Aletho News

ΑΛΗΘΩΣ

Science Marchers, Secretary Perry’s Memo and Bill Nye’s Optimism

By Planning Engineer | Climate Etc. | April 24, 2017

On April 14th, 2017 Rick Perry wrote a memo headed “STUDY EXAMINING ELECTRICITY MARKETS AND RELAIBILITY” calling for study to investigate how long term energy trends my impact the grid.

My “sciencey” friends on social media are linking to this article, “Energy Secretary Rick Perry Wants to Know if Solar is Eroding the Electricity Supply” and reacting with incredulity and derision. Overall the comments mostly are insults such as wondering if this is really an article from the Onion, to questioning if he were dropped on his head as a baby. As far as substance I have not seen much that has gone beyond asserting that various places with more solar and/or wind resources have better reliability and lower outage rates. If the later sort of comments were the start of a dialogue, that would be a good thing. Unfortunately they seem to be a way to emphasize the discussion is over and dismiss any concerns around renewables. Why does any potentially critical examination around the capabilities of renewable energy engender such outrage?

What is contained in the memo?

It starts out reasonably enough:

At the most recent G7 Energy Ministerial, my colleagues discussed the need for an energy transition utilizing greater efficiency and fuel diversity. There was also notable concern about how certain policies are affecting, and potentially putting at risk, energy security and reliability. It impressed upon me that the United States should take heed of the policy choices our allies have made, and take stock of their consequences.

A reliable and resilient electric system is essential to protecting public health and fostering economic growth and job creation. The U.S. electric system is the most sophisticated and technologically advanced in the world. Consumers utilize heating, air conditioning, computers, and appliances with few disruptions. Nonetheless, there are significant changes occurring within the electric system that could profoundly affect the economy and even national security, and as such, these changes require further study and investigation.

Discussing a need for an energy transition with greater efficiency and diversity sounds like a positive step and it is prudent to consider impacts on energy security and reliability. Clearly we should look at what other nations are doing. We do have a great electric system but there are changes underway that could profoundly impact the power system. It should be obvious we need further study and investigation.

Baseload power is necessary to a well-functioning electric grid. We are blessed as a nation to have an abundance of domestic energy resources, such as coal, natural gas, nuclear, and hydroelectric, all of which provide affordable base load power and contribute to a stable, reliable, and resilient grid. Over the last few years, however, grid experts have expressed concerns about the erosion of critical baseload resources.

Could not agree more. See my posting, Renewables and Grid Reliability, from January of 2016 for a full treatment of such emerging issues.

Specifically, many have questioned the manner in which baseload power is dispatched and compensated. Still others have highlighted the diminishing diversity of our nation’s electric generation mix, and what that could mean for baseload power and grid resilience.

Renewable resources are leaning on the power system. These are mainstream concerns that have increasingly been articulated in various forums. For more detailed treatment see, All megawatts are not equal and More renewables? Watch out for the Duck Curve.

This has resulted in part from regulatory burdens introduced by previous administrations that were designed to decrease coal-fired power generation. Such policies have destroyed jobs and economic growth, and they threaten to undercut the performance of the grid well into the future. Finally, analysts have thoroughly documented the market-distorting effects of federal subsidies that boost one form of energy at the expense of others. Those subsidies create acute and chronic problems for maintaining adequate baseload generation and have impacted reliable generators of all types.

I think coal fired-generation within the US has taken a hit which it is unlikely to recover from. Policies may have hastened the retirements of various coal facilitates, which if left alone might still be operational and contributing to the grid today. However with the cost of gas and its associated infrastructure it is too costly to bring back or construct new coal generation for the foreseeable future. I would not spend too much time crying over spilt milk.

Each of these and other related issues must be rigorously studied and analyzed, and the Department of Energy is uniquely qualified for the task. The results of this analysis will help the federal government formulate sound policies to protect the nation’s electric grid. In establishing these policies, the Trump Administration will be guided by the principles of reliability, resiliency, affordability, and fuel assurance-principles that underpin a thriving economy.

I’m glad to see the attention given to these important considerations. I would prefer the last sentence read, “In establishing these policies, the Trump Administration will be guided by the principles of reliability, resiliency, affordability, respect for the environment and fuel assurance-principles that underpin a thriving economy.” As argued here before (Balance and the Grid), energy policy must balance economics reliability and public responsibility. However I expect that in this case the Secretary may be trying to emphasize the major components that have suffered from a lack of attention.

I am directing you today to initiate a study to explore critical issues central to protecting the long-term reliability of the electric grid, using the full resources and relationships available to the Department. By Wednesday, April 19, 2017, present to me an implementation plan to complete this study 60-days from that date, that will explore the following issues:

  • The evolution of wholesale electricity markets, including the extent to which federal policy interventions and the changing nature of the electricity fuel mix are challenging the original policy assumptions that shaped the creation of those markets;
  • Whether wholesale energy and capacity markets are adequately compensating attributes such as on-site fuel supply and other factors that strengthen grid resilience and, if not, the extent to which this could affect grid reliability and resilience in the future; and
  • The extent to which continued regulatory burdens, as well as mandates and tax and subsidy policies, are responsible for forcing the premature retirement of baseload power plants.

I have committed to the President that this report will not only analyze problems but also provide concrete policy recommendations and solutions. I also committed to the President that I will do everything within my legal authority to ensure that we provide American families and businesses an electric power system that is technologically advanced, resilient, reliable, and second to none.

Certainly such information would help drive policy decisions. In closing he makes a strong commitment to advancing technology and providing resilience and reliability. This appears to be a perfectly reasonable request and commitment for the US Secretary of Energy to make. As mentioned earlier, perhaps this memo would include some commitment for environmental responsibility. But understand that in the United States we have multiple departments and agencies with often competing interests that are designed to provide balance. The Secretary of Energy will not operate in isolation and perhaps it is a good thing that he is primarily focused on “Energy” issues as his agenda will be balanced by other competing interests within our political process.

Reactions to the Memo

I struggle to find anything much of significance that anyone within the grid expert community would take issue with. Of course we will have to wait and see how the study comes out and examine its findings and conclusions. There may be problems at that point, but at this time it is just a call for information. Yet many “science fans” find Secretary Perry’s actions threatening, preposterous and ridiculous on the surface. Why is that?

The “science” support community as represented by recent marchers puts a lot of faith in what is seen as the consensus of climate experts. Evidently this respect for “experts” does not extend to grid experts. They tend to accept that there are no proper grid concerns because of assurances by those in the renewable industries, as well as those with strong self-promotional interests.

Does Mr. Nye have the answer?

I see “science fans” applauding and promoting Bill Nye’s call for 100% renewable generation by 2050.  One might think if one endorsed Mr. Nye’s plan it would also be prudent to encourage studies such as the one advocated by the Secretary of Energy. Certainly Mr. Nye is not a power systems expert, nor have I seen him reference any when he is explaining how such a transition can be accomplished. We should all be at least somewhat skeptical about the potential consequences of such a significant endeavor.

What I may be missing is the role of “optimism” which Mr. Nye assures us is a necessary ingredient for this transition. I’d seen hints of this before and perhaps what is happening is that far too many people obstinately reject any criticism regarding renewables because they believe that optimism is crucial if the planet is to be saved. Consequently no one should utter a disparaging word about any of the potential “preferred” renewable solutions. The view seems to be that we must get started now and we will work out the distracting details as we go along.

Perhaps this explains why those who view climate with extreme alarm often show no tolerance for criticism of renewable energy? Otherwise, why are grid experts not trusted? Grid experts have academic credentials, share a common body of knowledge, and continually build and alter their understandings based upon empirical evidence. Individually and collectively they work to be innovative and develop new approaches and challenge older perspectives. Grid experts have a proven track record of success. As I’ve argued before, grid experts do not for the most part have a strong vested personal interest in the status quo. An ambitious, aggressive transfer to greater renewables would increase the demand and likely compensation for most all existing grid experts.

Bill Nye says, “You are not going to accomplish anything unless you are optimistic”. Could it just boil down to a belief in optimism that causes the self-identified “science support community to recoil and scoff at projected potential risks to the grid? Is this the drive for so much anger and derision? Will increased knowledge and experience shrink the division? Certainly virtue signaling is going on, surely there is an element of tribalism, undoubtedly group think and cognitive dissonance play a part as well, but in the end is it just about optimism?

Hopefully it would go without saying, but let me be clear – The power system is a complex, crucial critical infrastructure that has overarching societal importance and benefits. Avoiding critical reflection while attempting to transition to something new, in order to maintain optimism with vague hopes that innovative solutions will somehow appear when needed is a ludicrous idea that will not only serve to harm us all, but will also work to retard the advance of future beneficial renewable technologies.

April 25, 2017 Posted by | Economics, Science and Pseudo-Science, Timeless or most popular | , | Leave a comment

Proposed US anti-Hezbollah bill will harm Lebanon

Al-Manar – April 25, 2017

Lebanese President Michel Aoun said yesterday that the new anti-Hezbollah sanctions bill that the US Congress is considering would “greatly harm Lebanon and its people”.

Aoun told a delegation from the American Task Force for Lebanon, an organisation that includes Americans of Lebanese heritage and businessmen, that ”the draft law that is being prepared in Congress to slap new financial sanctions on Lebanese parties, institutions and individuals will greatly harm Lebanon and its people.”

The president pointed out that Lebanon is making the necessary contacts to prevent the issuance of the law and welcomed any effort by the American Task Force for Lebanon in this regard.

US Congress is planning to review additional and tougher sanctions against Hezbollah and all its affiliates and allies, a move that could have negative political and financial ramifications on Lebanon if the proposals pass without amendments.

The proposed law might for the first time target the Amal Movement led by Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri as well as senior Hezbollah officials, headed by its Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah, members of his political bureau and parliamentarians.

April 25, 2017 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Economics, Wars for Israel | , , | Leave a comment

Medical marijuana program ‘could save US taxpayer $1bn’ – study

RT | April 24, 2017

A new study claims that medical marijuana use directly correlates with a decline in prescription drug use, which could save the US taxpayer up to $1.1 billion a year on Medicaid prescriptions.

The research follows up on another study carried out last year by Ashley Bradford and W. David Bradford which found that taxpayers would save half a billion dollars each year through the provision of medical marijuana.

“Patients and physicians in the community are reacting to the availability of medical marijuana as if it were medicine,” the father-daughter team wrote in their latest findings, published online this week in the Health Affairs publication. Medical marijuana is legal in 28 states and in Washington DC.

“Using quarterly data on all fee-for-service Medicaid prescriptions in the period 2007–14, we tested the association between those laws and the average number of prescriptions filled by Medicaid beneficiaries,” the researchers wrote.

The revised estimates in the latest study are even more optimistic, and predict that if medical marijuana was made available nationwide it would lead to: an 11 percent drop in prescriptions for pain medication, including opioids; a 17 percent drop in prescriptions for nausea medications; a 13 percent drop in depression medication prescriptions, and a 12 percent decrease in both anti-seizure and anti-psychotic medications.

All of which would amount to a total savings of up to $1.1 billion to the US taxpayer.

A study published on April 1 in the Journal of Drug and Alcohol Dependence also found that states which have legalized medical marijuana have seen an overall reduction in opioid-related hospitalizations per capita compared with those where the drug is still illegal, even for medicinal purposes.

The researchers did concede that a uniform replacement of FDA-approved treatments with medical marijuana across the board would be harmful.

However, they also disputed the Drug Enforcement Agency’s Schedule 1 classification of the drug which is reserved for drugs that have no “currently accepted medical use[s].”

US Attorney General Jeff Sessions has been a noted critic of marijuana legalization, claiming that “there’s more violence around marijuana than one would think,” in a meeting with reporters in February, as cited by CBS. He has also expressed surprise that the American people do not support his anti-marijuana stance.

April 24, 2017 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Economics, Malthusian Ideology, Phony Scarcity, Timeless or most popular | , | Leave a comment

Israeli travel agencies will soon have to promise not to send tourists to the West Bank

Ma’an – April 24, 2017

BETHLEHEM – Israeli authorities have notified Israeli travel agencies that they will be forced to sign a commitment pledging not to take groups of tourists to the occupied West Bank, according to a copy the notification obtained by Ma’an on Sunday.

In the Hebrew-language document dated April 23, the Border Control Department of the Israeli Population and Immigration Authority notifies travel agencies that as of May 15, the day when Palestinians commemorate the 1948 Nakba, they will have to “attach, with each request to bring a group of tourists into the country, a special form pledging that they will not send tourists to Judea and Samaria,” using the Israeli term for the occupied West Bank.

The document only addresses Israeli tourism agencies, and not individual would-be tourists.

The forms must be signed and sent to one of three Population and Immigration Authority email addresses listed in the document.

The document warns tourism agencies that their requests to bring groups of tourists would “not be processed” if the pledge was not signed and attached.

A spokesperson for the Israeli Population and Migration Authority could not immediately be reached for comment.

If implemented, the new regulation described in the document would be an additional blow to a suffering tourism industry in the occupied West Bank, which already has to contend with numerous unequal laws and restrictions that have crippled the Palestinian market, while investing millions of dollars in the Israeli market.

A number of sites which attract thousands of visitors each year, such as the Nativity Church in Bethlehem, could be affected by this directive.

“Israel’s occupation and colonization of Palestine is not limited only to its military elements, but is also manifested in its use of tourism as a political tool. It is a tool used to strengthen its position as occupying power, and to maintain its domination over Palestinian land and people, but also as an instrument for the dissemination of propaganda to millions of tourists, including politicians, community leaders and journalists who receive free-of-charge first class tours to Israel,” human rights lawyer and legal researcher Amjad Alqasis wrote in 2015.

As current regulations stand, when applying for visas, Israeli tourism agencies only need to submit names and passport numbers, while Palestinian agencies attempting the same are met with administrative obstacles, and cannot guarantee that their visa requests will be accepted.

Tourists who tell Israeli border control officials of their intention to visit the occupied West Bank also face the possibility of undergoing lengthy interrogations, or even deportation for alleged security reasons, or without being provided an explanation at all.

When tourists are able to reach the occupied West Bank, they are then forced to negotiate with hundreds of Israeli checkpoints and other military obstacles that restrict movement for Palestinians both within the West Bank and along its borders with Israel and Jordan.

“Another obstacle to operating a tour is the presence of 500,000 to 600,000 illegal Israeli Jewish settlers currently living in the occupied Palestinian territory,” who “constitute a growing and consistent threat to Palestinian livelihoods,” including Palestinian tour guides, Alqasis noted.

April 24, 2017 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Economics, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , , | Leave a comment

Fools Rush In: Europe Pursues Israel Gas Deal for Political Not Economic Reasons

Sputnik – April 24, 2017

An Israel-Europe gas pipeline deal elevates Israel to the status of a major Mediterranean energy exporter. However, critics suggest the move is about more than mere economics, and serves a number of greater geopolitical objectives – namely, immunizing Israel from criticism and sanctions, and damaging relations between Europe and Russia further.

Ministers from Israel, Greece, Italy and Cyprus, as well as the European Union Commissioner for Climate Action and Energy, signed a joint declaration in April, codifying a commitment to constructing a gas pipeline that will bring newly discovered natural gas in Israel [sic] to Europe.

The pipeline, described by Israeli Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz as “the longest and deepest subsea gas pipeline in the world,” is expected to be in operation by 2025.

Designated as a “project of common interest” by the EU, the pipeline has been marketed by both sides as an ideal alternative to the bloc’s continuing dependence on Russian energy — an overt indication the deal is being pursued for political rather than economic purposes. After all, high infrastructure costs coupled with low gas prices will almost by definition make it considerably dearer than the existing energy relationship between Russia and Europe.

The Atlantic Council Global Energy Center has even suggested the proposed project may never come to fruition, once the commercial difficulties inherent in making it operational become reality. Current European energy demands in no way commercially justify an additional gas supply source for the continent.

Furthermore, independent Palestinian human rights advocacy group Al-Haq has said the pipeline agreement will benefit corporations which directly profit from the occupation of Palestine — incentivizing Israel to maintain its current policy of illegal settlement expansion and its blockade of Gaza. If constructed, the pipeline will pump gas from Israel’s giant Leviathan field, the discovery of which in 2010 transformed Israel from a net importer of energy into a potential regional energy player — the field is estimated to hold around 20 trillion cubic feet of gas. Despite Lebanon arguing Leviathan sits partially in Lebanese waters, Israel has pushed ahead with international deals, selling 39.7 percent to US-based Noble Energy.

In March, Jordan became the first country to sign up for Leviathan gas. The move ignited waves of protest, on the basis the agreement would increase Jordan’s dependency on Israel, and potentially finance Israel’s occupation of Palestine.

Such concerns go beyond reflexive prejudice. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has noted the potential of gas deals to insulate the country from international condemnation and action.

“Ensuring the supply of gas is essential not only to the country’s functioning, but also to its existence. I regard the gas supply as a foundation of national security. A country that exports things crucial for other countries has far more power. The ability to export gas makes us more immune to international pressure. We don’t want to be vulnerable to boycotts,” Netanyahu said.

Moreover, in a report, Annexing Energy, Al-Haq noted it was “impossible” to geographically isolate gas fields in mainland Israel and characterize them as separate from the country’s ongoing conflict with Palestine.

“In 2011, Noble Energy, the lead operator of the Leviathan field, unilaterally extracted gas from a joint Palestinian gas field without Palestinian permission as required under customary international law and the Oslo Accords. Israel has also employed a brutal and unlawful naval operation to protect Noble Energy’s gas platforms beside the Gaza Strip, routinely attacking, killing and injuring civilian Palestinian fishermen who fish in the vicinity of Israel’s illegally imposed six-nautical-mile closure of Palestine’s territorial waters,” the report said.

In a perverse twist, the deal also comes at a time when Gaza continues to reel from a major energy crisis, which has seen power cuts lasting as long as 18 hours, and results from Israel blocking the region from developing its own resources.

The Al-Haq report concluded that if Palestinians were permitted to do so, their own energy needs would be satiated, and they would be economically self-sufficient, freed from their current aid dependency.

April 24, 2017 Posted by | Economics, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation, Russophobia | , , , , , | 1 Comment

China closes US’ exit door from Iran nuclear deal

By M K Bhadrakumar | Indian Punchline | April 24, 2017

The signing of the first commercial contract between China and Iran to redesign Iran’s Arak heavy water reactor is a landmark event in the implementation of the Joint Comprehensive Cooperative Plan of Action (JCPOA) of July 2015.

The Arak plant was a major sticking point in the saga of the Iran nuclear issue. Its conversion for purely commercial / civil use is a vital template of the Iran nuclear deal. The US and Iran agreed that China could be entrusted with the sensitive task of converting Arak plant, and China which played a significant role in the negotiation of the JCOPA agreed to undertake that task.

It has taken almost two years to flesh out the commercial contract. The contract was signed in Vienna where the IAEA is headquartered. The timing of the contract is extremely interesting – on the eve of a meeting of the commission on April 25 in Vienna, which is expected to review the progress of implementation of the JCPOA.

Today’s meeting in Vienna, in turn, is invested with high importance as it will be the occasion for the US to formally present its perspective on the JCPOA before the international audience after Donald Trump became president. Does the US intend to stick to the JCPOA or does it have ulterior designs to undermine it? The answer to this big question will emerge at today’s meeting in Vienna.

In the run-up to today’s meeting, top figures in the Trump administration have spoken about the JCPOA. Most notably, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson reported to the US Congress a week ago that Iran is complying with the terms and conditions of the JCPOA. Trump himself may say Iran is violating the “spirit” of the nuclear deal, but, importantly, Defence Secretary James Mattis underscored on Friday that not only is Iran sticking to the JCPOA but also that the 2015 agreement “still stands”.

Mattis’s remark resonates because he said this while on a visit to Israel and at a joint press conference with Defence Minister Avigdor Liberman. Clearly, despite its virulent opposition to the nuclear deal when it was under negotiation, Israel is now inclined to see the JCPOA as the best guarantee against Iran embarking on a nuclear weapon programme.

Conceivably, Trump who had threatened during the election campaign last year to tear up the Iran nuclear deal also sees things differently today. One principal reason would be that the US simply lacks international support to abandon the nuclear deal, which also carries the sanctity of UN approval. The European powers are pleased with Iran’s implementation of JCPOA. Russia strongly supports the JCPOA and with the signing of the commercial contract on Arak in Vienna yesterday, Beijing asserted that there is no question of going back on the nuclear deal.

However, the clout of the Israeli-Saudi Arabian lobbies in Washington cannot be ignored. These lobbies will do their utmost to cause disruptions in any normalization between US and Iran. They simply dread the prospect of US-Iranian normalization, which of course could phenomenally reset Middle East’s geopolitics.

Tehran has not gone into panic mode that Trump might tear up the JCPOA. It also understands the motivations driving the Trump administration’s allegations of Iran’s support of terrorism. Conceivably, if President Hassan Rouhani emerges victorious in the May 19 election, which seems almost certain, Tehran will use diplomacy and ‘soft power’ as its principal tools in turning the hostile external neighbourhood incrementally to its favour. (See my blog Iran’s presidential election takes predictable turn.)

Tehran will count on a savvy, street smart businessman like Trump to begin counting the loss to American interests at some point by continued self-denial of business in the Iranian market, especially when Russia and China are not wasting time to dip their fingers in the honey pot. (By the way, at a meeting yesterday, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif agreed on stepping up Sino-Iranian ‘comprehensive strategic partnership’ within the framework of One Belt One Road.)

For the present, though, Trump will tap into the Saudi fear of Iran to sell weapons to that country, extract petrodollars as investment in the American economy to create jobs as well as to promote American exports to the Gulf. In particular, Trump (and Wall Street) is besotted with the Saudi Aramco’s IPO, which is likely in 2018. The Saudis have an option to list the IPO in New York or London — or, by Jove, in Hongkong. Trump knows jolly well that the partial privatization could value Aramco at $2 trillion.

Unsurprisingly, therefore, Tillerson and Mattis made a beeline to Riyadh within the first 100 days of the Trump presidency. Don’t be surprised if Trump also packs bags and travels to Riyadh in the coming weeks. All in all, US-Iran normalization lies in the womb of time, but Trump’s advantage in the near term lies in making abrasive noises about Iran, which would play well in the Saudi court (and pacify Israel.) But the JCPOA as such will remain untouched.

April 24, 2017 Posted by | Economics, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Timeless or most popular, Wars for Israel | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Study: Police-Inflicted Injuries Send More Than 50,000 To Emergency Rooms EVERY YEAR

police brutality

By Lily Dane | The Daily Sheeple | April 19, 2017

A new study published by JAMA Surgery found that from 2006 to 2012, there were approximately 51,000 emergency department visits per year for patients injured by law enforcement in the United States, with this number stable over this time period.

From the press release:

During this time period, there were 355,677 ED visits for injuries by law enforcement, and frequencies did not increase over time. Of these visits, 0.3 percent (n = 1,202) resulted in death. More than 80 percent of patients were men, and the average age of patients was 32 years. Most lived in zip codes with median household income less than the national average, and 81 percent lived in urban areas. Injuries by law enforcement were more common in the South and West and less common in the Northeast and Midwest. Most injuries by law enforcement resulted from being struck, with gunshot and stab wounds accounting for fewer than seven percent. Most injuries were minor. Medically identified substance abuse was common in patients injured by police, as was mental illness.

The most common cause of injury was “being struck by or against” which accounted for approximately 77 percent of the ER visits.

Lead study author Dr. Elinore Kaufman, a surgical resident at New York-Presbyterian Hospital Weill Cornell Medical Center in New York City, told Live Science that mental illness was common, affecting 20 percent of people injured. She added that the study’s estimate of 51,000 emergency room visits per year does not include deaths that occur at crime scenes or people who are injured but do not seek medical attention.

Of the findings, the study authors wrote,

While public attention has surged in recent years, we found these frequencies [approximately 51,000 ED visits per year] to be stable over 7 years, indicating that this has been a longer-term phenomenon.

While it is impossible to classify how many of these injuries are avoidable, these data can serve as a baseline to evaluate the outcomes of national and regional efforts to reduce law enforcement-related injury.

According to The Counted, a database maintained by The Guardian, 1,146 people were killed by police in the US in 2015, and 1,092 lost their lives to law enforcement in 2016.

The Washington Post maintains a database called Fatal Force that tracks police shootings. So far in 2017, according to the database, 295 people have been fatally shot by police in the US.

A website called Killed By Police lists people who have been killed by police by all means, including gunshot, taser, restraint/physical force, chemical, vehicle, and “other.” The site is updated regularly, and as of the time of this writing, 343 deaths by law enforcement are documented.

April 23, 2017 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Economics, Subjugation - Torture, Timeless or most popular | , | Leave a comment

Iran opens up petrochemicals to world investors

Press TV – April 22, 2017

Executives of oil and gas companies from about 18 countries are attending an international conference on petrochemical industry in Tehran to explore Iran’s emerging role in global markets.

The international Iran Petrochemical Forum (IPF) opened Saturday with the participation of industry experts, traders, petrochemical producers, refiners, shipping and logistics companies as well as technology solution providers and engineering companies.

France’s oil and gas company Total and Germany’s industrial gases group Linde are leading the pack of more than 70 companies which have their nose on the ground for business in Iran.

They are coming from as diverse countries as the UK, Italy, Denmark, Belgium, Switzerland, Singapore, Japan, Turkey, India, Romania, Bahrain and Lebanon.

Their participation at the two-day conference raised the prospects of new deals being signed for investment in Iran’s massive petrochemical sector which aims to attract some $55 billion in the next 10 years.

No match for feedstock

Minister of Petroleum Bijan Zangeneh told the conference that no country possesses as much feedstock for petrochemical development as Iran. “This claim is based on the realities and our known oil and gas reserves,” he said.

Iran’s proven oil reserves of 157 billion barrels are the world’s third largest, while its gas reserves are the biggest. Taken together, the country owns the biggest hydrocarbon reserves in the world.

According to Managing Director of the National Petrochemical Company (NPC) Marzieh Shahdaei, Iran needs $55 billion for 60 projects in the petrochemicals sector over a period of 10 years.

Addressing the forum, she lauded Iran’s achievements in 2016 as “dazzling” during which the country’s petrochemical output hit 50 million tonnes.

“Net sales of petrochemical products last year reached 28 million tonnes worth $15 billion,” Shahdaei said, explaining that 21 million tonnes were sold to foreign clients at a value of $9.4 billion.

The official said raising this figure to 72 million tonnes in the current year was “not out of reach”, given “appropriate infrastructures and adequate feedstocks” which exist following Iran’s conclusion of nuclear talks.

LPG markets

The country seeks to more than double this capacity in the next decade, which requires between $7 billion to $10 billion of annual investment.

The forum comes on the heels of another event, titled the 2nd Argus Iran LPG and Petrochemicals Conference, held in Tehran on Tuesday and Wednesday, during which Tehran signed its first LPG contract with India, according to the Shana news agency.

The conference was held “to explore the growing importance of Iran’s role in the global LPG and petrochemicals markets and develop new relationships to navigate the evolving landscape,” its organizers wrote on their website.

Foreign investment

Iran currently accounts for 17 percent of the LPG trade in the Middle East, with the share expected to grow to 40 percent by 2020. Three new LPG separation units at Phase 19 of Iran’s South Pars development project came on stream last week.

Among foreign companies, Linde has said it had revived plant-engineering contracts in Iran that lay dormant for years under sanctions but could not act on them until there was a way to transfer money out of the country.

“We have already signed engineering contracts to resuscitate projects from years ago but the banking system has to be fixed first before we can start performing on these contracts,” Reuters quoted Chief Executive Aldo Belloni as saying last month.

In February 2016, the NPC announced that Linde and Japan’s Mitsui Chemicals were planning to invest $4 billion in Iran’s petrochemical industry.

April 22, 2017 Posted by | Economics | | Leave a comment

Financial Times: Russia’s oil and gas industry booming BECAUSE of sanctions

By Alexander Mercouris | The Duran | April 22, 2017

The sectoral sanctions the Western powers imposed on Russia in July 2014 because of the conflict in the Donbass continue to have paradoxical results.

The financial sanctions, which effectively prevented Russian companies from borrowing in Western financial markets, instead of causing the Russian economy to implode, have caused it to deleverage at an unprecedented rate, hugely strengthening Russia’s financial sector and the balance sheets of Russia’s companies, setting the scene for a coming investment boom.

The counter-sanctions Russia imposed prohibiting the importation of Western foodstuffs into Russia have led to a huge boom in Russia’s agriculture sector, as even the Financial Times was recently forced to admit, making Russia almost completely self-sufficient in food, and making it a major food exporter.

However perhaps the most paradoxical result of all has been in Russia’s oil and gas industry.

Western sanctions were supposed to cripple this industry – wrongly assumed in the West to be existentially important for Russia’s very existence – by depriving it of the technology it needed to develop the huge untapped oil and gas reserves Russia is known to have in the Arctic, and making development of its huge shale reserves, which are known to dwarf those of the US, impossible.

In the event the Financial Times has now admitted in a lengthy article that within less than three years of the sanctions being imposed the Russian oil and gas industry is in the throes of a technological boom, as Russian companies forge ahead with Arctic drilling, successfully replicating the very same Western technologies which were supposed to be beyond them:

… a drill began its 5,000m journey downwards, in search of oil deposits that the country is banking on to provide more than a quarter of its future output. Perched on the edge of a peninsula deep in the Arctic Circle, Tsentralno- Olginskaya-1 will be Russia’s northernmost oil well. Closer to the North Pole than to any city, it is a feat of engineering that uses equipment shipped 3,600km through icy waters navigable only for two months of the year.

The well is one of the most technologically challenging ever attempted in Russia. With the deposits located beneath the icy, frequently frozen waters of the Laptev Sea, cutting-edge horizontal drilling techniques will be used to reach up to 15,000m from the main site.

But it was also a moment of triumph for Mr Putin, who was beamed in via video conference from St Petersburg as Mr Sechin braved the frigid elements and who celebrated the start of drilling as an act of homegrown ingenuity.

Three years ago, when the US and EU imposed sanctions on the country that restricted companies such as Rosneft from foreign capital and technology, complex wells were exactly the kind of ambitious projects that were supposed to be rendered impossible. Western governments hoped that pressure on Russia’s main energy companies would help change Mr Putin’s political calculations. But as projects like Tsentralno-Olginskaya-1 attest, Russia’s oil and gas majors have found ways to carry on regardless.

“Horizontal drilling is a complex and high-tech operation. This is just the first well. There is much more work ahead,” Mr Putin told Mr Sechin in the heavily scripted conversation.

It seems according to the same article that the Russians are forging ahead with shale technology as well:

… 2,000km south-west of Tsentralno-Olginskaya-1 in western Siberia, Gazprom Neft, Russia’s third-largest oil producer, is showing few ill effects. Late last year, it became the first Russian company to demonstrate shale oil fracking expertise with a 1km-long horizontal well 2.3km below ground at a site in the vast Bazhenov field, estimated to be the world’s largest shale oil deposit.

Gazprom Neft was able to use homegrown technology that it was forced to develop after the sanctions prompted its international partners to walk away from the project.

“We are like a snowball,” says Sergey Vakulenko, head of strategy and innovation at the company, a unit of gas giant Gazprom. “The harder you squeeze, the harder we get.” …

“Sure, in terms of shale technology, we are a little behind the Americans. But in time, and definitely before we absolutely need to, we will get to where we need to be, sanctions or no sanctions,” says Mr Vakulenko.

“We could do it now, but we don’t need to,” he adds, referring to even more complex fracking techniques that will be required to fully exploit the Bazhenov field’s 75bn barrels of estimated reserves. “Why go after the high-hanging fruit when there is lower stuff available right now?”

The point about Russia not needing to go after the high-hanging fruit when there is an abundance of lower-hanging fruit for it to exploit is not bragging or propaganda. It was made to me a few months ago in person by a Russian scientist who is an expert in hydraulic fracking.

Perhaps even more striking than this news of technological advances is the Financial Times’ admission that the effect of the sanctions has been to make the Russian oil and gas industry financially stronger and more efficient:

“In terms of today’s projects, we are not at all affected [by the sanctions],” [Yakulenko] says in an interview at the company’s St Petersburg offices, where engineers use vast computer screens to remotely control drills at more than 600 wells across the country. “At their current configuration, they aren’t and won’t be painful, irrelevant of how long they are in place.”

Between 2013 and 2016, Russian crude oil production rose almost 6 per cent, more than twice as much as the rise in combined output from the Opec group of countries. Revenues at the country’s three largest producers have risen 11 per cent in that period.

The curtailment of foreign cash forced many to restructure their balance sheets with the help of domestic lenders, cut loss-making or costly new projects, and increase their efficiency.

Acquisitions and international expansion projects have followed. “The accepted narrative is that there is only upside risk from sanctions [being lifted] as the majority of the companies affected have shown few ill effects,” says the head of a western bank in Moscow. “In fact, lots of them have been forced to be smarter and have increased their competitiveness.”

Articles such as this one in the Financial Times are still comparatively rare. The orthodoxy amongst Western governments and in the Western media is that Russia is suffering badly from the sanctions. That is one reason why there is still so much resistance to any move whether by the Trump administration or by anyone else to lift them.

The truth is that though the sanctions caused the Russian economy genuine difficulties in late 2014, when Russian companies had to repay debts they struggled to finance because of the sanctions and the oil price fall, once Russia got through those initial difficulties the effect of the sanctions on the Russian economy has been entirely beneficial, and is becoming more so.

The West seriously underestimated Russia in 2014. It failed to realise to what extent the country had advanced beyond the disastrous times of the 1990s.

Whereas the sort of sanctions the West imposed on Russia in 2014 would have crushed the Russian economy if they had been imposed in say 2000, today Russia is fully capable of developing its economy by drawing on its own financial resources and its own technology, both of which it has in abundance.

What the West did in 2014, by imposing the sanctions at a time when there was an oil price fall, was force the Russians to do this more efficiently and more quickly than they would have done if they had been left alone.

Westerners always seem to cling on to their idea of Russia as a poor, technologically backward, ill-governed, irredeemably corrupt, ‘third world’ country (“Upper Volta with missiles”). This is what leads them to make foolish decisions, such as the decision to impose sectoral sanctions, which they took in July 2014.

On the subject of Russia being ill-governed, the Financial Times quotes Apurva Sanghi, lead economist for Russia at the World Bank in Moscow, as having this to say:

There is a pretty uniform consensus that the oil price shock dwarfed the sanctions. If you look at what the authorities have done over the past few years for macro stability, it has been pretty outstanding and the results are there to be seen.

On the macro-economic facts, it is impossible to disagree with this assessment, and on the oil and gas industry facts as described in the Financial Times article, it is impossible to say anything different.

On 27th May 2016, when I discussed the West’s failed attempt to stop Russia floating a eurobond, I made this point in relation to how the West’s actions had actually strengthened Russia’s financial system

Truly Western governments when it comes to Russia seem intent on proving Nietzsche’s dictum true: that which does not break us makes us stronger. Certainly that has been true of Russia’s eurobond sale. By trying and failing to sabotage it the West has only managed to make Russia stronger.

The same it turns out is true of Russia’s oil and gas industry.

April 22, 2017 Posted by | Economics | | Leave a comment

The Main Issue in the French Presidential Election: National Sovereignty

By Diana Johnstone | CounterPunch | April 21, 2017

ParisThe 2017 French Presidential election marks a profound change in European political alignments. There is an ongoing shift from the traditional left-right rivalry to opposition between globalization, in the form of the European Union (EU), and national sovereignty.

Standard media treatment sticks to a simple left-right dualism: “racist” rejection of immigrants is the main issue and that what matters most is to “stop Marine Le Pen!” Going from there to here is like walking through Alice’s looking glass. Almost everything is turned around.

On this side of the glass, the left has turned into the right and part of the right is turning into the left.

Fifty years ago, it was “the left” whose most ardent cause was passionate support for Third World national liberation struggles. The left’s heroes were Ahmed Ben Bella, Sukarno, Amilcar Cabral, Patrice Lumumba, and above all Ho Chi Minh.  What were these leaders fighting for? They were fighting to liberate their countries from Western imperialism. They were fighting for independence, for the right to determine their own way of life, preserve their own customs, decide their own future. They were fighting for national sovereignty, and the left supported that struggle.

Today, it is all turned around. “Sovereignty” has become a bad word in the mainstream left.

National sovereignty is an essentially defensive concept. It is about staying home and minding one’s own business. It is the opposite of the aggressive nationalism that inspired fascist Italy and Nazi Germany to conquer other countries, depriving them of their national sovereignty.

The confusion is due to the fact that most of what calls itself “the left” in the West has been totally won over to the current form of imperialism – aka “globalization”. It is an imperialism of a new type, centered on the use of military force and “soft” power to enable transnational finance to penetrate every corner of the earth and thus to reshape all societies in the endless quest for profitable return on capital investment. The left has been won over to this new imperialism because it advances under the banner of “human rights” and “antiracism” – abstractions which a whole generation has been indoctrinated to consider the central, if not the only, political issues of our times.

The fact that “sovereignism” is growing in Europe is interpreted by mainstream globalist media as proof that “Europe is moving to the right”– no doubt because Europeans are “racist”. This interpretation is biased and dangerous. People in more and more European nations are calling for national sovereignty precisely because they have lost it. They lost it to the European Union, and they want it back.

That is why the British voted to leave the European Union. Not because they are “racist”, but primarily because they cherish their historic tradition of self-rule.

The Socialist Party shipwreck

As his five-year presidency drew to its ignominious end, François Hollande was obliged by his drastic unpopularity to let his Parti Socialiste (PS) choose its 2017 presidential candidate by primary. In a surprising upset, the Socialist government’s natural candidate, prime minister Manuel Valls, lost to Benoit Hamon, an obscure member of the PS left wing who refused to vote for the unpopular, neo-liberal, anti-labor laws designed by Hollande’s economic advisor, Emmanuel Macron.

To escape from the unpopularity of the PS, Macron formed his own movement, “En Marche!” One after another, Valls, Hollande and other prominent PS leaders are tiptoeing away, leaving Hamon at the helm of the sinking ship. As Hamon justifiably protests against their betrayal, the party bigwigs pledge their support to Emmanuel Macron.

Macron ostentatiously hesitates to welcome his shopworn converts into the fold, fearing that their conversion makes it too obvious that his “En Marche!” is a clone of the right wing of the PS, on the way to becoming the French subsidiary of the U.S. Democratic Party in its Clintonian form. Macron proclaims that he is neither left nor right, as discredited politicians from both left and right jump on his bandwagon, to his embarrassment.

Hamon himself appears to be unaware that the basic cause of the Socialist Party’s shipwreck is its incompatible devotion to two contrary principles: traditional social democracy, and the European Union (EU). Macron, Hollande and their fellow turncoats at least have made their choice: the European Union.

The Twilight of the Traditional Right

The great advantage of Republican candidate François Fillon is that his policies are clear. Unlike Hollande, who tried to disguise his neoliberal policies as something else, and based his claim to be on the left on “societal” issues (gay marriage), Fillon is an unabashed conservative. His policies are designed to reduce the huge national debt. Whereas previous governments (including his own, when he was President Sarkozy’s Prime Minister) beat around the bush, Fillon won the Republican nomination by a program of sharp cutbacks in government spending. Fillon claims that his austerity measures will lead French capitalists to invest in France and thus save the country’s economy from being completely taken over by foreign corporations, American retirement funds and Qatar. This is highly doubtful, as there is nothing under EU rules to encourage French investors to invest in France rather than somewhere else.

Fillon departs from EU orthodoxy, however, by proposing a more independent foreign policy, notably by ending the “absurd” sanctions against Russian. He is more concerned about the fate of Middle East Christians than about overthrowing Assad.

The upshot is that Fillon’s coherent pro-capitalist policy is not exactly what the dominant globalizing elite prefers. The “center left” is their clear political choice since Tony Blair and Bill Clinton revised the agendas of their respective parties. The center left emphasis on human rights (especially in faraway countries targeted for regime change) and ethnic diversity at home fits the long-term globalist aims of erasing national borders, to allow unrestricted free movement of capital. Traditional patriotic conservatism, represented by Fillon, does not altogether correspond to the international adventurism of globalization.

The Schizophrenic Left

For a generation, the French left has made “the construction of Europe” the center of its world view. In the early 1980s, faced with opposition from what was then the European Community, French President François Mitterrand abandoned the socializing program on which he been elected. Mitterrand nursed the hope that France would politically dominate a united Europe, but the unification of Germany changed all that. So did EU expansion to Eastern Central nations within the German sphere of influence. Economic policy is now made in Germany.

As the traditional left goal of economic equality was abandoned, it was superseded by emphatic allegiance to “human rights”, which is now taught in school as a veritable religion. The vague notion of human rights was somehow associated with the “free movement” of everything and everybody. Indeed the official EU dogma is protection of “free movement”: free movement of goods, people, labor and (last but certainly not least) capital. These “four freedoms” in practice transform the nation from a political society into a financial market, an investment opportunity, run by a bureaucracy of supposed experts. In this way, the European Union has become the vanguard experiment in transforming the world into a single capitalist market.

The French left bought heavily into this ideal, partly because it deceptively echoed the old leftist ideal of “internationalism” (whereas capital has always been incomparably more “international” than workers), and partly due to the simplistic idea that “nationalism” is the sole cause of wars. More fundamental and complex causes of war are ignored.

For a long time, the left has complained about job loss, declining living standards, delocalization or closure of profitable industries, without recognizing that these unpopular results are caused by EU requirements. EU directives and regulations increasingly undermine the French model of redistribution through public services, and are now threatening to wipe them out altogether – either because “the government is bankrupt” or because of EU competition rules prohibit countries from taking measures to preserve their key industries or their agriculture. Rather than face reality, the left’s reaction has mostly been to repeat its worn-out demand for an impossible “Social Europe”.

Yet the dream of “social Europe” received what amounted to a fatal blow ten years ago. In 2005, a referendum was called to allow the French to approve a Constitution for united Europe. This led to an extraordinary popular discussion, with countless meetings of citizens examining every aspect of this lengthy document. Unlike normal constitutions, this document froze the member States in a single monetarist economic policy, with no possibility of change.

On May 29, 2005, French voters rejected the treaty by 55% to 45%.

What seemed to be a great victory for responsible democracy turned into its major failure. Essentially the same document, renamed the Lisbon Treaty, was ratified in December 2007, without a referendum. Global governance had put the people in their place. This produced widespread disillusion with politics as millions concluded that their votes didn’t matter, that politicians paid no attention to the will of the people.

Even so, Socialist politicians continued to pledge undying allegiance to the EU, always with the prospect that “Social Europe” might somehow be possible.

Meanwhile, it has become more and more obvious that EU monetarist policy based on the common currency, the euro, creates neither growth nor jobs as promised but destroys both. Unable to control its own currency, obliged to borrow from private banks, and to pay them interest, France is more and more in debt, its industry is disappearing and its farmers are committing suicide, on the average of one every other day. The left has ended up in an impossible position: unswervingly loyal to the EU while calling for policies that are impossible under EU rules governing competition, free movement, deregulation, budgetary restraints, and countless other regulations produced by an opaque bureaucracy and ratified by a virtually powerless European Parliament, all under the influence of an army of lobbyists.

Benoit Hamon remains firmly stuck on the horns of the left’s fatal dilemma: determination to be “socialist”, or rather, social democratic, and passionate loyalty to “Europe”. While insisting on social policies that cannot possibly be carried out with the euro as currency and according to EU rules, Hamon still proclaims loyalty to “Europe”. He parrots the EU’s made-in-Washington foreign policy, demanding that “Assad must go” and ranting against Putin and Russia.

Jean-Luc Mélenchon Grasps the Nettle

Not only is the drab, conformist Hamon abandoned by his party heavies, he is totally upstaged on the left by the flamboyant Jean-Luc Mélenchon, a maverick ready to break the rules. After years as a PS loyalist, Mélenchon broke away in 2005 to oppose the Constitutional Treaty, gaining prominence as a fiery orator. In 2007, he left the Socialist Party and founded the Parti de Gauche (Left Party). Allied with the much weakened Communist Party, he came in fourth in the first round of the 2012 Presidential election with 11% of the vote. This time he is running for President with his own new movement, La France Insoumise, which can be translated in a number of ways, including “the France that does not submit”.

Submit to what? Mainly, to the euro and to the antisocial, neoliberal policies of the European Union that are ruining France.

French flags and la Marseillaise have replaced the Internationale at Mélenchon rallies. “The Europe of our dreams is dead,” he acknowledges, vowing to “end the nightmare of dictatorship by banks and finance”.

Mélenchon calls for outright disobedience by violating EU treaties that are harmful to France. That is his Plan A. His Plan B is to leave the EU, in case Plan A fails to convince Germany (the current boss) and the others to agree to change the treaties. But at best, Plan B is an empty threat to strengthen his hand in theoretical negotiations. France is such a crucial member, he maintains, that a French threat to leave should be enough to force changes.

Threatening to leave the EU is just part of Mélenchon’s vast and complicated program which includes calling a national convention to draft a constitution for France’s “sixth Republic” as well as major ecological innovation. Completely changing both France and the European Union at the same time would require the nation to be in a revolutionary effervescence that is by no means visible. It would also require a unanimity among the EU’s 28 member States that is simply impossible.

But Mélenchon is canny enough to have recognized the basic problem: the enemy of jobs, prosperity and public services is the European Union. Mélenchon is by far the candidate that generates the most excitement. He has rapidly outdistanced Hamon and draws huge enthusiastic crowds to his rallies. His progress has changed the shape of the race: at this moment, he has become one of four front-runners who might get past the first round vote on April 23 into the finals on May 7: Le Pen, Macron, Fillon and himself.

The Opposites are (almost) the Same

A most remarkable feature of this campaign is great similarity between the two candidates said to represent “the far left”, Mélenchon, and “the far right”, Marine Le Pen. Both speak of leaving the euro. Both vow to negotiate with the EU to get better treaty terms for France. Both advocate social policies to benefit workers and low income people. Both want to normalize relations with Russia. Both want to leave NATO, or at least its military command. Both defend national sovereignty, and can thus be described as “sovereignists”.

The only big difference between them is on immigration, an issue that arouses so much emotion that it is hard to discuss sensibly. Those who oppose immigration are accused of “fascism”, those who favor immigration are accused of wanting to destroy the nation’s identity by flooding it with inassimilable foreigners.

In a country suffering from unemployment, without jobs or housing to accommodate mass immigration, and under the ongoing threat of Islamist terror attacks, the issue cannot be reasonably reduced to “racism” – unless Islamic terrorists constitute a “race”, for which there is no evidence. Le Pen insists that all French citizens deserve equal treatment regardless of their origins, race or religion. She is certain to get considerable support from recently nationalized immigrants, just as she now gets a majority of working class votes. If this is “fascism”, it has changed a lot in the past seventy years.

What is significant is that despite their differences, the two most charismatic candidates both speak of restoring national sovereignty. Both evoke the possibility of leaving the European Union, although in rather uncertain terms.

The globalist media are already preparing to blame the eventual election of a “sovereignist” candidate on Vladimir Putin. Public opinion in the West is being prepared for massive protests to break out against an undesired winner, and the “antifa” militants are ready to wreak havoc in the streets. Some people who like Marine Le Pen are afraid of voting for her, fearing the “color revolution” sure to be mounted against her.  Mélenchon and even Fillon might face similar problems.

As a taste of things to come, on April 20, the EU Observer published an article entitled “Russia-linked fake news floods French social media”. Based on something called Bakamo, one of the newly established “fact-check” outfits meant to steer readers away from unofficial opinion, the article accused Russian-influenced web sites of favoring Marine Le Pen, Jean-Luc Mélenchon, François Fillon, Francois Asselineau, and Philippe Poutou. (They forgot to mention one of the most “sovereignist” candidates, Nicolas Dupont-Aignan, currently polling in sixth place.)  Since a large majority of the eleven candidates, including three of the four front-runners, are strongly critical of the EU and of NATO and want to improve relations with Russia, it would seem that Putin wouldn’t have to make a great effort to get a more friendly French government next time around. On the other hand, the EU Observer article is only a small sample of blatant “interference in the French election” on the part of the globalists on behalf of their favorite, Emmanuel Macron, the most enthusiastic Europhile.

The Future of France

Among those listed as alleged Russian favorites, François Asselineau is by far the most thorough critic of the European Union. Systematically ignored by the media since he founded his anti-EU party, the Union Populaire Républicain (UPR), ten years ago, François Asselineau has thousands of ardent supporters who have plastered his poster all over the country. His tireless didactic speeches, reproduced on internet, have driven home several key points:

– there is no way to improve the EU from the inside, because any change would require unanimity among 27 member states who disagree on key issues.

– the only solution for France is to use Article 50 of the EU treaties to withdraw entirely, as the United Kingdom is currently doing.

– only by leaving the EU can France save its public services, its social benefits, its economy and its democracy.

– it is only by restoring its national sovereignty that genuine democratic life, with confrontation between a real “left” and “right”, can be possible.

– by leaving the EU, France, which has over 6,000 treaties with other countries, would not be isolated but would be joining the greater world.

Asselineau is a single issue candidate. He vows that as soon as elected, he would invoke Article 50 to leave the EU and immediately apply to Washington to withdraw from NATO. He emphasizes that none of the other critics of the EU propose such a clear exit within the rules.

Other candidates, including the more charismatic Mélenchon and Le Pen, echo some of Asselineau’s arguments. But they are not ready to go so far as to advocate a clear immediate break with the EU, if only because they realize that the French population, while increasingly critical of the euro and alienated from the “European dream”, is still fearful of actually leaving, due to dire warnings of disaster from the Europeists.

The first round campaign is an opportunity for Asselineau to present his ideas to a wider audience, preparing public opinion for a more coherent “Frexit” policy. By far the most fundamental emerging issue in this campaign is the conflict between the European Union and national sovereignty. It will probably not be settled in this election, but it won’t go away. This is the major issue of the future, because it determines whether any genuine political life is possible.

Diana Johnstone is the author of Fools’ Crusade: Yugoslavia, NATO, and Western Delusions. Her new book is Queen of Chaos: the Misadventures of Hillary Clinton. She can be reached at diana.johnstone@wanadoo.fr

April 21, 2017 Posted by | Economics, Militarism | , , , , | Leave a comment

US Complaints Over Implementation of Nuclear Deal With Iran Irrelevant – Moscow

© Sputnik/ Andrey Stenin
Sputnik – April 20, 2017

US complaints over how the nuclear deal on Iran is being implemented are irrelevant, the head of the Russian Foreign Ministry’s Department for Non-Proliferation and Arms Control, Mikhail Ulyanov, said Thursday.

On April 19, US President Donald Trump ordered a National Security Council-led interagency review of the JCPOA to evaluate Iran’s compliance with the deal, with US State Secretary Rex Tillerson stating that the nuclear deal “fails to achieve the objective of non-nuclear Iran.” Tehran, in its turn, stressed that the deal was an international treaty and cannot be changed, adding that Iran was fulfilling its obligations under the JCPOA.

“If the deal does not work, then specific complaints should be made regarding its functioning. The Americans cannot do this. The IAEA, an independent participant in this process, confirms that the Iranians are implementing everything. Therefore, any claims are irrelevant here, it seems to me,” Ulyanov said.

Ulyanov noted that it was necessary for Tillerson to separate the notions of terrorism and the nuclear deal, which have nothing in common.

The JCPOA was signed by Iran and the P5+1 countries — China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States plus Germany in July 2015, ensuring the peaceful nature of the Iranian nuclear program in return for the gradual lifting of sanctions against Tehran. The deal came into force on January 16, 2016, after the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) confirmed that Iran was ready to implement the program to reduce its nuclear potential. However, the United States imposed new sanctions against Iran in February 2017 after a medium-range ballistic missile test has been carried out by Tehran in late January.

April 20, 2017 Posted by | Economics, Wars for Israel | , , , , | Leave a comment

Why the Democrats are Dead: DeLauro Says No to Single-Payer

By Russell Mokhiber | CounterPunch | April 19, 2017

If you want to know why the Democratic Party is dead, dead, dead, look no further than Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (D-Connecticut).

She’s a member of the House Progressive Caucus, which as a group has endorsed HR 676, the single payer bill in the House.

A cool one hundred of DeLauro’s colleagues have co-sponsored HR 676, including a blue dog from Tennessee (Jim Cooper) and a member from Mississippi (Bennie Thompson) (See Single Payer Action’s running total.)

But not DeLauro.

We asked why, but her office did not respond.

DeLauro’s legislative aides have told constituents recently DeLauro would vote for single payer if it came to the floor.

But pushing single payer now is a diversion.

The imperative is to defend Obamacare from the Republican onslaught.

One DeLauro aide told a constituent that when he hears from constituents “Obamacare sucks, we need single payer — it shows they don’t understand the reality in DC that we cannot get a single payer bill even to a vote with the current makeup of Congress and we have to spend all our energy and focus defending what we have.”

But the same aides have said that HR 676 is not good enough — that it lets the Veterans Administration stand and therefore is not true single payer — signaling that she’s for a tougher single payer bill.

“Democrats who, like Rosa DeLauro, support the Affordable Care Act are out of touch with the fact that the ACA can’t be fixed, that the only way to solve our healthcare crisis is to get rid of private insurers and create a single publicly-financed plan such as national improved Medicare for All and that the majority of Democratic Party voters and the public in general support Medicare for All,” said Dr. Margaret Flowers of Health Over Profit.

“We recognize that Medicare for All is off the table no matter which of the major corporate parties is in power and that it will take an organized movement of movements to put it on the table and pass it. We cannot wait any longer for a real solution to the healthcare crisis. Every day, people across the country are suffering and dying from lack of access to necessary care. This is the most important reality — that people are suffering and dying needlessly in the richest country in the world because members of Congress are more concerned with politics than with doing the right thing.”

DeLauro supported Hillary Clinton in the 2016 primary battle against Bernie Sanders.

Single payer fueled Sanders’ run through the primaries, but now Sanders is traveling the country with Democratic National Committee Chair and Clinton supporter Tom Perez on a “come together and fight back tour.”

In a joint statement announcing the tour, Sanders and Perez say they will speak out on minimum wage, climate change, infrastructure spending, immigration, tax reform — nothing about single payer.

(Sanders’ aides, who last year took DeLauro’s line and said that single payer was a diversion from defending Obamacare, now say that Sanders will introduce a single payer bill in the Senate sometime soon.)

The reason the 100 members of the House have co-sponsored HR 676 is because at every town hall meeting, single payer is the driving force.

DeLauro too is hearing it from her constituents in Connecticut.

But DeLauro and the four other members of the House from Connecticut — all Democrats– John Larson, Jim Himes, Joe Courtney and Elizabeth Esty — have yet to relent.

Not yet, Connecticut.

Russell Mokhiber is the editor of the Corporate Crime Reporter.

April 19, 2017 Posted by | Economics, Corruption | , , , , | Leave a comment