Sunday, November 24, 2013

Zumaville; The personal residence of H.E Jacob Zuma, President of South Africa


Cabinet ministers had prohibited South African media houses from publishing or airing picture of the palatial residence that has cost tax payers millions of dollars, warning that this would break security laws.

Mr Zuma’s Nkandla residence is at the centre of a row after it emerged that the government had used $20m of taxpayers’ money to refurbish it.

H.E Jacob Zuma, President of South Africa

[Afkinsider] South African papers have defied a government warning and published images of President Jacob Zuma’s Nkandla residence, the BBC reported on Saturday.

Cabinet ministers had prohibited South African media houses from publishing or airing picture of the palatial residence that has cost tax payers millions of dollars, warning that this would break security laws.

Mr Zuma’s Nkandla residence is at the centre of a row after it emerged that the government had used $20m of taxpayers’ money to refurbish it...

The government said it will arrest anyone who published images or footage of the estate, but a group of South African editors described the warning as “absurd”.

BBC reported that The Times newspaper had the headline “So, arrest us”, above a picture of the luxury thatched-roof compound. The Star newspaper had a photo of the homestead with a big red cross over it and the caption: “Look away! What ministers don’t want you to see”.

The upgrades to Mr Zuma’s private residence include a helipad and an underground bunker, which the government says are needed for security reasons.

The contract is being investigated by South Africa’s public protector, or anti-corruption watchdog, Thuli Madonsela, amid allegations that costs were inflated, and that the renovations went far beyond what the rules allow for a politician’s private home.

Earlier this month, security ministers went to court to try to block Ms Madonsela from publishing her report.

Following the publication of the photos, the government has issued a statement, saying that newspapers are within their rights to publish photos of the estate but “zooming into safety and security features… is a challenge as it compromises national security”.

BBC Africa correspondent Andrew Harding said the issue is an awkward one for the governing African National Congress (ANC), with elections approaching next year. He says it also touches on deeper concerns about the undermining of South Africa’s young, but vital, democratic institutions.

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Goodluck Azikiwe Jonathan GCFR, Commander-In-Chief of the Nigerian Armed Forces and President of the Federal Republic Of Nigeria

president jonathan sickness
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on November 23, 2013 - 22:24.

"I always dey tok am say oga jona too dey shark.Shakpe o,Sapele water o,kparaga o,burukutu shendam o,alomo o, kaikai o,tumbo ni o, medusa o,pito o, arigi o, im de swallow am, kai kilode? Im sani do am but dt one wey im mix oyinbo white horse wt jona waka plus diezanie na im come make yawa gas so. E three much infact twenty much sef."~~ comment at, November 23, 2013 10:24pm

Did it ever occur to this commentator that sleep deprivation and the rigors of running such a government as Nigeria's is, might be the reason for Mr. President's bloodshot eyes? Has he/she never heard the expression "tired but pushing on"?

It is important for one, such as the above commentator, to realize that it is not the person of Goodluck Azikiwe Jonathan that they disparage but the Office and status of the President of Nigeria. Growing up, they say, is hard to do but most Nigerians simply have to learn about growing up.

It is beyond pale that Sahara Reporters should indulge such commentators, especially one that lurks behind anonymity.

To bring my point home about the stresses of the Office of the President to the The Federal Republic Of Nigeria, compare and contrast the tranquility of the picture below of him as Vice President, the rigors of office do not manifest a la bloodshot eyes nor do the stress features.

~~ Egoigwe.

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Saturday, November 16, 2013

France and others: Travel alert for the United States

Avoid walking at night in Dorchester, Mattapan and Roxbury, and be wary of “petty crime” in Chinatown, the North End and Fenway.

New York:
Be wary in Times Square and at the Statue of Liberty, and don’t go to Harlem, the Bronx or Central Park at night.

Northeast and Southeast should be avoided, and Union Station is dangerous at night. “Le quartier Anacostia n’est pas recommandable de jour comme de nuit.” Translation: Don’t go to Anacostia, day or night.

“Considered a dangerous city except downtown.”

“Do not visit the city on foot.”

The French urge their citizens to avoid Mount Oliver, Hill District, Homewood-Brushton and Hazelwood.

Avoid Cleveland Heights, Lakewood and Euclid. That warning got Cleveland Heights Mayor Edward Kelly upset. “The French government is foolish and doesn’t know what they’re talking about,” he told the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

“The center is not recommended after the close of business.”

Stay away from the West Side and anywhere south of 59th Street.

Be vigilant if traveling through Downtown, south and east Houston at night.

St. Louis:
“Eviter le quartier nord entre l’aéroport et le centre-ville, mais la navette reliant l’aéroport est sûre.” Translation: Avoid northern area between the airport and the city center, but the airport shuttle is safe (Hat tip to our friend Chris Good, of ABC News, for spotting that nugget).

The French are nervous about the southern part of the city, and downtown after dark.

New Orleans:
Northwest of Dauphine Street, northeast of Ursulines Avenue, north of St. Charles Avenue and south of Magazine Street are areas of concern.

“Canadians have been the victims of crime such as break-ins, assaults and pickpocketing in the Miami area, sometimes during daylight hours,” Canada’s foreign ministry warns. France says attacks on tourists in Florida are rare now, but were frequent a few years ago.

Los Angeles:
France warns tourists to take care in Hollywood, Santa Monica, Venice Beach and Long Beach, and to avoid Watts, Inglewood and Florence.

El Paso:
The British Foreign Office warns tourists about violence along the border with Mexico, and the border crossing at Ciudad Juarez specifically.

Germany doesn’t warn its citizens about any specific cities, but it does caution against letting it all hang out: “Although the laws in individual states categorizing nudity as ‘indecent exposure’, are rarely asserted and punished, those laws should absolutely be followed. Nude bathing and changing clothes at the beach stirs up public agitation and can lead to unpleasantnesses.”

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Dick Cheney: Incurious, unempathetic, soulless dead-eyed bug

"When I came out from under the anesthetic after the transplant, I was euphoric. I’d had–I’d been given the gift of additional lives, additional years of life. For the family of the donor, they’d just been [through] some terrible tragedy, they’d lost a family member. Can’t tell why, obviously, when you don’t know the details, but the way I think of it from a psychological standpoint is that it’s my new heart, not someone else’s old heart. And I always thank the donor, generically thank donors for the gift that I’ve been given, but I don’t spend time wondering who had it, what they’d done, what kind of person."~~ Dick Cheney.

[Free Thought Blogs] Incurious, unempathetic, soulless dead-eyed bug. That’s our former vice president, who had a heart transplant and doesn’t really care much about who the donor was.

Generic thank yous, generic bombing, generic military-industrial complex spending. He’s just an empty generic human being, I guess.
I’m just wondering if the family of the donor can ask for it back. It’s obvious he’s not using it.

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Friday, November 15, 2013

David Cameron's 'Golden' Lecture

"It was hard to stomach David Cameron preaching austerity from a golden throne"

[The Guardian] At a state banquet for the new Lord Mayor on Monday, David Cameron gave a speech about his commitment to the cause of permanent austerity. He stood up to speak from a golden chair, and read his notes from a golden lectern.

As it happens, I was at the banquet too and heard the news about permanent spending cutbacks for myself. Sadly I was not there as a dignitary, a foreign diplomat, a captain of industry or the director of a big City firm. I was there as a waitress. The contrast between what he was saying and where he was saying it seemed initially almost too laughable to get worked up about. But actually, it reflected something chilling in Cameron's attitude towards the people he purports to be working for.

I work evenings and weekends at an events company. The company is great and the hours are flexible, which allows me to combine it with my main job of an internship. It's tough, and I've been in a state of semi-tiredness for the last two months. I do get to work at interesting events, though, and the fanciness of the Guildhall banquet was breathtaking. Although, as one of my colleagues said: "I thought Boris Johnson was the lord mayor, that's the only reason I agreed to work!"

The guests enjoyed a champagne reception, and then were served a starter ("a celebration of British mushrooms"), a fish course and main course of fillet of beef, all served with wine of course. In the break before dessert, coffee, dessert wine, port, brandy and whisky were served, Cameron gave his speech. We retreated downstairs to a steam-filled kitchen, where we polished the cutlery. Most of us were exhausted by this point. Dinner service is physically demanding, and I am by no means the only person who combines two or three jobs. The contrast of the two worlds was striking; someone said it was like a scene from Downton Abbey.

Maybe Cameron didn't see the irony; perhaps he forgot about the army of waiting staff, cleaners, chefs and porters who were also present at the banquet. Perhaps he thought he was in a room of similarly rich people, who understood the necessity for austerity. Perhaps it didn't occur to him that this message might not be as easily comprehended by those who hadn't just enjoyed a four-course meal. Perhaps he forgot about those of us, disabled or unemployed or on the minimum wage, for whom austerity has had a catastrophic and wounding effect.

In his speech, Cameron talked about a "leaner, more efficient, more affordable state". He argued that austerity could be a permanent government policy; a way of trimming down the administrative excesses of some public services. He framed it in the context of the current tough living conditions – a minimising of state spending, as it "comes out of the pockets of the same taxpayers whose living standards we want to see improve".

No word yet, of course, on what changes will be made to the banquet he was speaking at. Perhaps next year there will only be three courses, or the dessert wine will be ruthlessly culled.

I wonder how Cameron and his government can do these things. Aside from the idiocy of calling for cuts while wearing a white tie – has the man never heard of Twitter – does he not see what welfare cuts are doing to the vulnerable in society? He enjoys a banquet, while the number of people using food banks has tripled in the past year. As someone on the shift with me said, "It gets annoying that we always serve free food to the people who really don't need free food."

The political content of what Cameron is saying is obviously more important than where he was saying it, but I don't think the latter is irrelevant. I have a fundamental problem with a man who sits on a golden throne and lectures us about spending less, like a modern-day, white-tie clad sheriff of Nottingham. And all around him, the insidious stain of austerity creeps across the country, manifesting in the bedroom tax, rising tuition fees and the closure of public services that vulnerable people depend on.

Each of us has just one chance at existence, and so many people's lives are being blighted by these cuts. If this is the cruel and damaging reality of permanent austerity, then we should be telling Mr Cameron we don't want it.

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Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Weather wars here already???

"Every ten years or so, the United States needs to pick up some small crappy little country and throw it against the wall, just to show the world we mean business"
~~ Jonah Goldberg quoting Michael Ledeen, a former consultant to the United States National Security Council, the United States Department of State, and the United States Department of Defense.

[aangirfan] Reports have emerged that the typhoon which hit the Philippines was caused by a microwave beam. The microwave beam was observed in the West Pacific and it appears to have created the typhoon. Reportedly, a U.S. Airforce base is located near the source of the microwave beam. The U.S. base is reportedly a satellite communications hub.

After the microwave beam emission, satellite images showed a "heavy rotation" begin to develop, eventually becoming a large tropical storm. Reports say that weather modifications have been done using a microwave pulse.


* * * * * *

[Global News] TACLOBAN, Philippines – As many as 10,000 people are believed dead in one Philippine city alone after one of the worst storms ever recorded unleashed ferocious winds and giant waves that washed away homes and schools. Corpses hung from tree branches and were scattered along sidewalks and among flattened buildings, while looters raided grocery stores and gas stations in search of food, fuel and water.

Officials projected the death toll could climb even higher when emergency crews reach areas cut off by flooding and landslides. Even in the disaster-prone Philippines, which regularly contends with earthquakes, volcanoes and tropical cyclones, Typhoon Haiyan appears to be the deadliest natural disaster on record.

Haiyan hit the eastern seaboard of the Philippine archipelago on Friday and quickly barrelled across its central islands before exiting into the South China Sea, packing winds of 235 kilometres per hour (147 miles per hour) that gusted to 275 kph (170 mph), and a storm surge that caused sea waters to rise 6 metres (20 feet).

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Thursday, November 07, 2013

Swiss traders’ opaque deals in Nigeria run into billion-dollar theft

“Vitol and Trafigura alone took respectively 13.44 % and 13.49 % of Nigerian crude oil exports in 2011 for a cumulative value of 6.7 billion dollars.” {the Report asserts}

A new report has detailed how the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, in cohort with major Swiss oil trading companies, is draining Nigeria of billions of dollars of revenue through the sale of crude oil below the market value.

The report, titled Swiss Traders’ Opaque Deals in Nigerian, released on Monday by Swiss non-governmental advocacy organization, the Berne Declaration, also described the schemes employed by Nigerian and foreign fuel importers, such as creating offshore subsidiaries referred to as “letterbox companies”, ship-to-ship transfer to create untraceable paperwork, payment of subsidy money to phantom and non-existing importers, and partnering with politically exposed fraudsters to defraud the country over $6.8 billion from 2009 and 2011.

Berne Declaration describes the Nigerian oil scam as the greatest fraud Africa has ever known.

The report narrates the specific roles played by seven major oil marketers and fuel importers through their shell companies in Switzerland and notorious offshore tax haven, Bermuda, to deny Nigeria billions of naira in tax earnings.

NNPC opaque deals

Describing the NNPC as the “all-powerful,” the report says the government owned corporation “plays a significant role in maintaining the ‘resource curse.”
According to the report, oil, which makes up 58 per cent of Nigeria’s revenue, is not contributing to the country’s development as much as it should. The report blames the engrained poverty and inequalities in the country partly on the siphoning of the nation’s resources through the NNPC and other shady deals by fuel importers in collusion with foreigners, especially Swiss commodity trading firms.

Prominent among these shady deals are the partnership between the NNPC and two Geneva-based commodity trading firms, Vitol and Trafigura, registered in Bermuda.

Through NNPC partnership with Vitol (the largest oil trader in Switzerland) and Trafigura (the third largest) described as ‘operational and financial black boxes’ billions of Naira that should have accrued to the government are wired to Bermuda where the joint venture is established.
“In reality, the profit generated by these entities escapes State coffers, first, because no taxation in Bermuda is paid, since the tax on profits is zero,” the report stated.

“Vitol and Trafigura alone took respectively 13.44 % and 13.49 % of Nigerian crude oil exports in 2011 for a cumulative value of 6.7 billion dollars.”
More than 56 per cent of oil put up for sale by the NNPC in 2011 valued at $14.004 billion were sold to Swiss companies or Nigerian companies with “letterbox” subsidiaries in Switzerland.

The report shows how NNPC is cashing in on the disrepair of the country’s refineries to feed its fraudulent partnership with these oil dealers. Despite the fact that local refineries operate at less than 40 per cent capacity, the NNPC still allocates crude to them as if they were operating at full capacity. The excess allocations are then sold to Geneva-based companies or Nigerian oil marketers through their letterbox subsidiaries in Switzerland at knockdown prices or exchanged for refined petroleum products in shady swap contract.

“Nigeria is the only major producing country that sells 100% of its crude to private traders rather than market it itself and benefiting from the resulting added value. A number of beneficiaries of export allocations are nothing but letterbox companies whose sole merit is that they are linked to high-ranking political officials or their entourage,” the report stated, a view similar to that by a Nigerian government investigation team headed former anti-graft boss, Nuhu Ribadu.

The report suggested that Politically Exposed Persons (PEP) and their fronts are also cashing in on the absence of money laundering legislation in Switzerland to hide their loots. In fact, many of the “letterbox” subsidiaries may have been set up for that specific reason.

“Politically-linked holders of such letterboxes are known, in banking terminology, as ‘politically exposed persons’ (PEPs), towards whom any financial intermediary must exercise particular duties of due diligence by virtue of the law on money laundering in order to ensure the legality of the funds. In Switzerland traders are not subjected to such duties and have no obligation to question the credibility of their partners. This leaves them with full latitude to trade with such fake entities. But in Nigeria such entities represent a major part of the ‘market’,” the report explains.
Geneva, a haven for Nigerian Fraudsters

Read Full Report

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An Amnesty International Report: Bad Information - Oil Spill Investigations in the Niger Delta

The human rights impacts are serious – both the cause of a spill and the volume spilt affect the compensation a community receives. If the spill is recorded as caused by sabotage or theft, the affected community gets no compensation, regardless of the damage done to their farms and fisheries.

This is based on a provision in Nigeria’s oil legislation which Amnesty International and the Centre for Environment, Human Rights and Development believe needs to be amended. Oil companies should be held responsible for a spill that is due to sabotage or theft if they have failed to take sufficient measures to prevent tampering with their infrastructure.

A Summary

Hundreds of oil spills occur in Nigeria every year, causing significant harm to the environment, destroying local livelihoods and placing human health at serious risk.

These spills are caused by corrosion, poor maintenance of oil infrastructure, equipment failure, sabotage and theft of oil. For the last decade oil companies in Nigeria – in particular Shell – have defended the scale of pollution by claiming that the vast majority of oil spills are caused by sabotage and theft of oil.

There is no legitimate basis for this claim. It relies on the outcome of an oil spill investigation process - commonly known as the Joint Investigation
Visit or JIV process - in which the companies themselves are the primary investigators.

This report exposes several serious deficiencies and abuses within the JIV process that render it wholly unreliable as a basis for making claims about the cause of oil spills, the volume of oil spilt or the area impacted. The report is based on an examination of the JIV process and – critically – of how data are recorded during the process. It draws on expert analysis obtained from a US pipeline specialist who reviewed JIV investigation documents
and data provided by oil companies and regulators to researchers in the course of investigations.

The report presents evidence not only of serious and systemic flaws in the oil spill investigation process, but also specific examples of instances where the cause of an oil spill appears to have been wrongly attributed to sabotage.

The evidence includes a secretly filmed video of an oil spill investigation. In addition, the report exposes serious problems with how the volume of oil spilt is assessed and recorded; it is likely that the volume of oil recorded as spilt in many cases is incorrect.

The human rights impacts are serious – both the cause of a spill and the volume spilt affect the compensation a community receives. If the spill is recorded as caused by sabotage or theft, the affected community gets no compensation, regardless of the damage done to their farms and fisheries.

This is based on a provision in Nigeria’s oil legislation which Amnesty International and the Centre for Environment, Human Rights and Development believe needs to be amended. Oil companies should be held responsible for a spill that is due to sabotage or theft if they have failed to take sufficient measures to prevent tampering with their infrastructure.

The majority of the report’s findings relate to the Shell Petroleum Development Company, which is the major onshore operator in the Niger Delta. The report acknowledges improvements in Shell’s JIV process since 2011, when the company began to publish JIV reports on its website. Other companies have yet to do this.

However, serious flaws remain within Shell’s post-2011 oil spill investigation process. These include weaknesses in the underlying evidence used to attribute spills to sabotage and the fact that the JIV reports are filled out by Shell after the joint investigation process – not as
part of the joint investigation process.

There is, consequently, a lack of transparency and oversight in terms of what is recorded on the new JIV reports.

Read Full Report

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Wednesday, November 06, 2013

Escape from the Dollar

In this explosive interview with Mike Whitney, Paul Craig Roberts asserts that the FED has backed itself into a corner where a rise in interest rates would stop the drift from dollar holdings to gold while forcing a collapse in the bond and stock markets and reducing the value of derivatives on the banks’ balance sheets.

Mike Whitney: Is the US dollar at risk of losing its position as reserve currency? How would this loss affect US leadership and other countries?

Paul Craig Roberts: In a way the dollar has already lost its reserve currency status, but this development has not yet been officially realized; nor has it hit the currency markets. Consider that the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa) have announced their intention to abandon the use of the US dollar for the settlement of trade imbalances between themselves, instead settling their accounts in their own currencies. (There is now a website, the BRICSPOST, that reports on the developing relations between the five large countries.) There are also reports that Australia and China and Japan and China are going to settle their trade accounts without recourse to the dollar.

Different explanations are given. The BRICS imply that they are tired of US financial hegemony and have concerns about the dollar’s stability in view of Washington’s excessive issuance of new debt and new money to finance it. China, Australia, and Japan have cited the avoidance of transaction fees associated with exchanging their currencies first into US dollars and then into the other currencies. They say it is a cost-saving step to reduce transaction costs. This may be diplomatic cover for discarding the US dollar.

The October 2013 US government partial shutdown and (exaggerated) debt default threat resulted in the unprecedented currency swap agreements between the Chinese central bank and the European central bank and between the Chinese central bank and the Bank of England. The reason given for these currency swaps was necessary precaution against dollar disruption. In other words, US instability was seen as a threat to the international payments system. The dollar’s role of reserve currency is not compatible with the view that precautions must be taken against the dollar’s possible failure or disruption. China’s call for “a de-Americanized world” is a clear sign of growing impatience with Washington’s irresponsibility.

To summarize, there has been a change in attitudes toward the US dollar and acceptance of US financial hegemony. As the October deficit and debt ceiling crisis has not been resolved, merely moved to January/February, 2014, a repeat of the October impasse would further erode confidence in the dollar.

Regardless, most countries have come to the conclusion that not only has the US abused the reserve currency role, but also the power of Washington to impose its will and to act outside of law stems from its financial hegemony and that this financial power is more difficult to resist than Washington’s military power.

As the world, including US allies, made clear by standing up to Washington and blocking Washington’s military attack on Syria, Washington’s days of unchallenged hegemony are over. From China, Russia, Europe, and South America voices are rising against Washington’s lawlessness and recklessness. This changed attitude toward the US will break up the system of dollar imperialism.

Mike Whitney: How is the Federal Reserve’s Quantitative Easing impacting the dollar and financial instruments?

Paul Craig Roberts: The Federal Reserve’s policy of creating large amounts of new money in order to support the balance sheets of “banks too big to fail” and to finance continuing large budget deficits is another factor undermining the dollar’s reserve currency role. The liquidity that the Federal Reserve has pumped into the financial system has created enormous bubbles in bond and stock markets. US bond prices are so high as to be incompatible with the Federal Reserve’s balance sheet and massive creation of new dollars.

Moreover, central banks and some investors have realized that the Federal Reserve is locked into the policy of supporting bond prices. If the Federal Reserve ceases to support bond prices, interest rates will rise, the prices of debt-related derivatives on the banks’ balance sheets will fall, and the stock and bond markets would collapse. Therefore, a tapering off of quantitative easing risks a financial panic.

On the other hand, continuing the policy of supporting bond prices further erodes confidence in the US dollar. Vast amounts of dollars and dollar-denominated financial instruments are held all over the world. Holders of dollars are watching the Federal Reserve dilute their holdings by creating 1,000 billion new dollars per year. The natural result of this experience is to lighten up on dollar holdings and to look for different ways in which to hold reserves.

The Federal Reserve can print money with which to purchase bonds, but it cannot print foreign currencies with which to purchase dollars. As concerns over the dollar rise, the dollar’s exchange value will fall as more dollars are sold in currency markets. As the US is import-dependent, this will translate into higher domestic prices. Rising inflation will further spook dollar holders.


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