back blowing Global War on Terror™continues its sordid daily unraveling on news that Pakistan redeployed "thousands of troops" from the tribal regions bordering Afghanistan to the Pakistan border towns of Kasur and Sialkot, "near the Indian border."
Pakistan has started to redeploy thousands of troops to the Indian border from the tribal areas near Afghanistan, intelligence officials said Friday, raising tensions in the aftermath of the Mumbai terror attacks.

The move was expected to frustrate the United States, which has been pushing Pakistan to step up its fight against al-Qaida and Taliban militants near the Afghan border.

India has blamed Pakistani-based militants for last month's siege on its financial capital, which killed 164 people and has provoked an increasingly bitter war of words between nuclear-armed neighbors that have fought three wars in 60 years.

The troops headed to the Indian border were being diverted away from tribal areas near Afghanistan, the two officials said. They said elements of the army's 14th Infantry Division were being redeployed to the towns of Kasur and Sialkot, close to the Indian border.

The military began the
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Islamic Forces Verge on Somalia Takeover

Much as they did in 2006, Islamic militant forces are on the verge of seizing complete control over Somali.  A militant break-off wing of the Islamic Courts Union (ICU) now holds some 80 per cent of the country.  The US-backed Ethiopian army, which invaded at the behest of the Bush administration, is due to withdraw from Somalia at the end of the year, having sewn nothing but hatred and death across the land.  The ridiculous puppet regime installed in Mogadishu was never in, any sense, legitimate and held no sway over the ousted Islamic factions, who have constantly fought against the foreign proxy invasion.

Taking the usual signals from the Bush administration and the Pentagon, western media outlets -- really just dumpsters of Pentagon IO output -- rarely fail to claim that Somalia "could become a new al Qaeda stronghold" after two brutal years of Ethiopian occupation and US air strikes that, more likely than not, killed an array of farmers and "nomadic herdsmen."

Nonetheless, the IO is pumping furiously in an effort to generate support for further US military incursions into Somalia on two fronts: al Qaeda threats and piracy.  While everyone seems bent on tackling the pirates, al Qaeda activity remains soley the  product of fevered minds in the Pentagon.

The entire Ethiopian operation has been a predictable disaster, both in foreign policy terms and for those war-blasted Somalis caught in the path of the Bush administration's blunt force trauma device known as the Global War on Terror™.< [...]More

Thursday, 25 December 2008

Ebola Outbreak in Congo

Good grief.  As though the afflicted population of Congo didn't have enough to worry and stress about, now ebola is breaking out there.
A mysterious disease that has killed nine people in southern Democratic Republic of Congo has been identified as the deadly Ebola virus, the Congolese health minister said on Thursday.

The virus appeared in southern Western Kasai province on Nov. 27, and blood and stool samples were sent to laboratories in Gabon and South Africa for identification.

“Following the analysis of samples taken in (the village of) Kalwamba, it is now recognised that we are facing an epidemic of the viral haemorrhagic fever Ebola,” said health minister Auguste Mopipi Mukulumanya.
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US Police: Bring on the Pain

In what is a derivation of US military efforts on this front, the US "Justice" Department is looking at distributing "non-lethal" radiation-based weapons to police forces around the country.
The research arm of the US Department of Justice is working on two portable non-lethal weapons that inflict pain from a distance using beams of laser light or microwaves, with the intention of putting them into the hands of police to subdue suspects.

The two devices under development by the civilian National Institute of Justice both build on knowledge gained from the Pentagon's controversial Active Denial System (ADS) - first demonstrated in public last year, which uses a 2-metre beam of short microwaves to heat up the outer layer of a person's skin and cause pain.

Like the ADS, the new portable devices will also heat the skin, but will have beams only a few centimetres across. They are designed to elicit what the Pentagon calls a "repel response" - a strong urge to escape from the beam.

A spokesperson for the National Institute for Justice likens the effect of the new devices to that of "blunt trauma" weapons such as rubber bullets, "But unlike blunt trauma devices, the injury should not be present. This research is looking to reduce the injuries to suspects," they say.

Existing blunt trauma weapons can break ribs or even kill, making alternatives welcome. Yet ADS has recorded problems too - out of several thousand tests on human subjects there were two cases of second-degree burns.
Torture will soon be just a fingertip away.More

Oil Floats on Water

While the titular statement is an accurate description of the physical behaviour resultant of the relative specific gravities of the two compounds, it also is a true statement of the state of oil markets.  Oil companies and commodity traders are storing vast sums of oil in supertankers as world petroleum demand continues to plunge.  More than 50 million barrels of oil are currently resting in the hulls of supertankers, and looking for somewhere to go.
Oil companies and traders are storing at least 50m barrels of oil in supertankers in a clear sign of supply outstripping demand as the global economy slows.

The surge in floating storage, – enough to meet France’s oil imports for a month and the biggest since late 2001–, is likely to push the Opec oil cartel, which is due to meet on Wednesday in Oran, Algeria, to make a deeper production cut to reduce stocks. Storing oil in tankers is unusual as it is significantly more expensive than inland.

Abdullah al-Badri, Opec’s secretary general, said on Monday: “Stocks are very high. We have to act. We see a very sizeable reduction [in production].”Chakib Khelil, Opec president, said: “Everybody is supporting a cut.”
OPEC apparently can't cut production as fast as demand is dropping and also as commodity traders are dumping short term contracts in the face of futther price drops.

NYMEX crude is now sitting at $35.35/bbl.
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Tuesday, 23 December 2008

The Right to Food

The United Nations Sixty-third General Assembly

Vote on Right to Food

The draft resolution on the right to food (document A/C.3/63/L.42/Rev.1) was approved by a recorded vote of 180 in favour to 1 against, with no abstentions, as follows [click more to see the vote against]:

In favour: Afghanistan, Albania, Algeria, Andorra, Angola, Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Bahamas, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Barbados, Belarus, Belgium, Belize, Benin, Bhutan, Bolivia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Botswana, Brazil, Brunei Darussalam, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cambodia, Cameroon, Canada, Cape Verde, Chad, Chile, China, Colombia, Comoros, Congo, Costa Rica, Côte d’Ivoire, Croatia, Cuba, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Denmark, Djibouti, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Estonia, Ethiopia, Fiji, Finland, France, Gabon, Gambia, Georgia, Germany, Ghana, Greece, Grenada, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Hungary, Iceland, India, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Latvia, Lebanon, Lesotho, Liberia, Libya, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Madagascar, Malawi, Malaysia, Maldives, Mali, Malta, Mauritania, Mauritius, Mexico, Micronesia (Federated States of), Monaco, Mongolia, Montenegro, Morocco, Mozambique, Myanmar, Namibia, Nauru, Nepal, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Niger, Nigeria, Norway, Oman, Pakistan, Panama, Papua New Guinea, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Republic of Korea, Republic of Moldova, Romania, Russian Federation, Rwanda, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Samoa, San Marino, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Serbia, Sierra Leone, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, Solomon Islands, South Africa, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Suriname, Swaziland, Sweden, Switzerland, Syria, Tajikistan, Thailand, the former Yugoslav Republic

[...]More
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